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Sam Pizzigati

Will The 2020 Contenders Take On Inequality?

Is America’s political discourse on inequality finally getting real? In the early going of the 2020 presidential campaign, this has become a question worth asking. White House hopefuls have been condemning the maldistribution of America’s income and wealth with an intensity—and a specificity—that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. And the rich are squirming. They see candidates proposing unprecedented taxes on their assets and even questioning their right to exist. Those who seek our nation’s highest office—at least on the Democratic side—no longer see safe harbor in the warm embrace of the ultrarich. A good many billionaires, of course, do expect to be protected, and the unwillingness of the 2020 Democratic field to fawn over their fortunes has the awesomely affluent feeling like a persecuted minority. To be sure, our political class has not yet abandoned the billionaire class. But the political consensus that nurtured our contemporary top-heavy economy has cracked.

Pelosi Announces Articles Of Impeachment

Pelosi says House will draft impeachment charges against Trump. NYT: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that the House of Representatives would begin drafting impeachment articles against President Trump, pushing ahead with a rapid timetable that could set the stage for a vote before Christmas to charge him with high crimes and misdemeanors. Invoking the words of the Constitution and the nation’s founders, Ms. Pelosi said it had become clear over two months of investigation that Mr. Trump had violated his oath of office by pressing a foreign power for help in the 2020 election. Allowing Mr. Trump to continue in office without remedy, she said, would come at 'the peril of our republic.' 'His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution,' Ms. Pelosi said in a formal address delivered against a backdrop of American flags in the Capitol. 'Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit.'"

Early Christmas For Offshore Drillers

Trump quietly provides offshore drilling industry sweetheart giveaway. Truthout: "nterior Secretary David Bernhardt was condemned Monday for a proposed policy shift on offshore drilling panned as a “sweetheart giveaway” for a former client. The new extraction-encouraging proposal was announced last month in a report by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), two agencies within the Interior Department and occurred, according to transparency group Western Values Project, 'under the cloud of impeachment.' Bernhardt’s announcement followed longstanding fears that the former lobbyist would use his position in the federal government to serve the interests of the fossil fuel lobby above those of the American people and public lands. The recommendations laid out in the report pertain to royalties for offshore leasing and drilling. 'Since day one, Secretary Bernhardt has operated as though Interior was his own personal lobby shop by doling out favors for his former clients with impunity. This offshore royalty rate reduction deal is short selling our shared resources and ripping off taxpayers,' said Jayson O’Neill, deputy director of Western Values Project. 'With Trump’s own corruption dominating headlines,' he continued, “Bernhardt probably thought this sweetheart giveaway to his former oil and gas client would slip by unnoticed.”

DeVos Schemes To Block Student Debt Forgiveness

DeVos accused of scheming to stop next president from canceling student debt. Truthout: "Billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this week proposed handing over the federal government’s $1.5 trillion student loan portfolio to a 'stand-alone government corporation,' a move observers condemned as a corrupt ploy to strip the next president of the ability to cancel student loan debt. 'This very much appears to be a Betsy DeVos scheme to block the next president from unilaterally forgiving federal student debt, which she is well aware a president could do without Congress,' The Intercept‘s Ryan Grim wrote in a series of tweets late Wednesday. 'The DeVos family is heavily invested in the student loan industry and this is just flat-out corruption.' DeVos’ plan, first introduced on Tuesday, would spin off the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office into a new and supposedly independent federal agency. Devos’ proposal, which has not been fully developed, came weeks after she was held in contempt of court failing to comply with an order to stop collecting loan payments from former students of a defunct for-profit college company that defrauded tens of thousands of borrowers. The Department of Education admitted in a court filing Monday that it improperly attempted to collect student loan payments from 45,000 borrowers, far more than the department originally estimated."

GOP Refuses To Confront Russia Election Meddling

The Russification of the Republican Party. The Atlantic: "ust how far will Republicans go in following President Donald Trump’s embrace of Russia? An answer may be crystallizing as the GOP mobilizes its defense of the president against impeachment. Both congressional Republicans and conservative commentators are defending Trump from impeachment partly by accusing Ukraine of intervening against him in the 2016 presidential election—despite repeated warnings from national-security and intelligence officials that those claims are not only baseless, but advance Vladimir Putin’s goal of discrediting Ukraine. Earlier in Trump’s presidency, many Republicans sought to distance themselves from his warm tone toward Putin. But just this week alone, a number of Republican lawmakers, the official House Republican report rebutting impeachment, and the Fox News host Tucker Carlson have repeated Kremlin lines on Ukraine. This flurry of GOP rhetoric comes as Democrats are raising alarm about the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to take action on the DETER Act, a bipartisan bill that would impose sanctions on Russia if it interferes again in 2020. Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the act’s sponsor, has been unsuccessfully pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to attach the bill to a defense-authorization bill now in conference between the House and Senate, which would ensure its passage. 'Nobody has provided any substantive justification for opposing this measure,' Van Hollen told me in an interview. 'All the testimony has been supportive of the DETER Act. And yet when you get behind closed doors, it’s not that anyone says they are opposed to it; they just won’t engage. McConnell would like to see this defeated without any of his fingerprints on it, but his fingerprints are there because he has refused to engage.'"

Infowars Editor Admits He Lied To Spread Hate

“We made it up”: Ex-Infowars editor says he published lies about Muslim community to spread hate. Salon: "A former Infowars video editor admitted that the outlet fabricated lies about a Muslim community in New York to push host Alex Jones’ threats of sharia law in the United States. Josh Owens, who spent years working for Infowars, wrote an essay for The New York Times Magazine describing how Jones' media empire made up facts to fit its narrative and how employees were subjected to Jones’ angry, violent outbursts. The day before Jones interviewed then-candidate Donald Trump on his show in 2015, Owens wrote that he traveled to Islamberg, a Muslim community in rural upstate New York, where Jones had instructed him to investigate what he called 'the American Caliphate.' Though the Muslims that lived in the community had not been connected to any violence and some had publicly denounced ISIS, Jones wanted to push the far-right rumor that the community was a 'potential terrorist-training center,' Owens wrote. Owens said he and a reporter tried to lie their way into the settlement but were unable to get in after the community had come under threat. Days before the trip, the FBI had issued an alert for a man named Jon Ritzheimer, who had threatened a terrorist attack against Muslims. After a law enforcement agent called to confirm their identities, Jones wanted to spin the incident as 'an attempt to intimidate us into silence,' Owens wrote."

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