In one of the previous articles, I mentioned how to deal with people who might show up on your doorstep once when SHTF, looking for help from you. … Read the rest
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For nearly half a century, presidents have refrained from criticizing the “independent” Federal Reserve; but that was before Donald Trump. In response to a question about Fed interest rate policy in a CNBC interview on July 19, 2018, he shocked commentators by stating, “I’m not thrilled. Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again. . . . I am not happy about it. . . . I don’t like all of this work that we’re putting into the economy and then I see rates going up.” He acknowledged the central bank’s independence, but the point was made: the Fed was hurting the economy with its “Quantitative Tightening” policies and needed to watch its step.
In commentary on CNBC.com, Richard Bove contended that the president was positioning himself to take control of the Federal Reserve. Bove said Trump will do it “both because he can and because his broader policies argue that he should do so. . . . By raising interest rates and stopping the growth in the money supply [the Fed] stands in the way of further growth in the American economy.”
Bove noted that in the second quarter of 2018, the growth in the money supply (M2) was zero. Why? He blamed “the tightest monetary policy since Paul Volcker, whose policies in the mid-1980s led to back-to-back recessions.” The Fed has raised interest rates seven times, with five more scheduled, while it is shrinking its balance sheet by $40 billion per month, soon to be $50 billion per month.
How could the president take control? Bove explained:
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve is required to have seven members. It has three. Two of the current governors were put into their position by President Trump. Two more have been nominated by the president and are awaiting confirmation by the Senate. After these two are put on the Fed’s board, the president will then nominate two more to follow them. In essence, it is possible that six of the seven Board members will be put in place by Trump.
Those seven, along with five federal district bank presidents, compose the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy; and one of those district bank presidents, Minnesota Fed head Neel Kashkari, is already arguing against further rate increases. Bove concluded:
The president can and will take control of the Fed. It may be recalled when the law was written creating the Federal Reserve the secretary of the Treasury was designated as the head of the Federal Reserve. We are going to return to that era.
Returning the Fed to Treasury control, however, means more than appointing new Board members. It means “nationalizing” the central bank, making it a public utility responsive to the needs of the public and the economy. And that means modifying the Federal Reserve Act to change the Fed’s mandate and tools.The Controversial History of Central Bank Independence
Ever since the 1970s, the Fed and other central banks have insisted on their independence from political control. But according to Timothy Canova, Professor of Law and Public Finance at Nova Southeastern University, independence has really come to mean a central bank that has been captured by very large banking interests. It might be independent of oversight by politicians, but it is not a neutral arbiter. This has not always been the case. During the period coming out of the Great Depression, says Canova, the Fed as a practical matter was not independent but took its marching orders from the White House and the Treasury; and that period was the most successful in American economic history.
According to Bernard Lietaer, a former Belgian central banker who has written extensively on monetary innovation, the real job of central bankers today is to serve the banking system by keeping the debt machine going. He writes:
[W]e can produce more than enough food to feed everybody, and there is definitely enough work for everybody in the world, but there is clearly not enough money to pay for it all. The scarcity is in our national currencies. In fact, the job of central banks is to create and maintain that currency scarcity. The direct consequence is that we have to fight with each other in order to survive.
The rationale for central bank independence dates back to a bout in the 1970s of “stagflation” – rapidly rising prices along with stagnant productivity. The inflation surges were blamed on political pressure put on Fed Chairman Arthur Burns by the Nixon administration to follow easy-money policies. But the link between easy-money policies and inflation is not at all clear. The Japanese have had near-zero interest rates for two decades and cannot generate price inflation although they are trying to. An alternative explanation for the rising prices of the 1970s is that producers’ costs had gone up, largely from increased labor costs due to the strong bargaining power of unions and the skyrocketing cost of oil from an engineered 1973-74 oil crisis.
Fed policy nevertheless remains stuck on the “Quantity Theory of Money,” which says that increasing the money in the system will decrease the value of the currency, driving up prices. The theory omits the supply factor. As long as workers and materials are available, increasing “demand” (money) can generate the supply needed to meet that demand. Supply and demand increase together and prices remain stable. And while the speculative economy may be awash in money, today the local productive economy is suffering from a lack of demand. Consumers are short of funds and heavily in debt. Moreover, plenty of workers are available to generate the supply needed to meet any new demand (injection of money). According to John Williams at ShadowStats.com, the real unemployment figure as of April 2018, including long-term discouraged workers who were defined out of official existence in 1994, was 21.5 percent. Beyond that is the expanding labor potential of robots and computers. A vast workforce is thus available to fill the gap between supply and demand, allowing new money to be added to the productive economy.
But the Fed insists on “sterilizing” every purported effort to stimulate demand, by making sure the new money never gets into the real economy. The money produced through quantitative easing remains trapped on bank balance sheets, where the Fed pays interest on excess reserves, killing any incentive for the banks to lend even to other banks; and the central bank has now begun systematically returning even that money to its own balance sheet.The High Price of Challenging the Fed
An article in The Economist on July 28, 2018, contends that Nixon was pressuring the Fed to make the economy look good for political purposes, and that Trump is following suit. But there is more to the Nixon story. In a 2010 book titled The American Caliphate, R. Duane Willing says the Nixon White House had quietly drafted and sponsored a Federal Charter Bill that would have changed US financial history. Willing worked for the Federal Home Loan Bank Board during the Nixon era and was tasked with defining the system requirements that would make a central computerized checking account and loan system available to the new banking system. He writes:
Only John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln and two other assassinated presidents, James Garfield and William McKinley, prior to Nixon, had actively contemplated changes of such magnitude in the US financial system.
President Garfield observed that “whoever controls the volume of money in our country is absolute master of all industry and commerce . . . and when you realize that the entire money system is very easily controlled, one way or another by a few powerful men, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate.”
. . . The hidden secret since the beginning of modern capitalism is that money is created and managed by bank control over checking accounts in the loan-making process.
Willing says Nixon was preparing the Federal Home Loan Bank Board to change the traditional role of American savings and loan associations, giving them money creation powers like the big Wall Street banks had, providing a full-service nationwide banking system. The national money supply would thus be regulated according to needs at the local level rather than dictated from the top by the central bank. The proposed legislation provided for a separate central bank to backstop local credit unions and a much greater degree of competition for a wide array of financial services.
But Nixon’s plan for national finance, along with his plan for healthcare and a guaranteed income, alarmed the Wall Street/Federal Reserve power block, which willing says was about to be challenged like never before. Nixon was obviously not blameless in the Watergate scandal, but Willing contends it was pushed by “the Wall Street Great Merchants as owners of the Senate,” who “were making certain that the money dreams of ‘Tricky Dick’ and his vision for the Republic protected with a network of converted Savings and Loan associations was doomed.”An “Independent” Central Bank or a Public Central Bank?
Challenging the Fed is thus risky business, and the president should be given credit for taking it on. But if he is planning to change the makeup of the Federal Reserve Board, he needs to appoint people who understand that the way to jumpstart the economy is to inject new money directly into it, not keep the money “sterilized” in fake injections that trap it on bank balance sheets until it can be reeled back in by the central bank. Interesting proposals for how the Fed could inject new money into the economy include making direct loans for infrastructure (as the Chinese central bank is doing), making low- or no-interest loans to state and local governments for infrastructure, or refinancing the federal debt interest-free.
Better than changing who is at the helm of the central bank would be to change the rules governing it, something only Congress can do. Putting the needs of the American people first, as Trump promised in his campaign speeches, means making the Fed serve Main Street rather than Wall Street.
On July 29, 17-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi was released from an Israeli prison. Her mother Nariman, who was present in February when Tamimi slapped an Israel Defense Force soldier in the face and who filmed the incident, was also released. Tamimi had been imprisoned since the February incident, for which she was charged with 12 offences, including assaulting security forces and incitement to violence. Tamimi and her mother are part of an activist family that has been attempting to show the world the nature of the Israeli occupation.
The incident, captured on videotape, immediately became a symbol not only of Palestinian resistance to the occupation, but also of the lengths the Israeli state will go to in order to safeguard its image and protect Israeli pride. This includes, but is not restricted to, letting hundreds of other Palestinian children languish in jail, many for minor crimes like throwing stones. (In a related story, Israel also arrested two Italian artists for painting a portrait of Tamimi on the separation wall.)
This cruelty and violation of international human rights doctrine is just one part of the systematic and longstanding nature of Israel’s illegal occupation.
Many Zionists declared that Tamimi’s sentence should be harsh, even permanent. This teenager only attacked one soldier, but the capture of the incident on film made it into a symbolic attack on the entire occupying force and occupation itself. Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev said, “When I watched that, I felt humiliated, I felt crushed.” She called the incident “damaging to the honor of the military and the state of Israel.” Similarly, an Israeli lawmaker from the Knesset, Bezalel Smotrich, declared: “In my opinion, she deserved a bullet, at the very least to the kneecap. That would put her under house arrest for the rest of her life.” But perhaps worst of all, consider this comment by journalist Ben Caspit: “In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras.”
In fact, interrogators did come very close to sexually threatening Tamimi. Examining a video of the interrogation, The Associated Press notes, “The interrogator, identified as an agent of the Israeli military intelligence branch, at times moves within centimeters (inches) of the teenager, who doesn’t respond and repeatedly asserts her right to remain silent”:
The military intelligence agent, who sits in a chair close to her, attempts to get her to speak, at times threatening her, then telling her that with her blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin she reminds him of his younger sister…. At another time, he tells her she has the “eyes of an angel.”
While we might recoil at this interrogation, it is not at all uncommon. Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories are not tried in civil courts. Their cases go to military courts, which are frequently in violation of international human rights doctrine. Children can be kept in jail indefinitely, without legal representation and their parents prohibited from seeing them. Right now nearly 400 Palestinian children are languishing in military prisons for minor crimes like throwing stones.
Brad Parker, an international advocacy officer and attorney for Defense for Children International–Palestine, told Truthout that Tamimi’s detention, prosecution, plea agreement and sentence is not exceptional in Israel’s military court system. Further, he says, the ill treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces is widespread and systematic, with three out of four Palestinian children experiencing physical violence following their arrest. Moreover, Israeli military law provides no right to an attorney during interrogation.
“Palestinian children like Ahed often typically arrive to interrogation rooms bound, blindfolded, frightened and sleep deprived. Children often give confessions after verbal abuse, threats, physical and psychological violence that in some cases amounts to torture,” Parker said. “It is clear that detaining and prosecuting Palestinian children in Israeli military courts has little to do with justice.”
In 2016 the United Nations issued a damning report on the treatment of Palestinian youth, expressing its concern
“at allegations of many instances in which Palestinian minors were exposed to torture or ill-treatment, including to obtain confessions; were given confessions to sign in Hebrew, a language they do not understand; and were interrogated in the absence of a lawyer or a family member. The Committee is also concerned that many of these children, like many other Palestinians, are deprived of liberty in facilities located in Israel, thus hindering access to visits of relatives who live in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Committee is further concerned that at the time of the dialogue there were 12 minors in administrative detention and 207 Palestinian minors residents of the West Bank in detention for security-related offences.”
In December 2017, Defense for Children International-Palestine published a report noting the “spike” in violations against Palestinian children following the announcement that Trump would move the US embassy to Jerusalem. That Israel has been emboldened by the current political situation might help explain the passage of the “Jewish Nation-State Law.” This is a simple and blunt instrument that has one and only one purpose—to declare Israel a Jewish state and relegate all non-Jews to the level of second-class citizens. It “views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.” This, of course, refers to the continued building of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and the appropriation and destruction of Palestinian homes.
Israel has thus thrown down the gauntlet to the international community, asking bluntly: What are you going to do about it? Though Ahed and Nariman Tamimi have been released, the cruel logic of the occupation remains very much in place. If we do not wish these kinds of acts to continue, we must do something about it—again, this is something the Tamimis have tried to get us to do.
One thing to do is support Rep. Betty McCollum’s efforts to prevent US tax dollars from supporting these cruel human rights abuses. In a December article in The Nation, McCollum wrote, “Israeli soldiers and security officials kick, punch, and beat children. They utilize sensory-deprivation techniques. Their ultimate goal is to get signed confessions—usually in Hebrew, a language the children cannot read or understand.” People who protest the Trump administration’s separation of immigrant children from their families have no legitimate reason not to be appalled by this and protest.
Another thing people can do is to support the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” movement, called for by Palestinian civil society. This nonviolent, human rights-based effort pushes for the legitimate and internationally recognized rights of the Palestinian people to be recognized, and for the structures of apartheid ethno-nationalism in Israel-Palestine to be dismantled. As more people join this mass international movement, the Israeli government will continue to fall under increasing pressure to end its abuses against Palestinian children.
The post Ahed Tamimi Is Free, but 400 More Palestinian Children Remain in Jails appeared first on Truthout.
From CrimethInc.Asking the Hard Questions after Three Months of Revolt
Since the beginning of the uprising in Nicaragua, we have published reports from anarchist participants in Managua. After three months of demonstrations, blockades, and street fighting, the Ortega government has succeeded in clearing the roads and driving many dissidents and rebels out of the country, but not at suppressing the revolt entirely. In the following update, we continue to give voice to Nicaraguan anarchists as they report on the struggle in their country and reflect on its future.
But first, let’s address some of the questions that the revolt has raised.
Some statists on the left have attempted to frame the entire uprising as a plot concocted by the US, arguing that opposition forces in Nicaragua answer directly to “their US overlords”—effectively endorsing the killings carried out by Nicaraguan police and paramilitaries as some kind of anti-imperialism. From our perspective, on the contrary, leftist statism has enabled Ortega, a one-time revolutionary, to accumulate power and push through neoliberal reforms, generating the same kind of grassroots revolt that has broken out in many other economic and political contexts including Greece, Turkey, Bosnia, and Brazil. This is not a question of mere international intrigue, but of the legitimate grievances that capitalism and the state are producing on a global scale. If Ortega and the statists who support him are able to monopolize the discourse of the left, there will be no outlet for legitimate popular frustration except right-wing reactionary movements.
For this reason, we consider it urgent that anarchists and other anti-authoritarians enter into dialogue with participants in the uprising in Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan police attack protesting students outside the University of Engineering on April 20.
However, in the absence of a strong anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist movement that could offer a revolutionary horizon for change in Nicaragua, most participants have limited themselves to calling for “justice” and “democracy,” hoping to create the conditions for a new government to come to power. Some have even met with representatives of the Republican right wing to seek US backing. We are convinced that this approach is a grievous error, even for Nicaraguan protesters who do not share our opposition to capitalism, the US government, and government itself.
If the revolt aims to solve the problems created by neoliberal policies and authoritarian government, it must go much further than ousting Ortega. USAID and other forms of intervention are clearly intended to shape the protest movements according to the US agenda in order to determine what will come next. It’s naïve to imagine that the US government or any of the entities affiliated with it will support any sort of change in Nicaragua unless it advances the economic interests of capitalists in the United States. We have seen over and over—most recently in Afrin—how the US selectively empowers the most conservative elements within popular struggles, then ruthlessly betrays the movements as a whole as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
Can participants in the Nicaraguan uprising who do not wish to compromise with the US agenda outflank those who believe that the top priority is to oust Ortega by any means? It seems to us that this is the essential question. This will determine whether the movements in Nicaragua can follow through on their promises to create a foundation for true autonomy, freedom, and self-determination.
Thus far, participants in the uprising have focused on maintaining “unity” across ideological and strategic lines. In the face of brutal repression from the Ortega government, we can understand the tactical advantages of maintaining a united front. Yet if the movement continues to prioritize unity over debate, it will not be possible to criticize the compromises that the US will demand in return for support. In that case, even a revolution that ousted the Ortega government entirely would likely result only in more neoliberal economic policies and authoritarianism.
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
Manure—which is to say, bullshit. In fact, periodic revolutions can also refresh the illusion of liberty that maintains the legitimacy of the state. When we seek revolutionary change, the problem is how to take on the current reigning government in a way that will make it more difficult for any government to legitimize its authority. Otherwise, whatever new government comes to power will likely implement some version of the same policies that made people revolt against the previous one, answering as it does to the same structural factors such as global economic pressures and the exigencies of maintaining a monopoly on force. We can’t depend on governments to make the changes we want to see; we have to develop grassroots movements backed by powerful international solidarity.
Granted, it can be inconvenient for social movements to focus on making principled decisions when they are also attempting to deal with the immediate problems created by government crackdowns and criminalization. But acting in the present in a way that moves us towards our long-term goals is a prerequisite for being able to make real change. Nicaraguans movements need to develop practices that they can employ right now to go on building strength autonomously during the remainder of the Orteguista administration, practices that can continue intensifying through the inevitable electoral campaigns, promises of reform, and transitions of power that are to come.
“I have no particular love for the idealized ‘worker’ as he appears in the bourgeois Communist’s mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.”
-George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia
All of this being said, we salute the courage of ordinary people who have rebelled in Nicaragua, occupying universities and standing up to the violence of the police. We call on anarchists and other sincere partisans of equality and freedom to create international networks of support that could offer a credible alternative to US backing, so rebels in Nicaragua and elsewhere will not be forced to choose between local authoritarianism and neoliberal colonialism.
For more background on the uprising in Nicaragua, consult our previous coverage:
Here follows the latest report and reflections from our Nicaraguan contacts.
A young man walks across a toppled “tree of life”—a symbol of the Ortega regime—at the roundabout El Periodista in Managua.
- Since April 19, approximately 300 people have been killed in political violence in Nicaragua; 2000 people have been injured; there are over 600 political prisoners, and approximately 600 more people are missing. In addition, some 23,000 people have requested refugee status in Costa Rica. 1 Bear in mind that Nicaragua has a population of about 7 million, much fewer than the other countries we are being compared with.
On July 16, the Orteguista Party passed an “Anti-Terrorism Law” criminalizing popular protests and justifying the imprisonment of hundreds of protestors. This law targets people transporting medicine and food, people organizing GoFundMe accounts, family members of students, and bystanders. This law has also justified the kidnapping of student activists, neighborhood leaders, and organizers from the campesino movement. People have already been arrested and charged under this law, including various campesino leaders. The Orteguista Party has adopted the language of terrorism to describe the popular uprising in general.
The Orteguista Party has accused the priests and the Catholic Church of protecting the “terrorists” and “promoting a coup.” This has broken the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Orteguista Party. Orteguista supporters have attacked priests moderating the dialogue and protecting protesters at churches.
There are arrest warrants now for most of the student leaders representing universities from the Alianza Civica; campesino leaders and other organizers have been targeted as well. Along with the break with the Catholic Church, this confirms that the Ortega Government is no longer trying to pursue dialogue.
One of the chief goals of the Alianza was to fast-track the elections to 2019. Daniel Ortega has repeatedly turned this down, stating that he will hold elections when his term ends in 2021. A report from Etica y Transparencia says that 79% of the population wants new elections. It just so happens that the United States Government and the OAS are advocating for new elections, as well. The Alianza and some social movements have also floated the idea of a transitional government.
In June, Masaya declared itself an autonomous city practicing self-government. They set up their own community watch, their own community assemblies, their own lines of defense, their own clean up committees. This was part of a strategy to complement a citywide workers strike. It’s important to note that this was not proposed by the Alianza Civica. Masaya remained autonomous for a couple of days until pro-government paramilitaries carried out massive attacks to recapture it. Cities like Masaya that have been historically been Sandinista strongholds have been hotly contested between protestors and paramilitary forces. Masaya no longer has any blockades.
Right next to Masaya, the city of Monimbo is an indigenous community of artisans and craft-makers. It was one of the first cities to rise against Orteguismo in April. It has been an inspiration since the beginning because of the resiliency and revolutionary spirit of the locals.
Monimbo, the epicenter of indigenous resistance, and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua (UNAN), the only university still occupied by students, were both viciously attacked and evicted by paramilitaries forces shortly before July 19, the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution. Moninbo and UNAN are now under the control of Paramilitary forces. UNAN and other universities are set to resume the academic calendar soon, but students fear persecution.
Paramilitary forces have attacked and evicted every road blockade, killing dozens around the country. The circulation of vehicles and economic goods has resumed. In three separate interviews, when asked about the paramilitaries, Ortega gave three different answers: he claimed that the paramilitaries were funded by the US government, that the paramilitaries were funded by the MRS and the PLC, and that the paramilitaries were “volunteer policemen.”
With the leadership of right-wing Republicans Marco Rubio and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has approved $1.5 million dollars to promote “democracy, human rights, and leadership” in Nicaragua. How this money will shape the crisis remains to be seen.
On July 31, Universidad Centroamericana (Central American University, or UCA) suffered government cuts and suspended classes, putting 95% of its personnel on hold. The national budget sets aside 6% of funds to go towards education, a victory from the student protests in the 1990s. UCA is semi-public: it still receives government funding, but students also pay tuition, which has enabled UCA to create programing and education that is not entirely in line with the Ortega agenda. UCA is considered a middle-class university devoted to the humanities; its students have played a critical role in the uprisings. SOSIndioMaiz and OcupaINSS both involved UCA student initiative. This is seen as government revenge against these students, but it also places additional pressure on the insurrection to work towards a future in which education is autonomous, accessible, and critical of authority.
Weekly protests continue all over the country, all targeted by state repression.
Daniel Ortega’s supporters.
The people of Nicaragua are revolting against Ortega on the grounds that he represents authoritarianism, lack of transparency, the embezzlement of public funds, the co-option of supposedly neutral institutions like the police and medical system,2 the exploitation of natural resources, the harassment of social movement leaders, and the hijacking of the education system.
This is not a centralized movement; all the demands and criticism of Ortega complement each other, but these demands are specific to different themes and regions. For example, Masaya has no student movement, per se, and the students are presenting very different demands than the campesino movement. There have been some efforts to centralize all the demands into a single common organization, but the present conditions have not allowed for the necessary meetings to occur.
At the beginning, the unified concentration was the Alianza Civica. This group, la Alianza Civica (the Civil Alliance), is a coalition including students, farmers, and members of “civil society,” the ones promoting the dialogue with the government moderated by the Catholic Church. The Alianza has maintained its role of calling for protests and marches, but it has been losing power since the government is no longer negotiating with it and most of the resistance has been organized autonomously. The only reason the Alianza was formed was to mediate the conversation with the government; it wasn’t intended to undertake long-term grassroots organizing efforts or to form a political party. Meanwhile, the Autoconvocados movement, a decentralized movement under a common name, continues encouraging all the protesting sectors, pressuring the Alianza, and organizing protests and marches. The demonstrations that draw thousands into the streets of Managua are the combined efforts of the Alianza, the Autoconvocados, the student groups, and “civil society.”
Inside and outside of the Alianza, discontent is growing with the Consejo Superior de la Empresa Privada en Nicaragua (COSEP). COSEP is the chamber of private business, and they have yet to declare a National Strike that would bring pressure to bear against the Ortegas. Many believe that the window of opportunity for a strategic and effective National Strike has already closed. This “betrayal” from COSEP has diminished their political power.
Furthermore, some student groups have met with right-wing politicians in the United States and El Salvador, causing even more tensions among students and citizens. There are many different student organizations represented in the Alianza, and no one can speak on behalf of the others. For example, student organizations like the Coordinadora Universitaria por la Democracia y la Justicia (CUDJ), Alianza Universitaria Nicaraguense (AUN) and the Articulation of Social Movements and Civil Society (AMSOSC), all members of the Alianza, want nothing to do with US Republicans, and communicating with the Unites States is not their priority.
The context has shifted a great deal over the past month. Starting last weekend, everybody who participated in the UNAN occupation or in the resistance in Monimbo is being hunted and persecuted. Over 700 people are detained and many are missing; the state now has the legal foundation to charge protesters with terrorism, and vice president Rosario Murillo has emphasized several times in radio communiqués that the “terrorists” will be persecuted. In response, Costa Rica has set up two refugee camps in San Jose, and those who can afford to flee are leaving the country. The majority of the protestors who experienced direct confrontation with the paramilitaries are now hiding in safehouses.
The names of the dead.
In this situation, it is difficult for grassroots groups to organize, since they will immediately face the paramilitary forces that are constantly patrolling rural and cities streets. Nevertheless, there were massive marches celebrating the “Day of the Student” on July 23 and the “March of the Flowers.” Thousands have attended these marches and the paramilitary forces did not attack them. However, on account of the presence of paramilitaries, there is still a self-imposed citywide curfew at night.
Because of this situation, many people have set their hopes on the international community putting more pressure and sanctions on Ortega, hoping this will force Ortega to negotiate an exit. These hopes are motivated by the solidarity that Nicaragua has received from the international left, the resolution from the Organization of American States (OAS), and also—unfortunately—the involvement of the United States.
Relying on foreign intervention contradicts the popular chant Solo el pueblo salva al pueblo, “Only the people save the people,” a common demand for autonomy. Consequently, another part of the movement has been investing more in marches and protests as a way to take back the streets.
People working from outside of Nicaragua are setting up systems of support to give the Nicaraguan popular insurrection visibility and to prepare for the long-term battle ahead. The networks that are being built now are intended to provide solidarity to Nicaraguans on the ground, expose the actions of the Orteguista Party, and, most importantly, build relationships that will be helpful in the future.
Many of these international efforts, like the Caravana de la Solidaridad Internacional, a group of autoconvocados that has been traveling Europe for three months, have prioritized meeting with left-wing groups and organizations; they do not meet with right-wing groups. In cities across the world that have Nicaraguan immigrants, people are creating their own Autoconovocado affinity groups and organizing marches, manifestations, and declarations. But there are also autoconvocado groups that are in the United States talking to Democrats and Republicans.
This is the reality in a diverse movement based on unity against a common enemy. People will advocate for whatever they believe will solve the crisis. The short-term goals of all of these movements are “justice” and “democracy,” in the vaguest sense: justice for the victims, democracy in the government.
It is surprising how different movements have been able to come together. For example, the feminist movement and the Catholic Church cooperated in one demonstration. Another example is Francisca Ramirez, a leader from the Movimiento Campesino, joining the March for Sexual Diversity. The joke is that “Only Ortega has been capable of uniting feminists, atheists, Catholics, the LGBT community, and students.” But in terms of practice, there is not much discussion about how these differences are being addressed.
The hope is that a new government would open a national dialogue in which all the sectors and movements that participated in the insurrection could have a platform to present their specific demands and reach consensus together. This is optimistic, to say the least. But it’s hard to start framing long-term goals in the present context of mass immigration and criminalization.
The Ortega government is also working on a day-by-day basis. We doubt that they have a long-term strategy, since everything has been escalating so rapidly. Recently, their strategy has been for Daniel Ortega to give controlled interviews to the international press. These interviews have backfired as the opposition keeps calling out Ortega’s lies.
One thing that has not changed—that has not even been questioned—has been the nationalism at the basis of the movement. The current struggles are understood in a historical context, revisiting the history of the resilient Nicaraguan people standing up to their enemies, going all the way back to Sandino, who remains the most respected revolutionary nationalist. This is the second thing Nicaraguans have in common in the struggle: the first is that they detest Ortega, the second is that they are all Nicaraguans. The entire resistance has been based around this idea of shared national identity. Many see this popular uprising as an attempt to reclaim Nicaragua from the Orteguistas.
There have been moments of solidarity that transcend nationalism. For example, Costa Rica has historically been a rival to Nicaragua, but the new Costa Rican government has supported Nicaraguan rebels on the ground and in diplomatic meetings. This has disrupted the antagonistic notion of nationalism that Nicaraguans used to have.
“Surrender? Your mama!”
People who advocate for the United States to intervene economically and with direct sanctions like the Nica Act and the Magnitsky Act claim that the United States is the only force capable of pressuring Daniel Ortega. The demands for the United States to intervene are not just coming from right-wing groups; there are many people who want the violence to stop and see US intervention as the only solution. Of course, US economic intervention is likely to cause harm to ordinary Nicaraguans, as well.
The United States has already intervened in Nicaragua by imposing sanctions, freezing US bank accounts, revoking the visas of government officials, and investing in Nicaraguan “Human rights, Journalism, and Leadership” through USAID. USAID is supposed to promote journalism to expose Ortega’s corruption and fund “human rights organizations” so that they can document human rights abuses.
The response to USAID has been diverse. In a country like Nicaragua, where a lot of the population depends on the assistance of NGOs to survive, many people will accept this help. USAID has helped run schools and invest in social infrastructure, but this is only successful because of the failures of the government and the longstanding asymmetry in wealth resulting from colonial resource extraction. The government has not had the capacity to reach rural and Caribbean communities, where NGOs have worked established themselves. This perpetuates the non-profit-industrial complex and exposes people to Western-centric ideas about “development” and “democracy.”
In view of the concentration of power under Ortega, the lack of infrastructure connecting Nicaragua and the international left, and the fact that Nicaragua has not been able to develop critically, academically, or socially, it is very likely that the social movements will accept all sorts of help, including from the United States.
US support for the Contras in the 1980s is well known. The more recent machinations of the United States against Ortega can be traced back to the Nica Act, which aimed to tie Nicaragua to Venezuela and Cuba as authoritarian socialist governments. We are experiencing a second wave of this kind of anti-socialism, which ebbed a bit during Obama’s presidency, when Obama and Cuba initiated a process of “normalizing” relations. The Obama administration did not make any major statements about Nicaragua, but actually implemented more neoliberal policies.
It is interesting that the United States government is now criticizing Ortega when it has benefited so much from Orteguismo. Presumably, the US worked with Ortega while he seemed like the only option, but now that it appears possible to arrange for an even more neoliberal government to take power in Nicaragua, this is the new priority. It is also a question of which government will be best at stabilizing Nicaragua for the sake of investment.
The United States government has major investments in Nicaragua—in free trade zones, maquilas, and tourism. Until April 2018, the United States drew tremendous economic benefits from its relations with Nicaragua. Nicaragua was the number one tourist destination in Central America, and expatriates from the United States were slowly relocating there. Nicaragua was a desirable destination for investment dollars due to its “economic and political stability.”
In Daniel Ortega’s second live speech to address the crisis, back in April, he appeared alongside a United States sweatshop owner, assuring him that things would go back to normal and that his business would not be affected. In his interview with Fox News on July 23, it appeared that he wanted to assure people in the United States that Nicaragua is still a stable place to invest in… while at the same time, in an interview with Telesur, he told viewers that the United States is financing the opposition.
The United States also benefits from Nicaragua’s immigration policy, which prohibits the transit of thousands of people who are trying to cross Nicaragua on their way overland to the United States.
The demands of the campesino movement are the chief factor that contradicts the agenda of the United States. Reacting against corporate mining companies, extractive industries, and monocrop industrial agriculture is a key element of the movement. If these demands were fulfilled, the United States would have to stop looking at Nicaragua as a place to extract resources from and invest money in for the sake of turning a profit.
The other factor that contradicts the agenda of the United States is the demand for autonomy. On what conditions will the United States help Nicaragua? Will they help us achieve autonomy even if future governments distance themselves from the United States economic policies? Looking at hundreds of years of US intervention in Latin America, this seems unlikely, to say the least.
A student sleeps inside the occupied National Autonomous University of Managua with her homemade weapon at the ready on June 29.
The biggest fight right now is against authoritarianism, in whatever shape it takes. If the current popular insurrection is a reaction against everything that Ortega is, then the alternative would be a Nicaragua that is autonomous.
What does “autonomous” mean? For students, it means a free education without government intervention and manipulation. For feminists, it means that the government ought to keep its laws off women’s bodies while creating social and economic programs foster women’s independence from men. For the campesino movement, it means control and agency over their lands. For others, it would mean building a political organization that protects people’s rights and guarantees free health and education. In any case, autonomy means prioritizing the demands of the Nicaraguan people over those of international corporations.
Autonomy would mean abandoning the cutthroat policies of the Ortega government. It would mean respecting indigenous territories, expelling corporate mining companies, and rejecting the neoliberal policies that affect campesinos the most. Whatever government follows Ortega ought to radically change its political structure. It will be facing a population that has suffered under both right-wing and “left-wing populist” governments. It ought to recognize the demands of all the sectors that have participated in the uprising.
Participants in the student movements, the feminist movement, and the campesino movement should realistically consider whether a new political party and new elections can fulfill their demands. The truth is that electoral approaches will almost certainly water down the demands of the social movements, if they could fulfill them at all. To give these movements some credit, we hope that they will continue to protest with the same intensity against the next government if their demands aren’t met.
If elections occur in 2019 and the social movements don’t reach consensus on what kind of party they want to form, instead running with multiple parties, they risk dividing the opposition and losing against Ortega. From this vantage point, it is unclear whether Daniel Ortega would run for president.
Currently, no one has started campaigning for office; it has not been a priority because the anticipated elections have not been announced yet. All attention has been focused on the present, on condemning the violence, protecting all the people who are being persecuted, and trying to hold Ortega accountable.
There are already many politicians who want to take advantage of the situation. Recently, the chief right-wing political party in Nicaragua, the PLC, stated that it wanted to participate in the dialogue; but this was massively rejected on social media, on account of the oppressive history of the PLC.
All political parties and social movements need to take care not to perpetuate the mistakes that have been committed in the past. After 300 people have been murdered, after we have witnessed the lengths the Orteguista government is willing to go to ensure its supremacy, we need to change the political field completely and throw out the traditional approach to political participation and representation. People must be willing to critique and stand against these movements and their allies if they see that history is repeating again.
I find hope in another popular chant, “El pueblo ni se rinde, ni se vende”—the people neither give up nor sell themselves. There has been a popular call against “selling out,” started by students in relationship to the Unión Nacional de Estudiantes de Nicaragua (UNEN), and also by the Autoconvocados that refuse to participate in electoral politics. Hopefully this call will resonate just as strongly in the future.
If the right wing gains traction, they will have to deal with the feminists and their critique of the state and patriarchy; they will have to deal with the students and the demand for an accessible, high-quality, free, and autonomous education; they will have to deal with the demands of the campesinos that there be no more extractive industries in their land or on indigenous land; they will have to deal with the new Nicaraguan left, which is anti-authoritarian and opposed to corruption; they will have to deal with the people’s demand for transparency and direct democracy. If a new government messes with one sector, they will mess with all sectors—provided the calls for “unity” hold.
The current movements need to provide for the necessities of the people and develop an intersectional understanding of oppression. Hopefully, even if they gain representation in future governments, they will continue to operate outside of the government. All movements need to be vigilant of the economic elite and the political right wing. There is a history of leftists making political deals with the enemy, but if these movements truly invest their power in the people, in politics from bellow, they will become hard to co-opt.
As we look for hope for the future, we must bear in mind the leaderless nature of all the new movements, we must bear in mind all the attempts at self-government and first and foremost the vision of autonomy that has been the main driving factor for campesinos, feminists, students, and other Nicaraguans.Further Reading
Friends and family bearing the coffin containing the body of Gerald Vasquez on July 16. Vasquez, an engineering student, was killed for maintaining a barricade near the Jesus of Divine Mercy church. On the night of July 13, pro-government groups fired on the church for 15 hours while about 100 student protesters who had been forced out of the nearby university hid under pews. Vazquez died on the rectory floor. Afterwards, the church was covered in pro-government graffiti signed “JS” for the Sandinista Youth, Ortega’s shock troops. One slogan proclaimed “my commander stays.”
This is a translation of an article that originally appeared on a Basque feminist site. The original article includes further resources regarding each point. We include it here to give greater context for how participants in the uprising are expressing their grievances.
1) For raping his stepdaughter, Zoilamerica Ortega-Murillo, since she was 12 years old. This occurred even during the Sandinista Revolution in the 1980s. Zoilamerica has been in exile in Costa Rica for years, escaping persecution in Nicaragua. When Zoilamerica denounced Daniel Ortega in the 1990s, for many this marked the beginning of the deterioration of the Sandinista Party, which slowly became the Orteguista Party.
2) Because in the late 1990s, he made a political alliance with right-wing capitalist Arnoldo Aleman, dismantling Nicaragua’s institutionality and creating a two-party system. The Sandinistas, who were still a powerful force in Nicaragua in the 1990s, made a political pact through Daniel Ortega with Arnoldo Aleman in order to run the country together. This was a huge betrayal of the Sandinista Revolution. For many, this was event that betrayed all of Sandinista ideals and began the process of turning Sandinismo into Orteguismo.
3) Because in 2006, he negotiated with the Catholic Church and right-wing political forces to make abortion illegal. In order for Daniel Ortega to win the 2006/2007 presidency, he had to obtain the approval of the Catholic Church, a church that was extremely conservative and right-wing. The church would only give Ortega its blessing if Ortega made abortion illegal. In a poor developing country like Nicaragua, this law affected working class and rural women the most.
4) Because he removed the Comisarias de la Mujer (State Women Centers) and watered-down Ley 779 (Law 779), a law that protected women from sexual violence, giving impunity to men who commit assaults. These women’s centers were designed to protect and expedite women’s and family issues, but after male pressure, they were defunded and are practically non-existent now. The 779 Law was a very progressive law designed by feminist organizations, which was approved but later slowly watered down.
5) For selling the country to foreign enterprises, approving the building of the canal that displaced indigenous and campesino communities, and stripping away natural resources. The canal was never built, but the legal infrastructure to displace and occupy natural and indigenous territory is still in place.
6) Because they changed the constitution in order that Ortega could be re-elected indefinitely and a family member like Rosario Murillo could be Vice-President. Ortega is now on his third term and is not willing to fast-track the next elections.
7) Because he has accelerated the exploitation of natural reserves like Bosawas and Indio Maiz. These two natural resources are protected by the state and should not be used as resources; nevertheless, the state and economic elite benefit from the deforestations of these natural reserves.
8) Because he has constituted a government based on nepotism. The members of his family hold key positions in the government. Daniel Ortega’s sons and daughters are political advisers and control government media and communications.
9) Because he negotiated and allowed the expropriation of indigenous territories, displacing indigenous communities and murdering indigenous leaders. By embracing neoliberalism, Daniel Ortega has created the conditions in which campesinos and monocrop companies can illegally enter indigenous territories and occupy their land.
10) Because he ignored the popular fight against extractivism and gave international mining companies like B2GOLD permission to extract minerals in rural communities. Since Ortega’s presidency in 2007, the campesino movement and figures like Francisca Ramirez have continually protested and mobilized against the extractive industries that affect campesino rural communities and environments the most.
11) Because he has continually harassed and persecuted feminists, human rights groups, and campesino leaders. Before April 2018, it was inconceivable to protest in the streets without being harassed by the Sandinista Youth or the Police. This ensured the supremacy of the Orteguista Party over the public space.
12) Because he has co-opted other political parties and has prevented new political parties from forming and running in the elections. Elections are not internationally supervised and are not transparent. This has generated a large absentee culture. Additionally, he has fired government officials who were not willing to follow his orders or be complicit in fraudulent elections.
13) Because he forces all state employees to attend government marches, and if they don’t attend they will be fired.
14) Because he promoted an inhumane border policy that has left thousands stranded in Costa Rica. The Nicaraguan migration policy prevents hundreds who are trying to reach the Unites States from crossing over into Nicaragua. If you go to the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, you will find camps filled with Latin American and Caribbean families that want to travel through Nicaragua to go north, but the Nicaraguan government won’t allow them through.
15) Because he has used state funds (like the ones in the social security system) to invest in his own family businesses. The Ortega family owns a lot of property and businesses and created their wealth by governing the state.
16) Because there is no transparency in how the government spends the money that arrives from Venezuela or other international cooperation. This money has ensured the Orteguista party’s supremacy.
17) For using his social programs as clientelism, prioritizing aid to only Orteguista party members. He has privatized socialism, in the sense that government social programs are directly tied to pro-government affiliation, rather than to human rights or human dignity.
18) Because he has criminalized protests and murdered hundreds of students, campesinos, women, and children. The Orteguista party, which controls congress, passed an “Anti-Terrorism Law” which gives up to 20 to 30 years of prison to anybody who aides the protests.
19) Because he betrayed Sandinismo. Orteguismo is not the same as Sandinismo. Sandino’s original ideas have been completely ignored and the spirit of the revolution has been co-opted by Daniel Ortega. Ortega has monopolized the left in Nicaragua, not allowing for any leftist critiques of his government.Appendix II: A Punk Classic
Oi Polloi, “Americans Out,” on US intervention in Nicaragua in the 1980s.
These statistics come from the Centro Nicaraguense de los Derechos Humanos [CENIDH]. The CENIDH report doesn’t discuss which side the deceased identified with, but ANDPH says that the list includes about 48 pro-government paramilitaries, 24 policemen, and one member of the military, with the remainder being protesters and other civilians. It is possible to find sources arguing that the protesters are responsible for many of the killings, but in any case, the protesters are not the ones arresting people or forcing people to leave Nicaragua. ↩
For example, police as well as paramilitaries display the FLSN flag, and children’s history books laud the Ortega government. The day immediately after UNAN was raided by paramilitaries, the FLSN flag was raised on campus. ↩
During active shooter drill, active shooter reported at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base --Personnel told to shelter in place | 02 Aug 2018 | An Air Force base in Ohio said there was not an active shooter incident Thursday, just hours after authorities in armored vehicles and unmarked cars swarmed the base amid reports of a shooter its medical center. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base said in a statement that someone called 911 during a training exercise that included an active shooter scenario at a separate location. The caller thought there was an incident occurring within the base hospital, sending security forces to the scene where they began searching the entire hospital, the statement said. While trying to get inside a locked door, a security team member shot his firearm to open the door, the statement said.
Eric Trump: Entire family has received 'white powder' in the mail | 02 Aug 2018 | President Trump's son Eric Trump on Thursday said that all the members of his family have had "white powder" mailed to their house. He said that his family has been a victim of anthrax scares while making and appearance on Fox News' "Hannity" saying, "We've all had white powder show up at our house." Host Sean Hannity asked President Trump's son if his family had been threatened. "I've been threatened," Eric Trump said. "Our family's been threatened. All of us. We've all had white powder show up at our house."
Corrupt politicians, fraudsters and money launderers could be using loopholes in the United Kingdom’s company register to avoid detection, an analysis by nonprofit Global Witness has found.
The novel data-driven study reviewed more than 10 million records from the British corporate registry.
Groundbreaking 2016 laws that oblige those owning 25 percent of any U.K. company to identify themselves made the study possible.
But Global Witness – using advanced data techniques and tools – found that although most companies comply with the new transparency rules, thousands have no obvious owner or submitted paperwork that raised red flags for potential wrongdoing.Related articles
Companies with no publicly-listed owners, or owners concealed behind layers of offshore structures, are routinely used in criminal activity. ICIJ’s Panama Papers and Paradise Papers investigations revealed how politicians had made and received bribes and hidden millions of dollars from the public – in part through secretive companies – including those in the U.K.
Global Witness found that more than 335,000 companies had not filed owner information. And while those companies may not be hiding illegal activity, other indicators used in the data analysis suggest that companies registered in the U.K. could be used for illegal activity.
Global Witness collaborated with London-based data analysis charity DataKind UK to build online tools to better visualize and assess the risks of anonymous or incomplete company details.
One online tool analyzed company filings alongside indicators that police, government agencies and civil society agree increase the risk of wrongdoing and may require further scrutiny.
The analysis found 208,572 companies listed post box addresses with no connection to the company’s owner, 140,409 companies with owners or others who provided addresses in tax havens, and 416 companies that changed names more than five times, possibly to obscure corporate activity.
“The open data format of the register provides a huge opportunity for law enforcement … civil society organizations, journalists and others to analyze the data for mistakes and suspicious behavior,” Global Witness reported.
The report found that the register’s failure to systematically verify the information submitted by companies leaves it open to abuse.
There is no system that actively identifies and responds to suspicious information, Global Witness found, noting that the only fine issued by the U.K. registrar so far was against a transparency campaigner. The campaigner deliberately filed incorrect information to show how lax the system remains.
The European Union’s 28-member countries will soon follow the U.K. with company registers. Global Witness reported, however, that the level of information made freely available, or in a searchable format, may vary.
Other countries, including the United States, do not currently collect or publish corporate ownership information in a centralized database.
One senior British police officer called anonymous companies “the single biggest obstacle to investigating corruption cases,” Global Witness reported.
The post Loopholes in UK company register show crime can still flourish, study finds appeared first on ICIJ.
Florida is in the midst of a still-unfolding water pollution catastrophe. Many formerly picture-perfect beaches and posh waterfront neighborhoods are now surreal toxic landscapes where the smell is so pungent, it can make you nauseous.
Parts of South Florida are being inundated by harmful algal blooms, which affect both public health and marine life, including red tide (caused by the alga Karenia brevis) and blue-green algae (more precisely known as cyanobacteria, or Microcystis, which are technically bacteria but commonly referred to as algae).
While both types of toxin-producing algae are normal parts of their environments, the crisis is not. Water pollution and climate change are fueling this supersized toxic algae mess.Tags: algae bloomsblue-green algaeFloridaLake Okeechobeewater pollution
Go to the GEO front page
Electric cooperatives in the U.S. have vastly accelerated solar power installments. Today, they own or purchase more than nine times as much solar photovoltaic (PV) power as they did in 2013, a new report says.
The report, “A Solar Revolution in Rural America,” was prepared by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), a national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. Electric co-ops serve 42 million Americans across 56% of the nation’s landscape, it noted.
The dramatic increase in solar installations is pegged to NRECA’s launch of the Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration (SUNDA) project in 2014. As part of that project, which leveraged funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, several electric co-ops developed models and resources aimed to integrate solar into their respective portfolios. It began as a partnership with 17 cooperatives to build 30 MW of solar in 10 states.
Go to the GEO front page
Go to the GEO front page
With unprecedented fires, floods and heat waves sweeping the globe, 2018 is on track to be the fourth-hottest year on record. The regions most affected by the disastrous effects of global warming are overwhelmingly not the countries that have contributed the most to climate change. According to the 2018 Global Climate Risk Index released by the public policy group Germanwatch, the nine countries most affected by climate change in the past 20 years are developing nations, including Honduras, Haiti, Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Indian government says more than 500 people have died as a result of flooding and heavy rains in recent weeks. In Iran, there is a chronic shortage of water, and it is estimated there is some form of drought in 97 percent of the country. We speak with Rob Nixon, professor in the humanities and the environment at Princeton University. He is the author of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor.
Please check back later for full transcript.
The post Government Inaction on Climate Change Hits World’s Poor the Hardest appeared first on Truthout.
In California, tens of thousands of residents have been forced to evacuate as deadly wildfires continue to rage across the state. The worst wildfire, the Carr Fire, has engulfed more than 100,000 acres and destroyed more than a thousand homes in and around Redding, California, making it the sixth most destructive fire in the state’s history. Authorities said Wednesday that 16 of the largest wildfires burning in California have scorched 320,000 acres — an area larger than Los Angeles. Eight people have died. Governor Jerry Brown called the growing intensity and frequency of California wildfires the state’s “new normal” this week. More fires continue to consume parts of Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Arizona, along with recent blazes across the globe in Greece, Canada and the Arctic Circle. We speak with Brenda Ekwurzel, senior climate scientist and director of climate science for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Please check back later for full transcript.
The post California Wildfires Will Continue to Intensify With Climate Change appeared first on Truthout.
It shouldn’t be necessary to explain why it’s wrong, not to say potentially criminal, for a presidential candidate to work with a foreign power to undermine his opponent’s campaign. Unfortunately, we live in the era of hyper-partisanship, and as a result, many Republicans and their media supporters — the same people who have insisted for months that there was “no collusion” between Trump and Russia — are now presenting a different spin: If there was collusion, it would be no big deal.
We can start with a Tuesday morning tweet by President Trump himself.
Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn’t matter because there was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2018
Then there was this bizarre statement by Rudy Giuliani, New York’s former “hero mayor” who has taken Michael Cohen’ former job as a lawyer and shill for Trump.
“I don’t even know if that’s a crime — colluding with Russians. Hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack. He didn’t pay for the hacking,” Giuliani proclaimed to CNN on Monday.
Even before Giuliani was carrying Trump’s water, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was on ABC News on Sunday, claiming that even if everything Cohen has said or hinted about Trump is proved to be true, there’s simply nothing to get all upset about.
“We don’t even know if the information that we’re being given by that other outlet is even accurate,” Christie told ABC, apparently referring to Cohen. “Now, if it is, and we’ve discussed this before, collusion is not a crime. And so the fact of the matter is that we’re a long way away yet from having anything to talk about here.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson is aboard the same train. He told his viewers on Friday night that even if Trump actually colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign, well, so what?
“What exactly would the crime here be? It’s not illegal to talk to foreigners. Nobody is claiming that any information changed hands, though even if it did, so what?” Carlson said, according to a transcript from Media Matters for America.
A day before that, National Review contributing editor Andrew McCarthy tried to characterize working with a hostile foreign power to win an election as merely “icky” rather than sinister.
“Look, I don’t think that it’s bad if campaigns are turning to foreign governments for dirt. It’s not collusion, it’s not something that’s impeachable, it’s icky. But that’s what this is,” McCarthy said, according to a transcript from Media Matters for America.
Allow me to demonstrate the fallacy in this reasoning with a Watergate comparison.
In many ways, the parallels between the Trump-Russia scandal and Watergate are quite striking. Both involved efforts by Republican candidates to dig up dirt on their Democratic opponents. Both memorably involved famous pieces of real estate: the Watergate complex in Washington; Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan. Both dealt critical damage to the presidencies of the men implicated in these messes, even if it remains unclear whether Trump will ever be forced into the resignation that, regardless of what happens, future historians will agree that he richly deserves.
But practically speaking, there is one key difference between the Nixon-McGovern election of 1972 and the Trump-Clinton election of 2016. To illustrate this point, I turn to this passage from “The Making of the President — 1972” by Theodore H. White.
In this writer’s opinion, it is possible that at least three or four million Americans were so disillusioned by both candidates that they chose not to vote at all. Had it not been for Watergate, it is quite possible that Richard Nixon’s margin would have been increased by another three or four million votes — that, indeed, his stunning 61-38 victory might have gone as high as 65-35, for a record that might never again be approached in American two-party history. The Watergate affair blew that opportunity.
For the record, no candidate has ever attained 65 percent of the popular vote, either before 1972 or since then. (Indeed, no candidate has broken 60 percent since Nixon, although Ronald Reagan came close in 1984.)
This is where the contrast with 2016 becomes crucially important. As statistician Nate Silver has pointed out, we will never know for sure how much Russian disinformation campaigns and the hacking of Democratic Party email accounts hurt Hillary Clinton among voters. Silver observed that polls can demonstrate that former FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress in late October “probably did cost Clinton the election,” but the Russian campaign against Clinton is not measurable.
As Silver put it, that campaign may have had no impact whatsoever, or may have caused “chronic, insidious effects that could be mistaken for background noise but which in the aggregate were enough to swing the election by 0.8 percentage points toward Trump — not a high hurdle to clear because 0.8 points isn’t much at all.” Because the campaign of Russian interference was spread out over an extended period of time, however, its effects cannot be determined with certainty.
Just because hard data is wanting here doesn’t mean common sense can’t fill in at least some of the gaps. Anyone who paid attention during the 2016 election was aware, at least vaguely, that “Clinton’s emails” were a bad thing. Similarly, they developed the general impression that the emails published by WikiLeaks in the summer of 2016 were damaging, and proved or suggested that Clinton and those around her were corrupt and dishonest.
To be fair, a large proportion of voters had the same general impression about Trump (and with far more reason, although right now that’s not the point). So it’s fair to assume that many of them simply sat out of the election — more than would have been the case had Clinton’s image of “corruption” been limited to overtly partisan attacks coming from Republicans rather than being an all-sides barrage orchestrated by the Russian government and embraced, to a disgraceful degree, by The New York Times and other mainstream publications.
Lest we forget, Clinton won the national popular vote by two percentage points and nearly 2.9 million votes in spite of these challenges — a much greater margin than Jimmy Carter’s over Gerald Ford in 1976 or Nixon’s over Hubert Humphrey in 1968. It is reasonable to speculate that Clinton’s popular-vote lead would have been significantly larger without the Russian hacking and disinformation and that she almost certainly would have won the Electoral College as well. So while the Watergate scandal had no meaningful effect on the 1972 election, there is a strong chance that collusion — or, to use a more accurate term, criminal conspiracy — between the Trump campaign and the Russian government actually put Trump in the White House.
Of course, there is also the almost unmentionable possibility that the Russians did something which Nixon and his cronies never pulled off — actually tampering with the election results themselves.
Salon reached out to Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics to ask whether the disparity between poll numbers and election results in 2016 could indicate tampering — and whether Americans should be concerned that the 2018 midterms could be compromised. Kondik says he thinks the 2016 result was on the level, statistically speaking.
We shouldn’t take polling as a perfect prediction of the truth, particularly if there are reasons why the polling may be off in a systematic way (in this case, it seemed like some of the swing-state polls overstated the education level of the electorate, something that is common in polling).
I get a lot of questions from people wondering if the  results seemed tainted. My reply is typically to say that if the results were rigged, they were rigged in a very sophisticated way, because to me the results make sense based on the educational split (and other factors) across both competitive and noncompetitive states.
What would a hypothetical scenario look like in which America’s election results had actually been rigged by hackers? Kondik thinks certain patterns would give it away: “If similar types of counties demographically were voting in really different ways, or if there were drastically different patterns in competitive vs. noncompetitive states.”
Kondik agreed that a sophisticated hacker could take such factors into account and try to cover their tracks, but said, “I think it would be hard with our decentralized voting system.”
Christy Setzer, president of the Washington public relations firm New Heights Communications in Washington, told Salon by email that Democrats’ best strategy to counteract possible Russian interference is simply to “cede no ground.” Conventional wisdom holds, she said, that Republicans “can prevail if attention stays on a growing economy — but that should be easy territory for Democrats to compete on as well.” Don’t try to come off like “GOP-lite,” she urged, and don’t forget about the Supreme Court: “Americans don’t want to overturn Roe or the Affordable Care Act, nor do they want a Court that will. Use it.”
When asked what advice she had for Republicans, Setzer said, “Ask for help from the Russians?”
The post Whatever Word We Use, Trump’s Entanglement With Russians Is a Big Deal appeared first on Truthout.
Here we are in the middle of the second year of Donald Trump’s presidency and if there’s one thing we know by now, it’s that the leader of the free world can create an instant reality-TV show on geopolitical steroids at will. True, he’s not polished in his demeanor, but he has an unerring way of instilling the most uncertainty in any situation in the least amount of time.
Whether through executive orders, tweets, cable-news interviews, or rallies, he regularly leaves diplomacy in the dust, while allegedly delivering for a faithful base of supporters who voted for him as the ultimate anti-diplomat. And while he’s at it, he continues to take a wrecking ball to the countless political institutions that litter the Acela Corridor. Amid all the tweeted sound and fury, however, the rest of us are going to have to face the consequences of Donald Trump getting his hands on the economy.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, entropy is “a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder.” With that in mind, perhaps the best way to predict President Trump’s next action is just to focus on the path of greatest entropy and take it from there.
Let me do just that, while exploring five key economic sallies of the Trump White House since he took office and the bleakness and chaos that may lie ahead as the damage to the economy and our financial future comes into greater focus.1. Continuous Banking Deregulation
When Trump ran for the presidency, he tapped into a phenomenon that was widely felt but generally misunderstood: a widespread anger at Wall Street and corporate cronyism. Upon taking office, he promptly redirected that anger exclusively at the country’s borders and its global economic allies and adversaries.
His 2016 election campaign had promised not to “let Wall Street get away with murder” and to return the banking environment to one involving less financial risk to the country. His goal and that of the Republicans as a party, at least theoretically, was to separate bank commercial operations (deposits and lending) from their investment operations (securities creation, trading, and brokerage) by bringing back a modernized version of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.
Fast forward to May 18, 2017 when Trump’s deregulatory-minded treasury secretary, “foreclosure king” Steven Mnuchin, faced a congressional panel and took a 180 on the subject. He insisted that separating people’s everyday deposits from the financial-speculation operations of the big banks, something that had even made its way into the Republicanplatform, was a total nonstarter.
Instead, congressional Republicans, with White House backing, promptly took aim at the watered-down version of the Glass-Steagall Act passed in the Obama years, the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. In it, the Democrats had already essentially capitulated to Wall Street by riddling the act with a series of bank-friendly loopholes. They had, however, at least ensured that banks would set aside more of their own money in the event of another Great Recession-like crisis and provide a strategy or “living will” in advance for that possibility, while creating a potent consumer-protection apparatus, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Say goodbye to all of that in the Trump era.
Dubbed “the Choice Act” — officially the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act — the new Republican bill removed the “living will” requirement for mid-sized banks, thereby allowing the big banks a gateway to do the same. When Trump signed the bill, hesaidthat it was “the next step in America’s unprecedented economic comeback. There’s never been a comeback like we’ve made. And one day, the fake news is going to report it.”
In fact, thanks to the Trump (and Republican) flip-flop, banks don’t need to defend themselves anymore. The president went on to extol the untold virtues of his pick to run the CFPB, meant to keep consumers from being duped (or worse) by their own banks. Before Trump got involved, it had won $12 billion in settlements from errant banks for the citizens it championed.
However, Kathy Kraninger, a former Homeland Security official tapped by Trump to run the entity, has no experience in banking or consumer protection. His selection follows perfectly in the path of current interim head Mick Mulvaney (also the head of the Office of Management and Budget). All you need to know about him is that he once derided the organization as a “sick, sad” joke. As its director, he’s tried to choke the life out of it by defunding it.
In this fashion, such still-evolving deregulatory actions reflect the way Trump’s anti-establishment election campaign has turned into a full-scale program aimed at increasing the wealth and power of the financial elites, while decreasing their responsibility to us. Don’t expect a financial future along such lines to look pretty. Think entropy.2. Tensions Rise in the Auto Wars
Key to Trump’s economic vision is giving his base a sense of camaraderie by offering them rallying cries from a bygone era of nationalism and isolationism. In the same spirit, the president has launched a supposedly base-supporting policy of imposing increasingly random and anxiety-provoking trade tariffs.
Take, for instance, the automotive sector, which such tariffs are guaranteed to negatively impact. It is ground zero for many of his working-class voters and a key focus of the president’s entropic economic policies. When he was campaigning, he promised many benefits to auto workers (and former auto workers) and they proved instrumental in carrying him to victory in previously “blue” rust-belt states. In the Oval Office, he then went on to tout what he deemed personal victories in getting Ford to move a plant back to the US from Mexico while pressuring Japanese companies to make more cars in Michigan.
He also began disrupting the industry with a series of on-again-off-again, imposed or sometimes merely threatened tariffs, including on steel, that went against the wishes of the entire auto sector. Recently, Jennifer Thomas of the industry’s main lobbying group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, assured a Commerce Department hearing that “the opposition is widespread and deep because the consequences are alarming.”
Indeed, the Center for Automotive Research has reported that a 25% tariff on autos and auto parts (something the president has threatened but not yet followed through upon against the European Union, Canada, and Mexico) could reduce the number of domestic vehicle sales by up to two million units and might wipe out more than 714,000 jobs here. Declining demand for cars, whose prices could rise between $455 and $6,875, depending on the type of tariff, in the face of a Trump vehicle tax, would hurt American and foreign manufacturers operating in the US who employ significant numbers of American workers.
Though President Trump’s threat to slap high tariffs on imported autos and auto parts from the European Union is now in limbo due to a recent announcement of ongoing negotiations, he retains the right if he gets annoyed by… well, anything… to do so. The German auto industry alone employs more than 118,000 people in the US and, if invoked, such taxes would increase its car prices and put domestic jobs instantly at risk.3. The Populist Tyranny of the Trump Tax Cuts
President Trump has been particularly happy about his marquee corporate tax “reform” bill, assuring his base that it will provide jobs and growth to American workers, while putting lots of money in their pockets. What it’s actually done, however, is cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, providing corporations with tons of extra cash. Their predictable reaction has not been to create jobs and raise wages, but to divert that bonanza to their own coffers via share buybacks in which they purchase their own stock. That provides shareholders with bigger, more valuable pieces of a company, while boosting earnings and CEO bonuses.
Awash in tax-cut cash, American companies have announced a record $436.6 billion worth of such buybacks so far in 2018, close to double the record $242.1 billion spent in that way in all of 2017. Among other things, this ensures less tax revenue to the US Treasury, which in turn means less money for social programs or simply for providing veterans with proper care.
As it is, large American companies only pay an average effective tax rate of 18% (a figure that will undoubtedly soon drop further). Last year, they only contributed 9% of the tax receipts of the government and that’s likely to drop further to a record low this year, sending the deficit soaring. In other words, in true Trumpian spirit, corporations will be dumping the fabulous tax breaks they got directly onto the backs of other Americans, including the president’s base.
Meanwhile, some of the crew who authored such tax-policies, creating a $1.5 trillion corporate tax give-away, have already moved on to bigger and better things, landing lobbying positions at the very corporations they lent such a hand to and which can now pay them even more handsomely. For the average American worker, on the other hand, wages have not increased. Indeed, between the first and second quarters of 2018 real wages dropped by 1.8% after the tax cuts were made into law. Trump hasn’t touted that or what it implies about our entropic future.4. Trade Wars, Currency Wars, and the Conflicts to Come
If everyone takes their toys to another playground, the school bully has fewer kids to rough up. And that’s exactly the process Trump’s incipient trade wars seem to be accelerating — the hunt for new playgrounds and alliances by a range of major countries that no longer trust the US government to behave in a consistent manner.
So far, the US has already slapped $34 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese imports. China has retaliated in kind. Playing a dangerous global poker game, Trump promptly threatened to raise that figure to at least$200 billion. China officially ignored that threat, only inciting the president’s ire further. In response, he recently announced that he was “willing to slap tariffs on every Chinese good imported to the US should the need arise.” Speaking to CNBC’s Squawk Box host Joe Kernen on July 20th, he boasted, “I’m ready to go to 500 [billion dollars].”
That’s the equivalent of nearly every import the Chinese sent into the US last year. In contrast, the US exports only $129.9 billion in products to China, which means the Chinese can’t respond in kind, but they can target new markets, heighten the increasingly tense relations between the world’s two economic superpowers, and even devalue their currency to leverage their products more effectively on global markets.
Global trade alliances were already moving away from a full-scale reliance on the US even before Donald Trump began his game of tariffs. That trend has only gained traction in the wake of his economic actions, including his tariffs on a swath of Mexican, Canadian, and European imports. Recently, two major American allies turned a slow dance toward economic cooperation into a full-scale embrace. On July 17th, the European Union and Japan agreed on a mega-trade agreement that will cover one-third of the products made by the world economy.
Meanwhile, China has launched more than 100 new business projects in Brazil alone, usurping what was once a US market, investing a record $54 billion in that country. It is also preparing to increase its commitments not just to Brazil, but to Russia, India, China, and South Africa (known collectively as the BRICS countries), investing $14.7 billion in South Africa ahead of an upcoming BRICS summit there. In other words, Donald Trump is lending a disruptively useful hand to the creation of an economic world in which the US will no longer be as central an entity.
Ultimately, tariffs and the protectionist policies that accompany them will hurt consumers and workers alike, increasing prices and reducing demand. They could force companies to cut back on hiring, innovation, and expansion, while also hurting allies and potentially impeding economic growth globally. In other words, they represent an American version of an economic winding down, both domestically and internationally.5.Fighting the Fed
President Trump’s belligerence has centered around his belief that the wealthiest, most powerful nation on the planet has been victimized by the rest of the world. Now, that feeling has been extended to the Federal Reserve where he recently lashed out against its chairman (and his own appointee) Jerome Powell.
The Fed had been providing trillions of dollars of stimulus to the banking system and financial markets though a bond-buying program wonkily called “quantitative easing” or “QE.” Its claim: that this Wall Street subsidy is really a stimulus for Main Street.
Unlikely as that story may prove to be, presidents have normally refrained from publicly commenting on the Federal Reserve’s policies, allowing it to maintain at least a veneer of independence, as mandated by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. (In reality, the Fed has remained significantly dependent on the whims and desires of the White House, a story revealed in my new book Collusion.) However, this White House is run by a president who couldn’t possibly keep his opinions to himself.
So far, the Fed has raised (or “tightened”) interest rates seven times since December 2015. Under Powell, it has done so twice, with two more hikes forecast by year’s end. These moves were made without Trump’s blessing and he views them as contrary to his administration’s economic objectives. In an interview with CNBC, he proclaimed that he was “not thrilled” with the rate hikes, a clear attempt to directly influence Fed policy. Sticking with tradition, the Fed offered no reaction, while the White House quickly issued a statement emphasizing that the president “did not mean to influence the Fed’s decision-making process.”
Ignoring that official White House position, the president promptly took toTwitterto express his frustrations with the Fed. (“[T]he United States should not be penalized because we are doing so well. Tightening now hurts all that we have done. The US should be allowed to recapture what was lost due to illegal currency manipulation and BAD Trade Deals. Debt coming due & we are raising rates — Really?”)
Fed Chairman Powell may want to highlight his independence from the White House, but as a Trump appointee, any decisions made in the framework of the president’s reactions could reflect political influence in the making. The bigger problem is that such friction could incite greater economic uncertainty, which could prove detrimental to the economic strength Trump says he wants to maintain.When Entropy Wins, the World Loses
Trump’s method works like a well-oiled machine. It keeps everyone — his cabinet, the media, global leaders, and politicians and experts of every sort — off guard. It ensures that his actions will have instant impact, no matter how negative.
Economically, the repercussions of this strategy are both highly global and extremely local. As Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) noted recently, “This trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers and [the] White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches… This administration’s tariffs and bailouts aren’t going to make America great again, they’re just going to make it 1929 again.”
He was referring to the White House’s latest plan to put up to $12 billion taxpayer dollars into those sectors of American agriculture hit hardest by Trump’s tariff wars. Let that sink in for a moment and think: entropy. In order to fix the problems the president has created, allegedly to help America become great again, a deficit-ridden government will have to shell out extra taxpayer dollars.
Subsidizing farmers isn’t in itself necessarily a bad thing. It is, in fact, very New Deal-ish and Franklin Delano Roosevelt-esque. But doing so to fix an unnecessary problem? Under such circumstances, where will it stop? When those $200 billion or $500 billion in tariffs on China (or other countries) enflames the situation further, who gets aid next? Auto workers? Steel workers?
What we are witnessing is the start of the entropy wars, which will, in turn, hasten the unwinding of the American global experiment. Each arbitrary bit of presidential pique, each tweet and insult, is a predecessor to yet more possible economic upheavals and displacements, ever messier and harder to clean up. Trump’s America could easily morph into a worldwide catch-22. The more trust is destabilized, the greater the economic distress. The weaker the economy, the more disruptable it becomes by the Great Disrupter himself. And so the Trump spiral spins onward, circling down an economic drain of his own making.
The post Five Financial Consequences of Trump Getting His Hands on the Economy appeared first on Truthout.
A TV drama has rekindled interest in anti-technology terrorist Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber. Ironically enough, his followers now congregate online.
In 1978 Ted Kaczynski began building letter bombs designed to kill. They were made out of smokeless powder, match heads, nails, potassium nitrate, razor blades, and various other caustic substances. Kaczynski, a former academic and an alumnus of Harvard University, killed three people with these bombs and injured 23 others. His targets were airliners, university professors, and academics. Some of the bombs missed their targets and blew shrapnel into the bodies of postal workers and receptionists. The attacks were unscrupulous and vicious.
Kaczynski, dubbed the Unabomber by the FBI and the media, evaded capture for almost 18 years. He’d been hiding out in a self-contained wood cabin in the forests of Montana, writing a manifesto under the pseudonym “Freedom Club” (or FC) on a portable typewriter. After releasing his 35,000 word manifesto titled “Industrial Society and its Future” to the media in 1995, it became apparent that Kaczynski was fighting, in his mind at least, against the rise of technology and the perceived sickness it had infected the world with. The Unabomber was a militant neo-luddite.
Twenty-two years after Kaczynski’s bombing campaign and imprisonment, he now has a new following. Ironically enough, they all congregate on the internet.
Often characterised by putting pine tree emojis in their names on social media, the new Kaczynski inspired community of self-defined primitivists and neo-luddites is flourishing. They spend hours sharing memes that call for the destruction of modern civilisation, and discuss fringe politics in Twitter group chats or on messaging app Discord. This year they even sent Kaczynski a birthday card. On the face of it, Kaczynski’s new followers are angry, bored, and sick of the modern world.
It’s all been growing rapidly since a TV drama series called Manhunt: Unabomber aired in August 2017. The series tells a fictionalised version of the Unabomber investigation. In the process of catching the elusive felon, the main character, Agent Fitz, pores over Kaczynski’s manifesto until he develops an affinity with it. He comes to the conclusion that while the brutal bombing campaign was wrong, Kaczynski’s theories were actually right. The detective ends up moving into a log cabin in the woods. Kaczynski ends up moving into prison with eight life sentences.
Large parts of the series are factually inaccurate – for example the portrayal of Kaczynski as some kind of CIA experiment gone wrong, and the insinuation that he was mentally ill — but, overall, Manhunt: Unabomber seems to have provided an easily consumable entryway to Kaczynski’s politics for the pine tree community.
Like Agent Fitz in Manhunt, the new Kaczynski followers are drawn to his theories. In this sense, there is somewhat of a Freedom Club revival happening — hundreds of young men seeking to reconnect with nature, as an act of rebellion against the state of Western civilisation, all couched in Ted Kaczynski’s anti-tech ideas.
For a year now I’ve been chatting with various members of the pine tree community. They’re a mixed bag: some seem to actually want the total destruction of modern civilisation, and long for some kind of apocalyptic future; some are sick of the mainstream’s political correctness; some are, of course, just shit-posting. But all of them are disgusted with modernity. In an age of hyper-consumerism and ecological destruction, the pine trees don’t see a place for themselves anywhere within the current system. They long for something radical. “Modernity crushes your soul,” says Regi, who’s been part of the pine tree community from the beginning. “We see our jobs as soul crushing. Modern life is safe and boring and lacking cohesion. Many strive for a more simple and practical existence.”
Regi, 18, became aware of Kaczynski’s crimes and manifesto in December 2017 after seeing Manhunt: Unabomber memes posted online. He got hold of a copy of the manifesto and was immediately converted. “I read the manifesto and it blew my mind,” he said. “I thought it was a work of genius.”
In the six months I’ve been speaking to Regi, he’s gone from meme-posting daily about how much he wants the modern world to collapse, to actually going out and spending time immersed in nature, hiking through the forests where he lives in Canada. He’s seen online less and less.
But Kaczynski’s terrorism hasn’t influenced Regi. He doesn’t agree with his brutal murders and doesn’t believe that they were justified, as some pine trees do. “Killing innocents isn't a good thing and I find his justification for it shitty,” said Regi. “If he wanted to kill someone, why not assassinate like, Steve Jobs, or one of those corporate assholes?”
Like Regi, most of the new young Kaczynskites don’t actually want to set the world on fire. They’re probably not about to start building bombs in their kitchens or ditching their smartphones to live in the woods. But they do feel something is wrong. Between the memes you see these young men putting on their timelines – often anything that mocks “society” or a semi-ironic wish for a war they can die in — you’ll see a genuine fury at the seemingly endless cycle of nature being destroyed in pursuit of profit. That’s not to say they side with environmentalists though — in fact, they laugh in the face of organisations like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund. Their argument is that these people all work within “the system”, so how can they really change anything? The pine trees feel it’s all a little too late.
To quote the Dark Mountain Project, a group of former ecologists who went rogue and came around to a similar way of thinking as Kaczynski, “We were disillusioned with the state of environmentalism. It seemed that sustainability had come to mean sustaining the Western way of living at all costs.” Through their crass shit-posting and memes about militant groups like the Animal Liberation Front, the pine trees are often trying to say the same thing, albeit through the haze of a 21st century internet subculture.
But war and conflict are a constant presence on pine trees' timelines. They spread their message through tweeting things like “SHUT THE FUCK UP URBANITE!” at tech-bros, “normies”, or basically anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Instead of engaging others in public debate, they’d rather trash them. They don’t want allies. And the aesthetics of war plays a big part too. Photos of the Provisional IRA, the EZLN, and even Russian-backed separatists in east Ukraine are often posted alongside joking messages such as “I wish that were me”. One user, Ecoretard, recently tweeted: “Can I get [an] urban conflict with a faction I support so I can die for something I believe in?”
The glorification of war is perhaps another way of expressing their frustration at feeling trapped. As Regi says, “Modern life is safe and boring”. War, or at least the glorification of it, is not.
Now, this community of Kaczynski adherents, misfits, and so-called political extremists, is less a cohesive movement than a loosely connected online subculture. For a while though, there was a pine tree leader of sorts. He was less concerned with the shit-posting and more seriously occupied with the Kaczynski worldview. His name is Rin. He wanted to build an “organisation” of “dedicated people”. He indexed Kaczynski’s prison letters, memorised paragraph numbers of the manifesto, and corralled the first new wave of Kaczynskites into a community. Rin, 24, also ran the most extensive online Kaczynski archive that has probably ever existed. That is until he pulled it all down in disgust last month.
“I decided to dedicate myself to the Ted Kaczynski project because everyone was talking about the Unabomber, but nobody was talking about Ted Kaczynski’s ideas,” Rin says.
Rin has been involved in post-leftist and green-anarchist politics since he was 18. He lives in “a Spanish speaking country”, considers himself a neo-luddite, and tries to follow the teachings of Kaczynski wherever possible. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last six months debating Rin and discussing his radical ideology with him. He’s intelligent and well-read. Despite his preoccupation with Kaczynski, I never got the impression that Rin is actually dangerous, although he can most definitely be considered a Kaczynski sympathiser. He used to run three different Twitter accounts, two of which were the Ted Kaczynski Archive and Ted Was Right. Kaczynski’s victims are never a focus of his discussion and simply shrugged off as a consequence of war.
When Rin noticed the emergence of a small online community of young men interested in all things Unabomber at the start of 2018, he began to round them up. He formed a group chat on Twitter and a radical book club where he would suggest new political literature for the pine trees. He and the rest of them embraced edgy irony and warlike aesthetics as a means to draw the youth in further. It was all very deliberate.
“Manhunt: Unabomber was the perfect breeding ground to introduce the ideology to suitable people,” Rin says. “The people attracted to the ideas began interacting with each other and formed themselves [into] a social base. They were able to form a community and slowly develop a culture. This is what eventually became Prim Twitter [Primitivist Twitter being another name for the pine tree community].”
Whilst the pine tree members were from a variety of different political milieus, they were all united by Rin under a popular front that “embraced collapse” and “loved nature”.
But Rin’s place at the head of the community didn’t last. His own creation began to morph into something unforgivably ugly, when some members began drifting from edgy luddite memes and the embrace of wild nature, to outright far-right ideologies. “Some in the community began flirting with fascism,” Rin says. “And not the left-wing type where everything they dislike is labelled ‘fascism’ — but actual genuine fascism. That was the final drop in the bucket for me. Totalitarian ideologies like fascism and communism are something I'm extremely hostile against.”
Rin is quick to emphasise that despite many on the left considering Kaczynski a fascist (mostly due to the fact he attacked them constantly in his manifesto), he actually describes fascism as “kook ideology” (“page 150 of his book Technological Slavery!”) and says Nazi ideology is “evil” in one of his letters. Rin also points out that Kaczynski has never tried to align himself with fascists, he was in favour of radical black liberation groups, and always saw green anarchist types as his natural comrades. This doesn’t change the fact that many fascist groups today use Kaczynski as an icon. Even Atomwaffen Division, the esoteric neo-Nazi militant group in the US, have made graphics using his face.
Some of the pine tree community are now splintering off into different groups, deviating from Kaczynski’s work to that of Pentti Linkola, who is a self-described eco-fascist. This coincides with new ecologically-focused Neo-Nazi groups that are now cropping up. Green fringe politics is all very much in vogue on the internet, as is the resurgence of neo-fascism. The two are starting to merge.
Rin scrapped his online Kaczynski archive in June due to the creep of fascism amongst the pine trees. But he still believes that a new generation of neo-luddism is coming.
“There is very much an interest in Ted Kaczynski growing deep down,” he says. “It's in its infancy, but it seems Ted being in prison has finally paid off. He’s gotten some extremely dedicated neo-luddites ready to contribute to the collapse of technological society.”
Rin may sound militant, but the likelihood of a major neo-luddite terror attack remains pretty low. The Freedom Club revival is still mostly spreading via memes online, not via letter bombs. The idea that our interaction with technology has reached a crisis point, is spreading further than the pine tree fringe ideology though. This year the theme has been featured often in the press. Even Silicon Valley, which made tech junkies out of us all, is having a twinge of guilt. Some reformed tech-bros have created “humane tech” organisations such as the Time Well Spent movement, founded by former Google employee Tristan Harris.
The pine tree community is a radical response to what writer Grafton Tanner once called “the mall”: a digital hellscape where people are nostalgic for something that never existed, constantly “doped on consumer goods, energy drinks, and Apple products.”
In Rin’s opinion, it’s all falling down already. “Our technological civilisation is complex and unsustainable. Its breakdown is inevitable," he says. "It will be slow and boring, but technological civilisation has already signed its death warrant.”
By Jake Hanrahan on Wired
Mexico’s historic port of Veracruz has long been characterised by conflict: Having fought off the Spanish, the French and the Americans – twice – it has earned itself the title of “Cuatro Veces Heroica” or “Four Times Heroic” for its valiance in battle.
Today’s Veracruz is free from colonial attack, but it has once again become an epicenter of conflict in recent years. More than 5,000 murders were recorded in 2012-2016, and as many as 20,000 individuals were “disappeared” from the region in 2006-2016. For reporters, Veracruz has become the “most dangerous place in the entire Western hemisphere.”
This time, Veracruz residents are under siege not from foreign forces, but from drug cartels, corruption and the state’s very own police force. The ubiquitous 4x4s pickup trucks manned by heavily armed police aside, there are also no obvious signs of destruction or conflict on the city’s expansive coastal roads: Veracruz’s latest war is largely invisible. Unless of course, one experiences it first-hand.“Why Do Some Appear and Others Not?”
Blanca del Carmen Leyva is now retired and lives with her family in a middle-class neighbourhood a few kilometers off the coast. Her son, Vicente Rodolfo, who dedicated himself to a modest living maintaining electrical appliances, is photographed in a polished gold frame sitting on a glass table in her living room.
Ms. Leyva clearly remembers calling Vicente three years ago and urging him, not for the first time, to replace his run-down work van for a newer model. “I hated that beat-up old thing!” she says, breaking a wry smile. To her delight, Vicente said he had just reached 30 years of service with his company, so he would be trading in his van for a newer model with his loyalty bonus.
But a day later, when Vicente had not arrived for work, family and colleagues began asking for him at his mother’s house. His phone rang straight to voicemail.
When she had checked all local hospitals and realized no one else had heard anything from him, Leyva reported his disappearance to the police.
“I am a somewhat distrustful person, but the cause directed me toward believing in someone, someone that would tell me something about the whereabouts of my son,” Leyva says.
That was three years ago; since then, no one has heard any more of Vicente, his body never appeared, he never did get to replace his van and this was the final conversation Leyva had with her only son. The last thing Leyva knows of his disappearance is that he was waiting for the bus to go home. “We don’t know if it was there [that he disappeared] or when he got off at his house — we have no witnesses at all,” she says.
Later on, bodies of young boys in bin liners began appearing in the neighbourhood, but Vicente was never among them. “My question is: Why do some appear and others not?” Leyva asks. “But I still cannot find an answer.”The collective meet regularly for solidarity, to discuss their cases and to address the local media to ensure those who disappeared remain in the media’s eye. Some have lost sons, others brothers; a common loss and desire for closure brings them together. Pictured here (from left to right) are Lidia Lara, Malu Peña, Yolanda Alegria and Malena Aguilar.Luke Taylor Veracruz’s Surge in Kidnappings and Corruption
Leyva is one of hundreds of mothers in Veracruz who continue to search for their disappeared loved ones since the phenomenon began to spike in 2010 with the election of former Governor Javier Duarte.
According to Leyva, and others who have lost family members, the victims are largely young men — some as young as 13 years old — and seemed to have been picked up and “disappeared” in acts of “social cleansing,” in which armed gangs select individuals for being homeless, poor or using drugs. Family members often question why their son was selected, but in some cases, it appears the boys were simply victims of a deadly mix-up.
“In one case, a school child overheard one of the men that took his friend away say, ‘We have the wrong guy,’” Leyva says. “But it was too late. ‘He’s already seen us,’ his accomplice replied, and they took him anyway.”
Despite persistent visits to the police station, in two years, there have been no developments in the investigation into the disappearance of Vicente. Authorities have consistently reiterated their limited resources, but the mothers have long held their doubts whether the authorities were ever interested at all.
“I thought it was going to be a stronger investigation, but in reality, this is a great disappointment I have to carry,” Leyva says. “If you lose a dog, maybe they’ll put a lot of attention into searching for it, but not for humans.”
Following this lack of interest and strange reports they heard from witnesses, many of the mothers began wondering if those who were supposed to protect their children were involved in their disappearance.
“We always knew that the police took the boys,” says Lucía Diaz, leader of the Solecito (Little Sun) Collective, a group of over 250 individuals in Veracruz who have lost family members and now work together to find them. “There are many testimonies, there are many witnesses. The problem is that many people do not want to speak out of fear.”
Lucía’s suspicions — and those of others in the collective — have since been confirmed to have been well-founded. What initially seemed to be a great tragedy has evolved into a scandalous state corruption case and offers a look into some of the most serious political issues Mexico faces today.
This year, it was revealed that some of these boys, aged 16-22, had been selected for alleged associations with drug cartels, picked up, tortured, killed and then hidden. The perpetrators, however, were not armed gangs, but the police authorities themselves, working secretly with the Jalisco Cartel to disappear rival cartel members of Los Zetas.
Police commanders received orders to carry out the secret operation from then-Governor of Veracruz Javier Duarte, who was previously charged for money laundering and links to organized crime. Having extradited Duarte from Guatemala last year, the current governor of Veracruz is now asking for additional charges against Duarte to be added to the list.
The then-attorney general of Veracruz is also implicated in the disappearances scandal for attempting to cover it up. So far, 19 police officers have been charged for their roles in the disappearances, but the full extent of the operation may never be revealed.
“In 99 percent of the cases, the police were responsible,” argues Lidia Lara, another member of the collective who continues to search for her brother. Others whose relatives have disappeared estimate the police to have been linked to up to 80 percent of the disappearances.
Truthout invited Veracruz’s district attorney and the local police force to respond to the allegations, but neither were able to comment on the matter.Blanca del Carmen Leyva was close to her only son, Vicente. Since he disappeared three years ago, she knows very little of what happened to him and no advances have been made in the investigation. Leyva says “If you lose a dog, maybe they’ll put a lot of attention into searching for it, but not for humans.”Luke Taylor The Search Goes On
Despite the uncovering of the corruption scandal and the involvement of international institutions such as the United Nations in the investigations, the majority of family members still have not recovered the bodies of their loved ones, according to members of the collective.
“They [the police ] say they can’t advance because they don’t have the resources, but I think there are resources here in Veracruz because they have the resources for their campaigns and publicity,” says Perla Damián, whose son was one of eight boys to have been taken in one police operation.
Following the police scandal and lack of results from state authorities, family members say their best hope to finding closure is through the efforts of the collective.
Solecito holds raffles and sells used clothes to fund the transport, lunch – and now heavy machinery – on its missions to find and dig up the bodies of the disappeared. Many of its members take part in the excavations themselves and have even begun training on how to identify the corpses.
“If it was not for all this, we would never have found the graves, as the government is not helping us at all,” Damian says.
In March 2017, the group found more than 250 skulls in a single mass grave. The discovery came after two men handed the collective a map marked with crosses during Solecito’s annual Mother’s Day march. To date, Lucía Diaz reports that the collective has discovered a total of 295 bodies — most of them complete and blindfolded in black bin liners.
The number of discoveries in Veracruz by Solecito and other collectives has become so high that Luis Tapia, a lawyer at the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, which assists the collective in its excavations, says it has created a “structural problem”: The state is incapable of identifying bodies at the same rate at which voluntary organizations can find them. “No human body has been processed from those found in the two operations in which we have participated in both November 2017, and now,” Tapia says.
Such comments paint an unpromising picture, but members of the collective remain hopeful their dedication will bring results in the form of closure for the hundreds of mothers who continue longing for an answer.
“I have faith in finding my son and helping my sisters in the same pain to overcome and comprehend their absence [of their family members],” Leyva says. “These women are very strong, they are very brave.”
A promise to tackle a surge in violence and rampant corruption played a part in the election of Andres Manuel López Obrador, who will take presidential office in December. López Obrador has pledged to get to the bottom of the thousands of “unjust and terrible” disappearances that have taken place across Mexico in recent years by creating a national truth commission.
“In all states there are committees, there are groups of relatives of victims who are asking for help to find their loved ones,” López Obrador stated in June. “Let us act on that demand … to end the war.”
The post Mothers of Mexico’s Disappeared Young Men Blame the Police appeared first on Truthout.
In a late afternoon vote that garnered very little attention in the corporate media — and predictably didn’t spark any of the handwringing about costs that pundits typically apply to social programs for the poor and working class — 40 Democrats and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) joined nearly every Senate Republican on Wednesday to send a $717 billion military spending bill to President Donald Trump’s desk.
The legislation — formally titled the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 — is now “on track to become law before the start of the fiscal year for the first time since the fiscal 1997 bill,” The Hill reported. Trump is expected to sign the measure before the end of the week.
The final Senate vote tally was 87-10 (view the full roll call below).
As the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein noted on Twitter, the legislation will hit Trump’s desk at a time when “military spending, adjusted for inflation, is higher than at any point outside the Iraq War.”
Among notable Democratic yes votes:
— Tom Carper (DE), who faces @KerriHarrisDE in a primary;
— Minority Leader Schumer
— Possible 2020 hopefuls Sherrod Brown (OH), Cory Booker (NJ)
Military spending, adjusted for inflation, is higher than at any point outside the Iraq War: pic.twitter.com/NcoTmurOi4
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) August 2, 2018
Overall, the 2019 NDAA will hike military spending by $82 billion. The Intercept’s Alex Emmons has noted that with $80 billion a year, you could make public colleges and universities in the US tuition-free.”
Here are the ten senators who voted against the spending measure: Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Lee (R-Utah.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
And here are the 40 Democrats who voted to send the NDAA to Trump’s desk:
The post Senate Sends $717 Billion Military Spending Bill to Trump’s Desk appeared first on Truthout.
On Thursday 27th of July around 2 in the morning in Athens, on Bouboulinas st. in Exachia neighborhood, a squadron of greek cops kidnapped and tortured an anarchist immigrant. Straight away they began to torture me with a barrage of kicks, using racist and fascist insults. Meanwhile, the police stated that my offense is that I am an anarchist and belong to a known political group of Exarchia. Then the squadron of riot cops forced me into a dark alley. They laid me on the ground and they tried to break my ribs by kicking; I placed my hand on my ribs to protect them. They took away my hand from my ribs and tried to break my fingers with their shields. In order to protect my fingers, I pulled my hand under my belly. At that moment, they hit my ribs again to break them. This action lasted a long time, until one of the cops proposed to break my wrists. So they placed my hands on the curb stone to break them with batons, but I managed to pull my hands away. This escalated their anger, and by saying fascist and racist insults, they all started to beat me.
They beat me for more than one and a half hours. All the while they were taking several photos of me getting beaten up, as well as when I was lying semi conscious on the street. When cops realized that my body had been seriously damaged and I was not able to move, they started to play a game with me, telling me “you have ten seconds to leave from here, if we catch you again, we will kill you”, and two cops moved a little bit ahead of me to catch me again. They hit my knee several times with batons to make sure that I can not escape. When one of them turned to look behind him, with all of the pain that I had, I started running. One of the cops tried to catch me again but I could escape by running up Tositsa and seek help at a nearby house of comrades.
Solidarity paramedics came immediately and after examination, told me I should go to hospital. There they found that aside from severe bruising all over my body and head wounds, I aslo had a fructured spinal joint.
Exarchia, as an area with self-organized projects and revolutionary struggle, is under constant attack from the state because it is part of international social struggle against capitalism, mafia, terrorism and generally the system. Exarchia is a zone of defense where different groups exist together to fight for freedom and equality against the oppression of the system. By mutual cooperation we can meet the needs of each other without any authority. For this struggle the state beats us.
The state by placing permanent police forces in the perimeter of Exarchia has made a kind of border between us and the rest of Athens, so it is as if they put us in a kind of prison. At the moment we have no other way to resist this prison except riots against the military check points. One of the reasons that the cops wanted to break my wrists is because as they said, I am one of those who participate in the riots. Many persons usually participate in these clashes with the police forces, because they do not want to be in prison, because they do not want control from any authority.
As an immigrant anarchist I understand that the struggle for freedom is common between locals and migrants. For this reason I work towards unity and making collective body between locals and migrants. We will not fight only for immigrants but for everyone, because we understand that our pain, our problems are the same.
Immigrants are under constant attack from the state and facists and it does not matter what kind of goverment is in power, whether it is ultra-right or leftist goverment. SYRIZA present themselves as supporters of immigrants but the reality is they imprison migrants on mass scale, every day they deport and kill people at the borders. We know that all authority is our enemy.
In Exarchia today immigrants are under increasing threat of repression. Recently they began to make police sweep operations on the square arresting any migrant that is there. At the same time there are groups in Exarchia who act like police, using the same tactics, like pogroms on the square against migrants. Such as a group known as security team, military part of the political group “Antiauthoritarian Movement” (AK), who have relation with the government and present themselves as supporters of immigrants, but instead they use immigrants as a cover for their mafia business. As an immigrant I have to say to such groups: stop using our name for your dirty business.
It is clear that cops and mafia work together for the same purpose: control and the crushing of resistance.
The message of this violent attack by the pigs was: to terrorize immigrants, anarchists and those who actively resist and fight the police. We shall not kneal down. The state’s violence make it more clear that our struggle is just.
COPS MAFIA MURDERERSGreeceathensanarchists in troublecategory: International
On 21st June the last person imprisoned following the Quai de Valmy case appeared before a sentencing-execution judge regarding a request for reduction of the sentence.
This person has been held for almost a year and a half and the release date is set for February 2019. The hearing took place 9 months after the request was submitted, even if the deadline established by law is 4 months. The prison administration and the prosecutor expressed opposition to his release, on the basis of his stubborn silence concerning the events. The judge decided to issue a verdict on 11th July.
Apparently it was not sufficient to reach a decision with three-weeks’ delay, three weeks of waiting and hoping. On 11th July silence from the judge, and on12th we learned that the decision had been postponed to ‘the beginning of next week’. These constant setbacks, be they deliberate or due to the negligence of those who hold others’ freedom in their hands, wreck prisoners’ and their loved ones’ nerves. They lead to impotence generated by the situation of being trapped in the prison machine. Considering that many prisoners don’t know the law at all, don’t have anybody and some don’t even know French, we can imagine how many find themselves completely in the hands of prison arbitrariness. We’ve already seen people remain inside even if they had been eligible for release for several days, without getting the chance to understand what was going on.
As the prison administration and the State are trying to break prisoners and their loved ones with large and small arbitrary and abusive measures, let’s put a stick in the wheel of the all too well functioning system.
Any day spent in jail is a day too many!
Let’s destroy all prisons!
Update on 17th July: the sentencing-execution judge rejected the request for release.
Translated from Italian by act for freedom now!Tags: Franceanarchist prisonercategory: Prisoners