2017 Retrospective Roundtable: The Stories & Movements That Shaped Past Year

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Before weighing in on the challenges of the year ahead, our roundtable regulars will reflect on 2017, giving their assessment on what were the key stories of the past year and commenting on the movements that give them hope for the year ahead. Laura Carlsen, Jackie Goldberg and Dr. Gerald Horne join us for our annual New Year's roundtable.

Listen to past shows here.

Photo: Kyle Grillot / Reuters.

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3 "High" Ballots this November

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Three states are voting this November whether to maintain the ban over marijuana or to allow production and sale for recreational purposes.

In Oregon, the Measure 80 may establish a commission charged with licensing growers and selling marijuana through state-run stores in case of approval, which seems hard due only 37 per cent of popularity against 41 per cent of rejection according to latest polls.

But the other two initiatives are polling well. Washington voters are showing 57 per cent of support towards Initiative 52, which would authorize private pot stores regulated by the state liquor commission.

Meanwhile, 51 per cent of Colorado citizens are in favor of Amendment 64, which would allow home cultivation of up to six plants and create a licensing system for growers and retailers; 40 percent were opposed.

Experts say nothing is certain for many polls showed strong support for failed California's Proposition 19 before the voting. Anyhow, any state going against federal drug policy will be a serious problem for Barack Obama, who will face during the remains of his administration any special marijuana state law.

Although Obama admitted to smoked marijuana during his youth, he has continuously denied any modification in the general ban of this substance for recreational purposes. 

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47% vs 1%

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The fallout continues over the now infamous Mitt Romney ‘secret tape’ first leaked to Mother Jones Magazine.

Romney’s dismissal of nearly half of the United States population as lazy  moochers has been harshly rebuked by those across the political spectrum, including President Obama on a recent appearance on David Letterman.  

Though Romney is quick to criticize what he sees as the 47% of the country depending on government for help, he along with the rest of the rest of the 1% pay far less than most if any federal income tax. Romney seems to believe that those who are getting some government assistance are reprehensible (seniors on social security, vets, single mothers on welfare, students etc).  What does he think about those  who get corporate welfare while paying little to no federal income tax while stashing large amounts of money in off shore accounts, and restructuring companies by slashing countless jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took note of this discrepancy saying that, “... we learned that Mitt Romney only wants to be president of half of the United States.”  It is unclear whether or not Romney can rebound as his poll numbers slip.  On the other hand, given the right wing’s attempts to suppress votes, as well as the apathy of the left to President Obama, Romney may still have a chance of the presidency.

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50 years later, Black Panthers look back at party's founding

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50 years later, Black Panthers look back at party's founding


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Black Panthers emerged from this gritty Northern California city 50 years ago, declaring to a nation in turmoil a new party dedicated to defending African-Americans against police brutality and protecting the right of a downtrodden people to determine their own future.

In the group's short life, it launched an ambitious breakfast program for children and opened free health clinics to screen for sickle-cell anemia. At the same time, party members scared mainstream America with their calls for revolution that were at odds with Martin Luther King Jr.'s insistence on peaceful protest.

The Panthers eventually imploded, weakened by internal fighting and by a government effort to undermine the group. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover said the party represented the nation's "greatest threat to internal security." The Nixon administration moved to shut it down.

The anniversary comes as new tensions between black communities and law enforcement have given rise to another social-justice movement with Oakland ties — Black Lives Matter.

Hundreds of Panthers from around the world are expected in Oakland for a four-day conference that started Thursday. Two days later, co-founder Bobby Seale will celebrate his 80th birthday with a roast sponsored by the National Alumni Association of the Black Panther Party.

Nationally, African-Americans continue to lag whites in jobs, housing and health. And Oakland, once a heavily black city, is losing its African-American population as soaring home prices propelled by the technology boom drive out poorer residents.

"The only change is that time has passed," said Elaine Brown, a former party chairwoman who remains politically active in the San Francisco Bay Area. "We are the poorest. We have the least economic interests in the country, and consequently we are an oppressed people. We remain an oppressed people."

Bobby McCall was 20 when he left Philadelphia for Oakland to help give away 10,000 sacks of free food. He agrees that conditions have not improved.

"That's why we have the movement Black Lives Matter," McCall said. "Only they're not as organized as we were. They don't have a free breakfast program like we had. They have to start developing programs."

The generally accepted date of the party's founding is Oct. 15, 1966, although Seale said it was a week later, on his birthday.

It was an era of Vietnam War and civil rights protests when Seale and Huey P. Newton drafted the party's 10-point platform. The document called for decent housing and employment. It demanded black self-reliance.

They named their group the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense after a black civil rights group in Alabama, adopted the beret worn by the French resistance to Hitler and launched armed patrols.

In response, California lawmakers in 1967 repealed the law that allowed people to carry loaded weapons in public. The Panthers gained national attention when they carried guns into the state Capitol in protest.

White Americans were used to King's nonviolent campaign against racism, but they were not accustomed to seeing black Americans with guns.

Today, a tart-tongued Seale bristles at all the talk of free breakfasts and firearms without what he calls critical context. He formed the party, he said, to elect minorities to political seats. The "survival programs" such as food and clothing giveaways were linked to voter registration drives, he said.

As for the violence that included shootouts with police, he said, "The power structure was violent. The Ku Klux Klan was violent. They came and they attacked us. If you shoot at me, I'm shooting back. So are you going to call this right to self-defense or are you going to call this aggressive violence? It's not aggressive violence."

The Oakland Museum of California's exhibit "All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50" documents the party's reign from 1966 to 1982. The party's decline included Nixon administration efforts to undermine the group with informants and misinformation.

"The FBI inspired raids on Panther offices. There was a general campaign to portray them as a negative, violent organization," said Rene de Guzman, the museum's director of exhibition strategies and senior curator of art.

Members, including Seale and Newton, cycled in and out of jails and prisons. Seale left the party in 1974. Newton dissolved it in 1982, shutting down the community school and newspaper. He was later shot dead by an alleged drug dealer.

Many see the party's influence in the youth movements of today, especially Black Lives Matter, which also protests police brutality. It started as a hashtag and love letter to blacks posted on Facebook by a young Oakland activist named Alicia Garza in 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Seale would like to see Black Lives Matter organize people to seek political office and create an environmental jobs program for youth.

Robbie Clark, a 35-year-old housing organizer and Black Lives Matter activist who grew up in Oakland, said the movement already does just that. The founders, for example, work on behalf of domestic workers and immigrants.

Some activists, Clark said, want to focus on elections and others want to go outside the political system. Many insist the movement needs both.

"We can shift some of those conditions by having the right people in office," Clark said, "but it's with the understanding that having different people in those seats doesn't make the system change overnight."

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51 GOP Senators Just Voted To Cut $1.5 Trillion from Medicare and Medicaid To Give Super-Rich and Corporations a Tax Cut

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by Jon Queally, staff writer, October 19, 2017


51 GOP Senators Just Voted To Cut $1.5 Trillion from Medicare and Medicaid To Give Super-Rich and Corporations a Tax Cut

The Republican budget, declared Sen. Sanders after its passage, "is not a bad bill. It's a horrific bill."


Along strict party lines, the Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday night voted to pass a sweeping budget measure—one criticized as both "despicable" and "horrific" for providing massive giveaways to corporations and the super-rich while eviscerating funding for social programs, healthcare, education, and affordable housing.

"Another dark deed done: GOP passes obscene budget to slash Medicare/Medicaid & explode the deficit – all in the name of tax cuts for the 1%."

—Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)The measure passed by 51-49 vote, with only one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, joining every Democrat and the chamber's two Independents who voted against it. Its approval now paves that way for massive tax giveaways to the wealthy and corporations envisioned by President Donald Trump and the GOP in both the House and the Senate.

"51 Republican Senators just voted to cut Medicaid by $1 trillion and Medicare by $500 billion so that millionaires and corporations can get a tax cut. It's immoral and despicable," said TJ Helmstetter, a spokesperson for Americans for Tax Fairness, in a statement immediately following the vote.

    51 GOP Sens. voted to slash Medicaid by $1T, Medicare by $500B, & other working family priorities just so the 1% can get BIG tax cuts. SHAME pic.twitter.com/diqckrg9JT

    — For Tax Fairness (@4TaxFairness) October 20, 2017

Though the budget resolution itself is nonbinding, MoveOn.org's Ben Wikler notes how the Senate passage on Thursday represents the "starting gun for what might be the most consequential legislative fight of the Trump era: the looting of the U.S. treasury to reward billionaire GOP donors and mega-corporations, at the expense of the rest of us." And with the Senate resolution now in place, a reconciliation process can begin with Republicans in the House, meaning the GOP can "shoot for a tax bill without a single Democratic vote."

In the wake of its passage, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who earlier this week called the proposal "Robin Hood in reverse" for taking from the poor to give to the rich— said the "Republicans' budget is not a bad bill. It's a horrific bill."

    Republicans’ budget is not a bad bill. It’s a horrific bill.

    — Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) October 20, 2017

Sanders was far from alone in his outrage.

Naomi Klein Block

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) called the vote a "dark deed" and urged people nationwide to stand up and fight back against what the budget represents:

    Another dark deed done: GOP passes obscene budget to slash Medicare/Medicaid & explode the deficit – all in the name of tax cuts for the 1%.

    — Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) October 20, 2017

    In what world does it make sense to rob trillions from the nat'l treasury, all to grant a massive windfall to the very richest individuals?

    — Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) October 20, 2017

    It’s up to us—all of us—to fight back once again, defeat this destructive GOP tax plan, and stand up for working America. Time to get loud!

    — Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) October 20, 2017

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), also vocal in her warnings ahead of the vote, condemned the budget put forth by her Republican colleagues as "garbage".

Here, for the record, is the full roll call of the vote:

Alexander (R-TN), Yea

Baldwin (D-WI), Nay

Barrasso (R-WY), Yea

Bennet (D-CO), Nay

Blumenthal (D-CT), Nay

Blunt (R-MO), Yea

Booker (D-NJ), Nay

Boozman (R-AR), Yea

Brown (D-OH), Nay

Burr (R-NC), Yea

Cantwell (D-WA), Nay

Capito (R-WV), Yea

Cardin (D-MD), Nay

Carper (D-DE), Nay

Casey (D-PA), Nay

Cassidy (R-LA), Yea

Cochran (R-MS), Yea

Collins (R-ME), Yea

Coons (D-DE), Nay

Corker (R-TN), Yea

Cornyn (R-TX), Yea

Cortez Masto (D-NV), Nay

Cotton (R-AR), Yea

Crapo (R-ID), Yea

Cruz (R-TX), Yea

Daines (R-MT), Yea

Donnelly (D-IN), Nay

Duckworth (D-IL), Nay

Durbin (D-IL), Nay

Enzi (R-WY), Yea

Ernst (R-IA), Yea

Feinstein (D-CA), Nay

Fischer (R-NE), Yea

Flake (R-AZ), Yea


Franken (D-MN), Nay

Gardner (R-CO), Yea

Gillibrand (D-NY), Nay

Graham (R-SC), Yea

Grassley (R-IA), Yea

Harris (D-CA), Nay

Hassan (D-NH), Nay

Hatch (R-UT), Yea

Heinrich (D-NM), Nay

Heitkamp (D-ND), Nay

Heller (R-NV), Yea

Hirono (D-HI), Nay

Hoeven (R-ND), Yea

Inhofe (R-OK), Yea

Isakson (R-GA), Yea

Johnson (R-WI), Yea

Kaine (D-VA), Nay

Kennedy (R-LA), Yea

King (I-ME), Nay

Klobuchar (D-MN), Nay

Lankford (R-OK), Yea

Leahy (D-VT), Nay

Lee (R-UT), Yea

Manchin (D-WV), Nay

Markey (D-MA), Nay

McCain (R-AZ), Yea

McCaskill (D-MO), Nay

McConnell (R-KY), Yea

Menendez (D-NJ), Nay

Merkley (D-OR), Nay

Moran (R-KS), Yea

Murkowski (R-AK), Yea

Murphy (D-CT), Nay

Murray (D-WA), Nay

Nelson (D-FL), Nay

Paul (R-KY), Nay

Perdue (R-GA), Yea

Peters (D-MI), Nay

Portman (R-OH), Yea

Reed (D-RI), Nay

Risch (R-ID), Yea

Roberts (R-KS), Yea

Rounds (R-SD), Yea

Rubio (R-FL), Yea

Sanders (I-VT), Nay

Sasse (R-NE), Yea

Schatz (D-HI), Nay

Schumer (D-NY), Nay

Scott (R-SC), Yea

Shaheen (D-NH), Nay

Shelby (R-AL), Yea

Stabenow (D-MI), Nay

Strange (R-AL), Yea

Sullivan (R-AK), Yea

Tester (D-MT), Nay

Thune (R-SD), Yea

Tillis (R-NC), Yea

Toomey (R-PA), Yea

Udall (D-NM), Nay

Van Hollen (D-MD), Nay

Warner (D-VA), Nay

Warren (D-MA), Nay

Whitehouse (D-RI), Nay

Wicker (R-MS), Yea

Wyden (D-OR), Nay

Young (R-IN), Yea

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