News

How Trump's Base Inspired an International Racist Fiasco, Again

Truth Out - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 05:00

 Kevin Dietsch-Pool / Getty Images)Steven Miller, Trump's advisor for policy, attends a meeting with Donald Trump and congressional leadership in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on November 28, 2017, where Trump spoke on the intercontinental ballistic missile launch by North Korea. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool / Getty Images)

In the space of a week, Donald Trump went from embracing immigration reform to shunning it with racist vulgarities, potentially upending the lives of millions while tempting a government shutdown. Why? His base must be placated, because it's all he has left.

 Kevin Dietsch-Pool / Getty Images)Stephen Miller, Trump's adviser for policy, attends a meeting with Donald Trump and congressional leadership in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on November 28, 2017. Trump spoke on the recent intercontinental ballistic missile launch by North Korea. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool / Getty Images)

"You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on."  -- George W. Bush, 25 March, 2001.

Stephen Miller, the administration's latest iteration of Official Screaming Person, flexed his White House muscles last week and made history in all the wrong ways. Everything that has gone down since "Shithole Thursday" -- the collapse of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) negotiations, the real threat of a government shutdown and an eruption of unvarnished racist invective from the president of the United States -- came about because Miller picked up the phone with one priority in mind: Play to the Trump base.

Unspooling this pluperfect fiasco takes some doing. A week ago Tuesday, Donald Trump staged a bit of theater by not being demonstrably incapacitated by incompetence for 90 whole minutes during a meeting with members of Congress on immigration. The White House felt such a performance was necessary after Trump went on Twitter and accused the leader of a volatile nuclear adversary of having a small penis. Editorial pages from sea to shining sea were dusting off the text of the 25th Amendment again, so a good showing with the Congress members was pretty much required.

During the entire Tuesday meeting, Trump was smiling, friendly and coherent. He was open to several legislative proposals offered by Democrats, including one for a clean DACA bill, to which he reacted enthusiastically -- said enthusiasm being later erased "accidentally" from the transcript of the event. The press loved it. That night, most news stations led their evening broadcasts with some permutation of, "Wow, the president didn't humiliate us all today!" 

It was strange because it wasn't a hot mess… and Stephen Miller hated it, for reasons beyond his own gaudy racism. A deal on the status of the Dreamers would be a quantum-level betrayal of Trump's still-hardcore base of political support. His current 33 percent approval is comparable to George W. Bush's 25 percent approval level near the end of his second godawful term. Those voters are The Last Patrol, the true bitter-enders, and if Trump loses them, well… it's the old joke. What do you call a leader with no followers? Just a guy taking a walk.

It has been widely whispered for a while now that Donald Trump often repeats the last thing he heard as if it were his own wisdom. This mess pretty much proves that out.

In order to save Trump from alienating his base by doing the right thing, Miller called in congressional reinforcements before a Thursday meeting Trump had planned with Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and other members of Congress. Miller's back-up crew -- Freedom Caucusers like Representatives Bob Goodlatte and David Purdue along with hard-line Republican senators like Tom Cotton -- beat feet to the White House and swarmed Trump like maddened wasps before the Durbin meeting began. When they were finished, Tuesday's jovial huckster statesman was gone. The growling muddy-eyed dog was back, baring its yellowed teeth again.

Talk about a turnstile presidency. It has been widely whispered for a while now that Donald Trump often repeats the last thing he heard as if it were his own wisdom. This mess pretty much proves that out. "I'm all for a clean DACA bill." ("No you're not.") "NO I'M NOT." 

Shithole shithole shithole! This is journalism now; thanks again, Don.

My wife can verify that as I watched Calm Don at the Tuesday meeting. I pointed at the TV and said, "There's no way he's going to hold it together." He did… for about 48 hours.

The rest is shithole history, drafted by a shithole president who bragged afterward to his shithole friends that calling Haiti and all of Africa "shitholes" would play really well with his base. Shithole shithole shithole! This is journalism now; thanks again, Don. Watching the news anchors try to slither past the word last Thursday night was better than Cats. It's a good thing TV comes without spam filters, or we'd all be watching the test signal.

Negotiations over DACA and the Dreamers collapsed immediately after the Durbin meeting debacle, and now the threat of a federal government shutdown looms at close of business tomorrow. Congressional Democrats are under heavy pressure to staple DACA to any government spending bill, but are hesitant to deploy this oft-attempted Republican "hostage-taking" tactic themselves. 

They just might do it, and God I hope they do, because the alternative is a shattering disaster. With families included, DACA covers more than a million people now caught in the middle of yet another xenophobic nationalist uprising, one more true American tradition. If the Dreamers are turned out, anyone who calls this a moral, Christian nation should be summarily ejected into space.

The rampant racist aspect, right there in the umbra of the MLK holiday (which Mike Pence celebrated by turning Roll-Tide crimson in his church pew on Sunday when the pastor denounced his boss), was further exacerbated when reports surfaced about Trump's backhanded reaction to legislative input from the Congressional Black Caucus. "You've got to be joking," he reportedly said. CNN's Jon Acosta opened his evening report that night by calling the president of the United States of America a racist while standing in front of the White House.

This regime tailors public policy and comment to please a dwindling cadre of white voters who still enthusiastically support Trump's pan-directional hate.

Then came the spin. The press office obviously couldn't deny Trump said it -- there were multiple witnesses, and the man bragged to his friends about it afterward -- so of course they tried to deny he said it. When that failed, they backpedaled to, "He didn't call Haiti a shithole country, only all of Africa," before trying out the "He-said-shithouse-not-shithole-so-ha!" defense. It didn't fly, so they were left with, "Well, those countries really are shitholes. The president was just telling the truth. He talks like 'regular people' think!" They went with that, because of course they did, because they thought it would play well with the base, again.

For the record: Haiti bears the burden of having shared the hemisphere with the United States during the Cold War. Every president from Eisenhower to Reagan lent US support to the murderous regimes of François "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude, who used their Tonton Macoute militia to butcher and disappear tens of thousands of people while looting the country. Everything since -- the invasion, the coups -- has been political aftermath from the US's Cold War game of thrones with the USSR.

Also, Tropical Storm Jeanne killed 3,000 people in 2004. In 2008, Tropical Storm Fay along with Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike left 800,000 Haitians in need of humanitarian aid. In 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, killing an estimated 300,000 people and leaving another 1.6 million people homeless. Another 10,000 died after the quake in a massive cholera outbreak caused when a UN peacekeeping base accidentally poisoned Haiti's main river with cholera-infected wastewater. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew tore apart most of Haiti's remaining infrastructure and killed another 3,000 people. The storms of this last hurricane season only exacerbated the crisis further. Nearly a dozen major storms, one massive earthquake and a cholera epidemic in 14 years would undo any nation of similar size -- especially given the lack of sufficient support from its hemispheric neighbors, most emphatically the United States. 

Haiti is a victim of bad luck, but mostly, it's a victim of deliberate policy. So was Ireland, once upon a time, when those who fled British oppression and the Potato Blight were the new scourge of these shores. Most of the immigrants who have come here over the generations were running for their lives from dire circumstances beyond their control. Such is the case today. With a rank racist in the White House, however, all bets are off. This regime tailors public policy and comment to please a dwindling cadre of white voters who still enthusiastically support Trump's pan-directional hate.

This, right here, is what happens when Trump's base is put in the driver's seat. Thanks to Stephen Miller's base-saving phone calls last week, a million innocent people may well have their lives brutally upended with no DACA deal in sight, the despised (by the base) federal government is again on the brink of shutting down and one-sixth of the planet stands racially insulted by a president who works so few hours a day that some think he could qualify for unemployment benefits.

Miller did it for the base. Maybe it's time to stop listening to those people, yeah?

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Categories: News

How Trump's Deregulatory Push Is Harming Workers, Muzzling EPA Scientists and Unleashing Pollution

Truth Out - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 05:00

As President Trump's own chief of staff, John Kelly, calls his boss "uninformed," we will look at how Trump is transforming the nation by slashing taxes on the rich, gutting the nation's regulatory system and muzzling climate scientists. We speak to David Cay Johnston, author of It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

David Cay Johnston: Trump Is Determined to Provoke War to Draw Focus From Racist and Erratic Behavior

Truth Out - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 05:00

The New York Times reports that the Pentagon is proposing widening the permissible use of nuclear weapons to include responding to cyberattacks and other non-nuclear attacks to US infrastructure. The Pentagon has already outlined this expanded nuclear strategy in a draft document sent to President Trump for approval. It comes amid a series of moves by the Pentagon and President Trump that have escalated the threat of nuclear war. The Wall Street Journal reports the Pentagon is planning to develop two new sea-based nuclear weapons. The New York Times also reports the Pentagon is conducting a series of war games to prepare for a potential war with North Korea. We speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston, who has been covering Donald Trump for nearly 30 years. His latest book is just out, titled It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

Avoiding Armageddon in Korea or Launching a War for the Ages

Truth Out - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 05:00
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Most people intuitively get it. An American preventive strike to wipe out North Korea's nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles, or a commando raid launched with the same goal in mind, is likely to initiate a chain of events culminating in catastrophe.  That would be true above all for the roughly 76 million Koreans living on either side of the Demilitarized Zone. Donald Trump, though, seems unperturbed. His recent contribution to defusing the crisis there: boasting that his nuclear button is "bigger and more powerful" than that of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The president's high school locker-room braggadocio provided rich material for comedians.  Meanwhile, there remains the continuing danger of a war in the Koreas, whether premeditated or triggered accidentally by a ship seized, an aircraft downed, a signal misread... you get the picture.  No serious person could dismiss this scenario, but even the experts who track the evidence closely for a living differ on just how probable it is.  In part, that's because, like everyone else, they must reckon with a colossal wild card -- and I'm not talking about Kim Jong-un.

The Pessimists 

On one side are those who warn that President Trump isn't blowing smoke when he talks, or tweets, about destroying North Korea's nuclear warheads and missiles, the infrastructure supporting them, and possibly even the whole country.  By now, it's common knowledge that his national security officials -- civilian and military (the distinction having blurred in the Trump era) -- have been crafting plans to strike before that country's nuclear arsenal becomes fully operational.  

No one who listened to PBS NewsHour's Judy Woodruff interviewingNational Security Adviser Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster just after the Trump administration released its National Security Strategy in December could simply dismiss the warnings as those of so many Cassandras.  McMaster dutifully summarized that document, which included a pledge to "respond with overwhelming force to North Korean aggression and improve options to compel denuclearization."  When Woodruff then asked whether he believed war was becoming more likely by the day, he agreed, adding that "the president has asked us to continue to refine a military option, should we need to use it."

Others who should be in the know have offered even scarier prognoses.  During an interview with ABC News on the last day of 2017, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen claimed that, while McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis had stayed Trump's hand so far, their ability to continue to restrain such a "disruptive" and "unpredictable" president was diminishing. "We're actually closer to nuclear war with North Korea and in that region," he concluded, "than we've ever been."

Then there's Trump himself.  He has long since moved from saying, as he did last May, that he would "be honored" to meet Kim Jong-un "under the right circumstances" to warning, in August, that if North Korea threatened the United States, it would "be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." In September, he upped the ante again in a speech to the UN, declaring that he would "have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea" if that were needed to defend the United States. 

Left unspecified was Trump's definition of "defend."  Would additional North Korean nuclear and missile tests pose a sufficient threat for him to order a preventive war?  Was his red line a fully operational North Korean nuclear force?  Or did he mean that he would retaliate in kind only if Pyongyang were to attack the United States, Japan, or South Korea with nuclear weapons? If either the first or second scenario represents his threshold, then Mullen's dire assessment can't be discounted as hyperbole. If it's the third, the world can breathe a bit easier for now, since there's no conceivable reason for Kim Jong-un to attack a country with nuclear weapons, least of all the United States, except in response to the potential destruction of his state.

In his latest gyration, having failed to scare Kim into denuclearization, Trump has welcomed talks between Seoul and Pyongyang that he had only recently discounted and, predictably, taken credit for a turn of events that has sidelined him.  He even suggested that the United States could eventually join the negotiations, meant in part to prevent a conflict during the February Winter Olympics in Seoul, and reacted positively to the possibility that they might continue even after the games end.

Of course, this president can turn on a dime, so such words mean next to nothing and should offer no solace.  After all, on two occasions he derided Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's efforts to defuse the crisis through negotiations, declaring, "I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he's wasting his time trying to negotiate with little Rocket Man.  Save your energy, Rex, we'll do what has to be done."

The Optimists (Well, Sort of)

On the opposing side of the how-likely-is-war debate are the optimists, a different coterie of journalists, ex-officials, and policy wonks.  Their basic point boils down to this: yes, Trump has made fire-and-brimstone statements about North Korea, but chalk up the endless bombast to his problem with impulse control and his desire to feed red meat to his base, while scaring Kim.  

Unfortunately, you can't put much stock in this take either -- not once you consider the accompanying caveats.  Gideon Rachman, an Asia specialist and Financial Times columnist, is typical of this crew in concluding that war on the Korean peninsula is unlikely -- only to liken the current atmosphere in Washington to the one that prevailed just before the 2003 Bush administration invasion of Iraq.  For good measure, he adds that Lindsey Graham -- super-hawk, Trump confidant (to the extent that anyone is), and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee -- believes that war is "inevitable." (This is optimism?)  Rachman's fallback suggestion is that Australia, Japan, and South Korea won't support a preventive strike on North Korea.  Now ask yourself this: How often does Donald Trump take others' advice?  When is the last time you heard him say "multilateralism"?

Jeffrey Lewis, a well-regarded expert on nuclear weapons, discounts the likelihood of war for a different reason.  He thinks Trump's bombast is so much bluster, designed to jangle Kim's nerves and drive the North Korean leader to relinquish his nuclear cache lest an out-of-control American president vaporize his regime.  Given what we now know about the present occupant of the Oval Office, that might be a modestly convincing thought if Lewis didn't introduce his own qualifiers.  He believes Trump's faith that China, in hopes of getting economic rewards from the United States, will eventually persuade (or coerce) Kim to denuclearize is misplaced because Beijing lacks the necessary clout in Pyongyang.  Indeed, Kim doesn't trust China and has killed or sidelined those whom he suspects of being pro-Chinese.  

Lewis also lays out a range of possibilities, each of which could trigger a spiral toward war. These include North Korea shooting down an American reconnaissance aircraft or sinking a South Korean naval vessel, both of which, he reminds us, Pyongyang has done in the past (the first in 1969, the second in 2010) -- when it still lacked nuclear weapons.  So Lewis's American-style optimism doesn't offer any more grounds for cheer than Rachman's British variant.

Where does this lack of consensus on the likelihood of war leave us?  The answer: no one can really assess the gravity of the danger, particularly because the man who occupies the White House is arguably the most volatile president we've ever had.  

It's no pleasure to quote former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but when it comes to the probability of war in the Koreas, it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the "known unknowns."

What We Do Know

The inability to fathom just how close we may be to war there doesn't mean we know nothing about the Korean crisis that's worth knowing.    

We know that North Korea has long been committed to building nuclear weapons and produced small quantities (six to thirteen kilograms) of weapons-grade plutonium as early as 1992.

We know that North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (which it joined in 1985) in 2003; that it detonated its first nuclear weapon in 2006 during the rule of Kim Jong-il, the father of North Korea's current leader; and that it has conducted five other tests since then in 2009, 2013, 2016 (twice), and 2017 -- four of them after Kim Jong-un took power in December 2011. 

We know that North Korea has been no less dogged in building and testing ballistic missiles, beginning in 1984, and that the Hwasong-15, test-fired last November (with an apogee of 2,800 miles and an estimated range of 8,100 miles), has the capacity to strike the continental United States.  And Pyongyang has gone beyond liquid-fuelled missiles (that require prolonged, telltale preparations to launch), testing solid-fueled variants, which can be fired at short notice.

We know that Pyongyang is close to producing, or has already produced, a warhead that can be placed atop an intercontinental ballistic missile and survive the heat and stress encountered on reentering the earth's atmosphere.  In other words, North Korea is without question effectively a nuclear weapons state, which means Kim Jong-un's claim, in his 2018 New Year's Day speech, that he has a nuclear button on his desk may not be an idle boast (even if no literal button exists).

Finally, we know that American threats and military maneuvers on and around the Korean peninsula, a series of UN Security Council sanctions since 2006, and behind-the-scenes diplomacy by China and Russia have not induced Pyongyang to change course, even though China, in particular, recently imposed draconian limits on energy exports to that country, which could potentially weaken its struggling economy.

The Denuclearization Fantasy

No one (outside of Pyongyang) could celebrate a nuclear-armed North Korea, but no one could reasonably be surprised by it either.  Nuclear weapons have long served as a symbol of exclusivity for great powers and their regional cohorts.  It's no accident that all the Security Council's permanent members are nuclear states.  Having accorded such weaponry supreme prestige, who could be shocked that other countries, even relatively small and poor ones, would try to acquire them as well and refuse to be cowed by political or economic pressure.

Despite various campaigns for nuclear disarmament, the current nuclear states have not shown the slightest inclination to give them up; so the promise of a nuclear-free world rings hollow and is unlikely to persuade states that really want nukes not to build them.  Beyond conferring status, these weapons make attacking a country that has them dangerous indeed, providing a de facto guarantee against regime change.  

The North Koreans have made this point more than once, citing the fates of Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, each of whom gave up his country's nuclear program and then was taken down by the United States.  The idea that the leaders in Pyongyang can't possibly believe that they face such a threat from the United States (which already fought one war on the Korean peninsula) is preposterous.  If you were Kim Jong-un, you'd probably build nuclear weapons.

The upshot: short of a war, there's no chance of denuclearization. That, in turn, means: were Trump and his generals to launch an attack on North Korea's nuclear arsenal and even a single warhead capable of striking the United States survived, Pyongyang might well use it to retaliate.  According to the experts who engage in such grisly estimates, a 15-kiloton nuclear weapon (equivalent to "Little Boy," the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945) that lands somewhere in, say, Los Angeles would kill more than 100,000 people immediately and yet more thereafter.  To put this in perspective, bear in mind that the estimates of the yield of the warhead North Korea tested last September run as high as 250 kilotons.  And don't forget that, even if it couldn't effectively reach the United States, the North could still target either South Korea or Japan, causing a devastating loss of lives and sending shockwaves through the global economy. 

And even if Kim couldn't retaliate with nuclear weapons, he could still order the thousands of artillery pieces his military has trained on the South Korean capital, Seoul, to fire.  The metropolis and its satellite towns are home to nearly 25.5 million people, half of the country's total population, so the death toll would be enormous, even taking into account the limitations of the North's artillery.  And given that some 28,500 American troops and nearly 137,000 American civilians are based in South Korea, many close to the border, Trump's reported remark to Lindsey Graham that, in the event of such a war, people will "die over there" is not just callous in its disregard for Korean lives, it's ignorant.  Even an American commando raid into North Korea could trigger a wider war because the North Korean leadership might reasonably regard it as a prelude to a larger attack.

The bottom line?  Trump could fulfill his vow never to allow North Korea to become a nuclear-armed power only by resorting to a preventive war, as Pyongyang hasn't been and is unlikely to be moved to disarm by sanctions or other forms of pain.  And a preventive war would be calamitous.

Stopping the War Machine

Here's a prerequisite for avoiding war in Korea: stop believing in the North's denuclearization, attractive and desirable as it might be (if achieved through diplomacy).

It doesn't follow, however, that war can't be avoided.  Kim Jong-un and his inner circle are not, in fact, irrational beings immune to deterrence.  Their paramount aim is to ensure the survival of the North Korean state. Starting a nuclear war would destroy it.  Yes, many people have perished in North Korea (whether due to repression or famine), but deterrence worked in the cases of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and China's Mao Zedong, both of whom enacted policies that killed millions. Mao supposedly even boasted that China could survive a nuclear war because of its huge population. 

Coming to terms with the reality of a nuclear-armed North Korea and trusting in deterrence may not sound like a perfect ending, but under the circumstances it's undoubtedly the best way to avert catastrophe.  And that, unquestionably, is the urgent task.  There are other ways, down the line, to make the Korean peninsula a better place through dialogue between the two Koreas, by drawing the North into the regional economy and reducing troops and weaponry on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone.  These shouldn't be ruled out as infeasible.    

For them to happen, though, South Korea would have to separate itself from Trump's war plans by refusing to allow its sovereign space (land, sea, and air) to be used for such a preventive war.  The symbolism would be important even if Trump could strike in other ways.  

Seoul would also have to build on two recent positive developments that emerged from a surprise January 9th meeting between the Koreas.  The first is the agreement on Kim Jong-un's proposal (initially advanced by the South last June) to send a North Korean contingent to the February Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  The second flowed from South Korean President Moon Jae-in's follow-up idea of restoring the hotline between the countries and beginning discussions of how to tamp down tensions on the peninsula.  (Pyongyang shut down the hotline in February 2016 after South Korea's conservative government closed the Kaesong joint industrial zone located in the North, which then employed more than 50,000 North Koreans.)  Moon's suggestion doubtless eased the way for the subsequent agreement to hold future military talks aimed at reducing the risks of war.

There are further steps Seoul could take, including declaring a moratorium on military exercises with the United States -- not just, as now (with Washington's consent), during the February Olympics and the Paralympics that follow and end in March, but without a preset time limit. While such joint maneuvers don't scare Pyongyang, moves like flying American B1-B bombers and F-15C fighter jets in international airspace off North Korea's coast do ratchet up the tension.  They increase the chances of one side concluding that the other is about to attack. 

Trump may continue his threats via Twitter and again denigrate the value of negotiations with Pyongyang, but South Korea is a powerful country in its own right. It has a $1.4 trillion economy, the 11th largest in the world (versus North Korea's paltry $32.4 billion one), and ranks sixth in global exports.  It also has a formidable military and will spend $34 billion on defense in 2017 -- more than North Korea's entire gross domestic product.  It is, in short, anything but the Asian equivalent of a country for which Donald Trump should be able to write the script.

Trump's generals and the rest of the American foreign policy establishment won't welcome independent initiatives by Seoul, typified by the condescending remark of a former official about the hazards of South Korea "running off the leash."  Predictably, mainstream warnings have already begun.  Cunning Kim Jong-un wants to drive a "wedge" between the United States and South Korea.  He's trying to undo the sanctions.  Agreeing to talks with Pyongyang will only communicate weakness.  The United States must demonstrate its resolve and protect its credibility.  And so it goes. 

Policies based on these shibboleths, which portray South Korea as an American dependency, have brought us to the brink of war.  Continuing them could push us over the edge. 

Categories: News

How Trump's Base Inspired an International Racist Fiasco, Again

Truth Out - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 05:00

 Kevin Dietsch-Pool / Getty Images)Steven Miller, Trump's advisor for policy, attends a meeting with Donald Trump and congressional leadership in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on November 28, 2017, where Trump spoke on the intercontinental ballistic missile launch by North Korea. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool / Getty Images)

In the space of a week, Donald Trump went from embracing immigration reform to shunning it with racist vulgarities, potentially upending the lives of millions while tempting a government shutdown. Why? His base must be placated, because they're all he has left.

 Kevin Dietsch-Pool / Getty Images)Steven Miller, Trump's advisor for policy, attends a meeting with Donald Trump and congressional leadership in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on November 28, 2017. Trump spoke on the recent intercontinental ballistic missile launch by North Korea. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool / Getty Images)

"You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on."  -- George W. Bush, 25 March, 2001.

Stephen Miller, the administration's latest iteration of Official Screaming Person, flexed his White House muscles last week and made history in all the wrong ways. Everything that has gone down since "Shithole Thursday" -- the collapse of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) negotiations, the real threat of a government shutdown and an eruption of unvarnished racist invective from the president of the United States -- came about because Miller picked up the phone with one priority in mind: Play to the Trump base.

Unspooling this pluperfect fiasco takes some doing. A week ago Tuesday, Donald Trump staged a bit of theater by not being demonstrably incapacitated by incompetence for 90 whole minutes during a meeting with members of Congress on immigration. The White House felt such a performance was necessary after Trump went on Twitter and accused the leader of a volatile nuclear adversary of having a small penis. Editorial pages from sea to shining sea were dusting off the text of the 25th Amendment again, so a good showing with the Congress members was pretty much required.

During the entire Tuesday meeting, Trump was smiling, friendly and coherent. He was open to several legislative proposals offered by Democrats, including one for a clean DACA bill, to which he reacted enthusiastically -- said enthusiasm being later erased "accidentally" from the transcript of the event. The press loved it. That night, most news stations led their evening broadcasts with some permutation of, "Wow, the president didn't humiliate us all today!" 

It was strange because it wasn't a hot mess… and Stephen Miller hated it, for reasons beyond his own gaudy racism. A deal on the status of the Dreamers would be a quantum-level betrayal of Trump's still-hardcore base of political support. His current 33 percent approval is comparable to George W. Bush's 25 percent approval level near the end of his second godawful term. Those voters are The Last Patrol, the true bitter-enders, and if Trump loses them, well… it's the old joke. What do you call a leader with no followers? Just a guy taking a walk.

It has been widely whispered for a while now that Donald Trump often repeats the last thing he heard as if it were his own wisdom. This mess pretty much proves that out.

In order to save Trump from alienating his base by doing the right thing, Miller called in congressional reinforcements before a Thursday meeting Trump had planned with Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and other members of Congress. Miller's back-up crew -- Freedom Caucusers like Representatives Bob Goodlatte and David Purdue along with hard-line Republican senators like Tom Cotton -- beat feet to the White House and swarmed Trump like maddened wasps before the Durbin meeting began. When they were finished, Tuesday's jovial huckster statesman was gone. The growling muddy-eyed dog was back, baring its yellowed teeth again.

Talk about a turnstile presidency. It has been widely whispered for a while now that Donald Trump often repeats the last thing he heard as if it were his own wisdom. This mess pretty much proves that out. "I'm all for a clean DACA bill." ("No you're not.") "NO I'M NOT." 

Shithole shithole shithole! This is journalism now; thanks again, Don.

My wife can verify that as I watched Calm Don at the Tuesday meeting. I pointed at the TV and said, "There's no way he's going to hold it together." He did… for about 48 hours.

The rest is shithole history, drafted by a shithole president who bragged afterward to his shithole friends that calling Haiti and all of Africa "shitholes" would play really well with his base. Shithole shithole shithole! This is journalism now; thanks again, Don. Watching the news anchors try to slither past the word last Thursday night was better than Cats. It's a good thing TV comes without spam filters, or we'd all be watching the test signal.

Negotiations over DACA and the Dreamers collapsed immediately after the Durbin meeting debacle, and now the threat of a federal government shutdown looms at close of business tomorrow. Congressional Democrats are under heavy pressure to staple DACA to any government spending bill, but are hesitant to deploy this oft-attempted Republican "hostage-taking" tactic themselves. 

They just might do it, and God I hope they do, because the alternative is a shattering disaster. With families included, DACA covers more than a million people now caught in the middle of yet another xenophobic nationalist uprising, one more true American tradition. If the Dreamers are turned out, anyone who calls this a moral, Christian nation should be summarily ejected into space.

The rampant racist aspect, right there in the umbra of the MLK holiday (which Mike Pence celebrated by turning Roll-Tide crimson in his church pew on Sunday when the pastor denounced his boss), was further exacerbated when reports surfaced about Trump's backhanded reaction to legislative input from the Congressional Black Caucus. "You've got to be joking," he reportedly said. CNN's Jon Acosta opened his evening report that night by calling the president of the United States of America a racist while standing in front of the White House.

This regime tailors public policy and comment to please a dwindling cadre of white voters who still enthusiastically support Trump's pan-directional hate.

Then came the spin. The press office obviously couldn't deny Trump said it -- there were multiple witnesses, and the man bragged to his friends about it afterward -- so of course they tried to deny he said it. When that failed, they backpedaled to, "He didn't call Haiti a shithole country, only all of Africa," before trying out the "He-said-shithouse-not-shithole-so-ha!" defense. It didn't fly, so they were left with, "Well, those countries really are shitholes. The president was just telling the truth. He talks like 'regular people' think!" They went with that, because of course they did, because they thought it would play well with the base, again.

For the record: Haiti bears the burden of having shared the hemisphere with the United States during the Cold War. Every president from Eisenhower to Reagan lent US support to the murderous regimes of François "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude, who used their Tonton Macoute militia to butcher and disappear tens of thousands of people while looting the country. Everything since -- the invasion, the coups -- has been political aftermath from the US's Cold War game of thrones with the USSR.

Also, Tropical Storm Jeanne killed 3,000 people in 2004. In 2008, Tropical Storm Fay along with Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike left 800,000 Haitians in need of humanitarian aid. In 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, killing an estimated 300,000 people and leaving another 1.6 million people homeless. Another 10,000 died after the quake in a massive cholera outbreak caused when a UN peacekeeping base accidentally poisoned Haiti's main river with cholera-infected wastewater. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew tore apart most of Haiti's remaining infrastructure and killed another 3,000 people. The storms of this last hurricane season only exacerbated the crisis further. Nearly a dozen major storms, one massive earthquake and a cholera epidemic in 14 years would undo any nation of similar size -- especially given the lack of sufficient support from its hemispheric neighbors, most emphatically the United States. 

Haiti is a victim of bad luck, but mostly, it's a victim of deliberate policy. So was Ireland, once upon a time, when those who fled British oppression and the Potato Blight were the new scourge of these shores. Most of the immigrants who have come here over the generations were running for their lives from dire circumstances beyond their control. Such is the case today. With a rank racist in the White House, however, all bets are off. This regime tailors public policy and comment to please a dwindling cadre of white voters who still enthusiastically support Trump's pan-directional hate.

This, right here, is what happens when Trump's base is put in the driver's seat. Thanks to Stephen Miller's base-saving phone calls last week, a million innocent people may well have their lives brutally upended with no DACA deal in sight, the despised (by the base) federal government is again on the brink of shutting down and one-sixth of the planet stands racially insulted by a president who works so few hours a day that some think he could qualify for unemployment benefits.

Miller did it for the base. Maybe it's time to stop listening to those people, yeah?

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Categories: News

United States Policing and "Gun Rights" Began With Slave Patrol

Truth Out - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 05:00

In Loaded, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz details the white supremacist background of the Second Amendment and the perennial NRA cry of gun rights. Guns were vital tools in the suppression and killing of the Indigenous population and Black people before the Bill of Rights was written.

 Fstop Images / Getty Images)(Photo: Fstop Images / Getty Images)

In Loaded, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz details the white supremacist background of the Second Amendment and the perennial NRA cry of gun rights. She reveals the irony of the gun lobby's equation of gun ownership with freedom. Guns, after all, she notes, were vital tools in the suppression and killing of the Indigenous population and Black people before the Bill of Rights was written. Get the book now with a donation to Truthout.

In the chapter "Slave Patrol," Dunbar-Ortiz provides the historical context for how militias that killed and oppressed slaves and Indigenous persons became the precedent for the militia cited in the Second Amendment. The following is the full-chapter excerpt.

Following the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles and the development of Cop Watch groups in cities around the United States, along with the widespread incarceration of Black men in the 1990s, what had long been known by scholars, but rarely acknowledged in media or history texts, became increasingly clear on a national level: The origins of policing in the United States were rooted in slave patrols.

In a study of slave patrols in Virginia and the Carolinas in 1700-1865, historian and law professor Sally E. Hadden writes: "People other than masters or overseers had legitimate rights, indeed, legal duties, to regulate slave behavior." Black people escaping to freedom were hunted down to prevent labor loss to their white slavers, and also to send a message to those enslaved who might be strategizing to lose their chains through rebellion or insurrection.

Because chattel slavery was uncommon in the 1500s in England itself, the existing legal system that colonists brought to the early British colonies in North America did not suffice, so nearly all law related to slavery was forged in the colonies, borrowing from existing practices in Spanish, Portuguese, and English Caribbean plantation colonies, and specifically borrowing the use of slave patrols from the Caribbean and adapting them to local conditions on the continent.

The Virginia militia was founded for one purpose: to kill Indians, take their land, drive them out, wipe them out.

The 1661 and 1688 slave codes in the British Carib bean colony of Barbados extended the task of controlling enslaved Africans from overseers and slavers to all white settlers, in effect shifting private responsibility to the public. Any enslaved person outside the direct control of the slaver or overseer required passes and was subject to questioning by a slave patrol, as well as by any member of the European population; free Black men were denied such power. This collective racial policing was in addition to the traditional English constabulary that investigated and detained European residents for infractions of laws.

British slavers from Barbados moved in large numbers to the South Carolina colony after 1670, and brought the slave patrol practice with them. By 1704, the South Carolina colonial government had codified slave patrols and embedded them within the already existing volunteer militias, whose principal role was to repel Native Americans whose land they had appropriated. Members of slave patrols were drawn from militia rolls in every locale. The South Carolina structure of slave patrols was adopted in other colonies by the mid-eighteenth century and would remain relatively unchanged until the Civil War. Following US independence, this structure and practice was applied to what became the Cotton Kingdom, following the US wars against the Muskogee peoples that ended in their forced relocation to Indian Territory.

Virginia was the first of the thirteen English settler colonies in North America, but there were fewer enslaved Africans there, and they were more widely dispersed than in South Carolina, as Virginia settlements were long surrounded by resistant Native communities. The Virginia militia was founded for one purpose: to kill Indians, take their land, drive them out, wipe them out. European settlers were required by law to own and carry firearms, and all adult male settlers were required to serve in the militia. Militias were also used to prevent indentured European servants from fleeing before their contracts expired, in which case they were designated "debtors." Despite militia vigilance, many escaped on ships in ports.

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During the 1660s and 1670s, Virginia settlers turned from indenturing Europeans to importing enslaved Africans, and by 1680, the enslaved were required to carry passes. Of course, slave uprisings increased, and in 1705, the Virginia colony enacted its first slave code and established slave patrols. Militia members, focused on attacking Indigenous towns and fields to expand the Virginia colony refused to participate in slave patrols, so the colonial authorities imposed harsh punishments to control the enslaved Africans, such as death for even mentioning rebellion. Colonists prohibited the enslaved Africans from holding meetings or learning how to read. In 1727, the Virginia colony enacted a law requiring militias to create slave patrols, imposing stiff fines on white people who refused to serve.

After 1650, slavers in Virginia began expanding deeper into the territory of the Tuscarora Nation, and were the first English settlers in what became the North Carolina colony in 1729. During the first three decades of Virginia settler incursion, the colony's militia was used solely to attack and burn down Tuscarora towns, incinerate their crops, and slaughter the families who resided there. By 1722, the embattled Tuscaroras joined the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) and migrated north for protection from settler terrorism, while some communities remained in severely deteriorating conditions.

In 1715, North Carolina's slaver government began requiring passes for enslaved individuals who were in public spaces doing errands or rented out as craftsmen, as many were escaping from bondage to Spanish Florida or marooning in the swamps of Cape Fear. Militias were used for pursuing Africans escaping to freedom, but did not form specific slave patrols as a separate category. In 1753, fearing increasing slave rebellions, the North Carolina colony established what they called "searchers," not drawn from the militias but authorized by courts; later they would be called "patrollers." They were exempt from militia duty as well as from jury duty and taxation, and two decades later, actually were paid salaries.

Public patrols of varying types were established in all the slave colonies, but, significantly, any individual, including free Blacks or Natives, could claim a reward for capturing a person escaping from slavery, a practice that continued until the end of the Civil War. If weapons were found with the captive, the catcher could collect compensation for the weapons or keep them.

After Independence, rapid expansion of slavery into newly conquered Native territories brought a concurrent increase in slave patrols, but the basic structure remained. An 1860 judicial hornbook, The Practice at Law in North Carolina is an example:

The patrol shall visit the negro houses in their respective districts as often as may be necessary, and may inflict a punishment, not exceeding fifteen lashes, on all slaves they may find off their owner's plantations, without a proper permit or pass, designating the place or places, to which the slaves have leave to go. The patrol shall also visit all suspected places, and suppress all unlawful collections of slaves; shall be diligent in apprehending all runaway negroes in their respective districts; shall be vigilant and endeavor to detect all thefts, and bring the perpetrators to justice, and also all persons guilty of trading with slaves; and if, upon taking up a slave and chastising him, as herein directed, he shall behave insolently, they may inflict further punishment for his misconduct, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes.

In Slave Patrols, historian Hadden argues that the notion that slave patrols were made up of impoverished white men, as portrayed in Gone with the Wind and Uncle Tom's Cabin, is false. She cautions against conflating entrepreneurial individual "slave catchers" and slave patrollers. Whether rich or poor, all Euro American males were required to serve in militias and slave patrols, but the commanders of the patrols were property owners and slavers. Impoverished whites were not trusted and would be unable to compensate a slaver for the property loss entailed in a death or injury incurred during an attempted capture.

"Patrollers" were exempt from militia duty as well as from jury duty and taxation, and two decades later, actually were paid salaries.

Writing about slavery in the Cotton Kingdom during the decades before the Civil War, historian Walter Johnson points to the central role horses played in subjugating runaways. Horses were a symbol of power for slavers, not only for show and racing, but as a physical symbol of racial power. "The words 'slave patrol' summon to mind a vision of white men on horseback, an association so definitive that it elides the remarkable fact that the geographic pattern of county governance in the South emerged out of circuits ridden by eighteenth-century slave patrols." It was not only the advantage of height and speed that a horse provided in pursuing a person on the run, but also the nature of the animal itself, its own power, the fear the huge, galloping animal could evoke, and the severe bodily harm it inflicted when it trampled a person or when the patroller tethered a bound captive to the horse.

Another tool was the widely distributed "wanted" flier that alerted the public to be on the lookout, which attracted Euro Americans from hundreds of miles away to hunt freedom-seekers for bounty. And of course, slavers used dogs. Resistant Africans marooned in the swamps, or if fleeing rested there, where horses could not travel and most settlers were afraid to enter. Bloodhounds were trained from pups to identify and hunt Black people. "'Loyal' to their masters (or those to whom their masters hired them) and able to travel more rapidly than any human being across even the most difficult ground, these weaponized dogs were implacable enemies, driven by a purpose beyond that of even their owners."

And above all, there were the guns. Historians Ned Sublet and Constance Sublet write:

Unlike England, Virginia was a gun culture. "Whereas in England, only men with estates valued at above one hundred pounds sterling were allowed to own guns," writes Kathleen M. Brown, "English men in Virginia at all levels of property ownership were expected to own them…." Guns and slavery were intimately associated with each other; all slave-raiding relied on guns, and all slaveholding relied on armed repression.

By the early 1820s, slave-worked plantation agribusiness in Tidewater Virginia waned as the soils were degraded from mono-production and over-production, and investments moved to the Mississippi Valley. Nevertheless, slave patrols actually increased in Virginia, where the main commercial "crop" of the plantations was the enslaved person's body, as farms turned into breeding factories to produce slaves to be sold in the Cotton Kingdom. Thomas Jefferson bragged to George Washington that the birth of Black children was increasing Virginia's capital stock by 4 percent annually. It is estimated that in 1860 the total value of enslaved African bodies in the United States was $4 billion, far more than the gold and silver then circulating nationally ($228.3 million, "most of it in the North," the authors add), total currency ($435.4 million), and even the value of the South's total farmland ($1.92 billion). 

Like slave patrols in the Deep South, the   Texas Rangers -- formed primarily to kill Comanches, eliminate Native communities, and control colonized Mexicans to take their land -- also hunted down enslaved Africans escaping to freedom. They began to operate in the 1820s, even before the population of slavers in the independent province of Texas had seceded from Mexico in 1836, when Mexico formally outlawed slavery. With the new border in place, enslaved Africans in Texas could escape into Mexico, often with the help of armed Seminoles and Kickapoo, who had fled to take refuge in Mexico rather than remain in Indian Territory, where they had been forced to migrate when the United States annexed their lands east of the Mississippi. They created a community west of Rapiers Negros far inside Mexico, and a place for them to live freely. When the United States Army and Marines invaded and occupied Mexico, departing only when Mexico had ceded half its territory to the United States, these maroon communities were vulnerable. Slave hunting escalated, by the Rangers as well as by individual bounty hunters.

The Thirteenth Amendment abolished legal chattel slavery, but the surveillance of Black people by patrols continued, as the occupying Union army took no concerted action against the patrols in most places (depending on the army commander), forcing formerly enslaved Africans to remain and work on plantations. Even with military vigilance, "patrolling" Black people continued as a form of organized terrorism, perpetrated especially by the Ku Klux Klan, which was founded for that very purpose nineteen months after the Civil War ended. The intensive military training and experience over four years of fighting in the Confederate Army produced a militaristic character to the formation of police forces and patrol techniques under Reconstruction; in addition, the Freedmen no longer even had the protection of being valued as property and collateral by former slavers, allowing for extreme forms of revenge violence against them. 

When Republicans were elected to state offices, they attempted to reform local militias requiring all males to serve, regardless of race, but few Anglo-Americans would serve with Freedmen. Freedmen did serve in the state militias, but they also developed their own local volunteer militia groups. Former slavers spread rumors that Freedmen were forming insurrectionary armies to kill white people. White elites formed agricultural cooperatives to maintain economic dominance over Freedmen, a goal one group made clear: "a united and systematic plan with respect to the regulation of our colored population." They also created their own forces to intimidate other Anglo-American farmers and merchants who attempted to trade with Black farmers, often putting white merchants out of business.

It is estimated that in 1860 the total value of enslaved African bodies in the United States was $4 billion, far more than the gold and silver then circulating nationally.

Most ominously, elite white Southerners formed volunteer militias under the guise of private rifle clubs. By 1876, South Carolina had more than 240 such clubs. This allowed thousands of Confederate combat veterans, along with former Confederate guerrillas, to mobilize quickly. Of course, the KKK was the most ominous terrorist organization to emerge from these efforts, its purpose being to subdue the Freedmen and control black labor when slavery ended. But the KKK was not alone. Either by their absence in many places or their actions in others, some of the US Army officers in charge made these developments possible. One that stands out is US General E.R.S. Candy, a Kentuckian who was occupation commander of the Carolinas. Candy refused to make use of his own soldiers, and instead relied on white Southern law enforcement to maintain order. He had to have known what would happen. Like many US Civil War commanders assigned to the occupation army of the former Confederacy, in 1872 he soon reassigned to the Army of the West, where he commanded troops to round up several dozen Modoc families in Northern California who refused to be forced into an Oregon reservation. The Modocs waged a year-long resistance to the Army's counterinsurgency, finally killing General Candy. One of the reasons troops were pulled out of the South prematurely was to fight in the dozens of wars the United States was initiating against Indigenous Nations in the Northern Plains, the Southwest, and the West.

The Thirteenth Amendment abolished legal chattel slavery, but the surveillance of Black people by patrols continued.

As Hadden points out, Southern settlers had long relied on "self-help" measures to enforce slavery leading up to the formalized slave patrols, which had continued where possible during the Civil War. What was different after the abolition of slavery was the tons of technologically advanced guns and ammunition, and the tens of thousands of militarily seasoned and violent men who made ideal candidates for the Klan. Particularly, when the Confederate war hero Nathan Bedford Forrest joined the Klan, it gained a chivalric image that attracted other war heroes. Congress enacted laws forbidding secret groups, but the laws were rarely enforced.

Elite white Southerners formed volunteer militias under the guise of private rifle clubs.

In fact, the United States never broke with the slaveocracy, as exemplified in the career of Nathan Bedford Forrest. He lost his parents and economic security at seventeen, but became a slave trader, land speculator, and finally a wealthy slaver with his own large plantation. He was the epitome of the "self-made" man that was the vaunted ideal of white supremacy. In the Civil War, Forrest was a cavalry officer for the Confederate Army, infamous for having led the massacre of hundreds of Black Union soldiers in 1864, a war crime. Yet President Andrew Johnson granted Forrest a presidential pardon in 1868. 

The Klan, illegal as it was, operated like a huge slave patrol, requiring Freedmen to have written permission to travel from the plantations where many continued to work. The Klan established curfews for gatherings of African Americans, as well as limits on the number who could gather. The Klan burned homes, confiscated the guns of Freedmen, and, of course, inflicted punishment similar to slave patrols' beatings, but also had far more freedom to torture and murder, since the Black body no longer carried monetary value that the murderer would have to compensate for. Of course, Black people resisted, as they had resisted the slave patrols. However, the Klan was a private terrorist organization, not a public force, and had no legal status or accountability. Some Klansmen were put on trial, but none was ever convicted. Occasionally, the US Army would declare martial law, but as one army commander said in 1871, "The entire United States Army would be insufficient to give protection throughout the South to everyone in possible danger from the Klan."

the language of slave patrols is still employed in police work in the twenty-first century.

From the perspective of African Americans who survived the organized violence, there was no distinction between patrollers, Klan, and white policemen, whether rural, in towns, or in the cities. In nineteenth-century criminal digests, arrests made by slave patrollers before the Civil War continued to be used as legal precedents in the 1880s.

Hadden notes that the language of slave patrols is still employed in police work in the twenty-first century, "patrol" being the most obvious, but also "beat." More disturbingly, techniques were folded into police practices, such as surveillance methods like the stakeout. And until the 1960s pushback, police had little supervision and routinely brutalized and confined suspects without consequences; even in the twenty-first century, when police torture or murder Black people, juries rarely find the involved officers guilty of any crime. 

In the first four decades of the twentieth century, around 6 million African Americans left the South. With World War II, 1.5 million more left the South between 1940 and 1950, many to work in the war industry in California. More than 300,000 Black Southerners migrated to the greater Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas during that decade. And, during the Depression and droughts of the 1930s, a wave of some 400,000 mostly Anglo Oklahomans, Texans, Arkansans, and Missourians poured into California, followed by another wave to work in the war industry in the 1940s.

In 1950, William Parker became chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for the following decade and a half, ending after the 1965 Watts Uprising. The LAPD was already virtually all white and solidly racist, with mainly Mexicans making up the oppressed and controlled target community.

With the goal of controlling the increasing African American blue-collar population in South Central Los Angeles, Parker began recruiting Anglo veterans from the South and Southwest who had settled in Southern California after the Dust Bowl migrations or military service. The new technology of television brought the series Dragnet to homes all over the country, extolling the LAPD and attracting recruits, as well as influencing other urban police forces all over the country. During this time, the LAPD became the most notorious racist police operation ("police culture") in the country, with nearly every aspect of the Southern tradition of slave patrols woven into the system. A similar police force was formed in Oakland, where many Black veterans and war-industry workers had settled. At the same time, the Civil Rights movement was making widespread gains, with school integration mandated by law and growing Black resistance to police violence in the South, in Northern cities, and in Los Angeles and Oakland.

In an article for The Atlantic, liberal writers Saul Cornell and Eric M. Ruben make a strong argument for the slave-state origins of modern gun rights. Certainly, any inquiry into the institutionalization of slave patrols in those colonies/states reveals the connection with the Second Amendment. However, this does not explain why the N.R.A. and gun rights are so popular in other parts of the country. Armed slave patrols comprise half the story in the Second Amendment; the whole story implicates more than the slave states. While the "savage wars" against Native Nations instituted brutal modes of violence for the US military, and slave patrols seamlessly evolved into modern police forces, both have normalized racialized violence and affinity for firearms in US society.

Copyright (2017) by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Not to be reposted without permission of the publisher, City Lights Books.

Categories: News

Private Market Fail -- US Indefinitely Reliant on Russian Government for Space Travel

Truth Out - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 05:00

 Ninara)The Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft prepares for a launch to the International Space Station with two US astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut on September 10, 2017, at the Tyuratam 3 Airport in Qyzylorda, Kazakhstan. (Photo: Ninara)

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The US's future in space is largely in the hands of private companies whose work continues to be delayed and filled with uncertainty, a government watchdog testified on Wednesday.

NASA contractors Boeing and SpaceX were supposed to have commercial crew transport systems ready to be certified for launch by 2017, providing the US with its own manned space flight system for this first time since the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011.

But those time schedules have since shifted. The certification date is now 2019. And that goal won't likely be reached until next decade, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a report furnished as testimony on Wednesday before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, the GAO warned that "uninterrupted access" to the International Space Station (ISS) is in danger due to the contractors' ongoing schedule overruns.

The delays also "lessen NASA's return on investment with the contractors," the oversight agency reported.

SpaceX and Boeing both received multi-billion dollar contracts from NASA in 2014 to build crew transportation systems to shuttle US astronauts to and from the ISS. Boeing garnered a $4.2 billion contract, while SpaceX pulled in $2.6 billion.

Since the inception of the agreement, however, the project has been plagued by contractor tardiness. In twelve quarterly reviews since 2014, "Boeing has reported a delay six times and SpaceX has reported a delay nine times."

The watchdog concluded that the contractors promises were overly "aggressive" from the beginning, and that "anticipated schedule risks have now materialized."

Each delay forces NASA to purchase seats on Russian rocket ships in order to send US astronauts to the ISS for routine activities.

GAO warnings about schedule delays in February 2017 prompted NASA to plan ahead and purchase seats aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Five seats were bought from the Russian Federal Space Agency for $410 million.

GAO's report on Wednesday stated that "if the Commercial Crew Program experiences additional delays, NASA may need to buy additional seats from Russia to ensure a continued US presence on the ISS." The agency provided no further recommendations to NASA.

Categories: News

Reaching Rural America With Broadband Internet Service

Truth Out - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 05:00

All across the US, rural communities' residents are being left out of modern society and the 21st century economy. With an upcoming Federal Communications Commission vote on whether cellphone data speeds are fast enough for work, entertainment and other online activities, Americans face a choice: Is modest-speed internet appropriate for rural areas, or do rural Americans deserve access to the far faster service options available in urban areas?

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All across the US, rural communities' residents are being left out of modern society and the 21st century economy. I've traveled to Kansas, Maine, Texas and other states studying internet access and use -- and I hear all the time from people with a crucial need still unmet. Rural Americans want faster, cheaper internet like their city-dwelling compatriots have, letting them work remotely and use online services, to access shopping, news, information and government data.

With an upcoming Federal Communications Commission vote on whether cellphone data speeds are fast enough for work, entertainment and other online activities, Americans face a choice: Is modest-speed internet appropriate for rural areas, or do rural Americans deserve access to the far faster service options available in urban areas?

My work, which most recently studies how people use rural libraries' internet services, asks a fundamental set of questions: How are communities in rural regions actually connected? Why is service often so poor? Why do 39 percent of Americans living in rural areas lack internet access that meets even the FCC's minimum definition of "broadband" service? What policies, beyond President Donald Trump's new executive orders, might help fix those problems? What technologies would work best, and who should be in control of them?

The Wide-Ranging Rural Internet Problem

Since the dawn of the internet, rural areas of the US have had less internet access than urban areas. High-speed wired connections are less common, and wireless phone service and signals are weaker than in cities -- or absent altogether. Even as rural America's wired-internet speeds and mobile-phone service have improved, the overall problem remains: Cities' services have also gotten better, so the rural communities still have comparatively worse service.

 

National standards have not helped: As people, businesses and governments need and want to do more online, the FCC-set minimum data-transmission speeds for broadband service has climbed. The current standard -- at least 25 megabits per second downloading and 3 megabits per second uploading  -- is deemed "adequate" to stream video and participate in other high-traffic online activities

But those speeds are not readily available in rural areas. The FCC is actually considering reducing the standard, which critics say may make the rural digital divide disappear on paper, but not in real life.

Rural residents have few choices of internet service providers  -- or none at all. They pay higher prices for lower quality service, despite earning less than urban dwellers.

A related issue is that fewer rural Americans are online: 39 percent of rural Americans lack home broadband access -- in contrast to only 4 percent of urban Americans. And 69 percent of rural Americans use the internet, compared to 75 percent of urban residents. That means less participation in the culture, society, politics and economic activity of the 21st century.

Building a Nationwide Internet Structure

The basic problem is that high-speed internet has not yet reached huge swathes of rural America. There are two main ways to fix this problem: with wires, and without wires. 

Smaller towns in rural areas typically have two options for wired connectivity. About 59 percent of all fixed broadband customers use internet provided by the local cable company. Another 29 percent get their internet over phone lines, often called digital subscriber line service, or DSL. However, older systems in rural areas aren't upgraded as often, making them slower than those in metro areas.

A few small rural towns have fiber optic networks that are much faster, but they are exceptions.

One reason rural wired service is less available and less advanced is cost, which relates to population density. In urban communities, a mile-long cable might pass dozens, or even hundreds, of homes and businesses. Rural internet requires longer wires -- and often special signal-boosting equipment  -- with fewer potential customers from whom to recoup the costs. Rural homeowners who complain to me that they can't get DSL, but say the farm down the road can, are probably just a bit too far from the phone company's networking equipment. That's much less common in cities and towns.

Wireless Options

Covering these longer distances may be easier with wireless technologies, including satellite broadband, short-distance radio links and mobile-phone data. 

Satellite broadband -- where a customer has an antenna that connects with an orbiting satellite linked to a faster internet connection back on Earth -- is technically available anywhere in the country. But it is slower, and often more expensive, than wired broadband connections. And its connections are vulnerable to bad weather.

Radio connections can vary significantly. One type, called "fixed wireless," requires customers to be within sight of a service tower, much like a cellphone. Speeds can be up to 20 megabits per second. Satellite broadband and fixed wireless are used mostly in rural areas, but account for less than 3 percent of the US fixed broadband market.

Other options just being explored involve frequency ranges that are newly available. An approach using "white space" signals would transmit data on channels previously used by analog television broadcasters. Its signals, like TV broadcasts, can travel several miles, and are not blocked by buildings.

Another frequency range around 3.5 GHz, called "Citizens Broadband Radio Service," could let rural internet companies use frequencies previously reserved for coastal radar -- even in places far inland. But the FCC may be changing the rules to favor large telecommunications companies instead.

Mobile Wireless

The fourth type of wireless internet is already quite widespread -- it's on people's smartphones nationwide. Many people have higher-speed connections at home and use mobile data on the go. However, people who don't have access to, or can't afford, other internet service, often use mobile wireless service as their primary internet connection.

US wireless companies' coverage maps can be deceptive. Just because a carrier has a cell tower along an interstate highway does not mean the rest of the surrounding county also has good coverage.

In our group's research trips to Maine in 2016 and 2017, four people had phones with four different carriers, but there were plenty of places where not a single cell service was working. We have heard tales of small towns that have acceptable signals only in very specific spots -- like in the middle of a side street.

Mobile phone data service has different speeds, and is often priced by how much data and how fast it travels -- though even plans labeled "unlimited data" may slow down traffic after a customer transmits or receives a certain amount. Many companies promote their fourth-generation, or 4G, networks for their potential download speeds of around 20 megabits per second. But 5 to 12 megabits per second may be far more common, especially in rural regions -- making it more comparable to DSL. 

Mobile companies built massive networks to serve densely populated cities, leaving less populous rural markets without comparable improvements. Some hold out hope for the next wireless-data standard, the even faster fifth-generation 5G system -- but rural America may not see that service for a while.

Bringing High Speeds to Remote Places

 

In our work, we have found a lot of people on tight budgets figuring out how to use local Wi-Fi connections to download content onto their phones, so they use (and pay for) less mobile data. Public libraries, which generally have fast and free Wi-Fi, are popular options in rural areas. Many rural librarians have told us about people in their parking lots after hours simply using the library Wi-Fi. Those connections aren't always the fastest, but are a testament to the efforts of public libraries over many years to provide their communities' residents with computer and internet services.

The policy debates in Washington provide the US with the opportunity to choose to provide equal access to high-speed internet all across the country, or to relegate rural users to their smartphones, library parking lots and slow home connections. Real high-speed internet could change the lives of rural Americans: The FCC itself has reported that people use fixed broadband differently, and get more benefits from it than mobile data.

Fundamentally, it is a question of values. In the 1930s and '40s, the public sentiment was that the nation would be better off if everyone had reasonably comparable electricity and telephone service. As a result, the federal government established a system of loans and grants to ensure universal access to those key utilities. To help, the FCC set up a system to charge businesses and urban customers slightly higher fees to subsidize the higher costs associated with bringing phone lines to rural areas. 

The question facing the FCC and Congress -- and really, the US as a whole -- is whether we are willing to invest in providing broadband service equitably to both urban and rural Americans. Then we need to make sure it is affordable.

Disclosure statement: Sharon Strover receives funding from The Robin Hood Foundation in New York (for research on New York's public library system hotspot program) and the federal agency Institute for Museum and Library Services (for a research project looking at rural libraries). She has worked with several federal agencies and foundations on projects relating to communication policy topics over my 30-year career.

Categories: News

Neo-Nazis On 4Chan Ready New Poster Campaign to Target Women’s Studies Departments on January 21st

It's Goin Down - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 03:55

The post Neo-Nazis On 4Chan Ready New Poster Campaign to Target Women’s Studies Departments on January 21st appeared first on It's Going Down.

Cover photo: An Alt-Right flyer posted up on top of an African-American studies bulletin board in South Carolina.

Neo-Nazis and Alt-Right trolls organizing on Discord and 4chan are planning to follow up the spread of flyers and memes featuring the saying, “It’s Okay to Be White,” with newer anti-immigrant posters and stickers on January 21st. The It’s Okay to Be White campaign, which started on neo-Nazi message boards, was embraced by Swanson fortune aire Tucker Carlson and Alt-Lite so-called “Merchant Right” Z-list celebrities like Milo Yiannopoulos, Lucian Wintrich, and Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman.

Already trolls on online forums have been sharing photos of flyers and stickers placed up across the US, many of which featuring explicitly racist slogans and promoting various neo-Nazi organizations.

A call to arms on 4chan.

Trolls, both posting on 4chan and within Discord chat rooms, claim that they are planning on pushing flyers on the night of January 21st based largely around the hashtag, #mybordermychoice, and plan on specifically targeting women’s students departments, feminist professor’s offices, and university campuses in general. Other hashtags that are being promoted on 4chan to be placed on posters and flyers includes: #NoMeansNo #MeToo #KatesWall #KateSteinle #MigrantsDay.

The flyers come as the Alt-Right and neo-Nazi groups are attempting to capitalize on the recent racist “shithole” comments made by President Trump as well as the drum beat towards massive raids on migrant people across the US. Another theme is attempting to capitalize off of the tragic shooting death of Kate Steinle, a young woman that was shot in San Francisco when an undocumented homeless man found a gun on the ground and when he picked up the cloth it was wrapped in, caused it to fire and richotte, striking and killing Kate Steinle. While the shooter Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, was found not guilty of manslaughter, he was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Both various Republicans including Trump and Alt-Right groups have used Steinle’s death as a wedge and a talking point against migrants, sanctuary cities, and to argue for mass deportations. Agencies such as the DHS have also pushed faulty data and reports while pumping up the fear of ‘violent prone migrants,’ which has in turn been parrotted by mainstream media outlets, such as Fox News. 

Discussions on Reddit and 4chan about the poster campaign.

On 4chan, one poster wrote to instruct the troops:

“Posters go up on Jan 21st at night on campuses & public spaces. The next day we grab the popcorn. Bonus points for feminism related areas. Women’s and gender student depts. feminist clubs. office doors of feminist profs. etc.

To redpill normies on immigration (especially women) by subverting feminist slogans. Also to trigger the left into exposing the depts of their utopian insanity & hatred for whites…

Jan 21 is the earliest Sunday night when most students & profs will be back from the holidays. Sunday night is best because it’s quiet for putting up posters and it’s only – 10 hours til people will find them on Monday., so low chance of someone removing them.”

They went on to write that the posters should not be put up on Martin Luther King day on January 15th, due to the threat of “bad optics.” They write, “so the date had to be changed to Jan 21. Don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise.”

Despite this request, other posts on the corresponding Discord chat forum posted photos of flyers featuring Swastikas and promoting neo-Nazi groups, as some members showed off their ongoing activity off-line.

“Black Lives Don’t Matter” reads one poster in a Discord chat. Another poster promotes Atomwaffen Division, a violent neo-Nazi group tied to various murders.

“Death to Refugees” reads one sticker.

Flyer on top features several of the new hashtags being promoted by neo-Nazi trolls on 4chan, and sits above another poster which features Kate Steinle.

People looking to put a stop to Alt-Right and neo-Nazi organizing in their communities, schools, and workplaces should organize themselves and let their friends know of the plans of these groups to get up posters on the night of January 21st, and beyond. Let local women’s departments and others on campus know of their plans, and talk about how people can respond as a community. As we all know, the police and campus administration are not on our side, and are more scared of people organizing to defend themselves than the neo-Nazi and Alt-Right trolls who celebrate and promote genocide and mass murder.

In the past, people have gathered together in groups to carry out patrols of various areas, come together to take down neo-Nazi flyers and stickers, and also put up some of their own materials to create a sense of community defense and solidarity.

If you’re looking for resources, CrimethInc. has made some amazing pro-migrant and anti-border posters and stickers here. You can also check out our collection of antifascist, anti-Trump, and anti-Alt-Right flyers, stickers, and posters here (see the bottom).

Categories: News

Working Class Democracy

Anarchist News - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 03:17
 DISPATCHES FROM THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF VERMONT

What follows is an excerpt from the new book On Anarchism: Dispatches From The People’s Republic of Vermont. Dispatches contains works written by David Van Deusen, and in some cases with the Green Mountain Anarchist Collective. Jeff Jones of the Weather Underground wrote the forward. This excerpt is from the essay Montpelier Downtown Workers Union: Building Working Class Democracy One City At A Time. The essay, first published in The Northeastern Anarchist magazine, has never previously been made available on the web. Following the excerpt is the full table of contents for Dispatches.

On Anarchism: Dispatches From The People’s Republic of Vermont,
By David Van Deusen
Chapter V: Workers

MONTPELIER DOWNTOWN WORKERS UNION
Building Working Class Democracy One City At A Time

Montpelier VT, February 2005- Under the shadows of the Green Mountains workers in Vermont’s capital city (population 7900) have been building direct democracy and power on the job for more than a year and a half. The City of Montpelier, whose downtown shops are largely composed of independently owned businesses, is the site of a new innovative labor union known as the Montpelier Downtown Workers’ Union, UE Amalgamated Local 221 (MDWU). Unlike a traditional union, the Downtown Workers’ are organized geographically, effectively incorporating people employed in the service, retail, and nonprofit sectors in different shops all throughout the city. The union legally represents workers in a number of contracted shops as well as workers in minority shops. In addition, the union claims a number of majorities where they have not yet won legal recognition and a contract.

Through this union, all of these workers are brought together under one big tent where their collective voice can no longer be ignored by the bosses, and where their power is felt even by the elite and those that follow. With or without a contract, this union fights for the rights of all downtown employees and is building real working class power in this northern capital city, and all by practicing directly democratic means.

Origins, Necessities, and Eventualities
As Vermont’s once powerful manufacturing base (which formally included highly productive towns from Brattleboro to Springfield to Newport) has increasingly jumped ship for the super-exploited labor markets of Mexico and China, the economy in this small New England state (Pop. 621,115) has become increasingly reliant upon an expanding service and retail sector to offset massive job loss. Of course the vast majority of these jobs pay a fraction of what they are replacing and carry little to no benefits. In addition, 79% of Vermont businesses employ nine or less workers. Because of the separateness and sheer quantity of these jobs, and because of the small number of employees who labor in each individual shop, most of the traditional unions have not been interested in expending their limited resources in order to organize these workers. This stands true throughout the nation. For many unions such endeavors represent an untried gamble that they are currently not willing to take, even if that is where the majority of the labor force is increasingly situated.

Finding themselves isolated from the organizational power of the more established labor movement, it is extremely difficult for such employees to win a collective voice at work, much less effect positive long-lasting change in their working conditions and create local democracy. Ironically, as this mode of labor becomes more and more of a numerical majority of Vermont’s (and elsewhere’s) workforce, and as the traditional unions refrain from organizing these workers, the overall union base has become more tenuous. With that, organized labor has risked becoming outpaced by capitalist interests and losing what political clout they maintained for the last century. In a word, it is becoming increasingly clear to all who pay attention that if the class struggle in the Green Mountains (and the rest of the developed world) is not to lose ground and instead is to move forward, something has to be done. And again, as long as the larger more conservative unions sit on the sideline, it is possible that those unions and workers who do step forward will be in a better position to create locals devoid of arbitrary hierarchies and bureaucracies. In other words, in the near virgin territory of small service and retail shops opens the possibility of organizing workers through a truly democratic and self-empowering means.

Enter The Vermont Workers Center
In the spring of 2003, James Haslam, the Director of the Montpelier based Vermont Workers’ Center (VWC), began to float the idea of establishing an “all-workers’ union” in the capital city in order to empower those who work in small shops and as a way to begin organizing those in the fastest growing (and lowest paying) sector. This idea sprang out of numerous conversations with area employees about working conditions, as well as the many negative calls the center received in the previous five years on their workers’ rights hotline relating to shops in that city.

By the summer of 2003 the independent and rank & file oriented United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE) became interested in the project, and before long these two organizations (VWC & UE) agreed to split the cost of the project and move forward towards concrete organizing. It was not by chance that this project was being launched by these two organizations. The Vermont Workers’ Center is a coalition of unions (including the UE, Vermont State Employees’ Association, and the entire Vermont AFL-CIO), rank and file workers, and allied organizations representing a staggering 25,000 Vermont workers (out of a total labor force of just over 330,000). It was founded six years ago, in a large part by anarchists formerly in the Love & Rage #10 Collective. Today the center remains committed to building real working class democracy and the fulfillment of basic social needs. Internally the center operates through a democratic means.

The UE, for its part, is a democratically run leftwing union traditionally based in the industrial sector. Presently UE officially reports have 30,000 total members across the United States. Known to include many members of the old Communist Party-USA, the UE has recognized the new reality of the consumer based economy for some time, and has been experimenting in finding ways of getting a foothold in the growing service and retail sectors. In the months prior to agreeing to this new project, they successfully organized the two largest downtown supermarkets in the Vermont cities of Burlington and Montpelier (both co-ops).

Eventually the VWC and UE decided to pare down the target population to focus on the estimated 800 service, retail, and (later) nonprofit workers employed throughout the Montpelier city limits. Here it deserves mention that although the UE is a democratically run union, such democracy does not formally take effect until after a shop or a group of workers are constituted as their own local or are merged into an existing local. Until that time, the lead organizer, who in this case was Kim Lawson, has final say in regards to tactics and strategy. It would not be until the spring of 2004 that the Downtown Workers’ Union, who at that time became part of local 221, would gain absolute authority over their direction and policy. Even so, the workers exercised a considerable amount of democratic power during the early and middle phases of the campaign. This can be accredited to the commitment to internal democracy on the part of key organizers as well as the persistent voice of workers themselves.

What made the union drive different from others was the fact that the goal was not to target a single specific shop, but instead to attempt to bring together workers from dozens of small individual shops into one citywide local and seek, among other things, to implement one unified labor contract for all workers in these sectors: geographic unionism. Montpelier was picked as the location for three reasons: (1) as the capital, a successful organizing campaign would carry with it a higher degree of statewide media attention and symbolism. This could eventually lead to similar projects being launched in other Vermont towns and cities. (2) Months before the UE successfully organized the largest retail shop in the city (the Hunger Mountain Food Co-op-75 workers), and it was therefore hoped that those workers would voluntarily lend a hand in the early phases of the new drive. (3) The headquarters of both the Vermont Workers’ Center and the Vermont AFL-CIO [and the Vermont State Employees’ Association] are located in Montpelier, and therefore it would be easier to organize on-the-street support for the new union than in other locations.

The First Strategy
The initial strategy adopted by campaign organizers was to quietly sign up as many workers to the union as fast it could, and seek as many specific shop majorities in as short a time as possible. After majorities were reached in a significant number of shops the union would publicly announce itself and demand legal recognition from affected shop owners. In turn these shops would seek the implementation of a basic uniform contract. This basic contract would: (1) Require a fifty cent raise; (2) Require employers to work towards a livable wage; (3) Establish a formal grievance procedure on the shop floor whereby workers’ concerns could not be ignored by management; (4) and protect workers against unjust firings. Armed with one full time organizer (Tenaya Lafore), and financed jointly by the Workers’ Center and UE, the part-time efforts of Kim Lawson (the UE lead organizer), James Haslam (of the Workers’ Center), a small core of sympathetic workers and volunteers (including a small number of Vermont Progressive Party and NEFAC-VT members), and others from the community, the organizing drive took off with speed and promise.

Within the first few months of the drive, an Organizing Committee of fifteen workers from ten separate shops was formed. Soon after, pro-union majorities were reached at six different shops, which totaled seventy-five. Upon reaching these half dozen majorities, the Workers’ Center, UE, and rank & file union members held their first press conference announcing the existence of the union and demanding recognition and contracts at these shops. The mood among workers and organizers was optimistic. It was believed that the union could pressure the businesses into voluntary recognition, and quickly move to win at additional shops.

Here it should be noted that early on it was decided that the union would not pursue recognition through formal federally monitored elections. This decision was reached in light of the fact that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which monitors and regulates such elections, tends to work hand and glove with management, and in opposition to union/worker interests. The NLRB is run by appointees of President George W. Bush, is notorious for allowing bosses varying degrees of advantages, and has even gone so far as putting election results under wraps (in a kind of limbo) for years -thereby effectively tabling concerted union activity indefinitely. Therefore, it was instead decided to seek voluntary recognition, if need be, through public pressure.

Capitalist Backlash
In the wake of this early success came an immediate backlash from a large segment of the bosses. Within weeks of going public a significant number of business owners circled the proverbial wagons and began a sustained campaign of reactionary, anti-union propaganda through the capitalist media, and intimidations and scare tactics on the job. The worst of these shops was J. Morgan’s. Others included the Coffee Corner diner, Capital Grounds Coffee Shop, and M & M Beverage and Redemption Center. Of course, the activity of the owners was not uniform. A minority of the smaller shops (primarily those that could not afford to employ anyone, those that employed only occasional or limited help, and those where the owners still were compelled to hold a second job as a common worker) voiced support for the union. These included The Book Garden and La Pizio shoes. In sociological terms, certain Marxist predictions proved themselves true. The wealthier owners (those who owned multiple businesses and/or controlled large portions of property i.e. the local bourgeoisie) stood firmly against the workers. On the other hand the allegiances of the petit-bourgeoisie became split with a minority of this subclass identifying with the workers

At J. Morgan’s Steakhouse (an upscale restaurant), the owners, the multi-millionaire Bashara family, quickly moved to hire the union-busting law firm Gallagher and Flynn. There, waitress Val Tofani, an outspoken union supporter, was fired for dubious reasons. Other union members had their hours cut and were taken off the more lucrative shifts. Management also harassed and threatened union supporters, installed security cameras to spy on workers, and had employees followed home after work.

Workers in other shops also began to feel the pressure. As the hammer began to come down, many began to distance themselves from the union. Although one in eight (100 total) from the service and retail sector signed a petition making themselves union members, the effective public strength of the organization was beginning to decline. Of the original six majority shops, only one, the Savoy, recognized the union and signed a contract. At the others, workers began to retreat from their public support of the union as bosses began to threaten and intimidate those who they suspected of signing union cards or even considering signing union cards.

The union attempted to retaliate in several ways. To build broader support for the organization, a Community Solidarity Committee was formed which included more than 20 people from within non-UE unions (NEA, VSEA, Teamsters, Carpenters, Iron Workers, Nurses etc.), retirees, and others. These folks, alongside downtown workers from within the Organizing Committee sought various ways to maintain the union’s momentum despite the bosses’ counter attack.

At J. Morgan’s a number of informational pickets were held. The largest picket drew 200 people from the labor movement (both Downtown Workers and those from other unions). Union members and supporters also held a ‘coffee in’ at the restaurant where most if not all the tables were filled up, and nothing but coffee was ordered. Here servers were delivered encouraging pro-union messages and large tips, while the owners made pennies on what would have otherwise been a lucrative dinner rush. The message was clear.

In December 2003, a union member also gained entrance to the restaurant dressed as Santa Claus, where he made a public scene announcing that the owners were being delivered the “Grinch of the Year Award” for their union busting activities and unfair treatment of workers. In addition to losing thousands of dollars in business due to the bad publicity and pickets, many organizations, such as the Older Women's League and VSEA pulled their plans to hold events there and at the adjoining hotel. Finally, the union filed 28 ‘unfair labor practice charges with the federal government on behalf of those workers and union members that received the wrath of management. With this, what began as periodic pickets at the steakhouse became organized weekly events. These pickets and the unofficial boycott, continued until the 28 charges were settled in the summer of 2004. In a word, the union busting owners lost tens of thousands of dollars in revenue, and were compelled to spend an estimated quarter of a million on attorney fees; all of this to avoid paying 40 employees fifty cents more an hour, and allowing shop floor democracy from gaining a foothold………….

[The rest of this essay can be found in On Anarchism: Dispatches From The People’s Republic of Vermont, By David Van Deusen, Algora Publishing, NYC, 2017. http://www.algora.com/539/book/details.html]

***

On Anarchism: Dispatches From The People’s Republic of Vermont
By David Van Deusen
Algora Publishing, NYC, 2017

Available direct from the publishers at: http://www.algora.com/539/book/details.html

Table of Contents

Foreword:
Red and Black in the Green Mountain State, By Jeff Jones of the Weather Underground… 1

Chapter I: History
The Rise and Fall of The Green Mountain Anarchist Collective… 5

Chapter II: Theory
Culture and Nothingness… 33
On the Question of Violence & Nonviolence… 53
Neither Washington Nor Stowe: A Libertarian-Socialist Manifesto… 65

Chapter III. Insurrection
Black Bloc Tactics Communiqué… 101
Anti-WTO Protests & The Battle of Seattle… 124
A:16 — A March On The Capitol: April 2000… 128
The Battle of Quebec City… 131
DC and the Twin Towers: A Battle Postponed… 136

Chapter IV: Organization
The Long Term Viability of Forming Workers’ Councils
(A Strategic Proposal To NEFAC)… 141

Chapter V: Workers
Montpelier Downtown Workers Union: Building Working Class Democracy,
One City At A Time… 177

Chapter VI: Secession
Vermont Secession: Democracy & The Extreme Right… 199

Chapter VII: On The Road
When the Levee Breaks: New Orleans, Katrina, & The People…211

Available direct from the publishers at: http://www.algora.com/539/book/details.html

Tags: ON ANARCHISM: DISPATCHES FROM THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF VERMONTdavid van deusengreen mountain anarchist collectivemontpelier downtown workers unionMDWUUEvermont workers centernefaccategory: Essays
Categories: News

Signaling More Independence from the US, the World Bank Phases out its Support for Fossil Fuels

deSmog - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 02:09
Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank and Emmanual Macron of France

By , Elon University

The World Bank, which provides developing countries about US$60 billion a year in financial assistance, is officially phasing out its support for the oil and gas industries.

This move brings its actions more in sync with its overarching commitment to slowing the pace of climate change and keeping the Paris agreement on track. Based on my research regarding international relations, I see this move — which World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced in December — as significant for two reasons.

Tags: World Bankfossil fuel financingTrump AdministrationParis Climate Agreement
Categories: News

New York: Wobbly Waiters Stage “Sip In” to Demand IWW Recognition

It's Goin Down - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 01:42

The post New York: Wobbly Waiters Stage “Sip In” to Demand IWW Recognition appeared first on It's Going Down.

This following report and video comes from the Stardust Family Diner, which is a group of workers who are fighting as part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to be in a union. Recently the workers won the rehiring of several dozen employees who were fired in an anti-union campaign conducted by management. 

Some footage [see video in this post] from last night’s “Sip In” at Stardust diner, where servers and former staff are fighting for the right to join a union (that’s right, they don’t even have the right to fight for their rights), along with a laundry list of other abuses perpetuated by management.

The idea was to disrupt the Saturday dinner rush—several arrived, were seated, and only ordered water (with copious amounts of lemon), stayed for an hour or so, tipped the server generously (so that they wouldn’t be punished financially), and then as we left, told the manager that they should allow the servers to join the union.

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Some footage [2:15] from last night's “Sip In” at Stardust diner, where servers and former staff are fighting for the right to join a union (that’s right, they don’t even have the right to fight for their rights), along with a laundry list of other abuses perpetuated by management.The idea was to disrupt the Saturday dinner rush—several arrived, were seated, and only ordered water (with copious amounts of lemon), stayed for an hour or so, tipped the server generously (so that they wouldn’t be punished financially), and then as we left, told the manager that they should allow the servers to join the union.The very talented singing staff started the action by singing Twister Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (feat. in the musical “School of Rock”), then went into Woody Guthrie’s “Union Maid.” During the chorus (“Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union…”), those participants in the diner, stood up, held their waters and ketchup bottles aloft and sang along (To the wtf-bewilderment of all the tourists). Then one of the servers who was fired last week for joining the union came in off the streets, grabbed a mic, and somehow turned “New York, New York” into an accusatory political anthem. She stood on the booth, pointed to the patrons, and after she belted the final note, raised her fist, and shouted “Worker’s Rights!”Best dinner in quite a while…

Posted by Thanatos Gonzales on Sunday, September 25, 2016

The very talented singing staff started the action by singing Twister Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (feat. in the musical “School of Rock”), then went into Woody Guthrie’s “Union Maid.” During the chorus (“Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union…”), those participants in the diner, stood up, held their waters and ketchup bottles aloft and sang along (To the wtf-bewilderment of all the tourists). Then one of the servers who was fired last week for joining the union came in off the streets, grabbed a mic, and somehow turned “New York, New York” into an accusatory political anthem. She stood on the booth, pointed to the patrons, and after she belted the final note, raised her fist, and shouted “Worker’s Rights!”

Best dinner in quite a while…

Categories: News

Court Orders Nonprofit Law Firm to Pay $52,000 to Oil and Gas Company for Defending Local Fracking Waste Ban

deSmog - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 00:59
Marcellus Shale gas well in Pennsylvania

In early January, a federal judge ordered the nonprofit law firm Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to pay $52,000 to an oil and gas exploration company for defending a rural Pennsylvania township’s ban on underground injections of frack waste.

This sanction comes at the request of Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association, but is part of a growing trend to prevent municipalities across the nation from pushing back against state and federal attempts to overrule them.

Tags: hydraulic fracturingfrackingfracking wastewaterCommunity Environmental Legal Defense Fundpennsylvania
Categories: News

Tenants Demand Nuspor Investments drop Rent Increases

It's Goin Down - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 23:43

The post Tenants Demand Nuspor Investments drop Rent Increases appeared first on It's Going Down.

This morning a group of our neighbours from 1251 King, along with members of Parkdale Organize, travelled together from Parkdale to the uptown offices of the landlord, Nuspor Investments. We came to demand Nuspor drop the above guideline rent increase at the building. We also brought a stack of requests for repairs that have gone long neglected in tenants’ units.

On a Wednesday morning during business hours we arrived to find the office door locked. Our calls to the Nuspor office phone extensions went unanswered. Rather than hear from their tenants, Nuspor decided to close their office altogether.

In the lobby of Nuspor’s office we met and discussed next steps for escalating action against the landlord. If recent organizing by working class people in Parkdale is any indication, Nuspor will not be able to evade its tenants for long.

Categories: News

San Francisco: Trump Supporters reunite with the Alt-Right against Sanctuary Cities

It's Goin Down - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 23:32

The post San Francisco: Trump Supporters reunite with the Alt-Right against Sanctuary Cities appeared first on It's Going Down.

On Saturday December 16, right wing activists organized two separate but coinciding events after Jose Inez Garcia Zarate was acquitted for the accidental death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco in 2015. Though Garcia Zarate was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, a jury found him not guilty of murder, involuntary manslaughter, and assault with a deadly weapon. In response, various factions on the right gathered in San Francisco to protest sanctuary city policies and to hold a vigil for Kate Steinle, disregarding the Steinle family’s wishes for Kate’s death and the verdict to not be further politicized.

Jourdin Davis event page

Trump referenced Kate Steinle’s death during his campaign and the issue was revisited with the conclusion of Garcia Zarate’s trial. Following the verdict, Jourdin Davis called for a rally against sanctuary cities in San Francisco’s Union Square. The rally was to end with a vigil for Steinle at Pier 14, organized by Lindsay Grathwohl. These events saw a revival of sorts of the broader coalition between mainstream Trump supporters and more far right, white nationalist groups, though it was clear the overall turnout and energy was deflated in comparison to events earlier in the year such as Berkeley on April 15. Counter protests organized by the Left brought together anti-racists, immigration activists, and anti-fascists and ended up outnumbering those on the right despite being organized in a relatively short amount of time.

Organizer Jourdin Davis of Berkeley writes a post on Facebook stating his position against diversity

Jourdin Davis’s pro-border wall, anti-sanctuary event got off to a rocky start. After creating a Facebook event to organize, Davis faced an overwhelming amount of pressure online and he cancelled the rally soon after. However, this first Facebook event page showed the potential for the return of the big tent-style organizing that occurred on the right for their “free speech” rallies. Known local white supremacists and fascists announced their intention to attend. In particular, Christopher Locke of Sacramento, who has a history of violence, indicated he would arrive to the rally armed. This was welcomed by Jourdin Davis.

Christopher Locke’s Facebook page Jourdin Davis and his partner Alexandria welcome Christopher Locke’s attendance

Lindsay Grathwohl decided to host a vigil for Kate Steinle after Davis cancelled his event. Eventually, Davis made a second event page on Facebook announcing that his rally was back on and would happen in tandem with Grathwohl’s vigil. Right wing activists gathered in Union Square before marching to Pier 14 where Steinle was accidentally shot. The politics being expressed were dominated by both implicit and explicit racist anti-immigrant sentiments. They were confronted by a larger rally of Leftists, which followed and heckled the racists, making it known they weren’t welcome in the Bay Area.

Just like most other right wing events in the Bay Area throughout 2017, December 16th showed that Trump supporters don’t care who they organize with- even if they are white supremacists and Neo-Nazis. This reveals a degree of desperation on the part of Trump supporters who repeatedly cheer on a president that has stabbed his base in the back and continues to lose what little support he once had. Among the far-right groups in attendance at the rally against sanctuary cities were the Proud Boys and Identity Evropa, including individuals who had previously brought violence to cities such as Berkeley and Charlottesville.

Proud Boys at Pier 14

It’s ironic that Trump supporters claiming to honor Kate Steinle would be comfortable with the presence of the Neo-Nazis in Identity Evropa. Kate Steinle’s family asked the city of San Francisco to remove the memorial that Identity Evropa set up for her on the night of Garcia Zarate’s acquittal because they were uncomfortable with receiving support from white supremacists. This is not the first time Identity Evropa has acted in response to Steinle’s death. In October 2016, the group held a dismal 20 minute rally at Pier 14 before getting scared of anti-fascist mobilization and running away. The rally on December 16 shows how Trump supporters help to give cover to fascists and facilitate their organizing by creating events and providing the far-right with space to recruit and spread their own talking points.

Guy with flag giving an anti-Semitic lecture. pic.twitter.com/vg8cQP3WXG

— Darwin BondGraham (@DarwinBondGraha) December 16, 2017

His name is Patrick Little.
Says he's running for U.S. Senate.
At San Francisco anti-sanctuary city rally. pic.twitter.com/CUf6rGWvDl

— Darwin BondGraham (@DarwinBondGraha) December 16, 2017

Patrick Little accompanied Identity Evropa members at this rally. Dressed in a suit and carrying a US flag, Little was observed by local reporters shouting and giving an anti-Semitic rant. Little is an ex-marine running for Senate in 2018 and has been banned from Twitter due to his anti-Semitic tweets. One Identity Evropa member who attended previous rallies in the Bay Area as well as Unite the Right in Charlottesville was also at this event, marching alongside the organizer Will Johnson and speaking with Ashton Whitty, former member of the Berkeley College Republicans.

Identity Evropa member that attended SF event on 12/16/17 attended previous rallies; top: UC Berkeley 5/6/16 and San Francisco 10/17/16, middle: UC Davis 1/13/17 and Berkeley 3/4/17, bottom: Berkeley 4/15/17 and Charlottesville 8/12/17 Identity Evropa member in SF march and talking to Ashton Whitty

Ultimately, December 16 appears to be an attempt to use the acquittal of Garcia Zarate as one last gasp for breath for a movement that has had trouble maintaining a presence in the streets, especially after Charlottesville. While it did draw together a broader coalition than the past few efforts on the Right, the energy and number of attendees was low. Moreover, it doesn’t appear that this cause has the potential to inspire sustained activity, and the Right has mostly moved on from this issue. Going forward, anti-fascists should continue to be aware of the ways that elements of the alt-right insert themselves into more mainstream conservative spaces, and find strategies and tactics that break those links in order to prevent the further mainstreaming of fascist politics and organizing.

If you have any information regarding the white supremacists discussed above or any other white nationalist groups in Northern California, please get in touch with us at nocara@riseup.net

Categories: News

France: ZAD declares victory as airport plan dropped!

Anarchist News - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 23:15

From Freedom News UK

In a communique the famous horizontal community Zone à Defendre (ZAD) has declared a “historic victory” and called for “expropriated peasants and inhabitants to be able to fully recover their rights as soon as possible.”

The entirety of the land area devoted to the airport project — 1,650 hectares of land declared as being of public utility in 2008 — currently belongs to the State, with the exception of three roads crossing it. the ZAD has argued that this land should be kept in public hands and, rather than turned into an airport, put into forms of public lease for the benefit of the community and wildlife.

Responding to reports that the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport project is now officially dead, reps for the ten-year environmental occupation campaign wrote:

This afternoon, the government has just announced the abandonment of the project.

We note that the declaration of public utility [key to enabling large projects to function and compulsory purchases to happen] will not officially be extended. The project will definitely be null and void on February 8th.

This is a historic victory against a destructive development project. This has been possible thanks to a long movement as determined as it is varied.

First of all, we would like to warmly welcome all those who have mobilised against this airport project over the past 50 years.

Regarding the future of the ZAD, the whole movement reaffirms today:

The need for expropriated peasants and inhabitants to be able to fully recover their rights as soon as possible.
The refusal of any expulsion of those who have come to live in recent years in the grove to defend it and who wish to continue to live there and take care of it.
A long-term commitment to take care of the ZAD lands by the movement in all its diversity — peasants, naturalists, local residents, associations, old and new inhabitants.

To implement it, we will need a period of freezing the institutional redistribution of land. In the future, this territory must be able to remain an area of ​​social, environmental and agricultural experimentation.

With regard to the issue of the reopening of the D281 road, closed by the public authorities in 2013, the movement undertakes to answer this question itself. Police presence or intervention would only make the situation worse.

We also wish, on this memorable day, to send a strong message of solidarity to other struggles against major destructive projects and for the defense of threatened territories.

We call to converge widely on February 10th in the grove to celebrate the abandonment of the airport and to continue building the future of the ZAD.

Acipa, Coordination of Opponents, COPAIn 44, Naturalists in struggle, the inhabitants of the ZAD.

https://zad.nadir.org/spip.php?article5034#info2018-01-17-14-41

Tags: Francela zadwinningcategory: International
Categories: News

Update on the Earth First! Winter Rendezvous in Southern Mississippi

It's Goin Down - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 22:55

The post Update on the Earth First! Winter Rendezvous in Southern Mississippi appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following event announcement comes from Earth First!, and offers details about the Winter Rendezvous in Southern Mississippi. 

Greetings and a Happy Gregorian New Year to All!

An autonomous group of Earth First!ers has been busy all winter long searching for a small corner of swamplandia, deep down in the dirty gulf south, that might be willing to host the finest gathering of scumbags to ever assemble… since like seven months ago. And to our own surprise, we did manage to find the perfect place: rural and accessible, beautiful and wild, amphibian and terrestrial, noisome and moist.

From the wetland bayous of the Gulf Coast, we are excited to invite Earth First!ers and like minded accomplices from all corners of Turtle Island to join us for the 2018 Winter Rendezvous and Organizer’s Conference: February 23-28th. This year’s gathering will be taking place in occupied Choctaw territory, roughly 70 miles east of New Orleans. The event will begin with the Winter Rendezvous on Friday the 23th, which will last through the weekend. The rendezvous portion of the event is open to anyone who shares affinity with the Earth First! movement and/or its guiding principles of biocentrism, deep ecology, and direct action (of course this means law enforcement and other similarly positioned/opinionated assholes are not welcome). The weekend will be filled with workshops and panel discussions featuring local organizers and community leaders from across the Gulf South, as well as skill shares and trainings on topics like mutual aid disaster relief, fighting toxic prisons, practicing good consent, climbing on rope, and many more.

On Monday, February 26th, we will begin to transition into the Organizer’s Conference (OC) portion of the event. This half of the gathering is intended for folks who are involved in movement organizing work and want to spend several days meeting and discussing the finer points of improving on that work. We are still in the process of setting the agenda for the OC and welcome suggestions/requests to byobef@riseup.net. The OC is designed for a much narrower audience than the Winter Rendezvous, meaning we expect there will be many folks who will only attend the Rendezvous portion over the weekend and then head home sometime on Monday the 26th.

We will be camping about a dozen miles upstream from the Gulf Coast itself, but tragically this nearby coastline was colonized and adulterated long, long ago. The land was stolen by white supremacists (aka capitalists) and used as a slave-operated cotton plantation, then in the early 20th century the plantation was converted to a luxury hotel with an accompanying golf course, which was then replaced in 1979 by a 2,280 acre highly toxic titanium dioxide plant, operated by the chemical giant Du Pont. This intertwined history of structured domination illustrates why we refer to the Gulf South region as the Belly of the Beast.

Here’s another fun fact: over 80% of all US oil pipelines terminate along the Gulf Coast between Houston and New Orleans. This region is home to more oil, gas and chemical refining infrastructure than anywhere else on planet Earth, yet even here the industrial capitalists remain unsatisfied. We are inundated with new infrastructure proposals every year, including projects like the recently permitted Bayou Bridge pipeline, the tail end of ETP’s Dakota Access Pipeline system. In sum, the Belly of the Beast is where we must fight to prevent the Gulf South from devolving into the world’s largest toxic sacrifice zone.

So, if you love singing in the sun as much as you hate crying in polar vortexes (at least that’s what we assume y’all must be doing up there), then please join us in the Gulf South this February! Belly of the Beast Earth First! wants you to put on those action socks and grab a flotation device. The swamps are calling.

See ya there!

Categories: News

Red Fawn Fallis Reaches Non-Cooperating Plea Agreement

It's Goin Down - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 22:32

The post Red Fawn Fallis Reaches Non-Cooperating Plea Agreement appeared first on It's Going Down.

Mandan, ND: Attorneys for Red Fawn Fallis today notified the court of a change of plea pursuant to an agreement with prosecutors. If the judge accepts the plea, the government will drop the most serious charge and recommend a sentence of no more than seven years for the remaining two charges.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, Ms. Fallis would plead to Counts 1 and 3 of her indictment (Civil Disorder and Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition by a Convicted Felon) and the government would drop Count 2 (Discharge of a Firearm in Relation to a Felony Crime of Violence). This latter charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and the possibility of up to life in prison.

The next step is a hearing on Monday January 22, 2018 in Bismarck at which time the plea will be tendered to the court and a later date will be scheduled for when the judge will sentence Red Fawn on the remaining two charges.

Under the agreement, prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence of no more than seven years in prison, although the judge does have the authority to go as high as 10 years on these charges. There is no minimum sentence. If the judge decides not to accept the agreement the case will continue to trial on all three charges.

Red Fawn has been fighting an uphill battle at every stage of this case. She is facing up to life in prison and the prospect of a trial in North Dakota where there has been extensive pre-trial publicity adverse to Water Protectors and against the no-DAPL movement. Rulings against Red Fawn at every step of proceedings have left the defense with insufficient information about the paid FBI informant who became her boyfriend and who plans to testify against her at trial. The government has refused to provide full disclosure of even potentially exculpatory surveillance and other records in the possession of TigerSwan and other private security firms who coordinated with law enforcement during the encampments at Standing Rock and had targeted Red Fawn as a leader.

Given these circumstances, Red Fawn has made the very difficult decision to enter into a plea agreement that still risks significant prison time, but removes the mandatory minimum and the possibility of life imprisonment. The agreement relates only to Red Fawn and will not harm other Water Protectors.

Red Fawn Fallis is a community leader and human rights advocate. She is well-known and respected for her work with youth and as a medic as well as for her deep commitment to her people and to protecting the water. She was incarcerated for one year awaiting trial and is currently confined to a halfway house. We look forward to the day she can return home to her family and her community and continue her great work.

Water Protector Legal Collective stands by Red Fawn and we call on Water Protectors and community members to continue to support her through this difficult time. Please follow her Support Committee websitefor information on how to write to her and be in solidarity with her through her sentencing hearing and as she serves her prison time.

This plea would make Red Fawn the first Water Protector to be sentenced to a substantial prison term for activity at Standing Rock. There are five other Water Protectors with pending federal charges preparing for trials in the coming months and over 300 with pending state charges.

Ms. Fallis is represented by attorneys Molly Armour, Jessie Cook and Bruce Ellison.

Links:

WPLC Case Page for Red Fawn

Red Fawn’s Support Committee

Categories: News

Durham, NC: “NO WALL NO BORDER” Graffiti in Solidarity with #J20 and FL Prison Strikers

It's Goin Down - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 22:28

The post Durham, NC: “NO WALL NO BORDER” Graffiti in Solidarity with #J20 and FL Prison Strikers appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following short report was sent anonymously to It’s Going Down

A group of friends spent a casual and soon-to-be snowy evening decorating a huge wall in view of Durham’s highway 147. We hope this can warm the hearts of friends and comrades facing repression on both sides of the wall. Winter is coming!

Categories: News

Norfolk, VA: Solidarity with Operation PUSH

It's Goin Down - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 22:26

The post Norfolk, VA: Solidarity with Operation PUSH appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following report from Tidewater IWW details an action in solidarity with #OperationPUSH: 

On January 15th, in lieu of our regular letter writing hours, a group of fellow-workers from the Tidewater Industrial Workers of the World took to the streets in love and solidarity with the #OperationPUSH strike in Florida.

We held a banner and handed out flyers and literature to raise awareness about the strike, prison conditions, and prison struggle both locally and nationally. We concluded the night with a demonstration at the local Norfolk City Jail, where we made noise, chanted, danced, and sent love to the people incarcerated inside.

They, in turn, smiled and laughed, jumped up and down, waved other people over to come and watch and read the banner, and danced along to the chants. One fellow-worker even spotted an incarcerated worker holding up and pointing to a copy of the monthly zine we just finished producing called Breaking Bars, a compilation of poetry, prose, and other writings by incarcerated people in Virginia!

Though we’ve been having hard luck getting information to the inside, hopefully now news of the strike will spread like fire inside the jail and perhaps inspire some new conversations.

Categories: News

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