Headlines: June 11, 2020
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The US’s top military official, General Mark A. Milley, issued a startling apology for appearing alongside President Donald Trump in Washington DC for the controversial church-front photo-op. In a prerecorded video commencement address to National Defense University, he said, “I should not have been there… My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.” Gen. Milley’s remarks put him at odds with Trump and echo those of Defense Secretary Mark Esper who a few days after the disastrous photo-op also said he regretted participating. According to AP, “Esper and Milley let it be known through their spokesmen that they were open to a ‘bipartisan discussion’ of whether the 10 Army bases named for Confederate Army officers should be renamed as a gesture aimed at dissociating the military from the racist legacy of the Civil War.” However Trump has balked at the gesture tweeting on Wednesday, “My Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.” Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson wrote a piece on this matter titled, “We’re still honoring those who fought against the U.S.A. Why, President Trump?” In related news, NASCAR has announced it will ban all displays of the confederate flag at its events and properties.
Meanwhile there are investigations underway over the Washington DC violent clearing of peaceful protesters that was ordered by President Trump and Attorney General William Barr for the photo-op. The National Guard is reportedly investigating and in the next few days the US Army is expected to issue a report to explain why military medical helicopters were used to threaten and disrupt protesters. According to the New York Times, “Officials expect the pilots who flew the helicopters will receive some type of punishment.” More than 1,250 former staffers with the Department of Justice have signed onto a letter denouncing the DC actions and demanding the DOJ Inspector General immediately launch a probe. The signatories wrote, “None of us would ever have considered directing or engaging in such actions to be consistent with our oaths to support and defend the Constitution.”
Seattle, Washington, the site of large and militant protests against racist police brutality, has seen the formation of an autonomous protester-run zone. When Seattle police abandoned a precinct in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, activists quickly moved into the area and declared it a police-free zone. The neighborhood is considered the center of Seattle arts and culture and has also been subjected to severe gentrification. Now the area spanning several city blocks is holding poetry readings, protests and more. The New York Times described the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) as, “part street festival, part commune.” But police say they want to return to their precinct and have reportedly begun dialoguing with community members. President Trump involved himself and warned Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, with a tweet saying, “Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!,” as he misspelled the word “stopped.” He also referred to activists as “domestic terrorists.” Mayor Durkan, who is facing calls for her resignation by protesters, shot back on Twitter, “Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker. #BlackLivesMatter”
Trump is scheduled to meet with leaders of a church in Dallas, Texas on Tuesday in order to discuss, “historic economic, health and justice disparities in American communities.” White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany said Trump had been working on “proposals to address the issues that the protesters had raised across the country, legitimate issues.” There are reports of Trump advisor Stephen Miller writing a speech for the President to address issues of race and racism. Mr. Miller is considered a virulently racist and anti-immigrant advisor. The Trump campaign has also announced its first election-related political rally since the pandemic to be held on June 19th in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Juneteenth, as it is referred to, is the day that marks the historic emancipation of enslaved people and the city of Tulsa in particular has a deep history of anti-black racism and violence. California Senator Kamala Harris called out the President saying, “This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists — he’s throwing them a welcome home party.” In a clear indication that Trump’s base is white supremacist, two men wearing the notorious white hoods of the Ku Klux Klan interrupted a Black Lives Matter protest in Nevada. The men were carrying Trump flags.
As more light is shone on the disproportionate power that police unions have on elected officials, calls are growing for the US Labor movement to dump such law enforcement associations from their ranks. The Writers Guild of America, East, has asked the AFL-CIO to drop the International Union of Police Associations from its membership. The AFL-CIO is the national federation of trade unions that represents both groups. In a letter to AFL-CIO leadership the Writers Guild said, “As long as police unions continue to wield their collective bargaining power as a cudgel, preventing reforms and accountability, no one is safe…Therefore we believe that police unions do not belong in our labor coalition.” As part of the rapidly changing cultural shift on policing in America, yet another pro-police reality show was just dropped. Days after the decades-long show Cops was canceled, the A&E network dropped its similar show, Live PD. And, the US Soccer Federation has lifted its ban on kneeling during the national anthem. Just a few years ago when NFL player Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem as a protest against police brutality, many other athletes joined in, leading sports organizations to ban the protest in spite of a clear First Amendment violation. Now, the mea culpas are racking up.
The latest unemployment figures are in and as per the US Labor Department, another 1.5 million Americans filed for jobless benefits last week – a figure that is lower than earlier weeks, but still higher than economists expected. Thousands of workers are terrified of risking their health and returning to unsafe workplaces. Now the United States Congress is debating whether or not to end unemployment benefits for those who were laid off during the pandemic, with opponents of the benefits claiming that government assistance is getting the way of an economic recovery. But the economic indicators that most mainstream economists rely on – the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq, have appeared to be unrelated to unemployment during the pandemic. Still, on Thursday, the Dow slid 1,500 points prompting observers to claim that fears of a Coronavirus resurgence was making investors nervous.
And finally, President Trump’s reelection campaign is upset about the results of a recent CNN poll that showed him losing to Joe Biden by 14 percentage points. Rather than respond to the results of the poll Trump is claiming that the poll itself is wrong and demanding that CNN retract its results and apologize. The Trump campaign on Wednesday sent CNN a cease-and-desist letter calling the poll “phony.” A CNN spokesperson responded saying, “To my knowledge, this is the first time in its 40-year history that CNN had been threatened with legal action because an American politician or campaign did not like CNN’s polling results.”