Nobly Fighting the Woke-ocracy, One Garbled, Delusional Outburst At A Time
As we await (please) the indictment of Orange Man Walking, he and his rabid, victimized forces are busy raving about abuses of power by an Evil Deep State of WOKE trains, banks, schools, D.A's, gay/ black/ radical left miscreants who "HAVE STOLLEN (sic) OUR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, AND WITH IT, THE HEART OF OUR OUR (sic) COUNTRY." But to defeat nefarious wokeness, they first must define it. Their latest effort: "So woke is...umm...sort of...like...the idea of..." SAD!
With a truck circling Mar-A-Golf quoting smirky Tucker's "I hate him passionately," new legal losses daily arriving, and new scathing hashtags gaily trending - #TrumpCrimeFamily and #GuiltyAsFuck - Trump and his "mayonnaise legions" continue to double down on the notion that any attack on him is an attack on our already crumbling Republic, never mind his lifetime of sordid grifts and crimes whose reckoning is long past due. In ceaseless, panicked posts, he's been painting a floridly dystopian portrait of a fictional nation "NOW THIRD WORLD & DYING, AMERICAN PATRIOTS ARE BEING ARRESTED & HELD IN CAPTIVITY LIKE ANIMALS, WHILE CRIMINALS & LEFTIST THUGS ARE ALLOWED TO ROAM THE STREETS, KILLING & BURNING WITH NO RETRIBUTION, MILLIONS ARE FLOODING THROUGH OUR OPEN BOARDERS (sic), MANY FROM PRISONS & MENTAL INSTITUTIONS. CRIME & INFLATION ARE DESTROYING OUR VERY WAY OF LIFE." Worst, here he is, the eternal victim and "FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," set upon by D.A. Alvin Bragg, a woke "Soros Racist in Reverse," and America must "PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!" he's being asked to play by the same rulebook as the rest of us, also please send money.
In his latest (literally) dark diatribe, the "fluorescent tangerine imbecile" went all Pol Pot, declaiming that if/when elected he'll form a "Truth & Reconciliation Commission to expose the hoaxes" of the Deep State"; he'll also prosecute government leakers and move 100,000 government jobs out of DC to "places filled with patriots who love America." His sycophants in power, victims just like him, have duly echoed his grievances: Talk of an indictment for what is in fact a gazillion crimes and misdemeanors is "unAmerican," "an outrageous abuse of power," sheer political vengeance that "follows the lead of Socialist dictators." Oversight head James Comer babbles that Bragg is "grossly overstepping his authority by two levels of government" and the House is coming for him. Rand Paul says Bragg should be "put in jail," and what obstruction of justice? Andy Biggs warns, “If they can come for Trump, they will come for you." On the MAGA forum "The Donald," frantic fans are promising "Civil War 2.0," complete with a "Patriot Moat" around Mar-A-Lago. But with Jan. 6 trials and convictions ongoing - and Trump's absence from that event and its consequences often bitterly noted - the response is a tad muted. From Ali Alexander, a key organizer of rallies to overturn the election, "Now I'm retired. I'll pray for him though!"
The GOP's desperate focus on the villainous Bragg, a "woke" Democrat they equate with being "weak on crime," is part of an overarching War on Woke that's become the incoherent cornerstone of all their political machinations - their pot/kettle House hearings on government's "weaponization," their multiple state laws to control books, kids, women in a life-or-death Culture War, their racist efforts to protect innocents from slavery-recognizing Woke Mobs - "Woke supremacy is as bad as white supremacy" - and their hopes to win elections through ugly, divisive, repeated use of a dog-whistle that means, "This is really about smearing black, gay and other marginalized people who live the inequity we don't want to acknowledge, but if I said that I'd be called a bigot." The rhetoric is everywhere. Ron Woke-ity-Woke DeSantis, its loudest purveyor, calls his state "the place where woke goes to die," daily pushes fascist legislation to prove it, and warns if he loses his war against "the woke mind-virus" and a vast segment of our population, "We're going to be living under an oppressive woke-ocracy." Pompeo rants about "the poisonous lie of equity wokeness and identity politics," Pence about "a pernicious woke agenda designed to control the American people," Trump about "woke tyranny." During March Madness, the Heritage Foundation can even steer you safely to the most un-woke teams.
In the most ludicrous manifestation of Woke lunacy, the right chose to blame excessive wokeness for last month's collapse of Silicon Valley Bank - did tellers wear Black Banks Matter t-shirts? - because we all know the gilded halls of capitalist finance have long been rife with radical, probably gay Trotskyites and it definitely had nothing to do with a 2018 banking deregulation law signed by Trump and lobbied for by bank president Gary Becker - a white man like the vast majority of Wall Street executives, investment bankers and other overlords of financial power. Still, an inane deluge charged the bank failed because they acknowledged diversity issues. Fox' Jesse Watters: "This stupid bank (is) a woke Biden bank...They were holding seminars (on) National Pride Month." James Comer: "We see it now coming out they were one of the most woke banks." DeSantis: "They were so concerned with DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) and all kinds of stuff (that) diverted from them focusing on their core mission." Wall Street Journal op-ed: "They had 1 Black, 1 LGBTQ+ and 2 Veterans on the board...The company may have been distracted by diversity demands." The crazed conclusion: "This is cultural and economic Marxism, there is no other way of putting it. This is where we are - this long march of Socialism through our institutions."
"Long march of Socialism?" Try long distortion of language to co-opt and re-purpose terms - "elite," "freedom," "pro-life," "Critical Race Theory" - to obscure their own bigotry. The right's attempt to lay the burden of a bank's failure, an innate, common, often cruel hazard of capitalism, on marginalized people follows a historically familiar playbook for faux populists famously perfected by the Nazis: Blame the powerless, who are secretly powerful. In their conflation of efforts to render society kinder, fairer and more empathetic with perfidy, writes Aaron Rupar, they prove the GOP remains "the party of hate," intent on maintaining white patriarchal rule at any cost. Evidence of GOP efforts to "cancel" black, brown, poor, gay, trans etc home rule is overwhelming, from ID laws to redistricting to MAGA-izing school boards to literally erasing policies they don't like in Dem cities of color. The House voted to undo the D.C. City Council's re-write of its own criminal laws. State officials in Texas just announced they're taking over Houston's school system - 62% Latino, 22% Black, 8th largest in the country - to fight “woke education.” A new "Jim Crow bill” will take some judicial and police power from black-majority Jackson, Miss. city officials and give it to GOP state legislators in a move Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba blasts as “plantation politics.” Etc etc.
Still, words do matter. Before the right twisted it into a weapon to bludgeon Legos with disabilities and The Little Mermaid, “woke” had an actual meaning. It originated as Black vernacular for “alert to racial discrimination”; to “stay woke” was to be "aware of the deceptions and tactics used to enforce racism.” Today, a majority of Americans can muster the brain-power to define woke as being "informed, educated on, and aware of social injustices," which for us is kinda the same as being informed, educated on, and aware of living on Planet Earth. For the right, woke has become "MAGA-ese for non-white," but they're caught in a pesky Catch-22: Because even they know they're not supposed to say that out loud, they struggle mightily to define what it is they hate. On Fox, it's murky: "It could be a feeling, it could be a sense." (Twitter: "It could be a land shark, a trans werewolf, a smell, whatever scares you.") It's Pence on Trump: "Nobody is above the law, but nobody is beneath the law either." It's the guy asked by The Good Liars what CRT is: "I dunno, but it definitely shouldn't be taught in schools." It's right-wing sage Bethany Mandel, author of a book about woke indoctrination, asked what woke is: " So, umm..." It's Trump, asked to request a prayer on a Pastors For Trump National Prayer Call, coming up blank, then claiming "the radical left" broke the phone connection. God works in mysterious ways. We hope She's working on an indictment next.
Propaganda 101: Ron DeSantis gets (hires?) unknowing kids of color to support his fascist agenda for the cameras.Getty Image
Climate Groups Reject 'Risky, Untested' Technofixes in IPCC Report
Longtime critics of "false solutions" to the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency responded to a United Nations report released Monday by reiterating their warnings about relying on underdeveloped and untested technologies that could enable major polluters to continue producing massive amounts of planet-heating emissions.
Noting the 2015 Paris agreement's two primary temperature targets for this century, the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states that "all global modeled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot, and those that limit warming to 2°C, involve rapid and deep and, in most cases, immediate" greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions in all sectors this decade.
"We must heed the IPCC's urgent messages, without falling into the trap of assuming that carbon dioxide removal will save the day."
Modeled mitigation pathways, the report continues, "include transitioning from fossil fuels without carbon capture and storage (CCS) to very low- or zero-carbon energy sources, such as renewables or fossil fuels with CCS, demand-side measures and improving efficiency, reducing non-CO2 GHG emissions," and carbon dioxide removal (CDR).
As the document details:
CCS is an option to reduce emissions from large-scale fossil-based energy and industry sources provided geological storage is available. When CO2 is captured directly from the atmosphere (DACCS), or from biomass (BECCS), CCS provides the storage component of these CDR methods. CO2 capture and subsurface injection is a mature technology for gas processing and enhanced oil recovery. In contrast to the oil and gas sector, CCS is less mature in the power sector, as well as in cement and chemicals production, where it is a critical mitigation option. The technical geological storage capacity is estimated to be on the order of 1000 GtCO2, is more than the CO2 storage requirements through 2100 to limit global warming to 1.5°C, although the regional availability of geological storage could be a limiting factor. If the geological storage site is appropriately selected and managed, it is estimated that the CO2 can be permanently isolated from the atmosphere.
"Implementation of CCS currently faces technological, economic, institutional, ecological environmental and socio-cultural barriers," the report notes. "Currently, global rates of CCS deployment are far below those in modeled pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C to 2°C. Enabling conditions such as policy instruments, greater public support, and technological innovation could reduce these barriers."
The report further says that "biological CDR methods like reforestation, improved forest management, soil carbon sequestration, peatland restoration, and coastal blue carbon management can enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functions, employment and local livelihoods. However, afforestation or production of biomass crops can have adverse socioeconomic and environmental impacts, including on biodiversity, food and water security, local livelihoods, and the rights of Indigenous peoples, especially if implemented at large scales and where land tenure is insecure."
While the world's top scientists—and the governments that signed off on the report—recognized issues with CCS and CDR, climate campaigners expressed frustration that such technologies were featured as partial solutions.
"It's very alarming to see carbon dioxide removal featuring so centrally in the IPCC report," declared Sara Shaw at Friends of the Earth International (FOEI). "We can't rely on risky, untested, and downright dangerous removals technologies just because big polluters want us to stick to the status quo."
"A fair and fast phaseout of oil, gas, and coal needs to happen in this decade, and it can, with the right political will," she stressed. "We must heed the IPCC's urgent messages, without falling into the trap of assuming that carbon dioxide removal will save the day."
Fellow FOIE leader Hemantha Withanage explained that "in my country, Sri Lanka, the impacts of climate change are being felt now. We have no time to chase fairy tales like carbon removal technologies to suck carbon out of the air."
"The IPCC evidence is clear: Climate change is killing people, nature, and planet," he said. "The answers are obvious: a fair and fast phaseout of fossil fuels, and finance for a just transition. The fantasy of overshooting safe limits and betting on risky technofixes is certainly not a cure for the problem."
Lili Fuhr at the Center for International Environmental Law agreed that "the takeaway of the IPCC synthesis is irrefutable: An immediate, rapid, and equitable fossil fuel phaseout is the cornerstone of any strategy to avoid catastrophic levels of global warming."
"Building our mitigation strategies on models that instead lock in inequitable growth and conveniently assume away the risks of technofixes like carbon capture and storage and carbon dioxide removal ignores that clarion message and increases the likelihood of overshoot," Fuhr warned. "The most ambitious mitigation pathways put out by the IPCC set the floor, not the ceiling, for necessary climate action.
Research shows that overshooting Paris temperature targets, even temporarily, could dramatically raise the risk of the world experiencing dangerous "tipping points," as Common Dreamsreported in December. The IPCC report notes that "the higher the magnitude and the longer the duration of overshoot, the more ecosystems and societies are exposed to greater and more widespread changes in climatic impact-drivers, increasing risks for many natural and human systems."
As Corporate Accountability director of climate research and policy Rachel Rose Jackon put it Monday: "Breaching 1.5°C is not an option. Governments will be effectively signing millions of avoidable death warrants for those who contributed least to the crisis."
While arguing that the IPCC document "demands a last and final reckoning" that leads to Global North governments "doing their fair share," the campaigner also emphasized that "the report should have actually named the solutions that will keep us below 1.5°C instead of leaving the door open for an inadequate suite of industry-backed removals and dangerous distractions."
Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter targeted U.S. lawmakers and President Joe Biden in a statement Monday.
"The IPCC is sending one key message above all else: We must stop burning fossil fuels, drilling for fossil fuels, and building new infrastructure to deliver fossil fuels," Hauter said. "Unfortunately, policymakers continue to lock in new dirty energy schemes—most notably the Biden administration's approval of a massive new oil drilling project in Alaska."
"Tragically, Congress and the White House continue to waste money on carbon removal technologies that have been a failure. Relying on these scams instead of taking actions to stop fossil fuel expansion will only lead to further climate catastrophe," she added. "President Biden's actions to expand oil and gas drilling and ramp up fossil fuel exports undermine his professed climate goals and invite further catastrophe. The IPCC's message is clear, and political leaders must answer the call with actions to match the moment."
Senate Dems Urge Treasury Chief to Crack Down on Rich Tax Dodgers
Four U.S senators this week called on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to use her existing authority to go after American billionaires and multimillionaires who "use trusts to shift wealth to their heirs tax-free, dodging federal estate and gift taxes."
"They are doing this in the open: Their wealth managers are bragging about how their tax dodging tricks will be more effective in the current economy," stressed Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
"While we look forward to continuing to partner with you on legislative solutions," the senators wrote to Yellen, "the Treasury Department can and should exercise the full extent of its regulatory authority to limit this blatant abuse of our tax system by the ultrawealthy."
Their letter to the Treasury leader, dated Monday and first reported by CBS MoneyWatch Tuesday, highlights that "only the wealthiest American families" are asked to pay transfer taxes such as the estate tax, gift tax, and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax.
As the letter lays out:
Tax avoidance through grantor trusts starts with the ultrawealthy putting assets into a trust with the intention of transferring them to heirs. Grantor trusts are trusts where the grantor retains control over the assets, and the structures of some of these grantor trusts allow the transfer of massive sums tax-free. Tax planning via grantor trusts, including grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs), is a kind of shell game, with a wealthy person and their wealth managers able to pass assets back and forth in ways that effectively pass wealth to heirs while minimizing tax liability.
Some of the wealthiest families further compound this tax avoidance with perpetual dynasty trusts, which can be used to shield assets from transfer tax liability indefinitely. For example, aggressive valuation discounts can artificially reduce the value of assets transferred into a trust below the GST tax exemption threshold, after which the assets can grow in perpetuity within a trust exempt from transfer tax.
"The ultrawealthy at the top of the socioeconomic ladder live by different rules than the rest of America, especially when it comes to our tax system," the letter charges. "As the richest Americans celebrate and take advantage of these favorable tax opportunities, middle-class families struggle with inflation and Republicans threaten austerity measures and the end of Social Security and Medicare."
To help force the richest Americans to "pay their fair share" in taxes, the senators are calling on Treasury to revoke a pair of tax code rulings from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); require GRATs to have a minimum remainder value; reissue family limited partnership regulations; clarify that intentionally defective grantor trusts (IDGTs) are not entitled to stepped-up basis; and put out clarifying regulations on certain valuation rules for estate and gift taxes.
The senators also sent a series of questions—about potential administrative action, how much is estimated to be held in grantor trusts, and how much could be raised from cracking down on abuse—and requested a response from Treasury by April 3.
Their letter comes after President Joe Biden earlier this month introduced a budget blueprint for fiscal year 2024 that would hike taxes on the rich—proposed policies praised by progressive experts and advocates as "fair, popular, and long overdue."
Yellen last week appeared before the Senate Finance Committee—of which Warren and Whitehouse are members—to testify about the administration's proposal. She said in part that "our proposed budget builds on our economic progress by making smart, fiscally responsible investments. These investments would be more than fully paid for by requiring corporations and the wealthiest to pay their fair share."
'An Abomination': Powell Cut Mention of Regulatory Failures From Bank Bailout Statement
The Federal Reserve was the primary regulator of both Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, whose back-to-back collapses sparked panic in financial markets and concerns about cascading impacts on the U.S. economy.
But despite immediate questions about the possible supervisory failures that allowed the banks' crises to fester, Fed Chair Jerome Powell personally intervened over the weekend to block any mention of regulatory slipups in a joint statement on the federal government's response to the situation.
The New York Timesreported late Thursday that some Biden administration officials "wanted to include that lapses in bank regulation and supervision had contributed to the problems that helped fell" Silicon Valley Bank, whose collapse marked the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history.
But Powell, an ex-investment banker originally nominated by former President Donald Trump, "pushed to take the line on regulation out of the statement because he wanted to focus on the actions being taken to shore up the financial system," according to the
Times, which cited an unnamed person familiar with the matter.
The resulting statement issued Sunday by the Fed, the Treasury Department, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) appeared to conform to Powell's demand, not mentioning what Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and watchdogs have described as glaring failures in supervision by the central bank.
The joint statement vaguely highlights "reforms that were made after the financial crisis that ensured better safeguards for the banking industry"—but neglects to mention that the Fed and Congress rolled back some of those rules in subsequent years, decisions that experts say set the stage for SVB and Signature Bank's collapse.
"That sounds a lot like putting the institutional interests of Fed and personal interests of the chair above financial stability," Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) said in response to news of Powell's intervention, which—according toThe American Prospect's David Dayen—ended up delaying the release of the statement for "an indeterminate period of time."
Dayen also reported Friday that the Fed "tried to influence" President Joe Biden's statement on the bank failures and bailout that followed.
Jeff Hauser, director of the Revolving Door Project, wrote on Twitter that "Biden should have never renominated Powell," calling the Fed chair "an abomination."
While Biden's Sunday statement doesn't specifically mention regulatory failures, the president—who renominated Powell in late 2021—said in prepared remarks the following day that "there are important questions of how these banks got into these circumstances in the first place."
"During the Obama-Biden administration, we put in place tough requirements on banks like Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, including the Dodd-Frank Law, to make sure the crisis we saw in 2008 would not happen again," Biden said. "Unfortunately, the last administration rolled back some of these requirements. I'm going to ask Congress and the banking regulators to strengthen the rules for banks to make it less likely that this kind of bank failure will happen again and to protect American jobs and small businesses."
Biden was referring to a 2018 measure passed by the then-Republican-controlled Congress with the support of dozens of Democrats—and with a public endorsement from Powell.
Emboldened by the Republican-authored law—which weakened regulations for banks with between $50 billion and $250 billion in assets—the Fed under Powell's leadership proceeded to go well beyond the measure's mandates "by relaxing regulatory requirements for domestic banking institutions that have assets in the $250 to $700 billion range," then-central bank governor Lael Brainard noted in October 2018.
Brainard went on to caution, presciently, that the Fed's deregulatory actions would "weaken the buffers that are core to the resilience of our system" and result in "increased risk to financial stability and the taxpayer."
"Make no mistake: your decisions aided and abetted this bank failure, and you bear your share of responsibility for it."
As Dayen wrote Friday, "Silicon Valley Bank had billions in unrealized losses on its balance sheet that it hoped to avoid having to surface."
"It also had a tightly correlated, mostly uninsured depositor base, all largely from one industry and connected to each other, that represented significant flight risk if there were any signs of trouble," he added. "The rapid growth at the bank and its significant mismatch for liquidity purposes should have had the system flashing red."
Dennis Kelleher, the president of Better Markets, expressed a similar sentiment earlier this week, noting that "the Fed has much more and superior knowledge, information, expertise, and access to banks than short sellers, rating agencies, and the media, yet they all appear to have done a much better job at identifying the very serious risks at SVB than the Fed."
In a letter to Powell on Thursday, Warren—one of the Fed chair's most outspoken critics in Congress—laid out in detail what she characterized as the central bank's "astonishing list of failures" that contributed to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.
"As chair of the Fed, you have led and vigorously supported efforts to weaken the regulations that would have subjected banks like SVB and Signature to stronger liquidity requirements, more robust stress testing, and routine resolution planning obligations," the Massachusetts Democrat wrote. "Make no mistake: your decisions aided and abetted this bank failure, and you bear your share of responsibility for it."
In response to the Times' reporting, Warren tweeted Friday that "the Fed chair's outrageous attempt to muzzle the rest of the government about his role in contributing to this current crisis is completely inappropriate—and it won't work."
"Congress needs to step in to fix these mistakes before things get even worse," added Warren, who introduced legislation earlier this week that would repeal a key section of the 2018 bank deregulation law.
This story has been updated to include Sen. Elizabeth Warren's reaction to the reporting on Fed Chair Jerome Powell's intervention.
'The Fight Continues' in France as Macron Government Survives No-Confidence Vote
Fresh protests erupted in Paris and other French cities on Monday after President Emmanuel Macron's government narrowly survived a pair of parliamentary no-confidence votes over bypassing the lower house of Parliament to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
The first parliamentary vote of no confidence, called by a small group of centrist lawmakers, fell nine votes short of the 278 needed to pass, Agence France-Presse reports. A second no-confidence vote, brought forward by the far-right National Rally, was also rejected.
The French Senate, which is dominated by right-wing parties, approved the higher retirement age last week. However, faced with the prospect of a vote shortfall in the National Assembly, Macron's government then invoked special constitutional powers to push through the retirement age hike.
The deeply unpopular policy has sparked widespread protests, some of which have drawn hundreds of thousands of people into the streets despite government bans on gatherings in locations including Place de la Concorde and the area of Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris.
Protests renewed following Monday's votes, with thousands of demonstrators marching in Paris alone. Videos posted on social media showed police charging protesters, spraying them with pepper spray, and beating them. One video showed officers brutalizing a person who appeared to be a photojournalist while an onlooker repeatedly shouted "it's the press!"
"We are not resigned," the Aubervilliers parliamentary group of the left-wing populist party La France Insoumise (LFI), or France Unbowed, tweeted Monday. "The fight against retirement reforms continues. All together in the street until the retirement of this unjust and illegitimate reform!"
LFI's parliamentary group in Haute-Garonne—which includes the southern city of Tolouse—tweeted that "Macron is more isolated than ever."
"The fight continues tonight," the party group said, previewing a Monday evening demonstration.
French unions are calling for a nationwide general strike on Thursday.
Biden Shows Support as Senate Advances Repeal of Iraq War Authorizations
As the U.S. Senate on Thursday teed up a vote to end the congressional authorizations for the Gulf and Iraq wars, President Joe Biden formally backed the bipartisan bill.
The progress on finally repealing the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMFs) comes just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the George W. Bush administration's costly and devastating invasion of Iraq.
The bill ( S. 316/H.R. 932) was reintroduced in February by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and has GOP co-sponsors in both chambers. On Thursday, 19 Republican senators joined with all Democrats present to advance the measure.
The legislation has not yet been approved by the House of Representatives, which is narrowly controlled by the GOP. However, if it reaches the president's desk, he supports it, according to the statement of administration policy released Thursday.
While former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump used the 2002 authorization to justify strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, respectively, the new Biden administration document notes that "the United States conducts no ongoing military activities that rely primarily on the 2002 AUMF, and no ongoing military activities that rely on the 1991 AUMF, as a domestic legal basis."
"Repeal of these authorizations would have no impact on current U.S. military operations and would support this administration's commitment to a strong and comprehensive relationship with our Iraqi partners," that policy statement adds. "President Biden remains committed to working with the Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework more appropriate to protecting Americans from modern terrorist threats."
Demand Progress Education Fund policy adviser Cavan Kharrazian said in a statement that "we are glad President Biden is supportive of getting these outdated AUMFs off the books, and that he is committed to work with Congress on presumably replacing the 2001 AUMF with a narrower framework."
"However, any serious attempt by President Biden to work with Congress on war powers reforms requires the administration to halt unauthorized participation of U.S. armed forces in hostilities that contravene the War Powers Act," Kharrazian stressed. "This includes ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition's war on Yemen, ceasing the use of U.S. forces to protect Syrian oil fields and battling Iranian-backed militias, and putting an end to legally dubious military operations in the Horn of Africa."
The campaigner continued:
Moreover, the administration must commit to full legal transparency regarding the use of military force. Both this administration and previous administrations have failed to provide Congress with timely reporting on the 2001 AUMF, as required by 50 U.S. Code § 1550. Additionally, President Biden has failed to respond to lawmakers' inquiries about the administration's legal justifications for the expansive use of the 2001 AUMF and Article 2 authorities. Without such transparency, Congress is unable to fully exercise its oversight and legislative duties over war and peace.
It's encouraging to see an administration committed to addressing outdated AUMFs. However, a genuine commitment will involve respecting congressional authority over war by proactively ending unauthorized military activities and implementing comprehensive transparency measures.
In a series of tweets, the Quaker advocacy group Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) welcomed the administration's position and highlighted fresh comments from Kaine and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), a co-sponsor, who gathered outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday with members of the American Legion.
"There's no reason—none—to have a war authorization against a strategic partner, and so that's the first reason why we need to do this," Kaine said of Iraq, adding that the repeal must also occur to honor U.S. service members.
Kaine called out previous failures by Congress to end the AUMFs, and noted that leaving them in place enables abuse. While confirming he has not spoken with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) about the bill, the senator expressed optimism that it will pass—saying of the lower chamber, "there's a wonderful bipartisan coalition there as well."
Idaho Hospital Ends All Labor and Delivery Care, Citing Abortion Ban
"Consequences for Idaho physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines," said Bonner General Health as it closed its obstetrics unit.
Rural areas in the U.S. have faced a decline in hospitals that provide obstetric services for years, and the fate of one hospital in northern Idaho suggests that abortion bans could worsen the trend.
As The Washington Post reported reported Tuesday, Bonner General Health in Sandpoint, Idaho has been forced to announce the impending closure of its labor and delivery department, citing staffing issues as well as the state's punitive abortion ban—one of the strictest in the nation—and threats from state Republicans to make the law even more stringent.
The state's ban criminalizes abortion cases in almost all cases and threatens doctors who provide care with felony charges, suspension or termination of their medical license, and up to five years in prison. It includes potential exceptions for people whose pregnancies result from rape or incest and people who doctors determine face life-threatening pregnancy complications—but as Common Dreams has reported, such exceptions have led medical providers to withhold care until a patient is sufficiently ill, placing them in danger.
The threat of prosecution and pressure to withhold medical care from people who need it has contributed to the hospital's staffing shortage, said Bonner General Health in a statement late last week.
"Idaho's political and legal climate does pose as a barrier specific to recruitment and retention for OB-GYNs."
"Highly respected, talented physicians are leaving. Recruiting replacements will be extraordinarily difficult," said the hospital. "In addition, the Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care. Consequences for Idaho physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines."
Idaho Republicans have proposed classifying abortion as "murder from the moment of fertilization" and have called for bans that extend to people whose pregnancies result from incest and rape.
"Idaho's political and legal climate does pose as a barrier specific to recruitment and retention for OB-GYNs," hospital spokesperson Erin Binnall told the Post.
Patients in Sandpoint will now have to travel to Coeur d'Alene, about 45 miles south, to deliver their babies. The city now has the northernmost labor and delivery department in the state, and people living near the state's northern border may have to travel two hours to reach the hospitals there.
Bonner General Health announced its decision days after the podcast "This American Life" featured an interview with an obstetrician who has worked for several years at Bonner General Health but has considered leaving the state since Idaho's ban went into effect last June, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturnedRoe v. Wade.
"I was looking at social media and somebody was talking about a person who is completing their OB-GYN residency and was looking to come to the Pacific Northwest," said Dr. Amelia Huntsberger. "And I'm like, hey, there's all sorts of openings in Idaho. And then I'm laughing out loud because I'm like, who is going to be finishing their residency training and being like, I definitely want to go to the state with the super strict abortion laws that criminalize healthcare?"
The Journal of the American Medical Associationpublished a report in 2018 showing that a lack of obstetric care in rural hospitals is associated with a rise in preterm births and more people giving birth in facilities where medical staff lack the proper training to assist with labor and delivery, such as emergency departments. High rates of maternal mortality are also associated with "maternity care deserts," which include nearly half of rural U.S. counties, according to the Commonwealth Fund.
Nearly 90 rural obstetrics units closed their doors between 2015 and 2019, with hospitals citing financial losses associated with high numbers of patients who use Medicaid as well as difficulty in recruiting and retaining doctors.
"This will be the beginning of a trend, I fear," said behavioral scientist Caroline Orr Bueno of Bonner General Health's decision. "We already have a maternal mortality crisis in the U.S.—we're the only country in the developed world where maternal mortality rates are increasing—and abortion bans are going to make it worse."
Bernie Sanders Targets Moderna Greed in Covid-19 Vaccine Hearing
"Should people in America and around the world be allowed to get sicker and sometimes die because they cannot afford the outrageous and arbitrary prices that the pharmaceutical industry demands?" asked the Vermont Independent.
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday denounced Moderna's proposal to more than quadruple the price of the Covid-19 vaccine it co-developed with billions of dollars in public funding—along with mRNA technology co-invented by government scientists—as an example of Big Pharma's "unacceptable corporate greed."
At a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), the Vermont Independent reiterated his widely shared belief that the purpose of medical advancements should be to save as many lives as possible, not make executives "obscenely rich."
Sanders, who chairs the panel, invited Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel to testify at a hearing titled "Taxpayers Paid Billions For It: So Why Would Moderna Consider Quadrupling the Price of the Covid Vaccine?"
In his opening statement, Sanders stressed that scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies "worked with Moderna to research, develop, and distribute the Covid vaccine that so many of our people have effectively used."
"While Moderna may wish to rewrite history," Sanders continued, "this vaccine would not exist without NIH's partnership and expertise and the substantial investment of the taxpayers of this country. As a matter of public record, U.S. taxpayers spent $12 billion on the research, development, and procurement of the NIH-Moderna Covid vaccine."
"For that huge investment," added the progressive lawmaker, Moderna is "thanking the taxpayers of America by proposing to quadruple the price of the Covid vaccine to as much as $130 once the government stockpile runs out—at a time when it costs just $2.85 to manufacture that vaccine."
"Moderna has already made $21 billion in profits off of the Covid vaccine during the pandemic and four of Moderna's executives and investors collectively became more than $10 billion wealthier as a result of the massive taxpayer investment into that corporation," said Sanders. "Mr. Bancel literally became a billionaire overnight and is now worth $4.7 billion."
"Do we not need to change the current culture of greed into a culture which understands that science and medical breakthroughs should work for ordinary people, and not just enrich large corporations and CEOs?"
In the words of the senator, "This type of profiteering and excessive CEO compensation is exactly what the American people are sick and tired of."
In response to a letter Sanders sent to Bancel following Moderna's January announcement of its planned price hike, the corporation vowed to make Covid-19 vaccines and boosters "available at no cost for the vast majority of people in the United States." Last month, after Bancel agreed to testify at Wednesday's hearing, Moderna said that when the federal government's public health emergency declaration expires in May, "Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be available at no cost for insured people," while the company's patient assistance program "will provide Covid-19 vaccines at no cost" to uninsured or underinsured people.
"That is good news," Sanders said Wednesday. "The bad news is that most patient assistance programs are poorly designed and are extremely difficult, if not impossible, for patients to access," he added, urging Moderna "to reconsider their decision to quadruple the price of this vaccine and not raise the price at all."
"Our committee looks forward to working with Moderna to develop a program that allows every American to continue to receive the Covid vaccine for free without the need to file complicated forms or paperwork, answer personal questions, or wait for hours on end at the pharmacy," said Sanders. "In other words, let us truly make this vaccine available for free to all Americans."
But when asked by Sanders if Moderna will charge the U.S. government less for the NIH-Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, Bancel refused to commit, citing so-called "complexity."
"You have money for stock buybacks by the billions, and you guys became billionaires," Sanders responded. "That doesn't seem too complex to me."
In a video shared Tuesday, Senate HELP Committee senior health counsel Zain Rizvi further detailed how Moderna has tried to suppress evidence of the U.S. public's massive contributions to the NIH-Moderna Covid-19 vaccine while refusing to share the recipe with South African scientists who are working with the World Health Organization to boost global supply.
The refusal of Moderna and other pharmaceutical corporations to transfer publicly funded technology to qualified generic manufacturers has contributed to global Covid-19 vaccine apartheid, needlessly prolonging and worsening the pandemic.
Although Covid-19 jabs have been credited with preventing roughly 20 million deaths worldwide in 2021 alone, researchers estimate that 1.3 million additional lives could have been saved in the first year of the vaccine rollout had shots been distributed equitably. As a result of unequal access to lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines—made worse by corporate-friendly trade rules that protect Big Pharma's intellectual property monopolies and lead to artificial scarcity—one person suffered an avoidable death from the disease every 24 seconds in 2021.
"Moderna has taken a publicly funded vaccine, built on decades of publicly funded research, and used it to maximize their own profits at the expense of public health," Julia Kosgei, policy co-lead for the People's Vaccine Alliance, said Wednesday in a statement. "It's long past time for Stéphane Bancel to be held to account."
"Today's hearing must be the beginning of a conversation about how governments can place public health needs before private profit. That means requiring companies that profit from publicly funded research to share new technologies with the world."
Citing the corporation's latest earnings report, Kosgei noted that "Moderna is spending as much on buybacks and dividends as it is on research and development." She called it "plainly ludicrous to suggest that this is the best way to ensure everyone has access to effective vaccines and medicines."
"This should be a moment of reckoning for Big Pharma," said Kosgei. "Today's hearing must be the beginning of a conversation about how governments can place public health needs before private profit. That means requiring companies that profit from publicly funded research to share new technologies with the world."
Like Kosgei, Rizvi stressed that Moderna's behavior is not unique and called for far-reaching action "to put an end to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry."
That's also precisely what Sanders did during his opening remarks:
In the pharmaceutical industry today we are looking at an unprecedented level of corporate greed—and that is certainly true with Moderna. Today, while 37% of the American people could not afford the prescription drugs their doctors prescribe, 10 major pharmaceutical companies made over $100 billion dollars in profits in 2021—a 137% increase from the previous year. In these corporations, the 50 top executives made over $1.9 billion in total compensation in 2021 and are in line to receive billions more in golden parachutes once they leave their companies. In other words, Americans die because they cannot afford the outrageous cost of prescription drugs, while the drug companies make huge profits.
Further, while many Americans don't know this, the taxpayers of this country have spent many tens of billions of dollars over the past decade to research and develop life-saving medicine. Yet, despite that huge investment, and the vitally important work done by NIH scientists, the citizens of the United States pay far more for prescription drugs than do the people of any other country, in some cases, as much as 10 times more. Unbelievably, there are important drugs on the market today that literally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"What does a lifesaving drug mean for a person who cannot afford to buy that drug?" Sanders asked. "Should people in America and around the world be allowed to get sicker and sometimes die because they cannot afford the outrageous and arbitrary prices that the pharmaceutical industry demands?"
"Do we not need to change the current culture of greed into a culture which understands that science and medical breakthroughs should work for ordinary people, and not just enrich large corporations and CEOs?" he continued.
Sanders urged people "to remember the contributions of great scientists like Dr. Jonas Salk who, in the 1950s, invented the vaccine for polio. Salk's work saved millions of lives and prevented millions more from being paralyzed."
According to the progressive lawmaker: "It has been estimated that if Dr. Salk had chosen to patent the polio vaccine he would have made billions of dollars. But he did not. When asked who owns the patent to this vaccine Dr. Salk said: 'Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?' What Dr. Salk understood was that the purpose of the vaccine he invented was to save lives, not to make himself obscenely rich."
Salk was not alone, as Sanders explained:
In 1928, Alexander Fleming, a scientist from Scotland, discovered penicillin at St. Mary's hospital in London. Fleming's discovery of penicillin changed the medical world and saved millions of lives.
When Fleming was asked about his role, he did not talk about the outrageous fortune he could have made through his discovery. Instead, he said: "I did not invent penicillin. Nature did that. I only discovered it by accident." He refused to make obscene profits from his discovery.
In 1921, Dr. Frederick Banting along with two other scientists at the University of Toronto invented insulin—an issue we're hearing a lot about today. When Dr. Banting was asked why he wouldn't patent insulin and why he sold the rights to insulin for just $1 he replied: “Insulin does not belong to me. It belongs to the world.”
It has been estimated that Dr. Banting's invention saved some 300 million lives. Once again, a great scientist made it clear that his purpose in life was to ease suffering and save human lives, not to make billions for himself.
"In this moment of excessive corporate greed," said Sanders, "the moral vision of these great scientists is something that we might learn from."
New Watchdog Project Targets Neoliberal 'Hacks' Posing as Economic Prophets
"Anyone who claims they have the absolute answer to every economic question isn't being honest with you. They're being a hack, and they shouldn't be considered serious sources."
Taking aim at "conflicts of interest and flat-out falsehoods in economics reporting and the so-called experts who perpetuate them," the Revolving Door Project on Wednesday launched a new website, Hack Watch, to name and shame Wall Street-friendly experts pushing often harmful neoliberal financial theories as absolute truths.
"Anyone who claims they have the absolute answer to every economic question isn't being honest with you. They're being a hack, and they shouldn't be considered serious sources," Max Moran, the personnel team director at Revolving Door Project (RDP), said in a statement introducing the new site.
"Economists like to sound certain, and they like to ridicule anyone who disagrees with them."
A follow-up to RDP's wildly successful Hack Watchnewsletter—which began by scrutinizing former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, often called "Wall Street's favorite economist," and his cryptocurrency partnerships—the website features an FAQ section on the federal debt as well as a "Trope Tracker" meant to dispel "common fallacies, falsehoods, and framing mistakes in economics coverage."
"Economists like to sound certain, and they like to ridicule anyone who disagrees with them," said Moran. "This can incline reporters, especially reporters who worry that they don't understand economics very well, to defer to economists unquestioningly."
In the neoliberal age, economic analysis (from the right kind of neoclassical economists) was considered scientific truth. This is nonsense. Economics isn't a hard science, it's a method of analysis—a set of tools that help us to understand a few particular ways of how the economy works. Deciding what's actually right or wrong for the economy is always, ultimately, a matter of values and philosophy, which we express through politics.
"Top hacks" who already have bios on the new site include Summers, 2009 auto industry bailout architect Steven Rattner, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget president Maya McGuineas, and senior vice president Marc Goldwein.
"Economics isn't a hard science, it's a method of analysis—a set of tools that help us to understand a few particular ways of how the economy works."
"When these hacks receive air time, they often present the existing socio-economic order as a natural phenomenon, softly echoing Margaret Thatcher's famous 'no alternative' declaration," said Dylan Gyauch-Lewis,who co-leads the Hack Watch project, in a reference to the former right-wing British prime minister's infamous neoliberal slogan.
"In a time of crisis after crisis, we cannot afford to restrict the public's imagination to the world as it was in 1992," Gyauch-Lewis asserted. "The staid old guard not only restricts the public conception of what economic policy can be, it misleads about what that view already is."
"To allow the same few Clintonian New-Democrats to monopolize discourse does viewers, policymakers, and the world a great disservice," he added.
Action on Predatory Private Equity in Health Care ‘Needed, Stat’ Says Public Citizen