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#EndorseThis: Trump Sends America Into Rapid Decline — But Being Losers Isn’t All Bad

By now everyone has realized that Donald Trump isn’t “making America great again.” Indeed despite his blustering rhetoric, Trump’s presidency has consistently elevated China, Russia, and other US rivals, while diminishing our country’s prestige and prospects every day. From the Trans Pacific Partnership to the Paris Climate Accords, the botched diplomacy of this buffoonish president is presented in authoritarian countries that “democracy doesn’t work.” (It certainly didn’t work last year, when the candidate who got the most votes came in second.)

But there’s a brighter side to Trump’s dizzying acceleration of American decline. As Ronnie Chieng tells Trevor Noah, being the world’s number two power is much easier and more fun than being number one!

Not safe for work.

In Asia, Obama Faces Trade Pact Test Amid U.S. Opposition

By Roberta Rampton and David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When President Barack Obama travels to Asia next week, he will try to reassure leaders in the region that he still has the clout to deliver U.S. approval for the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership, even though the two candidates vying to succeed him and a congressional leader have said the 12-nation trade deal should not move forward.

The trade pact is the economic pillar of Obama’s broader plan to shift U.S. foreign policy toward Asia and counter the rising economic and military might of China.

“It would be a real setback for Obama’s legacy and for the rebalance strategy if TPP were not to be ratified,” said Matthew Goodman, a former Obama foreign policy adviser now at the CSIS think-tank in Washington.

Domestic politics have put the deal’s future in doubt. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday the Senate would not vote on the pact this year, punting it to the next president, who will take office on Jan. 20.

Both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton have said they oppose the TPP, citing past trade deals that have cost Americans jobs. As Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton backed the Pacific trade deal.

Obama has said the TPP will boost labor and environmental standards – fixing some of the problems seen in past trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement – and give both large and small U.S. companies access to the world’s fastest-growing markets.

The White House said failure to approve the TPP would hurt U.S. interests in Asia, where some leaders made politically tough decisions to advance the deal.

“In this part of the world, which is the largest emerging market in the world, TPP is seen as a litmus test for U.S. leadership,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters on Monday.

“We would be stepping back from that leadership role, we would be ceding the region to countries like China who do not set the same types of high standards for trade agreements were we to not follow through with TPP,” Rhodes said.

Estimates of the potential economic impact of TPP vary, but most show little meaningful growth for the U.S. economy. Estimates from the Peterson Institute, an economic think-tank in Washington, suggest that TPP would raise growth by 0.5 percent after 15 years.

Even those estimates, which amount to a rounding error in U.S. economic output, have been criticized as being too optimistic due to their treatment of so-called non-trade measures that are included in the analysis.

But White House spokesman Josh Earnest said polls shows most Americans support the deal, creating “a path for us to get this done” before Jan. 20.

In an interview, Former U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab described the odds of the TPP passing as slim, but not impossible.

“There’s history of candidates criticizing previous administrations’ policies on trade and then having to figure out how to live with them in office, and they include presidents Obama and (former Democratic president Bill) Clinton,” said Schwab, who served as trade representative under former Republican President George W. Bush.

Obama arrives in China on Saturday where he will meet President Xi Jinping and attend the G20, and then travel to Laos for two additional regional summits, returning to Washington on Sept. 9.

(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner, Alana Wise and Timothy Ahmann; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while hosting a conversation on community policing and criminal justice at the White House in Washington July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Sanders Delegates Are Not Going Away Quietly at the DNC

Published with permission from AlterNet,

Hundreds of Bernie Sanders delegates and their supporters met for several hours on Monday morning to orchestrate their protests on the floor of the Democratic Convention and to hound members of Congress who are rejecting their issues—starting with the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal and a Medicare-for-all health care system.

“If you are against the TPP and are delegates and can be whips for us, I need names,” yelled California Sanders delegate, Susan George, from the podium as activists unfurled a yellow and black banner with three-feet-tall letters reading TPP = BETRAYAL. “This is for tonight,” she continued. “We need a whip in every state.”

“Hey, hey, ho, ho—TPP has got to go! You got that down for tonight?” blared Larry Cohen, the ex-Communications Workers of America president and Sanders campaign representative. “The important thing here this morning is how we stop the TPP. We all know what’s wrong with it… We all know the TPP stinks and no TPP!”

“No TPP! No TPP! No TPP,” replied the crowd, as Cohen continued introduce Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley to moderate, saying he “does the right thing in every single case, including being the only U.S. senator to endorse Bernie Sanders for president.”

“Bernie for president! Bernie for President! Bernie for President,” the room erupted, as hundreds jumped to their feet and screamed.

That outpouring was part of a building crescendo that started at 9:30 A.M. in a remote wing of the downtown Philadelphia Convention Center where the Sanders campaign had convened a series of meetings to discuss how to keep two issues alive that have animated their movement—single-payer healthcare and opposing the TPP. But a parade of speakers began expressing their deep and at times visceral frustration with Democratic Party establishment, from not adopting a progressive platform, to standing with big business on trade at the expense of American workers and immigrants, to rejecting Hillary Clinton for president.

In between, organizers with the Sanders campaign let it be known that they were trying to gather enough delegates to bring their issues to the convention floor on Monday night, such as a proposed platform amendment where all Democrats agree not to adopt the TPP after the November election and before the next Congress is sworn in next January.

The session started quietly enough, although the Sanders campaign’s volunteers tried to bar reporters from entering. At first, it was only perhaps 100 nurses and top officials from National Nurses United in their ubiquitous red shirts and a smattering of dozens of delegates who filled a cavernous banquet hall.

The first speaker was James Zobgy, the longtime president of the Arab American Institute who was picked by Sanders to serve on the platform committee and introduced the amendment to support a single-payer, Medicare-for-all national health care system.

“It, like several of the other planks that were introduced, it was a no-brainer,” Zogby told the room. “But something weird happens in this process where people take their policy brain out of their heads and put in their politics brain… The fear of actually doing it stopped there. They play this chicken little game of the sky will fall [if they adopted a call for single payer].”

“This year we had a candidate running around the country calling for Medicare for all,” said Micheal Lighty, NNU policy director, who, like other speakers tried to inspire the activists to keep going and cited progress in states like Colorado, Minnesota and California. “We cannot win on any of our issues unless we fight for all of them… That is how we have to think of our fights and the political opportunities now. We are part of this broad social justice movement. The work we do electorally is a means to that, but not the end game.”

As the room began to fill, those in attendance were not there to hear consoling words. When Donna Smith, president of Progressive Democrat of America spoke, she said many reporters have been asking her if PDA would endorse Clinton. “PDA will not endorse Hillary Clinton,” she firmly declared, prompting the whole room to jump to their feet and cheer.

“The convention starts in about four and one-half hours, are you going to take this social movement to the convention,” Benjamin Day, executive director of loudly asked. “Eighty-one percent of Democrats support Medicare for all. What will it take, 85 percent? It’s not about convincing, it is about organizing. It is not just single payer, it is the racial justice movement, environmental justice, TPP… Keep this fight going! Let’s turn this entire convention into power. We will win this thing!”

But it was the TPP session that followed where the room filled with people and the energy to challenge the Democratic Party establishment rose to a new level and got specific. As Merkley introduced speaker after speaker, it became clear that nobody was ready to surrender to mainstream Democrats and abide by politely getting in line with Clinton.

When Gustavo Torres, executive director of the Washington, D.C. based Casa in Action, a immigrant rights group, told the room that prior trade agreements like NAFTA left hundreds of thousands of Mexican peasants without work and pushed them to migrate to the U.S. without documentation, people grimly nodded.

“We believe it is very important to send a message,” he said. “We want Secretary Clinton and Sen. [Tim] Kaine to be president, right?”
“No!” voices immediately replied. “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” chanted row after row of delegates and activists, followed by loud clapping.

“We want to send a message that the TPP is not a good deal for our families, right here and in central America,” Torres said, quickly summing up and leaving the stage.

Several minutes later came the CWA spokesman Chris Shelton, who told the room that never before has every major international union opposed a trade agreement. When he said that 28 House Democrats and 13 Senate Democrats voted to give the president fast-track authority to negotiate the TPP, people started yelling back, “Take them out! Take them out!”

He told the room that the Sanders delegates changed the platform’s draft language that said “there was a diversity of opinion about the TPP… The only word I could say was bullshit!”

“Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!” the room responded.

“Our mission now is to get the officials of the Democratic Party take their implicit rejection of the TPP and make it an explicit rejection,” Shelton said. “I urge all of you to take action. Hold your members of Congress accountable—including those 41 assholes who voted for fast track. Tell them how angry you are that they turned their backs on workers… and then we must go home and organize. Are ready to stand up and fight? Are you ready to stand up and fight?”

“Yes… Fight! Fight! Fight!” the room replied. “Stand up! Fight! Stand up! Fight.”

Immediately after, the speakers got down to specifics. Speakers told the room that any delegate needed to sign their petition to amend the party platform to say the party would not support a TTP vote in the lame-duck session after November’s election. Other volunteers passed out sheets with anti-TPP talking point and buttons.

“The thing we have to do to keep the Bernie revolution going is win on TPP,” Lori Wallach, director and founder of Global Trade Watch energetically told the room. “There will be no bigger setback for corporate America!”

“If you’re a convention delegate, please come up here and sign this amendment now,” delegate Susan George told the room, taking the podium. That promted dozens of delegates to head to the side of the stage. As they massed and were also asked what state delegation are they from—to create a united front on the convention floor later on—the campaign’s Larry Cohen took back the microphone.

“You’ve heard these amazing panels… It’s up to us. This week is up to us. We need every state to raise this issue,” he said. “Are you with us or against us? We passed out the list of the 41 senators and representatives who voted for fast track. You are eating breakfast with them. Ask them, ‘Are you with us or against us?’”

“And when you are in the hall and you hear the chant, you pick it up,” Cohen continued. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, TPP has got to go… The president needs to hear it… The speakers need to hear it… Every night. Jump in!”

Then Cohen told the room that everyone had to leave the ballroom because the Secret Service needed to conduct a sweep because Sanders was coming and non-delegates had to make room for their 1,900 delegates. As the delegates filtered back into the room and waited, their periodic cheers were louder than anything heard before—and the man who inspired it hand’t even arrived.

After the closed-door meeting, delegates said Sanders gave a standard stump speech, encouraging them to keep on fighting, but also said they had to support Hillary Clinton. That prompted boos, according to people in the room.

“You could feel the pitchforks come out,” said one nurse in a red NNU shirt, who added that the energy among delegates to protest and be heard was not deterred.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).


Photo: Supporters gather to see U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak during a election night rally in Santa Monica, California, U.S. June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Redmond

How Many Anti-Hillary Protests Are Sanders Delegates Likely To Generate In Philly? Well, That Depends…

Published with permission from AlterNet.

As Democratic Party insiders signal that Hillary Clinton is likely to pick a centrist Democrat as her running mate, Sanders delegates have taken to organizing among themselves to anticipate a range of possible responses at next week’s Democratic Convention.

A handful of big decisions will be made in the next few days that will either please or frustrate the factions in Sanders’ 1,900-member delegation. The highest-profile decision is the vice-presidential pick. One self-organized group, the Bernie Delegates Network, has been in contact with more than 1,000 delegates and found, among the several hundred who responded to their poll, that the great majority would loudly reject a pro-corporate running mate.

“By last Sunday, a survey of Bernie delegates showed that less than 3 percent of delegates considered Sen. [Tim] Kaine as an ‘acceptable’ Democratic vice-presidential running mate, while 88.5 percent responded ‘not acceptable,’” a Thursday release said. “Nearly 200 delegates said that if Hillary Clinton chose a corporate-oriented running mate deemed unacceptable, they would ‘seriously consider participating’ in an action nonviolently and emphatically protesting in the convention hall during Clinton’s acceptance speech.”

Northern California’s Norman Solomon, who helped create the network, said the press release “vastly understates the interest in protest action on the floor because it says 200 people, but that’s in ratio to less than 300 people who did the survey—if you follow me. So if you looked at percentage, it’s a very high percentage of delegates, more than half, who are willing to vocally denounce or want to protest.”

The vice-presidential choice is not the only likely trigger for protests or other attempts at floor action. On Saturday, the party’s Rules Committee met to consider two changes that matter deeply to the Sanders delegation. The first is ending the Democratic Party’s system of superdelegates, which account for about one-sixth of the delegates nominating their presidential candidate. The second is requiring state parties to hold open presidential primaries, meaning that any registered voter, not just those registering as Democrats, can vote.

Last week, Sanders held a nationwide conference call with his delegates in the evening after he endorsed Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Sanders said he did not think their stances that did not win a majority at the platform hearings could become party policy. But he did say there was some support for eliminating superdelegates and closed primaries.

What’s unclear is just what podium moderators will allow to unfold in next week’s convention. It is very possible that Sanders delegates will want to try to amend platform stances, such as specifically opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, or have a wider debate on party rules that pertain to superdelegates and primaries. In recent decades, the party hasn’t allowed anything resembling that kind of debate and vote at a national convention. Instead, it’s been a parade of speakers, almost all officeholders from around the nation, talking about their party and its nominee.

What the Bernie Delegate Network is doing, against this backdrop, is trying to play a role akin to what used to be called a floor whip, which was to facilitate or coordinate audience responses. Solomon said more than 400 Sanders delegates took part in a conference call Tuesday, where among other things, they agreed to text each other as events unfold.

“The Bernie Delegates Network is not trying to tell anybody what to do, but we’re doing something that nobody else had done—no other group, the news media, the campaign—which is to survey people… and we will continue to do that in the next few days and then turn it around and let everybody know,” he said. “As I said to people in our call, we want to provide almost real-time information, so delegates are not reliant on their own silos, state delegations or the corporate media. We have information across the delegation about what people’s basic outlooks are, what options they are looking at, what actions they’re seriously considering on the floor and elsewhere.”

Not Just Organizing Protests

But interviews with other Sanders delegates revealed that there are a wide range of opinions about the best way to have an impact next week.

What many Sanders delegates seem to share in California and other states, Sacramento’s Karen Bernal said, is that “people are upset about the TPP and also about fights regarding amendments to the rules over primaries, the superdelegates, even voter registration requirements for the primary—all the things that we know were a source of complaints during the primaries.”

“The idea of contemplating direct action is out there—there is a common desire, I think, that’s one that a few states share; it’s not just California,” she said. “I have heard of people walking out, especially on Thursday when Clinton gives her speech… But if you see expressions of, say, disapproval or dissent, it is going to be of a sort that is perhaps visual or pehaps audible, but it is not going to cross a line, because they want to keep their credentials.”

Yet Bernal was quick to say that many delegates want to make progress on specific issues and aren’t looking at protests or confrontational approaches.

“There are some plans, in terms of trying to advance some sort around the TPP, by trying to do some things that quite frankly are unsexy, like reaching out to Clinton counterparts with positive statements like, ‘Hey, 85 percent of the Democratic base is against the TPP, would you join us in taking a picture saying you are against the TPP?’” she said. “And doing things like that, which isn’t scorched earth, but very much being about being unified in a message. There’s plans like that.”

Bruce Jones, another Sanders delegate from California, is taking that approach. He wants to make sure that climate change is front and center in the party and has proposed creating a permanent “climate council” in the Democratic National Committee.

“We have a grassroots effort that started in California district 14,” he said. “It was my idea and then Gus Peterson, my co-delegate, when we saw the official schedule of events, we didn’t see a climate council on it. We just started pushing around, seeing if we could get space and form one. The DNC has actually helped us to reserve space at the Philadelphia Convention Center. We’ll have sort of a climate council roundtable. We will have our list of speakers and it may be more of a pass-the-microphone thing. And we formed a Facebook group, Climate Change Delegates.”

Jones said his priority is to have a lasting positive impact, especially after seeing the way the Republican Party ignored climate change at its convention in Cleveland. “I’m watching the Republican Convention right now and I’m noticing that West Virginia is all about ‘Trump digs coal.’ And Alaska is all about ‘free our acreage so we can pump oil out of it,'” he said. “Nobody there is talking about the fact that 2016 is the hottest year mankind has ever seen.”

Does he think the DNC is taking this initiative seriously enough?

“I am at the moment trying to be very positive,” he replied. “My plan as a Bernie delegate is not to be protesting. My plan is to be working with the DNC to formally recognize a climate committee and eventually have a motion for this and everything. I don’t know—they don’t tell me their plans. I am not in those discussions about how next week’s events will go. But I assume the goal is to nominate a presidential candidate and to successfully tell the story about elevating that candidate. And they’re going to include what they will to increase the number of people to vote for our candidate.”

The differing comments from Solomon, Bernal and Jones underscore that there’s a wide range of temperaments and strategies about what to do in Philadelphia.

“Bernie led with integrity on issues and found a bunch of principled people that would like to make principled progress,” Jones said. “And do it in a way that brings trust back to government. I am proud of that and that is why I am in this. I wasn’t declared to any party four months ago. Bernie woke me up and I’m trying to make progress on what I think is the most important issue to humanity, which is climate change. And I think it is absolutely criminal that people are trying to continue the fossil fuel industry to the detriment of our grandchildren or children. I see it daily, when I watch the news, I see death by climate change.”

Jones said he doesn’t want to end up as a “30-second soundbite” on the evening news that will soon be forgotten. But other Sanders delegates, like Solomon, who has previously run for Congress, say the signal sent by the vice-presidential choice cannot be underestimated, especially if it is a politician with a pro-corporate resume.

”That’s where the Clinton people and their choice will be critical,” Solomon said, “because you can bullshit all you want as a candidate or an operative, but who they choose will tell us a huge amount. And we’re ready, we’re ready to protest, if they make the choice that it seems like they are going to make.”

Bernal, too, said the Sanders delegates are waiting and watching as big decisions loom. But she did not think a majority are going to Philadelphia to be disruptive.

“It’s a minority, still, so far,” she said. “A lot is going to depend on what happens from the end of the Rules Committee going all the way through up to Thursday, depending how the Bernie delegates feel they were dealt [with]. If they feel they were dealt a crappy hand, or a less than ideal hand, I think you will see some discontent. But I don’t think the average Bernie delegate is looking to go in there to just pick a fight. I think what they are doing is kind of a wait and see.”


Photo: Supporters cheer as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses supporters following the closing of the polls in the California presidential primary in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 7, 2016.   REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson