fresh voices from the front lines of change








Alexa Kasdan

What Mike Bloomberg Will Never Understand

As I watched the Democratic debate, like millions of other Americans I noticed the smug look on Michael Bloomberg’s face when Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others challenged him about his treatment of women, stop-and-frisk and other racist policies that he has championed. Eleven years ago, I personally had that exact same look directed at me. On Feb. 3, 2009, as New York City was reeling from a financial crisis fueled by Wall Street greed, I helped organize a peaceful protest of then-Mayor Bloomberg. More than 100 low-income New Yorkers, most of who were people of color, entered the ballroom at the Grand Hyatt hotel in midtown Manhattan and surprised Bloomberg in the middle of his keynote address at the “Future of NYC” conference. We peacefully walked through the front door of the Grand Hyatt and entered the conference just as Bloomberg was beginning his speech. We chanted, “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” in response to the mayor’s continued refusal to meet Right to the City members and his dismissal of the voices of low-income people of color who lived and worked in New York City. I’ll never forget the look on Bloomberg’s face that day in 2009. He was shocked and disgusted that anyone would interrupt or challenge him. In response to our chant, Bloomberg said, “I think actually they were right! In most other countries, they throw them in the slammer. This is a democracy.” Ironically, as we were voluntarily leaving the hotel, eight of our members were arrested, myself included, and forced to spend the night in jail (the charges were ultimately dropped, but only after months of having to go back and forth to court).  Bloomberg says he’s sorry for some of the racist policies of his mayoralty — policies that everyday New Yorkers are still reeling from. But from the look he gave Warren — the very same look he gave me and 100 other protestors in the Hyatt Ballroom — it’s clear that he hasn’t changed a bit.  We cannot allow another billionaire to buy his way into office. We cannot afford to have another leader that thinks he is above critique and dissent. We need a leader who will listen deeply to the voices of those on the ground, and work with them to develop solutions that address our country’s legacy of greed, racism and sexism. This is still what democracy looks like.

Sanders, Bloomberg Grilled At SC Debate

5 takeaways from the South Carolina Democratic debate. LA Times: "Well, that was spunky! South Carolina has a history of rapscallion politicians and rowdy debates, and Tuesday night’s two-hour throw down in Charleston was no exception. For those not named Michael R. Bloomberg or Bernie Sanders, the debate may have been the last best chance for candidates to assert themselves before Saturday’s Democratic primary, which could claim several casualties ahead of the balloting blitz on March 3, Super Tuesday. It took two Sanders victories and a virtual tie for his rivals to admit it, but on Tuesday night there was no doubting it: The Vermont senator is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. With Sanders threatening to run away with the contest, others did all they could to trip him up. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar mocked his lofty promises: 'The math does not add up.' Bloomberg’s presidential campaign overflows with superlatives: staggering sums of money, a blizzard of advertising, an army of staff. But his widely panned debate performance last week in Las Vegas invited less grandiose descriptions, which left New York City’s former mayor nowhere to go but up. He cracked a lame and obviously rehearsed joke, professing surprise others took the stage after he wiped the floor with them in Nevada. He was haughty, brushing aside a persistent Warren and griping about being cut off by moderators. He almost handed his opponents a bludgeon when he spoke of the millions he poured into the 2018 midterm elections, saying, 'All of the new Democrats that came in and put Nancy Pelosi in charge and gave the Congress the ability to control this president, I bough- ... I got them.'"

SCOTUS Blocks Case Of Teen Killed By Border Agents

Supreme court blocks Mexican family's legal bid over teen killed by border agent. The Guardian:
"The US supreme court has refused to open the door for foreign nationals to pursue civil rights cases in American courts, declining to revive a lawsuit by a slain Mexican teenager’s family against the US border agent who shot him from across the border in Texas. The court ruled 5-4 to uphold a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit against the agent, Jesus Mesa, who shot 15-year-old Sergio Adrián Hernández Guereca in the face in the 2010 incident. The family sued in federal court seeking monetary damages, accusing Mesa of violating the US constitution’s fourth amendment ban on unjustified deadly force and the fifth amendment right to due process. The court, with the five conservative justices in the majority, refused to allow people who are not in the United States at the time of a cross-border incident to file civil rights lawsuits in federal court. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for majority, said the case presented “foreign relations and national security implications” and noted that Congress should decide whether such lawsuits can be permitted, backing the position taken by President Donald Trump’s administration."

Sanders Calls Out U.S. Overthrows Of Foreign Governments

'In Chile, In Guatemala, In Iran': Sanders applauded for highlighting U.S. record of overthrowing governments around the world. Common Dreams: "Facing a barrage of attacks from his Democratic rivals and hawkish questions from moderators, Sen. Bernie Sanders said during the presidential primary debate in South Carolina Tuesday night that political leaders must face up to America's long record of toppling democratically elected governments overseas. 'Excuse me, occasionally it might be a good idea to be honest about American foreign policy,' Sanders, the Democratic frontrunner, said as Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden attempted to slime the senator over his comments on Cuba's education and healthcare systems and falsely accuse him of being sympathetic to authoritarianism. 'That includes,' Sanders continued, 'the fact that America has overthrown governments all over the world in Chile, in Guatemala, in Iran.' While pundits were not pleased with Sanders' remarks, progressives applauded the senator's willingness to speak candidly about the United States' sordid record overseas."

Barr Sparks Surveillance Showdown

Congress braces for potential surveillance debacle after Barr briefing. Politico: "Congress braces for potential surveillance debacle after Barr briefing
. Politico: "Attorney General William Barr told Senate Republicans on Tuesday that the Trump administration could support a clean extension of contentious surveillance laws set to expire next month. And Barr said he could make changes on his own to satisfy President Donald Trump and his allies who have railed against the use of the law to monitor his 2016 campaign, according to senators at a party briefing. But Barr also clashed with GOP critics of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which has three key provisions set to lapse on March 15. And with House Democrats eyeing their own changes to the law, some Senate Republicans fear a deal to extend the law might be nearly impossible. House Democrats are pushing their own version of FISA reforms. On Wednesday, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) will begin advancing a reauthorization that would end the seizure of call records and extend roving wiretap and lone wolf surveillance authorities with some reforms. Senate Republicans and Barr are unlikely to accept those changes anytime soon. And those dynamics have some fretting the programs will briefly expire, just as they did in 2015 when Paul and McConnell clashed over reforming the much-criticized bulk data collection program."

Trump's New Intelligence Chief Was Unregistered Foreign Agent

Trump's 'Acting' DNI Chief Did Not Disclose Foreign Ties. ProPublica: "President Donald Trump’s new acting intelligence director, Richard Grenell, used to do consulting work on behalf of an Eastern European oligarch who is now a fugitive and was recently barred from entering the U.S. under anti-corruption sanctions imposed last month by the State Department. In 2016, Grenell wrote several articles defending the oligarch, a Moldovan politician named Vladimir Plahotniuc, but did not disclose that he was being paid, according to records and interviews. Grenell also did not register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which generally requires people to disclose work in the U.S. on behalf of foreign politicians. FARA is the same law that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates were convicted of violating. (Manafort went to trial. Gates pleaded guilty.) It’s not clear whether the articles were directly part of Grenell’s paid consulting work for Plahotniuc. Unpaid work could still require disclosures under FARA if it was directed by or primarily benefited a foreign politician, according to Matthew Sanderson, a lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale who advises people on complying with FARA. FARA contains several exemptions, such as for lawyers and businesses, Sanderson said, but none appear to apply to Grenell’s op-eds about Plahotniuc. 'There is real reason to believe that Mr. Grenell should have registered here,' Sanderson said after ProPublica described the circumstances to him. 'This is exactly the type of circumstances I’d expect the Department of Justice to investigate further.'"

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