Finland: 100 Years Are Enough! (Video)

Anarchist News - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 14:44

via insurrection news

Compilation video of anarchist and antifascist street activity in Finland between 2013 and 2017.

The 6th of December marked the 100 year anniversary of the Finnish State.

For the abolition of all states.

For anarchy.

Tags: Finlandcategory: International
Categories: News

Uruguay: Solidarity with the Anarchists Persecuted by Operation Erebo in Brazil

Anarchist News - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 14:36

via insurrection news

Since October the 24th, a new operation of repression and intimidation is being carried out against the anti-authoritarian and anarchist movement in general in the city of Porto Alegre, attacking individual houses, social centers, occupations, libraries and anarchist spaces.

The actions of the civil police, the press and its media spectacle have also led to the preparation of a persecutory montage with the intention of generating fear, isolating the struggles and solidarities, generating the context to intensify the repercussions and intensify the harrassment of anarchist comrades and their associates.

Named like previous operations from a malicious reading of Greek mythology, Operation Erebo was initially carried out by the civil police in Porto Alegre, however since the latest series of raids that began on November 30th it is now presumed that the Federal Police of Brazil are also participating.

This operation is another addition to the history of persecution against anarchist and anti-authoritarian ideas and practices. The mass media are reporting on the possibility of the newly approved anti-terrorist law in Brazil being applied.

We believe it is necessary to make visible the situation that is being experienced in the social spaces and anywhere that is positioned in resistance.

We encourage comrades to keep abreast of events and to show solidarity with the rebels persecuted by the Brazilian state.

Hands outstretched to the comrades, closed fists for the enemy!!
Anarchist Solidarity!!!

(via Turba Negra)

Tags: Operation Érebouruguaybrazilcategory: International
Categories: News

India May Ban Petcoke, One of Dirtiest Fossil Fuels Exported by Koch Brothers

deSmog - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 14:14
Petcoke stockpiles

While U.S. power plants have considered petroleum coke or “petcoke to be too dirty to burn, India, on the other hand, has been importing this coal by-product of tar sands refining for years. However, it may be seeing its last days in the country which has served as its biggest importer.

In the aftermath of an Associated Press investigation published on December 1, India's Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has said the country is formulating plans to phase out petcoke imports. The AP investigation, filed from New Delhi, revealed that citizens who live near petcoke refining facilities have come down with a range of air pollution-related illnesses in recent months and years.

The AP also points out that among the largest exporters of U.S. petcoke are Koch Industries subsidiary Koch Carbon and Oxbow Carbon, the latter of which is owned by the twin brother of David Koch, Bill Koch. The advocacy group Oil Change International referred to petcoke as “the coal hiding in the tar sands” in a 2013 report documenting the carbon footprint of petcoke production and combustion.

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Categories: News

#NOACP: Fighting the ACP and MVP Pipelines in Virginia

It's Goin Down - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 09:18

The post #NOACP: Fighting the ACP and MVP Pipelines in Virginia appeared first on It's Going Down.

Photo from Jason Lappa

In this episode we discuss with a guest from #NoACP, the ongoing resistance to both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) in Virginia. Moreover, we touch on the connection between the pipelines themselves and the Trump administration, and also how the pipelines bosses are responding to growing public anger to pipelines and the danger they pose in terms of spills, leaks, and explosions, as well as their connection to climate change.

We will not be silenced!
If the water board passes ACP this Tuesday we will be enraged.Anger ignites fires in our collective bellies. #noacp

— No ACP! (@NO_ACP) December 9, 2017

We also talk about the state of the anti-pipeline and anti-extraction movement across North America, going into 2018. Our guest emphasises that the movement is growing stronger and that there is broad support for resistance to pipelines, however much needs to be done in terms of activating people to support physical on the ground action, and we talk about ways that people outside of areas affected by pipelines can offer aid to ongoing direct action campaigns.

Look at the faces of Virginia #Appalachia and who will be affected by the #MountainValleyPipeline. Current water quality certification #DEQ hearing happening today and tomorrow in #RVA | #NoMVP #NoACP #WaterIsLife #waterislifeVA @Bold_Alliance

— Madelyne Ashworth (@madelyne_ash) December 6, 2017

The fight against the ACP and the MVP has been underway for already four years, and has already delayed construction of the pipeline for one year. In doing so, the organizing has brought together rural people, people living in cities, indigenous people, and those who are threatened with eviction in the pipeline’s path.

With a vote on the ACP happening over the next week which is expected to end with a green light for construction, (one for the MVP having already gone through), we hope that this timely interview encourages people to get involved with the ongoing battles happening across the US against the black snake. Lastly, we end by talking about End of the Linean ongoing podcast about the growing anti-pipeline movement in the US.

More Info: No ACP on Twitter and on Facebook, Pipeline Overview, and End of the Line.

Music: 21 Savage

Categories: News

Pakistani Air Force ordered to shoot down US drones

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 09:13

Pakistani Air Force ordered to shoot down US drones | 09 Dec 2017 | Pakistan's Air Force (PAF) commander has reportedly ordered to take down drones violating the country's sovereignty, including that of the U.S. The jabs against America, a key ally, came Thursday in a speech Aman delivered at a ceremony of aviation students gathered in Islamabad. The top military official, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, praised Pakistan's air prowess, saying their forces are prepared to defend sovereignty of the country. "We will not allow anyone to violate our airspace," Aman said as cited by The Times of India, adding, that he has ordered the PAF "to shoot down drones, including those of the U.S., if they enter our airspace, violating the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Categories: News

Declaration From The Regional Encounter For The Defense Of Our Territories – Oaxaca, Mexico

It's Goin Down - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 07:38

The post Declaration From The Regional Encounter For The Defense Of Our Territories – Oaxaca, Mexico appeared first on It's Going Down.

On the 6th of December, this year, we met in the community of Morro Mazatán, Municipality of Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, as the Agrarian Authorities and representatives of the communities of: San Miguel Chongos, Guadalupe Victoria, Santa María Zapotitlán, San José Chiltepec, Santa Lucía Mecaltepec, Santa María Candelaria, San Pedro Sosoltepec and San Pedro Tepalcatepec, all members of the Asamblea del Pueblo Chontal para la Defensa del Territorio [Chontal People’s Assembly for the Defense of the Territory]; as well as representatives of Morro Mazatán, Santa Gertrudis Miramar, Tilzapote, San Pablo Mitla, Tlacolula de Matamoros, Rincón Bamba, Asamblea de Comuneros de Unión Hidalgo [Comuneros’ Assembly of Unión Hidalgo], Colectivo Matzá [Matzá Collective] from the community of San Miguel Chimalapa, and Tequio Jurídico AC [Collective Legal Work Civil Association], to advance the “Regional Encounter for the Defense of Our Territories,” with the goal of informing each other and articulating ourselves for our own defense in the face of megaprojects that dispossess us and extractive projects, among them, mining and Special Economic Zones.

In our analysis, our territories find themselves at risk under a capitalist system which in our country began to deepen in the 90s with the reconfiguration of the state’s legal framework. This included reforms to constitutional article 27, the mining law, the foreign investment law, and the entry into the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, generating legal conditions favoring national and international businesses that seek to impose neo-extractivist projects such as mining, wind energy projects, hydroelectric dams, high-tension towers, Special Economic Zones, tourist projects and as a consequence the militarization and paramilitarization of the territory.

In this encounter we listened to the experiences of regional organization processes from San Pablo Mitla and Tlacolula de Matamoros, who are defending their territory in the face of the installation/relocation of a military zone by the federal government through the Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA), the state government, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Municipal Presidents of San Pablo Mitla and Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Thanks to citizen organization, they have suspended this project; however, they remain attentive before new threats to reactivate the project utilizing a real estate company on land in Tlacolula. The residents also denounced the mining concessions in the district of Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Likewise, we listened to the experiences of the Chontal People’s Assembly for the Defense of the Territory, who have organized to defend themselves faced with the imposition of the mining concession Zapotitlán 1 granted to the companies Zalamera SA de CV and Minaurum Gold by the Ministry of the Economy. It would strip 5,413 hectares [13,375 acres] from six Chontal communities in the high region.

In this encounter, the representatives of the communities of Tilzapote and San Francisco Cozoaltepec, Municipality of Santa María Tonameca, denounced the supposed small proprietors Pedro Martínez Araiza and Domitila Guzmán Olivera. The community doesn’t know these people, who are trying to take away their territory under the argument that they are executing a resolution of the Unitary Agrarian Tribunal that recognizes them as the owners of 300 hectares [741 acres] where the village sits, in so doing, displacing them from their community. The Agrarian Ombudsman’s office, the Ministry of Agrarian, Territorial, and Urban Development, the National Agrarian Register, and the aforementioned Unitary Agrarian Tribunal Number 21 are among those responsible for this situation, putting the pueblo—composed of 70 families—at risk. These government institutions and small proprietors threaten the inhabitants with the loss of 300 hectares, which spans the entirety of their territory, and the neglect of their personal defense. [Translator’s note: read more about this situation here, and there is a video in Spanish here.]

Those representing the Matzá Collective from the community of San Miguel Chimalapa denounced the fact that their 134,000 hectare [331,000 acre] communal territory has been pierced by a series of landgrabs characterized by agrarian conflicts with the state of Chiapas and mining concessions, which span 7,200 hectares [18,000 acres] of communal lands. The companies involved are Zalamera, Minaurum Gold, and Gol Cooper, and their projects would put at risk the Espíritu Santo, Zacatepec, and Ostuta rivers, on which the lives of the Zoques, Binniza, and Ikoots peoples depend.

The representative of the Comuneros’ Assembly of Unión Hidalgo denounced the illegality of the contracts on common lands signed by wind energy companies like France Electric and EDEMEX with supposed small proprietors. The Unitary Agrarian Tribunal of Tuxtepec does not acknowledge the experts’ reports offered by the agrarian community, and validates these contracts.

As the Regional Encounter for the Defense of Our Territories, We Denounce:

  • The intimidation and aggression against land defenders.

  • We denounce the strategies that the government uses for the dispossession of territory in Tlacolula by using supposed real estate companies to put in a military barracks.

  • The internal division of pueblos caused by megaprojects of death.

  • The threats and arrest warrants against the community of Tilzapote, as well as the supposed eviction on December 8, 2017.

  • The imposition of mining projects, special economic zones, hydroelectric dams, wind farms, and all types of megaprojects that may affect our territory.

  • We reject the approval of the Federal Special Economic Zones Law and the Internal Security Law that allow the plunder of our territories and a military presence in the streets, which puts human rights at risk.

  • The utilization of the pain of families affected by the earthquake to impose the interests of the voracious wind energy companies, among them the company EDF France Electric (France Eolian).

  • We reject the extraction of minerals and materials from Unión Hidalgo’s territory, as well as the concession built into the company Cooperativa Cruz Azul.

As participants in this encounter we propose:

  • We assume the work of strengthening our forms of organization, prioritizing community agencies, assemblies, community authorities, and the pueblos’ communal education to defend the territory.

  • To propel true communication among the pueblos to defend our territory.

  • To maintain these spaces of communication, exchange, and territorial defense.

  • We will not allow the imposition of mining projects on our community lands because they mean death.

  • To work for the strengthening of the communitarian structures and the participation of new generations in defense of the territory

  • To accompany the activities that the community of Tilzapote promote as part of the defense of their territory.

  • To strengthen historical memory as an element for the territorial defense and resistance of our pueblos.

  • To put in the necessary legal resources against the projects, citing indigenous rights.

Our total support to the community of Tilzapote!

Our total support to the communities in resitance!

To defend our territories from the killer megaprojects!

Morro Mazatán, Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, December 6, 2017

Categories: News

Banner Drop Against Columbus Murals at University of Notre Dame

It's Goin Down - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 07:36

The post Banner Drop Against Columbus Murals at University of Notre Dame appeared first on It's Going Down.

“South Bend, Indiana”—Studying for their final exams, University of Notre Dame students in the library on Friday morning looked up and saw a banner unfurled from the second-floor balcony. The banner proclaimed,

This is Potawatomi land! FUck the KKKolumbus murals!

The message comes as students have been organizing against murals displayed by the entrance of the university’s main administrative building. According to a pamphlet issued by Notre Dame, the nineteenth-century murals “create a heroic impression” of Christopher Columbus, despite the conqueror’s record of mass enslavement and murder. Moreover the paintings portray indigenous people in ways that Native American students say are stereotypical and insulting.

Students are collecting signatures for a petition titled “Dear Father Jenkins, The Murals Must Go.” Signed by more than 600 people, the petition argues, “The Native persons are depicted as stereotypes, their destruction is gilded over, and their slavery is celebrated. The murals commemorate and laud the beginning of the centuries-long systematic removal of Native American persons and culture from the United States.”

The following statement was offered by Julie Dye, a Pokagon Band Potawatomi Elder and descendant of Leopold Pokagon and Simon Pokagon:

These murals are symbols of oppression that do not represent local Native Americans—but yet Notre Dame calls the location ‘A Potawatomi Place.’ They contribute to the erasure of Native culture by feeding myths of history and perpetuating stereotypes.

The original intent does not negate the detrimental impact on the audience—especially the races depicted. Images matter. Teach the truth. Honor Native people by relocating the murals to a museum or gallery.

The group behind the banner drop, Rising Tide Michiana, takes direct action confronting the root causes of climate change. They said, “White supremacy must be dismantled as part of the fight to preserve life on Earth. We will take further actions in support of indigenous people’s demands to address these racist murals.” They may be contacted at

Rising Tide Michiana has received statements of support from the IWW GDC Local 26, the Graduate Workers Collective of Notre Dame, and Fossil Free ND.

Categories: News

Here's the Teacher-Friendly Antidote to Heartland Institute's Anti-Science School Propaganda

Truth Out - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 05:00

On a Monday morning at the end of October, Rob Ross asked a group of earth scientists and educators a question: How many of them had received copies of the Heartland Institute book Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming?

You could feel an immediate sense of frustration in the air. Roughly half of them raised their hands. The Heartland Institute is a Chicago-based think tank that rejects the scientific consensus that humans are changing the climate and has received funding from the conservative billionaire Koch brothers and fossil fuel industry.

In March, it mailed, unsolicited, a 135-page book and accompanying DVD to tens of thousands of science teachers at public high schools across the US, with plans to keep that up until the report was in the hands of every last one.

While it received swift backlash -- including from Democratic senators, Heartland's most recent effort (though not its first) to spread climate science denial in public schools had a somewhat fortuitous timing. Ross and his colleagues at the Paleontological Research Institution were putting the finishing touches on their own book for science educators, The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change.

We "had it mostly done when we learned about the Heartland Institute's project to distribute misinformation" to teachers across the country, Ross told DeSmog. He recalls finding out about Heartland's teacher mailing either through Facebook or the news. It caused an immediate stir among the community of earth science educators.

"At first, we were, of course, incredibly alarmed but our second thought was, 'Well, OK, we have a product to counter it,'" said Ross, who was one of The Teacher-Friendly Guide's editors.

"This gave us a really strong motivation to get the book in the hands of as many teachers as possible across the country."

Don Duggan-Haas, who also contributed to the guide, says their team felt compelled to respond more directly to Heartland's misinformation but in a way that wouldn't delay their own publishing date.

The Teacher-Friendly Guide already had 11 chapters covering everything from the evidence and causes of climate change to the obstacles in addressing and reasons for teaching it. Adding a final chapter, written by Alexandra Moore, in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQ) seemed like the best approach.

Taking on Heartland Institute Myths

While they don't explicitly mention the Heartland teacher mailing in the FAQ, Duggan-Haas pointed out, "The first question of the FAQ chapter is 'Is there a consensus among climate scientists that global warming is occurring and that humans are the cause?'"

The title of the Heartland book, of course, was Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming.

"That's a pretty direct response to the theme of their publication," he said.

In keeping with best practices for science communication, Duggan-Haas said they didn't want to trigger the "backfire effect," a phenomenon that may occur when trying to correct misinformation.

"We're trying to avoid restating the myth in a way that would reinforce it," he said.

Ross agreed: "We did not dwell on the Heartland Institute, even in the FAQ, but we did try to make sure we addressed some of the most important points that the Heartland Institute was making in their propaganda."

In its FAQ, the Paleontological Research Institution's teacher guide answers 18 questions touching on common climate science denier points, including why we can trust the proven reliability of computer climate models and why humans, rather than natural variation or the sun, are the most likely explanation for observed global warming.

One of the questions, "Are people who are arguing that global warming is happening being alarmists?" is a likely reference to the derogatory term, "alarmist," frequently used by the Heartland Institute and other climate denier organizations.

Heartland and NIPCC Called Out

While The Teacher-Friendly Guide doesn't mention the Heartland Institute's propaganda sent to teachers, it does call out the science-denying think tank by name. Question 16 in the FAQ reads like this: "Climate websites refer to both the IPCC and, more recently, the NIPCC. What is the difference between these two organizations?"

The former, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), consists of thousands of climate scientists and was created by the United Nations. It has reviewed more than 9,000 scientific publications and released five reports on the state of climate change science, written by 500 lead authors and checked by 2,000 outside scientists.

But the NIPCC, the "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change," is a product of the Heartland Institute and regularly directs criticisms at the IPCC reports.

The Teacher-Friendly Guide goes on to describe Heartland and the NIPCC:

"The 'Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change' is sponsored by the Heartland Institute, a US-based conservative think tank best known for fighting government regulation of the tobacco and fossil fuel industries. Heartland has campaigned to downplay threats posed by second-hand smoke, acid rain, and ozone depletion, as well as against the Endangered Species Act. The Heartland NIPCC also issues periodic reports, timed to coincide with the release of IPCC assessment reports and formatted to look like them. NIPCC reports are authored by fewer than 50 individuals and the most recent report cites only 72 papers, mostly written by the NIPCC authors."

The National Center for Science Education handily debunks the NIPCC  -- and so has DeSmog.

Correcting the Record With More Mail for Teachers

Published in May, The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change has its work cut out for it. Ross says their plan is "to send a guide to every high school in the country with CDs for every teacher in the high school."

And they're crowdfunding to raise more money, on top of their original National Science Foundation grant, in order to pull that off.

But Heartland reports that it has delivered its publication to "more than 300,000 K-12 and college-level teachers all across America."

And while Duggan-Haas says his earth science teacher colleagues did not fall for it -- and even discussed plans for using it in lessons on detecting biased publications -- he acknowledged that American science teachers, generally and unsurprisingly, reflect the knowledge and attitudes of the broader American public on climate change.

Still, six months after the first release of The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change, it seems to be in high demand: the paperback version ($25 each) has already run out but will be available again in early December. But anyone can access a free PDF of The Teacher Friendly Guide online right now.

In these troubling and surreal times, honest journalism is more important than ever. Help us keep real news flowing: Make a donation to Truthout today.
Categories: News

We Will Not Be Your Disposable Labor: Graduate Student Workers' Fight Goes Beyond the GOP Assault

Truth Out - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 05:00

Contingent labor is in every stratum of the university today and graduate students are just one part of it, so campus organizing needs to have a "social movement" rather than a paycheck-oriented focus, says Tom DePaola, a graduate student worker at the University of Southern California. DePaola was among the people arrested at Speaker Paul Ryan's office for protesting the proposed tax on tuition waivers.

Tom DePaola and his chapter of the SEIU protest in front of Paul Ryan's office to protest the newest GOP tax bill.Tom DePaola and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) demonstrate in front of Paul Ryan's office on December 5, 2017, to protest a proposed tax on tuition waivers. (Photo courtesy of SEIU Faculty Forward)

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Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. We're now nearly a year into the Trump administration, and activists have scored some important victories in those months. Yet there is always more to be done, and for many people, the question of where to focus and how to help remains. In this series, we talk with organizers, agitators and educators, not only about how to resist, but how to build a better world. Today's interview is the 98th in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.

Today we bring you a conversation with Tom DePaola, a third-year Ph.D. student graduate worker at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education. DePaola studies urban education policy and academic labor in universities.

Sarah Jaffe: We are talking today because you were one of several people protesting in Paul Ryan's office [Tuesday] over the tax bill and what it would do to graduate student workers like yourself. First of all, tell us about the action yesterday -- what ended up happening? Any reaction from Paul Ryan?

Tom DePaola: We were hoping against hope that Paul Ryan would actually sit down with us and hear our quite reasonable concerns. He didn't and that was no surprise, but we decided to do everything we could to elevate this issue and make our voices heard anyway. For several of us, that included taking arrests and that was something that we were happy to do.

We came together really quickly and with a lot of support from SEIU [Service Employees International Union]. We felt very protected. They had really fantastic lawyers standing by that were ready to pounce if anything went awry. We had hoped that there would be more time to tell some of our stories using the people's mic and to get some more said before they started hauling us off. Unfortunately, it didn't pan out that way. I think I was basically one of the only persons who got to do that.

If we are getting taxed as though we make close to six figures, then that is going to be a way of just forcing us out of school altogether.

We showed up and there was some press. We did some interviews. We were a little thrown off at first, because it was clear there were two cops for every one of us in the hallway. They were quite an intimidating presence. For many of us, this is definitely the first action of this gravity that we were undergoing, and the first time many of us were taking arrest.... Several of us flew 3,000 miles to get arrested, essentially. [Laughs] But I think it was worth it.

I believe the Senate version that they passed did not actually have the grad student tax, but the House version did. Is that correct?

That is right, but who knows what is going to come out of reconciliation. I am sure a lot of the senators who voted on the Senate version had no idea what was in it ... I am sure that the talk was, "Don't worry. We will fix it once we go back to the House." There were contradicting measures in both bills. Some of those things bought us some time. They were clearly in a hurry, and for good reason.

The more that people look into either version of the bill, the scarier it starts to look. The tuition waiver was a big issue for me and for many of my colleagues, because you can't tax money as income that one never sees. We make barely enough to get by in an expensive city like L.A., where those of us from USC were coming from. We get enough to pay rent and try to eat regularly. That is about all we can hope for. If we are getting taxed as though we make close to six figures, then that is going to be a way of just forcing us out of school altogether....

Even if we are getting educational benefits from this work, we are still paid employees and have a right to have a structural voice in our workplace.

We are all sitting on lots of student debt already. We are certainly not going to take out additional loans that are literally going into the pockets of donors to people like Paul Ryan to pay taxes. That feels just outrageous. If we have to go down there and get arrested to make that point, then we will, and we did....

Talk a little bit more about the union organizing campaign, because one of the big challenges that graduate student workers have in organizing is that the university tries to claim that you are not working.

The last time that graduate workers had the right to unionize was just the short window from 2000 to 2003/4. During that time, there was obviously a lot of energy around the country. Many schools found that graduate workers were unionizing and then once their status [as workers] was revoked, many schools tore up those agreements.

There was this question of primary status. What they had argued over for forever was, "Are we primarily students to earn educational benefits from our work at the university?" or "Are we primarily employees being paid a wage to perform a service?" That is why there has been all of this flip-flopping, depending on what administration was in power at the national level and who they were appointing to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The key difference with the most recent decision in 2016 by the NLRB was that they said, quite correctly, that it doesn't matter what the primary relationship is, you can be both. Being both doesn't negate your rights in either sphere.

Even if we are getting educational benefits from this work, we are still paid employees and have a right to have a structural voice in our workplace. That was a really key distinction in the most recent turn. It remains to be seen what difference it will make in the event that Donald Trump's NLRB decides to come in and mess with our status again. We know that universities ... are waiting and hoping for this administration to swoop in and save them from the horrors of having to negotiate with their own workforce over working conditions.

It should give us a bit of hope, even in these sorts of dark times, that collective power is something that we can wield in nearly any context.

It seems sort of silly because there is a lot of empirical research that shows, in fact, having a unionized graduate workforce is not going to affect the quality of student/faculty relationships, which is a claim that is often made. There is research that shows it doesn't impact the bottom line. These are always the things that they level in the fear-mongering campaigns that tend to come out of these battles. As we organize, we are trying to be cognizant of the tactics that will be used and the ways that these tactics are being used uniformly across the country. We see that largely, these institutions are hiring the same law firms. They are spending millions of dollars to obtain legal help to fight us when we are no threat to their bottom line. Which should indicate it is not actually about bottom lines; it is about power.

The other important piece is that in 2004, when all of these institutions tore up their previous agreements, that only galvanized some unions further. So NYU's graduate union, through sheer militancy, managed to get voluntary recognition some years later from the university just to keep them from drawing all this bad attention. That was key, because eventually in 2016, the Columbia decision was able to cite NYU as evidence that, in fact, all of these concerns that the universities like to put out there of how unions will negatively affect them are unfounded. It should give us a bit of hope, even in these sorts of dark times, that collective power is something that we can wield in nearly any context.

It doesn't mean that it is equivalent to not [having] a legal status. It certainly isn't. If Right to Work passes, that would be incredibly tragic and make things immensely more difficult. But at the same time, there is no reason to feel like we are on the path to certain defeat. I have never been so heartened to see so many people trying to genuinely organize and figure out how to wield power together....

How have the universities reacted to the fact that this tax bill would potentially tax grad student tuition waivers as income?

I think that they are nervous. Not because of ... overt sympathy toward their workers, but because we are, relatively speaking, cheap labor for them, and if they remove the ability to have this cheap labor force doing a lot of their instructional labor, doing a lot of their research labor, we know it's likely to get much more expensive for them to fulfill these needs.... It seems like there are grant eligibilities tied up in the problem, and that is partially why there has to be tuition charged and waived, but nothing ever changes hands. No one is paying tuition and then paying it back. It is all on paper. Which makes it all the more absurd that they would tax this fictive income.

As long as there is an army of disposable labor running the university, you are never going to be safe.

But they are also scared about their endowments.... Universities -- particularly elite universities ... they are in this position where they are deeply dependent on the current administration and their insidious tactics in order to be able to keep these democratic movements at bay and ultimately wash their hands of it. In the event that the NLRB is able to step in on their behalf, they can say, "Oh, well, we would have negotiated in good faith, of course, but this wasn't up to us." It is all connected.

Ultimately, we have to try to democratize these institutions.... I see tenured professors lamenting the loss of academic freedom, and I want to just shake them and be like, "Where do you think it came from? If you want academic freedom, if you want those threats to go away, then you should be aggressively trying to organize your colleagues and advocating for your students who are also employees, to have a voice." We can only protect that sort of thing together. As long as there is an army of disposable labor running the university, you are never going to be safe. That seems like a really basic lesson that a lot of these older tenured professors just haven't learned somehow....

I feel like it is up to us to show them how to do that. I hope that we can, because I don't think that there is an intrinsically hostile relationship between a unionized graduate worker body and the faculty. We, in many ways, want the same thing. We all want a strong university, a robust and democratic space of scholarly inquiry. The only way we are going to have that is if we combine our forces.

This is another side issue, but unionization is not just about graduate workers, it is not just about adjuncts. They may be the ones that get talked about most, but what we call contingent academic labor is in every stratum of the university today. People who end up graduating with Ph.D.s and then doing post-docs for a decade, desperately trying to get a permanent position in the academy and never doing it, getting cycled out altogether. You have contract researchers that are doing lots of work, bringing in tons of grant money, who are also precariously employed. And, of course, the wealth of non-academic labor that keeps things moving smoothly at all levels, from office clerical workers and office staff, all the way to maintenance staff and food service workers. It used to be the case that maintenance workers [and] food service workers had the full benefits of being university employees. Their children could have tuition breaks, they had access to all sorts of benefits. Now, increasingly, it is just contracted out to some third party who brings on temporary workers who are probably scheduled 19 hours a week so they don't have to pay them their wages in benefits.

Republican donors are pouring money into student elections because it is much cheaper than congressional elections and these are future generations of leaders.

This is about more than just the graduate student workers, it is about more than just the instructional labor. If we want a university that lives up to any kind of ideal as a university, we are going to have to build it the hard way together. It has never really existed. The university that we want has yet to come into being. That is the crucial thing to keep in mind.... The truth is, universities aren't these passive victims of corporatization.... They are actively trying to interface with the market as much as possible and those incentives are really firmly in place.

It is important that without balancing out the relationships in the workplace and actually giving the workforce a structural voice, it doesn't matter how much money there is; we will never have that kind of academic ideal where people can pursue the life of the mind. Right now, that is a myth.

I think this is much bigger than just the tax bill. It is much bigger than just graduate students. I try to keep that in mind, because in past iterations of the labor movement in the US, I think that there were a lot of fatal mistakes made when we may have pivoted too hard to bread-and-butter issues as opposed to what we might call "social movement unionism," where we are all advocating for each other, we are all standing up for each other....

We, students, the workers themselves, we have to come together to protect each other because really that is all we have. The university isn't going to protect us... None of us have the time to take days to fly down to Paul Ryan's office to get arrested. But at the same time, we are not going to step aside while folks come in and just try to rip our careers out from underneath us....

The right wing is obsessed with the university as a place where the left has power.... There's an article where a conservative economist basically admitted that they are targeting grad students in this bill not because it raises a bunch of money, but because it targets the left. I wonder if you could talk about that particular obsession with the campus as the "place of the left" and what that means in this moment.

I think it is deeply disingenuous for them to pretend that this is about closing holes in the budget. Ultimately ... there is no way that this education would continue to be tenable if we were responsible for a tax burden like this. Honestly, even without that, with changes to health care and all sorts of other things, we walk a very fine line. I think we could see a massive exodus [of graduate students] from universities. I think that is what excites people like Paul Ryan far more than the prospect of us paying a higher share of taxes, because there is obviously a lot of energy being put into these really insidious kinds of legislative moves. To the extent that they see universities as bastions of critical thinking and, yes, of essentially leftism, this is one response to that.

Another is ... the extent to which Republican donors are pouring money into college campuses in really sketchy ways. Opening research centers funded by the Koch brothers and pouring money into student elections because it is much cheaper than congressional elections and you are talking about future generations of leaders....

They want to fuel these tensions on campus because it creates fodder for them to further delegitimize ... scholarship, in general. I think we are living in dangerous times where we have to be very, very careful and thoughtful about how it is that we defend ourselves and how it is that we try to secure a future for any of us, for academic inquiry, for empirical knowledge. I have no doubt that they would much rather shut down a lot of these places, where people can start to question the hypocrisy coming from the right....

How can people keep up with you and whatever else you are doing to resist this?

I am part of what we call USC Forward.... Anyone that wants to look at our particular campaign, we are, but it is part of a much broader campaign by SEIU called Faculty Forward. They have been organizing contingent instructors for a long time. I encourage any graduate students who are listening, I am sure that there is something happening on your campus related to this. You should seek out those folks, because there are people trying to organize right now. We need to figure out how to wield power together and show solidarity to one another, because the university can only function because we do our work. That comes with tremendous power, and it is right now latent and we need to realize it.

NOTE: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission.

Categories: News

These Nazis Just Want to Be Your Neighbors

Truth Out - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 05:00

Tony Hovater could be a case study for "The Banality of Evil: 2017 Hipster Edition."

At least, that's how reporter Richard Fausset seemed bound and determined to portray him in a recent New York Times profile of the neo-Nazi.

After it was published, Fausset's piece caused a huge outcry. It's pretty easy to see why.

Fausset spends much of the profile "humanizing" Hovater and his wife, presenting them as a perfectly normal couple...except, oh yeah, for the fact that Hovater's a Hitler-loving neo-Nazi who in 2015 co-founded the Traditionalist Worker Party.

Members of this fascist organization have repeatedly engaged in violence and provocative actions, including during the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where numerous anti-racist activists were injured and Heather Heyer was killed earlier this year.

Lines from the Times piece -- like "Weddings are hard enough to plan for when your fiancé is not an avowed white nationalist" -- along with references to Hovater's cats, his wedding registry and his "polite and low-key" demeanor angered many readers.

Fausset wrote that Hovater is a big Seinfeld fan who supposedly "prefers to spread the gospel of white nationalism with satire." The article compares his embrace of fascism to a "hipster's" love of heavy metal and remarks on Hovater's "Midwestern manners" that would "please anyone's mother" (as long as your mother isn't Jewish or Black or any other group targeted by Hovater and his neo-Nazi buddies).


After the outcry that greeted the story, the New York Times took the unusual step of having its National Editor Marc Lacey as well as the reporter Fausset respond in print. The Times also removed a link in the original story to swastika armbands for sale on the Traditionalist Worker Party website.

Lacey and Fausset "regretted" that the story offended so many people -- but said that, especially after the violence in Charlottesville, the issue of the growth of the far right in America is a complex one, with no simple answers.

"Sometimes all we can bring you is the words of the police spokesman, the suspect's picture from a high school yearbook, the acrid stench of the burned woods," Fausset noted in poetic prose -- while misusing a reference to a song by the punk band the Minutemen. "Sometimes a soul, and its shape, remain obscure to both writer and reader."

Except there's not a lot that's "obscure" about the Traditionalist Worker Party -- whose stock-in-trade is scapegoating Jews, minorities, liberals and anti-racists.

Its members are open admirers of Hitler. In Hovater's case, he claims the Holocaust was "overblown." Proof? None -- Hovater simply claims in the Times profile that "Heinrich Himmler wanted to exterminate groups like Slavs and homosexuals, [while] Hitler 'was a lot more kind of chill on those subjects.'" The murder of 6 million Jews doesn't come up.

Hovater never comes out and says he's for gassing Jews or lynching Blacks. He just claims that it's common sense that white people are suffering because Blacks and other minorities receive special treatment and Jews control the media and financial system.

Fausset writes that Hovater is "adamant that the races are probably better off separated, but he insists he is not racist." Neither he nor his editor bother to ask how both things can be true. In fact, the Times profile is striking for how derelict it is in compelling Hovater to answer any serious follow-up questions or even noting where he ducks them.


Fausset notes that Hovater was on the scene during the far right's rampage in Charlottesville in August, but he never talks to anyone who witnessed the deadly violence of the Traditionalist Worker Party and their neo-Nazi brethren.

Members of the group have not been shy about their role. After the killing of Heather Heyer, Matt Parrot, a member of the affiliated Traditionalist Youth Network, proudly talked about how the group helped escalate the violence at the city's Emancipation Park: "With a full-throated rebel yell, the League [of the South] broke through the wall of degenerates [anti-racist protesters] and TradWorker managed to enter the Lee Park venue itself while they were largely still reeling."

Matthew Heimbach, another co-founder of the party, is also quoted in the profile of Hovater about the need for the group to recruit "more families. We need to be able to just be normal."

Heimbach was also in Charlottesville, where, dressed in a black shirt and German-style military helmet, he repeatedly urged the group's supporters to push through the ranks of the anti-racists.

After Heyer's death, Heimbach told the New York Times that the day was a rousing success: "We achieved all of our objectives...We asserted ourselves as the voice of white America." Fausset noted that, on social media, Hovater's takaway from Charlottesville was similar: "We made history. Hail victory."

"Our reporter and his editors agonized over the tone and content of the article," Timeseditor Marc Lacey wrote in his defense of the piece. But they didn't agonize the way Heather Heyer's mother has.

On the same day that Heyer was killed, an African American protester named DeAndre Harris was brutally beaten in a parking garage by a mob of white supremacists, leaving him with a spinal injury and a head laceration that required 10 stitches. Video of the attack showed at least one man, Jacob Scott Goodwin, was wearing a Traditionalist Worker Party pin.

It's a safe bet that DeAndre Harris has a different view of the Hovater's "Midwestern manners."


In one especially thorough takedown of the profile of Hovater that circulated online, one commenter pointed out how the Times gave "a racist an unchallenged platform," while failing to talk to civil rights organizations or even ask follow-up questions, like about the ideology of the Traditionalist Worker Party.

Even a cursory Internet search would have turned up reams of information about the party, its Holocaust denial and connections to other neo-fascist groups and the violence and bigotry of its leading figures.

Thus, the Times didn't see fit to mention that Heimbach advocates an America in which homosexuality and interracial marriage are illegal. Those who are gay or in favor of interracial marriage should be sent to re-education camps, he has said. "In any healthy society [gays] would be dragged off to therapy to help you cope with your mental illness, not given glitter and assless chaps to parade down the street."

The group uses language calculated to appeal to the political polarization in the U.S. and economically struggling white workers in particular. This includes ostensibly anti-capitalist and pro-environment rhetoric.

While the Times noted that the party is attempting to recruit on campuses, it didn't say what that means. How do the students at Murray State University feel, for example, after the Traditionalist Worker Party reserved a table in September and posted flyers that talked about "fighting to take back our communities"?

And what about the multiracial residents of Sacramento, where last year some 30 members of the Traditionalist Worker Party engaged in a violent confrontation with anti-fascist counterprotesters that left 10 people injured, some seriously? After the violence, one neo-Nazi bragged that anti-fascists "got one of our[s] but we got six of theirs."


Despite claiming to seek an understanding of Hovater's motives, the Times article doesn't attempt to show the impact of a fascist group on the people who suffer real abuse and injury as a result of its organizing.

Not DeAndre Harris, injured in Charlottesville; not the members of Congregation Beth Israel, the city's sole synagogue, who were forced to flee when the neo-Nazis marched in front, chanting "Sieg heil" ("Hail victory"); not the many more people beyond Charlottsville who today feel unsafe on their campuses and in their communities because of the Traditionalist Worker Party.

Presenting a Nazi as the mild-mannered "boy next door" who cares deeply about his community is nothing new. Racism is American as apple pie in a country built on the enslavement of Blacks, and the attempt by white supremacists to normalize their hate is a longstanding tradition of America's far right.

Particularly in its modern incarnation, the Klan has mixed racist terrorism with more benign activities in an attempt to gain a larger foothold in political and social life. David Duke, a former Grand Dragon of the KKK in Louisiana, built a political career on trying to get the Klan "out of the cow pasture and into the hotel meeting rooms."

After Charlottesville, a series of anti-racist mobilizations against planned far-right rallies from Boston to Berkeley, California, helped drain some of the wind from the sails of the fascists. Even so, they have been given a boost by the current occupant of the White House who, as Matthew Heimbach noted back in 2015, "is blowing the dog whistle for white racial interests harder than any other candidate."

Just last week, Trump re-tweeted false and virulently racist and Islamophobic videos from a far-right group, Britain First -- an action that various administration officials then defended.

With this kind of racist "fake news" being circulated by the current occupant of the White House, it puts a premium on journalists doing a better job of exposing the far right -- and on all of us building opposition in our workplaces, campuses and communities.

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Categories: News

The Necessity of Imagining an Unimaginable War

Truth Out - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 05:00
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The prospect of nuclear war with North Korea has repeatedly been described as "unimaginable" -- and in fact, most of us have literally failed to imagine it. As the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof points out, "We're complacent -- neither the public nor the financial markets appreciate how high the risk is of a war, and how devastating one could be."

Admittedly, with biological, conventional and nuclear weapons expected to kill millions, the scenario is genuinely difficult to comprehend. We struggle to translate such high numbers into pictures of individual men, women and children suffering.

Nevertheless, we can no longer afford to be in denial. Top military and political experts warn that the risk of war is at an all-time high, the threat is imminent and the impact would be catastrophic. Even before North Korea's latest missile test, former US Army General Barry McCraffrey, Council of Foreign Relations President Richard Haass and the International Institute for Strategic Studies Executive Director Mark Fitzpatrick all estimated that the risk of war was 50 percent. General McCaffrey expects that war will breakout by summer 2018.

There is a significant risk that a war would escalate beyond a regional conflict. China has warned that it would intervene on behalf of North Korea in the case of a US preemptive strike, and international security experts Nora Bensahel and David Barno argue that China may launch attacks on "US bases in the region or possibly even the US homeland, especially since radiation would inevitably blanket some of its territory." China has been carrying out military drills near the Korean peninsula since July, and tested an ICBM capable of hitting the continental United States on November 6. Russia also recently publicly warned that it is preparing for war as well.

Even if the war was confined to the Korean peninsula, however, it has the "potential to cause mass starvation worldwide," as a result of nuclear winter, according to nuclear experts Alan Robock and Owen Toon.

In other words, World War III is no longer just the stuff of sci-fi movies -- it may be right around the corner.

With such high stakes, it is critical that we voluntarily imagine the "unimaginable," as uncomfortable as it may be. Those who do imagine war are much more likely to take action to prevent it. Journalist and author Jonathan Schell advocated for this position in his 1982 book The Fate of the Earth, writing that "Only by descending into this hell in imagination now can we hope to escape descending into it in reality … the knowledge we thus gain cannot in itself protect us from nuclear annihilation, but without it we cannot begin to take measures that can actually protect us."

It is no coincidence that members of Congress who are war veterans have been some of the most outspoken and active in raising the alarm over the crisis in North Korea.

Although President Reagan never personally experienced war, a movie depicting a nuclear attack on the United States was enough to activate his imagination and change his entire orientation to nuclear war. After seeing the "The Day After," he wrote in his diary that the film "left me greatly depressed … We have to do all we can to have a deterrent and see there is never a nuclear war." A few months later, he announced that "reducing the risk of war, and especially nuclear war, is priority number one." His shift in perspective is often credited with being one of the most important factors in de-escalating the Cold War.

As our brains are hard-wired to protect us from thinking about large-scale suffering, we too may need to take proactive efforts to imagine a potential war. For example, we can look at pictures of Hiroshima and read the stories of atomic bomb survivors, transposing such scenarios to our own cities. We can use nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein's Nukemap to understand what would happen if a bomb was dropped on our own cities. We can ensure that we stay updated on the crisis and that we obtain information from reliable sources with expertise.

However, while imagining the prospect of war may be necessary, it is not sufficient: Americans must mobilize quickly and effectively to address the threat. If they are able to do so, there is good reason to believe they can prevent war.

First, there are viable options to resolve the Korean crisis -- the Trump administration just hasn't tried any of them yet. In 1994, the Clinton administration successfully negotiated a framework agreement that centered on the idea of a freeze-for-freeze: North Korea suspended its nuclear program in exchange for the US suspending some of its military exercises. The agreement held up until 2003 when the Bush administration  -- not North Korea -- ended the agreement.

A new freeze-for-freeze (which North Korea has repeatedly indicated it would be open to), in combination with legislation preventing Trump from launching a pre-emptive strike, would be the best possible option to solve the current crisis. Essentially, if North Korea doesn't feel threatened, it will probably stop threatening others.

Second, there is already an existing grassroots structure with the capabilities to organize an effective large-scale movement. Since Trump became president, "an astounding number of new grassroots groups, at least six times the number the Tea Party could boast at its height," have formed according to grassroots leader L.A. Kauffman. Activists have already done the hard part -- they have formed movements, mobilized large segments of the American population, and proven their efficacy, successfully organizing to prevent the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, for example.

Third, unlike with Obamacare, there is already bipartisan support for efforts to prevent war with North Korea. There are already over 60 co-sponsors, including two Republicans, to the "No Unconstitutional Strike against North Korea Act" in the House. Although there are only three Democrats co-sponsoring the Senate bill, several Republican senators -- including Bob CorkerJeff FlakeDan Sullivan, and John Thune  -- have all publicly expressed concern about Trump's approach to North Korea.

However, there hasn't been any movement on the bill since it was introduced in October, nor on various other bills that would restrict Trump's power to start a pre-emptive war. Public pressure is needed to ensure that Congress prioritizes such legislation.

Although no bills have been introduced as of yet to support a freeze-for-freeze, 61 members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in August highlighting the success of the aforementioned 1994 Agreed Framework, stating that there is an "urgent need to replicate these successes." While the Trump administration is responsible for making international treaties, Congress could still force a freeze-for-freeze by passing legislation that prevents funds from being used for the most provocative military drills.

Fourth, there is a historical precedent for a large-scale nuclear freeze movement. During the Cold War, as activist and writer Duncan Meisel explained, over a third of Americans participated in "a series of city and state referendum campaigns calling for a Nuclear Freeze." What's more, "Reagan's militaristic temperament" --  according to Andrew Lanham of the Boston Review  -- actually aided the movement's efforts to garner support across the political spectrum.

However, all of these advantages are meaningless if activists fail to focus sufficient attention on the North Korea crisis. With so many important issues at stake, activism can feel like triage these days: Efforts tend to be focused on whatever legislative calamity is most imminent. The problem with that approach is that activists' focus becomes determined by Congress' agenda rather than grassroots priorities.

If activists take a breath from firefighting long enough to imagine a potential war with North Korea, they may realize that they need to proactively organize to insist that Congress urgently focuses its attention on the North Korea crisis, and implements an effective legislative strategy to prevent war.

As the Bulletin of Scientists President Rachel Bronson says, "we have reversed the hands of the Doomsday Clock before. We can do it again."

Categories: News

New Conservative Argument: Climate Change Is So Awesome, You Guys

Truth Out - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 05:00

2017 1209 Pitt(Photo: Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images / Getty Images)

This masterpiece of unintended satire has opened a window into our future. These people will fight as hard as they can to get what they want -- which is the loot, always the loot, the loot every single time – until the time comes when they sound foolish even to themselves. When that happens, they will turn on a dime.

2017 1209 Pitt(Photo: Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images / Getty Images)

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In my worst post-apocalyptic imaginings, there is a place in my mind where a ravenous sea has encroached over every surface, ankle to knee to thigh to belly to throat. On a lone and desolate promontory clings one last living human who shrieks into the maelstrom a final defiance even as the pitiless rain clogs his throat: "In the church of climate alarmism, there may be no heresy more dangerous than the idea that the world will benefit from warming."

His name is Jeff.

Not "may benefit," mind you. "Will benefit." The power of positive thinking meets the end of everything. And in conservative circles, many of the denials that climate disruption is really happening are now being seamlessly replaced with guarantees of coming greatness.

It gets better.

"Polar melting may cause dislocation for those who live in low-lying coastal areas, but it will also lead to safe commercial shipping in formerly inhospitable northern seas," says Jeff Jacoby in his Boston Globe article titled, "There Are Benefits to Climate Change."

Istanbul. San Francisco. Helsinki. Philadelphia. Dublin. New Orleans. Venice. Perth. Bangkok. Edinburgh. Honolulu. New York. Oslo. Lisbon. Los Angeles. San Diego. Hong Kong. Miami. Tokyo. Sydney. Washington. Copenhagen. Vancouver. Barcelona. Mumbai. Nagoya. Tampa. Shenzen. Guayaquil. Khulna. Palembang. Tampa. Kochi. Abidjan. Boston. "

Low-lying coastal areas, all.

Cities, housing hundreds of millions of people, home to countless architectural wonders, each in itself a living history in mortar and stone and stucco and steel, wreathed in treasure and art of infinite value and absolutely, positively not waterproofed … all happy fodder before the prospect of new commercial shipping lanes.

One must ask: Shipping to whom? From where? All the places to park the ships will be underwater. When all those cities fall to the sea, there will be no commerce because civilization itself will be crumbling. In its stead, there will be starving wet survivors on the run to high ground and Jeff Jacoby's boats happily puttering along plying their wares to people who died below the water line before the good news about climate change could properly cheer them.

"Shifts in climate are like shifts in the economy," writes Jeff, as if he has seen such seismic shifts before. "They invariably spell good news for some and bad news for others." According to him, all the new warm weather will keep people from freezing to death, which is a good thing.

Yet Jacoby somehow missed the explosion of diseases that will come with widespread excessive heat. He missed the massive ecological die-offs on land and in the ocean that will be caused by high heat. He missed the crop disasters that will be caused by high heat. He missed the population displacement that will make our current refugee crisis seem like a longer than usual walk in the park by comparison. And then there is the methane bomb waiting to detonate once the northern permafrost finally melts from all this fortunate heat.

"The effects of climate change," concludes Jacoby, "range from the obvious (lower heating bills) to the subtle (more habitat for moose and endangered sharks). Territory formerly deemed too forbiddingly cold will grow more temperate -- and valuable. Delicacies from lobster to blueberries may become more plentiful. Bottom line? Global warming will bring gains as well as losses, upsides no less than downsides. Climate science isn't a good-and-evil morality tale. Climate discourse shouldn't be either."

There it is, folks. The bridge from climate change denial to acceptance, long deemed unpassable, has been traversed by none other than Boston's own mini-Rush Limbaugh. Mr. Jacoby has dutifully hauled water for every bad conservative idea since the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act, but here, he is road-testing what to do when denial and obfuscation are no longer viable tactics. It's as if he's deploying an evil version of the "Stages of Grief." Last comes acceptance … but with a catch.

One can go on only so long denying the obvious before something has to give. Here, Jacoby accepts the premise that climate change is upon us, but rather than face the grim and dangerous reality of it, he chooses instead to look on the bright side. Sure, Republicans colluded with the energy industry for decades to deny the threat of climate change so their friends could get rich and now we're all going to suffer for it, but blueberries! Heat bills! Lobster, so you can pretend to be rich!

Jacoby and other conservatives  who now accept climate change have opened a window into our future. He and the people he represents will fight as hard as they can to get what they want -- which is the loot, always the loot, the loot every single time -- until the moment comes when they sound foolish even to themselves. When that happens, they will turn on a dime and begin talking up the advantages to be found in the disasters they have created. Jacoby shows them the way by moving from "it's not real" to "no big deal" in one sideways shuffle, locating the financial upside – valuable new land! – and managing to sound scolding all at once.

When the harrowing effects of the GOP tax plan begin bleeding all over Main Street, when the true nature of Donald Trump's relationship with Russia is revealed, when the attacks on Medicare and Social Security wreak havoc on the lives of elderly Americans, when all the lies no longer have a place to hide, this will be the new gospel, preached from the promontory by the likes of Jeff and his friends.

God help us all.

Categories: News

Lawmakers Demand Transparency and Restrictions on FBI Spying Powers

Truth Out - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 05:00

 krblokhin / Getty Images)Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act sunsets in three weeks. The statute's expiration could curtail the ability of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to conduct powerful forms of surveillance. (Photo: krblokhin / Getty Images)

The Director of the FBI defended the continued use of a controversial spying authority that expires at the end of the year.

But, in an appearance on Capitol Hill Thursday, Christopher Wray was met with demands that the Bureau act more transparently about how it uses spying tools before any authorities are extended.

Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act sunsets in three weeks. The statute's expiration could curtail the ability of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to conduct powerful forms of surveillance.

"I would implore the committee and the congress not to begin rebuilding the wall that existed before 9/11," Wray told members of the House Judiciary Committee during Thursday's oversight hearing.

Constitutional concerns surround Section 702, following the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In 2013, Snowden disclosed that programs like PRISM and activities such as "upstream" collection -- both justified under Section 702 for the purpose of foreign surveillance -- result in the seizure of massive amounts of data belonging to American citizens.

Snowden further revealed that government investigators can search those databases, rife with Americans' communications, without a warrant.

That activity, known as the "backdoor search" loophole, has prompted lawmakers to call for changes to 702 that ensure US citizens aren't subject to warrantless government searches.

Reauthorization legislation unveiled by the committee in October purportedly works to create a distinction between counter-terror and domestic crime investigation. It would require agents to obtain a warrant before reading the contents of Americans' communications sucked up into FISA databases.

"We've protected the FBI's ability to access the database for the purpose of query," the committee's Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said. "But then if you're going to take it further and read the contents of that email…if you're solving a domestic crime, then I think you need to respect the civil liberties of American citizens and get a warrant."

At least one Republican lawmaker on the panel said he would withhold his support for extending Section 702 until the FBI is more open with the committee about how it uses the spying powers on American citizens.

"So you have this database that's supposed to go after the bad guys," Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said during Thursday's hearing. "But inadvertently you pick up all this information on Americans who have nothing to do with terrorists."

Poe wanted to know how many times the FBI has searched FISA databases for information belonging to US citizens. Wray alleged that he didn't have that answer.

"I hope you can provide us that information before we reauthorize FISA, otherwise I'm going to vote against FISA," Poe threatened, receiving the backing of the committee's chairman.

"This is a reasonable request by the gentleman from Texas," Rep. Goodlatte said. "It has been made in varying forms by this committee in a bipartisan way in the past, and we have not yet received the answers to those questions."

"We have a very nice SCIF where this can all be discussed in a classified setting," Goodlatte added.

The committee, however, is unlikely to receive a satisfactory answer from the FBI. Senators have long been requesting similar information about the 702 database from intelligence agencies.

Specifically, requests to know how many Americans are subject to inadvertent collection under 702 have been rebuffed. Responses to these inquiries have also been less than forthcoming.

During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in June, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates claimed under oath that it would be "infeasible to generate an exact, accurate, meaningful, and responsive methodology that can count how often a US person's communications may be incidentally collected under Section 702."

Lawmakers have previously used the 2013 Snowden leaks to bring about surveillance reforms.

In 2015, the looming expiration of a separate authority -- Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act -- compelled lawmakers to enact reforms on the government's bulk telephony metadata collection program.

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Categories: News

A Dubious Arrest, a Compromised Prosecutor, a Tainted Plea: How One Murder Case Exposes the System

Truth Out - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 05:00

Smith's troubling ordeal, Alford plea included, is a road map of nearly every way the justice system breaks down -- and how easily a cascade of bad outcomes can be triggered by one small miscarriage of justice. Demetrius Smith's troubling ordeal is a road map of nearly every way the justice system breaks down -- and how easily a cascade of bad outcomes can be triggered by one small miscarriage of justice. (Photo: StefanieKaufmann)

The case of Demetrius Smith reads like a preposterous legal thriller: dubious arrests, two lying sex workers, prosecutorial fouls and a judge who backpedaled out of a deal.

It also delivers a primer on why defendants often agree to virtually inescapable plea deals for crimes they didn't commit.

ProPublica has spent the past year exploring wrongful convictions and the tools prosecutors use to avoid admitting mistakes, including an arcane deal known as an Alford plea that allows defendants to maintain their innocence while still pleading guilty. Earlier this year, we examined a dozen such cases in Baltimore.

Smith's troubling ordeal, Alford plea included, is a road map of nearly every way the justice system breaks down -- and how easily a cascade of bad outcomes can be triggered by one small miscarriage of justice. For Smith, a young black man in Baltimore, it started with a questionable collar. Nine years later he's still struggling to clear his name.  

The Arrest

Smith's saga began in the summer of 2008 in the low-income, high-crime neighborhood in southwest Baltimore where he lived. A man named Robert Long had been shot twice in the head execution-style that March. Long was a cooperating witness in a police investigation, and the killing had all the makings of a hit.

A man and a female sex worker both claimed to have seen the murder and fingered Smith. At the time, Smith was 25 and had a record of minor drug and assault offenses. When he was arrested about three months after the murder, Smith was adamant that he had nothing to do with it.

At this point, the justice system appeared to work as it should. Smith had a bail hearing before a judge who said the prosecution's evidence was nothing more than "skeletal allegations." In a rare move for a murder case, Baltimore District Judge Nathan Braverman released Smith on $350,000 bond.

"It was probably the thinnest case I'd ever seen," Braverman, now retired, said recently. Smith's alleged crimes were the most heinous of the cases before him that day, he said, but Smith was the only one granted bail -- a sign of how weak the evidence was.

But what should have been the first step in freeing Smith from a misguided murder charge instead further ensnared him. Braverman's bail decision drew sharp public criticism, and Smith was soon back in the sights of the same detective who investigated the murder.

About a month later, Detective Charles Bealefeld arrested Smith again, this time for allegedly shooting a man in the leg during a late-night robbery. Bealefeld, the brother of the then-police commissioner, wrote in his report that "word on the street" was that Smith was the assailant.

Smith lived near the victim and told police he knew the victim's parents well enough to call them by nicknames. But the victim never named Smith or described his assailant as someone he'd seen before. He said only that a black male in his 20s shot him. Later that night at the hospital, the victim identified Smith from a photo array. Bealefeld then found a second witness, another sex worker, who he said also picked Smith out of an array.

At this point, Smith was convinced Bealefeld was targeting him. He told his lawyers that the detective had admitted during the arrest that he knew Smith didn't do it. Bealefeld left the Baltimore police in 2008 amid a federal investigation into a racial incident in the department in which he was named publicly by a city councilman and local media. He declined to comment. Bealefeld is now an officer with the Annapolis Police Department.

After Smith's second arrest, the head of the police union told the local press that it proved Braverman had been reckless in releasing Smith. "It's frustrating to police officers who did the hard work to get this guy charged," the union head said, calling for the judge to be banned from presiding over bail hearings.

The Trial

Smith was jailed until his murder trial 18 months later, and unwaveringly maintained his innocence. The cases against him were remarkably similar: The prosecution relied almost exclusively on eyewitness testimony -- and in each case a key witness was a sex worker.

In January 2010, Smith went on trial for Long's murder. Prosecutor Rich Gibson, a six-year veteran of the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office, hung his case on the testimony of the man who'd first identified Smith as the killer. The witness claimed he'd not only seen the murder from a nearby pay phone, but knew why it was done. Long, he said, had stolen drugs from Smith. Gibson ran with that theory, building Smith's history of minor offenses into a story of a neighborhood kingpin slaughtering the victim to send a message about what happens to those who steal from him.

What Gibson didn't tell the jury was that the witness was an informant for the police whose assistance on multiple cases had repeatedly kept him out of trouble. The witness only told police he'd seen the murder after he was arrested on an unrelated charge, according to police files. And, court records show, the witness had a clear understanding that any breaks he got for his testimony would best be hidden from the defense. At one point, he even wrote the judge in his case directly to ask for a sentence modification for his participation in Smith's murder trial, saying "as you already know, the detective nor the state's attorney can contact me about my matter because that would be promising me something for my testimony."

Even more troubling, there was evidence that the witness wasn't at the scene of the murder at all. Baltimore has cameras panning much of the city 24 hours a day, and the murder was caught on tape. The shooter couldn't be seen, but what was clear is that no one was at the pay phone at the time of the shooting, said Michele Nethercott, the head of the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Baltimore Law School. The sex worker who also said she witnessed the murder wasn't on the video either, Nethercott said. It's unclear why the video footage wasn't addressed in detail at Smith's trial. Gibson declined to comment about his actions in the case.

The jury found Smith guilty. When he was sentenced to life plus 18 years, Smith told the judge, "They know I didn't do this."

That conviction did more than send Smith to prison. It pushed him into choices he never would have made.

The Plea

A year after his murder trial in February 2011, Gibson offered Smith a plea deal on the still pending charges for the shooting. Smith, proclaiming his innocence, reluctantly agreed. The system had failed him so badly once, he felt like he was "in a no-win situation," Smith told the court.

The deal Smith made is known an as Alford plea. It allows a defendant to say for the record that he's innocent of the crime but believes the state has enough evidence to convict him. Still, Smith railed against a central piece of Gibson's evidence -- that the victim had identified Smith from a photo array. That didn't make any sense, Smith told the judge, since the victim "was my neighbor. He didn't say 'my neighbor did it.' He didn't say, 'Well that guy across the street did it.'"

Under the plea, Smith would serve 10 years concurrently with his life sentence. But Smith was worried about what would happen when he was exonerated, which Smith fervently believed would happen eventually. If he was no longer serving a life sentence, he didn't want to be stuck serving the 10 years for another crime he didn't commit. So, he wanted his plea deal to have an escape hatch: He must be allowed the chance to get out of the 10-year sentence if he was found innocent of the murder.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams called the deal "strange," but agreed that under those circumstances Smith could come back to his courtroom to revisit the plea. Gibson also agreed, according to a transcript, and that unlike most plea deals he would allow Williams full discretion.

The agreement was also laid out the next day by Smith's public defender in a court filing. It said that although Williams made no promises about what his ruling would be, the judge would nevertheless be the one to "determine whether to change the sentence" and "the assistant state's attorney agreed not to oppose the judge's ruling."

"I'm copping out to something I didn't do," Smith said at the hearing. "I just want to get it over with."

The Exoneration

Astonishingly, mere months later in the spring of 2011, Smith's stubborn faith seemed validated.

During a related investigation, the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland had turned up Long's real killer and informed Baltimore prosecutors that they had the wrong man. Federal agents quickly unraveled the case against Smith. It wasn't about drugs, as Gibson had argued. Instead, the victim, Long, had been killed in a murder-for-hire plot to keep him from testifying about crimes committed by his boss. Long had also specifically warned the Baltimore authorities not to include his lawyer in a meeting about cooperating because the lawyer worked for his boss. But they did it anyway. Six days after police searched his boss' home based on Long's information, Long was dead.

At Smith's murder trial, however, Detective Steve Hohman had testified that there was no reason to investigate Long's boss. He left out that police had done several interviews with Long's associates that pointed to the boss as a suspect, Long's family had told them that the boss threatened to kill Long days before his death, and the police had requested the boss' phone records. But that information wasn't turned over to Smith's defense, a violation of Smith's constitutional rights. Gibson told the jury that "no stone was left unturned."

Federal agents also discovered that the sex worker who'd identified Smith had been six miles away receiving methadone treatment around the time of the murder. She recanted her statement, telling federal investigators that Hohman had yelled, banged the table and generally pressured her into her testimony. (By this time, the state's other key witness, who supposedly saw Smith from a pay phone, was dead.)

Hohman has since been promoted, and the Baltimore Police Department said it stands by its investigation.

Gibson and the state's attorney's office continued to insist to Smith's lawyers that Smith had been justly prosecuted, according to Smith's public defender and Nethercott, the innocence lawyer who later took up Smith's case.

A year and a half went by while Smith remained locked up, serving a life sentence for a murder someone else had committed. Under pressure from federal prosecutors, the state finally and quietly dropped the case against Smith in August 2012.

"What was driving this case really was the U.S. attorney," Nethercott said recently. The federal government was about to indict and prosecute another person "while Demetrius was sitting there serving life on a theory that was completely different."

Rod Rosenstein, the top federal prosecutor in Maryland at the time and now the deputy attorney general of the United States, announced that the federal case had "resulted in the exoneration of an innocent man and the conviction of the real killer."

No such declaration came from Baltimore prosecutors.

"What they were not willing to do," Nethercott said, "was to say: 'We clearly made a mistake.'"

Their error didn't just damage Smith. Braverman, the judge who'd scoffed at the prosecution's case, had been shortlisted to move up to the circuit court at the time of the bail hearing, according to The Baltimore Sun, but he wasn't selected. After Smith's case, the local press closely covered Braverman's subsequent bail decisions. There was no follow-up acknowledgement from the police or others that his instincts had been right about Smith.

And even though Smith was cleared of Long's murder, he was still in maximum security prison in Hagerstown, Maryland, serving his 10-year sentence for the robbery shooting.

The Half Measure

In May 2013, as promised, Smith went back before the judge to revisit the terms of that deal. By this time, he'd been in prison for nearly five years.

The case was now being handled by Tony Gioia, then head of the state's attorney's conviction integrity unit. Gioia made no mention of Smith's innocence on the murder charge, telling the judge that the prosecution had "moved to vacate the murder conviction for a Brady violation" by the original prosecutor, Gibson. Brady refers to the 1963 Supreme Court ruling that said prosecutors must turn over evidence of innocence to the defense for a trial to be fair.

Gioia said he'd reviewed the police documents about the shooting, and had "some issues about the facts." He agreed to modify Smith's sentence to time served and release him immediately on three years' probation. Smith was free.

But on paper he was still a convicted felon for the shooting, limiting his ability to get a lease and a job -- he had three offers revoked after a background check. Smith wanted a clean record and to be completely free of the system that had now eaten up nearly a decade of his life.

In the four years since his release, damning new evidence had emerged that echoed the murder case. The sex worker recanted her statement implicating Smith and said she'd been coerced into identifying Smith by Bealefeld, the detective who investigated both of Smith's cases.

The night of the shooting, the sex worker had told police she heard gunshots and saw a man she'd been with earlier flee the scene. Bealefeld, she said, showed her an array of photos and repeatedly pointed to a picture of Smith, saying "That's him, isn't it?" When she continually denied that Smith was the man she saw, Bealefeld threatened to arrest her.

"I was afraid I'd be locked up, and so I finally signed the array as he had directed me," she said in an affidavit in June 2013.

But the new evidence had come too late. Maryland gives defendants a special path to challenge their conviction with new evidence of innocence, but those who take plea deals are barred. Smith's Alford plea meant he couldn't get the conviction vacated.

He had one last option: Ask Judge Williams to modify his plea deal again.

The Final Attempt

With the help of new pro bono lawyers, Smith filed a motion to change his sentence for the shooting from "time-served" to "probation before judgement," which means a judge withholds finding a defendant guilty so long as the defendant successfully completes a period of probation. Since Smith had finished his three years of probation, the change would essentially wipe the conviction off his record.

On July 28, Smith walked back into Williams' courtroom in a light blue blazer with hope that the judge would finally end his ordeal.

When Smith's case was called, a familiar face stood up for the prosecution. Gibson, the original prosecutor, was back and he told the judge he opposed any changes.

"What's your basis for saying 'no'?" Williams asked him. "You acknowledge" that on the murder charge "he was exonerated; is that correct?"

"The State acknowledges," Gibson responded, "that -- that after the case was tried, and the defendant was convicted of murder, and after the -- the Court of Appeals affirmed that conviction, my office, after discussions with federal authorities, chose to vacate that conviction to allow the federal prosecution to go forward the way they envisioned it."

Williams looked taken aback. "So, you're stating in open court that your office isn't saying that he wasn't guilty. You just did it for other reasons?"

Gibson offered only a vague reply, and Williams kept pressing him, at one point interjecting with exasperation that "it's a simple question."

In all, Gibson evaded the question five times before Williams abruptly stopped and ruled that Smith's original guilty plea was a binding plea -- meaning that the only way it could be changed was with the support of the prosecutor.

That contradicted how both the judge and the prosecutor had defined the plea six and a half years earlier. At the time in 2011, Gibson said that the terms of the deal meant Smith could "come back and put it before the judge and the judge can do whatever he's going to do with it."

And Williams had specifically noted the plea meant that the prosecution was "giving up the right to say to this court, 'Judge, you cannot change it.' He now has acknowledged that. ... It will be up to me to make a decision."

But now, for reasons he didn't explain, Williams said, "I have not the authority ... despite what I would, what I may or may not want to do it's irrelevant."

"Motion is denied."

Smith's lawyer, Adam Braskich, jumped up to argue that was incorrect, but the judge cut him off with a curt "thank you."

In the hallway outside the court, Smith shook his head, not entirely surprised. His gold teeth flashed through a smile. "It is what it is," he said. "You keep fighting."

Braskich and Smith's other lawyer, Barry Pollack, thought it was clear the judge had the legal authority to change Smith's sentence.

"After being wrongfully convicted of murder and then convicted for an assault he didn't commit, Demetrius served five years in prison," Pollack said. "He should not also be saddled with a felony conviction. We didn't think a fresh start was too much to ask, and we're disappointed that Demetrius still can't put this behind him."

Williams declined to comment on his ruling.

The next possible step is to apply for a rare pardon from the governor.

Like Gibson -- who's running for state's attorney one jurisdiction over in Howard County, Maryland -- the current Baltimore City state's attorney, Marilyn Mosby, won't say whether her office believes Smith is innocent of the murder, or the shooting. Spokeswoman Melba Sanders provided a short, written statement that said the office couldn't comment on the review process that led the prior administration to vacate Smith's murder conviction, but "we respect their decision."

If any case should cause prosecutors to concede mistakes, Nethercott said, it's Smith's. "What's so striking about Demetrius' case is there are very few times when you come in with an innocence claim that's supported, endorsed and proven by the Unites States government," she said. "If that doesn't move people, it's hard to see what would."

Categories: News

How to Help My Daughter Face Climate Change With an Open Heart

Truth Out - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 05:00

What happens to a child's psyche as they gradually absorb the knowledge that our planet is warming at a terrifying rate and to an unimaginably dangerous degree, then quietly observe the adults in their life, particularly those most responsible for caring for and protecting them, doing the very things that are causing the emergency?

 RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)A firefighter battles a wildfire as it burns along a hillside near homes in Santa Paula, California, on December 5, 2017. (Photo: RINGO CHIU / AFP / Getty Images)

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You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

~Kahlil Gibran

When the wildfires were still raging in California, my 12-year-old daughter and I rode Amtrak north from Oakland to Sacramento. Nearing Berkeley, we caught our first glimpse of the gray-brown wall of smoke issuing in from Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Mendocino, Butte, and Solano counties. After riding 10 or so miles further on, the illusion of the wall suddenly dissipated, and we found ourselves speeding along in a fog of fine ash, our train blanketed in its opaque haze.

Gazing into the smoke, my daughter seated beside me, I considered the stark difference our awareness of global warming created between my childhood and hers. And I felt a deep anxiety stir in my belly.

What happens to a child's psyche, I asked myself, as she gradually absorbs the knowledge that our planet is warming at a terrifying rate and to an unimaginably dangerous degree, then quietly observes the adults in her life, particularly those most responsible for caring for and protecting her, doing the very things that are causing the emergency? What happens as she observes the mundane spectrum of everyday life in the United States amid climate chaos: as dad pulls the car up to the pump, as mom comes home from the airport after a business trip, as the family sits down to another meat and factory farm-based dinner, iPhones at the ready and the thermostat cranked to 70?

I turned my gaze from the smoke and looked again at the book in my lap, Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, by climate scientist Peter Kalmus. The page I had been reading would eventually lead to here: "Few people respond to facts… While intellect certainly plays a role, it's a rather small one. Our dire ecological crisis calls us to go deeper."


In his famous meditation on children, Kahlil Gibran likens parents to the bows of the divine archer, from which children, like arrows, are sent forth into the mystery of their own souls and futures. The beloved bow, Gibran attests, sends the arrow swift and far, by bending to the archer's strength, while at the same time remaining stable. Such flexible stability is what I long to achieve as a parent -- a certain rootedness and strength of purpose, mediated by gentleness. It's what I believe I need if I'm going to accompany my daughter as she learns to face the coming storms -- and fires -- with her eyes and heart open.

So it is that I'm gravitating toward the solace and instruction of other dads these days, the more humble and down-to-earth the better. Kalmus, father of two young sons, is one such dad.

"At first, we didn't know what we were doing. It was reasonable for us to start burning fossil fuels," Kalmus says early on in Being the Change. "However, now we do know what we're doing."

It's an exquisitely sane point of departure for the author's first book, which reads as an openhearted letter to anyone deeply concerned about global warming and at all cognizant of how quickly the climate change clock is ticking. Being the Change details Kalmus' process of bringing his daily life into alignment with his conscience -- a process that carries some very welcome side effects: namely, a carbon footprint weighing in at one-tenth the US average, greater happiness, and deepened connections with loved ones and life itself.

As a climate expert utterly in the know about humanity's devastating impact on the health of the biosphere (see Chapter 3), and with as clear a picture as can be had about where our civilization's carbon addiction is leading (see Chapter 4), Kalmus eventually proves no match for the cognitive dissonance he experiences because of his own outsized carbon footprint. His chosen response is refreshingly straightforward: "If fossil fuels cause global warming, and I don't want global warming," he writes, "then I should reduce my fossil fuel use."

Although there's zero evidence that Gandhi ever wrote or uttered the most popular phrase attributed to him -- "Be the change you wish to see in the world" -- the sentiment is distinctly Gandhian. Finding congruence between our deepest convictions and our outward behavior, according to this adage, is the true measure of our genuine happiness, and of our contribution to the world. It's an old and simple idea: When it comes to social change, how we live our lives is of paramount importance. In India, Gandhi captured the heart of a massive social movement with his own rendering of this basic philosophy. "Nobility of soul," he summarized in a letter to his cousin, "consists in realizing that you are yourself India. In your emancipation is the emancipation of India. All else is make believe."

What makes Being the Change important is not Kalmus' restatement of this age-old tenet, but his plainspoken description of putting it into concrete practice. He offers thorough, humbly stated guidance on establishing new daily practices which, step by step, can break a person free from the carbon-heavy status quo. What's more, through his inspiring and often funny anecdotes about his homespun experiments aimed at paring down -- things like bicycling , growing food, meditating, embracing a vegetarian diet, and renouncing air travel -- Kalmus illustrates that overcoming our addiction to fossil fuels isn't a path of puritanical self-mortification. Rather, low-energy living (low-energy being Kalmus' corrective for green, because of its insidious consumerist implications) can be a deeply satisfying adventure, calling for equal parts creativity and fun.

Boiled down, the path Kalmus advocates is based on two simple and, if we're open to them, life-changing premises.

The first is that burning fossil fuel causes harm. According to Kalmus, this harm will last for around 100,000 years -- 10 million years if we count reduced biodiversity (and why shouldn't we?). The reason he has taken what to many people looks like radical steps to avoid burning fossil fuel is that he doesn't like causing harm. This connection is obvious intellectually, but most people, and society, have not taken this in deeply enough to change their actions to any significant degree. Kalmus, the dad, however, feels this connection in his gut. "Burning fossil fuels should be unacceptable socially," he says, "the way physical assault is unacceptable. The harm it does is less immediate, but just as real." Who could argue that future generations -- likely our own children and grandchildren -- as they suffer the consequences of our negligence, will see this as plainly as we see the immorality of chattel slavery today.

The second basic premise of Being the Change is that burning less fossil fuel makes for a happier life. Despite every message to the contrary trumpeted by our consumption-driven society, this appears to be the normal experience of those following similar paths, not the exception.

On these two premises rests a path of radical personal transformation with deep implications for the collective. "Using less energy at the global scale would reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and serve as a bridge to a future without fossil fuels," Kalmus says. "Using less energy in our individual lives," he further (and to my mind most importantly) asserts, "would equip us with the mindset, skills, and the systems we'll need in this post-fossil-fuel world."


Returning my gaze to the smoke, it occurred to me: As soon as the wildfires ran their deadly course, clean up, then construction, would immediately follow. The set would be quickly and efficiently reconstructed according to the same basic blueprint used before. And the reconstruction would undoubtedly be touted as evidence of inspiring community-resiliency, and probably of a certain American spirit, rugged and purportedly unique to us.

It occurred to me also, holding Being the Change in my hands on that smoke-immersed train with my beloved child beside me, that Peter Kalmus has provided us with a different blueprint, and he's shown through his own experimentation that we have the capacity to choose it, and to use it. On the cusp of climate catastrophe, we are neither choiceless nor powerless.

At bottom, I read Being the Change as the testament of a father trying to do right by his kids -- a testament that leaves me with a much different set of questions about the psychic wellness of our children: In the face of the climate emergency, what would it do to their psyches to see us, their parents and other adult caregivers, pouring our hearts into the work of personal and societal transformation, on behalf of people we will never meet? On behalf of all other living beings, the rivers and trees and soil? What if our children saw us respond to this crisis with maturity, sanity, and integrity? With the flexible stability of Gibran's bow? What would it do to them, for them, if we came into resonance with our own souls?

Categories: News

Riverside, CA: Recognizing and Understanding White Supremacist Symbols & Organizations

It's Goin Down - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 23:10

The post Riverside, CA: Recognizing and Understanding White Supremacist Symbols & Organizations appeared first on It's Going Down.

When: December 15th @6:30PM
Where: Quaker Center, 4061 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501

This informational seminar is designed to provide a knowledge base of the modern white supremacist movement in an attempt to empower the community of Riverside. If you are reading this, odds are you have a good sense when it comes to identifying problematic individuals on the street.

So what’s the point of inviting anti-fascists to a basic course in identifying fascism? Given the calls by anarchist media outlets such as Crimethinc, Submedia, and of course IGD, to expand our base and our movement, we felt it appropriate to share our knowledge and experience with folks who are not politicized. What we mean is, people who don’t have the privilege in our capitalist society to spend the time that we do researching and networking. When the calls for expansion went out we took that as a call not to expand to other revolutionaries, but to include those who have never been involved in anti-fascism or revolutionary struggle.

A piece of history tells us that institutions of power shake in their boots when we cross the street to empower people who may not be like us. What we’re referring to is the meeting between the Black Panthers and the Young Patriot Organization which resulted in the Rainbow Coalition. Shortly after those meetings, Fred Hampton was executed by the state. Don’t get us wrong, we don’t intend to invite neo-fascists to the table.

What we are describing is a plan to create autonomy and sustainability within non radical communities. This will not be possible unless we have something to offer the community. This is where our seminar fits in. Providing folks with the information on the white supremacist movement is a great first step, but we must facilitate discussion and organization in a way that is disruptive to the institution of racism.

We already have non politicized community members who are willing to listen, what we need is a counterbalance of anti-fascists and anti-racists who are willing to engage the community in order to pull them into the wider framework of anti-authoritarianism and anti-capitalism. Even if we are not successful in bringing the community into revolutionary struggle, we will have given them priceless tools that they can use every day to identify and challenge white supremacy in the street.

We will be providing snacks and refreshments for attendees free of charge, as well as relevant informational literature.

Categories: News

Announcing: North Bay Area RAM Chapter

It's Goin Down - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 22:51

The post Announcing: North Bay Area RAM Chapter appeared first on It's Going Down.

Responding to the call out for revolutionary anarchist action, underground railroads, and the destruction of the amerikkkan plantation, we are proud to announce the formation of a North Bay Area RAM Chapter.

Now more than ever, it is urgent to destroy the prison industrial complex, burn down the borders, and fight this patriarchal white supremacist system.

We intend to work along with our communities, radical and otherwise, to build infrastructure sustained without the state, to engage in self-defense and mutual aid, as well as enhance these cities and facilitate co-creative and transformative spaces.


About RAM

The Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement is a political movement dedicated to freeing people from bondage and building resistance in the United States. We situate our political movement in the context of the abolitionist struggle against slavery and continue in the tradition, from Nat Turner to the Black Liberation Movement. We believe the Civil War was never resolved and the system of slavery transitioned into the prison industrial complex. Our struggle today must begin from this starting point. Lastly, as revolutionary anarchists, the abolitionist struggle must be extended to the state and capitalism, the perpetrators of oppression. The revolutionary movement in the US today is at a cross roads, as fascist movements are expanding, and the state becomes increasingly authoritarian. The Rojava Revolution, in northern Syria, provides us with a model for revolution today with its foundation in communal and council based political organization and militant defense.

fb: @revolutionaryabolitionistmovement

twitter: @RevAbolitionist

Categories: News

Otherworlds Review #4: Snakes

It's Goin Down - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 22:21

The post Otherworlds Review #4: Snakes appeared first on It's Going Down.

Sun in Sagittarius, Full Moon in Gemini  Issue 4, December 2017

“The avenger that completes the task of liberation in the name of generations of the downtrodden. This conviction, which had a brief resurgence in the Spartacus League, has always been objectionable to Social Democrats. Within three decades they managed to erase the name of Blanqui almost entirely, though at the distant thunder of that name the preceding century had quaked.” – Benjamin, On the Concept of History

“Let us finally conclude the immanence of the smallest scraps of matter. Although their lifespan is of one second, their rebirth is boundless. The infinity of time & space is not the exclusive privilege of the universe as whole. It also belongs to every form of matter, down to the infusoria and grains of sand… Therefore every one of us has lived, lives, and shall live endlessly under the form of billions of alter egos… The stellar systems carry us along within their immortality. Being the only organization of matter, they possess its fixity and its mobility all at once. Each of them is but a strike of lightning, but such strikes illuminate space eternally.” – Blanqui, Eternity by the Stars

On the 17th of November, when the new moon met the sun in Scorpio – the sign of desire and careful attack – rebels in Olympia, WA began a blockade of the railroad leading to and from the dreadful port of Olympia. This auspicious night for new beginnings also marked a year since the eviction of a blockade of the same line; a blockade erected in solidarity with the struggle of indigenous water protectors and their accomplices against the DAPL pipeline – the Black Snake.

In spiritism, and other necromantic traditions, it is held that it takes a certain amount of time after death before a spirit can fully takes its place among the ancestors. In many traditions, one must wait a year before calling on an individual spirit, as an ancestor, for strength and guidance. It’s thought that it takes that much time for the spirit to work through the pain and confusion of their own death, to adjust to the otherworlds and to their new existence in them. When a year has passed, and the departed has joined its ancestral house (or wherever other collective or place it is joining), then and only then, can we begin to speak of conjuration.

Yes, the world is full of wandering and lost spirits, those stuck and incapable of moving on. And yes, anyone with a ouija board or tarot cards can get one of those spirits on the line, but to conjure real otherwordly strength means to act in partnership with and to call forth the spirits of a given tradition who form an ancestral line onto themselves. When the state ended last year’s blockade, sent it to the otherworlds, they unknowingly set it on the path that all spirits walk: the labyrinthine meander of the worlds beyond, of the chthonic.

The golden tablets buried with the Orphic initiates tell us that in the underworld we are given the choice to drink from the waters of forgetting or the waters of memory. Those who’ve seen the mysteries know to resist the temptation of forgetting and to ask for the cool waters flowing from the Lake of Memory. When the dis-membered spirit re-members and is re-membered, they gain the strength to join the other of their lineage. Last year’s blockade drank the waters of memory and in doing so joined the collective of spirits hereafter referred to as ‘the Commune.’

With initiation comes the powers, goetic and mantic, to invoke and truly conjure the Commune. The Commune, a composite being – one and many wolves – comes when called by those who know the way to call it forth. That so many “call” to each other, without ever calling the spirits, explains why their so-called communes look more like everyday life than its interruption. When the spirits who compose the Commune (and the spirit of the Commune itself) assert themselves, they make their presence unmistakably known. Time moves differently, old divisions fall away, new roads open, there is an immanence to spirit and potential. Then, and only then, can a moment of space-time be named the Commune. That presence requires a break, a fissure, a doorway between this world and the others. To build the Commune one must open the door and call the spirits through it. To do one without the other (the break and the remembrance) risks fascism and worse.

The anarchists, indigenous activists, punks, queers and other communards in Olympia proved their adeptness in summoning the Commune to full force. For twelve days the spirits flooded to the site of interruption and made it spread. There was dancing, streetfighting, a punk show, coyotes, workshops and discussions, plant medicine, prayer, a piano on the tracks. For twelve days now-time was given material space. For twelve days the doors stood wide open.

Yes, The police destroyed the Olympia Commune. They tore its encampment apart, scattered its children, severed its spirit from this world, dis-membered it. But we arm ourselves with Memory – anamnesis, not-forgetting. We sing the mourning songs of the goetes and in our singing send the Commune on its way, strengthen it for its journey to the waters of memory and forgetting, where it too will make its choice. Our remembering it can only help it to remember as well. It too, if we all do our part, will find its way to the weblike assemblage of ancestral communes, the Commune itself. And when the moment is right, those who know its name can call it back to the Earth.

Over the Oakland Commune hung a banner –  Paris 1871, Oakland 2011 – to which we joyously now add Olympia 2017. We mourn the commune, tend to the void it has left in the hearts of those who knew it, but we know it shall return. Just as the wine from the grapes grown on Montmarte hill is pressed and opened and drank as the blood of the communards; as a sacrament of the Commune – the interruption in space-time – which died there with them. We too drink the wine, the waters of memory, and vow to live in the time-between-Communes in ways which anticipate the return.

The Olympia Commune remembered other spirits as well, other stories. It remembered the encampments at Standing Rock which in turn remembered the Lakota prophecy of the terrible Black Snake which would come bearing destruction. The awareness of this prophecy was a weapon in the hands of those who were called to wield it.

Snakes, especially where they involve themselves in matters of apocalypse and prophecy, are found in mythologies and eschatologies the world over. Norse lore tells that when the serpent wrapped around the world releases its grasp on its own tail, it will do so in order to fight the Gods at Ragnarok. But the Orphics also knew that a snake was also there at the beginning, wrapped around the world egg, waiting for the hermaphroditic god Phanes – the light bringer; all genders and species manifest together – to crack its shell wide open with its dancing and thereby bringing the cosmos into existence. Before he could build his oraclular temple at Delphi, Apollon first had to slay the serpent which already held court at that gate to the otherworlds. That his prophetesses thereafter took the name pythia – pythoness – bears this memory. The transgendered shaman Tiresias and the animistic prophet Melampous slew and saved snakes respectively and each gained the true sight by way of their encounters. Snakes unnerve us because of their ambivalence and alienness, their force of interruption. And yet they always come bearing the gift of knowledge. Lucifer too was a light bringer who offered knowledge as an apple from the Tree.

The Black Snake has arrived as the interruption of the sacred waters and the ways of life which depend on them. It arrives as apocalypse and poison and empire. But empire too can be interrupted. It was, after all, a nocturnal vision of a snake coiled around Spartacus’ face which revealed to his wife, a prophetess subject to the Dionysiac frenzy, that he would catalyze the largest slave revolt the Roman Empire had ever seen. They led a years long interruption of that Empire’s hold over hundreds of thousands of lives, and they did so moved by the illumination of that vision. We live under the reign of the true descendant of that Empire and thus share common cause with the spirits who fought to destroy it. Such remembrance requires knowledge: the knowledge to open the door and to call the spirits through it.

Some within the Olympia Commune responded to the tired call for demands by issuing 20 of them:

1.  make the port a beach again
2.  blow up the sun
3.  the complete destruction of time itself
4.  a brick for every window
5.  a wrecking ball
6.  that, while science still exists, one of us be endowed with an Adamantium laced skeleton
7.  a swift and brutal end to the exploitation commonly referred to as “science”
8.  the destruction of all dams, and the return of the salmon
9.  no motor boats ever again
10.  that fascists and politicians spontaneously combust
11.  compost the police
12.  release of all prisoners and the Total Destruction of prison, in all of its forms
13.  cessation of all space exploration
14.  the return of the Tasmanian wolf, the aurochs, the dodo bird, the coral reefs, and all other creatures and habitats that have ceased to be
15.  the wilderness
16.  total freedom
18.  the liquidation of Pacific Union’s assets, to be equally distributed among all children
19.  mandatory clown uniforms for all Olympia parking employees
20.  that steve hall fight a bear

From the very first they emphasize their commitment to memory but we call your attention, dear reader, to the seventeenth.

17. [              ]

This is the door, situated there between freedom and liquidation, thrown open by the Olympia communards. The door is the refusal to play the game of the state’s discourse; the refusal to forget its betrayals and false promises. May we always remember that door that we may call it to presence again. Let us commit its passphrases to memory that we may recall them when we meet again.

Nothing is over; everything continues.

* * *


“Every second was the narrow gate, through which the Messiah could enter.” The anarchists of the Golden Age would have understood—they do understand, for our ancestors are always with us—when we speak of devotion. In the Roman battlefield ritual of devotio, a general promised himself and all of the enemy legions to the divine dead and the earth in exchange for victory. A self-sacrifice, but not a christian one: no forgiveness for foes here, no renunciation of the earth. But the Roman devotio served the State, ours seeks to ruin it. Nor is the Revolution to be forever in the future, to be earned through wretched asceticism, the protestant-capitalist work ethic, and crawling progress.

“Liquidating the lie of the transitional period means making the revolt itself a different way of conceiving relations.” When we speak of devotion, we speak of the insurrectionary imminence and immanence of our gods, their fiery and shining presence in our lives, the bolt of lightning that consumed Semele when she asked to see Zeus in his true form, the torches of the Battle Crow blazing from the skull of Cú Chulainn. We speak of “the Idea,” of “the faith,” of Anarchy! Our incendiary goddess, for whom Elia Corti and so many others gave their lives. For it is our lives that we offer, not our deaths. We speak of the hearth fires around which we gather, around which we have always gathered, which have kept the continuity of our communities and our struggles alive even in the bleakest of times. We fight for that which we are already a part of, even—especially—when the war demands negation. At the same time, we fight for the unknown—that is, for our relationship to it, for that which is familiar only through déjà vu. How can the Gods meet us face to face till we have faces?

From the hearth fires of devotion, the torches of liberatory fanaticism are kindled. In a world that has seen so much horror perpetrated by religious and rationalist authoritarians alike, we recognize the danger of this language, but we do not shy from embracing it. Our lineages, our kin: the Boxers, the Ghost Dancers, Carlota Lukumi and the rebels of Triunvirato, the Vouduisants at Bois Caïman, the Yellow Turbans, the black-clad firebrand-throwing women of the Isle of Mona, the maenads—those Dionysian fanatics of old. All those who rejected the armor of Leviathan and sought protection from the spirits through dance, through possession. Fanatic: from Latin fanum, “temple, shrine, consecrated place” – spoken in an ecstatic state; spoken while possessed by spirit. We who have consecrated ourselves as sacer are above all man-made law, partaking only in the sovereignty of the Otherworlds. We are outlaws, wargs, wolves—one and many. We are the affinity group, the gang, the pack. Our informal organizations exist unto themselves, but in relation to civilized society, we are always a threat. And our forms of organization are mirrored in the spirit world, our accomplices are found in all the realms. Wolves on the surface of the earth, snakes descending into the subterranean depths and back again, corvids in the heavens. Always shapeshifting, always mediating between life and death, always accompanied by the howling and hissing multitudes of our collective ancestors.

* * *

“Our world is going through a rather peculiar moment of dread and confusion – one for which there does not seem to be a ‘proper name’ yet. And yet naming our time is part of what is at stake. In this regard one thing at least is clear – ours is a time of planetary entanglement. But the planetarity of our predicament is not all there is. As it happens, times of planetary entanglement are propitious for all kinds of accelerations or escalations. They are propitious for the renewed production of things, forms and imaginaries both baroque, grotesque and dystopian if only because such forms/things/and imaginaries generally strive to generate their own actuality through sheer excess and stupefaction.” Achilles Mbembe, January 2017

“The duality of our relationship with reality can also carry us towards armed struggle, especially after so many years of disorientation. We want to see practical results, we think it’s possible to go beyond the abstraction of round-table politics, we want to see some concrete action. The urge to construct forms of action for ourselves is sometimes very strong, since we’ve had to put up with so many years of empty speeches. And imagination? It helps us to bear the clash with reality; in this case it helps us to avoid seeing what we don’t want to see. Certainly it slips into and supports fanaticism. But men become fanatical under the yoke of their ideological schemas while we, more often than not, are driven by the violence of our dreams.” Anonymous, Italy, 1991“The virtual and the actual together make up two mutually exclusive sides of the real. The actual is a given states of affairs that is populated by bodies. The virtual is a ‘pure past’ of incorporeal events and singularities that have never been present, which have ‘the capacity to bring about x, without (in being actualized) ever coming to coincide or identify itself with x, or to be depleted and exhausted in x’ while ‘without being or resembling an actual x.’ In this sense, the virtual includes all potential worlds, everything that inhabits them, all of their really-existing potentials, and their every potential to differ that coexists with the actual.” Deleuze, Difference and Repetition

Twin existences play out more openly when the twins of Gemini find their full moon in the sky of December. Under and over, within and without. There is a blend of the known, unknown, familiar and strange, blessed and cursed. Cold gets colder. The earth spun this way before and the body starts to know this air. The communal web of consciousness takes the breath. The philosophical inheritance of Sagittarius howls.

One labyrinth of solitude might reveal that “the predominance of the closed over the open manifests itself not only as impassivity and distrust, irony and suspicion, but also as love of Form.”

EVOCATION: Earth, 114 million years ago, one morning just after sunrise: the first flower ever to appear on the planet opens up to receive the rays of the sun. Prior to this momentous event that heralds an evolutionary transformation in the life of plants, the planet had already been covered in vegetation for millions of years. The first flower probably did not survive for long, and flowers must have remained rare and isolated phenomena, since conditions were most likely   not   yet   favorable   for   a   widespread   flowering   to   occur.

One day, however, a critical threshold was reached, and suddenly there would have been an explosion of color and scent all over the planet – if a perceiving consciousness had been there to witness it. Without our fully realizing it, flowers would become for us an expression in form of that which is most high, most sacred, and ultimately formless within ourselves. Flowers, more fleeting, more ethereal and more delicate than the plants out of which they emerged, would become like messengers from another realm, like a bridge between the world of physical forms and the formless. Palpable tenets of gaseous sentience, sense perceptions, dial into the spaceless space found at the Olympia Commune, at the Ghost Ship, at the walls of the prison. The spaces are bridges to cross. The spaceless is the “new quality [that] emerges in a leap as the slow accumulation of quantitative changes, long resisted by a stable system, finally forces it rapidly from one state into another.” The doors opened by every act of rebellion, by every spirit of refusal, by the ancestors of freedom are our passages through protected thresholds.

Blessings to Feral Pines and all who passed at Ghost Ship!
Blessings to Robîn Agiri: Şehîd Namirin!
Santiago Maldonade Presente!

Categories: News

Defector says thousands of ISIS fighters were given safe passage from Raqqa in secret U.S.-approved deal

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 21:35

Defector says thousands of ISIS fighters were given safe passage from Raqqa in secret U.S.-approved deal | 07 Dec 2017 | A high-level defector from Kurdish-led forces that captured the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State has recanted his account of the city's fall, saying thousands of ISIS fighters - many thousands more than first reported - left under a secret, U.S.-approved deal. Talal Silo, a former commander in the Syrian Democratic Forces, said the SDF arranged to bus all remaining Islamic State militants I-CIA-SIS terrorists out of Raqqa even though it said at the time it was battling diehard foreign jihadists in the city. U.S. officials described Silo's comments as "false and contrived" [LOL] but a security official in Turkey, where Silo defected three weeks ago, gave a similar account of Islamic State's defeat in its Syrian stronghold. Silo was the SDF spokesman and one of the officials who told the media in mid-October - when the deal was reached - that fewer than 300 fighters left Raqqa with their families while others would continue to fight.

Categories: News

Credit Union Sues Donald Trump to Save the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Grassroots Economic Survival - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 19:18
Link: Credit Union Sues Donald Trump to Save the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

December 5, 2017 – This afternoon, the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP (ECBA) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union against Donald Trump and Michael Mulvaney. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Manhattan.

The lawsuit challenges President Trump’s recent, illegal takeover of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in which he installed his at-will White House employee, Michael Mulvaney, to be Acting Director of the CFPB. The CFPB protects millions of Americans from unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices in the financial marketplace. Mr. Mulvaney has called the CFPB a “sad, sick joke.”

“We support the CFPB as a protector of our low income members’ financial rights, and fear that the appointment of an Acting Director beholden to the White House could result in upheaval and ultimate dissolution of this critical agency,” said Linda Levy, CEO of the Credit Union. “Having experienced the devastation that the 2008 mortgage crisis wreaked on our low income members, we need the CFPB to protect communities targeted by financial predators.”

“This is a naked, illegal power grab by Donald Trump to destroy an agency that helps and protects millions of ordinary Americans,” said Ilann M. Maazel, a partner at ECBA, and lead counsel for the Credit Union. “The law requires Leandra English to be CFPB’s Acting Director.”

“President Trump’s attempt to install a White House official as the acting head of what is supposed to be an independent agency is deeply disturbing and should concern everyone,” said Debra Greenberger, a partner at ECBA, and counsel for the Credit Union.

The Credit Union is a not-for-profit, federally-regulated financial cooperative owned by its approximately 8,500 members and dedicated to providing high-quality financial services and community development investments in low income, immigrant and other underserved communities.

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Categories: News