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Republican convention blurs official business of presidency with politics – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Aamer Madhani, Darlene Superville And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press


Published Tuesday, August 25, 2020 6:50AM EDT

WASHINGTON — Plenty of presidents have walked right up to the line separating official business from politics – or even stepped over it. President Donald Trump has blown past it with a bulldozer, and his planned Republican convention speech from the White House lawn this week might be the latest and most blatant example yet.

Down in the polls and facing the headwinds of a coronavirus-battered economy, Trump made the case that the White House is the easiest location for the Secret Service and law enforcement to secure for his acceptance speech after Republicans were forced to scale back their convention because of the pandemic.

Left unsaid was that the Executive Mansion offers Trump a grand setting as he attempts to make his case that voters should stick with him in the midst of a health catastrophe that has touched nearly every aspect of American life.

“What makes this particularly galling is that the president owns a hotel four blocks away from the White House that he’s shown no qualms about profiting from over the course of his presidency,” said Donald Sherman, deputy director of the non-profit government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Now he feels compelled to use the White House grounds to deliver this political speech?”

That’s not the only mixing of government and politics this week: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is among the Trump Cabinet officials who will address the convention, in his case a recorded address from Jerusalem while on a taxpayer-funded trip to the region. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue talked up Trump’s reelection during an “official” visit Monday to a North Carolina farm with the president.

Under a federal law known as the Hatch Act, civilian employees in the executive branch cannot use their titles when doing political work. They are also prohibited from taking part in any partisan activity while on the clock. The president and vice-president are exempt from the rules.

The independent Office of Special Counsel advised lawmakers earlier this month that White House advisers would not be in violation of Hatch Act rules by taking part in the convention if the event was held on the lawn or in the residence and they attended while off-duty. But if the event were held in the West Wing or in another area of the White House that is regarded as a federal room, White House officials would be prohibited from attending even while off-duty.

In addition to Pompeo, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson as well as White House senior advisers Kellyanne Conway, Ivanka Trump and Ja’Ron Smith are all slated to address the convention. The administration officials are expected to not use their titles to avoid violations, and all – with the exception of Ivanka Trump – are slated to deliver their remarks live or pre-recorded from a location outside the White House complex.

Traditionally, the big four Cabinet members – the secretaries of state, defence, treasury and attorney general – have not attended the convention. Multiple officials involved in the planning process insisted that teams of lawyers from the White House, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee reviewed convention plans to avoid any Hatch Act violations. The officials said the events on the White House grounds were consistent with previous presidents using the White House residence for political videos.

It’s only the second time that a president will deliver his acceptance speech at the White House. In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his acceptance speech from the White House via radio to the Democratic convention that nominated him for an unprecedented third term.

“Any government employees who may participate will do so in compliance with the Hatch Act,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

Ivanka Trump, who in addition to her White House role is the president’s daughter, is scheduled to introduce her father before his acceptance speech on Thursday.

Her office said in a statement that she will be participating outside of normal working hours and will be speaking in her personal capacity as the president’s daughter.

Neil Eggleston, who served as White House counsel in the President Barack Obama administration, however, said that while Ivanka Trump and others can take part in the convention while staying on the right side of the law, “it’s completely contrary to the norms.”

“People talk about the White House as the People’s House,” Eggleston said. “Political parties come and go, but it doesn’t belong to one political party or the other.”

The Trump administration is hardly the first to mix business with politics.

Obama, for instance, allowed five members of his Cabinet to address the party’s 2012 convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, as he sought reelection. Four years later, as his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, sought the White House, Obama decided to prohibit Cabinet members from taking part.

In 2012, Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s health and human services secretary, was cited for violating federal law prohibiting Cabinet members from engaging in politics on the clock when she called for the president’s reelection and touted the candidacy of another Democrat at an event she was attending in her official capacity.

In 2011, a report by Office of Special Counsel found that during the George W. Bush administration, senior staff members at the Office of Political Affairs violated the Hatch Act by organizing dozens of political briefings from 2001 to 2007 for Republican appointees at top federal agencies in an effort to enlist them to help elect Republicans to Congress.

The Trump administration has repeatedly stepped over the line, ethics experts said.

Perdue stepped into politics on Monday during a visit with the president to Mills River, North Carolina, to spotlight a federal food distribution program to assist workers impacted by the virus. Perdue noted appreciatively the many Trump supporters who lined the motorcade route en route to the event.

“Those were part of those forgotten people that voted for you for 2016,” Perdue said. “And I’ve got better news for you: They and many others are going to vote for you for four more years in 2020.”

In November 2018, the Office of Special Counsel found six White House officials in violation for tweeting or retweeting the president’s 2016 campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” from their official Twitter accounts. Most notably, the office recommended in June 2019 that White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway be fired.

Trump refused to take action against Conway, suggesting that the office was trying to take away her right to free speech. Conway, who announced this week she will be leaving the White House for personal reasons by the end of the month, is scheduled to deliver remarks to the convention on Wednesday.

Democrats have also pointed to other alleged abuses of power by Trump that had a political slant. In July, Attorney General William Barr deployed National Guard troops to clear the area outside the White House of demonstrators protesting police brutality minutes before Trump decided to stroll to a nearby historic church for a photo op.

The president acknowledged earlier this month – before altering his public position – that he’s starving the U.S. Postal Service of money to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots, which he worries could cost him the election.

Richard Painter, who served as the White House chief ethics lawyer during the George W. Bush administration, said it’s unlikely that Trump’s use of the White House backdrop to help his reelection effort will make a difference to the outcome of the election. But the deliberate thumbing of his nose at ethics rules and historic norms points to a “great danger.”

“It goes to the core problem that the government – including the State Department and Department of Justice – are being used as extensions of the Donald Trump campaign,” Painter said. “This is about a lot more than Kellyanne Conway or Ivanka Trump or someone else in the administration showing up to give a campaign speech on the White House lawn.”

Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

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Fortnight: The must-read political magazine making a comeback – BBC News

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Fortnight magazine was once such a must-read for Northern Ireland’s political classes that Gerry Adams apparently said “a month without Fortnight would be twice as long”.

In that case the past nine years must have seemed like an eternity for the former Sinn Féin president.

That’s how long its been since the monthly cultural and political magazine was on sale.

But now it’s back to mark what would have been its 50th anniversary and there are plans for more editions in both printed and digital format.

It’s just like old times – though it’s different world since that first edition in September 1970.

The Troubles were in their infancy – there were articles on direct rule, the then Ulster Unionist Stormont minister John Taylor (now Lord Kilclooney) and a new party called the SDLP.

But the big issue of the constitutional question still remains, hence the front page headline: “What Future for Northern Ireland?”

Even the editor is the same: Lawyer Tom Hadden retains his passion for Northern Ireland, even thought he lives in England.

“John Hume, Gerry Adams, the leading unionist David Trimble, everybody in those days wrote for Fortnight when asked,” he told BBC News NI’s The View programme.

“The main articles in this issue are about how to retain the principles of the Good Friday Agreement, in the event of possible unification or possible joint authority, or just getting things as they are.

“We think it’s important for people to think about these things in advance, rather than rush into a yes-no referendum.”

‘Too slow to go digital’

The relaunched magazine’s literary editor is the daughter of the well-known civil rights activist and politician Paddy Devlin.

Anne Devlin lived most of her earlier life outside Northern Ireland and Fortnight provided a link with home.

“It kept a diary of the events of the past month,” she said.

“So every single detail of the past month, every day, every significant political thing that happened, violent and nonviolent was logged.”

She has recruited several younger writers for the new Fortnight, including sociologist Claire Mitchell.

“The piece for the magazine takes our decision to send our kids to Catholic school as a jumping off point,” said Ms Mitchell.

“That felt culturally adventurous to us because we’re from a Protestant background. We’ve made loads of great friends and have had new experiences but what it really underlined for me is how mixed most people’s everyday lives are.

“People are organising their lives around their kids activities, going into Slimming World, online dating. It’s a world really far removed from big ‘P’ politics and the rot of green and orange.

“I do think there’s a disconnect between the binary structure of our party system in the assembly and how most people are just getting on with their everyday lives.”

Mr Hadden said one of the reasons Fortnight folded was because it was too slow to go digital.

So can it nose its way back into a crowded market place filled with the likes of the political website Slugger O’Toole?

“I don’t think it can necessarily do what it did back in its heyday,” said Slugger’s deputy editor David McCann.

“It’s going to need something a bit more than that because, for one, people’s views and attention span for longer analysis pieces have shortened since then.

“The other key factor is that I think people, with the advent of social media – and we’ve had to change this on Slugger – want their news, they want immediacy and they want to be able to interact with the news content that’s in front of them.”

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Meet the Socialists Keeping Alive Working-Class Politics in Melbourne – Jacobin magazine

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Meet the Socialists Keeping Alive Working-Class Politics in Melbourne

As Melbourne’s October council elections approach, the Victorian Socialists are stepping up their fight against neoliberalism — by fielding an unprecedented slate of 19 candidates, across five municipalities.

Nahui Jimenez is a candidate for 2020 council election in Moreland, Victoria. (@vic_socialists / Twitter)

In March 2019, in the outer northern Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows, a crowd of residents gathered outside the Hume City Council meeting, chanting “poison air isn’t fair!”

The snap protest was called by the Victorian Socialists (VS) in response to a factory fire at Bradbury Industrial Service’s chemical handling facility. The fire burned for days, blanketing parts of Campbellfield in toxic smoke. A speaker addressed the crowd, asking: “How many times do the people of the north and the west in the industrial suburbs of Melbourne have to get blasted with toxic waste?”

Almost one year later, residents of the same area won an important victory, blocking a proposed waste incinerator. At a meeting called to celebrate, one local activist commented “when the socialists got involved, the council really started to take notice.”

These scenes of collective action are a far cry from what is usually viewed as the “small-p politics” of local government, characterized by the petty rivalries, corruption, and managerial babble. Yet they demonstrate the class divides that run deep in Melbourne.

Take Stony Creek, a waterway in Melbourne’s working-class west. It’s still poisoned after a fire in an illegal chemical store in Tottenham. As Jorge Jorquera, Victorian Socialists candidate for Yarraville explained, “If this was happening in Toorak it would be a different story.”

Class Struggle Council Elections

The success of socialists such as Seattle’s Kshama Sawant and the democratic socialists on the Chicago City Council shows that efforts in local politics can both serve the needs of working-class constituencies and offer a platform for national interventions.

This was the spirit with which VS launched its municipal elections campaign in July 2020 at an online meeting of 250 supporters. Founded in 2018 as an electoral alliance, VS won close to twenty thousand votes in the 2018 and 2019 state and federal elections. Though the pandemic has made organizing much more difficult, the party has grown steadily. It now claims 520 financial members; with a further 1,200 registered as volunteers.

As a result, VS is standing an ambitious slate of nineteen candidates across five municipalities in Melbourne. Among them are a number of high-profile activists, such as Roz Ward, best known for her role in founding Safe Schools, a sexual and gender diversity program, or Ali Hogg, a key leader of the successful marriage equality campaign.

Despite this promising starting point, the introduction of single-member wards in Darebin, as well as restrictions imposed by Melbourne’s stage-four lockdown will make it an uphill battle, tipping the scales further toward well-heeled major parties and developer-backed dummy candidates. Yet if even a fraction of VS’s council candidates are successful, it will be one of the most significant electoral breakthroughs for socialists in Australia in decades.

Policing the Pandemic

In Victoria, as elsewhere, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted working-class and migrant communities. This was graphically illustrated when Australian Labor Party (ALP) premier Daniel Andrews imposed a “hard lockdown” on many high-rise public housing estates in Melbourne’s north and west on July 4.

Daniel Nair Dadich, deputy mayor candidate for Melbourne City Council and Flemington local, livestreamed on the night the hard lockdown unfolded: “They’ve sent in the cops to deal with a health crisis … one police officer for every six residents. They’ve blocked the entrances to the flats and they’re harassing the residents.”

As he spoke, hundreds of police flooded the estates, home to approximately three thousand people, largely migrants and refugees working in precarious jobs. Deliveries of food and medical supplies promised to residents were botched, forcing them to rely entirely on volunteer organizations who were actively hindered by police. Victorian Socialists, alongside community organizations, raised funds and campaigned for the police to be immediately withdrawn.

These estates have endured more than their share of racism in recent years. Mexican-Australian Nahui Jimenez, VS candidate for Moreland council, recalls that the Flemington estate was the site of a mobilization against now-discredited far-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos. Memorably, when residents of the flats caught wind of the far-right mobilization, they came down to join the anti-racist protest, helping disrupt Yiannopoulos’s event.

More recently, the Victorian Socialists backed a thriving local Black Lives Matter movement against police racism and Aboriginal deaths in custody. Defying bans on demonstrating, the “Black Lives Matter movement is a reminder that mass solidarity has the power to win,” argued Liz Walsh, VS vice president. “We’re committed to a politics of solidarity that can relate to these movements when they emerge, amplifying the voices of those subject to racism.”

This was the aim of the livestreamed public forum, coordinated by Jimenez at the height of the hard lockdown, where public housing residents gave firsthand accounts of failures of cleaning and infection control. Given the long history of police harassment of residents, residents were appalled at the use of police to contain a health crisis. In response, Jimenez and Dadich are proposing to establish elected public housing residents committees to strengthen residents’ voices

Insecure Work Is a Disease

A special emphasis, of course, has been placed by local socialist candidates on working conditions, particularly the insecure work that has spread in Victoria in recent years. The chemical factory that burned in Broadmeadows was staffed by a predominately Tamil migrant workforce, who were routinely exposed to dangerous chemicals and afraid of speaking out for fear of employer retaliation.

Similarly, Dadich points out that the source of the public housing outbreak was lax infection control at the “quarantine hotels,” where overseas travelers are isolated for fourteen days:

Andrews (the Victorian premier) gave money to dodgy security contractors to deal with quarantine in hotels — the workers didn’t get proper training, didn’t get protective equipment, and they’ve gone on to spread the virus. Meanwhile people here in the flats were locked in, uncertain of what’s going to happen to their jobs or livelihoods. Don’t get it twisted — only poor and migrant communities would be treated with such contempt.

Indeed, COVID-19 has focused attention on the prevalence and danger of insecure work — the virus spreads readily in industries where precarious work prevails. Liz Walsh, running for office in the western suburbs, organized VS solidarity for meat industry staff in Brooklyn who refused to return to work until their virus safety concerns were dealt with. Walsh argues that local government can bolster these practical solidarity efforts: she is calling for the creation of a council committee to provide food, supplies, and free childcare for striking workers.

On the other side of the Maribyrnong River, Kath Larkin, a frontline public transport worker and union delegate with the Australian Rail Tram and Bus Industry Union, is running for “Lord Mayor.” She is arguing that the Melbourne City Council should directly represent city workers — and that “Lord” should be stripped from the mayor’s title.

“Workers run our city: stacking shelves in the supermarket, cleaning offices, and transporting health care workers to their jobs” says Larkin, “yet we get no say in how our city is run. City workers don’t get a vote, unless you live in the city. Soaring rents and property prices make that next to impossible for us.” To remedy this, Kath is campaigning to end the bizarre, plutocratic voting system that gives business and nonresident landlords two votes — instead arguing that city workers should be given voting rights, regardless of where they reside.

Reverse Privatization

Councils are themselves major employers who have, in lockstep with neoliberalism, long privatized services while casualizing and outsourcing their workforces. Just this year, despite a budget surplus, Maribyrnong Council sacked a hundred and fifty workers from libraries, pools, and community centers as a cost-saving response to the pandemic. The Australian Services Union, representing council employees, is calling on local government candidates to pledge support for secure jobs and pandemic leave for council workers. All Victorian Socialists candidates have signed on to this pledge.

The consequences of privatization have been most disastrous in aged care — COVID-19 has taken a shocking toll on run-down, underfunded aged care services, leading to thousands of infections and hundreds of deaths.

Jorquera is scathing about Maribyrnong Council’s recent decision to permanently privatize its in-home aged care service and relinquish its oversight of the sector. VS is also resisting a similar move underway in the inner north municipality of Darebin.

Local socialist campaigns on aged care have already encouraged several whistleblowers to come forward with stories of inadequate training and personal protective equipment (PPE). Jorquera argues that as a first step, the council must investigate every aged care service in the municipality, and systematically expose cost cutting and underpayment. This should be followed by moves to reverse privatization. It’s an ambitious program, but a very feasible one, especially compared to the human cost of the current arrangement.

Our City, Our Housing, Our Communities

It is likely that rent deferrals, income insecurity, and mortgage stress will result in a wave of evictions and foreclosures in Melbourne’s expensive inner north and west. Banks are set to end payment deferrals just as the federal government winds back unemployment payments and wage subsidies.

As Jorquera and other VS candidates argue, councils can support impacted residents by offering full rate relief to households suffering financial hardship. Without measures such as these, working-class people will be forced to seek cheaper rent and housing prices in outer suburbs.

Combatting gentrification also means defending low-cost and culturally diverse services, and infrastructure. Fresh food markets are an important case in point, providing affordable food and vibrant culture. Darebin candidate George Kanjere criticizes council’s support for plans by private developer Salta to move the Preston Market in order to make way for multistory apartment buildings. So long as this important community space is privately owned, it will be at risk: this is why Kanjere proposes that the land be compulsorily acquired by the state government and the market preserved by extending heritage protection.

The Party Continues

The Victorian Socialists is still a very young party, but the party’s growing activist base means it can field a large ground campaign. The 2018 and 2019 electoral campaigns, both with up to 750 volunteers handing out materials on election day, as well as door knocking efforts that matched local Greens and ALP campaigns. Of course, this advantage has been neutralized by Victoria’s lockdown.

Socialists have pivoted toward more online organizing instead. Two large party meetings, including a June all-member conference, were held totally online, electing a new leadership and introducing a number of structural changes, such as campaign committees, an increased dues rate, and an improved approach to communications.

These efforts have borne fruit — so far VS has drawn in A$20,000 in donations and organized forums and campaign meetings attracting hundreds of attendees. Volunteers have distributed 410,000 leaflets in the last month. Two hundred thousand more will be distributed in coming weeks. A phone-banking campaign has so far made over eleven thousand calls, and it is estimated that volunteers will have contacted at least twenty-five thousand before the election is over. Of those who have answered their phones, 15 percent have indicated support for VS.

Despite these promising achievements, in-person organizing and one-on-one discussions are the lifeblood of socialist organizing. Without these tools, it remains to be seen whether VS members’ resolve can translate into victory.

However, as Liz Walsh notes,

We see elections as a way to connect a socialist message with working people. If we win, it’s going to be because we were upfront about our politics, and because people voted for socialist fighters. And if we don’t win, we’ve forged new connections and put local councils on notice.

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NDP candidate Babchuk a fixture in local politics since 2005 – Campbell River Mirror

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Michele Babchuk is no stranger to the local political scene having sat on board of school trustees between 2005 and 2014 and then on city council for three terms beginning 2014.

She’s always had an interest in provincial politics and now is pursuing the MLA seat for North Island in the Oct. 24 election as a New Democrat.

“I’ve been interested in provincial politics for a long, long time,” Babchuk said.

RELATED: Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

In her role as a school trustee, city councillor and as chair of the Strathcona Regional District Board, a position she currently holds, Babchuk has worked her way around provincial ministries for years now. But despite her interest, there hadn’t been an opportunity to get involved at a higher level as outgoing MLA and Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena has held the position since 2005. Trevena announced Sept. 20 she would be stepping down, a day before Premier John Horgan called a snap election.

RELATED: ‘It’s time to move on’ – North Island MLA Claire Trevena will not seek re-election

Later that same day, it was announced that Babchuk had been nominated as the NDP candidate.

“It is something I have been dabbling in for quite a while,” Babchuk said, “but I didn’t know I was going to get the opportunity until quite recently.”

Babchuk sees the top issues for the North Island going into the election campaign are the COVID-19 pandemic and the province’s handling of the crisis, economic recovery, community resilience and connectivity.

Babchuk says she is “extremely happy” with the way the COVID-19 emergency has been handled by the provincial government.

“The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be top of mind for North Islanders for the foreseeable future and I am extremely happy with the way the emergency has been handled by Premier Horgan and his government,” Babchuk said.

But out of that, economic recovery and jobs are going to be an issue moving forward, Babchuk said. Resiliency refers to the community’s ability to keep jobs in the community re-start the local economy.

Community resiliency and the environment are going to be big issues as well. Another issue of importance is connectivity

“I also believe that connectivity is going to be on the list,” Babchuk said. “That’s what people on the North Island keep telling me are important.”

Connectivity more so than ever has become “absolutely imperative” for rural and remote communities because we are finding through the COVID-19 pandemic that people are even more isolated and so we have to do things differently, Babchuk said. The Strathcona Regional District and the Connected Coast project has been developing plans for improving community broadband Internet plans for rural communities like Kyuqyot, Quadra Island, Sayward, Tahsis and Zeballos.

The BC Recovery Plan has contributed $90 million into connectivity and to be able to start delivering the connectivity that those communities and the regional district have been pursuing is “amazing,” Babchuk said.

Homelessness has been a big issue for the City of Campbell River and Babchuk has been in the thick of that as a city councillor. It is technically a provincial responsibility and Babchuk will continue to advocate for housing issues.

She points out that the province has been investing heavily in social housing in Campbell River with a number of housing projects coming online through BC Housing. She referenced the Makola housing project, the purchase of the Heritage River Inn to provide housing for victims of an apartment fire, the acquisition of the Rose Bowl Restaurant to be converted into transitional housing and also the announcement last month about the construction of a supportive housing facility on Dogwood Street. In addition, Linda’s Place was brought onstream through the Head Injury Support Society and soon we will see an expansion to Rose Harbour, the supportive housing facility for women.

“I am really happy and really excited to take up this challenge to run as the NDP candidate in the North Island,” Babchuk said. “We need to do the policy and relationship building. We don’t do this in silos. It takes the whole community and it takes a whole bunch of collaboration and relationship-building to make all of this happen. So I am excited to be part of that team I am excited to work in caucus with a great premier, Premier Horgan, and I hope the people will consider me on Oct. 24.”

RELATED: Facey nominated as BC Liberal candidate for the North Island riding


@AlstrT
editor@campbellrivermirror.com

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