The post New Zine: It’s A Sin to Kill a Mockingbird: Writings on Scout Schultz appeared first on It's Going Down.A collection of texts remembering the life of Scout Schultz and the rebellion at Georgia Institute of Technology that erupted following their murder at the hands of the police. From the Contemporaries Project.
On Friday, September 16 2017, 21-year old Scout Schultz was shot and killed by police at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Scout was active in campus LGBT groups and identified as intersex. Scout was a part of local organized antifascist initiatives and was an anarchist. When news spread of their death, friends, family, and classmates near and far began scrambling to understand the events. In video surfacing online, it is possible to watch Scout scream at officers to “shoot me,” which they thoughtlessly do. In the coming days, a flurry of statements, rationalizations, and arrests are unleashed after mourners set fire to a police cruiser and clash with cops following a vigil on campus.
In the wake of the repression as well as the suffocating culture on campus, wherein students, faculty, and cowards of all stripes came out to defend the shooting, or to oppose those who sought proportional response to it, Scout’s former partner Dallas took their own life. Following a series of arrests and detentions, a friend and comrade of Scout’s, Kirby Jackson, took their own life as well.
As of this publication, the arrestees from the night of the riot have either had charges reduced or dropped and none are set to serve jail time. No one has been convicted for vandalizing squad cars or burning the police cruiser. The officer who killed Scout, Tyler Beck, is still on duty.
The legacy of this tragic sequence is in your hands now, dear reader. For Scout, for Dallas, for Kirby, and for the rest of us: be fierce, be swift, be cruel.
Quickly mobilizing themselves, the assembly—along with the support and solidarity from neighbors, social organizations and collectives—gathered in front of the district attorney’s office where the compañeros were being held, to pressure the authorities to release the detained. After various hours, and in consequence of the mounting pressure from outside, the two compañeros were released without charge.
Below we publish a translated communique from the Assembly released a few hours after the compañeros were detained along with a short report back below addressing how the day ended at the district attorney’s office.Communique of the Assembly of Aztecas #215 released shortly after the two compañeros were detained
Law enforcement of the Mexico City Government detain water defenders for opposing illegal work on public sidewalk.
Today, September 15th, 2018, at 10:30 am, Gustavo López Rosas and Vicente Escobedo Soria were violently detained by Mexico City police. The detention took place in the protest encampment at Aztecas #215 when they were carrying out a live video transmission denouncing the damage to the public sidewalk being done by the real estate company Quiero Casa. The compañeros were detained violently: they were beaten and robbed of their belongings. Furthermore, compañeras who tried to stop the arrest were beaten, including one who was shot with a rubber bullet in the stomach.
With this communique, we demand that the Mexico City government immediately release our compañeros and we reinforce that defending water is not a crime.
We convoke the social and human rights organizations to urgently accompany us at the Regional District Attorney’s Office of Coyoacán at the cross streets of Tecualiapan and Zompantitlan, Colonia Romero de Terreros, Coyoacán, Mexico City, where we are protesting for the immediate freedom of our compañeros.
General Assembly of Peoples, Neighborhoods, Communities and Pedregales of Coyoacán
After various hours of protest in front of the district attorney’s office, and without a response from the authorities, the compañerxs decided to take the nearby avenue, Miguel Ángel de Quevedo, to strengthen the demand for the release of their detained compañeros.
For nearly an hour, avenue Miguel Ángel de Quevedo was blocked in both directions, with chants sounding in defense of water and life, and for the freedom of political prisoners. In response, the Mexico City government reacted in the only manner they know how, with aggression. While around 100 riot police were able to open up the avenue to traffic, they didn’t do so without rowdy and spirited resistance from the people present.
Shortly after, and in what was likely a direct result of the road blockade, the two detained compañeros were released. There, in front of the district attorney’s office, the two compañeros took the microphone to thank everyone for the solidarity and to commit themselves to the ongoing struggle against ruthless urban capital accumulation in Mexico City.
The post Rustbelt Abolition Radio: Reports from the 2018 Prisoner Strike appeared first on It's Going Down.Rustbelt Abolition Radio returns with a report on the prison strike.
As reports of the 2018 Prison Strike actions and state retaliation continue to come in, we speak with Amani Sawari – organizer and media contact with Jailhouse Lawyers Speak— about ways to support prison rebels. We also hear from J, who’s among the strikers inside a South Carolina Prison.
To get more news and reports from the strike, be sure to visit:
Image credit: Amanda Priebe, Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative
The post Communiqué for September 9th Burnside Jail Noise Demo appeared first on It's Going Down.Anarchists in so-called Nova Scotia detail a noise demonstration in solidarity with the prison strike on September 9th.
On the evening of Sunday, September 9, 2018, a group of anarchists and prison abolitionists marched onto the premises of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility (more commonly known as the Burnside jail) to communicate a message of love and solidarity to the prisoners inside. September 9th was the last day of the Black August North prisoner strike organized by people on the inside, which had started three weeks earlier. The initial prisoner statement and strike demands are outlined here. Their statement at the end of the strike is found here.
The strike started on August 21, the 47th anniversary of George Jackson’s death in 1971, and ended on September 9, the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising in the same year.
Our group first approached the women’s wing, which is where we turned on our sound system, unfurled our banners, started lighting fireworks, and began chanting as loud as we could. They responded by banging on the windows. We did not stay too long before we marched further to the men’s wing where strike organizers were locked up. We were there for about twenty minutes. We showed them a grand fireworks display, and some participants climbed up the fence, either to wave to people inside or tie flowers to the uppermost chain links.
Here are some of the things we chanted:
“Burnside Jail to Collins Bay, fighting back is the only way.”
“They can take our lives away, but not our dignity! Our hearts will pound against these walls until we all are free!”
“Our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons!”
Our banners read: “Prison is Revolting” and “Against Prison”
At moments when we stopped making noise, we were able to hear rhythmic banging on the windows. Some prisoners waved, and others flicked the lights on and off in their cells. At one point, the chant of “You are not alone” was taken up spontaneously in our group (it wasn’t on our chant sheet), and that turned into an especially powerful moment of connection and tears. Eventually, we ran out of fireworks, and so we waved goodbye and left the way we came in.
It was as we were approaching the women’s wing again, with the intention of communicating to those prisoners for a little while longer before calling it a night, that a Halifax PD paddy wagon arrived. The vehicle screeched to a halt 20 or so feet from us, and two cops came out and charged us. What followed was a short scuffle in which the cops laid hands on several people, many people were pepper sprayed, and one person was brought to the ground and put in handcuffs. A third cop jumped out of the back of the van with a dog, which was used to intimidate and clear away the crowd. Though the presence of a trained-to-be-vicious and unpredictable-seeming police dog did cause our group to back up, we continued to yell at the pigs together and stayed tight. It was clear to us that the cops were intimidated by our collective rage and defiance.
What we were doing on September 9th was, of course, an effort to confront prison by connecting with the prisoners inside and showing our solidarity with their struggle. It was not planned as a combative action, we were not prepared for a fight. Based on our collective experience of attending dozens of previous noise demos outside jails in so-called canada, we did not predict such an immediately escalated response from the police. At the very least, we expected to be told to leave before being attacked and having a friend put in handcuffs. It’s not at all surprising, though, that Halifax cops would respond to our demonstration with aggression. That’s what cops do.
In the words of the Burnside jail prisoners, from their statement at the end of the strike:
“To the protestors who came right down through the woods to the back of the jail, risking their freedom to stand in solidarity with us, you gave us the most liberating feeling. We want you to know, we could hear you, and we believe you: we are not alone. Thank you. We love you, and are grateful to have you by our sides.”
This demonstration fully achieved what we set out to do – express our love and solidarity with those locked up, connecting despite the seemingly impenetrable prison walls. Our experiences strengthen our resolve to act in solidarity with those struggling against the cruelty of prison. The police response strengthens our rage against them, and against all State institutions of social control and criminalization.
– some anarchists
The post Getting Caught: Call for Stories about the Times you Didn’t Get Away appeared first on It's Going Down.A call originally published on North Shore Counter-Info for a collection of stories about the times when you’ve gotten caught up.
It happens. When you’re pushing limits, trying to find new ways to fight back, sooner or later you might get caught. And it’s not the end of the world.
The first time my house got searched, it was 3 AM. I was all in black with a dufflebag over my shoulder full of crowbars, bolt cutters and gloves, and I was on my out the door. But through the front window, I saw flashing lights and then the shadows of cops walking dogs back and forth on our lawn. They had the street closed off.
Yes, getting busted sucks and let’s keep finding ways to avoid it. But there’s value in sitting a while with that moment when you realize you aren’t getting away this time. Reflecting on them can give courage and determination to keep going, to try again, to fail better.
I was 19. I grabbed my roommates who were awake and as the pounding on the door started we tried to decide what to do. They were shining flashlights through the window and knocking on the glass. We decided I would go outside porch to talk to them and my roommate would lock the door behind me.
“Getting Caught” aims to be a place to tell those stories. Submit your very short stories (300 words. The shorter the better) about times when you didn’t away. We’ll collect them and publish them as a pretty risographed brochure, as a pdf, and maybe on a website. You can email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org (PGP key here) or you can leave them as a comment on this post on North Shore Counter-Info. If they’re clearly marked as submissions, the mods have agreed to send them along. All submissions will be anonymized even if you tell us who you are. Get your submissions in by October 31, 2018 and the collection will be ready before New Year’s eve.
The cops said they were just looking for some guys who robbed a gas station across the street. If we just let them in, they wouldn’t notice anything that wasn’t those guys. They promised. “But if you make us get a warrant…” I tapped to be let back in to talk with my friends. The house was surrounded. The pounding on the door resumed almost immediately after it closed behind me.
Looking forward to reading your submissions. Stay safe. Never stop.
(Si vous préférez écrire en français, il nous est possible de traduire ton histoire vers l’anglais, alors allez-y, écrivez-la!)
The post Chester, PA: Prison Strike Banner Drop Outside Prison Yard appeared first on It's Going Down.The following communique and photos was anonymously sent to It’s Going Down.
Some anarchists dropped a banner reading “#PRISON STRIKE – FREE ALL PRISONERS” off the parking garage for the casino next to SCI Chester. Timing was good, and there were folks in the yard of the prison when we dropped it. Hopefully people both in the yard and in the dorms facing the banner saw it clearly, and felt some sense of the solidarity we hoped to communicate.
Unfortunately we couldn’t safely get a clear photo of the banner itself after deploying it. But whatever, out target audience was closer.
The PA Dept of Corrections is currently imposing severe restrictions on those it holds captive, including absurd rerouting of all mail through a private corporation in Florida, increased security screening for visitors, and soon, implementing a system where inmates will only have access to e-books after buying devices with which to read them at their own expense.
Considering this, we gotta figure out more creative ways to communicate with people inside while escalating on the outside. Like, actually escalating on the outside.
For rebellion inside and out,
for severe escalation to end prisons,
– some philly anarchists
The post “On the Side of Society, Against Civilization”: Virginia to Rojava appeared first on It's Going Down.An essay comparing the experiments in Rojava and their readings of Ocalan to lived experiences and struggles in Virginia.
Photo: Anarchists in Rojava fighting ISIS holding up flags.
Shockingly little consideration has been paid to the writings of Abdullah Ocalan. Imprisoned by the Turkish government in 1999, Ocalan has been writing from solitary confinement on the prison island of Ismarli for nineteen years. Most recently he has produced a four volume work, entitled Manifesto for a Democratic Civilization. He is the founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party and the ideological leader of the main Kurdish political party in Rojava. Despite the very specific pressures of the decades-long regional conflict, the work has the potential to illuminate our understanding of anti-establishment struggles the world over. Reading the Manifesto here in so-called Virginia these past two years has heightened my own understanding of this area’s more visible struggles: the resistance to two unnecessary fracked gas pipelines, and the rise of antifascism before and after the infamous white supremacists gatherings in Charlottesville.
The first two volumes of Ocalan’s Manifesto feel up-to-this-minute relevant, despite the works making their way to English almost a decade after they were smuggled out of prison, ostensibly as defenses for his trial (the last two volumes are still being translated by the Norwegian publisher New Compass). The work, as thus-far translated, has two primary preoccupations: First, analyzing the positivist mindset which enables civilization’s exploits. Second, a broad critique of capitalist modernity that very thoroughly traces its roots back 6,000 years to the beginning of civilization. (The third volume will concern itself with what Ocalan calls the “sociology of freedom”; the fourth will cover Ocalan’s vision of a path to peace in the Middle East). Subjective experience and objective history are thus considered of equal importance in this aspirational screed, and the synthesis is thrilling. To borrow the cliche about good poetry, it captures what is often thought but rarely so well expressed.
His analysis of the roots of capitalism begins not with Medicis in Venice or with tulips in Amsterdam nor factories in Manchester, but with the emergence of civilization itself six thousand years ago in the fertile crescent. The emergence of agriculture, he contends, is where surplus product – and thus capital – first arises. This time also saw the transition from matricentric societies to civilizations dominated by the “strong and crafty” man,” who tricked and trapped his way from hunter-provider to matricentic villages to the authoritarian head of a household. “The fundamental rule of his profession was to know where the most profit was to be made and to steer towards those places,” says Ocalan. “This is probably what is meant by the saying ‘capital has no homeland.”” The metaphor is both a summation of the history and useful way of understanding how power is wielded today. Housewifization, in turn, is named as the first form of slavery and the basis of all its myriad subsequent forms (and thus we see the Rojava constitution mandating gender equality in matters of governance). To employ Maria Mie’s definition, as Ocalan’s editor’s do:
Housewifization means the externalization, or ex-territorialization of costs which otherwise would have to be covered by the capitalists. This means women’s labor is considered a natural resource, freely available like air and water. Housewifization means at the same time the total atomization and disorganization of these hidden workers. … As the housewife is linked to the wage-earning breadwinner, to the ‘free’ proletarian as a non-free worker, the ‘freedom’ of the proletarian to sell his labor power is based on the non-freedom of the housewife. Proletarianization of men is based on the housewifization of women. In sum, about 6,000 years ago, humanity started to shift from matricentric societies to housewifized civilizations oriented around the accumulation and concentration of surplus product.
The ziggurat serves as the model for the basic class structure that perpetuates itself in every civilization, right up to those we live under today. On the three floors of Ocalan’s symbolic ziggurat are: 1) On top, the “gods,” or the holders of power. 2) Those “who uphold the legitimacy of power” in the middle. And on the lowest level it’s 3) the laborers or slaves who “work to be fed”. This basic social structure has pervaded every iteration of civilization these past six thousand years. Our current era is that of the “naked kings,” because we all know who the powerful are; they do not have to rule under the pretext of divinity or divine right. These ziggurats of hierarchy both permeate throughout any given civilization, and the metaphor serves as a functional way of understanding the entirety of a civilization.
In Virginia, for instance, we know that our electricity monopoly, Dominion Energy, wields immense power to further enrich itself. It’s not difficult to imagine their CEO, Tom Farrell, as a king demanding sacrifices to further Dominion’s reign. Nor is it difficult to imagine the dozens of other slimy Dominion executives and their spineless lobbyists, politicians, and PR wormtongues as a sort of priest class dedicated to both upholding the machinations of the Dominion profit machine and the public perception of Dominion’s power as natural, inevitable and basically benevolent. Meanwhile, us captive rate payers should just be grateful that our lights turn on everyday, and we should simply continue to work and pay our bills. We are the wage slaves on the ground floor.
Anarchist comrades in Rojava with a message of solidarity for revolutionary anti-fascist fighters in Charlottesville and DC. Avenge Heather Heyer! pic.twitter.com/UV9nU5Hhlc
— RevAbolitionMov (@RevAbolitionist) August 11, 2018
Ocalan calls the problems of our financial age of capitalist modernity a “social crisis” in which power is openly and brutally wielded, but he always comes back to pointing out that today’s problems have very old roots. “I want to emphasize that the interdependency of political, commercial, and economical monopolies is not unique to capitalism, but that it has existed since the beginning of civilization and the onset of urbanization and dynasties”. Like a rusted and heavy chain, the various iterations of these forces have linked themselves together throughout the history of civilization to beat down any movement that respects the sanctity of all life. Thus this Manifesto’s emphasis on retelling history to show that this civilization “has been at war for all of its five thousand year life.” The real source of our civilization’s power is violence.
But older than civilization is what Ocalan terms “communal society.” Historically, this iteration of human life prevailed in the Primitive Communal and Neolithic eras–for hundreds of thousands of years prior to the beginning of civilization. This “communal mother society” still exists within and in spite of civilization, and manifests itself as a community’s natural will to take care of itself. Society is what springs up in natural disasters, or anytime or anywhere that humans help each other without the motive of accumulating resources for themselves. In this country, we see it in contemporary protest movements, vividly in the Standing Rock action against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I’ve seen it the ongoing resistance to the proposed fracked natural gas pipeline here in Virginia, and in the spontaneous coalition of clergy, students, residents, anarchists, Black Lives Matter activists, socialists and medics that amassed to counter the August 12, 2017 white supremacist rally. Such resistances express an ancient societal solidarity.
For its part, Dominion acts in the six thousand year old tradition of civilization, remorselessly expressing its political and economic power to capture the profit that this proposed pipeline will generate for them. When I’ve talked to the people directly in its path about their meeting with Dominion officials, they universally say they feel completely unheard. Dominion and their state politicians seem like they are talking about an entirely different happening from the protestors. This difference in language and perspective around the value of this proposed pipeline illustrates the gulf between societal and civilizational mindsets: for society there is no value to something that’s a broad threat to public health and which will damage gorgeous tracts of forest and the nearly pristine waterways which lace the Blue Ridge mountains. Neither natural beauty nor the well being of the rural environment and the working class people who inhabit it factor into Dominion’s civilizational notions of value. This fundamental disconnect leaves no common ground for conversation or compromise.
Even more seering than the terrible scene of bucolic waterways turned bright orange with runoff from pipeline construction, are those of the infamous torch march and subsequent Unite the Right rally. Who can forget the four hundred some white men clad in Nazi and Neonazi insignia, carrying torches and chanting “you will not replace us.” The scene of a half dozen of them cornering DeAndre Harris and beating him bloody in the parking garage immediately adjacent to the Charlottesville police station. Or most scaring, legs flying up in air as a grey Dodge Charger plows into a crowd of previously joyful counter-protestors.
That is civilizational violence at street level; tellingly the representatives of the state there that weekend, the police (of local, state and national persuasion), did little to intervene. The Unite the Right attendees were vastly outnumbered by the counter protestors, but nearly all of fascist demonstrators were willing to be violent. Such is the story of civilization versus society that Ocalan tells: society is greater in number than civilization, but to be civilized is to be brutal. Society’s power lies in the love-driven compulsion to provide for one another, and this manifested itself on A12 in the multitude of street medics amongst the counter protestors, providing care and handing out water bottles when not otherwise engaged. The fascist demonstrators appeared to have no medics amongst their ranks, demonstrated in their inability even to take care of their leaders when a few of them got mace in their eyes (the treatment is to have someone pour water in your open eyes as you put your head back—very elementary). The only advantage they had that weekend was that they did not hesitate to use violence; from where else could they derive power?
In his earlier works, Ocalan calls on his followers not to focus on attacking or attempting to displace the state, but to instead focus on building autonomous democratic structures within and in spite of the state. (It makes sense then, that Rojava is in talks with the Syrian government for autonomous self-rule within the Syrian state, not for an independent nation.) He argues when society congeals enough to start expressing itself politically within the state apparatus of civilization, it expresses itself as “democracy” or “democratic civilization.” According to Ocalan,
Democracy is based mostly upon the substratum majority and multitudes that have been betrayed, oppressed, and exploited mostly by the hierarchic upper-strata, whereas civilization is based mostly on the section of the upper strata that pursue the oppression, exploitation, and ideological hegemony.
The radical democratic tendency is thus the tendency towards society, or towards a civilization that has been made “full of love and joy”. Ocalan contends that a complete revolution will be one in which society completely sublimates civilisation, overthrowing the later’s disembodied notions of value. (In various other works, Ocalan goes into detail about the process of the decentralization of power, advocating for the creation of smaller centers of democratized power in the form of community councils, or communes, that have great autonomy from any central or federal authority. These ideas in sum are usually called democratic confederalism, and underpin the constitution of Rojava.)
The first volume of the Manifesto expresses a deep respect of our own ability to perceive, calling it the “main path to knowledge and sound principle of regime in relation to what truth is.” Much less of interest is the objective route to truth; “vulgar positivism” receives much of the blame for what is wrong with industrialized modern civilization, and for what was wrong with scientific socialist attempts to overcome it. This essay will not go offer a detailed critique of the latter’s faults because this is not the point or even a main preoccupation of Ocalan’s work, and he expresses a deep respect throughout the first two volumes for the achievements of socialist thinkers and revolutionaries. The PKK was a conventional Marxist-Leninist party when he helped found it, and the party reportedly had a difficult time with Ocalan’s Bookchin-inspired idea (see below paragraph) that they should stop attacking the state and instead work to create direct democracy within it. This reflects Ocalan’s own shift in focus from having a concrete or objectively existing thing, like a country, towards an emphasis on process, towards cultivating a living communalist sensibility that values pervasive democratic participation and gender equality.
This Manifesto is thus not “an endeavor for an alternative method but rather an endeavor to find a solution to the problems that a life detached from the values of freedom creates,” not a critique of any objective system which attempts a ceteris paribus analysis of human life, but of the scientific “capitalist modernity mentality.” To posit another system to overcome capitalist modernity is to engage in the mentality of oppression – the hierarchical mentality which enables the civilized human to desire domination and exploitation.
The Manifesto calls for the overthrow of any outlook which perceives pervasive “mutually antagonistic pyramids erected around notions of ‘inferior’ and superior,’” to quote Murray Bookchin, and live like you’re not of higher or lower importance than your environment or the people around you (though this does not mean be passive in the face of a threat or oppression; self-defense is encouraged, and this is why Rojava’s militias are called Self-Defense Forces). Though we are of nature, we are nearly unique in it for our ability to empathize. Ocalan, very much a student of Bookchin’s The Ecology of Freedom, calls for us to make use of our second nature – our vibrant subjectivity – and become active participants in furthering the evolution of humanity. The free mind turns its focus to “deal[ing] with the moment of creation in social events,” says Ocalan, and away from domination. From The Ecology of Freedom:
Thus, the effort to restore the ecological principle of unity in diversity has become a social effort in its own right–a revolutionary effort that must rearrange sensibility in order to rearrange the real world.
The pipeline-building executives of a powerful electricity corporation like Dominion and the neo-Nazi Alt-Righters are both useful illustrations of the civilized mindset at work. In the case of the corporate suits, they see their own comfort as being of greater importance than the health of other humans and apparently also of the James River, which flows right outside their Richmond headquarters’ front door. They believe their lives can be enriched by the unnecessary extraction of a natural resource. Only a mind trapped in hierarchic perception could ever see themselves as being enriched by a process as destructive as fracking natural gas and then transporting it 600 miles through a landslide-prone mountainous region.
It’s not a difficult step to then see how this willful prioritization of self over all else makes possible the direct human on human oppression so relished by the neo-Nazis. You could see it in the faces of the participants in last year’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville; an unnatural, fear-derived rage arisen from their belief that the permanent displacement of non-whites could bring them a lasting happiness. From the the hierarchical, civilized mind arises a fear-driven desire not to share the ill-begotten wealth of this country, and the willingness to look at the climate change’s threat to all of humanity and react with indifference. These fascistic white supremacists represent the most outlandishly virulent form of the civilized mindset, and the civilized and indifferent “good German” mindset is the Petri dish in which they thrive. Ocalan’s rally cry of “free life or genocide” thus carries the ring of truth. The Alt-Right, and all those who find them unthreatening, would prefer a holocaust to helping.View this post on Instagram
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Just as it would be self-limiting to ignore the oppression, the same goes for an awareness of the more radical struggles in the world. It’s difficult, once one becomes aware, to sit idly by as Rojava’s YPJ and YPG militias fight a two front war against ISIS and the Turkish state whilst bargaining with Assad’s Syria for their autonomy. They are defending the world’s most radical democracy, and we in so-called Virginia can (and have) take inspiration from their example (and vice versa).
We ought to direct the course of each day towards a freer life and against the causes of our suffering, towards fuller moments and perhaps less objective certainty. For the pipeline opponent, it is important to have some basic inspirational understanding of the damage the ACP and MVP would do to the Virginia environment and rural communities, but if all that opponent does is educate themselves without ever waking up one day and taking some form of action to oppose them, the education is worthless. Similarly, if a socialist or anarchist or revolutionary of any ideological persuasion merely studies revolutionary texts without ever undertaking some praxis, they might truly be better off reading paperback thrillers. If that education never occurs though, then the transformation of consciousness and values might never occur either. In the case of this author, it gave me the concepts and language to better understand the link between the antifascist and antipipeline struggles, a link I have long felt but struggled to express. Simultaneously, it imparts a revolutionary aspiration that subsumes the desire for something like a more perfect counter cultural identity. Am I an anarchist? Socialist? Libertarian communist? Democratic confederalist? It seems not to matter; I know I am on the side of society, against civilization.
“The alternative of utopian free life is neither a form of production nor a society, but a life that can be constructed daily by communities.” If we are to lead revolutionary lives which overcome not just our current capitalism, but also reach back for inspiration to a matricentric society that predates patriarchal civilization, then we will have to learn to cast off the mentalities within us that have allowed this brutal civilization to persist. We will have to shift our focus to how we live our lives, as Ocalan suggests, each and every day. We will have to learn new myths to pattern our lives off, giving up or at least complicaticating the prevailing modern mythology of hierarchic positivism. This brief essay is a piece of propaganda towards that goal.
Sept. 17, 2018, 2:10 Eastern Time
A “state of emergency” has been declared by the staff at Brunswick Nuclear Plant in Southport, North Carolina. Few details are available at the … Read the rest
The post “State of Emergency” Declared at Brunswick Nuclear Plant in Southport, NC appeared first on The Organic Prepper.
Electric co-ops from more than a dozen states, including those from parts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia that originally kept their crews available for local response, are now involved in power restoration where they are needed.
“The Arkansas cooperatives have sent approximately 100 pieces of equipment that include service bucket trucks, bucket trucks, digger derricks, pickups and pole trailers,” said Rob Roedel, a spokesman for Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc., adding that more crews remain available should they be needed.
“Personnel from the Alabama Rural Electric Association are keeping in close touch with their counterparts in North Carolina so plans can be made to shift crews from one area to another, as the need arises,” said Lenore Vickrey, the association’s vice president of communications. She added that if they are needed, “the crews can expect to spend a week to 10 days helping restore power.”
Go to the GEO front page
By Joseph Siess
“The technology that has allowed for the shale gas revolution in America, we want to make available to Argentina,” Perry said.
At the summit, which was intended to focus on a transition to cleaner energy, Perry instead pledged the U.S. Department of Energy’s support in helping Argentina exploit its vast fossil fuel resources. Namely by connecting the nation with U.S. companies that know how to extract shale oil and gas via hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
But DOE isn’t the only part of the U.S. government facilitating fracking in Argentina. Under the Trump administration, the Departments of Interior and State — working closely with Pennsylvania State University — have been involved in multiple workshops focused on developing shale oil and gas in the South American nation.Tags: Vaca Muerta ShaleRick PerryArgentinashale gasfrackingTrump Administration
Once upon a time, there was a little-known energy company called Enron. In its 16-year life, it went from being dubbed America’s most innovative company by Fortune Magazine to being the poster child of American corporate deceit. Using a classic recipe for book-cooking, Enron ended up in bankruptcy with jail time for those involved. Its shareholders lost $74 billion in the four years leading up to its bankruptcy in 2001.
A decade ago, the flameout of my former employer, Lehman Brothers, the global financial firm, proved far more devastating, contributing as it did to a series of events that ignited a global financial meltdown. Americans lost an estimated $12.8 trillion in the havoc.
Despite the differing scales of those disasters, there was a common thread: both companies used financial tricks to make themselves appear so much healthier than they actually were. They both faked the numbers, thanks to off-the-books or offshore mechanisms and eluded investigations… until they collapsed.
Now, here’s a question for you as we head for the November midterm elections, sure to be seen as a referendum on the president: Could Donald Trump be a one-man version of either Enron or Lehman Brothers, someone who cooked “the books” until, well, he imploded?
Since we’ve never seen his tax returns, right now we really don’t know. What we do know is that he’s been dodging bullets ever since the Justice Department accused him of violating the Fair Housing Act in his operation of 39 buildings in New York City in 1973. Unlike famed 1920s mob boss Al Capone, he may never get done in by something as simple as tax evasion, but time will tell.
Rest assured of one thing though: he won’t go down easily, even if he is already the subject of multiple investigations and a plethora of legal slings and arrows. Of course, his methods should be familiar. As President Calvin Coolidge so famously put it, “the business of America is business.” And the business of business is to circumvent or avoid the heat… until, of course, it can’t.The Safe
So far, Treasury Secretary and former Trump national campaign finance chairman Steven Mnuchin has remained out of the legal fray that’s sweeping away some of his fellow campaign associates. Certainly, he and his wife have grandiose tastes. And, yes, his claim that his hedge fund, Dune Capital Management, used offshore tax havens only for his clients, not to help him evade taxes himself, represents a stretch of the imagination. Other than that, however, there seems little else to investigate — for now. Still, as Treasury secretary he does oversee a federal agency that means the world to Donald Trump, the Internal Revenue Service, which just happens to be located across a courtyard from the Trump International Hotel on Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue.
As it happens, the IRS in the Trump era still doesn’t have a commissioner, only an acting head. What it may have, National Enquirer-style, is genuine presidential secrets in the form of Donald Trump’s elusive tax returns. Last fall, outgoing IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said that there were plans to relocate them to a shiny new safe where they would evidently remain.
In 2016, Trump became the first candidate since President Richard Nixon not to disclose his tax returns. During the campaign, he insisted that those returns were undergoing an IRS audit and that he would not release them until it was completed. (No one at the IRS has ever confirmed that being audited in any way prohibits the release of tax information.) The president’s pledge to do so remains unfulfilled and last year counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway noted that the White House was “not going to release his tax returns,” adding — undoubtedly thinking about his base — “people didn’t care.”
On April 17, 2018, the White House announced that the president would defer even filing his 2017 tax returns until this October. As every president since Nixon has undergone a mandatory audit while in office, count on American taxpayers hearing the same excuse for the rest of his term, even if Congress were to decide to invoke a 1924 IRS provision to view them.
Still, Conway may have a point when it comes to the public. After all, tax dodging is as American as fireworks on the Fourth of July. According to one study, every year the U.S. loses $400 billion in unpaid taxes, much of it hidden in offshore tax havens.
Yet the financial disclosures that The Donald did make during election campaign 2016 indicate that there are more than 500 companies in over two dozen countries, mostly with few to no employees or real offices, that feature him as their “president.” Let’s face it, someone like Trump would only create a business universe of such Wall Street-esque complexity if he wanted to hide something. He was likely trying to evade taxes, shield himself and his family from financial accountability, or hide the dubious health of parts of his business empire. As a colleague of mine at Bear Stearns once put it, when tax-haven companies pile up like dirty laundry, there’s a high likelihood that their uses aren’t completely clean.
Now, let’s consider what we know of Donald Trump’s financial adventures, taxes and all. It’s quite a story and, even though it already feels like forever, it’s only beginning to be told.The Trump Organization
Atop the non-White House branch of the Trump dynasty is the Trump Organization. To comply with federal conflict-of-interest requirements, The Donald officially turned over that company’s reins to his sons, Eric and Donald Jr. For all the obvious reasons, he was supposed to distance himself from his global business while running the country.
Only that didn’t happen and not just because every diplomat and lobbyist in town started to frequent his money-making new hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Now, according to the New York Times, the Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pressing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two of its senior officials because the president’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid off an adult film actress and a former Playboy model to keep their carnal knowledge to themselves before the election.
Though Cohen effectively gave Stormy Daniels $130,000 and Karen McDougal $150,000 to keep them quiet, the Trump Organization then paid Cohen even more, $420,000, funds it didn’t categorize as a reimbursement for expenses, but as a “retainer.” In its internal paperwork, it then termed that sum as “legal expenses.”
The D.A.’s office is evidently focusing its investigation on how the Trump Organization classified that payment of $420,000, in part for the funds Cohen raised from the equity in his home to calm the Stormy (so to speak). Most people take out home equity loans to build a garage or pay down some debt. Not Cohen. It’s a situation that could become far thornier for Trump. As Cohen already knew, Trump couldn’t possibly wield his pardon power to absolve his former lawyer, since it only applies to those convicted of federal charges, not state ones.
And that’s bad news for the president. As Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer, put it, “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”
The bigger question is: What else is there? Those two payoffs may, after all, just represent the beginning of the woes facing both the Trump Organization and the Trump Foundation, which has been the umbrella outfit for businesses that have incurred charges of lobbying violations (not disclosing payment to a local newspaper to promote favorable casino legislation) and gaming law violations. His organization has also been accused of misleading investors, engaging in currency-transaction-reporting crimes, and improperly accounting for money used to buy betting chips, among a myriad of other transgressions. To speculate on overarching corporate fraud would not exactly be a stretch.
Unlike his casinos, the Trump Organization has not (yet) gone bankrupt, nor — were it to do so — is it in a class with Enron or Lehman Brothers. Yet it does have something in common with both of them: piles of money secreted in places designed to hide its origins, uses, and possibly end-users. The question some authority may pursue someday is: If Donald Trump was willing to be a part of a scheme to hide money paid to former lovers, wouldn’t he do the same for his businesses?The Trump Foundation
Questions about Trump’s charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, have abounded since campaign 2016. They prompted New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood to file a lawsuit on June 14th against the foundation, also naming its board of directors, including his sons and his daughter Ivanka. It cites “a pattern of persistent illegal conduct… occurring over more than a decade, that includes extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for non-profit foundations.”
As the New York Times reported, “The lawsuit accused the charity and members of Mr. Trump’s family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing, and illegal coordination with Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.” It also alleged that for four years — 2007, 2012, 2013, and 2014 — Trump himself placed his John Hancock below incorrect statements on the foundation’s tax returns.
The main issue in question: Did the Trump Foundation use any of its funds to benefit The Donald or any of his businesses directly? Underwood thinks so. As she pointed out, it “was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality.” Otherwise it seems to have employed no one and, according to the lawsuit, its board of directors has not met since 1999.
Because Trump ran all of his enterprises, he was also personally responsible for signing their tax returns. His charitable foundation was no exception. Were he found to have knowingly provided false information on its tax returns, he could someday face perjury charges.
On August 31st, the foundation’s lawyers fought back, filing papers of their own, calling the lawsuit, as the New York Times put it, “a political attack motivated by the former attorney general’s ‘record of antipathy’ against Mr. Trump.” They were referring to Eric Schneiderman, who had actually resigned the previous May — consider this an irony under the circumstances — after being accused of sexual assault by former girlfriends.
The New York state court system has, in fact, emerged as a vital force in the pushback against the president and his financial shenanigans. As Zephyr Teachout, recent Democratic candidate for New York attorney general, pointed out, it is “one of the most important legal offices in the entire country to both resist and present an alternative to what is happening at the federal level.” And indeed it had begun fulfilling that responsibility with The Donald long before the Mueller investigation was even launched.
In 2013, Schneiderman filed a civil suit against Trump University, calling it a sham institution that engaged in repeated fraudulent behavior. In 2016, Trump finally settled that case in court, agreeing to a $25 million payment to its former students — something that (though we don’t, of course, have the tax returns to confirm this) probably also proved to be a tax write-off for him.
These days, the New York attorney general’s office could essentially create a branch only for matters Trumpian. So far, it has brought more than 100 legal or administrative actions against the president and congressional Republicans since he took office.
Still, don’t sell the foundation short. It did, in the end, find a way to work for the greater good — of Donald Trump. He and his wife, Melania, for instance, used the “charity” to purchase a now infamous six-foot portrait of himself for $20,000 — and true to form, according to the Washington Post, even that purchase could turn out to be a tax violation. Such “self-dealing” is considered illegal. Of course, we’re talking about someone who “used $258,000 from the foundation to pay off legal settlements that involved his for-profit businesses.” That seems like the definition of self-dealing.The Trump Team
The president swears that he has an uncanny ability to size someone up in a few seconds, based on attitude, confidence, and a handshake — that, in other words, just as there’s the art of the deal, so, too, there’s the art of choosing those who will represent him, stand by him, and take bullets for him, his White House, and his business enterprises. And for a while, he did indeed seem to be a champion when it came to surrounding himself with people who had a special knack for hiding money, tax documents, and secret payoffs from public view.
These days — think of them as the era of attrition for Donald Trump — that landscape looks a lot emptier and less inviting.
On August 21st, his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was convictedin Virginia of “five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account.” (On September 14th, he would make a deal with Robert Mueller and plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy.) On that same August day, Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, also pled guilty to eight different federal crimes in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, including — yep — tax evasion.
Three days later, prosecutors in the Cohen investigation granted immunity to the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. A loyal employee of the Trump family for more than four decades, he had also served as treasurer for the Donald J. Trump Foundation. If anyone other than the president and his children knows the financial and tax secrets of the Trump empire, it’s him. And now, he may be ready to talk. Lurking in his future testimony could be yet another catalyst in a coming Trump tax debacle.
And don’t forget David Pecker, CEO of American Media, the company that publishes the National Enquirer. Pecker bought and buried stories for The Donald for what seems like forever. He, too, now has an immunity deal in the federal investigation of Cohen (and so Trump), evidently in return forproviding information on the president’s hush-money deals to bury various exploits that he came to find unpalatable.
The question is this: Did Trump know of Cohen’s hush-money payments? Cohen has certainly indicated that he did and Pecker seems to have told federal prosecutors a similar story. As Cohen said in court of Pecker, “I and the CEO of a media company, at the request of the candidate, worked together” to keep the public in the dark about such payments and Trump’s involvement in them.
The president’s former lawyer faces up to 65 years in prison. That’s enough time to make him consider what other tales he might be able to tell in return for a lighter sentence, including possibly exposing various tax avoidance techniques he and his former client cooked up.
And don’t think that Cohen, Pecker, and Weisselberg are going to be the last figures to come forward with such stories as the Trump team begins to come unglued.
In the cases of Enron and Lehman Brothers, both companies unraveled after multiple shell games imploded. Enron’s losses were being hidden in multiple offshore entities. In the case of Lehman Brothers, staggeringly over-valued assets were being pledged to borrow yet more money to buy similar assets. In both cases, rigged games were being played in the shadows, while vital information went undisclosed to the public — until it was way too late.
Donald Trump’s equivalent shell games still largely remain to be revealed. They may simply involve hiding money trails to evade taxes or to secretly buy political power and business influence. There is, as yet, no way of knowing. One thing is clear, however: the only way to begin to get answers is to see the president’s tax returns, audited or not. Isn’t it time to open that safe?
In the spring of 1932, in Compton, California, an unemployed World War I veteran walked out to the farms that still ringed Los Angeles. He offered his labor in return for a sack of vegetables, and that evening he returned with more than his family needed. The next day a neighbor went out with him to the fields. Within two months 500 families were members of the Unemployed Cooperative Relief Organization.
That group became one of 45 units in an organization that served the needs of some 150,000 people.
It operated a large warehouse, a distribution center, a gas and service station, a refrigeration facility, a sewing shop, a shoe shop, even medical services, all on cooperative principles. Members were expected to work two days a week, and benefits were allocated according to need. A member with a wife and two kids got four times as much food as someone living alone. The organization was run democratically, and social support was as important as material support. Members helped one another resist evictions; sometimes they moved a family back in after a landlord had put them out. Unemployed utility workers turned on gas and electricity for families that had been cut off.
Go to the GEO front page
As news of sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh breaks, his stance on Roe v. Wade is also under scrutiny. The New York Times reports that it received several leaked documents ahead of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings earlier this month, including an email in which Kavanaugh questioned the accuracy of calling Roe v. Wade the “settled law of the land.” We speak with Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate.com; and Ian Millhiser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the justice editor of ThinkProgress.
Please check back later for full transcript.
The post Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Is About “Life and Death for Women” appeared first on Truthout.
Last week, ThinkProgress published a report by Senior Fellow Ian Millhiser headlined “Brett Kavanaugh said he would kill Roe v. Wade last week and almost no one noticed.” But then a Facebook fact-checker with the conservative outlet the Weekly Standard declared it “fake news,” leading the piece to be targeted and demoted by the social media site. The Intercept then re-published Millhiser’s piece, with editor-in-chief Betsy Reed writing, “The story was effectively nuked from Facebook, with other outlets threatened with traffic and monetary consequences if they shared it.” We speak with Ian Millhiser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the justice editor for ThinkProgress.
Please check back later for full transcript.
The post Facebook Censors Kavanaugh Story After a Conservative Site Calls It “Fake News” appeared first on Truthout.
Shell Pipeline Company has identified 25 locations that are prone to landslides in or near the route of its proposed Falcon Ethane Pipeline through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Fourteen of those locations are in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Falcon Pipeline is just one piece of a massive network of unconventional oil and gas-related infrastructure being built by Shell and its affiliates and business partners in Pennsylvania with the aim of turning the region into a new petrochemical hub. The development has elicited concern from researchers, residents and environmental groups about the increased risk of explosions and spills, as well as the cumulative impact on air and water quality in the region.
Two of the sites identified by Shell as being prone to landslides along the proposed Falcon Pipeline route are in Allegheny County. The other 12 sites are in Beaver County — 35 miles west of Pittsburgh — where last Monday a natural gas pipeline not affiliated with Shell exploded, destroying one home, two garages, a barn, and several vehicles. The explosion and subsequent fire didn’t result in any serious injuries, but it forced the evacuation of 25 homes, shut down the interstate, and caused the local school district to close for the day.
The explosion, in a brand new section of Energy Transfer Partners’ Revolution Pipeline, is being attributed to a landslide following heavy rains over the weekend. This isn’t the first time a landslide has caused a natural gas pipeline to explode: In June, landslides resulted in the rupture and explosion of a TransCanada natural gas pipeline in Marshall County, West Virginia.
Shell is currently constructing a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant in Potter Township, just five miles from the site of the Energy Transfer Pipeline explosion. Shell’s proposed Falcon Pipeline would transport large volumes of natural gas and liquids to the ethane cracker plant to be converted into ethylene for use in plastics manufacturing.
In its permit application, Shell identified “landslide risk” areas along the proposed route for the Falcon Pipeline. The FracTracker Alliance, a Pittsburgh-based oil and gas industry watchdog group, has mapped those locations. In Pennsylvania, the 14 landslide-prone areas on or near the proposed pipeline route total 2.1 miles.
In Potter Township, where the ethane cracker plant is under construction, the Falcon Pipeline would cut through an approximately half-mile long landslide risk zone located about 800 to 1,000 feet from neighborhoods with 20 to 30 homes in them. One house in Potter Township sits 665 feet from a portion of the proposed pipeline route identified as being in a landslide risk zone.
In Independence Township, one home sits 396 feet from a landslide risk zone along the proposed pipeline route.
“According to our analysis, the blast radius for the Falcon pipeline there is about 900 feet, so if there were an accident, all those homes are in the impact radius near the landslide area,” Kirk Jalbert, a science and technology researcher and assistant professor at Arizona State University, told EHN. Jalbert previously served on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Environmental Justice Advisory Board, and as Manager of Community-Based Research and Engagement for the FracTracker Alliance.
The Pennsylvania DEP found 101 technical deficiencies in Shell’s initial Falcon Pipeline application, and Shell has since issued a response to those citations.
“It’s possible there are sections of the proposed pipeline route that were moved away from landslide areas in Shell’s responses,” Jalbert noted, “but it’s unlikely that all of them were moved.”
Shell did not respond to inquiries about whether the proposed pipeline route has been changed to avoid landslide risk areas.
“I Hope This Explosion Serves as a Wake-Up Call”
On September 6 — four days before the Energy Transfer Partners pipeline explosion — local environmental groups held a rally at the Pittsburgh office of the Pennsylvania DEP to urge the agency to deny Shell Pipeline Company’s permit application for the Falcon Ethane Pipeline, in part due to concerns over landslide risks.
“We think there are still significant problems with Shell’s application for the Falcon pipeline,” Matt Mehalik, executive director of environmental advocacy group The Breathe Project, told EHN. “This pipeline would go through a route that’s very close to many homes in Southwestern Pennsylvania. I hope this explosion serves as a wake-up call to homeowners about the serious risks associated with Shell’s plan.”
Record-setting precipitation in 2018 has caused hundreds of landslides across Southwestern Pennsylvania, prompting Allegheny County to seek a disaster declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for emergency funds to help clean up the damage. The county estimated that landslides caused $18 million in damage in 31 municipalities, including Pittsburgh, between February and April.
Climate change is causing more extreme rainfall events across the US, resulting in an increase in the frequency and severity of flooding.
“People will say this explosion happened because of unusually heavy rains,” Mehalik said, “but if you’re building a pipeline that can’t withstand five inches of heavy rain over a weekend, something is wrong.”
Jalbert emphasized that the Energy Transfer Partners pipeline exploded just a week after being brought online.
“Representatives from oil and gas pipeline companies often say that explosions only happen on old pipelines, and that they’re using the most stringent design standards available to build these safe new pipelines,” he said. “They can’t say that anymore. This pipeline was brand new. Clearly something is wrong with the regulatory review process.”
The post Twenty-Five Zones Along Shell Falcon Pipeline Are at Risk of Explosions appeared first on Truthout.
Putting new pressure on Republican Senators who would like to ram through a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, the attorney for the woman who has accused him of attempted rape has said her client is willing to testify about the sexual assault she says took place when the two were in high school.
“She’s willing to do whatever it takes to get her story forth,” attorney Debra Katz said of her client, Christine Blasey Ford, during an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “The Today Show” Monday morning.
“Is your client willing to testify before the Judiciary Committee publicly and tell this story?” –@savannahguthrie
“She is. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to get her story forth.” -Debra Katz, attorney for Kavanaugh accuser pic.twitter.com/V3BRF43nGK
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) September 17, 2018
Speaking directly at Republicans who are already attacking Ford for coming forth, Katz said it was that kind of reaction her client had feared.
“It’s not clear what the Republicans are saying,” Katz said in a separate interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” with George Stephanopoulos. “I was listening to some reporting this morning saying that they’re going to fight this tooth and nail, that they’re going to grill her. That’s hardly an effort to get into a fair and thorough investigation of what has occurred. That’s a very intimidating statement and it really is designed to scare her and make her not want to come forward.”
“She’s willing to cooperate. What she’s not willing to do is to be part of this bloodletting that happens in Washington,” attorney of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser tells @ABC News’ @GStephanopoulos. https://t.co/M3GBxqnuIv pic.twitter.com/ZCuvWpXQyH
— ABC News (@ABC) September 17, 2018
Katz said that her client is willing to go through with testimony despite the violent and threatening reactions she has already received after she went public on Sunday. But also in the interview, Katz reiterating the strength of Ford’s credibility, saying that existing documentation and a polygraph bolster her claims.
“She has taken a polygraph. She is a credible person. These are serious allegations, and these should be addressed.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) September 17, 2018
The post Kavanaugh Accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, Willing to Testify Before Senate appeared first on Truthout.
On September 5, the Michigan legislature seemed to take bold steps toward improving working conditions for its constituents: It passed legislation that would guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick leave, as well as a minimum wage increase to $12 an hour that mandates the same base wage for both tipped workers and non-tipped workers alike. These measures make the state the 11th in the nation to mandate paid sick days and the eighth to require that tipped workers be paid the same wage as all others.
But advocates are holding their applause. Both issues had been set to appear on the November ballot for voters to either approve or reject. By acting on them now, the legislature has ensured they will no longer appear on the ballot. Rather than requiring a three-quarter majority to change a voter-approved law, lawmakers will now only need a simple majority to change them later on.
And that seems to be exactly what they have planned. Even as they passed the measures, lawmakers made it clear that they did so not to enshrine them in law, but to create an opportunity to water them down later. “The Senate adopted the policy to preserve the ability for this legislature and future legislatures to amend the statute to better fit our state and our economy,” State Senate Republican Majority Leader Arlan B. Meekhof said in a statement after the vote. “The Senators heard from restaurant employees who fear they will earn less under the proposal and business owners who are concerned that they may have to reduce payroll in order to meet these new mandates. The Senate will be looking at options to improve the policies in the coming months.”
A number of Democrats, including all of those in the state Senate, voted against the measures. Democratic Rep. Leslie Love called the move “nothing less than voter suppression.”
The actions of the legislature didn’t shock Danielle Atkinson, founding director of Mothering Justice, who has been advocated for paid sick leave in the state for six years. “What happened [on September 5] was not a surprise,” she tells In These Times. The legislature has “pushed back on a number of occasions, starting with preemption and then just their hostility to moving legislation.”
Advocates are already vowing to fight back if the legislature does change the laws. “We believe the language of the [state] constitution is very clear that this is not an option available to the legislature,” Mark Brewer, an attorney who represents both the campaign to increase the minimum wage and the campaign to guarantee paid sick leave, tells In These Times. “We will sue to overturn any weakening of this law by the legislature.” He has been authorized by both groups to do research and gather evidence to be ready to file a lawsuit if and when the legislature acts.
The groups argue that the state constitution only affords lawmakers three options: adopt a ballot measure and make it law, reject it and send it in front of voters, or propose an alternative to appear alongside it on the ballot. A decision from the attorney general in 1964 stated that the legislature can’t amend such a measure the same year it enacted it “without violation of the spirit and letter” of the constitution. “We can declare victory now because there is no legal way to amend the legislation this year,” Michigan One Fair Wage said in a statement after the passage.
That organization, which had been advocating and collecting signatures for the minimum-wage ballot measure, has celebrated the passage while warning of retribution for future changes. “On behalf of the over one million workers and their families who will receive a raise, Michigan One Fair Wage is declaring victory in spurring the legislature to raise the minimum wage to $12 for all workers, including tipped workers who currently earn a subminimum wage of $3.52 an hour,” the group said in its statement. “This legislation would not have passed without the more than 400,000 Michigan voters who signed petitions demanding that One Fair Wage be on this November’s ballot.”
“It’s now the law of Michigan, which means that people are going to get a raise,” Brewer notes.
Atkinson sees it the same way. “We still consider it a victory because we know that the legislature [was] recognizing the importance of this issue, the popularity of this issue, the timeliness. They knew they couldn’t ignore it,” she says. “We are working to make sure that everybody knows that this is law.”
But the campaigns are also aware that this isn’t the end of the story. “The Republican legislature and their leadership and a lot of their members were very clear in saying that the only reason they were adopting this was to keep it off the ballot,” Brewer notes. And yet, he says, “No Michigan legislature has ever done that.”
A few of the top options lawmakers appear to be considering reinstating a lower minimum wage for tipped employees and slowing down the rate of the increase for everyone else, Brewer says. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Advocates are not just going to sit on their hands while they wait, however. The groups are “going to do a lot of public education,” Brewer says. “At this point, if the legislature votes to weaken the law they’re essentially taking away paid sick time or taking away a raise.”
“Our efforts right now are completely focused around to talking to every person we see,” Atkinson says. That includes knocking on doors, making phone calls and asking members to reach out to their friends and family. “It’s a right,” says Atkinson, “and if the legislature comes back and amends it, they are taking away a freedom that you have fought so dearly for.” Her group also plans to travel to Lansing to speak directly with lawmakers. “Hopefully they’ll listen to us before they listen to the lobbyists,” she says.
Michigan One Fair Wage and groups that support paid sick leave have vowed to turn people out to the polls in November, both to counter any dampening in enthusiasm with these issues off the ballot and also to show lawmakers that their constituents want them to stick to their promises. Ellen Bravo and Wendy Chun-Hoon, co-executive directors of Family Values @ Work, an organization that supports local paid-sick-leave campaigns, said in a statement, “All the partner groups in this coalition will mobilize to ensure that every legislator who voted for the bill hears from their constituents. They will do everything in their power to preserve the law they won. And they will work to achieve the highest possible turnout at the polls.”
“From Texas to Michigan, Americans are sending a message that they’re ready to do what politicians have failed to do: ensure no one [has] to choose between caring for a sick child and paying rent,” Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of The Fairness Project, which supports efforts to require paid sick leave, says in an email to In These Times. “Elected leaders who fail to listen will be held accountable.”
The post Why Labor Is Holding Applause for Michigan’s Latest “Workers’ Rights” Measures appeared first on Truthout.
On last week’s podcast, This Is Happening was joined by Economist Henry Giroux, author of American Nightmare: Facing The Challenge of Fascism. Henry discusses his new article on how the starting point for fascism is in the destruction of those social spheres and public spaces that make community possible, dialogue crucial and dissent essential. When spaces disappear in which people can think, act, speak, organize and hold power accountable, politics is emptied of any substance and freedom loses its ability to resist an impending fascism.
The post Henry A. Giroux on How Destroying Public Space Means Destroying Dissent appeared first on Truthout.
We all know Donald Trump’s tendency to make up numbers to tell everyone what a great job he is doing as president. People are rightly appalled, both that Trump is not doing a great job, but also that he is lying to imply otherwise.
While Trump is clearly over the top in just inventing data to back his argument, Democrats are also often not very straightforward in assessing the data. We got a dose of that last week when there were complaints that the rate of income growth had slowed down in 2017 compared with 2016 and 2015.
Workers should be unhappy about the pace of income growth. They have much ground to make up following the losses of the Great Recession and the weak growth even prior to the downturn, but the main reason that income growth was slower in 2017 than in 2016 and 2015 is that oil, and energy prices more generally, rose in 2017 after falling the prior two years.
As a result of the reversal in oil prices, inflation was 2.1 percent in 2017, compared to 1.3 percent in 2016, and just 0.1 percent in 2015. This means that even though there was a very modest acceleration in nominal wage growth, and comparable gains in employment in all three years, the growth in income adjusted for inflation was far lower in 2017 than in the prior two years.
Workers have to pay for gas and heating oil, so the rise in energy prices does affect their living standards. In that sense, the weaker income growth in 2017 is very real, but this hardly represents some new failure of the political system. The speeding of income growth in 2015 and 2016, and its slowing in 2017, are just the story of fluctuating world oil prices, which any honest analyst should acknowledge.
This point is important for those of us who think that progressives are best served by being honest about numbers. Erratic numbers have a tendency to reverse themselves. While energy prices did jump in August, the big rises are most likely behind us.
As a result, inflation was 2.7 percent for the year ended in August, down from 2.9 percent in the year that ended in July. With last summer’s big gas price hikes falling out of the 12-month window, year-over-year inflation is likely to be down to 2.5 percent or even 2.4 percent with the September data.
With nominal wages rising at a 2.9 percent rate in the most recent data, that doesn’t translate into great wage growth, but 0.4 to 0.5 percent is better than zero. Those that made a big point of hyping the lack of real wage growth based on the July data may look a bit foolish in another month or two.
Those trying to push the zero real wage growth as an election issue may have the further problem that for the 64 percent of households who own their own home, it is even less true. Rent, and owners’ equivalent rent for the people who own their home, is by far the largest single contributor to inflation.
It is unlikely that people who own their home see the implicit rent they pay to themselves as a cost. For homeowners, a better measure of inflation is a price index that excludes rent.
If we exclude rent, inflation was 2.3 percent over the last year. This measure is likely to dip below 2.0 percent next month. That means that people who own their homes are seeing a respectable rate of real wage growth of close to 1.0 percent annually.
Of course, the good news for homeowners makes the story even worse for those who rent. Many renters are paying 40 percent or even 50 percent of their income in rent. For renters, the 3.6 percent rise in rents over the last year is a very big chunk of the inflation they see. Workers who rent may well be seeing an inflation rate that is more rapid than the growth in their wages.
The fact that wages are growing modestly does not mean that people should be satisfied with the current state of the economy. Workers took a huge hit in the Great Recession, as there was a massive transfer from wages to profits. Workers should be able to get back the ground they lost, and this will require wage growth that is considerably more rapid than 1.0 percent a year.
But we should be clear, wages are now moving in the right direction, even if not nearly fast enough. We may fool ourselves by trying to argue otherwise, but probably not too many other people.
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With the recent passing of the 17th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, it is essential to examine how Western neglect of Afghanistan contributed to that dreadful day.
The 1990s were a time of hope for many, with the Western press selectively focused on events that complemented the US’s Cold War victory: the end of apartheid in South Africa, the Good Friday agreement in 1998 which ended 30 years of ethnic and sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, and the famous handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn in 1993. One of the most popular books of the decade was Francis Fukayama’s The End of History, which touted the final victory of liberal free-market democracy.
But a tragedy was unfolding in Afghanistan that would have far-reaching consequences for the US and its liberal democratic allies in the early 21st century.
The Afghan Civil War, ignited by the 1979 Soviet invasion, tore the nation apart as seven different mujahideen groups slugged it out for control of Kabul, laying the city to waste by 1996 and paving the way for the Taliban’s ascension to power.
Starting with the Carter Doctrine — which stated that the US defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf, and would use military force, if necessary — the US provided the mujahideen with over $600 million in annual aid by 1987. In what some historians argue was the largest covert action in US history, the CIA channeled funds and training through Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, which opened training camps and Islamic religious schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The Saudis, who found the holy war against godless communism in Afghanistan a convenient outlet for their own Islamic fundamentalists, matched US funds. The most famous Saudi “Afghan Arab” to join the jihad was Osama bin Laden. In 1988, bin Laden organized foreign mujahideen in Afghanistan into a terrorist organization called al-Qaeda, which would unleash a series of strikes on the West over the coming decades, including the September 11 attacks.
After the decade-long war in Afghanistan that left 1 million Afghans dead, by 1989, the US and its allies in Europe ignored the country. Much backslapping was going on in Western capitals with the defeat of the Soviet Union and Boris Yeltsin selling off his nation to the highest Western bidders. This — not the continuing of a civil war that tore Afghanistan apart — was the overriding story as the Berlin Wall fell and Eastern Bloc and former Soviet states adopted “economic shock therapy” that devastated local populations. Little discussed at the time or now was how Afghanistan was at the heart of the Soviet collapse and remains the origin of many of the West’s challenges with Islamic fundamentalism and the rise of anti-immigrant populism in Europe and the US.
Ignoring the Afghan Civil War now limits any thorough understanding of how that conflict has impacted the West. In its most basic form, the Afghan Civil War led to the rise of the Taliban in 1996. Although the Taliban is reviled today, it is often forgotten that some Clinton administration officials welcomed the movement as a force that could stabilize a country torn apart by war since 1979. A 1996 New York Times article stated, “The Taliban have found favor with some American officials, who see in their implacable hostility toward Iran an important counterweight in the region.”
By 1998, the Taliban took control of 90 percent of Afghanistan. The last holdout was the United Front, commanded by the Tajik Gen. Ahmad Shah Massoud, which held onto the Panjshir Valley in the north. Massoud’s United Front spokesman Haron Amin pleaded with Western governments for support. His pleas were ignored until September 11, 2001. Al-Qaeda assassins, believed to be acting on orders from Osama bin Laden, killed Massoud on September 9, 2001, and Navy Seals assassinated bin Laden in 2011.
Nevertheless, since 2001, the US and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies have been bogged down fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and have undertaken brutal campaigns in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Libya to “degrade and destroy” Islamic fundamentalists inspired by the Taliban’s Wahhabi Islam. Refugees from these wars continue to flood into Europe and bolster populist anti-immigration and anti-European Union policies.
The Taliban’s rise to power also had important repercussions for the newly independent states of former Soviet Central Asia. In 1998, two Uzbeks – Tahir Yuldashev and Juma Namangani – teamed up to create the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), whose stated goal was to violently replace Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s regime with an Islamic caliphate. From bases in Afghanistan, the IMU nearly forced its way to Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, in 1999 and 2000. This threat to regional stability was ignored by Western governments as the frenzy of self-congratulation of winning the Cold War and the potential riches of Central Asian oil and gas dominated discourse. Although Namangani was killed in a US airstrike in Afghanistan in 2001 and Yuldashev was killed by a US drone in Pakistan in 2009, Central Asian states – particularly Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – still face the threat of extremism due to Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, weak education and economic collapse.
With many of ISIS’s most radical members hailing from Central Asia, the Western press neglect the region at their peril. A brief look at recent high-profile attacks in Turkey, Europe and the US highlights this danger. For example, last year’s attacks in St. Petersburg, Stockholm and New York are believed to have been carried out by Central Asian fundamentalists. The Istanbul Raina Nightclub attack on New Year’s Eve 2017 was allegedly perpetrated by an Uzbek national, and two of the three suspects in the Ataturk Airport bombing in June 2016 were from Central Asia. Last year, the US military reportedly killed Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, a close associate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. US officials claimed that Uzbeki “had helped plot a deadly attack on a nightclub in Istanbul on New Year’s Day” and that he “facilitated the movement of ISIS foreign terror fighters and funds.”
The Afghan Civil War, then, did not only play a significant role in the rise of the Taliban, the US’s war on terror, the plunging of the Middle East into sectarian conflict and Europe’s refugee crisis, but also the radicalization of young impoverished men in neighboring Central Asia. Thus, any serious discussion of events that led to September 11 and shaped Western politics today must include an understanding and analysis of the Afghan Civil War’s impact on Central Asia and the West.
Sadly, war-torn and forgotten Afghanistan appears to have become simply a US testing ground for weapons like the MOAB, the largest non-nuclear bomb in history. Moreover, the fact that during the 2016 US presidential debates Afghanistan was hardly mentioned speaks volumes about the West’s unwillingness to address the root of many of the problems it faces today.
A re-examination of the West’s neglect of the Afghan Civil War and dismantling of the country after September 11 could help restore stability to the first nation the US unleashed its war on terror against. On the other hand, continuing to ignore the causes of Afghanistan’s descent into chaos restricts full understanding of why September 11 happened and why the US has been in perpetual war ever since.