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SLAPP LAWSUITS: THE BIGGEST THREAT TO THE RESISTANCE YOU NEVER...

Robert Reich - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 19:18


SLAPP LAWSUITS: THE BIGGEST THREAT TO THE RESISTANCE YOU NEVER HEARD OF

Have you heard of SLAPP lawsuits? You soon will.

SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” It is a lawsuit brought by big corporations intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the overwhelming costs of a legal defense until they’re forced to abandon their criticism or opposition. And it may be the biggest threat to the resistance you’ve never heard of.  

Here’s an example: Resolute Forest Products, one of Canada’s largest logging and paper companies, has sued, in a U.S. court, environmental groups that have been campaigning to save Canada’s boreal forest. 

Resolute based its lawsuit on a U.S. conspiracy and racketeering law (RICO) intended to ensnare mobsters. Resolute alleged that the environmental groups have been illegally conspiring to extort the company’s customers and to defraud their own donors. 

The suit wasn’t designed to win in court. It was designed to distract and silence critics. This is punishment for speaking out. Thankfully, a federal court agrees and a judge just dismissed Resolute’s claims. But other corporate bullies are still trying to use this playbook.

Here’s another example: Remember the indigenous led movement at Standing Rock, when hundreds of nations and their allies came together and stood up against the destructive Dakota Access Pipeline? 

In August, Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind that pipeline, filed a similar RICO case against Greenpeace entities and two other defendants over Standing Rock. The suit accuses them of participating in a sprawling criminal conspiracy to disrupt business and defraud donors. The lawsuit even alleges they support eco-terrorism and engage in drug trafficking.

The lawsuit claims Greenpeace cost the company $300 million. Since RICO claims entitle plaintiffs to recover triple damages, the case potentially could cost Greenpeace $900 million. That would be the end of Greenpeace.

But, again, winning isn’t necessarily the goal of SLAPP suits. Just by filing the suits, Energy Transfer Partners and Resolute are trying to drain environmental groups of time, energy, and resources they need, so they can’t continue to fight to protect the environment.

Connect the dots, and consider the chilling effect SLAPP suits are having on any group seeking to protect public health, worker’s rights, and even our democracy. 

Who’s behind all of this? Both the lawsuits I just mentioned were filed by Michael Bowe. He is also a member of Donald Trump’s personal legal team. Bowe has publicly stated that he’s in conversations with other corporations considering filing their own SLAPP lawsuits.

If the goal is to silence public-interest groups, the rest of us must speak out. Wealthy corporations must know  they can’t SLAPP the public into silence.

Sexual Harassment Man Purge

Ted Rall - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 00:05

Many men, especially those who think that they may have misbehaved with women in the past, are living in fear, wondering whether or not that they are going to be charged or accused of sexual harassment. While there is definitely a tendency to overcorrect in situations like this, the idea that living in fear is new is kind of laughable.

Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America

Ted Rall - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 15:23

Publication Date: December 12, 2017

Order at  Indiebound!
Order at Amazon!
Order at Barnes and Noble.

Legendary infiltration journalist Harmon Leon is at it again, this time teaming up with ferocious political cartoonist Ted Rall answer the question most of America has been asking: “What the hell happened in 2016?” In their new book, Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America, Leon goes deep undercover into the heart of Trump America, and Rall–two-time winner of the RFK Journalism Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist–adds an innovative extra dimension to the book with his own essays and full-color cartoons.

Running throughout Meet the Deplorables, Rall’s distinctive artwork enhances the insightful and often irreverent tone employed by Leon–an award-winning New York journalist whose stories have appeared in VICE, Esquire, The Nation, and National Geographic. In his inimitable Gonzo-style, Leon’s carefully crafted narrative is designed to help us understand (and humanize) the “deplorables,” a word used by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign to describe the racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic supporters of Donald J. Trump.

For the sake of humor and satire, Leon ventures where elite coastal journalists dare not: deep into Red State territory, where his audacious accounts vicariously take readers on a journey of enlightenment by providing a fresh and first-hand perspective of right-wing subcultures and those most adversely affected by Trump’s appalling policies on immigration, healthcare reform, and race relations. His exploits include:

– visiting an anti-Muslim hate group during the height of Islamophobia
– knocking door-to-door as a canvasser for the Trump campaign
– joining a conversion therapy group that tries to “turn” homosexuals straight
– attending a gun store wedding where couples seal vows by firing assault rifles
– watching fanatics receive free Trump tattoos
– participating in a Christian purity ring ceremony in Ohio.

This unique collaboration between the formidable team of Harmon Leon and Ted Rall holds up a mirror to modern conservative life and reflects a reality that is outrageous, entertaining, and always illuminating.

Current Events/Biography, 2017
39 West Press Hardback, 6″x9″, 240 pp., $27.95

To Order A Personally Signed Copy directly from Ted: Information TBA

Why Making American Corporations More Competitive Doesn’t Help Most Americans

Robert Reich - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 14:46
Trump and congressional Republicans are engineering the largest corporate tax cut in history in...

Pre-Order “Meet the Deplorables” Now!

Ted Rall - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 09:19

My new book with Harmon Leon doesn’t come out until the 12th but you can pre-order it now!

Barnes and Noble: click here.

IndieBound: click here.

Amazon: TBA

I promise, if you’re into my stuff you’ll love Harmon’s writing and take on things too. This is a great collaboration.

FYI advance orders have a big impact on a book’s success, and thus are a big help. Also, think of the children! This makes a great holiday gift for the Trump hater or lover in your life.

Starvation and Cholera in Yemen, With US Assistance

Common Dreams: Views - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 06:45
Adil E. Shamoo

War is taking Yemen back to the dark ages.

Both Parties Pushed Trump Toward Reckless Action on Jerusalem

Common Dreams: Views - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 06:15
Stephen Zunes

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital further threatens Israeli-Palestinian peace, breaks international law, and risks a violent and destabilizing reaction in the region—which may be exactly the plan

Turning the Sexual Harassment Corner

Ted Rall - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 00:13

One after another, there have been important moments during which a national conversation about sexual harassment prompted political observers to believe that society had turned decisively against a culture of systemic sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere. Yet those moments always faded. Is the post-Harvey Weinstein moment different? Only the future will tell.

Remarks by Ralph Nader on Senators’ Calls for Al Franken’s Resignation

Ralph Nader - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 16:36
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 6, 2017 Remarks by Ralph Nader Many Democratic Senators have demanded that Senator Al Franken resign immediately from the US Senate over accusations by six women that Senator Franken made unwanted advances and engaged in sexual … Continue reading →

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Will President Trump Last Another Year?

Ted Rall - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 16:00

Some political experts doubted that Donald J. Trump would tough it out this long. This, after all, was a very strange man, possibly afflicted by obsessive-compulsive disorder to the point that he even floated the idea of staying in New York.

He moved to Washington. But Trump’s dangerous old compulsions remain: Twitter diarrhea. Impulsiveness. Recklessness. He insults adversaries whose cooperation he needs. He’s allergic to compromise. Will these character defects destroy him politically in 2018?

The odds of Trump remaining president by the end of next year, I said recently, were significantly less than 50%. I still think that’s true. But as noted above, we have a tendency to underestimate this highly inestimable man. The will-Trump-survive question is an equation with many variables.

One thing is clear: “The Resistance,” as the left-center political forces aligned against Trump and the Republicans grandiosely call themselves, is a null force. If Trump is forced out of office, it won’t have much to do with these Hillary Clinton supporters. The Resistance’s street activism peaked out with the Women’s March on January 21, 2017. They are, in Trumpspeak, Losers.

Russiagate, the allegation that Putin’s government “hacked the election” for Trump, still hasn’t risen above the level of a 9/11 Truther conspiracy theory — not one iota of actual evidence has appeared in the media. (Sorry, so-called journalists, “a source in the intelligence community believes that” is not evidence, much less proof.)

But Russiagate led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller’s sweeping powers and authority to pursue any wrongdoing he finds regardless of whether or not it’s related to Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election has already led to the downfall and flipping of ex-Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn.

Mueller’s pet rats may never turn up a smoking-gun connection between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. But they likely know where Trump’s bodies are buried. In addition to obstruction of justice — to which Trump de facto pled guilty in one of his insipid tweets — charges related to sleazy business dealings are a strong possibility. Was/is Trump in deep with Russian oligarchs and corrupt government officials? Perhaps not — but he’s an amoral real estate developer who follows money wherever it leads, including authoritarian regimes where transparency is nonexistent.

Behind every great fortune, Balzac wrote, there is a crime. Trump’s cash hoard probably results from many more than a single illegal act.

Impeachment or resignation? Having researched Trump for my 2016 biography, Trump is more likely to give away his fortune to charity than slink away in a Nixonian resignation. His ego is too big; he’s too pugnacious. He’d rather get dragged out kicking and screaming — unless it’s part of a deal with Mueller or other feds to avoid prosecution.

So impeachment it would need to be.

But no political party in control of both houses of Congress has ever impeached a sitting president of its own party. And there’s another powerful countervailing force protecting Trump from impeachment: Republicans’ self-preservation instinct.

GOP lawmakers suffered devastating losses in the 1974 midterm election following Nixon’s near-impeachment/resignation. Democrats did OK in 1998, after Bill Clinton was impeached — but that was an outlier impacted by the biggest boom economy ever.

In the long term, the Republican Party would probably be better off without Trump. But Congressmen and Senators live in the here and now. Here and now, or more precisely in 2018, Republicans know that many of them would lose their jobs following a Trump impeachment.

Despite those considerations, I think that, in the end, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans are more likely to calculate that pulling the impeachment trigger is worth the likely losses in the fall.

Reason #1 is personal: Paul Ryan’s presidential ambitions. As I speculated in February, I believe Ryan wants to be president in 2020. As Speaker of the House, he’s the one person who can launch impeachment proceedings. I can easily imagine the following quid pro quo: Ryan gets rid of Trump, Pence agrees not to run in 2020, Ryan runs with Pence’s endorsement.             Reason #2 is meta: to save the Republican Party as Ryan and McConnell know it. Here’s what I said in February: “Becoming the party of impeachment at a time when impeachment is popular transforms crisis into opportunity, allowing Republicans to cleanse their Trump-era sins (trying to repeal the increasingly well-received Obamacare, paying for the Great Wall of Mexico with deficit spending, etc.) and seize the moral high ground in one swoop. Vice President Mike Pence takes the helm, steadies the ship, promotes their right-wing agenda with more grace than his former boss, and Ryan and his buddies prepare for 2020.”

If anything, the GOP is in bigger trouble now.

Trump’s approval ratings hover between 35% and 40%. More worrisome for him and the Republicans, his support is shaky while those who hate him are firmly entrenched in their beliefs.

Approval of the Republican Party has hit 29%, the lowest ever recorded.

After failing to repeal Obamacare, the Republicans finally scored their first legislative victory last week when the Senate passed a sweeping series of tax cuts — but it’s wildly unpopular (52% against, 25% for). Pyrrhic much?

GOP elders were already fretting that Trump was ruining the GOP brand following the alt-right riots in Charlottesville. What they’re about to realize (if they haven’t already) is that the president has also undermined one of the party’s strongest longstanding arguments: “The government should be run like a great American company,” as Jared Kushner said in March. “Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”

Voters have watched Trump’s staff churn through one resignation and shakeup after another, the president diss his own sitting cabinet members, with no sign of his campaign’s stated goals being talked about, much less executed. The Trump Administration has been characterized by communication breakdowns, chaos, mismanagement and waste — and has little to show for its efforts.

This is the current face of the Republican Party: corrupt, stupid and inept. Ryan and McConnell know they must disassociate the GOP from Trump.

They have to destroy their party in order to save it.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out December 12th. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

The Blog Moves On

Paul Krugman - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 14:04
But the show goes on.

Everyone Hates This Tax Bill

Common Dreams: Views - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 13:45
Josh Hoxie

The more the public learns about the tax cut plan making its way through Congress, the more they hate it.

The GOP Tax Plan Is Igniting a Movement for a Moral Economy

Common Dreams: Views - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 13:00
Sarah Anderson

While Republicans may succeed in scoring a short-term win for their donors, their tax plan is sparking a new moral movement against inequality.

The Republicans’ Devious Tax Attack on the People

Common Dreams: Views - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 11:12
Ralph Nader

Slashing and burning in every direction, this legislation endangers the financial security of regular Americans of every age and every occupation.

President Trump Starts a Conservation War

Common Dreams: Views - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 10:39
Kristin Miller

Retailers like Patagonia and REI are joining advocacy groups to battle for Bears Ears.

#MeToo Solidarity: Sexual Harassment is About Labor Too

Common Dreams: Views - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 10:23
Lane Windham

Union women, too, can demand that their organizations lead the nation’s response on sexual harassment; after all, more than half of the nation’s union members will soon be women.

The Republicans’ Devious Tax Attack on the People

Ralph Nader - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 10:22
By Ralph Nader December 6, 2017 Have the Republican greed-hound toadies gone too far? How much are the American people going to take before they replace the reckless Republicans in the next election? Low and middle-income Americans are bracing for … Continue reading →

Headlines Ignore the Abuse Reports That Make Moore Endorsement Newsworthy

Common Dreams: Views - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 10:10
Adam Johnson

Only 40 percent of readers read past the headlines, which means most people form their worldview based on how a story is framed.

“Every Darn Penny”: The GOP’s Philosophy on Death and Taxes

Common Dreams: Views - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 09:45
Richard Eskow

The Republican philosophy to reward those who need it least.

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