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We Need to Talk About Joe

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Subscribe to the Intercepted podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, Radio Public, and other platforms. New to podcasting? Click here.

 

Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign against the Democratic establishment and massive corporate power is in the fight of its life. This week on Intercepted: With Michigan and other states voting in primaries today, the justice movements backing the Sanders campaign are making the case that nominating Joe Biden to take on Donald Trump is a grave risk. Poet Aja Monet and organizer Astra Taylor discuss the mini-manifesto from a multi-generational, multi-racial coalition of feminists: “Rising for a Global Feminist Future with the Movement to Elect Bernie Sanders.” As Biden’s campaign seeks to keep him away from open microphones and limit his public appearances, serious questions are being asked about Biden’s mental health and his decades of right-wing positions and policies. Nathan Robinson, editor-in-chief of Current Affairs, discusses Biden’s record on criminal justice, the climate crisis, women’s reproductive rights, war, and trade. Robinson accurately predicted Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton and he argues it will all happen again if Biden is the candidate in November. His latest article is titled, “Democrats, You Really Do Not Want To Nominate Joe Biden.”

Transcript coming soon.

The post We Need to Talk About Joe appeared first on The Intercept.

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Our Revolution, Accused of Dark-Money Spending for Sanders, Took Only Six Donations Over $5,000 in 2019, None Larger than $25,000

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Rival presidential candidates have been attacking Sen. Bernie Sanders over the advocacy groups boosting his campaign, accusing the Democratic frontrunner of taking untraceable dark money and contributions from super PACs and from the nonprofit he founded in 2016, Our Revolution.

The problem with the charge: It’s not dark money, and it’s not big, either.

The issue arose most recently during the Nevada debate, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that everyone onstage besides her and Sen. Amy Klobuchar had taken money from super PACs, which can take in and spend money for candidates with fewer restrictions than a campaign. Her statement cast shade on Sanders, and seemed to raise questions whether the political spending is at odds with the Vermont senator’s rejection of money in politics. Warren didn’t mention names, but Pete Buttigieg tweeted about the “nine dark money groups” that make up a coalition called People Power for Bernie and include Our Revolution, the youth-led climate group Sunrise Movement, and a super PAC affiliated with the National Nurses union. Our Revolution in particular has received scrutiny because it is a 501(c)(4), which allows it to accept large donations without disclosing its donors, unlike super PACs.

In response to an Intercept inquiry, Our Revolution provided information on its donors, which is not yet public, saying that in 2019, it only received a total of six donations over $5,000. Last year, the average individual contribution to Our Revolution was $17.73, with 99.99 percent of its donations coming in under $5,000, according to the group.

The six big contributions totaled $78,289.53 last year, or roughly 4 percent of its revenue. The biggest contribution was around $25,000. Our Revolution, from all sources, took in $1.87 million in 2019, and the bulk of that was spent on state and local races or other organizing campaigns separate from the Sanders presidential run.

For comparison, VoteVets alone, a super PAC that supports liberal veterans for public office and is backing Buttigieg, has spent $2.1 million airing ads for the former mayor so far. Our Revolution’s board has to approve any donation over $5,000.

Our Revolution posts the names of all donors who give more than $250, though the amount is not tied to an identity, meaning it’s impossible to know which on the list are the six who gave more than $5,000. It’s a case of too much transparency, without the necessary detail, leading to opacity. When asked to identify the six donors, Paco Fabian, a spokesperson for Our Revolution, told The Intercept that a few donors, not wanting to be solicited by other groups, didn’t want the size of their contributions to be listed. He added that none are billionaires or associated with large corporations.

On January 22, the watchdog group Common Cause filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Our Revolution broke campaign finance laws by soliciting donations “explicitly to elect Sanders president.” Fabian said the contention that the group is outside of FEC rules is simply false. Sanders has since distanced himself from the group, and supporters note that Our Revolution’s efforts in the Democratic primary are miniscule compared to the millions of dollars outside groups, bankrolled by wealthy donors, pump into the race. Nina Turner, former Ohio state senator and Sanders campaign co-chair, left her position as president of Our Revolution to serve as a national surrogate for Sanders in 2020.

“I would think that we should end super PACs right now. So I would tell my opponents who have a super PAC, why don’t you end it? And certainly that’s applicable to the groups that are supporting me,” Sanders said at a New Hampshire forum in January.

Only some of the group’s activities benefit Sanders’s presidential bid, a spokesperson told The Intercept, as most of the nonprofit’s work is dedicated to helping elect progressives running for local, state, and federal office — from city council and county commissioner to congressional seats. “Bernie and beyond,” as Fabian described their efforts up-and-down the ballot.

“Pretending that a grassroots group with a diverse, working-class membership is in any way the same thing as a SuperPAC spending millions of dollars on ads is frankly dangerous,” Fabian said. “But our adversaries should be concerned. People coming together, pooling their resources and organizing to improve their communities are a threat to their political power.”

The details provided by Our Revolution set it apart from the super PACs blanketing the airwaves for contenders like former Vice President Joe Biden and Buttigieg. Buttigieg, who has more billionaire donors to his presidential campaign than any other Democrat, in particular has been hitting Sanders on this, claiming he’s backed by several dark-money groups, and even comparing the Vermont senator to oligarch Mike Bloomberg.

Warren, a longtime critic of super PACs, recently reversed her position on the issue, saying the fact that only the “two women” in the race didn’t have super PAC support was “just not right.” A super PAC backing Warren, called Persist PAC, filed with the FEC last week. Kitchen Table Conversations, a super PAC supporting Klobuchar, also filed its paperwork last Friday.

The post Our Revolution, Accused of Dark-Money Spending for Sanders, Took Only Six Donations Over $5,000 in 2019, None Larger than $25,000 appeared first on The Intercept.

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CAUTION: CONTENTS HOT, read the coffee cup. CAUTION: CONTENTS HOT, sighed my brain as i stared at the superspy ordering a black coffee with a shot of espresso

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February 21st, 2020: Thanks for reading my comic today, everyone!! Thanks for reading it EVERY day, actually. And if you're not reading it every day NOW'S YOUR CHANCE I GUESS??

– Ryan

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[rss title] CAUTION: CONTENTS HOT, read the coffee cup. CAUTION: CONTENTS HOT, sighed my brain as i stared at the superspy ordering a black coffee with a shot of espresso

[img title] angola sighed, which just made his dimples look cuter. as i looked at him i thought, oh dang, well i can't just NOT kiss this deadly representation of extrajudicial state authority

[mailto subject] Angola Maldives, who despite my best intentions was becoming this really well developed character, looked over his tragic backstory with interest

Pete Buttigieg Says Marijuana Arrests Signify “Systemic Racism.” His South Bend Police Fit the Bill.

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Pete Buttigieg wasn’t much of a pot smoker in college. But coming home from a party one evening, he bumped into a friend of a friend smoking a joint. Buttigieg later recalled that he acted out of curiosity. “Oh, is that — ?” the young Buttigieg said. “And she handed it to me.”

At precisely that moment, a police car pulled up. He quickly tossed the joint over his shoulder. Luckily for Buttigieg, it was a campus cop. Unluckily, he quickly found the roach on the sidewalk, berated Buttigieg, had him place his hands on the trunk, and searched him. Finding nothing more, he sped off, leaving Buttigieg with a story he still tells today of the first time he realized what it means to be privileged. “If I were not white, the odds of that having been something that would have derailed my life are exponentially higher,” he said at an event this spring. “It’s one of many reasons why I think we have to end the war on drugs and move towards the legalization of marijuana.”

It’s a theme Buttigieg returns to often. In July, at an event in Iowa, he shot down a racist question from an audience member by responding, “The fact that a black person is four times as likely as a white person to be incarcerated for the exact same crime is evidence of systemic racism.” When pressed by fact-checkers on his claim, he said that he was referring to the racial disparity in marijuana arrests nationwide, citing an American Civil Liberties Union study that found black people were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for pot than whites.


 

The disparity in South Bend, Indiana, however, has been significantly worse than that under Buttigieg’s leadership.

Since Buttigieg became mayor in January 2012, taking charge of the South Bend Police Department, the city’s black residents have been far more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than its white residents. That disparity in South Bend under Buttigieg, in fact, is worse than in the rest of the country, or even the rest of Indiana.

A black South Bend resident, under the Buttigieg administration, was 4.3 times more likely to be arrested for possessing marijuana between 2012 and 2018 than a white resident, according to data collected by the federal government. Meanwhile, in Indiana statewide during that time, according to data from reporting law enforcement agencies, black people were 3.5 times more at risk of a pot arrest; nationally, the disparity between the rates of black arrests and white arrests was 3 to 1. In the study Buttigieg cited to back up his claim in Iowa, the ACLU in 2013 found a 3.7 to 1 disparity nationally. The study is also referenced in Buttigieg’s Douglass Plan for Black America, which calls for marijuana to be legalized and arrest records to be expunged.

South Bend has a black population of roughly 27,000 and a white population of around 64,000, and local police have made 1,256 arrests for pot possession since 2012. Of those, 805 were black, while just 449 were white. Nationally, the rate of marijuana use is roughly equal for blacks and whites. The disparity in South Bend policing extends into other crimes: In 2018, 22 black people were arrested for selling weed in South Bend, while just 4 white people were taken in.

In 2018, 714 people were arrested for all drug-related offenses. Despite making up just a quarter of the population, more than half of those, 384, were black. While overall, South Bend was worse than both Indiana and the country as a whole, there were some individual years during which arrest rates for black people in South Bend were lower than the statewide average.

Sean Savett, a spokesperson for the Buttigieg campaign, wrote in a statement: “While mayors don’t make the law related to drug possession, Pete has been an outspoken advocate for legalization because he recognizes the disparate impact these laws have in devastating Black communities and the lives of Black Americans, particularly young Black men. It is also why he’s one of the only candidates to make eliminating incarceration for drug possession part of his presidential platform, and it’s why he’s proposed legalizing marijuana, expunging past convictions, reducing sentences for other drug offenses — and applying those reductions retroactively.”

Before Buttigieg entered office, according to testimony from one former city official, a small group of white police officers conspired to push the city’s black police chief, Darryl Boykins, out of his job, hoping to use donors to persuade Buttigieg to make the move. “It is going to be a fun time when all white people are in charge,” one officer reportedly said.

Buttigieg did fire Boykins, but after protests from the black community, rescinded the firing and demoted him instead. Though the parties deny any involvement, the affair, Buttigieg later wrote in his memoir, “affected my relationship with the African-American community in particular for years to come.”

Henry Davis Jr., who was recently elected to a third term to the city council, told The Intercept he was unsurprised to hear the significant disparity in arrests. “It’s bad as hell here,” said Davis. “The numbers for African American police officers have dropped to historic lows.” He also said that Buttigieg has yet to make a human connection with the South Bend black community. “He feels like it’s an open book test: If I do these things, then I win,” he said. “He’s discounting the fact that he’s dealing with human beings.”

Davis lost to Buttigieg in a 2015 primary for mayor, and has often butted heads with the city over policing. In October 2012, after leaving a council meeting in which he voted against a police union contract, Davis was pulled over and detained at gun point. Davis, according to the dash cam video, protested that officers knew who he was. “I know exactly who you are,” one told him, explaining he had been pulled over for a “sudden lane change,” though there’s no evidence of such a lane change in the video. In the wake of the Boykins fiasco, Davis had reported the South Bend Police Department to the Department of Justice for an investigation into the racist remarks caught on police recordings, and the officers sued him for defamation, which was tossed out of court.

Jorden Giger, a 28-year-old South Bend activist with Black Lives Matter, agrees with the prominent criticism that Buttigieg ignores the concerns of black people in South Bend. “Mayor Pete is like, you know, he’s very calculating,” Giger said.

The mayor’s focus on police accountability in his presidential campaign is puzzling, he continued, “because we don’t see that here in South Bend.” Black Lives Matter activists held rallies in downtown South Bend in July and August to push the mayor on a set of demands for him and the police force — among them, the removal and demotion of several officers, including Chief of Police Scott Ruszkowski, who was implicated in suggesting to the mayor who should replace Boykins. BLM wanted the mayor to create a civilian review board for incidents of police violence, along with instituting anti-bias testing and updated bias training.

Buttigieg often touts the Board of Public Safety, Giger said, which oversees disciplinary actions for police and firefighters, and which includes three black men.

Buttigieg in a 2017 address said that “complaints about the conduct of officers are rare” but “taken very seriously,” citing as proof the existing Board of Public Safety, what he called “one example of a ‘citizen review board.’” In an April story, South Bend City Council Member Regina Williams-Preston told the New York Times that the mayor’s suggestion “was a betrayal.”

“Citizens had asked for a citizens’ review board, and for him to say now we have one, in fact it’s the same thing we’ve always had, that was really disingenuous,” Preston told the Times. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“They’re political appointments,” Giger said of the Board of Public Safety. Giger said activists have asked him remove and replace several members, but the mayor hasn’t. “He’s not using any of his political capital to address these issues here locally. I think he just wants to get away from South Bend as quickly as he can.”

Buttigieg has struggled to gain traction among nonwhite voters, polling close to zero among Hispanic and black voters. His chief piece of policy outreach to the black community, the Douglass Plan, led to controversy when The Intercept reported that two of the top three high-profile black South Carolina supporters touted by the campaign were not in fact supporters of the plan, or of Buttigieg.

Giger said he was unimpressed by the Buttigieg campaign’s explanation for his lack of black support, namely that black voters simply aren’t familiar with the candidate yet. “It’s very difficult to convince white moderates or white liberals to really get it,” Giger said.

The post Pete Buttigieg Says Marijuana Arrests Signify “Systemic Racism.” His South Bend Police Fit the Bill. appeared first on The Intercept.

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Empty T-Mobile Promises Convince Texas To Back Off Merger Lawsuit

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While the DOJ and FCC have rubber stamped T-Mobile's controversial $26 billion merger with Sprint, the megadeal still faces stiff opposition from more than a dozen state AGs. What began as a coalition of ten states had been slowly expanding over the last few months to include states like Texas. Collectively, state AGs have made it very clear that every meaningful economic metric indicates the deal will erode competition, raise rates, and result in thousands of layoffs as redundant employees are inevitably eliminated.

In response, T-Mobile lobbyists have been working overtime trying to convince some states to back off their opposition in exchange for promises history suggests there's little chance they'll actually adhere to. Case in point: Texas AG Ken Paxton announced Monday morning he'd be quitting the lawsuit coalition after T-Mobile promised more jobs and better broadband coverage. But the promises themselves were kept vague, and there was, you'll note, zero mention of what happens should T-Mobile not meet them:

"Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that his office reached a settlement with T-Mobile resolving the state’s antitrust claims against the proposed merger of mobile wireless telecommunications service providers Sprint and T-Mobile. The agreement is designed to prevent the New T-Mobile from increasing prices for wireless services on Texans for five years after the merger is complete. The agreement also commits the New T-Mobile to build out a 5G network throughout Texas, including rural areas of our state, during the next six years."

But I've written pretty extensively how pre-merger telecom promises are absolutely meaningless. 99.5% of the time, when it's time to hold a big company accountable on the state or federal level for pre-merger promises five years from now, all backbone suddenly and mysteriously evaporates, and whoever is in charge at the time will suddenly decide that actually enforcing any such promises isn't worth the time and hassle of battling with telecom lobbyists and lawyers. It's a bipartisan tradition that goes back the better part of forty years, and it's a major reason why US broadband is so patchy and mediocre.

Economists are painfully clear about the fact that the T-Mobile merger will eliminate thousands of jobs, reduce competition, and drive up US wireless prices (already some of the highest in the developed world). It's another "debate" where there is no actual debate, yet you wouldn't generally know that from reading fluffy tech press coverage of the deal, which oddly omits historical context (like the fact two variants of this deal have already been blocked for risk of clear anti-competitive harm). The myopia is thanks in no small part to the litany of folks paid by telecom to pretend mergers are uniformly wonderful.

The job losses from this kind of union are inevitable. And while T-Mobile is busy promising Texas that the merger will result in expanded broadband coverage, with their other hand they're working with the CTIA to make it harder to actually determine where 5G will be available. Why do you think that might be, exactly? Still, there are thirteen states taking part in the lawsuit which, thanks to the unrealistic nature of these promises and legal precedent, has a good shot at succeeding.

Texas isn't the only state to be wooed by the dulcet tones of T-Mobile lobbyist promises. Colorado and Mississippi also backed off the lawsuit after receiving promises of new call centers and rural broadband expansion which, if 40 years of telecom history holds, will be little more than a faint echo half a decade from now when it's time to pay the bill. It's the American way.



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The social norm of not talking about salary only benefits the corporations who can pay the less confident people less

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