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Republicans laugh with or at Tim Scott in 2017 after giving tax cuts to the rich

By Their Fruits and Imaginary Black Friends Ye Shall Know Them

This Juneteenth, there's gotta be no better totem of the grotesque lies of MAGA's revamped Lost Cause - just swap out white "Christian" men for slaveholders - than the spectacle of their felonious, "very fine people" leader hustling African-American votes at a "Black" church in Detroit that drew "the 15 Black people who support him" and a crowd of white MAGA-ites, some in WTF "Blacks For Trump" t-shirts. Consummate for a guy who's been vilely "wrong and loud" over a lifetime of racism.

At midnight on Freedom's Eve, Jan.1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln's historic Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, declaring millions of enslaved people legally free. But in Confederate-controlled Texas, the last bastion of slavery, it took until June 19, 1865, for Union soldiers to ride into Galveston on "America's second independence Day" and free over 250,000 black slaves - “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news" - offering the (still-unfulfilled) promise of "absolute equality," not for some but for all. In 2021, in "the house built by enslaved people," Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a new federal holiday; 14 House Republicans denounced the bill as "identify politics" and voted against it. Calling the event one of his greatest honors and "a day of profound weight" in which to remember slavery's "moral stain (and) terrible toll," Biden knelt to embrace 94-year-old Texas activist Opal Lee, the driving force behind the new holiday. On Wednesday, he posted, "Today, we honor the tireless work of abolitionists who made it their mission to deliver the promise of America for all."

Then there's the other guy. The one who got sued 50 years ago for housing discrimination against Black families. Who demanded the Central Park Five's young brown and black men be executed, and declined to apologize after they were exonerated. Who for years dog-whistled racist tropes and demonized migrants. Who gave rise to vicious Birtherism attacks against Barack Obama, spewed the n-word on his stupid show, claimed he "knew" Black people 'cause they worked on his tacky buildings, boasted about "the Blacks" liking him more now that he's a criminal and discriminated against just like them. Who befriended and defended white supremacists, Nazi thugs and Proud Boys, decried the removal of Confederate statues, went fake gangsta to peddle sneakers and mugshot t-shirts. Who gave tax cuts to rich white men, cut funds to HBCUs and safety nets and lied about it, said African people lived in "shithole countries" and Americans in majority-black cities - Baltimore, Atlanta, Philly, Detroit - are "living in hell." DNC chair Jaime Harrison: "He’s telling us exactly what he thinks of Black Americans, and we’re listening."

He's also the guy who, having never heard of either Juneteenth or the 1921 Tulsa Massacre - when a mob of white Oklahomans attacked a thriving Black community, burning homes and businesses and killing up to 300 Black residents - planned a Tulsa rally on Juneteenth as both the pandemic and protests against the murder of George Floyd raged. Faced with fury at his ignorance about "the history of that hallowed ground" as well asJuneteenth, he backed down and pushed the rally up a day to June 20. Then, ever the moronic, juvenile narcissist, he proceeded to brag to the Wall Street Journal, " I did something good. I made Juneteenth very famous." “It’s actually an important event," he explained. "But nobody had ever heard of it" (except generations of Black Americans). It seems a Black Secret Service guy told him about it; when he asked an aide if she'd heard of Juneteenth, she mentioned a White House statement on it he likewise knew nothing about - for Black Americans, "another reminder that our communities and our history are an afterthought, or worse, a target. At every turn, Trump is loud and wrong."

Lift Every Voice and Sing - A Cappella (Berklee We Will Rise Summit)www.youtube.com

And so, to Detroit - or as the right-wing New York Post blared, "Team Trump is bravely going where Republicans have never gone before - into the black community." Also, into a city - oops, cue "horrible" Milwaukee - he earlier called "a living hell," in a state now deemed vital in an alarmingly close election. Detroit is one of the country's largest majority-Black cities, and in 2020 Biden won almost 95% of the vote. To sweeten the pot, the campaign chose the occasion to launch a "Black Americans for Trump Coalition" endorsed by a handful of Black celebs and pols; they include former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who served only a bit of his 28 years in prison for felony fraud and racketeering convictions - "the best people" - before Trump commuted his sentence in 2021. Trump was scheduled to attend a roundtable at the evangelical 180 Church on the hardscrabble west side of the city; the event was moderated by Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, a Trump sycophant and vice-presidential wannabe who's been busy trying to clean up an earlier, untoward claim that Blacks were better off in the deeply racist "Jim Crow" South.

Pastor Lorenzo Sewell, in a "Make Black America Great Again" shirt, hosted Trump; it's unclear how many of the city's bounteous churches with black pastors declined the honor. In a grinning interview, Sewell described congregants laughing when he invited them; at least one asked, "Why are you letting the devil into our church?" But he remained upbeat even as Trump, sitting two seats away, failed to recognize him: "Where's Lorenzo?" For many, the vital issue of the day was: Does it still count as a "Black" church if it's filled with white people? Despite a smattering of Blackpeople - they woke Ben Carson for the day, local rappers Peezy and Icewear Vezzo showed, as did some Black congregants, none from that church - most of the those who, per Jimmy Kimmel, "came to see Mr. Martin Luther Burger King in person" were white, stout, red-cap-wearing MAGA fans, raising the tricky question as to whether you can win the black vote with white folks. There was also a heckler yelling, "Drink some bleach!" and a skeptic noting, "I saw more Black people at my house today and I'm the only Black person who lives here."

As usual, the guy who's done more for Black people than Abe Lincoln, along with his lackeys, lied and ranted: Migrants are "coming into your community, they’re taking your jobs," crime is rampant, a crowd like you've never seen, more money for HBCUs, the American dream for all people," “I have so many Black friends that if I were a racist, they wouldn’t be friends, so I'm not racist." Pastor James Perkins: "Every time Trump opens his mouth to talk to Black folks, he demonizes us, insults us, and makes empty promises he’ll never keep." Pastor and head of Detroit NAACP Dr. Wendell Anthony panned Trump's "use of the sacred institution of the black church to peddle his pernicious, perilous lies." "He did not articulate any policy" - education, infrastructure, jobs, the John Lewis voting rights bill, the George Floyd policing act. "He articulated the fact that he wanted to come get some Black votes." "Some people may go for the okey-dokey," he said. "The fact is, he comes in and talks about what he's done for Black people. Look at the record. By their fruits, ye shall know them."

After the church event, Trump gave the keynote address to his real base of racists at Turning Point’s confab alongside Charlie Kirk, who argues the Civil Rights Act was “a mistake” and "Whiteness is great." From such dark places - see the rise of right-wing extremism, the dwindling of hopes of police reform or economic equity, the GOP's war on history, the persistence of holidays honoring the Confederacy in 10 southern states - does Juneteenth's promise of "absolute equality" become a mere "gilded token." MAGA is essentially a refurbished Confederacy, argues Thom Hartmann of a "post-political" GOP done with the niceties of democracy: "They’re using our political system (to) seize enough power to destroy our political system." On Jan. 6, more than one Confederate flag was seen waving in the Capitol. And on Newsmax Trump, representing all "oppressed people,” just became as big a victim as Emmett Till himself. Hint: It's the jury's fault, and "we've seen this before." Juneteenth represents how far we've come, but clearly, scarily, urgently how far we still have to go.

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are people who want crops without plowing the ground.They want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters.” - Frederick Douglas, 1857

Climate rally at United Kingdom Supreme Court

Landmark UK Supreme Court Ruling 'Slams Brakes' on New Fossil Fuel Projects

In a landmark decision that could spell doom for all new fossil fuel projects in the country, the United Kingdom's highest court ruled Thursday that local planning authorities unlawfully failed to consider the full planet-warming emissions impact when they approved a drilling initiative that was expected to yield more than 3 million tonnes of oil over two decades.

The most recent challenge to the closely watched drilling project was brought to the U.K. Supreme Court in 2023 by climate campaigner Sarah Finch, who argued that the Surrey County Council's granted permission for new oil wells at Horse Hill without taking into account future emissions from burning the fossil fuel produced at the sites—so-called "downstream" emissions.

In a 3-2 decision, the U.K.'s high court ruled that the Surrey council's approval of the Horse Hill drilling "was unlawful because the emissions that will occur when the oil produced is burnt as fuel are within the scope of the [environmental impact assessment] required by law."

"The oil and gas companies may act like business-as-usual is still an option, but it will be very hard for planning authorities to permit new fossil fuel developments."

Finch said Thursday that she is "absolutely over the moon to have won this important case."

"This is a welcome step towards a safer, fairer future," Finch continued. "The oil and gas companies may act like business-as-usual is still an option, but it will be very hard for planning authorities to permit new fossil fuel developments—in the Weald, the North Sea, or anywhere else—when their true climate impact is clear for all to see."

Friends of the Earth U.K., which backed Finch's legal challenge, called the court's ruling "a heavy blow for the fossil fuel industry," noting that the decision "could have ramifications for other proposed fossil fuel projects, such as the Whitehaven coal mine, as well as projects to extract oil from the North Sea."

Scientists have made clear that no new oil and gas projects are consistent with efforts to limit planetary warming to 1.5°C by century's end.

"If developers are now obliged to present the full climate impacts of their projects (instead of just a fraction of those impacts, as has largely happened up until now), then decision-makers may well think twice before granting them planning permission," Friends of the Earth U.K. said in a statement Thursday.

Extinction Rebellion U.K., another supporter of Finch's challenge, said Thursday's ruling effectively "slams brakes" on new fossil fuel projects in the country.

"Not only does today's Supreme Court ruling destroy [U.K. Oil and Gas'] plans to drill for up to 3.3 million tonnes of crude oil for 20 years at its Horse Hill site, near Gatwick Airport, but also has huge implications for all future fossil fuel projects in the U.K.," the organization said. "Neither the Cumbrian coal mine in Whitehaven nor the Rosebank oil field in the North Sea sought consent for their projects. Nor did they provide any information on downstream emissions in their environmental statements. Both projects are the subjects of legal challenges."

Medical worker

'We Need Medicare for All Yesterday': US Healthcare Spending to Hit $7.7 Trillion

A federal analysis released this week projects that U.S. healthcare spending is set to rise to $7.7 trillion by 2032 and account for nearly 20% of the nation's economy, findings that single-payer advocates described as yet another indictment of the country's for-profit system and further evidence of the need for Medicare for All.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) Office of the Actuary said Wednesday that it expects national healthcare expenditures to outpace U.S. economic growth over roughly the next decade, "resulting in an increase in the health spending share of GDP from 17.3% in 2022 to 19.7% in 2032."

The CMS analysis showed that U.S. healthcare spending grew at a rate of 7.5% last year, with overall expenditures reaching $4.8 trillion. CMS said it projects health spending will rise by 5.6% annually over the coming years, with overall spending reaching $7.7 trillion by 2032.

Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said in a statement Thursday that the coming surge in healthcare spending "has nothing to do with improving care and everything to do with price-gouging, monopolization, and wealth extraction by insurance corporations, Big Pharma, and for-profit hospitals."

Despite spending more on healthcare per capita than any other rich nation, the U.S. consistently ranks last among its peers in health outcomes.

Weissman on Thursday pointed to an academic analysis published earlier this week in JAMA Internal Medicine detailing the massive costs of Medicare Advantage, a federally funded program run by private insurance companies. The paper notes that private Medicare Advantage plans have overcharged the federal government to the tune of $612 billion since 2007—much of which insurers pocket as profit.

"We have known for decades that healthcare costs in the U.S. are out of control," said Weissman. "The jaw-dropping figures from CMS highlight the need to move to Medicare for All immediately so that we can finally start to make healthcare more affordable for taxpayers, while ensuring everyone in America can access the care and medicines they need."

Studies have repeatedly shown that transitioning to a Medicare for All system—as proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and more than 120 other members of Congress—would save the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars a year and countless lives compared to the status quo, which leaves tens of millions of people uninsured, underinsured, and unable to afford lifesaving treatments and medications.

Peer-reviewed research published in 2022 estimated that more than 338,000 coronavirus-related deaths could have been prevented in the U.S. if the country had a single-payer system that guaranteed coverage to all people as a right.

"Other countries spend far less per capita on healthcare while guaranteeing coverage and providing higher quality care," Weissman said Thursday. "It is time that we do the same."

Tenants' rights groups rally outside the Massachusetts State House

Analysis Shows Embracing Bold Renter Protections Can Help Democrats Win in 2024

An analysis released Tuesday bolsters an argument that progressive lawmakers and organizers have been making with growing urgency in the lead-up to the critical November elections: Housing should be at the top of the Democratic Party's—and President Joe Biden's—agenda.

The research brief, authored by Russell Weaver of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) Buffalo Co-Lab, shows that tenants are a "large, untapped political base" that can be mobilized by candidates who offer bold solutions to the housing crisis and support the rights of renters against the predatory landlords squeezing them for profit.

While homeowners typically turn out to vote at a far higher rate than tenants, Weaver noted, the "owner-renter turnout gap is nearly cut in half when candidates run on renter-friendly platforms." Renters in New York state (NYS)—the focus of the new analysis—are more likely than homeowners to be registered as Democrats or members of the Working Families Party.

Analyzing the results of New York's statewide general election in 2022, Weaver found that NYS tenants "might have been relatively motivated to turn out for candidates who were vocal supporters or co-sponsors of the 2022 state-level Good Cause Eviction bill, which protects renters against rent hikes and evictions."

"In NYS Senate races that did not feature such a candidate, the average turnout rate among likely renters was roughly 29% (after adjusting for race-ethnicity and political party)," Weaver wrote. "In races that included Good Cause proponents, however, average renter turnout was more than five percentage points higher, at 34.1%—a statistically significant difference."

Weaver said in a statement that his analysis underscores that "candidates who campaign on housing affordability and tenant protections have the potential to significantly boost renter turnout, which could be decisive in tightly contested races."

"An organized tenant voting bloc could be the key to jump-starting a statewide housing policy agenda that works for all New Yorkers," said Weaver.

The findings could also have implications for national races as rent remains high across the country, leaving roughly half of U.S. tenants unable to afford their monthly payments as corporate landlords and billionaire investors gobble up rental properties and drive up costs. The Federal Reserve is also making the crisis worse by keeping interest rates elevated.

"This brief tells us what we already know: Renters are a powerful voting bloc that will determine the 2024 election," Katie Goldstein, a housing justice organizer at the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), said of Weaver's analysis. "We can't leave these votes on the table."

"Tenant champions who run on these issues will be rewarded at the ballot box—and politicians who fail to do so will be voted out of office."

CPD, Right to the City Action, and HIT Strategies released survey data earlier this month showing that 87% of U.S. voters believe the "cost of rent and housing is a major or big problem in their state" and that 70% said they are "more likely to vote for someone who supports rent stabilization policies."

The new research brief and polling data strengthen the case for making housing a top priority for an incumbent president and Democratic lawmakers hoping to defeat their Republican opponents in November.

"Tenant protections aren't just good policies—they're good politics," said Esteban Girón, member of the Tenants PAC Board. "Candidates have the opportunity to win big by committing to keep rents affordable and protect tenants from displacement."

At a gathering in Los Angeles in early April, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and other lawmakers at the national, state, and local levels in imploring Democrats to elevate bold housing policies and tenant protections such as federal rent control to the top of the party's agenda.

"This is the richest country on Earth. We're not a poor country," Sanders said at the event. "Can we build affordable housing that we need? Can we protect? And the answer is of course we can. But it will require a massive grassroots effort to transform our political system to do that."

Politicoreported earlier this year that Biden has privately expressed "increasing concern" that housing costs are putting his reelection hopes in jeopardy.

"The White House is now pushing a range of bulked-up tax credits to incentivize existing homeowners to sell their starter homes, as well as expand rental assistance and extend help for lower-income buyers with their down payments," the outlet noted. "Yet all those ideas require legislation. And while the White House has publicly argued the crisis affects red states just as much as blue states, aides privately acknowledge any movement is a long shot in an election year. Indeed, Republicans have been quick to pan Biden's housing push."

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, meanwhile, has not released a housing agenda as he vies for another four years in the White House. During his first term as president, Trump repeatedly pursued steep cuts to federal housing programs and assailed affordable housing initiatives.

Brahvan Ranga, political director of For the Many, said Tuesday that it is "critical we elect legislators who will enact policies that expand tenants' rights, create and maintain affordable green social housing, and affirm housing as a guaranteed right."

"The housing crisis is front of mind for tenants as they head to the polls—both in Democratic primaries and general elections. As housing costs continue to rise and working families struggle to stay in their homes, corporate real estate and greedy landlords are raking in record profits," said Ranga. "Tenant champions who run on these issues will be rewarded at the ballot box—and politicians who fail to do so will be voted out of office."

Arundhati Roy attends a demonstration wearing a small "Free the Press" sign.

'Unconscionable': Prosecution of Arundhati Roy Sanctioned Under Indian Anti-Terror Law

Delhi Lieutenant Gov. V. K. Saxena has sanctioned the prosecution of world-renowned Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy over comments she allegedly made 14 years ago regarding Kashmir, officials from his office said on Friday.

Saxena is a member of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), and Roy has been a vocal critic of Modi and what she has described as India's "descent... into full-blown fascism" under BJP leadership.

"This is horrifying—a clear case of political persecution by an authoritarian government" Seven Stories Press, which publishes Roy's work, wrote on social media in response to the news.

"This kind of fascism is exactly what Indians have voted against."

Along with Roy, Saxena also sanctioned the prosecution of former Central University of Kashmir international law professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain. The charges originate from a conference the two attended in New Delhi titled "Azadi: The Only Way" on October 21, 2010, according to Indian media.

During the conference, Roy allegedly said that Kashmir—a disputed territory that is administered partly by Pakistan and partly by India, and where the Indian occupation has committed human rights abuses—"has never been an integral part of India."

On October 28, 2010, a first information report (FIR) naming Roy, Hussain, and other co-defendants who have since died was registered in the New Delhi's Court of Metropolitan Magistrate. A FIR is a document that law-enforcement officials file after receiving actionable information about a potential offense.

"The issues discussed and spoken about at the conference propagated the 'separation of Kashmir from India,'" the governor's office said.

Friday's sanction allows the prosecution of Roy and Hussain under a part of India's controversial Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) related to sedition. It follows Saxena's decision in October of last year to allow the case to move forward under different sections of the Indian Penal Code.

As the Independent explained:

The UAPA allows the authorities to detain suspects for up to 180 days without any charges. It was tweaked by the Modi administration in 2019 so that individuals could be classified as terrorists without necessarily being linked to a designated terror group. A total of 1,948 people were arrested in 2019 after the change came into force, marking an uptick of almost 37% from the previous year.

The new development comes a little more than a week after Modi's BJP failed to win a majority in India's elections for the first time since 2014. While Modi retained control of the government through his coalition partners, the better-than-expected performance of the opposition was widely seen as a setback for the right-wing leader, and some critics thought the election results and the prosecution of Roy might be related.

"If by prosecuting Arundhati Roy under UAPA the BJP are trying to prove they're back, well they're not. And they'll never be back the same way they were," member of parliament Mahua Moitra from the opposition Trinamool Congress Party said, adding, "This kind of fascism is exactly what Indians have voted against."

Other Indian opposition politicians spoke out against the targeting of Roy.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said the move was "condemnable" and that prosecuting Roy for a speech made 14 years ago "defies logic except the fascist kind," as The Guardian reported.

"Timing is suspect since courts are on vacation, as are lawyers," the party added.

Communist Party of India leader D. Raja also said that the "timing is highly questionable" and added that "it appears to be a political vendetta."

Several well-known authors and activists expressed solidarity with the 62-year-old Roy, who won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel The God of Small Things.

"Solidarity with Arundhati Roy," author Hari Kunzru posted on social media. "Modi has been out to get her since the days when she spoke out about his complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots. She once told me a terrifying story about having to escape via the roof of an Ahmedabad guesthouse when police came to question her."

Author Amitav Ghosh said: "The hounding of Arundhati Roy is absolutely unconscionable. She is a great writer and has a right to her opinion. There needs to be an international outcry about the case that has been brought against her for something she said a decade ago."

Poet Zeeshan Joonam wrote: "The attempt to silence the legendary writer Arundhati Roy from India must be condemned by all free speech advocates. She has done nothing wrong. She is an intellectual and moral giant."

Former Greek Finance Minister and leader of the pan-European leftist political party DiEM25 Yanis Varoufakis, meanwhile, issued a challenge to the international community.

"Only yesterday I was expressing concern over the rumors that Arundhati Roy might be Modi's next political prisoner. A day later the rumor is becoming a reality," Varoufakis posted on social media. "Will there be an uproar in the 'civilized' West? Or will complicity be the order of the day a la Assange?"

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

Campaigners Decry 'Dangerous Escalation' as NATO Chief Floats Nuclear Deployment

Nuclear disarmament campaigners on Monday implored NATO and Russia to step back from the brink after the head of the Western military alliance said its members are considering deploying additional atomic weapons to counter Moscow and Beijing.

"This is the dangerous escalation inherent to the deterrence doctrine," the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) wrote on social media, referring to the notion that the threat of catastrophic nuclear retaliation prevents nations from using atomic weaponry.

The U.S., which spent more on its atomic weapons arsenal than every other nuclear-armed nation combined last year, currently has nukes deployed in five NATO countries—Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Russia, meanwhile, recently deployed nuclear weapons to Belarus, which said earlier this month that it would join Moscow's nuclear exercises.

ICAN said Monday that "it's time for both to reverse course."

"NATO countries hosting U.S. nuclear weapons should admit to their citizens they have weapons of mass destruction on their soil with no public say," ICAN added. "But neither Belarus nor NATO allies should flaunt being prepared to indiscriminately kill millions of people."

"The risk of nuclear weapons use, and public attention to this danger, is at an all-time high."

The group's warning came after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg toldThe Telegraph on Sunday that members of the military alliance are in the process of deliberating over "how many nuclear warheads should be operational and which should be stored."

"NATO's aim is, of course, a world without nuclear weapons, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, we will remain a nuclear alliance, because a world where Russia, China, and North Korea have nuclear weapons, and NATO does not, is a more dangerous world," Stoltenberg continued.

The NATO chief's remarks drew a swift response from Moscow. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, condemned Stoltenberg's comments as "nothing else but an escalation" and claimed that whenever Russian President Vladimir Putin "comments on the issue of nuclear arms, he does so taking someone's questions or questions from reporters, including foreign ones."

A report published Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) found that "nearly all" of the world's 2,100 deployed nuclear warheads that were "kept in a state of high operational alert" as of January 2024 belonged to the U.S. or Russia.

Separately, ICAN released an analysis Monday showing that the U.S., Russia, and China were the world's largest spenders on nuclear weapons last year. The U.S. and Russia control about 90% of the world's arsenal of atomic weapons. According to experts, a nuclear conflict between the two countries would likely kill tens of millions of people within hours and set off a devastating global famine.

"The risk of nuclear weapons use, and public attention to this danger, is at an all-time high," ICAN's new report warns. "Explicit and implicit threats to use nuclear weapons, including in the context of ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, combined with the Oppenheimer blockbuster, Fallout TV show (and possible video game reboot), and bestselling book 'Nuclear War: A Scenario,' mean the world is talking about the bomb."