fresh voices from the front lines of change








Robert Borosage

Bernie’s Ideas And Biden’s Burden

"Anyway, my time is up. I’m sorry." Joe Biden may have been talking about the timer, but his hapless performance in his first Democratic debate imparted an ironic twist to the words. This first debate of the season is but one of many, but it may well mark a turn in Biden’s prospects. Slow, old, he seemed to have lost his fastball, and surely sowed doubts about the sole rationale of his candidacy: that he is the one who can take on Donald Trump. Kamala Harris silenced the stage early in the second night’s debate, saying: "America does not want to witness a food fight, they want to know how we are going to put food on their table." That pre-packaged line is, of course, wrong. Debate audiences tend to be more engaged voters. Most watch the debates like NASCAR fans watch the speedway: They may enjoy the jockeying of the cars, but they are waiting for the collision. Bernie Sanders, in his remorseless fashion, used his closing argument to lay down the marker for every candidate: "Nothing will change unless we have the guts to take on Wall Street, the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the military-industrial complex and the fossil fuel industry. If we don’t have the guts to take them on, we’ll continue to have plans, we’ll continue to have talk and the rich will get richer and everybody else will be struggling." As voters try to sort through the Democratic contenders, that is a pretty good standard to measure them by.

Migrants Forced To Drink Toilet Water

AOC says migrants forced to drink toilet water after tense border visit. NY Post: "Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claims Border Patrol agents are forcing migrants to drink out of toilets and live under other extreme conditions — while the officers sit back and laugh. 'I see why CBP officers were being so physically &sexually threatening towards me,' the congresswoman tweeted Monday after leaving a US Customs and Border Protection facility in Texas. 'Officers were keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets,' she said. 'This was them on their GOOD behavior in front of members of Congress.' The New York lawmaker was visiting a number of migrant detention centers scattered along the southern border on Monday with other congressional Democrats following reports of terrible conditions and repeated sexual assaults."

Border Patrol's Obscene, Racist Facebook Posts

Inside the secret border patrol Facebook group where agents joke about migrant deaths and post sexist memes. ProPublica: "Members of a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility in Texas on Monday and posted a vulgar illustration depicting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant, according to screenshots of their postings. In one exchange, group members responded with indifference and wisecracks to the post of a news story about a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in May while in custody at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas. One member posted a GIF of Elmo with the quote, 'Oh well.' Another responded with an image and the words 'If he dies, he dies.'"

Trouble In Trump Country

Trouble in Trump country: Many are still "left behind". CBS: "The 207 counties that flipped from supporting Barack Obama in 2012 to voting for Donald Trump in 2016 are credited with handing Mr. Trump his victory -- and for serving as a referendum on the country's economic ailments. But two years later, those counties are still "left behind," a new report finds. Those counties, like battered Erie, Pennsylvania, are still lagging the rest of the U.S. in employment and business establishment growth, according to a Tuesday report from the Economic Innovation Group. The bipartisan think tank, co-founded by Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook fame, sheds light on the entrenched problems those regions face and suggests that voter dissatisfaction may play a role in the 2020 election. 'Among voters there is a strong belief in the power of the executive branch,' the report notes. 'To the extent that flipped counties' political swing reflected voter dissatisfaction with the status quo, the latest data provide no evidence that their trajectories will have meaningfully changed by 2020.'"

U.S. Income Gap Grows

Rich get richer, everyone else not so much in record U.S. expansion. Reuters: "Welcome to the longest U.S. economic expansion in history, one perhaps best characterized by the excesses of extreme wealth and an ever-widening chasm between the unfathomably rich and everyone else. Indeed, as the expansion entered its record-setting 121st month on Monday, signs of a new Gilded Age are all over. Big-money deals are getting bigger, from corporate mergers and acquisitions, to individuals buying luxury penthouses, sports teams, yachts and all-frills pilgrimages to the ends of the earth. And while these deals grab headlines, there is a deeper trend at work. The number of billionaires in the United States has more than doubled in the last decade, from 267 in 2008 to 607 last year, according to UBS. 'The rich have gotten richer and they’ve gotten richer faster,' said John Mathews, Head of Private Wealth Management and Ultra High Net Worth at UBS (UBSG.S) Global Wealth Management. 'The drive or the desire for consumption has just gone upscale.' But there are also signs of struggle and stagnation at lower-income levels. The wealthiest fifth of Americans hold 88% of the country’s wealth, a share that has grown since before the crisis, Federal Reserve data through 2016 shows. Meanwhile, the number of people receiving federal food stamps tops 39 million, below the peak in 2013 but still up 40% from 2008 even though the country’s population has only grown about 8%."

D.C. Prosecutors Try Restorative Justice

D.C. prosecutors, once dubious, are becoming believers in restorative justice. NPR: ""Our objective in our prosecutions, particularly since we're dealing with young people, is to put them in a position to learn from their mistakes," says Racine, the attorney general of the District of Columbia. Racine's special counsel, Seema Gajwani, first presented the concept to him nearly three years ago. While the roots of restorative justice can be traced to indigenous peoples in the U.S. and Canada, no elected prosecutor had created such a unit inside their own office — until now. At first, Racine says, he was skeptical. But the process has eroded his misgivings, in part because the sessions help juveniles understand the harm they've caused their victims, their communities and even their own family members. What's more, Racine says, the concept also promotes public safety. Early data are showing signs that the program is a success, he says. The restorative justice program is not available for offenses involving guns or serious sexual assault."

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