The War on Children Under Neoliberal Fascism

Truth Out - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 15:31

Separating children from their parents has a long and vile legacy in history among authoritarian regimes. Trump is mobilizing those fascist passions that inevitably lead to prisons, detention centers, and acts of domestic terrorism and state violence. Echoes of the Nazi camps, Japanese internment prisons, and the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people and the destruction of their families weigh on the Trump administration with a degree of shame and cruelty that marks the neoliberal fascism that now shapes American society.

Memories of the horrors of the past disappear under Trump only to return within a culture of cruelty and violence that is both revealing and ugly. What Trump is doing is a form of hostage-taking in which children become bargaining chips in his attempts to implement his racist policy of building a wall while demonstrating his politics of white supremacy to his core base. Children are now being used as part of an attempt to extort support for his racist politics from the Democratic Party.

In this interview with Mickey Huff from Project Censored, Henry Giroux explores the fascist ideology and policies that give rise to cruel practices, such as Trump separating children of undocumented immigrants from their parents and putting them in “cages,” makeshift detention centers and sometimes outdoor tents. While such practices have provoked a great deal of moral outrage across the ideological spectrum, the underlying logic of such practices has been largely ignored. Such practices run deep in the history of the United States and in recent years have been intensified with the collapse of the social contract, expanding inequality, and the increasing criminalization of immigrants, young people and other populations considered most vulnerable. In this interview, Giroux explores these mobilizing features of neoliberal fascism within a larger discourse of disposability and rule by white supremacists, religious fundamentalists and political extremists.

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Categories: News

Conservatives’ Anti-Immigration Fervor Is Political: They Think Keeping the US White Will Save Them

Truth Out - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 15:18

On Monday, in a courtroom in Wichita, a federal judge told Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach that he had so blatantly violated federal discovery rules in a case he argued, defending a law requiring voters to prove their citizenship, that she ordered Kobach — a former Department of Justice official under George W. Bush — to take remedial legal courses. She also ruled against the law itself, saying there was no evidence it was necessary.

Kobach is best known for writing the “show me your papers” law in Arizona that was also struck down in federal court. He also headed up the ill-fated Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was disbanded after many states balked at Kobach’s demand that they turn over their confidential voter rolls to the federal government. He had very big plans:

Kris Kobach should learn to use folders and cover sheets.

— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) November 21, 2016

Kobach is currently running for governor of Kansas, and the crusade to curtail immigration and voting rights will continue no matter how his checkered political career turns out. This is now a central organizing principle of the Republican party.

Donald Trump’s administration has the most extreme immigration policy in a century. Among his first acts as president was his theatrical Muslim ban. He’s beefed up the border patrol and ICE and told them all to “take off the gloves.” He put one of the most anti-immigration politicians in the country in charge of the Justice Department, and they are systematically deporting people, even those who have been here for 50 years. Trump backed out of a deal to legalize the DACA recipients at the last minute. Now they are separating children from their parents at the border and putting them into detention camps in order to “deter” Latino immigrants, even those who are seeking asylum from the rampant violence in their home countries.

It’s tempting to chalk all this up to simple Republican racism and nativism. That is certainly what fuels the emotion on this issue on the right. Conservative media pounds the message that “the illegals” are all on welfare (which isn’t true) and are ruining the culture with taco trucks on every corner. (If only.) But that isn’t the whole story.

Back in 2014, when the wave of unaccompanied minors from Central American came to the border, Laura Ingraham led the charge against those kids:

Oh no, you won’t. This is our country. . . . Our borders matter to us. Our way of life and our culture matter to us. Our jobs and our wages matter to us. No, you won’t.

She ranted day after day about these children, claiming that the government was “trafficking illegal immigrants from one part of the country to another part of the country to further erode American wages and further forward their goal of ultimate amnesty and changing the electoral and cultural landscape of the United States forever.”

Note that Ingraham said “electoral” landscape. We can see that Trump and his lieutenants see this latest border crisis as an opportunity to get their base fired up and get out to the polls in November. But movement conservatives have a long-term strategy in mind that goes way beyond the midterms and even Trump. That’s why cynical politicians and media stars have been pushing this issue so hard for the last few years.

They realized somewhere along the line that the fundamental xenophobia of the GOP base would make it very difficult to form any sort of governing majority that included Latinos, the fastest growing ethnic group in the country. So they decided their future prospects would be better served by suppressing the Latino vote with spurious accusations of voter fraud and demagoguery about foreigners more generally, in an effort to force the government to curb immigration overall. Anti-immigrant groups like VDARE have made the argument explicit, saying Democrats favor immigration because it will give them an electoral advantage.

Back in August of 2015, Rush Limbaugh endorsed Trump’s hardcore immigration position, saying that “everybody knows that [bipartisan immigration reform] is an immigration plan that is going to result in millions more registered Democrats.” He even got a shout-out from the big guy himself that same day:

Listening to @rushlimbaugh on way back to Jury Duty. Fantastic show, terrific guy!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2015

Limbaugh is a bit cagier these days, saying that he’d support DACA recipients getting a path to citizenship as long as they aren’t given the vote for 12 to 15 years.

Right-wing radio host Dennis Prager made a similar case this year in a piece laying out three reasons the left supports immigration. The first of these:

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, chain migration, sanctuary cities, and citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally will give the Left political power. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of Latin American immigrants will vote Democratic. So with enough new voters from Latin America alone, the Democrats would essentially be assured the presidency and Congress for decades.

(If you’re wondering: Reason two is because they are Marxists and reason three is that they want to feel good about themselves.)

The ruling right-wing diva of anti-immigrant fervor is of course Ann Coulter. She has been ranting even more than usual these days, telling Breitbart that nobody should believe the “actor children” at the border, citing some articles from 2011 about refugees embellishing their stories to get asylum. Coulter’s influence on the GOP on this issue can’t be overstated — her book Adios America was clearly a major influence on Trump’s agenda.

You may recall that Coulter called Trump’s most notorious immigration speech during the campaign “the greatest political document since the Magna Carta.” It was later revealed that she and Stephen Miller had written it. There are no limits to how low she will go in demeaning and degrading immigrants, but she too has stated clearly what the real issue is. At CPAC in 2014, she put it this way:

Amnesty goes through, and the Democrats have 30 million new voters. I just don’t think Republicans have an obligation to forgive law-breaking just because the Democrats need another 30 million voters.

The nativism we are seeing play out right now is cruel and inhumane. It’s born of an ugly strain of white nationalism that forms the core of the Republican Party under Trump. But the conservative movement is still working feverishly on their own projects, using Trump and his demagoguery to serve their long-term goals. They know that keeping Latinos from voting and shutting down immigration, both legal and illegal, is necessary to their political survival as a movement and a party.

This time they may have underestimated how the rest of America feels about seeing small children ripped away from their families for cheap political purposes. Let’s hope so, anyway.


The post Conservatives’ Anti-Immigration Fervor Is Political: They Think Keeping the US White Will Save Them appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Millions Lack Basic Necessities, but the Senate Just Passed a $716 Billion Bill for Endless War and Empire

Truth Out - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 15:17

In a vote that further “entrenches endless war and bloated Pentagon spending” and places greater nuclear capacity in the hands of President Donald Trump, 38 Democrats and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) joined nearly every Senate Republican on Monday to pass a $716 billion defense bill that boosts military spending by over $80 billion and authorizes another $21.6 billion for nuclear weapons programs.

Had the Pentagon’s budget simply remained the same as it was in 2017, Congress “could have funded public college for every student in the U.S. and had $12 billion left over,” noted media analyst Adam Johnson.

But Democrats and Republicans decided to join hands once more late Monday—in an overwhelming 85-10 vote—to affirm that militarism and massive handouts to defense contractors top education, healthcare, and anti-hunger programs on the list of congressional priorities.

Slamming the bipartisan vote to pass the military measure—officially titled the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5515)—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote: “We cannot spend more on our military than the next 10 nations combined while millions of Americans do not have food and housing and healthcare…That is why I voted against spending $716 billion on the military today.”

not that anyone cares but the Senate just passed a $716B defense bill for 2019, a 13% increase over 2017, or roughly $82B. Had the DOD’s budget simply STAYED THE SAME we could have funded public college for every student in the US & had $12B left over.

— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) June 19, 2018

Joining Sanders in voting against the military spending bill on Monday were Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Meanwhile, these 38 Senate Democrats and King joined a nearly united GOP caucus in approving the measure:

Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
Cory Booker (D-N.J.)
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)
Ben Cardin (D-Md.)
Tom Carper (D-Del.)
Bob Casey (D-Penn.)
Chris Coons (D-Del.)
Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)
Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)
Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)
Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)
Doug Jones (D-Ala.)
Tim Kaine (D-Va.)
Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)
Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)
Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)
Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)
Gary Peters (D-Mich.)
Jack Reed (D-R.I.)
Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)
Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Tina Smith (D-Minn.)
Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)
Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)
Mark Warner (D-Va.)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)

The post Millions Lack Basic Necessities, but the Senate Just Passed a $716 Billion Bill for Endless War and Empire appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Orkanen Spring 2018 Anarchist newspaper English edition

Anarchist News - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 14:51

via act for freedom now!

English edition – Spring 2018

Translations of a few texts from previous issues.

In this issue:

Down with the state, down with authorities
Space travel
Against the IT-giants and their world
The place for love in the rebellious life
The price for gratitude
Considerations in regards to the capricious nature of the state
Read on the screen: English edition – Spring 2018

Print: English edition – Spring 2018

Tags: denmarkCopenhagenanarchist newspapercategory: Projects
Categories: News

Mexico: Anarchist comrade Fernando Barcenas is out of prison!

Anarchist News - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 14:37

via act for freedom now!

Fernando was released from jail on June 11, 2018 around 9 pm, once outside he burned the beige uniform that he had had to wear for four and a half years.

Aviso CNA Mx (Cruz Negra Anarquista de Mexico)
CNA Mx Notice (Anarchist Black Cross of Mexico)

Proyecto Ambulante (photos) 

Traveling Project (photos)

Today, June 11, 2018, anarchist comrade Fernando Barcenas Castillo left prison.
Arrested on December 13, 2013, during the protests against the increase in the price of the metro tickets, Fer was accused of setting fire to the Coca-Cola company Christmas tree, and since then had been held in the northern prison known as the ReNo, in Mexico City.

In December 2014 he was sentenced to 5 years 9 months’ prison on charges of attacking the public peace and criminal association. Shortly after his detention Fernando began developing numerous projects: music, writing, broadcasting and information workshops such as fanzines and the independent anti-prison struggle newspaper: “El Canero”, which means “whoever is in jail”. This is produced by prisoners and prisoners, behind bars in several jails in the Mexican capital and elsewhere.

For Fernando “The Canero is a project that wants to explain the reality lived in the prisons and relate it to a wider social context, of which we are all prisoners at different levels. This paper helps to spread the anti-prison struggle by weaving a link of communication between prisoners and with the outside world “. For him it is “To demonstrate that the struggle is carried on regardless of where and with the means available, without waiting for all the conditions be there”.
Thus, the first Canero was released in June 2014, so far, five numbers have been written: over time, the content has evolved. This newspaper is the product of many prisoners’ meetings, exchanges and reflections, joint actions, hunger strikes … In his path, Canero sees the birth of informal organizations prisoners in resistance, coordinated actions, press releases denouncing the prison beast, authority and confinement inside and outside the walls.

From November 2017, Fernando has launched a new idea, set up an autonomous library managed by the prisoners themselves and after several months of work and construction, the library was inaugurated on April 28, 2018 with the name of Xosé Tarrío González *, the library continues to grow and to this day it counts many documents, between books, magazines and brochures … the library continues its course.

During all these years Fer also encouraged and launched the organization of prisoners-in-resistance, first of all it encouraged the formation of the C.C.P.R (Combative Co-ordination of Prisoners in Resistance) later he participated in the coordination of the hunger strikes with other anarchist prisoners from Mexico City. Then, Fer launched and encouraged the formation of the C.I.P.RE (Informal Coordination of Prisoners in Resistance) as a form and space of organization for all those who have been harmed and tortured by the prison machinery. CIPRE being an informal organizationit has dissolved and today is fading away, not without leaving a whole organizational experience behind it. Fer has launched a new proposal giving rise to the prisoners’ collective CIMARRON, which refers to the meaning of “escaping, fleeing” escaping from the property of a master.

A strong hug to Fer, an embrace compañero! In the street at last.
Until total freedom!
The three passersby


*NOTE : Xosé Tarrío González was born in 1968 in la Coruña. At eleven years oldis locked up in a boarding school, then in a house of recovery to to return to 17 years in prison where he contracts AIDS. In prison, he puts anarchism and rebellion, leading many attempts escapes, practicing real solidarity between the prisoners, fighting resolutely against prison and prison guards; all these attitudes entail humiliations, put in isolation and he is of many times tortured. In 2004, his health deteriorated again due to his illness and finally, on January 2, 2005 he dies victim of the prison institution and the society that supports it.
Xose was a prisoner of the special FIES regime (Internal File of Special Follow-up) and author of the book “Huye, hombre, huye”

The prisoners’ struggle against the FIES in Spain

[Mexico] Independent struggle journal : El Canero, number 5

[Click on the images for pdf of zines]

Translated by Act for freedom now!

source: liberonsles.

Tags: MexicoFernando Bárcenasgood newscategory: Prisoners
Categories: News

Is Elon Musk an Anarchist? More like a Libertarian Lenin

Anarchist News - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 14:29

by William Gillis, via C4SS

Elon Musk is trolling on twitter. A celebrity billionaire wasting his time making inane provocations would hardly be worthy of note but in the process Musk has declared that his politics are in line with Iain Banks’ anarcho-transhumanist utopia and that he aspires to see a world of direct democracy. There’s few spectacles like a billionaire in a labor dispute essentially fronting as a proponent of fully automated luxury communism. Yet when a number of his statements wander close to left wing market anarchist takes it may be worth responding.

In particular I want to focus on the line, “Socialism vs capitalism is not even the right question. What really matters is avoiding monopolies that restrict people’s freedom.”

There’s a lot to pick apart here, and it’s not remotely clear how much historical context Musk is aware of. Free market libertarians like Bastiat sat on the left of the French assembly and many advocates of free markets that modern Libertarians see as forefathers like Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker considered themselves and were seen as socialists. There is a long and storied history of those who would problematize the terms “socialist” or “libertarian” and “capitalism” or “markets”, putting forth myriad conflicting definitions and frameworks, each in hopes of illuminating something lost in partisan tribalism.

But Musk is a billionaire and in any coherent libertarian analysis a plutocrat whose success is in no small part dependent upon his collaboration with the state. Most self-identified socialists, not to mention the chattering classes of twitter, despise him.

There are basically three core claims widely made against Musk. 1) That he occupies a tyrannical position over his workers. 2) That the seed wealth that enabled him to become a billionaire in the first place was unjustly acquired. 3) That his act of holding onto his wealth in the face of far more beneficial investments is unethical.

It’s this latter charge that I want to explore, in part because the former are so clear cut. But let’s hit them briefly: Musk faces charges of unsafe conditions and terrible demands at his plants. And despite his attempts to sound open to unionization Tesla has harassed, intimidated, and fired workers for expressing pro union sentiments. He claims workers prefer to have no negotiating capacity, supposedly recognizing the benevolent benefits of his absolute dictatorship, and yet in the same breath Musk has threatened workers’ benefits should they unionize and recently initialized mass layoffs without warning. Musk has started to claim he built his fortune from pocket change, but it’s worth remembering that as a teenager, his white south african family was so rich Musk casually walked around with emeralds in his pocket. One is reminded of nothing so much as Trump’s claim that he built his fortune of a mere few million dollar loan from his dad (and countless risk assurances). I’ve known single mothers that worked longer hours and homeless heroin addicts that made smarter stock investments, but below a certain threshold of wealth the barriers are just too great. Musk has some talent and commitment, to be sure, but he has hardly made his fortune in fair competition with the billions without his privilege of birth.

But however you acquire wealth, once you have it there is a certain ethical obligation to wield it towards good ends.

Fans of Musk argue that he has done precisely this. The most common refrain is “look he may not be perfect, but he’s the only person with a shot at getting us to Mars.” There is, I will concede, a rather potent utilitarian argument that getting our species out into the stars is worth almost any price. This is an evaluation that weighs the potential lives of trillions of future people against the living today, that says we should do anything to ensure the survival and spread of the only known consciousness in the universe. But it is decidedly unclear that Elon Musk is truly our best shot at such. It is true that his wealth has enabled Space X to make serious strides, but it’s hardly like the the scientists, engineers, and general workers of Space X didn’t share such a vision before Musk. Rather, his wealth enabled them to get started. As a staunch proponent of our expansion to the stars I will happily concede that Space X is a more ethical investment than gold plated bath tubs. But these are hardly the only options.

Musk talks of supporting direct democracy, yet his projects are run tyrannically, hyper-centralized around him. One basic insight of free market economists is that there are limits to knowledge and calculation — in particular limits to what a single central planner is capable of. Musk may be talented, he may work 80 hour weeks, but he is limited, and a hierarchical centralized organizational structure is deeply inefficient, never mind the psychological damage it does. Indeed many of the early problems Tesla faced were reportedly a result of Musk suddenly showing up to make unilateral decisions while being stretched too thin to be constantly involved in every nook and cranny. In short his tyrannical position within the firm became an organizational bottleneck. They may have been insightful decisions, but Musk’s distance from the shop floor and the absoluteness of his power caused deep organizational problems. Even the most intelligent and committed Soviet planner, running himself ragged attempting to oversee everything, will cause deep inefficiencies. This is part of the reason why, when the playing field is fair, worker cooperatives do so damn well.

Musk talks of “decentralization” — of avoiding monopolies — and this is valorous, but anarchism extends deeper than the mere opposition to monopolies per se; anarchism opposes power, domination. Combating monopolies or oligopolies is necessary but not sufficient, because hugely abusive and scarring or enslaving power can exist in diffuse structures as well. Systemic racism for example, or normalized spousal abuse. But more to the point, an upstart firm may shatter an existing oligopolistic market, but itself reproduce the same structures it claims to oppose. Not just in terms of market position, but especially in terms of the firm’s internal structure — the hierarchical and abusive organizational norms that the existing oligopoly was able to establish and defend.

There is a widespread tendency in silicon valley to diagnose the problems of the world in terms of centralization alone, and thus to fall into a kind of naive support for any and all underdog competitors.

In its most pernicious variant this looks like the neoreactionary prescription to shatter existing polities down to smaller competitive governments. As if small town police can’t be more intimately oppressive and as though a single right of exit can supplant deeper issues with bargaining power or enable fluid responsiveness. Musk’s ostensible support for direct democracy is better — although anarchists still have a critique of democracy — but his comments focusing on monopoly are suggestive of a broader naivety or get-out-of-ethics card for himself, so long as he can cast himself as an underdog to a bigger monopoly.

The naive decentralist take uncritically defends any and all upstarts to the dominant powers. The taxi medallion system for instance was one of the most abusive and horrifically clear-cut instances of state created capitalism, an almost feudal order, maintained by the state to the benefit of a few capitalists. Socialist taxi organizers were clear that the root injustice was the state’s regulatory regime. Uber was able to leverage titanic investment wealth to fight and erode this unjust order, but it also utilized that capital to cement its position as a new monopoly, a rent-seeking middleman between drivers and riders. Consistent libertarians, anarchists, and socialists supported the overthrow of the medallion regime while also warning of the monopoly Uber was trying to establish. But throughout silicon valley culture Uber was presented as a noble upstart.

This story is replicated widely where new “disruptive” would be tyrants end up replacing those they set out to overthrow. What much of the self-congratulatory rhetoric in silicon valley amounts to in practice is a horde of Lenins out to overthrow Czars, but with barely concealed hunger to seize power for themselves.

Freedom, if it is to come, must come through their benevolence. Just don’t ask when.

Musk might claim that his ends are socialistic in some utopian sense, but it’s his means that give him the closest parallel to the tyrannies of “actually existing socialism.” And those libertarians that cheer him on are much like those socialists that cheer on the despotic regimes of Assad or Kim under the illusion that these geopolitical underdogs in competition with the US empire represent the only practical hope of resistance.

I want to be clear: I’m as sympathetic to Musk’s ostensible ends as you could ask for. We at the Center for a Stateless Society have studiously worked for over a decade to get past past the gridlock of socialist and libertarian rhetoric, to parse the value of markets and an egalitarian world of possibility where cancerous monopolies or oligopolies of capital don’t constrain our freedoms. We come from a long and rich history of left libertarian crossover, of left market anarchists.

But there are a world of means that do not replicate the structures we seek to replace.

I cannot know the level of sincerity to Musk’s comments, whether the obvious contradictions arise out of malicious opportunism or innocent ignorance. Yet if I had to the opportunity to turn his ear I would encourage him not just to fight monopolistic power within his own organizations by allowing and collaborating with unionization efforts, but to invest more of that wealth on projects that Iain Banks would actually recognize as anarchistic.

Hey Elon, why not donate a million dollars to something like the IWW, a scrappy, idealistic & anti-state union that organizes where no other union will go? It’s nothing to you and will affect the lives of thousands while enabling labor to help compete against giant corporate monopolies. It’ll rile the commies on twitter and maybe allow Grimes to show her face in public, but mostly it’ll help real existing people.

I ask sincerely.

If you need more examples we at C4SS have helped coordinate donations to a host of small highly efficient activist efforts before and we can point you towards myriad projects like community centers, mesh wifi projects, indigenous radio stations, etc. I’m not interested in showboating or tribal purity. I’d take a million dollars from the devil if I could redistribute it to the tens of thousands of activists working themselves to the bone around the world, using the smallest scraps of income to make a huge difference in combating power and expanding the freedom of everyday people. You want to talk about effective altruism? Small direct payments to activists across the global south who already work for free and stretch what funds they have to absurd lengths are by far the most efficient means of seeding liberty. No NGO bureaucratic oversight and a fierce anarchist resistance to corrupt state regimes that would try to steal those funds.

You want to talk about decentralizing infrastructure? Throw some of that money at the cypherpunks and hackers keeping cryptographic tools and free software afloat. I’m dead certain that your company depends upon cryptographic libraries that are maintained by on a shoestring budget by a small number of idealists. You want to talk about resisting monopolies? How about throwing money at open source hardware projects that face incredible barriers to entry in the market?

There are countless unsung heroes around the world working tirelessly to combat power, to erode the centralized systems that constrain freedom. And most of them do it without trying to accumulate yachts. What they understand is that heroism isn’t a zero sum game. We can each of us revolutionize the world, we can each find exploits to change everything. The anarchist insight is that the most potent and lasting change comes from the bottom up, rather than being imposed from the top down.

Figures like Lenin will never see this, so enraptured are they with their own status, their own profile, their own absolute rulership, their own brand-building. And so trapped are they in the same cycle of false opposition, the empty revolutions that are structured to merely replace one monopoly with another. Many of the radical science fiction authors Musk claims to love knew this, but it sadly seems to be a lesson he failed to grasp.

Tags: william gilliselon muskc4sscategory: Essays
Categories: News

A Critique of the Concept of "the System"

Anarchist News - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 14:17

Source: The Wild Will Project

Ted Kaczynski (TK) repeatedly writes that a revolutionary movement needs an enemy. Variously he names the enemy as “modern technology,” “the industrial system,” “the techno-industrial system,” just “the system,” and, in addition to one of the foregoing, “the technician class.” But these terms are vague or unintuitive, they confuse the enemy of a revolutionary movement with its target, and they fail to motivate.

The Enemy is Not Civilization

First, a clarification. Ted Kaczynski never actually names “civilization” as the enemy, but his involvement with the anarcho-primitivist movement in the 90s and early 2000s has confused some outside observers on this point.

In terms of critique, it is necessary to point out that civilization as a whole is of questionable benefit, and that nearly all of the major problems of our modern world originate in the problem of civilization (see “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race” by Jared Diamond). This, however, only makes us philosophical anti-civilizationists, not political anti-civilizationists. Kaczynski repeatedly states that while he believes civilization is a problem, he only sees a practical course of action against “the industrial system.” For more on this distinction, see “Some Comments In Response to GA,” the letters between David Skrbina and TK, “A Critique of the NHG Ideal,” etc.

What Is “The System”?

In footnote 3 of “The System’s Neatest Trick,” Kaczynski writes:

In this section I’ve said something about what the System is not, but I haven’t said what the System is. A friend of mine has pointed out that this may leave the reader nonplussed, so I’d better explain that for the purposes of this article it isn’t necessary to have a precise definition of what the System is. I couldn’t think of any way of defining the System in a single, well-rounded sentence and I didn’t want to break the continuity of the article with a long, awkward, and unnecessary digression addressing the question of what the System is, so I left that question unanswered.

Unfortunately, in neither his public writings nor his private correspondences has Kaczynski gone on to sufficiently explain what the system is, beyond general indications. Here is what I understand him to mean.

Kaczynski uses a materialist framework for analyzing the origins, development, and collapse of societies. In one version of this framework (see Cultural Materialism by Marvin Harris), societies are seen as consisting of three “levels”:

  1. The infrastructure is the material basis of society, and the primary determinant of the shape that society will take. It includes geography, demography, technology, and some aspects of economy. These are such strong factors in determining the shape of a society because no matter what, at base people are going to preserve their means of getting food and producing children.
  2. The structure is the organizational level of society, such as how resources are distributed, the means of dividing labor, institutions like banks, governments, and the church, etc. These exist to organize people in a way that is compatible with their means of subsistence and reproduction.
  3. The superstructure is the ideological level of society, such as its national, religious, and scientific myths. These exist to inspire people’s loyalty to society and its institutions.

For example, in the feudal phase of Western civilization, the infrastructure of society consisted of an agricultural mode of subsistence, which was organized by the structural layer of church and and the feudal system, and which was legitimated by the superstructural layer of Christian ideology. In many primitive societies, the infrastructure of society consisted of a hunting-and-gathering mode of production, was organized by various gendered divisions of labor and a small degree of specialization among warriors and leaders, and was legitimated by various religious mythologies.

Although this framework is generally deterministic, feedback between the various levels of society are taken into account. For example, sometimes the structure of society does not respond properly to a change in infrastructure, which results in social tumult. One historical instance includes the delayed reaction of U.S. social progressive programs to reorganize the structural layers of society after a shift to the Industrial Revolution. Due to the new industrial society’s inability to account for people’s health and wellbeing in structural factors like housing, economics, and waste disposal, there was widespread disatisfaction that largely drove anarchist and communist movements of the time.

“Industrial society” would include all three levels of a society based around an industrial mode of production, that is to say, based on an infrastructure that is technologically dependent on the steam engine and the production of electricity. It is harder to tell what Kaczynski means by “the industrial system,” but, taking into account his numerous rejoinders to attack “the material basis of society,” we can assume that “the system” includes mostly infrastructural and perhaps some structural factors that prop a society up.

“Techno-industrial society” is a term only used losely before Kaczynski and his associates developed it more fully, at which point it took on a more specific theoretical meaning. Último Reducto explained to me in one of our exchanges that “techno-industrial” refers to a generally more advanced form of society, based around computing technologies. This would make it largely compatible with terms popular in academia, like “late industry,” “late capitalism,” “information society,” “postmodern society,” etc. The same distinction that applies to industrial society and the industrial system applies to techno-industrial society and the techno-industrial system.

The Enemy Versus the Target

In terms of facts, I am in accordance with everything outlined above: the materialist method of analyzing society, the distinction between industrial and techno-industrial, and the emphasis on targeting the material basis of society. However, it is important to draw a distinction between a revolutionary enemy and a revolutionary target.

The communists, who had a similar materialist framework, also advocating targeting the material basis of society for their revolution (although their intention was to sieze power over it rather than destroy it). But their enemy was capitalist society. Similarly, one might make the distinction between the enemy of techno-industrial society, but the target of “the techno-industrial system.”

Still, there are obvious problems with our terminology, particularly its clarity. “System” is a vague word, and is attempting to cover concepts that our materialist framework already more accurately describes: infrastructure and structure, “the material basis of society,” or “the technological and economic basis of society.” All these terms and phrases are not only more exact, but also more intuitive.

“Techno-industrial” is also unintuitive. I agree that the technological turn around WWII to computing technologies, data, and other such things mark a major change in the infrastructural layer of society (see The Control Revolution by James Beniger; The Managerial Revolution by James Burnham). For this, perhaps “techno-industrial mode of production” is a useful concept. But in terms of naming our enemy, it is not very strong.

A stronger enemy is “world society.” This is clearly the logical consequence of a techno-industrial mode of production. Various historical trends support this contention, such as the formation of the UN and the European Union, the converging ways of life in nations that have been industrialized, the increasing connection between urban centers through transportation and communications technologies, a world identity being cemented by the existence of the internet… The terminology is also more intuitive and inspires greater motivation than a vague “system” identified only by an idiosyncratic theoretical term, “techno-industrial.”

There is already widespread opposition to world society. Observe the overwhelming numbers in support of the anti-globalization movement, the various regional conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa that explicitly oppose a global order, and the right-wing’s recent use of the concept of “globalism.” This is a much stronger motivator than an enemy of “modern technology.” For years I have attempted to frame technology itself as the enemy in people’s minds, and it simply does not work. People can agree that technology is the source of problems. But in terms of an enemy, they need something more tangible, more personal, and more involved in their day-to-day concerns. “World society” provides all of this.

Naming world society as the enemy also streamlines different elements of our analysis. If world society is the enemy, then we can demonstrate with our materialist mode of analysis why the technological and economic basis of world society is the target, and we can explain why typical targets of “globalism,” like politicians, are much less important than those belonging to the technician class, like the scientists, engineers, and businessmen who contribute significantly to technological progress. It also makes clearer the importance of the dominant ideology of the technician class, humanism (but see the final section in “A Critique of the Concept of ‘Leftism.'”)

Finally, naming world society as the enemy prevents us from giving undue focus to single issues, like biotechnology. In his essay to the anti-globalization movement, “Hit Where It Hurts,” Ted Kaczynski writes that radicals should focus on an issue that “the system” can’t afford to relax its position on. He suggests as an example the issue of biotechnology, which he argues (correctly, I believe) will be necessary to sustain order in the coming century. This is because biotechnology will be necessary to eradicate and control disease, to intensify agricultural production, to respond to ecological impacts of climate change, and perhaps even to manipulate human behavior.

However, biotechnology is not a good enemy because of what I have already stated above: people need something a little more personal, concrete, and “political.” Furthermore, a focus on biotechnology is much too narrow, limiting our ability to instigate tension in other areas that “the system” is disrupting.

Focusing on the project of world society does not have any of these problems, and is just as much an area “the system” can’t afford to compromise on. Almost every great analyst of the problems of technological society has suggested, as a solution, greater unification and cooperation between nations, more connectedness between world people, etc. Bertrand Russell, in The Prospects of Industrial Civilization, and Robert Wright in A Short History of Progress explicitly advocate a world government. So do some environmentalists who point out ecological problems with industrial technological production, such as Club of Rome in Limits to Growth, writing:

In Nature organic growth proceeds according to a Master Plan, a Blueprint. Such a ‘master plan’ is missing from the process of growth and development of the world system. Now is the time to draw up a master plan for sustainable growth and world development based on our global allocation of all resources and a new global economic system.

Various technicians, like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, also advance a globalizing project. These technicians, wholly dependent on continued technological progress, cannot afford to renege on this project. Thus, a movement against world society would be able to constantly instigate tension with the technicians who openly advocate the mission of world society, without the threat of them changing their minds for political expediency.

Finally, a focus on world society allows us to form political alliances with a huge swath of actors who, although not necessarily anti-civilization in orientation, are certainly against the world globalizing project. These include movements that have been active for decades, like fights for ethnic and national autonomy, and which are much too entrenched in the social groups of their respective political constituents to ever be annihilated completely.

The Target is Still Technology

Again, although the enemy is world society and its technician class, the target remains the technological and economic basis of that society. There is no reason to think that a focus on world society would significantly divert radicals from this focus, especially given how effectively the communist forces convinced its members that the means of overthrowing capitalist society could only ever be achieved by siezing the mode of production.

Tags: anarcho-primitivismprimitivismted kaczynskicategory: Essays
Categories: News

I Visited the Rohingya Camps in Burma and Here Is What I Saw

Truth Out - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 14:05

Burma (also known as Myanmar) recently claimed to have repatriated its first Rohingya refugee family. But, as an official from the United Nations noted, the country is still not safe for the return of its estimated 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees, who fled to Bangladesh in 2017 to escape an ongoing state-sponsored military campaign and persecution from Buddhist neighbors.

Indeed, in recent times, the Burma military has been building a fence along the 170-mile border and fortifying it with landmines, to prevent the Rohingya from returning to their villages.

I spent two months between June and July 2017 talking to Rohingya individuals who are still in the country living in an internally displaced person camp, about their experiences of violence, displacement and loss. My research shows the difficult conditions under which the Rohingya live in Burma today and why there is little hope of a safe return for the vast majority of the refugees anytime soon.

Conditions in Rohingya Camps

Since 2012, more than 1 million Rohingya refugees have fled their homes in Rakhine. The vast majority that fled in 2017 sought refuge in Bangladesh, where fears of an imminent monsoon flood are currently looming. In addition, there are an estimated 3.5 million Rohingya dispersed across the globe, the majority of whom have either fled or were born into exile due to violence in their homeland.

Those who remain in Rakhine are either in their homes and are prohibited from traveling away from their villages, or dwell in temporary camps. There are roughly 120,000 Rohingya encamped in settlements, located on the outskirts of Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, just a few miles from their former homes.

Most residents have lived in the camps since 2012, despite the fact that they were forcibly relocated by the government on a purportedly temporary basis. The camps are managed jointly by the government and military, and receive substantial assistance from international NGOs and UN agencies. However, there have been times when even the humanitarian organizations have been barred from delivering food rations and other goods and services by the government and military.

I received government approval to visit the camps last year. In Northern Rakhine, I was interrogated by military officials, and one officer came to my friend’s home where I was having dinner to ask for my passport and travel documentation. I was then allowed to stay.

When I visited the Rohingya camp on the outskirts of Sittwe, the fear was palpable. The only road leading to the camp was dotted with police checkpoints staffed by AK-47-wielding officers. One of my interviews was cut short because there was a rumor of a man being shot dead, while trying to escape the camp. The entire quarter was put on high alert.

I happened to be visiting the camp on Eid al-Fitr, the last day of Ramadan when Muslims break their monthlong fast. In the midst of the tension, there was joy as well. Young girls with freshly oiled hair adorned with satin bows and sequined dresses played alongside the officers with machine guns.

At the same time, there was also the trauma of not being able to freely honor and practice their faith. Residents of the camp spoke to me of the limitations on their religious expression. They explained how camp officials required them to remain in their homes from 10 p.m. onward and how it was not possible for them to gather at a mosque to participate in traditional celebrations central to the Islamic faith, even during Ramadan.

Destruction of Mosques

Another sad reality for many Rohingya in Burma is the destruction of their religious buildings. All mosques in Rakhine have been either destroyed or shuttered after communal riots broke out between the local Buddhist population and Rohingya in 2012.

A mosque in Sittwe, Rakhine state, that was torched and damaged in the 2012 conflict.A mosque in Sittwe, Rakhine state, that was torched and damaged in the 2012 conflict.CC BY 4.0

Many of the abandoned mosques that I saw had been reduced to rubble, and many of them continued to be heavily policed. The government has also made it illegal to construct new mosques to replace those that have been destroyed or to make repairs or renovations. In addition, in 2016 state authorities announced plans to demolish dozens of other mosques and madrasas (Muslim religious schools), based on a claim, that they had been illegally built.

In the camp, I learned that residents were allowed to build two small mud and thatch huts, which would serve as their mosques. These small structures were hardly able to accommodate the thousands who wanted to pray there. People must therefore pray separately, a move which has deeply fractured social relations within their community.

Residents reminisced about the beauty of their now demolished mosques, some refusing to even call the structure in the camp a mosque for they believed it was disrespectful to their religion. For some residents, offering prayers in this structure was not a true practice of their faith. As one young man told me, “Without being able to worship Allah, we no longer have our lives.”

Furthermore, it is only men who are allowed into this space. Women are required to pray within their shelters. During one of my interviews with a young man, I saw his wife crouching down on the dirt floor in the rear corner of their bamboo hut amid a pile of cookware. I asked what she was doing. “Praying,” he said.

Even before the 2012 military crackdown, restrictions had been placed on many of the religious obligations and rituals of the Rohingya. From my interviews I learned that for the better part of the decade, no Rohingya living in Rakhine have been able to engage in spiritual pilgrimage to Islamic holy sites in other areas of the country and globe. They have also been prohibited from inviting Muslim religious leaders to visit their mosques.

When I spoke with Rohingya individuals in the camp, they told me the deep religious significance of these practices. To many, it wasn’t just a denial of their religiosity, but of their humanity. “Our history is Rohingya, our religion is Islam, and our home is Rakhine,” said one older man, as he showed me the damp, often muddy, dirt floor where his family of eight sleep has slept every night since June 9, 2012.

Not Losing Faith

Over the past several years, opposition to the Rohingya has deepened. Many residents of Rakhine believe that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, referring to the fact that some of the Rohingya trace their heritage to Bengal, an area that became part of British India in the mid-18th century and from which many people migrated during the colonial period.

A mosque in one of the Rohingya camps on the outskirts of Sittwe.A mosque in one of the Rohingya camps on the outskirts of Sittwe.Cresa Pugh, CC BY 4.0

Nonetheless, despite their persecution, the individuals with whom I spoke remained unwavering in their faith. As I was departing, a young man, who had spent five years, or roughly a third of his life, in the camp, told me, “This has only made me stronger. The government has tried to destroy our religion and destroy our people, but a child never loses faith in his mother, and we can not lose our faith now.”

The Conversation

The post I Visited the Rohingya Camps in Burma and Here Is What I Saw appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Forced Labor Remains Common in Tea and Cocoa Industries, Despite Certification Programs

Truth Out - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 13:53

If you’re like billions of people around the world, you enjoy a nice cup of tea or nibble on a chocolate cookie now and then. Unfortunately, these beloved luxury foods carry a hidden cost: They’re infamous for abusive labor conditions, including child slavery, forced labor and horrendous working conditions.

That’s why some companies have started pursuing voluntary certification programs to put consumers at ease — but it turns out that some of those certifications may not be very reliable.

According to a study focusing on India and Ghana — two of the biggest producers of raw ingredients for globally-traded tea and chocolate products, respectively — unjust working conditions are commonplace. And for consumers who want the ability to make ethical buying decisions, this is bad news.

The report, titled the “Global Business of Forced Labor,” notes that poor sourcing practices and limited supply chain controls make it easy to conceal labor abuses in a market with extremely high price pressures. In other words, companies hoping to make a profit on tea and chocolate want to pay as little as possible for their raw ingredients.

Through interviews with workers, the researchers documented substandard housing; sexual harassment and assault; low or no wages; debt bondage; poor sanitation; lack of access to health care; physical and verbal abuse; and lives far below the poverty line. These conditions are unjust for workers — and they’re also dangerous for consumers.

There are clear health risks, for example, in having sick people produce food products, or in underpaying people tasked with food safety.

Labor Certification

So what about labor certification programs?

The interviewers discovered that most cacao and tea workers weren’t sure whether they worked on farms that cooperated with such programs, and many didn’t know what their rights were. Yet the study included plantations certified by a range of big names in the ethical consumption industry, and the researchers uncovered evidence that workers altered their practices in advance of known inspections to help plantations pass.

On tea plantations, the researchers found little difference between certified and uncertified plantations — and sometimes labor conditions were worse on certified plantations. In the cacao industry, the researchers identified a number of certification pitfalls — including confusion among local officials, workers and farmers themselves about whether a given product was certified, and what that meant.

This isn’t the first time certification programs have been called to task for failing to protect workers, or providing nebulous information that could mislead consumers. Certification is a big industry thanks to consumers who desperately want to do the right thing. Researchers say it doesn’t have to be this way, though — and there are steps certifiers could take to combat abuse on plantations.

These recommendations include: a public and independent review of the certification process; taking steps to close loopholes exploited by unscrupulous employers; making sure certification covers all at-risk workers; educating producers about how to meet certification standards; and independent, possibly governmental, auditing of certification entities. These efforts could make the process more transparent and reliable, while increasing consumer confidence.

If you’re wondering whether it will ever be safe to eat chocolate or tea again, be aware that similar supply chain issues exist for a range of products — from the tomatoes you put on your veggie burger to the coffee that wakes you up in the morning. The food system overall is characterized by injustice. While that doesn’t mean you should just shrug and give up, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Reforming the system will take time and dedication.

You can also read up on the certification programs you know and trust. You may start with their own disclosures about how they monitor working conditions and what kinds of issues they look for. But you can also try searching for the name of a given program and “criticism” or “controversy” to learn more about what people are saying; read that criticism carefully and consider the source, though. Comments from a tea industry lobbying organization, for example, are likely biased.

If you’re not happy with what you find, speak up! Ask a certification entity to do better, and demonstrate how the organization will reform its practices.

The post Forced Labor Remains Common in Tea and Cocoa Industries, Despite Certification Programs appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Believing We Have a Functional EPA Is Worse Than Having a Non-Functional EPA

Truth Out - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 13:40

Jonathan Latham is co-founder and executive director of the Bioscience Resource Project and editor of the Independent Science News website. He is a noted critic of corporate interference in scientific endeavors and regulatory bodies, and provides independent scientific research and analysis to the public and media.

Latham holds a Master’s degree in crop genetics, a Ph.D. in virology and has published scientific papers in disciplines as diverse as plant ecology, plant virology, medical genetics and genetic engineering. He regularly presents at scientific conferences on papers published by the Bioscience Resource Project.

Latham is currently working on a book about how genetic science has been manipulated and misrepresented by corporate interests, and how it can be better studied, understood and taught.

In this interview, he discusses his Poison Papers project, a major collection of released regulatory and chemical industry documents, and explains why he says that “the only thing that could be worse than a non-functional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a non-functional Environmental Protection Agency but with a public that largely imagines that they have a functional EPA.”

Lorna Garano: What are the Poison Papers?

Jonathan Latham: The Poison Papers [is] a trove of two-and-a-half tons of papers from government and chemical industry sources. They were obtained mainly by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and through court orders, and consist of internal reports and studies, meeting minutes, correspondence, unsealed court documents, and so forth. They primarily cover the 1960s to the 1990s. Our organization, The Bioscience Resource Project, together with the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) organized to have them scanned and placed online in DocumentCloud. They can be found and searched here. They mostly originate from the chemical activist Carol Van Strum, without whose campaigning Agent Orange would probably still be legal.

Can you give us a little background on the story of the Poison Papers? How did they come to light? Who is Carol Van Strum?

I originally heard about them from Carol herself when she approached us to write about the chemical industry and the EPA for our website Independent Science News. She collected the documents over many years of investigating the chemical industry, which is a story that began with the spraying of her family who were homesteaders in the Oregon woods. They later found out that what made them ill and killed their animals and local wildlife was Agent Orange. We then collaborated with CMD [which has] experience — for example, with the American Legislative Exchange Council documents — of handling large document collections.

The EPA has knowingly supported a system of often fraudulent and defective independent testing of chemical products.

Plans are underway for the Poison Papers to be archived at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Why have you chosen to house them there?

We chose UCSF because it already hosts the legendary tobacco legacy documents. Secondly, UCSF has begun a new library called the Industry Documents Library whose aim is to host internal documents of the food and chemical industries. Third, UCSF’s long history of storing controversial and once-secret documents means they understand the political dimension of librarianship. Having the documents there brings us closer to guaranteeing the perpetual availability of the Poison Papers and will make them easier to search and access.

One of the chemicals that show up in the Poison Papers is permethrin. What is this, what products contain it and what do the Poison Papers reveal about how it came to be on the market?

Permethrin shows up in two major types of distinctive flaws in the permitting of chemical pollution. One is that [the] EPA has knowingly supported a system of often fraudulent and defective independent testing of chemical products. The second issue evident with permethrin, and other chemicals too, is that the EPA has systematic procedures to evaluate them that are biased in favor of finding no harm. They are so biased, in fact, that it is virtually impossible for substances to fail to be approved. In the case of permethrin, for example, there were multiple warning signs that it was a carcinogen and a chronic toxin as well.

It’s a serious claim to accuse the EPA of knowingly relying on fraudulent data. Explain to us how the science was compromised in the case of permethrin.

There are many specific ways that chemical assessments in the Poison Papers fall short. In the case of independent testing, we know that the EPA audited laboratories testing permethrin and found them to be unsatisfactory but did nothing. Also, laboratories submitted results with many animals and many data points missing. Missing data implies, at the least incompetence, but a more likely explanation is that the missing data implicated permethrin as a toxin.

Many court cases and compensatory agreements for veterans foundered on fraudulent data about dioxins.

Major problems were evident with the EPA’s internal procedures, too. For instance, as part of the bias I mentioned above, EPA evaluators would introduce invalid historical data; or they would discount evidence of carcinogenicity if it was not found equally in male and female rats, or vice-versa; or they would revisit the categorization of cancer-like tumors. These were clearly unscientific and intended only to discredit evidence of carcinogenicity. In fact, one of the EPA’s senior scientists, Adrian Gross, called these procedures interpretations “calculated to impress the uninitiated and the gullible.” In short, almost any superficially plausible excuse was deployed to avoid characterizing a product as a “hazard.” The ultimate consequence was to make chemical evaluation and testing a pseudo-scientific facade.

Who was Adrian Gross and what does his tenure at the EPA tell us about the agency’s culture?

Adrian Gross was originally a Food and Drug Administration scientist. He was responsible for uncovering a series of chemical testing scandals. The most important of these was called the IBT scandal. IBT was a chemical testing laboratory that performed almost 40 percent of US chemical testing (including atrazine, glyphosate and 2,4-D[ichlorophenoxyacetic acid]) but most of [its] work was ultimately found to be fraudulent. Three of its employees went to jail, one of whom had come from Monsanto to test its own products. Adrian Gross subsequently moved to the EPA, who found his rigor and independence altogether too much, so they sidelined and ignored him.

Gross probably wouldn’t be considered a whistleblower in the conventional sense, but there have been whistleblowers at the EPA. One of them was William Sanjour. Tell us about him and what his story suggests about how EPA silences critics.

William Sanjour was a prominent EPA whistleblower in the 1970s and ‘80s and branch chief of its Hazardous Waste Division. He tried, among other things, to get the EPA to investigate Monsanto’s fraudulent studies on dioxin’s effects on its workers. Sanjour also tried to help members of the public who were fighting incinerators and waste dumps. The EPA tried to remove him from his position, and tried also to prevent him from receiving expenses from citizen groups so he couldn’t travel, but he prevailed in a landmark court decision against the EPA that allows EPA officials to accept travel disbursements from the public.

One of the most eye-opening documents in the collection comes from a meeting in Arlington, Virginia, in the late ‘70s between the EPA and its Canadian counterpart, the Health Protection Branch. Tell us about what the minutes of this meeting reveal and how what happened then still matters today.

When the extent of the IBT fraud became apparent to the EPA, they realized that a huge proportion of agricultural and industrial chemicals would have to come off the market. They were illegal and quite probably unsafe. Instead of letting that happen — or even releasing a list of affected chemicals, which would have allowed people to make their own decisions — the EPA concocted a story that they would “investigate” IBT testing, for what eventually would be seven years. Thus, buying time for the chemical industry to redo affected tests while hiding the fraud behind a smokescreen of an unnecessary “ongoing investigation.” The Arlington meeting was where much of that strategy was decided, and its minutes are all in the Poison Papers. This ensured that toxic and untested chemicals would remain on the market, where they still are today.

You say that the Poison Papers show that EPA colluded with the pulp and paper industry to “suppress, modify, or delay” the results of the congressionally mandated National Dioxin Study, which found alarmingly high levels of dioxins in everyday products, such as baby diapers and coffee filters, as well as pulp and paper mill effluents. Give us the background on this and also please explain why we should be concerned about dioxins.

Rule number one at EPA: Any information likely to embarrass a major industry must never see the light of day.

Dioxins are a family of compounds that are byproducts of industrial chlorine chemistry. They are also one of the most toxic chemicals ever discovered. They are toxic to humans at low parts per trillion, causing a range of birth defects and many other illnesses such as cancer at low doses and liver damage at higher ones. They are almost non-biodegradable and they accumulate in the food chain. The main hope of toxicologists is that they will be buried in sediments and effectively lost to the food web. The main hope of [the] EPA, since it neither regulates them nor tests for them nor admits their toxic consequences, is to shut its eyes and hope for the best. The specifics of the National Dioxin Study for the paper industry is that the bleaching of paper using chlorine releases large quantities of dioxins, which was a bombshell to them and why many estuaries in remote areas are heavily contaminated with dioxins.

One of the stunning revelations in the Poison Papers is a document that includes testimony given under oath by Monsanto’s chief medical officer George Roush. What does this document reveal?

In the relatively early days of Agent Orange, that is the 1970s and 1980s, it was known that dioxins were extraordinarily harmful to mammals in laboratory experiments. True to form, the chemical industry argued — highly implausibly to anyone except themselves and the US government — that this toxicity might not apply to one particular species: humans. The only people who could test this were chemical manufacturers who had a large supply of contaminated workers and their families. So, Monsanto published three studies on its workers that supposedly proved that dioxins were not human carcinogens. Except, as Roush admitted under oath, those papers were all fraudulent. Many court cases and compensatory agreements for veterans foundered on that fraudulent data.

Why do you think the chemical industry has been able to exert such influence?

The EPA protects polluters and not the public. It merely pretends to protect the public. That is what I came to understand as a scientist who studies the EPA and other regulators, including ones in other countries. The fundamental reason, however, is not understood. It is not “revolving doors” or industry pressure that compels the EPA to operate on the side of polluters, or the waste industry or the GMO industry. To understand the real story, it is necessary to listen to whistleblowers like William Sanjour. What he will tell you is that the EPA does not have the support in Washington to do its job. In particular, that means it doesn’t have the support of Congress or the president. Therefore, the EPA has to plan to fail. The agency cannot fulfill its stated mission because if it did actually ban important products or impose large fines, then the president would fire the chief administrator. This may be a mystery to most, but inside the agency, it is rule number one: Any information likely to embarrass a major industry must never see the light of day.

What the Poison Papers show is that the EPA could not be worse.

So — and one observes this in detail in the Poison Papers — all evidence of fraud or harm is buried at the first possible opportunity, preferably before it even reaches the agency. This is why the EPA farmed out chemical testing in the first place, and why it tolerates fraudulent testing when it discovers it. So, this is why we say that chemical testing is a facade. This is why we say consumers must protect themselves. So, to answer your question, this is also why industry pressure is so effective. It is because EPA officials are already falling over themselves to please the industry. An industry lobbyist merely has to express a mild preference for A and not B, and they can be pretty sure it will happen. The only time it doesn’t happen is when some other industry wants B and not A.

An important reason all this is not understood, however, is the campaigning of many NGOs. On a longstanding theory that unless the EPA is supported [and] things could be worse, they have tempered their criticisms of the agency, and many are now rallying around to defend it from Donald Trump. But what the Poison Papers show is that the EPA could not be worse. The only thing that could be worse than a non-functional EPA is a non-functional EPA but with a public that largely imagines that they have a functional EPA. Unfortunately, this last is where we are today.

How can we fix the EPA so that it fulfills its mission as a regulatory agency that puts the health and safety of the public and environment before the demands of industry?

There are several solutions. One is to make the agency independent of the president. The second is to divide the agency into two parts: one responsible for enforcement and the other for the writing of regulations. This is because at the moment, it is too easy for the officials in EPA to write loopholes into regulations, which they do. The third solution is to protect and reward whistleblowers effectively. The fourth is to bring chemical testing in-house where it can be overseen and FOIA’d [obtained under the Freedom of Information Act]. All four are necessary.

The post Believing We Have a Functional EPA Is Worse Than Having a Non-Functional EPA appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Americans Separated From Their Decency

Truth Out - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 13:35

The post Americans Separated From Their Decency appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

How Patriot Prayer Is Building a Violent Far-Right Movement in Portland

Truth Out - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 13:34

As the leader of Patriot Prayer, a radical right-wing group with followers ranging from Trump supporters to white nationalists, Joey Gibson’s persona has become a focal point for communities tired of violent right-wing rallies in public parks. He has been labeled a fascist, not only by the angry left but by newspapers and academics alike. Still, even this blurs his brand.

Over the past 18 months, Patriot Prayer has amassed crowds upal and down the West Coast. While faith, family and traditional values are mentioned in Gibson’s speeches, his focus has been infiltrating liberal cities and holding far-right demonstrations to antagonize the left.

The group’s most recent convergence on June 3 in Portland, Oregon, was intended to send off his bodyguard and fellow Patriot Prayer organizer Tusitala “Tiny” Toese. A 21-year-old Samoan Vancouver resident, Toese got involved in Patriot Prayer by lingering around the edges of the militia movement, and was planning on heading back to Samoa. He had become the group’s de facto front-man, often picking fights with protesters on camera. He was arrested on August 6, 2017, for instance, after confronting anti-fascist activists in Portland’s historic Waterfront Park. Since then, he has joined the Proud Boys, the street gang labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group with ties to white supremacist organizations across the US.

Without a statement of purpose or any planned speeches, Gibson’s supporters — which included members of Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys — showed up ready to fight from the moment they entered the park. Their anger was pointed directly at the several hundred anti-fascist protesters quartered across the street at another length of the park, broken up by a surprisingly small line of police in riot gear.

The confrontations started almost immediately as both Proud Boys and anti-fascist protesters were left bloodied by brutal confrontations. Once Gibson arrived, co-organizer Toese led a series of short marches lasting only a few blocks and returning, each time walking directly into counter-protesters, resulting in vicious melees.

They would corner counter-protesters, often out of sight of the police, and brutally attack. Pepper spray was being deployed at regular intervals, tossed back and forth from protesters on both sides. The Proud Boys, with Toese as their enigmatic leader, were barely able to keep it together as frantic outbursts, infighting and spontaneous attacks colored by homophobic slurs occurred in a continuous string of conflict. A series of “fire and brimstone” street preachers were calling counter-protesters “faggots” and cornering stragglers for gang-style attacks.

After the fourth march through the streets, the police finally intervened, telling Toese he and his group would be arrested if they did not leave. Toese then announced the “women and children” would be escorted to their cars by Proud Boys, but as their numbers thinned, they became visibly frightened about what could come next. “Why the fuck are we still here?” screamed one Proud Boy as they loaded a few people onto a bus. “We need to get the fuck out of here, they are going to outnumber us.”

Hundreds of counter-protesters then descended on them as they ran for cover in a local festival, hoping police would protect them. In the end, four people were led away in handcuffs, two from each side, though additional arrests could come after more video footage is released in the coming days.

During all of this, Gibson spent his time in the back, mostly talking into his cellphone livestream. While he would laugh and egg on his battle mates, he would then jump onto YouTube and talk about how he was here “for love.” No politics were on the agenda that day, no talk of the issues Gibson had set his “campaign” on, nor what he insisted Patriot Prayer stood for. Instead, the event was centered entirely on a street brawl with the “left,” the perfect way to send off Toese back to Samoa.

Patriot Prayer Joins the “Alt-Right” in 2017 Clashes

When Gibson’s public displays of Trumpian conservatism in Portland’s urban core first arrived in 2016 and 2017, his cause was taken up largely by militia cohorts in the Oath Keepers and the “III%ers,” still riding high from the Bundy family occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Southeastern Oregon.

Over the next year and a half after becoming a public force, Patriot Prayer began inviting others in the far right to join in their public events — the kind of call white nationalists are always primed for. Open white supremacy is generally unpopular in the US. To gain a connection to the mass culture, white supremacists require a crossover point, a group of people close enough to their ideas and built into the larger conservative social framework to help move them onto a public stage.

As a career “house flipper,” Gibson had done pretty well for himself, and Trump seemed to speak his language. While his early public rallies in 2016 seemed geared at responding to what he saw as unfair treatment of Trump conservatives, the tone shifted quickly to “standing his ground” against opposition.

While Patriot Prayer billed its politics as moderate Trumpian populism with a broadly Protestant flavor, it mattered little to the community surrounding Gibson. His persona has always had an “aw shucks” approach to conservative principles, opting to speak in vague platitudes about love and community. It was the company he kept, and his stubborn defense of them, that inspired such a virulent backlash from activists in June 2017 during a so-called “free speech” rally. Gibson served as the face that a distinct sector of the white nationalist right could support.

Identity Evropa, the white nationalist fraternal group that had been organizing at nearby universities, immediately descended, with local organizer Jacob Lott leading the charge. Organizations like the national socialist Traditionalist Worker Party, True Cascadia and a slew of actual neo-Nazi skinheads famous from the heyday of violence in the 1980s and ’90s began to buddy up. Next, the militia movement joined in, brandishing semi-automatics and Soros conspiracy theories, bolstering the perception of Gibson’s crew as a fighting force. Then the Proud Boys joined in the mix, seemingly more for the conflict than the conservatism.

While a large Trump contingent drew Gibson toward the Oregon GOP, he refused to disassociate himself from the large “alt-right” contingent that had started joining his events. Instead, he acted as a de facto organizer, providing them a platform and access to his conservative following. Gibson was, for all practical purposes, their most effective tool for growth. His own politics mattered little as his movement has functioned as a Trojan horse for actual white nationalism, facilitating its growth and expansion.

The most famous of his followers, however, has been Jeremy Christian, who was accused of murdering two people on public transit as they were attempting to de-escalate his Islamophobic attack on two women. Only days after the stabbings, Gibson decided to hold another one of his “free speech” rallies, almost identical to the one that Christian had attended months earlier.

His rally in Portland on June 4, 2017, was beset on all sides: Rose City Antifa and militants to the South, a labor cadre to the East and a massive show from progressive-left organizations to the West. Inside, however, it was a collage of combat fatigues and “Pepe” flags set against helmets and capes.

Local “alt-right” celebrities like “Baked Alaska” used the rally as an opportunity to livestream as he spoke into the camera for hours, a popular pastime on their side of the barricades. Based Stickman Kyle Chapman was an honorary guest. I caught up with a member of the Traditionalist Worker Party who told me he was far too busy to speak to me since he had left his “White Genocide” banner unattended around the block.

Organizations like Rose City Antifa and the Pacific Northwest Antifascist Workers Collective had put out a series of images of local neo-Nazis from the National Socialist Movement and skinhead gangs they thought would be in attendance — a prescient action, as faces known primarily in mugshots walked unassumingly through the crowd.

While Gibson and his crew antagonized and periodically picked fights with their neighbors, it was obvious that stepping out of their park was not an option.

Patriot Prayer Returns to Portland After Turbulent Year

Almost exactly one year later, Gibson has again brought a contingent back into the Terry Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland, though this time, a much smaller one. He had provided a laundry list of reasons for the rally: freedom of speech, supporting Trump, standing up for gun rights, fighting communism. When Truthout asked Gibson on Sunday, June 3, why he and his supporters were there, all he could say was that it was a “freedom march.” It wasn’t surprising that Patriot Prayer again set up their own rally after finding out about a protest against police violence earlier in the day, since they are known for taking left-wing events and using them as provocative moments to steal the limelight.

Over the last year, Gibson has done his best to stay relevant. He took his act on the road, going to Berkeley just weeks after the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally while the national wound was still fresh. He was met by a massive organized contingent of local unions and community organizations that overwhelmed his presence in the park. He continued on, making it up to places like Vancouver, Washington and Spokane, Washington, while antagonizing locals and watching his core followers shrink. At the University of Washington, Gibson was detained when his apparent Patriot Prayer friends were brandishing firearms.

His string of high-profile media spectacles led him to his filing as a Republican senatorial candidate in Washington, where he even had a brief moment as a possible front-runner until GOP politician Susan Hutchison was established as the leader in the race.

Yet interviews on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and hints at collaboration from the regional GOP and the militia movement have led to nothing. When he arrived late to his own rally this June, his crowd was both smaller and angrier than before. The Proud Boys lined the wall of aggressive attendees, dominating the new lineup of supporters. The militia movement, the beltway GOP types and the Trump-supporting students were largely gone. Instead, the Proud Boys appeared to be the largest demographic.

What’s Next for Patriot Prayer?

Gibson can’t stop because he has nothing left: His career is in tatters, his reputation is haunted and his world has become the mundane and shrinking suburbs of Portland. Without such public brawls, how could he possibly drum up clicks on YouTube with long-winded speeches about fiat currency?

This is why Gibson keeps his public politics center-right, even supporting same-sex marriage despite his alliance with homophobic screaming street preachers. After the melee with counter-protesters earlier this month, Gibson was invited on air by conservative talk radio host Lars Larson to pin the blame for the events back on the rest of the community and the police, while simultaneously promising to “rethink” his current strategy.

White nationalists around the country immediately came to Gibson’s defense, with “The Daily Shoah” showing its support for Patriot Prayer on a June 6 podcast. Program co-host Jayoh, who publicly makes comments in support of the mass genocide of Black people, said he was going to be reaching out to Gibson directly to show support.

While Patriot Prayer rally attendance has shrunk dramatically, the Proud Boys have grown exponentially and their willingness to engage in violence, both with and without purpose, mirrors the ugly attacks of the Hammerskins throughout the 1990s or Volksfront in the 2000s. Moreover, while the Proud Boys maintain a multi-ethnic membership roll, their “Western chauvinist” rhetoric and hard-right stances have made them the new crossover point from reactionary conservatism to full-blown, street-fighting fascism. Gibson, in the meantime, seems fine with this, unable to differentiate between one type of high-profile follower and the next.

More recently, he has focused on protesting abortion clinics, leading him to a Planned Parenthood location on June 9. There, counter-protesters met him on all sides as less than two-dozen supporters stood behind police barricades, yelling back at counter-protesters about the “unborn.”

Shortly after the dust settled from the recent June 3 action, Gibson announced Patriot Prayer would be returning to the plaza on June 30 to again “stand their ground.” Meanwhile, Rose City Antifa has unveiled a series of articles doxing each local member of the Proud Boys and calling for supporters to put pressure on their employers to fire them.

What happens when Patriot Prayer loses all connection to mainstream party politics, is stripped of its broader followership and doubles down on acts of violence? That might be when Patriot Prayer’s Jeremy Christian will again show his face. If that happens, Gibson will be well shielded, livestreaming to a small audience on Facebook and denying all culpability. We would expect nothing less.

The post How Patriot Prayer Is Building a Violent Far-Right Movement in Portland appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

North Korea Agreed to Denuclearize, but When Will the US?

Truth Out - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 13:27

A powerful economic incentive continues to drive the nuclear arms race. After the Singapore Summit, the stock values of all major defense contractors — including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and General Dynamics — declined.

Given his allegiance to boosting corporate profits, it’s no surprise that Donald Trump is counterbalancing the effects of the Singapore Summit’s steps toward denuclearization with a Nuclear Posture Review that steers the US toward developing leaner and meaner nukes and lowering the threshold for using them.

The United States has allocated $1.7 trillion to streamline our nuclear arsenal, despite having agreed in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968 to work toward nuclear disarmament.

Meanwhile, the US maintains a stockpile of 7,000 nuclear weapons, some 900 of them on “hair trigger alert,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“If weapons are used they need to be replaced,” Brand McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network has argued. “That makes war a growth story for these stocks, and one of the big potential growth stories recently has been North Korea. What the agreement does, at least for a while, is take military conflict off the table.”

Moreover, economic incentives surrounding conventional weapons also cut against the promise of peace on the Korean Peninsula. Eric Sirotkin, founder of Lawyers for Demilitarization and Peace in Korea, has pointed out that South Korea is one of the largest importers of conventional weapons from the United States. If North and South Korea achieve “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” as envisioned by the agreement between Trump and Kim Jong Un, the market for US weapons could dry up, according to Sirotkin.

Even so, US defense spending will continue to increase, according to Bloomberg Intelligence aerospace expert George Ferguson. “If North Korea turns from a pariah state to being welcomed in the world community, there are still enough trouble spots that require strong defense spending, supporting revenue and profit growth at prime defense contractors.”

The US Lags Behind on Denuclearization

Last year, more than 120 countries approved the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which requires ratifying countries “never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” It also prohibits the transfer of, use of, or threat to use nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

Since the treaty opened for signature on September 20, 2017, 58 countries have signed and 10 have ratified it. Fifty countries must ratify the treaty for it to enter into force, hopefully in 2019.

The five original nuclear-armed nations — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — boycotted the treaty negotiations and the voting. North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India, which also have nuclear weapons, refrained from participating in the final vote. During negotiations, in October 2016, North Korea had voted for the treaty.

In advance of the Singapore Summit, dozens of Korean American organizations and allies signed a statement of unity, which says:

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula means not only eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons but also denuclearizing the land, air, and seas of the entire peninsula. This is not North Korea’s obligation alone. South Korea and the United States, which has in the past introduced and deployed close to one thousand tactical nuclear weapons in the southern half of the peninsula, also need to take concrete steps to create a nuclear-free peninsula.

Prospects for Denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula

The jury is out on whether the statement signed by Trump and Kim after months of hurling incendiary nuclear threats at each other will prevent future nuclear threats and pave the way for global denuclearization.

On April 27, 2018, the Panmunjom Declaration, a momentous agreement between South Korea and North Korea, set the stage for the Singapore Summit. It reads, “The two leaders [of North and South Korea] solemnly declared before the 80 million Korean people and the whole world that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.”

The Trump-Kim statement explicitly reaffirmed the Panmunjom Declaration and said North Korea “commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

However, when the summit was in the planning stages and before Trump anointed John Bolton as National Security Adviser, Bolton skeptically predicted the summit would not deter North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Bolton wants regime change in North Korea. His invocation of the Libya model — in which Muammar Qaddafi relinquished his nuclear weapons and was then viciously murdered — nearly derailed the summit. Bolton cynically hoped the summit would provide “a way to foreshorten the amount of time that we’re going to waste in negotiations that will never produce the result we want.”

Sirotkin told Truthout, “Sadly, [the summit] may be set up in this way to please the John Bolton neocon wing as this offers nothing but the peace we agreed to after World War II for all countries of the world in the UN Charter.”

Meanwhile, Trump claims he has achieved something his predecessors — particularly his nemesis Barack Obama — were unable to pull off. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Trump tweeted upon landing in the United States after the summit. Five minutes later, he again took to Twitter, declaring, “Before taking office people were assuming we were going to War with North Korea. President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer – sleep well tonight.”

In an analysis shared via Facebook, H. Bruce Franklin, professor emeritus at Rutgers University, pointed out that — in a sideways fashion — Trump was correct when he tweeted there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea:

[Trump] of course omitted the simple fact that there never was a realistic nuclear threat from North Korea, which has been frantically building a nuclear capability to act as a deterrent against U.S. aggression. If the U.S. stops threatening North Korea, North Korea will have no motive to threaten the U.S. with retaliation. The United States never faced any nuclear threat until we forced the Soviet Union to create one in 1949 to serve as a deterrent against our aggression.

The significance of the Singapore Summit should not be underestimated. Trump is the first US president to meet with the leader of North Korea. Trump showed Kim respect, and Kim responded in kind. Trump and Kim made a major commitment to peace. We should applaud and support it, and encourage Trump to sit down with Iran’s leaders as well.

The joint agreement signed by the two leaders in Singapore was admittedly sketchy, and denuclearization will not happen overnight. But the agreement was a critical first step in a process of rapprochement between two countries that have, in effect, been at war since 1950.

The United States has continued to carry out military exercises with South Korea, which North Korea considers preparation for an invasion. In a critical move, Trump stated at the post-summit press conference that the United States would suspend its “very provocative” war games.

Trump also announced a freeze on any new US sanctions against North Korea and indicated that the United States could lift the current harsh sanctions even before accomplishing total denuclearization. Kim promised to halt nuclear testing and destroy a testing site for ballistic missile engines.

Ultimately, however, it is only global denuclearization that will eliminate the unimaginable threat of nuclear war.

The post North Korea Agreed to Denuclearize, but When Will the US? appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Wind-down of 'irritating' war games: US and South Korea suspend military drill planned for August

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 05:32

Wind-down of 'irritating' war games: US and South Korea suspend military drill planned for August | 18 June 2018 | US President Donald Trump seems to be delivering on his promise to scale down military exercises with South Korea, which he made after meeting North Korea's Kim Jong-un. A drill scheduled for August has been suspended. Washington and Seoul have agreed to suspend their preparations for the exercise code-named Ulchi Freedom Guardian, the South Korean defense ministry said on Tuesday. "The South and the U.S. plan to continue consultations over additional measures," the ministry’s text message to the media said, as cited by Yonhap news agency.

Categories: News

Thousands of DACA recipients with arrest records, including 10 accused murderers, allowed to stay in US

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 04:06

Thousands of DACA recipients with arrest records, including 10 accused murderers, allowed to stay in US | 18 June 2018 | Nearly 60,000 immigrants with arrest records -- including 10 accused of murder -- have been allowed to stay in the United States under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revealed Monday. According to DHS, 59,786 DACA recipients have been arrested while in the U.S. -- approximately 7.8 percent of all who have been approved to remain in this country under the program since it was created in 2012. Of those, 53,792 were arrested before their most recent request for a so-called "grant of deferred action" was approved. Another 7,814 were arrested after their request was approved.

Categories: News

Former CIA engineer charged with leaking classified information to WikiLeaks

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 02:19

Former CIA engineer charged with leaking classified information to WikiLeaks | 18 June 2018 | The Justice Department on Monday announced charges against a former CIA computer engineer for allegedly leaking top-secret information on U.S. government hacking tools to WikiLeaks. In a 13-count superseding indictment, the agency charged Joshua Adam Schulte with illegally gathering classified national defense information and transmitting it to “an organization.” WikiLeaks published the data in March of last year. Prosecutors identified Schulte as a suspect in the leak last month, but did not yet have sufficient evidence to bring charges.

Categories: News

These Auto Industry Companies Are Demanding Strong Clean Car Standards, Despite Trump

deSmog - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 00:03
Read time: 4 minsAverage MPG on a dashboard

There’s a major sector of the automobile industry that is unwavering in its support of strong clean car standards: auto parts manufacturers.

Carmakers, through the powerful Auto Alliance trade group, have flip-flopped on fuel economy and emissions targets for cars and light duty trucks — claiming they aren’t for rollbacks even after lobbying for them. On the other hand, auto parts suppliers have consistently argued on behalf of strong national standards, going against the direction currently pursued by the Trump administration.

Tags: clean carscafe standardsborg warneroemauto parts suppliersauto allianceTrump Administration
Categories: News

Oil Giants Shell and Eni Face Trial in Milan over Bribery Allegations in Biggest Corruption Case Facing Sector in Years

deSmog - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 23:01
Read time: 4 minsShell truck

One of the biggest corruption cases faced by the oil industry in recent years is due to resume in Milan on Wednesday as two of the world’s biggest oil companies Royal Dutch Shell and Italian firm Eni are facing trial.

Prosecutors are bringing criminal charges against Shell and Eni executives over allegations of corruption regarding a $1.3 billion oil deal in Nigeria.

This is the first time an oil company as large as Shell or senior executives of a major oil company have ever stood trial for bribery offences.

The case, which has been repeatedly delayed, involves the 2011 purchase by Shell and Eni of Nigeria’s OPL 245 offshore oilfield — one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks.

Tags: Royal Dutch Shellshellenicorruption
Categories: News

Ross shorted Russian-linked shipping company ahead of Paradise Papers

Global Muckracker - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 21:10

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shorted stock in a Kremlin-linked shipping firm days after reporters working on the Paradise Papers informed him that they were about to reveal his holdings in the firm, according to a new report by Forbes.

While serving as Commerce Secretary, Ross had retained a financial stake in the shipping firm Navigator Holdings, which earns tens of millions of dollars each year from a Russian energy company owned by oligarchs sanctioned for their close ties to President Vladimir Putin. On November 5, 2017, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and media partners around the world revealed this connection when they published the Paradise Papers investigation.

Today’s story by Forbes shows that Ross took a short position on Navigator stock soon after reporters reached out to him for comment – positioning him to profit from the advance notice of a potentially damaging media story.

Related articles

ICIJ spent more than six months researching Ross as part of the Paradise Papers investigation, working closely with media partners including the New York Times. On Oct. 26, 2017, New York Times investigative reporter Mike McIntire sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce requesting comment from Ross on behalf of the Paradise Papers team.

In the days before publication, McIntire corresponded with Commerce Department officials and received a statement from the department on Nov. 1. The statement did not dispute the main findings of the story and said that Ross “works closely with Commerce Department ethics officials to ensure the highest ethical standards.”

New York Times reporter Mike McIntire wrote to Wilbur Ross on behalf of the Paradise Papers investigation. New York Times letter to Wilbur Ross

It turns out that the Commerce Secretary had been busy in the days after receiving the letter.

On Oct. 31 – the day before the Commerce Department’s statement was sent to the New York Times but not yet public – Ross took out a short position in Navigator stock valued between $100,001 and $250,000, Forbes reported.

One of the most incredible things about Wilbur Ross’ hidden filings is just how clear they are that he shorted Navigator holdings just before negative stories came out about his ties to the company. They just lay it out in perfectly plain English.

— Dan Alexander (@DanAlexander21) June 18, 2018

Taking a short position on a stock is to bet that the value of the stock will decrease. Ross’ move meant that if Navigator shares went down after publication of the Paradise Papers, he could cash out with a gain. Navigator stock declined four percent in the 11 days before Ross exited his short position with an apparent profit, according to Forbes.

Ross had previously served on the board of Navigator Holdings and his private equity firm, the WL Ross Group, had long been its largest shareholder.

Federal law prohibits government officials from using information obtained by reason of federal employment for private gain. If an official obtains such information and knows that is not available to the general public, they are prohibited from profiting from it, said Virginia Canter, the Chief Ethics Counsel for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

“The Office of Government Ethics have certified that the transactions documented are in compliance with federal ethics requirements,” a spokesman for the Commerce Department told ICIJ.

The federal disclosure forms revealing Ross’ short position with Navigator were posted today by the Office of Government Ethics, he added.

Shortly after the publication of the Paradise Papers, Ross pledged to divest his shares in Navigator Holdings. In December, Commerce Department spokesman James Rockas told ICIJ that Ross “has now completed the process he began months ago of divesting” from Navigator.

Neither Ross nor the Commerce Department has provided ICIJ with documentation of this divestment. In April, Rockas told ICIJ that Ross’ interest in the companies “was divested through a transfer to an irrevocable trust,” a transaction which is not subject to federal financial disclosure regulations.

In May, an ICIJ reporter asked Ross at an event at the National Press Club why he had retained his investments in Navigator for nearly a year after taking his cabinet post in light of the company’s dealings with sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

“The Office of Government Ethics did not require the sale of these holdings,” Ross said. And since the Russian company owned by sanctioned oligarchs was not itself sanctioned, Ross added, “there was no reason not to hold it.”

The post Ross shorted Russian-linked shipping company ahead of Paradise Papers appeared first on ICIJ.

Categories: News

Sea Level Rise Could Put 2.4 Million US Coastal Homes at Risk

deSmog - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 19:30
Read time: 3 minsSunny day flooding in Miami, Florida

By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch. Crossposted with permission from EcoWatch.

More than 300,000 U.S. coastal homes could be uninhabitable due to sea level rise by 2045 if no meaningful action is taken to combat climate change, a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) study published Monday found.

The study, Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods and the Implications for U.S. Coastal Real Estate, set out to calculate how many coastal properties in the lower 48 states would suffer from “chronic inundation,” non-storm flooding that occurs 26 times a year or more, under different climate change scenarios.

Tags: sea level riseGlobal Climate Change Impacts in the United Statescoastal communities
Categories: News