Preying on peoples’ fears


Staff Reports



Trump Returns to an Old Formula: Lies and Hatred

The president is putting up a dirty fight to maintain the Republican majority in Congress.

By Jessicah Pierre |October 31, 2018

Midterm elections are approaching. The first major election since Trump took office, our current political landscape could shift dramatically depending on the results.

If Democrats can take back control of the House of Representatives — or even the Senate — that could have a major effect on Trump’s ability to pass legislation.

The damage that Trump has created since he’s been president has motivated a record number of women and people of color to run for office. Democrats are banking on this new wave of hope, and for candidates to assert progressive ideas and policies on the state and federal levels.

With many media outlets forecasting a potential “blue wave” in favor of Democrats, Republicans are ramping up their campaigns to secure their majority in Congress.

Among these Republicans is President Trump, who has benefited tremendously from our current GOP Congress.

Congress has given Trump the green light to pass an enormous tax cut for corporations and the ultra-wealthy, stood by as he’s separated thousands of immigrant children from their parents who are seeking asylum in the U.S., and confirmed Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh amid massive protests around credible sexual misconduct allegations against him.

With more to-do’s to check off his conservative agenda, such as building a border wall between Mexico and the U.S., Trump cannot afford to lose the Republican majority in Congress.

So, in an effort to get his supporters excited to vote for Republican candidates, he’s returning to tactics that have worked pretty well for him: lying and hatred.

Within the past month, President Trump has lied about creating a plan for a middle-class tax cut, when in reality he signed a tax bill that will create a $2 trillion federal budget deficit by helping millionaires and billionaires.

Similarly, the Trump administration is considering writing trans people out of Title IX, a federal civil rights code that bans sex discrimination in federally funded schools, by defining “sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with.”

This act could reverse life-saving protections for transgender people across the nation. But to Trump it’s worth it, because he knows these types of actions rally up his evangelical base.

It doesn’t stop there — it also extends to Trump’s signature issue, immigration.

It’s no accident that just because of the upcoming election, he made a public promise to end birthright citizenship, an ironclad constitutional provision. That means babies who are born in this country to immigrant parents would no longer be granted automatic citizenship.

Not to mention, he’s sending 5,000 troops to the border to “fend off” a caravan of migrants and refugees, half of whom are women and children.

It’s obvious that Trump’s willing to put up a dirty fight to maintain the Republican majority in Congress. Will it have an impact on the outcome of the election? Or will voters turn out for candidates who promise to protect everyone in our country, including the most marginalized?

Well, that’s up to us.

Jessicah Pierre is the inequality media specialist at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

The White House Desperately Wants This Election to Be ‘Us’ vs. ‘Them’

As the midterms approach, the administration is ratcheting up its attacks on anyone who isn’t a straight, white, native-born Christian.

By Jill Richardson |October 31, 2018

In the days leading up to the election, the news has been scary. “We” are under threat from all sides. “They” are threatening us.

There’s an actual threat from violent extremists motivated by racial and ethnic hatred. One white supremacist murdered two black people in Louisville and another murdered 11 Jews in Pittsburgh.

But then there’s the perceived threat.

Some people in power believe that a reliable way to get the “right” kind of Americans to the polls (white, straight, Christian, and born in the U.S.A.) is to tell them that other people are trying to take away something that is theirs.

It’s “us” vs. “them,” and we can’t let “them” have anything that is “ours.”

I live near the border, in San Diego. The migrant caravan Trump keeps talking about is nowhere near here yet — they’re far away in southern Mexico at the moment.

Why are troops headed to the border now, just before the election, when the caravan they are supposedly protecting “us” from is nowhere close to here? And what kind of protection do we need from women and children fleeing violence in their home country.

It’s just a big show to convince voters they should be very scared — and simultaneously relieved that Trump is “doing something.”

San Diego is home to a lot of refugees from all over the world. I’m glad my city welcomes people fleeing violence and gives them a safe place to raise their families.

When I recently had car trouble, the driver who came to tow my car was a refugee. He told me how his children had been kidnapped and showed me scars from injuries he sustained from violence in his home country. When people like him find asylum here, I feel proud to be an American.

In another election-season outrage, the Trump administration is also pursuing policies that will deny civil rights to transgender people.

I count a few transgender people among my closest friends. There’s nothing scary or strange about them. They’re just people. We’re friends because they’re funny and kind and empathetic and fun, and every other trait I look for in a friend of any gender.

The administration claims, against all available science, that gender is reducible to “immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” And so trans people deserve no protection. It’s gotten so absurd that the White House is actually a proposing a registry of Americans’ genitalia.

These attacks are one effort after another to convince people to vote based on fear of some made-up threat.

In other words, there’s no need to think about “us” vs. “them.” We’re all people. We’re all “us.” We should be suspicious of anyone who tries to convince people otherwise.

If somebody does want to draw a line in the sand between “us” and “them,” here is what I propose: “They” should be the perpetrators of violent hate crimes who just killed 13 people and anyone who seeks to commit more murder. Everyone else is “us.”

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in San Diego. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

I Was Threatened with Two Years in Prison for Voting

Are politicians afraid of poor and working people like me actually having a say in how we run things?

By Keith Sellars |October 29, 2018

My name is Keith Sellars, and I live in Haw River, North Carolina. I’m the father of four beautiful girls and one very protective son.

I was born and raised in Alamance County, North Carolina, and would call no other place home. I’m one of the so-called “Alamance 12” — the 12 people, nine of us black, who were unjustly prosecuted for voting in the 2016 election while on parole.

I’ve voted many times in my life. It started back in my 20s, when I realized that I wanted to make difference. I wasn’t happy with the way things were, especially for young people of color like me.

I was only 15 years old when I ended up in jail for the first time. As many stories like mine begin, I was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, surrounded by bad influences, with very few options.

I quickly realized that the people around me didn’t have jobs, because there simply weren’t any jobs for them. And if there were jobs, discrimination meant they wouldn’t even get an interview.

To get by, sometimes I broke the law. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but we were just trying to make a living — and surviving has been criminalized for some of us.

It was during these years of going in and out of court when I learned that our legal system didn’t treat everyone the same. I remember white folks who’d done much worse things than I had getting away with a slap on the wrist, while dark-skinned men like me got locked up on harsh sentences.

One in three black men in the United States has been charged with a felony. In North Carolina, black men are incarcerated at four times the rate of white men. And here, as in most states, that can mean harsh restrictions on your right to vote. So even if we think these laws are unfair, the opportunity to influence them is taken from our hands.

These experiences led me to want to get involved in the political process. I voted in the 2008 and 2012 elections. I had trouble with the law again after that, but I was committed to turning my life around. I decided to practice my right to vote once again in 2016. I was told that I could and that I should, because it was the most important election of my life.

I didn’t realize at the moment that I would be targeted, prosecuted, and threatened with yet another felony — and two years in prison — for exercising that right.

For me it’s important that we call this what it is: voter suppression. Other policies — including a proposed voter ID constitutional amendment, polling site closures and early voting restrictions, and partisan and racial gerrymandering — hope to do the same.

I’ve suffered severe consequences to exercise my right to vote. Is it because politicians are afraid of poor and working people like me actually having a say in how we run things?

Keith Sellars, one of the 12 Alamance County, NC residents prosecuted for voting in 2016, organizes with Down Home North Carolina, a multiracial coalition for economic and racial justice. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

Don’t Sacrifice Border Communities for Political Gain

Trump’s threats to shut down the southern border would hurt the interconnected communities along it.

By Jasmine Aguilera |October 30, 2018

President Trump recently sent a threatening tweet in response to an estimated 7,000 migrants traveling together to the U.S.-Mexico border. If Mexico refuses to halt the caravan of men, women, and children seeking refuge, Trump warned, he’ll “call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!”

The shutdowns have started to happen. On October 29, one port of entry in El Paso, Texas, was shut down, a Customs and Border Protection statement said, while the agency “is currently monitoring the situation regarding the caravan migrating from Central America toward the U.S. border.”

Either Trump isn’t at all aware of how border communities work, or he’s willing to sacrifice them for political gain.

I’m from El Paso, Texas, a city intricately connected to its sister across the border, Ciudad Juárez. Here, thousands of people cross the border both ways every day to work, go to school, visit family, and seek better health care options.

In 2017, more than 22 million people in passenger vehicles crossed the El Paso-Juárez border, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Another 6.8 million crossed on foot — I among them. So far in 2018, 11 million people have driven across this border, and another 3.5 million crossed on foot.

That’s not including the several million who’ve crossed at other ports of entry.

Hundreds of students from Juárez attend school at the University of Texas at El Paso, or the dozens of local K-12 public schools. People trade and own businesses on both sides of the border.

In many cases, Americans in El Paso who don’t have quality health care options see more affordable doctors in Juárez. I’ve done this myself numerous times.

Shutting down the border means shutting down an entire border economy. Mexico and the U.S. share a more than $600 billion trade relationship. Endangering it could have a detrimental ripple effect on the people who call the border home.

All for what? To stop people from seeking asylum — an act that isn’t just legal, but that the U.S. itself is required to permit.

It sounds terrifying — thousands of people from foreign countries showing up at the border demanding a way in illegally. Or at least that’s the picture the Trump administration is trying to paint. The reality is much more complex.

The first thing to understand is the border is not in crisis.

Although there’s been an uptick in unauthorized crossings this year, unauthorized migration overall has actually decreased over the past several years, and is nowhere near as high as it used to be in the early 2000s, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

What has increased is the number of families — that is, parents with their children — traveling to the U.S., along with unaccompanied minors. Some reports estimate half of the people traveling in this caravan to the U.S. are women and children.

Caravans of migrants to the U.S. have been taking place for several years, since they offer safety in numbers from gangs and traffickers that target people traveling alone. But it was only this year that Trump painted caravans as a new immigration crisis for political gain.

It’s against international law for a country to refuse someone’s claim to be considered for asylum. When migrants from this caravan turn themselves in at the border claiming asylum, they’re not breaking any laws. But we are if we forcibly turn them away.

Since Trump’s tweet, CBP has started shutting down at least one port of entry, and the Pentagon has plans to deploy 5,000 troops to the entire border.

Refugees deserve a chance to seek protection. And America’s border communities deserve not to be held hostage by a president that refuses to recognize people’s rights on either side of it.

Jasmine Aguilera is a freelance writer and reporter from El Paso, Texas. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, NowThis, and more. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

These Ballot Measures Could Bring More Democracy to Your State

Corporate elites are so afraid of democracy that they’re actually trying to outlaw it.

By Jim Hightower |October 31, 2018

Is it possible to get public policies out of our political system that benefit common people rather than moneyed elites?

Yes!

We the people can bypass corporate-purchased lawmakers and write the laws ourselves. In 26 states and numerous cities, grassroots people can put statutes and constitutional amendments on the ballot through a citizens initiative process.

In this era of plutocratic rule, that’s become a major avenue for achieving progressive change.

For example, on November 6, voters in Albuquerque, Baltimore, and Denver will be offered new forms of small-dollar, public financing of elections to counter secret, unlimited donations by corporations.

A South Dakota measure would ban corporate donations to candidates and political parties and bar “gifts” from lobbyists to elected officials.

To stop incumbents from handpicking their voters by gerrymandering their districts, people in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah will have a chance to turn redistricting over to independent, non-partisan commission.

Other reforms to democratize voting are proposed in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Maryland, South Dakota, and Massachusetts.

Ballot measures have proven so successful that corporate front groups have begun proposing deceptively worded initiatives that — get this — would forestall citizens from putting initiatives on the ballot.

So far this year, initiatives to stop or restrict initiatives have been filed in Maine and South Dakota to curtail people’s access to this process of direct democracy. Also, ALEC, the secretive, Koch-funded anti-democracy group, has generated bills in six state legislatures essentially to keep citizen initiatives off the ballot.

Corporate elites are so afraid of democracy that they’re actually trying to outlaw it. To help protect direct democracy, go to: ballot.org.

Jim Hightower, an OtherWords columnist, is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

We’re Killing Thousands of People to Enrich a Few Corporations

I’ve lived in Yemen. The lives of its people are worth more than any military contract.

By Alex Potter |October 30, 2018

The other day, over 20 people died in an airstrike in Yemen’s coastal city of Hodeidah.

The bombs, dropped by a Saudi-led coalition, hit a farmers market, where men from neighboring villages sold their goods, hoping to at least break even and bring some food home to their families. In the aftermath of the attack, families gathered to pick up the pieces of their loved ones, and hitchhiked to the local general hospital in search of the wounded.

These were only a few of the uncountable thousands of civilian casualties in Yemen’s war, which I’ve followed closely since living there for years as a journalist.

The frequent strikes on markets, school buses, and hospitals seldom make news in the United States. Is it because Yemen seems so far away, that the blood of children doesn’t seem to reach our fingertips?

Or is it because arms sellers’ profits from Yemen’s war are so substantial, we don’t dare cut ties?

Yemen’s been on a downward spiral since a failed transition period after the Arab Spring led to a civil war. Since early 2015, a Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s exiled president has rained down air raids on the country — more often than not, hitting civilian targets.

A school bus bombing in July killed 40 children. A hospital bombing in August killed over 50 civilians. An early attack on the capital Sana’a wiped out an entire family in their sleep.

All of these airstrikes were supported by the U.S., which supplied training, targeting support, in-flight refueling, and the bombs themselves. Yet American politicians mostly stay silent. Why?

Is it because the war in Yemen is so complicated? This is a cop-out — it’s our elected officials’ job to understand these intricacies, and to act when situations are unjust.

I would argue it’s the cost-benefit ratio.

Leaving the on-the-ground fighting to Yemenis paid by their Gulf counterparts, and leaving the actual air-striking to Saudi pilots, American officials are separated by enough degrees to not take direct responsibility.

Carrying even greater weight, especially by President Trump, is the financial benefit of this war. The U.S. sells billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to the Saudis.

Deaths for dollars. The lives of tens of thousands of Yemenis for the financial gain of a few corporations. While there are obviously more reasons for the ongoing conflict than this, it’s an undeniable component.

Yet this past month has brought more change from one man’s death than the deaths of thousands before him.

As the tragic details of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s abduction and death emerge, more lawmakers are calling for direct and tangible action against Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi’s death, first denied then whitewashed by Saudi officials, has brought together a bipartisan group calling for a cancellation of arms sales to the kingdom.

“With the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it’s time for the United States to halt all weapons sales and military aid to Saudi Arabia,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who introduced a bill to do just that. “Our democratic values are on the line here — and we need to step up as a country and do the right thing.”

On the other hand, President Trump so far refuses to stop arms sales, even though the Saudis now admit Khashoggi’s murder was premeditated. “We don’t like it, not even a little bit,” Trump said. But canceling the sales “would not be acceptable to me.”

The war in Yemen will continue until those in power decide their costs outweigh the benefits — and until the rest of us insist on a cost for civilian lives.

Southeast Ohio Organized Crime Task Force Seizes Nearly $8 Million in Drugs Since 2013

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined members of the Major Crimes Task Force of Gallia and Meigs Counties to provide an update on the task force’s operations over the last five years.

“This task force was created as part of my office’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission in 2013, and this team of investigators has been aggressively working to rid southeast Ohio of dangerous drugs ever since,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “Since its inception, this task force has seized nearly $8 million in illegal drugs, and I strongly believe that the work of these investigators has saved lives.”

The Major Crimes Task Force of Gallia and Meigs Counties is made up of authorities from the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office, Gallia County Sheriff’s Office, Gallipolis Police Department, Middleport Police Department, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Gallia County Prosecutor’s Office, and Meigs County Prosecutor’s Office.

Since its formation, the task force has opened hundreds of investigations leading to the seizure of an estimated $7,896,000 in illegal drugs, such as heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. More than 200 people have been convicted on charges stemming from task force investigations. Task force members have served nearly 250 search warrants and seized drug proceeds in the amount of approximately $400,000 in cash.

“The success of our task force is undeniable,” said Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood. “Jurisdictional lines become blurred when it’s about saving our community and getting the job done. Our approach will never be distracted. Be assured, if you are involved in illegal activity, we will meet.”

“The benefit of having a major crimes task force focused on a multi-jurisdictional effort benefits the citizens of Gallia County in many ways,” said Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin. “The hard-working team of agents that we have assigned to our task force work aggressively every day to eliminate crime from our region and safeguard our counties.”

“The Gallia-Meigs Major Crimes Task Force has been vital to Meigs County. Without the tireless work of the task force, our community would be littered with countless high-level drug traffickers and serious, violent offenders,” said Meigs County Prosecutor James Stanley. “Because of task force investigations, Meigs County is much safer, and I am proud to work with them in the pursuit of justice and the loftier goal of a drug-free community.”

“Attorney General Mike DeWine realized the need of connecting law enforcement agencies between jurisdictions to combat organized crime,” said Gallia County Prosecutor Jason Holdren. “Thanks to his diligent pursuit and leadership, the Gallia-Meigs Task Force has investigated and helped secure major convictions that would not have taken place otherwise.”

“Since this task force was first established in 2013, the dedication to this cause from all of the participating agencies has been unwavering,” said Middleport Chief of Police Bruce Swift. “The goal of this group has been to stop or slow the influx of drugs into our communities and make our region a safer place to live. This group is still dedicated to that mission and will not give up the fight. Along with help of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, we will continue to make our communities safer.”

An example of a major case investigated by the task force is that of Antonio McIntosh. The Cincinnati man was sentenced to 33 years in prison after a task force investigation found that he was the leader of a large-scale drug trafficking ring operating out of a Gallia County business.

The Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission assists local law enforcement agencies in combating organized crime and corrupt activities through the creation of multi-jurisdictional task forces. The commission is composed of members of the law enforcement community and is chaired by the Ohio Attorney General.

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Staff Reports