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Hot Protest in an Ice-Cold Super Bowl City

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Hot Protest in an Ice-Cold Super Bowl City

There are two contests taking place in Minneapolis–St. Paul this weekend. One, of course, is the Super Bowl, the NFL’s reward to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf for getting taxpayers to hand half a billion dollars to build his football arena, the aptly named US Bank Stadium.

The other contest involves local unions and a wide array of social-justice organizations attempting to be heard over the hype and din of Super Bowl week. Their battle pits them against the under-discussed economic and social trauma that the Super Bowl brings. Their plan is to “disrupt the narrative” that what the Super Bowl arrives with is not only acceptable but something to be celebrated.

As Veronica Mendez Moore from the Twin Cities Centro De Trabajadores Unidos En Lucha (CTUL) said to me, “It’s not about being anti-football. It’s about being against a corporate party that’s extracting from our communities and creating an environment of militarization, while increasing wealth at the top at expense of those at the bottom.”

This isn’t just about leveraging the glare from the big game to spotlight local issues. There are real dangers for working people, immigrants, and people of color that come with hosting the Super Bowl. It’s the danger that arrives with a massive expansion of closed-circuit television surveillance, hyper-militarized policing and the free entrance of ICE into a space that normally is a “sanctuary city.”

Hani Ali from from the Black Visions Collective said to me that, while there are a wide variety of organizations taking part in demonstrations, they have coalesced around a series of specific demands.

It starts with transparency: “The city and the Super Bowl host committee decided to not make public the deal that they made, the amount of public dollars that went into bringing this into our community. We’re just asking them to reveal that bid. We want to know exactly how much of our money is going into this. We also want going forward a commitment in transparency and decision-making oversight for other large-scale events.”

There is more. They are also demanding “local law enforcement not cooperate with ICE, so no reporting [undocumented people] to ICE agents. We’re also asking that sex-trafficking victims be treated as victims. We’re going to see, with the Super Bowl. an increase in sex-trafficking incidents…. And also we want the decriminalization of sex work, in general. We’re going to see an increase of violence to people who do sex work on a daily basis, because of the people, the misogyny, the toxic masculinity that these types of sporting events bring to our communities.”

Mendez Moore says that these demands speak to the urgency that communities are feeling and they also “unmask the reality of what comes with 10 days of corporate parties. The cities will be a playground for the rich, while others are suffering poverty, facing homelessness [in freezing temperatures], and we need to put forward that the way resources are being invested could be so very different.”

The organizers in the Twin Cities are teaching the rest of us a hell of a lesson as well. Whether it’s Super Bowl week in one city, or the way this Trump administration makes all of us feel like we are facing a fusillade of injustice from every possible angle, it can be difficult to know what issues upon which to focus and where to build the most effective citadels of resistance. But the young activists of the Twin Cities are practicing old-fashioned solidarity to knit together their different issues and push forward as one.

As Michael Moore, local labor editor of The St. Paul Union Advocate said to me:

Local unions and worker groups have been organizing around the game for months. Transit operators authorized a strike during Super Bowl week, leverage they used to force management into addressing concerns about safety and restroom access. Teachers in St. Paul launched a social media campaign shaming corporations like US Bank and Ecolab for spending over $50 million to lure the NFL and its billionaire owners to town, while avoiding local taxes that fund our schools. Bakery workers, retail janitors and fast food workers will be in the streets outside Super Bowl events next week, lifting up their own campaigns for better wages and working conditions—and standing in solidarity with local movements for racial equity and immigrant rights. Super Bowl boosters told us an event like this would bring people together and showcase the best of our community, and in an ironic way they’re right. It’s going to be a very powerful display of solidarity.

In so many ways, if we will heed the lessons of their organizing, they’ve already won.

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With his Tantric “No Collusion” chant, Trump may be lulling the GOP to sleep. (With a video)

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With his Tantric “No Collusion” chant, Trump may be lulling the GOP to sleep. (With a video)

TaylorHerring / Flickr trump putin actors...
TaylorHerring / Flickr

You know, just like with everything else that doesn’t concern money or gratuitous sex for him personally, Donald Trump is missing the main point of the Russian election interference of 2016. Several GOP incumbents with better than room temperature IQ’s raised the alarm, but since it didn’t deal with making Der Gropinfuror richer, or getting him laid, it went right over Trump’s head.

My allusion to Tantric chants in the title was not sarcastic, it was meant as a seriouos comparison. I became hooked on chants many years ago, when a series of Gregorian chant cassettes became all the rage as a way to reduce stress. The rhythm, tonality and repetition of chants is incredibly soothing, and even todayI regularly use them when I have stress that I feel is not of a kind that is useful or beneficial to me. I am including a video of a Tantric chant at the end of this article so you can hear the similarity for yourself.

Since day one of the Trump-Russia investigation, Trump has been, unintentionally I believe, using a personal version of a Tantric chant. “No collusion, no collusion, no collusion” has been his automatic response to all things Russia. Because Trump’s insecurity is as all inclusive as his stupidity, he is missing the main point of the whole issue.

The simple fact of the matter is that fucking collusion with the Trump campaign was never the main intent of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, if it exists, that was an accessory, not a standard feature. The Russians were as gobsmack stunned stunned as the rest of us on November 8th, 2016, Trump himself included. The Russian interference was set in motion to qccomplish two specific goals. One, to kneecap as much as possible the effectiveness of what they saw as the impending Hillary Clinton Presidency. The other, with carefully timed leaks of their machinations, and another chant of “rigged election, rigged election,” To sew as much discord and distrust for the electoral system in the public as possible. It is because of the complete inability of the Democrats to put forth a unifying, positive message, and the utter contempt of the voters for “politics as usual” that led to Trump, not the carpet bombing of Russian trolls and bots, although they certainly helped.

The Russians must have felt like an 8 year old with an X-Box One under the tree on Christmas morning. A minimum of four years with a finger puppet custom fit for Putin’s blood soaked digits. But it hasn’t worked out that way. Trump has been wonderfully compliant, denying any Russian effect on the election. While Trump may absolutely love the “Central Park five,” the thought of the “Moscow hotel room five” chills his blood. But Trump has failed miserably as a Russian marionette. The sanctions are not gone, in fact, if congress can find a way to hold a gun to Trump’s head to impose the new sanctions they passed by veto proof majorities, they’ve gotten worse. The Mueller investigation has brought unwanted attention on Russian intentions, and the recent indictments have given other western democracies a road map to Russian methods and sources. For Vladimir Putin, just like for Melania Trump, The Donald is rapidly becoming a bigger pain n the ass than he’s worth to them.

But keep your eye on the ball here. Again, what was the main Russian purpose? To sew discord and distrust in the American electoral system. They succeeded admirably there, but not in a way particularly helpful to them. While we may be struggling to keep the lights on, Russian interference has sharpened congressional focus on all things Russian, and focused other democracies on them as well. Thanks to Trump’s over the top buffoonery, existing sanctions are not going anywhere, since congress must vote to relieve them, and harsher sanctions may be imposed.

So, if Putin has already chewed all of the flavor out of the Trump stick of gum, what next? Elementary my dear Watson, interfere some more. Putin already knows that he can’t “collude” with Democrats, they have a compass that doesn’t automatically point due south. But they sure can fuck with Republicans to their hearts content.And give themselves a solid sense of vengeance in doing so, spanking them for their manifest incompetence.

You want to sew more discord, division, rancor and distrust in the American system of governance? How about a nice, big, fat impeachment to paralyze the government? But you’d need a Democratic majority in congress to do that, right? OK, how about a surprise August appearance of a video on Wikileaks, with a fishbowl clad Trump in a Moscow hotel shower? Or a spreadsheet, exquisitely detailing the mechanics of Russian oligarch money laundering through Trump real estate properties? Or, how about the Russians turn the hackers that hit the DNC and John Podesta loose on key GOP incumbents, and start splashing salacious sins and misdeeds all over local district and state newpapers and media outlets, through safe apparently domestic cutouts in, oh, I don’t know, say late September or October? Think the Russians could put a big rocket engine behind the building blue wave and turn it on, adding even more force to the upcoming tsunami?

And you know what the best part is from the Russian perspective? They’re bulletproof. Not only has Trump played the “no collusion” mantra 24/7, he has followed it up with an encore that Russian interference didn’t alter the outcome of the election. Even if GOP incumbents start righteously screaming about Russian interference, with proof, Trump has no choice but to dispute them and call them idiots and sore losers. For Trump to acknowledge the possibility of Russian interference in those races would be to admit that they could have effected his own electoral outcome, something he cannot do. And it becomes even worse, since Trump’s chant of “no collusion” has thoroughly soaked into his followers, any protests of non Trumpista candidates or incumbents or candidates will fall on deaf ears with them.

So, there you have it. If the Russians want to continue to meddle, thanks to Trump’s blind insistence in denying it even happened, they’re free to do so to their hearts content. Messing with Democrats won’t do anything, they’re already in the minority, and the GOP has already proven that they can’t help Russia in the current iteration. But messing with the Republicans sure as hell can muddy the waters some more. And the waiter has just brought the water glasses, the chips, and the salsa. All the Russians have to do now is to sit back, and choose their main entrees and side dishes from the menu. Here’s the Tantric chant I promised you.

https://youtu.be/xUo6GDq1u7U

 


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GOP Candidate Totes Assault-Style Weapon In Campaign Mailer Days After Parkland. Has No Regrets.

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GOP Candidate Totes Assault-Style Weapon In Campaign Mailer Days After Parkland. Has No Regrets.

If anyone thinks Republicans will do anything about assault style weapons, they’re living in fantasy land. Republicans will never give up their NRA blood money.

Kathaleen Wall has no regrets for her campaign mailer days after the Parkland Mass Shooting.

Proudly standing with Donald Trump in the mailer as well.

A leading contender for a Houston-area congressional seat is offering no regrets for putting out a campaign mailer and television ads showing her carrying an assault-style weapon just days after the horrific killings in Parkland, Florida.

In the mailers, there are two pictures of Wall holding weapons on the front and back, with a statement saying: “Kathaleen Wall stands with Donald Trump: We must be vigilant to protect gun rights.”

The mailer, which was produced days before the Parkland shooting, goes on to state: “Every day we are up against those who would take away our freedoms, restrict our liberties, and even those who want to abolish the Second Amendment.”

Others have supported her, and Wall’s campaign clearly is not backing down and only reiterating her support for gun rights.

“First we are incredibly saddened at the scenes in Parkland, Florida,” said Matt Langston, a spokesman for Wall’s campaign.

“What happened there on Wednesday is both a tragedy and a frustrating reminder that Americans must unite to improve mental health outcomes, recognize and act on warning signs for those in difficulty, and engage in productive debate on how to put heinous events like this to an end,” he said.

“For Kathaleen’s part, she’s been a responsible gun owner for many decades and will remain a strong advocate for Americans Second Amendment Rights under the Constitution.”

You see how this works? She’s incredibly saddened, but instead of recognizing there’s a problem with assault style weapons being legal, she has no regrets.

Republicans will never do anything about these weapons of mass killlng. Never.

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Congress Can Act Right Now to Prevent Interference in the 2018 Elections

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Congress Can Act Right Now to Prevent Interference in the 2018 Elections

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments last week of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for meddling in the 2016 US election campaign is big news. But it is even bigger news that Dan Coats, the Trump administration’s director of national intelligence, says, “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives that its past efforts have been successful and views the 2018 midterm US elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”

“Frankly,” Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee several days before Mueller’s indictments were announced, “the United States is under attack.”

No one knows how far those efforts will go—whether they will continue to target voters via social media or whether meddling might focus on the actual machinery of elections. But, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained last year by The Intercept, “Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one US voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before (the 2016 presidential election).”

It’s not just the Russians. Concerns about the potential for the hacking of US voting systems have been reported for years, and now the Los Angeles Times reports that “As hackers abroad plot increasingly brazen and sophisticated assaults, the United States’ creaky polling stations and outdated voter registration technology are not up to the task of fighting them off, according to elections officials and independent experts.”

With a mix of urgency about the threats and skepticism about whether Washington or officials in the states are prepared to respond, David Salvo, a resident fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, asks: “Are we going to be prepared to prevent something more egregious from happening?”

Congressman Mark Pocan, the Wisconsin Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has an appropriate answer. “It is abundantly clear that we need to get ahead of anyone wanting to interfere with our elections,” Pocan explained in an interview following last week’s indictments and warnings. “We need better protections for our elections, including paper ballots for our voting machines.”

Pocan and several of his colleagues are doing more than just talk about what “needs” to be done. They have prepared a legislative response that would work—if congressional leaders would allow it to be debated and enacted.

While federal officials who should be all over the issue struggle to even begin the right conversations about election-integrity issues, Pocan and Congressmen Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, and Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, have been working for the better part of a year to generate support for groundbreaking legislation that gets to the heart of the matter. Their Securing America’s Future Elections (SAFE) Act would safeguard US elections from cyber threats and interference by permanently classifying the integrity and security of elections as a component of the country’s critical infrastructure.

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