Month: October 2020

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A liberal mega-donor with an estimated worth of more than $1.5 billion is weighing a run for California governor, according to a new report.

Tom Steyer, a San Francisco hedge fund manager and major climate change activist, may run for the office in 2018, Politico said Thursday.


Steyer is one of the left’s biggest donors, reportedly contributing more than $140 million over the 2014 and 2016 election cycles.

The billionaire’s NextGen Climate group, meanwhile, has raised his profile across California with a series of television ads. Steyer personally appeared in several of the commercials, which came after he briefly teased a Senate run that never materialized.

Steyer is one of three wealthy liberal donors eyeing a governor’s post in 2018, according to the report.

John Morgan, a well-known Florida attorney, is reportedly considering a bid in the swing state. Morgan put out a preliminary policy platform in November, Politico said, and spent much of last year pushing a successful medical marijuana ballot initiative there.

J.B. Pritzker, a Chicago private equity and venture capitalism veteran with an estimated worth of more than $3 billion, is reportedly considering an Illinois gubernatorial run in 2018. Pritzker is heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune.

Democrats are debating their party’s future following President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE’s shocking White House win. The ranks of Democratic governors were hard hit this election cycle, with a string of losses reducing their numbers to 16 nationwide.

None of the three liberal mega-donors is expected to formally launch a gubernatorial campaign anytime soon, according to Politico.

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How Regulators Protect Big Bankers from Jail

October 23, 2020 | News | No Comments

The U.S. government body tasked with regulating JPMorgan Chase & Co. and other big banks appears to be steering federal prosecutors away from criminal charges.

According to Evan Pérez writing for CNN, at a recent meeting in Washington, federal prosecutors asked the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency—the chief body responsible for regulating JPMorgan and other big banks—what would happen if criminal charges were filed against JPMorgan.

The prosecutors were told by regulators that U.S. law requires that they pull the licenses of banks convicted of criminal charges. As a result, the prosecutors reportedly felt pressured not to press criminal charges, for fear of doing damage to the economy.

“Prosecutors complain that when they push for tougher penalties, regulators warn of consequences that could mean damage to the U.S. economy,” Pérez writes.


Pérez’s claims appear to be confirmed by the statements of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, following JPMorgan’s settlement Tuesday for its complicity in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. When asked by reporters why the the bank and its leaders did not face stiffer consequences, Bharara replied,

According to Pérez, “The result is that highly profitable banks pay large settlements and move on.”


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Iran on Monday began implementing its end of the historic bargain made in Geneva on Nov. 24 under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The “Joint Plan of Action” requires the Islamic Republic to halt much of its most controversial nuclear work during the next 6 months in exchange for modest sanctions relief while diplomats from Iran and the P5+1 negotiate a comprehensive solution.

“Depending on how things work out today, I hope that we will start talks within the next few weeks,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters before a meeting for EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

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The Arms Control Association has a useful summary of the IAEA report and analysis of the deal (as well as what’s to come):

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Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared on Tuesday he is putting a moratorium on executions in the state, yet will not commute or pardon death sentences.

Stating “I’m not convinced equal justice is being served,” Inslee vowed that any death penalty case that reaches his desk will be given reprieve.

The governor cited “flaws in the system” in announcing the decision. “The use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred,” he declared.


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Yet, he emphasized that he will not issue any pardons or commute any sentences, meaning people who receive reprieves will continue to languish on death row. He stated, “Let me say clearly that this policy decision is not about the nine men on death row in Walla Walla. I don’t question their guilt or the gravity of their crimes. They get no mercy from me.”

This is despite the governor’s own admission that the state has a history of false convictions.

According to the press release issued Tuesday by his office:


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Next Wednesday’s TNT Championship match between Cody and Orange Cassidy on AEW Dynamite will now be a lumberjack match, added due to the Dark Order threatening to interfere. 

The winner of the match will defend the title against Darby Allin at Full Gear. Cody and Cassidy went to a 20-minute draw on last week’s Dynamite, leading to the rematch being signed.

Next week’s show will also feature the semifinals of an eight man tournament for an AEW World title shot as Kenny Omega will take on Fenix while Hangman Page will wrestle Wardlow. The winners will move on to the finals at Full Gear.

Also announced was a town hall held by the Inner Circle to decide whether MJF should join the group. He and Chris Jericho had a steak dinner that broke out into a song and dance routine Wednesday to advance the storyline that has been brewing over the past month.

Finally, Abadon will return to Dynamite against Tay Conti. Since losing to Hikaru Shida in her March debut, Abadon has won five straight while Conti is coming off a late-September win over Red Velvet.

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Dems grapple with lessons from Clinton disaster

October 22, 2020 | News | No Comments

Democrats are grappling with how to draw the right lessons — and avoid the wrong ones — after an extraordinary presidential election.

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE’s loss to Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE is an unmitigated disaster for Democrats, who want to ensure nothing like it happens again. But Clinton’s popular-vote lead over Trump is so large that it complicates the question of how to recalibrate for future elections.


Clinton led Trump by almost 3 million votes as of Sunday, according to a Cook Political Report tracker, with some final results still to be tabulated. More than 128 million votes were cast for the two main candidates nationwide, and Trump emerged as the victor by winning three Rust Belt states by margins of roughly 11,000 (Michigan), 23,000 (Wisconsin) and 44,000 (Pennsylvania).

Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist who managed former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, pointed out that, amid all the Democratic remorse and recrimination following the election, very small differences in those three states would have led to Republicans questioning their future, not Democrats.

Trippi also saw a danger for the party, in that virtually any explanation for why Clinton lost is plausible, given the narrowness of the margin.

“Everybody can point to something that went wrong — and they’re right,” he said. “It makes it impossible to know what the party really needs to do.

“The [Bernie] Sanders people believe, if only we had been more populist we’d have won, and they’re right. The Hillary people believe, if only Bernie hadn’t attacked her so hard in the primary we’d have won, and they’re right. Everybody’s right.”

Adding another explosive ingredient to the mix, The Washington Post reported Friday that the CIA now believes Russia intervened in the election to help Trump win. The story clearly has some distance left to run.

Meanwhile, the immediate direction of the Democratic Party is further complicated because it has no obvious leader with the exception of President Obama, who will leave office in less than six weeks. At the Democratic National Committee — an organization already tainted by leaked emails suggesting its staff helped Clinton over Sanders during the primary — interim chairwoman Donna Brazile will soon leave office, with at least three candidates seeking to replace her. The Clinton political machine, a major force in the party since President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonWill the ‘law and order’ president pardon Roger Stone? Five ways America would take a hard left under Joe Biden The sad spectacle of Trump’s enablers MORE’s rise in the early 90s, is fading into obsolescence in the wake of the shock election result.

Even the competition to replace Brazile at the DNC shows the different directions in which the party could shift. The early front-runner, Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), supported Sanders during the primary and has made clear that he thinks a shift to the left is in order — in part to offer the clearest possible contrast to the GOP.

“Democrats win when we harness the power of everyday people and fight for the issues they care about,” Ellison said in a statement announcing his candidacy. “It is not enough for Democrats to ask for voters’ support every two years. We must be with them through every lost paycheck, every tuition hike, and every time they are the victim of a hate crime. When voters know what Democrats stand for, we can improve the lives of all Americans.”

Dean, who had previously served as DNC chairman, entered this year’s race and then dropped out. But the former doctor’s diagnosis, delivered via Twitter as he announced his candidacy, was that the party needed “organization and [a] focus on the young” as well as “a fifty-State strategy and tech rehab.”

The other two candidates who remain in the race, South Carolina Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison and New Hampshire Chairman Ray Buckley, have their own ideas. Harrison told the Charleston Post & Courier, “We need to go back to where the party used to be, which is not a political organization but a community organization” that would “talk about bread and butter issues.”

Meanwhile, speculation continues to build that Labor Secretary Tom Perez could join the DNC race, perhaps functioning as a bridge between the more establishment-minded thinkers around the Obama and Clinton camps and the progressives who look to Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.) as their standard-bearers.

The dividing lines between some of these positions can be the source of friction, even when they are expressed in respectful terms. When Sanders argued in a Medium post soon after the election that diversity was important but “to think of diversity purely in racial and gender terms is not sufficient,” he faced immediate blowback on social media, especially from non-white progressives.

There are worries in some quarters that the party will try to re-fight this election when the next one rolls around, a strategy that would presumably involve emphasizing an appeal to white voters in the Rust Belt. Skeptics worry that such an effort, especially if couched in culturally conservative terms, could erode the party’s support with black and Hispanic voters as well as liberal young people.

At the same time, almost everyone agrees that something needs to change.

“You can’t look at the next occupant of the White House and say, ‘Let’s just do everything again the way it was done,’” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who is also a columnist for The Hill. “There aren’t many people making that argument.”

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Mellman argued that the party needed to have a more coherent and relevant economic message, while also finding a way to respond to the cultural anxieties of Rust Belt voters “without in any shape or form compromising on our principles.”

Trippi, meanwhile, worried that Democrats could move too sharply in almost any direction.

“I don’t have a specific fear, but I do think it’s possible that the party overcorrects,” he said, “Parties tend to overcorrect or go further over the edge, and I think that both those things are possible.”

In Cracks of Capitalism, Time Banks on the Rise

October 22, 2020 | News | No Comments

Following the 2008 economic crash, the need for innovative approaches to the economy has only grown larger. One such answer to that problem has been a strong resurgence in the use of “time banks,” a service for service exchange that skips the middle man of financial currency while building community in the process, according to a special report published by Al Jazeera America Sunday.

Time banks are organizations where individuals come together to offer services, traditionally within their immediate community. In return for providing a service, individuals earn “time credits” based on hours donated, which can be redeemed from any other service provider in the system. The exchange of money is avoided all together and each service is treated equally.

Since the crash, over 300 time banks have popped up around the United States alone, “located everywhere from Appalachia to Oakland and run by institutions ranging from art galleries to retirement centers to hospitals,” Al Jazeera reports.

“There’s a lot of unemployed folks and a lot of need, and if there was ever a time that this makes sense, it would be now,” Edgar Cahn, a 78-year-old former staffer in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and the founder of time banking, told Al Jazeera.

And in the digital age, time banking has been simplified and streamlined, enabling the idea and its implementation to be spread more easily around the world.


One such successful web-based time bank is the over 10,000-member Time Republik started by friends from Lugano, Switzerland.  “One can look for someone to give oboe lessons over Skype or a neighbor to offer a ride to the airport,” Al Jazeera reports. 

Read the rest of the Al Jazeera report here.

* * *

Another example of a recently established and very successful time bank is The Onion River Exchange—a 700-member time bank in Vermont whose members say the exchange of goods and services instead of money has strengthened their community.  Watch this short documentary about it from Olivier Asselin:

A 700-member time bank in Central Vermont from Olivier Asselin on Vimeo.


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A Firefly Fun House segment is the latest addition to the lineup for Raw’s season premiere episode.

During a commercial that aired on SmackDown tonight, WWE announced that Bray Wyatt will host a new edition of the Firefly Fun House on this coming Monday’s episode of Raw. Wyatt was drafted to Raw during night two of the WWE Draft earlier this week.

Wyatt was Raw’s first overall pick in night two of the draft. Alexa Bliss also moved over from SmackDown and is now on Raw with Wyatt. The Fiend and Bliss laid out Andrade and Zelina Vega with stereo Sister Abigails on Raw this week. Vega has joined the SmackDown roster as a free agent signing, while Andrade went undrafted and hasn’t been assigned to a brand yet.

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The Fiend defeated Kevin Owens in the main event of SmackDown last week. It was the first time Wyatt has wrestled as The Fiend on weekly WWE television. Owens was selected by SmackDown in the draft.

Asuka vs. Lana for the Raw Women’s Championship, Keith Lee vs. Braun Strowman, and an Elias concert are set for Raw’s season premiere as well. The show is also Raw’s go-home show for Hell in a Cell and will feature the final build to WWE Champion Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton’s Hell in a Cell match.

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A new study puts the spotlight on tar sands’ threat to one of the planet’s precious and increasingly scarce resources—water.

The study by Environment Canada shows that tailings ponds, open ‘lakes’ that hold toxic bi-products from tar sands mining, are leaching into groundwater and contaminating Alberta’s Athabasa River.

The federal research was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The researchers used new technology to differentiate chemicals from naturally occurring bitumen deposits in soil around the developments from those released by the tar sands industry.

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“It looks like what they’ve seen is that in fact the tailings ponds are leaking,” CBC News quotes Bill Donahue, an environmental scientist with the governmental tar sands advisory committee, as saying.

“They found also not only are those tailings ponds leaking, but it looks like it is flowing pretty much from those tailings ponds, through the ground and into the Athabasca River,” Donahue continued. “So, there goes … that message we’ve been hearing about. ‘These tailings ponds are safe, they don’t leak’ and so on.”

“While the study confirms what we already know to a certain extent,” Andrea Harden-Donahue, Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner with the Ottawa-based organization Council of Canadians, told Common Dreams, “it’s sad to see the federal government so far behind.”


“First Nations communities are our best and brightest hope for stopping the expansion of the tar sands.”
—Andrea Harden-Donahue, Council of CanadiansFirst Nations communities have been talking for years about this water contamination, Harden-Donahue explained. They’ve been “linking it to illnesses, talking about deformed fish, how it’s entering their food system, and for years they have been calling for the problem to be examined,” concerns Canadian rocker Neil Young sought to elevate with his recent “Honour the Treaties” tour.

These downstream communities continue to be “on the front lines,” Harden-Donahue said, both in terms of the impacts of the dirty industry and of leading opposition. “First Nations communities are our best and brightest hope for stopping the expansion of the tar sands,” she said.

While “we talk a lot about climate change” impacts from tar sands, what also needs to be considered is how “the use, consumption and contamination of water” as a result of the mining and transporting of this bitumen affect essential watersheds, Harden-Donahue  explained, and cited the notorious spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.

Contributing to the problem is that what little regulation that does exist, both at the federal and provincial level, she said, doesn’t get enforced, as it’s a case of the fox guarding the hen house because much of the regulation is industry-led. Looking at last year, “of the more than 4000 infractions [by the tar sands industry] that were reported, less than 1 percent were penalized,” she noted.

Yet as the Harper government is dragging in terms of regulating tar sands, and is repealing environmental protections, there is mounting pressure fighting back, Harden-Donahue said.

“It’s an uphill battle,” she said, but “we’re going to win.”


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Faculty and students launched an occupation of a Maine university building Friday to demand a halt to mass faculty layoffs and department slashes that they say are part of the austerity cuts devastating public education nation-wide.

Over 100 people launched a late-morning occupation of the hallway outside the Portland office of the University of Southern Maine provost Michael Stevenson — the hallway that faculty passed through Friday on their way to receive lay-off letters.

People sat on the floor and leaned against walls as chants and even songs broke out amid discussions about “next steps” for holding the university accountable. “We’re using this as a space to organize,” said Meaghan LaSala, student in Women and Gender Studies, in an interview with Common Dreams.

Occasionally, laid-off faculty addressed the crowd in emotionally-charged statements just moments before or after receiving notice.

Meanwhile, at a nearby university event for gubernatorial candidate Michael Michaud, students took to the microphone to speak out against budget cuts.

“I’m staying here as long as it takes,” Jules Purnell, junior in Women and Gender Studies, told Common Dreams while occupying the hallway. “We’re in a scarcity economy, and we are all terrified right now, but we have to think about solutions.”

Protesters said 11 to 15 full-time faculty members at the university were handed letters on Friday notifying them that they were being “retrenched” or forced out of their jobs, and USM President Theo Kalikow and Provost Stevenson announced plans to lay off more faculty and staff and eliminate four programs: American and New England studies, geosciences, arts and humanities at the school’s Lewiston-Auburn College facility, and recreation and leisure studies.

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Wendy Chapkis, professor in Sociology and Gender and Women’s Studies who participated in the occupation, told Common Dreams that the lay-offs hit faculty of color the hardest. “We’ve been agitating for years for the university to hire women of color,” said Chapkis. “Now they are laying off dozens of faculty members, starting with the most recent hires. Out of the 8 people I know who were laid off, three of them are minority faculty.”


John Eric Baugher, associate professor in sociology who received a lay-off notice Friday after 9 years at USM, told Common Dreams that “university management is pressuring senior faculty to retire to save the jobs of younger faculty” — in what he said amounts to “emotional blackmail.”

“This is potentially precedent-setting,” he warned. “There are colleges and universities across the country modeling themselves on the corporate world. If they can get rid of fully tenured, salaried faculty, what will this mean for other universities?”

Administrators have sought to place the blame on a tuition freeze and a multi-million dollar shortfall as the state of Maine, under Governor Paul Lepage, flat-lines funding for the Maine university system. Students say they are fighting for more state and federal funding for USM and demanding that universities facing cuts “chop from the top” rather than force students and workers to bear the brunt of austerity.

“A lot of students here are non-traditional and come here as workers and parents,” said LaSala. “By instating these cuts they are saying that students in southern Maine have no right to a diverse education. We want our human right to education. This is happening across the country.”

A recent report by public policy organization Demos finds that, across the U.S., states used the 2008 recession to justify austerity cuts to higher education funding, and universities are increasingly turning to business models based on rising tuition rates. “In less than a generation, our nation’s higher education system has become a debt-for-diploma system—more than seven out of 10 college seniors now borrow to pay for college and graduate with an average debt of $29,400,” reads a summary of the report.

Yet, students and faculty expressed hope that growing movements can buck what they say is a war on public education. “We need to believe in each other, because we are each other’s only hope,” wrote Purnell in a statement circulated at the protest. “If we are committed to one another and making lasting change, we can do this.”

Reports and commentary about USM student and faculty protests are being posted on Twitter.

Tweets about “#USMfuture”


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