Tag Archives: independent

Jessica Williams, Cate Blanchett star in Sundance premieres

Former “Daily Show” correspondent Jessica Williams flexes her dramatic chops. Cate Blanchett pays homage to great 20th century artists and “Silicon Valley” star Kumail Nanjiani tells a very personal story in some of the films premiering at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Programmers announced their selections for the documentary and narrative premiere sections at the Sundance Film Festival, which has launched films like “Boyhood,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “O.J.: Made in America.”

As with many years, the Sundance premiere slate can be a place for well-known comedians to take a stab at more dramatic and serious roles.

In what’s expected to be one of the breakout films and performances of the festival, comedian Jessica Williams stars in Jim Strouse’s “The Incredible Jessica James,” about a New York playwright recovering from a breakup and finding solace in a recent divorcee.

Nanjiani is another who might surprise audiences in “The Big Sick,” which he co-wrote with his wife Emily V. Gordon and is based on their own courtship. He stars alongside Zoe Kazan in the Michael Showalter-directed pic.

The festival also has films featuring veteran stars in different kinds of roles.

Shirley MacLaine stars in “The Last Word,” about a retired businesswoman who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a journalist (Amanda Seyfried) after writing her own obituary.

Festival founder Robert Redford, too, is in Charlie McDowell’s “The Discovery,” about a world where the afterlife has been proven. Jason Segel and Rooney Mara also star.

Cate Blanchett re-enacts artistic statements of Dadaists, Lars von Trier and everyone in between in “Manifesto.”

Michelle Pfeiffer and Kiefer Sutherland co-star in the drama “Where is Kyra.”

“Avengers” Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen re-team in the FBI crime thriller “Wind River,” the directorial debut of “Hell or High Water” writer Taylor Sheridan.

“Bessie” director Dee Rees is poised to be a standout with “Mudbound,” a racial drama set in the post-WWII South and starring Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell and Mary J. Blige.

“It’s quite topical to this time even though it’s a period piece,” said festival director John Cooper.

Among the documentaries premiering are a look at the Oklahoma City bombing from Barak Goodman; Stanley Nelson’s examination of black colleges and universities, “Tell Them We Are Rising”; and Barbara Kopple’s account of a champion diver who announces he is transgender, “This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous.”

“The beauty of independent film is it’s not a copycat world, unlike some of the Hollywood stuff where they follow trends,” said programming director Trevor Groth. “Independent film has always been about originality and choice and something different.”

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 19- 29.


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Feingold, Johnson US Senate rematch heads to finish

Six years ago Ron Johnson came out of nowhere to beat three-term U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, a Republican victory that chipped away at the Democratic majority before the GOP took control in 2014.

Now Democrats are looking to Wisconsin, and Feingold yet again, in the hopes that a rematch victory will help them regain the majority.

Democrats, and Feingold, have reasons to be confident. Polls have consistently shown Feingold ahead in the race and Republicans traditionally fare worse in Wisconsin in presidential years because turnout favors Democrats.

But in a year when Donald Trump’s presidential run has shaken up expectations, Johnson’s team argues against reading too much into the data. They insist the race is heading in their direction in the final days, saying their voter outreach effort will be part of the difference maker on Election Day.

“No one will outhustle Ron and this team,” his campaign manager said in a memo to supporters on Oct. 23. “Ron’s been underestimated before, and smart observers would be wise not to do so again.”

But Feingold was all smiles and brimming with confidence when he cast his ballot just over two weeks before the election, saying that Johnson’s decision to label him as a “phony” showed the incumbent was becoming desperate.

In an Associated Press interview, Feingold said his pitch to undecided voters is that he’s on the side of middle income and working families on the key issues.

“It’s real clear I’m the candidate who’s likely to vote with middle income working families, on everything from minimum wage to family leave to prescription medicine to student loans,” Feingold said.

Johnson argues that Feingold is an out-of-touch “career politician” who wants nothing more than to return to Washington where he served as a senator for 18 years.

“Every type of plan that Senator Feingold has is going to grow government and when we grow government, just like night follows day, government’s going to demand more of your hard-earned money, going to take more of your freedom,” Johnson told AP. “I actually want to limit government to those enumerated powers and I want to make sure that Wisconsinites keep more of their heard-earned money.”

Johnson has emphasized his experience creating jobs and building the Oshkosh plastics manufacturing company Pacur before winning election to the Senate, saying that real-life experience sets him apart from Feingold. Johnson said in one of the debates that “I am the working man.”

Feingold has tried to turn Johnson’s business background against him, painting him as an out-of-touch millionaire who accepted $10 million in deferred compensation before leaving the company to join the Senate.

Both Johnson and Feingold are battling the tides of history.

Due in part to the larger Democratic turnout, no Republican has been elected senator in Wisconsin in a presidential year since 1980.

But just as daunting for Feingold, no former senator has won a rematch against the person who defeated them since 1934.

And former senators have only won election to return to the Senate twice in the past 60 years.

Millions of dollars in advertising, both from the candidates and outside groups, has poured into the state. Political action committees have spent six times as much to help Johnson over Feingold: $8.9 million to $1.4 million, based on a tally by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The two candidates combined have spent more than $28 million on the race.

The presidential race has loomed large.

Feingold repeatedly called on Johnson to join other Republicans in revoking his support for Trump. Johnson refused. Likewise, Feingold has stood by his description of Hillary Clinton as “honest and trustworthy,” even though Wisconsin polls have consistently shown voters don’t see her that way.

But Feingold has also emphasized his independence, sticking by his vote against the Patriot Act following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was the only senator to oppose it.

“I didn’t do what the Democrats wanted me to do on it or Republicans,” Feingold said. “I did what Wisconsinites want, to do your job and actually look at the legislation and decide whether it could be better and it definitely needed to be improved.”

Johnson has pledged not to seek a third term should he win.

“I will be the calmest guy on my election night because I win either way,” Johnson said in a line often used throughout the campaign and repeated in a radio interview two weeks before the election. “I either go back to my life that I love that I miss, or I can fight again and go back to Washington.”

Libertarian Phil Anderson is also on the ballot.

Divided America: Diverse millennials are no voting monolith

The oldest millennials — nearing 20 when airplanes slammed into New York City’s Twin Towers — are old enough to remember the relative economic prosperity of the 1990s and when a different Clinton was running for president.

The nation’s youngest adults — now nearing 20 — find it hard to recall a reality without terrorism and economic worry.

Now millennials have edged out baby boomers as the largest living generation in U.S. history, and more than 75 million of them have come of age.

How they vote on Nov. 8 will shape the political landscape for years to come.

Yet with less than two months to go before Election Day, the values of young Americans whose coming-of-age was bookended by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the Great Recession are emerging as an unpredictable grab bag of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism.

What they share is a palpable sense of disillusionment.

As part of its Divided America series, The Associated Press spent time with seven millennial voters in five states where the oldest and largest swath of this generation — ages 18 to 35, as defined by the Pew Research Center — could have an outsized influence in November.

They are a uniquely American mosaic, from a black teen in Nevada voting for the first time to a Florida-born son of Latino immigrants to a white Christian couple in Ohio.

Taken individually, these voters illustrate how millennials are challenging pollsters’ expectations based on race, class and background in surprising ways, reacting to what they see as the loss of the American Dream. They are intent on shaping something new and important that reflects their reality — on their own terms.

“Millennials have been described as apathetic, but they’re absolutely not. I think you can see from this election year that they’re not, and that millennials have a very nuanced understanding of the political world,” said Diana Downard, a 26-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter who will vote for Hillary Clinton. “So yeah, I’m proud to be a millennial.”

Just 5 percent of young adults say that America is “greater than it has ever been,” while 52 percent feel the nation is “falling behind” and 24 percent believe the U.S. is “failing,” according to a GenForward poll released this summer.

The first-of-its kind survey of young people between the ages of 18 and 30 was conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Fifty-four percent believe only a few people at the top can get ahead in today’s America and 74 percent say income and wealth distribution are uneven, according to the poll.

Brianna Lawrence, a 21-year-old videographer and eyelash artist from Durham, North Carolina, identifies with those numbers.

She was just 7 on Sept. 11 and the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks is the only time she can remember the nation feeling united, even if only by grief. With $40,000 in student debt, she’s working hard to establish her own cosmetic business after graduating from North Carolina Central University. She plans to vote for Hillary Clinton, but feels America has lost its way.

“My biggest hope for this country is for us to come back together as a community. As a United States of America, to unite together again,” she said.

But millennials know that getting to that place won’t be easy. Many, like Lawrence, are saddled with college debt and have struggled to find jobs.

In Denver, 1,600 miles to the west, Downard also has almost $40,000 in student debt that’s already changed her path. A dual U.S. and Mexican citizen, she feels she can’t afford to work for an overseas organization — one of her dreams — and plans to delay having a family at least 10 years.

“We went to college in pursuit of a better life and really, now, we’re kind of just paralyzed by our student debt,” said Downard, who works for a nonpartisan organization that works to improve youth voter registration. “You can’t even think about those sorts of alternative options.”

In part because of these economic pressures, a 2014 Pew Research Center poll found that — for the first time in more than 130 years — adults ages 18 to 34 were slightly more likely to be living with their parents than with a spouse or partner in their own residence.

And one in four millennials say they might not ever marry, a Pew survey found.

Only 8 percent of young adults feel their household’s financial situation is “very good,” and education and economic growth ranked No. 1 and No. 2 as the issues that will most influence their vote, according to the GenForward poll.

“We might be in a ‘good-ish’ finance situation right now as a country, but I was always taught there’s ups and downs in the finance world and with every up, there’s a down. So we should be preparing for that down to come,” said Brien Tillett, who graduated this spring from a high school just miles from the Las Vegas Strip.

Tillett, who turned 18 in July, was 10 when the recession hit and sucked the wind out of his family. His mother, a single parent, was in a car accident that hospitalized her for three months and, with no safety net, the family struggled.

“It was to the point where I would not ask my mother to go hang out with my friends because I didn’t want her to worry about money,” said Tillett, whose brush with insolvency has deeply influenced his views.

The national debt is his No. 1 concern.

As a young black man, he’s turned off by remarks by Donald Trump that he finds racist and xenophobic, but likes Trump’s aggressive stance on the economy.

“We’re trillions of dollars in debt and that should not be happening,” said Tillett, who started running track at a two-year college in August.

He strongly considered voting for Trump, but will now vote for Clinton because Trump has become “a loose cannon.”

Still, he’s angry about Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.

“We have to basically question if we can truly trust her with all of our nation’s secrets,” he said.

Anibal David Cabrera was in high school when Tillett was just a small boy — but he’s part of the same generation.

The son of a Honduran mother and Dominican father, he graduated from college in 2008 as the recession was picking up steam. A finance major, he wanted to work for a hedge fund or bank, but the economic collapse meant jobs had dried up. Eventually Cabrera, now 31 and living in Tampa, Florida, got an accounting job at a small tech firm.

He feels he’s entering the prime of his life a few steps behind where he could have been, through no fault of his own.

A Jeb Bush die-hard in the primaries, he’s now supporting Trump and hopes the business mogul can make good on his promises.

“My biggest hope for the country would be a prosperous economy. That is something my generation has kind of never seen,” Cabrera said. “We never got to experience the rapid growth of the ’80s or the ’90s, and I think my generation would love to see that.”

Shared pain does not lead to shared views among his generation.

Millennial voters’ disdain for traditional party affiliation have made them particularly unpredictable. Half describe themselves as political independents, according to a 2014 Pew Research report — a near-record level of political disaffiliation. As a generation, they tend to be extremely liberal on social questions such as gay marriage, abortion and marijuana legalization. Yet they skew slightly conservative on fiscal policy and are more in line with other generations on gun control and foreign affairs.

Trip Nistico, a recent graduate of the University of Colorado, Boulder’s law school, is an avid supporter of gun rights who goes to shooting ranges but also supports same-sex marriage. The 26-year-old Texas native voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 — his first presidential election — and Mitt Romney in 2012.

“I’m pretty liberal on social issues. I don’t really think that — on a national level — they’re really as important as some of these other issues we’ve been discussing,” he said.

He’s supporting Trump because his preferred candidate, the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, isn’t likely to crack the polls.

Trump remains wildly unpopular among young adults, however, and nearly two-thirds of Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 believe the Republican nominee is racist, according to the GenForward poll. Views of Hillary Clinton also were unfavorable, though not nearly to the same extent.

Many millennials are angry that Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders has withdrawn and are disillusioned with the electoral process.

Forty-two percent of voters under 30 have “hardly any confidence” that the Republican presidential nomination process is fair and 38 percent feel the same about the Democratic process, according to the GenForward poll. The survey was taken before the leak of Democratic National Committee emails that roiled the Democratic Party.

Bill and Kristi Clay, young parents and devout Christians from rural Ohio, offer a portrait of millennials struggling to choose a candidate who matches their values.

They have two sons, 4 and 6, and are adopting a child from the Philippines. They serve meals with their church at inner-city soup kitchens in nearby Columbus and have a mix of political views that, Bill Clay says, comes from following “the lamb, not the donkey or elephant.”

Kristi Clay opposes same-sex marriage and abortion and names those as her top issues this election. Yet the 32-year-old school librarian is still reluctantly leaning toward voting for Clinton. “You have to look at the big picture,” she says.

Bill Clay, meanwhile, shares his wife’s views on the more conservative issues, but they hold what some would consider more liberal views on matters such as immigration.

“If we’re going to try to be Christian-like, and embrace people, I don’t think you can shut the borders to an entire group of people just because of the fear that some of them don’t like us,” said Clay, 33, who voted for Barack Obama in the last two elections but supported Republican Marco Rubio this time.

Yet that strong faith has not helped him find much inspiration in the current candidates, both of whom he sees as self-serving and unwilling to budge on important issues.

“I’m feeling a little pessimistic this year,” he said.

The Clays say they will vote no matter what, but whether their millennial brothers and sisters do the same is an open question.

The millennial vote rose steadily beginning in 2002 and peaked in 2008, with excitement over Obama’s first campaign. In 2012, however, just 45 percent of millennials cast ballots and participation has leveled off or dropped ever since, said John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.

“They have a somewhat different perspective in terms of politics, “Della Volpe said. “It hasn’t really worked. They haven’t been part of a movement that’s been effective.”

Yet Tillett, the teen in Nevada, exudes youthful idealism as he talks about casting his first vote in a presidential election.

“It means a lot to me personally because I’m making a difference in my life and in the country. My vote does matter,” he said. “It really does.”

For a few Oscar doc nominees, films incite change

When it came to gaining the trust of the subjects featured in her latest Oscar-nominated documentary, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy had an advantage.

“It helps to be an Academy Award winner,” joked Obaid-Chinoy, who won the best documentary Oscar for her 2012 short film “Saving Face” about the suffering of women disfigured by acid attacks in the Middle East.

The Pakistani filmmaker was among the nominated documentarians on hand for a Wednesday event at the motion picture academy honoring this year’s documentary Oscar nominees ahead of Sunday’s ceremony.

Obaid-Chinoy is up for another Academy Award this year for her short documentary “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.” The film, which is about a girl who was shot and thrown into a river by her father after she married a man he did not approve of, is among this year’s documentary nominees affecting change in the world.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed Monday to act against the “despicable” practice known as honor killing after viewing Obaid-Chinoy’s film.

“If you’re cynical about the Oscars, think about that for a second,” she told the crowd at the motion picture academy’s headquarters.

“A Girl in the River” is up against the Ebola clean-up chronicle “Body Team 12,” the Vietnamese artist profile “Chau, Beyond the Lines,” the behind-the-scenes-of-“Shoah” saga “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah” and the animated post-traumatic stress disorder narrative “Last Day of Freedom.”

“The Look of Silence” filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer similarly raved that his work about Indonesian genocide prompted the government to recognize the mass killings of communists and ethnic Chinese following the release of his previous film, 2012’s “The Act of Killing.”

“It was this wonderful moment not lost on ordinary Indonesians because it was the first time that the government had even implicitly said what happened was wrong,” said Oppenheimer.

“The Look of Silence,” which serves as a follow-up to “The Act of Killing,” is nominated for the feature documentary prize alongside the Amy Winehouse profile “Amy,” the Mexican drug war expose “Cartel Land,” the Nina Simone biography “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and the revolt chronicle “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.”

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Sanders proposing tuition-free 4-year colleges

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on May 19 will introduce legislation to provide tuition-free higher education for students at four-year colleges and universities.

Sanders, who is an independent but is running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, said in a news release, “We live in a highly competitive global economy and, if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated work force in the world. That will not happen if, every year, hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and if millions more leave school deeply in debt.”

Sanders’ legislation would eliminate undergraduate tuition at public colleges and universities and would expand work-study programs.

The bill also would lower student debt and bring down interest rates on college loans.

The senator and 2016 presidential candidate planned to hold a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in the “Senate Swamp” at about 11:30 a.m. EST.

Sanders said, “Countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden and many more are providing free or inexpensive higher education for their young people.  They understand how important it is to be investing in their youth.  We should be doing the same.”

He continued, “We used to lead the world in the percentage of our people who graduated college. Today we are in 12th place. We used to have great universities tuition free. Today they are unaffordable. I want a more educated work force. I want everybody to be able to get a higher education regardless of their income.”

Sanders filing climate change amendment to Keystone XL bill

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Jan. 13 planned to file an amendment that would put the Senate on record acknowledging that climate change is being caused by humans and is a major threat to the planet. 

Sanders, an independent from Vermont who has said he will announce this spring whether he’ll run for president in 2016, said he plans to offer the amendment to a Senate bill that would force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. The controversial project would ship oil from Canada’s tar sands region in Alberta to refineries in Texas along the Gulf of Mexico. 

“The American people need to know whether Congress is listening to the overwhelming majority of scientists when it comes to climate change,” Sanders said in a news release.

“On this issue, the scientists have been virtually unanimous in saying that climate change is real, it is caused by human action, it is already causing devastating problems which will only get worse in the future and that we need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel. Do members of Congress believe the scientists or not?” the senator asked. 

Sanders has argued against construction of the pipeline because it would promote greater exploitation of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet and increase greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

The U.S. House, voting largely along party lines, approved a Keystone XL bill last week.

Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement must be defeated

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy. It will also negatively impact some of the poorest people in the world.

The TPP is a treaty that has been written behind closed doors by the corporate world. Incredibly, while Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and major media companies have full knowledge as to what is in this treaty, the American people and members of Congress do not. They have been locked out of the process.

Further, all Americans, regardless of political ideology, should be opposed to the “fast track” process which would deny Congress the right to amend the treaty and represent their constituents’ interests.

The TPP follows in the footsteps of other unfettered free trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and the Permanent Normalized Trade Agreement with China (PNTR). These treaties have forced American workers to compete against desperate and low-wage labor around the world. The result has been massive job losses in the United States and the shutting down of tens of thousands of factories. These corporately backed trade agreements have significantly contributed to the race to the bottom, the collapse of the American middle class and increased wealth and income inequality. The TPP is more of the same, but even worse.

During my 23 years in Congress, I helped lead the fight against NAFTA and PNTR with China. During the coming session of Congress, I will be working with organized labor, environmentalists, religious organizations, Democrats, and Republicans against the secretive TPP trade deal.

Let’s be clear: the TPP is much more than a “free trade” agreement. It is part of a global race to the bottom to boost the profits of large corporations and Wall Street by outsourcing jobs; undercutting worker rights; dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety and financial laws; and allowing corporations to challenge our laws in international tribunals rather than our own court system. If TPP was such a good deal for America, the administration should have the courage to show the American people exactly what is in this deal, instead of keeping the content of the TPP a secret.

10 Ways that TPP would hurt Working Families 1. TPP will allow corporations to outsource even more jobs overseas.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, if the TPP is agreed to, the U.S. will lose more than 130,000 jobs to Vietnam and Japan alone. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

1  Service Sector Jobs will be lost. At a time when corporations have already outsourced over 3 million service sector jobs in the U.S., TPP includes rules that will make it even easier for corporate America to outsource call centers; computer programming; engineering; accounting; and medical diagnostic jobs.

Manufacturing jobs will be lost. As a result of NAFTA, the U.S. lost nearly 700,000 jobs. As a result of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, the U.S. lost over 2.7 million jobs. As a result of the Korea Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. has lost 70,000 jobs. The TPP would make matters worse by providing special benefits to firms that offshore jobs and by reducing the risks associated with operating in low-wage countries.

2 U.S. sovereignty will be undermined by giving corporations the right to challenge our laws before international tribunals.

The TPP creates a special dispute resolution process that allows corporations to challenge any domestic laws that could adversely impact their “expected future profits.”

These challenges would be heard before UN and World Bank tribunals which could require taxpayer compensation to corporations.

This process undermines our sovereignty and subverts democratically passed laws including those dealing with labor, health, and the environment.

3. Wages, benefits, and collective bargaining will be threatened.

NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, and other free trade agreements have helped drive down the

wages and benefits of American workers and have eroded collective bargaining rights.

The TPP will make the race to the bottom worse because it forces American workers to compete with desperate workers in Vietnam where the minimum wage is just 56 cents an hour.

4. Our ability to protect the environment will be undermined.

The TPP will allow corporations to challenge any law that would adversely impact their future profits. Pending claims worth over $14 billion have been filed based on similar language in other trade agreements. Most of these claims deal with challenges to environmental laws in a number of countries. The TPP will make matters even worse by giving corporations the right to sue any of the nations that sign onto the TPP. These lawsuits would be heard in international tribunals bypassing domestic courts.

5. Food Safety Standards will be threatened.

The TPP would make it easier for countries like Vietnam to export contaminated fish and seafood into the U.S. The FDA has already prevented hundreds of seafood imports from TPP countries because of salmonella, e-coli, methyl-mercury and drug residues. But the FDA only inspects 1-2 percent of food imports and will be overwhelmed by the vast expansion of these imports if the TPP is agreed to.

6. Buy America laws could come to an end.

The U.S. has several laws on the books that require the federal government to buy goods and services that are made in America or mostly made in this country. Under TPP, foreign corporations must be given equal access to compete for these government contracts with companies that make products in America. Under TPP, the U.S. could not even prevent companies that have horrible human rights records from receiving government contracts paid by U.S. taxpayers.

7. Prescription drug prices will increase, access to life saving drugs will decrease, and the profits of drug companies will go up.

Big pharmaceutical companies are working hard to ensure that the TPP extends the monopolies they have for prescription drugs by extending their patents (which currently can last 20 years or more). This would expand the profits of big drug companies, keep drug prices artificially high, and leave millions of people around the world without access to life saving drugs. Doctors without Borders stated that “the TPP agreement is on track to become the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines in developing countries.”

8. Wall Street would benefit at the expense of everyone else.

Under TPP, governments would be barred from imposing “capital controls” that have been successfully used to avoid financial crises. These controls range from establishing a financial speculation tax to limiting the massive flows of speculative capital flowing into and out of countries responsible for the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s. In other words, the TPP would expand the rights and power of the same Wall Street firms that nearly destroyed the world economy just five years ago and would create the conditions for more financial instability in the future.

Last year, I co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Harkin to create a Wall Street speculation tax of just 0.03 percent on trades of derivatives, credit default swaps, and large amounts of stock. If TPP were enacted, such a financial speculation tax may be in violation of this trade agreement.

9. The TPP would reward authoritarian regimes like Vietnam that systematically violate human rights.

The State Department, the U.S. Department of Labor, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International have all documented Vietnam’s widespread violations of basic international standards for human rights. Yet, the TPP would reward Vietnam’s bad behavior by giving it duty free access to the U.S. market.

10. The TPP has no expiration date, making it virtually impossible to repeal.

Once TPP is agreed to, it has no sunset date and could only be altered by a consensus of all of the countries that agreed to it. Other countries, like China, could be allowed to join in the future. For example, Canada and Mexico joined TPP negotiations in 2012 and Japan joined last year. 

Bernie Sanders: I’ll decide on presidential run by March

Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders says he’ll decide by March whether to launch a 2016 presidential campaign and, if so, whether he’ll seek the Democratic nomination.

Either way, Sanders says he wouldn’t run just to nudge the debate to the left.

“I don’t want to do it unless I can do it well,” he told The Associated Press. “I don’t want to do it unless we can win this thing.”

Sanders, a socialist, said he grew up “solidly lower middle class” in a Jewish family in Brooklyn — his father, an immigrant from Poland, sold paint for a living — and his views about the distribution of wealth were formed early.

“A lack of money in my family was a very significant aspect of my growing up … kids in my class would have new jackets, new coats, and I would get hand-me-downs,” Sanders said.

After his graduation from the University of Chicago, Sanders came to Vermont in the 1960s as part of the counterculture, back-to-the-land movement that turned the state from solid Yankee Republican into one of the bluest in the country.

He won his first election — for Burlington mayor — by 10 votes, and since then has carried a consistent message thought eight terms in the House and now his second term in the Senate: The rich have too much, the poor and working class not enough.

Sanders said the issues about which he’s been railing all these years are only becoming more dire. The wealth gap has grown, and the middle class, he says, is “collapsing.”

“You have one family, the Walton family of Walmart, owning more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of the American people,” he said. “We have 95 percent of all new income going to the top 1 percent. You have millions of families unable to afford to send their kids to college. People are desperately worried about whether or not they are going to retire with dignity.”

Sanders has a 12-step plan that he says will restore the economy and especially the middle class, most of it dependent on higher taxes on the rich and corporations. Among the proposals: A $1 trillion infrastructure building program that would “create 13 million decent-paying jobs,” more worker-friendly international trade deals and legislation to strengthen unions, and transforming the U.S. energy system “away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy.”

He says he’ll make a “gut decision” about running for the presidency — and, perhaps, challenging Democratic favorite Hillary Rodham Clinton.

He would be 75 in 2016, but “my health is good,” he said, knocking on a wooden conference room table. He said he couldn’t remember the last time he’d called in sick to work.

Sanders said he is weighing whether to run as an independent, as he has done in Vermont, or as a Democrat. He has been critical of both major parties over the years, though he has aligned with liberal Democrats on many issues.

Tad Devine, a longtime consultant to Democratic presidential candidates, agreed that 2016 might present an opening to Sanders, a year in which his message could resonate. Fewer people feel they can afford the American dream of sending kids to college and looking forward to a secure retirement, Devine said.

“Even the majority of Republicans believe that the deck is stacked against the people in this country,” Devine said. “That’s exactly what Bernie has been talking about for a long time.” Devine, who previously worked for Sanders, said he plans to work for the Vermont senator if he enters the race.

Devine said Sanders also could run on a solid legislative record in a Congress that hasn’t been known for getting much done recently. As chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sanders this year got passed a $16.3 billion package designed to address problems in the troubled VA health system. His liberal-left record includes voting against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act in 2001, both while he was in the House.

Clinton would pose a key challenge for Sanders.

“I think the question is, is he a step too far for the mainstream of the Democratic Party? He is a socialist,” said Kathy Sullivan, a member of the Democratic National Committee and a Clinton supporter. “I don’t think you’ll find the socialist wing of the Democratic Party is that big, contrary to what Republicans might think.”

Peter Burling, a former New Hampshire state senator, longtime Democratic Party leader and a Clinton supporter, said Sanders might have an advantage over her in the amount of passion he can deliver.

“I don’t think she demonstrated it in the race against (Barack) Obama in 2008,” Burling said. Sanders would contrast with Clinton because “he can speak with unfettered passion,” Burling said.

Multiple choice: Third party candidates complete ballot

Casey McDonough is a Goldilocks in the voting booth.

She’s not fickle, but she likes a candidate to be just right. Often that means she votes Democratic. Rarely has it meant that the progressive Wisconsinite has voted for a Republican. But occasionally, she finds an independent or a third-party candidate who fits.

“I’m not beholden to anyone or any party,” she said.

National polls show a growing interest among American voters in third parties. Last fall, amid the partial shutdown of the federal government, 60 percent of Americans said a third major party is needed. The percentage was the highest in the 10-year history of Gallup asking that question and consistent with polls showing favorability plummeting for the Democratic and Republican parties. Among independents, 71 percent said America needs a major third party to emerge as an alternative to the two that have dominated politics for 150 years.

“I’m loyal to my beliefs and to people,” said independent Wisconsin voter Paul Williams. “If you want to vote for the third-party candidate, do it. The only wasted vote is the one not cast.”

Without saying how they will vote on Election Day or in early voting, Williams and McDonough pointed out that their general election ballots contain independents, as well as candidates with the Libertarian, Green, Peoples and Pirate parties.

The Libertarian Party is running candidates for all the statewide offices. Haven’t heard of Robert Burke, the Libertarian running for governor? He is not raising money, which is a primary reason he’s been excluded from the TV debate process. The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association invites candidates who have raised at least $250,000 and who are polling at least 10 percent.

The new Peoples Party also fielded a candidate for governor — founder Dennis Fehr, who is calling for higher tech in government, a simplified tax code, judicial reform, a lower drinking age and legalized marijuana, which also is on Robert Burke’s platform.

“We believe people have lost faith in our polarized two-party system and think an alternative is needed for the people and families of Wisconsin,” Fehr said when he announced. 

Going down the ballot, there are third party or independent candidates for many offices, including:

• Joseph Thomas Klein, a candidate for Assembly District 19 from the Wisconsin Pirate Party. Klein, in a statement, said his political party is “dedicated to the transparency and accountability of government, the upholding of civil rights for all citizens and the personal privacy of citizens in all their effects. … This upholding of civil rights means equal rights without regard for sexual identity and for keeping the government out of your bedroom and whom you choose to love.”

• Angela Walker, an independent socialist candidate for sheriff in Milwaukee County in a race against incumbent Democrat David Clarke. She said, “I believe that it’s time to rethink criminal justice. It’s time we look at the impact poverty and harsh punitive measures have on crime rates and advocate for policy changes that will increase opportunity for everyone in our community.”

• Ron Hardy, on the ballot as a Wisconsin Green Party candidate for state treasurer. Hardy is polling at 10 percent or better and has said, “With support from progressives, fiscal conservatives, independents and anyone who’s fed up with politics as usual, I can win this race.”

The Green platform begins, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that we must treat each other with love, respect and fairness, and that we must protect the earth for future generations. The crises of our times demand a fundamental shift in human values and culture, and in our social, economic and political institutions.”

This appeals to voter J’acki Hayes, but she has a common concern. “I don’t want to split the vote or spoil an election,” said Hayes, a pragmatic person who remembers the 2000 presidential race in which Democrat Al Gore “lost” Florida by 537 votes to George W. Bush. Environmentalist and reformer Ralph Nader ran as a Green Party candidate and won 97,421 votes in the Sunshine State.

The dispute continues over whether Nader served as spoiler, but third party advocates emphasize the myriad problems with the balloting in that election and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that halted a recount.

“Ralph Nader didn’t wreck the election,” said McDonough. “We can’t be intimidated by polls or bullied by parties. I was inspired by Nader’s candidacy in 2000.”

Walker exemplifies

third-party runs

That year, Walker, who is a native of Milwaukee, was living in the South and she participated in the Florida recount. Like McDonough, she’s found inspiration in independent and third party candidates, among them socialist Kshama Sawant, who was elected to the Seattle City Council last fall and proved instrumental this year in enacting the nation’s highest minimum wage.

Walker has worked as a bus driver and the legislative director for her transit workers union and she has a history of activism, including engagement in the movement against the war in Iraq and the Occupy protests. “I was taught from an early age to fight for what you believe,” she said.

Walker shares Sawant’s holistic approach to politics and, as she campaigns for sheriff, she focuses on social justice. “Criminal justice,” said Walker, is an oxymoron.

Walker, with no background in law enforcement, decided to campaign for sheriff after a friend suggested she could talk about the roots of violence and crime in Milwaukee. “I’m not affiliated with any particular party and that frees me up to say anything. … I can be as blunt as I need to be and I think that works in my favor.” 

Poverty, she said, is violence that can lead to more violence. Her platform includes advocating for:

• A broader living wage ordinance.

• Full funding of public schools.

• Expanded alternatives to incarceration.

• Decriminalization and legalization of marijuana.

• Restoration of voting rights for people who have been incarcerated.

• A healthy transit system.

• Invoking the 2012 Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detainer Ordinance that allows the sheriff to refrain from ICE sweeps.

Walker talked with WiG about her candidacy one recent afternoon after addressing a rally in Milwaukee organized by Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights group. At the rally, Walker talked about solidarity and the power of the people.

“I want to remind voters that you are more powerful than you think you are,” said Walker.

She added, “The right to vote was paid for in blood. So vote. Please.”

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Possible candidate for mayor in D.C. gets boost before announcing

David Catania, a gay member of the D.C. Council, hasn’t announced his candidacy for mayor — yet.

But Catania already has the endorsement from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

Catania is exploring a possible mayoral bid.

He’s an independent. So if he runs he would challenge the Democratic primary winner in the general election.

In the primary race, incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray has picked up a series of union endorsements, including most recently the D.C. Building Trades Council.

The influential Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO is taking no position on the mayor’s race. President Jos Williams is urging affiliated unions to make their own endorsements, and some have already backed Gray.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Muriel Bowser picked up an endorsement this week from EMILY’s List.