Clinton Needs Sanders Supporters to Win, But Sanders Needs Clinton Supporters to Change the System


Excerpt from: The Nation

The chaos at the Nevada State Convention highlights the perils of constantly calling your party corrupt.

By Joshua Holland MAY 24, 2016

Nevada_State_Convention_AP.jpgSupporters of Bernie Sanders gathered in the front of the room during the Nevada State Democratic Party’s 2016 State Convention. (Chase Stevens / Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

Bernie Sanders is in a strong position to shake up Democratic Party politics. But the chaos at last week’s Nevada state convention reveals a real possibility that his candidacy could end up as little more than a footnote in the story of the 2016 campaign.

Sanders didn’t get into the race because of ego, or a quest for personal power. In 2013, John Nichols reported for The Nation that Sanders doubted he would run for president if another candidate offered “a seriously focused and seriously competitive populist alternative to politics as usual.” A year later, he told Salon he was considering a run because “the nature of media is that presidential campaigns…are a means…of getting these issues out there.”

In that sense, it’s impossible to overstate how successful he’s been. Not only because he’s won 20 primary contests, or moved Hillary Clinton demonstrably to the left on a number of key issues—for the first time in five years, a majority of Americans say it’s the government’s responsibility “to make sure all Americans have health-care coverage,” and a plurality—including most Democrats—are now in favor of tuition-free public colleges and universities.

Meanwhile, according to a Morning Consult survey, Sanders is now the most popular senator on Capitol Hill. He has an opportunity to end the race as one of the most popular presidential candidates in recent history.

But the kinds of sweeping, transformational changes that Sanders calls for have only ever been achieved with a coordinated inside/outside strategy. While Sanders supporters are quick to note that Hillary Clinton can’t win the 2016 election without their support, many of them overlook the fact that the broader progressive movement can’t achieve the goals Sanders champions if it alienates those who backed Clinton.

The Sanders campaign has created serious progressive infrastructure independent of the Democratic Party. As Micah Sifry reported for The Nation back in March, they’ve given thousands of activists the tools they need to fight effectively at the local level. So that’s the “outside” part of the strategy.

If Clinton becomes the 45th president, the course of her her presidency will in large part be shaped by what can get through the next Congress. Zack Exley, the former organizing director for MoveOn and until recently a key adviser to Sanders, was among a group of staffers who left the campaign last month to launch the Brand New Congress PAC to push lawmakers to adopt key parts of Sanders’s progressive agenda. And Sanders could become part of an influential group of progressive lawmakers—along with Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, and others—advancing that agenda from the inside.

But what could be a potent inside/outside strategy won’t amount to much if it’s embraced only by those who supported Sanders’s candidacy. Which brings us to the Nevada State Convention, where tensions within the Democratic coalition really came to a boil.

Now that the dust has settled, a few facts have become clear.

It’s true that the Nevada Democratic Party bears some blame for the bedlam that unfolded. “Could they have done anything to mitigate the anger? I’m 100 percent certain that the answer is ‘yes,’” Jon Ralston, the veteran Nevada political reporter, told me. Then, in the wake of the chaos, the state party threw gas on the fire by publicly accusing Sanders supporters of throwing chairs, issuing death threats, and committing acts of violence—claims that were widely repeated by the media, but don’t appear to be supported by the available evidence.

But the lion’s share of the responsibility for what happened rests with Sanders supporters who refused to accept that the Clinton campaign had out-organized them and come into the convention with more delegates.

Nevada has a ridiculously complicated, three-tiered caucus system. Clinton had won the first round in February, and took home 13 of the 23 delegates awarded at that stage of the process. The win also gave her more delegate slots for the second round—the county conventions in April. But delegates are real people with real lives, and getting them to go to a convention months after they’re elected can be tough. The Sanders campaign did a better job getting their people to the county conventions and, despite losing the first round, they actually ended up with more delegate slots for the state convention than the Clinton team.

So they thought they had “flipped” the results for the 12 delegates that would be awarded at the state convention last week. But, as Politifact Nevada noted in its analysis—which concluded that the Sanders camp’s claims of fraud and misconduct were “false”—this time, it was the Sanders campaign that got out-hustled, leaving almost 500 of their slots unfilled. The Clinton campaign, on the other hand, go their people to fill all but a handful of their slots.

Sanders supporters were then outraged that the Clinton camp had challenged 64 delegates for not registering before the deadline or not providing required information, but they haven’t disputed the state party’s claim that only eight of the 64 contested delegates showed up at the convention and six of them were eventually seated.

At the convention, Sanders supporters offered a number of procedural motions in an attempt to gain control of the proceedings. They were obviously opposed by Clinton’s attendees. Nevada party chair Roberta Lange took voice votes on these motions, and there was a lot of outrage in Berniestan after videos surfaced that appeared to show her ruling against the Sanders side even though the Sanders supporters were louder.

But Ralston explains that she was right to rule against the Sanders camp’s motions, because there were more Clinton delegates in the room. “Roberta Lange knew from the credential report that the Clinton side had more people,” says Ralston. “The Sanders people were clearly louder, in my opinion, but that’s not how voice votes work. Lange went with the numbers.”

So there was lots of drama, but what stands out about the Nevada ruckus is how little was at stake. Barring some extraordinary occurrence like a meteor striking the hotel, one candidate was always going to emerge with seven of those at-large delegates, while the other would walk away with five. That those two delegates would affect the ultimate outcome of the primaries is about as likely as that meteor strike.

The key point is that the whole brouhaha was ultimately fueled by the widely held belief among Sanders supporters that Clinton’s victories are illegitimate—that she’s on the verge of clinching the nomination only because of the DNC’s chicanery or media bias. At some point, they need to understand that Sanders is trailing in this race because his campaign hasn’t resonated with key groups of Democratic primary voters—African Americans, women, and people over the age of 45.

Most of those voters aren’t right-wingers or sell-outs or “establishment shills,” and if Sanders’s campaign alienates them too badly, he’ll end up with as much influence over the future of the party as Ralph Nader. So yes, Hillary Clinton needs Sanders’s supporters to win the 2016 election, but Sanders needs Clinton’s backers to bring about any real change in Democratic Party politics. It’s a two-way street.

JOSHUA HOLLAND is a contributor to The Nation and a fellow with The Nation Institute. He’s also the host of Politics and Reality Radio.

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Urge Your Rep. To Support The Conyers Amendment To Block Transfer Of Cluster Bombs To Saudi Arabia


Excerpt from: Just Foreign Policy

Reps. Conyers (MI), Grijalva (AZ), Ellison (MN), and McGovern (MA) have introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which would prevent any money in the bill from being used to facilitate the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has used U.S.-supplied cluster bombs in civilian areas in Yemen, killing and wounding civilians, in defiance of U.S. law.

Urge your Rep. to support the Conyers-Grijalva-Ellison-McGovern NDAA amendment by signing our petition at MoveOn.

Passage of this amendment would be a step towards compliance with Human Rights Watch’s demand that the U.S. stop the production and transfer of cluster bombs completely, consistent with the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It would also be a step towards fulfilling the demands of Sens. Murphy and Paul and Reps. Yoho and Lieu that U.S. weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia be conditioned on efforts to limit casualties in the Saudi war in Yemen.

It was taboo to criticize Saudi Arabia. Now even Republicans are doing it. A former Republican member of the 9/11 commission said yesterday he believes there was clear evidence that Saudi government employees were part of a support network for the 9/11 hijackers and that the administration should move quickly to declassify a long-secret congressional report on Saudi ties to the 9/11 attack.

Urge your Representative to support the Conyers-Grijalva-Ellison-McGovern NDAA amendment by signing and sharing our petition.

Thanks for all you do to help make U.S. foreign policy more just,

Robert Naiman, Avram Reisman, and Sarah Burns
Just Foreign Policy

Help support our work!

If you think our work is important, support us with a $15 donation.
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© 2016 Just Foreign Policy

Anti-Muslim Racial Profiling On Planes Must Stop


Excerpt from: CREDO Action

Someone like me shouldn’t have to be worried about getting kicked off a plane for scribbling down a math equation on a piece of paper. But if a fellow passenger on a U.S. airline decides I look suspicious because of the color of my skin, that’s exactly what might happen. In fact it already has.

Last week, Guido Menzio, a decorated Ivy League economist was removed from an American Airlines flight because his seatmate expressed concerns after seeing him writing in a notebook before take-off. Menzio, who has “dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent,” was taken off the plane for questioning.1 His suspicious scribblings? Math equations. His nationality? Italian.

This is just the latest instance of the unlawful, bigoted profiling of airline passengers whose skin color, dress, actions or speech make airline passengers or staff think they are Muslim. It’s an extreme, but all-too-common consequence of the racism, xenophobia and fear that politicians and pundits have stoked since the 9/11 terror attacks. As the Republican party gets ready to fully endorse Donald Trump’s platform of xenophobia and bigotry, we cannot let the U.S. airline industry legitimize this kind of racial profiling fueled by hate against Muslims. It’s time to push back.

Under our current laws, an airline “may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry.”2 The Department of Transportation is authorized to prevent and seek redress for acts of discrimination.3 Given the increasing frequency of, and seemingly arbitrary grounds for, the removal of Muslims and passengers who others perceive to be Muslim from U.S. domestic airlines, it’s clear that the Department of Transportation (DOT) needs to act.

In addition to Mr. Menzio’s case, here are some other recent examples:

Khairuldeen Makhzoom, a student at the University of California at Berkeley, was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight after a fellow passenger complained about his use of Arabic. An Arabic-speaking Southwest employee allegedly asked him: “Why would you speak in Arabic on the airplane? It’s dangerous. You know the environment around the airport. You understand what’s going on in this country.” Makhzoom was then searched publicly while a crowd in the airport terminal watched and was interrogated by the FBI.4

  • Hakima Abdulle, who was wearing a hijab, was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight after a flight attendant told her she could not switch seats with another passenger. The flight attendant later said she “did not feel comfortable” with Abdulle.5
  • Three Muslim passengers and one Sikh passenger were removed from an American Airlines flight after the captain and crew reportedly “‘felt uneasy and uncomfortable with their presence on the flight and as such, refused to fly unless they were removed from the flight.’”6

This clear pattern of discriminatory treatment, based on racial profiling, painfully highlights the way that internalized bias and bigotry against Muslims leads too many Americans to perceive Muslims as a threat. It also makes clear that airline staff are not adequately equipped to respond to their own, or others’ bias, in a way that protects the rights of passengers who are being racially profiled. Instead, the bias leads to further discrimination. The Department of Transportation must take action now.

Our allies at Muslim Advocates and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund just sent a letter to the DOT asking them to take four concrete steps to prevent future incidents of profiling.7 They urge the DOT to:

  • Fully investigate and publicly report on investigation findings regarding all alleged instances of racial and religious profiling involving Muslim passengers;
  • Require air carriers to take remedial action if they are found to have profiled passengers on the basis of their race or religion;
  • Implement regulations requiring airlines to provide personnel with training on anti-racism and implicit bias, and to implement strong anti-discrimination policies concerning racial and religious profiling; and,
  • Track and publish monthly summaries of the discrimination complaints filed against U.S. airlines and the action taken by the Department in response.

The more of us who add our voices, the more powerful that message will be.

Tell the Department of Transportation:
“Use your authority to immediately investigate and stop the bigoted and paranoid racial profiling that is leading to discriminatory treatment of passengers on U.S. airlines.”

Go to the link below to sign the petition:

http://act.credoaction.com/sign/Stop_Airline_Profiling?t=7&akid=18055.7785905.g3C84c

Thanks for standing up against anti-Muslim bigotry today,

Murshed Zaheed, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

References:

Catherine Rampell, “Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight, Washington Post, May 7, 2016.
49 US Code 40127: Prohibitions on discrimination
“Muslim Advocates and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Pen Letter to US Department of Transportation Urging Immediate Action to Prevent Profiling of Airline Passengers,” May 11, 2016.
Liam Stack, “College Student Is Removed from Flight After Speaking Arabic on Plane, N.Y. Times, April 17, 2016.
Hugh Morris, “Muslim Women Removed from Plane After Staring at Flight Attendant,” The Telegraph, March 9, 2016.
Laura Ly, “3 Muslims, Sikh Kicked Off Flight Because of Their Looks, Lawsuit Says,” CNN, January 18, 2016.
“Muslim Advocates and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Pen Letter to US Department of Transportation Urging Immediate Action to Prevent Profiling of Airline Passengers,” May 11, 2016.

© 2016 CREDO. All rights reserved.

Two Articles On Trump Scarier Than Most


What happened to the ‘best’ people for Trump? By Jennifer Rubin, Right Turn, Washington Post Opinion, May 10, 2016

Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump boasted that he would get “great” people, the “best” people to work for him. As the campaign wore on, it turned out the best people did not want to work for him. He came up with a hodgepodge of under-qualified or downright flaky foreign policy advisers.

The problem is that a great many qualified people do not want to work with him and certainly do not want to be his VP (e.g., South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Ohio Gov. John Kasich). Now we see just how troubling is his judgment in advisers.

Corey Lewandowski, not a lawyer but someone who was charged with battery (charges later were dropped) and sought to smear the accuser, is now going to oversee the VP selection process. Do we think Lewandowski can pick out people who are respectful of others, have high standards and would contribute something other than “Yes, Mr. President” to the administration? Probably not.

Then there is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is overseeing the transition team. (Usually candidates wait at least until after the nomination.) That’s odd since Christie has never served in an administration (other than as a U.S. attorney), has picked fights with Congress, was tutored by foreign policy experts for months and then embraced a candidate who shared none of those positions, and managed to burn bridges with serious conservatives over his embrace of Trump. It’ll be fascinating to see how he figures out which sorts of people go with which jobs, let alone finds anyone to fill them.

And let’s not forget he tapped Steven Mnuchin (a Democratic money man, ex-Goldman Sachs employee and failed movie investor who skipped out before a bankruptcy filing) as his finance director. I suppose we should be thankful he is not the first pick for treasury secretary. (Oh, gosh, what if. . .)

Finally, there is Paul Manafort, former representative to the “Torturer’s Lobby” whose connections to Russia are so problematic it may complicate Trump’s national security briefing. (“Trump’s top adviser, Paul Manafort, has spent much of his recent career working for pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, and doing complex deals for an oligarch with close ties to Putin. And while a Democratic senator has already charged Trump is not responsible enough to receive secret information, Manafort’s deep relationships with top pro-Russian figures raise special concerns.”) Surely Manafort is likely to be rewarded with a plum position if Trump wins. Secretary of state? National security adviser? One can only imagine.

This, you see, is one of the big problems with Trump’s policy promises, including court nominees (not just the Supreme Court but also lower courts). The people around him are not equipped to put in place an administration of quality people who can shape and implement policy or vet and recommend judges. Trump values loyalty above all, regardless of experience, competence or character. Imagine an entire administration full of Lewandowskis and Roger Stones. These people will have the power of the IRS, the Justice Department, countless regulatory agencies and, of course, the armed forces. Between public servants who take themselves out of the running and qualified people dubbed to be insufficiently loyal and subservient to Trump, the quality of a Trump administration will make the Obama team look like superstars by comparison.

It is, quite frankly, a recipe for corruption and self-dealing as Trump and his minions use the levers of government to reward friends and punish enemies. Some of the worst nominees will get weeded out by Congress, but many others will get rubber stamped. The White House staff, of course, is not subject to congressional confirmation (which is an excellent reason to chop it down to size).

If one selects a president who is intellectually and unethically unfit, you’re practically guaranteeing the vast majority of his staff and appointments will be so as well. Quality attracts quality, and the reverse is true as well.

 

Can Donald Trump Hold The Same Policy Position For Longer Than 24 Hours?
Submitted by Brian Tashman, rightwingwatch.org, 4/22/2016

Donald Trump, it seems, has mastered the art of the flip-flop.

The GOP presidential frontrunner’s strategy seems to be: Make a statement in an interview, see if it sticks and, if the backlash is swift, release a statement saying that you never really meant what you said and instead agree with whatever is currently the more popular opinion on the matter.

Yesterday, Trump changed his stance on North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law in less than 24 hours, offering one opinion on “Today” in the morning and another on “Hannity” that night.

The shift, which came after Trump faced criticism from his leading GOP rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and conservative activists, was far from the first time Trump has made such an abrupt change in a policy position. Here are just five instances where the GOP presidential frontrunner has made similarly swift reversals:

1) Abortion
Trump has made a big deal out of the fact that he, like Ronald Reagan, was once adamantly pro-choice but is now an opponent of abortion rights. When asked at a MSNBC town hall event if he believes women should be punished for having abortions if he is successful in outlawing the procedure, Trump meandered before eventually concluding that “there has to be some form of punishment.”

In a statement released hours later, Trump said that it should be left to the states to determine what, if any, punishment women should face for having an illegal abortion. His campaign then sent out yet another statement saying that Trump would only seek to punish abortion providers rather than the women who have abortions, stating that the woman is, in fact, “a victim.”

The next day, following his reversal, Trump defended his initial answer, saying that he “didn’t see any big deal” about his original remarks about punishing women and boasting that “a lot of people thought my answer was excellent.”
One day after that, Trump switched his view on choice yet again, saying wouldn’t want to see abortion outlawed after all: “The laws are set and I think we have to leave it that way.” Naturally, his campaign backtracked within hours, saying that Trump only meant that he wouldn’t personally seek to change abortion laws but that “he will change the law through his judicial appointments.”

2) Nuclear proliferation
On March 26, Trump said that nuclear proliferation is the “biggest” problem he sees in the world.

“It’s a very scary nuclear world,” he told the New York Times. “Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation.”
In the very same interview, Trump floated the idea of letting Japan acquire nuclear weapons because he is tired of the U.S. having to defend its ally.

On March 29, when Anderson Cooper asked him to clarify his remarks, Trump said that he wanted not only Japan but also South Korea and Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear weapons so the U.S. could save money on military assistance and because “it’s going to happen, anyway.” In the same conversation, Trump also told Cooper that he would oppose nuclear proliferation and doesn’t want to see nations like Saudi Arabia have nuclear weapons.

3) War crimes
The morning after Trump declared at a presidential debate in Detroit that he would order members of the military to commit war crimes and use illegal torture techniques — “If I say do it, they’re going to do it” — his campaign released a statement quoting the candidate as saying that he acknowledges “that the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws.”

But just hours after that statement came out, Trump bragged at a Michigan rally about his support for torture, later explaining that he seeks to expand and broaden the rules on torture to compete with ISIS.

4) Guest workers
At the Detroit debate, Trump said that despite what his official website says about guest workers, he would approve of an expansion of the guest worker visa program. “I’m changing. I’m changing. We need highly skilled people in this country,” he said, remarks that surprised many, considering that he is running on a strict anti-immigrant platform.

Of course, Trump’s campaign later put out a statement saying that the candidate was in fact sticking with his original opposition to guest worker visas.
Then-rival Marco Rubio said in a response to the flip-flop-flip: “Tonight, Donald Trump finally took an actual position. But as soon as the debate was over, his handlers made him reverse himself. The Republican nominee cannot be somebody who is totally clueless on so many issues, including his signature issue.”

5) Refugees
It took just one day for Trump to reverse his stance on the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

On September 8, he told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that “on a humanitarian basis, with what’s happening you have to” take in some refugees. “They’re living in hell, and something has to be done,” he said.

On September 9, he told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he would oppose any resettlement of refugees from the conflict. Eventually, Trump declared that he would deport Syrian refugees already settled in the U.S.

While not a complete flip, Trump has also tried to change his tune on his proposed ban on Muslims from entering the country. On the same day that he released a statement stating that he wants “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims from entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” he told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren that certain Muslims, such as those serving in the military and those he is personally friends with, would be allowed to come in. He later clarified again that his sweeping ban would not apply to the “very rich Muslims” that he knows.

You Got To Be Kidding! HOW MOVING THE RAIDERS TO VEGAS WENT FROM COMPLETELY CRAZY TO CRAZY LIKE A FOX OVERNIGHT


May 2, 2016
Neil DeMause
HOW MOVING THE RAIDERS TO VEGAS WENT FROM COMPLETELY CRAZY TO CRAZY LIKE A FOX OVERNIGHT

When rumors first began to spread last week that Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis was set to commit to moving his team to Las Vegas if elected officials there approved a new NFL-sized stadium, the whole concept seemed a little—what’s the word?—insane.

Sure, Davis is unhappy with his stadium deal in Oakland, where Mayor Libby Schaaf shows no interest in throwing hundreds of millions of public dollars at him to build a new one. And he’s still pissy that the NFL picked Stan Kroenke’s Rams over his Raiders to move to Los Angeles. So it’s no great surprise that he sounds eager to explore his other options, declaring, “The world is a possibility for the Raider Nation.”

But Vegas? A town that, for all its other attractions, is a smaller media market than both Greenville, South Carolina, and West Palm Beach, Florida, and where most of the people with spending money are tourists unlikely to plunk down big bucks for Raiders season tickets? Given the fiscal realities, Raiders-to-Vegas seemed like pure public posturing, a leverage move intended to shake loose stadium money from Oakland or San Antonio or St. Louis or somewhere, anywhere else.

Then came Davis’s appearance last Thursday before the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, an appointed group of political and business leaders. Everything changed—but not, as most of the headlines had it, because Davis had committed half a billion dollars to the Vegas stadium project and promised to move his team there if it were approved.

Rather, Thursday’s big news was exactly the opposite: Davis, along with casino developer and would-be Republican kingmaker Sheldon Adelson, was looking to stick Clark County and the state of Nevada with as much as all of the costs of a $1.4 billion stadium—making it potentially the largest stadium subsidy in United States sports history—while not committing to a move in the slightest.

For Davis and Adelson, it would be a deal too rich to refuse. For Nevada residents, though, throwing a billion dollars or more at the NFL’s least liked owner and the 22nd-richest man in the world would represent a new pinnacle of sports-swindle insanity.

Davis cheers from his slightly post-apocalyptic looking luxury suite in Oakland. Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

From the start, Adelson’s Vegas stadium plan has looked awfully dubious from a taxpayer perspective. The Sands casino owner initially floated it in January as a “public-private partnership” to build a new stadium for UNLV’s football team while possibly luring the Raiders; a few days later, it turned out that the public share would come to a whopping $780 million in hotel, rental-car, and taxi taxes, with Adelson covering the other $420 million. That would already challenge the record $715 million Indiana shoveled into the new Indianapolis Colts stadium.

(Just to be clear: Yes, spending tourist taxes on a stadium is still a cost to local residents, even if they’re not the ones directly paying them. Not only is this money that could otherwise be spent on something else—freeing the general fund from being used for whatever that something else is—but when you raise hotel and car-rental fees enough, some tourists start avoiding your town for cheaper destinations. And that can happen even when your town is Las Vegas.)

Thursday’s stadium revelations, though, upped the ante considerably, in a tour de force of cup shuffling misdirection. First, Davis did indeed promise to move the Raiders to Las Vegas if the stadium project wins approval from the state legislature—but only if the rest of the league owners approve giving him an easy out if he decides he wants to back out: “Sorry, guys, my NFL buddies wouldn’t let me do it.”

Next, there’s that $500 million that Davis said he would put up. Truth be told, the Raiders owner has indicated that $200 million of it would come from the NFL, presumably via the league’s G-4 stadium funding program, which dates back to when New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft talked the league into helping him with new-stadium costs in order to keep him from moving his team to a smaller market, as had just previously happened with the Raiders and the Rams leaving Los Angeles and the Oilers departing Houston. (The G-4 fund is currently restricted to funding stadiums for teams staying put in their current markets, but that hasn’t stopped Davis from including it in his financial plans.) Much of the remaining cash would likely come from things like naming rights and personal seat licenses. St. Louis figured it could get about $235 million from those sources for a new Rams stadium, so Las Vegas could presumably come close.

It turned out that getting all of the stadium revenue while sticking the public with more than half of the overall bill wasn’t all that Davis and Adelson had in mind. Yet another partner, Craig Cavileer of Majestic Realty, revealed at a press conference on Thursday that the private developers would also want to cover their own private contribution with public tax dollars, via a “tax increment financing” district that would kick back property taxes to the project’s developers. “We invest $650 million, and in return we have a stadium that we operate,” he explained. “And we also have the tax district which gives us a refund, if you will, on an annualized basis for whatever increment we create.”

Ah, the TIF. Of all the schemes that real-estate developers have concocted to get their hands on public subsidies for their projects over the past few decades, TIFs are perhaps the schemiest. The concept is simple enough: If we weren’t building this project, the developers say, the land wouldn’t be paying much if anything in the way of property taxes. So how about you let us keep any additional property taxes that get generated—the “increment”—to pay for our costs? It’s a win-win!

Unfortunately, TIFs have worked out pretty poorly in real life, for several reasons. First off, new property taxes that come with new development aren’t really a freebie. Any time something new gets built, it requires support from the government—roads, police and fire protection, schools if there’s a residential component—which is precisely what those property taxes are meant to pay for. If they’re instead getting siphoned off to pay for the developer’s construction bills, then all those new costs end up sitting squarely on taxpayers’ shoulders.

Worse yet, it’s nearly impossible to tell in advance what would have happened with a particular plot of land if a certain development hadn’t taken place. This is dubbed the “but-for” problem, and it can be huge: in Chicago, a frenzy of TIF-funded projects ended up diverting nearly half the city’s property taxes after the city approved more than 150 TIFs, many for projects that would have been built with or without them.

Finally, there’s the problem of what happens if property-tax receipts don’t go up as much as expected—or, as sometimes happens, if they actually go down. This cropped up not long ago in another Nevada sports project: the ballpark for the Triple-A Reno Aces, which was to be funded largely by TIFs until it turned out that property tax payments dropped, leaving the city to pay the entire nut out of its general fund. (Majestic also proposed a TIF for an earlier incarnation of the UNLV stadium plan, before that fell apart three years ago.)

Greg LeRoy, director of the national subsidy-watch group Good Jobs First, says that despite all their flaws, TIFs remain a hugely important piece of the private-developer subsidy toolkit. The most heated battle right now is in Baltimore, where another billionaire, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, is asking for $535 million in TIF money to help underwrite the costs of development around his company’s new waterfront campus. For Nevada, LeRoy says, the biggest question should be: “What’s the footprint of the TIF district? Is it just the stadium?” (The beauty of TIFs for developers is that they can be drawn to encompass surrounding blocks as well, providing a potentially limitless revenue stream.) “People forget, and I put in my book, that George W. Bush’s largest source of wealth was getting a sales tax hike applied to a large footprint around the Texas Rangers stadium,” when he owned the team, with the proceeds going not to the city of Arlington but to pay off the team’s costs. “And it was that enhanced value of the franchise that was the greatest single source of his wealth.”

Thanks to the expandable nature of TIFs, there’s no way of knowing exactly how much Davis, Adelson, and their other partners would want to recoup by this means. Added to the $750 million in hotel and rental-car tax money and the PSL/naming-rights revenues, though, and it’s fair to say that the bigwigs behind the deal could end up paying next to nothing—while Nevada taxpayers could be on the hook for a billion dollars or more.

It’s a stunning ask, and particularly so to Jim Nagourney. Now retired and living in Las Vegas, Nagourney was formerly a longtime executive and consultant on many stadium and arena negotiations; as deputy executive of Nassau County, he signed the New York Islanders to the long-term lease that recently expired and allowed the team to relocate to Brooklyn. He was also a consultant for the Rams on their “mother of all sweetheart stadium leases” deal in St. Louis, memorably telling his bosses, “Guys, some of this is crazy.” Their response? “They can always say no, let’s ask for it.” (Missouri didn’t say no, including to the state-of-the-art clause that eventually allowed the Rams to bolt back to L.A. this winter.)

Bringing the NFL to Vegas, Nagourney says, makes zero sense, not just because it’s a relatively dinky market but because the usual justification given for attracting a sports team—bringing fan spending to town to boost the local economy—is less of a factor there than possibly anywhere else on the planet. “We don’t need a pro team to be on the map—we’re one of the three most popular destinations in the world,” he points out. Unless a Las Vegas Raiders franchise somehow succeeded in marketing themselves to fans in far-flung parts of the nation, it wouldn’t do much to bring in spending from outside the city—and even then, given that it’s Vegas, it would likely only provide something additional for tourists to do while on their regularly scheduled visits, just as economists have determined is the case with spring training baseball in Florida.

Nagourney is skeptical that the deal will go through, if only because the key political figure in the whole deal, Clark County commissioner chair Steve Sisolak, has been asking pointed questions about the deal and its cost to the public. (Though Sisolak also said, “I don’t think any community has a stadium built that makes a profit”—a classic all-the-other-kids-are-doing-it rationalization.) Plus, competing casino owners might not be crazy about their customers paying inflated room taxes to help fund a stadium that would only take away from their gambling time. Already, Nagourney notes, Broadway shows that play Vegas are forced to cut songs so that they can wrap up in 90 minutes and get theatergoers back to the craps tables.

For the Raiders’ backers, though, even a long shot with such a potentially huge payoff is no doubt worth it, especially since the cost of putting forward this plan, as Nagourney says, is “tip money for lunch” for Adelson. And if Nevada officials do fall for this, it seems impossible that the NFL would force one of its owners to turn down a $1 billion gift, regardless of whether Vegas makes much sense as an addition to the league.

As Davis said last week regarding his NFL brethren, “If we give them an offer they can’t refuse, and that’s what we’re talking about now, I don’t see a problem.” If Nevada says yes to the Raiders deal, it could have repercussions far beyond the fallout for Oakland football fans. It could establish a new blueprint for how multi-billionaires can demand that the public pay virtually all of their stadium construction costs, all the while insisting that they’re providing a welcome “investment” in the locale being shaken down. And that would be insane.

Urge Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić To Stop The Brutal Retaliation Against Whistleblowers


Excerpt from: http://www.RootsAction.org

International pressure is urgently needed.

More than 9,000 people all over the world have already answered our call to urge Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić to stop the brutal retaliation against a mining company that blew the whistle on a government bribery scheme.

The government is already beginning to back down, and has allowed the company to resume operations and put its 50 employees back to work!

But we still need prosecutors to drop the trumped-up criminal charges filed against Tuzla Kvarc and its director, Smail Velagic. Only then will the company and its employees be freed from the year-long whistleblower retaliation campaign being waged against them.

–Mark Worth, Director, International Whistleblower Project / Blueprint for Free Speech; Co-coordinator, Southeast Europe Coalition for Whistleblower Protection

For more than a year, a small family-owned mining company in Bosnia has suffered relentless retaliation for blowing the whistle on a government bribery scheme. Rather than being thanked for exposing corruption, Tuzla Kvarc has faced reprisals that have brought the firm to its knees.

Authorities have shut down its quartz mining operations. Workers have not been paid since January. Their options running out, several employees began a hunger strike to draw attention to this flagrant case of whistleblower retaliation.

International pressure on Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić is urgently needed to stop the retaliation against the Tuzla Kvarc whistleblowers.

The backlash began in spring 2015 after Smail Velagić, the soft-spoken director of Tuzla Kvarc for 30 years, told police that a local mining official demanded bribes to grant the company a mining license. When Velagić’s son participated with police in a sting operation that caught the official in the act of demanding the money, retaliation against Tuzla Kvarc was swift and vicious.

Tax officials seized company property. Police conducted nuisance inspections. Prosecutors filed criminal charges against Velagić and the company for mining without a license – even though the reason it didn’t have a license was because they refused to pay a bribe.

Last October, one of Tuzla Kvarc’s offices was burned, demolished, flattened and chopped to bits in the middle of the night by unknown perpetrators.

In solidarity with a trade union, workers maintained a protest in front of Tuzla’s government offices for 51 days until police dissolved the encampment.

Bojan Bajić of the Center for Responsible Democracy-Luna, which is leading the campaign in support of Tuzla Kvarc said, “I did not know that this kind of coordinated aggression by a bureaucracy — in the name of the law — was possible. The case of Tuzla Kvarc is the breaking point of my hope that this is a normal country.”

Tell Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić to drop all charges against Tuzla Kvarc and allow the company to put its 50 employees back to work.

  • Please go to RootAction to sign the petition today!

After doing this action, please share it with your friends.

This work is only possible with your financial support. Please chip in $3 now.

— The RootsAction.org Team

P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Coleen Rowley, Frances Fox Piven, Lila Garrett, Phil Donahue, Sonali Kolhatkar, and many others.

Background:
> Akta: Instead of Punishing Perpetrators System Wasting its Energy to Destroy Whistleblowers>
> Documentary film: Cijena Pravde (The Price of Justice)
http://www.RootsAction.org

Tell The U.S. Export-Import Bank: Don’t Finance Big Coal In Bangladesh


Excerpt from: CREDO Action

Public U.S. funds could be used to finance Big Coal’s destruction of a UNESCO World Heritage site that is home to precious endangered animals – in a country that is one of the most climate-endangered in the world.

The Orion Group, a Bangladeshi company, has approached the U.S. Export-Import Bank to obtain financing for the building of two coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh.1 One of them would seriously damage the Sundarbans – the world’s largest mangrove forest and home to the endangered Bengal tiger. The other plant would be located just outside of the country’s capital, Dhaka, polluting the air and water of millions.

We’ve joined with our friends at Rainforest Action Network to send a powerful message to the U.S. Export-Import Bank: Americans will not stand by and be a party to the destruction of a World Heritage site, our climate, and precious endangered species – all to boost the profits of Big Coal.

The Sundarbans mangrove forest that would be destroyed by the Orion Khulna plant stands as one of the world’s most unique ecosystems. It serves as a refuge for the endangered Bengal tiger, the Ganges river dolphin, and provides a livelihood for over half a million Bangladeshis.

Building these plants would require the trampling of local citizens’ rights and property and the destruction of their livelihoods. And the Orion plant that would be built outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, would threaten the air and water quality of 17 million people in Dhaka’s metropolitan area. And none of this even begins to take into account how this potential deal affects the global climate.

Financing coal projects abroad while we continue to move away from coal here at home is not only hypocritical, but incredibly shortsighted and counterproductive to the international effort to curb carbon emissions and combat climate change. But doing so by building dirty, fossil-fuel burning power plants in a country that’s been listed by one study as the most threatened by climate change is the height of recklessness.2

We can’t allow a U.S. government agency to cooperate with a foreign conglomerate to work against the very values and efforts we here at home are working to uphold, while also destroying a UNESCO World Heritage site and threatening the endangered species and human lives it protects and sustains.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank needs to hear an outpouring of opposition from all of us. Sign the petition now to make sure these dirty coal plants aren’t built with any U.S. support.

  • Tell the U.S. Export-Import Bank: Don’t finance Big Coal in Bangladesh.
  • Tell the U.S. Export-Import Bank:
    “Do not finance Orion Group’s proposed coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh. These plants would fuel climate change and threaten a UNESCO World Heritage site, which serves as a safe haven for endangered species.”

Go to the below site to sign the petition:

http://act.credoaction.com/sign/Coal_Bangladesh?t=7&akid=17977.7785905.pIn6bh

Thank you for your activism.

Josh Nelson, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

“Orion signs deals for generators for its 660MW power plant,” The Daily Star, May 11, 2014.
David Maxwell Braun, “Bangladesh, India Most Threatened by Climate Change, Risk Study Finds,” National Geographic, October 20, 2010.

© 2016 CREDO. All rights reserved.