Watch: Republican Cuts Poisoned Flint

From The Agenda Project Action Fund, of The Agenda Project (send them money)

“Governor Snyder’s actions are a perfect portrayal of Republican priorities: they let diseases spread, they permit trains to crash, and now they are telling parents to watch their children suffer. All of this in the name of the almighty dollar,” said Agenda Project’s President Erik Altieri, “It is a disgusting, yet totally expected move from this, quite literally, toxic political party.”

Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder was following the Republican mantra of “all budget cuts are good cuts” when he broke Flint away from Detroit’s water system in 2014 to save an estimated $15 million a year. He pursued this plan while ignoring reports that showed Flint’s river water was contaminated with lead and unsafe for drinking. But, like any “good” Republican, the governor decided that the risk of poisoning an entire city was a small price to pay in order to save some money.

What About Beirut?

The day before the Paris terrorist attacks, “the Paris of the Middle East” – Beirut – was attacked by ISIS. Terrorist set off two bombs in a busy shopping area, killing more than 40 people and injuring more than 240.

Then, on Sunday, a string of ISIS bombs in Baghdad killed at least 7 people and injured 15 others.

The terrible attacks on Paris have ignited a fury of reaction. But the Paris attacks were just part of a series of ongoing attacks by ISIS. Civilians have been attacked by ISIS all across the Middle East, in Iraq, in Syria and most recently in Beirut. The wave of refugees entering Europe are people fleeing ISIS attacks along with the Syrian civil war.

The recent ISIS attacks in Arab countries are barely mentioned in the discussion of ISIS and terrorism. The outpouring of sympathy for and solidarity with people in Paris is not matched by sympathy and solidarity for the people in the Middle East who are constantly suffering similar attacks. Why not?

Do Arab lives matter less than non-Arab lives? Was it because the attack on Paris is an excuse to cast this as an Islam vs. West battle?

The New York Times reported on this lack of discussion of what happened in Beirut, in “Beirut, Also the Site of Deadly Attacks, Feels Forgotten“:

But for some in Beirut, that solidarity was mixed with anguish over the fact that just one of the stricken cities — Paris — received a global outpouring of sympathy akin to the one lavished on the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

Monuments around the world lit up in the colors of the French flag; presidential speeches touted the need to defend “shared values;” Facebook offered users a one-click option to overlay their profile pictures with the French tricolor, a service not offered for the Lebanese flag. On Friday the social media giant even activated Safety Check, a feature usually reserved for natural disasters that lets people alert loved ones that they are unhurt; they had not activated it the day before for Beirut.

David Shariatmadari writes at The Guardian, in “Isis hates Middle Eastern civilisation too“:

The terrorists certainly had civilisation in their crosshairs. They spread chaos and killing through a city famous for its culture, its intermingling of influences, its freedom of expression. In as much as they targeted one of Europe’s great capitals, it was an assault on European values – the way our citizens choose to live and behave. However, it is wrong to frame the atrocities as attacks on “western civilisation” alone.

[. . .]

First of all, it downplays the suffering of Middle Easterners at the hands of Isis. On Thursday, for example, 43 people in a mainly Shia part of Beirut were murdered by Isis suicide bombers. Although that city is far more used to violence than Paris, it still represented an assault on normal, civilised life. The most immediate opponents of the violent jihadists are the people they live among – the Muslims, Christians, Alawites and Yazidis of Iraq and Syria…

Secondly, it distorts our ability to recognise who our proper allies are. There is a broad risk of tarring the whole Middle East with the brush of extremism – as though the violent ideology of Isis is typical of the entire region, and life across it carries on in an utterly different mode to our own. Here in the west, that can mean those of Arab or Muslim heritage being blamed and abused.

Freedom Fries

In 2003, conservatives blasted France for its reluctance to join in the invasion of Iraq. They called the French “surrender monkeys” and renamed French fries on congressional cafeteria menus to “Freedom fries”.

Now that the consequences of that invasion have, as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont put it in Saturday’s Democratic debate “unraveled the region completely,” conservatives have unleashed a wave of hatred for the people fleeing attacks like those in Beirut, Baghdad and especially Syria.

These are the same people who were trying to keep children fleeing violence from Central America from receiving asylum in the U.S.

These are the same people who were trying to keep people from Africa out of the U.S. because of Ebola.

And now the same people are saying the U.S. should not even allow orphans – even those under the age of 5 – into the country because they might be “terrorists.”

It Is Not About “We”

We can’t say there is a “we” behind this special resonance of Paris. It is not a “we” of civilization; Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East. We can’t say this is “Westerners” expressing a sympathy of similars; there are millions of people in the U.S. who are of Middle Eastern descent, and they are part of the “we” that is the United States. There are millions more who constitute the “we” of Europe.

So what about Beirut? What is it about the people in Beirut – and Baghdad and Syria and so many other places under attack by ISIS – that makes them somehow different from the people in Paris, somehow less worthy of our attention and empathy and solidarity?

ISIS is at war with humanity, and those of us who are human should express our sympathy for and solidarity with all humans suffering these attacks.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Cheap Labor — The Engine Of Wealth

… “brainstorming about ways to find a source of cheap labor to create an engine of true wealth. The obvious path forward was to acquire slaves.”

From The Dark History of Race and Terror over at Talking Points Memo.

Cheap labor, the engine of wealth. Does this sound like an economy near you?

53% of Americans can’t come up with $400 for an emergency.

The top 0.1% of Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 90%.

Cheap labor – great wealth at the top.

Columnist Who Said Invade Iraq Says TPP Critics Are Wrong

The great Thomas “Mustache” Friedman is perhaps best known for encouraging the invasion of Iraq (and subsequent resistance insurgency, civil war, thousands of American and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, eventually leading to the formation of ISIS – plus the trillions in costs) by saying, “What they [Muslims] needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad and basically saying ‘Which part of this sentence don’t you understand?’ … Well, Suck. On. This.” He is also known among the blogger set for what Duncan Black coined as the six-month “Friedman Unit,” because he claimed for years that the Iraq war would be “turning a corner” in another six months’ time.

Friedman on Wednesday explained in The New York Times that critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (and the “fast track” process in which Congress preapproves it before We the People get a chance to know what’s in it) can suck on this, too. He wrote in On Trade: Obama Right, Critics Wrong,

…there has never been a more important time for the coalition of free-market democracies and democratizing states that are the core of the World of Order to come together and establish the best rules for global integration for the 21st century, including appropriate trade, labor and environmental standards. These agreements would both strengthen and more closely integrate the market-based, rule-of-law-based democratic and democratizing nations that form the backbone of the World of Order.

A coalition of “free-market democracies” like Vietnam and Brunei? The rules for a new “World of Order” in the 21st century negotiated in secret? Negotiated with only corporate representatives at the table? The rules for “democracy” must be preapproved by Congress with fast track before the public is allowed to see the agreement?

Friedman also writes that, “These trade agreements can help build trust, coordination and growth that tilt the balance in all these countries more toward global cooperation than ‘hunkering down in protectionism or nationalism and letting others, or nobody, write the rules.'” Apparently to Friedman, trying to save American jobs, balance trade (the trade deficit was $505 billion last year) and stop the stagnation of wages and devastation of communities that has resulted from our corporate-dominated trade agreements is “hunkering down in protectionism or nationalism”?

Friedman writes that TPP is an “effort to expand trade on our terms.” Whose terms? TPP is secret, negotiated by corporate representatives for the corporations they represent. With the fast track process We the People of the United States of America don’t get to know what’s in TPP until some time after Congress preapproves it, and even our Congress won’t get to seriously debate or amend it after we do get to see it. So too bad if we don’t like it. Suck. On. That.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership – an agreement negotiated entirely of, by and for corporate representatives who represent giant, multinational corporations that don’t even pay us taxes anymore – is not an agreement on “our” terms. We the People will get nothing from a rigged process like that, no matter how much these so-called “American” corporate giants might profit from it. We won’t get better pay, we won’t get better schools or infrastructure, we will only get even more cutbacks in the things our government does to make our lives better. TPP with fast track is an agreement between the plutocrats of the various giant corporations involved, some perhaps calling themselves “American” and others not.

If Thomas Friedman of all people is claiming you are right and your critics are wrong you really, really, really, really, really, really, really ought to rethink your position.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

As Fast Track/TPP Becomes New Third Rail, Where Is Clinton?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — and the rigged “Fast Track” process designed to pass it before the public has a chance to react — has become a new “third rail” for progressives and the activist Democratic “base.” (This is also true on the right, by the way.)

This game-rigging is creating a race to the bottom for people and the planet. The thing is: more and more people are seeing it. And more and more people are asking Hillary Clinton to lead the fight against it.

A Rigged Game

People are fed up with the rigged “trade” game that pits American wages, environmental regulations, consumer protections and other benefits of democracy against exploitative, paid-off, non-democracies. “Free trade” has made democracy’s good wages and environmental and safety protections into a competitive disadvantage in world markets.

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