Trump, Mattis, Mnuchin warn North Korea of 'overwhelming' military response, halted trade | 03 Sept 2017 | President Trump suggested Sunday, after another underground nuclear test by North Korea, that he’ll halt trade with any country doing business with the rogue nation, as two members of the president's Cabinet issued tough warnings of their own. "The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea," tweeted Trump, in response to the regime of Kim Jong Un claiming to have detonated a hydrogen bomb underground.
South Korea, U.S. plan more drills after North Korea nuclear test rattles globe | 02 Sept 2017 | South Korea said on Monday it was preparing fresh military drills with its ally the United States and ramping up its ballistic missile defenses in response to North Korea's sixth and most powerful nuclear test a day earlier...South Korea's air force and army conducted exercises involving long-range air-to-surface missiles and ballistic missiles on Monday, the joint chiefs of staff said in a statement. More drills were being prepared with U.S. forces in the South, it said. The South's environment ministry will also announce on Monday its approval of an environmental assessment report for the deployment of a controversial U.S. anti-missile defense system, a ministry official told Reuters.
Irma is coming: Caribbean braces for the hurricane which is expected to reach land by Tuesday - and it now officially poses a threat to the East Coast --The storm is currently a Category 3 but expected to reach Category 4 by landfall | 03 Sept 2017 | Hurricane Irma now officially poses a threat to the United States as islands at the eastern end of the Caribbean sea are making preparation for its arrival. The storm could hit the area as soon as Tuesday, and is expected to hit the East Coast of the mainland US later this week...The US National Hurricane Center said the center of the storm could near that region late Tuesday. Currently Irma is a Category three hurricane, but its intensity has been fluctuating over the past few days.
Welcome to the anews podcast. This is episode 27 for September 1. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week.
Editorial: On Education
TOTW - Solidarity across Borders
A101 question: What do you think of consent or seduction as a basis for anarchist relations?
This podcast is the effort of many people. This week this podcast was
* sound edited by Linn O'Mable
* editorial written by one of thecollective
* written by jackie
* narrated by chisel and a friend
* Thanks to Aragorn! and Ariel for their help with the topic of the week
* Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more
Rep. Jim Bridenstine visits City Year in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on October 12, 2015. (Photo: City Year)
President Donald Trump's newly-announced nominee to head the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an elected official with no science credentials.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Ohio), who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, is "unlike previous NASA administrators," Newsweek notes, as "the 42-year-old Michigan native does not have any formal qualifications in science or engineering, having earned a triple bachelor's degree in economics, psychology, and business from Rice University, and later an MBA from Cornell University."
"Some might say that the government has seemed increasingly reluctant to leave science to the scientists," writes CNET's Chris Matyszczyk.
The former Navy Reserve pilot also served as executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum before being elected to Congress in 2012.
"NASA scientists have led the way in documenting the scientific reality of climate change," writes ThinkProgress' Joe Romm.
But in 2013, Bridenstine not only gave a speech on the House floor filled with standard denier talking points, he actually ended his remarks with a demand that President Obama apologize for funding research into climate science.
"Mr. Speaker, global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago," he falsely claimed.
ArsTechnica reported last month that Bridenstine "was championed by several commercial space companies because he is open to increased privatization of U.S. civil and military space activities."
The pick also drew criticism from Florida Sens. Marco Rubio (R) and Bill Nelson (D). Rubio mentioned concerns over his "political baggage," while Nelson told Politico that the "head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician."
Reacting to the nomination, Bill McKibben tweeted that Bridenstine "seems a tad murky on the topic of how planets work."
Um, Trump's nominee to head NASA seems a tad murky on the topic of how planets work https://t.co/yCLF9k34Ta— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) September 2, 2017
According to the Rogue NASA Twitter account, Bridenstine "fits the perfect mold of a Trump appointee. No experience and a complete disaster," adding, "The fact that he is on the table is an insult to all of us."September 3, 2017 September 3, 2017
The White House statement Friday also announced the nomination of Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) to be director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position often referred to as drug czar.
He "was one of Trump's most enthusiastic supporters" during his presidential campaign, LancasterOnline notes.
His "congressional voting record," the Washington Post previously reported, "is that of a hard-liner on marijuana issues, and he recently said that he'd like to put nonviolent drug offenders in some sort of 'hospital-slash-prison.'"
When his name was first floated in April, Bill Piper, senior director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, called Marino "a disastrous choice" who "needs to be opposed."
The nominees still need Senate confirmation.
Homes are surrounded by floodwater after torrential rains pounded Southeast Texas following Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey on August 31, 2017, in Orange, Texas. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)
The pictures that came out of Houston and other areas that were hard hit by Hurricane Harvey were pretty awful. There were numerous photographs of people with young children and pets wading through high water in the hope of being rescued by boat or helicopter. There was also the picture of elderly people in a nursing home sitting in waist-high water waiting to be rescued. It was a pretty horrible story.
Because the United States is a wealthy country, we do have large numbers of boats and helicopters and trained rescue workers able to assist the victims of the storm. We also have places where we can take these people where they will have shelter, as well access to food and medical care. However bad the human toll will be from Harvey, it would be hugely worse without these resources.
In this context, we may want to take a moment to think about Bangladesh, a densely populated country on the other side of the world. More than 160 million people live in Bangladesh. Almost half of these people live in low-lying areas with an elevation of less than 10 meters (33 feet) above sea level.
Bangladesh experiences seasonal monsoon rains which invariably lead to flooding, as well as occasional cyclones. The monsoon rains and cyclones are likely to be more severe in future years as one of the effects of global warming. This will mean that the flooding will be worse.
Bangladesh does not have large amounts of resources to assist the people whose homes are flooded. It does not have the same number of boats and helicopters and trained rescue workers to save people trapped by rising water. Nor can it guarantee that people who do escape will have access to adequate shelter, medical care or even clean drinking water. This means many more people are likely to be dying from floods in Bangladesh as a result of the impact of global warming.
Ironically, as Houston and Texas were still being hit by Harvey last week, a building collapsed in Mumbai, India, likely the result of the pressure from this year's monsoon rains and the resulting floods. Nineteen people were reported dead from the collapse, with another 30 having been rescued after being trapped in the rubble.
So far this summer, more than 1,000 people across South Asia have died as a result of flooding from the monsoons. We are likely to see many more incidents like this building collapse, as well as more people drowning in floods due to the effects of global warming.
In the US, the debate over global warming is often treated as one between those who like government intervention and those who support a free market. This is nonsense.
Allowing people to emit greenhouse gases without paying for the damage done is like allowing them to dump their sewage on their neighbor's lawn. No one seriously argues that it is a "free market" principle that they get to dump their sewage on their neighbor's lawn. Everyone understands that we are responsible for dealing with our own sewage and not imposing a cost on our neighbors.
It's the same story with the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, even if the chain of causation may be somewhat more complicated. At this point, we have pretty clear evidence that the planet is warming, with the predictable bad effects like rising oceans and more severe storms. We also know that greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause.
For this reason, the dumping of sewage analogy is appropriate. The United States and other wealthy countries are imposing enormous costs, including the loss of large numbers of lives, through our emissions of greenhouse gases.
It is understandable that a rich jerk like Donald Trump might not want to pay for the damage he does to the world, especially when the people most affected are dark-skinned, but it is not a serious position. It has nothing to do with market philosophy; it is just a story of not accepting responsibility.
The emissions from the United States and other wealthy countries will result in a lot of Harvey-like disasters in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the developing world. We should be moving quickly to try to limit the harm. We should also be giving these countries the assistance they need to deal with the disasters that we have caused them. This isn't a question of charity, it's a question of whether we think we can get away with ruining the lives of the world's poorest just because we are rich and powerful.
Bernie Sanders' health care bill is a multi-payer system, not a single payer system. Rather than starting from a position of strong legislation and building support for it, he is starting from a position of weak legislation that he considers to be more politically feasible.
Activists march in the Medicare for All rally on June 26, 2017, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Molly Adams)
At the start of the August congressional recess, Senator Bernie Sanders announced that he will introduce a senate bill this September "to expand Medicare to cover all Americans." Since the election, the movement for improved Medicare for all, has been urging Sanders to introduce a companion to John Conyers' HR 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, which currently has a record 117 co-sponsors in the House and is considered the gold standard by the movement.
Recent reports are that Sanders' bill falls far short of HR 676 in fundamental ways. In fact, Sanders' bill is a multi-payer system not a single payer system. His bill reportedly would allow private insurers to compete with the public system, allow the wealthy to buy their way out of the public system and allow investor-owned health facilities to continue to profit while providing more expensive and lower quality health care.
As a leader in the Democratic Party in the Senate, Sanders is trying to walk the line between listening to the concerns of his constituency, which overwhelmingly favors single payer health care, and protecting his fellow Democrats, whose campaigns are financed by the medical industrial complex. Sanders needs to side with the movement not those who profit from overly expensive US health care.
On August 30, Health Over Profit for Everyone steering committee members and supporters sent the letter at the end of this article to Senator Sanders raising specific concerns and urging Senator Sanders to amend his bill before it is introduced.
There Are Two Realities
It has become the practice in Washington, DC to offer weak bills, which fail to address the roots of the crises we face, to make them 'politically feasible'. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is an example of this. It was a compromise with the health insurance, pharmaceutical and private hospital industries from the start -- an attempt to appease them with public dollars in exchange for greater access to care. The ACA was built on a foundation of private industry even though the priorities of those industries are profit for a few, not health for everyone. That faulty foundation has perpetuated the healthcare crisis -- tens of millions without health insurance, tens of millions more who have health insurance but can't afford health care and poor health outcomes including tens of thousands of deaths each year.
There are two realities that must be considered. The healthcare crisis will not end until a system is put in place that guarantees universal comprehensive and affordable healthcare coverage through National Improved Medicare for All or another form of single payer system such as a national health service. That is what we call the 'real reality', and it simply won't change until there are real changes in policy that solve it. The political reality of what is 'politically feasible' is the other reality. This reality will change as people organize and mobilize to demand what they need. Politicians change their positions when they believe it is necessary to maintain their position of power. It is the task of movements to change what is politically feasible.
The movement for National Improved Medicare for All has been working for decades to educate, organize and mobilize the public to change the political reality. And it is working. There is broad public support for Improved Medicare for All and legislation in the House that articulates the demands of the movement. What is needed now is a companion bill in the Senate that is as strong as HR 676. Once that is introduced, activists will work to secure support for it.
Sanders has it backwards. Rather than starting from a position of strong legislation and building support for it, he is starting from a position of weak legislation that he considers to be more politically feasible. By doing so, he is losing the support of the movement that he needs to pass expanded and improved Medicare for all.
Activists Versus Legislators
This is where it is important to recognize the difference between activists and legislators. Activists and legislators have different priorities. Activists work to solve crises. Their dedication is to an issue. Legislators work to maintain their position, whether it is re-election, seats on committees, good standing with other legislators or continued funding from Wall Street or other wealthy interests. Legislators compromise when they believe it is in their personal best interest. Activists can only compromise when it is in the interest of solving the crisis they face.
To win National Improved Medicare for All, activists need to follow the principles outlined in I.C.U.:
The "I" stands for independence. Activists must keep their allegiance to their issue independent of the agenda of legislators and political parties. The goal is to solve the healthcare crisis, and politicians from both major parties will need to be pressured to support Improved Medicare for All. Remember, the movement is going against the interests of the big money industries that finance members of Congress.
The "C" stands for clarity. Legislators will attempt to throw the movement off track by claiming that there are 'back doors' to our goal or smaller incremental steps that are more 'politically feasible'. They will use language that sounds like it is in alignment with the goals of the movement even though the policies they promote are insufficient or opposed to the goals of the movement. This is happening right now in the movement for Improved Medicare for All. Numerous people, who consider themselves to be progressive but who are connected to the Democratic Party, are writing articles to convince single payer supporters to ask for less.
And the "U" stands for uncompromising. Gandhi is quoted as saying that one cannot compromise on fundamentals because it is all give and no take. When it comes to the healthcare crisis, the smallest incremental step is National Improved Medicare for All. That will create the system and the cost savings needed to provide universal comprehensive coverage. Throughout history, every movement for social transformation has been told that it is asking for too much. When the single payer movement is told that it must compromise, that is no different. The movement is demanding a proven solution to the healthcare crisis, and anything less will not work.
The momentum is on the side of the movement for National Improved Medicare for All. Act now to push Sanders to amend his bill so that it matches HR 676. Sign and share the petition tool, and read the letter below to understand the concerns about Sanders' bill.
Dear Senator Sanders,
For almost fifteen years the movement for National Improved Medicare for All has organized around HR 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, introduced each session since 2003 by Congressman John Conyers. As you know, HR 676 has 117 co-sponsors so far this year. This legislation is considered by the movement to be the gold standard framework for a universal healthcare system in the United States.
We appreciate your support for Improved Medicare for All and the work that you have done to elevate the national dialogue on Improved Medicare for All. We hope to continue to work with you to make this a reality in the near future.
To that end, we are writing to share our concerns about the legislation that you are planning to introduce. These concerns are based on what we have learned about your legislation without having the benefit of reading a draft of it.
In order to maintain the cohesion and strength of the movement for Improved Medicare for All, the legislation in the senate must be in alignment with HR 676. This is important so that the movement is unified and so that the process begins from a position of asking for what we want and need, rather than starting from a position of compromise. It is the task of the movement to build political support for the legislation in Congress.
Here is a list of our concerns:
- We oppose the inclusion of copayments and deductibles in an Improved Medicare for All bill. As outlined in the recent letter to you from Physicians for a National Health Program, including copayments adds administrative complexity and creates a barrier to care, which leads to delay or avoidance of necessary care. Economic analyses indicate that the administrative and other savings inherent in a well-planned single payer system offset the added expense of eliminating copayments and deductibles. HR 676 does not include copayments. The movement for Improved Medicare for All has coalesced around the elimination of these financial barriers to care.
- We support a rapid transition to National Improved Medicare for All. The Medicare system was implemented within a year of passage without using computers. Unlike when Medicare became law, the United States now has basic infrastructure in place for a national health insurance based on Medicare. We urge you to utilize the timeline in HR 676, which would start the universal system in less than two years, rather than delaying or phasing it in by age group over time. Beginning with a universal system allows savings and cost controls that can be used to provide comprehensive benefits without cost sharing.
- We support a single payer healthcare system. We understand that your legislation will allow employers to continue to provide employee health insurance that duplicates what the national health insurance covers to avoid conflict with the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act (ERISA). We urge you to include a carve out of ERISA for national health insurance so that the new system is a single payer system. Without doing so, your bill will be a multi-payer system. This is required to achieve administrative simplicity and significant cost savings. HR 676 allows private insurance that does not duplicate the benefits of the system. Employers and unions would be able to provide extra benefits beyond what the system covers.
- We support a universal system. We understand that your legislation will allow health providers to opt out of the national health insurance system. This would create a parallel health system for the wealthy and undermine the quality of the public system. Universal systems are of higher quality than tiered systems because they create a social solidarity in which everyone has an interest in making the system the best it can be. We urge you to reject a tiered healthcare system as healthcare is a human right and should not be based on wealth.
- We oppose inclusion of investor-owned health facilities. Investor-owned health facilities treat health care, which is a necessary public service, as a commodity for profit. These facilities have an incentive to cut corners, under and over treat and charge higher prices. The result is higher cost and lower quality. We urge you to reject profiteering in the healthcare system so that the bottom line is improving the health of our population, not profits for Wall Street.
The above concerns are based on what we know about your legislation at present. We do not know if they are warranted because we have not read the text. Upon reading it, there may be additional concerns.
We hope that you will share the draft text of your legislation with us and address the above concerns before it is introduced. Our support for your Improved Medicare for All legislation will depend upon whether or not it will serve as a companion to HR 676. If it is, we are ready to work in our states to build political support for it. If the above concerns are not addressed, then your bill will not be a single payer Improved Medicare for All bill and we believe it will undermine the movement for HR 676.
We recognize that legislators tend to compromise from the start to build political support for legislation. This has served as a failed strategy because the final legislation is too weak to accomplish its goals. We suggest a different approach of beginning from a position of what is required to solve the healthcare crisis. We have organized for too long to concede from the start on these fundamental principles.
Seth Armstrong, board member, Western Washington Physicians for a National Health Program*
Vanessa Beck, Health Over Profit for Everyone Steering Committee
Claudia Chaufan, MD, California Physicians for a National Health Program*
Andy Coates, MD, past president, Physicians for a National Health Program*
Mary L. De Luca, MD , Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist
Dena Draskovich, Leader of Indivisible Omaha and disabled citizen*
Margaret Flowers, MD, director of Health Over Profit for Everyone
Terry Flowers, RPh Centerpoint Medical Center of Independence, Missouri*
Leslie Hartley Gise MD, Clinical Professor Psychiatry, University of Hawai'i*
James S. Goodman, MD, Psychiatrist
Leigh Haynes, People's Health Movement-USA*
Paul Hochfeld MD, Board Member, Physicians for a National Health Program*
Dana Iorio, ARNP, Board Member, PNHP Western Washington, Board Member, Health Care For All-Washington*
Joseph Q Jarvis MD MSPH, Utah*
Tim Jordan, MD, member, Physicians for a National Health Program*
Stephen B. Kemble, MD, Physicians for a National Health Program advisory board, past president of Hawaii Medical Association*
Edgar A Lopez MD, FACS, member, Physicians for a National Health Program, Kentuckians for Single Payer*
Ethel Long-Scott, Women's Economic Agenda Project (WEAP)*
Eric Naumburg, MD, co-chair Maryland chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program*
Carol Paris, MD, president, Physicians for a National Health Program*
George Pauk, MD
Julie Keller Pease, MD, Topsham, Maine
Julia Robinson, MD, People's Health Movement-USA*
Anne Scheetz, MD, Illinois Single-Payer Coalition, Physicians for a National Health Program and steering committee of Health Over Profit for Everyone*
Mariel Scheinberg, OMS 4, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine*
James Squire, MD Physicians for a National Health Program Western Washington*
Lee Stanfield, Health Over Profit for Everyone Steering Committee and Single Payer Tucson NOW*
James P. Thompson, Ph.D.
Bruce Trigg, MD, Public Health and Addiction Consultant
John V. Walsh, MD, California Physicians for a National Health Program*
Robert Zarr, MD, past president, Physicians for a National Health Program*
Kevin Zeese, co-director of Popular Resistance
*For identification purposes only.
Janine Jackson: On August 21, Donald Trump gave what one Washington Post writer called a "muscular speech" on his plans for the US's long war in Afghanistan. Corporate media were critical of the lack of detail: How many new troops would be sent? How long exactly until the US annihilates all the terrorists? And media were critical of the messenger: Didn't what was often benignly described as "continued US presence" in Afghanistan contradict Trump's earlier views?
Less compelling for big media than what it means that this is "Trump's war now" was what the US-led war has meant every day for Afghan citizens, and what escalation is assured to mean.
Writer and activist Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Author most recently of Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror, she's also co-author of Ending the US War in Afghanistan: A Primer. She joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Phyllis Bennis.
Phyllis Bennis: Great to be with you, Janine.
It isn't to say that there isn't critical commentary of various stripes; it's just that some big things seem to be off the page. You could read multiple news reports, for example, that refer to the costs of the war in Afghanistan and occupation, and that reckoned those costs in US troop casualties or fatalities, and in taxpayer dollars. What's missing from this sort of accounting, and then what do you make, in general, of media reaction to Trump's speech?
Well, you know, Janine, one of the points in Trump's speech, when he said at the very beginning that the American people are "weary of war" -- he said they're "weary of war without victory." What nobody is asking is, are the Afghans weary of war? There have been 67 percent more civilian casualties this year under Trump than the equivalent time of last year. Every year since the UN began keeping records back in 2009, every year the number of civilian casualties has gone up. Every year, it's been not only more civilians, but more children among the civilians.
What's interesting, of course, is that nobody was talking after Trump's speech about his comparison with his so-called rival, John McCain, who just a couple of days before his speech gave his own speech. And McCain's strategy was not so different, ultimately, than Trump's. He also talked about sending more troops, sending more airstrikes, giving the military more power. But one of the things that McCain said explicitly, that Trump only implied, was that the goal has to do with the United States: preventing attacks on the US, preventing attacks on Americans. There is no goal of making life better for Afghans.
And that's really critical. We have been many years now since anybody in power has claimed that we're waging this war for democracy, or that we're waging this war to protect the women of Afghanistan. Remember when that used to be a big, popular meme for this war? Laura Bush was big on this issue, a lot of people were, that we're doing this for the women.
As it turns out, after 16 years of US military occupation, the conditions are so dire for ordinary Afghan civilians that Afghanistan is still the very worst country in the world for a child to be born and survive to her first birthday. And this is with 16 years of US military engagement in the interest of protecting Afghan women.
So the question of really, what has changed? -- whose interest is this? -- is not being challenged in the press; it's not being asked enough. I think what we are seeing is that there's a willingness to be critical, in the sense that right now in the mainstream press, there's a willingness to be critical about everything having to do with Trump, and that's all good. That's not a bad thing, that's a good thing. What is missing from it is, one, the recognition of how this has always been a failed and failing war, from October 7, 2001, the day the war was launched. It's been wrong, it's been illegal under international law, and arguably illegal, today, under US law.
You talked about an increase in civilian casualties under Trump, and I see media playing a role in kind of abetting and encouraging this idea that war is very presidential. And you have described Trump seeing deploying troops and sending bombs as almost first and foremost "sending a message," and that that has to do with the increase in civilian casualties, that that's kind of his thing.
I think that's absolutely right. I think that the question of why military force is being used has everything to do with sending the message that we as a country are strong and tough, and I as the president am presidential. It's an assertion of what he doesn't have on the basis of strategic thinking and ability to inspire people. Absent that, you send the Marines. That's sort of an old story.
But it's extraordinary, the level of increase in civilian casualties that are going on in US wars all around the world. I was looking just this morning, Janine, looking at the Washington Post, page 1, page 8, page 9, page 10 -- headline after headline about the numbers of civilian casualties that are dying and being severely injured by US airstrikes. Whether it's in Mosul, the so-called liberation from ISIS that the US was responsible for, in Iraq; in Raqqa, Syria, where civilians are now being killed in huge numbers, again by US airstrikes supposedly aimed at ISIS; in Yemen, where the US-backed Saudi coalition is bombing and bombing and bombing, and killing civilians. And interestingly, in the same context, in Charlottesville, where now the United Nations is actually criticizing the United States for racist violence. So what we're seeing is a real pattern of an increased level of civilian casualties and a decreased level of concern from those in power to stop it. That's a very dangerous reality.
Let me bring you back to another question about perspective. In reading about reaction to Trump's speech, I found a piece in Foreign Policy that included the expression:
Like many Americans, I struggle with what the United States should do in Afghanistan. The answers are not obvious, and the options are never satisfying.
And I was thinking, you know, what I struggle with is the presumption that it's the right of every American to puzzle out what those people over there ought to do with their country, and then make them do it. The commentator in this case is a former DoD employee, but her take isn't really that unusual. International law appears to be just kind of a quaint idea for much of the press.
No, that's true. Of course, that was the language that the Bush administration memorably used for both the Geneva Conventions and international law, that it was quaint and it was irrelevant.
And that certainly is the case. I will cut a tiny bit of slack to the author that you quoted, and to others in this country who, in a serious way, think about what should US policy be, what are the options, only because after 16 years of military destruction, that followed decades of military attacks throughout the 1980s, when Afghanistan was a major venue for the hot part of the Cold War…. The US and the Soviet Union were fighting it out in Afghanistan. Of course, some of the people that we were supporting at that time were named Osama bin Laden, and they were the ones who became Al Qaeda later, so that was very much a blowback issue.
But with that history, I think that we do have to recognize that we owe a great debt to the people of Afghanistan. We have destroyed that country, far more than it would have been destroyed internally. So we do owe something to help them rebuild. The really difficult question is, how do we make good on that. We don't owe military occupation, we don't owe the imposition, arming, paying of a corrupt leader who has little to no local support, and the creation of a kind of government that has nothing to do with Afghan culture, nothing to do with the history of how Afghans govern themselves over the years when they were not being occupied.
So I think that it is right to say we should think about it. What's not right is exactly the question that you raise; it's not our right to decide how they should live now, how they should rebuild their country. We have to figure out a way to make good on our obligations, which has to do with money, it has to do with diplomatic support. It does not include military occupation.
Figuring out how to do that is no easy task, and at this moment, when the State Department has been stripped of so many diplomats -- there's not even an ambassador to Afghanistan at the moment, the office dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan has simply been closed, shut down, the staff sent somewhere else -- that means there are no diplomats available who have the skills and the information to make recommendations that would be taken seriously.
This is what happens when you cut the State Department budget by 30 percent, and turn those billions of dollars over to the Pentagon. You don't have diplomats? You send the Marines. This is the challenge that we're now facing. The only option we have, if you talk to people in Washington, is send the military, because there's no resources anywhere else. So this is a huge challenge for what US foreign policy can and must change.
I certainly agree, and I see the desire to use US power for good.
Doesn't happen very often.
But I guess I also just see the desire to use US power, and the presumption that goes with that. It seems sometimes that a complete, frictionless acceptance of US exceptionalism is just kind of the price of admission for foreign policy debate in the media.
You're absolutely right. No, I think you're absolutely right. The assumption is that a military engagement is the first option. Despite all the language about "there is no military solution," we act as if there is only a military solution. And that's true in Afghanistan, it's true in Iraq, it's true in Syria, it's true in Libya, it's true all over the world, and this is a huge problem. There is no easy answer, except to start with ending the military part. Get the troops out. That's not the end game, that's step one. That's step one.
So you remember, Janine, during the early years of the Iraq War, Colin Powell used to use this Pottery Barn analogy: "We broke it, we fix it." And I always thought that it was the wrong analogy, that the real analogy is the bull in the china shop. What do you do when the bull gets loose in the china shop and breaks all the cups? You don't ask the bull to fix the cups, you get the bull the hell out of the china shop, and write a check for the damage. That's step one. That's not step end, but that's step one. That's what we need to be doing in Afghanistan. Then we need to figure out how to help rebuild in a way that's not based on military force. That's not something the US has ever been very good at.
We've been speaking with Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies. She's author, most recently, of Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror, and co-author of Ending the US War in Afghanistan: A Primer. Thank you very much, Phyllis Bennis, for joining us this week on CounterSpin.
Thank you. It's good to be with you.
Most Americans with jobs work "at-will": Employers owe their employees nothing in the relationship and vice versa. Either party may terminate the arrangement at any time for a good or bad reason or none at all.
In keeping with that no-strings-attached spirit, employees may move on as they see fit -- unless they happen to be among the nearly one in five workers bound by a contract that explicitly forbids getting hired by a competitor. These "noncompete clauses" may make sense for CEOs and other top executives who possess trade secrets but seem nonsensical when they are applied to low-wage workers such as draftsmen in the construction industry.
As a scholar of employment law and policy, I have many concerns about noncompete clauses -- such as how they tend to make the relationship between workers and bosses too lopsided, suppress wages and discourage labor market mobility. In addition to tracing their legal and legislative history, I have come up with a way to limit this impediment to worker mobility.
How We Got Here
Courts began to enshrine the at-will doctrine in the 19th century, making exceptions only for employees with fixed-term contracts. In Payne v. Western & Atlantic Railroad Co., the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that a railway foreman in Chattanooga had the right to forbid his workers from buying whiskey from a merchant named L. Payne.
Payne had sued the railroad, claiming it couldn't threaten to fire employees to discourage them from buying goods from a third party. The court disagreed, arguing that the railroad had a right to terminate employees for any reason -- even that one.
The notion of at-will employment and its associated lack of job protections soon rose to the level of constitutional mandate. The 1894 Pullman strike, which disrupted national rail traffic, prompted Congress to pass the Erdman Act four years later. That law guaranteed the right of rail workers to join and form unions and to engage in collective bargaining.
But the Supreme Court struck down that law in 1908. Writing for the majority in Adair v. United States, Justice John Marshall Harlan explained that since employers were free to use their property as they wished, they could impose and enforce their own labor rules. Employees, in turn, were free to quit. Harlan wrote: "The right of a person to sell his labor upon such terms as he deems proper is, in its essence, the same as the right of the purchaser of labor to prescribe the conditions upon which he will accept such labor from the person offering to sell it."
That might sound reasonable, but the Adair ruling led to the proliferation of "yellow dog" contracts threatening workers with firing if they joined or organized unions. The term disparaged people who accepted such conditions, but the principle had widespread legal approval.
For three decades, the at-will doctrine stymied legislation that would have protected labor rights. Even when a supervisor told a long-term employee he would be fired unless his wife had sex with the supervisor, courts refused to protect the man from losing his job.
Labor Rights and the Law
With the passage of the National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act in 1935, all private sector workers and unions gained the power to collectively bargain with employers. Subsequent labor agreements, such as the one the Steel Workers Organizing Committee negotiated with U.S. Steel in 1937, made employers prove "just cause" before firing anyone.
The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991 added employment protections prohibiting discrimination based on race, gender, religion and national origin.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, which Congress passed in 1990, ensured that persons with disabilities would have access to jobs with or without reasonable accommodation.
Those laws and other measures, including modern exceptions to the at-will rule, offer workers some security. But they provide no protection at the federal level from noncompete clauses.
The leeway for employers to impose these provisions varies widely from state to state and is in flux. For example, Alabama and Oregon have sought in recent years to limit their scope, while Georgia and Idaho have made it easier for companies to enforce them. A uniform federal rule could clarify the situation and benefit both employees and employers.
Critics have pointed out the disadvantages of noncompete clauses to unskilled labor. "By locking low-wage workers into their jobs and prohibiting them from seeking better-paying jobs elsewhere (companies) have no reason to increase their wages or benefits," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said when she sued the Jimmy John's fast-food franchise last year for making its employees sign noncompete clauses.
The chain subsequently agreed to drop its noncompetes, which had also come under fire in New York. The clauses had barred the sandwich maker's workers from working for other firms earning more than 10 percent of their revenue from "submarine, hero-type, deli-style, pita, and/or wrapped or rolled sandwiches" for two years after leaving the Jimmy John's payroll.
In 2015, Sen. Al Franken introduced legislation to ban noncompete clauses for low-wage workers. The Minnesota Democrat's bill failed to gain enough support to become law, and, in light of President Donald Trump's goal of reducing the number of federal regulations, nothing presently stands in the way of states that want to expand these restrictive labor practices.
I propose a balanced approach between the current free-for-all among the states and outlawing these clauses altogether: Congress could modify the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Passed in 1932, this law banned injunctions against specified union activities by removing federal court jurisdiction over those disputes.
Similarly, Congress could render noncompete clauses unenforceable in federal courts unless employment contracts provide due process protections, such as arbitration, against capricious or unjust discharges of employees. In exchange for job security, a worker might be willing to commit to some curtailment of other employment opportunities.
This approach would balance the rights of workers and management by allowing workers to trade some rights of freely accessing labor markets against better job security.
That is, workers would have a choice of security or mobility. Employers could choose to attract employees with incentives, such as higher salaries or more job stability.
Executive contracts with noncompete clauses typically include lucrative buyout provisions and protections from arbitrary treatment. If employees with lower pay and less prestige aren't free to get new jobs, their bosses have a corresponding duty to extend to them the rights enjoyed by people atop the corporate ladder.
Trump has decided to end DACA, with 6-month delay --700,000 jobs to open for U.S. citizens - study | 03 Sept 2017 | President Donald Trump has decided to end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, according to two sources familiar with his thinking. Senior White House aides huddled Sunday afternoon to discuss the rollout of a decision likely to ignite a political firestorm -- and fulfill one of the president's core campaign promises. Trump has wrestled for months with whether to do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA...The president's expected announcement is likely to shore up his base, which rallied behind his broader campaign message about the importance of enforcing the country's immigration laws and securing the border.
Zuckerberg Group: 700K American Job Openings If DACA Ends | 31 Aug 2017 | A study by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's open borders organization revealed that if an Obama-created amnesty program for young undocumented immigrants is ended, it would open nearly 700,000 American jobs. Zuckerberg's FWD.us group - a pro-immigration lobbying group - released the study with the intention to show the hardships of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, where more than 850,000 young undocumented immigrants have been given temporary amnesty would have on the American economy. The study unintentionally revealed how many more job opportunities American workers would have if President Trump were to repeal DACA, as he promised his supporters he would do. According to the FWD.us study, if DACA is repealed it would mean potentially 700,000 American jobs could open up for American citizens.
Dozens of Al-Nusra, ISIS-affiliated jihadists entered Germany posing as refugees - report | 03 Sept 2017 | Several dozen Syrian extremists linked to both [John McCain's best buds] al-Nusra Front and ISIS, who committed "numerous massacres" of civilians and captives, have sought asylum in Germany, Der Spiegel reports. Some 60 members of a Syrian militant group called Liwa Owais al-Korani or the Owais al-Korani Brigade arrived to Germany as refugees, Der Spiegel reports, citing sources within the German security services. The Owais al-Korani Brigade initially fought on the side of the Free Syrian Army but then switched sides and joined al-Nusra Front (now self-styled Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) - Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, the weekly says, adding that the group also fought alongside Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL [but still I-CIA-SIS]) in the Raqqa province for months.
Gov. Jerry Brown declares state of emergency in Los Angeles County as fire continues to rage in Verdugo Mountains
Gov. Jerry Brown declares state of emergency in Los Angeles County as fire continues to rage in Verdugo Mountains | 03 Sept 2017 | Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County as firefighters continue to battle a 5,900-acre brush fire in the Verdugo Mountains north of downtown Los Angeles that has destroyed three homes and shut down a stretch of the 210 Freeway. The governor’s declaration will ensure that state and federal assistance will be provided as quickly as possible. It came at the urging of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who said the fire is the largest in the city’s history in terms of sheer acreage.
Biggest wildfire in LA's history: More than 700 are forced to evacuate as 8,000 acres are scorched in blaze
Biggest wildfire in LA's history: More than 700 are forced to evacuate as 8,000 acres are scorched in blaze and hundreds of firefighters struggle to cope due to 100F heatwave and 'very erratic' winds | 03 Sept 2017 | The largest fire in Los Angeles history is engulfing thousands of acres of land and forcing residents to evacuate homes throughout the county. The fire, dubbed the La Tuna Fire after the canyon where it erupted, has already burned through 8,000 acres of land, and the heatwave in the area along with erratic winds are proving major obstacles for firefighters trying control the blaze. The fire broke out Friday and has already forced the partial closure of the 210 Freeway, a major thoroughfare.
Hurricane Irma remains potential threat to the East Coast, possibly matching Harvey's wind strength | 02 Sept 2017 | On the heels of Hurricane Harvey...attention is turning to the next threat, Hurricane Irma [currently, at Category 2 strength with sustained winds of 110 mph]. As highlighted Friday, this storm will definitely be one to watch over the next several days -- particularly along the East Coast -- despite the high uncertainty in impacts at this juncture. The Global Forecast System (GFS, American model) has been painting an ominous picture over the past few model runs, swinging Irma around a large blocking high-pressure system anchored over the central Atlantic. It ultimately brings the storm up the East Coast.
N Korea blast 'five times bigger than Nagasaki' | 03 Sept 2017 | North Korea has detonated a hydrogen bomb with "perfect success", the secretive country's state media has announced. Earlier, Japan confirmed its near neighbour had conducted a sixth nuclear test. Japan's meteorological agency said the resulting tremors were at least 10 times as powerful as North Korea's previous nuclear test, last September. Experts estimated that blast to have been around 10 kilotons.
North Korea Says It Has Developed Hydrogen Bomb to Suit ICBM | 02 Sept 2017 | North Korea claims that it now has a more-developed hydrogen nuclear weapon that can be mounted on a new intercontinental ballistic missile. The bomb is a multi-functional thermonuclear weapon adjustable from tens of kiloton to hundreds of kiloton and can be be detonated even at high altitudes for an electromagnetic pulse attack, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said. North Korea last tested a nuclear device about a year ago.
Back to school! These three simple words used to leave America's public school teachers giddy with anticipation. Now they leave them opening up their wallets and worrying.
The problem? Teachers have been spending out of their own pockets for generations to decorate their classrooms and the like. Now they're having to spend their own money for basic school supplies -- everything from pens and pencils to cleaning fluids -- or go without.
One national study last year by Scholastic and YouGov found teachers spending an average of $530 a year on classroom supplies. The number of teachers who spend over $1,000 out-of-pocket, adds a National School Supply and Equipment Association report, has doubled over recent years.
In Oklahoma, third grade teacher Teresa Danks has been spending $2,000 annually of her own money. Earlier this summer, with her school district facing a $10-million budget cut, Danks actually started panhandling. She took to a busy street corner with a simple hand-made sign: "Teacher Needs School Supplies! Anything Helps."
Many passers-by did help. But the fiscal squeeze on America's local public school budgets and teacher wallets is now threatening to get even worse. The nation's big-box retail giants -- the places where many teachers go to buy school supplies -- have unleashed a fierce lawsuit offensive that aims to significantly lower their local property tax bills.
If corporate retail powers like Home Depot and Target succeed in this greed grab, the state comptroller in Texas recently warned, local public schools in his state alone would lose $1.2 billion "annually within five years," with another $703 million in school funding lost from the state level.
Some context: Home Depot profits last year jumped nearly 14 percent to $8 billion. Home Depot CEO Craig Menear took home $11.5 million.
Why do CEOs like Menear make so much? Let's give them some credit for creativity and chutzpah. In their new property tax-avoidance offensive, an Education Week report details, retail CEOs have their lawyers making the astonishingly audacious argument that "the massive stores they operate ought to be appraised as if they were vacant."
This ridiculous "dark store theory" has been winning lawsuits in Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin, and school districts in the Midwest have already lost millions of dollars in revenue. In some cases, court rulings have actually forced local governments to reimburse big-box retailers for the higher property taxes they've already paid.
The new attack on local public school funding isn't just coming from brick-and-mortar retailers. Amazon, the nation's online retail king, is taking new steps to avoid taxes, too.
Amazon has been working, over recent years, to reposition itself as a responsible corporate taxpayer. The company now collects sales tax on the Amazon goods online consumers buy. These sales taxes show up on the bills of consumers who live in states that impose sales tax obligations.
But Amazon is only collecting sales tax on about half the goods that people who click onto Amazon buy. The half of sales that go through the third-party vendors the Amazon site spotlights are still going untaxed.
The state of South Carolina is demanding that Amazon end this tax avoidance and pay up nearly $12.5 million in uncollected taxes, penalties, and interest. Amazon is disputing the South Carolina claim, and the case is going to the courts. All the big online retailers will be watching closely. A South Carolina victory could mean higher tax revenue nationwide from most all the big online retailers.
All these big-time retailers can afford to pay higher taxes. Our biggest retail empires, after all, have already made their emperors into some of the world's richest people. The chief executive of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, now holds the third-largest individual fortune in the world.
The largest family fortune in the world, meanwhile, belongs to the heirs of the founder of Walmart, America's biggest brick-and-mortar retailer.
Panhandling Oklahoma teacher Teresa Danks says she's "tired of not having enough funding for our classrooms but being expected to always make it happen."
The super rich who run retail in America could ease that fatigue. They could start paying their taxes.
Volunteer rescuer workers help a woman from her home that was inundated with the flooding of Hurricane Harvey on August 30, 2017, in Port Arthur, Texas. (Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
News and social media reports from coastal Texas have shown many striking images of Hurricane Harvey flood victims, but few were as arresting as a photo of older women in a Dickinson nursing home, sitting in waist-high water in their wheelchairs. Although the women were moved to safety, the picture highlighted how vulnerable older adults can be during and after major disasters.
My work focuses on answering pressing questions about the health of older adults after events such as Hurricane Harvey. While age alone does not make people more vulnerable to disasters, many health issues that are common with aging do, including frailness, memory impairment, limited mobility and chronic illness. Sixty percent of Hurricane Katrina deaths were age 65 and older, and more older adults died after Hurricane Katrina and in the year after than any other age group.
In a study published earlier this year, we showed that older adults are affected by disasters well after storms or other threats have passed. But disaster response planning for communities and health care systems focuses on the immediate surge after the event, which varies with every disaster but typically lasts hours to days.
As flood waters in Texas peak and recede, public officials and health care providers should begin to plan now for older adults' long-term medical needs. Beyond getting the electricity back on and patching up broken limbs, an adequate disaster response must understand and correct the ways in which disasters disrupt survivors' normal living patterns in the extended period after the storm.
Learning From Past Disasters
Understanding the connection between disasters and hospital admissions among older adults, and developing strategies to minimize hospitalizations, are issues of growing importance. Climate change is increasing the number and scale of natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes and wildfires. There were three times more natural disasters globally between 2000 and 2009 than from 1980 through 1989. And with the U.S. population over age 65 expected to double by 2060, helping older people stay safe through disasters will become increasingly important.
Previous disasters have shown that older adults are particularly vulnerable, especially if they need ongoing health care. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, over 31 nursing homes closed, leaving more than 4,500 residents in need of emergency assistance. After-action reports from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 documented multiple instances of critical communication breakdowns for special medical-needs patients. For example, patients who needed specialized care were placed in shelters with inadequate staffing.
Houston officials did not order a mandatory evacuation last week as Hurricane Harvey approached. In any case, many older adults have physical or financial constraints that can make it hard for them to evacuate. However, when they ride out a storm at home or in a shelter, they do not have ready access to health services. This places them at greater risk of immediate injury and longer-term physical decline.
Health care services along the Texas coast have been severely impacted by Harvey, which will only exacerbate the challenge of caring for the elderly. Over 21 Texas hospitals have either closed or evacuated patients. Multiple nursing homes have also been evacuated. Ben Taub Hospital, which had already upgraded its infrastructure to protect against floodwaters, now is scrambling to provide food to patients.
Experiences like this can have lasting impacts on older people. In a recent study, we examined hospitalizations among older adults after a 2011 tornado outbreak that spawned hundreds of tornadoes throughout Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, resulting in over 300 deaths and billions of dollars in damage. Using claims data from Medicare and connecting it with geospatial data from the storm area, we compared hospital admissions among older adults in the month after the disaster to admissions during the other 11 months of the year.
Our findings showed that hospital admissions increased over the 30 days after the disaster by 4 percent among older adults who lived in a ZIP code with a tornado touchdown. This translates to hundreds of additional hospital admissions. We then removed the first three days after the disaster from our data analysis, to see whether the increase in admissions might be related to immediate injuries from the storm. But we found that hospitalizations over the rest of the month still remained higher than normal.
Finally, we conducted a similar analysis examining ZIP codes in an area in the same region which was not affected by the storm, in order to rule out the possibility that increased admissions were related to seasonal factors such as extreme temperatures or high pollen counts. Hospital admissions did not increase in the unaffected area, which told us that the higher numbers we found appear to be related to the tornadoes.
Increased hospital admissions after disasters are only part of the story. The aging U.S. population has a rising incidence of chronic diseases requiring consistent health care, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. If these health needs had been met in the tornado zone after the disaster, these patients might not have had to be hospitalized, and our study would not have shown the increase in hospital admissions that we detected.
Although we did not have data on individual cases that would have shown why each person was hospitalized, it is likely that personal stress, difficulty accessing health care and an ineffective community response to the disaster all were contributing factors. Our team will continue to study the drivers of post-disaster hospitalizations.
Caring for Older Victims After Harvey
Disruptions in regular care after a disaster can worsen existing chronic conditions, leading to hospitalizations. These immediate disruptions from the disaster can have much longer-lasting impacts on health.
For example, many older adults are dependent on medical equipment requiring electrical power, from refrigeration for insulin to dialysis machines. Patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes or emphysema may run out of the medications or home oxygen supplies they need to manage these conditions.
In coastal Texas, many clinics and community health centers closed as Harvey approached, and road or weather conditions may keep people from getting to care centers after they reopen. The stress of evacuating from home to a shelter can also cause fragile conditions to worsen.
For now, the key priorities are to protect and support older adults and help them return to their normal routines as soon as possible. Past research has shown that some older adults bounce back quickly from disasters, while others struggle to return to baseline. Planning needs to start now for recovery, which will last for years. It also should include preparing for future disasters, so that we can be more prepared and less reactive when the next superstorm looms.
Police have always engaged in gendered violence against Black women and women of color in service of larger projects of enforcing colonialism, maintaining chattel slavery, and policing race and poverty. In this interview, Andrea Ritchie, author of Invisible No More, brings this record to light -- and discusses why an understanding of the gendered elements of police violence is essential to the struggle to end it.
Family members of Charleena Lyles, including her sister, Monika Williams, lead a march through north Seattle on June 20, 2017, in Seattle, Washington. Officers from the Seattle Police Department shot and killed Lyles, a pregnant mother of four, on June 18. (Photo: David Ryder / Getty Images)
Invisible No More is a timely examination of police violence against Black women, Indigenous women and other women of color. "Thanks to Andrea Ritchie's thorough research and raw storytelling," says Robin D.G. Kelley about the book, "we can finally begin to #SayHerName and end the state's war on women of color once and for all." Get a copy by donating to support Truthout now!
"Expanding our understanding of the forms and contexts of police violence experienced by women and gender-nonconforming people of color enables us to better understand the full shape and reach of state violence in ways that are essential to countering it," Andrea Ritchie writes in her essential new book, Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color.
When police violence is publicized, of course, it's usually police violence against men. The violence inflicted on women of color is often minimized or completely erased. For that reason alone, this book is extraordinarily necessary. But Ritchie goes further: She emphasizes that devoting space and analysis to the impact of police violence on women and gender-nonconforming people of color is not simply about filling in gaps. She emphasizes that we cannot truly understand what state violence means in this country without wholly recognizing its gendered scope. And without that understanding and recognition, we cannot effectively resist it.
Police violence against Black women, Indigenous women and other women of color often takes forms that don't make their way into most conversations about police violence -- for example, sexual harassment, sexual assault and a failure to respond to domestic violence calls. In Invisible No More, Ritchie shows that these types of violence are not isolated events, but are, like killings, beatings and cagings, built into the fabric of policing. She demonstrates that policing is, fundamentally, a violent institution, and that effective resistance must ultimately mean building a "world without police," in which "safety and security will not be premised on violence or the threat of violence."
Bookended by a searing foreword and afterword (by Mariame Kaba and Charlene Carruthers, respectively), Invisible No More is a crucial read for anyone seeking to understand the full reality of state violence -- and what freedom from it would truly mean.
Maya Schenwar: While Invisible No More is largely focused on the current moment and the fairly recent past, it's deeply grounded in history. Why did you feel it was important to delve into the historical roots of police violence against women of color before discussing the present?
Andrea Ritchie: For a few reasons -- first, because, as James Baldwin said, "history is literally present in all that we do." Police interactions with Black women, Indigenous women, and other women of color continue to be deeply infused and informed by perceptions and power relations rooted in colonialism, chattel slavery and Jim Crow policing. So it is important to learn more about the roots and operation of those perceptions and the structures they were created to justify and reinforce so that we can better recognize when and how they are operating in present-day policing, and more effectively dismantle them.
Andrea Ritchie. (Photo: W.C. Moss)Secondly, it felt important to highlight that police violence against women of color is by no means a recent phenomenon. In fact, it has been as much of a consistent, central and essential feature of US history, and of the daily reality in our communities, as it is for men of color, now and then.
Police have always engaged in gendered violence against Black women and women of color in service of larger projects of enforcing colonialism, maintaining chattel slavery, and policing race and poverty. They have also played a central role in policing the lines of gender -- through immigration laws, through laws prescribing what clothing people should wear, and through enforcement of prostitution laws and laws promoted as maintaining "order" in public spaces, including public restrooms. Tracing the evolution of racialized gender policing throughout history allows us to see how deeply entrenched it is in the very institution of policing, which tells us a few things: that it is unlikely to be "reformed" away, and that that it is as likely to manifest when police respond to violence and calls for help as when police are patrolling the streets.
When it comes to both the drug war and broken windows policing, the impacts on women of color often go untold. As you point out in Invisible No More, Black, Indigenous and Latinx women have been affected by these moves toward mass policing and incarceration in hugely disproportionate numbers. Can you say a bit about the ways in which the drug war and broken windows policies and practices particularly impact women and gender-nonconforming people of color?
Policing practices associated with the "war on drugs" and increased enforcement of "public order" offenses are largely responsible for a 14-fold increase in the number of women in jails over the past four decades, and for dramatic increases in the number of women incarcerated in federal and state prisons. Women now represent the fastest growing population of incarcerated people -- the rate of incarceration for women has outpaced that of men by 50 percent since 1980. Black, Latinx and Indigenous women -- many of whom are mothers -- make up a disproportionate number of incarcerated women, and Black women continue to be incarcerated at twice the rate of white women. One study found that nearly half of Black trans women and 30 percent of Native trans women surveyed been incarcerated at some point in their lives -- that's more than any other group, including Black men.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to these realities, foremost among them the ways in which police profile and target women of color as drug users and couriers, and the ways in which Black mothers' drug use is policed and punished in very different ways than white mothers' drug use. The kinds of prosecutorial practices being promoted by Jeff Sessions -- seeking the highest possible sentences for drug offenses unless a person is willing to inform on other players in the drug trade -- contribute to mass incarceration of women who often have no information to trade -- or face considerable risk of violence if they do.
Additionally, Native, Black and Latinx women, and particularly trans women of color, continue to experience the highest rates of poverty in the country, leading to high rates of criminalization in the context of "broken windows" policing practices targeting the presence of people who are, or are perceived to be homeless, in public spaces, and involvement in criminalized activities like the sex trade and informal economies like street vending. As a result, a significant number of women locked up in jails are there on "public order" offenses.
Invisible No More focuses on uncovering the kinds of police violence against women of color enabled by the war on drugs and broken windows policing -- like the brutal public vaginal search Charneshia Corley was subjected to by Houston police on the grounds that they believed she was concealing marijuana. Or the violent arrest of Destiny Rios by a San Antonio police officer who had been instructed to "stop everyone in the area," after which she miscarried in police custody. Or the daily sexual harassment and abuse of "stop and frisk," of police interactions with trans women of color and of the racially discriminatory enforcement of prostitution laws. These are the kinds of things we need to be thinking about when we hear Jeff Sessions talking about further intensifying the war on drugs, promoting broken windows policing, instituting a "national" stop-and-frisk program.
The relationship of police to sexual violence is such a deceptive one. People are actively encouraged to report sexual violence to the police. Yet, as you so vividly portray in Invisible No More, police often perpetrate sexual violence themselves. Plus, when called, their responses to such violence often exacerbate survivors' trauma. Why do you think these types of police violence are not as publicized as, say, shootings? What is happening now, in terms of efforts to build a wider consciousness around these issues (police-perpetrated sexual violence, and also violence against and criminalization of survivors)?
Sexual violence in general remains a hidden issue that all too often goes underreported, no doubt more so when it is committed by the officials who, as you point out, we are supposed to report it to. It also tends to take place in private, away from public view and cop watching cameras, and so is literally less visible than police shootings or beatings. There is obviously more stigma and shame in coming forward to report it -- and much less support and outrage from mainstream police accountability movements for survivors: very few even mention the issue in their platforms or demands, or mobilize around instances of police sexual violence in the same ways that they do around beatings or shootings. So there is much less incentive for survivors of police sexual violence to come forward than for people subjected to other forms of excessive force. Plus, police officers tend to target women of color who are marginalized in society -- and in our movements -- women who are or are perceived to be drug users, involved in the sex trades, homeless, trans or gender-nonconforming.
And there is no official data collection on police sexual violence in the same way that there is for use of force, so we don't have numbers and quantitative evidence of racial disparities to point to. But even so, the data that does exist is striking -- for instance, the CATO Institute concluded in 2010 that sexual misconduct is the second most frequently reported form of police misconduct after excessive force. A 2015 study by the Buffalo News concluded that a law enforcement agent was caught in an act of sexual misconduct every five days over the preceding decade. Many more are never caught or held accountable.
Organizing in support of Black women survivors of sexual assault and rape by former Oklahoma City Police Officer Daniel Holtzclaw -- which was almost exclusively undertaken and led by Black women -- is an example of how things can and must shift, both in terms of organizing around police violence and in terms of advocacy around sexual violence. And we really cannot afford to have this conversation, like so many others around policing, focus exclusively on the experiences of Black men and men of color, particularly given that this form of police violence in particular disproportionately impacts Black women and women of color. Likewise, our organizing around intensified immigration enforcement needs to more explicitly recognize that it is often accompanied by sexual violence and extortion targeting immigrant women -- both at the border and in the interior. Civilian oversight agencies and anti-violence groups need to start offering survivors the kinds of support they need and deserve, and very publicly accepting and investigating complaints of police sexual violence instead of dishing them to police departments. And movements against police violence and mass incarceration need to elevate, center and articulate explicit demands around police sexual violence -- against women, trans and gender-nonconforming people, and men -- while vocally supporting survivors. We simply cannot afford to allow what law enforcement officials and advocates alike acknowledge is a silent epidemic of police sexual violence to continue to go unaddressed.
Throughout your book and particularly in the "Resistance" chapter, you encourage us to understand that this situation is not hopeless -- people are already (and always have been) pushing back against police violence that targets Black women and women of color, and are building new systems to deal with problems that policing purports to address. You emphasize that the people most affected by this violence are on the front lines of these efforts. I know it's extremely hard/impossible to choose, but would you mention a couple of important campaigns or organizations that folks can look to for inspiration and to get a glimpse of what's going on resistance-wise?
You're right -- it is very hard to pick one or two to point to! There are so many examples in the book -- in fact, some folks recommend reading the book backwards, to start with the chapter on resistance as a strategy for self-care while reading, or starting each chapter at the end where examples of organizing addressing the issues raised in the chapter can be found.Truthout Progressive Pick
"Invisible No More deserves a standing ovation." -- Michelle AlexanderClick here now to get the book!
A group of us recently put together a website at inournamesnetwork.org that gathers information about campaigns, organizations, and resources for resistance which can serve as an organizing hub for people to find ways to take action and post calls for solidarity around police violence against Black women, trans and gender-nonconforming people. There's also a lot of information about organizations and sources cited in the book at invisiblenomorebook.com. And, there's an organizer's toolkit that INCITE! put together a few years back that is still very relevant and has lots of resources and information about ongoing work. That also has some resources around non-police responses to violence -- you can find more on the Creative Interventions website. Check them out! And follow the book on Twitter at @InvisibleNMBook for more updates.
Invisible No More is the first book focused on police violence against women of color. What's your hope, in terms of how it'll influence conversations, organizing, policy, practices, the world?
My hope is that by looking at racial profiling, police violence, criminalization and mass incarceration through the lens of women's experiences we can expand our understanding of these issues in ways that enable us to better understand and tackle them, and ultimately more quickly and effectively put an end to police violence -- as well as the structures that fuel it. And that, going forward, it will no longer be tenable for women's experiences, voices and leadership to be invisible in conversations about policing -- because the lives and experiences of women of color matter, and because the ways in which we are policed and punished -- whether similar to those experienced by other members of our communities or uniquely gendered -- have something to teach all of us about policing, violence and safety, and, ultimately, about what is necessary to get free.