News

In victory for Trump, Supreme Court dismisses travel ban case

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 05:31

In victory for Trump, Supreme Court dismisses travel ban case | 10 Oct 2017 | The Supreme Court dismissed a major challenge to President Trump's travel ban on majority-Muslim countries Tuesday because it has been replaced by a new version, sending the controversy back to the starting block. The ruling is a victory for the Trump administration, which had asked the court to drop the case after Trump signed a proclamation Sept. 24 that replaced the temporary travel ban on six nations with a new, indefinite ban affecting eight countries. That action made the court challenge moot, the justices ruled.

Categories: News

E.P.A. Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 05:00

E.P.A. Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule | 10 Oct 2017 | The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Tuesday that Scott Pruitt, the chief of the agency, had signed a measure to repeal President Barack Obama's signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, setting up a bitter fight over the future of America's efforts to tackle global warming. Mr. Pruitt, who had signaled the move at an event with coal miners in eastern Kentucky on Monday, said in a news release that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in writing the Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in 2015 and would have pushed states to move away from coal in favor of sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions.

Categories: News

Anarchy Radio 10-10-2017

Anarchist News - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 04:06

LISTEN HERE: http://archive.org/details/AnarchyRadio10102017

Neither the Las Vegas massacre or the dope OD epidemic (leading cause of death for Americans under 50) bring out questioning of this stage of social existence. Blade Runner 2049. Eve of "antibiotic apocalypse" re: global resistance to the drugs. Plague rages in Madagascar. Upcoming
Rewilding Conference in Portland. Need for standardized emojis. Action news, one call.

Tags: JZ and Karl
Categories: News

Dreamer: Trump's Deal to Preserve DACA but Escalate Deportations Is a "Toxic Deal We Cannot Accept"

Truth Out - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 04:00

President Trump said Sunday he will not restore DACA -- the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program -- that protects hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation -- unless lawmakers agree to expand the wall on the US-Mexico border and move to keep out thousands of children fleeing gang violence in Central America. We get response from Cesar Vargas, who is himself a DACA recipient. He's the co-director of DREAM Action Coalition and New York state's first openly undocumented attorney.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

As Deadly Wildfires Rage in California, a Look at How Global Warming Fuels Decades of Forest Fires

Truth Out - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 04:00

In California, powerful winds and bone-dry conditions are fueling massive wildfires. A state of emergency has been declared in northern areas as the fires have left at least 17 people dead, destroying whole neighborhoods and forcing 20,000 people to evacuate their homes. The wildfires come after the US Forest Service warned last year that an unprecedented 5-year drought led to the deaths of more than 100 million trees in California, setting the stage for massive fires. Climate scientists believe human-caused global warming played a major role in the drought. We speak with Park Williams, bioclimatologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and co-author of a 2016 report showing that global warming is responsible for nearly half of the forest area burned in the western United States over the past three decades.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

The Corporate Criminals

Truth Out - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 04:00
Categories: News

Vulture Funds Prey on the Most Vulnerable: It's Time to Cancel Puerto Rico's Debt

Truth Out - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 04:00

Puerto Rico's billions upon billions in debt is essentially unpayable following the extensive damage caused by recent hurricanes Irma and Maria, says Jonathan Westin, director of New York Communities for Change. Westin discusses how hedge fund managers are glorified debt collectors, but also how the Hedge Clippers campaign is fighting back.

 Mario Tama / Getty Images)Carmen Cintron Torres takes a break from cleaning debris in front of her home more than two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island, on October 7, 2017, in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. (Photo: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

We're now several months into the Trump administration, and activists have scored some important victories in those months. Yet there is always more to be done, and for many people, the question of where to focus and how to help remains. In this ongoing "Interviews for Resistance" series, we talk with organizers, agitators and educators not only about how to resist but also about how to build a better world. Today's interview is the 81st in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.

Today we bring you a conversation with Jonathan Westin, director of New York Communities for Change. Focusing on Puerto Rico, Westin discusses how hedge fund managers are glorified debt collectors, but also how the Hedge Clippers campaign is fighting back.

Sarah Jaffe: We are starting out with the discovery this week of the person behind the hedge fund that owns a whole bunch of Puerto Rico's debt. Tell us a little bit about that.

Jonathan Westin: [Seth] Klarman is the hedge fund manager … [Klarman] is generally seen as kind of a "progressive" Wall Street guy, but has hid himself in very intentional ways from being discovered as one of the biggest bond-holders of Puerto Rican debt. The way the debt was acquired by many of these hedge fund managers was they bought it for cents on the dollar when they took over debt from Puerto Rico, and are now trying to extract as much as possible out of the island to pay that debt back, even though they bought it for cents on the dollar.

It is almost like the people who buy bad student loan debt. Or bad credit card debt.

Yes. I mean, they are predators. That is really what this is. There is a reason they are called vulture funds; it is because they prey on very downtrodden folks. They buy up debt from places that most people believe they won't be able to recover [their money], but then they do everything in their power to extract blood from a stone.

How did the news that this was the firm that owned the debt come out?

Honestly, one of the groups that has been working the most on the Puerto Rican debt crisis is a group here in New York, based out of Buffalo -- Kevin Connor and LittleSis.org have done lots of work in discovering the folks behind a lot of the things that are happening in this country. Hence, the name LittleSis, the opposite of Big Brother. They were digging on who were the owners of this Puerto Rican debt because so many times in a lot of these cases -- this is just like Wall Street tradecraft -- they don't want to be known for what they are doing, so they hide themselves in multiple shell corporations. Kevin and his team dug and dug and dug and found this person through random, obscure lawsuit documents that were filed in the debt crisis. They just unravelled the layers and discovered Klarman.

There is a reason they are called vulture funds; it is because they prey on very downtrodden folks.

Then, David Dayen from The Intercept confirmed it. I think it was a mixture of really great investigative work done by LittleSis and really great reporting by David Dayen, who's been covering this and has been covering lots of the financial crisis and aftermath, to bring it to light.

You and a bunch of other folks have been doing work around hedge funds as the Hedge Clippers. What does this mean, discovering who owns Puerto Rico's debt, for Hedge Clippers' work?

It just confirms, for us, who are these people behind so much of -- not only the crisis in Puerto Rico -- but so much of the crisis in this country and around the world? Puerto Rico is not the only instance where hedge fund managers have gobbled up debt. They have done it in Argentina. They have done it in Greece. They have done it in many other places.

It lifts up a person we should now focus our attention on, which we are glad to do. A lot of the Hedge Clippers strategy has been to illuminate many of these hedge fund managers and all the evil they are doing across the world -- going to their homes, going to fundraisers and galas that they are participating in -- to expose them. I think many times, they do so much of their work behind the scenes and they don't want to be exposed. It is our job to make sure that people in this world know who the people are that are impoverishing entire countries and nations.

It is fascinating when you put it that way. That a small group of individuals is impoverishing entire nations.

Yes, a small group of white men in New York, Connecticut, etc. are impoverishing nations.

We are sitting in New York, many, many miles away from Puerto Rico, but you are the director of a community organization that has a lot of Puerto Rican members who are feeling this very personally right now.

Yes. We have a heavily Puerto Rican membership here in New York. Folks from the diaspora. A lot of folks have moved up here over several decades, but more recently, there has been a lot of Puerto Rican outflow from the island because of the debt crisis and because of the diminishing services. Then, obviously, you couple on top of that Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island and wiped everything out. They are in a huge economic crisis and, obviously, our members -- my family in particular -- we have family who live on the island, we feel it. This is really in our bones, what happened on the island.

We have a lot of New Yorkers … Look at even Governor Cuomo and [Mayor] Bill de Blasio and … Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is the first Puerto Rican speaker of the city council, out there advocating heavily on behalf of Puerto Rico. As New Yorkers, we feel this. There are so many connections to the island and so much of New York culture is derived from Puerto Rican culture. It is something that hits home for all of us.

Talk a little bit more about the Hedge Clippers strategy and the work that your members have done around different targets over the last couple of years.

One of the key strategies in New York to really push back on the hedge fund managers that were buying up tons and tons of Puerto Rican debt, was to lift up how New York City pension funds were invested with the same hedge fund managers impoverishing an entire island of folks down in Puerto Rico. We did a number of press conferences and rallies calling for divestment from the hedge funds, and successfully were able to get the City of New York to move pension funds completely out of these hedge funds and really send a really sharp message to hedge funds that you can't go out in your day job and impoverish an entire island of millions of people while taking our tax dollars to do it. We were able to move that money out of these hedge funds.

There have been some pretty pointed fights with a couple of other particular hedge fund managers around New York around a bunch of different issues. Do you want to talk about any particular others?

One of the most recent fights we have had is with a hedge fund manager from Third Point called Dan Loeb. He spends a lot of his time as an activist investor in buying up shares in companies and forcing the companies to essentially just pay him a whole bunch of money, which is really his strategy. But in his leisure activities, he is a racist. He takes to Facebook, and on multiple occasions, has made racist comments about a number of people, most recently the minority leader in the New York State Senate [Andrea Stewart-Cousins], essentially saying that she was worse than the Ku Klux Klan and has said many a number of racist things.

You can't go out in your day job and impoverish an entire island of millions of people while taking our tax dollars to do it.

In his day job, he is screwing over people of color by sucking money out of companies that should go to workers and wages, and then he is spouting racist things on Facebook. We have done a lot of work to expose him. He is also the chair of the Success Academy Charter Schools, which is a very controversial chain of charter schools here in New York that is pushing for the privatization of the New York City Public School System.

And that likes to promote how good it is doing for kids of color in New York City.

Yes, they like to promote what they are doing for kids of color while at the same time having enormous suspension rates for kids of color and pushing out kids of color that are struggling, and essentially treating them as though they are disposable.

Have you had any run-ins or work around Robert Mercer?

Yes. We have done a bit of work within Hedge Clippers and with Make the Road New York looking at Robert Mercer and how he is spending a lot of his money to essentially push anti-immigrant policies across the country. He is based on Long Island. Renaissance Technologies, which is his hedge fund, is based out there. He was Trump's biggest backer. He and his daughter were seen as very influential in hand-picking the cabinet of Trump's administration, including Steve Bannon, who [was] the lead racist in charge.

If there was one person that was bankrolling the white supremacist movement in this country, it is Robert Mercer.

It is interesting, too, because all of these people live in New York and Connecticut. So much for the idea that racism is in one part of the country.

Yes.

Back to the Puerto Rico question. Trump mentioned the idea of forgiving Puerto Rico's debt the other day. Of course, his people immediately started to walk it back, but does that give you an opening to press? Especially combining that with now knowing who holds the debt?

Yes. I think Trump has validated many of our positions, which is the debt is gone. It washed away with the hurricane. It is unpayable. We should not pay it and we should force them to cancel the debt. The hedge fund managers that are trying to suck blood out of the island should be forced into cancellation of this debt because there is no way to pay it and, frankly, it is gone.

It is interesting that debt gets moralized in these ways. Like, "How dare Puerto Rico not pay its debts? How dare Greece not pay its debts?" But especially when you are buying debt as a speculator for pennies on the dollar, you are doing so with the assumption that there is a huge amount of risk baked into that, that you will not make your money back.

Essentially, they are glorified debt collectors. That is what the hedge fund managers are acting as. In many cases, they are the ones that hiked up all the spending and borrowing. They created the debt, and frankly, there is no reason Puerto Rico should pay it back. That is part of what Trump was talking about when he was talking about cancelling the debt.

If there was one person that was bankrolling the white supremacist movement in this country, it is Robert Mercer.

I actually think there are a lot of people in this country that can sympathize with the huge amounts of debt that are piling up, and the question of, "Where is all of this money going in our country and in our economy, and frankly, globally?" It is a continuing push and consolidation of all of the wealth and capital in this country going to folks like these hedge fund managers, while everyday Americans are struggling and having to rely on debt to live. This is everyday America: "I am able to pay my rent and water bills by living on credit cards. I am able to send my kid to college by borrowing tons and tons of money." So much of how we live now is debt created by Wall Street.

In this case, it is an entire island and country that they have impoverished. I think we are now seeing the tragic ramifications in a post-Hurricane Maria world. The only way they are going to get back on their feet is with heavy investments into the infrastructure of Puerto Rico and not putting that money into the pockets of hedge fund managers that are trying to collect immoral debts.

Are there any actions planned for the next couple of weeks?

Yes, we are taking hundreds of folks from the diaspora, some folks from Puerto Rico to Washington to demand the cancellation of the debt, to really force the president to live up to his own words. We are going to be looking at some of our new-found creditors, specifically Klarman, and looking to do a series of actions around his role in the debt crisis. There are a number of actions we are looking to take to really force the issue that if the island is going to recover, there is no way they can pay this debt and they shouldn't.

How can people keep up with you and Hedge Clippers and New York Communities for Change and perhaps join any of these actions or put pressure on people?

HedgeClippers.org, there is tons and tons of info on the people that hold Puerto Rican debt and the predators and the hedge fund managers and who they are. NYCC, they can follow New York Communities for Change on Facebook. We post a lot of our events on Facebook and we will be doing a lot of work over the next few weeks on this debt crisis, so they can follow us there, too.

Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission.

Ready to challenge injustice and spark real change? So are we. Support Truthout's mission today by making a tax-deductible donation.
Categories: News

"Partisan" Gerrymandering Is Still About Race

Truth Out - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 04:00

The Wisconsin voting rights case before the Supreme Court has been cast as the definitive test of whether partisan gerrymandering is permitted by the Constitution. But a closer look at the case and others like it shows that race remains an integral element of redistricting disputes, even when the intent of those involved was to give one party an advantage.

 Joe Brusky)Wisconsin activists display a sign decrying the 2013 US Supreme Court decision that struck down key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo: Joe Brusky)

The Wisconsin voting rights case before the Supreme Court has been cast as the definitive test of whether partisan gerrymandering is permitted by the Constitution. But a closer look at the case and others like it shows that race remains an integral element of redistricting disputes, even when the intent of those involved was to give one party an advantage.

Consider Gill v. Whitford, the Wisconsin case that was argued last week before the nation's highest court.

During its journey through the legal system, the case has turned on whether Republicans secured an impermissible advantage over Democrats in the way Wisconsin's Republican-controlled legislature redrew district lines after the 2010 census.

But because of the deep racial divides that pervade American politics, the story is not that simple.

Wisconsin's Democratic Party includes a substantial number of African-American and Latino voters, particularly in cities like Milwaukee. When you look more closely at redistricting plans drawn in Wisconsin and elsewhere, you see that both parties have improved their statewide prospects by diminishing the political power of minority voters.

As they fight in court over lines drawn after the 2010 census, Democrats and Republicans alike are anxiously waiting to see what the decision in the Wisconsin case will let them do after the 2020 census.

Michael Li, senior counsel at the Democracy Program at New York's Brennan Center, said the ruling carries extra weight because we can expect the most sophisticated chicanery yet.

"I'm worried about a record level of gamesmanship in 2021," said Li. "There could be an unprecedented redistricting war, and both sides are going into it fully armed."

Paul Smith, the attorney presenting oral arguments on behalf of the voters challenging the Wisconsin map, echoed this sentiment.

"What the court needs to know is it's -- this is a cusp of a really serious, more serious problem," Smith told the justices. As computing power and data for redistricting continue to improve, he said, "you're going to have a festival of copycat gerrymandering the likes of which this country has never seen."

While many voters would be affected by such a festival, not all voters would be affected equally.

The record shows that the reliably Democratic voters in communities of color are crucial chess pieces in the partisan game that is redistricting. Republicans often benefit from packing such voters into districts, making other districts safer for Republican candidates. Conversely, a state's Democratic Party can benefit if it divides communities of color among many districts, giving each a reliable majority of voters who will support the party's candidates. This technique, known as "cracking" in map drawers' argot, often harms minorities, voters who might have greater clout if they were kept in a single district. In some cases it has proved politically expedient for the party drawing the lines to both crack and pack minority voters.

The Supreme Court's 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder largely ended prior review of district lines by the Justice Department. That, along with rapidly improving technology that makes it ever easier to hide manipulation of communities of color for partisan gain, and the influx of massive amounts of dark money into redistricting, have put some of the voting power of minorities in jeopardy.

If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court decision in Gill, it will allow judges to evaluate, and possibly reject, redistricting maps based on a mathematical formula intended to identify partisan gerrymandering. It could offer those suing on behalf of minority voters a tool for fighting racial discrimination that wouldn't require the high standard of proof and commitment of resources a typical Voting Rights Act case would, said Leah Aden, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Upholding the lower court ruling in Gill would also reduce the incentive for political parties to use perverse (some would say cynical) interpretations of the Voting Rights Act and Constitution as a way to defend or attack partisan maps, Aden said. In Wisconsin, and also in Texas and North Carolina, gerrymandered maps have been defended by parties with an argument Aden called "The VRA Made Me Do It."

Gill v. Whitford features a novel variation of this tactic. A brief filed by the Republican Party contends that using the suggested mathematical formula to flag districts drawn for partisan reasons would violate the Voting Rights Act because districts with a majority of minority voters -- Democratic districts -- could get flagged as unfairly drawn.

At times, Democrats have also invoked the Voting Rights Act for partisan reasons, according to Smith, the attorney who argued the Democrats' side in Gill v. Whitford. The formula endorsed by the lower courts would allow Democrats to challenge redistricting lines without classifying their objections as a defense of minority voting rights, Smith said during oral arguments. This would reserve the important tools for protecting minority voting rights for cases in which they are legitimately needed.

Let's start with Wisconsin. It may indeed be a partisan gerrymander, but it still illustrates the complex intersection of race and politics.

Manipulating a map to move around Wisconsin Democrats also means manipulating a map to move around Wisconsin voters who are not white, said Malia Jones, an applied demographer at The University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Wisconsin is one of the most segregated states in the nation," Jones said. "When we are talking about geography we are also talking about race."

One example can be seen in an assembly district on the western edge of Milwaukee, a city infamous for its near-perfect division between downtown African-American neighborhoods and white affluent suburbs. In an unprecedented move, Republican map drawers crossed the Milwaukee County line to loop 60 percent minority city neighborhoods into a sprawling suburban district that is, after the redistricting, 87 percent white, according to a ProPublica analysis.

In Highly Segregated Areas Like Milwaukee, Race Always Plays a Factor in Redistricting

This is, in fact, a dilution of Democratic voting power. But it also places thousands of African-American and Latino citizens in a heavily white district where they have little hope of electing a candidate who will represent their interests.  

"Clearly there is an impact on minority populations," Jones said.

As in many gerrymandering cases, the attorneys defending the state's redistricting have argued that the map reflects, among other considerations, an effort to comply with the Voting Rights Act and protect minority voters.

The first test of the Wisconsin map was a successful challenge arguing racial discrimination. In Baldus v. Brennan, federal judges ruled that two state assembly districts in the Latino area of Milwaukee were an example of cracking.

Depositions given by the Republican map drawers as part of the case show that this was hardly an accident. They sought input from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, but then disregarded it in order to limit consideration of Latino voters to two assembly districts and keep the rest of the map intact.

Emails surfaced showing the map drawers had worked with a political science professor in Oklahoma to manipulate the difference between the number of voting-age Latino residents in a district and the number who are citizens and eligible to vote.

While the court found that Latino voters' rights had been violated, they only changed the two assembly districts.

The outcome of Gill comes at a time when minority voters are facing obstacles they haven't faced in decades.

Before 2013, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required states and municipalities with a history of discrimination against minority voters to submit redistricting plans to the Department of Justice for review by attorneys, investigators, data analysts and sometimes political scientists.

The Department of Justice could reject the plan, preventing the proposed districts from ever being used in an election. The state or municipality could challenge the decision in federal court, but would be up against the formidable resources of the department.

Though it was imperfect, "there's no doubt preclearance had a significant deterrent effect," said John Powers, a former Section 5 analyst at the agency who now works for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

It also forced jurisdictions to report changes to districts, Powers said. While a change to a congressional district is unlikely to go unnoticed, a change at the local level might -- even though those lines can have a huge impact on citizens' lives. "Now, they can make changes and it's possible no one will even know."

In 2013, however, the Supreme Court ended many protections of the law. Though Section 5 is still in place, nearly all jurisdictions once subject to preclearance are no longer.

States and other jurisdictions did not even wait for the next census to get to work on re-engineering their political maps. The state of Georgia and municipalities in Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas drew new lines, prompting immediate lawsuits. All would have required pre-approval before the Shelby ruling.

For example, Georgia currently faces a lawsuit from the NAACP over two changes in their mid-decade redistricting. Ahead of the 2016 election, legislators shifted over a thousand African-American and Hispanic voters out of Georgia House District 105, one of the most contested seats in the state, to a majority-white neighboring district with an uncontested seat. The Republican incumbent in District 105 won by fewer than 250 votes.

Republicans were "trying to shore up districts that were too close for comfort by moving around African-Americans," said Li.

Georgia's Mid-Decade Redistricting Plan Moved Around Minority Voters to Secure a Republican Seat

The effective end of preclearance shifted the burden of policing the system from the government to privately funded lawsuits, and it allowed contested maps to come into effect while those costly lawsuits wended their way through the courts -- often, for years.

Anita Earls, an attorney who has handled many redistricting lawsuits -- including the ongoing suit in North Carolina -- said even simple cases that do not go to trial can cost tens of thousands of dollars. A recent lawsuit over city council redistricting in Pasadena, Texas, cost plaintiffs over a million dollars. Larger cases, like North Carolina House and Senate redistricting, can run up legal bills of millions of dollars and take many years. In some cases, the defendants can eventually be compelled by the court to pay the plaintiffs' legal bills, but plaintiffs are required to front the money. Reimbursements are by no means guaranteed.

Earls said her group, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, has had to turn down requests for help.

"There are a lot of different cases where we have to tell them we don't have money and staff," she said. "There are places where people end up just kind of living with the unfair plan."

Redistricting lawsuits also take time -- often years -- a phenomenon that supporters of the Whitford plaintiffs hope will be ameliorated by removing the complication of challenging districts one at a time.

While the court challenges drag on, interim lines often remain in effect as votes are cast. North Carolina has gone through three election cycles using state legislative lines later found to be discriminatory.

In 2017, 19 North Carolina House Districts Were Overturned for Packing Black Voters

When party operatives and legislators draw maps, they are aware that it could take years to overturn a redistricting plan, and intentionally use delaying tactics to make sure elections take place under the most favorable circumstances, Earls said.

In North Carolina, she said, state officials "at every step of the way tried to delay litigation, did everything they could to stretch this out."

As ProPublica has previously reported, donors who supported the racially gerrymandered plan even used a front group to manipulate state judicial elections, so as to ensure redistricting cases would be heard by a Republican panel of judges.

Pressure on state judges further delayed the legal process, forcing the litigants contesting North Carolina's redistricting plan to turn to the federal courts, Earls said.

Such delays can pay political dividends. During the years North Carolina's maps were being challenged in court, the legislature under the disputed map passed laws that substantially affected African Americans. Lawmakers imposed stricter rules for voter ID and eliminated the state's earned income tax credit, a provision that lowers the taxes paid by the poorest residents.

"North Carolina has had a crazy few years in terms of legislation," said Li of the Brennan Center. "You can't turn back the clock, what's happened has happened."

While citizen groups struggle to find resources to mount redistricting battles, state legislators use money from the state treasury to defend their redistricting maps. Regardless of the outcome, the taxpayers, not the political parties or campaign committees, end up on the hook for legal costs.

North Carolina's redistricting saga also illustrates the false distinction between race and politics that permeates redistricting.

In their secret map-drawing process, Republican operatives were explicit about their plan to achieve their desired political outcome: a "10-3" map that had 10 safe Republican congressional districts with only three for Democrats, a big change for a state that at the time had a delegation with seven Democrats and six Republicans.

And they were also pretty explicit -- at least to each other -- about how they planned to achieve their desired party breakdown.

In an email circulating two proposed maps, Tom Hofeller, a Republican redistricting expert sent in by the national Republican Party wrote that both "incorporate all the significant concentrations of minority voters in the northeast into the first district."

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court affirmed lower court decisions that found North Carolina's congressional and state legislative maps discriminated against minority voters, specifically by packing minorities into a small number of districts to achieve the maximum number of Republican-friendly seats.

Required to draw new maps, Republican state party leadership announced they would achieve the same 10-3 congressional delegation breakdown, and the same healthy majority in the state legislature, without looking at race at all.

"Race was not among the criteria we considered when we drew these maps," David Lewis, the Republican member of the state assembly who served as the redistricting point person, told the Associated Press.

Hofeller, the same consultant who drew the original maps, would redraw the maps only looking at political data, with an eye to protecting incumbents elected under previous maps, Lewis said.

In other words, a strictly partisan gerrymander.

But the groups who originally sued against the racially gerrymandered maps said the new maps had simply become discriminatory against African-American voters elsewhere in the state. Once again, they asked the courts to strike those maps down. The case is pending.

"You can't comply with Voting Rights Act and avoid racial bias by simply ignoring race altogether," said Bob Hope, Executive Director of Democracy NC.

***

Some states have been found to violate the civil rights of minority voters during multiple redistricting cycles. Texas' district lines -- drawn by both Republican and Democrat-controlled legislatures -- have been thrown out on racial-discrimination grounds for nearly 30 years -- during the redistricting of the 1990s, the 2000s and the 2010s.

Texas Is No Stranger to Overturned Gerrymanders

Emails between those who drew the maps in 2010 show intentional exploitation of Hispanic voters to achieve partisan goals.

In a series of emails between map drawers, they discuss a phenomenon called "OHRVS," an acronym which stands for Optimal Hispanic Republican Voting Strength. That acronym was defined by Eric Opiela, a Republican party operative, as "a measure of how Hispanic, and Republican at the same time we can make a particular census block."

By substituting groups of Hispanic voters with low voter turnout for those with high turnout, Republicans were able to draw hypothetical maps that would create seemingly impossible political districts. One example is a 67 percent Hispanic congressional district that the map drawers projected would nonetheless likely have been won by John McCain or former Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

Texas, which in the 1990s was run by Democrats, also contradicts the notion that Democratic party interests necessarily align with those of minority voters, Aden said.

"In current politics Republicans dominate state legislatures, so more recently it's Republicans that have been accused of undermining the redistricting process," she said, but before this recent turn, districts in Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi drawn by Democrat-controlled legislatures were found to be discriminatory.

***

Though scrutiny of statewide partisan redistricting (one of Gill's possible outcomes) could be a useful tool to keep state parties from going overboard -- and also to fight racial gerrymandering -- it cannot detect the subtleties of racial gerrymandering like those that took place in Georgia and Wisconsin.

Those gerrymanders will still have to be challenged the old-fashioned way, and in order to do that, challengers will need access to information about how decisions were made in drawing maps.

But transparency in redistricting is the exception, not the rule.

One thing the states we reviewed have in common is that the public map-drawing process was largely a charade. Emails and documents that subsequently emerged showed the real drawing was done behind closed doors by party operatives and consultants.

In Wisconsin, for instance, the maps were drawn at a law firm associated with the Republican Party, and vetted by the Republican National Committee before anyone in the general public was even allowed to see them.

In North Carolina, the maps were also drawn at a non-government site and a wealthy donor was allowed to see drafts and offer input.

In Texas, Republicans in the state legislature turned to consultants operating in secret.

As more donor money flows into the process and mapmaking tools get more sophisticated, the importance of map drawing in the public eye will only become more important, said the Brennan Center's Li.

Regardless of the outcome of Gill v. Whitford, experts say it will be important for the public to have a detailed picture of the redistricting process. That goal, they say, can only be achieved when the map drawing process is truly public.

"If communities aren't being heard, or shut out, if a redistricting plan is rammed through or rushed," Aden said, "That is a step that needs to be exposed."

Map Sources: National Conference of State Legislatures, The Brennan Center, U.S. Census Bureau, Georgia General Assembly

Categories: News

In Iran and North Korea, Trump Is Playing With Nuclear Fire

Truth Out - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 04:00

Donald Trump's bombastic and frightening threats against North Korea and Iran may portend a catastrophic attack that could impact the entire world. We must pressure the White House and Congress members alike, and hope that cooler heads prevail.

 Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)Iranian protesters hold banners and shout slogans during an anti-US protest after Donald Trump's UN speech against Iran, at the Tehran University campus in Tehran, Iran, on September 22, 2017. (Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which spearheaded a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The significance of this award cannot be underestimated.

Donald Trump's bombastic and frightening threats against North Korea and Iran may portend a catastrophic attack that could impact the entire world.

The US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing 210,000 people. During the week following the bombings, thousands of survivors experienced a unique combination of symptoms, Susan Southard wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

Their hair fell out in large clumps, their wounds secreted extreme amounts of pus, and their gums swelled and bled. Purple spots appeared on their bodies, signs of hemorrhaging beneath the skin. Infections ravaged their internal organs. Within a few days of the onset of symptoms, many people lost consciousness, mumbled deliriously and died in extreme pain; others languished for weeks before either dying or slowly recovering.

In the face of Trump's nuclear threats, the danger the world faces is immeasurable.

Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

On July 7, more than 120 countries approved the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which requires ratifying countries "never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices." The treaty also prohibits the transfer of, use of, or threat to use nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

Fifty-three countries officially signed the treaty, and three have already ratified it, which makes them parties to the accord. Ninety days after 50 countries ratify it, the treaty will enter into force.

However, the five original nuclear-armed countries -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- boycotted the treaty negotiations and the voting. North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India, which also have nuclear weapons, refrained from participating in the final vote as well. In October 2016, during negotiations, North Korea had voted for the treaty.

The State Department issued a statement saying, "The United States does not support and will not sign the [treaty]."

Trump Threatens to Blow Up the Iran Deal

Meanwhile, Trump is moving the world closer to nuclear war, threatening North Korea with destruction and attempting to blow up the nuclear deal with Iran. The day before the new treaty was concluded, Trump threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea if it attacked; that amounted to a threat to commit genocide.

Peace prize historian Oeivind Stenersen said the Nobel committee intended "to send a signal to North Korea and the US that they need to go into negotiations. The prize is also coded to support the 2015 Iran nuclear deal."

The Iran deal is embodied in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It rescinded the punishing US and international sanctions on Iran, amounting to billions of dollars of relief. In return, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program.

Under the US Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the president must determine every 90 days whether Iran remains in compliance with the JCPOA and whether it still serves US interests. The next 90-day period ends on October 15. Trump will reportedly refuse to certify that Iran is compliant with the agreement on October 12, in spite of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency's finding that Iran is in compliance.

If Trump refuses to certify that Iran is compliant with the JCPOA or determines the agreement is not in the national interest, Congress will then have 60 days to act. If Congress reimposes sanctions, it would likely cause the JCPOA to unravel. Iran would then proceed with a program to develop nuclear weapons.

The White House has signaled that Trump will urge Congress not to reimpose sanctions, but rather hopes Congress will pass new legislation beyond the scope of the original deal. "If Congress complies, such unilateral action to change a multilateral agreement will effective kill it," Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of state for political affairs and US lead negotiator for the JCPOA, wrote in The New York Times.

Moreover, if Trump's actions scuttle the Iran deal, it will send a dangerous message to North Korea that the United States cannot be trusted to abide by its multilateral agreements.

Both Trump's threats against North Korea and his undermining of the JCPOA could lead to nuclear war.

US Violates Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires nuclear states to eliminate their nuclear weapons and non-nuclear states to refrain from acquiring them. In 2005, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told the Institute for Public Accuracy, "The US government is not adhering to Article VI of the NPT and we show no signs of planning to adhere to its requirements to move forward with the elimination -- not reduction, but elimination -- of nuclear weapons."

In 1996, the International Court of Justice stated in an advisory opinion, "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control." But the nuclear powers have ignored that decision.

And in spite of UN Security Council Resolution 687, which established a weapons-of mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East, Israel maintains a formidable nuclear arsenal.

"The nuclear weapons states, governed by political realists, basically have no trust in law or morality when it comes to national security," international law expert Richard Falk wrote, "but base their faith in the hyper-rationality of destructive military power, which in the nuclear age is expressed in the arcane idiom of deterrence, an idea more transparently known in the Cold War Era as Mutually Assured Destruction (or MAD!!)."

Indeed, Trump is planning a $1 trillion rebuilding of the US nuclear weapons program.

Only the US Has Used Nuclear Weapons

The United States is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons. On the day of the Hiroshima bombing, 19-year-old Shinji Mikamo was on the roof of his house helping his father prepare it for demolition when he saw a huge fireball coming at him. He heard a deafening explosion and felt a searing pain throughout his body. It felt as if boiling water had been poured over him. His chest and right arm were totally burned. Pieces of his flesh fell from his body like ragged clothing. The pain was unbearable. Shinji was three-quarters of a mile from the epicenter of the bomb. He survived, but most of his family perished.

Shinji's daughter, Dr. Akiko Mikamo, author of Rising From the Ashes: A True Story of Survival and Forgiveness, told a Veterans for Peace Convention that 99 percent of those who were outdoors at the time of the blast died immediately or within 48 hours.

This should serve as a cautionary note to Trump -- and Congress -- that there is no trifling with nuclear weapons.

"The Calm Before the Storm"

Yet during a photo opportunity he staged with military leaders after meeting with them to discuss North Korea and Iran, Trump issued an ominous warning:

"You guys know what this represents? … Maybe it's the calm before the storm."

What storm?

"You'll find out."

Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, told The Hill that Trump's decertification of the Iran deal "will trigger a process that very likely will lead to the collapse of the deal."

Parsi said on Democracy Now!, "The buzz here is that there's going to be a very significant ramping up, an escalation, in the region against Iran, potentially including shooting down Iranian airplanes, sinking Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf, targeting Iranian troops or Iranian-allied troops in Iraq and in Syria."

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are reportedly counseling Trump to certify that Iran is complying with the JCPOA.

But Trump has consistently criticized the Iran deal, probably because it was concluded on Barack Obama's watch and Israel is dead set against it.

In any event, Trump is playing with fire -- nuclear fire -- in both North Korea and Iran. We must pressure the White House and Congress members alike, and hope that cooler heads prevail. The stakes are unbearably high.

Help Truthout supply a counterpoint to the dangerous rhetoric and misinformation spewing forth from Washington DC. It takes less than thirty seconds to contribute via card or PayPal: Just click here!
Categories: News

The Vital Role of Education in Authoritarian Times

Truth Out - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 04:00

 SSP)(Photo: SSP)

Real education must incorporate the themes of resistance and hope at every step. It is inseparable from the project of social change. So, what does critical pedagogy look like? How can we put it into play so as to make lasting connections between learning, critical thought, agency and social responsibility?

 SSP)(Photo: SSP)

Choose journalism that empowers movements for social, environmental and economic justice: Support the independent media at Truthout!

For decades, I have challenged the notion that schools are simply black boxes mired in structures of domination. While the early leftist criticism of schooling was correct in challenging the idea that schools were agencies of meritocracy and equal opportunity removed from larger structures of capitalist domination, it lacked, with few exceptions (such as Paul Willis's Learning to Labour), any sense of resistance, and as such lacked any notion of hope. Resistance and hope, coupled with a comprehensive understanding of theory, politics and education, have played a crucial role in my later work, particularly in my later analysis of the war on youth, the centrality of pedagogy to cultural studies, neoliberalism's assault on higher education and other related issues.

In July 2017, I was fortunate to participate in an interview that attempted to look at the totality of my work on education, cultural studies, pedagogy, youth studies and a range of other topics. The interview, captured here in a just-released film debuting on Truthout, begins with an analysis of the historical conditions that produced one of my most important books, Theory and Resistance in Education, and that had a formative influence it had on much of my later work.

To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

The interview also deals with the challenges of resistance today, given the power of modes of pedagogy that exist outside of schools, particularly under the toxic regime of neoliberalism. Not only have the sites or modes of pedagogy expanded in a range of cultural apparatuses extending from digital and print culture to screen culture, but the very spaces for sustained and critical thought have been shrinking.

At the same time, new spaces of resistance have opened up in light of the emergence of new technologies, the increasing radicalization of young people and the search for a new understanding of politics, one that makes sense of the relationship between local politics and global power formations. The interview explores these new sites of hope. It also explores how both public schools and higher education have come under assault by a range of ideological, cultural and economic forces tied to a variety of right-wing and conservative ideologies and fundamentalisms -- religious, market-based, military-oriented, racist and sexist. Due to all of these forces, there is an urgent need to retheorize matters of education, power and politics itself.

Capitalism no longer simply exploits as its main engine of domination; it now renders increasing numbers of people disposable.

One of the central elements of discussion in the interview is the issue of border crossing and the politics of disposability. This politics points to not only new forms of domination, but also suggests rethinking politics beyond simply questions of exploitation. In other words, capitalism no longer simply exploits as its main engine of domination; it now renders increasing numbers of people disposable -- whether we are talking about Muslims, workers, youth of color, poor Black communities such as Flint, Michigan, or an increasing number of other groups. Disposability is the register of a new politics of oppression central to the emergence of financial capital, and it must be addressed as part of a new mode of politics and global resistance. Disposability points to distinct economic, political and cultural contexts in which new forms of exclusion are entangled with emerging modes of authoritarianism that are reshaping matters of ideology, knowledge and power. The logic of disposability has become the driving force of a powerful machinery of social death.

Also vital to address in these oppressive times is a narrow notion of dystopia, which is now attached to almost any form of criticism. Rather than opening a window to the need for real struggles, this notion of dystopia collapses into the discourse of cynicism. In the interview, I reject this view by making clear that criticism is the precondition for not only changing consciousness, but also making visible new forms of domination and power that have to be confronted if people are going to be able to understand the oppressive conditions in which they find themselves. Rather than insert criticism, dialogue and the social imagination within the toxic charge of a distorted and reactionary notion dystopia, the interview addresses criticism and the existing conditions of oppression as a starting point for individual and collective forms of struggle. The engagement with dystopia in this case is a precondition for developing a discourse of both critique and hope, not despair.

It is crucial for us to address this question head on: What is the role of public and higher education, especially in a time of tyranny? What does critical pedagogy look like and how is it put into play so as to make a viable and lasting connection between learning and critical thought, engaged agency and social responsibility, learning and social change? Central to this interview is the point that education is crucial to politics itself, and that any viable sense of theory, politics and resistance will have to address this issue.

In Conversation with Henry Giroux from UWS Artist Teacher Programme on Vimeo.

Categories: News

Inauguration Day Defendants Go to Court Tuesday to Resist Gag Order on Evidence of Police Misconduct

It's Goin Down - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 03:06

The post Inauguration Day Defendants Go to Court Tuesday to Resist Gag Order on Evidence of Police Misconduct appeared first on It's Going Down.

Washington, DC – Defense attorneys for people arrested on Inauguration Day will go to court Tuesday to argue that defendants should be able to make public evidence obtained through discovery in their criminal cases. A hearing on the “protective order” will be held on Tuesday, October 10 at 11am in DC Superior Court before Judge Lynn Leibovitz.

An amicus “support” brief in opposition to the government’s protective order was filed on Friday by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and ten news media organizations including the Washington Post.

“The government doesn’t get to place a gag order on evidence that’s clearly in the public interest,” said Kris Hermes of Defense J20 Resistance. “The public needs to know that the police violently attacked hundreds of people on the streets that day and carried out the same kind of unlawful mass arrest that previously cost DC millions of dollars.”

Trump Administration prosecutors are actively fighting to keep video footage and other evidence of police misconduct under wraps in what defendants and their supporters are calling an effort to avoid embarrassment and public condemnation.

Notably, Trump Administration prosecutors moved to seal the evidence soon after a story was published in June by The Indypendent, featuring previously unreleased police body camera footage that showed Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer brutalizing protesters.

On January 20, MPD violently attacked hundreds of protesters, journalists, legal observers, and bystanders with chemical and projectile weapons, then “kettled” more than 200 people before arresting everyone. All of those arrested were charged with felony rioting, followed in April by a superseding indictment that charged all defendants with at least eight felonies each, punishable by up to 75 years in prison.

Tuesday’s hearing comes just a week after $150,000 became available for an independent investigation into MPD misconduct on Inauguration Day. The move by the District Council to fund an investigation came after the Mayor’s Office of Police Complaints (OPC) issued a report in February criticizing the MPD for violating its own crowd control policy, as well as misuse of chemical agents, failure to provide proper dispersal orders, and making questionable arrests. The report recommended appointing an independent consultant to “investigate and examine all aspects of MPD’s actions on January 20, 2017.” Defendants, whose trials begin next month, are calling on the OPC to begin the investigation as soon as possible.

Categories: News

On the Showdown between Spain and Catalunya: Facing Two Bad Options, Choose the Third

It's Goin Down - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 02:44

The post On the Showdown between Spain and Catalunya: Facing Two Bad Options, Choose the Third appeared first on It's Going Down.

The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, played for time today, suspending the declaration of independence mandated by the referendum in order to continue negotiations with the central government of Spain, the European Union, and—presumably—hardliners in his camp who desire to proclaim Catalan independence unilaterally. As these two sides face off, jockeying for position on the world stage, how should we relate to this conflict? We’ve translated another text from anarchists on the Iberian peninsula addressing this question.

On the Spanish side, we see old-fashioned brute force covered with the usual thin veneer of legalism. When the Spanish minister of the economy says “This is about a rebellion against the rule of law, and the rule of law is the foundation of coexistence,” he is issuing the sort of veiled threat that emperors have always used to keep their vassals in check. The police and military forces converging in Catalunya are not an exception, but the rule on which this rule of law is based; there would be no Spain if not for the sort of violencewith which Spain tried to block the referendum, and no other states either.

This explains the fascist flags and Nazi salutes in Madrid, and the spokesperson for the ruling party in Spain suggesting that Puigdemont may end up like the last Catalan President to declare independence, who was murdered by a fascist firing squad with the assistance of Nazi Germany. When democracy does not serve to legitimize the state but threatens to split it asunder, partisans of pure, unmediated violence will always come to the fore within the ruling party.

On the Catalan side, we see a large number of courageous people from all sectors of society coming together to struggle heroically for a misguided and counterproductive goal. The independence movement brings together left-wing and right-wing nationalists with capitalists seeking to increase their control of the market, socialists who believe that a Catalan state would pass better laws, and anarchists simply concerned with defending their neighborhoods from the Spanish police. The politicians within this movement are likely to disappoint rank-and-file participants by not following through on their promises, but the problem goes deeper than this.

The bigger problem is that establishing a new state is one of the least efficient ways to pursue the laudable goals that the best parts of the independence movement espouse. Self-determination is not achieved through government; it is the opposite of government. If the objective is to promote autonomy and create a more egalitarian society, this will not be achieved by passing and enforcing laws, however liberal, but by dispersing power throughout participatory social movements capable of opening spaces of freedom and solving their own problems directly.

Those who have traded their vision that “another world is possible” for the slogan “Un altre país és possible” (another country is possible) may believe themselves to be engaging in realpolitik, but routes that appear to be shortcuts often turn out to be ways of getting more rapidly to the wrong destination. One does not simply advance incrementally towards stateless freedom by breaking states into smaller pieces. Everything that appears to temper or divide up the power of centralized government also serves to stabilize and legitimize it. The best way to defend ourselves against oppression is not to try to put another government in place over us; it is to build the capacity to defend ourselves against all who aspire to govern.

Social change is never easy; it requires sacrifice and hardship. Let’s make those sacrifices and undergo those hardships in order to address the roots of our problems, rather than to help the latest wave of opportunists take power.

The unfolding conflict between the Spanish and Catalan governments calls to mind the predicament anarchists found themselves in during the Ukrainian revolution, which pitted fascists and nationalists against an oppressive regime. When the struggle came to a head, anarchists were forced to take the streets alongside fascists rather than suffer the crackdown that would have ensued if the uprising failed and the regime survived; yet they were forced to fight behind nationalist and fascist banners, as fascists outnumbered them and attacked them when they tried to express their own political objectives. This worst-case scenario occurred because Ukrainian anarchists had not been able to establish a third front within the social unrest from the outset, rejecting both nationalism and the regime.

Some outside Spain are calling for anarchists to support the bid for independence on the grounds that it is a cut-and-dried struggle of authority against the people. In practice, this would mean doing on purpose in Catalunya what anarchists were forced to do in Ukraine. On the contrary, we believe that, presented with a choice between two bad options, anarchists should follow advice of the Yiddish proverb and choose the third. We should take the streets to defend our neighbors and communities against police and oppressive governments, but we should always make it clear that we do this out of opposition to all police and governments, however unpopular this is. This holds open the possibility that later, when people are disappointed by the success or failure of the nationalist movement, they will be able to consider the anarchist alternative.

Unfortunately, this will not be the last time we have to face this challenge. Civil war is on the horizon in many different parts of the world. As soon as human beings are divided into separate polities according to ethnicity, religion, or other markers of belonging, war inevitably follows as the rival powers contend for territory. Because ethnic purity and cultural homogeneity are myths, the lines on which such divisions should be drawn are always blurry. Nationalists of every stripe will be eager to enlist us in these conflicts. When they are fighting against an oppressive ruling force, we may find ourselves beside them, but this only makes it more important for us to retain our autonomy and take pains to distinguish our agenda from theirs.

To learn more about how social movements in Catalunya went from being ungovernable to calling for an independence government, read “From 15M to Podemos: The Regeneration of Spanish Democracy.” To learn how Catalan anarchists regarded and participated in the struggle during the referendum, read Anarchists on the Catalan Referendum: Three Perspectives from the Streets. For more discussion of the relationship between nationalism, democracy, and the state, read Democracy, Red in Tooth and Claw On the Catalan Referendum: The Old State, a New State, or No State at All?

Distended Appendix: Two Critical Voices

Our comrades in former Yugoslavia, having lived through a civil war in which ethnically defined nationalist blocs split apart and fought for territory, have watched the situation in Catalunya with apprehension. They recommended that we translate and publish the following text, “Reflections on Catalunya, September 2017,” comprised of the correspondence between two veterans of the anarchist movement in the Iberian peninsula, Tomás Ibáñez and Miquel Amorós. In the words of Tomás Ibáñez, One never takes power. It is power that takes us.

Tomás Ibáñez: Untimely Perplexities

When such drastic changes happen in Catalunya as the ones that have occurred since the massive demonstrations of May 15, 2011, it is quite difficult not to experience some perplexity.

What Happened?

What happened so that some of the more combative sectors of Catalan society went from “surrounding the Parliament” during the summer of 2011 to wanting to defend the institutions of Catalonia in September of 2017?

What happened so that these same sectors went from facing the autonomous police force of Catalonia—the Mossos d’Esquadra—in the Catalunya square, and from reproaching their atrocities, like those suffered by Esther Quintana1 and Andrés Benítez,2 to applauding their presence in the streets and fearing that they may not possess full autonomy?

What happened so that some of these sectors went from denouncing the government for its antisocial policies to voting for its budget? But also, what happened so that certain sectors of anarcho-syndicalism went from stating that freedoms have never been obtained by voting to defending the possibility for a referendum to be given to the populace?

We could add many more questions to this list and one could give multiple answers to each of the questions I’ve asked. We could cite factors like the decline of the regime of ‘783; the economic crisis and the austerity measures that were imposed, rendering life ever more precarious; the establishment of the far-right in the Spanish government with all its authoritarian policies and curbs on civil liberties; the scandalous corruption within the majority party, and many more.

The Rise of Nationalist Feeling

However, I think it would be naïve not to take into account the extraordinary rise of nationalist attitudes. Without a doubt, the rise of nationalism is connected with the factors I mentioned, but it also also received a lot of fuel from the Catalan government and Catalan public television.

Several years of persistent nationalist propaganda have inevitably shaped how people think, and the strategies to expand the base of Catalan nationalism have been extraordinarily intelligent.

This narrative constructed on the basis of the right to decide, on the basis of the image of the ballot box and the demand for the freedom to vote, served to conceal the fact that all along it has been an apparatus of the government working to promote this tale.

Today, the starred flag (red or blue) is, without a doubt, an emotionally charged symbol under which the masses mobilize. And precisely this aspect should not be overlooked by those who, without being nationalists, see in the mobilizations in favor of the referendum an opportunity that anti-authoritarians should not pass up in order to open up spaces of potential that, if not revolutionary, could at least serve to agitate society. And so they throw themselves into the battle between the governments of Spain and Catalonia.

Nationalism and Emancipatory Change

They should not take this lightly because when a struggle includes a strong nationalist component, and this is, without a doubt, the case in the current conflict, the possibilities for emancipatory change are strictly null.

I would like to share the optimism of the compañeros who wish to open up cracks in the current situation in order to make emancipatory paths possible. However, I cannot shut my eyes to the evidence that popular insurrections and movements for social rights never extend across society regardless of class: they always find the dominant classes circling their wagons on one side of the barricades. While in movements for national self-determination, like the current movement, there is always an important interclass component.

These movements always connect the exploited and the exploiters in pursuit of a common objective, which never turns out to be the abolition of social inequalities. Consequently, as history shows, movements for national self-determination always end up reproducing class society, subjugating the common people once more after they have served as cannon fodder to advance these struggles.

Against Dominant and Rising Nationalisms

This does not mean that one should not fight against dominant nationalisms with the aim of destroying them, but one has to do this while constantly denouncing rising nationalisms, instead of converging with them under the false pretext that this common front could create the possibility of spreading emancipatory ideals and isolating those who only wish to create a new national state that they could control.

Let there be no doubt: these travel companions will be the first ones repressing us as soon as they don’t need us anymore, and we should have already learned not to let them off the hook.

-Tomás Ibáñez

Barcelona, September 26, 2017

Letter from Miquel Amorós in response to Tomás Ibáñez

Alacant, 27-09-2017

Compañero Tomás—

Your “untimely perplexities” are the greatest exponent I have read of common sense and of the revolutionary seny4 which should reign not only among anti-authoritarians, but among all who wish to abolish this society rather than managing it.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t surprise me that so many people who call themselves anarchists have signed up for the nationalist movement and enthusiastically claim the right to decide the material their chains will be made of. Poor Ricardo Mella and the “law of the number”!5

And back in the day, there was no shortage of those who jumped on the Podemos bandwagon or the platformist bandwagon and changed their class struggle attire for the clothes of the new citizenry.

It is characteristic of philistine anarchism, in the face of any minor historical dilemma, to opt for playing the game with the established Power. The Spanish Civil War is a clear example of this. Confusion, the irresistible attraction of the racket, becoming outcast, the lesser of two evils, the enemy of my enemy, whatever.

The final result is this: a mass of slaves who will serve any outside cause and a bunch of unhealthy egos in the style of Colau6 or Iglesias7 who would pay to be sold. Black storms stir up the skies and dark clouds block our sight. Lets try to disperse them.

Youth as Theatrical Scenery

The question one should ask oneself is not why one local sector of the dominant class should decide to resolve its differences with the State via street mobilizations, but rather why a considerable portion of the population with opposing interests, mainly youth, acts as the theatrical scenery and striking force for the caste which has inherited Catalonia; a caste that is classist, catholic, corrupt, and authoritarian at that.

The game of Catalonian patriotism is not difficult to disentangle, and those who promote it and benefit from it have never sought to conceal this. The process in favor of national independence has been a daring class operation. The consolidation of a local caste associated with economic development demanded a qualitative jump in national autonomy.

The refusal of the central plutocracy to dialogue, in other words, to transfer responsibilities, mainly financial, blocked the ascent of this caste and reduced its influence and political capacity with regards to some businessmen, industrialists, and bankers who were willing to be led by a sovereign class in order that they could they could triple their profits.

The decision to go head-to-head with the Spanish state meant a radical rupture with the pacts of political Catalanism.

They weren’t too serious. In other words, the goal was never a unilateral declaration of independence, since this caste only hoped to force a new negotiation from a more advantageous position. However, since it needed to appear as though that was the intention, it needed a well-oiled apparatus of agitation in order to inject a jingoistic mysticism into the public that could boil up in a controlled manner in the caldron of identity. And the mobilization became a reality. It was quite a sight.

Armed with the marketing of identity, this pro-independence demagoguery was able to perpetuate itself within a democratic citizenry. The demagogues were able to take these masses out to the streets, because the people were too domesticated to go out on their own accord. With great skill, they played on the repressed emotions and gregarious feelings that remain hidden inside the servants of consumerism. In other words, they used alienation to their own advantage.

In my opinion, they have achieved their goal, and the ruling state caste is much more willing to modify the post-Franco constitution so that it may better suit the Catalan caste. Although for that to succeed, it might have to sacrifice some figures along the way, perhaps including Puigdemont8 himself. This seems to be suggested by the powerful representatives of big Capital, such as Felipe González, for example.

Nationalism Controlled by Con Men

Nationalism is controlled by con men, but in itself it is not fraud. It is an emotional reaction to a situation that is frustrating for a lot of people whose agency has been thwarted. It doesn’t function in a rational way, since it is not the result of reason; it’s more like a psychosis than a stirring towards liberation.

To understand the emergence of patriotism in Catalan society, one must study mass psychology, and for that Reich, Canetti, or Nietzsche are more useful than theoreticians like Marx, Reclus, or Pannekoek.

The conviction and enthusiasm of the crowd do not emerge from cool-headed, logical reasoning, or from rigorous social or historical analysis. They have more to do with finding an emotional release without risk, the feeling of power that crowds produce, the fetishism of flags and other such symbols, the virtual Catalan spirit of social networks—the characteristics of a rootless, atomized, and déclassé mass, lacking their own values, goal, or ideals, predisposed to agree with whatever is given to them.

Colonized by the market and the State, everyday life is full of latent and internalized conflicts, endowed with an excess of energy that surfaces in the form of individual or collective neurosis.

Nationalism, of any kind, offers an excellent mechanism for channeling these impulses which, if they were to rise to consciousness, would constitute a terrifying force for revolt.

Two Great Paranoid Blocs

Nationalism divides society into two paranoid blocs, artificially confronted by their obsessions.

Material, moral, cultural interests do not count. Nothing to do with justice, liberty, equality, or universal emancipation.

The Catalan people is something as abstract as the Spanish people: each is an entity that serves as an alibi for a sovereign caste with its famously repressive police.

A “people” is solely defined against any power that does not emanate from it or that separates it from itself. So it follows that a people with a State is not a people.

Farewell and Closing

You might agree with me that history is made by common people via assemblies and organisms born from assemblies, but as things are right now, history belongs to those who manipulate it most effectively.

What these people do is provide the popular frame for a bad theater play in which we can see an all-too-typical distribution of power.

Anyone may make their own calculations and navigate inside or outside of the nationalist waters, in their tame turbulence, but you must never lose sight of the heart of the matter.

Fraternally, Miquel Amorós.

  1. Esther Quintana is a journalist who lost an eye as a result of being attacked by the Mossos in 2012. 
  2. Andrés Benítez died in 2013 after being beaten by a group of Mossos. 
  3. The current Spanish constitution and political regime, which was instituted in 1978 after four decades of right-wing dictatorship under Franco. 
  4. Seny is a form of ancestral Catalan wisdom or sensibleness. It involves well-pondered perception of situations, level-headedness, awareness, integrity, and right action. 
  5. Ricardo Mella was one of the first of the writers, intellectuals, and anarchist activists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Spain. 
  6. Ada Colau is a Spanish left-wing representative and, since June 13, 2015, Mayor of Barcelona, the first woman to hold the office. Colau was one of the founding members and spokespeople of the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) (Platform for People Affected by Mortgages), which was set up in Barcelona in 2009 in response to the rise in evictions caused by unpaid mortgage loans and the collapse of the Spanish property market in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. 
  7. Pablo Iglesias Turrion is a Spanish politician who has been the Secretary-General of Podemos since 2014. Before then, he was a lecturer in political science at the Complutense University of Madrid. He hosts the online programs “La Tuerka” and “Fort Apache” and frequently appears in Spanish political TV shows. 
  8. Puigdemont is a Catalan politician and former journalist. He is the current President of the Generalitat of Catalonia.
Categories: News

2018 Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar is Out!

It's Goin Down - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 02:14

The post 2018 Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar is Out! appeared first on It's Going Down.

We are happy to announce that the 2018 Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners calendar is back from the printer and is available for purchase. Here is how you can do this:

  • Buy single copies (up to 9 copies) at http://www.leftwingbooks.net/certaindays  for $15 plus shipping or soon, from AKPress.org
  • Buy bulk copies (10 or more) at http://www.certaindays.org/?q=order for $10 each plus shipping.
  • You can also buy copies for prisoners for only $8 postage paid. Email us about how best to do this – venmo, cash app, paypal etc.

Like in years past, you can buy the calendars in quantities of 10 or more at wholesale price and sell them for more, keeping the difference for your organization, campaign or infoshop. Your group can buy 10 or more copies for the rate of $10 each and then sell them for $15, keeping the difference for your organization. Many campaigns, infoshops and projects do this as a way of raising funds and spreading awareness about political prisoners.

We think you will love this year’s calendar as its one of our best yet. This year’s theme is “Awakening Resistance,” and features art and writings by Jesus Barraza, Fight Toxic Prisons, Serena Tang, Andrea Ritchie, Roger Peet, Sophia Dawson, Rasmea Support Committee, EE Vera, Herman Bell, Fernando Marti, Alexandra Valiente, Billie Belo, Arlene Gallone Support Committee, Marius Mason, David Gilbert, UB Topia, April Rosenblum, Design Action Collective, Sundiata Acoli, Crimethinc, Annie Banks, Mutope Duguma, Xinachtli, Zola and more.

The proceeds from Certain Days 2018 will be divided among these groups: Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association (Palestine), Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) and other groups in need. Any questions can be sent to info@certaindays.org
The beautiful cover art attached is by Fernando Martí.

More Info: http://www.certaindays.org
Like us on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/certaindays/
Follow us on twitter: @CertainDays

Categories: News

Portland, OR: Anti-Colonial Posters Pasted Up

It's Goin Down - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 02:06

The post Portland, OR: Anti-Colonial Posters Pasted Up appeared first on It's Going Down.

Inspired by a desire to take act in solidarity with anti-Columbus Day actions everywhere, some folks in Portland, Oregon created and wheatpasted anti-colonial and anti-police posters around town.

#FuckColumbusDay

#DestroyColonialism

ACAB

Categories: News

Political Prisoner Birthday Poster for October 2017 is Now Available

It's Goin Down - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 22:53

The post Political Prisoner Birthday Poster for October 2017 is Now Available appeared first on It's Going Down.

Download and Print Here

Hello Friends and Comrades,

  1. Here is the political prisoner birthday poster for October.(11″x17″ PDF, 759KB) Also available as a shareable PNG here (imgur link). Print it out and plaster your community, both in commemoration of these freedom fighters and to advertise locally for a political prisoner letter writing night. Get together with some friends in your town to send birthday cards to these fighters in our struggle. It’s an easy way to help remind them that they aren’t forgotten. If you make one, remember—don’t use anything like white-out, stickers, tape or glitter on it. We also recommend that you put a return name and address and their name and prisoner number on the card, lest the authorities “lose” the envelope and forget where it is going. If you would like to add a birthday or sign up for our poster mailing list (not a listserv, one email per month), or if you would like to contribute in another way to increasing the profile of US political prisoners, email us at ppbirthday@riseup.net.
  2. Do you need help advertising for your local Political Prisoner Letter Writing Night? Are you interested in distributing physical copies of the poster? Write to us and let’s find a way to get physical copies of our poster to you: ppbirthday@riseup.net

Remember: They are in there for us, we are out here for them!

Categories: News

“We Keep Us Safe”: Video Report from Charlottesville

It's Goin Down - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 22:48

The post “We Keep Us Safe”: Video Report from Charlottesville appeared first on It's Going Down.

Charlottesville activists took the streets the night of Saturday, October 7th in a march for Community Defense Against All Fascism, in response to another ten-minute terrorist photo-op torch rally by Richard Spencer and his fascist followers.

A report from Daily Kos from Solidarity Cville wrote:

But Charlottesville activists do not wait for police protection. Charlottesville is mobilizing. Community members headed downtown in rapid response to the Nazi torch rally. A group of clergy and other folks stood outside the synagogue, where an event was being held in observance of the Jewish holiday Sukkot.

Activists, students, and other community members gathered in Emancipation Park at 10pm. They marched through the downtown mall, up West Main Street, through the Corner, and to the house of UVA President Teresa Sullivan.

October 7 was the THIRD time Richard Spencer has brought torch-wielding Nazis to Charlottesville. His first torchlit rally was in Emancipation Park on Saturday, May 13. His second torchlit rally was on UVA campus on Friday, August 11, by the statue of racist rapist UVA founder Thomas Jefferson. That was the night a group of student activists with a banner reading “VA students act against white supremacy” stood at the statue to defend their campus and were beaten, burned, and maced by hundreds of Nazis. Allowing Nazi violence on UVA’s campus on August 11 sent the message that Nazi violence would be allowed the next day as well. And it was. The world watched in horror as Charlottesville was attacked.

On October 6, UVA student activists protested the Bicentennial celebration at the Rotunda in a powerful reminder that UVA is built on “200 years of White Supremacy.” When UVA students took the stage calling for accountability from their university, the police arrested them. When UVA alum Richard Spencer led another torchlit rally at Emancipation Park, the police gave them an escort.

The organic community protest Saturday night addressed all of these connections. The first chant of the community defense march was “Cops and Klan go hand in hand.” As the group walked through Charlottesville’s downtown mall, they chanted, “White silence is violence” and “Black lives matter.” Blocking traffic on West Main street, they continued: “No Cops, no KKK, no fascist USA”; “goodnight alt-right”; “who keeps us safe? we keep us safe!”; and “if we don’t get it, shut it down.”

Upon arriving at the home of UVA President Teresa Sullivan, the group called for revoking Richard Spencer’s UVA diploma. They also declared solidarity with the three students arrested the night before, protesting the UVA bicentennial.

Three police officers stood on the steps of the house facing the protestors. Chanting continued.

“We fight in solidarity with activists and community members who have been holding it down in Charlottesville all summer,” one speaker declared. “We celebrate the legacy of resistance in Charlottesville and throughout the South. We fight for Sage Smith. Say her name: Sage Smith. Black Trans Lives Matter.”

The group pushed forward onto the steps of Teresa Sullivan’s house. One person pointed out that femmes and women and trans people led the front lines. White men were called on to step up, to come forward. The group chanted and clapped and affirmed, “When you let the Nazis come, we come! We confront Nazis. We defend this community.”

Dozens of police units arrived from four different law enforcement agencies. The police declared an unlawful assembly and threatened arrest.

The last moments of the protest were community care in action. As folks turned to walk away, reminders were called out. First: “If you’re white, protect the black and brown bodies.” Also: “Make sure everyone is accounted for,” and “Leave with a buddy.” Individuals gathered on the sidewalk to make sure everyone had what they needed and could get home.

Charlottesville is mobilizing. We are defending our community from Nazi terror. We are taking care of each other to persist through threats from fascists and threats from the police. We will disrupt white supremacy, end racial oppression, and make reparations. We will because we must. Join us.

Categories: News

Resistance is Disaster Relief

It's Goin Down - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 22:31

The post Resistance is Disaster Relief appeared first on It's Going Down.

On this day, we must remember that for some communities, disasters have been unfolding for centuries, depriving people of life and liberty every single day.

Indigenous peoples in the Americas have been attacked and oppressed for over 500 years.  This continues today.  Every day.  Indigenous communities in the United States have exceptionally high rates of poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, infant mortality, teen suicide, high school drop-outs, homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, diabetes and other preventable diseases, incarceration, and violent crimes committed against them – in some instances the statistics are multiple times more than any other communities.

And today, in cities all over the United States, parades are held to celebrate the man who initiated this age of terror.  Columbus Day is a celebration of genocide.  Christopher Columbus remarked, upon meeting the Taino peoples of so-called Hispaniola (now known as Haiti & Dominican Republic), that “they are artless and generous with what they have… Of anything they have, if it be asked for, they never say no, but do rather invite the person to accept it, and show as much lovingness as though they would give their hearts.”  Columbus was a different sort, however; based on this observation he concluded that “with fifty men they can all be subjugated and made to do what is required of them.”

On his return trips, that is exactly what he did.  He proclaimed the following: “I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses; we shall take you, and your wives, and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us.”  The Taino could not understand a word of this, and did not adequately resist the tyrants who demanded that each person over 14 extract a daily quantity of gold.  If they did not bring enough, their hands were chopped off; slaves who tried to escape were burned alive.

Why do we celebrate this man?

Because Colonization is a system that erases the history of the people and replaces it with false narratives that glorify the colonizers.  Colonizers maintain their power with violence, chains, and technologies of war, but also with elaborate deceptions, including signing and then shamelessly breaking treaties, coercing conversion to religions that justify slavery, and encouraging addiction and substance abuse, deliberately breaking cultural fabrics.

Colonization, by its very nature, attacks and pillages the land, water, and ecosystems.  As a result, it must attack, rob, enslave, or undermine all those peoples who are of the land, water, and ecosystems, those who live in ways that protect and nurture natural cycles.

In the dominant Euro-centric culture, which as a culture of colonization distorts the histories of these lands and peoples, we are taught to envision colonization as a past period of conquistadors, an age of brutality and callousness which is far behind us.  But the Era of Colonization continues today.  Now it is perpetrated by corporations instead of conquistadors, and methods have become more subtle and convoluted, but no less vicious.

And all over the world, the land, water, ecosystems, and peoples who protect them are under attack.

In the United States, oil and natural gas pipelines are being constructed in spite of ample evidence of their danger.  In the last ten years, over 3000 pipeline leaks and spills have been recorded.  Fracking continues in at least 22 states even after it has polluted groundwater and surface waters irrevocably, increased carbon and methane in the atmosphere, accumulated massive amounts of chemical waste, and even caused earthquakes. Canada’s Alberta Tar Sands project, for every 1 barrel of oil produced, requires the equivalent of 2/3 a barrel of oil energy input and more than 6 barrels of water consumed and poisoned.  Most pipeline projects seek to bring super-toxic and inefficient “bottom-of-the-barrel” fossil fuels like these to markets which would be much better served by conversion to renewable energy; new pipeline projects are climate disasters because, if completed, they “lock in” decades of additional dirty energy to justify their existence and recoup their enormous investment costs.

Indigenous communities have always been on the frontlines of resistance to pipeline expansions.  From Standing Rock Lakota at the center of Turtle Island, to Unist’ot’en and Mik’maq on the far western and eastern edges, native peoples and their allies are doing everything in their power to stop the rapid and extremely dangerous expansion of fracking and tar sands, and unprecedented development of pipelines that carry this gas and oil, as well as other forms of mining like those resisted by the Apache at Oak Flat, Arizona and the Ojibwe at Bad River, Wisconsin.

Non-indigenous allies join the resistance, acting in solidarity.  Tens of thousands joined the Standing Rock camps, and campaigns fighting against pipelines in other areas are inspired by the indigenous-led model.  We see solidarity coming from diverse allies, most notably from Black Lives Matter and other growing social justice movements as well as grassroots climate and environmental activism networks like Earth First! and Rising Tide.  Members of the Mutual Aid Disaster Relief network are proud to have assisted in these struggles as medics, nonviolent civil disobedience trainers, educators and promoters, and humble firewood splitters (a great role for those who want to use their privilege to support indigenous-led movements, it was an unglamorous but essential job in frigid North Dakota!).

We must understand that the unnaturally calamitous effects of storms and other natural disasters are caused not only by climate chaos which is the result of colonization in the form of deforestation, industrial agriculture, and fossil fuels; but also by the systematic deprivation of peoples’ power to prepare and care for themselves.  Hurricane Irma devastated the physical infrastructure of Cuba, but caused only 10 deaths, because communities were so well prepared and neighbors helped each other stay safe.  Compare to wealthier Florida, where more than 40 people were killed by a less direct hit from Irma.  Some of the worst effects of Hurricane Harvey are due to petroleum and chemical spills; residents living near these industries were already suffering ill effects on their health and longevity even before the storm.

And now we see the terrible effects of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.  Another island ravaged by Columbus, considered by some to be “the oldest colony in the world,” it is a perfect example of how systematic colonization installs dependence on the colonizers, so that self-determination and self-sufficiency become impossible.  Crippled by the repercussions of debt and neoliberal “austerity,” Puerto Rico’s antiquated water and sewage systems, dirty fossil-fuel electrical grid, and cash-crop focused agriculture have all failed, and now disempowered communities are desperately awaiting aid from outside.  This aid is coming too little too late, with offensively paltry provisions from the US government in the form of tiny and nutritionally-empty junk food rations.  No longer the invasive brutality of Columbus, contemporary colonization is so well-established and pervasive that it can cause a different type of crushing violence simply by willfully neglecting those who are least responsible for the causes of climate chaos but who suffer from it the most.

And as with all colonized territories, Puerto Rico is home to numerous environmental atrocities as well.  A recent article about the need for Mutual Aid Disaster Relief in Puerto Rico mentions examples like Vieques and 22 other Superfund sites.  Elsewhere, more environmental catastrophes are imminent.  Pipelines leak.  Mine waste spills and devastates rivers.  These “accidents” are far too common to be anything other than callousness and negligence from corporations that consider land, water, ecosystems, and communities to be colonial property which can “be subjugated and made to do what is required of them.”

For most of us, we engage in disaster relief out of compassion, out of the pain caused when we witness others suffering.  What if we recognized the daily disasters of colonization?  The disasters of neoliberal capitalism, in the forms of land theft, dirty development, austerity, hyper-concentration of wealth in the 1%, and cultural homogenization?

Pushing back against colonization opens space to breathe, to hope, to recuperate. Direct action to slow and stop the unnatural disasters caused by neoliberal capitalism ceases and prevents pain and suffering. Resistance is disaster relief.

In many cities around the US, Columbus Day has been abolished and Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated instead.  This campaign to end the celebration of a greedy, genocidal perpetrator of terror is admirable.  It is closely related to the campaign to remove Confederate monuments which were erected during the Jim Crow era for the express purpose of intimidating people of color, reminding them that white supremacists were still the real power-holders.

Let us all stand in solidarity with these movements, just as we stand in solidarity with communities recovering from hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes.  On this Indigenous Peoples Day, be a disaster responder.  Show your compassion through resistance, through demands for justice.  Support those who are struggling against the daily disasters of colonization and racist oppression.  For those with more privilege, use it to amplify and celebrate the voices of those with less.

More specifically, join or donate to movements against pipelines like Dakota Access in North Dakota and Iowa, Keystone XL in Nebraska and Oklahoma, Trans-Pecos in Texas, Line 3 in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Line 5 in Michigan, Atlantic Coast in Virginia, Sabal Trail in Florida, Trans Mountain in British Columbia, or anywhere else grassroots efforts are fighting to stop a greedy Corporate Columbus.  Wherever you may be, celebrate the recent defeat of the Energy East proposal and then get ready for 3 days of global divestment action with indigenous-led coalition Mazaska Talks (really, get in on this – divestment campaigns appear to be one of the most effective tactics nowadays).

Some members of the Mutual Aid Disaster Relief network are organizing direct action support in Puerto Rico – please promote and give generously to their fund-raiser!

Others in our network are giving Mutual Aid Disaster Relief training tours in 2018, focused on “Community Organizing as Disaster Preparedness” and combating “Disaster Capitalism” with “Solidarity Not Charity.”  If your community is ready to join the growing movement of daily disaster responders, we would love to visit you!  Learn more here.

With fierce solidarity,

tyler and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief

Categories: News

Catalunya: Facing Two Bad Options, Choose the Third

Anarchist News - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 22:14

From CrimethInc.

On the Showdown between Spain and Catalunya

The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, played for time today, suspending the declaration of independence mandated by the referendum in order to continue negotiations with the central government of Spain, the European Union, and—presumably—hardliners in his camp who desire to proclaim Catalan independence unilaterally. As these two sides face off, jockeying for position on the world stage, how should we relate to this conflict? We’ve translated another text from anarchists on the Iberian peninsula addressing this question.

On the Spanish side, we see old-fashioned brute force covered with the usual thin veneer of legalism. When the Spanish minister of the economy says “This is about a rebellion against the rule of law, and the rule of law is the foundation of coexistence,” he is issuing the sort of veiled threat that emperors have always used to keep their vassals in check. The police and military forces converging in Catalunya are not an exception, but the rule on which this rule of law is based; there would be no Spain if not for the sort of violence with which Spain tried to block the referendum, and no other states either.

This explains the fascist flags and Nazi salutes in Madrid, and the spokesperson for the ruling party in Spain suggesting that Puigdemont may end up like the last Catalan President to declare independence, who was murdered by a fascist firing squad with the assistance of Nazi Germany. When democracy does not serve to legitimize the state but threatens to split it asunder, partisans of pure, unmediated violence will always come to the fore within the ruling party.

On the Catalan side, we see a large number of courageous people from all sectors of society coming together to struggle heroically for a misguided and counterproductive goal. The independence movement brings together left-wing and right-wing nationalists with capitalists seeking to increase their control of the market, socialists who believe that a Catalan state would pass better laws, and anarchists simply concerned with defending their neighborhoods from the Spanish police. The politicians within this movement are likely to disappoint rank-and-file participants by not following through on their promises, but the problem goes deeper than this.

The bigger problem is that establishing a new state is one of the least efficient ways to pursue the laudable goals that the best parts of the independence movement espouse. Self-determination is not achieved through government; it is the opposite of government. If the objective is to promote autonomy and create a more egalitarian society, this will not be achieved by passing and enforcing laws, however liberal, but by dispersing power throughout participatory social movements capable of opening spaces of freedom and solving their own problems directly.

Those who have traded their vision that “another world is possible” for the slogan “Un altre país és possible” (another country is possible) may believe themselves to be engaging in realpolitik, but routes that appear to be shortcuts often turn out to be ways of getting more rapidly to the wrong destination. One does not simply advance incrementally towards stateless freedom by breaking states into smaller pieces. Everything that appears to temper or divide up the power of centralized government also serves to stabilize and legitimize it. The best way to defend ourselves against oppression is not to try to put another government in place over us; it is to build the capacity to defend ourselves against all who aspire to govern.

Social change is never easy; it requires sacrifice and hardship. Let’s make those sacrifices and undergo those hardships in order to address the roots of our problems, rather than to help the latest wave of opportunists take power.



The unfolding conflict between the Spanish and Catalan governments calls to mind the predicament anarchists found themselves in during the Ukrainian revolution, which pitted fascists and nationalists against an oppressive regime. When the struggle came to a head, anarchists were forced to take the streets alongside fascists rather than suffer the crackdown that would have ensued if the uprising failed and the regime survived; yet they were forced to fight behind nationalist and fascist banners, as fascists outnumbered them and attacked them when they tried to express their own political objectives. This worst-case scenario occurred because Ukrainian anarchists had not been able to establish a third front within the social unrest from the outset, rejecting both nationalism and the regime.

Some outside Spain are calling for anarchists to support the bid for independence on the grounds that it is a cut-and-dried struggle of authority against the people. In practice, this would mean doing on purpose in Catalunya what anarchists were forced to do in Ukraine. On the contrary, we believe that, presented with a choice between two bad options, anarchists should follow advice of the Yiddish proverb and choose the third. We should take the streets to defend our neighbors and communities against police and oppressive governments, but we should always make it clear that we do this out of opposition to all police and governments, however unpopular this is. This holds open the possibility that later, when people are disappointed by the success or failure of the nationalist movement, they will be able to consider the anarchist alternative.



Unfortunately, this will not be the last time we have to face this challenge. Civil war is on the horizon in many different parts of the world. As soon as human beings are divided into separate polities according to ethnicity, religion, or other markers of belonging, war inevitably follows as the rival powers contend for territory. Because ethnic purity and cultural homogeneity are myths, the lines on which such divisions should be drawn are always blurry. Nationalists of every stripe will be eager to enlist us in these conflicts. When they are fighting against an oppressive ruling force, we may find ourselves beside them, but this only makes it more important for us to retain our autonomy and take pains to distinguish our agenda from theirs.

To learn more about how social movements in Catalunya went from being ungovernable to calling for an independence government, read “From 15M to Podemos: The Regeneration of Spanish Democracy.” To learn how Catalan anarchists regarded and participated in the struggle during the referendum, read Anarchists on the Catalan Referendum: Three Perspectives from the Streets. For more discussion of the relationship between nationalism, democracy, and the state, read Democracy, Red in Tooth and Claw On the Catalan Referendum: The Old State, a New State, or No State at All?





Distended Appendix: Two Critical Voices

Our comrades in former Yugoslavia, having lived through a civil war in which ethnically defined nationalist blocs split apart and fought for territory, have watched the situation in Catalunya with apprehension. They recommended that we translate and publish the following text, “Reflections on Catalunya, September 2017,” comprised of the correspondence between two veterans of the anarchist movement in the Iberian peninsula, Tomás Ibáñez and Miquel Amorós. In the words of Tomás Ibáñez, One never takes power. It is power that takes us.

Tomás Ibáñez: Untimely Perplexities

When such drastic changes happen in Catalunya as the ones that have occurred since the massive demonstrations of May 15, 2011, it is quite difficult not to experience some perplexity.

What Happened?

What happened so that some of the more combative sectors of Catalan society went from “surrounding the Parliament” during the summer of 2011 to wanting to defend the institutions of Catalonia in September of 2017?

What happened so that these same sectors went from facing the autonomous police force of Catalonia—the Mossos d’Esquadra—in the Catalunya square, and from reproaching their atrocities, like those suffered by Esther Quintana1 and Andrés Benítez,2 to applauding their presence in the streets and fearing that they may not possess full autonomy?

What happened so that some of these sectors went from denouncing the government for its antisocial policies to voting for its budget? But also, what happened so that certain sectors of anarcho-syndicalism went from stating that freedoms have never been obtained by voting to defending the possibility for a referendum to be given to the populace?

We could add many more questions to this list and one could give multiple answers to each of the questions I’ve asked. We could cite factors like the decline of the regime of ‘783; the economic crisis and the austerity measures that were imposed, rendering life ever more precarious; the establishment of the far-right in the Spanish government with all its authoritarian policies and curbs on civil liberties; the scandalous corruption within the majority party, and many more.



The Rise of Nationalist Feeling

However, I think it would be naïve not to take into account the extraordinary rise of nationalist attitudes. Without a doubt, the rise of nationalism is connected with the factors I mentioned, but it also also received a lot of fuel from the Catalan government and Catalan public television.

Several years of persistent nationalist propaganda have inevitably shaped how people think, and the strategies to expand the base of Catalan nationalism have been extraordinarily intelligent.

This narrative constructed on the basis of the right to decide, on the basis of the image of the ballot box and the demand for the freedom to vote, served to conceal the fact that all along it has been an apparatus of the government working to promote this tale.

Today, the starred flag (red or blue) is, without a doubt, an emotionally charged symbol under which the masses mobilize. And precisely this aspect should not be overlooked by those who, without being nationalists, see in the mobilizations in favor of the referendum an opportunity that anti-authoritarians should not pass up in order to open up spaces of potential that, if not revolutionary, could at least serve to agitate society. And so they throw themselves into the battle between the governments of Spain and Catalonia.



Nationalism and Emancipatory Change

They should not take this lightly because when a struggle includes a strong nationalist component, and this is, without a doubt, the case in the current conflict, the possibilities for emancipatory change are strictly null.

I would like to share the optimism of the compañeros who wish to open up cracks in the current situation in order to make emancipatory paths possible. However, I cannot shut my eyes to the evidence that popular insurrections and movements for social rights never extend across society regardless of class: they always find the dominant classes circling their wagons on one side of the barricades. While in movements for national self-determination, like the current movement, there is always an important interclass component.

These movements always connect the exploited and the exploiters in pursuit of a common objective, which never turns out to be the abolition of social inequalities. Consequently, as history shows, movements for national self-determination always end up reproducing class society, subjugating the common people once more after they have served as cannon fodder to advance these struggles.



Against Dominant and Rising Nationalisms

This does not mean that one should not fight against dominant nationalisms with the aim of destroying them, but one has to do this while constantly denouncing rising nationalisms, instead of converging with them under the false pretext that this common front could create the possibility of spreading emancipatory ideals and isolating those who only wish to create a new national state that they could control.

Let there be no doubt: these travel companions will be the first ones repressing us as soon as they don’t need us anymore, and we should have already learned not to let them off the hook.

-Tomás Ibáñez

Barcelona, September 26, 2017



Letter from Miquel Amorós in response to Tomás Ibáñez

Alacant, 27-09-2017

Compañero Tomás—

Your “untimely perplexities” are the greatest exponent I have read of common sense and of the revolutionary seny4 which should reign not only among anti-authoritarians, but among all who wish to abolish this society rather than managing it.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t surprise me that so many people who call themselves anarchists have signed up for the nationalist movement and enthusiastically claim the right to decide the material their chains will be made of. Poor Ricardo Mella and the “law of the number”!5

And back in the day, there was no shortage of those who jumped on the Podemos bandwagon or the platformist bandwagon and changed their class struggle attire for the clothes of the new citizenry.

It is characteristic of philistine anarchism, in the face of any minor historical dilemma, to opt for playing the game with the established Power. The Spanish Civil War is a clear example of this. Confusion, the irresistible attraction of the racket, becoming outcast, the lesser of two evils, the enemy of my enemy, whatever.

The final result is this: a mass of slaves who will serve any outside cause and a bunch of unhealthy egos in the style of Colau6 or Iglesias7 who would pay to be sold. Black storms stir up the skies and dark clouds block our sight. Lets try to disperse them.



Youth as Theatrical Scenery

The question one should ask oneself is not why one local sector of the dominant class should decide to resolve its differences with the State via street mobilizations, but rather why a considerable portion of the population with opposing interests, mainly youth, acts as the theatrical scenery and striking force for the caste which has inherited Catalonia; a caste that is classist, catholic, corrupt, and authoritarian at that.

The game of Catalonian patriotism is not difficult to disentangle, and those who promote it and benefit from it have never sought to conceal this. The process in favor of national independence has been a daring class operation. The consolidation of a local caste associated with economic development demanded a qualitative jump in national autonomy.

The refusal of the central plutocracy to dialogue, in other words, to transfer responsibilities, mainly financial, blocked the ascent of this caste and reduced its influence and political capacity with regards to some businessmen, industrialists, and bankers who were willing to be led by a sovereign class in order that they could they could triple their profits.

The decision to go head-to-head with the Spanish state meant a radical rupture with the pacts of political Catalanism.

They weren’t too serious. In other words, the goal was never a unilateral declaration of independence, since this caste only hoped to force a new negotiation from a more advantageous position. However, since it needed to appear as though that was the intention, it needed a well-oiled apparatus of agitation in order to inject a jingoistic mysticism into the public that could boil up in a controlled manner in the caldron of identity. And the mobilization became a reality. It was quite a sight.

Armed with the marketing of identity, this pro-independence demagoguery was able to perpetuate itself within a democratic citizenry. The demagogues were able to take these masses out to the streets, because the people were too domesticated to go out on their own accord. With great skill, they played on the repressed emotions and gregarious feelings that remain hidden inside the servants of consumerism. In other words, they used alienation to their own advantage.

In my opinion, they have achieved their goal, and the ruling state caste is much more willing to modify the post-Franco constitution so that it may better suit the Catalan caste. Although for that to succeed, it might have to sacrifice some figures along the way, perhaps including Puigdemont8 himself. This seems to be suggested by the powerful representatives of big Capital, such as Felipe González, for example.



Nationalism Controlled by Con Men

Nationalism is controlled by con men, but in itself it is not fraud. It is an emotional reaction to a situation that is frustrating for a lot of people whose agency has been thwarted. It doesn’t function in a rational way, since it is not the result of reason; it’s more like a psychosis than a stirring towards liberation.

To understand the emergence of patriotism in Catalan society, one must study mass psychology, and for that Reich, Canetti, or Nietzsche are more useful than theoreticians like Marx, Reclus, or Pannekoek.

The conviction and enthusiasm of the crowd do not emerge from cool-headed, logical reasoning, or from rigorous social or historical analysis. They have more to do with finding an emotional release without risk, the feeling of power that crowds produce, the fetishism of flags and other such symbols, the virtual Catalan spirit of social networks—the characteristics of a rootless, atomized, and déclassé mass, lacking their own values, goal, or ideals, predisposed to agree with whatever is given to them.

Colonized by the market and the State, everyday life is full of latent and internalized conflicts, endowed with an excess of energy that surfaces in the form of individual or collective neurosis.

Nationalism, of any kind, offers an excellent mechanism for channeling these impulses which, if they were to rise to consciousness, would constitute a terrifying force for revolt.



Two Great Paranoid Blocs

Nationalism divides society into two paranoid blocs, artificially confronted by their obsessions.

Material, moral, cultural interests do not count. Nothing to do with justice, liberty, equality, or universal emancipation.

The Catalan people is something as abstract as the Spanish people: each is an entity that serves as an alibi for a sovereign caste with its famously repressive police.

A “people” is solely defined against any power that does not emanate from it or that separates it from itself. So it follows that a people with a State is not a people.

Farewell and Closing

You might agree with me that history is made by common people via assemblies and organisms born from assemblies, but as things are right now, history belongs to those who manipulate it most effectively.

What these people do is provide the popular frame for a bad theater play in which we can see an all-too-typical distribution of power.

Anyone may make their own calculations and navigate inside or outside of the nationalist waters, in their tame turbulence, but you must never lose sight of the heart of the matter.

Fraternally, Miquel Amorós.

  1. Esther Quintana is a journalist who lost an eye as a result of being attacked by the Mossos in 2012. 

  2. Andrés Benítez died in 2013 after being beaten by a group of Mossos. 

  3. The current Spanish constitution and political regime, which was instituted in 1978 after four decades of right-wing dictatorship under Franco. 

  4. Seny is a form of ancestral Catalan wisdom or sensibleness. It involves well-pondered perception of situations, level-headedness, awareness, integrity, and right action. 

  5. Ricardo Mella was one of the first of the writers, intellectuals, and anarchist activists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Spain. 

  6. Ada Colau is a Spanish left-wing representative and, since June 13, 2015, Mayor of Barcelona, the first woman to hold the office. Colau was one of the founding members and spokespeople of the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) (Platform for People Affected by Mortgages), which was set up in Barcelona in 2009 in response to the rise in evictions caused by unpaid mortgage loans and the collapse of the Spanish property market in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. 

  7. Pablo Iglesias Turrion is a Spanish politician who has been the Secretary-General of Podemos since 2014. Before then, he was a lecturer in political science at the Complutense University of Madrid. He hosts the online programs “La Tuerka” and “Fort Apache” and frequently appears in Spanish political TV shows. 

  8. Puigdemont is a Catalan politician and former journalist. He is the current President of the Generalitat of Catalonia. 

Tags: Crimethinc.spainCatalunyacategory: Essays
Categories: News

Rustbelt Abolition Radio #10: Beyond Policing

It's Goin Down - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 22:09

The post Rustbelt Abolition Radio #10: Beyond Policing appeared first on It's Going Down.

Listen and Download Here

In this episode we take a critical look at the liberal discourse of police reform, which has increasingly gained prominence amidst the ever-recurring specter of racist police violence, and especially in the wake of black rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore, and the intensification of North American Black liberation struggles these rebellions galvanized.

Alex Vitale, Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College and author of The End of Policing, speaks about the ways liberalism works to shore up the violence of policing through cosmetic, technocratic reforms, while failing to interrogate the origins and nature of police as a coercive instrument of state power, wielded to reproduce the social inequalities inherent to racial capitalism. We also speak with Charlene Carruthers, national director of Black Youth Project 100 and board member for the women of color reproductive justice collective SisterSong, on organizing through a Black queer feminist lens and pushing towards a society that’s organized around community, rather than punishment.

Categories: News

Kite Line: Prison and the Press, Part One

It's Goin Down - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 22:02

The post Kite Line: Prison and the Press, Part One appeared first on It's Going Down.

Listen and Download Here

This week is the first episode of several about the intersection between the media and prison struggles. In January of 2015, journalist Barrett Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison for his role reporting on Anonymous’ hack of Stratfor, a private security and espionage company. Today, we are sharing a talk he gave at the Fight Toxic Prisons conference in Denton, Texas. He describes his engagement with Anonymous and the hacking collective’s campaign against private security companies, alongside reflections on his time in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Categories: News

Pages