“Why, then, has mankind not long ago gone extinct during great epidemics of madness? Why do only a fairly minor number of individuals perish because they fail to endure the strain of living – because cognition gives them more than they can carry?” asks Peter Wessel Zapffe in his 1933 essay, “The Last Messiah.” For him, the cosmic panic he saw endemic to the capacity for meaning-making burdened his species with a perpetual psychic scramble to avoid absorption into the infinite regression which undergirds that capacity. For anarchists, the whole of the world as it is faces them with similarly unthinkable problems whose sheer magnitude, complexity, or both render them as in fact meaningless by dint of scopes in excess of the capacity for a given brain to cognize them, terminating thought into impermeably blank anagnorisis. Having achieved a state of no mind, only those with suitable religious inclinations bother remaining here for long.
“Cultural history, as well as observation of ourselves and others, allow the following answer: Most people learn to save themselves by artificially limiting the content of consciousness,” continues Zapffe, marking the out of which anarchists avail themselves as often as any other simulacra raised in the image of Man the Wise. Posed with inhuman problems which are nonetheless problems both of humans and for humans, though many elect to turn away it is understandable that one would find themselves nonetheless compelled to act toward the embetterment of their world. Whichever way they turn, however, apostate and fidelitous alike find themselves already caged by the funhouse mirrors of their own failed gnosis.
“The whole of living that we see before our eyes today is from inmost to outmost enmeshed in repressional mechanisms, social and individual; they can be traced right into the tritest formulas of everyday life,” he continues, laying down modes of defense by which his species avoids the hazard at the center of their own psychic ontologies. By these same methods, anarchists, and conceivably all confronted by truly larger than life matters, find ways to ignore their problems, bury themselves in dogmatic commitment to project-hobbies, and treat whatever matter is at hand as effectively reducible to an arena in which they, preferably, already hold mastery.
Failed imaginations an oubliette for every revolution.
Voiced and Edited: Linn O' Mable
Slaving away on the computer: rydra wrong
Find more of our work at freeradicalradio.netTags: zappfeanarchyanarchismpessimismmountain climbingcategory: Projects
Dow hits 23,000 for the first time | 17 Oct 2017 | The Dow Jones industrial average crossed 23,000 mark for the first time on Tuesday -- just two and a half months after it breached the 22,000 milestone. Shares have mounted their historic rally amid continued optimism on Wall Street over President Trump's plans to slash taxes and regulations, as well as continued strength in corporate profits. Still, some strategists wonder that the risks of a bubble are growing.
2 children injured in Afghanistan as US troops allegedly 'open fire' on them | 17 Oct 2017 | US forces in Afghanistan allegedly shot at and injured two children in eastern Afghanistan after their classmates threw stones at US military vehicles. Two of the eight pupils at a school on the outskirts of the city of Jalalabad in the Nangarhar Province were injured in the alleged shooting, its head teacher told RT's Ruptly news agency. Saying that the incident happened at 7:00 Monday morning, the man explained that he "was standing at the main gate of the school where the pupils enter."
New Book Released
"The Politics of Attack: Communiqués and Insurrectionary Violence" (Contemporary Anarchist Studies MUP Series)
by Michael Loadenthal
This study is an exploration of insurrectionary anarchist praxis, with a particular focus on how the rhetoric, discourse, and theory is both informed and conveyed through communiqués. It challenges the reader to consider the marginalized ideas put forth by those political actors that communicate through bombs, arson, and broken windows, who are rejected through the state's construction of terrorism. When a police station is firebombed, the subsequent discussions focus more on the illegality of the act rather than the sociopolitical critique the actor put forth. What if we were to embrace the means through which the militant 'organic intellectual' acts, and consider the communiqué's content, the way one would consider any political text? This inter-textual analysis is presented within a political and historical context, with the hopes of elevating the discussion of insurrectionary praxis beyond notions of terrorism and securitization and towards its application for intersectional challenges to structural violence and domination.
In the social war being waged by insurrectionary anarchists, small acts of violence are announced and contextualized through written communiqués, which are posted online, translated, and circulated globally. This book offers the first contemporary history of these post-millennial, digitally-mediated, insurrectionary anarchist networks, and seeks to locate this tendency within anti-state struggles from the past. Through an examination of thousands of movement documents, this book presents the discourse offered by clandestine, urban guerrillas fighting capitalism, the state, and the omnipresent forces of violence and coercion.
(Anyone able to do a review of the book should reach out to the author for review copies.)
For UK and ROW customers: http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9781526114440/
For North American customers: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-politics-of-attack-978152611...Tags: bookacademycategory: Projects
CICOPA, the international organisation of industrial and service cooperatives, published today its second global report on “Cooperatives and Employment” [PDF]. Based on data from 156 countries, the updated estimate shows that employment in or within the scope of cooperatives concerns at least 279.4 million people across the globe, in other words 9.46% of the world’s employed population.
For Bruno Roelants, Secretary General of CICOPA:
“Employment is one of the most important contributions made by cooperatives throughout the world. This report shows that people involved in cooperatives constitute a sufficiently high percentage to be considered as a major actor in the United Nations “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, as well as in the worldwide debate on the “Future of Work” launched by the International Labour Organization. In addition, the intent of the study is to improve the methodology and the quality level of cooperative statistics. This is particularly timely, as the next International Congress of Labour Statisticians will take place in 2018. The public authorities and the cooperative movement itself should pay particular attention to this forthcoming event.”
Go to the GEO front page
(Photo: Bianca Pontes / EyeEm)
Expanding educational opportunities and building a green economy -- while shrinking both the military and the fossil fuel industry -- are the best routes to full employment, say world-renowned public intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin. Also, greater financial regulation and more public development banks that prioritize social welfare over massive profits are crucial for a progressive agenda.
(Photo: Bianca Pontes / EyeEm)You can fuel thoughtful, authority-challenging journalism: Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout.
This is the first part of a wide-ranging interview with world-renowned public intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin. The next installment will appear on October 24.
Not long after taking office, it became evident that Donald Trump had engaged in fraudulent populism during his campaign. His promise to "Make America Great Again" has been exposed as a lie, as the Trump administration has been busy extending US military power, exacerbating inequality, reverting to the old era of unregulated banking practices, pushing for more fuel fossil drilling and stripping environmental regulations.
In the Trump era, what would an authentically populist, progressive political agenda look like? What would a progressive US look like with regard to jobs, the environment, finance capital and the standard of living? What would it look like in terms of education and health care, justice and equality? In an exclusive interview with C.J. Polychroniou for Truthout, world-renowned public intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin tackle these issues. Noam Chomsky is professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT and laureate professor in the department of linguistics at the University of Arizona. Robert Pollin is distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Their views lay the foundation for a visionary -- yet eminently realistic -- progressive social and economic order for the United States.
C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, the rise of Donald Trump has unleashed a rather unprecedented wave of social resistance in the US. Do you think the conditions are ripe for a mass progressive/socialist movement in this country that can begin to reframe the major policy issues affecting the majority of people, and perhaps even challenge and potentially change the fundamental structures of the US political economy?
Noam Chomsky: There is indeed a wave of social resistance, more significant than in the recent past -- though I'd hesitate about calling it "unprecedented." Nevertheless, we cannot overlook the fact that in the domain of policy formation and implementation, the right is ascendant, in fact some of its harshest and most destructive elements [are rising].
Nor should we overlook a crucial fact that has been evident for some time: The figure in charge, though often ridiculed, has succeeded brilliantly in his goal of occupying media and public attention while mobilizing a very loyal popular base -- and one with sinister features, sometimes smacking of totalitarianism, including adoration of The Leader. That goes beyond the core of loyal Trump supporters.... [A majority of Republicans] favor shutting down or at least fining the press if it presents "biased" or "false news" -- terms that mean information rejected by The Leader, so we learn from polls showing that by overwhelming margins, Republicans not only believe Trump far more than the hated mainstream media, but even far more than their own media organ, the extreme right Fox news. And half of Republicans would back postponing the 2020 election if Trump calls for it.
It is also worth bearing in mind that among a significant part of his worshipful base, Trump is regarded as a "wavering moderate" who cannot be fully trusted to hold fast to the true faith of fierce White Christian identity politics. A recent illustration is the primary victory of the incredible Roy Moore in Alabama despite Trump's opposition. ("Mr. President, I love you but you are wrong," as the banners read). The victory of this Bible-thumping fanatic has led senior party strategists to [conclude] "that the conservative base now loathes its leaders in Washington the same way it detested President Barack Obama" -- referring to leaders who are already so far right that one needs a powerful telescope to locate them at the outer fringe of any tolerable political spectrum.
The potential power of the ultra-right attack on the far right is [illustrated] by the fact that Moore spent about $200,000, in contrast to his Trump-backed opponent, the merely far-right Luther Strange, who received more than $10 million from the national GOP and other far-right sources. The ultra-right is spearheaded by Steve Bannon, one of the most dangerous figures in the shiver-inducing array that has come to the fore in recent years. It has the huge financial support of the Mercer family, along with ample media outreach through Breitbart news, talk radio and the rest of the toxic bubble in which loyalists trap themselves.While Trump keeps the spotlight on himself, the "respectable" Republican establishment chips away at government programs that benefit the general population.
In the most powerful state in history, the current Republican Party is ominous enough. What is not far on the horizon is even more menacing.
Much has been said about how Trump has pulled the cork out of the bottle and legitimized neo-Nazism, rabid white supremacy, misogyny and other pathologies that had been festering beneath the surface. But it goes much beyond even that.
I do not want to suggest that adoration of the Dear Leader is something new in American politics, or confined to the vulgar masses. The veneration of Reagan that has been diligently fostered has some of the same character, in intellectual circles as well. Thus, in publications of the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, we learn that Reagan's "spirit seems to stride the country, watching us like a warm and friendly ghost." Lucky us, protected from harm by a demi-god.
Whether by design, or simply inertia, the Republican wrecking ball has been following a two-level strategy. Trump keeps the spotlight on himself with one act after another, assuming (correctly) that yesterday's antics will be swept aside by today's. And at the same time, often beneath the radar, the "respectable" Republican establishment chips away at government programs that might be of benefit to the general population, but not to their constituency of extreme wealth and corporate power. They are systematically pursuing what Financial Times economic correspondent Martin Wolf calls "pluto-populism," a doctrine that imposes "policies that benefit plutocrats, justified by populist rhetoric." An amalgam that has registered unpleasant successes in the past as well.
Meanwhile, the Democrats and centrist media help out by focusing their energy and attention on whether someone in the Trump team talked to Russians, or [whether] the Russians tried to influence our "pristine" elections -- though at most in a way that is undetectable in comparison with the impact of campaign funding, let alone other inducements that are the prerogative of extreme wealth and corporate power and are hardly without impact.
The Russian saboteurs of democracy seem to be everywhere. There was great anxiety about Russian intervention in the recent German elections, perhaps contributing to the frightening surge of support for the right-wing nationalist, if not neo-fascist, "Alternative for Germany" [AfD]. AfD did indeed have outside help, it turns out, but not from the insidious Putin. "The Russian meddling that German state security had been anticipating apparently never materialized," according to Bloomberg News. "Instead, the foreign influence came from America." More specifically, from Harris Media, whose clients include Marine Le Pen's National Front in France, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, and our own Donald Trump. With the valuable assistance of the Berlin office of Facebook, which created a population model and provided the needed data, Harris's experts micro-targeted Germans in categories deemed susceptible to AfD's message -- with some success, it appears. The firm is now planning to move on to coming European races, it has announced.
Nevertheless, all is not bleak by any means. The most spectacular feature of the 2016 elections was not the election of a billionaire who spent almost as much as his lavishly-funded opponent and enjoyed fervent media backing. Far more striking was the remarkable success of the Sanders campaign, breaking with over a century of mostly bought elections. The campaign relied on small contributions and had no media support, to put it mildly. Though lacking any of the trappings that yield electoral success in our semi-plutocracy, Sanders probably would have won the Democratic Party nomination, perhaps the presidency, if it hadn't been for the machinations of party managers. His popularity undimmed, he is now a leading voice for progressive measures and is amassing considerable support for his moderate social democratic proposals, reminiscent of the New Deal -- proposals that would not have surprised President Eisenhower, but are considered practically revolutionary today as both parties have shifted well to the right [with] Republicans virtually off the spectrum of normal parliamentary politics.
Offshoots of the Sanders campaign are doing valuable work on many issues, including electoral politics at the local and state level, which had been pretty much abandoned to the Republican right, particularly during the Obama years, to very harmful effect. There is also extensive and effective mobilization against racist and white supremacist pathologies, often spearheaded by the dynamic Black Lives Matter movement. Defying Trumpian and general Republican denialism, a powerful popular environmental movement is working hard to address the existential crisis of global warming. These, along with significant efforts on other fronts, face very difficult barriers, which can and must be overcome.
Bob, it is clear by now that Trump has no plan for creating new jobs, and even his reckless stance toward the environment will have no effect on the creation of new jobs. What would a progressive policy for job creation look like that will also take into account concerns about the environment and climate change?
Robert Pollin: A centerpiece for any kind of progressive social and economic program needs to be full employment with decent wages and working conditions. The reasons are straightforward, starting with money. Does someone in your family have a job and, if so, how much does it pay? For the overwhelming majority of the world's population, how one answers these two questions determines, more than anything else, what one's living standard will be. But beyond just money, your job is also crucial for establishing your sense of security and self-worth, your health and safety, your ability to raise a family, and your chances to participate in the life of your community.Building a green economy in the US generates roughly three times more jobs per dollar than maintaining our fossil fuel dependency.
How do we get to full employment, and how do we stay there? For any economy, there are two basic factors determining how many jobs are available at any given time. The first is the overall level of activity -- with GDP as a rough, if inadequate measure of overall activity -- and the second is what share of GDP goes to hiring people into jobs. In terms of our current situation, after the Great Recession hit in full in 2008, US GDP has grown at an anemic average rate of 1.3 percent per year, as opposed to the historic average rate from 1950 until 2007 of 3.3 percent. If the economy had grown over the past decade at something even approaching the historic average rate, the economy would have produced more than enough jobs to employ all 13 million people who are currently either unemployed or underemployed by the official government statistics, plus the nearly 9 million people who have dropped out of the labor force since 2007.
In terms of focusing on activities where job creation is strong, let's consider two important sets of economic sectors. First, spending $1 million on education will generate a total of about 26 jobs within the US economy, more than double the 11 jobs that would be created by spending the same $1 million on the US military. Similarly, spending $1 million on investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency will create over 16 jobs within the US, while spending the same $1 million on our existing fossil fuel infrastructure will generate about 5.3 jobs -- i.e. building a green economy in the US generates roughly three times more jobs per dollar than maintaining our fossil fuel dependency. So full employment policies should focus on accelerating economic growth and on changing our priorities for growth -- as two critical examples, to expand educational opportunities across the board and to build a green economy, while contracting both the military and the fossil fuel economy.
A full employment program also obviously needs to focus on the conditions of work, starting with wages. The most straightforward measure of what neoliberal capitalism has meant for the US working class is that the average wage for non-supervisory workers in 2016 was about 4 percent lower than in 1973. This is while average labor productivity -- the amount each worker produces over the course of a year -- has more than doubled over this same 43-year period. All of the gains from productivity doubling under neoliberalism have therefore been pocketed by either supervisory workers, or even more so, by business owners and corporate shareholders seeing their profits rise. The only solution here is to fight to increase worker bargaining power. We need stronger unions and worker protections, including a $15 federal minimum wage. Such initiatives need to be combined with policies to expand the overall number of job opportunities out there. A fundamental premise of neoliberalism from day one has been to dismantle labor protections. We are seeing an especially aggressive variant of this approach today under the so-called "centrist" policies of the new French President Emmanuel Macron.
What about climate change and jobs? A view that has long been touted, most vociferously by Trump over the last two years, is that policies to protect the environment and to fight climate change are bad for jobs and therefore need to be junked. But this claim is simply false. In fact, as the evidence I have cited above shows, building a green economy is good for jobs overall, much better than maintaining our existing fossil-fuel based energy infrastructure, which also happens to be the single most significant force driving the planet toward ecological disaster.
It is true that building a green economy will not be good for everyone's jobs. Notably, people working in the fossil fuel industry will face major job losses. The communities in which these jobs are concentrated will also face significant losses. But the solution here is straightforward: Just Transition policies for the workers, families and communities who will be hurt as the coal, oil and natural gas industries necessarily contract to zero over roughly the next 30 years. Working with Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Heidi Garrett-Peltier and Brian Callaci at [the Political Economy Research Institute], and in conjunction with labor, environmental and community groups in both the states of New York and Washington, we have developed what I think are quite reasonable and workable Just Transition programs. They include solid pension protections, re-employment guarantees, as well as retraining and relocation support for individual workers, and community-support initiatives for impacted communities.
The single most important factor that makes all such initiatives workable is that the total number of affected workers is relatively small. For example, in the whole United States today, there are a total of about 65,000 people employed directly in the coal industry. This represents less than 0.05 percent of the 147 million people employed in the US. Considered within the context of the overall US economy, it would only require a minimum level of commitment to provide a just transition to these workers as well as their families and communities.
Finally, I think it is important to address one of the major positions on climate stabilization that has been advanced in recent years on the left, which is to oppose economic growth altogether, or to support "de-growth." The concerns of de-growth proponents -- that economic growth under neoliberal capitalism is both grossly unjust and ecologically unsustainable -- are real. But de-growth is not a viable solution. Consider a very simple example -- that under a de-growth program, global GDP contracts by 10 percent. This level of GDP contraction would be five times larger than what occurred at the lowest point of the 2007-09 Great Recession, when the unemployment rate more than doubled in the United States. But even still, this 10 percent contraction in global GDP would have the effect, on its own, of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by precisely 10 percent. At a minimum, we would still need to cut emissions by another 30 percent within 15 years, and another 80 percent within 30 years to have even a fighting chance of stabilizing the climate. As such, the only viable climate stabilization program is to invest massively in clean renewable and high energy efficiency systems so that clean energy completely supplants our existing fossil-fuel dependent system within the next 30 years, and to enact comparable transformations in agricultural production processes.
The "masters of the universe" have made a huge comeback since the last financial crisis, and while Trump's big-capital-friendly policies are going to make the rich get richer, they could also spark the next financial crisis. So, Bob, what type of progressive policies can and should be enforced to contain the destructive tendencies of finance capital?
Pollin: The classic book Manias, Panics, and Crashes by the late MIT economist Charles Kindleberger makes clear that, throughout the history of capitalism, unregulated financial markets have persistently produced instability and crises. The only deviation from this long-term pattern occurred in the first 30 years after World War II, roughly from 1946-1975. The reason US and global financial markets were much more stable over this 30-year period is that the markets were heavily regulated then, through the Glass-Steagall regulatory system in the US, and the Bretton Woods system globally. These regulatory systems were enacted only in response to the disastrous Great Depression of the 1930s, which began with the 1929 Wall Street crash and which then brought global capitalism to its knees.
Of course, the big Wall Street players always hated being regulated and fought persistently, first to evade the regulations and then to dismantle them. They were largely successful through the 1980s and 1990s. But the full, official demise of the 1930s regulatory system came only in 1999, under the Democratic President Bill Clinton. At the time, virtually all leading mainstream economists -- including liberals, such as Larry Summers, who was Treasury Secretary when Glass-Steagall was repealed -- argued that financial regulations were an unnecessary vestige of the bygone 1930s. All kinds of fancy papers were written "demonstrating" that the big players on Wall Street are very smart people who know what's best for themselves and everyone else -- and therefore, didn't need government regulators telling them what they could or could not do. It then took less than eight years for hyper-speculation on Wall Street to once again bring global capitalism to its knees. The only thing that saved capitalism in 2008-09 from a repeat of the 1930s Great Depression was the unprecedented government interventions to prop up the system, and the equally massive bail out of Wall Street.An effective regulatory system today would be one guided by a few basic premises that can be applied flexibly but also universally.
By 2010, the US Congress and President Obama enacted a new set of financial regulations, the Dodd-Frank system. Overall, Dodd-Frank amount to a fairly weak set of measures aiming to dampen hyper-speculation on Wall Street. A large part of the problem is that Dodd-Frank included many opportunities for Wall Street players to delay enactment of laws they didn't like and for clever lawyers to figure out ways to evade the ones on the books. That said, the Trump administration, led on economic policy matters by two former Goldman Sachs executives, is committed to dismantling Dodd-Frank altogether, and allowing Wall Street to once again operate free of any significant regulatory constraints. I have little doubt that, free of regulations, the already ongoing trend of rising speculation -- with, for example, the stock market already at a historic high -- will once again accelerate.
What is needed to build something like a financial system that is both stable and supports a full-employment, ecologically sustainable growth framework? A major problem over time with the old Glass-Steagall system was that there were large differences in the degree to which, for example, commercial banks, investment banks, stock brokerages, insurance companies and mortgage lenders were regulated, thereby inviting clever financial engineers to invent ways to exploit these differences. An effective regulatory system today should therefore be guided by a few basic premises that can be applied flexibly but also universally. The regulations need to apply across the board, regardless of whether you call your business a bank, an insurance company, a hedge fund, a private equity fund, a vulture fund, or some other term that most of us haven't yet heard about.
One measure for promoting both stability and fairness across financial market segments is a small sales tax on all financial transactions -- what has come to be known as a Robin Hood Tax. This tax would raise the costs of short-term speculative trading and therefore discourage speculation. At the same time, the tax will not discourage "patient" investors who intend to hold their assets for longer time periods, since, unlike the speculators, they will be trading infrequently. A bill called the Inclusive Prosperity Act was first introduced into the House of Representatives by Rep. Keith Ellison in 2012 and then in the Senate by Bernie Sanders in 2015, [and] is exactly the type of measure that is needed here.
Another important initiative would be to implement what are called asset-based reserve requirements. These are regulations that require financial institutions to maintain a supply of cash as a reserve fund in proportion to the other, riskier assets they hold in their portfolios. Such requirements can serve both to discourage financial market investors from holding an excessive amount of risky assets, and as a cash cushion for the investors to draw upon when market downturns occur.
This policy instrument can also be used to push financial institutions to channel credit to projects that advance social welfare, for example, promoting investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The policy could stipulate that, say, at least 5 percent of banks' loan portfolios should be channeled to into clean-energy investments. If the banks fail to reach this 5 percent quota of loans for clean energy, they would then be required to hold this same amount of their total assets in cash.
Finally, both in the US and throughout the world, there needs to be a growing presence of public development banks. These banks would make loans based on social welfare criteria -- including advancing a full-employment, climate-stabilization agenda -- as opposed to scouring the globe for the largest profit opportunities regardless of social costs.... Public development banks have always played a central role in supporting the successful economic development paths in the East Asian economies.
Editor's note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Purdue University President Mitch Daniels made it clear to anti-racists that he's more interested in attacking them than the fascists who are organizing on campus in a letter to well-known pro-Palestine and anti-racist professor Bill Mullen that accuses Mullen of being "anti-Semitic."
Daniels, the former governor of Indiana and a Bush Jr. administration official, wrote the letter in response to a statement sent by Purdue's Campus Antifascist Network chapter, calling on him to look into several examples of fascist organizing on campus, including flyers circulated by the white nationalist Identity Evropa.
Instead of taking the threat of the far-right organizing seriously, Daniels saw this as an opportunity to attack Mullen, writing, "In the past, I have had to defend your right to speech that was widely interpreted as racist, in the form of that oldest of bigotries, anti-Semitism."
Mullen has been a supporter of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel apartheid, and he helped organize within the American Studies Association for a resolution to boycott Israeli universities, which passed in 2013.
For many years, opponents of the movement for justice in Palestine have tried to tar its supporters as "anti-Semitic," an accusation that has no basis in fact. "It is the most clichéd right-wing and Zionist accusation, and Daniels is simply recycling it," Mullen said in an interview. "He's trying desperately to change the subject from his failure to act against white supremacy on campus."
The letter, which Daniels' office released after a query by the Lafayette Journal and Courier, also incorrectly claims that Mullen and the Campus Antifascist Network are affiliated with Antifa.
In reality, Daniels' statement encourages attacks on left-wing campus activism. Mullen said that he'd already received an e-mail that called him a "faggot" and threatened a physical attack.
While Daniel's focuses on attacking the campus left, the far right is trying to sink roots at Purdue. Two weeks after Trump's election, the neo-Nazi American Vanguard put up posters, which included Third Reich iconography, on campus.
"Daniels said it was 'not clear' what the posters meant," said Mullen. "After public outrage at his remarks, he again said he wouldn't give the Vanguard unwanted attention by acting on them."
Since then, there have been five more incidents of white supremacist or white nationalist fliers on campus. Two weeks ago, tables in the Purdue University's Honors College and Residences were found arranged in the shape of a swastika. The meaning of this should be clear, even to Daniels.
While Daniels condemns left-wing activists as "racists," he does all he can to make sure conservative ideas get a wider audience. "This is the first time he's attacked me personally," Mullen said, "but what he's done is create a hostile environment on campus for progressive thought, minority students and left political dissent."
Since taking over as university president, Daniels has adopted the "freedom of expression" policy developed by the University of Chicago, which he uses "to expand space for conservative thought and speech...[and] as a cover to diminish and restrict progressive speech," said Mullen.
For example, Chief Diversity Officer Christina Taylor was fired not long after she helped organize campus talks by Angela Davis and Cornel West. Yet Daniels hosts the most visible lecture series on campus, stacked with white male conservatives such as George Will, Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State George Schultz, and Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance.
Since Trump's election, right-wingers like Daniels--whose record of attacks on immigrants, reproductive rights and unions is clear from his time in public office--have been even more emboldened to broadcast their right-wing agenda. Part of that agenda includes silencing the left.
"Daniels has helped lead a two-pronged charge against radicals, leftists and progressives: pushing hard to expand free speech to the right---and for the right---and restricting the space and practice of left voices," said Mullen. "This is a pincer move being practiced across the country that many of us are caught up in, and must expose and resist."
Daniels' smear campaign against Mullen is one example of a wider threat. This week, Drexel University placed outspoken left-wing professor George Ciccariello-Maher on leave for comments he made on social media. Several academics have become the direct targets of right-wing threats, such as Princeton University's Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, who got death threat after criticizing the president in a commencement address.
The message of the right is clear: If you are a professor and you speak out, your job could be at risk.
If attacks like these go unconfronted, they will generate an atmosphere of fear for people on the left and pave the way for far-right groups like Identity Evropa that are on our campus this year on a drive to recruit.
There are a number of things campus activists can do to resist this assault, Mullen says:
The first thing we need to do is win political arguments that matter: against racism, against sexism, against homophobia, imperialism, capitalism and Trump. Winning political arguments in a time of crisis is the quickest way to make sure better ideas prevail in the university and on the streets.
The next thing we need to do is continue to organize broadly in a united front against the right. Specific to attacks on professors, we need permanent coalitions to protect university faculty from attack. One of these I'm involved with is the Campus Antifascist Network...
A third thing is to join and build academic unions who can help defend faculty from attack. I am a member of the Purdue American Association of University Professors chapter, which has a history of filing actions against Universities that ignore faculty rights or governance...
Fourth, faculty and students need to work in coordination. LGBTQ, African American, Latinx, Palestinian students and student groups should be involved with defense of faculty campaigns...
Last, campus groups should work with trade unions and progressive non-academic organizations to protect faculty. An attack on a teacher for holding and expressing antiracist views is an attack on all workers holding and expressing those views. As we always say, "An injury to one is an injury to all."
Millions of Puerto Ricans are still without water, food, electricity and shelter, four weeks after Hurricane Maria destroyed the island. With waterborne illnesses on the rise, a full-blown humanitarian crisis is on the horizon.
"Raw sewage continues to be released into waterways and is expected to continue until repairs can be made and power is restored," the EPA warns in a memo.
When the agency issued this statement, eighty-four percent of Puerto Rico was without electricity, and sixty percent of water treatment plants out of service.
"Water contaminated with livestock waste, human sewage, chemicals, and other contaminants can lead to illness when used for drinking, bathing, and other hygiene activities," the EPA says.
To make matters worse, Puerto Rico is home to 21 Superfund sites -- the nation's most deadly depositories of toxic chemicals. The island also has a five-story-high coal ash dump in Guayama that was hit by the storm.
Floodwaters have already mixed deadly toxins from these sites into nearby waterways, which residents are forced to use to bathe and drink. In a desperate attempt to save their own lives, some Puerto Ricans are drinking highly contaminated water from wells that were once sealed to avoid exposure to deadly toxins.
Families who have lost everything now must contend with the possibility that their groundwater is tainted with poison.The Complexion for Protection
On the same day the EPA issued its warning, President Trump took to Twitter to complain, "We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders… in P.R. forever!"
First, Mr. President, a reality check. The devastation caused by major storms takes years, not weeks, to repair. FEMA is still at work in New Orleans, twelve years after Hurricane Katrina, and in New Jersey and New York five years after Hurricane Sandy. EPA cleanup of contaminated sites takes even longer.
Second, a political check. Puerto Ricans are American citizens, and have been for more than a century. They serve in our Armed Forces and pay taxes, even if they weren't allowed to vote for you -- or any candidate -- for President, and have no representation in Congress.
As Puerto Rico's Governor, Roberto Roselló, wrote in his response to Trump's Twitter tantrum, "The US citizens in Puerto Rico are requesting the support that any of our fellow citizens would receive across our Nation."
This is discrimination, plain and simple. When President Trump visited San Juan, he threw paper towels at a crowd of suffering people and scolded them for busting his budget. They weren't amused by his theatrics.
They, like the Houston residents who live near waterways fouled by toxins from the San Jacinto Superfund site, are people of color -- apparently not the right complexion for protection.Dismissing the Victims
Dismissing victims is not unusual for this administration and for the EPA. The agency's new chief, Scott Pruitt, spends his time on the road meeting privately with corporate CEOs responsible for these toxic waste sites. He then takes their wish-lists back to Washington so he can draft new ways to roll back the environmental protections they loathe.
But local community leaders, with few exceptions, have not been given the opportunity to talk with Pruitt.
Congress passed legislation in 1986 directing EPA to pursue permanent remedies or cleanups that conform to stringent standards. Although permanent cleanups cost more at the front end, they save money over the long term, as evident by the disruption of buried waste from storms like Harvey, Irma, Katrina and Sandy.
So, why won't the EPA enforce the permanent cleanup of these sites to avoid future cleanup costs as well as protect the community?
Because the people who live around most Superfund sites are poor and of color and are considered not worth the investment.
This is even more the case in in Puerto Rico, since lawmakers in D.C. feel no accountability to the island's citizens, who are separated from the mainland and denied the right to vote.The EPA Told Me So
How do I know this? An EPA regional representative recently told me they were not going to spend millions to clean up a site when the surrounding houses are worth $60,000. It doesn't make cost-effective sense, he said; we'll just try to contain the waste.
Yet these houses are people's homes; inside are human beings raising their families, having backyard picnics and celebrating birthdays. The homes are their "American Dream." How dare these government officials devalue their neighborhoods because they are not wealthy!
These families pay taxes, contribute to society and deserve every protection available from our government, regardless of their wealth, language or the color of their skin.
I fear that families that have already lost so much in this summer's severe hurricanes will suffer even more in coming months because of the color of their skin and the level of their income.
And as they try to clean up the mud and debris and rebuild their lives, families must also worry about how much chemical residue is in the mud they and their children have been exposed to.They Don't Care, so We Must
There is no question in my mind that the Trump Administration does not care for victims, whether in Houston, Miami or San Juan. So we have to take responsibility to compel the administration to act and hold them accountable.
We have to force the government to protect people living near Superfund sites by permanently cleaning them up, and to give Puerto Rico's people the equal treatment they deserve.
Callout culture. The quest for purity. Privilege theory taken to extremes. I've observed some of these questionable patterns in my activist communities over the past several years.
As an activist, I stand with others against white supremacy, anti-blackness, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, and imperialism. I am queer, trans, Chinese American, middle class, and able-bodied.
Holding these identities scattered across the spectrum of privilege, I have done my best to find my place in the movement, while educating myself on social justice issues to the best of my ability. But after witnessing countless people be ruthlessly torn apart in community for their mistakes and missteps, I started to fear my own comrades.
As a cultural studies scholar, I am interested in how that culture -- as expressed through discourse and popular narratives -- does the work of power. Many disciplinary practices of the activist culture succeed in curbing oppressive behaviors. Callouts, for example, are necessary for identifying and addressing problematic behavior. But have they become the default response to fending off harm? Shutting down racist, sexist, and similar conversations protects vulnerable participants. But has it devolved into simply shutting down all dissenting ideas? When these tactics are liberally applied, without limit, inside marginalized groups, I believe they hold back movements by alienating both potential allies and their own members.
In response to the unrestrained use of callouts and unchecked self-righteousness by leftist activists, I spend enormous amounts of energy protecting my activist identity from attack. I self-police what I say when among other activists. If I'm not 100 percent sold on the reasons for a political protest, I keep those opinions to myself -- though I might show up anyway.
On social media, I've stopped commenting with thoughtful push back on popular social justice positions for fear of being called out. For example, even though some women at the 2017 women's march reproduced the false and transmisogynistic idea that all women have vaginas, I still believe that the event was a critical win for the left and should not be written off so easily as it has been by some in my community.
Understand, even though I am using callouts as a prime example, I am not against them. Several times, I have been called out for ways I have carelessly exhibited ableism, transmisogyny, fatphobia, and xenophobia. I am able to rebound quickly when responding with openness to those situations. I am against a culture that encourages callouts conducted irresponsibly, ones that abandon the person being called out and ones done out of a desire to experience power by humiliating another community member.
I am also concerned about who controls the language of social justice, as I see it wielded as a weapon against community members who don't have access to this rapidly evolving lexicon. Terms like "oppression," "tone policing," "emotional labor," "diversity," and "allyship" are all used in specific ways to draw attention to the plight of minoritized people. Yet their meanings can also be manipulated to attack and exclude.
Furthermore, most social justice 101 articles I see online are prescriptive checklists. Although these can be useful resources for someone who has little familiarity with these issues, I worry that this model of education contributes to the false idea that we have only one way to think about, talk about, and ultimately, do activism. I think that movements are able to fully breathe only when there is a plurality of tactics, and to some extent, of ideologies.
I am not the first nor the last to point out that these movements for liberation and justice are exhibiting the same oppressive patterns that we are fighting against in larger society. Rather than wallowing in critique or walking away from this work, I choose a third option -- that we as a community slow down, acknowledge this pattern and develop an ethics of activism as a response.
I believe it's sorely needed as we struggle to mobilize in a chaotic and unjust world.
What might an ethics of activism look like?Knowing When to Be Hard and When to Be Soft
I believe that when confronting unjust situations and unjust people, sometimes hardness is necessary, and other times softness is appropriate. Gaining the discernment to know when to use each is a task for a lifetime. I have often seen a burning anger at the core of activism, especially for newer activists. Anger can be righteous, and it often is when stemming from marginalized peoples weary of being mistreated. And yet, I want to use my anger as a tool for reaching the deeper, healing powers I possess when carving out a path of sustainable activism. Black social justice facilitator and doula adrienne maree brown writes of her oppressors, "What if what's needed isn't sexy, intimidating or violent? What if what is needed is forgiveness?" I've spent a good deal of energy exercising my ability to speak truth to power and boldly naming my enemies. Perhaps it is time to massage my heart so that I can choose to be soft toward someone in community who is hurting me, and open up the possibility of mutual transformation.Adopting a Politics of Imperfection and Responsibility
I have been mulling over sociologist Alexis Shotwell's call for the left to adopt a "politics of imperfection and responsibility" as one way to move forward toward action and away from purity. A politics of imperfection asks me to openly acknowledge the ways in which my family and I have benefited and continue to benefit from oppressive systems such as slavery, capitalism, and settler colonialism. This is an ongoing investigation into my own complicity. I am a Chinese American with immigrant parents, and my family has built economic stability by buying into the model minority myth, which is based largely in anti-blackness. As uninvited guests and visitors to this part of the world, we have claimed our new home on lands stolen from indigenous peoples. A politics of responsibility means that as I am complicit in harmful systems, I also possess full agency to do good. This allows me to commit to dismantling these systems and embracing centuries-long legacies of resistance. It means I am accountable in community spaces and do not destroy myself when others call me out on my errors. It means I practice a generosity of spirit and forgiveness towards myself and others. To do all this, I must publicly claim both imperfection and personal responsibility as an activist.Tapping Into Our Shared Humanity
Marginalized people ask that privileged people look at them and see a human being, not a lesser-than being. Oppressive systems operate by systemically dehumanizing some groups for the benefit of others. On the flip side, I believe people with privilege are dehumanized when internalizing their societal supremacy over others. For example, the ethnographic studies that have been conducted to explain the election of Donald Trump have revealed the mass identity crisis in white America. We have seen poor and working class white Americans denounce people of color and diversity efforts because, sadly, they perceive them as threats to their historically established power and access. Rather than base cultural identities solely on power, could we tap into what we all have in common: our humanity, no matter how trampled it is? Black public theologian Christena Cleveland practices envisioning the humanity in those who challenge and attack her. According to her, training herself to cultivate love for her enemies makes it more effective for her to communicate and speak her truth into their hearts. She is as concerned about her well-being as she is about transforming antagonistic people in her life into "liberated oppressors." Black elder activist Ruby Sales firmly tells her oppressors, with unyielding love in her voice: "You can't make me hate you."
These are suggestions that have aided me in navigating toxic social justice environments. In testing them out, I try to stay open to new tactics while understanding that I must remain flexible and responsive to the variable stages of justice work. If we as activists do not feel safe in our experimental microcosms of justice and liberation, what can we attempt to replicate across larger society?
A featured speaker from the May 2016 Disco Tech put on by MIT and the Engagement Lab.
Micky Metts is a member of Agaric, a worker owned cooperative of web developers.
In her talk Micky unpacks concepts of decolonization of the self, and of self care in collaborative space.
Go to the GEO front page
Nuclear war may break out any moment, says N. Korean UN envoy | 17 Oct 2017 | North Korea's deputy UN ambassador has warned the UN General Assembly that the crisis on the Korean Peninsula "has reached the touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment." Kim In-ryong said North Korea is the only country in the world subjected to "such an extreme and direct nuclear threat" by the US, AP reports. He accused Washington of hatching a "secret operation aimed at the removal of our supreme leadership" and defended his country's nuclear arsenal, at the heart of the crisis, as being for self-defense.
Clovelly Oil is not quite a household name, as far as oil and natural gas companies go, though it recently gained attention when its oil and natural gas storage rig exploded on October 15 in Louisiana.
Located on Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans, Clovelly's storage facility erupted at about 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, injuring seven. Timothy Morrison, 44, of Katy, Texas, remains missing. The search for him has been suspended by the U.S. Coast Guard.
What do we know about this company and its history in the state? Clovelly previously made headlines in 2013 when the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority sued it along with over 100 other companies for their role in eroding and degrading the Louisiana coast.var icx_publication_id = 14813; var icx_content_id = '12211'; Click here for reuse options! Tags: Clovelly OilLouisianaLake PontchartrainSoutheast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority
Our society does not encourage people who harm others to take responsibility for their actions, so there's no opportunity for transformation, say Mariame Kaba and Shira Hassan, organizers and educators whose work centers on criminalized survivors of violence. To create a society where interpersonal violence is unthinkable, we have to move away from a system of punishment and toward accountability to one's community.
We're now several months 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 83rd in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.
Today we bring you a conversation with Mariame Kaba and Shira Hassan. Kaba is an organizer and educator whose work centers on criminalized survivors of violence and on ending youth incarceration. Hassan is the founder of Just Practice, a community project that focuses on accountability without involving police.
Sarah Jaffe: Sexual harassment and sexual assault are in the news because of a powerful famous man.... Do you feel like the public conversation around these people in the media, on social media, wherever you are hearing it, has progressed at all?
Mariame Kaba: The conversation is absolutely different from when I started doing work around sexual assault.... That was in the late 1980s/early 1990s. The focus at that point was really the question of date rape on campus and the conversation revolved mostly around ... "How do we address people drinking and then assaulting people?"
I also came of age at a time before social media. The conversation was very much limited to having talks with your friends about this.... Beyond that, you were talking with folks in a support group setting, storytelling and divulging that you had been raped.... It didn't feel like you had to premise your conversation around disclosing your own experience before you could actually speak to this in a real way. I, yes indeed, am a survivor of sexual assault and violence, but it just felt different at that time. It felt somehow more intimate and less tied to media and social media.
Shira Hassan: I think the conversation has definitely changed, especially the way we have the conversation much more publicly. It is a lot different than writing people's names on the bathroom walls, which is what we were doing in the 1990s. Facebook has become the bathroom wall, in a way.... I think because it is a more democratized platform, to some degree, different people are in the conversation than used to be. I do think that, by and large, the people who are having the conversation are still the same, though.I don't actually feel overwhelmed by survivor stories. I feel overwhelmed by inaction around survivor stories. -- Shira Hassan
I don't see this conversation happening in the same way about young people in the sex trade, for example, or with a lot of the young people who I know, who are more street-based, where the idea of sexual harassment is something that people are thinking about and angry about and know what it is.... Gwyneth Paltrow is not commenting on their experiences. She is commenting on actresses in Hollywood. I don't want to diminish or demean how important those experiences of violence are, but at the same time, it is a certain kind of survivor and a certain kind of violence that we are all talking about. I think that part is the same.
One of the things about this big public conversation is that, for me, it actually feels more overwhelming. What Mariame called this "culture of compulsory confession" feels smothering.... You have been doing work around this for a while and dealing directly with survivors. How do you fight that feeling of "Oh my god, this is never going to end"?
Hassan: There are a couple of things. There are stories that overwhelm me and stop me in my tracks, but they are also the stories of people that I love and there is a face to the story most of the time for me, so ... I think the feeling of overwhelming has been something that I counter with action and I counter with healing. This idea of healing justice, where speaking out is part of that healing. I feel connected to that as an action, not so much connected to that as a burden. I feel like it is a blessing to be amongst survivor stories. I don't actually feel overwhelmed by survivor stories. I feel overwhelmed by inaction around survivor stories.
Kaba: For me, it is the difference between the question of asking "What can I personally do?" versus what we can do. When I think of what I can do as an individual person, it feels more overwhelming. It is like, "Well, a lot of my friends are survivors. A lot of people I care [about] and love are survivors. I can't personally take responsibility for ... all of their lives and their pain, I can't take all of that on."
You can't also just take on everybody's joy, either. When I think about it in that kind of individualistic way, it could feel overwhelming, but I have worked towards a collective idea of healing and a collective idea of action and organizing. I don't think that the issue we have right now is that we have too many organizers. I think we have too few organizers, and that can also feel super debilitating when it is a lot of handwringing or a lot of outrage ... that doesn't have any direction. I think that can feel overwhelming. I would say since 1988, since I have been in this field, what has kept me going is that collectivity. And seeking to actually understand and to heal and to be part of that healing process with other people.
Right now, we end up with this story of one survivor has to come forward and file charges with the police and then this one perpetrator will be held accountable and ... that doesn't work.
Kaba: And it doesn't happen. I think that is another aspect of this, for people who are counting on a criminal punishment response to this.... It doesn't know how to transform harm that occurs. It is a system that most people don't access, most survivors still never access. For lots of reasons: because they don't want to, because they have been traumatized in the past by the system, because they don't want the person who harmed them necessarily caught up in the system. There are a million reasons. Because they don't want to be raked over the coals themselves. Because they try to solve problems in community.Our culture does not encourage people who cause harm to take responsibility. We have an adversarial model where the person who is actually placed on trial is the survivor. -- Mariame Kaba
When people do access the system, they are screwed over by it, literally, in all different kinds of ways. They also then feel a sense of disempowerment. I can understand that if the way you think we are actually going to solve this problem is through that system, I can understand that sense of complete debilitating depression, because that system actually can't do that.
Hassan: Not only can't the system do it, but I think our belief that it can is the part that I think we feel most betrayed by most often. I think there are some of us who have let go of that betrayal because we have just stopped trying to get water from a stone. Frankly, the stone is being thrown at us. So, we are now trying to build shelter from the stone and talk to everyone who is coming inside the shelter about what we can do. That, for me, is perhaps why I feel less overwhelmed. It isn't that I don't feel like, "Wow, we have an unbelievable amount to do," because I do feel like that. But I do feel like we have so many more things to try away from the system than with it. What we have begun to create is this shelter together, where we really can focus on who is inside this huddle and work with each person who is there in a more meaningful way to move forward.
In the wake of the Weinstein revelations, one of the things that some people have been talking about is the whisper network: The way that women warn each other about certain men in their political circles or in their work circles. And yet these feel inadequate too -- they are not particularly accountable for the people making accusations, which is less a problem than the fact that they just end up assuming that it is still our job to avoid perpetrators.
Kaba: You can't force somebody into being accountable for things they do. That is not possible. People have to take accountability for things that they actually do wrong. They have to ... say, "This is wrong and I want to be part of making some sort of amends or repairing this or not doing it again." The question is: "What in our culture allows people to do that? What are the structural things that exist? What in our culture encourages people who assault people and harm people to take responsibility?" What I see is almost nothing.
That means, for example, people continue to be rewarded when they do bad things to other people or take negative action against people. We are in a situation where people try to argue over semantics. Like, "Is this or is this not...?" We don't have a sense that people are prepared to say, "There is a spectrum of sexual harm. Not everything is rape. And yet, everything that feels like a violation is harm." We just don't have that within the larger culture that allows for people to feel like they can take responsibility and that they can be accountable.
The other thing is, we do have the threat that if you do admit that you do this, you might be caught up in the criminal punishment system. You might see the inside of a jail. So, your inclination is to deny, deny, deny until the very end. There is just no incentive for you to "come clean" and be like, "I actually did this. Yes, I did rape this person. I did sexually assault them. I did harass them. I did molest them." We are in this adversarial model where you don't admit it, and the person who is actually being placed on trial is the survivor, to prove that you actually did this.We have to make violence unthinkable in our culture. Within our current system, we are trying to end violence with more violence. -- Mariame Kaba
I understand, within that, why people feel like they have to whisper and why survivors then have to take the weight of actually figuring out how to "bring somebody to accountability." All the incentive structure is set up in such a way that ... until we shift a lot of other things, I am not sure how we are going to be able to move from the particularly "women survivors" who have to do all the heavy lifting.
And of course, all survivors aren't women.
Kaba: Exactly. This is ... to me, the work that we have to do. It has to be to make community members understand what sexual harm looks like, what it feels like, why it is unacceptable. We have to make violence unthinkable in our culture. We have to make interpersonal violence unthinkable.... For that to happen, then that is actually an issue not around punishment, but about organizing. Most people don't want to organize around these things. That, to me, is the nexus. That is the place that we have to work from if we are really going to transform this into something where it isn't the survivors or the victims that have to carry the load all the time.
Hassan: I want to add one thing: where the history of those lists come from. Those kinds of lists got started with people in the sex trade, in particular trans women of color, who started creating bad date sheets. These were informal sheets, literally, that were written down and passed around through the community. We used to photocopy them, copy them down and hand them out with people's physical descriptions. The rest of the world looks at people in the sex trade as completely disposable, but we borrow their tools all the time when we feel disposable.
I want to be sure that we recognize the history and legacy of the tools that are being used and how they are being used and why they are being used before we say that they are not working or important or that is all we can do, because the next thing just has to grow out of that. What is the next thing we are going to do with those lists? We went from the bathroom wall to Facebook. We went from photocopying the sheet with descriptions to passing it around online. We do have the power and capacity to think of "What next?" but we haven't quite yet. In part, because we don't have solidarity with each other and we don't recognize that the spectrum of sexual violence is something that is happening to all of us because we live in [a] rape culture and all of this is going to keep happening to us until we can collectively figure out what we are doing here.
You have done work, also, around the way that survivors of this violence are often criminalized themselves. I am thinking about Black women and Black trans women like Cece McDonald and Marissa Alexander. Talk about that as an understanding that has to also come into these discussions of "What can we do?"
Kaba: In terms of Survived and Punished, we have come together nationally to put a spotlight on the fact that when you look at who is actually incarcerated and criminalized in the current criminal punishment system -- in terms of women and gender nonconforming people, in particular -- often, these are people who are survivors of sexual violence and domestic violence prior to their criminalization and prior to their incarceration. They have been violated in the first place. They end up criminalized within the system, often for defending themselves against violence or for criminalized survival actions like having self-medicated and used drugs in order to get over some of the stress that they have been put under, [or] being brought in under conspiracy charges for their abusive partner who coerced them into actions. Taking their kids and fleeing and then being charged with kidnapping. All sorts of survival actions.
We understand that the link between criminalization and domestic and sexual violence is inextricable and undeniable, and people find themselves caught up in the system and end up re-violated and re-traumatized within that very system. Then, you are in prison or in jail or an immigrant detention center.... People come in, they have to be patted down, they have strip searches, women are made to shower with male [correctional officers] watching them and leering. Sometimes people are raped in those particular institutions.
We have to be mindful of the fact that the very thing we say we want to end, violence, is being perpetrated by that very same system. We are trying to end violence with more violence. It just doesn't make any sense. Our work has been to uplift particular cases of people who have been criminalized by the system and make sure to make those connections. It is not just that we are lifting up those cases as exceptional cases, as cases that prove that this "one good person" needs to be released or this one innocent person needs to be released. We are making a broader case that actually everybody should be free, because almost everybody within these systems has these histories that they bring with them and these institutions are re-traumatizing institutions. They make no one better. In fact, they make everybody worse.The difference between punishment and consequences is that punishment often is not the same as transformation. -- Shira Hassan
Recently, we organized to help free Bresha Meadows, a 14-year-old girl who killed her father in self-defense. We came together, initially, through the work that so many of us had been involved in in terms of freeing Marissa Alexander. We are part of a long tradition of defense campaigns for Joan Little and Cassandra Keaton and any number of other survivors of violence who have been criminalized for defending their lives or for actions they took in the attempt of surviving. We are trying to bring together many, many different kinds of people, groups, ideas, to leverage this in order to be able to free more people. These are freedom campaigns.
As Shira mentioned early on, who are we talking about as the survivors that we are actually uplifting? Who are the people? What is sexual violence? When we put people in prisons and in jails, often we are sentencing them to judicial rape because we know they are going to be assaulted when they go inside....
We have to complicate this conversation around sexual violence and see all the different ways that it is used as a form of social control across the board, with many different people from all different genders and all different races and all different social locations. If we understand the problem in that way, we have a better shot at actually uprooting all of the conditions that lead to this and all of the ways in which sexual violence reinforces other forms of violence. Our work over a couple of decades now has been devoted to complicating these narratives that are too easy, these really simple narratives around a perfect victim who is assaulted by an evil monster and that is the end of the story ... [it] doesn't take into consideration the spectrum of sexual violence, therefore minimizing certain people's experiences and making others more valid.
The last thing I want to add here is my concern over not just the "perfect victim" narrative, but also this idea somehow that we all have the same experience because we have been raped and we all think the same way about how to address it, and that for all of us, being a rape survivor becomes your identity. We were raped. Something bad happened to us. We are trying to address that, but we are not taking on the survivor as a totalizing identity for everything we do in our lives and how that matters. I want more of those kinds of conversations to be happening in public, but somehow, we can't have those. We can't have complicated conversations about sexual violence because then you are accused of rape apologia or you are accused of coddling rapists. That is very, very limiting. It means that we are not going to be able to uproot and really solve the problem ultimately.
Hassan: What I want to make ... clear is that community accountability and the work we are trying to do is not saying that people who cause sexual harm and intimate partner violence ... are rapists ... I just want to complicate the fact that even though we are talking about prison abolition because of the harm that it causes to our entire community and because of the legacy of slavery, we are absolutely talking about consequences for people and real consequences....
For example, I don't know what is going to happen with Mr. Weinstein, but I know that he has enough money to make what he wants to happen a possibility. The consequences that are going to happen to him, they may never measure up to the harm that he created. Yet we see wide-scale harm happening for people who may ultimately want to be accountable. Sexual violence is very nuanced and the system that we have is not.How are we going to create in our communities spaces that allow people real opportunity to heal? -- Mariame Kaba
Thinking about this idea of prison as not a feminist place. That is one of Mariame's famous quotes at this point: "Prison is not feminist." It isn't, because it recreates the same sexual violence and the same fear, the same kinds of oppression. It is the pin on the head of the racist and sexist system that we live in....
That does not mean, however, no consequences. It means real consequences. Consequences that really matter. It means transforming the conditions that exist in the first place for this to even have happened. It is really a critical point for people to think about ... the difference between punishment and consequences, and that punishment often is actually not the same as transformation and ... consequences and transformation are actually the long-term future we want to live in....
Kaba: I also want to talk a little bit about what is hopeful about what is happening in the world around these issues. Shira and I just spent three and a half days in Chicago with 50 people from around the country doing trainings and facilitating discussion and dialogue about how we do community accountability to address sexual harm and interpersonal violence. These folks came together from all around the country and took that much time out of their day because, I think, we understand this moment as ... opportunity for something different. A lot of people are talking now, and there is much more awareness around the fact that the prison industrial complex has churned communities and people through a meat grinder, literally, and devastated people. Yet people don't feel more safe. People don't feel as though violence is "curbed" in any way.
Because of that, people are in this position of feeling like "We are willing to return to some of what we used to do" in terms of trying to solve issues within our communities, but to do that with a different intentionality, by not romanticizing community as though that is the panacea and it is going to automatically lead to these outcomes that we want. We trouble the idea of community. We think about the fact that we have actual skills that we need to develop to figure out how we intervene when violence occurs, either when violence occurs to us or when it occurs to people we love and care about or it occurs to strangers that are affiliated with our communities.How do we reclaim our imagination from what the prison industrial complex has forced us into thinking are the only solutions that we have? -- Shira Hassan
We have to build up the skills of being able to say, "What does it mean to actually center a survivor who is harmed? What does it mean to actually support people who have caused harm? What does it mean to take responsibility for saying 'We refuse in our community to condone when this happens'?" One of the things that is so important is that harm causes wounds that necessitate healing. That is what so many people are looking for -- a way to begin to heal. How are we going to create in our communities spaces that allow people real opportunity to heal?
Again, not necessarily through compulsory confession in a public way. But how do we hold that people who have been harmed deserve an opportunity to actually be able for that harm to be addressed in a real way? Often, that is all people want, is a real acknowledgement that "I was hurt. Somebody did it. I want them to know that they did it. I want to see that they have some remorse for having done it and I want them to start a process by which they will ensure to themselves, at least, and be accountable to their community for not doing it again. That is what I am trying to get as a survivor." I think there is hope in that.
People are doing this work all around the country. We had 150 applications for 45 slots. People want to be able to engage this. I think maybe that is something that people who are listening will take some hope from and see that there is a way for them in their community to activate along the same lines. Maybe if more of us do this, maybe we will be talking in 20 years about ... a landscape that is totally different, a way that people start taking accountability for actions that they do that are harmful to other people in a totally different way.
Hassan: I think about the Malcolm X quote all the time, "If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six, that is not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the knife made." What we are doing right now, that we are all actively committed to, is figuring out not only "How do we heal the wound?" but, "How do we transform the conditions that we are living in in the first place?" The premise of the community accountability weekend that we spent together was not only around skill transfer, but it was about reclaiming our imaginations. How do we reclaim our imagination from what the prison industrial complex has forced us into thinking are the only solutions that we have? How do we reclaim our imaginations from how capitalism and oppression has divided us?
We can spend three and a half days reclaiming our imaginations and practicing these skills together and figuring out "How do we actually transform the conditions that create the opportunity for that blow to come in the first place?" I am seeing that all the time. I am seeing that with my social work students, I am seeing that in these community accountability settings and the workshops that we are doing through Just Practice, and I am seeing it through conversations like this where we are not only thinking about, "How does Harvey Weinstein get held accountable?" but we are thinking about, "How do we transform this culture that we are living in? How do we hear and really hold survivors? How do we make sure that we all have a voice so that we can truly connect and be with each other to the end of this game, not just to the next incarceration or to the next lawsuit?"
How can people keep up with both of you?
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.Grassroots, not-for-profit news is rare -- and Truthout's very existence depends on donations from readers. Will you help us publish more stories like this one? Make a one-time or monthly donation by clicking here.
Meet Tarana Burke, the Activist Who Started #MeToo Campaign to Ignite Conversation on Sexual Assault
Amid the ongoing fallout from sexual assault and harassment allegations against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, a former contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice" has subpoenaed Donald Trump's presidential campaign for all documents relating to her and any other women who have accused the US president of unwanted sexual contact. We look at how this has reignited a conversation about sexual assault with women using the #MeToo hashtag, and speak with activist Tarana Burke, who started the campaign about a decade ago. "Me Too' is so powerful, because somebody had said it to me, and it changed the trajectory of my healing process," Burke says. We also speak with Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and Soraya Chemaly, a journalist who covers the intersection of gender and politics.
Please check back later for full transcript.
Mogadishu Massacre: Hospitals Run Out of Blood, Antibiotics for Victims in Mass Bombing Killing Over 300
Rescue operations continue in Mogadishu, Somalia, after two massive truck bombs exploded Saturday, killing at least 300 in the country's deadliest attack since the rise of the al-Shabab militant group a decade ago. The disaster is being referred to as the "Mogadishu massacre," and some are calling it "the 9/11 of the Somali people." The explosions came after the Trump administration stepped up a US campaign against al-Shabab in Somalia. We speak with Somali scholar Abdi Samatar and journalist Amanda Sperber, who splits her time between Nairobi, Kenya, and Mogadishu, Somalia.
Please check back later for full transcript.
It's time to put generals David Petraeus (pictured), James Mattis, H.R. McMaster and John Kelly in context. (Photo: The World Affairs Council)Choose journalism that empowers movements for social, environmental and economic justice: Support the independent media at Truthout!
It took 14 years, but now we have an answer.
It was March 2003, the invasion of Iraq was underway, and Major General David Petraeus was in command of the 101st Airborne Division heading for the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Rick Atkinson, Washington Post journalist and military historian, was accompanying him. Six days into a lightning campaign, his division suddenly found itself stopped 30 miles southwest of the city of Najaf by terrible weather, including a blinding dust storm, and the unexpectedly "fanatical" attacks of Iraqi irregulars. At that moment, Atkinson reported,
"[Petraeus] hooked his thumbs into his flak vest and adjusted the weight on his shoulders. 'Tell me how this ends,' he said. 'Eight years and eight divisions?' The allusion was to advice supposedly given the White House in the early 1950s by a senior Army strategist upon being asked what it would take to prop up French forces in South Vietnam. Petraeus's grin suggested the comment was more droll quip than historical assertion."
Certainly, Petraeus knew his history when it came to American interventions in distant lands. He had entered West Point just as the American war in Vietnam was beginning to wind down and did his doctoral dissertation at Princeton in 1987 on that conflict ("The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era"). In it, he wrote,
"Vietnam cost the military dearly. It left America's military leaders confounded, dismayed, and discouraged. Even worse, it devastated the armed forces, robbing them of dignity, money, and qualified people for a decade... Vietnam was an extremely painful reminder that when it comes to intervention, time and patience are not American virtues in abundant supply."
So no wonder he was well acquainted with that 1954 exchange between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and former Korean War commander General Matthew Ridgeway about the French war in Vietnam. Perhaps, the "droll quip" aspect of his comment lay in his knowledge of just how badly Ridgeway underestimated both the years and the troop numbers that the American version of that war would eat up before it, too, ended in disaster and in a military as riddled with protest and as close to collapse as was imaginable for an American force of our era.
In his thesis, Petraeus called for the military high command to be granted a far freer hand in whatever interventions the future held. In that sense, in 1987, he was already mainlining into a twenty-first-century world in which the US military continues to get everything it wants (and more) as it fights its wars without having to deal with either an obstreperous citizen army or too many politicians trying to impose their will on its actions.
And by the way, though his Najaf comments have regularly been cited as if they were sui generis, as the Ridgeway reference indicates, he was hardly the first American military commander or political figure to appropriate Joan of Arc's question in Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan: "How long, oh Lord, how long?"
As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam recounted in his history of the Vietnam years, The Best and the Brightest, for instance, President Lyndon Johnson turned to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Earle Wheeler in a June 1965 meeting and asked of the war in Vietnam, "What do you think it will take to do the job?"
Wheeler's answer echoed Ridgeway's 11 years earlier, though in the escalatory mode that was typical of Vietnam: "It all depends on what your definition of the job is, Mr. President. If you intend to drive the last Vietcong out of Vietnam it will take seven hundred, eight hundred thousand, a million men and about seven years. But if your definition of the job is to prevent the Communists from taking over the country, that is, stopping them from doing it, then you're talking about different gradations and different levels. So tell us what the job is and we'll answer it."A Generational Approach to the US's Wars
Not so long after that moment on the outskirts of Najaf, the 101st Airborne made its way to Baghdad just as the burning and looting began, and that would only be the prologue to David Petraeus's war, to his version of eight years and eight divisions. When an insurgency (actually several) broke out in Iraq, he would be dispatched to the northern city of Mosul (now a pile of rubble after its 2017 "liberation" from the Islamic State in Washington's third Iraq War). There, he would first experiment with bringing back from the Vietnam experience the very strategy the US military had hoped to be rid of forever: "counterinsurgency," or the winning of what in that war had regularly been called "hearts and minds." In 2004, Newsweek was already hailing him on its cover with the dramatic question: "Can This Man Save Iraq?" (Four months after Petraeus ended his stint in that city, the police chief he had trained there went over to the insurgents and it became a stronghold for them.)
By the time the occupation of Iraq turned into a full-scale disaster, he was back at Fort Leavenworth running the US Army's Combined Arms Center. During that period, he and another officer, Marine Lieutenant General James Mattis -- does that name ring any bells? -- joined forces to oversee the development and publication of Field Service Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency Operations. It would be the first official counterinsurgency (COIN) how-to book the military had produced since the Vietnam years. In the process, he became "the world's leading expert in counterinsurgency warfare." He would famously return to Iraq in 2007, that manual in hand, with five brigades, or 20,000 US troops, for what would become known as "the surge," or "the new way forward," an attempt to bail the Bush administration out of its disastrous occupation of the country. His counterinsurgency operations would, like the initial invasion, be hailed by experts and pundits in Washington (including Petraeus himself) as a marvel and a success of the first order, as a true turning point in Iraq and in the war on terror.
A decade later, with America's third Iraq War ongoing, you could be excused for viewing the "successes" of that surge somewhat differently.
In the process, Petraeus (or "King David" as he was supposedly nicknamed by Iraqis during his stint in Mosul) would become America's most celebrated, endlessly featured general, and go on in 2008 to head US Central Command (overseeing America's wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq). In 2010, he would become the US Afghan commander, largely so that he could perform the counterinsurgency miracles in Afghanistan he had supposedly performed in Iraq. In 2011, he became Barack Obama's CIA director only to crash and burn a year later in a scandal over a lover-cum-biographer and the misuse of classified documents, after which he morphed into a go-to expert on our wars and a partner at KKR, a global investment firm. In other words, as with the three generals of the surge generation now ascendant in Washington, including Petraeus's former COIN pal James Mattis (who also headed US Central Command), he presided over this country's failing wars in the Greater Middle East.
And only recently, 14 years after he and Atkinson were briefly trapped outside Najaf, in his role as a pundit and prognosticator on his former wars, he finally answered -- and not quippingly either -- the question that plagued him then. Though his comments were certainly covered in the news (as anything he says is), in a sense no one noticed. Asked by Judy Woodruff of the PBS News Hour whether, in Donald Trump's America, it was "smart" to once again send more US troops surging into Afghanistan, he called the Pentagon's decision "heartening," even as he warned that it wasn't a war that would end any time soon.
Instead, after so many years of involvement, experience, thought, and observation, in a studio without a grain of sand, no less a dust storm in sight, he offered this observation:
"But this is a generational struggle. This is not something that is going to be won in a few years. We're not going to take a hill, plant a flag, [and] go home to a victory parade. And we need to be there for the long haul, but in a way that is, again, sustainable. We have been in Korea for 65-plus years because there is an important national interest for that. We were in Europe for a very long period of time, still there, of course, and actually with a renewed emphasis now, given Russia's aggressive actions. And I think that's the way we need to approach this."
In proposing such a "generational struggle" to be handed on to our children, if not grandchildren, he's in good company. In recent times, the Pentagon high command, too, has been adopting a "generational approach" to Afghanistan and assumedly our other wars across the Greater Middle East and Africa. Similarly, the scholars of the Brookings Institution have urged on Washington's policymakers what they call "an enduring partnership" in Afghanistan: "The US-Afghan partnership should be recognized as generational in duration, given the nature of the threat and the likely longevity of its future manifestations."
Even if, under further questioning by Woodruff, Petraeus wouldn't quite cop to a 60-year Afghan war (that is, to a war lasting at least until 2061), his long-delayed answer to his own question of the 2003 invasion moment was now definitive. Such American wars won't end. Not now. Maybe not ever. And in a way you can't be much blunter or grimmer than that in your assessment of the "successes" of the war on terror.A Military Success Story of the Strangest Sort
Until James "Mad Dog" Mattis hit Washington in 2017, no American general of our era was ever written about as much as, or in a more celebratory fashion, than David Petraeus. Adulatory (if not fawning) profiles of him are legion. Even today, in the wake of barely avoided felony and other charges (for, among other things, lying to the FBI) -- he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in the handling of classified documents and was sentenced to two years of probation and a fine -- he may still be this country's most celebrated general.
But why exactly the celebration? The answer would have to be that he continues to be lauded and considered a must-quote expert because in Washington this country's war on terror and the generalship that's accompanied it are now beyond serious analysis or reconsideration. Sixteen years after the invasion of Afghanistan, as America's wars continue to spread across the Greater Middle East and Africa, its generals -- thanks in part to Donald Trump and the need for "adult day care" in the White House -- are still treated like the only "adults in the room" in our nation's capital, like, in short, American winners.
And yet consider recent events in the central African country of Niger, which already has an operating US drone base, another under construction, and about 800 American troops quietly but permanently stationed there. It's also a country that, until this moment, not an American in a million would have been able to locate on a map. On October 4th, four Green Berets were killed and two others wounded during a "routine training mission" there. Patrolling with Nigerien troops, they were ambushed by Islamic militants -- whether from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or a new branch of ISIS remains unclear. That officially makes Niger at least the eighth country, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, and Libya, to be absorbed into Washington's war on terror and, in case you hadn't noticed, in none of them has that war ended and in none have US forces triumphed.
And yet you could comb the recent mainstream coverage of the events in Niger without finding any indication that those deaths represented a modest new escalation in the never-ending, ever-spreading war on terror.
As was inevitable, in Iraq and Syria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's Islamic "caliphate" is finally collapsing. The city of Mosul is back in Iraqi hands, as is Tal Afar, and more recently the town of Hawija (with a rare mass surrender of ISIS militants). Those were the last significant urban areas controlled by ISIS in Iraq, while in Syria, the "apocalyptic ruins" of the Islamic State's "capital," Raqqa, are also largely in the hands of forces allied with and supported by the air power of the US military. In what are now the ravaged ruins of Syria and Iraq, however, such "victories" will inevitably prove as hollow as were the "successful" invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq or the "successful" overthrow of Libyan autocrat Muammar Gaddafi. Meanwhile, the Islamic State may have spread its brand to another country with US forces in it. And yet, across a vast swath of the planet, the wars of David Petraeus, James Mattis, and the other generals of this era simply go on and on in a region being fractured and devastated (and whose vast numbers of displaced refugees are, in turn, helping to fracture Europe).
Worse yet, it's a situation that can't be seriously discussed or debated in this country because, if it were, opposition to those wars might rise and alternatives to them and the by-now brain-dead decisions of those generals, including newly heightened air wars and the latest mini-surge in Afghanistan, might become part of an actual national debate.
So think of this as a military success story of the strangest sort -- success that can be traced directly back to a single decision, now decades old, made by a long-discredited American president, Richard Nixon. Without returning to that decision, there is simply no way to understand America's twenty-first-century wars. In its own way, it would prove an act of genius (if, at least, you wanted to fight never-ending wars until the end of time).
In any case, credit, when owed, must be given. Facing an antiwar movement that wouldn't go away and, by the early 1970s, included significant numbers of both active-duty servicemen and Vietnam veterans, the president and his secretary of defense, Melvin Laird, decided to try to cut into its strength by eliminating the draft. Nixon suspected that young men not endangered by the possibility of being sent into the Vietnam War might be far less eager to demonstrate against it. The military high command was uncertain about such a move. They worried, with reason, that in the wake of Vietnam it would be hard to recruit for an all-volunteer military. Who in the world, they wondered, would want to be part of such a discredited force? That was, of course, a version of Nixon's thinking turned upside down, but the president moved ahead anyway and, on January 27, 1973, conscription was ended. There would be no more draft calls and the citizen's army, the one that had fought World War II to victory and had raised such a ruckus about the grim and distasteful war in Vietnam, would be no more.
In that single stroke, before he himself fell prey to the Watergate scandal and resigned his presidency, Nixon functionally created a legacy for the ages, paving the way for the American military to fight its wars "generationally" and lose them until hell froze over with the guarantee that no one in this country would seem to care a whit. Or put another way, can you truly imagine such silence in "the homeland" if an American draft were continually filling the ranks of a citizen's army to fight a 16-year-old war on terror, still spreading, and now considered "generational"? I doubt it.
So as American air power in places like Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan is ramped up yet again, as the latest mini-surge of troops arrives in Afghanistan, as Niger enters the war, it's time to put generals David Petraeus, James Mattis, H.R. McMaster, and John Kelly in context. It's time to call them what they truly are: Nixon's children.
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the Rose Garden during a news conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) following a lunch meeting at the White House October 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)Whether you read Truthout daily, weekly or even once a month, now's the perfect time to show that you value real journalism. Make a donation to Truthout by clicking here!
Rehashing a notorious Republican Party trope that accuses some Americans of cheating safety net programs, President Donald Trump on Monday said his administration is looking "very, very strongly" at "welfare reform."
"People are taking advantage of the system and then other people aren't receiving what they really need to live and we think it is very unfair to them," Trump said during a meeting with cabinet officials. "Some people are really taking advantage of our system from that standpoint."
The welfare system was last "reformed" during the administration of former President Bill Clinton, and the results were devastating.
According to research by sociologists Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer, extreme poverty more than doubled in the two decades following the passage in 1996 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which imposed draconian work requirements on welfare recipients and converted federal welfare funds into block grants.
Now, Trump appears to be preparing to shred what is left of the social safety net. And as Clio Chang of Splinter News points out, Trump is deploying the same rhetorical formula as his welfare-slashing predecessors.
"It's not difficult to decode what Trump's saying," Chang notes. "It's the same tired line that politicians from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton have been using for decades: that some (read: mainly black) people are unfairly receiving welfare benefits and siphoning resources away from good, hard-working (read: mainly white) people. Reagan infamously spread the 'welfare queen' myth in the 1970s, a dog whistle that asserted black, single mothers were bilking the government's welfare system."
While Trump didn't propose any specific changes to the welfare system on Monday, previous reports -- along with his administration's previous actions -- have indicated that crucial safety net programs are squarely in the president's crosshairs.
In one of his first speeches as president, Trump asserted that the American welfare system is "out of control," and that people on welfare need to get "back to work" -- despite the fact that most welfare recipients already have jobs.
And as Politico reported earlier this month, Trump is "mulling an executive order that would instruct federal agencies to review low-income assistance programs [as] part of a coming effort to make sweeping changes to the country's welfare system."
Trump's Republican allies in the Senate, meanwhile, are gearing up to vote on a budget that would make room for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and over $5 trillion in non-defense spending cuts -- including $470 billion from Medicare and $1 trillion from Medicaid over the next decade.
A "blight" designation has a devastating effect on property values, yet few of us understand the complexities behind it. In this month's installment of our ongoing graphic series on the housing foreclosure crisis in Detroit, we look at how the "blight" designation has been used to cheat the many for the profit of the few.Stories like this are more important than ever! To make sure Truthout can keep publishing them, please give a tax-deductible donation today.
Our graphic miniseries on housing in Detroit wouldn't be complete without a close inspection of blight -- abandoned, uncared for properties that are portrayed as not only neighborhood eyesores, but extremely, albeit mysteriously, dangerous. Cancerous! Radioactive! And they drive down property values! Blight is painted as truly terrifying. Yet few of us understand how complex -- and profitable -- a blight designation can be.
In our continuing series on the Detroit housing foreclosure crisis we look closely at the use of the term "Blight" and its usefulness in the process of housing demolition. You'll want to catch up on the previous strips in the housing miniseries, Scenes From the Foreclosure Crisis: Water, Land and Housing in Michigan; The House on Junction; Occupied Detroit Home Is Threatened by Demolition: House on Junction II; and all of the strips in the water series, listed here.
Stay tuned for the final miniseries -- on the 143 square miles that make up the city of Detroit -- in December.
For a tour of the city and in-depth discussion of the impact of blight, the creators of this strip are grateful to Nick Caverly, a demolitions researcher at the University of Michigan.
- "The Detroit Blight Removal Task Force Plan," May 27, 2014, p. 44-46.
- Ibid p. 2-3.
- Ibid p. 57.
- "Detroit Demolition Impact Report" Policy Brief, Dynamo Metrics, 2016. Accessed October 16, 2017: http://www.demolitionimpact.org/. (The report was funded by The Skillman Foundation and Rock Ventures LLC; Both sit on the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force.)
- "Can Detroit find salvation through demolition?" Joel Kurth, Crain's Detroit Business, July 6, 2017. Accessed October 16, 2017: http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20170706/news/633246/can-detroit-find-salvation-through-demolition
- "Grand jury focusing on Detroit's demolition program," Robert Snell and Christine Ferretti, The Detroit News, June 13, 2017. Accessed October 16, 2017: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2017/06/13/detroit-demolition-program-grand-jury/102816406/
- "Speedy Detroit blight removal could be endangering residents," Jennifer Dixon and Joe Guillen, Detroit Free Press, Updated August 22, 2017. Accessed October 16, 2017: http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/2017/08/06/detroit-blight-contractors-asbestos/508686001/
- "2016 Vacant Property Analysis," Loveland Technologies. Accessed October 16, 2017: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7DXgi-tw4pSNmdhVkNMX0xnYnc/view
- "Mayor Duggan blasts data showing Detroit vacancies on rise," Violet Ikonomova, Detroit Metro Times, August 4, 2017. Accessed October 16, 2017: https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2017/08/04/detroit-mayor-mike-duggan-denies-housing-vacancy-is-up-study-says-otherwise
- "How the Ilitches used 'dereliction by design' to get their new Detroit arena," Tom Perkins, September 12, 2017. Accessed October 16, 2017: https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2017/09/12/how-the-ilitches-used-dereliction-by-design-to-get-their-new-detroit-arena
- "Gilbert, Quicken Loans entwined in Detroit Blight," Christine MacDonald and Joel Kurth, The Detroit News. Accessed September 28, 2017: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/special-reports/2015/07/01/quicken-loans-blight-dilemma/29537285/
- "Detroit Demolition Impact Report" Policy Brief, Dynamo Metrics, 2016. Accessed October 16, 2017: http://www.demolitionimpact.org/. (The report was funded by The Skillman Foundation and Rock Ventures LLC; Both sit on the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force.)
- "How much does it cost to demolish a house?" Khalil AlHajal, MLive, February 19, 2016. Accessed October 16, 2017: http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2015/11/how_much_does_it_cost_to_demol.html
Copyright, Anne Elizabeth Moore and Melissa Mendes
Few people were surprised last week when the Trump administration issued a rule to make it easier for some religious employers to opt out of offering no-cost prescription birth control to their female employees under the Affordable Care Act.
But a separate regulation issued at the same time raised eyebrows. It creates a new exemption from the requirement that most employers offer contraceptive coverage. This one is for "non-religious organizations with sincerely held moral convictions inconsistent with providing coverage for some or all contraceptive services."
So what's the difference between religious beliefs and moral convictions?
"Theoretically, it would be someone who says 'I don't have a belief in God,' but 'I oppose contraception for reasons that have nothing to do with religion or God,' " said Mark Rienzi, a senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented many of the organizations that sued the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate.
Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, said it would apply to "an organization that has strong moral convictions but does not associate itself with any particular religion."
What kind of an organization would that be? It turns out not to be such a mystery, Rienzi and Bagley agreed.
Among the hundreds of organizations that sued over the mandate, two -- the Washington, DC-based March for Life and the Pennsylvania-based Real Alternatives -- are anti-abortion groups that do not qualify for religious exemptions. While their employees may be religious, the groups themselves are not.
March for Life argued that the ACA requirement to cover all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration includes methods that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman's uterus and therefore are a type of abortion. Real Alternatives opposes the use of all contraceptives.
March for Life, which coordinates an annual abortion protest each year, won its suit before a federal district court judge in Washington, DC.
But a federal appeals court ruled in August that Real Alternatives, which offers counseling services designed to help women choose not to have an abortion, does not qualify as a religious entity and thus cannot claim the exemption. That decision cited a lower-court ruling that "finding a singular moral objection to law on par with a religious objection could very well lead to a flood of similar objections."
The departments of Treasury, Labor and Health and Human Services, however, suggest that, at least in this case, that will not happen. The regulation issued by those departments says officials "assume the exemption will be used by nine nonprofit entities" and "nine for-profit entities." Among the latter, it said, "we estimate that 15 women may incur contraceptive costs due to for-profit entities using the expanded exemption provided" in the rules.
The regulation also seeks comments on whether the moral exemption should be extended to publicly traded firms.
Rienzi agrees that the universe for the moral exemption is likely to be small. "The odds that anyone new is going to come up and say 'Aha, I finally have my way out,' " he said, "is crazy."
Women's health advocates, however, are not so sure.
"The parameters of what constitutes a moral objection is unclear," said Mara Gandal-Powers, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, which is preparing to sue to stop both rules. "There is nothing in the regulatory language itself that says what a moral belief is that would rise to the level of making an organization eligible for the exemption."
Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the ACLU, which has already filed a lawsuit, agreed. "We don't know how many other entities are out there that would assert a moral objection," she said. "Not everybody wanted to file a suit," particularly smaller organizations.
All of that, however, presupposes that the rule laying out the moral objection exemption will stand up in court.
Bagley said he's doubtful. The legal arguments making the case for the exemption, he said, are "the kind of things that would be laughed out of a [first-year] class on statutory interpretation."
Specifically, he said, the rule lays out all the times Congress has included provisions in laws for moral objections. But rather than justifying the case, "it suggests that Congress knew a lot about how to craft a moral objection if it wanted to," and it did not in the health law, he noted.
Bagley said the fact that the moral exemption was laid out in a separate rule from the religious one demonstrates that the administration is concerned the former might not stand up to court proceedings. "The administration must sense this rule is on thin legal ice," he said.
Which leads to the question of why Trump officials even bothered doing a separate rule. Bagley said he thinks the act was more political than substantive. "The administration is doing something that signals to religious employers … that they are on their sides, that they have their backs."