RESPECT and FAIRNESS

Top 6 Reasons Authorities Are Cracking Down Hard on Black Protesters While Treating White Supremacist Reopeners With Kid Gloves

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment

29 May 20

y social media feeds have been full of comparisons between the treatment by police of Reopener mobs, some of whom invaded the Michigan state house while fully armed with assault weapons, and the treatment of protesters in Minneapolis regarding the killing of George Floyd by a policemen who kept his knee on his neck. 

Why does the Far Right all too often get a pass by American law enforcement?

1. The white supremacists and other far right elements are armed to the teeth. There are about 255 million guns in the US, but something like 75 percent of Americans say they don’t own a gun. So between 22% and 31% of Americans, about 80 to 100 million people, own all the guns. Then 3 percent of the population, some 10 million people, own 100 million guns.

Let me underline that. About 40 percent of all guns in the United States are owned by about 10 million people, some 3 percent of the population. So owning guns is legal, and I’m from a family of farmers who hunted with them, and I’m not knocking gun ownership. And I’m sure there are perfectly innocent hobbyists who collect guns the way other people collect vintage automobiles. But a tiny percentage within that percentage of super-gun-owners are far right wing extremists, and law enforcement is understandably reluctant to get them het up.

2. White supremacists are very good about playing passive aggressive games and nursing and sharing grievances. In the 1990s, Federal agencies like the FBI and Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms were called in to deal with heavily armed white terrorists. A 1992 stand off at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, between gun nut Randy Weaver (whose family was with him) ended in tragedy when FBI snipers took out Weaver’s wife and child.* Weaver had refused to show up for his trial on weapons charges (he had sawed off a shotgun, which is illegal in Federal law).

Then the following year the David Koresh splinter of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, was investigated for stockpiling weapons, and a raid left 4 ATF agents and 6 Branch Davidians dead, with many agents wounded. That firefight led to an FBI siege of the compound and ultimately to the deaths of 76 members, including Koresh, in fires that they may have set themselves.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, both on the fringe of white supremacy and conspiracy theories, cited Ruby Ridge and Waco when they blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklohama City in 1995 with a fertilizer bomb (and ended up targeting the day care center on the first floor). They killed 168 people and wounded hundreds more. They killed more persons per capita than any other terrorists in American history up to that point.

It isn’t usually said out loud, but the Oklahoma City bombing was the most successful act of terrorism in American history. It led the FBI and other Federal agencies, as well as local law enforcement in many instances, to back off the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and kindred groups, leaving them be unless they did something really egregious. Terrorism was defined at the time in the US Federal code as the use of violence by a non-state actor against civilians to change politics. So that worked.

3. This is one of the reasons for which the Obama administration did not take the bait when Cliven Bundy, whom I compared to the Taliban, staged a standoff over his refusal to pay fees for grazing on Federal land. People like Bundy were looking for further ammunition to grow their “sovereign citizen” movement, and a violent crackdown would have helped them.

4. White supremacists, militia movement members, and other fringe groups of the far right may make up 10 percent of the US population. They form a key if unspoken part of the Republican Party and provide the margin for Republicans in many tight congressional races. This is why Sarah Palin and other GOP leaders engage in codespeak, talking about the “patriots,” which sounds inoffensive until you realize about whom exactly she was speaking. In the zeroes of this century, Republicans in Congress actually stopped Federal agencies from keeping tabs and good statistics on far right extremism, lest one of their constituencies be upset. Trump is the first major national Republican leader openly to cultivate the far right constituency, but he has plenty of predecessors who did it more gingerly.

5. Likewise, Trump and his Neo-Nazi black shirts are looking for trouble so as to depict the normal people as tyrants and enlist more discontents. This is why Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer merely complained about the mob that came for her having confederate flags and assault weapons, but did not order them dealt with by law enforcement. The Michigan state legislature actually just shut down to accommodate these white terrorists. But if any of them had been shot by police, you know that it would just have brought more gangs to Lansing and that Trump would have been whipping up the fringe into a lather. Whitmer handled the situation wisely, even at the cost of ceding ground to far right wing thugs on the right of democratically elected legislators to meet in the state house. 

The point isn’t that Whitmer and others are wrong. They are doing the right thing. The point is that African-Americans with grievances should also be cut some slack.

6. African-Americans are made to look big and menacing by the white media and many political figures, but they are a minority. They are only 12 percent of the population. If you had a gathering of 100 representative Americans, only 12 of them would be of African heritage. They are systematically discriminated against on employment, which keeps them poor. They have only 10 cents for every dollar a white person has. As a disadvantaged minority they are still, despite the supposed end to Jim Crow, subjected to enormous amounts of surveillance and are incarcerated at a rate many times more than whites.

It is systematic racism that allows the authorities to treat African-Americans like pariahs and to crack down hard on them if they protest. In 1985 the city of Philadelphia actually bombed the facilities of the Black nationalist MOVE organization. At Ferguson, Mo. in 2014, the shooting of a black youth led the Justice Department to uncover a racket on the part of the town’s white elite that used police fines and jailings systematically to extract wealth from the African-Americans.

In fact, it is this systematic racism (which is very different from the occasional piece of prejudice that most whites imagine to be the problem), that has led African-Americans to suffer disproportionately from the coronavirus.

In order to redress the injustices here, it isn’t enough to raise a hue and cry about individual instances of racism. The establishment, of systematic racism, in everything from school resegregation to residential segregation to employment discrimination, needs to be addressed through a second generation of civil rights legislation. 1964 and 1965 did not go nearly far enough.

The Face of Plutocracy

The Wealthy Bosses and Right-Wing Ideologues Behind the Rush to “Reopen”

By Chris Brooks, In These Times

27 May 20

he federal government squandered the time the states spent in lockdown. We still face a national shortage of COVID-19 test kits and PPE and there is no nationwide testing or contact tracing program. The United States has 4 percent of the world’s population, but about a third of the world’s coronavirus cases. 

But some folks were not wasting their time. True to form, the rich are doing everything they can to benefit financially from the crisis—and their work is paying off. The richest 400 Americans were already worth a collective $2.96 trillion last year.

Now many of the super-rich are poised to make even more during the pandemic—like the behemoth Amazon, which is propelling CEO Jeff Bezos even closer to becoming the world’s first trillionaire.

The goal of these powerful actors is twofold: to reopen the economy on their own terms and to capitalize on the economic crisis to push for a long-held wish list of cuts to taxes and government services. They will push for lower taxes and to gut services despite the glaring evidence, revealed by the pandemic, that we need more government, not less.

To do so they must get millions of workers to risk their health by returning to work. If workers aren’t working, no profits are being generated. And which is more important to the captains of industry?

They are working hard to win the tug of war over reopening, hoping to overpower the dire warnings of the public health experts and the desires of the public, which polls consistently show are more worried about a surging virus than about a flagging Wall Street.

Washington Post poll and a Pew survey both show that laid-off workers are more likely to support continued lockdowns than those still employed.

Their campaign has several parts:

—Congress’s economic relief packages focused more on bailing out big businesses than protecting workers. Any strings attached about companies’ keeping workers employed were flimsy, and those strings will be snapped completely on the roughly $500 billion that the Treasury Department will oversee.

—The federal government abdicated its role in the pandemic, forcing states to buy their own ventilators, test kits, and personal protective equipment and develop their own contact tracing programs. That drove up local government expenses at the same time that statewide lockdowns have tanked tax revenues. Taking advantage of the resulting state budget deficits, the consortium of conservatives is pushing states to adopt its longstanding wish list, such as abandoning their pension obligations to public employees, laying off mass numbers of them, and making dramatic cuts to public services.

—Republican officials, right-wing media, and corporate front groups (especially Save Our Country Coalition, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the State Policy Network, and FreedomWorks) have been loudly banging the drums for the economy to reopen. The U.S. Department of Labor and several state governments are helping that process along by threatening to prosecute workers for unemployment benefits fraud if they refuse to return to work out of fear for their health.

—Both Trump and Republican congressional leaders are clear: there will be no further economic stimulus for states or the unemployed without a guarantee that businesses will be held harmless if their employees contract COVID-19 at work. The door is open for negligence on a grand scale.

The so-called recovery from the 2008 Great Recession saw Wall Street profits hit all-time highs while workers’ wages remained stagnant and union density hit an all-time low. “Recovery for me, poverty for thee” is again the corporate goal for the post-corona economy.

Tea Party 2.0

Conservative operatives are trying to reignite a Tea Party-like “movement” to pressure states to reopen their economies. A billionaire-backed network of corporate front groups with deep ties to conservative state lawmakers and the White House helped mobilize a motley crew to protest stay-at-home orders at state legislatures and amplified their actions in the media.

“It’s like strike-breaking,” said Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. “You can find people who will do it, but without the active role of the employer it would never happen.

“The same is true for the anti-lockdown protests. It’s only because there are all these corporate-funded front groups that are supported and amplified by Fox News and the right-wing echo chamber that they can create the fiction of a mass movement and exploit the crisis to force through unpopular policies they know would never happen otherwise.”

At the heart of the push to reopen are organizations like Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks and prominent right-wing activists like Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who has worked for the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal and once told filmmaker Michael Moore (no relation) that “capitalism is a lot more important than democracy.”

Moore is an economic adviser to Trump and has been pushing the White House to follow the advice of business leaders and conservative economists rather than public health experts.

Moore is also a leader in the Save Our Country Coalition (SOCC), which is coordinating the effort for reopening, tax cuts, and legislation to erase employer liability. He is just one of the many White House connections to SOCC. Another is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), financed by large corporations and conservative billionaires. ALEC’s membership includes both corporate lobbyists and almost a quarter of all state legislators.

ALEC’s primary mission is to draft model legislation that benefits corporations and can be introduced in cookie-cutter fashion in legislatures across the country.

According to documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC hosted a call on April 22 on the need to reopen the economy with Vice President Mike Pence and 300 state legislators and corporate lobbyists—with promises of future calls with Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Many Republican state legislators have encouraged the anti-lockdown protests in their home states.

Also joining the fray is the State Policy Network (SPN), a national web of corporate-funded think tanks that produce white papers and publicity for ALEC’s model legislation.

With the pandemic, SPN affiliates are following a playbook they perfected earlier when denying climate change and the link between smoking and cancer: they promote skepticism about the coronavirus death rate and the models used by public health experts to predict the number yet to die.

These claims have been echoed by Trump, who has promoted the conspiracy theory that death rates are being inflated to stop his re-election.

Rigging a deficit

The pandemic response has fallen on the shoulders of state governments. Those hit hardest by the virus now face enormous budget shortfalls and the corporate-backed network is leveraging the moment to push austerity everywhere.

Michigan, for example, is estimated to be $1 billion to $3 billion in the red. The Mackinac Center, a corporate-financed SPN affiliate, has published an austerity wish list of items unrelated to the pandemic. It includes laying off a quarter of the state’s “non-essential” public employees and hiking state employees’ health care premiums.

According to Politico, California faces a $54 billion budget deficit and is expected to make dramatic cuts if it doesn’t receive federal assistance, including $18 billion in cuts to schools and community colleges. Of course, schools need more funding to make social distancing a reality on campuses if they want to reopen.

The California Policy Center, another SPN affiliate, is advocating to transition the public employee pension system from a defined-benefit plan, which guarantees retirees a monthly payment, to a defined-contribution plan, where the employer is only on the hook for a certain amount into each employee’s retirement account each month. If the total runs out after the worker retires, too bad.

These policy proposals are reverberating throughout the SPN network, resulting in a growing chorus of conservative think tanks and politicians calling for states to abandon their commitments to their workers. “Just say no to a pension bailout” wrote the Beacon Center of Tennessee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has gone so far as to call for states to declare bankruptcy so they can walk away from their pension obligations.

Economic relief for state and local governments is at the center of talks for the next relief bill in Congress, but McConnell has declared shielding private employers from liability for reopening a mandatory condition of any further federal stimulus.

The call for employer indemnification and tax cuts for the rich as a condition of further relief has been echoed by Trump.

The Godfather principle

Reopening the economy absent a national testing program is deeply unpopular. A majority of Americans believe our tax system is unfair and taxes should be substantially raised on corporations and the wealthy.

It’s not incidental that Stephen Moore values capitalism more than democracy.

Employers and politicians force their policies onto the public by forcing us to choose between two bad options while maintaining the illusion that there is no alternative: Either work unsafely or be kicked off unemployment. States must either limit employers’ liability or there will be no further stimulus.

To keep the corporate protection racket going, employers and politicians rely on the Godfather principle: making us an offer we can’t refuse.

Vote by Mail!!!!!

receive applications to vote by mail

NEWSPosted: May 19, 2020 / 10:22 AM EDT / Updated: May 19, 2020 / 10:22 AM EDT

FILE – In this Nov. 1, 2016, file photo, mail-in ballots for the 2016 General Election are shown at the elections ballot center at the Salt Lake County Government Center, in Salt Lake City. As President Donald Trump rails against voting by mail, many members of his own political party are embracing it to keep their voters safe during the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

LANSING, Mich. (WJMN) – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced May 19 that all registered voters in Michigan will receive an application to vote by mail in the August and November elections.

“By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” said Benson. “Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it.”

Of the 7.7 million registered voters in the state, about 1.3 million are on the permanent absent voter list, and their local election clerk mails them applications ahead of every election. Additionally, some jurisdictions are mailing applications to all local registered voters. The Michigan Department of State’s Bureau of Elections has ensured all remaining registered voters receive an application.

“We appreciate that some clerks are proactively protecting public health by mailing applications to all their registered voters, and we are fulfilling our responsibility to provide all voters equal access,” said Benson. “We know from the elections that took place this month that during the pandemic Michiganders want to safely vote.”

Record-breaking turnout was recorded in the approximately 50 elections held across 33 counties on May 5, with nearly 25 percent of eligible voters casting ballots and 99 percent of them doing so by mail or in a drop box. From 2010 to 2019, average turnout in local elections in May was 12 percent.

The application mailing from the Bureau of Elections includes a cover letter with instructions from Secretary Benson. Once a voter signs their application, they can mail it or email a photo of it to their local clerk, whose contact information is included on the application. The application is also available for download at Michigan.gov/Vote. At the same website, voters can also register and join the permanent absent voter list so they always have the option to vote by mail.

“The vast majority of voters across the political spectrum want the option to vote by mail,” said Benson. “Mailing applications to all registered voters is one of the ways that we are ensuring Michigan’s elections will continue to be safe, accurate and secure.”CONTINUE READING

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Come Hear From Two Candidates Running For Michigan Supreme Court

The Roscommon County Democratic Party is pleased to announce a Zoom meeting to meet candidates for the Michigan Supreme Court, Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and candidate Elizabeth Welch.

This year we have the opportunity to elect two candidates to our Michigan Supreme Court that support the values of the Democratic Party.  We need justices on our Supreme Court that support people over corporations.

The Zoom meeting will take place on May 13th at 6 p.m. and the meeting ID will be released the week of this event. Please plan on attending by watching for the coming details.