Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Did the 2022 mid-term elections produce a false sense of comfort?

 words by Charles Brooks

The 2022 midterms were widely anticipated to be the stage on which voters would demonstrate their rejection of the Democratic Party and the Biden presidency. 

In Congress, Democrats entered the midterms defending narrow majorities in both the House and Senate, while on the state level, Republicans held 28 governor seats. The midterm results saw Democrats retain the Senate by a razor-thin margin, 51-49 while losing the House, 222-213. Election results also show 28 House seats flipping parties; 9 to Democrats and 19 to the Republicans.   On the state level, Democrats picked up 3 governor seats, raising their total to 24 versus 26 Republican governors. There’s also the wins in four states, raising the count to 14 states with Democrats in the governor’s seat and holding majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.   

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Judge Orders Philly DA to Disclose All Evidence in Mumia Abu-Jamal Case. Could It Lead to New Trial?

Supporters of imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal are celebrating a decision by a Philadelphia judge on Friday to order the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to share all of its files on the case with Abu-Jamal’s defense team. Judge Lucretia Clemons gave prosecutors and the defense 60 days to review the files, including many that Abu-Jamal’s team has never seen. The judge is then expected to rule on whether to hold a new trial for the former Black Panther, who has been imprisoned for over 40 years for his 1982 conviction in the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. His supporters have long claimed prosecutors withheld key evidence and bribed or coerced witnesses to lie, and documents found in the DA’s office in 2019 show Abu-Jamal’s trial was tainted by judicial bias and police and prosecutorial misconduct. 

For more on the case, we speak with Johanna Fernández, an associate professor of history at CUNY’s Baruch College and one of the coordinators of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home. “We have enough evidence here to clearly give Mumia at least an evidentiary hearing, a new trial or set him free,” says Fernández. She is the executive producer and writer of the film “Justice on Trial: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal” and is also the editor of “Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal.”

Media Prescribe More ‘Pain’ for Workers as Inflation’s Only Cure

DECEMBER 19, 2022

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell is profit’s prophet and the corporate media are his cultish devotees, joining hands to sacrifice working people. In this cult, profit is sacrosanct.

When inflation hits, this is because of the conditions upon which profits are made. It’s not the fault of profit-making itself. The problem is a “labor shortage,” or “too much demand,” which forces the invisible hand to raise prices—and not a shortage of dignified work, or a surplus of people living paycheck to paycheck. Maximal profits are a given, and scarcity for ordinary people is a requirement.

Friday, December 16, 2022

'A Moral and Political Disgrace': Just 11 Senators Vote No on $858 Billion Military Budget


"At a time when we spend more than the next 11 nations combined on defense, we should invest in healthcare, jobs, housing, and education—not more weapons of destruction," said Sen. Bernie Sanders.

In an overwhelming bipartisan vote late Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed legislation authorizing $858 billion in military spending for Fiscal Year 2023, a sum that drew dissent from just a handful of lawmakers and outrage from watchdogs who said the money should be spent on fighting the climate emergency, poverty, and other pressing crises.

The $858 billion budget amounts to a roughly 10% increase from the previous year and $45 billion more than the historic sum President Joe Biden requested, and it was approved even after the Pentagon failed yet another audit, unable to account for more than 60% of its assets.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Ryan Grim on Railroad Workers’ Rank-and-File Union Organizing

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

Earlier this month, President Biden signed into law a bill prohibiting a rail strike and imposing a deal rejected by over half of unionized rail workers over its lack of paid sick leave. Labor activists have condemned Biden and Democratic Party leaders for failing to secure paid time off for workers who become ill.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Joe Biden is meeting African leaders - why free trade is a major talking point

 James Thuo GathiiLoyola University Chicago

African leaders face a dilemma over trade relations with the United States. Should they push for the extension of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) or for each country’s bilateral trade deal with the world’s biggest economy?

AGOA was the signature economic policy of the Bill Clinton administration. It provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the US market for over 1,800 products. It is set to expire in 2025 but is up for discussion at the annual forum on AGOA taking place alongside the US-African Leaders Summit (13-15 December 2022).

The Trump administration preferred to negotiate bilateral trade deals with African countries.

A free trade agreement negotiation with Kenya in early 2020 was supposed “to serve as a model bilateral deal for other African countries”.

I have been studying Africa’s trade deals and trade blocs for over 25 years. I was one of the zero-draft authors of the Africa continental free trade area, and have assessed regional blocs, the World Trade Organisation and the AGOA.

My view is that African leaders should seek a renewal of AGOA. The individual bilateral trade agreements would undermine the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. One of the goals of the continental market is to boost intra-Africa trade and encourage production of higher value exports.

US trade preferences

The Biden administration’s trade agenda continues to be greatly influenced by US multinational corporations that want access to African markets.

For example, in July 2022, the US launched a US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Although the agenda is less ambitious than the Trump administration’s, it poses many risks for Kenya. For example, the proposed regime may require lifting of tariffs on agricultural imports from the US, exposing Kenyan farmers to an onslaught of highly subsidised US exports.

The proposed deal’s call for “good regulatory practices” imply rollback of public-interest administrative processes in favour of foreign corporations. For instance, African governments may have to give up regulations on environment, labour, consumer and public health whenever deemed to be barriers to foreign investments.

Likewise, the “digital trade agenda” is likely to be harmful. This agenda requires governments to protect the interests of the biggest technology companies. That often happens at the expense of smaller domestic firms and their workers. The digital agenda is therefore likely to entrench the ability of big-tech companies to undermine national laws on competition and data privacy. These are all undesirable consequences that Africa should avoid.

Africa’s agenda

A high proportion of exports from Africa to the US have been precious stones and metals, such as platinum and diamonds, as well as mineral fuels and apparel. These exports reflect the continued inability of African economies to move away from primary products to industrial production.

Moving African products onto higher rungs of the global value chain requires at least two things: increased intra-Africa trade and international market policy support.

More intra-African trade would produce savings that could be reinvested into producing higher value products. For example, billions of dollars invested in buying food from outside Africa could be reinvested in agro-processing firms if intra-African food trade became successful, as contemplated under the continental market.

Similarly, countries like the US can reorient their trade and investment policies to support the development of productive capacities and value addition of African agriculture, trade and services.

Unless African economies are able to produce higher value exports, they will continue to earn minimal returns from global trade.

One of the complicating factors for Africa is the sheer diversity of interests in each of the 55 member states of the African Union. There are the least developed economies like Burundi, on one hand, and sub-regional powers like South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, on the other. Balancing the competing interests among these countries has been one of the stumbling blocks to realising the vision of a continental market. These differences have also manifested themselves in negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union.

Pursuing bilateral trade deals with the US will probably burden African economies with trade obligations that disproportionately favour highly subsidised US industries.

The US, for example, heavily subsidises agriculture. Bilateral trade deals will likely overwhelm Africa’s agricultural sector. This will in turn undermine the continent’s industrialisation goals.

AGOA has a price

Going for the extension of AGOA beyond 2025 isn’t an easy route. This is because, as the US has pointed out, few African countries that qualify for AGOA benefits have used them fully. Of 36 African countries eligible to bring in their exports to the US duty free, almost none fully utilises this preferential access.

Choosing AGOA could also mean having to give up the aim of growing domestic industries that can export products of high value. For example, Rwanda’s apparel AGOA benefits were suspended in July 2018 after Rwanda banned imports of secondhand clothes to support its own apparel industry. Kenya faced the same dilemma but chose AGOA benefits.

So, supporting renewal of Agoa may under certain conditions come at a price: the ability to become makers and exporters of high-value products.

What works

There is one issue where African countries should speak in one voice. US-Africa trade relations must be designed in a way that does not undermine the African continental free trade area’s goal of increasing intra-African trade.

This goal could save Africa billions of dollars annually by buying goods produced within the continent.

African countries should not sacrifice their collective goal of promoting intra-African trade through the African Continental Free Trade Area, and other sub-regional groups like the East African Community, by negotiating bilateral trade deals that will disproportionately favour US industries while hurting African firms.The Conversation

James Thuo Gathii, Professor of law , Loyola University Chicago

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

NYT, WSJ Look to Hawks for Ukraine Expertise

A crucial function of a free press is to present perspectives that critically examine government actions. In major articles from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal discussing the escalation of the war in Ukraine, however, such perspectives have been hard to come by—even as the stakes have reached as high as nuclear war.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated the war by announcing a mobilization of up to 300,000 extra troops (CNBC9/21/22) and threatened to use “all the means at our disposal” to ensure “the territorial integrity of our motherland” (CNBC9/23/22). A month later, a letter endorsed by 30 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus was sent to the White House (and quickly retracted), urging a “proactive diplomatic push” to reach a ceasefire in the war.

Both of these major incidents could have been an opportunity for the media to ask important questions about US policy in Ukraine, which is—according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (Wall Street Journal4/25/22)—to “weaken” Russia. Instead, elite newspapers continue to offer a very narrow range of expert opinion on a US strategy that favors endless war.

Assessing the threat

NYT: U.S. and Allies Condemn Putin’s Troop Mobilization and Nuclear Threats

Aside from Vladimir Putin, this New York Times article (9/21/22) is entirely sourced to “American and other Western officials,” “White House and Pentagon officials,” “Western officials,” the Pentagon press secretary, the British military secretary, President Biden “and other administration officials,” “current and former US military officials,” a National Security Council spokesperson, the director of Russia studies at the Pentagon-funded Center for Naval Analyses, “a former top US Army commander in Europe,” “experts,” a Russian military specialist (and former Marine) at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, “American officials and analysts,” “a former supreme allied commander for Europe,” “US intelligence and other security officials,” “officials,” “a senior State Department official” and the head of the US Strategic Command.

In the two days following Putin’s threats, the New York Times published three pieces assessing them. Of these pieces, expert analysis and commentary was provided by “military analysts” and a “director of Russia studies at the CNA defense research” (9/21/22),  a “French author” and “a former French ambassador to Russia” (9/21/22), and several current and former government officials (9/21/22).

In these articles, probably the most critical comment was provided by nameless “Western officials” who have “expressed concern that if Mr. Putin felt cornered, he might detonate a tactical nuclear weapon”—though the Times immediately reassured that “they said there was no evidence that he was moving those weapons, or preparing such a strike.” None of the officials or analysts that the Times referenced in these articles explicitly advocated for changing US policy.

In the same timeframe, the Wall Street Journal ran six articles assessing Putin’s actions, and did not find any space in these articles to criticize US policy.

Russian public opinion of the war was cited in one piece (9/21/22): 

Public interest in the invasion was initially high in February but has been declining steadily—especially among young people, who would presumably be those asked to serve in the fighting, according to a poll by the independent Levada Center earlier this month. Younger people were also far more likely to favor peace negotiations, the poll results said.

Strangely, the Journal did not cite US public opinion on peace negotiations in any of its coverage. A poll commissioned by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft (9/27/22) found most American likely voters supported the US engaging in peace negotiations. Supporting this, an IPSOS poll has reported that most Americans support the US continuing  “its diplomatic efforts with Russia” (10/6/22).  I did not find a single Journal article that mentioned the Quincy Institute or IPSOS polls. The Journal has done its own polling on American opinion regarding the war (e.g., 11/3/223/11/22); it does not ask for opinions about diplomacy as a strategy.

The Quincy and IPSOS polls are in line with Americans’ attitudes from a Gallup poll taken prior to the war, which found 73% of Americans “say that good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace” (12/17/19). It seems Americans generally favor diplomacy. A more recent Gallup poll (9/15/22) did not ask about Americans’ support for diplomacy, but whether the US was “doing enough,” which is a vague question that obfuscates whether it refers to military, diplomatic support, or other means. It also asked a question that presented only two approaches for the US to take toward conflict: “support Ukraine in reclaiming territory, even if prolonged conflict” or “end conflict quickly, even if allow Russia to keep territory.” Other diplomatic options, such as those regarding NATO’s ever-expanding footprint in Eastern Europe, were not offered.

Favoring hawkish perspectives

Intercept: House Progressives Float Diplomatic Path Toward Ending War in Ukraine, Get Annihilated, Quickly “Clarify”

Part of the reason it was so easy to make progressives back away from their pro-diplomacy letter (Intercept10/25/22) is that the views behind the letter rarely appear in major media.

The October letter calling on the White House to consider a diplomatic end to the war was signed by 30 members of Congress and endorsed by a number of nonprofit groups, including the Quincy Institute (Intercept10/25/22).

To get a sense of how much tolerance there has been for dissenting expertise on the White House’s stance in the Ukraine war, I searched the Nexis news database for mentions of the Quincy Institute. As a Washington think tank backed by major establishment funders spanning the political spectrum, including both George Soros and Charles Koch (Boston Globe6/30/19), journalists should have little reservation in soliciting comments from experts associated with it.

In a Nexis search as of November 9, the Quincy Institute was mentioned nine times in the New York Times since February 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine; five of these were in opinion pieces. Of the four reported pieces, two (7/3/229/27/22) included quotes from members of the Institute that were critical of US military strategy in Ukraine.

On the website of the Wall Street Journal, which is not fully indexed on Nexis, I turned up a single mention of the Quincy Institute in connection with Ukraine, in a piece (3/23/22) on Ukrainian lobbyists’ influence in the US.

Pro-war bias

NYT: NYT Exposes a Favorite Source as War Industry Flack

Despite exposés that show CSIS literally functions as a PR organ for the weapons industry (Extra!10/16), the think continues to be a favorite source of establishment media.

That lack of coverage is all the more stark in comparison to a hawkish think tank. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), heavily funded by the US governmentarms dealers and oil companies, is a consistently pro-war think tank: A FAIR investigation (Extra!10/16) of a year’s worth of CSIS op-eds and quotes in the New York Times failed to find any instance of the CSIS advocating for curtailment of US military policy.

At the Journal, a search for “Center for Strategic and International Studies” in Ukraine stories from February 24 to November 9 yielded 34 results. Four of these results were opinion pieces. For news articles, that’s a 30:1 ratio of the hawkish think tank to the dovish think tank.

In the same time period, CSIS appeared in the Times 44 times, according to a Nexis search, including five opinion pieces—a news ratio of just under 10:1.

It should be noted that, just as Quincy sources weren’t always quoted offering criticism of US Ukraine policy, affiliates of CSIS weren’t always advocating for an unrestrained stance in Ukraine. One even warned that “the risk of a widening war is serious right now” (New York Times4/27/22). But repeatedly reaching out to and publishing quotes from a well-known pro-war think tank will inevitably produce less critical reporting of a war than turning to the most prominent anti-war think tank in Washington.

And it’s not that these papers are seeking out “balance” from sources other than Quincy. Seven other nonprofit groups also endorsed the October letter; the New York Times has quoted a representative from one of those groups—Just Foreign Policy—exactly once (3/7/22) since the war began. The Journal has cited none. But considering the stakes at hand, reporters have a responsibility to seek out and publish such critical perspectives in their coverage of Ukraine.

Photo Credit: Neon Tommy

Originally published on, December 2, 2022. Reprinted with permission.     

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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Walker-Warnock U.S. Senate race in Georgia most expensive in 2022 cycle as runoff intensifies

By Taylor Giorno 
November 30, 2022 

The U.S. Senate race in Georgia is the most expensive contest of the 2022 cycle, according to OpenSecrets data, with spending by general election candidates and outside groups skyrocketing to $380.7 million as of Nov. 29.

Money is still pouring into the Senate race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican nominee Herschel Walker. The Georgia contest advanced to a runoff when neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote on election day. 

Both of the U.S. Senate races in Georgia, which advanced to a January runoff, were also the most expensive of the election 2020 cycle. More than $513.9 million poured into the most expensive race in which now-Sen. Jon Ossoff (D–Ga.) unseated incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R–Ga.). 

The runoff election is happening one month earlier this cycle, on Dec. 6. Early voting started on Monday – and earlier in some counties – and will end on Friday, Dec. 2. On Monday, voters set the state’s record for the most ballots cast in one day of early voting.

Warnock has raised more money than any other federal candidate this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets data. Warnock’s campaign reported raising $150.5 million through Nov. 16, according to pre-runoff filings with the Federal Election Commission, three times the $58.3 million Walker’s campaign reported raising through the same period. Warnock also reported three times as much cash on hand – $29.7 million – heading into the final weeks of the runoff election.

From Oct. 20 through Nov. 16, Warnock raised twice as much money as Walker. The incumbent Democrat reported raising $51.9 million, while his GOP challenger reported raising $20.8 million.

Unlike in 2020, Democratic control of the U.S. Senate is no longer in question, but Warnock’s reelection bid is already more expensive than his special election bid last election cycle. During the 2020 election cycle, outside groups poured $184.5 million into the special election between Warnock and incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who spent a combined $222 million.

Outside spending is also on track to blow past the inflation-adjusted $210.2 million spent by outside groups in the Warnock-Loeffler contest during the entire 2020 cycle, even with the shortened runoff timeline.

Outside groups have poured about $60 million into Georgia Senate runoff since Election Day

Outside groups have spent about $60 million to sway voters for or against their preferred candidate in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff. That’s more than one-third of the $146.3 million outside groups spent on the race on or before the 2022 general election day on Nov. 8. 

The biggest spenders are super PACs aligned with Democratic and Republican Senate leadership. The National Rifle Association has also spent big in the runoff compared to the group’s anemic spending during the general election, and two pro-Warnock “pop-up” super PACs have already dropped nearly $2.3 million into the runoff.

Georgia Honor, a super PAC funded by the Senate Majority PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), has spent nearly $52.5 million boosting Warnock and opposing Walker in the U.S. Senate race. More than $14 million has come in the three weeks since election day. 

The vast majority of that has gone to attacking Walker, with one ad calling the GOP nominee “unfit for office” and pointing to his “long record of violence toward women.” Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, told CNN in 2008 that he held a razor to her throat and once, a gun to her temple, threatening to pull the trigger.

Walker told Axios he was “accountable” for violent acts he committed against his ex-wife in December. He has spoken openly about his mental health challenges, even writing a book about his struggles with dissociative identity disorder stemming from childhood trauma. Experts told the New York Times that the disorder does not cause violent behavior.

The other top spender is the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.). Senate Leadership Fund has poured $15.3 million into the Georgia runoff, bringing their total 2022 investment in the race up to $53.7 million.

A new Senate Leadership Fund attack ad criticizes Warnock and President Joe Biden for “reckless spending” that “keeps driving up inflation,” CNN reported. The ad also claims “a low income apartment building tied to Senator Raphael Warnock is filing eviction notices against residents.” 

Walker alleged Ebenezer Baptist Church and Warnock, the church’s senior pastor, were attempting to evict Columbia Tower residents in October, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Warnock has denied the allegations, calling the attacks “vicious and venomous.”

The super PAC arm of the National Rifle Association – which spent just $639,000 boosting Walker and opposing Warnock during the general election – has spent more than $2.1 million supporting the GOP nominee and $1 million attacking the Democratic incumbent in the runoff. 

The NRA Political Victory Fund awarded Warnock an “F” rating, urging voters to “Defend Freedom. Defeat Raphael Warnock.”

One pro-Warnock “pop-up” super PAC, Worker Power PAC for Georgia, put $1.8 million into field canvassing payroll and expenses on Nov. 15, the same day after it filed a statement of organization with the FEC. 

“Pop-up” super PACs form right before an election so they can spend big now and disclose later, leaving voters in the dark about who is seeking to influence their vote. Worker Power PAC for Georgia’s pre-runoff report covering the period through Nov. 16 does not disclose any donors or expenditures, but instead reports the $1.8 million as a debt and obligation.

Another “pop-up” super PAC, Relay, spent $500,000 on “voter outreach and turnout” supporting Warnock on Nov. 27, the day before early voting started in Georgia. Relay filed a statement of organization with the FEC on Nov. 13 and did not disclose any donors in its pre-runoff report.

Originally published on November 30th, 2022 on  

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