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Can Adopting a Complementary Indigenous Perspective Save Us?

Truth Out - Sat, 12/15/2018 - 16:11
“The grim prognosis for life on this planet is the consequence of a few centuries of forgetting what traditional Indigenous societies knew and the surviving ones still recognize.” — Noam Chomsky

As we move into mid-December and recognize the only month designated to honor Native American Heritage has passed, we must acknowledge that an Indigenous perspective needs to be considered not just every November, but every month of the year.

Indigenous cultures have known for thousands of years that a human-centered perspective always leads to dangerous imbalance. Without earnest reflection that seeks complementarity between this Indigenous worldview precept and the anthropocentrism of the dominant worldview, we will continue our death march.

Traditional, nonhierarchical Indigenous approaches to learning about life skills and values hold the idea of being intimately related to nonhuman life forms as paramount. Honoring and learning from animals, plants, bodies of water and the organisms that dwell in them remains inseparable from any learning experience and from any ultimate application of learning. Moreover, an Indigenous perspective sees humans as the younger brothers and sisters of the nonhuman elders of creation, and the nonhuman elders as our teachers.

When one lives in such a way as to see a tree as a relative rather than a resource, diversity and inclusion, as relates to fellow human beings, follows. Couple this with the concept of Earth as our “Mother,” as with matrilineal cultures, and we can understand why most pre-contact cultures were organized along more egalitarian lines. The scholars who contributed to Heide Göttner-Abendroth’s edited volume, Societies of Peace, reveal that such societies were also nonviolent and practiced great respect for all living creatures, without exploiting humans, animals or their environment.

Re-embracing a nonanthropocentric worldview and respect for diversity thus requires re-learning a new level of respect for nonhuman life. This requires living according to an Indigenous worldview that understands complementary duality, in contrast to Western models that see opposites as incompatible and result in antagonistic or competitive behaviors. This idea is foundational to the Indigenous worldview that guided us for most of human history, one that understood how all forms of nature have varying degrees and kinds of sentience. The time for reflecting on worldview as the source of our problems is now, instead of continuing to ignore or dismiss the one that guided us for most of human history, and which still guides Indigenous cultures that protect 80 percent of the biodiversity that remains on our planet.

Such worldview comparisons are crucial. Even the current rise of authoritarianism begins with a human-over-nature hierarchy that leads to domination of others. As Leroy Little Bear writes, “Understanding the differences in Aboriginal and Eurocentric worldviews gives us a starting point for understanding the paradoxes that colonialism poses for social control.” Internalizing this new way of learning requires critical thinking, planning, implementation of resultant choices and reflection to assure the right path is being followed. It also requires an understanding of the foundational worldview guiding such cognitive work. It does not come from following the hypnosis of authoritarian mandates.

For example, recently, the Republican-led House Rules Committee voted to advance the “Manage Our Wolves Act,” which would remove gray wolves from the endangered species list. The Rules Committee waived all points of order against the bill and voted to advance it to the floor. They also inserted language to block a floor vote on whether to direct President Donald Trump to end US involvement in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. This authoritarian action that bypassed democratic discussion and blocked the floor vote worked because human antipathy against nature — in this case, wolves — played such a strong card for the Republicans. Any Republican who might have otherwise voted to end US involvement knew they would lose votes for protecting the wolves, so they went ahead and let it pass. In this case, I propose that anthropocentrism directly led to continuation of bombings that are killing innocent human beings.

Such reflection can shift our fear-based focus to an appreciation for what is good. For instance, a Navajo belief is that a good life resides in every angle of the morning light, with a promising sense of beauty, hope and determination for every individual. They understand that, with a sense of the complementary and the supplementary, an individual will feel beauty above, below, around and behind from every angle. This perspective stems from the natural surroundings: plants, animals, rivers, mountains, sky, etc. These are what bring forth the energy of spirit that aligns with the purpose of life, i.e., to keep in balance, harmony and respect with the natural order.

The only true authority for living life well comes from such spiritual energy, although wise elders who still remember the old ways can help with their knowledge of songs, prayers, ceremonies and oral storytelling of the Navajo Creation Story, which uses twin hero myths in which solar and lunar twins always work in harmony to fight the monsters. Contrast this to Western twin hero myths, in which the solar twin dominates or even kills the lunar brother. Ultimately, however, the Navajo epistemology comes from the womb of Mother Earth, Father Sky, sacred mountains, darkness and day, white and yellow corn, Corn Pollen Boy, Beetle Girl, Changing Woman, First Man and Woman, fire, water and air. It comes from realizing that every aspect of life is an integral part of the whole that includes tiny insects, rivers, trees, mountains and canyons all of which are part of the elements that complete the natural order of the universe.

One of the consequences of our uninvestigated dominant worldview is developing hierarchy, forgetting complementarity, disrespecting diversity and restricting inclusion. When taking animals and plants for food, the Indigenous model includes stories about the wisdom of each life-giver and ceremonies to remind us of our oneness with them, and to give deep gratitude for the sacrifice made. For example, the Pueblo Indians’ stories teach that each animal has a spirit village. When hunted and killed, their spirits return to it and tell about how they were treated by the hunter. If treated inappropriately, the village might decide to stop giving themselves to humans.

The Hopi, with a deep understanding of the corn plant and its spiritual power, practiced elaborate, artful ceremonies to honor each stage of planting and harvesting. Whether killing a deer, harvesting corn, picking berries, digging up roots or killing any other of our nonhuman relatives, traditional Indigenous cultures prioritize thinking about ways of consuming that is full of sacred respect and careful consideration. Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her amazing book on Indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge, expresses the idea beautifully when talking about gathering wild berries:

Such Indigenous perspectives are not new. They refer to how we lived for 99% of human history. They remain in our DNA. Behavioral epigenetics explains how we might have taken a wrong turn long ago, but it also tells us that we can reverse direction within a single lifetime. What intentional actions can we do now to start this process that can help us to live in ways that truly see how Indigenous understandings of biodiversity create social systems that reflect great respect for human diversity and inclusion?

Replacing hierarchical structures and authoritarianism with the traditional wisdom of complementary duality and respect for the power of diversity in all of its forms is a vital project. It calls for more than radical resistance alone, and certainly requires more commitment than one month of federal lip-service. Without questioning such fundamental authoritarian assumptions underlying civilization and replacing it with our original nature-based worldview, individuals develop into what human development scholar Darcia Narvaez refers to as “self-regarding shadows of our potential selves, exhibiting threat-reactive moral mindsets that promote unjust treatment of other humans and nonhumans.”

The post Can Adopting a Complementary Indigenous Perspective Save Us? appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Trump and GOP Attack Vietnam War Veterans and Refugees

Truth Out - Sat, 12/15/2018 - 15:13
A true war story is never moral.–Tim O’Brien

My father had been home from his tour in Vietnam for five years when he, along with the rest of the world, watched US service members shove perfectly good helicopters off the flight deck of the USS Okinawa and into the South China Sea. This was Operation Frequent Wind, the final escape plan for US personnel upon the collapse of the war, and when the endgame finally came, it came fast.

The choppers were dumped overboard to make room for more choppers to land, drop their human cargo and be likewise dumped because so many people – soldiers and civilians – were running for their lives from the conflagration on the Vietnamese mainland.

It was the ignominious conclusion to an ignominious war the US had known for years it could not win, but kept fighting anyway for pride and profit. They knew they couldn’t win in Vietnam before my father got there, and yet they let him go anyway, he and nearly three million others who either volunteered like my dad or were pressed into service by the draft.

The war in Vietnam killed more than 58,000 US military service members. Millions upon millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians and Thais were killed, maimed or displaced. My father kept walking for another 46 years after he came home, but a part of him he could never quite name died there, too.

The war is not over.

A needed extension of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act collapsed in the Senate last Monday at the hands of one man. The Act, according to Military.com, “would extend eligibility for disability compensation and health care to ‘Blue Water’ Navy veterans — service members who were aboard aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and other ships, some of whom have fought for years to prove they were exposed to Agent Orange. The dioxin-laden herbicide has been found to cause respiratory cancers, Parkinson’s disease and heart disease, as well as other conditions.”

The House of Representatives passed the legislation back in June by a vote of 382-0, making it one of the most bipartisan bills to move through that chamber in decades. The legislation was held up for a time by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, the Trump appointee who replaced Trump’s last VA secretary, a self-confessed do-nothing named Peter O’Rourke.

A needed extension of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act collapsed in the Senate last Monday at the hands of one man.

Wilkie thought more research was needed on the effects of Agent Orange, despite the fact that the science on the effects of the chemical and its chief agent, dioxin, were established long ago. Over 2 million servicemembers were exposed to the 20 million gallons of Agent Orange sprayed across Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from 1961 to 1971. The deleterious effects of dioxin — cancers, psychological and neurological disorders, birth defects — have impacted the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of affected servicemembers. Like the war itself, Agent Orange has become a generational tale of suffering in both the US and Vietnam.

Secretary Wilkie, however, was not responsible for the Monday night demise of this veteran’s benefits bill. That grim honor falls to Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, chairman of the Budget Committee. When Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand asked for unanimous consent to pass the bill, Enzi objected, and his objection killed the bill. “On this bill, many of us have been made aware of the potential cost growth and the budgetary and operational pressures that would happen at the VA,” said Enzi afterward. “They’re having a lot of problems, anyway.”

Agent Orange has become a generational tale of suffering in both the US and Vietnam.

Critics were quick to note that Enzi, along with other Republicans who were crowing about the cost of the bill, had no such fiscal concerns the year before when they passed a trillion-dollar tax cut for rich people. “It’s disheartening,” said Democratic Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota on Twitter, “to see a bill that passed unanimously by the House blocked by a handful of Senators over supposed fiscal concerns when those same Senators voted to add trillions of dollars to the deficit last year to score a political win on the back of American taxpayers.”

The US veteran victims of Agent Orange exposure join a long line of people made to suffer at the hands of shabby priorities and simple greed. The long denial of Gulf War Syndrome because acknowledging its existence would cost too much. The sulfurous disgrace that was the treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center, who endured their wounds among the rats and roaches because proper care would cost too much. The ongoing calamity of veteran care at the hands of “budget hawks” and political hacks. Let them carve this on my tombstone, so many times have I said it: A nation that does not care for its war veterans has no business making new ones.

It wasn’t just the veterans of Vietnam who took it in the teeth last week. Somehow, the Trump administration (read: known fascist Stephen Miller, probably) has determined that refugees from the Vietnam War who have been here for 40 years somehow represent an existential threat to the nation and must be expelled.

“The Trump administration is resuming its efforts to deport certain protected Vietnamese immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades,” reported The Atlantic on Wednesday, “many of them having fled the country during the Vietnam War. In essence, the administration has now decided that Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the country before the establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and Vietnam are subject to standard immigration law—meaning they are all eligible for deportation.”

“These are the boat people,” writes Esquire blogger Charles P. Pierce, “the people who fled here because of the ill-begotten war that this country made on theirs, and who fled because the enmity of their countrymen made their staying in Vietnam impossible. They have made peace with those circumstances. They have made homes and lives here. That it reopens deep wounds that everyone thought were healed is irrelevant to a White House devoid of empathy or any sense of either honor or history. The cruelty is the point.”

The politicians who pushed and defended the Vietnam War were disgraceful then, and the politicians who continue to this day to use the war for political gain are disgraceful now.

Words like “shame,” “disgrace” and “horror” are too small to encompass the enormity of the malice inherent in such an act. It has no purchase in logic or morality, but serves only as yet another bowlful of blood spooned to Trump’s execrable base. Winnie Wong, progressive organizer and founder of People for Bernie, provided a simple description of the move to Common Dreams: “Trump wants to deport Vietnamese grannies who have been living here for more than 40 years.”

Why? Because f—k you, that’s why.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are collectively called the “Forever Wars” by the soldiers who fight them. The conflict in Vietnam remains a Forever War as well. It seemed to have no real beginning, is still without end, and all the big players act the same even across the span of years. The politicians who pushed and defended the Vietnam War were disgraceful then, and the politicians who continue to this day to use the war for political gain are disgraceful now.

I sit, run my thumb over the orderly bumps on my father’s old dog tags, and wonder if we will ever learn anything.

The post Trump and GOP Attack Vietnam War Veterans and Refugees appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

How to Feed a Family for a Month from Your Stockpile

The Organic Prepper - Sat, 12/15/2018 - 13:59
by Daisy Luther

There are all sorts of situations that can have you eating from your stockpile for a month or so.  Maybe you have an unexpected expense that means … Read the rest

The post How to Feed a Family for a Month from Your Stockpile appeared first on The Organic Prepper.

Categories: News

Major Health Study Shows Benefits of Combating Climate Change

deSmog - Sat, 12/15/2018 - 11:22
Read time: 4 minsCommuters by bike share in New York City

During the holiday season, people often drink toasts to health. There’s something more we can do to ensure that we and others will enjoy good health now and into the future: combat climate change.

“Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century, and tackling it could be our greatest health opportunity,” according to the medical journal The Lancet.

The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change, by 150 experts from 27 academic institutions and intergovernmental organizations, including the World Health Organization and the World Bank, is blunt: “A rapidly changing climate has dire implications for every aspect of human life, exposing vulnerable populations to extremes of weather, altering patterns of infectious disease, and compromising food security, safe drinking water and clean air.”

Tags: 1.5 degree climate changepublic healthThe LancetParis AgreementWorld Health Organization
Categories: News

Still Rising #8 Mixtape

It's Goin Down - Sat, 12/15/2018 - 03:16

The post Still Rising #8 Mixtape appeared first on It's Going Down.

Final installment of the Still Rising Mixtape Project. https://ia801505.us.archive.org/11/items/stillrising8aaaaaa/SR%238%20V3%20-%2012%3A14%3A18%2C%203.30%20AM.mp3

This will be the last publication of the Still Rising Mixtape Project. I have decided to move onto other projects in my free time. I hope you enjoy this last one, which is chalked full of some of my favorite music tracks, new and old. If you can, make sure to play these tracks with the bass and volume turned up! If you enjoy the mixtape, please remember to share it with your friends. Anyhow it’s been a pleasure making these for yall. See you in the streets. Peace,

DJ anon65.

Still Rising #8

-Intro-
1 Mystics – Sima Lee
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-r05sSA4Pg
2 Fourth Of You Lie – Savage Fam
https://soundcloud.com/savagefambam/fourth-of-you-lie
3 Words of a Wound – Goldborns Ft. Lowkey
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_KYFoQeozs
4 KKK – Sole
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nKJ_S2EMsk
5 Own Light – Brother Ali
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04bp4bG6Zhk
6 fvck ice – Rebel Diaz
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9C1NEAYnnM
7 Listening – John Trudell
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHQnEyEv3gY
8 Like Smoke – Savage Fam
https://soundcloud.com/savagefambam/like-smoke
9 What Is Freedom – Sima Lee
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCY0VoEbK0c
10 Renewal – Savage Fam
https://soundcloud.com/savagefambam/renewal
11 Yours And My Children – Akala
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqoZ3zaMXjU
12 The Virus – A Tribe Called Red
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_5VAKdHMek
13 Terrorist (Acoustic) – Lowkey
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXDiKFZx4UM
14 2be – Savage Fam
https://soundcloud.com/savagefambam/2be

Categories: News

Ottawa: Report Back on December 8 Antifascist Mobilization

It's Goin Down - Sat, 12/15/2018 - 03:06

The post Ottawa: Report Back on December 8 Antifascist Mobilization appeared first on It's Going Down.

Report back and analysis on a recent antifascist mobilization in so-called Ottawa.

On Saturday, December 8, around two hundred right-wing sympathizers gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest the “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” which was in the process of being approved by acclamation at a United Nations conference in Morocco.

After over a month of planning, the demonstration itself barely filled the space in front of Parliament and was in no way a triumph by the far right. That being said, the rally was at least superficially successful in uniting a host of far-right groups of differing ideologies to announce their xenophobic opposition to the UN compact and propagate their Islamophobic and racist views. Antifascists from Québec and Ontario, despite their clearly enunciated skepticism regarding the compact, organized to oppose the far right’s attempt to claim public space.

Further investigation into the far-right groups present, before, after, and during the rally reveals major rifts and extensive disorganisation on their part that belies the superficial unity the alliance cobbled together for this demonstration. The rally’s attendance also reveals that conservative student groups do not have a problem cooperating with far-right groups, and that populist right-wing groups are  willing to simultaneously work with militias and invite a Québec MP to address the rally.

Reports from major news outlets  paid little attention to the views presented on either side of the rally, essentially framing it as a disagreement among citizens about the Compact. Beyond that, the coverage obfuscated the open police protection of racists and, at its worst, characterized antifascists as violent extremists, while allowing members of far-right groups to portray themselves as nothing more than concerned citizens.

As comrades in Ottawa Against Fascism explained in their call-out for a counter mobilization:

“Various anti-immigration groups are converging to Ottawa to protest against the adoption of the United Nations Organization’s so-called “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”. This proposed international agreement is set to be adopted by a majority of countries at a UN summit in Marrakech on December 10-11, and has become the centre of a global xenophobic fear-mongering campaign. Far-right leaders in North America and Europe assert that this agreement, once adopted, will be implemented by force in signatory countries and lead to the erasure of borders and unlimited migration from the south. In fact, they now place this agreement at the center of their racist “globalist” conspiracy theory, in which they claim that there exists an international ploy to replace the white population. In reality, the UN global compact, like all other UN initiatives, is nothing but a superficial feel-good statement containing a wish list of liberal policies to ensure a fair and humane treatment of immigrants and minority groups. Like all other UN agreements signed before, it is non-binding and there is no actual armed force to back up its implementation by signatory countries. Similar, for example, to the Paris agreement on climate change, or to the yearly votes calling for the recognition of Palestine or for ending the embargo on Cuba, it will have no actual material impact on the world; it will be simply be exhibited by multiple world leaders like Justin Trudeau to give the appearance of a well-meaning liberal institutional order, while the same governments that signed on to it will continue waging wars across the globe and enforcing the capitalist economic order which is at the source of the global migration crisis.”

The Far-Right Opposition

The December 8th anti-immigration rally on Parliament Hill was organised by groups in English and French Canada, united by their opposition to immigration from the Global South. This cooperation has been developing over the past year, a key moment being Toronto white supremacist Faith Goldy’s attempt to join a Storm Alliance demonstration at the Lacolle border crossing in May and her subsequent rally at Roxham Road on June 3. This latter event brought together members of the III%, La Meute, Storm Alliance, and the Front Patriotique du Québec (all based in Québec), along with members of the Proud Boys, the Canadian Combat Coalition, the Canadian Wolfpack, and other far rightists from English Canada, in a show of growing collaboration across ideological divides.

Though there was some significant English Canadian presence at the December 8 rally, the organisational heavy lifting seems to have been done by an ad hoc coalition of far-right groups in Quebec, the so-called Table Ronde, or “Round Table.” Though  fifteen groups were allegedly involved in the organizing, it’s clear that only a handful of these groups are significant forces: the majority have only one or two members and virtually no street presence. The round table included:

The major groups:

La Meute: Founded on October 6, 2015, by two ex-soldiers, the group was initially solely focused on Islamophobic agitation but has since expanded the scope of its activities to include anti-immigrant and anti-left actions. The group’s claim of forty thousand members is vastly overblown. Nonetheless, despite numerous internal splits and absurd rhetoric, La Meute has established seventeen chapters (called “clans”) corresponding to Québec’s administrative districts and is the central “national-populist” organization in Québec, with the highest profile and stature on the Quebec far right … a position it is not afraid to use to bully and silence rivals.

Storm Alliance: An anti-immigrant group founded by former national vice president of the Soldiers of Odin and president of the Québec chapter Dave Tregget in 2017, and currently led by Éric Trudel. Over the past two years, Storm Alliance has repeatedly shown up at the border to try to intimidate refugees, openly collaborating with more militia-type groups, including the III%.

Independance (sic) Day: Self-described as a “citizen’s political lobby group,” has shown support for Maxime Bernier’s PPC. Among their members, one finds Michel Laroque, the former grand wizard of the Montreal branch of the KKK (Longitude 74), who was charged in 1992 for attempted arson on a house inhabited by Black people in the east end of Montreal. Independance Day were present in Montreal at the unsuccessful July 1, 2018, anti-immigration demonstration in collaboration with La Meute and Storm Alliance.

III% Quebec: Also known as the “Threepers,” the origin of this group stems from U.S. militia groups centred on private gun ownership rights and anti-immigrant patrols on the US-Mexican border. In the U.S., their ranks include Alex Scarsella, who shot five people during a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis, while other members have been tied to the attempted bombing of a federal building in Atlanta and of Arkansas State University. In Québec, they have provided security at events for groups such as La Meute and Storm Alliance, including at a march in Québec City and at anti-immigrant protests at the U.S.-Quebec border area of Lacolle.

Some of the minor groups:

Northern Guard: A 2017 split from the Soldiers of Odin, as several men in the SoO felt it was inappropriate for the group to have a woman (Katy Latulippe) as its leader.

Recours Collectif Contre Revenu Québec-Canada: An online group that spreads anti-tax and anti-immigration propaganda, sharing posts accusing Trudeau of treason for welcoming “illegals” into Canada.

La Horde: Another national-populist group, largely confined to social media.

Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens: Otherwise known as C4, considers itself a federal group, but its core member and founder Georges Hallak is based in Montréal. Although the group does not regularly organise activities and is essentially a one-man show, its Facebook page has 8,800 followers. Hallak’s two-hour video of the rally provides a lot of humourous entertainment, alongeven with some insight into the people who were there.

While all of the above groups were mentioned online as co-organizers of Saturday’s rally, the most visible were La Meute (which brought a bus), Storm Alliance, Independance Day, and the III%.

A look at those who addressed the crowd at the Saturday rally provides further insight into the networks that mobilized, including connections in English Canada and abroad. Several speakers repeated, “What unites us is more important than what divides us,” which can be understood to encompass not just the xenophobes from English and French Canada but also the political range of far rightists present in an official capacity, ranging from Act! For Canada through La Meute to the Canadian Nationalist Party. In order of appearance, the speakers were:

  • Valerie Price, the Montreal-based cofounder of ACT! for Canada, a satellite organization of ACT! for America and close ally of the Jewish Defense League. ACT! for Canada is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an “anti-Muslim … hate group”; its main public activity–beyond maintaining a website and sending out an email newsletter every week–is to organize racist talks and film showings. The group tried to arrange (with the JDL) for Paul Weston, head of PEGIDA’s United Kingdom branch, to speak in Montréal in 2016 (blocked by antifascists); for New Zealand conspiratorial anticommunist Trevor Loudon to speak at the Ottawa Public Library; and most famously, attempted to screen the racist movie Killing Europe in 2017, also at the Ottawa Public Library (canceled following public outcry).
  • Tom Quiggin is one of the denizens of that shadow zone where the various repressive and military state institutions overlap with far-right conspiracy milieu. He likes to describe himself as a “court qualified expert on terrorism” (whatever that means), and as a “senior research fellow” at the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University. Despite this, we have been unable to find any mention of Mr Quiggin on the CCISS website. Quiggin produces podcasts and writes internet articles, including the eponymous “Quiggin Report,” in which he describes various Muslim conspiracies and accuses politicians like Justin Trudeau of supporting terrorism. Quiggin has also accused the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City–the site of Alexandre Bissonnette’s murderous attack in 2017–of funding terrorists. Thanks to his claimed ties to the intelligence world, Quiggin has had some limited success in finding a place in mainstream rightist circles. His work has been promoted by the Toronto Sun, he was invited to sit on a panel at the 2016 Manning Conference, and for a while he claimed to run what was probably a one-man show, the Terrorism and Security Analysts of Canada Network. According to Macleans, “Quiggin’s various research conclusions and work with the obscure TSEC Network have been vehemently criticized by acknowledged security and terrorism experts.”
  • Rasmus Paludan, from Denmark, the leader of the Stram Kurs (Tight Course) party, apparently drove to Ottawa from Miami, Florida, to attend the weekend rally as part of a “North American tour.” In its party programme, Stram Kurs calls for banning Islam in Denmark, stopping all non-“Western” immigration, and expelling everyone who is not Danish (defined as an “ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic and normative community”). Paludan has also acted as attorney and administrator for the Danish group For Frihed (For Freedom), formerly known as PEGIDA Denmark. At a 2016 For Fihed demonstration, Paludan warned the crowd of a civil war to come: “We will fight side by side with the police and Home Guard, which make up our brothers, our streets and alleys will be transformed into rivers of blood. And the blood of the strangers will end in the sewer where the foreign enemies belong.” Paludan and Stram Kurs are known for organizing rallies in migrant neighbourhoods, with the intention of provoking and intimidating the people who live there.
  • Alexandra Belaire, spokesperson of the Ottawa chapter of ACT! for Canada, then spoke very briefly of her and her children’s great love for Canada.
  • Sylvain “Maikan” Brouillette and Steeve “L’Artiss” Charland spoke next – the two men sit on the La Meute council, and Brouillette is the group’s spokesman.
  • The final speaker was Travis Patron, who spoke on behalf of the “Canadian Nationalist Party,” a group almost exclusively represented by him and his publicity stunts. The CNP advocates for policy to fight what they consider an unacceptable reduction of the “European-descent” population, by deporting “illegal immigrants and criminals” and declaring the entire US-Canada border a point of entry, as well as for banning the burqa, discontinuing public funding for pride parades, and holding a referendum on same-sex marriage. On the day of the rally, he spent the morning filming antifascists. On Facebook, one of his followers responded, wishing brownshirts and blackshirts were still around to prevent antifascists from marching down the street. When the CNP emerged on the far-right scene in 2017, it was very quickly recognized as an outright fascist organization, and Patron met with quick opposition wherever he tried to organize publicly. As a result, the group modified its public programme to try to appear less obviously racist; the initial programme had denounced the “attempted genocide of the founding Canadian people” (defined as people of European descent), as well as advocating “the cancellation of all reparation payments made to Aboriginal peoples,” and called upon “the mutiny of current authority by all police enforcement/military personnel and subsequent support for this program.” We can see why they might have wanted to change that…

There was one man who did not speak Saturday, and whose absence was noticed. Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party of Canada had been the much-anticipated star speaker. Several groups, including his own fan club in Carleton University, spent the week emphasizing the former Conservative MP’s support for the rally and his plan to attend. But he was a no-show–the news that he would not be present was greeted with angry shouts, and later Georges Hallak bluntly stated that he and other politicians were all “chicken shits.” After the rally, in a statement directed to La Presse, Bernier tried to distance himself from the demonstration, stating that he chose not to attend because of La Meute’s presence, and in turn, Maikan called Bernier soft, retracted his support, and vowed to expose the CPP leader’s “true face.” But it’s clear that Bernier is playing a double game, securing his political legitimacy in the mainstream while maintaining his appeal to fascist, far-right, and racist action groups. Despite Bernier’s cancellation, Carleton’s CPP group endorsed the event and showed up alongside the very groups that Bernier is trying to disown.

Many anti-immigration protesters present on Parliament Hill wore yellow vests associated with the “gilets jaunes” movement in France. The far-Right seem to have interpreted popular resistance against neo-liberalism as populist resistance against immigration, and the aesthetic was also apparent in protests against the UN Migration Compact in other Canadian cities, including Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and Regina.

Missing a beat, Sylvain Brouillette, La Meute’s spokesperson, had previously associated the gilets jaunes movement with the far-Left, describing the French protesters as far-left puppets of Soros and the New World Order, and issuing a proclamation forbidding participants from attending the event in such attire, and even attempting to police those wearing the vests. Nonetheless, the overall mood was definitely in favour of the yellow vests, with other speakers and people on the ground claiming that this was a revolt against migration and against the elites that govern Europe. Since last Saturday, various far-right forces across Canada, including Hallak’s CCCC, have been pushing the idea of cross-country yellow vest days of action. The original gilets jaunes movement in France is also now infested with right-wing populist elements and has been endorsed by far-right politicians like Marine Le Pen of the Rassemblement National [formerly the Front National]. French antifascist activists have had to respond to the presence of fascist groups such as Action Français as a result of such infiltration. In Germany, PEGIDA and AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) have also latched onto the “gelbenwesten” movement, using the symbolism to protest immigration to Germany.

One man who showed up in a yellow vest on Saturday was Pierre Dion, an obscure figure in the far-right milieu, who was expelled from La Meute for his public criticisms of the group (including their failures on July 1 in Montréal, and the vast inflation of its membership numbers). Dion likes to shoot off his mouth online, including accusing La Meute members of working with “antifa.” On Saturday he was accosted by Sebastian Chabot, who was part of La Meute’s security team, and was physically ejected. Dion’s expulsion led to a new round of social media griping about Brouillette’s leadership of La Meute and the group’s arrogant and bullying stance towards others on the far right.

Others present on Saturday included Lebanese Kataeb (aka Phalange) supporter Georges Massad, of “Phalange Media,” along with his co-host Leigh Stuart. With white nationalist Ronny Cameron, Massad and Stuart had previously published a fake news video filmed without the consent of residents that led to an an arson attempt at the Radisson Hotel Toronto East, which was housing predominantly Nigerian refugees. Their video claimed that refugees were slaughtering goats in the hotel bathroom and were responsible for damages to the hotel, including the graffiti “free money” obviously written by Massad himself in order to discredit the residents. Georges Massad later went on to claim that the hotel fire had in fact been the act of the refugees being housed there.

As has previously been mentioned, Georges Hallak of CCCC was also present. Hallak, an oddball who sometimes happens to be in the right place at the right time, represents many of the contradictions and complexities of the far right. As can be seen in his livestream of the rally, early on he engages two antifascists in conversation. They ask him if he has ever even met a refugee. Belying the common stereotype many have of the contemporary far right, Hallak answers, clearly amused, that he himself is a refugee from Lebanon. He is then asked why he is perpetuating white supremacy, to which he answers that he’s not a white supremacist. In the big tent of today’s national populist movement, there is plenty of room for people like Hallak; indeed, the presence of far-right immigrants and people of colour is welcomed by sections of the movement. This is consistent with some of the less overtly discriminatory groups’ attitude, which stresses that their members are not individually racist, while reinforcing systemic oppression by pushing for measures such as immigration restriction policies. Which isn’t to say that Hallak is not a racist: as a Christian fundamentalist prone to conspiracy theories, Hallak’s personal obsession is Islamophobia. As he explained later in his livestream, “Islam teaches evilness…. Muhammad is an evil person. He is not a good guy. He’s a warlord, he’s a killer, he’s a pedophile. So, you know what? If a Muslim follows the teachings of Muhammad, then you know basically he is a Muslim, he’s going to do evil acts. I’m sorry, but this is the facts.”

There were also a number of QAnon conspiracy theorists present at the rally. The QAnon hashtag refers to a far-right conspiracy theory that claims Trump is being undermined by a network of deep state agents; the theory is extreme and baseless and involves among other confabulations the claim that Hillary Clinton is involved in a child sex-trafficking ring (otherwise known as”Pizzagate“). Like the popular far-right belief that left are funded by George Soros, this is merely a node in a network of antisemitic, alt-right conspiracy. QAnon conspiracists here have in turn posted about the Canadian “deep state,” clearly echoing this theory. Despite relatively small numbers, they’ve taken up calling themselves the “silent majority,”; lest we forget, the Parliament Hill Yoga Group has brought out larger numbers than the far right ever has.

The Antifascist Response

The antifascist counter-mobilisation began grouping at the Ottawa City Hall on the corner of Elgin and Lisgar at around 8:30AM. Our side consisted of local antifascists from Ottawa Against Fascism (OAF), Industrial Workers of the World General Defence Committee (IWW-GDC), No Pasaran, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), and others, as well as out of town contingents from Intersectional Antifascists (INAF), Montreal Antifasciste (MAF), Toronto Against Fascism (TAF), and comrades from other areas of Ontario, totalling around fifty people. OAF had initially made a call-out on social media announcing the nearby Confederation Park (on Elgin and Laurier) as the rendez-vous point, with a disclaimer that this was not the actual mobilisation point, but had left individuals there to redirect people to City Hall. This was to prevent the Ottawa Police Services (OPS) from hindering the initial mobilisation from taking the streets. Scouts from our side had spotted members of the III% already mobilising on Wellington at 7:30AM and deduced that they were using the private Supreme Court parking lot as a meet-up spot.

By 9:00AM, we had begun marching northward along Elgin towards Wellington to block them at their meet-up point, with minor police accompaniment. We managed to take the street and distribute flyers about the racist demonstration to passersby, eventually making our way along Wellington to just west of Kent, by the Supreme Court of Canada. At this point we could clearly see a group of thirty to forty far rightists with an OPS escort mobilising on Vittoria behind the Supreme Court. They began to march eastward on Vittoria towards Parliament Hill, and we marched parallel to them via Wellington. At Kent and Wellington, we were blocked by the OPS, who attempted to impede us from marching farther east. The head OAF banner (a large banner on a wooden frame with handles) was seized by the OPS, and later destroyed and thrown over a fence by the pigs. Our group had managed to use a gap in the OPS line to get  to the corner of Parliament Hill, but the OPS diverted some of their forces to block us from moving onto Parliament Hill. Open chatter from OPS walkie talkies discussed three more busses and other vehicles carrying Quebec-based far rightists that would be arriving later and would need a police escorts to Parliament Hill.

After roughly ten minutes, we were able to gain access to Parliament Hill via the gates on Wellington, arriving just as the tail end of the fash were entering the barricaded “freedom of expression” zone. We came up from the west side of the caged area, with no initial police presence to create a line between us and them. Some scuffles broke out as their tail end was met by our front end. The security detail on their side (Threepers, La Meute, and Storm Alliance) lined up on the west side of the barrier and began taking sucker punches at us, as well as grabbing our flags and banners, all of which the police completely ignored. At one point an elderly man had his banner stolen by their security detail, while Threepers attempted to drag him over the barrier onto their side. The police reacted to this situation as if the elderly man was the aggressor, violently pulling him off the barricade and throwing him to the ground. The cops also used excessive force to arrest another comrade, with several officers taking him down.

Eventually a fifty-strong detachment of RCMP riot cops showed up and attempted to drive us out by forming a line northwest of the “official protest zone” and pushing us southward, continually hitting people with their batons in the process. RCMP officer number 144 seemed to be setting the standard for brutality, with his peers calibrating their level of violence accordingly. More arrests were made as we formed a line to hold them back, using the MAF banner as a shield. The RCMP seemed to have a penchant for striking young women in our crowd, as well as individuals wearing helmets. One of the cops seemed to be itching to pepper spray antiracist activists.  At one point the RCMP tried to grab the MAF banner, which resulted in a tug of war. After pushing us about five metres south, the RCMP eventually reformed their line and things seemed to get a bit less tense, with the shoving match having come to an end with no real change in the ground held by any side. A few from our group fell back at this point to assess the damage.

While leaving Parliament Hill for Sparks, we noticed the second wave of Quebec far rightists, numbering around twenty or so, arriving and being escorted into the caged area from the southeast.

While we were recuperating in the café, a group of ID Canada locals from Ottawa, numbering twenty to twenty-five, arrived. Led by Tyler Hover, they accessed Parliament Hill from the gates on Wellington without a police escort.

ID Canada, formerly known as Generation Identity Canada, is associated with the Génération Identitaire movements in Europe, known for its failed attempts to block refugees vessels and NGO rescue ships (such as Médicins sans Frontières) on the Mediterranean Sea with their C-Star ship (whose crew included former Rebel Media host Lauren Southern). Its membership is drawn from the alt-right, with an emphasis on a clean-cut “nipster” image (Tyler has dismissed the “skinhead” look as detrimental to recruiting). ID Canada embraces a Western chuavinist ideology and claims to defend European-Canadians from “white genocide”. Hover (also known as “Kanadisher” and “SilasXIV” on the neo-nazi forum Stormfront) and his group have mainly been involved in racist postering and stickering campaigns on university campuses across Canada. They have had very little physical presence at anti-immigration rallies until recently (they were present at Faith Goldy’s November 24 anti-immigration rally in Toronto) and have mostly been relegated to the role of internet trolls. There was a scuffle when they arrived at Parliament Hill, with Tyler Hover losing his ID Canada flag and some comrades being arrested.

A final wave of fifty or so (presumably the three buses and handful of cars from Québec) arrived at this point.

Eventually the rest of our comrades on Parliament Hill retreated to Sparks Street, where we rejoined them and continued to march south towards the OPS station on Elgin and Argyle to demand the release of the nine comrades arrested earlier. The OPS lined up to defend their station, and we chanted slogans for the release of our comrades for several hours, while a known alt-right troll filmed and observed us from the corner. Eventually we received news that eight of the arrested had been released with a ninety-day ban from Parliament Hill, while one individual, who was being charged for allegedly assaulting an RCMP officer, remained in custody. Coffee and pizza eventually arrived, and after some hours we headed out, following a brief photo op with the ID Canada banner and a Canadian flag—our spoils of war—near the Museum of Nature.

In Lieu of Conclusion

On relatively quick notice, close to two hundred far rightists managed to mobilize to Ottawa to hold an anti-immigrant rally. They brought together forces from English and French Canada representing a broad range of far-right political positions. A minor but not negligible segment of them had latched on to the current yellow vest uprising in France, while others were tapping conspiracy theories and jumbled thinking from the United States. The bulk of their forces seem to have been from Ottawa and Québec.

It is clear that the far right is seeking broader unity, as no single organization or tendency is able to mobilize a significant number of people. However, together, they are not insignificant. That this openness is creating a space for actual fascist forces to intervene is something we have already seen in Québec with the rapprochement between Atalante and the national-populists. We saw it again last weekend, as the Canadian Nationalist Party was given the microphone to speak, and members of ID Canada were present with their flags.

Our role in this situation is clear: to oppose and block the growing racist movement, while exposing their connections and the politics underlying their activity.

That the Migration Compact became a hot potato was largely due to xenophobic and racist rabble-rousing by the far right in Europe. Fake news was spread to the effect that the Compact would suppress any opposition to migration and oblige nations to open their borders. While we wish this were so, unfortunately the Compact is merely another nonbinding agreement, indicating a political commitment but in no way guaranteeing any right to move freely or any obligation to provide safe haven to those fleeing hardship and violence. But to the far right even a nonbinding agreement is tantamount to “genocide” against the wealthy countries of the West. To which we say: the entire world has been plundered for hundreds of years by the West, to the point of real genocide. That people fleeing the conditions this has wrought would seek to come here is only normal, and if this provides even a small relief from the wreckage of Western imperialism, then that is something we can only welcome with joy.

Support our Comrades

Funds are being raised to help those arrested for opposing the far right on December 8th; to help out, check out these links:

Fundrazr: https://fundrazr.com/c1R223?ref=ab_f7lG5b

Merch store: https://iww-gdc.ca/shop/

Categories: News

Pittsburgh Attempting to Ban Ammunition, Semi-Auto Firearms, and Magazines

Off Grid Survival - Sat, 12/15/2018 - 03:03

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania government officials are attempting to ban semi-automatic firearms, ammunition, and large-capacity magazines. [...]

The post Pittsburgh Attempting to Ban Ammunition, Semi-Auto Firearms, and Magazines appeared first on Off Grid Survival - Wilderness & Urban Survival Skills.

Categories: News

Federal judge in Texas strikes down Affordable Care Act

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sat, 12/15/2018 - 02:17

Federal judge in Texas strikes down Affordable Care Act | 14 Dec 2018 | A federal judge in Texas said on Friday that the Affordable Care Act's individual coverage mandate is unconstitutional and that the rest of the law must also fall. "The Court ... declares the Individual Mandate ... unconstitutional," District Judge Reed O'Connor wrote in his decision. "Further, the Court declares the remaining provisions of the ACA ... are inseverable and therefore invalid." The case against the ACA, also known as Obamacare, brought by 20 Republican state attorneys general and governors, as well as two individuals.

Categories: News

Federal judge rules Obamacare unconstitutional

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sat, 12/15/2018 - 02:06

Federal judge rules Obamacare unconstitutional | 14 Dec 2018 | A judge ruled Friday evening that Obamacare is unconstitutional, putting the future of the federal healthcare law in jeopardy. The decision, issued by U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in the Northern District of Texas -- a George W. Bush appointee, is likely to face an appeal. The suit in the case, Texas v. Azar, was brought by 20 Republican state officials, who have asked that all of Obamacare be thrown out as a consequence of the new tax law, which zeroed out a penalty on the uninsured, known as the "individual mandate." The officials argued that the penalty was central to making the rest of the law work, and that without it, the rest should crumble.

Categories: News

Mick Mulvaney to replace John Kelly as 'acting' chief of staff, Trump says

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sat, 12/15/2018 - 02:03

Mick Mulvaney to replace John Kelly as 'acting' chief of staff, Trump says | 14 Dec 2018 | President Trump on Friday named White House budget director Mick Mulvaney as his new acting chief of staff, saying the former South Carolina Republican congressman will replace John Kelly as his top aide. "I am pleased to announce that Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management & Budget, will be named Acting White House Chief of Staff, replacing General John Kelly, who has served our Country with distinction," Trump tweeted...The president said Kelly, who recently announced plans to leave the White House, will stay through 2018.

Categories: News

CA regulators say PG&E falsified safety records for natural gas pipelines years after deadly blast

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sat, 12/15/2018 - 00:40

CA regulators say PG&E falsified safety records for natural gas pipelines years after deadly blast --PG&E was convicted of six felony charges | 14 Dec 2018 | Regulators are accusing one of California's largest utilities of falsifying safety documents on natural gas pipelines over a five-year period. The California Public Utilities Commission said Friday that an investigation by its staff found Pacific Gas & Electric Co. lacked was too cheap to hire enough employees to fulfill requests to find and mark natural gas pipelines...A U.S. judge fined the utility $3 million after it was convicted of six felony charges for failing to properly maintain a natural gas pipeline that exploded south of San Francisco in 2010, killing eight people.

Categories: News

Johnson & Johnson knew of carcinogenic asbestos in baby powder since 1970s, a claim company had denied - report

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 19:16

Johnson & Johnson knew of carcinogenic asbestos in baby powder since 1970s, a claim company had denied - report | 14 Dec 2018 | Johnson & Johnson's stock plunged Friday after Reuters reported that the health care products giant has known since the 1970s that its talc baby powder sometimes contained carcinogenic asbestos, a claim the company denied. Johnson & Johnson dropped 8 percent to $136.10, which put the Dow stalwart on pace for its biggest loss in 16 years. Reuters reported that court documents and test results show Johnson & Johnson has known for decades that its raw talc and finished baby powder sometimes contained asbestos, but that the company didn't inform regulators or the public.

Categories: News

The Koch Brothers' Last Ditch Attempt to Kill the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit

deSmog - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 18:17
Read time: 9 mins2018 Nissan Leaf SL electric car

As Congress debates what, if anything, to do with the federal electric vehicle (EV) tax credit, the oil industry is fighting to kill the popular incentive, which is hitting some key milestones in the program.

In the final weeks of the current legislative session (and before Democrats retake control of the House), many groups with financial and other ties to Koch Industries are ramping up efforts to fight any expansion of the EV tax credit program, while throwing a Hail Mary attempt to cancel the tax incentive entirely.

Tags: kochvscleankoch industrieselectric vehiclesEV tax creditManhattan Institutepacific research institute
Categories: News

UK Protesters Are Supergluing Themselves to Buildings to Fight Climate Crisis

Truth Out - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 17:27

As protests erupt at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, we speak with Liam Geary Baulch, part of the new movement called Extinction Rebellion that began six months ago in the United Kingdom and has now spread to 35 countries. Members are taking extreme action to fight the climate crisis, including supergluing themselves to government buildings, shutting down London Bridge and taking to the streets to sound the alarm about the impending catastrophe of global warming. They are demanding governments commit to legally binding measures to slash consumption and reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we broadcast from the U.N. climate talks in Poland. We turn now to look at a U.K.-based movement taking extreme action to fight the climate crisis. It’s called Extinction Rebellion. Its members have been supergluing themselves to government buildings, shutting down roads, taking to the streets to sound the alarm about the impending catastrophe of global warming. Extinction Rebellion marched here in Katowice last Saturday to protest U.N. climate talks. In November, Extinction Rebellion protesters shut down London bridges, blockaded the U.K. Department for Business and Energy and attempted to interrupt Brexit negotiations.

EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 1: Conscientious protection, this is what it looks like.

EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 2: We’re very concerned about the state the Earth is in, the seriousness of things. You know, we’re leading the world to 3 degrees centigrade. Well, that’s way outside the range that human development has known. Enormous unknown dangers.

EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 3: Tell the truth! Everybody needs to know what’s coming! We need to prepare for what’s coming!Everybody needs to know! They need to wake up!

EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 4: I only got arrested for the first time two days ago, and now I’m doing it again, to basically become disobedient with the system as a result of our impending danger.

EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 5: The government is criminally complacent in the mass murder of all life on this planet! And I will not be silent!

AMY GOODMAN: Those are members of Extinction Rebellion, a movement taking radical action to combat the climate crisis. It started in the United Kingdom just six months ago, has now spread to at least 35 countries. Extinction Rebellion is demanding governments commit to legally binding measures to slash consumption, reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.

We’re joined right now by Extinction Rebellion activist Liam Geary Baulch. He just participated in the action here at the U.N. climate summit, not far from the Democracy Now! set.

It’s great to have you with us, Liam.

LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, even using words like “global warming” or “climate change”—

LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —people feel, does not convey the urgency of this issue. You all have decided to use the term “extinction.” Extinction Rebellion is your group. Talk about what you’re doing.

LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah. So, we have been talking to people about the real science that we’re seeing now, not in an alarmist way, but in a realistic way. We are now facing what could be the next mass extinction. We’re already grieving over the lives lost, both human and otherwise, to climate change. And we’re seeing and talking to people about the fact that we might now be facing human extinction. And so we’re asking people to face that grief and feel that emotional response to this crisis, what we’re calling an emergency crisis—we want to shift the language to that emergency crisis—and to respond to that and move through that into action.

AMY GOODMAN: So, explain your actions. It’s just been six months since you guys got started.

LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: What have you done in the U.K.?

LIAM GEARY BAULCH: So, we just actually did our first action just a month and a half ago. We gathered outside of the U.K. Parliament, and we declared a rebellion against the government. This is not a one-off protest or a direct action against a specific corporation. This is an ongoing rebellion against our government in the U.K. over their inaction on climate change. So, we lay down in the road, and other people read out the declaration of rebellion. And then we said, “We’re here. We’re going to keep rebelling.” And I was arrested that day and taken away.

AMY GOODMAN: You were arrested.

LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened?

LIAM GEARY BAULCH: And then we were released. Most of our activists have been released so far. They’re aware that part of our movement is the fact that we have hundreds, if not thousands now, people willing to get arrested for this cause, willing to give up their freedom about this issue, because the time for action is now. And we’re calling on our government to tell the truth and to act now.

AMY GOODMAN: Supergluing yourselves? Explain what you did.

LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah, so we shut down the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy a week later. And that led to a whole series of actions where people were risking arrest. We saw that activists decided to shut down this department for six hours by supergluing themselves to the doors. And that’s the department that’s having backroom meetings with fracking companies while refusing to go and meet the people who have to live next door to where they’re trying to frack in the U.K.

AMY GOODMAN: You shut down five bridges. How?

LIAM GEARY BAULCH: So, we’ve just seen an amazing response. From that month-and-a-half-ago original action, our campaign has just exploded. We now have a reach of 100,000 people. We’re in over 35 countries around the world. And 6,000 people came out on the street on the 17th of November and blocked five bridges in central London. We had trained affinity groups in nonviolent civil disobedience to take those bridges initially, and then members of the public, in the thousands, took to the streets and sat in the roads and celebrated our resistance against this system.

People are angry, and they’re calling for a change to the system. I think that’s what we’ve been seeing in the action going on behind us here. That’s what we’re seeing in movements like the Sunrise Movement and the school strikes. This is being reflected all across the world right now.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, today is the school strike globally that Greta Thunberg has called for, and we’re going to hear from Polish high school students who made it to the COP today, who walked out of school. How would you assess—this is your fourth COP, conference of parties?

LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Your fourth U.N. climate summit. Do you think it has succeeded? Do you think it’s failing?

LIAM GEARY BAULCH: I am aware that this system is broken. The political system in the U.K. is broken. The political system here at the COP is broken. We’re asking for a citizens’ assembly to be formed, a whole new system which can solve this crisis without the politicians kind of continuing to talk to each other. I’m here at COP to talk to activists on the ground, to learn from each other across grassroots movements around the world. And we’re here to talk with those people about how they can join us next year on the 15th of April, when we declare an international rebellion.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, Liam Geary Baulch, an activist with the new organization, based in Britain but spreading around the globe, Extinction Rebellion. You’re planning a week-long rebellion April 15th?

LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah. And we hope to see you there. And we hope to see your viewers there. Please, find your local groups, get involved, get trained in nonviolent civil disobedience and take part in the Extinction Rebellion.

AMY GOODMAN: We urge you to continue to watch Democracy Now! as we are there not only in the streets, but in the suites and at these U.N. climate summits, as well as the gatherings that are taking place all over the world. Stay with us.

The post UK Protesters Are Supergluing Themselves to Buildings to Fight Climate Crisis appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Hundreds of Activists Stage Sit-In Against Big Polluters on Final Day of COP24

Truth Out - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 16:43

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, on Friday, demanding bolder action from world leaders on climate change. The action was organized by the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. Demonstrators filled the staircase inside the conference center holding banners reading “Which side are you on?” and “People Not Polluters” and “System change not climate change.” As protesters marched out of UN climate talks, Democracy Now! spoke with Maya Menezes, Canadian climate activist and member of the Canadian Youth Delegation with the climate justice organization The Leap. She is a migrant rights organizer with No One Is Illegal.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, we are broadcasting from the U.N. climate talks in Katowice, Poland, where hundreds of demonstrators are gathered just beyond our set demanding bolder action from world leaders on climate change, the actions organized by the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. Protesters have filled the staircase inside the convention center. They’re holding banners saying “Which side are you on?” “People not polluters,” “System change not climate change.” This is Rita Uwaka of Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

RITA UWAKA: We are here to denounce false solutions by big polluters, who are acting as saints at this COP. We are here to promote solutions that are sustainable, that are people-powered. We are here to expose the inequities of corporations at COP, that are causing devastating environmental, social consequences in communities around the world.

In the Niger Delta, where I live and come from, I know that there are a lot of oil pollutions, that is devastating community lives and livelihoods. Water polluted. Our soils are polluted. Our farmlands are polluted. Women are suffering. Communities at the front line have been victimized by these corporations, who have brought human rights abuses, who is causing a lot of scarcity of food in our communities, who is destroying our local food system, destroying our forest and causing a lot of climate change in communities, affecting people and our climate.

We say no. We are here to denounce the activities. We are here to promote solutions that are sustainable. We’re here to kick them out and let the people in.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Rita Uwaka of Friends of the Earth Nigeria. And as we broadcast today from the U.N. climate talks, right next to us, hundreds of people are walking out with their hands up in a fist sign.

We are now joined by one of the demonstrators. Maya Menezes is a Canadian climate activist, member of the Canadian Youth Delegation here at the U.N. climate talks, senior manager of development at climate justice organization The Leap, a migrant rights organizer with No One Is Illegal.

It’s great to have you with us. Describe for us what you’re seeing right now right behind you, Maya.

MAYA MENEZES: Well, we’ve got in a really incredible coalition of climate activists from across the Global South, but also their allies in the Global North, who are calling for the decorporatization of the COP and for a climate justice movement that centers people, not polluters.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does that mean? And are you concerned about what’s come out of these talks? Though they’re continuing until tomorrow. What are you demanding has to happen?

MAYA MENEZES: I think we’re demanding that we want to see people’s rights and protection for marginalized peoples at the core of how we have these climate discussions, which we know just never happens. It’s not in the interests of wealthy corporate elites to make sure that marginalized people’s voices are heard. And that’s why community organizers have to mobilize in the way that we do, to ensure that that message reaches the public. And that’s what we were calling for today.

AMY GOODMAN: According to some projections, one-fifth of the world’s population in 2100—that’s 2 billion people—could become climate refugees. That’s by the end of the century. Have U.N. climate talks here addressed this staggering number that we’re talking about? You are particularly focused on migrants. And what does climate migrants mean?

MAYA MENEZES: These talks never have that discussion at the core of them. In fact, a lot of the ways that we talk about migrant and refugee issues actually uses language that makes it very easy for right-wing extremism to navigate the space in a way where we start to call people and we refer to them as “illegals.” A lot of the conversations around migrants and refugees center things like “regular” migration, “safe” migration. And it allows a lot of space for that language suddenly to be used to call people “illegal,” “irregular” crossings. And that’s what I organize against in Toronto.

Right now we’re seeing, of course, a lot of people on the move with the migrant caravan waiting, many people who have applied for asylum in the United States, many people whose claims will be denied. A lot of the organizing that we do when we leave the COP spaces and when we go home is fight for things like the Safe Third Country Agreement to be rescinded in Canada. The Safe Third Country Agreement is basically a piece of law that bars people who have applied for asylum in the U.S. and been denied access to apply for asylum in Canada. Migrant rights activists having been calling in Canada for this to be rescinded for a very long time. It basically says that the U.S. is a safe country. We know that the U.S. has rampant xenophobia and that this will actually serve to bar people who are in the migrant caravan from being able to get access to Canada. And that’s something we want to see removed immediately.

AMY GOODMAN: We just reported in our headlines about the 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who came over the border with her dad. She has just died of dehydration and shock—we just learned this—while in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol. They didn’t take her to the hospital until her temperature peaked over 105 degrees. This treatment of migrants and what this bodes for the future, and where you think the kind of activism you’re involved in can play a role?

MAYA MENEZES: I think we actually need to invest in organizers who are fighting this idea that migrants and refugees are seen as dangerous in our society. It’s a very, very frightening common theme that we’re seeing across the COP and that we’re seeing at home, this language that has allowed people—I guess, actually, a story is, when we found out about the caging of migrant children and the removal from their families in the U.S., there was of course international days of action, where people occupied outside of U.S. consulates calling for this to end. When I was going through the crowd afterwards—I spoke at that rally, and I was going through the crowd later talking to parents who were there with their children, who were saying—you know, I said, “Why are you here? What draws you here? We know these children are being traumatized. They’re being treated so inhumanely. And we need an end to detentions, and we need an end to deportations.” And many family members who were there said, “Well, I don’t actually believe that people shouldn’t be imprisoned. I just think families should be in jail together.” And that’s a very scary thing. It’s a very scary thing to be faced with.

So, what we’re trying to organize on the ground against is actually a rejection that some people are deserving of basic dignity and rights, and some are not. In the global climate crisis, we understand that most of the world either will be turned into a desert or will be uninhabitable, due to temperature, storm changes. We need to make sure that a climate plan that talks about decreasing emissions also has an open conversation that the borders must be open and people must have clear avenues to status and citizenship and safety in wherever they want to move to.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you quickly talk about the Canadian role right here at the U.N. talks? One of your representatives, her event was just disrupted.

MAYA MENEZES: Yes, definitely. Well, Canada has an interesting role. We are touted as a very progressive government, and at the same time we push some of the harshest refugee and migrant laws out there. Right now we’re talking about—there was an event, of course, that we heard about between, I think it was, Claire Perry, and Catherine McKenna was on that panel, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain who they are.

MAYA MENEZES: Claire Perry, I believe, is the U.K. environment minister. Catherine McKenna is the Canadian minister of environment and climate change. And it was a conversation about getting off coal, which is all fine and great, but the Canadian government right now—80 percent of oil and gas emissions, largely coming out of the tar sands, are going to be exempt from the federal carbon pricing plan, which is outrageous. That’s a complete oxymoron to say that we care about the climate and reducing emissions, but then exempting 80 percent of oil and gas from that carbon pricing plan. And so the role of Canada is interesting in that regard. But we’re here to basically call out domestic policies that are completely out of sync with what Canada says on the international stage, from migration and refugee issues to carbon emissions plans that don’t hold polluters accountable at all.

AMY GOODMAN: The United Nations formally recognized climate migration for the first time this week, with more than 160 nations agreeing to the United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration at a meeting in Marrakech, Morocco. The compact asks nations to, quote, “provide basic services for migrants, whether they enter a country legally or illegally,” and “facilitate access to procedures for family reunification for migrants at all skill levels” and “establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements,” unquote. The United States did not sign on to the agreement. In a statement, the U.S. State Department said, “The United States proclaims and reaffirms its belief that decisions about how to secure its borders, and whom to admit for legal residency or to grant citizenship, are among the most important sovereign decisions a State can make, and are not subject to negotiation.” Maya, your thoughts?

MAYA MENEZES: I think something that really bothers me about all of this language is, when countries—and, of course, the context for me being Canada—when countries like us sign on to these agreements, I think that’s fantastic in a lot of different ways, but also we have domestic policies that completely fly in the face of it. In Canada, for example, with the Safe Third Country Agreement, we know that people who are applying for asylum in the migrant caravan, many of whom have come from Central and South America, are on the move not because of tsunamis, but because of war and destabilization. We know that Canada supported the coup in Honduras in 2009 in order to continue Canadian mining practices and to expand their reach. We know that the many Hondurans that are in the migrant caravan, who have applied for asylum in the United States, are not going to be able to apply for asylum in Canada because of the Safe Third Country Agreement. This is war and mining profiteering that Canada is championing in Central and South America. And then, of course, when these people are on the move because of political destabilization, we deny them at the border. And this is a climate issue. And it’s not taken up in these documents the way that it should be, and it’s not taken up by the Canadian government the way they need to be accountable for it.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much for being with us, Maya Menezes, Canadian climate activist, member of the Canadian Youth Delegation here at the U.N. climate talks, senior manager of development at climate justice organization The Leap, also a migrant rights organizer with No One Is Illegal.

The post Hundreds of Activists Stage Sit-In Against Big Polluters on Final Day of COP24 appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Final Dispatch From COP24: What Just Happened?

deSmog - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 16:36
Read time: 4 mins

For most of us, the UN climate talks — or COP24 — are drawing to a close and home is in sight.

That’s probably not the case for hundreds of negotiators who still have a lot to sort out before they can agree on the rules to implement the Paris Agreement, and are likely to work through the night and possibly beyond to do so.

After two weeks of protesting, lobbying, greenwashing, setbacks and admittedly important progress made on the rulebook for the Paris Agreement, the end of the conference offers a time to reflect.

I spent two weeks running around the long corridors of the climate conference in Katowice, Poland, striving to make sense of what this was all about.

Tags: COP24UN climate talksKatowice
Categories: News

I Witnessed the Horror of Border Militarization, and Vow to Fight It

Truth Out - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 16:31

I ‘ve just returned from the San Diego-Tijuana border where I had the honor of participating in “Love Knows No Borders” — an interfaith action sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and co-sponsored by a myriad of faith organizations from across the country. As a staffer for AFSC and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace (one of the many co-sponsoring organizations), I took a special pride in this interfaith mobilization, in which more than 400 people from across the country gathered to take a moral stand against our nation’s sacrilegious immigration system. I’m particularly gratified that the extensive media from our action could shine a light on the brutal reality at our increasingly militarized southern border.

The date of the action (December 10) was symbolically chosen to take place on the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and served as the kick off to a nationwide week of action that will conclude on December 18, International Migrant’s Day. The action set three basic demands before the US government: to respect people’s human right to migrate, to end the militarization of border communities, and to end the detention and deportation of immigrants.

Over the course of this past weekend, hundreds of participants streamed into San Diego for orientation and training. To conclude our preparation and as a precursor to the upcoming action, an interfaith service was held in the packed sanctuary of University Christian Church. As one of the Jewish leaders of the service, I noted that it was the eighth and final night of Hanukkah and invited the Jewish members of our delegation up to sing the blessings.

Before the lighting, I explained that the final night of Hanukkah is the night in which our light shines the brightest, and I pointed out the wonderful confluence of this Jewish festival with our interfaith action the following day. Rev. Tracie Blackmon, a United Church of Christ leader and prominent social justice activist, delivered one of the most powerful messages of the evening, properly placing the issue of immigrant justice within the context of US white supremacy. (You can find the Facebook Live video of the service here. The Hanukkah lighting begins at the 24:30 mark; Rev. Blackmon’s remarks begin at 1:19:16.)

Arrests at the Border

The next morning, we gathered at AFSC’s San Diego office and left in buses to Border Field State Park, located just north of the border with Tijuana. After a press conference, we marched west down the trail to the beach, then turned south and approached the border fence, which snaked across the beach and jutted several hundred feet into the water. As we got closer, we could see a tangle of barbed concertina wire laid out in front of the fence. Behind the wire stood a phalanx of heavily armed border police.

The action set three basic demands before the US government: to respect people’s human right to migrate, to end the militarization of border communities, and to end the detention and deportation of immigrants.

When we reached the edge of the wire, some of the clergy formed a semi-circle and offered blessings for the migrants. As the prayers were spoken aloud, the police used a megaphone to inform us that we were trespassing on federal property and that we needed to move to the back of the wire. I recited the Priestly Benediction in Hebrew and English (“May God bless you and keep you …”), doing my best to articulate the prayer between the voices of police barking out orders (a ceremonial first for me).

When our blessings were over, we went back to the other side of the barbed wire and those of us in front formed a line directly facing the guards. A policeman repeatedly told us to leave, adding that he did not want any violence — an ironic statement considering that he and the rest of the riot-gear clad border police wielded automatic weapons in front of our faces. We began to chant freedom chants and held the line, even as the police inched forward and started to push us back.

While we were careful not to touch any law enforcement officers, we continued to hold the line as the police pushed us forward. Eventually, protesters who did not yield were grabbed, pulled to the police side of the line and arrested. Most men were thrown to the ground and held down with their faces in the sand while their hands were bound together with plastic ties; women were generally allowed to kneel before they were led away from the beach to waiting police vans.

When we stood up to the line of armed border police, I couldn’t help but flash back to my very similar experience in Hebron.

As I continued to hold the line on the far west end of the front line, I noticed a commotion at the other end: Police had broken through the line and were chasing protesters down the beach. I saw one of our protest organizers, AFSC staffer Matt Leber, roughly thrown to the ground by at least five or six border police officers, handcuffed and led away. While Leber did not intend to take an arrest, this kind of intentional targeting of organizers is a common police tactic.

We learned later that Leber had been charged with felony assault against a federal officer. In video taken of the incident, however, you can see Leber (wearing the red T-shirt and backpack) guiding the protest when he is suddenly attacked, unprovoked, by the police who lunge at him and yank off his backpack. You can also see AFSC staffer Jacob Flowers (wearing the yellow vest) attempt to nonviolently de-escalate the situation by placing his body between Leber and the police before they throw him to the ground.

Border police arrest AFSC staffer Matt Leber.Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus, stevepavey.com

Shortly after Leber’s arrest, I dropped to my knees and was grabbed and pinned down by two border police officers. When it became clear that I wasn’t resisting, they allowed me to stand of my own accord and led me to the line of arrested protesters who were arrayed along a fence, waiting to be placed into police vans.

All told, 32 of us were arrested and charged with the misdemeanor of “nonconformity to the orders of a Federal Law Enforcement officer.” After we were cited and released, we learned that Leber had been charged with felony assault of a law enforcement officer. When a day went by with no further word, AFSC released a statement calling for his immediate release. To our collective relief, Leber was eventually let out later on Tuesday afternoon and the charges against him were dropped.

The True Meaning of Border Militarization

During our debrief, many noted the ferocity of the border guard’s response to our prayerful, nonviolent demonstration. Many of us — in particular the white, privileged members of our delegation — agreed that we had gained a deeper sense of empathy and solidarity with our migrant neighbors, a stronger understanding of the toxic effects of militarization on our border communities, and a more profound conviction than ever that we must all fight for a nation that receives immigrants with open hearts and open doors.

This experience also served to demonstrate what “militarization of the border” truly means. My friend and fellow Jewish Voice for Peace member Elaine Waxman put it well when she wrote about our experience on her Facebook page:

What has stuck with me most in the last 24 hours is a deeply uncomfortable sense of what that border surely looks like when the witnesses are gone, the journalists are not taking pictures, and the encounters are with migrants instead of documented (and often white) community leaders. Because what we saw yesterday looks like a police state.

Indeed, when we stood up to the line of armed border police, I couldn’t help but flash back to my very similar experience in a direct action with Youth Against Settlements during the summer of 2006 in Hebron. In both cases we faced heavily armed soldiers, the loud screaming of orders, and the use of the threat of violence to intimidate and deter those who do not yield to state control.

Clergy demonstrators hold the line at the San Diego-Tijuana border fence.Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus, stevepavey.com

I also noticed another, more specific similarity between these two experiences. When I stood in front of the border guards on the beach, I noticed familiar tear gas canisters belted across their chests. I’d seen the same on soldiers throughout the West Bank and Gaza: silver cylinders with blue writing manufactured by Combined Tactical Systems in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.

Seeing those same canisters at the US-Mexico border reminded me of the multiple intersections between systems of state violence and corporate profit – and of the need for a movement that will expose and dismantle them once and for all.

The post I Witnessed the Horror of Border Militarization, and Vow to Fight It appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

The Public Is Ready to Respond to Attacks on the Mueller Investigation

Truth Out - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 16:17

Last Friday’s sentencing memos for Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort hit with a bang, and interested press – who have watched the twists and turns of the investigation like a tennis match – wasted no time dissecting the content. However, the engaged public is also watching, and many are ready to take action.

The rallies that occurred in hundreds of locations across the US when President Trump chose the inappropriate and biased Matthew Whitaker to be his acting attorney general demonstrated the constant attention many Americans are giving to the president’s rule-of-law abuses. Their outrage is only magnified by the revelations of last week.

The activated network of Americans watching this most closely is organized at TrumpIsNotAboveTheLaw.org, a multi-organization site. They continue to be alerted if Trump crosses more “red lines” in reaction to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s successes. Activists are poised to hold protests in every state and Washington, DC, and have vowed to mobilize if Trump: 1.) pardons Manafort (or any other witness), as Trump has hinted he may; 2.) fires Mueller; or 3.) tries to hold back or undercut the findings of Mueller’s final report.

Most agree that the public deserves to see Mueller’s report in whole or part. A new NPR/Marist/PBS poll shows that 76 percent of Americans think the report detailing Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election should be released to the public in its entirety.

The fear that the president might obstruct the investigation was heightened by his aggressive lashing out on Twitter last weekend, and the fact that on the same day as Mueller issued his sentencing memos for Manafort and Cohen, Trump named his new attorney general nominee, William Barr, who has been hostile to the Mueller investigation. The unhappiness inside the White House about Trump’s apparent inability to find someone willing to be the next chief of staff isn’t helping the president temper matters either.

Trump’s anger is significant, and the reason is obvious. The Cohen data dump was astounding, and the Manafort revelations were no less so.

From Cohen pleading guilty to lying to Congress and his sentencing memo as well as Manafort’s, we learned that Trump was working with the Russian government to secure a Moscow real estate deal long past the point Trump’s team said the project had ended, and that throughout the process, Cohen was in close communication with Trump and his family about the business deal. We also learned that prosecutors believe that Trump personally directed Cohen to commit a felony, directing the payments of hush money to hide affairs. From Manafort’s sentencing, we also learned that he repeatedly communicated with the Trump White House post-indictment, as well as spoke with his Russian national business partner who has ties to the Kremlin intelligence agency that hacked the Democratic National Committee.

The facts are infuriating to Trump, and even though he claimed ridiculously that last Friday’s information “totally cleared him,” his denials are increasingly absurd. The public just isn’t buying it.

In fact, a just-released CNN survey found that 54 percent of respondents think the things Trump has said about the investigation are mostly false, compared to only 36 percent who say they’re mostly true. And only 29 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the Russia investigation, down from 33 percent in October.

In good news, the public’s outrage will soon be complimented with the major role that incoming House majority Democrats can play. US Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California), who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, commented that the committee sees its role as “protect[ing] the investigation from the president – whether it’s firing Mueller, intimidating witnesses or obstructing the investigation,” and others on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have shared similar sentiments.

As Mueller uncovers more damning evidence, the public (and Congress) will be needed to protect the endgame. If Trump crosses yet another red line in his attempt to stymie Mueller’s findings or skew public perception, he will again face mobilization and outrage.

The public stands ready to act.

The post The Public Is Ready to Respond to Attacks on the Mueller Investigation appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Sisyphus the Elephant

Truth Out - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 16:06

The post Sisyphus the Elephant appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Truckers Spend the Holidays Driving Too Much for Too Little Pay

Truth Out - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 15:40
This article was published by TalkPoverty.org.

Much of America will be engaged in a holiday gift-buying bonanza this month. And whether it’s via online order or plucking wares directly off store shelves, they have truck drivers to thank for the available goods.

“Black Friday, Cyber Monday, everything you shop for or order online is going to be brought by a truck. Many truck drivers opt to spend the holidays alone to deliver that freight and to make that little bit of extra money,” said Desiree Wood, a driver and president of REAL Women in Trucking, an organization that advocates for better work conditions for drivers. “It means you may be in some strange town you’ve never been in before, and isolated to where you can park, which is usually a truck stop where there isn’t any good food.”

A lack of good food options is just the beginning of the issues truck drivers face. Many make paltry amounts of money, even as they spend long hours in a tiny space a long way from home. The median income for America’s 1.8 million truck drivers is $42,000 annually, and those in the bottom 10 percent of earners make just $27,000.

It hasn’t always been this way. In the last 30 years, truck driver pay has plummeted. According to the National Transportation Institute, if wages in the industry had kept up with inflation since 1980, the average driver would be making $111,000 per year. Other estimates don’t show that dramatic of a drop, but even conservative ones calculate drivers should be making some $55,000 today.

The reason for the steep drop is a web of bad policies, but much of the problem stems from the way in which workers are compensated: By the mile, not the hour.

“You might work a 14-hour day and you only drove 150-200 miles. If you only get paid for the miles, you don’t make anything,” said Wood. “The money is so unpredictable. You could get $400 one week and $65 the next week. You just don’t know.”

If wages had kept up with inflation since 1980, the average driver would be making $111,000 per year.

Drivers aren’t paid for the time they wait for their truck to be loaded or offloaded, and traffic and other road conditions, as well as safety regulations that limit the number of hours they can be on the road in a given day, cut into their mileage totals. Every minute spent without the landscape whizzing by their windows is a minute that drivers are essentially working for free.

In October, a US District Court judge in Arkansas ruled that Department of Labor wage regulations require companies to pay drivers for the parts of the workday during which they are on-duty, but not driving or sleeping. Other court rulings have also reprimanded companies for not paying their drivers the full minimum wage.

The industry as a whole, though, still clings to the model in which miles are the only thing that equals money. It also relies on recruitment of new drivers to keep wages low. While articles about trucker shortages have been a mainstay of media coverage in recent years — which in theory should result in pay increases due to competition for workers — companies tend to instead churn through inexperienced drivers who accept lower pay, despite potentially severe consequences.

“Routinely, they attract new drivers, take their money [as compensation for training them], train them hardly at all, put them on the road, and then they crash or die or kill people,” explained Anne Balay, author of Semi Queer: Inside the World of Gay, Trans, and Black Truck Drivers. Those who don’t leave the profession because of accidents often do so because the pay is so low, and then the cycle repeats itself.

“Basically, if you have a pulse you are going to get a job as a truck driver, and you are probably going to be able to get into some company-sponsored truck driving program,” said Wood. “But when you get out there, you realize you’re not making the money you thought you were going to make. … You always have these students that are being churned through the system that make very little.”

And it’s even worse if you are a woman, LGBTQ person, or person of color, who often face harassment on the job in addition to the low pay and inadequate training. “If you take what is already a vulnerable labor structure and put these people in it, you have a fucked-up situation,” said Balay. “That sets them up for all the labor abuses you can imagine.”

Further undermining the ability of drivers to make a fair wage is that many are misclassified by their employers as independent contractors, meaning that though they work for just one company, they can be denied benefits and are responsible for many costs usually born by an employer, including the employer-paid side of the payroll tax and upkeep for their vehicles. It also means they can be abandoned at the slightest sign of adversity.

That’s what happened to Janet Steverson. She thought she was signing on for a full-time, in-house job with an Illinois shipping company, but was instead hired as an independent contractor. After she got in an accident (in which her fingers were so badly cut that one had to be amputated), she says the company severed the relationship and left her with nothing.

“I’ve lost my house, I lost everything,” she said. “I have no money, no income no nothing, and they’re also not paying my doctor’s bills.”

Steverson was labeled as a contractor even though she says everything she did was controlled by the company for which she drove. “I have to go where they tell me to go, I have to use their fuel card,” she said. “How can I be an independent contractor?”

A lawsuit involving one such misclassified driver, Dominic Oliveira, was heard by the Supreme Court in October. He is suing for back pay, and the case revolves around whether he is able to engage in a lawsuit or whether his case has to be heard in private arbitration, a venue in which businesses interests almost always win. Oliveira details instances in which he would drive 1,000 miles in a week and yet have to pay his employer at the end because of fuel costs and the costs of tools he claims the company required him to buy.

Companies have gotten very good at letting workers think that being an independent contractor will give them more control over their lives and more pay, when in reality it foists much of the business risk onto the individual worker.

Why do trucking corporations get away with paying so little? In part, it’s because the government gave up regulating them nearly four decades ago, passing the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 as part of the bipartisan push that also deregulated airlines and other industries in the name of boosting business competition, and then undercut the unions that were helping to keep wages up.“These are workers who often times only have a few years at most in the industry and they do buy it. They get in these very coercive arrangements,” said Steve Viscelli, a sociologist and author of The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream. “I’ve worked on cases in which every third payweek in which drivers worked, their pay is zero or negative. … It’s not uncommon for a driver to work 50 hours and earn zero dollars.”

“They broke up the unions and stopped regulating freight,” said Balay. “Instead of regulating companies and freight, the government started regulating the individual worker.”

All of this is occurring today under the specter of automation, with the widespread belief that within the next generation, if not sooner, most long-haul driving will be done by autonomous vehicles. When that occurs, it’s the best-paying trucking jobs that are most likely to disappear.

“All else equal, it’s going to be those better jobs that make more sense to automate from an economic perspective,” said Viscelli, because long highway routes will be easiest for robot trucks to navigate. He estimates that driverless trucks will result in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of high- and middle-wage trucking jobs, leaving mostly lower-wage jobs behind, such as those taking loads through cities and packages door to door.

This month, all of these problems will be ongoing as drivers blanket the country, ensuring that families everywhere have what they need and desire to celebrate the holidays, even if the people responsible earn very little in the process.

The post Truckers Spend the Holidays Driving Too Much for Too Little Pay appeared first on Truthout.

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