News

CIA chief Mike Pompeo 'met Kim in secret N Korea trip'

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 05:19

CIA chief Mike Pompeo 'met Kim in secret N Korea trip' | 18 April 2018 | Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state - CIA boss Mike Pompeo - is said to have travelled to North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un. Two US officials told the Washington Post that Mr Pompeo had made the secret visit to Pyongyang during the first weekend in April. Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said the trip was to prepare for an upcoming meeting between Mr Trump and the country's leader. Both the White House and the CIA declined to comment, but the Post said the pair had direct knowledge of the trip.

Categories: News

To Be a Survivor in a Nation of Embedded Racism: Black Lives Matter

Truth Out - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 04:00

Vividly and trenchantly, Patrisse Khan-Cullors -- with the assistance of asha bendele -- draws on her personal experience to convey how Black communities are under systemic attack. In this excerpt of When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, she writes of a precarious life caught between the police, poverty and prejudice.

 Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors speaks to people gathered at Pershing Square in Los Angeles, California. People gathered to protest the death of a homeless man killed by police March 1, 2015. (Photo: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

A compelling memoir from a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. Get When They Call You a Terrorist now from Truthout. Click here now.

Vividly and trenchantly, Patrisse Khan-Cullors -- with the assistance of asha bendele -- draws on her personal experience to convey how Black communities are under systemic attack. In compelling prose, she makes a cogent case for why Black lives are under siege by a deeply embedded racism. The following is her introduction to When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. She writes of a precarious life caught between the police, poverty and prejudice.

INTRODUCTION: We Are Stardust

I write to keep in contact with our ancestors and to spread truth to people. —Sonia Sanchez

Days after the elections of 2016, asha sent me a link to a talk by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. We have to have hope, she says to me across 3,000 miles, she in Brooklyn, me in Los Angeles. We listen together as Dr. deGrasse Tyson explains that the very atoms and molecules in our bodies are traceable to the crucibles in the centers of stars that once upon a time exploded into gas clouds. And those gas clouds formed other stars and those stars possessed the divine-right mix of properties needed to create not only planets, including our own, but also people, including us, me and her. He is saying that not only are we in the universe, but that the universe is in us. He is saying that we, human beings, are literally made out of stardust.

And I know when I hear Dr. deGrasse Tyson say this that he is telling the truth because I have seen it since I was a child, the magic, the stardust we are, in the lives of the people I come from.

I watched it in the labor of my mother, a Jehovah's Witness and a woman who worked two and sometimes three jobs at a time, keeping other people's children, working the reception desks at gyms, telemarketing, doing anything and everything for 16 hours a day the whole of my childhood in the Van Nuys barrio where we lived. My mother, cocoa brown and smooth, disowned by her family for the children she had as a very young and unmarried woman. My mother, never giving up despite never making a living wage.

I saw it in the thin, brown face of my father, a boy out of Cajun country, a wounded healer, whose addictions were borne of a world that did not love him and told him so not once but constantly. My father, who always came back, who never stopped trying to be a version of himself there were no mirrors for.

And I knew it because I am the thirteenth-generation progeny of a people who survived the hulls of slave ships, survived the chains, the whips, the months laying in their own shit and piss. The human beings legislated as not human beings who watched their names, their languages, their Goddesses and Gods, the arc of their dances and beats of their songs, the majesty of their dreams, their very families snatched up and stolen, disassembled and discarded, and despite this built language and honored God and created movement and upheld love. What could they be but stardust, these people who refused to die, who refused to accept the idea that their lives did not matter, that their children's lives did not matter?

Our foreparents imagined our families out of whole cloth. They imagined each individual one of us. They imagined me. They had to. It is the only way I am here, today, a mother and a wife, a community organizer and Queer, an artist and a dreamer learning to find hope while navigating the shadows of hell even as I know it might have been otherwise.

I was not expected or encouraged to survive. My brothers and little sister, my family -- the one I was born into and the one I created -- were not expected to survive. We lived a precarious life on the tightrope of poverty bordered at each end with the politics of personal responsibility that Black pastors and then the first Black president preached -- they preached that more than they preached a commitment to collective responsibility.

They preached it more than they preached about what it meant to be the world's wealthiest nation and yet the place with extraordinary unemployment, an extraordinary lack of livable wages and an extraordinary disruption of basic opportunity.

And they preached that more than they preached about America having 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of its prison population, a population which for a long time included my disabled brother and gentle father who never raised a hand to another human being. And a prison population that, with extraordinary deliberation, today excludes the man who shot and killed a 17-year-old boy who was carrying Skittles and iced tea.

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There was a petition that was drafted and circulated all the way to the White House. It said we were terrorists. We, who in response to the killing of that child, said Black Lives Matter. The document gained traction during the first week of July 2016 after a week of protests against the back-to-back police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minneapolis. At the end of that week, on July 7, in Dallas, Texas, a sniper opened fire during a Black Lives Matter protest that was populated with mothers and fathers who brought their children along to proclaim: We have a right to live.

The sniper, identified as 25-year-old Micah Johnson, an Army reservist home from Afghanistan, holed up in a building on the campus of El Centro College after killing five police officers and wounding eleven others, including two protesters. And in the early morning hours of July 8, 2016, he became the first individual ever to be blown up by local law enforcement. They used a military-grade bomb against Micah Johnson and programmed a robot to deliver it to him. No jury, no trial. No patience like the patience shown the killers who gunned down nine worshippers in Charleston, or moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado.

Of course, we will never know what his motivations really were and we will never know if he was mentally unstable. We will only know for sure that the single organization to which he ever belonged was the U.S. Army. And we will remember that the white men who were mass killers, in Aurora and Charleston, were taken alive and one was fed fast food on the way to jail. We will remember that most of the cops who are killed in this nation are killed by white men who are taken alive.

And we will experience all the ways the ghost of Micah Johnson will be weaponized against Black Lives Matter, will be weaponized against me, a tactic from the way back that has continuously been used against people who challenge white supremacy. We will remember that Nelson Mandela remained on the FBI's list of terrorists until 2008.

Even still, the accusation of being a terrorist is devastating, and I allow myself space to cry quietly as I lie in bed on a Sunday morning listening to a red-faced, hysterical Rudolph Giuliani spit lies about us three days after Dallas.

Like many of the people who embody our movement, I have lived my life between the twin terrors of poverty and the police. Coming of age in the drug war climate that was ratcheted up by Ronald Reagan and then Bill Clinton, the neighborhood where I lived and loved and the neighborhoods where many of the members of Black Lives Matter have lived and loved were designated war zones and the enemy was us.

The fact that more white people have always used and sold drugs than Black and Brown people and yet when we close our eyes and think of a drug seller or user the face most of us see is Black or Brown tells you what you need to know if you cannot readily imagine how someone can be doing no harm and yet be harassed by police. Literally breathing while Black became cause for arrest -- or worse.

I carry the memory of living under that terror -- the terror of knowing that I, or any member of my family, could be killed with impunity -- in my blood, my bones, in every step I take.

And yet I was called a terrorist.

The members of our movement are called terrorists.

We -- me, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi -- the three women who founded Black Lives Matter, are called terrorists.

We, the people.

We are not terrorists.

I am not a terrorist.

I am Patrisse Marie Khan-Cullors Brignac.

I am a survivor.

I am stardust.

Copyright (2017) by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bendele. Not to be reproduced without permission of the publisher, St. Martin's Press.

Categories: News

A Stampede of Scandals

Truth Out - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 04:00
Categories: News

The US's #1 Weapons Salesman: Trump Promotes US Arms Manufacturers and Weakens Export Rules

Truth Out - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 04:00

A new exposé by Reuters reveals how the Trump administration plans to make the US an even larger weapons exporter by loosening restrictions on the sale of equipment ranging from fighter jets and drones to warships and artillery. Reuters reveals that the new initiative will provide guidelines that could allow more countries to be granted faster deal approvals, and will call on Cabinet officials to help close deals between foreign governments and US defense contractors. In one example, Reuters reveals President Trump himself urged the emir of Kuwait, in a telephone call, to finalize a $10 billion fighter jet deal with Boeing, the country's second-largest defense contractor. The exposé details the role US Cabinet officials may be asked to play in pushing arms exports abroad as part of the new initiative, which will call for a "whole of government" approach -- from the president and his Cabinet to military attachés and diplomats -- to help draw in billions of dollars more in arms business overseas. The Trump administration is expected to announce the new rules as early as Thursday. We speak to Mike Stone of Reuters and William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

Unlimited Worldwide War: ACLU Warns Senate Against Giving Trump Blank Check to Declare War

Truth Out - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 04:00

The New York Times is reporting President Trump launched airstrikes against Syria on Friday despite opposition from his own defense secretary, James Mattis, who wanted Trump to first get congressional approval. Meanwhile, a number of lawmakers have described the strikes on Syria as illegal since Trump did not seek congressional input or authorization.This comes as Congress is considering rewriting the war powers granted to the president after the September 11 attacks -- what's known as the AUMF, or Authorization for Use of Military Force. On September 14, 2001, the current AUMF passed the Senate 98-0 and 420-1 in the House, with California Democrat Barbara Lee casting the sole dissenting vote. Since then, it's been used by Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump to justify at least 37 military operations in 14 countries -- many of which were entirely unrelated to 9/11. On Monday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, and Democratic committee member Tim Kaine of Virginia introduced legislation to replace the AUMFs with a new one. Corker and Kaine claim their legislation would strengthen congressional oversight. But critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, warn the proposed legislation would actually expand the authority of President Trump and all future presidents to engage in worldwide war without limitations. For more, we're joined by Faiz Shakir, national policy director for the ACLU.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

Anticipating a Crush: In Prison, Tact Teams Declare Uneven War

Truth Out - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 04:00

Orange Crush -- or the tact team, as they're called officially -- is the Illinois Department of Correction's most oppressive armed wing. They are bullies dressed in riot gear who kick you when you're down, both figuratively and literally. These are usually big white guys with insecurities, poor communication skills and a power complex that makes for a horrible mix.

 Rafael Belincanta / EyeEm / Getty Images)(Photo: Rafael Belincanta / EyeEm / Getty Images)

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About 7:45 am on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, I muster the energy to get out of bed and walk the step to the sink from the bottom bunk and I hear it. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. "Shit!" I say to myself as my cellmate and I look at each other wide-eyed. We know that sound anywhere. That's three-foot-long, two-inch diameter solid wood batons hitting the steel bars as "Orange Crush" runs down the gallery clunking every bar along the way as they yell. Though it's not our cell house, it's E House right behind us. We're able to hear them through the utility alley that the cell houses share behind the cells. They're making their rounds due to an unauthorized pair of headphones found during a cell search in another cell house. 

We've already been on lockdown since Sunday afternoon here at Stateville Correctional Center, a maximum security prison in Joliet, Illinois. That means nomovement unless it's a medical emergency, and then that means dead. So, we're confined to a space with a toilet, absent a shower and a bunkbed, also known as a 7 x 10-foot concrete cell. 

Orange Crush -- or the tact team, as they're called officially -- is the Illinois Department of Correction's (IDOC) most oppressive armed wing. They are bullies dressed in riot gear who kick you when you're down, both figuratively and literally. These are usually big white guys with insecurities, poor communication skills and a power complex that makes for a horrible mix. Their outfits consist of a one-piece orange jumpsuit, a protector vest, elbow and knee pads, boots, and gloves -- all black -- with a helmet with a face shield. They carry a solid wood baton, a shield about half the size of one of them (usually only used for cell extractions) and a can of chemical agent on their hip that will bring you to your knees when sprayed. Many of their helmets have skulls and crossbones, blacked-out American flags and other military insignia as if they're going to war and we're the enemy.

When it comes to dealing with Orange Crush, prisoners are strip searched and fully restrained in handcuffs and/or shackles. If the inmate is "non-complaint," well, that's where the name "crush" comes from -- because that's when they have their fun crushing you, six of them with chemical agent, shield and baton. It's a battle you can't win, period. 

Imagine your most precious items being thrown away by someone who couldn't care less.

The IDOC uses these orange bullies for many things, but typically for punishment and retaliation. For example, IDOC will enlist the tact team to "shakedown" an entire facility after an incident. These shakedowns are the worst. No one likes them. They are dehumanizing and painful, to say the least. Imagine having everything you own being searched through, including your body. Everything tossed around, ripped, broken, stomped on, mixed in with your cellmates or neighbor's belongings, discarded as garbage. Pictures of loved ones, bedding, letters, clothing, books, important legal documents all scattered and thrown around.  It's a horrible experience I wouldn't wish on anybody. I know that if Orange Crush is in E House today, then that means they'll be over here in the next day or so, banging on my bars and screaming out orders.

So, as the whole cell house now anticipates the impending tsunami, I try to prepare myself as best as possible. Immediately opening the larger of the two suitcase size boxes I am forced to live out of, I start trying to condense all of my belonging by throwing out what I can spare. I pour out all my liquid bottles so they won't pour them on my papers or bedding. I untie my TV from the metal bars of my bunkbed (that's how I hold it up since there are no shelves here) so they won't tear it down and break it. I make sure all my food is new and unopened and not in the wrong bag or container. But I know all of this may be in vain since Orange Crush can and will take what they want with no logical reason and there is no recourse whatsoever. No shakedown is the same as the last; it's always different. One time it's okay to have something; the next time it's not.  

Wednesday, about 4:00 am, I hear the sounds of toilets flushing and quiet talking much more than usual. I try to lay back down and stay asleep until 6:00 am, but my mind won't let me. I periodically wake up every 30 minutes until then. As I get up again, I start my routine. I drink a small shot of coffee and a little water to wake me up, but not too much. If they come today, we could be stuck handcuffed in the chow hall for three to six hours, and last time, some guys ended up going on themselves because we weren't allowed to use the bathroom. I brush my teeth and make a joke to my neighbor, trying to lighten the mood. Recalling the last time Orange Crush came, maybe six months ago, I remind him -- and myself -- that they didn't do C House. So maybe, just maybe, we'll get lucky this time and they won't hit us. Then I make sure to use the washroom because all the water in the building will be shut off. This means that even after we're brought back to our cells following an Orange Crush shakedown, we won't be able to flush the toilet for at least a few more hours. That means no drinking, washing hands or using the toilet. 

As time edges closer to 7:30 am, I hear someone yell out, "Plumbers in the building," indicating that the water will probably be shut off and after that, they'll be here. I flush my toilet and push my water as I pace back and forth from the bars at the front of the cell, looking out the mirror that I that I set up on the cell door so I can watch the gallery. I'm already four flights up so it's hot, but the impending anxiety of waiting makes me sweat even more. I have my clothes and shoes laid out by the bars for the strip search. I sip a little water as I continue to pace. Neither my cell mate nor I say a word as we listen for our jail house P.A. system of guys who yell out what they can see. "They're on the walk," someone says, meaning they're in front of the cell house but not coming for us. I push the water again to make sure it is still on. They are going to C House. We manage to dodge the bullet today.  

Not long after that, we can see out the window on the far wall of the cell house by the cat walk. Prisoners from C-house in rows of two -- Black and Brown men all handcuffed with their heads down are being escorted by a third row of faux soldiers wielding batons in orange and black riot gear. We count 93 in all.  

The men are forced to wait in the chow hall for six hours. We watch from our cells, and see bag after bag of prisoners' property being taken, everything from TVs to shower shoes to cassette tapes. Shaking my head, I think to myself, I hope they don't do me like that.

Later that night, we hear the horror stories of all the things taken from the guys in C and E Houses. We try to make light of it by thinking, "Well, I don't have that much stuff." I think how some of these men, myself included, have been confined to these cells for 20 years or more, and some will be here for the rest of their lives. Forced to live out of what amounts to two suitcases, saving obituaries of loved ones, pictures of funerals and weddings, and the last letters they wrote. These are the only things we have to remember them by. Imagine your most precious items being thrown away by someone who couldn't care less, or members of the so-called tact team looking at pictures of your wife or girlfriend making dirty remarks. They'll eat your food, leaving the remnants behind as if to say, "Fuck you, this is my shit." They've ripped my bed coverings off, dumped an ashtray on my pillow case and sheets, and stomped on them, leaving their boot marks all over. They've stuck objects in my peanut butter. This is the type of treatment we experience during these times. Just another reminder that we've been demoted from the human race.  

Thursday morning is the same routine. I know they have to be coming today. I'm up again early, pacing back and forth, clothes ready. The whole cell house up. "Plumbers in the building," someone yells. But somehow, we dodge a bullet again. I watch them march to C House again. This time, I watch as three galleries get taken out for another six hours. I dread the impending torture and secretly wish it had already passed because the wait is killing me. Waking up so early, not being able to fully rest really does something to your mental stability. Locked in a small room with another man, both of us easily agitated as we await our turn at being shaken down, isn't a good situation for anyone. My cell mate and I wince as we watch bags of property being taken out of C House. 

That day as these faux soldiers leave, as if to put an exclamation point on their "fuck you," they march extra hard as they sing some military cadence, stomping and yelling loud enough so both cell houses can hear, as if they are soldiers congregating after a day of battle. They seem to take pleasure in the anger and anxiety they are generating, which only adds insult to injury in an already hostile environment. Apparently, we are the enemy defeated on the most uneven playing field ever designed.   

As I hear this faux war cry, I think maybe they're done. They skipped C House last time, so maybe they'll skip us again. The uncertainty makes me apprehensive and tense. For two days, they've faked us out, and I can't relax. Friday morning slowly creeps in, and once again, I'm up early with the same routine, hoping maybe we will escape this time. I figure if we make it past Friday, we should be free and clear. But as I'm pacing the floor I hear it: "Plumbers in the building." At 7:40 am, our water is turned off. I'm standing at the door, watching the gallery with my mirror, waiting. I know it's coming. "Tact team in the cell house," someone yells out. My mind races, thinking, Did I properly dispose of and pack everything? Did I forget anything?Right as my thoughts are racing, I hear it: Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, with all of them simultaneously yelling, but I can't make out anything they're barking out.    

They run past my cell, one after another, banging their batons on the bars all the way down the gallery from the first to the last cell, 29 in all. As they line up in front of every cell, the two in front of mine tell my cellmate to "cuff up" and face the back of the cell. I am strip searched. No matter how many times I've been stripped and searched, it's still a humiliating experience. I'm comfortable in my own skin, but that doesn't come into my thought process as I'm being forced to disrobe. Afterward, I'm handcuffed and told to face the back as my cellmate goes through the same process. The cell doors all open at once and as we're being told to back out of the cell. The officer grabs me by the cuffs.

Apparently, we are the enemy defeated on the most uneven playing field ever designed.

I'm led into a line with everyone else down the gallery. I walk in formation with a faux soldier in front of me and behind me. The line goes on like this: faux soldier, inmate, faux soldier, inmate, and so on. When I hit the end of the gallery, there is a gauntlet of Orange Crush wielding batons lining the stairwell trying to look as mean and tough as possible. Some of them look funny, but laughing will get you screamed at and possibly physically hurt, so holding it in is your best option.  There's a psychological chess match going on. I can't let them know that they intimidate or scare me in any way because then they will know they've gotten to me, that their tactics work.  

As we're led out of the building into a corridor leading to the chow hall, we're told to stop. In front of me, I see the backs of Black and Brown men; to the left of me, a line of large white men face us in their orange and black gear, smacking their batons in their hands, waiting to pounce at any false move. This really puts the "us vs. them" mentality into perspective. Reminiscent of a time when Black people couldn't look white men in their eyes, we're yelled at to "keep your heads down." I think maybe it's hard for some of them to look us in the face because they know this is inhumane treatment and wrong.  

We're eventually led into the chow hall and told to sit. One of them tells us not to talk, threatening us with being transferred to a downstate prison. Really, I think, you don't want me to talk while I sit here for the next few hours? This is absurd. I sit silently, all the while picturing what they're doing to my property in the cell.

We wait for three hours, which is short compared to what C House endured. The walk back is just as grueling as the walk from our cells, only now I anticipate all my things being thrown about, potentially destroyed, and most definitely in disarray.  

Back up the four flights, down the gallery and I walk back into the cell. As I'm uncuffed, I realize that I'm relieved that at least it's over. Now, I'll pick through the mess and figure out how to put the pieces back together. I hear guys voicing their discontent over missing items, and I hope nothing is missing from my property.  

No matter how many times we have had to go through this, it's never something I want to endure again. There is no way this is normal. I'm sure some might argue that Orange Crush is a necessary security measure. To them, I would say that when and if an incident occurs, the individuals involved are almost always sent to another facility immediately. So they aren't the ones who are subjected to this dehumanizing ritual of retaliation and punishment. 

As the weekend comes and goes, I look forward to the lockdown being lifted and to the norms of prison life. Going to yard, access to the limited library, visits. But as I rise early on Monday and walk to the sink, I can't believe my ears. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. "Shit." My heart drops to my stomach. They're back.

This article was co-published with The Praxis Center.

Categories: News

Taking Aim at Corporate Impunity, Sanders' Bill Would Hold Big Pharma Execs Behind Opioid Crisis Accountable

Truth Out - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 04:00

 Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)Sen. Bernie Sanders attends a Senate Budget Committee hearing on February 13, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)

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While President Donald Trump attempts to place blame for the enduring opioid addiction crisis on immigrants, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced Tuesday that he would introduce legislation to take aim at those who drug policy experts agree are truly behind the epidemic that kills tens of thousands of Americans per year -- pharmaceutical companies and executives.

"At a time when local, state and federal governments are spending many billions of dollars a year dealing with the impact of the opioid epidemic, we must hold the pharmaceutical companies and executives that created the crisis accountable," said Sanders in a statement.

The bill (pdf) would threaten Big Pharma executives with at least 10 years in prison should their companies be found guilty of contributing to the opioid crisis through manipulative marketing practices. Executives would also face fines equal to their total compensation packages, while companies would be fined $7.8 billion -- one-tenth of the annual cost of the public health epidemic, according to government estimates.

Under the legislation, companies would be required to clearly state that opioids are addictive in any marketing materials for the drugs, which include popular brands including OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet.

The roots of the opioid crisis are traced back to the 1990s, when Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, began marketing the drug as safe for long-term use for chronic pain, denying that prescription opioids -- which are chemically similar to heroin -- had highly addictive properties.

After opioid painkiller prescriptions skyrocketed as a result, the rate of overdose began to rise as well, with opioid overdoses killing at least 63,000 Americans in 2016.

In Ohio next year, Purdue is one of several drug companies that will face a jury trial over a lawsuit accusing them of "deceptively marketing opioids" and alleging distributors "ignored red flags indicating the painkillers were being diverted for improper uses."

But Sanders noted that no company has truly been held liable for the epidemic, which Purdue alone has make tens of billions of dollars off of in recent years:

In 2007, Purdue Pharma...pled guilty and agreed to pay more than $600 million in fines for misleading the public about the risks of the drug. But the company still made $22 billion off of the drug in the past decade.

"We know that pharmaceutical companies lied about the addictive impacts of opioids they manufactured," said Sanders. "They knew how dangerous these products were but refused to tell doctors and patients. Yet, while some of these companies have made billions each year in profits, not one of them has been held fully accountable for its role in an epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans every year."

Categories: News

Anticipating a Crush: In Prison, Tact Teams Declare Uneven War

Truth Out - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 04:00

Orange Crush -- or the tact team, as they're called officially -- is the Illinois Department of Correction's (IDOC) most oppressive armed wing. They are bullies dressed in riot gear who kick you when you're down, both figuratively and literally. These are usually big white guys with insecurities, poor communication skills and a power complex that makes for a horrible mix.

Far more people read Truthout than will ever donate -- but we rely on donations to keep our publication running strong. Support independent journalism by making a contribution now!

About 7:45 am on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, I muster the energy to get out of bed and walk the step to the sink from the bottom bunk and I hear it. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. "Shit!" I say to myself as my cellmate and I look at each other wide-eyed. We know that sound anywhere. That's three-foot-long, two-inch diameter solid wood batons hitting the steel bars as "Orange Crush" runs down the gallery clunking every bar along the way as they yell. Though it's not our cell house, it's E House right behind us. We're able to hear them through the utility alley that the cell houses share behind the cells. They're making their rounds due to an unauthorized pair of headphones found during a cell search in another cell house. 

We've already been on lockdown since Sunday afternoon here at Stateville Correctional Center, a maximum security prison in Joliet, Illinois. That means nomovement unless it's a medical emergency, and then that means dead. So, we're confined to a space with a toilet, absent a shower and a bunkbed, also known as a 7 x 10-foot concrete cell. 

Orange Crush -- or the tact team, as they're called officially -- is the Illinois Department of Correction's (IDOC) most oppressive armed wing. They are bullies dressed in riot gear who kick you when you're down, both figuratively and literally. These are usually big white guys with insecurities, poor communication skills and a power complex that makes for a horrible mix. Their outfits consist of a one-piece orange jumpsuit, a protector vest, elbow and knee pads, boots, and gloves -- all black -- with a helmet with a face shield. They carry a solid wood baton, a shield about half the size of one of them (usually only used for cell extractions) and a can of chemical agent on their hip that will bring you to your knees when sprayed. Many of their helmets have skulls and crossbones, blacked-out American flags and other military insignia as if they're going to war and we're the enemy.

When it comes to dealing with Orange Crush, prisoners are strip searched and fully restrained in handcuffs and/or shackles. If the inmate is "non-complaint," well, that's where the name "crush" comes from -- because that's when they have their fun crushing you, six of them with chemical agent, shield and baton. It's a battle you can't win, period. 

Imagine your most precious items being thrown away by someone who couldn't care less.

The IDOC uses these orange bullies for many things, but typically for punishment and retaliation. For example, IDOC will enlist the tact team to "shakedown" an entire facility after an incident. These shakedowns are the worst. No one likes them. They are dehumanizing and painful, to say the least. Imagine having everything you own being searched through, including your body. Everything tossed around, ripped, broken, stomped on, mixed in with your cellmates or neighbor's belongings, discarded as garbage. Pictures of loved ones, bedding, letters, clothing, books, important legal documents all scattered and thrown around.  It's a horrible experience I wouldn't wish on anybody. I know that if Orange Crush is in E House today, then that means they'll be over here in the next day or so, banging on my bars and screaming out orders.

So, as the whole cell house now anticipates the impending tsunami, I try to prepare myself as best as possible. Immediately opening the larger of the two suitcase size boxes I am forced to live out of, I start trying to condense all of my belonging by throwing out what I can spare. I pour out all my liquid bottles so they won't pour them on my papers or bedding. I untie my TV from the metal bars of my bunkbed (that's how I hold it up since there are no shelves here) so they won't tear it down and break it. I make sure all my food is new and unopened and not in the wrong bag or container. But I know all of this may be in vain since Orange Crush can and will take what they want with no logical reason and there is no recourse whatsoever. No shakedown is the same as the last; it's always different. One time it's okay to have something; the next time it's not.  

Wednesday, about 4:00 am, I hear the sounds of toilets flushing and quiet talking much more than usual. I try to lay back down and stay asleep until 6:00 am, but my mind won't let me. I periodically wake up every 30 minutes until then. As I get up again, I start my routine. I drink a small shot of coffee and a little water to wake me up, but not too much. If they come today, we could be stuck handcuffed in the chow hall for three to six hours, and last time, some guys ended up going on themselves because we weren't allowed to use the bathroom. I brush my teeth and make a joke to my neighbor, trying to lighten the mood. Recalling the last time Orange Crush came, maybe six months ago, I remind him -- and myself -- that they didn't do C House. So maybe, just maybe, we'll get lucky this time and they won't hit us. Then I make sure to use the washroom because all the water in the building will be shut off. This means that even after we're brought back to our cells following an Orange Crush shakedown, we won't be able to flush the toilet for at least a few more hours. That means no drinking, washing hands or using the toilet. 

As time edges closer to 7:30 am, I hear someone yell out, "Plumbers in the building," indicating that the water will probably be shut off and after that, they'll be here. I flush my toilet and push my water as I pace back and forth from the bars at the front of the cell, looking out the mirror that I that I set up on the cell door so I can watch the gallery. I'm already four flights up so it's hot, but the impending anxiety of waiting makes me sweat even more. I have my clothes and shoes laid out by the bars for the strip search. I sip a little water as I continue to pace. Neither my cell mate nor I say a word as we listen for our jail house P.A. system of guys who yell out what they can see. "They're on the walk," someone says, meaning they're in front of the cell house but not coming for us. I push the water again to make sure it is still on. They are going to C House. We manage to dodge the bullet today.  

Not long after that, we can see out the window on the far wall of the cell house by the cat walk. Prisoners from C-house in rows of two -- Black and Brown men all handcuffed with their heads down are being escorted by a third row of faux soldiers wielding batons in orange and black riot gear. We count 93 in all.  

The men are forced to wait in the chow hall for six hours. We watch from our cells, and see bag after bag of prisoners' property being taken, everything from TVs to shower shoes to cassette tapes. Shaking my head, I think to myself, I hope they don't do me like that.

Later that night, we hear the horror stories of all the things taken from the guys in C and E Houses. We try to make light of it by thinking, "Well, I don't have that much stuff." I think how some of these men, myself included, have been confined to these cells for 20 years or more, and some will be here for the rest of their lives. Forced to live out of what amounts to two suitcases, saving obituaries of loved ones, pictures of funerals and weddings, and the last letters they wrote. These are the only things we have to remember them by. Imagine your most precious items being thrown away by someone who couldn't care less, or members of the so-called tact team looking at pictures of your wife or girlfriend making dirty remarks. They'll eat your food, leaving the remnants behind as if to say, "Fuck you, this is my shit." They've ripped my bed coverings off, dumped an ashtray on my pillow case and sheets, and stomped on them, leaving their boot marks all over. They've stuck objects in my peanut butter. This is the type of treatment we experience during these times. Just another reminder that we've been demoted from the human race.  

Thursday morning is the same routine. I know they have to be coming today. I'm up again early, pacing back and forth, clothes ready. The whole cell house up. "Plumbers in the building," someone yells. But somehow, we dodge a bullet again. I watch them march to C House again. This time, I watch as three galleries get taken out for another six hours. I dread the impending torture and secretly wish it had already passed because the wait is killing me. Waking up so early, not being able to fully rest really does something to your mental stability. Locked in a small room with another man, both of us easily agitated as we await our turn at being shaken down, isn't a good situation for anyone. My cell mate and I wince as we watch bags of property being taken out of C House. 

That day as these faux soldiers leave, as if to put an exclamation point on their "fuck you," they march extra hard as they sing some military cadence, stomping and yelling loud enough so both cell houses can hear, as if they are soldiers congregating after a day of battle. They seem to take pleasure in the anger and anxiety they are generating, which only adds insult to injury in an already hostile environment. Apparently, we are the enemy defeated on the most uneven playing field ever designed.   

As I hear this faux war cry, I think maybe they're done. They skipped C House last time, so maybe they'll skip us again. The uncertainty makes me apprehensive and tense. For two days, they've faked us out, and I can't relax. Friday morning slowly creeps in, and once again, I'm up early with the same routine, hoping maybe we will escape this time. I figure if we make it past Friday, we should be free and clear. But as I'm pacing the floor I hear it: "Plumbers in the building." At 7:40 am, our water is turned off. I'm standing at the door, watching the gallery with my mirror, waiting. I know it's coming. "Tact team in the cell house," someone yells out. My mind races, thinking, Did I properly dispose of and pack everything? Did I forget anything?Right as my thoughts are racing, I hear it: Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, with all of them simultaneously yelling, but I can't make out anything they're barking out.    

They run past my cell, one after another, banging their batons on the bars all the way down the gallery from the first to the last cell, 29 in all. As they line up in front of every cell, the two in front of mine tell my cellmate to "cuff up" and face the back of the cell. I am strip searched. No matter how many times I've been stripped and searched, it's still a humiliating experience. I'm comfortable in my own skin, but that doesn't come into my thought process as I'm being forced to disrobe. Afterward, I'm handcuffed and told to face the back as my cellmate goes through the same process. The cell doors all open at once and as we're being told to back out of the cell. The officer grabs me by the cuffs.

Apparently, we are the enemy defeated on the most uneven playing field ever designed.

I'm led into a line with everyone else down the gallery. I walk in formation with a faux soldier in front of me and behind me. The line goes on like this: faux soldier, inmate, faux soldier, inmate, and so on. When I hit the end of the gallery, there is a gauntlet of Orange Crush wielding batons lining the stairwell trying to look as mean and tough as possible. Some of them look funny, but laughing will get you screamed at and possibly physically hurt, so holding it in is your best option.  There's a psychological chess match going on. I can't let them know that they intimidate or scare me in any way because then they will know they've gotten to me, that their tactics work.  

As we're led out of the building into a corridor leading to the chow hall, we're told to stop. In front of me, I see the backs of Black and Brown men; to the left of me, a line of large white men face us in their orange and black gear, smacking their batons in their hands, waiting to pounce at any false move. This really puts the "us vs. them" mentality into perspective. Reminiscent of a time when Black people couldn't look white men in their eyes, we're yelled at to "keep your heads down." I think maybe it's hard for some of them to look us in the face because they know this is inhumane treatment and wrong.  

We're eventually led into the chow hall and told to sit. One of them tells us not to talk, threatening us with being transferred to a downstate prison. Really, I think, you don't want me to talk while I sit here for the next few hours? This is absurd. I sit silently, all the while picturing what they're doing to my property in the cell.

We wait for three hours, which is short compared to what C House endured. The walk back is just as grueling as the walk from our cells, only now I anticipate all my things being thrown about, potentially destroyed, and most definitely in disarray.  

Back up the four flights, down the gallery and I walk back into the cell. As I'm uncuffed, I realize that I'm relieved that at least it's over. Now, I'll pick through the mess and figure out how to put the pieces back together. I hear guys voicing their discontent over missing items, and I hope nothing is missing from my property.  

No matter how many times we have had to go through this, it's never something I want to endure again. There is no way this is normal. I'm sure some might argue that Orange Crush is a necessary security measure. To them, I would say that when and if an incident occurs, the individuals involved are almost always sent to another facility immediately. So they aren't the ones who are subjected to this dehumanizing ritual of retaliation and punishment. 

As the weekend comes and goes, I look forward to the lockdown being lifted and to the norms of prison life. Going to yard, access to the limited library, visits. But as I rise early on Monday and walk to the sink, I can't believe my ears. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. "Shit." My heart drops to my stomach. They're back.

This article was co-published with The Praxis Center.

Categories: News

Why Won't Trump Judicial Nominee Wendy Vitter Support the Landmark Desegregation Case "Brown vs. Board of Education"

Truth Out - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 04:00
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Last week, during Wendy Vitter's confirmation hearing for a Louisiana district court judgeship, the Donald Trump appointee (and wife of former Republican senator David Vitter) refused to say whether she supported Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case that barred racial discrimination in public schools.

"I don't mean to be coy," Vitter said when asked about it by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., "but I think I can get into a difficult, difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions -- which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with."

As is standard these days, the comment set off a firestorm of debate over whether or not Vitter was "really" being racist.

“It is shocking that, in the year 2018, Ms. Vitter refused to say whether the Supreme Court, a unanimous Supreme Court, did the right thing when it struck down segregation and legal apartheid in America’s schools," Kristine Lucius of the Leadership Conference said in a Monday press call. 

NAACP head Derrick Johnson, during the same call, said that Vitter had joined "a growing roster of Trump nominees" who exhibit "documented hostility regarding the rights of communities of color."

Tim Morris of NOLA.com disagreed with that analysis, saying that Blumenthal "was trying to set a trap by coaxing Vitter to comment on one Supreme Court ruling that would then open the door to the case he really wanted to get to, the abortion right the court found in Roe v. Wade.

"Did Blumenthal have any reason to believe that Vitter disagreed with the court ruling or that she would be looking to overturn 64 years of precedent by deciding that 'separate but equal' was constitutional?" Morris asked.

Morris' readers are clearly invited to believe that it's preposterous to suggest that a conservative Republican from the South would oppose desegregation. It's not. Vitter has already been exposed as holding radical opinions on other matters, such as her endorsement of the belief that birth control, something nearly all women have used, is dangerous and unnatural.

But the far grimmer truth is that school desegregation is not nearly as uncontroversial as Morris would have his readers believe. In many ways, racial discrimination in public schools is alive and well. While most people would formally agree that Brown v. Board was correctly decided, in practice American schools are still segregated by race, and in many places black students are treated as second-class citizens.

"America's school-age population is more diverse than ever before, reflecting the demographic shift rapidly taking place in our country," wrote Beverly Daniel Tatum in a Los Angeles Times op-ed last September. "America's schools, however, are more segregated than they have been for decades."

In a 2014 report for the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Boardthe UCLA Civil Rights Project found that in the 11 Southern states that had their segregation laws overturned by the Brown decision, there has been a strong decline in integration after the Justice Department of the Reagan and George H.W. Bush years undermined desegregation efforts and the Supreme Court terminated desegregation orders in 1991.

"At the peak, 44% of black southern students were in majority-white schools, the kind of schools that provided strong potential opportunities for diverse learning experiences," the report reads. "By 2011, that number had declined to 23%, a drop by nearly half, and the decline has accelerated in recent years."

White parental choices help accelerate these trends. “New Orleans has a relatively diverse city population, but white parents in New Orleans disproportionately send their kids to private schools," Jon Valant of the Brookings Institution told Salon. "So the public school system looks very different, demographically, from the city as a whole." Tulane's Education Research Alliance for New Orleans released a study last year demonstrating that efforts to overhaul the education system in the city, after Hurricane Katrina, did little to reverse this trend. 

As Nikole Hannah-Jones reported in 2014 for ProPublica, 12 percent of black students in the South now attend what are deemed "apartheid schools," where less than 1 percent of the school's population is white. That problem isn't limited to the South. ProPublica tracked a similar surge in segregation in Midwestern swing states like Ohio and coastal blue states like New York and California as well.

Even when schools are technically integrated, black students often face discrimination. Many schools use "tracking" systems that function as an intra-school method of segregation. While such systems are ostensibly merit-based, channeling high-achieving kids more challenging classes, in practice they often have discriminatory effects.

"Parents who are able to secure high-track placement for their children are disproportionately likely to be white, well-educated and politically vocal," a 2013 report from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado explains. These parents use the system to keep their children "apart from students of lower wealth, students of color, or both." That report also shows that there's no real evidence that tracking improves educational outcomes, but it does exacerbate inequality.

Then there's the unequal treatment students experience on a daily basis in schools, especially when it comes to discipline. As Valant of Brookings argues, although it's difficult to get rigorous data that isolates the effects of racial discrimination in school discipline, there is "reason to worry that students of color are being punished too harshly in many schools across the country."

Valant was part of a team at the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans that found large disparities in disciplinary actions at Louisiana schools, with black students twice as likely to be suspended as white students. They looked specifically at discipline in cases where white and black student got into fights with each other and found clear disparities.

"For fights involving one white student and one black student, black students receive slightly longer suspensions than white students," the report reads. "This disparity is evident even after accounting for students’ prior discipline records, background characteristics, and school attended."

All of this means it's not preposterous at all to wonder why Vitter was so hesitant to agree that Brown v. Board of Education was a good decision. In many ways, subtle and otherwise, many white people in America have resisted school desegregation every step of the way. That resistance remains strong, even if it's not expressed as overtly as it once was. As long as Donald Trump is in the White House, there's no reason to believe this situation will improve.

Categories: News

How the Working Families Party Intends to Shake Up the 2018 Elections

Truth Out - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 04:00

There's a new energy in voters and they are more open than ever to big ideas about the kind of change we need, says Joe Dinkin, national communications director of the Working Families Party (WFP). From chasing Paul Ryan out of the race in Wisconsin, to challenging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for failing to deliver on his promise of a progressive budget, WFP is shaking up the 2018 midterms.

 Hill Street Studios / Erik Isakson / Getty Images)(Photo: Hill Street Studios / Erik Isakson / Getty Images)

Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. We're now more than a year into the Trump administration, and activists have scored some important victories in those months. Yet there is always more to be done, and for many people, the question of where to focus and how to help remains. In this series, we talk with organizers, agitators and educators not only about how to resist but also about how to build a better world. Today's interview is the 118th in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.

Today we bring you a conversation with Joe Dinkin, the campaigns and communications director at the Working Families Party (WFP). Dinkin discusses how Paul Ryan's exit is indicative of the trouble the Republican Party is in and how WFP plans to organize people around the 2018 midterms.

Sarah Jaffe: I want to start out with some of the good news. Tell us about what your reaction was to hearing that Paul Ryan was no longer going to run for his seat?

Joe Dinkin: There had been rumors swirling for a while that Paul Ryan might get out of the race as Randy Bryce's campaign picked up steam.... It turned out that the rumors were true and Paul Ryan quit before he could be fired, because Randy Bryce, the union ironworker and Working Families Party activist ... was going to give Paul Ryan the run of his life; it turned out we were right.

Randy Bryce, from the beginning said he wanted to "repeal and replace" Paul Ryan. We've gotten the first half of that done. We've repealed Paul Ryan; he'll be out of Congress. It's pretty satisfying to say that. This is a guy who has talked about dreaming of slashing Medicaid and the social safety back ... dreaming about making poor people suffer is just so infuriating that I couldn't be happier to see him exit public life.

Unfortunately, he'll probably end up with a lucrative lobbying contract of some kind, but he won't be in the same capacity -- able to inflict the kind of direct harm on people that he was able to do by ushering through the passage of the monstrous Republican tax plan.

This is the person who was the author of many tax reform plans; this one is the one that actually succeeded. Is this a sign that this particular wing of the Republican Party -- not just the Trumpist fake-populist racist wing, but the "We want to drown the government in the bathtub" wing -- is also in deep trouble?

I think they're in huge trouble. I think that what Paul Ryan realized is that what he did is politically indefensible. There's no way to take that record back to voters in any part of [the US] and justify what he did as anything other than theft in the name of governance, on behalf of some of the richest people who've ever lived -- something that will cause immense suffering to millions of Americans of modest means. It's morally indefensible and politically indefensible, and I think he saw the writing on the wall that he couldn't run on that record and win.

In that way, I think Paul Ryan is the tip of the spear, and I think a lot of other Republicans are going to realize that that vote was a deeply toxic one -- not just a stain on their conscience, but also damaging to their political standing. There was just a special congressional election in [Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district] where a Democrat won this ... sort of archetypal working-class white district, where the Republicans were running ads trying to kind of buck up the Republican tax plan. The ads weren't moving the needle and they abandoned that ad a couple of weeks before Election Day because it wasn't working and there's no way they can hide from that.

Paul Ryan kind of represented an archetypal working-class district, and so you found an archetypal working-class dude who in many ways is not just that. The thing that I find interesting about Randy Bryce, watching him for several months, is that he's not just running on being the "manly-man" ironworker. This is a guy who ran on caring for his sick mother; this is a guy who's gotten arrested with DREAMers; this is a guy who's not only calling for marijuana legalization but marijuana amnesty. He seems to be smart on a lot of things that are not the sort of white, working-class bread-and-butter issues that we hear a lot that "the Democrats have to return to or else they'll lose to Trump forever."

I think people like Randy Bryce -- which is to say working-class people -- have been used as an icon and a symbol in politics for a long time, but it's really pretty rare that somebody from a union household -- a union worker with family troubles and health problems -- is himself seen as a real political actor and not just an icon or a symbol. And I think what you're seeing with Randy is that people are actually a lot more complicated than the single stereotype. Randy is not just running on what might most immediately appeal to a pollster stereotype of the hard-hat, white working class. He's running on health care for all and the care agenda and he's been unbelievably vocal about defending the rights of immigrants and the DREAM Act and criminal justice reform and marijuana legalization and, as you pointed out, marijuana amnesty for people that have been convicted of something that really should never have been a crime.

He's running on a bold and progressive agenda that is a populist agenda that speaks to people's economic needs and also understands that there are special kinds of difficulties and oppressions that fall on people who are more marginalized.

Certain parts of the working class, we might say.

That's right. And I think the wisdom of the DC-based consultant class has been that the only way to win a swing district or even a Republican-leaning district like this one has been to run as a moderate, and it turns out that exactly the opposite is true. The only way that we're able to make that race competitive is to have somebody run on his life story, on the things that's impacted him and people he cares about and on what he believes in, which is to say, to run on this bold, multiracial populism.

Tell us about Randy Bryce's history with the Working Families Party.

Randy is somebody who was involved in the founding of the Wisconsin Working Families Party; he's been a member since the very beginning. In the moment of resistance to Trump, we started planning a series of protests all over the country, as Paul Ryan traveled the country avoiding his constituents....

At the same time, he was traveling around and doing high-dollar fundraisers ... because he was refusing to hold town hall meetings where his constituents could give him a piece of their mind about, at the time, the Republican health care plan and some of the nomination fights. We ran a series of protests ... in the places where he was going to go visit wealthy donors instead of his constituents. We would organize protests and they would use their cell phones to make video calls out to ordinary people back in Wisconsin who didn't get the chance to ask Paul Ryan a question. They would FaceTime, basically, into these protests all around the country, and one of the activists participating in those protests from back home was Randy Bryce.

So a couple of months later, when it came time to start looking at a candidate to really take the fight directly to Paul Ryan electorally, Marina Dimitrijevic, director of the Wisconsin Working Families Party, along with the Wisconsin WFP political director, sat down with Randy in a coffee shop and asked him point blank, "We need people in Congress who can represent working families, and who better than a real working-class person with a working family to be the standard-bearer for that movement and tell the truth about Paul Ryan's record?"

It took a little convincing, but Randy ultimately agreed to do it and we've been unbelievably proud of his success....

Do we know who the Republicans are that are going to step up now that Paul Ryan is not running for re-election?

It's not entirely clear. There's one sort of far-right-wing, "alt-right" white nationalist candidate in the race already; my guess is they'll recruit another sort of more polite Republican into the race as well. The filing deadline is a couple of more weeks out, so we'll have to see how it shakes out. In some ways, the Republicans are realizing their vulnerability with Ryan's record -- they get to back somebody who's never been in Congress, who would have voted exactly the same way but doesn't have it on their record and they think that will excuse them....

In other big news this week, the never-ending question for the Working Families Party has always been Andrew Cuomo and the governor's race in New York.... Andrew Cuomo has largely gotten what he wanted in those eight years, including a couple of Working Families Party nominations. What changed this time?

Four years ago, the majority of the Working Families Party state committee voted for Andrew Cuomo after he promised to pass a raft of progressive legislation and work hard to win a Democratic majority in the state senate and end the Independent Democratic Conference as a separate conference and create a Democratic majority that, in a blue state like New York, ought to actually be able to pass a lot of items on the progressive agenda -- from economic justice to reforming our democracy to ... a real plan on climate change, to criminal justice reform.

He promised a broad suite of progressive issues and he promised to elect Democrats to the state senate.,,, A little bit of background for people who aren't from New York, there has been a breakaway faction of the state senate Democrats, they call themselves the "Independent Democratic Caucus," and for the last six budgets, they have sided with Republicans and led to Republican budget after Republican budget.

Budgets are a moral document, that's where we get to fight about what's important to our society and who pays and who gains ... Andrew Cuomo in 2014 promised that he would end that unholy arrangement that was artificially keeping the New York State Senate from passing the progressive agenda. He promised he would end it, he promised he would pass the progressive agenda, he mostly broke those promises entirely....

I was at this meeting and I was really struck because there had been a lot of threats made that week. Andrew Cuomo did not go gently into that good night; he threatened the unions in order to threaten the funding of community organizations that were backing Cynthia Nixon. I was struck by the way that people in that room seemed like they weren't scared of Andrew Cuomo anymore.

Turns out organizing works. People got together and built a shared vision and said, "We're not going to be bullied by this guy." There was a sense of defiance, even.

Definitely. I think there were a couple of votes for "Hell yes" and even "Fuck yes" for Cynthia Nixon. How does this connect to the more national strategy that is now really in earnest for you? How does the choice to challenge Andrew Cuomo connect to the success of a Randy Bryce?

Here's how I would say: I think especially with Trump in the White House, with a cabinet and an administration composed of billionaires and avowed white nationalists who've been running the country, the urgency for our kind of values is felt more deeply and more broadly than ever before. People who are the opponents of that progressive agenda -- whether they're Republicans or whether they're Democrats -- are really feeling the heat right now.

And it's emboldened people to pay closer attention to politics.... It took until the election of Donald Trump for people to really wake up to the politics, pay attention to the news in a deeper way, look around and say, "Well, why can't New York pass the DREAM Act here, pass health care for all to ensure that if Trump guts Obamacare people are still covered, pass the Reproductive Health Act, and all of these measures of the progressive agenda that people deeply needed -- why can't we do that?"

It was because of these state senators who were caucusing with the Republicans, and people got active and people got mad. I think that kind of thing has happened all over the country where there is this new, activated -- almost radicalism -- there's a new energy in voters who are hungry for serious change and are really more open than ever to big ideas about the kind of change we need.

It separates you a little bit from the old model, which was very much based in New York -- unions and community groups and the fusion voting strategy. That still matters, but it's not quite the center of the WFP strategy anymore.

We have always been built on a base that includes unions, community organizations and grassroots activists, and what we've seen since the election of Trump especially -- but even going back before that, to the Bernie Sanders campaign, to the rise of some of the social movements over the last couple of years -- is that that grassroots base, the individual activists are on fire.

Unfortunately, that has meant that some of the unions, both four years ago and this year, are deciding to -- at least for now -- back away.

That's right. I think they're in a difficult position. I feel for them. I think they made a difficult decision, but I get why it happens. We are 100 percent committed to unions, to the labor movement, to workers' rights, and that's never going to change. We're always going to be there fighting for working people -- the ones in unions, the ones who deserve and don't have the protection of a union, and people piecing together work in the gig economy and those who are unemployed. Those are all working families and we're going to fight as hard as we can for each of them.

Another thing just announced about the WFP is that you have a new director. Tell us about him and the vision that he embodies for the party.

His name is Maurice Mitchell. I couldn't be more excited. I've known him for a while and he's always impressed me as an unbelievable organizer, strategist and leader.... He's spoken really eloquently in the media in the last couple of days about his vision for where we're going, which is a vision that kind of ends the false dichotomy between the fights for economic and racial justice, and says we need both of those things and a vision that embraces the rise of some of the social movements that have sprung up over the last couple of years -- from Occupy to the climate movement to the DREAMers to the Movement for Black Lives -- and says there's all these people in the streets, all the way up to the most recent youth-led movement against gun violence, and says these are people who are fired up and need a new political home, and we could be that home.

And there was one other thing going on for y'all this week.

One other thing -- actually, there's a few other things. We won paid sick days in New Jersey this week. But the one other thing I was going to talk about was, we also had 75 people in Las Vegas at our ... growing political education program ... for an intense, three-day-long political education program that was built on a big analysis about helping people develop their ideology, on class exploitation, on structural racism, on the reinforcement of gender roles in our society and on a broken democracy that has failed to really transform and overcome those challenges that we're facing.... It's a pretty cool model that we're trying out that we've been growing around the country.

How can people get involved with any and all of the things we've talked about today?

People can go to our website at WorkingFamilies.org and sign up.... And also follow us on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and all the social media if that's how you stay engaged -- you can find us there, too.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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

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Categories: News

Under Louisiana Bill, Peaceful Protesters Could Face 20 Years in Prison

Truth Out - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 04:00

 Julie Dermansky / Corbis via Getty Images)The environmental group 350.org's "Draw the Line on Tar Sands and the Keystone XL pipeline" protest took the form of a second line parade as it made its way through the french quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 21, 2013. Under a proposed Louisiana law, peaceful protests against pipeline infrastructural projects bear the possibility of prison sentences as long as 20 years, or fines of up to $10,000. (Photo: Julie Dermansky / Corbis via Getty Images)

With House Bill 727, Louisiana has joined a growing number of states that are criminalizing nonviolent civil disobedience actions at "critical infrastructure" sites, which typically include pipelines, refineries and electrical power facilities. Financed by Big Oil, the Louisiana bill makes even discussing a possible trespass action punishable with prison sentences of five years and fines up to $10,000.

 Julie Dermansky / Corbis via Getty Images)The environmental group 350.org's "Draw the Line on Tar Sands and the Keystone XL pipeline" protest took the form of a second line parade as it made its way through the french quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 21, 2013. Under a proposed Louisiana law, peaceful protests against pipeline infrastructural projects bear the possibility of prison sentences as long as 20 years, or fines of up to $10,000. (Photo: Julie Dermansky / Corbis via Getty Images)

On April 12, 2018, in the chambers of the Louisiana State House of Representatives, Rep. Major Thibaut Jr. stepped up to the microphone before the Speaker to introduce seemingly benign House Bill 727. According to his testimony, the bill was humble -- almost technical -- in scope and aimed primarily to add "pipelines" to the list of what the state considers "critical infrastructure." It had faced no opposition in committee, Thibaut added, and had "over sixty-something authors."

The bill would impose severe penalties on peaceful protesters engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience actions at sites considered "critical infrastructure".

"It's a good bill," he said, then motioned for favorable passage. Ninety-seven legislators voted yay, three voted nay, and just like that, all 4.6 million residents of Louisiana took a step toward losing their First Amendment rights. Should the bill become law, it would impose severe penalties on peaceful protesters engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience actions at sites considered "critical infrastructure" by Thibaut's bill. In fact, simply planning to take such an action, considered "conspiracy" by HB 727, could be punishable by fees of up to $10,000 and prison sentences as long as 20 years.

With the crack of a gavel, Louisiana joined the growing number of states across the nation with similar "critical infrastructure" bills moving swiftly through the courts and onto governors' desks.

The first appeared in Oklahoma in May 2017. According to the bill's author, Rep. Mark McBride, it was an attempt to keep Oklahoma from paying costs related to any Diamond Pipeline protests. The law beefed up penalties for protesters who trespassed on property containing a "critical infrastructure facility." The definition of such facilities varies by state but tends to include energy-industry sites like pipelines, refineries and electrical power facilities.

Since the ALEC Summit, bills like Louisiana's HB 727 have cropped up all over the country.

Shortly after Oklahoma signed the bill into law, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded group that holds annual meetings with state legislators and lobbyists to vote on "model" legislation, took the measure up itself at its summit in Nashville, Tennessee, in December 2017. ALEC calls its model bill "The Critical Infrastructure Protection Act," claiming the bill drew its "inspiration" from laws enacted in 2017 by the State of Oklahoma.

Since the ALEC Summit, bills like Louisiana's HB 727 have cropped up all over the country. In Ohio, where construction on the Rover pipeline resulted in repeated spills of toxic drilling materialSenate Bill 250 suddenly appeared. Its language reflects the ALEC-inspired bill, aiming to "prohibit criminal mischief ... on a critical infrastructure facility." It would also impose fines on organizations "complicit" with said activity.

In Iowa, Senate Study Bill 3062 penalizes those who'd commit "sabotage" of critical infrastructure facilities with fines of up to $100,000 and 25 years in jail.

In March 2018, lawmakers in Minnesota introduced HF 3693, which would, among other things, criminalize anyone who "recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with" a trespasser at an infrastructure site. Minnesota courts could use the law to punish these "conspirator" groups or individuals with a full year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.

Louisiana House Bill 727, introduced in late March, is even more severe than the original ALEC-inspired legislation. If enacted, the law could potentially penalize people who never even set foot on one of its protected sites. Under the bill as written, simply discussing a possible trespass action could result in prison sentences of five years and fines up to $10,000. Actually damaging pipeline infrastructure could lead to 15 years in jail, and it could lead to 20 years if the damage interrupts construction site operations or endangers human life.

It remains unclear how the conspiracy clause of this bill would be enforced in Louisiana, should the measure become law. In a phone interview with Truthout, Alicia Cooke of the volunteer climate activist group 350 New Orleans wondered aloud, "How do you prove that someone is conspiring to trespass on property? Versus conspiring to gather near property?"

In recalling a recent protest march that 350 New Orleans organized in St. James Parish, Cooke said participants reported feeling "the shadow of the law" that day as they marched down public roads past Entergy facilities. "I worry that if we did something like that again ... if someone just put a toe out of line on that marching route onto Entergy's property, it might be construed as a malicious act and give [authorities] cause to arrest someone," Cooke told Truthout.

The bill's author, Rep. Thibaut, said in House Chambers on April 12, 2018, that it would "give law enforcement the tools they need to protect our people." Opponents, however, note that private property protections and trespassing measures are already on the books in Louisiana. Instead, opponents of the bill argue that the measure is meant to silence groups opposed to the construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. A 162-mile crude oil transport line that would serve as the final leg of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC is a joint venture of Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66.

"There's no question about the timing," Anne Rolfes, the founding director of the environmental justice nonprofit Louisiana Bucket Brigade, told Truthout in a phone interview. "It's a really clear puppet string between the oil industry and Energy Transfer Partners and our legislature."

The bill comes on the heels of a recent victory in the courts by the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper and other local environmental groups. In late February, a federal injunction by US District Court Judge Shelly Dick temporarily prohibited Energy Transfer Partners from continuing pipeline construction work in the Atchafalaya Basin "in order to prevent further irreparable harm" to the ecosystem, which includes both old-growth cypress trees and crawfishing grounds for local fishermen.

It's the ultimate irony ... we're not considering our own water, our own forests, our own wetlands to be critical infrastructure.

Weeks later, however, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC's appeal request for a stay on the temporary injunction. The three-judge panel was divided. The majority decision held that Dick abused her discretion when granting the injunction. Dissenting Judge Davis, in contrast, held that the environmental assessment report "did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act" by adequately detailing how construction-related damage done to the environment would be properly mitigated.

The original suit filed by the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, among other organizations, is slated to be heard by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston on April 30, 2018.

In contrast to the relatively benign activities of the environmental activists in the state -- holding up banners and staging ad-hoc musicals at pipeline worksites -- oil and gas companies in Louisiana have already wreaked substantive harm on the wetlands. Beyond supplying estuary habitat for one of the most robust fisheries in the nation, Louisiana's coastal marsh plays a major role in protecting inland communities by attenuating storm surge and high winds from hurricanes.

Damage to the health of the wetlands, in fact, is likely to be far more costly to the state in the long run than temporary work stoppages due to activism along the Bayou Bridge Pipeline construction route. Over the next 50 years, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Agency intends to pay $644 million to restore the nearly 2,000 miles of coastal wetlands that have been lost to open water in the past 80 years. Research shows that oil and gas activities, particularly the dredging of at least 10,000 miles of canals to allow access to oil wells and other structures, are to blame for a significant portion of this land loss. One study, published by researchers at Louisiana State University, investigated land loss in three southeast Louisiana basins since 1956. They found that "canal dredging significantly and directly related to wetland losses," noting that for each hectare (a little over two acres) of canal dredged, there was a corresponding net loss of 2.85 hectares of land over the 34-year time frame of the study.

Beyond dredging-related damage to the wetlands, Louisiana can also expect more oil spills from the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners, Sunoco and their subsidiaries reported 527 pipeline spills from 2002-2017, averaging approximately one incident every eleven days, according to a recent report issued by Greenpeace USA and Waterkeeper Alliance. These accidents spilled 3.6 million gallons of crude oil and other hazardous liquids -- enough to fill five-and-a-half Olympic-size swimming pools.

"I am very deeply concerned about the Bayou Bridge Pipeline Project and the potential for Energy Transfer Partners to repeatedly break the law and do harm to many waterways across the state," said Donna Lisenby, a campaign manager with the Waterkeeper Alliance and one of the co-authors of the report, while speaking to reporters on April 17, 2018.

Unfortunately, a quick survey of Representative Thibaut's campaign contributors over the years -- which include donors like Atmos Energy, Exxon and Chevron -- suggests he may be tempted to prioritize the wishes of corporations over scientific recommendations or the constitutional rights of his constituents. Now that the Louisiana bill has passed through the House, it will travel to the Senate for debate. Meanwhile, in Ohio, Iowa and Minnesota, state lawmakers are pushing their versions of the ALEC-inspired bill through committees and legislative chambers.

"It's the ultimate irony," said Cooke. "We're considering critical infrastructure to be pipelines, oil refineries, and oil wells. But we're not considering our own water, our own forests, our own wetlands to be critical infrastructure."

Cooke, who continues to organize with 350 New Orleans against the bill, said she felt sad about it all, adding, "It just shows what we've chosen to prioritize in Louisiana."

Rolfes, however, sees reason for hope. "Resistance to fossil fuels in general and oil specifically is growing," she said. "Although it's disheartening to see these bills, it shows you the status of their industry. Their future is on shaky footing."

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Categories: News

Supreme Court strikes down part of immigration law as too vague

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 00:31

Supreme Court strikes down part of immigration law as too vague | 17 April 2018 | The Supreme Court said Tuesday that part of a federal law that makes it easier to deport immigrants who have been convicted of crimes is too vague to be enforced. The court's 5-4 decision -- in an unusual alignment in which new Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the four liberal justices -- concerns a catchall provision of immigration law that defines what makes a crime violent. The decision is a loss for President Donald Trump's administration, which has emphasized stricter enforcement of immigration law. With the four other conservative justices in dissent, it was the vote of Trump-appointee Gorsuch that was decisive in striking down the provision at issue.

Categories: News

Trump wants loophole closed after Gorsuch casts decisive vote in immigration case

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 00:06

Trump wants loophole closed after Gorsuch casts decisive vote in immigration case | 17 April 2018 | President Trump on Tuesday called on Congress to pass stricter immigration laws after Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote in the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision that ruled in favor of an immigrant threatened with deportation. "Today's Court decision means that Congress must close loopholes that block the removal of dangerous criminal aliens, including aggravated felons," Trump tweeted. "This is a public safety crisis that can only be fixed by Congress -- House and Senate must quickly pass a legislative fix to ensure violent criminal aliens can be removed from our society," he added.

Categories: News

Former first lady Barbara Bush dies at 92

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 00:01

Former first lady Barbara Bush dies at 92 | 17 April 2018 | Barbara Pierce Bush, matriarch of an American political dynasty that has produced presidents, governors and other high officials, has died in Houston. She was 92. Barbara Bush was the second American who was both the wife and mother of presidents; the other was Abigail Adams. She and George Bush, married 73 years ago in January 1945, had the longest-lasting marriage of any first couple.

Categories: News

The Daphne Project: ‘Her voice will not be silenced’

Global Muckracker - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 20:10

When anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bombing in Malta last year, the investigations she was working on came to a sudden halt.

Starting today, a team of 45 journalists from 15 countries will continue her work, determined that her voice will not be silenced.

“The idea is to ensure the survival of stories,” wrote French journalist Laurent Richard in The Guardian about the project.

The journalists, including reporters from International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ partners The Times of Malta and The Guardian, spent five months examining a trove of documents that deepen Caruana Galizia’s investigations into corruption and money laundering.

Caruana Galizia was murdered on Oct. 16, 2017. While Maltese authorities have arrested three men on suspicion of the killing, protesters continue to accuse Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his party of allowing corruption to flourish.

Caruana Galizia followed up on the 2016 Panama Papers with her own reporting that revealed further details on Maltese politicians involved in the leak.

Having fearlessly challenged politicians, business leaders and mobsters alike, she had many enemies and critics.

Caruana Galizia was the mother of ICIJ data journalist and developer Matthew Caruana Galizia.

The project to build upon her legacy was coordinated by Forbidden Stories, an investigative nonprofit organization devoted to completing the work of jailed and murdered journalists.

“Daphne’s death wasn’t just a tragedy for journalism and press freedom – at ICIJ we saw a colleague lose his mother, a family lose their loved one,” ICIJ’s deputy director Marina Walker Guevara said.

“By continuing her work, reporters are making sure Daphne’s investigations will not go unfinished, that her important stories will still be told. Daphne’s voice will not be silenced. Journalists around the world must stand together, to protect each other and to safeguard the truth.”

Stories released today by media partners explore the the assassination. Other stories will follow in coming days.

The stories released by the group today reveal:

  • Details of the murder inquiry.
  • A recording of Caruana Galizia made six days before she died, where she explains the arson attacks on her home, the freezing of her bank accounts, libel suits brought to her by ministers and business people, and online attacks.
  • Interviews with her sons.

At least 46 journalists – from Afghanistan to Somalia and the Philippines –  were killed on the job last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The post The Daphne Project: ‘Her voice will not be silenced’ appeared first on ICIJ.

Categories: News

Dick’s Destroying Black AR-15 Inventory instead of Selling or Returning back to Manufacturers

Off Grid Survival - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 20:00

Dick’s Sporting Goods is Literally Destroying its AR-15 Inventory Instead of Selling it or returning it Back to Manufacturers [...]

The post Dick’s Destroying Black AR-15 Inventory instead of Selling or Returning back to Manufacturers appeared first on Off Grid Survival - Wilderness & Urban Survival Skills.

Categories: News

For 15 Years, Energy Transfer Partners Pipelines Leaked an Average of Once Every 11 Days: Report

deSmog - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 19:44
Bayou Bridge pipeline construction through Louisiana wetland

5,475 days, 527 pipeline spills: that's the math presented in a new report from environmental groups Greenpeace USA and the Waterkeeper Alliance examining pipelines involving Dakota Access builder Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). It's based on public data from 2002 to 2017.

Tags: greenpeaceWaterkeeper AllianceEnergy Transfer Partnersoil spillsoil and gas pipelinesDakota Access PipelineBayou Bridge pipeline
Categories: News

Good Dog, Bad Zombie board game launched by worker co-op

Grassroots Economic Survival - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 17:54
Link: Good Dog, Bad Zombie board game launched by US worker co-op

Good Dog, Bad Zombie is the fifth board game to be developed by the co-op and will be printed in the USA on sustainable materials by a worker owned manufacturer.

“Because we care about humans, too, we wanted a board game that would be ethically manufactured,” explained Ms Shaffer. The game was developed over three years, and the co-op launched a Kickstarter campaign this spring to raise funds for producing the game.

Make Big Things has also partnered with One Tail at a Time, a rescue shelter in Chicago and will be using some of the funding received from backers to purchase items for the dogs at the shelter.

Read the rest at Co-operative News

 

Go to the GEO front page

Categories: News

Transforming Ownership to Create a Better Economy

Grassroots Economic Survival - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 17:47

Private ownership of companies drives our economic system but it has also created corporations that put profit above everything else, a divided society and a planet on the brink of destruction. Armin Steuernagel proposes a new way to think about ownership: Steward-ownership replaces executives with leaders who are truly responsible and accountable. It creates an economy where companies are owned by the most able, not by the highest bidder and where a purpose is at the heart of every company’s DNA.

 

Go to the GEO front page

Categories: News

Lecce, Italy – On the latest night against TAP: and updates on free comrade Saverio now!

Anarchist News - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 14:14

via act for freedom now!

In the night between 10th and 11th April the TAP began to prepare the bases for the extension of the work along the 8 kilometres of track between the thrust shaft tunnel located in San Basilio and the area designated for the reception terminal. In the early hours of the night, therefore, about forty TAP opponents gathered together.

Antiriot police and Digos were already lined up in great numbers to guarantee the transit of the vehicles carrying more tons of cement barriers. The vehicles came up against several blocks in the middle of the main road, with placing and throwing of stones to slow down police charges against the demonstrators.

The long night of struggle continued between the provincial road and the entrance to Melendugno, until another police charge resulted in the arrest of two female comrades and a male comrade. After identification, the latter was the only one to be held and be taken to the police station where he was put under arrest. The charges the local press is squawking about are resistance, violence, aggravated bodily harm, dangerous throwing of objects and violation of an order banning him from the municipality of Melendugno.

Saverio is now locked up in the Lecce prison, where in the afternoon of Wednesday 11 a large number of people in solidarity gathered shouting anger and love for our comrade, in a demo animated by music, chants, amplified greetings and fireworks.

More intense days will follow, the military occupation of TAP in Salento is stepping up, police fury is getting more and more asphyxiating. Our strength must spill out no holds barred. At the same time solidarity with Saverio is fundamental, his tenacity beats strong in the heart of our struggle, which will never be defeated by the State’s intimidations.

No enclosure, block or cell will ever stop our opposition.

————————

UPDATE: Saverio under house arrest

The hearing of the summary procedure trial against Saverio ended a few hours ago with a postponment to 19th April. During the hearing a conspicuous group of comrades and people in solidarity waited for [Saverio] to come out to shout warm greetings.

We then learned that our comrade is to be put under house arrest with restrictions, in his home in the province of Lecce.

Posted on 2018/04/12 by Comunella Fastidiosa

Translated by act for freedom now!

Tags: lecceitalyTAPanarchist prisonerscategory: Actions
Categories: News

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