US politics

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Lessons from American Progressives: Pramila Jayapal, ‘Rising Star’ of the Democratic Caucus

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/07/2022 - 9:41pm in

Bob Borosage profiles why the Democratic Representative's 'inside-outside' approach to politics puts her in pole position for taking on the conservative-corporate wing of her party

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As a massive crisis unfolds in the domestic politics of the United States, one quiet and modest figure who is little known to the outside world will emerge with increased influence: Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives.

At the same time as the Trumpite majority on the US Supreme Court goes on the offensive, voting intentions point towards the Republicans gaining a majority in the House of Representatives.

Carefully plotted by Nate Silver and his colleagues at FiveThirtyEight – in which they aggregate and geographically locate all forms of polling – the gerrymandering of districts will probably lead to a right-wing victory. The latest outrage being the Supreme Court's permission for Louisiana to squeeze most of its one-third black population into a single district, confining them to one-sixth of the state’s representation.

If the Democrats are indeed reduced to a minority, Nancy Pelosi will almost certainly step down as their House leader. If, however, revulsion at the insanity of the Supreme Court becoming an undemocratic, right-wing conspiracy inflames sufficient turnout to ensure the Democrats retain the majority, it will be in radicalised circumstances.

Either-way, the role of the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus will be enhanced in shaping the politics of the House of Representatives, the future of the Democratic Party across America, and the left around the world. I believe she is one to watch

In a Washington Post profile of President Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, a number of more conservative elected Democrats complained about the influence of Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal. One, under the cover of anonymity, “accused Klain of creating ‘a monster’ by empowering Jayapal, using an expletive to underscore the point”. Why does this intelligent woman with a friendly smile spark such fear and loathing from the more traditional politicians from her own party?

Jayapal was elected to Congress in 2016, in the same election that brought Donald Trump to the White House. She personifies and helps to lead the growing progressive movement in the United States. 

She is the first Indian-American women ever elected to the US House of Representatives. She is also a movement leader who went from protest to power – as chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, she is the leader of a left that now wields increasing influence inside Congress.

Born in Chennai, India, Jayapal came to America aged 16 for college, achieving a BA at Georgetown University and an MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. 

Following 9/11, she founded an immigrant action organisation in Seattle called 'Hate Free Zone', later renamed 'One America'. Its remarkable organising to protect immigrants from discrimination and violence included a successful lawsuit that stopped the George W. Bush administration from summarily deporting 4,000 Somalis. 

After years of such efforts, Jayapal decided it was time to move into elected politics and run for public office, winning a seat in the Washington state senate. 

Her initial success reflected broader currents then sweeping US politics. 

The disastrous Iraq War and the 2008 financial collapse exposed the bankruptcy of the bipartisan neo-liberal establishment in Washington. The centre could not hold. 

On the right, the Tea Party erupted, preying on racial discord in reaction to the election of Barak Obama, stoking a reactionary, nativist anger. On the left, citizen movements – Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers, the growing climate movement, MeToo – challenged the limits of the political debate in the Democratic Party.  

In a European system, these fractures would be expressed in the emergence of new parties. In the two-party system of the United States, they were expressed by populist challenges within each major party – Donald Trump and his 'Make America Great Again' movement taking on the Republican establishment and Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign the Democratic Party.

Jayapal endorsed Sanders in 2016. The Sanders campaigns in 2016 and 2020, as well as the Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign in 2020, set out a project focused on completing America’s unfinished social democratic agenda, while addressing the climate crisis with the Green New Deal.  

Jayapal’s skills as an organiser and communicator quickly put her at the head of the class, hailed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a “rising star in the Democratic caucus”. By 2019, she had become co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus – an independent caucus in the House now numbering nearly 100 legislators.  

Traditionally, the Caucus had acted largely as an informal gathering that provided a platform to help legislators gain attention. Under Jayapal’s leadership, it became a joint enterprise, as she describes in an understated way in ‘US Progressives on a Knife Edge’.

The Caucus was consolidated, it raised fees to support an independent staff, and members committed to vote collectively on the critical issues it adopted. "We have to be able to say this is what the progressive caucus stands for, this is what we're fighting for," she said. "This is not a litmus test, this is not a purity test, but we do want people to generally be in line with the caucus on votes."

Jayapal drove those reforms and provided the leadership to activate them. Her skills as an organiser – providing clear objectives, gaining consensus around priorities, providing cogent messaging and communications – made them credible and augmented the Caucus' power. 

When Joe Biden took office, he put forth a far bolder agenda than many had expected. 

With a 50-50 party divide in the Senate, and a very small margin in the House, Democrats had to unify to pass legislation to law. By remaining unified within the wider Democratic membership, the core of the Caucus exercised immense influence in the internal jockeying between progressives and the more conservative-corporate wing of the House Democrats. This put Jayapal at the centre of the negotiations.

It also meant that the powerful House Speaker had to negotiate with the "rising star”.

Jayapal blocked Pelosi’s effort to pass a bipartisan Infrastructure bill without a commitment to also pass the core of the progressive/Biden agenda – the Build Back Better Bill, which included funds for child poverty, education from pre-kindergarten to college, renewable energy and more. 

Twice, progressives stayed unified against great pressure, forcing eventual agreement from the corporate Democrats and succeeding in passing both the Infrastructure Bill and the Build Back Better Bill through the House. (That triumph was sabotaged largely by one Senate Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who defied his President and an otherwise unified Democratic Senate caucus to torpedo Biden’s agenda).

In my view, Jayapal has developed the inside-outside politics vital to reform. She retains close contacts with citizen movements, leveraging their energy to help build support inside the legislature. She understands the importance of putting forth clear and bold reform ideas and pushing hard for them. She rejects the pre-emptive concessions that have become a habit among liberal Democratic legislators. 

“Saying you’re at 100, I’m at zero, so we should end up at 50 – that doesn’t really work if you’re talking about kids in cages,” she says. 

At the same time, she understands that, after standing strong and pushing for bold reform, compromises are necessary to make real progress. 

Those skills – inside-outside organising, sustaining credibility with citizen movements and with fellow legislators, standing on principle and understanding the need to compromise to gain a majority – make Jayapal a rare and valued leader.   

With Pelosi and her leadership group on the verge of retirement, the Democrats are gearing up to elect new leaders in the next Congress. Representative Pramila Jayapal will certainly be one of the progressives who will vie for a leadership position. 

The battle will come down to a fight between the corporate wing of the party and the rising progressive wing; between big money and popular movements. But, whatever the immediate outcome, it is clear that the progressive wing of the party is winning the argument over what the future Democratic Party agenda should be and, if it continues to build power inside Congress, this will be in no small part thanks to Pramila Jayapal.

Bob Borosage is a contributing editor of the Nation Magazine. He advises progressives in both the House and Senate, and chairs the board of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center, a non-profit organisation dedicated to furthering progressive reform

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Misogyny and White Supremacy: The Far Right Reaction to Supreme Court Abortion Decision

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/06/2022 - 10:45pm in

Groups linked to Trump and the 6 January attempted insurrection were exultant over the overruling of Roe v Wade, report Sian Norris and Heidi Siegmund Cuda

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When Illinois Republican Mary Miller stood up to praise the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade – the 1973 ruling which allowed for nationwide access to safe, legal abortion in the US – she called it a “victory for white life”.

A spokesperson later told reporters Miller meant to say “victory for right to life”. The Trump-backed Miller, who previously quoted Adolf Hitler approvingly, won her primary just days later.

Mistake or not, it came as no surprise. Ever since the movement to criminalise abortion in the US gained momentum in the 1860s, it has been linked to white supremacy. 

The far-right believes that women’s reproductive and sexual freedoms contributes to the ‘great replacement’ – the belief that white people in the West are being replaced by black and minority ethnic from the Global South. White nationalists such as Ayla Stewart set ‘white baby challenges’ and sites like WhiteDating.Net invite far-right white people to date, marry and have babies for the white race. 

The Great Replacement, once a fringe conversation occurring in the darkest chat rooms, has been mainstreamed by Tucker Carlson on Fox News, which reaches millions of Americans nightly. Great Replacement Theory was cited by the Buffalo shooter, who murdered 10 black people in a grocery store. The 18-year-old posted a 180-page manifesto about White Americans being replaced by people of color. Digital DNA revealed he had been in a chat room with a retired federal agent, who is under investigation for grooming the shooter to commit domestic terrorism. The 2019 Christchurch mosque shooter also warned of White genocide.

Little wonder, then, that the far-right infosphere welcomed the news that the Supreme Court had overturned 50 years of precedent to allow states to make their own abortion laws. 

Already nine states have triggered laws banning the procedure, with a further 17 expected to follow suit. 

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Misogyny and the Far-Right

The decision to overturn Roe v Wade came as the 6 January Select Committee hearings continued to process evidence of far-right militia involvement in the attempted insurrection at the Capitol. This included the presence of the male-only Proud Boys, the leaders of which have been charged with seditious conspiracy over the violence in January 2021.  

The group’s Telegram channel included disturbing and distressing responses to the Roe decision, telling women worried about getting unplanned pregnancies that they could “learn to suck d**k” and saying they would dig up the corpse of late pro-abortion judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September 2020, to “tell her the good news”. A doctored image featured babies gathered around her grave giving it the middle finger. 

The channel members indulged in further misogynistic language, referring to “hoes getting mad” alongside mocking video clips, and telling women to “seethe b***h”. The UK branch, Proud Boys Britannia, echoed much of the rhetoric, while posting an image of a crying woman surrounded by cats and a vibrator, captioned: “women after a long day of fighting to kill babies”. 

The mocking of women “getting mad”, and the hatred towards women accused of wanting to “kill babies” was encapsulated by far-right TikTok channel No White Guilt. The account shared a video where a man described pro-abortion protesters at the Supreme Court as “the depraved hysteria of women screaming like literal banshees from hell about having the right to kill babies”.

Another far-right organisation involved in the 6 January violence was Turning Point USA, which organised buses to bring protesters to Washington D.C and take part in the Trump rally. Among posts about how guns “save lives”, the so-called “pro life” organisation posted content that referred to women who have abortions as “baby killers” and mocked “crazy liberals” as they “freak out, scream and cry over Roe”. It also posted content claiming to “destroy” left-wing arguments in favour of abortion.

This style of mockery was echoed by anti-abortion activist and 6 January attendee Tayler Hansen, who made vidoes of protesters outside the Supreme Court for Next News Networks of “libtards” reacting to SCOTUS “blocking them from killing babies”. Hansen famously defaced a Planned Parenthood clinic with the slogan “all lives matter”. 

Not to be outdone, the UK branch of Turning Point USA posted in celebration of Roe being overruled, saying “it’s time to reignite the fight for life” in the UK. When the organisation was set up in 2019, it received supportive messages from Conservative MPs including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel. Its former chairman George Farmer was a prominent donor to the Conservative Party and a member of its elite donor dining group. 

There are many overlaps between the far-right and the extremist misogynistic incel subculture – and views on abortion is one of them.

While some incels are in favour of abortion, the majority support abortion bans which they view as a just punishment for women having sex. 

Incels celebrated the end of Roe as a “great day for us brothers”, that will “make it impossible for promiscuous Stacies [attractive women] to get an abortion at their whim. One small step for the based [good] Supreme Court judges, one giant leap for incelkind”. 

Democracy in Danger

Alongside the far-right reaction, experts have identified how the Supreme Court decision is being used by right-wing, disinformation channels to try and disrupt democracy and deter people from voting in the US mid-term elections. 

There are fears that a Republican majority in the mid-terms would lead to a complete, nationwide ban on abortion. 

According to Bot Sentinal’s Chris Bouzy, within 24 hours of Roe being overturned there was an increase in inauthentic accounts engaging with people angry at the Supreme Court decision. The accounts sought to dissuade others from voting in November by using messages like “Why bother voting now?”; “All is already lost” and “Voting won’t change anything”.

"Not much has changed since the 2016 presidential election, and bad actors continue to weaponise social media platforms to manipulate voters,” Bouzy told Byline Times. “Platforms and lawmakers must do more to address the problem”.

Experts are warning of Russian involvement in fuelling disinformation and division. 

“The overturning of a Federal protection of privacy emboldens States with extremist leadership to assert an autonomous differentiation,” said OSINT researcher Brett Allpress. “The Divided States of America is a Russian playbook. It mirrors Brexit”.

Campaigners are also fearful that having won on abortion, the US far and radical right will now come after other human rights.

“The rolling series of rulings gutting women’s rights and favouring a police state is a shock and awe strategy, a show of power, and just the beginning of an historic move towards authoritarianism in America,” said disinformation researcher Jim Stewartson, who has called on President Joe Biden to shut down Telegram as part of emergency measures to stop digital poison.

 “Every signal I see indicates that the next target is the LGBTQ+ community. This comes from both the rapid increase in hate and violent attacks, and because of Clarence Thomas’s explicit signal in Dobbs that he wants to turn over Obergefell, which guarantees the right to gay marriage”.

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Born in the USA: The Americanisation of Reactionary Politics in the UK

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/06/2022 - 9:04pm in

From dark money think tanks to health privatisation, the influence of the American right on British politics is greater than we think, says Rachel Morris

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As a nation we’ve gone from running America, to being at war with it, allied to it, in a ‘special relationship’ with it, to consuming its wares.

Gum and stockings were the WWII thing; jeans, burgers, peanut butter and TV are more recent imports. The Cadbury’s chocolate of childhood tastes sort of the same, but you get less for more, and it’s shinier – more ‘perfect’ and more American, because it’s American-owned now.

Britain has turned its back on Europe, though we haven’t landed in the lap of America, even if that was part of the Brexit plan. The trade deal that was supposed to mitigate our economic losses hasn’t materialised. Donald Trump was part of that plan, but a win for Joe Biden in 2020 put a stop to that.

Yet the Americanisation of British politics was further propelled by Brexit – via the dark money that lurches from one side of the Atlantic to the other. And you can spot it by watching the reactions of some parliamentarians to recent, regressive American political developments.

When Roe v Wade was overturned last week, Conservative MP Scott Benton retweeted – though subsequently deleted – a Republican Party tweet celebrating the reversal of US abortion rights. During the 2019 General Election campaign, Benton’s opponent raised his links to the homophobic, anti-abortion faith group Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).

Benton said that he was no longer linked to SPUC, because as a gay man he remains anti-abortion but supports same-sex marriage. SPUC is British, but received more than £72,000 between 2020 and 2022 from US donors using an agency to make the transactions opaque.

Conservative MP Danny Kruger told the House of Commons that he “disagrees with those who think that women have an absolute right to bodily autonomy in this matter”. His colleague, Peter Bone, told LBC that he’s disappointed the BBC uses the term ‘anti-abortion’ rather than ‘pro-life’.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has in the past said that she wants to stop clinics from giving abortion counselling. Conservative MPs Richard Drax and Jacob Rees-Mogg have promoted ‘pro-life’ ideas in Parliament. As revealed by Byline Times, Conservative MP Rehman Chishti is being paid £22,400 a-year to work part-time for a religious pressure group in the United States linked to anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ efforts

There are more evangelical Christians in Parliament, or those who adopt their positions, than many realise.

This serves as a reminder that, in 2019, 99 MPs voted to keep abortion illegal in Northern Ireland. It isn’t the ‘wedge issue’ here that it is in the US, but some seek to make it one. Simply remarking on American rulings draws it further into our discourse.

The same conglomeration of dark money-funded ‘think tanks’ and their adherents who backed Brexit are fuelling imported culture wars, such as promoting ‘woke’ as a pejorative, and arguing for reduced reproductive rights: these include the Adam Smith Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), Net Zero Watch, the New Culture Forum, Turning Point UK, and Young Voices UK.

Some huddle under the opacity and respectability of being registered with the Charity Commission while promoting reactionary American values via Fox News-lite platforms such as GB News and TalkTV. None of these organisations or outlets are elected – they are arguably unknown by most except on the fringes – yet they have an enormous impact on our discourse, and perhaps even our laws.

As Peter Geoghegan, author of Democracy For Sale, has written: “Britain’s politics looks increasingly like America’s, with private money buying ever more access and influence inside the corridors of power”.

Some such money is – at least indirectly – dollars, provided via right-wing funders like the Charles Koch Foundation, which helped to sponsor the notorious pro-herd immunity ‘Great Barrington Declaration’, and the Mercer family, that funded Cambridge Analytica.

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Imprisonment-for-profit is another import. Private prisons were introduced in Britain in the 1990s and there are now 14, managed by outsourcing giants like G4S and Serco.

The credit scoring system used to filter people wanting to rent property is an American practice barely seen here before the year 2000.

And education is being commodified – with British students competing with their American cousins over their comparative levels of post-graduation debt. Free or heavily discounted tuition, meanwhile, is still commonplace in the EU.

Domestic schools are gradually being converted into academies, still state-funded yet independent of local authority control. Hundreds of ‘multi-academy trusts’ (MATs) run thousands of such schools, the idea being that high-performing ones will help struggling ones. But in some cases, unqualified management has proved corrupt and education has been badly impacted, a normal outcome of American-style marketisation and self-regulation.

More than 70% of secondary and 27% of primary schools are now academies, despite limited evidence of higher standards. MATs are often run by businessmen and hedge fund managers, not education experts, with public funds invested in high pay rather than facility improvements.

One Nation Under GOP

In healthcare also – a lodestar of collectivism in a fragmented Thatcherite consensus – GP surgeries and some of our data are now owned by American companies, while trusts face strikes by privately-employed staff who receive less pay and fewer holidays than NHS colleagues.

The NHS will shortly become an umbrella brand for 42 separate ‘Integrated Care Systems’, that will allow private health company representatives on their boards. Privatisation and profit is creeping into our cherished NHS, without popular awareness.

One of the most divisive tropes in the US, especially under George W. Bush and Donald Trump, is accusing those you disagree with of being unpatriotic. This age-old authoritarian polarisation has become fully clothed in the stars and stripes in the culture war era.

In Westminster, both Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Attorney General Suella Braverman have launched their own ‘patriotism’ campaign in recent weeks to justify their ludicrous Brexit provocations, while Labour is repeatedly accused by Boris Johnson – himself born in New York – of ‘talking down’ Britain.

If you’ve experienced the USA’s size and diversity, flag-grabbing makes sense. In some ways, it’s the only thing holding the country together.

Despite the UK having a different profile entirely, this trend is on the rise here too. No politician seems able to appear in their office without multiple union jacks on display. The bigger, the better.

Post-Brexit, the UK isn’t bound by EU regulations on workers’ rights, safe data, or a healthy environment. Charter cities, known here as ‘freeports’, are seen as a way of delivering tax-free, low-rights, non-transparent commerce. Chancellor Rishi Sunak, a disciple of American Professor Paul Romer, who tried and failed to start charter cities in Honduras, keeps popping off to meet with US interests. Sunak held a US green card, allowing permanent residence there, until last year.

Rees-Mogg wants to see a forest fire of regulations, grounded in Ayn Randian clean slate libertarianism and late stage vulture capitalism. Dominic Raab is seeking to introduce a British ‘Bill of Rights’ – the US Bill of Rights contains the first 10 amendments to the US constitution – potentially usurping the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci described the Americanisation of Europe as, “the gradual infiltration of the conviction that we moderns, practical and unscrupulous, must despise everything that does not concern our immediate profit”.

And if you think ‘it’ can’t happen here, watch Kate Andrews, the American-libertarian former director of the IEA (now economics editor of the Spectator magazine, formerly edited by Boris Johnson) banging the drum repeatedly for privatisation on the BBC’s flagship political programmes.

The IEA does not declare its funding sources, yet its current and former staffers are propelled into the public limelight – key actors in our contrived, Americanised culture war.

Perhaps most insidious of all, the Conservative Party appears to be adopting the playbook of the GOP in curtailing voting rights for the marginalised and disadvantaged. As Republicans gerrymander seats to artificially create a perpetual right-wing majority, the British opposition believes that millions of voters – those least likely to vote Conservative – could be disenfranchised under Johnson’s plans.

We must declare independence from creeping Americanism, before we’re too cooked to jump.

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The Conservative MPs Trying to Follow the US in Cutting Abortion Rights

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/06/2022 - 6:00pm in

A chunk of Boris Johnson's party – including some of his own ministers – want to turn the clock back on women's abortion rights

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The overturning of the constitutional right to abortion in the United States has led some to suggest that the same could never happen in the UK. However, while those wishing to restrict women's right to safe and legal abortions in Britain are in a small minority among the public, they retain plenty of influence inside the Government.

Last week, a total of 61 Conservative MPs voted against the Government's plans to extend abortion access in Northern Ireland, with a further 190 not recording a vote.

Among the number voting against the measure were several ministers, including the Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg. He has previously said that he is "completely opposed" to women having the right to abortion, including in the cases of rape or incest. He is also patron of the anti-abortion organisation Right to Life.

Most alarmingly, he was joined by Conservative MP Maria Caulfield, another Right to Life patron, who is also the Government's Women's Health Minister. Caulfield has previously been accused of making "baseless claims" about the issue after she used an interview to call for the Government to reduce the upper time limit on abortions.

Tory MP Scott Benton, who was recently made a parliamentary private secretary at the Foreign Office, was also among their number. In the aftermath of the decision to overturn Roe v Wade, Benton shared a tweet from the US Republican Party, with the caption "Life Wins".

Another Conservative MP on the list was Danny Kruger, who previously worked for David Cameron's speechwriter and was Boris Johnson's political secretary. In a parliamentary debate on the Supreme Court's decision, Kruger said that politicians in Britain should not "lecture" the US about abortion rights and said that he disagreed with those who "think that women have an absolute right to bodily autonomy in this matter".

The Prime Minister himself has said he is opposed to changing the law on abortion and described recent developments in the US as a "backwards step". However, support for limiting access to abortion in the UK within the Conservative Party is likely to be significantly broader than the 61 MPs who explicitly opposed extending abortion access in Northern Ireland.

One person who previously led the fight to mobilise opposition to abortion rights within the party is Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries – who did not take part in last week's vote. She has previously had strong links to fundamentalist Christian groups, such as Christian Concern and the World Congress of Families, while the Conservatives were in opposition. She also continued to campaign on the issue once David Cameron became Prime Minister.

In 2011 she claimed that 90% of Conservative backbenchers supported reducing access to abortion. Her 2008 attempt to reduce the upper time limit for abortion was supported by all but one of the then Conservative frontbench, including future Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Hunt, who has been vocal about his leadership ambitions, has said that he believes that abortion should only be available up to 12 weeks.

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Backbench and pressure group lobbying on the issue may have continued to have an impact on government policy.

In 2018, then Home Secretary Sajid Javid rejected calls to place 'buffer zones' around abortion clinics as being disproportionate – despite the Government's own review into the issue finding evidence of harassment of women outside dozens of abortion clinics.

Leading the charge against buffer zones was the backbench MP Fiona Bruce, who has repeatedly tabled bills designed to restrict access abortion. These include attempts to ban sex selective abortion; and to exclude cleft lip, cleft palate and clubfoot as qualifying physical abnormalities for the purposes of medical termination of pregnancy. Bruce has links to the US anti-abortion movement through ADF International – the European arm of the Arizona-based religious freedom giant Alliance Defending Freedom.

The ADF has been instrumental in fighting against women's reproductive rights through the US courts, including a ban on buffer zones and on so-called 'partial birth abortion'. In 2019, Bruce spoke at ADF International's youth conference, with the organisation paying for her expenses. The group's London office receives a yearly grant from the US parent organisation.

Bruce is not the only Conservative MP with links to the US anti-abortion movement. Many leading Conservatives have spoken at the radical-right think tank, the Heritage Foundation – including former International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and former Conservative Party Co-Chairman and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.

The organisation welcomed the overruling of Roe v Wade, saying that it would give the American people "the power to fix America’s extreme abortion laws".

The Government also remains opposed to formalising women's rights to seek an abortion. Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab ruled out enshrining the right to abortion in the Government's new Bill of Rights Bill – saying that it is an "issue of conscience" and there is not "a strong case for change".

Should the Conservative Party decide to follow its ideological cousins in the US Republican Party and seek to restrict abortion rights in the UK, it is likely that they would meet with strong public resistance. Recent polling by YouGov shows that around 85% of the public believe that women should have the right to an abortion, compared to just 5% who disagree.

However, with the Conservative Party still containing significant numbers of MPs who want to restrict abortion rights – and with the Government opposing moves to enshrine the right to abortion in the UK – it still remains possible that the UK could one day follow the US down a similar path.

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‘Mike Deserves It’: A Shocking Emergency 6 January Hearing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 7:46pm in

A former White House aide gave devastating eyewitness testimony in Congress about Donald Trump’s eagerness to join the insurrectionists who threatened to kill his Vice President

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Former President Donald Trump appeared to condone the threats to the life of his Vice President Mike Pence and encourage violence at the Capitol, a former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told an emergency hearing of 6 January Select Committee.

In explosive testimony, Cassidy Hutchinson repeated a conversation between White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and her boss Mark Meadows about the mob’s threats to Pence.

"I remember Pat saying something to the effect of 'Mark, we need to do something more. They're literally calling for the Vice President to be f**king hung,'" Hutchinson said.

She heard Meadows reply to Cipollone: "You heard [Trump], Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong," Hutchinson told the Committee.

According to Hutchinson, Cipollone told Meadows that something had to be done, “or people are going to die and the blood's gonna be on your f**king hands”.

Hutchinson’s testimony over the threats made against Vice President Mike Pence appear to confirm allegations that a high level coup was being plotted. She painted a portrait of a petulant and impetuous outgoing president keen to encourage the insurrection: Trump throwing ketchup at the White House wall and breaking dishes and threatening bodily harm to the head of his Secret Service detail when he didn’t get his way to be driven to join the mob.

Liz Cheney, the Republican representative for Wyoming, who is vice chair of the committee, said that on the day security services had already confiscated “pepper spray, knives, brass knuckles, tasers, body armor, gas masks, batons, blunt weapons, and those were just for the people who chose to go through the security for the President’s event on the Ellipse”. 

Hutchinson was categoric that Trump had been informed that people in the crowd on 6 January were armed.

“I overheard the President say something to the effect of, ‘I don’t effin’ care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the effin’ mags away,’” she said. 

Mags refers to the “magnetometers”, or metal detectors, used to screen attendees. Police radio transmissions played at the hearing revealed some protestors had firearms, including AR-15s, rifles, and Glock-style pistols.

Journalist and author of How to Stop Fascism Paul Mason told Byline Times: “What's emerged is the picture of a clear chain of command from Trump via Meadows to the Willard team and the insurgents; absolutely deranged behaviour by the President with the Secret Service; and a huge question over Trump's refusal to allow White House intervention to stop the insurrection.”

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A Lethal Blow to Trump?

Responding to Hutchinson’s testimony, retired Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator Martin Sheil said it dealt a potential lethal blow to Trump’s freedom.

Sheil told Byline Times: “The fact that Trump knew many of the crowd attending his speech were armed is just stunning and puts him in a tough spot with regard to potential Seditious Conspiracy charges in that he had knowledge that many 6 January attendees were armed and he directed them to march down to the Capitol”.

In methodical detail, Hutchinson described the events leading up to the events at the Capitol, including that the President and his enablers failed to take action to prevent violence. Among the names that came up in her testimony were Trump allies former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former General Mike Flynn, and the right wing activist Roger Stone.

Hutchinson told the Committee that Trump had Meadows call General Flynn and political operative Roger Stone the night before the attempted insurrection. 

“Rudy Giuliani's big mouth continues to work against his interests,” said Sheil. “He warned Cassidy with regard to 6 January. His stated foreknowledge represents evidence of his state of mind — in other words mens rea”.

Disinformation researcher Jim Stewartson told Byline Times: “The way the Committee is handling this complex story continues to be masterful, which is why the inclusion of Mike Flynn and Roger Stone in the hearing today was so significant. They showed Flynn’s invoking the Fifth Amendment when asked about the peaceful transition of power, and they mentioned Roger Stone and his appearance at the Willard Hotel in conjunction with the Proud Boys and Oathkeepers”.

Stewartson believes that Meadows may have been “the connection point between Flynn’s operations and the White House” and that “the second half of the hearings will focus on the planning for violence and participation of militias at the alleged direction of Flynn, Stone and others”.

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) investigative researcher Brent Allpress, who has shared his findings with the Committee, told Byline Times: “General Mike Flynn taking the Fifth on the peaceful transfer of power was the most disturbing testimony. It indicates an ongoing National Security threat’.

Allpress uncovered that Flynn took an undisclosed Council for National Policy (CNP) Head Office role on November 26, 2020, the day after he was pardoned by Trump. The CNP is a shadowy conservative organisation with multiple links to the Trump adminstration, fossil fuel interests, and anti-rights movements. Flynn then publicly led StoptheSteal events in the run up to 6 January, supported by another CNP member, Ali Alexander. 

Allpress is pushing to have the CNP forensically investigated for its role in the attempted coup and what he describes as “an ongoing Judicial coup led by Justice Clarence Thomas” who is married to a CNP action director, Ginni Thomas. The latter was involved in attempts to decertify the election outcome. 

‘Unpatriotic and Un-American’

Sheil noted how Hutchinson repeatedly testified how she would encounter Meadows in the White House scrolling his phone. 

“Given the deleterious consequences faced by two Trump-affiliated lawyers, Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman, with regard to the seizures of their respective phones by the authorities, Meadows needs to beware,” said Sheil.

Both Clark and Eastman – who were integral to Trump’s fraudulent schemes to stay in power according to previous witnesses to the hearings – had their electronic devices seized by federal agents in recent days.

Hutchinson told the Committee she is still haunted by the violence of January 6.

“It was unpatriotic, it was un-American, we were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie,” Hutchinson said. “I still struggle to work through the emotions of that”.

Paul Mason told Byline Times the revelations “must force Biden and his team to go hard against the GOP – if it's now an insurrectionist party, fronted by six judges systematically reversing Americans' human rights, it must be fought like Sherman fought the Confederacy – nothing less would satisfy the meaning of the Constitution. Doesn't matter how many guns are legally held: insurrection is a crime”.

Historian and author of Strongman, Ruth Ben-Ghiat said: “Sending armed goons in to assassinate and harm top officials is what coups are all about”.

Hutchinson also said there were talks among White House staff to invoke the 25th Amendment due to Trump’s dangerous behavior. 

Aware of their legal exposure, both Giuliani and Meadows sought pardons, but according to Hutchinson, they were denied.

“The hearing today went beyond historic,” said Stewartson. “In many ways it broke history altogether. If the President of the United States can attack a Secret Service agent because he wanted to lead an armed insurrection of the Capitol in order to ‘hang Mike Pence’ because Pence ‘deserved it,’ history may no longer be able to guide us”.

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Emboldened Opposition and a Galvanised Movement: What the End of Roe v Wade Means for Abortion Around the World

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 6:00pm in

The overturning of the seminal 1973 ruling by the US Supreme Court has been met with a mixed reaction by pro-abortion activists globally, reports Sian Norris

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“The decision to overturn Roe v Wade is extremely grave in the impact it will have across the US,” Leah Hoctor, senior regional director for Europe at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, told Byline Times. “The retrogressive nature of the decision is completely unprecedented in the global arena, in terms of the move to remove a constitutional right for abortion that has existed for 50 years.”

The announcement that the US Supreme Court had decided to overturn Roe v Wade – the 1973 case that allowed for nationwide access to safe, legal abortion – sent shockwaves around the world.

Since the decision was published, nine states have implemented abortion bans and a total of 26 states with a female population of 64 million are expected to ban or severely restrict abortion in the coming months. 

In the decades since Roe v Wade, 55 countries have introduced policies improving abortion access, including Spain, Ireland, Argentina, Kenya, Romania, Nepal and South Korea. Only four have introduced new restrictions on abortion in that time – the fourth being the US. 

The implications of the decision go beyond US borders.

Since Roe v Wade was introduced, America has occupied a dual role of being both a beacon of progress and freedom, and a world-leader in opposing access to safe, legal abortion – with opposition groups using their wealth and influence to attack reproductive healthcare in the US and around the world.

“The decision overturning Roe v Wade opens the home front in the US and Europe to autocracy’s war on democracy,” Monique Camarra, co-host of the Kremlin File podcast, told this newspaper.

The unprecedented nature of this decision now risks undermining progress on abortion across the globe. But there is a flipside too. The renewed focus on the fragility of human rights – with women and girls’ rights often a canary in the backlash coalmine – could galvanise progressive movements and law-makers to take positive action to protect abortion rights from further attack.

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An Emboldened Opposition 

When news of Roe v Wade being overturned hit the headlines, anti-abortion groups and think tanks celebrated.

Heartbeat International – a crisis pregnancy service accused of spreading disinformation about abortion – called it the moment it “had been praying for”. Radical-right think tank The Heritage Foundation, which has multiple links to the UK Conservative Party, said it gives states “the power to fix America’s extreme abortion laws and enshrine protections for the unborn in law”. 

Across the Atlantic, extremist anti-abortion group CBR UK said “the UK is next” and Right to Life UK called it the “overturning of an unjust law”. 

“The main impact we are going to face is an emboldened opposition,” Martin Onyango, associate director of legal strategies for Africa at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, told Byline Times. “And an emboldened opposition movement is dangerous anywhere in the world. The opposition groups are getting bolder and braver. We expect them to intensify trying to influence other countries, including in Africa.”

In Kenya, where Onyango is based, abortion is protected as a constitutional right but is only permitted when there is a recognised threat to the mother’s life or health, or in emergency situations. It remains restricted by colonial era laws in the penal code. A recent constitutional court case, won by Onyango and his colleagues at the Centre, saw the High Court affirm the right to abortion under the constitution. The case involved a minor and a healthcare worker in the town of Malindi being arrested, after the healthcare worker provided post-abortion care. 

That the US was able to overturn abortion as a constitutional right after 50 years concerns Onyango, not least because the means that the anti-abortion movement used to win its battle could potentially be replicated elsewhere.

Roe v Wade as a judicial precedent and the setting up of abortion as a constitutional right has been used by Kenya and other countries,” he said. “In the Malindi case, we brought in the same principle reasoning that supported Roe v Wade – that forcing women to carry an unwanted pregnancy amounts to a violation of their rights including right to privacy.

"So when Roe v Wade falls, it means the reasoning for constitutional positions in countries like Kenya has fallen. That opens up a direct challenge to those constitutional provisions – although in our case, a referendum is required to change the constitution.”

In Europe, there are fears that opposition groups, including from the US, will use the overturning of Roe v Wade to push forward their own agendas. Between 2009 and 2018, US anti-abortion groups spent at least $81.3 million in Europe

“For decades, we've seen US fundamentalist organisations and the Christian-right working in the European region,” said Leah Hoctor. “There are active anti-abortion organisations in the European region who will seek to capitalise on this, and who will seek to grow support for their beliefs and their anti abortion activism.”

The majority of countries in Europe allow women access to safe, legal abortion, but there are exceptions.

Last January, Poland extended its already draconian abortion bans to include a ban on terminations in cases of foetal anomaly, while in Malta the procedure is banned in all cases. In Italy, where abortion is permitted, there has seen a concerning backlash against a woman’s right to choose, with increasing numbers of doctors refusing to perform abortions and populist leaders such as Matteo Salvini blaming abortion for causing a “demographic winter”. 

Room for Hope

While the overturning of Roe v Wade will embolden anti-abortion actors, the global trend when it comes to reproductive rights is a positive one. 

In June, Germany overturned a Nazi-era law that had prohibited the advertising of abortion services. France, the Netherlands and Spain have also taken steps to improve access to reproductive healthcare – despite fervent opposition from Christian fundamentalists. 

"The decision out of the US Supreme Court could actually galvanise the potential for even increased progressive reform across European countries,” Leah Hoctor told Byline Times. “We are calling on European leaders that support reproductive rights to put this support into action now, and to really take steps to bring European laws and policies into line with World Health Organisation guidance.”

Progress on reproductive rights is also happening in the Global South. In Kenya, the Malindi case was “a great milestone, because gradually we are chipping away at the restrictions we have, when it comes to abortion care in this country,” said Onyango.

Meanwhile, in Latin America, more and more states are liberalising abortion laws in what has become known as the 'green wave' movement due to the green scarves, flags and sashes worn by pro-abortion activists.

In 2020, Argentina legalised abortion, while abortion is now available on request to any woman up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy in Mexico City and the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Veracruz, Colima, Baja California, Sinaloa, Guerrero and Baja California Sur. Colombia legalised abortion on demand up to 24 weeks in February, while Chile is planning a referendum on making abortion a constitutional right. 

“The green wave across Latin America is a movement that has had so much impact in terms of systemic change in that region,” Hoctor added. “It's very important to underline that the global picture is a very hopeful one, and a very progressive one.” 

Additional reporting by Heidi Siegmund-Cuda

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Lessons from American Progressives: Ro Khanna, Sanders Presidential Campaigner with a Broader Reach

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/06/2022 - 9:06pm in

Larry Cohen profiles the US Democratic Representative for California who, despite representing arguably the wealthiest place on Earth, is focused on appealing to working America

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The United States is heading towards a full-scale showdown with a nativist, supremacist minority entrenching its power. The Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade is just one part of the mobilisation underway in a rigged democracy.

The majority – represented in 2020 by the seven million more votes Joe Biden won than Donald Trump – may be crushed because the system is so undemocratic. If it is, it will also be because Biden has failed to mobilise his supporters, deliver where he could have, and express convincing anger when he has been frustrated. 

A new factor is also driving down his support: devastating inflation. People have more jobs than ever but, when they have to drive to work, the price of gas may decide their vote – or the price of milk, up 38% since 2019. When it comes to inflation, Biden also seems unable to convince Americans that he is leading the fightback.

At the beginning of this month, in the coveted, prime editorial opinion space of The New York Times, the Democratic Representative for California, Ro Khanna, proposed an “all-out mobilisation, not just a few ad hoc initiatives”.

His conclusion used a language missing from the official opposition in the UK as much as in the US. “There is no patience for incrementalism or political spin about economic numbers in these times," he said. "Democrats can’t just blame the Republicans for lacking a plan. People elected us to solve problems. We told them that government could improve their lives and they want to see tangible action, movement and energy out of Washington. Let’s reject the orthodoxy that makes us timid and dilatory about government intervention and show that our government is still capable of decisive action when it comes to both demand and supply.”

Denouncing a Supreme Court that proclaims US state governments cannot forbid people from carrying concealed weapons but may forbid a woman’s right to choose, Khanna is also capable of voting where his mouth is. Most recently he was the only member of the House Armed Services Committee to oppose adding $37 billion to the defence budget of $773 billion the President requested. 

His record makes Khanna a leading member of the new generation of serious US progressives that are becoming the voice of besieged majority – now fighting for democracy across America. Another is Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, who led the impeachment of Donald Trump, recently profiled in Byline Times by Katrina vanden Heuval. The chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, Democrat Pramila Jayapal, is also among them. All three are rooted in the real majority on which, I believe, our futures in Europe as well America depends.  

Aged 45, Democratic Representative Ro Khanna is an outstanding example of the middle generation of US progressives and a politician worth watching as the United States struggles with overcoming Donald Trump and his legacy.

A complex problem-solver – pragmatic more than ideological – Khanna is willing to align with grassroots groups, from environmental to community and labour. 

Born in Pennsylvania, the son of immigrant Indian-American parents – with a grandfather who went to prison with Gandhi – he identifies with and supports communities of colour while also optimistically believing in the promise and potential of a multicultural America.  

The path for social change in the US begins in the House of Representatives and, within the House, with the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). Led by Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal, the caucus is home to Democrats intent on serious, realistic change and its growth arguably provides the best, if not only, path to move the progressive agenda.

For five years, Khanna has focused on the needs of working class families and, as deputy caucus whip, on building a stronger CPC.  

This might seem surprising given his district includes California’s Silicon Valley. As he has observed, the companies registered there have a market value of $11 trillion, making it the wealthiest place on Earth. Yet, he is capable of challenging the tech giants. He demands Government policies that ensure their investments benefit all Americans. And, as his recent book Dignity in a Digital Age demonstrates, he has an exceptional grasp of the issues posed by new technology for democracy as well as employment. 

Before his election in 2016, Khanna worked in the Obama's Department of Commerce and focused on rebuilding America’s manufacturing base. In his book, Khanna argues that we must rebalance wealth and opportunity beyond the coasts to include the forgotten communities across the nation. Abandonment of these communities by government and investors has fuelled the rise of right-wing Trump authoritarianism and Khanna forcefully argues that innovative investment in rural and mid-America should be unleashed.

In a recent trip to Galesburg, Illinois, Khanna first addressed Monmouth College on the need to invest in Midwest manufacturing, and then spoke to workers laid off when the local Maytag washing machine plant moved to Mexico shortly after Whirlpool acquired the firm. With his focus on the value of “making things”, he was able to relate to both academics and workers, linking trade and tax policy to good jobs and strong communities.

In 2020, Khanna was one of four co-chairs of Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign, supporting his core message of economic and social justice, as well as his own of investing in forgotten communities. He has also been a champion of 'Our Revolution', the successor organisation to ‘Bernie 2016’, leading on critical issues from environmental to economic justice.

In Congress, Khanna chairs the environmental sub-committee of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee. He has held hearings focused on fossil fuel companies and ending the special tax subsidies that encourage more exploration and drilling even as wildfires caused by global warming spread. 

He recently introduced legislation that would tax the windfall profits of oil and gas enterprises and describes the 100-year impact of “petro-states” – including Russia and Saudi Arabia – as major threats to global peace and prosperity that, notoriously, lack innovation internally and suffer a massive deficit of democracy. 

Khanna has led congressional efforts to end US support for the Saudi war against Yemen – a prime example of petro-state domination and brutality – deployed with US weaponry. He calls for a “moon shot” in renewable energy, as the way to break out of fossil fuel dependency and bring energy manufacturing opportunities to declining communities.

He also serves on the House Armed Services Committee and, from its platform, helps lead the effort in the House of Representatives to stop annual increases in the military budget and to end funding for new rounds of nuclear weapons. A long-time opponent of ‘regime change’, he argues that military spending is driving down social spending as well as encouraging military intervention and the “sale” of US weapons to authoritarian regimes.

Khanna believes that we must invest in children, wherever they live, with child care and free college. He sees wealth taxes that will fall disproportionately on billionaires in his district as a fine way to fund a better future. He supports cancelling student debt by executive action and has joined a chorus of CPC congressional Democrats demanding that Joe Biden act on this.

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He is a core supporter of Medicare for All, co-sponsoring the legislation authored by Pramila Jayapal and Bernie Sanders. Like Jayapal, he supports interim steps that would gradually lower the eligibility age for Medicare and also supports Medicare negotiating pharmaceutical prices for the nation, cutting their costs nearly by half and matching the prices paid by other nations. These measures would rapidly pay for themselves by cutting current US  healthcare spending from its bloated 22% of GDP – way more than any other country.  

While predictably progressive, as expected from a Sanders presidential campaign co-chair, Khanna’s reach is broader. It incorporates a unique perspective on the wealth generation of the well-known tech giants based in his district, praising their innovation but demanding that they decentralise investment. He also champions an 'Internet Bill of Rights' that includes data privacy and safeguards to protect against warrantless government surveillance. In his book he develops a call for a “progressive patriotism” echoing Frederick Douglass.  

As a member of the core constituency of the CPC, leading and organising on key issues, Khanna seems secure as he runs for re-election in November. The CPC remains short of a majority of House Democrats but, as the election calendar moves forward, it already seems likely that there will be more progressive Democrats in the next Congress and that they will work to support a broad array of issues – from economic and environmental justice to criminal justice reform, curbing military spending and a new foreign policy. At the same time, they will be working with grassroots groups across the nation to generate a path for change that is practical and popular. 

The typical knee-jerk response levelled at progressives is that they are impractical, unrealistic and do not appeal to working America. No one could make these charges against Ro Khanna.  

Larry Cohen is the founding board chair of ‘Our Revolution’, the successor organisation to ‘Bernie 2016’. He was previously president of the Communications Workers of America, and has been a member of the Democratic National Committee since 2005

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The Dark Money Operation Seeking to Reshape American Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/06/2022 - 12:55am in

Matt Bernardini reports on how right-wing groups are attempting to use January 6 conspiracy theories to change the ways Americans vote

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As Congress and the US Department of Justice continue to investigate the January 6 attacks on the Capitol, a network of organisations funded in part through dark money have pressed ahead with changing the electoral process under the guise of protecting future elections from alleged voter fraud.

Bankrolled by a large group of traditional conservative donors and staffed with lawyers who were involved in attempts to overturn the result of the 2020 Presidential Election, these organisations have filed lawsuits in multiple states seeking to obtain voter registration data and change the process for casting a ballot. 

One of the most active organisations is the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), which markets itself as a “public interest law firm dedicated to election integrity”. PILF has lodged dozens of suits in various states since 2021, seeking information on voter roll maintenance, duplicate voter registrations and deceased voters. 

The organisation’s board of directors notably includes John Eastman and Cleta Mitchell, who were instrumental in efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Eastman infamously argued in a set of memos that Vice President Mike Pence had the ability to overturn Joe Biden’s victory by rejecting certified electors in seven states. Mitchell testified to the January 6 committee that she was the one who asked Eastman to prepare legal memos.

Despite the involvement of Eastman and Mitchell in the attempt to overthrow the election, Lauren Bowman, director of media affairs at PILF, defended their work. 

“Eastman and Mitchell have done good work on voting integrity in the past,” Bowman said. She refused to comment on their activities after the election. 

While PILF claims that its work helps to make elections more trustworthy, many of its concerns have been questioned or disproven. In 2020, Reveal obtained a list created by PILF that claimed 100 votes had been cast by dead people in Palm Beach County, Florida. The publication found no evidence of this. 

“They make some sweeping statements that can be problematic,” Sophia Lakin, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Voting Rights Project, said. “Often times they are using sloppy or imprecise data or outdated methodology.”

In 2020, PILF raked in $3.8 million in revenue – more than double what the group received in 2019, according to IRS filings. That year, PILF received $300,000 from the right-wing Bradley Foundation and $400,000 from the 85 Fund, which is connected to infamous conservative legal activist Leonard Leo. 

Anonymous Influence

However, PILF is far from the only dark money group fighting for more voting restrictions. The Honest Elections Project, formed in February 2020, has filed more than a dozen briefs supporting challenges to state voting laws since January 2021. 

In 2020, the 85 Fund received $170,000 from Donors Trust, which was earmarked for the Honest Elections Project. Donors Trust is an organisation that enables rich activists to support conservative causes anonymously. MotherJones has called Donors Trust “the dark money ATM of the conservative movement”.

One group, the Amistad Project, still hasn’t given up the fight over the 2020 election. The organisation’s website boasts that it has the “only ongoing litigation against the left’s shadow government”. It also has a video posted that it claims shows ballot harvesting in Pennsylvania. 

In January, The New York Times reported that a lawyer for the Amistad Project tried to deliver a slate of fake electors to the Michigan legislature but was turned away by the police.

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The Amistad Project is part of the Thomas More Society, which is a conservative law firm based in Chicago. The firm has defended anti-abortion activists in the past and received $1 million from Donors Trust in 2020 for general operations, according to IRS filings. 

In a further sign that challenges to the electoral process will continue, a group called the Election Integrity Network is holding meetings in various swing states and distributing materials about “left-wing infiltrators” and “monitoring the United States Postal Service”. It is part of the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), which was founded in 2017 and shares several connections with Donald Trump.

Cleta Mitchell is a senior legal fellow at CPI and also runs a blog on the Election Integrity Network website. In January 2021, Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows joined CPI with the goal of countering Joe Biden’s judicial nominees. CPI also received $1 million from the Save America PAC in July 2021 – a political fund created in November of 2020 to raise money to challenge the results of the presidential election. 

Byline Times approached the Honest Elections Project, the Amistad Project and the Election Integrity Network but did not receive a response from them. 

While ACLU's Sophia Lakin notes that these groups have been engaged in these practices for a while, this coordinated pattern of funding suggests that the 2024 election cycle will see many of the same challenges to the voting process and perhaps even the election outcome itself. 

“I think as a principle what they are doing is at odds with election integrity,” she added.

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The End of Roe v Wade is Just the Beginning

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 27/06/2022 - 8:01pm in

The decision to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling will strip human rights from millions of women and girls and threatens the rights of minority groups across the US

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That it was inevitable did not lessen the magnitude of the shock. 

When the US Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade – the 1973 case that allowed for nationwide access to safe, legal abortion in America – was leaked in May, both pro- and anti-abortion actors knew that it was only a matter of weeks before the right to abortion would end for millions of women, girls and pregnant people. 

But, despite that knowledge, when the decision was confirmed, the screams of despair from pro-abortion activists mingled with the cries of joy from anti-abortion groups gathered outside the Supreme Court. 

“This is a moment of trauma,” host of the Resistance Mom podcast Andrea Hildebran Smith told Byline Times

Within hours, the first states enacted 'trigger laws' – legislation to ban abortion that had been put in place ready for the day Roe v Wade was overturned. Missouri went first, banning abortion in almost all cases, making it a class B felony. Such a category comes with a prison sentence of up to 15 years. 

As he signed the new law, Attorney General Eric Shmitt called the decision “a monumental day for the sanctity of life”. Missouri still has the death penalty; recorded 89 domestic abuse deaths in 2018; and in 2020 had 1,426 gun deaths. Its maternal mortality rate is 16.4 per 100,000 live births. 

Arkansas and Kentucky have now banned abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is under threat. Women and girls who do not want to be pregnant, or who are pregnant in cases of rape and incest, will no longer be able to terminate a pregnancy. Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Dakota have also introduced bans. 

In the space of three days, 11.5 million women and girls have lost their right to bodily autonomy in a country with a pro-choice majority. All these states, which boast of being 'pro-life', have the death penalty as a legal penalty for crimes.

More bans will follow in the coming days and months in Alabama; Arizona; Georgia; Idaho; Iowa; Michigan; Mississippi; North Dakota; Ohio; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Wyoming.

Florida, Indiana, Montana and Nebraska are also likely to implement bans. As previously reported by Byline Times, the new laws will impact 64 million women and girls (not all of child bearing age).

The Lives of Women and Girls

Many of the states that have already banned, or are set to ban, abortion had carried out a long-term assault on abortion services in their communities, closing reproductive healthcare clinics or imposing 'TRAP' (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws which made it almost impossible for clinics to survive. Before the decision was published, Kentucky had only one remaining abortion clinic. 

But, as law-makers across the states signed their trigger bills into legislation, those who had dedicated their lives to providing abortion services to women and girls were forced to cancel appointments, shut their doors, and come up with new strategies to support those in need of reproductive healthcare. 

“The Supreme Court’s decision to explicitly overturn Roe v Wade is already causing devastating consequences for abortion access across the country,” said Dr Herminia Palacio, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organisation committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights. “Our hearts go out to the patients and providers seeking a path forward.”

For women and girls living in the states that have banned abortion, there are limited choices.

Those who can afford to travel can go to states where abortion is expected to remain legal, such as New York or California. But this option is simply not available for the poorest and most vulnerable in society – for the teenage girl who cannot be expected to miss school, escape the house, pay for a flight and accommodation, and pay for abortion care; for the single mum who cannot get time off work or additional childcare. 

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Others may seek to order pills online. Far too many will resort to unsafe abortion methods. 

Of course, many women and girls will be forced to continue with an unwanted pregnancy, with all the mental and physical health impacts that brings. We know, too, from the death of Savita Halappanaver in Ireland, and the deaths of Izabela and Agnieszka in Poland, that women with wanted pregnancies who suffer miscarriages or complications will lose their lives, as doctors left with few options by the bans avoid providing life-saving abortion care. Some law-makers have said that they will deny abortion care even in cases of ectopic pregnancy – condemning women to death.

“Decades of research consistently show that abortion bans and restrictions don’t reduce unintended pregnancy or demand for abortion, and they certainly do not help people improve their health,” according to Dr Palacio. “Rather, they impose significant hurdles to obtaining care, causing stress for people in need of abortion and leading some to experience forced pregnancy and all its troubling consequences.”

A 50 Year Fight – And Worse To Come?

The Supreme Court's decision represents the victory of a 50-year fight by the religious and far-right in America to overturn Roe v Wade and end the right to safe, legal abortion.

That fight saw the marriage of Republican law-makers – some of whom like Ronald Reagan had previously signed bills to decriminalise abortion in their own states – with the ‘moral majority’ represented by activists such as Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly. 

Abortion became a wedge issue that stood in for religious freedom, with organisations proclaiming to protect religious liberty. The Alliance Defending Freedom, for instance, achieved legal wins to ban buffer zones protecting clinics. So-called ‘partial birth abortion’ helped to chip away at access to reproductive healthcare. 

But it was the victory of Donald Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence that finally allowed the anti-abortion minority to push through their agenda. 

Despite having once told reporters that he was pro-choice, Trump knew that in order to win the evangelical vote needed to propel him to power, he had to take an anti-abortion position. He was, after all, running against one of the most famous pro-choice women in the world, Hillary Clinton. According to the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, when Trump mentioned "partial birth abortion" during the Las Vegas presidential debate, that was the moment “he won the pro-life vote”. 

Throughout his presidency, Trump appointed mostly-male, anti-abortion judges across the nation’s courts, allowing for the creation of the trigger laws. He was supported in this by the anti-abortion Federalist Society, which trains conservative lawyers.

Trump also used his presidency to nominate Federalist Society-approved anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court to create a conservative majority on the benches: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh – who was accused of historic sexual assault during the nomination process – and Amy Coney-Barrett. Both Kavanaugh and Coney-Barrett said that they would not overturn Roe v Wade if appointed to the court. Both broke their word. 

Meanwhile, the Alliance Defending Freedom funded law firms drafting anti-abortion bills and defended the Mississippi law that triggered the Supreme Court decision. Religious right groups such as the Thomas More Society, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and the American Centre for Law and Justice submitted amicus briefs to the Supreme Court arguing against Roe v Wade

As this newspaper has documented, dark money groups have been funding the efforts to overturn Roe v Wade for decades.

A post-Roe v Wade world means that women and girls in the US have lost one of the most fundamental human rights: bodily integrity. Black and ethnic minority women, and women in poverty, will be worst impacted. But the Christian and far-right won’t stop there. There are clear warning signs that they will now seek to reverse progress on LGBTIQ and civil rights. 

The end of Roe v Wade, according to disinformation specialist Dave Troy, “signifies the roll-back of rights in the future, taking us away from progressive pluralistic democracy and back to something much darker and revanchist”.

Author Margaret Atwood has also laid out her fears for the future. “They want to go back to white male property owners being in control of the vote,” the writer of The Handmaid’s Tale observed. “Women aren't mentioned in the original Constitution, have no political power, are not therefore full citizens in law, and got the vote in the US only in 1920, via an amendment to the Constitution. Clearly, amendments can be overturned. What's next?”

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‘Pure Insanity’ – January 6 Committee Hearings Suggest ‘Trump’s Future Freedom’ in Question

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/06/2022 - 2:42am in

Heidi Siegmund Cuda reports on a week of damning Republican witnesses who alleged the former President knowingly spread conspiracy theories and instigated violence

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In a week of hearings from the House Select Committee into the 6 January 2021 insurrection in the Capitol, the US Congress heard compelling evidence that the then President of the United States, Donald Trump,  spread far-fetched conspiracy theories about how the  2020 Presidential election was ‘stolen’, floated the idea of seizing voting machines, attempted to weaponise the Justice Department, and his stochastic Twitter terrorism forced election workers into hiding and despair. 

The hearings dropped bombshell after bombshell. Conspiracy spreaders Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, asked for pardons, as did other members of Congress who promoted known lies about the 2020 presidential election results. 

As if to preview the content of the fifth day of the hearings, former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark’s home was raided by federal agents just a few hours before the hearing began.

According to witness testimony, Clark was a key figure in the effort by Trump to coerce the Justice Department to lie about his false claims of voter fraud. 

“President Trump abused your trust,” Rep. Liz Cheney said on fifth day of the hearings. “He deceived you.” Cheney, the Committee’s co-chair and a Wyoming Republican, was speaking directly to Trump supporters. 

“That the public is so very shocked at the depth and nature of this scheme is a good indicator that the hearings are serving their intended purpose, and reaching people in both parties,” disinformation researcher Dave Troy told Byline Times.

Members of the Justice Department testified Trump relentlessly tried to get them to co-sign his false allegations of voter fraud, with one scheme called “pure insanity”. When they refused, they had a stand-off with Trump that resulted in him standing down.

Three Trump appointees testified in-person on Day 5: Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, his deputy Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel, who led the department's Office of Legal Counsel.

“The United States Justice Department functions on facts, evidence, and law, and those are not going to change,” Donoghue said he told the President, who had planned to put environmental lawyer Clark in charge of the Justice Department in the desperate hours before the January 6 certification of Biden’s win.

‘Amoral Individuals’

“Authoritarians come to power to hide their corruption,” historian and author Ruth Ben-Ghiat told Byline Times. “Strongmen are brutal amoral individuals… with years of experience in bullying and intimidation and violence.”

According to the House Select Committee, Trump checked all those boxes. Members of his own party who testified over the past week, said they were bullied, intimidated, and strong-armed. According to witnesses, Trump called Vice President a “wimp” and a “p***y” for not following his orders. Although efforts to thwart Trump from succeeding with his myriad schemes to remain in power worked, the end result was what the Committee called “Trump’s last stand”, the bloody, violent day of January 6. The Committee’s investigation concluded Trump was the central figure of the insurrection.

The gravity of the evidence revealed by the hearings is unlike anything else in American history. A reality TV President attempted a coup, and Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thomson, a Democrat from Mississippi, made it clear the country is still in peril.

A retired conservative judge, Michael Luttig, said on Day Three  that “Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”

In one of the most profoundly moving moments of the hearings, Luttig said he would have “laid his body down on the road” before allowing Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election. 

Among core takeaways from the five days of hearings:

Day 1: Trump attempted a coup, according to Thompson, the eloquent, soft-spoken chairman of the Committee. 

Day 2: Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud was a cynical money-making scheme, according to the Committee’s investigation, which determined he raised $250 million off the Big Lie.

Day 3: Witness testimony detailed the enormous pressure Mike Pence was under to not certify the election, and how Pence came within 40-feet of the mob on January 6–putting his life in danger.

Day 4: Election officials described how Trump and his allies bullied and attempted to coerce them into lying about his election fraud schemes. Falsely accused of voter scamming, election worker Wandrea Arshaye"Shaye" Moss, and her mother, Lady Ruby Freeman, described receiving death threats.

Day 5: Witness testimony revealed Trump tried and failed to weaponize the Justice Department, and Republican members of Congress who spread election lies asked for pardons. 

“It is very clear that there is sufficient evidence to indict Trump for his actions in perverting the course of democracy. That must happen,” investigative reporter Paul Niland told Byline Times. “It is an awful precedent to indict a former president, but these are not political games. Simply, the evidence is what the evidence is and nobody is above the law.”

Niland said the reason Trump was “desperate to stay in power is that he had convinced himself, wrongly, that his position conferred absolute immunity on him.”

‘People’s Blood’

In videos shown at the hearings, members of the January 6 mob stated they were there at Trump’s behest to prevent the certification of the election by any means necessary—as they chanted “Hang Mike Pence” and attacked police officers. Four people died that day. A police officer’s testimony on Day 1 of “slipping in people’s blood” offered a dark, lingering image that shrouded the hearings.

Speaking directly to the violence instigated by Trump’s words, Cheney said that Trump "did not care about these threats of violence" and said, "we cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence." 

Retired Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator Martin Sheil said that Trump being “outed as a crook” by testimony from religious conservatives in his own party is some kind of karma. 

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“When Donald Trump was first barnstorming around the country in pursuit of attention and political support, it wasn't until the Christian Coalition publicly backed him that he became a viable political force,” Sheil told Byline Times. “It is not only ironic but truly karma that Trump be brought down by Christian fundamentalists.”

Sheil said to keep a close eye on the Georgia state investigation of Trump. Recorded telephone calls played during the Committee hearings revealed Trump asking the Georgia Secretary of State to change the electoral outcome by finding votes that did not exist. 

The call was chilling and mob-like. 

Sheil said: “It is that investigation in my honest opinion as an ex-law enforcement person that will prove to be most lethal to Trump's future freedom.”

The House Select Committee hearings resume in July.

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