Understanding Retail's Volatile Moment

Truth Out - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 14:02
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When you do your holiday shopping this year, keep this in mind: the cashier ringing up your purchase likely worked part time at some point in their career. There's a chance they're borrowing money or using credit cards to pay their bills. Their income and schedules can be volatile. And it's incredibly difficult for them to move up the career chain.

Thanks to the Fair Workweek Initiative, a project anchored at the Center for Popular Democracy, we now have a better picture of the lives of retail workers around the country. The group published their survey, "Job Quality and Economic Opportunity in Retail," earlier this November. spoke with Carrie Gleason, the director of the Fair Workweek Initiative, to talk more about the survey. "There's this moment of disruption that's happening right now in retail, and we wanted to get insights into where we are right now, and also understand how people are imagining the future," Gleason told

Gleason's been organizing retail workers since 2005, and has seen a lot of trends unfold over the past decade. One of the biggest waves she noticed? The move towards a part-time workforce. "I saw this massive shift to a low road," Gleason said. "I saw the chaos that unfolded in a lot of people's lives who I was working very closely with."

The survey confirmed that part-time workers are far more vulnerable to erratic incomes and hours, and see fewer opportunities for growth. But Gleason also noted that 60 percent of the full-time workers they interviewed had worked part-time jobs in the past -- a statistic she found troubling.

"What we've seen in retail is that actually there's a lower rung. And it starts now with a part-time job. And it's not just, ok I'm going to work part time and work my way up to a full-time job. It's like an obstacle course to get to a full-time job. So you have to be available all the time to really just get a few hours a week." For workers with families, that means kids often have to adapt to ever-changing workweeks, which worries Gleason. "It's super important to set up healthy, stable routines, but for people who are working in the retail economy, it's impossible."

The survey also painted a picture of financial insecurity among workers. Nearly half of their survey respondents said they borrowed money from family and friends in the past year. Meanwhile, some companies are profiting off the financial instability of the retail workforce: 39 percent of retail workers say they use a credit card to pay off bills, 25 percent purchased a money order, and 12 percent used payday loans. "The financialization of the poverty of people working in retail is a huge industry," Gleason says.

The survey makes it clear that the finance industry is playing an outsized role in the lives of retail workers. That parallels with the stake it holds in the industry as a whole. The backdrop to this study has been the often-mentioned "retail apocalypse." This mantra has become a regular fixture in the news cycle: retail stores are closing. Online shopping has taken over. Millennials would rather buy experiences than things. But Gleason says the truth is more complicated.

"If we look at the reason for the most recent wave of store closings, I would argue that private equity has more to do with 100,000 people losing their jobs than Amazon," Gleason says. "People lost their jobs because Wall Street got greedy and put too much debt on these companies."

Recent reporting supports Gleason's claim. Private equity firms have bought up retail companies and loaded them up with billions in debt in risky business schemes, as a recent Bloomberg feature shows. The biggest payers of the burden, they anticipate, will be the low-income workers employed by the chains. Meanwhile, the mismanagers of America's retail crisis will likely come out ahead.

But despite the numbers, it takes work to change the narrative. "That story hasn't been told, because it's invisible," Gleason says. You just see Toys 'R' Us closing. You don't see the myriad of private equity firms that set them up to fail."

But workers who bear the consequences know what's happening. "I think there's a ton of growing awareness about how things actually work. It's not a shock to someone who works at Toys 'R' Us that bankers might be at fault for why they lost their job."

Hopefully, that awareness will help compound some of the legislative successes that retail workers have won in recent years. Cities and states are passing a range of policies to improve working conditions in the retail industry, from higher minimum wages to paid sick leave. Gleason emphasized new regulations in several cities and states that require companies to provide transparent, reliable schedules, and to confront underemployment by offering more shifts to part-time workers before hiring new staff.  

"There's been unbelievable momentum these last few years. For a labor standard that basically did not exist three years ago, we've seen six cities, the state of Oregon, and soon the state of New York pass new standards around work hours," Gleason says.

Now, the Fair Workweek Initiative is looking to expand to a more integrated approach. "It's no longer just a question about labor standards. We need to have guardrails on Wall Street, and we need guardrails around technology. The next round of store closings is not just going to just be private equity, it'll be private equity joined by robots."

One factor complicating that fight: some companies are also pushing back against the victories that organizing groups have already had at the ballot box. Businesses are already asking Congress to shield them from local paid leave laws. "There's a battle right now where cities and states actually are stepping up and recognizing that all of their hard work -- there are people in Congress right now are trying to take that away."

But Gleason still sees opportunity in this political moment. "In this crisis there's actually a lot of hope that people are getting more active and recognizing that we can't take what we won for granted, but that also there's a lot that we can do to protect people's lives right now."

Categories: News

Washington, DC: Where the Abusers Make the Rules

Truth Out - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 14:00
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After women stepped forward to tell their stories of how they had been sexually abused and harassed by members of Congress, it didn't take long for political leaders from both sides of the aisle to talk about how serious this all was.

But when the rules and regulations surrounding sexual assault allegations in Congress were finally made public, revealing all the ways that women are forced into silence, it became very clear that talk is cheap -- and that neither of the two parties that rule in Washington are prepared to act with seriousness about sexual assault.

Confidentiality agreements that prevent women from speaking in public, a process that bars women from getting co-workers to corroborate evidence, secret settlements paid out of the federal treasury -- all are part of a process where sexual assault claims never see the light of day, remaining confined to a rigged in-house system, with rules that Congress made up for itself.

Thanks to the #MeToo movement that began with women in the entertainment industry revealing producer Harvey Weinstein to be a sexual predator, accusations against men in positions of power are at least being taken seriously, including in Washington.

In politics, the spotlight has fallen mainly on Roy Moore, the bible-thumping Republican running for a crucial Senate seat from Alabama, and liberal favorite Al Franken, the senator from Minnesota.

When it was revealed that Moore had sexually assaulted and harassed women and girls who were teenagers at the time, some top Republicans called on Moore to step down as a Senate candidate -- but plenty of others, including the sexual harasser-in-chief Donald Trump, circled the wagons around a fellow reactionary and joined in smearing the women who accused him.

Several women have also come forward with allegations against Franken, and the response among liberals was tellingly similar: Some suggested Franken should pay a price, but for others, the first concern was naked political calculation about giving the Republicans a further advantage in the Senate if Franken had to step down.

The Republican reactionaries have been more openly vile in their defense of Moore, but more than a few members of the Democratic Party -- which claims to champion the oppressed against the horrible Republicans -- stooped to slandering accusers to back up one of their own.

What unites the two parties' callous and cynical attitude toward sexual abuse in the corridors of power in Washington is a shared commitment to the status quo -- something illustrated by the unsolvable maze that confronts anyone who dares to raise an allegation of sexual harassment or assault on Capitol Hill.


Most women who work on Capitol Hill know little about the Office of Compliance, which is charged with adjudicating complaints, or about the twisted mess of rules and regulations it is supposed to follow.

A complaint must be filed with the office within 180 days of the incident. In order make an official complaint, the accuser must submit to mandatory counseling, which usually takes 30 days, and then, if they continue with their complaint, they must complete another 30 days of mediation.

During the mediation process, women must follow strict rules of secrecy, including agreeing to a non-disclosure agreement that bind victims from talking.

"The trappings of confidentiality, they permeate the process," Alexis Ronickher, an attorney who has represented several people pursuing harassment claims, told Politico. "The law is written to create a system to disincentivize staffers from coming forward."

Maybe "Office of Silence" would be a better name.

If mediation fails, the person must wait 30 more days before seeking an administrative hearing or filing a lawsuit in federal court against their harasser.

If there is a settlement, any financial award comes from a special US Treasury fund. The Office of Compliance reports that it has paid out more than $17 million since 1997 to settle workplace disputes on Capitol Hill.

As Politico's Elana Schorr points out, there's no way to know how much was spent on sexual misconduct claims, because the $17 million includes payments over pay and workplace safety.

We also have no idea how much money has been spent by the offices of individual members of Congress, who may decide to settle harassment allegations using their own office budgets.

That was the case with a former aide who negotiated a settlement with Rep. John Conyers of Michigan -- one of the most powerful Democrats in the House, with close relationships to the party's establishment -- in 2015. Like Compliance Office payouts, these individual settlements are also funded by taxpayer money.

The identities of members of Congress or aides who reach settlements over misconduct allegations are kept secret -- so there's no warning system for potential victims. During congressional testimony, Rep. Jackie Speier of California described the Compliance Office as "an enabler of sexual harassment."

"This is not a victim-friendly process," Speier said in an interview on ABC News' "This Week". "One victim who I spoke with said, 'You know, the process was almost worse than the harassment.'"


Speier, who initiated a #MeTooCongress campaign at the end of October, also points to a larger problem of a work environment where sexual abuse is not only tolerated, but encouraged.

Only about 20 percent of members of Congress are women. Although almost half of congressional staffers are female, women are far more likely to hold lower-ranking positions, like office manager or constituent representative, than to serve as chief of staff or legislative director, according to

Men occupy the more powerful positions -- and there are few positions more powerful than the office of senator or representative. "The power disparities in Congress are enormous," Debra Katz, an attorney who specializes in sexual harassment and has represented congressional aides, told

Katz pointed to a 2016 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report that discussed "superstar harassers" or employees who are especially powerful or valuable to an organization, and therefore believe they are above the rules. "Members of Congress are, by definition, superstars," Katz said. "And many believe the rules do not apply to them."

For decades, sexual assault and harassment has been a sometimes open, sometimes closed secret on Capital Hill.

The Office of Compliance was put into effect as part of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 -- the year that Republican Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon was forced to resign after multiple women stepped forward with allegations of sexual assault.

Two years before, amid several public allegations against Packwood, a Washington Post survey showed that one-third of female congressional employees said they were sexually harassed by members, supervisors, lobbyists or fellow aides.

Since then, there have been other high-profile cases, such as Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned in 2006 after it was revealed that he repeatedly made sexual advances to several congressional pages. The page program was suspended as a result.

But there were many more cases over the years that didn't seem to merit the front pages.

That changed with #MeToo. Since the campaign began with claims against Harvey Weinstein, dozens more women who work on Capital Hill have stepped forward to tell their stories and reveal the sexism that permeates the halls of government.

Some 1,500 former Capitol Hill aides signed an open letter to House and Senate leaders to demand that Congress put in place mandatory harassment training and revamp the Office of Compliance. Right now, training isn't mandatory and can be completed online -- and only one employee at the Compliance Office is dedicated to in-person harassment training.


Even if the rules are changed, a bigger problem remains, however -- the fact that the people who hold government office act as if they are above the law.

That's because they are -- the laws regarding Congress are mostly there to protect them from their victims, not the other way around. As a result, men who were known to be repeat offenders were given a pass, and the process itself kept women's stories hidden.

When allegations of misconduct do see the light of day, members of Congress and the media typically look at them through the lens of partisan political point-scoring, not as a wake-up call to the sexism that goes unconfronted in the halls of government.

It was certainly no surprise when a White House led by Donald Trump stood by Moore. But the behavior of liberals toward Franken -- with column after of column of hand-wringing about whether to stand by him as a "lesser evil" to the Republicans -- should especially anger anyone who cares about confronting sexism and sexual abuse.

Both political parties are showing themselves incapable of taking on the sexism that permeates the Washington political system. It was the millions of women stepping forward to say #MeToo that even forced a conversation about sexual harassment in Congress -- out in public, where it should be.

As Briony Whitehouse, who was a 19-year-old intern when she was groped in an elevator by a Republican senator in 2003, told the Washington Post: "At the time, I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing at all. Because this happened so early on for me, I just assumed this was the way things worked, and that I'd have to accept it."

She doesn't accept it anymore, and neither should anyone else.

Categories: News

Trump calls on Saudis to lift Yemen blockade 'immediately'

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 09:18

Trump calls on Saudis to lift Yemen blockade 'immediately' | 06 Dec 2017 | President Trump on Wednesday said he's directed his administration to push Saudi Arabia to completely lift its blockade on war-torn Yemen. "I have directed officials in my administration to call the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it," Trump said in a brief statement Wednesday. "This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately."

Categories: News

Russian Olympic Committee banned from 2018 Winter Games, athletes allowed to compete as neutrals

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 09:05

Russian Olympic Committee banned from 2018 Winter Games, athletes allowed to compete as neutrals | 05 Dec 2017 | The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suspended the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) from 2018 Olympics, ruling that "clean" Russian athletes can only compete under a neutral flag in South Korea in February. The decision came after 14-person panel was presented with the results of two separate investigations of alleged Russian doping - one concerning individual athletes, the other institutional violations. The executive board ruled that no officials from Russia's sport ministry will be allowed accreditation for the Winter Games in PyeongChang.

Categories: News

House passes bill requiring states recognize concealed gun permits

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:55

House passes bill requiring states recognize concealed gun permits | 06 Dec 2017 | The US House of Representatives passed the Conceal Carry Reciprocity bill on Wednesday, bringing America one step closer to effectively allowing all Americans to secretly carry firearms in all 50 states. The bill, which the National Rifle Association has called its "highest legislative priority in Congress," would amend the federal criminal code to allow the concealed transport of handguns across state lines, so long as both states allow concealed carry. This federal law would supersede any state statutes on concealed firearms.

Categories: News

Republican Politicians Got Away With Ridiculous Claims to Defend Their Tax Bill -- and It's Trump's Fault

Truth Out - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:00

Donald Trump has paved the way for Republicans to get away with statements that are nearly as outrageous as his own. Take the shameless claims the Republicans have used to push for the tax bill over the past two months. The only question that remains is, are GOP lawmakers saying these things because they truly believe them? Or are they pandering to the same base that gave Trump the White House?

 Mark Wilson / Getty Images)Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, listens to reporters questions about the tax reform bill the Senate passed last week, at US Capitol on december 5, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)   In these troubling and surreal times, honest journalism is more important than ever. Help us keep real news flowing: Make a donation to Truthout today.

Increasingly, it seems like Donald Trump has paved the way for Republicans to get away with statements that are nearly as outrageous as his own. Take the shameless claims the Republicans have used to push for the tax bill over the past two months. In case you're having trouble keeping up, here's a brief rundown of a few times Republican officials made it perfectly clear they prioritize the wealthy over the poor:

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham claimed that "financial contributions" to the GOP "will stop" if the party couldn't push through a tax rewrite.

  • Sen. Chuck. Grassley said he was tired of government assistance programs aiding Americans who are stuck in poverty because they're "spending every darn penny they have, whether it's on booze or women or movies."

  • Congressman Chris Collins admitted, "My donors are basically saying, 'Get it done or don't ever call me again'."

  • Sen. Orrin Hatch stated, "I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won't help themselves, won't lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything."

In the good old days, politicians used to pretend they served their constituents. What happened? Why are our elected officials now so emboldened to make statements that outright insult the American people? Because of our president, of course. It may be that, amidst Trump's tweets baiting Kim Jong-un to launch a nuclear bomb, or his endorsements of white supremacist groups in the UK, Republicans know that the news cycle will drown out any of their especially dicey comments. Or, more ominously, it could be that Trump's election has made politicians feel they can truly say and do anything without fear of losing their seats. It isn't that the bar has dropped to a new low; it's that the bar to hold our politicians accountable has completely disappeared.

In our new Trump era, the president has paved the way for GOPers to publicly proclaim their disdain for the poor and their preference for the wealthy.

It's well documented that Trump's lies -- which now number over 1,600 since the beginning of his time in office -- have created a new normal in American politics. His campaign demonstrated an unprecedented level of hostility toward women, people of color, religious minorities and immigrants -- and it worked. In a way, he's flipped the script on the stereotypical dishonest politician. Since Watergate, Americans have been suspicious of politicians and their closed-door motives. Elected officials have always lied and made false promises, and that's been considered a staple of our flawed democracy. They've always taken money from private interests and corporate lobbyists. What's remarkable is that in 2017, Republicans seem to be turning against their old ways, taking on a Trump-like brazenness as they make bold claims like the ones we saw around their push for the tax bill. They're not merely lying: now they're telling us outright the harsh truth of the wheeling-and-dealing that takes place on Capitol Hill.

Sometimes, this bold new honesty works to their advantage, making them seem more trustworthy. When the repeal debates over the Affordable Care Act were underway in June and July, liberals lauded "brave voices" like John McCain and Suzanne Collins who opposed Mitch McConnell's plot to undo Obama's health care expansion without any plan for its replacement.

Those on the left thanked heaven for moderate Republican voices, as they celebrated the repeal's failure. Now, those esteemed "moderate voices" have turned against their constituents. Of all the Republican senators, only lame duck Sen. Bob Corker voted against the Senate's version of the tax bill.

"I wanted to get to yes," Corker said of his vote against the Senate's tax bill. "But at the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generations."

This is a boldness we don't normally see in Republican lawmakers. Corker has similarly been praised for his honest remarks about Trump's outlandish lies, claiming that "when his term is over, I think the debasing of our nation, the constant non-truth telling and the name calling" will be Trump's legacy. Of course, it's easy for Corker to be brave. He's not up for re-election.

What Trump supporters think they love about their man is his willingness to tell it like it is. Political correctness culture has made it dangerous for Republican elected officials to say what's really on their (and their constituents') minds. They dance around their homophobia by talking about an assault on religious values; they skirt past their xenophobia by claiming undocumented immigrants are taking away American jobs. Trump's election showed them that a certain veil has been lifted. Not only is it no longer dangerous, it's now politically advantageous to trash-talk poor Americans, black athletes or you name it: anyone whom their white conservative base despises and vilifies. Trump hasn't made America great again, but he's made it acceptable for Republican politicians to be honest about their racism and classism on a level this country hasn't seen since the Jim Crow era.

The only question that remains is, are GOP lawmakers saying these vile things because they truly believe them? Or because they are pandering to the same base that gave Donald Trump the White House? The answer depends on whom you ask. Either way, there's a new normal for elected officials in Trump's America, that openly welcomes oligarchy and no longer bothers to pretend that democracy is at work.

Categories: News

Hey, Trump: Navajo Elders Aren’t Your Political Props

Truth Out - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:00
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Acting by fiat and claiming the opposite has been a hallmark of this presidency.

On Monday in Salt Lake City, President Trump announced he was reducing the Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent, from 1.3 million acres to 201,876 acres -- despite it being unclear whether he has the legal right to do so under the Antiquities Act.

"Your timeless bond with the outdoors should not be replaced with the whims of regulators thousands and thousands of miles away," he assured supporters inside the state Capitol as hundreds protested outside (an estimated 5,000 had protested the expected reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Escalante National Monuments at the Capitol the day before).

And yet, strangely, fellow heads of state from five indigenous nations (Navajo Nation, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, and Uintah and Ouray Ute) which have a "timeless bond" with the area in question and who wrote the national monument proposal for Bears Ears were nowhere to be seen in the Capitol. Instead, tribal leaders could be found outside protesting. These included the vice president of the Navajo Nation -- an indigenous nation the size of Ireland -- which has 350,000 members.

"The Navajo Nation has made repeated requests to meet with President Trump on this issue. The Bears Ears Monument is of critical importance, not only to the Navajo Nation, but to many tribes in the region," Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in a statement to the press. "The decision to reduce the size of the monument is being made with no tribal consultation."

Instead, Secretary Ryan Zinke brought onstage to stand behind Trump a diminutive and traditionally dressed Navajo grandmother, Betty Jones of McCracken Mesa in San Juan County, Utah. Zinke, who's over 6 feet tall, held her by her shoulders, and Trump turned to engage her awkwardly from time to time.

This is the second time in as many weeks that Trump has used Navajo elders as what can only be called political props. Last week he caused a furor during a ceremony honoring Navajo Code Talkers from WWII, men in their 90s, when he took a potshot at potential presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren, calling her "Pocahontas."

The Bears Ears National Monument signed into law in December 2016 by former President Obama was heralded as an advance in nation-to-nation relations between the US government and indigenous nations. The monument proclamation not only recognizes these tribes' inherent national interests and ancient connections to the Bears Ears area, but gives them a seat at the table to co-manage the monument, which contains an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites.

Tribal leaders chose to pursue national monument status for Bears Ears in 2015 when discussions with Utah Republican politicians, including Rep. Rob Bishop (who stood beside Trump when he made his announcement), broke down. Looting and vandalism of ancient petroglyphs and stunning cliff dwellings have been ongoing in the area, even since the monument's designation last year.

San Juan County, which is one of the largest counties in the country, has a history of suppressing the Navajo vote. The county, which has a population that is over 50 percent Navajo, was sued by the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and in 2016 was found in violation of the Voting Rights Act by racially segregating Navajo voters into a single district.

Before Trump spoke on Monday, San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally spoke, claiming the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument "was disheartening for my community." But while Benally is a Navajo woman, she's not a tribal leader, and San Juan County's stance opposing the monument is not shared by the Navajo Nation.

Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch pointed out that consulting with one Navajo person is not the same as consulting with the nation. "He's ignoring the fact that we are sovereigns, we are governments, and expect to be engaged on a nation-to-nation basis," said Branch in an interview with MSNBC. "If they think talking to one Navajo person constitutes talking to the Navajo Nation, then [Zinke and Trump] are both gravely mistaken." 

In fact, it's been reported that in the past few months 98 percent of Navajo community members bordering Bears Ears have voted in favor of the monument designation at chapter house meetings (similar to counties on the Navajo Nation).

Echoing Trump, Benally added, "It was insulting that bureaucrats thousands of miles away didn't believe we were capable of protecting our land."

In contrast, Begaye seemed confident that his nation was doing just that.

"The Navajo Nation will defend Bears Ears. The reduction in the size of the monument leaves us no choice but to litigate this decision."

Categories: News

High-Profile Women Break the Silence on Sex Assaults, but Low-Wage Workers Are Still Vulnerable to Abuse

Truth Out - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:00

On Wednesday, Time magazine announced the 2017 "Person of the Year" goes to the women who have spoken out against sexual assault and harassment, sparking an international movement. It called the group "the Silence Breakers" and included Hollywood actresses, journalists, farmworkers and hotel cleaners. We look at how sexual abuse also thrives in low-wage sectors like farm work, hotel cleaning and domestic work, where workers are disproportionately women of color and immigrant women and are highly vulnerable to sexual harassment and sexual violence. We speak with Tarana Burke, founder of the "Me Too" movement and one of the women featured in Time’s new issue. She founded the organization in 2006 to focus on young women who have endured sexual abuse, assault or exploitation. She is now a senior director at Girls for Gender Equity. We are also joined by Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and strategy and partnership director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and by Mily Treviño-Sauceda, co-founder and vice president of the National Alliance of Women Farmworkers. She is a former farmworker and union organizer with the United Farm Workers.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

"Settlers in the White House": Palestinians Denounce Trump Jerusalem Order and Protest in Day of Rage

Truth Out - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:00

As Palestinians protest President Trump's announcement that he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, we go to East Jerusalem to speak with Budour Hassan, a Palestinian writer and project coordinator for the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights, and speak with Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace. We are also joined in Ramallah by Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian politician and scholar.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

Anti-Muslim Violence Is Being Perpetrated at the Highest Levels of Government

Truth Out - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:00

 Drew Angerer / Getty Images)A woman wearing a hijab stands outside the US Supreme Court, October 11, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

The Supreme Court decision to uphold Trump's Muslim Ban is a reminder of the high court's history of institutionalizing, legitimizing and normalizing racism. In upholding systemic anti-Muslim racism, the Court has emboldened Customs and Border Protection officers, validated anti-Muslim violence and further threatened the safety and security of Muslims around the country.

 Drew Angerer / Getty Images) A woman wearing a hijab stands outside the US Supreme Court, October 11, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

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Two days before Trump officially recognized illegally occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and five days after he retweeted a string of false, anti-Muslim videos from the deputy leader of British white supremacist group Britain First, the US Supreme Court ruled that Trump's Muslim ban does not unfairly discriminate against Muslims and should be fully enforced. The small but significant exemptions from the ban that lower courts had allowed -- such as for those with "bone fide" relationships to US institutions or grandparents and cousins -- are now no longer valid.

The ruling reminds us that anti-Muslim racism is systemic.

Supporters of the ban argue that the ban does not singularly target Muslims, as the addition of Venezuela and North Korea to the list of six Muslim-majority countries underlines its goal of "national security" rather than Trump's obsession with what he regularly labels a "Muslim problem." Solicitor General Noel Francisco, for example, notes that "... these differences confirm that the Proclamation is based on national-security and foreign-affairs objectives, not religious animus." But history would disagree: Notwithstanding that "protecting national security" and establishing anti-Muslim policies have become virtually synonymous, such policies and the "war on terror" framework itself are regularly expanded to target other communities of color.

Acknowledging that the ban is still a Muslim ban, what can be learned from this Supreme Court decision?

Most clearly, the ruling reminds us that Islamophobia, or, more accurately, anti-Muslim racism, is systemic. Created, upheld and enforced by the state, the Muslim ban has emboldened Customs and Border Protections officers, validated anti-Muslim violence and added to a further loss of already minimal feelings of safety for Muslims across the country.

The Supreme Court maintains a history of institutionalizing, legitimizing and normalizing racism.

In practical terms, this means that symbolic gestures like wearing Hijabs for a day in solidarity, fast-fashion brands' attempts at surface-level representation, visionless interfaith work and campaigns to "humanize" Muslims aren't going to cut it. These inadequate steps address anti-Muslim racism as simply "individual bias" that necessitates little more than "love over hate" to solve. This oversimplification of the internationally funded anti-Muslim machine, which is driven by both profit and ideology, allows for simplified understandings of solidarity and organizing. It allows people to pretend that police militarization is not intimately tied to the "war on terror" framework, that Trump is unique in being a racist head of state, and that the ban does not have historical precedent. Moreover, it allows for the belief that the same systems that enact anti-Muslim violence (such as the police, military industry and Countering Violence Extremism programs) can be primary actors in its alleviation.

For Muslims, challenging the ban means moving beyond a reliance on institutions for liberation.

Rather, if the Supreme Court's decision teaches us anything, it is that we cannot rely on the systems that oppress us to free us. In fact, the decision follows a long legacy of racist and oppressive Supreme Court decisions, including the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford case enforcing slavery and excluding African Americans from the Bill of Rights, the 1883 Pace v. Alabama case upholding state laws criminalizing interracial marriage, the infamous "separate but equal" ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, and the more recent rulings in the mid-20th century backing Executive Order 9066, which created internment camps for over 120,000 Japanese Americans. The Supreme Court maintains a history of institutionalizing, legitimizing and normalizing racism.

For Muslims, this serves as yet another reminder that assimilation is not a liberation strategy when the system one is being assimilated into is white supremacy.

Challenging the ban means challenging the attempted establishment of new norms of violence, and moving beyond a reliance on institutions for liberation. Understanding the legacies of systemic discrimination upon which such executive orders and Supreme Court rulings are built -- and will continue to be built -- is integral for developing a strategy to truly move forward.

Categories: News

The Corporate Ruler

Truth Out - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:00
Categories: News

The Era of Walls: Greeting Climate-Change Victims With a Man-Made Dystopia

Truth Out - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:00
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When I first talked to the three Honduran men in the train yard in the southern Mexican town of Tenosique, I had no idea that they were climate-change refugees. We were 20 miles from the border with Guatemala at a rail yard where Central American refugees often congregated to try to board La Bestia ("the Beast"), the nickname given to the infamous train that has proven so deadly for those traveling north toward the United States.

The men hid momentarily as a Mexican army truck with masked, heavily armed soldiers drove by. Given Washington's pressure on Mexico to fortify its southern border, US Border Patrol agents might have trained those very soldiers. As soon as they were gone, the Hondurans told me that they had been stuck here for six long days. The night before, they had tried to jump on La Bestia, but it was moving too fast.

When I asked why they were heading for the United States, one responded simply, "No hubo lluvia." ("There was no rain.") In their community, without rain, there had been neither crops, nor a harvest, nor food for their families, an increasingly common phenomenon in Central America. In 2015, for instance, 400,000 people living in what has become Honduras's "dry corridor" planted their seeds and waited for rain that never came. As in a number of other places on this planet in this century, what came instead was an extreme drought that stole their livelihoods.

For Central America, this was not an anomaly. Not only had the region been experiencing increasing mid-summer droughts, but also, as the best climate forecasting models predict, a "much greater occurrence of very dry seasons" lies in its future. Central America is, in fact, "ground zero" for climate change in the Americas, as University of Arizona hydrology and atmospheric sciences professor Chris Castro told me. And on that isthmus, the scrambling of the seasons, an increasingly deadly combination of drenching hurricanes and parching droughts, will hit people already living in the most precarious economic and political situations. Across Honduras, for example, more than 76% of the population lives in conditions of acute poverty. The coming climate breakdowns will only worsen that or will, as Castro put it, be part of a global situation in which "the wet gets wetter, the dry gets drier, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Everything gets more extreme."

Talking with those farmers in the Tenosique train yard felt, in a way, like a scene from a sequel to the movie The Road in which a father and son walk across a post-apocalyptic North America devastated by an unknown cataclysm. In reality, though, I was just in a typical border zone of the Anthropocene, the proposed new geologic era characterized by human activity as the dominant force on the climate and environment. And these young, unarmed farmers with failing harvests are now facing the only welcome this planet presently has to offer for such victims of climate change: expanding border regimes of surveillance, razor-wire walls, guns, and incarceration centers.

As they keep heading north, they will have to be on guard against ever more army and police patrols, while enduring hunger and thirst as well as painful separations from their families. They will have to evade endless roadside checkpoints, which Fray Tomás Tómas González Castillo, director of a nearby shelter for migrants in Tenosique, told me were almost "impossible" to avoid, at a time when, he noted, "organized crime" controlled the trains.

Such a predicament is hardly unique to the Mexico-Guatemalan border region or even the US-Mexican version of the same. Think of the maritime divide between North Africa and the European Union or the Jordanian border where patrols now reportedly shoot at "anything that moves" coming from Syria -- or so a Jordanian official who prefers to remain anonymous told me. And Syria was just one of the places where the ever-increasing impacts of climate change, migration, and tightly enforced border zones intersected. 

Now, homeland security regimes are increasingly unleashing their wrath on the world's growing numbers of displaced people, sharpening the divide between the secure and the dispossessed. Whether in Mexico or on the Mediterranean Sea, as ever more human beings find themselves uprooted from their homes and desperate, such dynamics will only intensify in the decades to come. In the process, the geopolitics and potentially the very geography of the globe will be reshaped. It's not just Donald Trump. Everywhere on Planet Earth, we seem to be entering the era of the wall.

The Displaced

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the "impact and threat of climate-related hazards" displaced an average of 21.5 million people annually between 2008 and 2015. The growing impact of the Anthropocene -- of intensifying droughts, rising seas, and mega-storms -- is already adding to a host of other factors, including poverty, war, and persecution, that in these years have unsettled record numbers of people. While many of the climate-displaced stay close to home, hoping to salvage both their lives and livelihoods, ever more are crossing international borders in what many are now calling a "refugee crisis."

"Catastrophic convergence" is the term sociologist Christian Parenti uses to describe this twenty-first-century turmoil, since many of these factors combine to displace staggering numbers of people. As Camila Minerva of Oxfam puts it, "The poorest and the most marginalized are five times more likely to be displaced and to remain so for a longer time than people in higher income countries and it is increasing with climate change."

Though the numbers are often debated, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees suggests that climate breakdowns will displace 250 million people by 2050. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre suggests that those numbers could actually range from 150 million to a staggering 350 million by that year. In reporting on how climate change is already affecting Mexico City, Michael Kimmelman, the architecture critic of the New York Times, cited a report suggesting that the number may be far higher than that, possibly reaching 700 million -- and that, by 2050, 10% percent of all Mexicans between 15 and 65 might be heading north, thanks to rising temperatures, droughts, and floods.

"Although the exact number of people that will be on the move by mid-century is uncertain," wrote the authors of the report In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement, "the scope and scale could vastly exceed anything that has occurred before." And here's the sad reality of our moment: for such developments, the world is remarkably unprepared. There isn't even a legal framework for dealing with climate refugees, either in international law or the laws of specific countries. The only possible exception: New Zealand's "special refugee visas" for small numbers of Pacific Islanders displaced by rising seas.

The only real preparations for such a world are grim ones: walls and the surveillance technology that goes with them. Most climate-displaced people travelling internationally without authorization will sooner or later run up against those walls and the armed border guards meant to turn them back. And if the United States or the European Union is their destination, any possible doors such migrants might enter will be slammed shut by countries that, historically, are the world's largest greenhouse gas polluters and so most implicated in climate change. (Between 1850 and 2011, the United States was responsible for 27% of the world's emissions and the countries of the European Union, 25%.)

A Booming Market in Walls

I have no idea what happened to those three farmers after our brief meeting in Tenosique. I did, however, think of them again a couple of months later when I was 1,000 miles to the north. Under a mesquite tree in northern Mexico, there was a lonely plastic bottle with a few droplets of water still in it. Somebody had left it as they crossed into the United States.

I was just east of Agua Prieta in the Mexican state of Sonora, a mere 25 feet from the US-Mexican border. I could clearly see the barrier there and a US Border Patrol agent in a green-striped truck looking back at me from the other side of the divide. Perhaps a quarter mile from where I stood, I could also spot an Integrated Fixed Tower, one of 52 new high-tech surveillance platforms built in the last two years in southern Arizona by the Israeli company Elbit Systems. Since that tower's cameras are capable of spotting objects and people seven miles away, I had little doubt that agents in a nearby command and control center were watching me as well. There, they would also have had access to the video feeds from Predator B drones, once used on the battlefields of the Greater Middle East, but now flying surveillance missions in the skies above the border. There, too, the beeping alarms of thousands of motion sensors implanted throughout the US border zone would ring if you dared cross the international divide.

Only 15 years ago, very little of this existed. Now, the whole region -- and most of this preceded Donald Trump's election victory -- has become a de facto war zone. Climate refugees, having made their way through the checkpoints and perils of Mexico, will now enter a land where people without papers are tracked in complex, high-tech electronic ways, hunted, arrested, incarcerated, and expelled, sometimes with unfathomable cruelty. To a border agent, the circumstances behind the flight of those three Honduran farmers would not matter. Only one thing would -- not how or why you had come, but if you were in the United States without the proper documentation.

Climate change, increased global migration, and expanding border enforcement are three linked phenomena guaranteed to come to an explosive head in this century. In the United States, the annual budgets for border and immigration policing regimes have already skyrocketed from about $1.5 billion in the early 1990s to $20 billion in 2017, a number that represents the combined budgets of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. During that period, the number of Border Patrol agents quintupled, 700 miles of walls and barriers were constructed (long before Donald Trump began talking about his "big, fat, beautiful wall"), and billions of dollars of technology were deployed in the border region.

Such massive border fortification isn't just a US phenomenon. In 1988, when the Berlin Wall fell, there were 15 border walls in the world. Now, according to border scholar Elisabeth Vallet, there are 70. These walls generally have risen between the richer countries and the poorer ones, between those that have the heavier carbon footprints and those plunged into Parenti's "catastrophic convergence" of political, economic, and ecological crises. This is true whether you're talking about the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia.

As Paul Currion points out, even some countries that are only comparatively wealthy are building such "walls," often under pressure and with considerable financial help. Take Turkey. Its new "smart border" with drought-stricken and conflict-embroiled Syria is one of many examples globally. It now has a new tower every 1,000 feet, a three-language alarm system, and "automated firing zones" supported by hovering zeppelin drones. "It appears that we've entered a new arms race," writes Currion, "one appropriate for an age of asymmetric warfare, with border walls replacing ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles]."

India is typical in constructing a steel wall along its lengthy border with Bangladesh, a country expected to have millions of displaced people in the decades to come, thanks to sea level rise and storm surges. In these years, with so many people on the move from the embattled Greater Middle East and Africa, the countries of the European Union have also been doubling down on border protection, with enforcement budgets soaring to 50 times what they were in 2005.

The trends are already clear: the world will be increasingly carved up into highly monitored border surveillance zones. Market projections show that global border and homeland security industries are already booming across the planet. The broader global security market is poised to nearly double between 2011 and 2022 (from $305 billion to $546 billion). And, not so surprisingly, a market geared to climate-related catastrophes is already on the verge of surpassing $150 billion.

Climate Change as a National Security Threat (and Bonanza)

Don't just take my word for it when it comes to predictions about this planet's increasingly bordered future. Consider the forecasts of the US military and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). One of the first crude assessments of such a walled-in world appeared in a 2003 Pentagon-commissioned reportAn Abrupt Climate Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, and it already had a distinctly Trumpian ring to it:

"The United States and Australia are likely to build defensive fortresses around their countries because they have the resources and reserves to achieve self-sufficiency... Borders will be strengthened around [the United States] to hold back unwanted starving immigrants from the Caribbean islands (an especially severe problem), Mexico, and South America."

That identification of the Caribbean as "an especially severe problem" almost a decade and a half ago was prescient indeed in this year of super-storms Irma and Maria that left Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in shambles and the island of Barbuda "extinguished."

While the Trump administration is scrubbing government websites and policies clean of climate change, other parts of the government are still in the business of preparing for it, big time, rather than denying its existence. At both the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, global warming is seen as a "threat multiplier" that must be factored into any long-term planning -- and that should surprise no one. After all, the future time frame of a national security planner can be as much as 30 years. It sometimes takes that long for a major weapons system to go "from the drawing board to the battlefield," according to former Assistant Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, editor of Climatic Cataclysm: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Climate Change, a 2008 report coordinated by the Center for a New American Security and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Unlike the president and the present heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, US military and homeland security risk assessors aren't likely to deny the 97% consensus of scientists on climate change. In Climatic Cataclysm, Campbell wrote that the "sheer numbers of potentially displaced people" are prospectively "staggering." In one assessment of what a possible 2.6 degree Celsius rise in the global temperature by 2040 might mean, Leon Fuerth, a former security adviser to Al Gore, concluded that "border problems" would overwhelm US capabilities "beyond the possibility of control, except by drastic methods and perhaps not even then."

In 2009, the Obama administration declared climate change a top national security threat. This prompted both the Pentagon and the DHS to prepare climate-change adaptation "roadmaps" and action plans. In 2014, the DHS added climate change as a top threat to its Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, its main public mission document. During a 2015 congressional hearing, Thomas Smith, one of that review's authors, testified that climate change was "a major area of homeland security risk," and that "more frequent severe droughts and tropical storms, especially in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, could increase population movements, both legal and illegal, toward or across the US border."

In other words, you don't have to turn to climate-change activists and experts like Bill McKibben or Naomi Klein to understand why those Central American droughts are getting worse and why those three Honduran men were in that train yard. All of this was predicted by the Department of Homeland Security.

Those in the DHS, like those in the Pentagon, grasp what's coming and they're going to meet it with what they know how to do best, what Donald Trump himself would approve of if he weren't ignoring the potentially most devastating phenomenon on this planet: hardened enforced borders, big brother biometrics, and high tech surveillance systems. In other words, they will face the victims of climate change with a man-made dystopia.

The Alternative Border Wall

Now, remember that water bottle under the mesquite tree near the US-Mexico border? I came across it while being taken on a tour by Juan Manuel Pérez, the project manager of Cuenca Los Ojos, an organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of biological diversity along those same borderlands. I was there to see a water-harvesting project. But first, Pérez took me to a spot where a portion of a barrier wall the CBP had once built across this part of the border lay wrecked like some ancient archeological ruin. It had been swept into Mexican territory in 2014 by a deluge of water, as the remnants of Hurricane Odile lashed the washes of the Chiricahua Mountains in Eastern Arizona. Now, planet Earth was devouring the carcass of that former wall, those hundreds of pounds of metal. Three years after it was deposited here, that wall fragment was already partially covered with soil. Purple flowers sprouted from its crevasses. When I got close enough, I could see spiders hanging from their webs on it. If the rest of that $20 billion in border infrastructure were left alone, in the end this is what would happen to it. This is how the earth would welcome it back.

From there, I could see where DHS had built a new barrier to replace the destroyed one. Near it, that same border patrol vehicle was idling and that same surveillance tower stuck up in the distance, all part of a desperate attempt to keep that "catastrophic convergence" at bay, to keep the world of such hurricanes and the climate-change displaced who will go with it, from the United States.

Nearby, I also saw what Pérez told me were gabions -- steel cages filled with rocks embedded in the nearby streambed on the Mexican side of the border. They were there, he explained to me, to slow down the rushing rainwaters during the summer monsoon season so the soil could drink them in and be replenished. Remarkably, they had done their job. In this parched territory, in the middle of a 15-year drought, the water table had risen 30 feet.

It was, I said, a miracle.

Native grasses were growing back, as were the desert willows. The rising water, no respecter of borders or border patrols, had similarly begun to replenish the aquifers on the Arizona side and water was appearing in places that hadn't seen anything like this before. Mind you, national security assessments stress that in Mexico and Central America water scarcity issues will be a factor driving climate breakdowns and increased migration. That was certainly the case for those three Honduran farmers.

Here, however, those gabions, embedded in the dry river, were bringing water back to places where it had become scarce. Remarkably, from my vantage point in that border landscape, the cages of rocks began to look like parts of some intricately carved stonewall. It was a strange illusion and it made me think that in a world of the grimmest sorts of walls meant to turn back everyone and offer greetings to no one, perhaps this was the real "border wall" that people needed, that planet earth needed, something that welcomed us to a better, not a desperately worse world.

Categories: News

Challenging the Neoliberalism at the Root of Trump's Authoritarianism

Truth Out - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:00

Donald Trump's election marked a perilous watershed for the descent of democracy in the United States into authoritarianism. Not only is the public in peril, it is on the brink of collapse as the economic, political and cultural institutions necessary for democracy to survive are being aggressively undermined. There is hope, however: A robust intersectional resistance can result in radical social and political change. 

 Gage Skidmore)Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a campaign rally at the Prescott Valley Event Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona, on October 4, 2016. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

What are the longer term trends that give rise to the presidency of Donald Trump? What will be the national and global impacts? And what do we need to do to resist? Henry A. Giroux tackles these questions in The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism. "This courageous and timely book is the first and best book on Trump's neo-fascism in the making," says Cornel West. To order your copy, click here and make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout now!

Confronted with the undermining of constitutional democracy, Henry A. Giroux argues for a radical social transformation in The Public in Peril. In the following excerpt, he argues that in order to succeed, the uprising must include both "a change of consciousness and structural change."

 "To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair inevitable." -- Raymond Williams 

The United States stands at the endpoint of a long series of attacks on democracy, and the choices faced by the American public today point to the divide between those who are committed to democracy and those who are not. Debates over whether Donald Trump was a fascist or Hillary Clinton was a right-wing warmonger and tool of Wall Street were a tactical diversion. The real questions that should have been debated include: What measures could have been taken to prevent the United States from sliding further into a distinctive form of authoritarianism? And what could have been done to imagine a mode of civic courage and militant hope needed to enable the promise of a democracy as a governing principle? Such questions take on a significant urgency in light of the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Under such circumstances, not only is the public in peril, it is on the brink of collapse as the economic, political, and cultural institutions necessary for democracy to survive are being aggressively undermined. As Robert Kuttner observes:

It is hard to contemplate the new administration without experiencing alarm bordering on despair: Alarm about the risks of war, the fate of constitutional democracy, the devastation of a century of social progress. Trump’s populism was a total fraud. Every single Trump appointment has come from the pool of far-right conservatives, crackpots, and billionaire kleptocrats. More alarming still is the man himself -- his vanity, impulsivity, and willful ignorance, combined with an intuitive genius as a demagogue. A petulant fifth-grader with nuclear weapons will now control the awesome power of the U.S. government. One has to nourish the hope that Trump can yet be contained. Above all, that will take passionate and strategic engagement, not just to resist but to win, to discredit him and get him out of office while this is still a democracy. We can feel sick at heart -- we would be fools not to -- but despair is not an option.[1]

Kuttner rightly mitigates such despair with a call for resistance. Yet, such deep-seated anxiety is not unwarranted given the willingness of contemporary politicians and pundits during the 2016 presidential battle to use themes that echoed alarmingly fascist and totalitarian elements of the past. According to Drucilla Cornell and Stephen D. Seely, Trump’s campaign mobilized a movement that was "unambiguously fascist."[2] They write:

We are not using the word "fascist" glibly here. Nor are we referencing only the so-called "alt-right" contingent of his supporters. No, Trump’s entire movement is rooted in an ethnic, racial, and linguistic nationalism that sanctions and glorifies violence against designated enemies and outsiders, is animated by a myth of decline and nostalgic renewal and centered on a masculine cult of personality.[3]

 Large segments of the American public have been written out of politics over what they view as a failed state and the inability of the basic machinery of government to serve their interests.[4] As market mentalities and moralities tighten their grip on all aspects of society, democratic institutions and public spheres are being downsized, if not altogether disappearing. As these institutions vanish -- from public schools to health-care centers -- there is also a serious erosion of the discourses of community, justice, equality, public values, and the common good. This grim reality has been called a "failed sociality" -- a failure in the power of the civic imagination, political will, and open democracy.[5] As the consolidation of power by the corporate and financial elite empties politics of any substance, the political realm merges elements of Monty Python, Kafka, and Aldous Huxley. Mainstream politics is now dominated by hard-right extremists who have brought to the center of politics a shameful white supremacist ideology, poisonous xenophobic ideas, and the blunt, malicious tenets and practices of Islamophobia.

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

On the other side of the political spectrum, the Democratic Party operates in the service of the war machine, financial elite, and various registers of the military-industrial-academic-surveillance complex. In the current political climate, centrism and extremism increasingly become indistinguishable. The older political establishment’s calls for regime change and war are now supplemented by the discourse of state-sanctioned torture, armed ignorance, and a deep hatred of democracy. One consequence is that both parties have thrown, in different degrees, immigrants, poor minorities of class and color, refugees, the working class, and especially young people under the bus. Neoliberalism, with its full-fledged assault on the welfare state and public goods, the destruction of the manufacturing sector, and a dramatic shift in wealth to the upper 1 percent, has destroyed the faith of millions in democracy, which lost its power to contain the rich in a runaway form of casino capitalism. With the erosion of the social contract and the increasing power of the rich to control both the commanding institutions of society and politics itself, democracy has lost any legitimacy as a counterweight to protect the ever widening sphere of people considered vulnerable and disposable. One consequence has been that the dangerous playbook to neo-fascist appeals has gained more and more credence. In addition, large portions of the American public have turned willingly to Trump’s brand of authoritarianism.

Trump’s election has produced widespread despair, fear, and anxiety in the most vulnerable, largely confirmed by the fact that "over a thousand hate crimes have been reported since Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election."[6] Even more foreboding is the fact that not only does Trump inherit the repressive policies and practices that followed 9/11 such as a growing national security state, the National Defense Authorization Act, a permanent war culture, the paramilitarization of the police, widespread intrusive surveillance, and the illegality of drone assassinations, but he has at his disposal the ability to wield a massive degree of executive power. As Kuttner makes clear:

But one should not minimize the perils. Trump will wield a massive amount of executive power. This is a man with a short fuse and a long enemies list . . . he can use the power of the presidency to conduct vast surveillance, threaten the commercial interests of the free press, selectively prosecute, and further weaken the labor movement while his allies in Congress change the ground rules of federalism to undermine progressive policies of blue states and cities. Trump will float above cadres of conservative professionals with detailed playbooks. They will try to back-load the impact of unpopular policies such as deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare.[7]

The future looks bleak, especially for youth as they are burdened with debt, dead-end jobs, unemployment, and, if you are black and poor, the increasing possibility of being either incarcerated or shot by the police.[8] Trump has redefined government as the enemy of economic and social justice and in doing so has created a number of cabinet positions that will run what might be called ministries of repression and injustice. The United States has become a war culture and immediate massive forms of resistance and civil disobedience are essential if the planet and human life is going to survive.[9] Domestic terrorism defined as intentional and criminal acts of violence by the state against civilian populations has become the new norm in the United  States.

The savagery of a war culture and its sundry forms of domestic terrorism was on full display in the United States with the September 13, 2016 shooting of Tyre King in Columbus, Ohio, a 13-year-old child who ran from the police while holding a BB gun. Tyre was "5ft tall and weighed less than 100lbs . . . [and was an] eighth-grader [who] played football and other sports, and was in a young scholars program."[10] After this innocent child was killed, there were more shootings of unarmed African Americans in spite of growing public protest against police violence. For example, Keith Lamont Scott, 43, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was shot dead while sitting in his truck while waiting for his son to return home on a bus from school. On May 2, 2017, a Texas police officer in Balch Springs, Texas shot into a car killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. These shootings barely scratch the surface of the workings of a police state and the increasing number of assaults waged against poor communities of color. As Nicholas Powers points out,

The old racial line between "Black" and "White" has been redrawn as the line between criminal and citizen. Up and down the class hierarchy from poor to wealthy, Black people have to dodge violence, from macroaggressions to economic sabotage and from public shaming to physical attacks . . . every day another person of color is shot by police, and the hole left inside families are where loved ones used to breathe. The cops not only steal the lives of our children; they steal the lives of everyone who loved them. A part of us freezes, goes numb.[11]

There can be little doubt that America is at war with its own ideals and that war is being waged against minorities of color and class, immigrants, Muslims, and Syrian refugees. Such brutality amounts to acts of domestic terrorism and demands not only massive collective opposition but also a new understanding of the conditions that are causing such sanctioned violence and the need for a fresh notion of politics to resist it. This suggests putting democratic socialism on the agenda for change.

The struggle for democratic socialism is an important goal, especially in light of the reign of terror of the existing neoliberal mode of governance. It is crucial to remember that as a firm defender of the harsh politics and values of neoliberalism, Trump preyed on the atomization and loneliness many people felt in a neoliberal social order that derides dependency, solidarity, community, and any viable notion of the commons. He encouraged both the fantasy of a rugged individualism and the toxic discourse of a hyper-masculine notion of nativism, while at the same time offering his followers the swindle of a community rooted in an embrace of white supremacy, a white public sphere, and a hatred of those deemed irrevocably other. The ideology and public pedagogy of neoliberalism at the root of Trump’s embrace of a new authoritarianism must be challenged and dismantled ideologically and politically.

Yet, the task of challenging the new authoritarianism will only succeed if progressives embrace an expansive understanding of politics. This means, among other things, refusing to view elections as the ultimate litmus test of democratic participation and rejecting the assumption that capitalism and democracy are synonymous. The demise of democracy must be challenged at all levels of public participation and must serve as a rallying cry to call into question the power and control of all institutions that bear down on everyday life. Moreover, any progressive struggle must move beyond the fragmentation that has undermined the left for decades. This suggests moving beyond single-issue movements in order to develop and emphasize the connections between diverse social formations. At stake here is the struggle for building a broad alliance that brings together different political movements and, as Cornell and Seely observe, a political formation willing to promote an ethical revolution whose goal "is not only socialism as an economic form of organization but a new way of being together with others that could begin to provide a collectively shared horizon of meaning."[12]

Truthout Progressive Pick  Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism

A critical analysis of Trumpism in the context of longer term trends.

Click here now to get the book!

Central to The Public in Peril is a refusal of the mainstream politics of disconnect. In its place is a plea for expansive social movements and a more comprehensive understanding of politics in order to connect the dots between, for instance, police brutality and mass incarceration, on the one hand, and the diverse crises producing massive poverty, the destruction of the welfare state, and the assaults on the environment, workers, young people, and women on the other. As Peter Bohmer observes, the call for a meaningful living wage and full employment cannot be separated from demands "for access to quality education, affordable and quality housing and medical care, for quality child care, for reproductive rights and for clean air, drinkable water," and the pillaging of the environment by the ultra-rich and mega corporations.[13] He rightly argues:

Connecting issues and social movements and organizations to each other has the potential to build a powerful movement of movements that is stronger than any of its individual parts. This means educating ourselves and in our groups about these issues and their causes and their interconnection.[14]

One approach to such a task would be to develop an expansive understanding of politics that necessarily links the calls for a living wage and environmental justice to demands for accessible quality health care and the elimination of conditions that enable the state to wage assaults against Black people, immigrants, workers, and women. Such relational analyses also suggest the merging of labor unions and social movements. In addition, progressives must address the crucial challenge of producing cultural apparatuses such as alternative media, think tanks, and social services in order to provide models of education that enhance the ability of individuals to make informed judgments and discriminate between evidence-based arguments and opinions, and to provide theoretical and political frameworks for rethinking the relationship between the self and others based on notions of compassion, justice, and solidarity.

Crucial to rethinking the space and meaning of the political imagination is the need to reach across specific identities and to move beyond single-issue movements and their specific agendas. This is not a matter of dismissing such movements, but creating new alliances that allow them to become stronger in the fight to succeed both in advancing their specific concerns and in enlarging the possibility of developing a radical democracy that benefits not just specific but general interests. As the Fifteenth Street Manifesto group expressed in its 2008 piece, "Left Turn: An Open Letter to U.S. Radicals," many groups on the left would grow stronger if they were to "perceive and refocus their struggles as part of a larger movement for social transformation."[15] Any feasible political agenda must merge the pedagogical and the political by employing a language and mode of analysis that resonates with people’s needs while making social change a crucial element of the political and public imagination. At the same time, any politics that is going to take real change seriously must be highly critical of any reformist politics that does not include both a change of consciousness and structural change.

Copyright (2017) by Henry A. Giroux. Not to be reprinted without permission of the publisher,  Routledge.

[1] Robert Kuttner, "The Audacity of Hope," American Prospect (December 16, 2016). Online:

[2] Drucilla Cornell and Stephen D. Seely, "Seven Theses on Trump," Critical Legal Thinking (November 28, 2016). Online:

[3] Ibid

[4] For a brilliant analysis of the anger and fears among those working-class individuals and groups written out of the American Dream, see Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land (New York: New Press, 2016). See also, George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014).

[5] Alex Honneth, Pathologies of Reason (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 188.

[6] TelSur, "In Aftermath of Trump’s Win, We Are Witnessing More than 1,000 Hate Crimes in a Month," AlterNet (December 19, 2016). Online:

[7] Kuttner, "The Audacity of Hope."

[8] See, for instance, a number of insightful articles on police violence against people of color in Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price, eds, Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016).

[9] On the militarization of everyday life, see: Rosa Brooks, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon (New York: Simon and Fraser, 2016); Radley Balko, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces (New York: Public Affairs, 2014); Nick Turse, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008).

[10] Guardian staff, "Tyre King, 13-Year-Old Boy Shot Dead by Columbus Police, Laid  to Rest in Ohio," Guardian (September 24, 2016). Online: news/2016/sep/24/tyre-king-shooting-funeral-columbus-police-officer-bryan-mason

[11] Nicholas Powers, "Killing the Future: The Theft of Black Life." In Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price, eds, Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016), p. 14.

[12] Cornell and Seely, "Seven Theses on Trump."

[13] Peter Bohmer, "Connecting $15 an Hour Movement to Other Social Movements," CounterPunch (September 28, 2015). Online:; see also, Charles Derber, Welcome to the Revolution: Universalizing Resistance for Social Justice and Democracy in Perilous Times (New York: Routledge, 2018)

[14] Ibid.

[15] Situations, Left Turn: An Open Letter to U.S. Radicals (New York: Fifteenth Street Manifesto Group, March 2008), p.  1.

Categories: News

Warren, Sanders Threaten Shutdown if GOP Doesn't "Respect Working People in this Country"

Truth Out - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:00
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Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) raised the heat on Republicans' scramble this week to keep the government funded.

The two Senators called on their colleagues to increase spending on the neglected, patchwork federal safety net, and threatened to withhold support for a push to avert a government shutdown.

The US government runs out of money on Friday. Congressional Republicans are hoping to pass a two-week extension of funding, while simultaneously attempting to finalize watershed legislation that would slash corporate tax rates.

"The Republicans who run Congress, they don't care much about middle class families," Warren said. "But if they expect Democratic support from their funding bill, then they need to do more to respect working people in this country," she added.

Sanders called on "millions of people to begin to stand up and demand that the United States Congress represents all of us, and not just a handful of campaign contributors."

To avert a possible filibuster in the Senate, Republicans need the support of eight Democrats for their short-term funding legislation.

Sanders and Warren made their appeal directly to the public on Wednesday morning, through a video broadcast on Facebook.

President Trump also talked about the possibility of a government shutdown during a Wednesday morning cabinet meeting.

"It could happen," he said, casting blame across the aisle. "The Democrats are really looking at something that is very dangerous to our country. They are looking at shutting down."

Republicans repeatedly threatened to shutdown the government during the Obama administration, bringing wider policy debates into short-term spending measures.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) managed to engineer a two-week shutdown in October 2013, riding a wave of Republican discontent over Obamacare's impending implementation.

Congress "shutting down the government" means the temporary furloughing of "non-essential" federal employees.

Sanders and Warren raised the prospect of rallying enough dissatisfied Senate Democrats after last week's passage of tax reform -- a process marred by a lack of public hearings and a questionable legislative process. Republican leaders circulated a partially-handwritten bill just hours before a final vote.

The pair pointed out that Republicans have been poor stewards of community health grants and the Children's Health Insurance Program. Both initiatives, which are routinely re-approved by Congress, ran out of money at the end of September.

Warren and Sanders also called on the Senate to take up legislation that would give status to Dreamers -- the 800,000 undocumented immigrants, brought to this country as children, who received conditional protections under the Obama administration.

They also called on Congress to allocate more money to child care, mental healthcare, student loan forgiveness, veterans affairs, and broadband infrastructure, among other programs.

The senators said last week's trillion dollar tax cut should take concerns about the cost of modest funding proposals off the table.

Chuch Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Minority Leader, is scheduled to negotiate a government funding bill on Thursday with President Trump and his House counterpart, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

A previous meeting between the trio last week was canceled by the Democrats after a tweet from President Trump soured relations.

"Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes," Trump had tweeted. "I don't see a deal!"

Categories: News

Audio Report: Autonomous Relief In Houston Post-Harvey

It's Goin Down - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 03:36

The post Audio Report: Autonomous Relief In Houston Post-Harvey appeared first on It's Going Down.

In this audio report with Solidarity Houston, we talk with anarchists doing autonomous disaster relief in the wake of hurricane Harvey. While the waters have receded, in the aftermath of the storm many people have been made homeless, while others still in their homes have been unable to put their lives back together. Meanwhile, disaster capitalists have swooped in an attempt to flip houses for a profit and police have come down on those who now are forced to live on the streets.

We've seen this before. #Mutualaid disaster relief gets straight to restoring communities and building our lives back together, in common, while the state directs resources to securing high-capital areas and policing the poor. #HarveyRelief

— Solidarity Houston (@htxautonomy) December 5, 2017

In this interview, we talk about the kinds of ongoing programs and projects anarchists are engaged in, such as gardening and food programs, childcare, and more. We also discuss what life is like now that the storm has passed, such as the effect of pollution from superfund sites, how those who were taking shelter with the Red Cross are now living on the streets, and how various areas still lack basic services.

It's been 3 months since #HurricaneHarvey. In that time, we've planted new #foodforests, delivered thousands of pounds of food and supplies, #mucked and repaired dozens of houses. This #GivingTuesday, help our work thrive! Give at

— Solidarity Houston (@htxautonomy) November 28, 2017

We end by talking about where people hope this organizing, infrastructure building, and activity can grow towards, as well as the need for people to come to Houston and take part in on the ground efforts. Towards this end, the group has also just released a call for people to come to Houston and plug into ongoing autonomous relief efforts.

More Info: Solidarity Houston, World on My Shoulders, Abby Martin Documentary, Go Fund Me Here

Music: Sole and DJ Pain 1

Categories: News

Former NSA spy believes he contracted Parkinson's from a microwave attack

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 03:16

Former NSA spy believes he contracted Parkinson's from a microwave attack | 06 Dec 2017 | A former US National Security Agency officer believes that a weaponized microwave attack caused the Parkinson's disease that is now slowly killing him 10 years later. Mike Beck was diagnosed with the degenerative neurological disorder in 2006, when he was only 46. Little research has been conducted on the relationship between Parkinson's and forms of radiation like microwaves, but experts say that they can't be ruled out as contributing factors.

Categories: News

A Democratic Chorus Rises in the Senate: 'Franken Should Resign'

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 01:58

A Democratic Chorus Rises in the Senate: 'Franken Should Resign' | 06 Dec 2017 | Support for Al Franken all but collapsed on Wednesday among his Democratic colleagues in the Senate, with dozens calling for him to resign after a sixth woman said he had made an improper advance on her. "Senator Franken should resign," Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said Wednesday evening, the latest in an avalanche of statements that began with a half-dozen Democratic women and then snowballed throughout the day. Mr. Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, has scheduled an announcement on his future in the Senate for Thursday, and he pushed back on a Minnesota Public Radio report that he would be resigning. "No final decision has been made and the Senator is still talking with his family," his office said on Twitter.

Categories: News

Solecast: ‘Kill The Activist In Your Head’ w/ Scott Crow

It's Goin Down - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 01:56

The post Solecast: ‘Kill The Activist In Your Head’ w/ Scott Crow appeared first on It's Going Down.

scott is a long time organizer and activist and is best known as a co-founder of the Common Ground Relief Effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrine. Common Ground is the subject of his seminal book, “Black Flags & Windmills.” His upcoming book “Setting Sights” is available for pre-order now on PM Press.

In this episode we have a critical and informative discussion with Scott Crow about new ways of thinking beyond resistance towards a politics of possibilities. We discuss some of the pitfalls of “activism” and the toxic subculture that can tend to exist within in it. Scott explains about how the vocabulary we use can alienate us from our goals and the world we want to build. We talk some shit about Alex Jones, right wing media and the dangers of it as well.

For more information on Scott, follow him on twitter, check out his website and pre-order his new book “Setting Sights” on PM Press.  

Categories: News

ERROR451 #05: Hidden Tracking in Common Android Apps

It's Goin Down - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 01:49

The post ERROR451 #05: Hidden Tracking in Common Android Apps appeared first on It's Going Down.

Listen and Download Here

This week, William Goodenuff chats with Bursts about the recent exposé published by Yael Grauer at The Intercept about research by Exodus and Yale Research Group leading to the findings that hundreds of common apps available from the Android Google Play Store contain clandestine tracking apps, allowing for the scooping up of the data a phone user gives off throughout their use of the device. Ever wonder why a free flashlight app needs permission to access your microphone? Here’s why!

We also chat a bit about F-Droid, a platform for free and open-source apps outside of the Play Store, many designed at increased transparency of device usage.

At one point, Bursts brings up criticisms aired about the F-Droid repository by Moxie Marlinspike, a founder of Open Whisper Systems, which makes the Signal App for free end-to-end encryption. William is kind enough to explain what the concerns come from and his views on the subject.

Like this show? Rate us on I-Tunes or dop us an email, check out other Error451 episodes or our regular feature, The Final Straw Radio.

Oh, and you should know better than to be on social media, but if you are willfully ignorant, we are findable on fedbook, instagram and twitter.

Categories: News

'Yes, I will': Vladimir Putin announces run for re-election in 2018

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 01:47

'Yes, I will': Vladimir Putin announces run for re-election in 2018 | 06 Dec 2017 | Vladimir Putin has confirmed that he will seek another term in office in next year’s presidential election. "Yes, I will run as a candidate for the Russian presidency," Putin said. He was meeting with workers at the country's historic manufacturer, GAZ (Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod), in Russia's Nizhny Novgorod on Wednesday. "Our country is its people, people like you," the Russian leader said, addressing workers and veterans of the plant.

Categories: News