News

Kevin Tucker on Anarcho-Primitivism (pt1)

Anarchist News - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 22:25

From The Final Straw Radio

Download This EpisodeAirs on WSFM-LP 103.3 in Asheville / streaming at AshevilleFM from 3am EST on October 2nd through October 7th and podcasting on libsyn.com.

For a 59 minute long, radio clean version for syndication purposes, please visit the archive.org collection.

Interview

This week Bursts spoke with Kevin Tucker, anarcho-primitivist, author and publisher of Black & Green Review. We had a rather lengthy conversation, so we’ve split the conversation up. This is the first portion, in which Kevin talks about anarcho-primitivism, domestication, civilization, anthropology and the scientific method, human development, agriculture and more.

In the future episode you can hear his views about tribal-bro-ism in the white supremacist approach to historical misappropriation, upcoming issues of Black & Green Review, Collapse, Rewilding versus Revolution and more. For a free look at some of Kevin’s writings, visit theanarchistlibrary.org, and to check out his publishing project, journals and books you can visit blackandgreenpress.org

Other Audio

Today’s episode premiers October 1st, which is the date of the #CatalanReferendum for independence in that northern region within the bounds of Spain. In the leadup, the Spanish government has violently repressed the efforts to hold this election and the news we’re seeing today is no different. If you’d like to hear a chat I had earlier this week with an English-speaking anarchist who has long resided in Catalunya about Catalan nationalism, autonomy, cultural differences between that region and central Spain, some history and some forecasts of where this referendum and repression may go (always critical of the State and Capital), check out our downloadable podcast.

Also, keep an ear out for an upcoming series of podcast miniepisode ‘s featuring William Budington and Bursts chatting about digital security and safer practices with our devices. We’ve got a couple coming out about practices with Burner Phones and strengths and weaknesses of wrangling with the Signal app for end to end encrypted texts from Open Whisper Systems.

Announcements Defend J20: Call in Day for US Attorney Liu

This Monday October 2nd is the last day for a concerted call in effort to urge the US Attorney to drop the charges against the J20 defendants.

You can join the defend j20 crew in welcoming brand new US Attorney Liu to office with a flood of phone calls demanding that the J20 charges be dropped! Sign up at call.usattorneyliu.org to reserve your time slot. The fine folks there will send you an email with more details and a suggested call script. Her number is 202-252-7566, or if you cannot call in you can send a letter to the Judiciary Center Building, 555 Fourth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20530.

October 19th Call for Solidarity

There has been a formal call for solidarity from antifascists around the south to oppose an appearance by the by now internationally infamous white supremacist Batman villan Richard Spencer. It has been officially confirmed that this piece of white bread is going to be spewing pseudo intellectual and only marginally intelligible xenophobic racism at University of Florida in Gainesville on October 19th, which is in just over 2 and a half weeks from now.

You can see the entire formal call for solidarity, plus some important context that includes recent history and what to be prepared for, at It’s Going Down.

You can get in touch if you want to endorse this call and are planning on being there in solidarity by emailing oct19endorse@riseup.net

Support Herman Bell!

“Black Panther Party political prisoner Herman Bell was viciously assaulted by guards at Great Meadow Correctional Facility (Comstock) on September 5, 2017. While being “escorted” by a guard back to his housing unit, a guard struck Herman, age 69, in the face causing his glasses to drop to the floor. He pushed Herman against the wall, Herman stumbled and fell to the ground. The guard then continued viciously hitting and kicking Herman. Very soon about 5 other guards arrived and joined in the violent attack, hitting and kicking Herman all over his body.

Herman Bell has now been charged with “assault on staff.” Defying common sense, they allege that Herman, for no apparent reason, slapped the guard escorting him. He did this, they claim, in a location out of the view of all inmates but in the presence of other guards. He is now in the Special Housing Unit (box) at Five Points Correctional Facility where he was transferred after the incident.

Herman Bell has not had a disciplinary violation in over 20 years. He had been scheduled to begin a three day family visit with his wife a few days after the incident, their first such visit in over 2 1/2 years. In addition he is to appear before the parole board, for the 8th time, in February 2018.

At this time, we are encouraging everyone to take the time to write to Herman or send him a get-well card, so that the authorities know we are concerned for Herman. Further requests for actions of support will be posted soon.

His new address is:
Herman Bell 79 C 0262
Five Points CF
6600 State Route 96
Caller Box 119
Romulus, N.Y. 14541

Friends and family are also encouraging supporters to email Commissioner Anthony Annucci, to let him know that folks are keeping tabs on Mr. Bell’s situation. Commissioner Annucci’s email address is: Anthony.Annucci@doccs.ny.gov

You can see a sample letter and a bunch more information at this article here: Political Prisoner Herman Bell Assaulted by Guards

Comrade Malik Washington

Comrade Malik, a tireless writer and organizer who’s been very active in exposing unsafe conditions at the Eastham Unit in Texas, is facing retaliation from prison staff, and is asking supporters to email the Texas Ombudsman to prevent any further action being taken against him. You can find out more information at Action Needed to Fight Retaliation at the Eastham Unit!

Support Shaka Shakur and Angaza Bahar

At the Wabash Valley Correctional Institute in Indiana, Shaka Shakur, who is a political prisoner, defended himself against mistreatment by guards, and another, Angaza Iman Bahar (Jimmy Jones), who helped alert the outside world to the situation, are both facing disciplinary charges.

Wabash Valley Correctional has been getting a reputation for “a culture of sadism [in which] guards take pride and find humor in their mistreatment of inmates, especially Black and New Afrikan inmates whom they expose to every kind of abuse and humiliation.” IDOC Watch are asking people to call in so the prison knows that they both have outside support.

It is urgent that the security of Shaka Shakur and Angaza Bahar be ensured, but the only way is through mass pressure from the outside. IDOC Watch asks that people call Wabash Valley warden Richard Brown at 812-398-5050 and IDOC Commissioner Robert E. Carter Jr. at 317-232-5711. You can also email IDOC officials at rcarter@idoc.in.gov, rbrown@idoc.in.gov, mauxier@idoc.in.gov, jbasinger@idoc.in.gov, and lsalinas@idoc.in.gov

You can see the entire call, which includes helpful context and analysis, and sample letters and emails at incarceratedworkers.org.

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Tags: kevin tuckerThe Final StrawInterviewanti-civcategory: Projects
Categories: News

Rail Industry Slow on Safety Upgrade for Fleets Carrying Oil and Ethanol

deSmog - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 13:52
DOT 117 tank cars

A new government report finds that only 9 percent of all the rail tank cars transporting flammable liquids last year met the stricter safety requirements of regulations set in 2015, which were meant to reduce oil train explosions and accidents. This confirms what DeSmog reported last year showing that the oil and rail industries were not moving to aggressively upgrade the fleet to the higher safety standards. Of course, the regulations gave them over a decade to make the upgrades and provided little incentive for industry to move faster.

var icx_publication_id = 14813; var icx_content_id = '12168'; [Reuse options] Click here for reuse options! Tags: oil by railethanol by railDOT-111DOT-117U.S. Department of Transportation
Categories: News

Crossword Puzzle #19: May of '68

Anarchist News - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 13:15

This weeks crossword puzzle is on May of '68.

Download it here: https://anarchistnews.org/crossword/crossword19.pdf

***

From LBC about the book:

For those anarchistnews fans who miss Worker's acerbic and insightful bon mots on modern-day anarchy and anarchists, here is a fix (however temporary) for you.

Fifty crossword puzzles of occasionally ludicrous difficulty (there are scattered puff questions throughout also, for those of you, like me, who are terrible at these kind of games) are featured for your education and amusement.

Anarchistnews.org is the most popular, utilized, and non-sectarian news source pertaining to anarchists in North America. Its open commenting system continues to be one of the few spaces in which anarchists, nationally and internationally, converse about topics of the day, challenge each other, and critically engage with a wide variety of issues and events.

Worker retired from running the site after eleven years... Since then they have reflected on their time in the daily trenches of running the site, and this book is the result. These crossword puzzles speak to the years of comment threads, the ridiculousness and wonderfulness of the anarchist space in North America, and finally the absurdity of working with cantankerous, stubborn, and self-righteous people by way of essay or manifesto.

These puzzles should probably be done by a reading group or a group of friends. They are supposed to make you think, laugh, and perhaps smack your head. A more perfect metaphor for North American anarchism cannot be found.

https://littleblackcart.com/books/culture/workers-book-of-50-sectarian-c...

***

[ Here are the solutions! Don’t peek!: http://ardentpress.com/crosswords/ ]

Tags: beautiful crossmess parzelthis sitepdfDownloadbooks1968Francecategory: Projects
Categories: News

Corporate Media Analysts' Indifference to US Journalists Facing 70 Years in Prison

Truth Out - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 04:00
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For over two years, many in corporate media have been trumpeting the looming threat to a free press posed by Donald Trump. "Would President Trump Kill Freedom of the Press?" Slate (3/14/16) wondered in the midst of the primaries; after the election, the New York Times (1/13/17) warned of "Donald Trump's Dangerous Attacks on the Press," and the Atlantic (2/20/17) declared it " A Dangerous Time for the Press and the Presidency."

It's strange, then, that the attack on the press that kicked off the Trump administration -- the arrest and subsequent threatening of two journalists with 70 years in prison -- has been met with total silence from most of these same outlets. Aaron Cantú, Santa Fe Reporter staff writer and editor at the New Inquiry (and a contributor to FAIR.org), and professional photographer Alexei Wood are both facing decades in prison for the act of covering the January 20 unrest in DC -- charged with felony rioting for little more than being in the proximity of window-breaking and brick-throwing. (Prosecutors initially brought and then dropped felony charges against six other reporters, though how their cases differ from Cantú and Wood's is unclear.)

ACLU lawyer Scott Michelman insists that these arrests "punish journalists for being near the action" and will "inevitably chill freedom of the press and, with it, First Amendment rights not only of the journalists themselves, but of all of us."

The three most influential media reporters in US media -- CNN's Brian Stelter, New York Times' Jim Rutenberg and Washington Post's Erik Wemple -- have completely ignored the felony rioting charges leveled against the two #J20 journalists altogether. In their dozens of columns, reports, and on-air segments since the arrests nine months ago, neither Stelter nor Rutenberg nor Wemple has made a single mention of the reporters facing jail time.

"Top Journalists Warn of Threats to Press Freedom Under Trump," warned Stelter  (11/22/17) right after Trump's election. Citing his boss (and the person most responsible for Trump) CNN head Jeff Zucker and his colleague Christiane Amanpour, Stelter sounded the alarm on the authoritarian tendencies of the incoming Trump regime.

Jim Rutenberg (7/2/17)  later joined in with a Fourth of July-themed breakdown of press freedoms under siege by the Trump administration. Rutenberg lamented Trump's "personal attacks against journalists," mean GIFs and misuse of the "fake news" label, as well as Republican politician Greg Gianforte's body-slammingGuardian reporter Ben Jacobs. But Rutenberg, like Stelter, was entirely silent on the Trump Department of Justice threatening two journalists with generations in prison for the crime of reporting. For some unknown reason, this doesn't register as an attack on the press.

The Post's Erik Wemple -- though not as vocal in his warnings about Trump's attacks on press freedom as Stelter and Rutenberg -- still holds one of the most influential media columns in the country. His total silence also speaks to the broader near-blackout on the #J20 mass arrest and prosecution.

As FAIR  (7/13/17) has noted before, corporate media have expressed collective indifference to the unprecedented mass arrests of the #J20 protesters, while moral-grandstanding at the Russian government for its mass arrests of protesters in June.

The Times' Rutenberg found time for not one, not two, but four different articles (9/18/1612/4/164/17/179/17/17) on the corrosive effects on American democracy of the Russian government-run outlet RT (Russia Today) -- a network that reaches less than 30,000 people per show, or roughly 0.3 percent of the ratings of Judge Judy.

Evidently, the topic of RT needed more attention, since profiles in PBSFortunePolitico (four of  them), Time MagazineWashington Post (half dozen or so), MediaiteThe GuardianBloombergForeign AffairsWall Street JournalDaily BeastNational ReviewChristian Science MonitorSlateWashington TimesBuzzFeedNew York Times (another Times profile) and Huffington Post were presumably not enough. The fact that there are millions more Americans reading profiles handwringing over RT than actually watching it wouldn't stop intrepid media critic Jim Rutenberg from speaking truth to power…in another country.

Stelter and Rutenberg would not respond to FAIR's request for comment. Wemple told FAIR, "There are hundreds of worthy and important stories that I don't get to." But for journalists covering US media in 2017, the prosecution of Cantú and Wood is not just another story: These are journalists facing decades in prison for doing exactly what journalists are supposed to be doing -- covering the opposition to an administration that establishment media reporters have been warning about since 2015.

Categories: News

Federal Lawsuit Says Texas Pipeline Firm "Strong-Armed" Landowners, Protesters

Truth Out - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 04:00
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Four Pennsylvania residents filed a federal lawsuit this week against Texas-based pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), claiming the Fortune 500 company and its subsidiaries violated their constitutional rights by engaging in illegal surveillance and harassment against landowners and pipeline protesters and caused emotional distress and other harm.

The suit, which seeks compensatory damages, also names ETP's private security provider, North Carolina-based TigerSwan, as well as local law enforcement officers who arrested pipeline opponents on charges that ultimately were not prosecuted. It claims that energy companies like ETP are increasingly relying on de facto public-private partnerships with government to "strong-arm" opponents into silence with false arrests and malicious prosecution.

"Since May of 2015, every day of my life has been affected by the plans to build this pipeline, and the lengths that Energy Transfer Partners will go to in the pursuit of profit," said plaintiff Elise Gerhart, who lives on property that will be crossed by the pipeline. "We've been needlessly harassed by agencies and violently threatened by individuals who've been intentionally incited and mobilized."

The lawsuit claims that energy companies like ETP are increasingly relying on de facto public-private partnerships to "strong-arm" opponents into silence.

The lawsuit centers on ETP's Mariner East 2 pipeline project that would carry fracked gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale regions of West Virginia, Ohio and western Pennsylvania to refineries near Philadelphia, with much of the product to be exported overseas for making plastics. ETP is also behind several other controversial petro pipeline projects including the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana, the Trans-Pecos in Texas and the Dakota Access in North Dakota, the target of massive demonstrations last year in which Native American protesters and their supporters faced attack dogs, rubber bullets, mace and water cannons. Pipelines are a growing concern across the South: Of the 56 interstate pipeline projects that have sought permits from federal regulators since 2013, 31 run at least partly through Southern states.

Elise Gerhart's mother, Ellen Gerhart, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, has owned a 27-acre property in central Pennsylvania's rural Huntingdon County with her husband, Stephen, since 1983 and has cared for it according to the principles of the state's forest stewardship program, which encourages private landowners "to implement sound forest management practices." In 2015, Sunoco, which has since merged with ETP, filed a declaration of taking in county court in order to gain access to a wooded part of the property to begin clearing trees for the planned pipeline. The court granted the company's request in March 2016, establishing an easement on the property and barring the Gerharts from interfering with access. There's currently a lawsuit working its way through the state courts over whether the taking was legal; it comes at a time of growing controversy over how pipeline companies are gaining access to private lands.

At the time the court granted Sunoco/ETP access rights to the Gerhart property, the Mariner East 2 project had neither the necessary state permits for construction nor what's known as "possessory interest" in the easement, which wasn't granted by the county court until April 2017. The lawsuit claims that, without possessory interest, the company had no legal right to exclude anyone from the easement -- but that's not what happened.

Arrest to Silence?

In late March 2016, shortly after the court granted the easement, the Philadelphia-based environmental advocacy group Clean Air Council posted a public event to Facebook encouraging people to oppose the tree-cutting planned for the Gerhart property. On March 29, 2016, dozens of protesters arrived and set up an encampment, with some sitting in trees to block their removal.

Agents of ETP/Sunoco bearing chainsaws also arrived on the land, escorted by state police and officers from the local sheriff's department. They were eager to begin work as US Fish and Wildlife Service regulations prohibit cutting trees on the Gerhart property after March 31 to protect migratory birds and an endangered bat.

Three of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were arrested that day:

• Protester Alex Lotorto of Milford, Pennsylvania, claims he was using a walkie-talkie to let other protesters know where the tree cutters were but law enforcement officers accused him of using it to disrupt work at the site. Arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and criminal contempt, he was held on a $200,000 bond he could not afford to pay and stayed in jail for three days. Once the tree-cutting stopped on April 1, his bond was reduced to $5,000 unsecured and he was released.

• Protester Elizabeth Glunt of Altoona, Pennsylvania, entered the easement only briefly to warn tree cutters that they were getting too close to tree-sitting protesters, according to the lawsuit. She was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal contempt. Held in jail until her family raised the money to pay her $100,000 bond, Glunt was strip-searched and claims she suffered emotional distress as a result.

• The lawsuit states that Ellen Gerhart approached but did not enter the easement area to warn tree cutters that they were too close to tree sitters. She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and indirect criminal contempt and released on a $5,000 unsecured bond.

Just over a week later, on April 7, 2016, Ellen Gerhart was arrested again on the same charges when tree cutters returned to her property unannounced and she approached them to warn that they were violating federal wildlife regulations. Elise Gerhart was also arrested for climbing a tree and charged with disorderly conduct.

All of the charges against the plaintiffs were ultimately dismissed. The lawsuit says that's because the arrests weren't part of a legitimate pursuit of justice but rather an effort to "arbitrarily and maliciously send a message to the Gerhart family and their supporters to discourage their opposition to the pipeline and its construction and thereby chill their First Amendment rights."

Smears of Russian Ties

The lawsuit also takes aim at TigerSwan, ETP's private security provider, based in the town of Apex near Raleigh, North Carolina. The company was founded in 2008 by retired US Army lieutenant colonel and Delta Force operator James Reese.

According to company documents obtained by The Intercept, an investigative news outlet whose reporting is cited in the lawsuit, TigerSwan's tactics against pipeline protesters in five states -- North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and Texas -- included military-style counterterrorism measures such as aerial surveillance, radio eavesdropping, and infiltration of camps and activist circles.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say similar tactics are being deployed against Mariner pipeline opponents, who cite helicopters and drones flying low over the Gerhart property outside of the easement, and unmarked vehicles parking nearby and shining high-beam lights onto the land. TigerSwan has been operating in Pennsylvania at least since April 2017.

The suit further charges that ETP and TigerSwan have repeatedly sent an agent to the Gerhart property to attempt to infiltrate the protest encampment. While there, the lawsuit says, the agent took photos that were later posted to the Facebook page of a shadowy group called PA Progress to identify Ellen and Elise Gerhart. Other PA Progress posts called Elise Gerhart an "anarchist" and falsely accused her of sabotage. The lawsuit suggests that the page, which has since been taken down, was connected to TigerSwan.

The campaign against the protesters also deployed misleading propaganda in other ways. For example, the chair of TigerSwan's advisory board, retired Army Major General James "Spider" Marks, had an op-ed published on the news website PennLive.com in May warning that Mariner pipeline opponents would engage in violence and cause environmental damage. However, he did not identify his connection to TigerSwan and its interest in the pipeline project. The website has since added a note to the op-ed disclosing his position and stating that Marks' work will not appear there again.

The lawsuit further claims that the Gerharts were the targets of misinformation spread online, which it also connects to TigerSwan. For example, it points to posts at Black Badger Report -- a pseudonymously written website that claims to be concerned about the proliferation of "fake news" but whose front page features just six stories since June, all of them critical of pipeline protesters except for one condemning The Intercept of Communist ties -- falsely accused Elise Gerhart and other protesters of being fronts for Russian government attempts to disrupt US energy markets. The lawsuit ties the online attacks to TigerSwan through a web of internet connections involving TigerSwan Vice President Derek Borror.

The inaccurate posts not only caused "reputational harm," the lawsuit says, but "have incited commenters to threaten to injure or kill Elise Gerhart and her supporters," which in turn have caused her "mental anguish and emotional distress."

The plaintiffs are asking for a jury trial. Neither ETP nor TigerSwan responded to a request for comment.

Categories: News

How Many More "500-Year Storms" Will People Endure Before They Start Abandoning Coastal Cities?

Truth Out - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 04:00

 Joe Raedle / Getty Images)Damaged homes and streets littered with debris are seen after Hurricane Irma passed through the area on September 13, 2017, in Ramrod Key, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

People love living near the coast. Only two of the world's top 10 biggest cities -- Mexico City and Sáo Paulo -- are not coastal. The rest -- Tokyo, Mumbai, New York, Shanghai, Lagos, Los Angeles, Calcutta and Buenos Aires -- are. Around half of the world's 7.5 billion people live within 60 miles of a coastline, with about 10 percent of the population living in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters (32 feet) above sea level.

Coastal migration has been steadily trending upward. In the U.S. alone, coastal county populations increased by 39 percent between 1970 to 2010. As the population skyrockets -- from 7.5 billion today to 9.8 billion by 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100, according to a recent United Nations report -- the question for sustainability and development experts is, will the world's coasts bear the burden of all this humanity? But with the rise of both sea levels and extreme weather, perhaps a better question is, will all this humanity bear the burden of living along the world's coasts?

Growing Appeal: Landlocked Life

As the "500-year" hurricanes Harvey and Irma (and 2011's Irene) powerfully and tragically demonstrated, living near a coastline is an increasingly dangerous proposition. But for some coastal regions, rising seas and hurricanes aren't the only cause for alarm: the coastal lands in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina are sinking by up to 3mm a year, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Florida. Could these multiple factors reverse humans' seaward migration? 

Some research suggests that may be the case. A recent University of Georgia study found that rising sea levels could drive U.S. coastal residents far inland, even to landlocked states like Arizona and Wyoming, which could see significant population surges from coastal migration by 2100. Many of these places are not equipped to deal with sudden population increases. That means sea level rise isn't just a problem for coastal regions.

"We typically think about sea-level rise as being a coastal challenge or a coastal issue," said Mathew Hauer, author of the study and head of the Applied Demography program at the University of Georgia. "But if people have to move, they go somewhere."

"We're going to have more people on less land and sooner than we think," said Charles Geisler, professor emeritus of development sociology at Cornell University. “The future rise in global mean sea level probably won't be gradual. Yet few policy makers are taking stock of the significant barriers to entry that coastal climate refugees, like other refugees, will encounter when they migrate to higher ground."

Geisler is the lead author of a study published in the July issue of the journal Land Use Policy examining responses to climate change by land use planners in Florida and China. He and the study's co-author, Ben Currens, an earth and environmental scientist from the University of Kentucky, make the case for "proactive adaptation strategies extending landward from on global coastlines." By 2060, about 1.4 billion people could be climate change refugees, according to Geisler's study. That number could reach 2 billion by 2100.

Not Just for the Birds: Higher Ground

Writing in the Washington Post, Elizabeth Rush, author of "Rising: The Unsettling of the American Shore," suggests that coastal residents should take a lesson from the roseate spoonbill. For most of the past century, this striking pink shorebird has made a habitat in the Florida Keys. But for the past decade, as rising wetland levels have made finding food more difficult, the spoonbills have been steadily abandoning their historic nesting grounds for higher ground on the mainland. She writes:

Adding several centimeters of water into the wetlands where spoonbills traditionally bred (as has occurred over the past 10 years in the Florida Bay, thanks to wetter winters and higher tides) significantly changed the landscape, eliminating the habitats where these gangly waders had long found dinner. When the spoonbills realized it was no longer possible to live on the Florida Keys, they left.

But humans can't move to higher ground and build new homes as easily as the spoonbill. Rush contends that "legal and regulatory conditions don’t make moving away from increasingly dangerous coastal areas easy." She argues that, to avoid loss of life and economic value, governments at local, state and federal levels, as part of climate adaption, must "start financing and encouraging relocation."

In New York, some residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy took matters into their own hands, forming grassroots "buyout committees" to raise awareness about the perils of coastal life, even knocking on doors to gauge residents' interest in relocating. Eventually, the relocation activists got the attention and support of Governor Andrew Cuomo: In 2013, he released funds from the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to buy out homes across three Sandy-impacted areas in Staten Island.

"[T]hose homes would be knocked down, giving the wetlands a chance to return so they might provide a buffer against storms to come," Rush writes, adding that since Sandy, around 500 residents have applied for government buyouts -- now "entire neighborhoods are being demolished along the island’s shore."

Risky Business: Flood Insurance

One "exit barrier" has to do with a 49-year-old program called the National Flood Insurance Program. Under the current law, homeowners are required to rebuild on their land -- even after suffering through multiple floods. "Through the National Flood Insurance Program, we know there are about 30,000 properties that flood repeatedly," said Rob Moore, senior policy analyst for the NRDC's water program. "On average, these properties have flooded about five times." Only around one percent of these properties carry flood insurance, reports NPR, but have been responsible for about 25 percent of the paid claims.

Jennifer Bayles, a homeowner in the Houston metro area who was interviewed last week on NPR, paid $83,000 for her house in 1992. After the first flood in 2009, insurance paid her $200,000, then an additional $200,000 following the next flood. Now, post-Harvey, she expects to receive around $300,000.

When a program pays out billions of dollars for just a handful of repeat customers, some argue that rebuilding simply isn't cost-efficient. Rush points to a recent Natural Resources Defense Council study that found, "in most cases, it is less expensive to buy out these homes than it is to cover the cost of repairing and rebuilding after ever-more-common floods."

Another problem is a lack of funding. The National Flood Insurance Program is nearly $25 billion in debt due to this season's massive hurricanes. In a recent press briefing, Roy E. Wright, the deputy FEMA administrator in charge of the program, said his agency estimates it will pay Texas policyholders some $11 billion in flood claims for Harvey alone. But NFIP has only $1.08 billion of cash to pay claims. That amount, reported Bradley Keoun of TheStreet.com last week, is "down by a third in less than three weeks -- and a $5.8 billion credit limit from the U.S. Treasury Department."

Congress is set to vote soon on whether to reauthorize the flood program. "Even though we reauthorized it for three months, and extended it, it's gonna run out of money probably in October,” Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) told Rollcall earlier this month. MacArthur, who sits on the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans, said Congress will have to authorize additional financial support to the program, noting that extra funds "must come with reform."

What kind of reform remains to be seen. Rush proposes lawmakers eliminate the requirement that claim filers must rebuild near the line of devastation:

[T]he program could offer discounted flood insurance to homeowners in the highest-risk areas, with a caveat: In return for lower premiums, those homeowners would agree to accept buyouts if their properties were damaged during a flood. This would help keep insurance rates affordable for low- and middle-income homeowners (a daunting task given that the program is both federally subsidized and tens of billions of dollars in debt) while encouraging folks to move out of harm’s way.

Risky Proposition: Climate Denial

House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), a longtime critic of NFIP, argues that the program amounts to a federal subsidy that spurs human development in flood zones. "After Harvey and Irma," he told Rollcall, "it would be insane for the federal government to simply rebuild repetitive loss homes in the same fashion, in the same place."

In an interview Thursday on CNBC, he said:

If all we do is force federal taxpayers to build the same homes in the same fashion, in the same location and expect a different result, we all know that's the classic definition of insanity.... Maybe we pay for your home once, maybe even pay for it twice, but at some point the taxpayer's got to quit paying and you've got to move.

"The NFIP in its current form is unsustainable and perverse," Hensarling said, in a written statement.

Perhaps. But what's also unsustainable and perverse is denying the role of climate change, not only in storm activity, but in the rising sea levels that make flooding worse: Hensarling's poor climate voting record garnered him a spot on Vice Motherboard's "Texas Climate Change Deniers" list. As the Sun Herald, a Mississippi Gulf Coast newspaper, recently put it, "Climate change denial and our love of the beach could sink the National Flood Insurance program."

Predictably, Donald Trump dismissed the notion that climate change played a role in the frequency and intensity of superstorms like Harvey and Irma. When asked about climate change by reporters aboard Air Force One after touring the devastation of Florida's west coast, Trump insisted:

If you go back into the 1930s and the 1940s, and you take a look, we've had storms over the years that have been bigger than this....So we did have two horrific storms, epic storms, but if you go back into the '30s and '40s, and you go back into the teens, you'll see storms that were very similar and even bigger, OK?

But for coastal residents impacted by these massive storms -- and for the vast majority of scientists -- it's not OK. Penn State atmospheric scientist Michael Mann connects the dots between climate change and the impact of Hurricane Harvey:

There are certain climate change-related factors that we can, with great confidence, say worsened the flooding. Sea level rise attributable to climate change…is more than half a foot over the past few decades. That means that the storm surge was a half foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction.

Endangered: Ocean Economies

There's also the economic impact of losing shorelines. The U.N. estimates that the so-called ocean economy, which includes employment, marine-based ecosystem services and cultural services, is between $3 to $6 trillion per year.

Coastal areas within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the ocean account for more than 60 percent of the world's total gross national production. For the economies of developing nations, these regions are especially crucial. A big part of that coastal production is food. As the sea gobbles up fertile seaside land and river deltas, feeding the rapidly escalating human population is going to get that much more difficult.

The future of tourism is also a major concern, particularly for small island states, where tourism generally accounts for more than a quarter of GDP. For some islands, that amount may soon have to be wiped off the balance sheet. Just last year, five islands in the Solomon Island archipelago disappeared to the rising sea.

But economic losses due to extreme weather and climate change are also a major issue for developed nations; according to preliminary estimates, Hurricane Harvey caused up to $200 billion in damage.

Retreat or Rebuild?

People may enjoy the coasts, beaches, surf and sand. But by emitting greenhouse gases at an unsustainable rate, we're losing these cherished ecosystems to the rising seas and superstorms. Perhaps we should give the coasts back to nature. By letting key coastal ecosystems return to their natural states, mangrove forests and other vegetated marine and intertidal habitats can act as bulwarks against the sea level rise and hurricanes.

Like forests, these coastal areas are powerful carbon sinks, safely storing around a quarter of the additional carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. Crucially, they also help protect communities and wildlife near shores from floods and storm surges. As people move inland, natural ecosystems could reclaim shorelines. "Retreat," Rush declares, "is slowly gaining traction as a climate change adaptation strategy."

Moving people out of flood zones -- and rewilding coastlines and bringing wetlands back -- could be an area where policymakers and conservationists could find common ground. It also means rethinking the way cities are designed; when it comes to urban planning, city planners have generally not taken natural systems into account.

Writing on AlterNet, Mary Mazzoni looked at how the mismanagement of Houston's natural ecosystem increased the amount of flooding from Hurricane Harvey, pointing out that by paving over wetlands, which are able to absorb a great amount of flood water, the city left itself vulnerable to disaster.

She notes that the "relative lack of regulatory hurdles -- Houston is the largest U.S. city without zoning laws -- allowed development to continue more or less unchecked…the wetlands loss documented in [a] Texas A&M study is equivalent to nearly 4 billion gallons in lost stormwater detention, worth an estimated $600 million."

"'Conquering' nature has long been the western way," writes Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki. "Our hubris, and often our religious ideologies, have led us to believe we are above nature and have a right to subdue and control it. We let our technical abilities get ahead of our wisdom. We're learning now that working with nature -- understanding that we are part of it -- is more cost-effective and efficient in the long run."

In our new normal, one way to work with nature might be to let her have her coastlines back.

Categories: News

Climate Change Refugees Face Militarized Borders

Truth Out - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 04:00

Rising seas and raging hurricanes could destroy your town. Drought and mudslides could destroy your livelihood. But none of that matters to those empowered to control a nation-state's territorial boundaries, says author Todd Miller whose book, Storming the Wall, looks at corporate border militarization against climate refugees and the emerging movements for environmental justice.

 John Moore / Getty Images)A US Border Patrol agent scans the US-Mexico border while on a bridge over the Rio Grande on March 13, 2017, in Roma, Texas. "In the eyes of the nation-state, a person migrating because of climate reasons is meaningless," says author and journalist Todd Miller. (Photo: John Moore / Getty Images)

As more and more climate-ravaged communities are forced to relocate by droughts, floods and superstorms, the business of fortifying borders is booming. In his new book, Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security, Todd Miller travels around the world reporting on the corporate border militarization cash grab, and the emerging movements for environmental justice and sustainability. Make a donation to Truthout to order this important book today!

The hi-tech militarized barriers between developed and undeveloped nations are increasing. Built to keep out refugees driven by economic and political need, these borders are now faced by those fleeing the ravages of climate change, author Todd Miller tells Truthout in this exclusive interview.

Mark Karlin: What is the relationship between the developed nation-state and migration due to climate change?

Todd Miller: There is no climate refugee status. So, in the eyes of the nation-state, a person migrating because of climate reasons is meaningless. For example, when I met three men in Tenosique, Mexico (near the Guatemala divide), they told me that they were headed north because "there was no rain." In the eyes of immigration officials -- whether they be in Mexico or the United States -- this would not matter. It would not matter that a mayor of a small town in Honduras called this very Central American drought "an unprecedented calamity." It would not matter that a million drought-inflicted people throughout the Central American "dry corridor" -- spreading from Guatemala to Nicaragua -- were on the verge of starvation. A "famine," as former US Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar described the situation in Guatemala, would not matter. Immigration agents would check your papers, and if you were not authorized to be in the country, you would be arrested, detained and expelled.

It wouldn't matter if you were displaced by a hurricane. It wouldn't matter if your coffee crop was destroyed by climate-induced fungus. To the immigration agents, it would not matter if the rising seas had washed through your house, nor if raging floods had coursed down the streets of your neighborhood. The mudslides would not matter. The heat waves would not matter. All that would matter would be the nation-state, its sovereignty and its "right" to control its territorial boundaries.

One person is displaced every second due to environmental reasons.

As a 2003 Pentagon-commissioned report called "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for the United States National Security" put it, "[US] Borders will be strengthened around the country to hold back unwanted starving immigrants from the Caribbean islands (an especially severe problem), Mexico, and South America." In 2010, the US government declared climate change a top national security threat. And through a number of policy documents, including the 2014 Quadrennial [Defense] Review, the US Department of Homeland Security [DHS] recognized climate change as a central threat and a "threat multiplier."

 City Lights Books)Todd Miller. (Photo: City Lights Books)In other words, DHS fully understands that there will be displacement caused by climate change and knows that it has to prepare US borders for just that. As Thomas Smith, one of the authors of the DHS Quadrennial Review put it at a congressional hearing in Washington, DC, predicting the fate of the three men in the Tenosique train yard, "More frequent severe droughts and tropical storms, especially in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean could increase population movements, both legal and illegal, towards the US border." And what awaits a climate refugee attempting to enter the United States (and for that matter, many other parts of the world) is exactly what DHS has been doing since its founding in 2003: a world of walls and cages, imprisonment and expulsion.

How much is climate change causing increased environmental migration?

In many (and in a variety of) ways, climate change could cause or influence migration. It could be the drought I just discussed, since climate science predicts such dry spells to be longer and more frequent. It could be a Category 6 super hurricane like the 2013 Haiyan that eviscerated everything in its path after making landfall in the Philippines as the most powerful storm ever recorded in human history (now in second place, behind the 2015 Hurricane Patricia). The warmer ocean waters are fueling these high-powered typhoons, like Harvey, Irma and Maria that are also leaving huge marks of destruction in the United States and the Caribbean. As ice continues to melt in the Arctic, it could be the sea level rising and threatening to devour entire islands in the Pacific. It could be the surging floods that come with the super storms. It could be the salt water from such surges inundating fresh water supplies, and making irrigation of crops impossible. All of this could be behind a person choosing to move from where they are to someplace else.

Statistics from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center from 2008 and 2015 show that there [is] an average of 21.5 million people displaced per year due to climate change (26 million if you include environment generally). That number is larger than those uprooted by war. One person is displaced every second due to environmental reasons. This could mean that the person has simply moved inland, moved to a city or crossed an international border. In 2016, the United Nations reported that there were 64 million "persons of concern" across the world, a number that has tripled since 2005. That is not only a record number of refugees, it also strikingly correlates with areas of climate turmoil as vividly shown in a mapping project by journalist Jessica Benko.

There are prisons incarcerating 34,000 or more at a time, and an apparatus that has the ability to expel 400,000 people per year from the United States.

Future predictions for people on the move due to climate displacement range from 250 million to 1 billion by 2050. Koko Warner, a lead researcher for the United Nations University (and author of some of the first studies empirically connecting climate change to migration), says what's to come with migration, although the precise numbers are in dispute, will be "staggering" and "pass any historic antecedent."

In what ways are borders becoming militarized against international migration?

The hardened, militarized border is a recent phenomenon. The very idea of walls of exclusion was even (in a way) condemned by US President Ronald Reagan, who famously said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" When the Berlin wall fell in 1989, there were 15 border walls in the world. Now there are 70 -- two-thirds constructed after 9/11. Never has the globe had so many militarized borders.

Since the early 1990s, the US border has had historic fortification and weaponization. US Border Patrol agents have gone from 4,000 to 21,000. The international boundary line has gone from flimsy chain-link fences to 650 miles of towering walls and barriers along the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border. And now it is high tech. There are night vision cameras, thermal energy cameras, cameras that can see seven miles away. There are radar systems. There are drones. There are armored vehicles. There are command and control centers. There are Forward Operating Bases and tethered aerostats. There are prisons incarcerating 34,000 or more at a time, and an apparatus that has the ability to expel 400,000 people per year from the United States. There is a theatre of a never-ending war, only poised to grow more and more. And it is into this border war zone, and other similar ones across the world, where the climate displaced are arriving.

While nation-states blockade people, entire corporate enterprises can freely cross borders with hardly an impediment.

In the United States, budgets for border and immigration enforcement have skyrocketed. They have gone from approximately $1.5 billion per year in the early 1990s (the Immigration and Naturalization Service budget) to $20 billion annual today (if you combine just Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement). On top of budgets like this in the United States, increasing border/immigration budgets in Europe, Israel and Australia (and many other countries across the globe), a massive homeland security/border/surveillance industry has emerged. Companies galore are cashing in on contracts, such as the Israeli monolith Elbit Systems that is in process of constructing 52 surveillance towers in southern Arizona. Elbit Systems, one of the primary technology integrators for the West Bank wall and surveillance apparatus, sold itself as having 10-plus years "securing" one of the "world's most challenging borders." Projections and forecasts into the future show constant if not unprecedented growth for this type of industry. One forecast shows the homeland security market almost doubling in 10 years to reach $546 billion by 2022. Newer projections now include "climate-related natural disasters," events that, according to prognosticators, are increasing at an impressive rate. Such private/public relationships are not only helping weaponize the world's borders against the displaced and uprooted, they are bringing to this boundary-building one of the strongest and sacrosanct motives of a capitalist system: profit.

As far as capitalism, can you comment on the tragic irony of goods having free passage between nation-states and not people?

The end of the 20th century and 21st century will not only be known for closed, militarized borders between nation-states levied against the world's poor and marginalized. It will also be known as an era that has completely opened borders for the ruling and business classes of the world. While nation-states blockade people, and force unauthorized border crossings into deadly deserts and seas, at the same time, not only merchandise but entire corporate enterprises, such as mines, can freely cross borders with hardly an impediment. They have set up shop across Mexico, and in Central and Latin America in general. Such constant border crossings receive very little attention, although time and time again, operations have caused tremendous environmental damage in communities, including seizing and poisoning water sources.

Companies freely cross borders in search of natural resources and fossil fuels. One [Anglo-]French company called Perenco has been operating oil wells in the Laguna del Tigre National Park in Guatemala since 2001, while park boundaries simultaneously have been militarized to thwart displaced campesinos to "protect" the park for conservation reasons. Not only does cheap and heavily subsidized US corn flood and underprice the Mexican and Central American farmers -- the cradle for the cultivation of corn in the world -- and not only does cheap merchandise from factories get a free pass to cross borders, but so do the multinational corporations perpetuating the fossil fuel economy. They are not blockaded despite the criminal damage they are causing to the Earth's future generations.

People in the world's 48 most marginalized countries are five times more likely to die because of a climate catastrophe than the rest of the world.

How does economic inequality and injustice play into the growing forced migration caused by global warming?

Completely and thoroughly. For example, one of the root causes of migration from Mexico to the United States has been because of the impacts of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico's story of devastated small farmers and factories paying pathetic, unlivable wages while wealth concentrates in a transnational corporate class, of course, can be found across the world. Also, the kind of migration, from the rural to the big cities, sometimes across international borders, has been a global story regardless of the now clear and fierce impacts of climate change. Sociologist Christian Parenti describes what we have now as the "catastrophic convergence." Whether it be the small farmer attempting to etch out a living in the scrambling seasons and inconsistent rainfall, or the migrant worker who has moved to one of the world's megacities about to be inundated [by] the rising seas -- the economically poor will be the first people hit with the storms and droughts of climate change. According to Parenti, these economic, political and ecological factors are not separate. They compound each other and can create potentially untenable situations across vast swaths of the Earth. People in the world's 48 most marginalized countries are five times more likely to die because [of] a climate catastrophe than the rest of the world.

Geographer Ruthie Wilson Gilmore defines racism as "the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death." In this, the true "battle" around the climate is revealed going forward. The world's real borders are not only between nation-states, but rather between the rich and powerful and the rest of the world, along racial and class lines. The disproportionately white countries of the Global North, such as the United States and European Union, are the places that spend lavishly to militarize their borders, creating intense vulnerability for those making border crossings into these territories.

And thus, boisterous and powerful movements around immigration, racial, Native American and economic justice are just as important to confronting climate as environmental movements. The climate crisis has to be countered with this sort of totality. The good news is that all together, the world's vast social movements carry a people power that is much larger and stronger than the ruling classes. This bleak projection of climate change, displacement and militarized borders can be altered, but the need for the push is urgent.

How does border military mobilization negatively impact climate change itself?

I can think of three ways right off the bat about how border militarization mobilization negatively impacts climate change.

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First, if people on the move will be a part of what will happen in this era of climate destabilization, hardened, militarized borders are hardly an answer. In fact, such borders already are creators of humanitarian crises, and if unchanged, will continue to do so in an even more intensified fashion -- whether by forcing people to risk their lives in Arizona deserts or on rickety boats in the Mediterranean Sea (to name but two examples that impact humankind's wellbeing).

Second, to mobilize vast fleets of vehicles and aircraft of the global border apparatus carries with it an enormous carbon footprint. Even with efforts to green operations and reduce emissions, US security forces (military and DHS) continue to be a top polluter and energy-consumer in the world. One example, to give a glimpse into this, as written by Lisa Savage in Counterpunch, in 2013 the Pentagon consumed 90,000,000 barrels of crude oil (according to its own study), 80 percent of the total fuel usage of the US federal government.

Lastly, such border militarization reinforces the notion that the climate crisis will be solved by individual nation-states, despite huge power differences and interests between them. As put by geographer Reece Jones in his book Violent Borders, "As long as the economic interests of individual states do not coincide with the larger environmental needs of the world, a meaningful agreement on climate change will not be reached." 

Categories: News

Black Protest and the Limits of Debating the First Amendment

Truth Out - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 04:00

Trump's foul-mouthed attack on Black athletes who "take a knee" amounted to a declaration that not only are African Americans not entitled to freedom of speech, but that we are also not entitled to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, to equal protection, and to due process guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments of the US Constitution.

 Michael Reaves / Getty Images)Members of the Indianapolis Colts stand and kneel for the national anthem prior to the start of the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 24, 2017, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

This is how African American protests of police violence, and reactions to them, generally unfold:

African Americans protest. Some people respond by attacking the protesters as un-American or anti-police or worse. Others counter by defending the protesters on First Amendment grounds. From here, a robust First Amendment debate ensues, during which the protests get recast in First Amendment terms. And while some people try to redirect the conversations back to the issue of police violence, they are rarely successful. Consequently, First Amendment freedoms prevail as the protests' defining issues.

And yet, African Americans march or sit-in or hold up traffic or "take a knee" -- that is, exercise First Amendment free speech and assembly rights -- precisely to protest the routine violation by the police, and thus the states, of our Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; our Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law; and, our Fourteenth Amendment right to "the equal protection of the laws."

More broadly, however, we exercise our freedom of speech and freedom to peaceably assemble in order to insist that the nation uphold the letter, spirit and promise of the Reconstruction amendments that were adopted soon after the Civil War in order to secure the full citizenship rights of free and formerly enslaved Black people.

Ratified in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." The ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment occurred soon thereafter. Not only does it require due process of law and equal protection of law to all people; but it also defines as citizens all people who are born in the United States. Finally, the Fifteenth Amendment -- ratified in 1870 -- prevents the denial of a citizen's vote based on race, color or previous condition of servitude.

Never have the spirit and force of these amendments been fully embraced by this nation. Indeed, less than 30 years after the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) upheld state racial segregation laws, and thus ushered in the long, violent and repressive Jim Crow era defined by the political, economic and social subjugation of African Americans. Though the decisions of the Warren Court (starting with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954), coupled with the organized resistance of the civil rights movement, would eventually put an end to Jim Crow, the nation's commitment to African American subordination persists.

Indeed, the fact that the police routinely stop, search and arrest Black people -- especially the poor -- without reasonable suspicion or probable cause (and often with the use of unreasonable force); subject African Americans disproportionately to unreasonable searches and seizures; kill unarmed Black people as a matter of course -- most often with impunity and certainly without due process; and then, outfitted in military gear, attack Black people who dare to exercise their First Amendment rights to challenge these injustices, is entirely symptomatic of this nation's continued failure to embrace the promise of the freedom amendments. It is also part and parcel of the concerted efforts by some of our countrymen and women to make these amendments as ineffectual as is legally permissible.

As important as it is to confront attempts to silence African Americans' protests of police, the First Amendment debates by and large subordinate to the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly, the other equally important constitutional rights expressed in the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments. In fact, the debates often implicitly produce a constitutional hierarchy that -- at least with regards to African Americans -- elevates the First Amendment and assigns a lesser value to the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Indeed, they give the impression that what's at stake is not a host of constitutional rights and values, but instead only one constitutional right (the First Amendment) and "social justice" or "police misconduct."

Let's put this in concrete terms. Donald Trump's recent attack on African American athletes who "take a knee" was his declaration that not only are Black folk not entitled to freedom of speech, but we are also not entitled to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, to equal protection, and to due process -- that is, to rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments of the US Constitution. His "get that son of a bitch off the field right now" was thus a broad constitutional assault.

Considered in light of the GOP's hostility toward voting rights and Jeff Sessions's attempt to revive the draconian war on drugs (itself a war on the Fourth Amendment that has been conducted in part to disenfranchise and imprison African Americans), Trump's attack must be viewed as yet another salvo in the GOP's decades' long war against the Reconstruction Amendments -- particularly as they had been given new life during the brief tenure of the Warren Court. As such, "get that son of a bitch off the field right now" was an assertion that Black folks have no rights that the state and private citizens are bound to respect.

By focusing primarily on the First Amendment implications of Trump's diatribe (and, subsequently, the diatribes of his supporters), critics generally have failed to appreciate its broader constitutional implications, as well as its assault on the very idea of full citizenship rights for African Americans. This, in turn, enabled many critics (including champions of civil rights) to reduce the athletes' protests -- even while acknowledging the issue of police violence -- to a "right to protest," i.e., to a right to exercise the freedom of speech.

To recast resistance to police violence, and the Trump-like reactions to that resistance, in primarily First Amendment terms, is truly the privilege of those who are not the primary targets of Fourth and Fourteenth amendment violations, or of the war on the spirit, letter and force of the Reconstruction amendments. For ultimately it is a strategy that reifies -- even if unintentionally -- African American subordination.

While demands for "free speech" abound at police protests, often absent are calls for constitutional rights framed specifically as such; for example, "Equal protection now!" or "We have a right to due process!" Only by taking command of the language of rights will we be able to change the trajectory of these discussions on police protests and give the other constitutional rights -- as well as the question of Black freedom -- the full attention and focus they deserve.

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Categories: News

Letter From Political Prisoner Miguel Peralta Betanzos

It's Goin Down - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 00:37

The post Letter From Political Prisoner Miguel Peralta Betanzos appeared first on It's Going Down.

With everything and amidst everything…two disasters, thousands of realities….solidarity with the brotherly peoples! With the urgency to bring down these walls and be able to support, in whatever way…we continue!

Update and Denunciation of the Judicial Process of the Political Prisoners of the Assembly of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón

Nearly three years ago began this process filled with irregularities, both in the penal case, as well as in the actions of the officials in charge of imparting this circus of justice. After those called judges, magistrates, public prosecutors, and court clerk, insisted and demanded the appearance of the witnesses for interrogation, on September 22nd four witnesses came to the courthouse. These four people are key in the indictment and fabricated accusations against the compañerxs of the community assembly, those of us who have maintained our resistance from imprisonment and the others still persecuted by orders of apprehension.

On this occasion, the state police did not have any excuse and were forced to transport us from our prisons, to our hearing at the courthouse in Huautla, scheduled for ten in the morning. While the travel is nothing dignified or comfortable, to see the water running between the mountains reproducing community life, strengthens us. We arrived punctually at the hearing to remove the truth from the rubble of injustice.

Our first impression was the presence of a large number of state, ministerial and municipal police located both outside and inside the courthouse, as well as groups of men that work with the imposed municipal president, Elisa Zepeda. Like on the other occasions we have denounced, she has been bothered that our families and members of the community assembly accompany us to each hearing, where she and her family members who serve as witnesses had previously failed to arrive. This includes their latest strategy to justify their contempt of the multiple judicial warrants, by utilizing a paid notice in the newspaper lying again that our family members come armed with sticks and machetes to the courthouse. With this, their refusal to arrive was because their physical well-being was in danger; something completely false. The judge has already, in every moment, guaranteed their security and assured the necessary conditions for their presentation, such as not allowing the presence of our families in the courthouse, in spite of the hearings supposedly being public.

Finally, on September 22, four of the six witnesses who had been summoned came to the courthouse—the only evidence that supports the false accusations. During the course of the interrogations, the complicity that exists between the functionaries of the court and the Zepeda family was again evident. During the almost 13 hours of interrogation, it was visible that the judge is part of this game and simulation of justice. He was not present during all of the hearing. He only appeared when he had to confirm the legality and illegality of the prepared questions. That is to say, to discard the questions and not carry them out because in his opinion they were loaded and incongruous. That is also to say that this is one of the most blatant examples of corruption and influence or the “supplying” of textbook responses. Furthermore, he was there to disrupt the hearing, to find whatever excuse to scold the defense; for example, for bringing water into the courthouse, or for their physical movements that he thought represented an insult.

On this occasion, the court clerk and the public prosecutor participated (as social representatives of the “supposed aggrieved party”). Along with the judge, these two functionaries on multiple occasions focused on the responses, trying to accommodate what the witnesses had already said, to be congruent with the ministerial declaration or to make sense of responses. Supposedly, neither the public prosecutor nor the court clerk can participate in the answers, but in our hearing it seemed that was their job. And yes, that was their designed job, not beneath the law or codes of procedure, but in the interests of the Zepeda family.

These three people—the judge, the public prosecutor and the court clerk—together with two men that didn’t identify themselves, and the bodyguards of Elisa Zepeda and the police, tried in distinct ways to cancel the hearing. It was only evident that the two unidentified men came with the witnesses and police. They too were allowed to be inside the courthouse (contrary to what happened with those who came to accompany us who were located a block beneath the courthouse, as they were not allowed inside). These various peoples tried to provoke and intimidate us—our lawyers as well as my compañero prisoners and I—as we were the only that were allowed in the hearing. However, and in spite of listening to so many lies and observing the staged performance, our interest was focused on the interrogations, after having waited for so long for these people to come to the hearings, we could not allow them to cancel it.

I would have liked to been able to record everything that happened in the hearing; the great staging of lies, blackmail, manipulation, complicity, abuse of power and corruption that we observed for more than 11 hours. But those hours have translated to almost three years that we have lived inside this legal farce…and the years before 2014 where the history is the same, in the same court. Still, with all of the support that they have given to the witnesses to accommodate their responses, they failed to substantiate their declarations, as they are based in lies, in acts that didn’t happen. However, it is worrisome to know that it will be that same judge and that same court that will dictate the sentence. We know that at all cost, as they have done up until now, they will try to maintain our incarceration and the persecution of our compañeros.

For now, with these lines I share with you all, I share the courage to know that the country is collapsing not only for questions of nature, but because in itself, there is a rotten and decomposed system, that likes to organize pain. There isn’t anything to stop their lies, their abuse…but we tell them again that we don’t believe them, that we don’t trust them and that we will continue struggling and resisting until they cease to exist.

Solidarity with the brotherly peoples!

Miguel Peralta Betanzos

Categories: News

Gainesville, FL: Large Anti-Racist Mobilization to Oppose White Nationalist Richard Spencer, October 19th

It's Goin Down - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 00:19

The post Gainesville, FL: Large Anti-Racist Mobilization to Oppose White Nationalist Richard Spencer, October 19th appeared first on It's Going Down.

We are calling for anti-racists from throughout the South to travel and oppose white power leader Richard Spencer, who will speak at the University of Florida in Gainesville on October 19th. Our aim is a broad mobilization in solidarity with UF students and Gainesville residents, against white nationalist organizing.

Organizations should make travel plans for Gainesville right now. Spencer’s racist event has been officially confirmed. Details of the anti-racist counter-mobilization at UF will be announced soon. In the meantime, please spread this call to action far and wide. Commit to organizing numbers from your region to stand against the racist far-Right.

Richard Spencer is a key white nationalist leader and is one of the most prominent faces of the “Alt-Right.” While Richard Spencer portrays himself as fighting a battle of ideas for his “identitarian” cause — which Spencer denies is racist even as he organizes with neo-Nazis — the fact is that Spencer’s ideology requires organized violence for its goal of a whites-only state. Where Spencer goes, violence follows. When Spencer talked at Auburn University in Alabama on April 18th, his neo-Nazi followers charged at students and anti-racists (the crowd stayed united and repelled the attack).

On August 11-12th, Spencer was one of the main leaders at the notorious “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. There on the night of Friday August 11, a mob of hundreds of white nationalists attacked students and counter-protesters, beating their opponents with tiki torches. Spencer called the white supremacist mobilization “absolutely amazing,” a “total victory,” and “politics at its most spectacular […] magical.” The white power attack led to one person suffering a stroke due to his injuries.

On the Saturday of the Spencer-endorsed “Unite the Right,” neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. — pictured standing alongside members of the fascist Vanguard America organization earlier that day — rammed his car into anti-racist protesters, murdering Heather Heyer and injuring dozens more. Spencer disavowed Heyer’s murder to save face, yet his political agenda entailing mass violence and ethnic cleansing is clear. Until recently, Spencer was set to co-headline a far-Right rally with Vanguard America — the organization murderer Fields stood with — in North Carolina this December. (Spencer canceled for reasons that had nothing to do with Vanguard America’s politics.)

The Alt-Right has been linked to several other murders this year, such as in Maryland, New York and Oregon. Where the racist far-Right can grow unchallenged, more deaths will occur. We support community self-defense against movements that target immigrants, people of color, Jewish people, LGBTQ communities and leftists.

We urge a broad mobilization determined to stand together and to keep each other safe as we counter the militant white nationalists in Gainesville. We intend to win.

Call to Action endorsed by:
  • Tampa Food Not Bombs (FL)
  • Northeast Georgia Democratic Socialists of America (GA)
  • Mutual Aid Disaster Relief – Tampa chapter (FL)
  • Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America (GA)
  • Love Has No Borders (FL)
  • Gainesville Dream Defenders (FL)
  • Gainesville Antifascist Committee (FL)
  • Black Lives Matter Tampa (FL)
  • Atlanta General Defense Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World (GA)
  • Atlanta Antifascists (GA)

Please get in touch if your organization is mobilizing for Gainesville and wants to endorse this call to action: oct19endorse@riseup.net

Categories: News

Radical People Podcast: There’s No Place Like Oklahoma

It's Goin Down - Sat, 09/30/2017 - 22:57

The post Radical People Podcast: There’s No Place Like Oklahoma appeared first on It's Going Down.

In this episode of Radical People, Eamon talks to his friend Sycamore about an action that was attempted back in 2013 in Cushing, Oklahoma, but that was ultimately foiled by someone who informed the police of the plan ahead of time.

It is later discovered via FOIA request that aside from the disenfranchised person who snitched on the action, two police officers had been tasked with infiltrating the action camp where this action was planned. Sycamore recalls that the police infiltrators were obvious, but unconfirmed until the FOIA was received.

Show Notes:

Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance Home Page: gptarsandsresistance.org/

Their last update mentions that the two individuals charged with a “terrorism hoax” after glitter fell off a banner they hung in the entry hall of a building were found not guilty.

Guardian Article explaining the “Terrorism Hoax” Charge leveled against GPTSR activists: www.theguardian.com/environment/201…il-fuel-protest

Article explaining the FOIA release that documents police infiltration of the action camp Sycamore talks about in this episode: www.earthisland.org/journal/index.p…eak_up_planned/

Categories: News

Rising up against the Oligarchs does not equal socialism

Farm Wars - Sat, 09/30/2017 - 22:32
The idea that socialism is a share-the-wealth program is strictly a confidence game to get the people to surrender their freedom to an all-powerful collectivist government.
Categories: News

An Open Letter to UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ from Staff Member

It's Goin Down - Sat, 09/30/2017 - 21:47

The post An Open Letter to UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ from Staff Member appeared first on It's Going Down.

This letter was submitted to IGD from an anonymous Berkeley staff member in response to UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ’s announcement at the end of ‘Free Speech Week.’ The chancellor’s statement said that the campus would start a committee to ‘investigate issues’ brought up by Milo’s visit, but claimed essentially nothing would change. This response reprinted below from a staff member we feel captures the spirit of anger and frustration at both the University, the police, and the media, and re-centers the discussion on the need for communities to defend themselves against the threat of far-Right violence. Moreover, it argues that in facilitating the non-event of ‘Free Speech Week’ for a host of far-Right trolls, the campus also silenced and shut down the ‘free speech’ of thousands in order to manage and contain the situation. In doing so, it only gave cover for violence and harassment to become normalized and carried out, instead of keeping Berkeley students and community members safe.  

Dear Chancellor Christ,

As a UC Berkeley staff member and lifelong resident of the city of Berkeley, your apology for the disruption everyone associated with the campus has experienced this week is a welcome one. However, it has a hollow ring, and inspires no confidence in its sincerity or utility moving forward.

NeoNazi Martin Sellner of "Generation Identity" came all the way from Austria to take stupid photo during #MiloYiannopoulos #FreeSpeechWeek. pic.twitter.com/37fADiqzX7

— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) September 24, 2017

You mention your “firm commitment to the free speech protections of the First Amendment,” but the First Amendment does not begin or end with free speech. It also guarantees freedom of religion, and the right of the people to peacefully assemble. By doing everything in your power to magnify the messages of a coterie of far-right, white supremacist, and fascist speakers, you have had a catastrophic impact on the ability of those associated with this university, and citizens of Berkeley in general, to exercise their constitutional rights of free worship and assembly.

Berkeley College Republican President Troy Worden, chumming it up with white nationalist Martin Sellner of 'Generation Identity.' #Berkeley pic.twitter.com/QBkUr8Mkf3

— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) September 27, 2017

Consider that the rhetoric of Milo Yiannopoulos, Mike Cernovich, and company is openly hostile to all those who practice Islam, and that by welcoming them to campus you are directly responsible for the rash of rhetorical, digital, and physical Islamophobic attacks Berkeley has experienced in the past two weeks. Yiannopoulos and Cernovich may not have committed these attacks personally, but they are behind them just as certainly as a general is behind his soldiers. As even a cursory glance at these men’s histories as public figures makes abundantly clear, they are followed at every turn by an army of violent foot soldiers who are more than willing to bring the hateful rhetoric espoused by their thought leaders into the realm of the physical.

Alt-Right livestreamer with Red Elephants poses with #UniteTheRight neo-Nazi attendee Antonio Foreman at #FreeSpeechWeek in #Berkeley. pic.twitter.com/A9zDMYlsFG

— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) September 24, 2017

This brings me to my second point: the misdirected and oppressive overreaction of Berkeley’s administration to the possibility of protests on campus. As I watched legions of masked and armed riot police descend on campus this week, I had to say it out loud to myself to be sure it was really happening: “A public university campus is being turned into a militarized zone in order to protect and promote acts of hate speech.” The million-plus dollars that you spent facilitating this military occupation of our community is money that comes out of our taxes, our paychecks, and you used it to unleash a campaign of intimidation and psychological warfare on the very people you are supposed to be representing. Our right to protest may not have been technically removed, but by setting up police checkpoints manned by assault rifle-toting sentinels and denying access to public space based on an arbitrarily concocted list of prohibited items (including water bottles, tupperware, and skateboards), you denied our community the right to a show of strength and unity in the face of hateful and divisive rhetoric.

The police’s repeated threats of arrest and assault with chemical weapons, as well as the state of near-martial law imposed on the campus and public parks during Free Speech Week proved a highly effective deterrent to the Berkeley community’s exercise of our constitutional right to protest. Unfortunately, it had little effect on the far-right and white supremacist visitors the event brought to Berkeley, who used the streets immediately surrounding campus as a free-fire zone for verbal and physical assaults on those who looked like they might be the kind of people Yiannopoulos and friends have riled them up against. You say that the massive police presence on campus was “necessary to protect the community,” but in this task it was an unmitigated failure, as two-time felon and white supremacist Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman, among many, many others, was allowed to enter campus, video student events for far-right propaganda purposes, yell hate speech at passersby, and beat a Berkeley resident bloody at UC business partner Pappy’s Grill, all within sight of Sproul Plaza and without any police intervention.

We talked with someone who says they were beat up by Based Stickman after #FreeSpeechWeek in #Berkeley. https://t.co/MRhoVzh1RQ pic.twitter.com/nYtLveKBLA

— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) September 27, 2017

The police succeeded in protecting windows and lightbulbs. The community was left, as it has been time and again when faced with white supremacist violence, to fend for itself. Your commitment to free speech may be admirable in a vacuum, but in practice your inability to see the forest of the First Amendment for one of its trees ended up as a militarized assault on the rights of people it should have been your first order of business to protect.

@IGD_News Antonio Foreman doxxing at #Berkeley today. Help ID others? pic.twitter.com/1xN8kqZ1VB

— Zarina Zabrisky (@ZarinaZabrisky) September 26, 2017

In a previous mass email to the campus community, you said “(w)e encourage you to think critically about your actions and not react to the provocations of others.” It is my opinion that the time has long since passed for you to take your own advice. What was the cultural, educational, and financial disaster of Free Speech Week if not a spiteful provocation by one of the far-Right’s most vile provocateurs? And what was your response to it if not reactionary? Another school in the UC system, UCLA, had little trouble calling off a planned Yiannopoulos event as a security risk.

Antonio Foreman's been harassing people in #Berkeley following #FreeSpeechWeek. Here he is #Charlottesville at #UniteTheRight 'tiki' march. pic.twitter.com/JaiakuK3bD

— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) September 27, 2017

Yet when Yiannopoulos, an embodiment of intolerance if there ever was one, questioned Berkeley’s self-evident bonafides as a tolerant institution, you took the poisoned bait. Had you thought critically about your actions, you might have envisioned Free Speech Week ending up as it did: a violent and unfunny joke played by a group of bigoted thugs on a historically progressive institution that by every expectation should have been above such things. But you got down into the mud with them and played their game, bringing hate and violence to campus, and in doing so you put not just the University community but the entire city in serious danger.

Far right converges on a leftist bookstore in Berkeley. Guy identifying as independent security for right-wing media says "Say hi to /pol/" pic.twitter.com/z3JOjtEbua

— Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) September 25, 2017

You mention that you will be appointing a commission to “propose solutions” to “the growing tension between the protections guaranteed to free speech under the constitution and (a) sense of social justice.” Here you propose a binary reading of an issue which is far more complex; but if there was a binary choice to be made in the face of Yiannopoulos and his mob of media hate-mongers calling out Berkeley, you made the wrong one. UCLA had no trouble finding a way to deny Milo their prestigious platform to preach his violence from; you could and should have found one yourself.

By failing to do so, you failed Berkeley.

A Member of UC Berkeley Staff

Categories: News

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