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“Beyond Denali”: Native Americans Are So Often The Invisible Minority In Our Political Discussions

A lot of the buzz about President Obama’s trip to Alaska has centered around his decision to revert to the original name of Mt. McKinley – Mt. Denali (the name that it was given by Native Alaskans long ago). But it’s worth noting that this is not the first time this President has addressed the needs of Native Americans. There is a reason why Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker called President Obama the “best president ever for American Indians” and Chief James Allan, Coeur dAlene tribal chairman, said that he has “done more for [Native American] tribes than the last five presidents combined.”

Because Native Americans are so often the invisible minority in our political discussions, you may not have heard about the actions this administration has taken that led to those quotes. So perhaps it’s time to provide a brief overview.

Since his first year in office, President Obama has hosted an annual White House Tribal Nations Conference and issued a progress report.

In 2010, President Obama signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The United States was the last major country to do so.

Also in 2010, the President signed the Tribal Law and Order Act.

Last week, Congress took another important step to improve the lives of Native American women by passing the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. The Act includes a strong emphasis on decreasing violence against women in Native communities, and is one of many steps this Administration strongly supports to address the challenges faced by Native women.

In 2012, the Departments of Justice and Interior announced the settlement of 41 long-standing disputes with Indian tribal governments over the federal mismanagement of trust funds and resources for a total of $1.023 billion.

The Department of Justice has also been at the forefront of pushing for legislation that supports Native American voting rights.

The visit by the President and First Lady to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation in June of 2013 obviously had a profound impact. During their time there, they met with six young people “who spoke of lives affected by homelessness, alcoholism, poverty and suicide.”

“I love these young people,” Obama said shortly after meeting them. “I only spent an hour with them. They feel like my own.”

The Obamas emerged from the private conversation at a school in Cannon Ball, N.D., “shaken because some of these kids were carrying burdens no young person should ever have to carry. And it was heartbreaking,” Obama said.

The meeting spurred Obama to tell his administration to aggressively build on efforts to overhaul the Indian educational system and focus on improving conditions for Native American youths.

“It’s not very often where I tear up in the Oval Office,” Obama, speaking at the conference, said about speaking to his staff about the plight of the children he met. “I deal with a lot of bad stuff in this job. It is not very often where I get choked up, so they knew I was serious about this.”

Just one of the products of that meeting was the first ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering where the administration announced the launch of Generation Indigenous. That all comes in addition to things like the announcement this week that the Department of Education has awarded more than $50.4 million in grants to support American Indian tribally controlled colleges and universities.

And so, it should come as no surprise that one of the first items on President Obama’s agenda when he landed in Alaska was a meeting with Native leaders.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 3, 2015

September 5, 2015 Posted by | Mt Denali, Native Americans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Bibi’s Bad Gamble”: Like A Compulsive Gambler In One Of Sheldon Adelson’s Casinos, He Can’t Stop

We’re still in some suspense about the exact margin, and more importantly, whether Barack Obama will or will not have to use his veto pen. But the Iran Nuclear Deal is now quasi-certain to survive congressional review. Or we could put it another way and say that Benjamin Netanyahu’s reckless gamble in intervening in U.S. partisan politics to fight the deal has failed. As usual, writing at the Prospect, Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg has the most lucid analysis:

Forget the convoluted theories about how Netanyahu expected to lose but intends to game defeat for political advantage. He fought because he expected to stop the deal, which was a mistake, and because he thought that sinking the agreement would be good for Israel, which is a bigger mistake.

This isn’t rational. Netanyahu’s preference has been a military strike, but even his close circle of political partners balked at that, according to Ehud Barak, who spent several years as Netanyahu’s defense minister. It’s not rational to prefer an offensive that might slow the Iranian arms program for two or three years and reject an agreement because, in your view, it will “only” delay the program 10 or 15 years.

Nor is it rational to be the leader of Israel, a country known to possess a serious nuclear arsenal, yet compare yourself to the Jews who faced Nazi Germany.

Gorenberg points out that one of Bibi’s supposed assets has been his understanding of the United States. No longer, it seems.

Netanyahu’s imagined America is one in which Mitt Romney was sure to win in 2012, as can be seen from the prime minister’s behavior back then. Like the Republicans to whom he is close, he treats Obama’s presidency as a historical glitch. Like many Jewish Republicans, he expects American Jews to place Israel at the top of their voting priorities, to agree with his policies, and to wake up at last to the need to vote Republican. After all, that’s how the American Jews he knows best see things. To these misreadings, add his irrepressible impulse to jump into American politics.

And so Netanyahu has seriously alienated both Democrats–who are tired of being called anti-semites for insisting on a U.S. foreign policy that is independent of Israel’s–and American Jews–who stubbornly refuse to follow Bibi’s instructions to join a Republican Coalition cheek-by-jowl with Christian Nationalists and climate change deniers–in a losing cause. Heck of a job, Bibi.

But as Gorenberg concludes in a savage but apt comparison, Netanyahu can’t seem to help himself:

Making a toast to the Jewish New Year at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem Thursday, the prime minister insisted that “the overwhelming majority of the American people” agree with him. Those aren’t the words of someone trying to cut his losses. Like a compulsive gambler in one of Sheldon Adelson’s casinos, he can’t stop.


By; Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, September 4, 2015

September 5, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Why Was He Even Called In The First Place?”: Hillary’s Aide Right To Plead The Fifth

The Benghazi Committee is a Sham.

So many questions about Bryan Pagliano, the Clinton campaign IT guy who’s invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to testify before the Benghazi committee, and all of them—yes—swirling! Who is this guy? What’s he hiding? What did he know, and when did he know it? Egad. Trouble with a capital T.

And here’s another question about Pagliano, one that I bet maybe hasn’t occurred to some of you: Why, exactly, is the committee that is investigating the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi subpoenaing an IT guy in the first place?

Now if Trey Gowdy were here, I’d imagine he could drum up some quasi-respectable seeming answers. Well, Pagliano might have wiped Benghazi-related emails from the infamous server. But in reality, I doubt the committee even cares very much what he does or does not know about Benghazi. As I wrote Wednesday, the committee now has nothing to do with Benghazi.

And Gowdy has even basically said as much. On Fox on August 16, Chris Wallace asked Gowdy what all this email business had to do with Benghazi, and Gowdy said, “Well, probably not much of anything.” He went on to try to regain his footing by asserting that “my focus is on the four murdered Americans in Benghazi, but before I can write the final definitive accounting of that, I have to make sure that the public record is complete.”

That sounds nice and innocent, but here’s what appears to be Gowdy’s idea of a complete public record. It includes making more than 40 witnesses testify—but in private, providing testimony that has not been and evidently will never be disclosed.

Some witnesses have wanted to testify in public, the better for all of us to judge, but Gowdy said no. Former Clinton aide Cheryl Mills saw her requests to testify in public this week rebuffed by the Republican majority, so she is testifying in private—complying, even though she knows very well that doing so means that her testimony will probably be leaked selectively and out of context. She will presumably demand that the full transcript be released, as Sid Blumenthal did, and the committee will say no, as it has with Blumenthal (technically, the majority has just ignored the minority’s request for a vote on the matter).

So, all these witnesses, and we’ll never know what any of them said. We’ll just be left depending on leaks from Gowdy’s investigators to the every-hungry Times. That’s some “public record.”

In the face of that, of course Pagliano is refusing to testify. I promise you, you would too. Pagliano thought bubble: “Hmmm, let’s see. I’m being offered the opportunity to go behind closed doors before a committee that already has a history of leaking stuff to make people look as bad as they can make them look in order to establish some piece of innuendo about Clinton. And I get to run up what, $50,000 or $70,000 in legal fees for the privilege? No thank you.” The Fifth Amendment applies to Pagliano every bit as much as it applies to that great American Ollie North, who invoked it back in 1986.

Ah, 1986. I pointed out the other day that this has now gone on longer than the Church Committee hearings on intelligence abuses, which in the mid-1970s dug into extremely serious systemic abuses of power by our government. Do you know also that the 1986 Iran-contra hearings, at which North pleaded the Fifth, lasted just 10 months and 13 days? The Benghazi committee, meanwhile, has now lasted for 15 months and counting. On September 24, it will pass the duration of the Watergate committee. The Watergate committee!

Oh, and by the way, the Watergate and Iran-contra committees both called upwards of 500 witnesses each. This committee has called, as noted above, around 40. Why? Well, it may be because Gowdy is an extremely judicious fellow. Or it could be because Watergate and Iran-contra investigators had actual serious work to do, probing as they were White House-based conspiracies to violate existing U.S. law, while Gowdy is obviously just fishing around on the off chance that he finds some evidence that Clinton or an aide made some classification error that can be hung around her neck.

Yes, yes, Clinton invited all this to some extent, yadda yadda. I’ve written that plenty of times. But people need to understand just how without precedent this committee is. I can’t think of a case when a Democratic congressional majority did anything like this. The investigation into the Bush administration firing of the U.S. Attorneys comes to mind, but that was handled completely differently. No special select committee was named. Those probes were just handled by the standing Judiciary committees, and it all went down fast—Congress held its first hearings in April, and by August, the hearings were done, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others had resigned.

Gowdy will say that he has to keep his committee alive as long as the State Department is dragging its heels on turning over a few emails. Lately they’re on a mad hunt for two emails from September 29, 2012, which were about prepping Clinton for a meeting with an unnamed senator in the aftermath of the attacks. Well, at least it’s about Benghazi, in a way, although what illuminating or incriminating information could be found in an email written two-plus weeks after the attack kind of eludes me (“Remember now, Madame Secretary, DON’T mention that you ordered that the military stand down because you didn’t care if Chris Stevens died!”).

But anyway it’s a weak argument. The Bush administration too withheld many emails from Congress during the U.S. Attorneys flap, and Congress still just got on with its work as best it could. That’s what a Congress usually does—it works, a little, with the minority party, and it tries not to do anything too embarrassing to the body, tries not to precipitate a blood sport crisis. But blood sport crisis is this committee’s raison d’être. I don’t blame Pagliano a bit for not feeding them his carcass to gnaw on.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 4, 2015

September 5, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Adding Insult With Significant Physical Injury”: The 2016 Campaign Joke That’s No Longer Funny — Just Violent

Let’s be honest: We’ve all been kind of enjoying watching Donald Trump, even if the prospect of him becoming the next president makes many of us shudder in horror.

But as he continues to lead in national polls, Trump’s campaign is giving us all another reason to pause: As of late, physical violence has been following the candidate on the campaign trail, and leaving those who dare challenge his offensive remarks and policy positions shaken up at best, banged up and bruised at worst. The common thread among those attacked by Trump’s goons (both hired and not): They’re all Latino men.

On Thursday, while Donald Trump was signing a GOP loyalty oath, promising to back the winning Republican presidential nominee and not run as an independent should he lose the party’s nomination, one of his security guards ripped a sign away from protesters outside Trump Tower in New York City and then hit a protester in the face after the man attempted to retrieve the sign.

The large blue banner read, “Make America Racist Again,” a play on Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

In news video footage, the protester who was hit, Efraín Galicia, is seen chasing after the security guard. As Galicia attempts to take back the sign, the guard turns and hits him in the face.

“These men are acting just like their boss, Donald Trump, pushing Jorge Ramos from Univision out,” Galicia said of the guards. “This man thinks he can do whatever he wants in this country, and we’re going to stop him.”

“The Trump campaign said that the security team member on Thursday was ‘jumped from behind’ and that the campaign would ‘likely be pressing charges,’” The New York Times reports.

This week’s strong-arming follows an August incident in which journalist Jorge Ramos was physically removed from a Trump campaign event by a security guard — who appears to be the same man who struck the protester outside Trump Tower.

When Ramos attempted to ask Trump a question about immigration, without being acknowledged to speak by The Donald, Trump told him to sit down and “Go back to Univision.” Later, Trump said he was not a bully, and Ramos “was totally out of line.”

In the most physically violent example of what Trump and his campaign have wrought, two of the candidate’s supporters in Boston allegedly beat and urinated on a homeless Latino man, after which one of the attackers reportedly told police, “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”

The survivor of the assault, a 58-year-old man who had been sleeping on the street, had his nose broken and chest and arms beaten by the suspects, two brothers who were leaving a Boston Red Sox game.

Adding insult to significant physical injury, Trump’s immediate comment on the attack was callous and cruel. The Boston Globe reports:

Trump, told of the alleged assault, said “it would be a shame … I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

Later, he tempered his original statement, claiming on Twitter that he “would never condone violence.”

Boston incident is terrible. We need energy and passion, but we must treat each other with respect. I would never condone violence.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2015

He “would never condone violence,” Trumps says, but he would, and has, proposed deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, stripping citizenship rights from the American children of undocumented immigrants, and building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep out immigrants, refugees, and political asylum seekers fleeing poverty and violence in their countries. He has also said he would bomb nations in the Middle East and take their oil by military force. But, again, he “would never condone violence.”

While Trump himself has not put his hands on anyone, his rhetoric against undocumented immigrants, his choice of words, which dehumanizes Latino immigrants as “illegals,” and his responses to the violent altercations occurring in his name make him responsible.

What began as comical media fodder that has kept us smiling in disgust during the start of the long 2016 presidential campaign season has devolved into violent hate with bodily consequences. And with five months to go until the GOP primaries begin, Americans should be worried about how politics, sometimes described as the civilized exertion of power, is turning into a blood sport.


By: Matt Surrusco, The National Memo, September 4, 2015

September 5, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Latinos, Physical Violence | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Racism, Violence And The Politics Of Resentment”: It Shouldn’t Be Hard To Recognize Two Truths

We have a choice to make.

We can look at violence and racism as scourges that all of us must join together to fight. Or we can turn the issues of crime and policing into fodder for racial and political division.

In principle, it shouldn’t be hard to recognize two truths.

Too many young African Americans have been killed in confrontations with police when lethal force should not have been used. We should mourn their deaths and demand justice. Black Lives Matter turned into a social movement because there is legitimate anger over the reality that — to be very personal about it — I do not have to worry about my son being shot by the police in the way an African American parent does.

At the same time, too many of our police officers are killed while doing their jobs. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 1,466 men and women in law enforcement died in the line of duty over the past decade. We should mourn their deaths, appreciate the dangers they face and honor their courage.

Now I’ll admit: It’s easy for me to type these words on a computer screen. Circumstances are more complicated for those on either side of confrontations over the obligations of our police officers. Things get said (or, often, shouted) that call forth a reaction from the other side. A few demonstrators can scream vile slogans that can be used to taint a whole movement. Rage escalates.

Moreover, there are substantive disagreements over what needs to be done. Those trying to stop unjust police killings want to establish new rules and practices that many rank-and-file officers resist, arguing that the various measures could prevent them from doing their jobs. This resistance, in turn, only heightens mistrust of the police among their critics.

But politicians and, yes, even political commentators have an obligation: to try to make things better, not worse. There is always a choice between the politics of resentment and the politics of remedy. Resentment is easier.

And so it was this week that the murder of Texas Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth inspired Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to say on Monday: “Whether it’s in Ferguson or Baltimore, the response of senior officials of the president, of the attorney general, is to vilify law enforcement. That is fundamentally wrong, and it is endangering the safety and security of us all.” For good measure, the next day, Cruz condemned President Obama’s “silence” on Goforth’s murder.

The problem? For starters, Obama was not silent. He called the slain officer’s widow on Monday and issued a statement saying he had told Kathleen Goforth “that Michelle and I would keep her and her family in our prayers. I also promised that I would continue to highlight the uncommon bravery that the police show in our communities every single day. They put their lives on the line for our safety.” Obama has made statements of this sort over and over. Vilification this is not.

Over at Fox News, the campaign against Black Lives Matter has become fierce. Bill O’Reilly called the organization a “hate group” and declared: “I’m going to put them out of business.”

Let’s take five steps back. The movement for police reform was not the invention of some leftist claque. It was a response to real and genuinely tragic events. Silencing protesters won’t make anything better.

And some potential solutions don’t even make the political agenda. The easy availability of guns on U.S. streets is a threat to the police and to African Americans in our most violent neighborhoods. Why are those who seek reasonable gun regulations regularly blocked by interests far more powerful than those who demonstrate in our streets?

On April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy — who himself would be fatally shot exactly two months later — said this to the Cleveland City Club:

“Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily — whether it is done in the name of the law or in defiance of the law, by one man or by a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence — whenever we tear at the fabric of our lives which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, whenever we do this, then the whole nation is degraded.”

How much more pain must we endure before we recognize that these words are still true?

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 2, 2015

September 5, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Law Enforcement, Racism | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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