Friday, June 24, 2016

BRITAIN - Common Sense Looses on EU Vote

IMHO:  The vote by British citizens is a big mistake.  It is a win for paranoia, misplaced nationalism, and prejudice.  Britain was much stronger as a member of the EU.  Having said that, the British citizens have the right to their vote.

"Britain votes to leave the European Union, Prime Minister David Cameron resigns" by News Desk, PBS NewsHour 6/24/2016

The United Kingdom has voted to exit the European Union, becoming the first nation to leave the economic, political and cultural bloc.  The news sent shockwaves through the global economy and led to the resignation of British prime minister David Cameron, who supported the Remain campaign.

“Over 33 million people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar have all had their say,” Cameron said in his resignation speech.  We should be proud of the fact that, in these islands, we trust the people with these big decisions.”

Cameron continued by congratulating the Leave campaign for “the spirited and passionate case that they made.”  The prime minister did not release a precise timetable for his departure, but guaranteed that he would remain in his post for at least three months with an aim to depart by October.

Exit polls show that England and Wales drove the decision to leave, while Northern Ireland and Scotland citizens leaned toward staying.  Scotland prime minister Nicola Sturgeon believes a second independence referendum for her nation is “highly likely” following the Brexit.  Scotland voted 62 versus 38 percent to stay in the EU, according to the BBC.

“It's a statement of the obvious that the option of a second independence referendum must be on the table and it is on the table,” Sturgeon said.

Global markets immediately plummeted in reaction to the referendum results.  The British pound nosedived to its lowest valuation in 30 years, as the nation's stock market — FTSE — reported 8 percent losses within the first few seconds of trading Friday morning.

Economic analysts are predicting the biggest single-day decline since the 2008 financial crisis.  Bank of England governor Mark Carney promised 250 billion pounds ($347 billion) to stabilize the economy.  Other European markets took heavy hits, and the European Central bank pledged to provide liquidity for domestic and foreign currencies to prevent panic, as did the U.S. Federal Reserve for the dollar.


"Brexit: Four reasons it comes as a shock" by Paul Solman, PBS NewsHour 6/24/2016

Excerpt

Shocker, a word you'll hear rarely from someone who, like myself, sizes up the world probabilistically.  But shocker is the verdict on the Brexit vote, for at least four reasons.

First, of course, are the political implications.  As economist Justin Wolfers put it late last night on Twitter, though overstating slightly: “Economists favor more integration, not for the economic gains, but because it fosters peace, which is more valuable.”

"Time for real talk.  Economists favor more integration, not for the economic gains, but because it fosters peace, which is more valuable." - Twitter @JustinWolfers

Second, these are millions upon millions of people who were voting against their pocketbooks.  And they knew it.  That's because, economically, the results were unusually predictable.  Every time the odds of a Brexit “Leave” vote had gone up, the value of the British pound had gone down.  This might not be so bad if the UK were an export-based economy.  A cheaper pound would mean cheaper prices on British goods and services.  What the country loses in buying power it might more than make up for in jobs.  But as Matt Yglesias tweeted late last night:

"Cheap pound would be great for UK exports were the UK not withdrawing from the world's biggest integrated market." - Twitter @mattyglesias

And Wolfers again:

"Upside: Britain is on sale.  Everything, 10-15% off.  Steak and kidney pies for everyone." - Twitter @JustinWolfers

Everyone outside Britain, he means — like me and my wife, leaving Oxford on Monday after 10 weeks here.  I got an email from a vendor this morning telling me where to send a “cheque” for the 65 pound-price we agreed upon yesterday.  In the ensuing 24 hours, I've saved $5.  Maybe I'll stall till tomorrow.  Oh wait, the pound could shoot back up! When should I pay? It's a question every importer from Britain will now be asking — more pressingly than in years, if not decades.  And those $5 my vendor loses will be $5 less to spend on what will now be increasingly expensive goods and services from abroad.  In the time we've been here, numerous Brits have told us they'd like to go to America because it's so much cheaper.  Did they vote for Brexit too?

The third shock is more personal; my apparent over-reliance on the prediction markets, and on economists like Justin Wolfers who do as well.  The two of us conducted a video chat more than five years ago in which we extolled the virtues of markets, mainly with respect to sports betting, but also in politics.  And I have reported on political markets for the NewsHour many times, as recently as February.  Last night, Justin reproduced this tweet:

“To Justin:  I think you need an explanation on gambling odds.  These markets are not full markets where people can bet a lot of money.  They are not as informative as you believe they are.”

Justin's reply:   “I love me a good mansplainer.  Because honestly, I just didn't realize.”

In the defense of the market-dependent, yesterday's Brexit vote drew plenty of money: an estimated £50 million pounds or more on one British prediction market alone.  But what we failed to realize — or more honestly, failed to remember — is that odds are probabilities, not facts.  At 11 pm last night here in England, I tweeted:

"Brexit polls now closed here in UK.  Betting mkts put the odds of Remain win at 85% likelihood.  They were down to 60% before Jo Cox killing." - Twitter @paulsolman

Three hours later:

"Most dramatic swings I've ever seen on the prediction mkts:  Brexit from 12% to 54% when this tweet began now back down to 40% as I finish it" - Twitter @paulsolman

The point is, even at 11pm, with the odds at 85 percent for “Remain,” there was still roughly one chance in six that the UK would vote to leave.  And by definition, such an event will occur, on average, one-sixth of the time.  On the prediction markets, those odds should lead to the right call five times out of six, on average.  And that can lull those who monitor the markets into a false sense of complacency, as it did me with Brexit.  I didn't forget about that sixth time.  But I dismissed it.  I'm shocked that I did.

The fourth shock should perhaps not come as one, as assiduously as we here at Making Sen$e having been covering economic inequality over the years.  It's the gulf (or abyss) between elites and workers in countries like the US and the UK.  That would help explain the confidence of the prediction markets.  Who bets money on elections if not, disproportionately, those who already have enough?  With which side was the Remain side identified, if not the Establishment?  But after the assassination of the aggressively humane Labour MP Jo Cox, would aggressively civil England actually vote for the forces of aggression?  The answer is that it did so, aggressively.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

NUCLEAR POWER - PG&E's Diablo Canyon Closing

"END OF A NUCLEAR ERA" by Ivan Penn & Samantha Masunaga, San Diego Union-Tribune 6/22/2016

NOTE:  This is from the online edition of the newspaper, so no link to article.

One of California's largest energy utilities took a bold step in the 21st century electricity revolution with an agreement to close its last operating nuclear plant and develop more solar, wind and other clean power technologies.

The decision announced Tuesday by Pacific Gas& Electric Co. to close its beleaguered Diablo Canyon nuclear plant within the next decade runs counter to the nuclear industry's arguments that curbing carbon emissions and combating climate change require use of nuclear power, which generates the most electricity without harmful emissions.

Instead, PG&E joined with longtime adversaries such as the Friends of the Earth environmental group to craft a deal that will bring the company closer to the mandate that 50 percent of California's electricity generation come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

PG&E's agreement will close the book on the state's history as a nuclear pioneer, but adds to its clean energy reputation.  California already leads the nation by far in use of solar energy generated by rooftop panels and by sprawling power arrays in the desert.

“California is already a leader in curtailing greenhouse gases,” said Peter Bradford, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  “Now they're saying they can go even further.  That's potentially a model for other situations.”

Under the proposal, the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County would be retired by PG&E after its current U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission operating licenses expire in November 2024 and August 2025.

The power produced by Diablo Canyon's two nuclear reactors would be replaced with investment in a greenhouse-gas-free portfolio of energy efficiency, renewables and energy storage, PG&E said.  The proposal is contingent on a number of regulatory actions, including approvals from the California Public Utilities Commission.

The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, built against a seaside cliff near Avila Beach, provides 2,160 megawatts of electricity for Central and Northern California — enough to power more than 1.7 million homes.

Tuesday's announcement comes after a long debate over the fate of the plant, which sits near several earthquake fault lines.  The Hosgri Fault, located three miles from Diablo Canyon, was discovered in 1971, three years after construction of the plant began.

Calls to close Diablo Canyon escalated after a 2011 quake in Japan damaged two reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant there, leading to dangerous radiation leaks.  In the aftermath of that disaster, state and federal lawmakers called for immediate reviews of Diablo Canyon and the San Onofre Nuclear Plant in San Diego County, which was still in use.

The San Onofre plant was shut down for good in 2013 as a result of faulty equipment that led to a small release of radioactive steam and a heated regulatory battle over the plant's license.

In documents submitted to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission as recently as last year, PG&E said Diablo Canyon can safely withstand earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding.

Daniel Hirsch, director of the program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy at UC Santa Cruz, said PG&E's agreement was thoughtful.

“It is not simply a decision to phase out the plant, but to replace it with efficiency and renewables,” he said.  “So it is a very strong net gain for the environment.”

As the state boosts its energy efficiency goals and plans for renewables, including solar and wind power, Hirsch said, Diablo Canyon is “getting in the way.”

PG&E Chief Executive Tony Earley acknowledged the changing landscape in California, noting that energy efficiency, renewables and storage are “central to the state's energy policy.”

“As we make this transition, Diablo Canyon's full output will no longer be required,” he said.  That eventually would make the nuclear plant too expensive to operate, Earley said during a conference call with reporters.  Hirsch tempered his approval with caution, saying that as long as the plant remains in operation, safety risks remain.  “Diablo really does pose a clear and present danger,” he said.  “If we had an earthquake larger than the plant was designed for, you could have a Fukushima-type event that could devastate a large part of California.”

State Senate leader Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, echoed Hirsch by saying nuclear energy is “inherently risky, and the Diablo Canyon Power Plant is vulnerable to damage from natural disasters that could threaten the well-being of millions of Californians.  This transition will make our energy sources less volatile, more cost-effective, and benefit the air we breathe.”  In the mid-2000s, the nation's utilities had anticipated a nuclear renaissance that would usher in a new age of centralized power plants.  Power companies submitted proposals to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for 31 new reactors.  President George W. Bush pushed federal loan guarantees to hasten nuclear plant construction.

However, instead of a renaissance, the nuclear industry began to unravel.

Duke Energy announced in February 2013 that it would close the Crystal River, Fla., nuclear plant after a steam generator replacement project led to cracks in the concrete reactor containment building.  The plant became too costly to fix.

In May 2013, Dominion Resources Inc. permanently shut down the Kewaunee nuclear plant in Wisconsin after the power company said it was no longer affordable to operate the facility.

A month later, Southern California Edison permanently closed the San Onofre plant after determining that fixing the new but faulty steam generators would prove too expensive.

Perhaps the biggest problem for the nuclear industry was the vast amount of natural gas that became available in the United States because of fracking.

Natural gas plants now are far cheaper to build and operate than a nuclear plant.  A natural gas facility runs at about 8 or 9 cents a kilowatt hour compared with twice that much for a nuclear plant.

And the push for renewable energy has turned attention to solar and wind power to help reduce emissions and combat human-caused climate change.

“The unraveling of the renaissance was not a surprise to anyone who understood the workings of the power markets,” said Bradford, the former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission member.  He serves as an expert witness in legal proceedings across the nation.

Bradford said PG&E's plan for Diablo Canyon shows the flaws in arguments by the nuclear industry that a clean-energy network requires nuclear.

“It's a very tough day for people who have been advocating for massive nuclear subsidies,” Bradford said.

Even after Diablo Canyon closes, Southern California will still get a small percentage of its electricity from Arizona's Palo Verde nuclear plant.  Among the owners of the 4,000-megawatt nuclear plant in the Arizona desert are Southern California Edison, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Southern California Public Power Authority, whose members include municipal power companies supplying Glendale, Pasadena, Burbank and Anaheim.

The impending closure of Diablo Canyon would leave just one nuclear plant on the West Coast, the Columbia Generating Station, about 200 miles outside of Seattle.

To craft Tuesday's proposal, PG&E worked with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, the Coalition of California Utility Employees, the National Resources Defense Council, Environment California, Friends of the Earth, and the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.

Monday, June 20, 2016

COMMENT OF THE DAY - Sir William Golding, Women



OPINION - Shields and Brooks 6/17/2016

"Shields and Brooks on gun violence and how leaders responded to Orlando shooting" PBS NewsHour 6/17/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including reactions to Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, whether President Obama should use the term “radical Islam,” the possibility of increased gun control, Donald Trump’s sliding popularity, and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ softening attitude towards Hillary Clinton.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome.

Gentlemen, begin by the terrible thing that happened last weekend in Orlando, this 29-year-old man with — who had displayed erratic behavior, Mark, through much of his life.  Are there any lessons from this?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:  I’m not sure there are, Judy.

I was — I have been amazed how polarized our nation is.  Ordinarily and historically, events this tragic — and there have been none really this tragic, I guess, in just sheer magnitude — but there is sort of a uniting feeling in the country.

And that’s been missing.  We can blame our politics and our politicians.  And we will.  But it’s — I think it reflects the country.  There’s just — we live in a couple of different worlds.  Republicans overwhelmingly think it’s a matter of terrorism, and Islamic terrorism, and that that’s where all the attention — and Democrats overwhelmingly respond that it’s the availability and the promiscuous availability of weapons without background checks or adequate controls.

And so I guess the — tragedies like this have historically brought out the best in the country, and I don’t think that’s happened this time.  It definitely hasn’t.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  We think of 9/11.

MARK SHIELDS:  Think of 9/11, exactly.  Think of other times of tragedy, and even Charleston.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  David.

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times:  I actually take of a cheerier view, I think.

I thought there was an amazing amount of simple, unadorned grief and sympathy for the victims and the victims’ families.  And the fact a large percent of them were gay wasn’t as big an issue.

That was my perception, that people of all sides said, these were human beings, God’s creatures, who were killed.  And there was an outpouring of simple grief for the people.

On the political stuff, obviously, the gun thing is divisive.  But I thought most people said, well, this is both an act of terrorism and a hate crime at the same time.  And it can be both.  And I think that’s what really just struck me about the week is, sometimes, the divisions we have between psychology and politics and religion, those divisions don’t really make sense in practice.

And we have seen this so many times with so many different shooters. They’re the same personality type.  You begin with a sense of humiliation, personal failure, personal disappointment, personal injury.  That turns into a sense of grievance, that the problem is not me, the problem is the world.

Then that turns into sort of moral outrage at the evil people who are doing this.  Then that gets weaponized by sort of some radical ideology that allows me to justify the violence.  And then you walk down the line.

And they walk down these same series of steps, and it’s just the social isolation of young, angry men.

2016 OLYMPICS - The Toxic 'Pool'

"In Brazil's Olympic bay, tides of death and ecological devastation" PBS NewsHour 6/17/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Among the many concerns confronting Brazil's first Olympic Games, one of the most pressing is the state of Guanabara Bay, site of the sailing competition.  A vital source of income for local fishermen, the bay is severely polluted and lethally toxic -- but those fighting to preserve it face a violent response.  Special correspondent Lulu Garcia-Navarro of NPR reports.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO (NPR):  Alexandre Anderson is a hunted man, targeted for his work on these treacherous waters.

Every day, as he heads out onto Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay, he's on a mission to defend the bay he calls home.  He tells us its stark beauty hides a dark reality.

ALEXANDRE ANDERSON, Fisherman (through interpreter):  We hope the Olympics will show the world another bay.  There is the bay for the rich, for visitors to see, and there is the bay of the fishermen, who are suffering.  That is the bay of excrement, garbage, and oil.  It is the Guanabara Bay of violence.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO:  Alexandre took us on a tour of that bay.  He knows it well.  He grew up fishing here.  But as the bay got more and more polluted, he became an activist, who leads a fishermen's organization.

The ecological devastation here is hard to miss.  He shows us a mangrove swamp used as an illegal dumping ground for trash.  Raw sewage is also pumped into the bay from communities that have no access to sanitation.

But for Alexandre Anderson, the biggest polluters are not only the residents who lack basic infrastructure, but also the petroleum industry.  This is one of the biggest refineries in the area.  And it's right on the banks of the Guanabara Bay.

And you can see here in the water it's slick with oil.  Rio de Janeiro, a world-famous beach town, is also Brazil's oil and gas heartland.  Energy accounted for 13 percent of Brazil's GDP in 2014.  And almost three-quarters of the world's recent deep-water oil discoveries have been made in Brazil.  The Guanabara Bay is the industry's hub.

Alexandre takes us to an oil industry shipyard and points out broken eco-barriers meant to stop paint and chemicals from leaking into the water.

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT - Dissent in the Ranks

"State Department officials push for military intervention in Syria" PBS NewsHour 6/17/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The question of how to end the devastating five-year Syrian Civil War has split the United States foreign service.  Recently, a group of State Department officials signed an internal memo protesting U.S. policy in Syria and calling for military intervention to destroy the Islamic State and force the Assad regime into peace negotiations.  Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  How do you end the war in Syria?  It is a question that has plagued world leaders since the start of the devastating civil conflict there.

Today, we learned more about the extent of disagreement inside the U.S. State Department about the course set by President Obama.

Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  For five years, the savage Syria conflict has killed some 400,000 and put millions more to flight.

Now 51 mid-level diplomatic officials have gone on record advocating a dramatic shift in U.S. strategy.  They have signed an internal so-called dissent letter, calling for targeted military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

The dissenters argue it would help bring Assad to the negotiating table and deal a major blow to ISIS.  The document remains secret, but Andrew Tabler, an expert on Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is familiar with the document's contents.

ANDREW TABLER, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy:  If the Assad regime violates the cessation of hostilities and uses it to further its position on the battlefield, in such cases, military force could be used.  Second, if humanitarian assistance is not provided or is impeded in some way, military force could be used.

MARGARET WARNER:  In Copenhagen today, Secretary of State John Kerry said he had not yet seen the memo, but welcomed it.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State:  I think it's an important statement, and I respect the process very, very much, and I will probably meet with people or have a chance to talk with them when we get back.

MARGARET WARNER:  The memo came through a channel created for State Department employees to register policy disagreements without retaliation.  When conflict first broke out in 2011, President Obama called for ousting Assad.  And in 2012, he threatened military action.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  A red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.  That would change my calculus.

MARGARET WARNER:  But after a regime chemical attack killed more than 1,000 Syrians in August 2013, the President didn't launch military strikes, nor step up arming the Syrian rebels.

More recently, he's launched U.S. airstrikes in Syria, but only against ISIS.  Instead, Russia intervened last fall on Assad's behalf, bolstering him.  Today, Russian air attacks hit anti-Assad rebels battling is in Southern Syria.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin warned today any U.S. move targeting Assad's forces would plunge the region into total chaos.

Andrew Tabler's response?

ANDREW TABLER:  If you look at this, over time, whether it's the United States and the threat of use of military force in 2013 or Israel's continued use of strikes inside of Syria, this is something that the Assad regime is known to respond to.

MARGARET WARNER:  All of this comes as a February cease-fire has largely dissolved.  It did let humanitarian aid reach some Syrian communities, but others remain cut off by Assad loyalists.  And peace talks backed by Secretary of State Kerry and the Russians have shown no progress.

An August 1 deadline for a political transition won't be met.  Plans now are only to resume talks then.

BRIEF BUT SPECTACULAR - Comedy And Islamophobia

"When a comedian realized she could fight Islamophobia" PBS NewsHour 6/16/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Growing up in Palm Springs, Iranian-American Muslim comedian Negin Farsad yearned to fit in.  But as she grew older amid rising Islamophobia, Farsad realized she had her own people, and she could use her comedy to do more than make people laugh -- she could make them think.  Farsad gives her Brief But Spectacular take on being an Iranian-American Muslim female comedian lady.

DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY - Change on PTSD

"Why the Navy is making a major change in its approach to PTSD" PBS NewsHour 6/16/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  For years, the military has struggled to deal with the unseen, psychological wounds of war, especially Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Now, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has instituted major changes to the rules affecting sailors and Marines who suffer from PTSD.  Mabus joins John Yang to explain the reforms and why they are necessary.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed thousands of American servicemen and maimed and injured tens of thousands more, but some wounds are not as easily seen or identified.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, afflicts as much as one-fifth of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in any given year.  Compounding the affliction, personnel who were kicked out of the military because of erratic behavior caused by PTSD, by Traumatic Brain Injury, called TBI, or by other mental health conditions often lose their benefits, including access to veterans health care.

But that will now change for at least one of the services, navy personnel, sailors and Marines, under a new policy enacted by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

Secretary Mabus joins us now.

Thank you for joining us.

RAY MABUS, Secretary of the Navy:  Glad to be here.

JOHN YANG:  Tell us what this new policy is and why you made this change.

RAY MABUS:  The policy that we had been operating under was, if somebody committed misconduct, the erratic behavior you were talking about, that took preference over everything else in terms of a discharge.

And so people would get discharged with bad paper, with discharges that didn’t give them any benefits when they left.  What we have done with policy that I have just signed was to say, if you’re being administratively discharged for some misconduct, we’re going to take a look to see if you have got a diagnosable condition, to see if you have got PTSD, to see if you have got Traumatic Brain Injury, and then that will factor in, so that you may still be discharged, but you will be discharged with benefits, with help that we’re going to recognize the reason for this erratic behavior and give you help after you leave the military.

And it’s not just for combat injuries, combat wounds.  It’s also for things like sexual assault that is often followed by PTSD.

JOHN YANG:  And just to be clear, you say that this conduct took precedence.

In other words, it didn’t matter that the misconduct may have had an underlying cause.

RAY MABUS:  Right.

The only thing that was looked at was the misconduct.  And the discharge was based on that misconduct without why it was caused, without PTSD evaluation, without TBI evaluation.  And the awful thing was, when people left under this circumstance, they got no benefits.

So, they couldn’t get into veterans health care.  They couldn’t get the assistance they needed to deal with PTSD or to deal with Traumatic Brain Injury.  It was a pure policy issue.  And this is not just for people being discharged now, not just for active-duty people.  If you’re a veteran, and you were discharged and got bad paper, and so you’re not getting any benefits, and you believe that it was caused by in some way or another PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury, come back.  We will take another look at it.

We will take another run at the determination of the discharge.  If it is found by that, you will be able to get your benefits, even if you have been discharged for a while.

DESPERATE JOURNEY - Europe's Migrant Crisis

"Problems driving migrant crisis persist, but the welcome mat has been rolled back" PBS NewsHour 6/16/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The EU deal with Turkey to stem the tide of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea has seen more and more asylum seekers flocking to the western Mediterranean, with deadly results.  More than 1,000 have drowned there in the past several weeks, and the ones that do succeed face an uncertain future.  Gwen Ifill talks to Amin Awad of the UN refugee agency for more on how Europe is combating the crisis.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Mr. Awad, welcome.

On this program, we have seen the terrible stories of the hundreds of thousands of refugees coming, especially from the Mideast and Africa, trying to get to Greece, trying to get to Turkey, trying to get into Europe.

Has that problem, has it gotten worse or gotten better since this whole crisis began?

AMIN AWAD, Director for Middle East and N. Africa Bureau, UNHCR:  I think this problem of migrants and refugees and secondary movement is persisting.

I wouldn’t say it’s getting better or it’s getting worse, simply because the conditions that people are fleeing are getting worse.  The serious situation is not better than it was before.  Cessation of hostilities ended.  The resumption of fighting continued.  And as a result, people are fleeing.

The poverty and impoverishment that people fleeing sub-Saharan Africa continue to persist.  There isn’t a south-north collaboration, as used to be before.  People are fearing — fleeing Niger, where there is conflict.  There is poverty.  And they seek opportunity, new places, market and labor and mobility.

And some of them are fleeing conflict, coming from East Africa, the Horn of Africa, or the central part of Africa or the western part of Africa.  So the root causes for flight are still there.  And the world has to come up with more mechanisms and better mechanisms to tackle the root causes of these conflicts or poverty.

GWEN IFILL: So the root causes are still there, but the welcome mat is not there anymore.  In fact, it’s certainly not there in Turkey, and it’s certainly not there in Germany like it once was.  So how does that affect the flow?

AMIN AWAD:  People — the flow will persist.  People will continue to try all they can to make it to safety, to make it to better places, to find opportunity or protection.

If the welcoming mat is not there, then there ought to be equal investment in the communities where conflicts are and where poverty is, and try to stem the flow in a more dynamic and cooperative manner.

But you also have to uphold all international instruments, the international protection, international national refugee law, the international human rights law.  We have to rally around these and similar, because that’s what makes the world also orderly.

FROM A MUSLIM - Heartfelt Words on Orlando

"An Orlando Muslim’s heartfelt words on nightclub mass shooting" PBS NewsHour 6/15/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Rubana Khan of Orlando, in heartfelt verse, sends apologies from her Islamic family to the families of the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting.  In doing so, she lays bare the pain the killer, Omar Mateen, has caused her and other Muslims, who consider their religion one of peace, not of violence or hatred.

NEWSHOUR BOOKSHELF - "Listen Liberal"

"New book, ‘Listen Liberal,’ looks at Democratic party schism" PBS NewsHour 6/15/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The raucous primary season brought simmering tensions and disaffection within the GOP to a boiling point.  But equally severe divisions also surfaced in the Democratic party, centered around Sen. Bernie Sanders’ upstart populist campaign.  Historian Thomas Frank explores the causes and consequences of this schism in his new book “Listen, Liberal,” and joins Judy Woodruff to share what he’s learned.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Tonight, a look at some of the backstory to this year’s raucous political season.

Just as it brought to the surface tensions and disaffection within the Republican Party, so too have divisions in the Democratic Party revealed themselves.

Author and historian Thomas Frank explores all this in his latest book, “Listen, Liberal.”

I sat down with Frank recently in our studio.

Thomas Frank, welcome to the program.

THOMAS FRANK, Author, “Listen, Liberal”:  Good to be here, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And we should say the subtitle is “What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?

You were talking about the Democrats, but just before we talk about what you think is wrong with the Democratic Party now, when was the last time you thought the Democratic Party was doing what it was supposed to do?

THOMAS FRANK:  Well, there’s a — look, there’s still a lot of good Democrats out there, the Democrats that get the — like, the seal of approval from me, you know, that get five stars.  There’s plenty of Democrats that I approve of.

And I will say that I enthusiastically voted for President Obama back in 2008.  So — but, on the other hand, I think that the party has really abandoned its dedication to working-class Americans, beginning in the 1970s, and has progressively abandoned it more and more and more, that sort of traditional Democratic mission.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  I mean, you’re hard.  In your book, you’re pretty hard on President Obama in not fulfilling what you argue was the promise of his presidency.  You’re hard on both of the Clintons, both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.

But you also make the striking point that the inequality that we have in this country is something that they think is a good thing?

THOMAS FRANK:  Well, it’s something that — I wouldn’t say that.  Barack Obama called it the — what did he call it?  The great — the overriding challenge of our time.

But, yes, he has a way of putting it, and when he speaks about it in this very eloquent manner, he makes it clear that this is something he deplores, something that, you know, he finds shocking.

However, the Democratic Party, the sort of leadership faction of the Democratic Party, isn’t really at their core bothered by inequality.  They think that, to a certain degree, it reflects the way things ought to be.  This is because the Democratic Party isn’t — the leadership of the Democratic Party is not who we think they are.

JUSTICE IN AMERICA - Oakland California Police, the Report

"Study slams troubled Oakland police department for racial bias" PBS NewsHour 6/15/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The Oakland police department’s history of misconduct — particularly involving African-Americans — has made it the subject of federal oversight for 13 years.  Wednesday, Stanford researchers released the results of a two-year-long study into the department, confirming that Oakland officers exhibit significant racial biases in their day-to-day work.  Special correspondent Jackie Judd reports.

JACKIE JUDD (NewsHour):  The report confirms what African-American residents of Oakland, California, have long known, seen and felt.  Police often treat them very differently than white residents.

REBECCA HETEY, Stanford University:  We found a significant pattern of racial disparities in who was stopped, in who was handcuffed, in who was searched, and in who was arrested.

JACKIE JUDD:  Rebecca Hetey is a Stanford University researcher and an author of the report.

REBECCA HETEY:  More importantly, these disparities remained significant after we took into account a wide range of factors that we would expect to influence police decision-making, like crime rate, like neighborhood demographics.

REV. MICHAEL MCBRIDE, Operation Ceasefire:  It is an insult.  And no one can make me believe that this would be happening in any other community, except for a community that is defined by black, brown and poor people.

JACKIE JUDD:  Activists and brothers Michael and Ben McBride are longtime critics of the Oakland Police Department.

REV. BEN MCBRIDE, Operation Ceasefire:  We have a broken relationship because, while there have been some steps moving forward to try to repair it, there still has not been the kind of honest discourse that needs to happen around truth and reconciliation.

JACKIE JUDD:  According to the most recent FBI statistics, Oakland has more violent crime than any other U.S. city except for Detroit and Memphis.  It was in this supercharged atmosphere that city officials took an unprecedented step.  They decided to have outsiders analyze their officers’ behavior, knowing the results wouldn’t be pretty.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf....

MAYOR LIBBY SCHAAF, Oakland:  It is incredibly important that we ask these hard questions, so that we can get to the bottom of making the department something that the community trusts and that is, in fact, bringing justice.

WOMAN:  So, this when I just broke down the entire stops into both race and gender.

JACKIE JUDD:  Researchers at nearby Stanford University spent two years analyzing vast amounts of data, field reports from 28,000 stops officers made on the streets and roads during a 13-month period, and body-cam video from 2,000 of those encounters.  They expected to find about 7,800 stops of African-Americans.  In fact, there were more than double, almost 17,000 stops.

What surprised everyone involved even more was the huge gap in handcuffing.

RUSSIA - Political Hacking

"Inside Russian hacking of Democrats' opposition research on Trump" PBS NewsHour 6/14/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  For nearly a year, Russian hackers have been penetrating Democratic National Committee computers and stealing, among other things, research compiled on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.  Gwen Ifill talks to Dmitri Alperovitch of CrowdStrike and Sasha Issenberg of Bloomberg Politics for more on the stunning sophistication of these breaches and the reasons behind them.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The Democratic National Committee said today Russian government hackers have penetrated its computer network.  Breaches by two separate groups allowed hackers to access e-mails, internal chats, and opposition research Democrats have compiled on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Hackers may have had access for a year.  The Washington Post reported that computer networks for Hillary Clinton and Trump were also targeted.

We get some insight on how this happened and why from Dmitri Alperovitch.  He is the co- founder of CrowdStrike, the intelligence company that investigated the breach for the DNC.  And Sasha Issenberg, a contributor for Bloomberg Politics and author of the book “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.

Dmitri Alperovitch, how significant an intrusion was this into the Democratic Party's file?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, Crowdstrike:  This was a pretty scary intrusion.

And, in fact, there were two intrusions in place here.  Two separate Russian government-affiliated actors, we believe, that are part of the intelligence services of Russia infiltrated the network first in the summer of last year and were able to get access of the communications service at the DNC, essentially giving them the ability to monitor the e-mail traffic that was going through their servers, and a completely separate actor that penetrated that network in April of this year and went straight for the research department of the Democratic National Committee, specifically looking for the opposition files on the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

GWEN IFILL:  How did the DNC find out?  How were they alerted to this intrusion, and how were you?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH:  Well, in early May, they discovered that there was something off on the network that was highly suspicious.  And they called us in.

GWEN IFILL:  Their internal IT people?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH:  Their internal IT people determined that something may be off.  They didn't yet know if it was a breach. They asked us (Crowdstrike) to come in and evaluate.

And, within 24 hours, we were able to ascertain with our software deployed on all their machines there was in fact two breaches from two separate Russian intelligence services that were inside that network.

GWEN IFILL:  Sasha Issenberg, you wrote a book about how dependent campaigns have become on data and the things needed to support that amount of data, specifically about the 2008 Obama campaign.  So, in this case, what kinds of things exist in this — in these records?

SASHA ISSENBERG, Contributor, Bloomberg Politics:  Yes, you know, parties at this point are largely hubs of information.

They gather intelligence on the electorate, on — data on individual voters that they use the make tactical decisions, and then they're kind of a permanent research operation, especially at times like this, where there are open primaries within a party, and you don't know who the nominee is going to be.

And the DNC basically says to the Clinton campaign or Sanders or O'Malley campaigns, we will spend the year building resources for you that we can hand to you when you're the nominee.  In this case, a dossier on Donald Trump, probably the DNC has more information in its files on its servers than any other organization that has been researching Donald Trump for an hour — for a year — pardon me — and not just Trump, but his circle, his advisers, his staffers.

And so a foreign intelligence organization that wants to understand who those people are, the relationships they have, potential points of leverage or influence would probably find that the DNC has more of it sitting around than anyone else.

GUNS - The AR-15

"It's the weapon of choice for U.S. mass murderers: the AR-15" PBS NewsHour 6/14/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America, and the most reviled.  A civilian variant of the U.S. military's standard-issue M16, the AR-15 has gained recent notoriety for its use in mass shootings in Newtown, Aurora, San Bernardino and Orlando's Pulse nightclub; the gun is also the centerpiece of an ongoing high-profile lawsuit against gun manufacturers.  John Yang reports.

Editor's note:  This story focused on the AR-15 rifle, which was the weapon used in several recent mass shootings.  Orlando law enforcement officials initially said this was the same gun type used in the Pulse nightclub shooting, but later clarified that the Orlando shooter was using a Sig Sauer MCX.  The Sig Sauer MCX is a rifle with several similarities to the AR 15-style and was originally designed for use by U.S. special operation forces.  The NewsHour regrets the confusion.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  The NRA says it's America's most popular rifle, used legally and safely by millions of people.  A lawyer for victims' families says it's the gold standard for mass murder of innocent civilians.

The AR-15 has been used in some of the nation's worst mass shootings; at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; an Oregon community college; and now an Orlando gay club.

To learn more about the rifle, its popularity among gun enthusiasts and its place in American culture, we went to a Northern Virginia gun range to speak with former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Phillip Carter, himself a gun owner, who knows the AR-15 well from his service as an Army officer.

Why is this weapon so popular?

PHILLIP CARTER, Former Defense Department Official:  So, the AR-15 is America's rifle because it's what America's military carries.

It's modeled on the M-16 that's been carried by America's Army and America's Marine Corps and the rest of our services since Vietnam.  Today, roughly 20,000 troops carry a similar rifle in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even those who don't serve feel that they're part of that effort when they carry the AR-15.

JOHN YANG:  I have read that the recoil is a bit gentler than some other rifles.

PHILIP CARTER:  So, the recoil on the M-16 or the AR-15 is designed to be light, so that you can keep it on target and continue to shoot bullet after bullet after bullet.  It's by design.

There's a massive spring here in the stock that absorbs quite a bit of the recoil.  There's also, by design, a gas system that takes a lot of the gas from the firing of each bullet, and it evaporates it, so that when each bullet is fired, that gas and that recoil isn't coming back on the shoulder each time, but it's actually in the rifle in a more constructive manner.

JOHN YANG:  And that feature would also allow a shooter to keep steady.

PHILIP CARTER:  It's a military rifle.  It's designed to deliver masses of bullets to a very specific target over time.  This is a weapon designed to kill in mass quantities.  It's a military weapon.

ORLANDO - Aftershock

"In Orlando mass shooting, a search for motive — and missed signals" PBS NewsHour 6/13/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  A day after America woke to news of a horrific mass shooting at a Florida gay nightclub, a disturbing portrait of 29-year-old gunman Omar Mateen — who was on the FBI's radar — began to emerge.  Director James Comey defended his agents' multiple investigations of Mateen, whose ex-wife said he was full of hate, and who President Obama called a homegrown extremist.  William Brangham reports.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  There was relative calm outside the Pulse nightclub this morning, a far remove from the chaos of 24 hours earlier.  Amateur video captured the terror, gunshots shattering the party atmosphere inside the club.

The man firing the shots was 29-year-old Omar Mateen, ultimately killed by a SWAT team inside.  Police said today they have no regrets about storming the club.

JOHN MINA, Chief, Orlando Police Department:  Based on information we received from the suspect, and from the hostages, and people inside, we believed further loss of life was imminent.  I made the decision to commence the rescue operation and do the explosive breach.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  During the attack, Mateen called 911 dispatchers and pledged loyalty to the Islamic State.

Today, ISIS radio released an audio statement calling him a soldier of the caliphate.  And officials in Saudi Arabia confirmed he'd visited their country twice for pilgrimages.

But, in Washington, FBI Director James Comey said there's every reason to think Mateen acted on his own.

JAMES COMEY, Director, FBI:  There are strong indications of radicalization by this killer and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations.  So far, we see no indication that this was a plot directed from outside the United States, and we see no indication that he was part of any kind of network.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  The FBI had investigated Mateen on suspicions of terrorist sympathies, but the results were inconclusive, and Comey defended his agents' work.

JAMES COMEY:  Our investigation involved introducing confidential sources to him, recording conversations with him, following him, reviewing transactional records from his communications, and searching all government holdings for any possible connections, any possible derogatory information.




"LGBT Americans target of violent hate crimes more than any other group" PBS NewsHour 6/13/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The Orlando mass shooting put a new focus on efforts to pass hate crime laws — and the sobering reality that LGBT Americans are more than twice as likely to be the target of a violent hate-crime than Muslims or African-Americans.  Gwen Ifill talks to Rachel Tiven of Lambda Legal and Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center on how recent LGBT rights successes may be stoking more anti-gay violence.




"Capitol Hill stalemate on gun control back in spotlight after Orlando shooting" PBS NewsHour 6/13/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando Sunday represents the intersection of several heated political debates, including national security, the status of Muslims in America, and the battle over gun control.  For more on how lawmakers are responding to the tragedy, Judy Woodruff talks to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Will Hurd, R-Tex.




"Remember them: The names and faces of the lives cut short in the Orlando massacre" PBS NewsHour 6/14/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  A mother of two.  An Army reservist.  A cancer survivor.  A gay rights activist.  A high school basketball star.  These are some of the victims of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.  The Newshour steps back to remember the names and faces of the 49 whose lives were cut short Sunday.

POLITICS - Stopping Trump

"How the Left Can Stop Trump" by Cole Stangler, In These Times 6/13/2016

Salvador Seda has voted for the Democrat in every presidential election since he first registered in 1963.  More than half a century later, the retiree and resident of Cleveland's working-class Puritas-Longmead neighborhood is ending his streak.

“I'm going to vote for Donald Trump,” Seda told a canvasser from Showing Up for Racial Justice Action (SURJ Action) who had knocked on his door.  “He might not know much about politics, but he's a businessman. …  In Washington, they have politicians that have been senators for 40 and 50 years.  It's time that these people get out and let some young blood in.”

Leaving Seda's house, canvasser Caroline Meister acknowledged the visit hadn't gone as planned.  The recent college graduate volunteered a few hours on a sleepy Saturday afternoon in May to fight Trump through a technique that SURJ Action, a group that organizes white people for racial justice, calls “deep canvassing.”  SURJ Action organizers aim to move potential voters leftward by listening to their concerns and helping them identify the source of their woes.  In this low-income section of Cleveland, serenaded by the perpetual hum of planes from the nearby airport, SURJ Action encouraged canvassers to focus on economic insecurity.  Even so, Meister struggled.

She led with a question about the $15 minimum wage—a popular proposal that Trump opposes—but the retiree pushed back, saying it would hurt business owners.  And while Seda is Puerto Rican and his wife Mexican, he rejected Meister's overtures about discrimination and railed against undocumented immigration.

The exchange illustrates the challenge of defeating Trump and undercutting the deeper roots of his right-wing populism:  America is angry and Trump has a remarkable gift for channeling that anger.  In his diagnosis of the country's woes, the presumptive Republican nominee is blunt and unapologetically racist:  It's the fault of undocumented immigrants for bringing crime, and of Muslims for making us unsafe.  Walls and travel bans may be tough, the logic goes, but they're necessary.

This rhetoric scares many Americans.  “A Trump presidency represents an existential threat to immigrants in America,” says Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America's Voice, a D.C.- based immigrant advocacy group.  “His immigration policies are entirely based on expulsion, exclusion and building a fortress around America.”

“Trump says he'll deport all undocumented immigrants within the first two years of his presidency.  Take a moment to imagine how that gets carried out: agents showing up at homes, carting away mothers and fathers.  Raids on farms and factories. …  Imagine what it would feel like, as Americans, to see this happening.  That's why we all need to rise up and defeat him.”

Doing so is made more difficult, however, by a near-certain Democratic nominee who some worry lacks the background and vision to undercut Trump's anti-establishment appeal.  If Hillary Clinton cannot muster a message that speaks to alienated, downand-out sections of white America, then it could fall on the backs of those working outside her campaign to stop Trump.  Against that gloomy backdrop, labor and progressive activists are gearing up for one of the strangest and most frightening presidential elections in U.S. history.

The base of Trumpism

Historians will likely debate the roots of Trump's rise for decades.  But the demographics are clear enough:  He's enormously popular with white people without college educations.  His supporters are more likely to be men, and they're likely to make under $50,000 a year.  Trump “is a no bullshit kind of guy,” Brian Sepe, a utility worker from Lowell, Mass., told this reporter for a story in International Business Times.  “He calls it what it is.”

Jeff Hester, a laid-off railroader and Trump supporter from Tennessee, feels similarly betrayed by Washington:  “As I watched my beloved and once-proud country brought to its economic and social knees over the last seven years, I have become more and more angry,” he says.  “I am certain this country cannot survive another four years of establishment politics.”

Whether people like Sepe and Hester will turn up en masse in November is another matter.  As Five Thirty Eight's Nate Silver calculated, the median household income of Trump voters in the first 23 Republican primaries was a hefty $72,000—well above the national median of $56,000.  Poor Republicans may love Trump, but they don't turn out to vote as reliably as their wealthier counterparts.

Of course, Trump has done more than just tap into economic anxieties and the inability of Washington to address them.  The real-estate mogul has engaged in a level of race-baiting not seen in presidential politics since at least the end of segregation.  From undocumented Mexican immigrants, to Muslim and Chinese bogeymen, Trump claims to have identified the true culprits for America's woes—and they're definitely not white people.

“Where the rest of the Republican Party for decades has been operating on the dog-whistle principle”—using coded racist language that leaves room for plausible deniability—“[Trump]'s demagoguery about ‘scary' people who are supposedly responsible for everything that's wrong with America replaces the dog-whistle with a bullhorn,” says Rick Perlstein, a journalist and historian of the American Right.

For Christopher Phelps, a professor of American history at the University of Nottingham, the ethos of Trumpism lingers in a famously cryptic verse from Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama:  “In Birmingham they love the governor / Now we all did what we could do / Now Watergate does not bother me / Does your conscience bother you?”

The lyrics mean “you can dump all over the Southern white man for voting for [Alabama governor] George Wallace [in the 1968 and 1972 elections], but we didn't elect Nixon, which is a way of saying, ‘We're free from the responsibility of your establishment and its crimes,'” says Phelps.  “And that's the enduring attitude.  That's why you can say ‘Trump's a racist' and it'll sort of bounce off these people because to them, he's an alternative to corporate politics as normal.”

As they did in the primaries, Trump's better-heeled Republican backers will probably turn up at the polls this November.  But the prospects of a Trump victory rest on a massive outpouring of low-income white voters.  By the same token, he needs large chunks of young, minority, female and other likely Democratic voters to stay home.

Many find such an outcome unlikely:  Hillary Clinton still leads early national polls and as the New York Observer's Cliston Brown put it, “There just aren't enough ‘angry white men' out there” to put Trump in office.

Of course, stranger things have happened this election cycle.  And in fact, a set of May 2016 polls from Quinnipiac University showed Clinton and Trump running neck-and-neck in the crucial swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.  All three went blue in the last two elections.

The Clinton campaign

Barring an unexpected indictment from the FBI, or a shock outcome in California's Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton will almost certainly be the nominee.  That's likely good news for Trump in his quest to rally workingclass whites.

In January, Working America, the political organizing arm of the AFLCIO, released a survey of voters in areas outside Cleveland and Pittsburgh with household incomes less than $75,000.  Ninety-eight percent of respondents were white.  Thirty-eight percent backed Trump, while only 22 percent supported Clinton.

“She's got so many vulnerabilities precisely to this kind of politics, because she is the establishment,” says historian Christopher Phelps.  “She is tied in with corporate America, she does look kind of corrupt … and she's been in power all these years.”

While her defenders have pointed to the absence of a clear quid pro quo, Clinton's famously well-remunerated speeches to Wall Street certainly give off the whiff of corruption.  Her hawkish foreign policy views, too, may put her at odds with the American public.

With such titles as First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, Clinton's resume is as “establishment” as it gets.  And, in stark contrast to her primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Clinton is associated with 1990s hallmarks like NAFTA, welfare reform and Wall Street deregulation.  Each of these was championed by her and her husband, the 42nd President, whom she recently announced would be “in charge of revitalizing the economy” should she win.

Trump has crafted a persona that resonates with working people, even if his economic stances often veer antiworker—he wants to cut taxes on the rich, supports so-called right-to-work laws, and has slammed workplace safety regulations.  However, his denunciations of immigration and outsourcing offer the white working class a target for its economic anger.

“You look back at all the different trade agreements over the past 30 years, [and] it's always been to move jobs out of the country,” says Sepe.  “That's got us in so much trouble. We don't have good jobs left in this country.”

Beating Trump with conversation…

These may not be ideal circumstances under which to swing white working class voters against Trump.  And various initiatives to push this population leftward stretch far back in American history, from post-Civil War Reconstruction to Operation Dixie, the CIO's failed post-WWII mass union drive, and have never managed to overcome America's deep-seated racism.  But Erin Heaney, the national organizing director for Showing Up for Racial Justice—the 501c3 arm of SURJ Action—remains confident it can be done one conversation at a time.

Heaney was interested in the idea of deep canvassing months before the primaries began.  She learned about it last December from David Fleischer, director of the Leadership LAB at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.  Fleischer and others began using the tactic in 2009 after voters struck down gay marriage in California.  A study showing that deep canvassing changed people's views on same-sex marriage was retracted, but more recent research credits the technique with shifting opinion on transgender rights.

“In many communities, it's white folks who are the voting bloc or the political power that keeps a lot of racist policies and practices in place, and we need a way of engaging with white folks and actually changing their minds on a whole number of issues,” says Heaney.  “There was a real moment after Trump won Super Tuesday where we realized we could use this technique to undermine support for him.”

SURJ Action is testing out the program in June and July in Cleveland, Louisville, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Virginia before expanding to other sites.  Organizers plan to deploy 30 canvassers for roughly four days of door-knocking in each location.

“We're still experimenting, but part of what we're trying to get at the doors is:  What are people's fears and pain, particularly working-class and working-poor white folks?” says Heaney.

Such an approach entails listening to voters' anxieties, not mocking them.

“A lot of the reporting and media coverage I've seen has been pretty dismissive of the very real pain and abandonment of poor and working-class white folks,” Heaney continues.  “A lot of the narrative around Trump has been, ‘These are poor white folks, and how stupid are they?'  There's a belief that people can't shift how they think.”

Heaney recalls encountering a Trump supporter who said at first, “I'm not going to talk to you.”  But Heaney and her co-canvasser kept asking questions and listened to his concerns about immigration and jobs.  What he liked about Trump was the proposal to build a U.S.-Mexico wall.

Heaney's co-canvasser, a teacher, told him that Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric was scaring her students and had prompted an attack against one of them.  At first, his response was, “Well, the students, they shouldn't be here— they're illegal,” Heaney recalls.  When the teacher told him the students were documented, that gave him pause:  “Well, that's not good.”

After 20 minutes, he said his views on Trump hadn't changed.  “It's one conversation, so who knows,” says Heaney.  “But we definitely got him to think and we got him to reflect.”

At the same time, SURJ Action is launching a separate initiative called “Little Trumps,” encouraging local chapters to identify and target candidates who share Trump's politics.  Organizers hope to kick it off in July and to select 10 to 15 candidates.

“It's a way to deliver blows to the Trump agenda,” says Zoë Williams, a Denver-based organizer with SURJ Action who is heading the Little Trump campaign.  “If we just go after Trump himself, then we're missing so much of the ripple effect Trump has created.

… and with protest

In the meantime, others are storming ahead with protests.  From the massive March rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago that culminated in the cancellation of a Trump speech, to more recent protests in San Diego and Albuquerque, demonstrations have gripped the press and brought attention to Trump's sky-high unfavorability.  Six months out from the general election, Trump held a whopping 53 percent “strongly unfavorable” rating, greater than any other candidate in history at this point in the race.

That's lending momentum to plans to protest the Republican National Convention.  The organizers are the same loosely tied group of radicals behind demonstrations outside previous GOP conventions in 2008 and 2012, in St. Paul and Tampa Bay.

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based activist Tom Burke, one of the lead organizers for what's billed as the Coalition to March on the RNC and Dump Trump, says the protest has two aims.  “One is it helps to build movements in this country by tying local groups to national issues.  Secondly, it has an impact on the elections because the media starts to cover what the protesters are saying.  We have a very different agenda than the Republican Party— and this year, in particular.”

Cindy Wiesner, national coordinator of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, a network of largely local progressive activist groups, agrees in principle with anti-Trump protests.  But she's still not sure about a mass mobilization for the Republican convention.

“It's mostly about safety concerns, to be honest,” says Wiesner.  “There's a petition going around [with more than 50,000 signatures] that says, ‘We want the right to bear arms inside the convention.'  These things seemed silly at one point, but they're actually very real.  There are pro-Trump supporters getting organized to counter anti-Trump supporters at the convention.  Do we want to bring a whole bunch of poor people, working-class folks and people of color, and put them in that situation?”

“I've been to Democratic National Conventions where we've been arrested and beaten by the cops, but it's not necessarily that you fear the delegates, you know,” Wiesner says, with a wry laugh.  The effectiveness of anti-Trump protests remains unclear.  After the events in Chicago, some protesters came away with a sense of victory, feeling they had inflicted a blow against the candidate, says Toby Chow, a Chicagoan who attended the rally.  Instead, Trump coasted to a string of primary victories.

“I had hoped at the time that it would do something to puncture his image of bravado, which is a huge part of his campaign—the fact that he's a tough guy, he's the bully,” says Chow, who also serves as the chair of People's Lobby, an independent progressive advocacy group.  “But I can't say there's solid evidence of that.”

Still, historian Rick Perlstein says the demonstrations could have a meaningful effect on the general electorate.  Presidential candidates associated with protests don't have the best track record.

“In 1968 the Democratic Party and Hubert Humphrey were associated with chaos,” says Perlstein, author of "Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America."  “I think if the [2016] Democratic candidate manages rhetorically to tie Donald Trump to this sort of disruption, that ‘this is what we have in store in a Trump presidency; chaos, violence, rage,' then the Democratic candidate will actually be able to take advantage.”

Unions:  the last line of defense

Emphatically pro-Clinton Super PACs plan to slam Trump in the coming months.  But they'll be joined by others with more progressive leanings.  MoveOn.org, which endorsed Sanders, is preparing an anti-Trump campaign in a number of swing states.  Meanwhile the AFL-CIO recently launched a campaign targeting a similar crop of voters.  The federation has yet to make an endorsement but will almost certainly back the Democratic nominee.

More crucial still are labor's political education and get-out-the-vote efforts.  As In These Times reported in 2012, unions played an unsung role in securing President Barack Obama's re-election:  While Mitt Romney won non-union voters by 4 points, Obama carried union voters by a staggering 32 points, enough for a comfortable victory, according to a Hart Research study conducted for the AFL-CIO.

The difference was even more pronounced among the white working class that Trump hopes to turn out in earth-shattering numbers.  While Romney captured the vote of white non-union men without college degrees by a stunning 47 points in 2012, the unionized share of this population preferred Obama by 9 points.

At just over 11 percent of U.S. workers, union membership is far from its mid-century heyday.  Still, union density remains above the national average in a handful of the crucial swing states the Trump campaign plans to target:  Pennsylvania (13.3 percent), Ohio (12.3 percent), Minnesota (14.2 percent) and Michigan (15.2 percent).

And when it comes to influencing elections, unions aren't just any old progressive interest group.

“Unlike many other progressive organizations, they have this incredibly rich membership base that they can turn to,” says Ryan Lamare, professor at the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign's School of Labor and Employment Relations.  “This separates unions from many other, more limited interest groups.  It makes unions look more similar in their effectiveness to the way a corporate interest group might look on the Right.”

Then there's the AFL-CIO's Working America.  Since its founding in 2003, the group has focused on building ties with non-union voters in working-class communities.  Like the deep canvassers of SURJ Action, Working America is committed to defeating Donald Trump by having conversations with his base.

“The most important thing is to make a connection,” says the group's executive director, Karen Nussbaum.

She says Working America's campaign in 2016 will be four times larger than it was in 2012.  Targeting 2 million swing voters in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, the group plans to launch its voter outreach phase in August.

“People are fed up and they are completely captured by his ‘I'm the guy who will burn the house down' attitude,' ” says Nussbaum.  “I think he poses a real danger.”

That no-holds-barred aura about Trump is exactly what appeals to Michael Watson, a highway contractor from Indiana.  “We don't need a continuation of what we've already had for the last eight years,” he says.  “These politicians, they make all kinds of promises and then they get up there in Washington, D.C., pretty soon they look around and they go, ‘Well now, this is gorgeous, we got to do whatever we can do to stay here.'  You forget the promises you made.”

“We think talking about political accountability is actually key to all of this,” says Nussbaum.  “We've got to create the mechanisms that restore faith in genuine democracy.”

A better Hillary?

In the end, it's entirely conceivable that an unpopular, uninspiring, Hillary Clinton could defeat a positively loathsome Donald Trump.

But Larry Hanley, president of the 200,000-member Amalgamated Transit Union, which endorsed Sanders in March, still believes a better Clinton is possible.  He points to the transformation of Robert Kennedy after the 1963 assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy.  Five years later, as he sought the Democratic nomination, Robert Kennedy visited impoverished communities and touted an unambiguous message of economic justice.

“One of the things that he did is he spent time touring in poor areas and poor neighborhoods,” Hanley says.  “That's why he made such a potent candidate who could cross over and get the people who would now vote for Donald Trump.  Because he saw it, he understood it, and he told them about it.  That's the kind of thing Hillary should do.

“It wasn't Bobby formulating some political strategy, and I'm not suggesting Hillary should do that either,” Hanley says.  “It has to be for real.  There are really two societies we live in:  One is that of the very well-off and then there's everybody else, and the gap is growing bigger every day.  That's the part that Hillary not only has to see but has to come to understand.”

Thursday, June 16, 2016

TERROR IN AMERICA - President Obama on Trump

"OBAMA CONDEMNS TRUMP" by Julie Hirshfeld Davis & Matt Flegenheimer, San Diego Union-Tribune 6/15/2016

NOTE:  This is from the online version of the newspaper, therefore no article link.

President Barack Obama denounced Donald Trump on Tuesday for his remarks in the aftermath of the massacre in Orlando, Fla., warning that Trump was peddling a “dangerous” mindset that recalled the darkest and most shameful periods in U.S. history.

“We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence,” Obama said at the Treasury Department, without mentioning the Republican presidential candidate by name.

His statement, an extraordinary condemnation by a sitting President of a man who is to be the opposing party’s nominee for the White House, came after Obama met with his national security team on the status of the effort against the Islamic State.  Obama said the meeting was dominated by discussion of the Orlando rampage.

“Where does this stop?” Obama said of Trump’s approach, noting that Trump had proposed a ban on admitting Muslims into the U.S., and that the Orlando assailant, like perpetrators of previous domestic terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Fort Hood, Texas, was a U.S. citizen.  “Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently?  Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance?  Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith?” Obama asked, his voice rising with frustration.  “Do Republican officials actually agree with this?  Because that’s not the America we want— it doesn’t reflect our democratic ideals.  It won’t make us more safe.  It will make us less safe.”

Appearing in Pittsburgh as Obama spoke, Hillary Clinton gave a denunciation of her own.  She assailed Trump’s temperament, ridiculing his proposals and arguing that he had failed to meet the gravity of the moment.

“History will remember what we do in this moment,” she told hundreds of supporters inside a union hall, asking “responsible Republican leaders” to join her in condemning Trump.  “What Donald Trump is saying is shameful.”

Trump, unbowed by the criticism, said Obama was coddling terrorists.

“President Obama claims to know our enemy, and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies and, for that matter, the American people,” he said in a statement Tuesday.  “When I am President, it will always be America first.”

Members of Trump’s party were themselves critical of the candidate’s language and proposals.  House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a news conference Tuesday that Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigrants was not in the country’s interest, nor did it reflect the principles of his party.

“There’s a really important distinction that every American needs to keep in mind: This is a war with radical Islam.  It’s not a war with Islam,” Ryan said.  “The vast, vast majority of Muslims in this country and around the world are moderate, they’re peaceful, they’re tolerant, and so they’re among our best allies, among our best resources in this fight against radical Islamic terrorism.”

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., has been among the most outspoken in his party about withholding his endorsement of Trump.  Flake said in a Twitter post that he was “appreciative” that Ryan had spoken out.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, declined to talk about Trump, an indication of the precarious position in which Trump has placed Republican elected officials.

Obama rejected criticism from Trump and other Republicans about his refusal to use the term “radical Islam” to describe the Islamic State.  Obama said he would not use the wording because he was unwilling to give the Islamic State the victory of acceptance of its vision that it is the leader of a holy war between Islam and the West.

“If we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them,” Obama said.

During a rally in Greensboro, N.C., hours after Obama’s remarks, Trump offered a brief response.

“I watched President Obama today, and he was more angry at me than he was at the shooter,” Trump said.  “The level of anger, that’s the kind of anger he should have for the shooter and these killers that shouldn’t be here.”

Obama is scheduled to travel to Orlando on Thursday to visit with the surviving victims and the families of those killed.  Obama spoke ominously of the stakes for the nation’s security, and its very identity, if the ideas espoused by Trump and many in the Republican Party are widely accepted.  “We’ve gone through moments in our history before where we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it,” Obama said.  We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it as been a shameful part of our history.”

Clinton, in a striking departure from her speech Monday, when she refrained from saying Trump’s name and said it was “not a day for politics,” took direct aim Tuesday at his penchant for conspiracy theory.  She reminded the crowd that he was “a leader of the birther movement” questioning Obama’s birthplace.

After the Orlando attack, she noted, Trump suggested on television that Obama sympathized with Islamic terrorists.

“Just think about that for a second,” Clinton said.  “Even in a time of divided politics, this is way beyond anything that should be said by someone running for President of the United States.”

Obama staunchly defended his administration’s approach to countering terrorism, listing gains that the United States has made against the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and Libya; killing the group’s top leaders, capturing more of its territory and whittling away at its financial resources.

He called on Congress to enact gun restrictions that it has so far resisted, including the resurrection of a ban on assault weapons and a measure that would bar people on “no-fly” lists because of suspected terrorist ties from buying a gun.

Davis and Flegenheimer write for The New York Times.