News

Trump and Putin: Leaders set to have 90 minute one-on-one meeting in Helsinki before they let aides join them

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 05:46

Trump and Putin: Leaders set to have 90 minute one-on-one meeting in Helsinki before they let aides join them and will wrap up their confab with a press conference | 15 July 2018 | President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will have a 90 minute one-on-one meeting in Helsinki on Monday after amid worries about what kind of concessions the president may offer his Russian counterpart when they are alone. After Trump and Putin meet mano-a-mano at 1:20 p.m. local time (6:20 a.m. ET), they will be joined by aides for a two-hour expanded meeting and working lunch at the Presidential Palace. The leaders will cap off their time in Finland with a press conference at 4:50 p.m. local time (9:50 a.m. ET). The two men are only scheduled to see one another on Monday afternoon.

Categories: News

'Israeli rockets' strike Syrian military positions near Aleppo - state media

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 04:36

'Israeli rockets' strike Syrian military positions near Aleppo - state media | 15 July 2018 | Syrian military positions near Aleppo airport have come under a missile strike, state media reports, blaming Israel for the attack. The strike targeted "one of our military positions north of the airport in Aleppo," a military source told the Syrian Arab News Agency, stressing that the damage from the aggression was "limited to material." The source denounced the raid as a "desperate attempt to support the defeated terrorist groups" in Daraa and Quneitra, where the Syrian army is actively working to defeat them.

Categories: News

May the Flames of Joy Burn, May France Burn

Anarchist News - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 22:53

Translated from Paris-Luttes.info by Bordered by Silence

Football and its celebration by “the people” is a tool of capitalist social pacification that allows misery to be swept under the rug through a supposed multicultural unity.

Following France's victory in the World Cup Semi-Finals, a certain enthusiasm took hold in the streets of many cities in the “French territory”. As soon as the final whistle sounded, hundreds or even thousands of people gathered in downtown squares, yelling, singing, laughing, hugging strangers and dancing, people jumped on passing cars, and smoke rose from flares. There was something unusual in the air. This fever contained a taste of what a moment of revolutionary energy might feel like, a break with normality.

And yet, in this world of bosses, cops, and politicians, football (just like alcohol, drugs, religion, gambling, etc) is a force for social peace. By taking us for a moment out of our dull day-to-day and from both material and emotional misery (without actually changing our lives), football works to help us accept the shit of daily life. Just like rap, football (or more widely, music, art, and sports) offer the chance for individuals to rise out of poverty. But how many football players or rappers become millionaires for every precarious worker, unemployed or poor person, or prisoner? Capitalism sells dreams of better days. It teaches us to wait politely for a hypothetical day of glory. But this hope is an illusion. We are – with France having qualified for the World Cup final – still nothing but the role we are assigned by capitalism [1].

And no surprise that politicians of all stripes can celebrate France's win. Behind the disagreements of politicians and the appearance of diverse ideologies, all politicians, from Melenchon to LePen [2], support capitalism and the nation. Whether capital is managed by liberals or Keynesians isn't the question, nor is whether or not the nation stands for freedom and equality. The question is the existence of nations themselves, of capitalists, and all the exploitation, repression, borders, wars, and deaths that come with them. And so while the praises are sung, as they were 20 years ago, of the incredible existence of a “Black White and Arab French team” [3], presented to the nation as a symbol of republican integration [4], there is silence about the very real social conflicts. This same French players were described as “immature gang leaders” by the Minister of Sports Roselyne Bachelot in 2010. Because when Les Bleus are bad, the media and politicians quickly connect them back to their original conditions: that of working class people from immigrant families, the “rabble”.

As the French flag is hung from every street corner, it's important to remember that the nation is just an idea (and a shitty one at that), a myth that seeks to create a feeling of belonging to justify the existence of a state, an authority whose interests will always be opposed to those of individuals. And while the bourgeoisie rejoice alongside the poor over the victory of FRAAAAAAAANNNNCCCEE, we would do well to ask ourselves how we can possibly accept such hypocrisy. Because the same people who support murders by the state by means of their police who now make Umtiti a national hero. But how could it be otherwise? The police has never had any function other than to maintain the existing social order, which means protecting private property (on which capitalism, and therefore the wealth of these bourgeois nationalists, is based) and state institutions.

In a world where the only alternative to work is prison, the spectacle of football and the folklore that goes with it keep us dreaming about money, luxury cars, and women as objects. Because world champions or not, the French team will always be made up of millionaires while you go back to hustling for a boss or exploiting yourself (start-up nation what up).

So if there is anything to do be done with the possible victory (or defeat) of the French team in the World Cup Final, it's to take advantage of the massive street presence to share and spread a bit of the joy and rage that we feel by destroying all that oppresses us in our daily lives. For this joy to last, for possibilities to open up, for the party to keep going, the institutions and those who make our lives so deathly boring must be attacked and reduced to ashes. Instead of raising up French flags, let's burn them with pride – not to replace them with others, but to never again have to conform to identities, to allow ourselves to be confined in the cages and categories of the powerful. To never again follow any banner bragging of the merits of the nation or whatever other stupidness.

To live free here and now.

Death to the state, death to patriarchy.

Fire to the prisons, death to the bosses.

Fuck France and all other nations.

1] This is a bit too strong. Yes, we cannot escape the roles assigned by capitalism, but no, it is not all we are. We have always keep the ability to accept these conditions or to rebel against them.

2] Jean-Luc Melenchon, head of a leftist party called La France Insoumise; Marine LePen head of the far-right Front National

3] The french expression is “Black Blanc Beur”

4] Integration in French politics typically refers to how migrants conform to French culture

Tags: Francesoccerycategory: International
Categories: News

Hell Broke Loose: Chicago Explodes After Harith Augustus Murder

It's Goin Down - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 19:54

The post Hell Broke Loose: Chicago Explodes After Harith Augustus Murder appeared first on It's Going Down.

Report from the front-lines of Chicago, after police murdered Harith Augustus, a father and local barber. Imminently crowds began to grow and soon clashes broke out. Currently, more protests are planned.

by @soit_goes

Last night, Chicago Police shot and killed Harith Augustus at 71st and Jeffery, in the South Shore neighborhood. Harith, known to his friends at Snoop, was a father and barber that was loved in his community. Immediately following his murder, dozens of community members began holding space in a parking lot across from the scene at 71st and Chappel. Tension was high as the community stood nose-to-nose for several hours with the police department that stole Harith’s life.

After several hours, police charged into the peaceful crowd with batons out. Several people were thrown to the ground, and two people were taken into custody. At least one of those individuals was released on site, but the other is to believed to still be in CPD custody. As police retreated, the atmosphere calmed and the crowd continued to grow. This would prove to be the calm preceding a much larger storm.

CPD just charged their own barricade and attacked the peaceful demonstration at 71st & Chappell where CPD killed someone earlier today. Many people were just arrested. pic.twitter.com/68Amx7XUPz

— agitator in chief (@soit_goes) July 15, 2018

Around 9pm, police lifted the wooden barricades they had erected between the street and the parking lot and again charged the crowd with their batons. Police began chasing people in every direction of the crowded parking lot. It was the definition of a police riot. Officers were seen shoving people to the ground, throwing punches, striking people with their batons, and kicking people who were already being held to the ground by several officers. The wrath of CPD’s brutality was not spared on anyone, and legal observers and press (a lone Chicago Sun-Times crime reporter) were also shoved and hit with batons. Video has surfaced of Chicago Police knocking the cell phone of the Sun-Times reporter to ground even after he had shown them his press credentials. Two people were arrested during the police riot, and both were released without charges after being taken to the station. It’s safe to say that CPD had no reason to take either of these people into custody in the first place.

I had my press badge held up in one hand and my phone in the other while I was saying "I'm a reporter." Two Chicago Police officers repeatedly pushed me, then smacked my phone out of my hand and threw me back. I lost my balance but can't remember if I hit the ground or not. pic.twitter.com/vhi4gjlNla

— Nader Issa (@NaderDIssa) July 15, 2018

The attack lasted somewhere between five and ten minutes in total. The media has chosen to focus on plastic water bottles that were thrown toward police during the melee, but any objects thrown were simply self defense. Regardless of whether objects any police officers were even hit by an empty plastic water bottle, there is no excuse for the brutality Chicago Police released on that crowd last night. The viciousness of CPD against demonstrators yesterday has few points of comparison; in fact, there are only two instances in recent memory that come to mind as possibly comparable. The first is the march for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, which shut down the Taste of Chicago and was brutally attacked by CPD on Michigan Avenue. On May Day 2016, a black bloc march was pummeled by CPD before twelve people were arrested on LaSalle Street. The notable difference between those two events and last night is that yesterday’s crowd wasn’t shutting down a street or an intersection–or even blocking a sidewalk–it was simply gathered in a parking lot demanding justice for Harith’s life.

More than a hundred people are outside the third district police station near where the Chicago Police shot & killed a man earlier today, they're chanting "back up, back up! we want freedom, freedom! Tell all these racist as cops we don't need em, need em!" pic.twitter.com/T2BCUZn9dV

— agitator in chief (@soit_goes) July 15, 2018

Once things quieted down after the second police attack, the crowd regrouped and BYP100 led a march to the police station where arrested demonstrators had been taken. More than 100 people stood outside the third district police station for more than two hours. The group chanted and shared stories of their experiences with the Chicago Police Department while sharing food and water that been brought to the scene from supporters across the city.

Harith’s life mattered. He is the third person to have been shot by the Chicago Police Department since July 1st of this year, and he is the second to have been killed. Harith’s legacy now joins those of Rekia Boyd, Bettie Jones, Laquan McDonald, Pierre Loury, Ronnieman Johnson, Quintonio LeGrier, Paul O’Neal, and the countless other young people that have had their lives taken by the Chicago Police Department in recent years.

His name is #HarithAugustus, his life matters. He was a father & barber in the South Shore.

Chicago was in the streets for more than six hours tonight demanding justice for him. Several people were arrested and released without charges. One person is still in custody.

— agitator in chief (@soit_goes) July 15, 2018

Chicago is the cross-hairs of the epidemic of police violence, and it is also the center of a growing movement to abolish the police. Over the last few months, young organizers of color have led the #NoCopAcademy campaign, which is calling for the $95 million designated to build a new police academy to be diverted to community resources like schools and mental health clinics. Chicago is showing the the rest of the country that there is a way out of this nightmare of police violence that has become impossible to ignore. By investing in our communities, in resources that actually keep us safe, we can live in a world without police. We can live in a world where we don’t learn about the violent loss of our friends and neighbors, like Harith Augustus, because their life was stolen by police. Another world is possible.

Categories: News

Urgent: Call for Letters to the Courthouse for the Freedom of Political Prisoner Miguel Peralta of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca

It's Goin Down - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 18:31

The post Urgent: Call for Letters to the Courthouse for the Freedom of Political Prisoner Miguel Peralta of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following is a call to support Mexican anarchist political prisoner Miguel Peralta. The call in Spanish is below the English version. Letters can be written in Spanish or English, but preferably in Spanish. Statement for the Freedom of Miguel Peralta, Political Prisoner of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca

After three years and two months of imprisonment of compañero Miguel Peralta, on July 9th, 2018, the collective Los Otros Abogadoz submitted their conclusions of his innocence to the Mixed District Court of Huautla de Jiménez, Oaxaca. There, they again demonstrated the multiple irregularities that have made up this judicial process keeping Miguel imprisoned.

After two of the eight witnesses of the Zepeda Cortés family did not show up to give their testimonies, in spite of being solicited for more than two years, on December 14th, 2017, this stage of the case was asked to be closed, concluding the collection of evidence. In agreement with the Code of Criminal Procedure of the state of Oaxaca, this stage prior to sentencing should not last longer than a week. However, it took the court clerk, Jesús Reynaldo Canseco, more than six months to formally close the case. This is just another example that justice is neither prompt nor expedient. Furthermore, this is a clear sign that this court led by Judge Juan León Montiel, court clerk Jesús Reynaldo Canseco and public prosecutor Porfirio Bernardino Sánchez, serves a cacique family, who maintain political control beyond the municipality of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca.

As for the final hearing, it is Judge Juan León Montiel that has the decision in his hands to release the compañero Miguel. Thus, it is crucial that we demand he not be kept imprisoned, because outside of the political nature of this case, there is not one juridical reason to keep Miguel and the other seven prisoners of Eloxochitlán imprisoned.

Therefore, we call on you all to write letters demanding the judge that the sentence not be delayed, and that of course, the ruling be freedom. We ask you to send the letters to the email solidaridadelox@gmail.com so that they can be submitted to the court before the final hearing, a date in which the judge will end the process and start the sentencing stage. We will be receiving letters until July 21st.

Furthermore, we ask that you remain attentive to the situation and in your capabilities continue demanding the freedom of Miguel and the other prisoners of Eloxochitlán.

Let solidarity not just be a written word.

Down with the prison walls!

Family members and friends of the prisoners of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón.

Los Otros Abogadoz.

July 11th, 2018

PRONUNCIAMIENTO POR LA LIBERTAD DE MIGUEL PERALTA, PRESO DE ELOXOCHITLÁN DE FLORES MAGÓN, OAXACA

Después de 3 años dos meses de la detención del compañero Miguel Peralta, el día lunes 9 de julio de 2018, el colectivo Los Otros Abogadoz acudieron al Juzgado Mixto de Primera Instancia de Huautla de Jiménez, Oaxaca, para entregar las conclusiones de inculpabilidad dónde se demuestran las múltiples irregularidades que ha habido en el proceso que mantienen preso a Miguel.

Luego de que 2 de los 8 testigos de la familia Zepeda Cortés no se presentaran a los interrogatorios, a pesar de ser citados en diversas ocasiones durante más de dos años, el 14 de diciembre de 2017, se solicitó el cierre de instrucción al haber concluido el desahogo de pruebas. Esta etapa, previa a la sentencia, de acuerdo al Código de Procedimientos Penales del Estado de Oaxaca, no debía tardar más de una semana; sin embargo, le llevó al secretario de acuerdos Jesús Reynaldo Canseco más de 6 meses para acordarlo, siendo un ejemplo más de que su justicia ni es pronta ni expedita. Y una clara muestra de que este juzgado precedido por el juez Juan León Montiel, secretario de acuerdos Jesús Reynaldo Canseco y el ministerio público Porfirio Bernardino Sánchez, le sirve a una familia caciquil, que mantiene el control político más allá del municipio de Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón.

A partir de la celebración de la audiencia final, es el juez Juan León Montiel, quién tiene la decisión de dejar en libertad al compañero Miguel, por ello es crucial que le exijamos, que no mantenga más su encierro, porque fuera de la línea política que pesa sobre él y los 7 presos más de Eloxochitlán, no hay una razón jurídica que lo sostenga.

Por ello, les hacemos un llamado para que realicen cartas exigiendo al juez, que la sentencia no demore y que por supuesto, sea de libertad. Les pedimos que las envíen al correo solidaridadelox@gmail.com para que puedan ser entregadas al juzgado antes de la audiencia final, fecha en que el juez dará por terminado el proceso e iniciará el tiempo para que dicte sentencia. Se estarán recibiendo hasta el 21 de julio.

Así mismo, les convocamos estar al tanto de la situación y que desde sus formas continúen exigiendo la libertad de Miguel y los presos de Eloxochitlán.

Que la solidaridad no sea sólo palabra escrita. Abajo los muros de las prisiones!

Familiares y amigxs de los presos de Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón

Los Otros Abogodoz

11 de julio de 2018.

Categories: News

Amendment in Farm Bill Bans People With Drug Convictions From Hemp Industry

Truth Out - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 16:11

A hemp legalization amendment in the 2018 Farm Bill prevents anyone with a felony drug conviction from growing hemp.

Some existing hemp entrepreneurs could even find themselves shut out.

“I have a very successful business, I’ve been in this from the get go,” said Veronica Carpio, an experienced hemp producer and president of Grow Hemp Colorado, at a hemp conference in New York last month.

Despite her undeniable contributions to the industry, a past felony cannabis conviction endangers her continued involvement. “If this bill passes, I’m out.”

At issue is part of the Senate version of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, which would legalize industrial hemp growing across the country. Sen. Mitch McConnell spearheaded the current effort to legalize industrial hemp and his “Hemp Farming Act of 2018” soon picked up bipartisan sponsorship. However, the hemp legalization amendment, unlike the original bill, bans anyone convicted of a drug-related felony from involvement in hemp growing and potentially other aspects of the industry.

Felony Ban Divides Hemp Advocates Over Legalization Amendment

No other crop grown in the US faces these kinds of restrictions. While most hemp advocates celebrated McConnell’s initial efforts to legalize hemp, they’re much more divided over this new clause. Multiple hemp experts we spoke with speculated that the Senate changed the language to appease conservative elements of the legislature and the Department of Justice.

The House version of the bill does not include hemp legalization. Legislators must now debate this and other differences in a conference committee before the Farm Bill passes to the President’s desk. Hemp supporters like Rick Trojan, vice president of the Hemp Industries Association, worry that even if it passes the amendment will create an unequal and unfair hemp industry.

“Excluding a whole class of people is not what I’m about,” Trojan said. “And not what I think the hemp industry is about.”

Hemp Legalization Amendment Could Shut Out Hemp Entrepreneurs

The United States partially re-legalized hemp through an amendment to the 2014 version of the Farm Bill. Under this previous hemp legalization amendment, states were free to create hemp research programs that included market research (sales of hemp products like CBD). Since then growers in Colorado, Carpio’s home base, made the state into the country’s top hemp producer.

The 2018 legalization amendment places hemp under the control of the Department of Agriculture. The department would approve each state or Native American tribe’s growing program. But the following clause would shut out thousands of people like Carpio from being part of these licensed programs:

FELONY.—Any person convicted of a felony relating to a controlled substance under State or Federal law shall be ineligible—

(i) to participate in the program established under this section; and

(ii) to produce hemp under any regulations or guidelines issued under section 297D(a).

The full scope of the effects of this clause are unclear. According to Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, the amendment bans anyone with a felony drug conviction from hemp growing. He could not guarantee that it won’t interfere with other parts of the industry.

“We were disappointed to see that got added to the language,” Steenstra said. “That’s not something we were happy about.”

Racism in Hemp Legalization Amendment?

“Just because you had a conviction for a drug-related felony doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t be in the industry,” said Steenstra.

Advocates argue that cannabis is harmless and extremely beneficial. If the US is in the process of legalizing hemp, why should past convictions prevent you from participating in the field? In fact, such people likely have skills in growing and production the hemp industry sorely needs.

“That is a way of intentionally slowing the growth of an industry,” Trojan suggested.

Trojan and Carpio were unflinching in their condemnation of the clause in the hemp legalization amendment, suggesting it perpetuates racist aspects of the war on drugs. Although all races use and sell drugs and mind-altering substances at about the same rate, drug convictions disproportionately affect people of color.

“We denounce racism and discrimination in the cannabis (both hemp and marijuana) industries and this new language needs to be challenged and removed,” Carpio wrote in a press release.

Opponents of the war on drugs are working to legalize cannabis and other substances while concurrently seeking to change laws to enable people with drug convictions to expunge their criminal records. Carpio said the felony ban in the hemp legalization amendment represents a significant setback to those efforts by excluding thousands of already vulnerable people from the earning potential of hemp. Even though most states are in the process of legalizing cannabis, most of the people excluded from the hemp industry are likely to be those with cannabis-related convictions. Statistics show police arrest more people for cannabis use than for all violent crimes combined.

Can the Hemp Legalization Amendment Be Changed in Time?

Steenstra suggested it would be tough to change the hemp legalization amendment. He expects hemp legalization to pass in its current form.

“At this point, what are we going to do?” Steenstra asked, though he pledged to look for opportunities to change the amendment.

Joy Beckerman, president of the Hemp Industries Association, concurred.

 

“There is no such thing as legislation that doesn’t have concerns or flaws, unfortunately,” said Beckerman.

She appeared at the same New York hemp conference where Carpio spoke. “I would love to be able to go from prohibition to utopia but sadly that is just not the way things work.”

Trojan, on the other hand, strongly encouraged hemp supporters to keep fighting.

“Everyone needs to contact their legislator,” he said said. “Continue to push for equal access to this economic boon.”

The post Amendment in Farm Bill Bans People With Drug Convictions From Hemp Industry appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

The Kavanaugh Nomination and Labor

Truth Out - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 16:03

Last week, President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.  Kavanaugh currently serves as a judge on the United States Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was nominated to the DC Circuit by President George Bush in 2003 but was not confirmed until 2006.  Prior to coming to the bench, Kavanaugh held a number of positions that brought him into the partisan fray, including serving on Ken Starr’s Whitewater Special Counsel team, working for President Bush on the Florida recount, and serving in the Bush White House as the staff secretary.  He clerked for Justice Kennedy, overlapping with Justice Gorsuch’s tenure in Kennedy’s chambers.  He attended Yale University for both college and law school. Kavanaugh’s nomination was met with swift and strong opposition from the labor movement. AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka described Kavanaugh as having a “dangerous track record protecting the privileges of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of working people.”  SEIU tweeted that “confirming Kavanaugh would tip the scales of justice against working people.”

Opposition to the nomination by the labor movement is no surprise.  Kavanaugh’s record demonstrates consistent support for the interests of employers and a lack of concern for the interests of workers and the government agencies that come to the DC Circuit to protect workers’ rights.  Below, I will provide an overview of his record and attempt to make the case that his record reflects a sustained and, at times, aggressive hostility to the role of the law in protecting the vulnerable and less powerful.

An appropriate starting point in conveying the character of his record is his dissent in Agri Processor Co., Inc. v. NLRB.  There, the majority held that the employer had a duty to bargain with its employees, despite the fact that many of the employees were undocumented workers. The majority relied on the Supreme Court’s holdings in Hoffman Plastic Compounds and Sure-Tan that undocumented workers were “employees” covered by the NLRA.  Despite the Supreme Court’s decision in Hoffman, Kavanaugh dissented, denying that either Hoffman or Sure-Tan resolved the question of the Act’s coverage for undocumented workers.  The majority held that the argument offered by the employer and supported by Kavanaugh “ignores both the Act’s plain language and binding Supreme Court precedent.”

The Agri Processor dissent is significant for a number of reasons.  First, it reflects a broader trend in Kavanaugh’s record of being unsympathetic to the plight of immigrants.  The National Immigration Law Center cautioned that “Kavanaugh’s legal writings and recent dissents speak for themselves: he thinks immigrant communities should be Constitution-free zones . . . .”  I would note too that while the Agri Processor majority refers to the workers at issue in the case as “undocumented workers” or “aliens without work authorization,” Kavanaugh adopts the label reviled by advocates for immigrants, “illegal immigrant workers.” Second, as discussed in greater detail below, his dissent reflects a willingness to write groups of workers completely out of basic labor standards – here all undocumented workers out of the basic right to engage in collective bargaining.

Finally, and in some ways most important, the Agri Processor dissent raises serious questions about Kavanaugh’s respect for precedent.  Sitting as a court of appeals judge in Agri Processor, Kavanaugh was bound to follow the Supreme Court’s holding in Hoffman Plastic.  His view that this decision left open the question of whether undocumented workers were “employees” under the Act runs counter to a stark fact about Hoffman. In Hoffman, the Supreme Court holds that undocumented workers are not entitled to back pay awards under the National Labor Relations Act. But the Court also explicitly holds that other remedies are available when an employer violates the NLRA rights of an undocumented worker. As the Supreme Court put it in Hoffman, “[l]ack of authority to award backpay does not mean that the employer gets off scot-free.” Indeed, the Hoffman Court goes on to hold that the employer “will be subject to contempt proceedings should it fail to comply with these orders,” and that such remedies – including contempt sanctions – are “sufficient to effectuate national labor policy.” Of course, if undocumented workers are not employees, there would be no remedies available in a case like Hoffman. The fact that the Supreme Court goes out of its way to affirm that remedies are available in cases involving undocumented workers – and writing that such remedies effectuate national labor policy – is simply inconsistent with a holding that undocumented workers are not employees. That Kavanaugh would have held as much as a court of appeals judge raises questions about how as a Justice he would treat controlling precedent with which he disagrees.

Looking more broadly at Kavanaugh’s record reinforces the themes present in the Agri Processor dissent. In his 12 years on the bench, Kavanaugh frequently sided with employers in the numerous NLRB cases that came before him, including in several high profile cases. For example:

  • In NLRB v. CNN America Inc., when CNN brought approximately 300 union-presented technical positions in-house after having contracted out those positions for many years, Kavanaugh joined the majority in finding that CNN was not a joint employer with contractor, but dissented from the finding that CNN was a successor employer. Kavanaugh’s position would have completely absolved CNN of any liability for failing to abide by the collective bargaining agreement.
  • In Southern New England Telephone Co. v. NLRB, Kavanaugh wrote the majority opinion allowing the employer to prohibit workers from wearing pro-union t-shirts when dealing with customers. He began his opinion by accusing the NLRB of lacking “common sense.”
  • In Verizon New England v. NLRB, Kavanaugh again wrote a majority opinion rejecting protection for employees who expressed pro-union sentiments during a labor dispute. Kavanaugh held that Verizon could prohibit workers from displaying pro-CWA signs in their cars parked on Verizon’s property and in view of the public. The majority held that the collective bargaining agreement’s waiver of the right to picket encompassed a waiver of the right to display the signs.
  • In Venetian Casino Resort v. NLRB, Kavanaugh wrote the majority opinion reversing the Board’s decision that the Venetian violated the Act when it called the police to remove union demonstrators who were trying to organize the Venetian’s workers. The majority held that the Venetian’s call to the police constituted a petition to the government, shielded from liability by the First Amendment by the Noerr-Pennington doctrine.

What stands out about Kavanaugh’s record in labor cases is not just his consistency in ruling for employers over workers, but the seemingly unnecessary positions he sometimes takes when doing so.  Below is an overview of those cases – in addition to Agri Processor — that demonstrate Kavanaugh’s more anti-worker/pro-employer tendencies:

  • In American Federation of Government Employees v. Gates, the court reviewed regulations issued by the Bush Administration’s Department of Defense implementing a statute that gave DOD the authority to temporarily impose a new labor management system for DOD’s career employees. Kavanaugh’s majority opinion held that the Secretary of Defense was empowered to abolish collective bargaining altogether. As the dissent points out, Kavanaugh reached this conclusion despite the fact that: (1) the authorizing statute explicitly stated that DOD was required to “ensure that employees may . . . bargain collectively,” and (2) DOD did not even argue to the court that it had the authority to abolish collective bargaining – instead DOD argued for flexibility in creating the new system.
  • In Miller v. Clinton, Kavanaugh argued to remove a group of employees from the protection of the anti-discrimination statutes. In that case, the State Department conceded that it had fired a worker employed abroad expressly because of his age – imposing mandatory retirement for employees who reached sixty-five. The majority rejected the State Department’s position.  Kavanaugh dissented, holding that the State Department was free to impose a mandatory retirement age.  The majority noted – and Kavanaugh did not disagree – that Kavanaugh’s position would free the State Department from “any statutory bar against terminating an employee like Miller solely on account of his disability or race or religion or sex.”  Kavanaugh argued that workers’ rights under constitution were sufficient to protect them from discrimination on the basis of race, sex and religion, even as he conceded that they would be entitled only to equitable remedies without the protection of the federal anti-discrimination statutes and have no protection from age discrimination.
  • Seaworld of Fla., LLC v. Perez involved the death of a worker who trained killer whales who performed for the public at the theme park. One of the performing whales dragged the trainer under the water and drowned her during a performance. The record showed that killer whales at Seaworld had killed three trainers previously.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration had found that Sea World failed to take the necessary steps to protect trainers from the known hazard posed by close contact between trainers and killer whales. The majority agreed that ample evidence supported OSHA’s citation.  Kavanaugh dissented, questioning the basic premise of OSHA’s mission to determine appropriate levels of risk for workers.  He accused OSHA of “paternalistically” deciding whether entertainers must be protected from themselves.  Instead, he argued, employers – at least those who provide public entertainment – should be free from addressing known risks for their workers and workers should decide whether they think the risks are worth undertaking. He argued that the majority’s decision would lay a foundation for OSHA outlawing NASCAR races and NFL games.

Labor unions and their progressive allies already have pledged to wage a fierce campaign against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.  As many of the headlines about the nomination note Kavanaugh’s strong pro-business stance (see here and here and here), we should expect that much of the debate over confirmation will focus not only on abortion and LBGTQ rights, but also on labor and employment issues.

This piece was originally published by On Labor.

The post The Kavanaugh Nomination and Labor appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Anews Podcast – episode 72

Anarchist News - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 15:43

https://podcast.anarchistnews.org/index.php/2018/07/15/331/

Welcome to the Anews podcast. This is episode 72 for July 13, 2018. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week.
Weekly Assertion:
TOTW: Reverse Hierarchy

This podcast is the effort of many people. This episode was
* sound edited by Linn O'Mable
* what's new this week written by jackie, narrated by chisel and a friend
* Thanks to Aragorn! and a friend for topic of the week discussion
* The music is 1) Untied States - Not Fences, Mere Masks 2) Eiffel 65 - Blue (Da Ba Dee) 3) Britney Spears - Lucky)
* Contact us at podcast@anarchistnews.org

To learn more
Introduction to anarchism: http://anarchy101.org
Books and other anarchist material: http://littleblackcart.com
News and up to the minute commentary: https://anarchistnews.org

Tags: projectpodcasthierarchyanonymitycategory: Projects
Categories: News

The Importance of Being Uncivil

Truth Out - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 15:10

Some years ago when the top administrator at my university passed me in a hallway and, smiling, said hello, I replied, “Don’t expect civility from me.”

My breach of academic decorum was as startling to me in that moment as it was to the colleagues who witnessed it. But even more startling was that I was expected to bid this administrator — whose financial scandals and excesses were paid for with staff layoffs and the cancellation of retiree health care — a good morning.

It’s no surprise, then, that I cheered the staff of the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia for refusing White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders a place at their tables. I likewise applauded the protesters whose chants of “If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace” drove Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen from a high-end Mexican restaurant.

Amid the horrors of a president and his very own Aunt Lydias caging children and jailing their parents, I also find hope in resistance-defending op-eds like Sarah Leonard’s “Against Civility: You Can’t Fight Injustice with Decorum” and Gary Younge’s “Donald Trump’s Enforcers Have Lost the Right to Civil Courtesy” that crack open the threat to democracy posed by the elevation of manners over justice.

It’s high time we took W.H. Auden’s upside-down adage “If you would civil your land, first civil your speech,” and put it back on its feet: No civility in our speech so long as the incivilities of internment camps, travel bans, police murder and more rule our land.

* * *

Here, though, I also want to probe just why it is that wherever there is resistance to social injustice, civility enforcement clicks into top gear — and does so not only to prescribe politeness and restraint, but to change the subject altogether.

Consider: When the U.S. Congress passed its 1836 gag rule, banning any debate of slavery and abolition on the House and Senate floors, its proponents attempted to redefine the fundamental problem — and the fundamental peril to democracy — from slavery to incivility.

A little more than a century later, as historian William Chaffe details in Civilities and Civil Rights, white progressives in Greensboro, North Carolina, placed such a premium on being open to “discussion” about school desegregation that they crowned tolerance, not racial integration and justice, as a democracy’s highest ideal.

And just a few years ago, when students marched at the University of Missouri, former President Barack Obama proclaimed that the crisis on college campuses wasn’t racism and rape culture, but “an unwillingness to hear other points of view.”

Like the “white moderates” Martin Luther King Jr. despaired of in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” such champions of civility are “more devoted to order than to justice,” favoring a “negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

But why such devotion? And what exactly is so threatening about the tension created when restaurant workers withhold their labor from the White House’s apologist-in-chief or when students unite against separate and unequal education at a plantation-style university like Mizzou?

The answer can be found once we grasp that under capitalism, civility codes function not to facilitate and expand democracy but to enforce its strict limits. “[V]ast areas of our daily lives,” Ellen Meiksins Wood points out in Democracy Against Capitalism, “are not subject to democratic accountability but governed by the powers of property and the ‘laws’ of the market, the imperatives of profit maximization.”

Negative peace — freedom from what Wood sums up as “rule by the demos” — is essential to capitalism’s ability to divide, control and exploit the multiracial, multigendered working-class majority. The tension created by even the most seemingly peaceful forms of protest against exploitation and oppression stems from the disturbance of this negative peace.

* * *

It is hard to imagine, for instance, a more restrained scene than that which took place last month in the Red Hen restaurant: Owner Stephanie Wilkinson quietly informing Sanders of her staff’s decision not to serve her, inviting the rest of the party to remain and declining to present them with a bill for the cheese plates they’d already consumed.

But the danger of this moment to the existing social order is found not in tone, but in content. By polling her employees and honoring their democratic decision not to serve Sanders, Wilkinson transgressed two boundaries on which capitalist social relations depend: the market should operate free and amorally; and the workplace must remain a realm free from workers’ democratic decision-making and control.

When subordinated and oppressed groups encroach upon the rights of profit and the unjust social institutions designed to safeguard those rights, they suggest the possibility — the threat — of rule by the demos.

A vast coercive apparatus exists to curtail such threats, from the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws borne of the post-Civil War danger of Black and white workers and sharecroppers organizing together, to 21st-century restrictions on speech, assembly and union rights.

But as Leon Trotsky pointed out in his classic pamphlet Their Morals and Ours, a society that “pursues the idea of the ‘greatest possible happiness’ not for the majority, but for a small and ever diminishing minority…could not have endured for even a week through force alone.”

To manage the conflict between capitalism and democracy, society “needs the cement of morality,” of which the norms of civility — turning the other cheek, taking the high road, hospitably entertaining all viewpoints and so forth — are a part. Through “official morality,” Trotsky argued, “the ruling class forces its ends upon society and habituates it into considering all those means which contradict its ends as immoral.”

This enforcement of official morality and civil manners doesn’t come from the ruling class alone.

Relied upon are legions of “petty bourgeois moralizers” — the liberal moderates who, in Trotsky’s time, shuddered at the idea of siding with the Spanish proletariat in armed struggle against the rise of Franco and fascism, and who today equate upsetting Trump White House officials trying to dine in upscale restaurants with state-sanctioned abuse of African Americans seated at Woolworth’s lunch counters.

* * *

A case in point of middle-class moderates enlisted by capital to denounce an overwhelmingly peaceful and highly organized democratic upsurge can be found in the response of Progressive-era reformers to the 1912 Bread and Roses strike.

Today, that strike is celebrated as an example of mass nonviolent resistance against dehumanizing Gilded Age excess. But when the mill workers of Lawrence, Massachusetts, shut down their looms, the era’s chief reformers chastised them for, as Edward Devine put it, threatening “the fundamental idea of law and order” through the “violence” of refusing to work.

The workers had “traded oceans of sympathy” for “an ounce of working-class revolt,” mourned Walter Weyl. He did so in an issue of the Settlement Movement’s publication The Survey, which largely condemned the strike, with its inspiring singing picket lines and efficient worker-run kitchens, as a “riot of confusion,” even though the strike won some of the very improvements these middle-class reformers claimed to champion.

Of course, the mill owners should rethink their “work and starve” terms of work, opined Theodore Roosevelt in another leading progressive journal, The Outlook. But workers must also “understand and sympathize with management.”

Similarly, reformer Jane Addams offered in her still widely taught essay “A Modern Lear” (written after the Pullman Strike of 1894, but first published in a 1912 Bread and Roses strike issue of The Survey) an allegorical reading of class struggle, with owners and workers represented as father and daughters neglecting their duties to each other.

The largely female and immigrant workforce of Lawrence had pushed to make the conditions of mill and home public and subject to worker-led democratic accountability. Addams’ essay, conversely, served as an argument for leave-it-to-the-family, up-to-the-father privatization — the workplace, like a patriarchal family, a realm too sacred for public scrutiny and democratic interference.

In the case of Bread and Roses, coercion — including a troop of Harvard students excused from class and equipped with lethal bayonets for strike suppression — failed. But the moralizing of Devine, Weyl, Addams and others provided cover as the ruling class regrouped to undo the mill workers’ gains.

Like the white moderates King called out in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” the allegiance of these reformers was to order, not to justice. Further, they made no distinction between “peaceful” and “violent” means used against that order.

For example, Wellesley professor Vida Scudder delivered a measured and moderate speech defending the strikers — and nearly lost her job for it.

What was so dangerous about this “singing” strike? By “folding their hands” and withholding their labor, warned John Graham Brooks in his Survey contribution “The Shadow of Anarchy,” the Lawrence mill workers revealed “an inveterate hostility to society as it now exists.”

On this point, Brooks and other enforcers of official morality are exactly right. The Lawrence workers were indeed hostile to (or at least had no illusions about) the civil institutions of their society — for instance, the state’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, whose director praised the police for clubbing children attempting to leave the strike zone — aligned against them.

* * *

Today’s protesters are hostile to a so-called justice system that upholds racist travel bans and lets killer cops walk free. The teachers of the Red for Ed strike wave have unleashed in presumed Trump country deep hostility to the legislatures defunding public education and the vast moneyed interests they serve.

And although my refusal to say “Good morning” to the contemporary university’s version of the Gilded Age’s robber baron was not a large (or particularly effective or strategic) act of resistance, it too revealed my hostility toward the idea of carrying out university business as usual while the university’s administrators were in the business of laying off workers.

“There is,” argued Trotsky, “no impervious demarcation between ‘peaceful’ class struggle and revolution. Every strike embodies in an unexpanded form all the elements of civil war.”

Mass strikes, mass social justice protests and other forms of resistance to exploitation and oppression all contain the elements of civil war — and are predictably and repetitively denounced as uncivil, immoral and extreme — because they suggest the possibility of dissolving the glue that binds the ideals of democracy to the rapacious, undemocratic practices of capitalism.

More, they suggest the glue of solidarity on which a genuinely democratic society might be realized. “It was the spirit of the strikers that seemed dangerous,” wrote left labor journalist Mary Heaton Vorse about the Bread and Roses strike. “They were confident, gay, released and they sang.”

Across the mill workers’ dozens of nationalities and national languages, Vorse reflected, “[h]armony, not disorder, was being established…a collective harmony.”

As Vorse makes clear, hostility to society as it now exists doesn’t mean that social justice activists show terms like understanding, patience and even compromise the door. Mass social movements depend on mass cooperation — on the exploited and oppressed creating, however tenuously and imperfectly, the plane of equality that is otherwise denied under capitalism.

Whatever their form, whatever their tone, such movements will also always be denounced in official circles as dangerous because, above all, they advance what Trotsky called a “revolutionary morality,” one that “[p]rimarily and irreconcilably…rejects servility in relation to the bourgeoisie and haughtiness in relation to the toilers.”

* * *

I caught a glimpse of such “collective harmony” and “revolutionary morality” — and witnessed the inveterate hostility of ruling powers against it — some years ago when students on my campus organized a large tent-city demonstration against the poverty wages paid to custodial and cafeteria workers and the denial of health care coverage to construction workers building a new student center.

On what turned out to be the tent city’s final night, the students invited faculty and staff to a potluck, and for the hour or two that we shared a meal — and shared meal preparation and cleanup, too — we experienced a university freed from relations of servility and haughtiness.

That night, staff and faculty returning to their homes and students retiring to their tents, the same administrator I later refused to greet called for police paddy wagons to descend on the green and round up the students. And no wonder.

While this tent-city potluck wasn’t a revolution, it suspended the decorum and deference that ordinarily rule academic life. It enabled students, staff and faculty to explore solidarity bonds that could mount a real resistance to university business as usual.

By civiling the campus green, these students were raising the possibility of genuine democracy — the genuine democracy that capitalism will oppose with civility when it can and coercion when it must.

The post The Importance of Being Uncivil appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

With Anti-China Protectionism, the Left Is Aiding Trump’s Xenophobic Agenda

Truth Out - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 15:04

Because China is increasingly seen as a threat to U.S. global hegemony, anti-China nationalism is on the rise in American politics. Late last summer, Steve Bannon spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations and discovered—much to his surprise—that his hawkish approach to China had gone mainstream. Early this year, Defense Secretary James Mattis, who is in what passes as the moderate faction in the Donald Trump White House, released the 2018 National Defense Strategy, stating that “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.” China leads the list of “strategic competitors” cited by the Department of Defense. In May, Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei warned at Axios that “China is the greatest, growing threat to America” and suggested that “a smart politician could turn China into a unifying villain on virtually every topic.” Earlier this month, the pundit Matt Yglesias appeared to agree, tweeting, “I’m sort of coming around to the view that anti-China politics could be the unifying national project we need.”

This mounting anti-China nationalism is bringing the United States to the brink of a potentially disastrous trade war between the world’s two largest economies, with bipartisan support. The Trump administration, after months of threatening a trade war with China, imposed tariffs on $34 billion of imports from China last Friday, and threatened to extend this to cover all $500 billion of imports.

This emerging trade war with China will lead to job loss in the U.S. agriculture, oil and auto industries that are concentrated in counties that voted for Trump. This is a tremendous opportunity for Democrats to attack the tariffs in order to split Trump’s base among business leaders and blue-collar workers, but they show no sign of doing so. To the contrary, Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), the top Democrat in the Senate, responded with strong approval when the first round of tariffs were originally announced, tweeting on June 15 that the president’s actions on China are “on the money.” So far, Democrats have saved their sharpest criticism of Trump’s approach to China for when he called for an ease of sanctions on Chinese telecom giant ZTE in order to save it from going out of business entirely, an act which Democrats from both centrist and progressive wings of the party saw as too lenient. In other words, top Democrats are competing with Trump to see who can be the most hawkish anti-China nationalist.

The  official justification for the tariffs centers on accusations of intellectual property theft, yet the leaders of the two parties are not pausing to evaluate the strength of the theft accusations. Some commentators are raising objections, including Yale’s Stephen Roach, who has argued that the Trump administration’s case is flawed and comes out of a “scapegoat mentality.” But these arguments are beside the point. The official case does not need to be logical in order to be politically effective, if it is just a political tool in the service of already agreed-upon goals.

Leaders in both parties share the fundamental goal of halting China’s rise relative to the United States as an economic power and, in particular, as a leader in global tech industries. Neither party seems to be grappling with the fact that this is something that the Chinese government has little choice but to maintain its economic growth and rise up the value chain from lower-productivity manufacturing to tech industries, which is the government’s only hope of delivering poverty reduction and continued upward mobility to the Chinese people. This is the regime’s side of an “unwritten contract” with its populace, without which it is at risk of losing popular legitimacy. It is therefore unreasonable and futile to expect the Chinese government to agree to measures that would slow China’s rise in the global economy or the global tech sector. U.S. political leaders have adopted a goal to contain China’s rise that will demand escalating conflict with China.

Anti-Chinese Racial Profiling on the Rise

These political efforts to hedge against China are fueling anti-Chinese racism within the United States. The tenor of this racism, and its grip in mainstream politics, is expressed well by Christian Caryl, an opinions editor at The Washington Post, who warns that China has a “strategy to tap the huge ethnic Chinese diaspora in the United States and elsewhere as foot soldiers in China’s influence campaigns.” This image of an entire “ethnic diaspora” as a potential fifth column within U.S. society recalls the internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII.

This racist stereotype is reflected in recent policies and the statements of political leaders. According to a white paper published by the Committee of 100, there is evidence that the FBI engages in racial profiling against people of Chinese and other Asian descent in economic espionage cases. In two high-profile cases, naturalized Chinese-American citizens, Sherry Chen and Xiaoxing Xi, were falsely accused of being Chinese spies stealing intellectual property from the United States. In both cases, the charges were later dropped. Chen’s charges were dropped without explanation, while in Xi’s case the investigators admitted that they had simply misunderstood the technology that Xi works with. In February, Trump’s FBI Director Chris Wray confirmed this institutionalized racism when he declared in a hearing that “the Chinese threat” is “not just a whole of government threat, but a whole-of-society threat.”

More recently, the Trump administration announced new restrictions on visas for people from China, including on international students studying in some fields of science and technology. This is also meant to be a measure to counter “economic espionage” and the theft of intellectual property. This policy again assumes everyone from China to be a potential threat to the U.S. economy and national security. Senator Marco Rubio welcomed this new policy, tweeting, “Imposing limits on some Chinese visas may seem harsh, but it’s necessary. #China poses unprecedented threat. Student & academic visas are another weapon they use against us in their campaign to steal & cheat their way to world dominance.” These visa restrictions have been criticized by university lobby groups, because tuition from Chinese international students has become a financial lifeline for many U.S. universities in the face of reduced public funding for higher education. The restrictions, however, have been largely overlooked by the progressive movement—and the lack of resistance is an open invitation to escalation against this population.

These trends must be examined in light of long-standing racist stereotypes about Chinese people and other Asians. In the United States and much of the Western world, Asians are seen as sources of pure labor power—maximally efficient workers in whom all human capacities that are useful for work (obedience, efficiency, self-discipline, self-denial, studiousness) are overdeveloped, while all other aspects of humanity that do not directly contribute to work (family life, play, creativity, emotion, friendship, autonomy) are degraded, underdeveloped or non-existent. This framework portrays Asians as a step removed from robots. This is especially true of East Asians, who are at the center of the ambiguous and inconsistent category of “Asian” in the U.S. racial imagination.

These racist ideas show up throughout these anti-Chinese trends in both domestic and foreign policy. The racist image of Chinese people as a source of pure economic efficiency makes it easy to see them as little more than a competitive threat to other workers. The racist assumption that Chinese people lack capacities for autonomy or creativity makes it easy to see them as little more than appendages of the Chinese government. As we see in the quotes above, it is common to make Chinese people invisible as individuals, and to imagine them instead as parts of a faceless mass called “China.”

Racism and Foreign Policy

These racist ideas also impact the approach the U.S. government’s foreign policy approach to China, and help explain why China (and by extension, the Chinese diaspora) is seen as such a fundamental threat. A deep and subtle form of racism is at work when U.S. elites try to understand China’s present actions as the repetition of unchanging patterns established during premodern times. Foreign policy analysts claim that President Xi Jinping is “simply another emperor in a long line spanning over 2,000 years,” or that “Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive mimics a Ming obsession.” Defense Secretary James Mattis recently echoed this framework, asserting that, “The Ming Dynasty appears to be their model, albeit in a more muscular manner, demanding other nations become tribute states kowtowing to Beijing.” This is an expression of a racist notion that Chinese leaders are—and always have been—incapable of the autonomy or creativity, and cannot help but remain stuck in an antiquated political culture that has remained fundamentally unchanged for centuries or millennia. Thus, China is portrayed as foreign not just to the United States, but to the modern world as a whole.

The racist tendency to deny the autonomy and agency of Chinese people as individuals also undermines progressive principles of solidarity with all poor and working people and thereby locks many U.S. progressives in nationalism. Chinese workers have been striking in large numbers, including in Walmart retail stores and in factories supplying the Walmart supply chain. These workers are challenging the same corporations as American workers, and militant labor movements in China and other export-driven economies have the potential to contribute a great deal to the strategy of U.S. progressives who feel out-maneuvered by globalization. Greater solidarity between activist workers in the United States and in China could greatly increase the power of movements in both countries. Tragically, progressive leaders in the United States rarely recognize Chinese workers as potential comrades in a shared struggle against global corporate power, and instead rob Chinese workers of their agency, objectify them as faceless competition to U.S. workers or disregard them entirely.

Even leading progressives like Bernie Sanders can fall short of full-throated solidarity with Chinese workers. In response to Trump’s decision to impose tariffs against Canada and the European Union, Sanders urged the White House to refocus tariffs on China and other low-income countries, saying on June 1, “We need a trade policy that is fair to American workers, not just large multi-national corporations.” This frames anti-China protectionism as a way to “punch up” against corporate power. Yet, don’t Chinese workers also deserve a fair trade policy? In a 2015 interview with Ezra Klein, Sanders did expresses sympathy for Chinese workers and a desire for them to achieve a “higher standard of living.” Yet, he also described them as competitors, saying, “I don’t think decent-paying jobs in this country have got to be lost as companies shut down here and move to China.” Sanders vocalizing these positions despite, at other times, expressing principles of internationalism: In the same 2015 interview, he asserted that the United States must work more closely with China to combat climate change.

Some leading U.S. unions, meanwhile, embrace overtly protectionist policies. This spring, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard argued in favor of steel tariffs, casting Chinese workers as competitors against their U.S. counterparts. Gerard cited China’s “dangerous and environmentally toxic mills,” as well as the construction of new ones, as playing a key role in throwing “tens of thousands” of Americans out of work. Also this spring, the AFL-CIO released a statement titled, “Strategic Tariffs Against China Are Critical Part of Trade Reform to Create More Jobs and Better Pay.” The statement argues, “Tariffs aren’t an end goal, but an important tool to end trade practices that kill American jobs and drive down American pay.”

It is true that the global economy pits workers everywhere against each other in zero-sum competition for jobs and investment, and locks everyone in a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions. The relocation of factories and deindustrialization have been part of this dynamic, and some of this has taken place between the United States and China. But the role of U.S.-China competition is exaggerated and deeply misunderstood.

As Pun Ngai and Sam Austin write in the Introduction to Striking to Survive, a new book on worker resistance in China to factory relocations:

[R]elatively few manufacturing jobs have moved from the United States to China. The high tide of outsourcing took place in the 1980s, when many manufacturing jobs moved from cities in the northern United States to places such as Mexico, Taiwan, and other parts or the United States with weaker unions and lower wages. Many other jobs were replaced by automation. If mainland China ‘stole’ jobs from anyone, it was not from the United States but from Mexico and parts of East Asia in the 1990s and 2000s.

Automation is a larger factor in manufacturing job losses than relocations to all other countries put together. The U.S. manufacturing sector is doing well, it’s just producing much more with much fewer workers, including in the steel industry. Meanwhile, China has been hit by its own factory relocations to countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. China also has its own “Rust Belt” in the northeast which has suffered massive deindustrialization in steel and coal industries. In other words, deindustrialization and factory relocations to poorer regions is a global economic trend that affects workers in all countries. This is a shared problem which demands that we come together across borders around shared solutions. But the erasure of workers in China and elsewhere makes this impossible to see.

The Way Forward

Progressives need to embrace internationalism, rather than nationalism. Instead of the mainstream vision of uniting the left and right in the United States against China, progressive internationalists should propose a vision of uniting the workers of the world against the power of multinational corporations that are hurting poor and working people in all countries. It is vital to show a way beyond the impossible ambition to maintain U.S. hegemony forever.

There are many ways to pursue these goals. One is to organize between the United States and China against shared corporate targets—that is, corporations that are responsible for exploitation and oppression both here and there. There is no shortage of abusive corporations whose supply chains and retail chains are shared between the two countries, including high-profile corporate targets like WalmartAmazon and Apple. International solidarity is, in fact, the only way to successfully confront the power of corporations whose sales, assets and workforces are mostly located in China and other countries outside of the United States. To try to fight them just within the United States is like trying to defeat a hydra by fighting just one of its heads.

Progressives can also propagate stories of progressives and worker activists in China, ideally in their own words. This is a way to reveal to Western progressives that there are counterparts in China who are potential comrades, and to fight back against the racist tendency to see them as faceless competition. There are a number of translated stories and interviews that give a sense of the spirit of workers and activists in China: interviews with Chinese worker activists, the stories collected in the books China on Strike and Striking to Survive, the writings of persecuted student activists like feminist Yue Xin or the “Eight Young Leftists,” the poetry of Foxconn worker Xu Lizhi, satirical works like “Marx pays a visit to Foxconn” and more. Progressives can do more through both traditional and social media to popularize such stories.

Cooperation with the labor movement and progressive forces in China is currently difficult. In order to maintain social stability in the face of threats to economic growth, President Xi has led severe crackdowns on civil society, which especially target independent labor organizations and groups with connections to the United States. But as stories of Chinese activists show, Xi’s hold on Chinese society is not as total as most westerners assume. And there are larger openings in Hong Kong where civil society groups remain much freer than in mainland China and also retain connections with the mainland. Replacing antagonistic nationalism with a posture of international solidarity will create new opportunities for progressive forces in China.

Progressives can also propose and lobby for policy solutions that provide alternatives to the existing global economy, which pressures countries to confront each other in a race to the bottom. The solution is relatively straightforward: global standards that will protect poor and working people across borders. This includes a global minimum wage that lifts up wages across borders, global standards on corporate taxes to stop global tax evasion, and binding climate change standards. To help enforce these standards, we can also create cross-border mechanisms for corporate accountability, giving Chinese workers the power to confront U.S. companies for their abuses over there and giving U.S. workers in Chinese-owned companies the same power. These can be built into existing trade agreements, using the power that already exists in those agreements and turning it toward progressive ends. This will create a fairer global economy, halt race to the bottom and reduce competition between national economies. This will also increase global demand, by giving Chinese and other foreign workers the ability to afford the products that they can currently sell only in the U.S. consumer market, which will fuel a new and more equitable era of job creation.

Progressives need a foreign policy strategy that opens up a path to peaceful and constructive collaboration with a rising China and accepts the decline of U.S. hegemony. This is an area where much more research is necessary. Consider, for example, the highly contentious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an immensely ambitious global infrastructure plan that calls for hundreds of billions of dollars of investment per year in at least 65 countries. Improved global infrastructure is in principle a progressive goal, but BRI includes many exploitative and  oppressive practices that are far from progressive. There could be a progressive approach that involves offering to collaborate with China on BRI while also demanding an end to abuses.

Progressives must also accept that China’s economy is likely to become dominant, and that eventually this will include the tech sector that the U.S. ruling class is currently so jealously protecting. The current system of intellectual property rights is fundamentally a form of class war that increases the power of corporations to extract profits from consumers. This is becoming increasingly clear when it comes to drug price gouging, but it is true of intellectual property rights in technology more generally. The progressive position is not to pick fights with foreign governments over intellectual property, but rather to promote technology transfers to poorer countries, prioritizing the well-being of all people rather than corporate profits.

Finally, progressives must directly resist anti-China racism as it appears in both domestic and international policy, beginning by rallying progressive and liberal forces against practices of racial profiling at the FBI and in immigration law. Asians must lead this agenda, and must add it to existing struggles around racial justice and justice for immigrants.

The mainstream, bipartisan trend of anti-China politics leads in the wrong direction both domestically and abroad. As I have written elsewhere, when progressives embrace this form of politics it puts them on the ideological terrain of the Right. But progressives cannot compete with the Right when it comes to nationalism. When progressives erase foreign workers and embrace nationalist ideologies which pit U.S. workers against their counterparts in China and elsewhere, they make a strategic mistake by foreclosing on any possibility of truly challenging global corporate power through international solidarity. To make matters worse, the anti-China approach will only end up undermining comrades in China by further threatening China’s economy and provoking further crackdowns from the government.

There is a better path forward into a better future, and the needs of working people and progressives in the United States and around the world demand that we take it.

The post With Anti-China Protectionism, the Left Is Aiding Trump’s Xenophobic Agenda appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

To Combat Gentrification, One City Is Changing How Homes Are Bought and Sold

Truth Out - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 14:58

India Walton likes to recall the summers she spent at her uncle’s house on Mulberry Street in the Fruit Belt neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, when family and neighbors would gather for block parties, barbecues, and picnics. When the 35-year-old mother of four was looking for a home to rent a few years ago, she wandered through streets with names like Grape and Peach, thinking how nice it would be to recapture that long-ago experience for her own children.

In 2015, Walton moved into a rented house on Lemon Street and into one of the most visible demonstrations of neighborhood gentrification underway in the city.

It had been unfolding for a decade, as Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus expanded on the western doorstep of the neighborhood, leaving developers and land speculators full of anticipation.

And it is taking the collective power of Fruit Belt residents-turned-activists like Walton and a broad coalition of neighborhood-based and region-wide organizations to attempt what communities from New York’s Harlem to Washington, D.C.’s, U Street Corridor couldn’t do: push back against development to stem the displacement of generations of residents.

In 2017, the neighbors established the city’s first community land trust, a nonprofit designed to give residents control over the land within the neighborhood boundaries and keep housing there affordable. The city of Buffalo, the largest land owner in the Fruit Belt, has placed a moratorium on the sale of the 200 lots it owns there until a strategic plan for the neighborhood can be developed. And in January, it announced it would dedicate 20 of those lots to the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, to get it going.

“It feels amazing to be part of something that is bigger than myself,” says Walton, who is vice president of the Fruit Belt Advisory Council and a member of Community First Alliance, all part of the coalition. “I’m doing legacy work that will be here long after I’m gone, providing opportunities for both the neighborhood and for my children and their children. That’s a big deal to me.”

A historically Black neighborhood of about 2,600 residents on Buffalo’s East Side, the Fruit Belt is bisected by streets that derived their names from orchards planted by early German immigrants in the 1800s. The area later fell into disrepair. In a city with some of the nation’s oldest housing stock, historic and well-tended homes share space with abandoned and vacant dwellings and urban prairies.

Developers saw opportunity with the continued expansion of the Medical Campus, which covers 120 acres and has 17,000 employees. While some longtime residents sold their homes and moved out, others were pushed out when their rents rose. More people has meant more traffic and a parking crunch. Fruit Belt residents have listed gentrification and fear of displacement as top concerns, Bishop said.

When she moved there three years ago, Walton, a registered nurse who works at Children’s Hospital on the medical campus, was shocked to find the rent she would pay was double what she expected. Even after she persuaded the landlord to lower the price because she was bringing her own appliances, rentals half the size of hers were going for even more, she said.

There was no doubt gentrification had taken hold.

Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen, whose district includes the Fruit Belt, has been a powerful advocate for the project. In his radio program, announcing the city’s commitment of the 20 lots, he said the lots are being put into the hands of low-income and working-class people. “Whatever … the community land trust builds there as far as housing,” Pridgen said, “for 99 years, it cannot be transferred to wealthy people, it can’t be sold to wealthy people.”

With more than 250 of them nationwide, community land trusts are not new to the gentrification fight. They were first used in the U.S to protect rural lands for Black farmers in Georgia in the late 1960s. In Buffalo, the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust will acquire and own land, building and rehabbing homes and selling them at an affordable rate. When a house is sold, a cap will be placed on the allowable profit so it remains affordable for the next buyer.

The trust is set to seat its full nine-member board in June—six neighborhood residents and three specialists in the areas of engineering, real estate law, and development. Meanwhile, it is negotiating with the city on the location of the 20 lots. Bishop said preference is for land along the commercial corridor—between the residential area and the medical campus—to better control and slow development.

To be sure, the idea of a land trust for the Fruit Belt hasn’t been fully embraced. Whether gentrification has even arrived is still an open debate, particularly within the city, which has started to rebrand the neighborhood as Medical Park. And even within the neighborhood itself, there’s opposition by those who worry a trust will limit the value of their property. Funding is also a concern: While the trust has raised just under $100,000, it will need at least three times that to get rolling.

Open Buffalo, a social and economic justice movement, has been working with the community in its fight against gentrification for three years. But Harper Bishop, the economic and climate justice coordinator with the nonprofit, said that ideally a land trust should have been put in place there a decade ago. Home ownership, he said, is key to generational wealth for many families and he doesn’t blame any homeowner who chooses to sell.

“It’s a mind shift we are trying to create,” Bishop said. “Our hope is we can continue to normalize the idea of a community land trust so people know that community wealth and community control is uttermost, and that we are all stronger together in this fight than we are individually.”

And there’s growing momentum. “Land trust, not land rush” has become a common refrain. It’s less about having a seat at the decision-making table, residents say, and more about community control of the decision-making.

Fruit Belt residents who support a land trust say they are not anti-growth. “What we want is smart development that is inclusive and that allows people who have been here to prosper right along with it,” Walton said.

“There’s a spirit of unity here; that’s the unique thing about the Fruit Belt. The message of the land trust is we are here to promote development without displacement and for the community to have control over the kind of development that takes place.”

She has been an outspoken neighborhood and land trust advocate and is among residents featured in a promotional marketing video. But she knows that as a renter she’s vulnerable and that her landlord can probably fetch more for her home.

“But the work we are trying to do depends on my connection to the neighborhood, especially when it comes to dealing with city officials,” she said. “So I’m going to hang on as long as is possible. And perhaps one day the land trust will make a way for me to have a home here for me and my children.”

Last year she and several community advocates traveled to Boston to visit one of the nation’s most successful urban community land trusts. Dudley Neighbors, in the Roxbury section of Boston, acquired 1,300 parcels of abandoned land in the 1980s and transformed a once-blighted neighborhood without displacing residents. Nearly 30 years later, the trust oversees 225 units of affordable housing, as well as a playground, a mini-orchard, and community garden.

Bishop believes a successful land trust is also possible in the Fruit Belt, particularly given the city’s ownership of so much land in the neighborhood. The Fruit Belt, he believes, could serve as a model for Buffalo. “There’s opportunity to go into other neighborhoods in the city and create … community wealth and generational wealth and community control.”

The post To Combat Gentrification, One City Is Changing How Homes Are Bought and Sold appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

A “Happy” World Requires Institutional Change

Truth Out - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 14:17

Happiness is hot it seems. The United Nations has an International Day of Happiness, conferences and summits on the subject abound, and the most popular class at Yale is Laurie Santos’s lecture course on happiness. Author Adam Sternbergh provides a “cheat sheet” for the class and observes that:

The very fact that Santos’s new course, PSYC 157: Psychology and the Good Life, is so wildly popular, with over 1,200 enrolled students, suggests that she’s on to something when she tells me one day, pre-lecture, “College students are much more overwhelmed, much more stressed, much more anxious, and much more depressed than they’ve ever been. I think we really have a crisis writ large at colleges in how students are doing in terms of self-care and mental health.”

It would be snarky, I suppose, to suggest that this might have anything to do with the man in the White House, and the 38-year effort to widen inequality and strip the safety net to the bones that started with trickle-down economics, since after all, it’s even true at so privileged a bastion of higher learning as Yale. Yet it’s not completely surprising, considering that when I entered college in 1964, tuition was practically free, grade pressures were far less intense, few students emerged with the shocking debt loads that are now commonplace, and even if you didn’t land a cushy job right off the bat, rents were affordable. 

But no, that’s not the problem, says Sternbergh. If you’re not happy, he suggests, it turns out it’s almost all in your genes and your head. 

In her second lecture, Santos looks at the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, and the author of The How of Happiness. Lyubomirsky is well known for her thought experiment about what affects our happiness, which she expresses in a pie chart: She proposes that roughly 50 percent of happiness is determined by genes (i.e., totally out of your control), roughly 10 percent is determined by circumstance (i.e., somewhat out of your control), and the final 40 percent is determined by your thoughts, actions, and attitudes (i.e., entirely within your control).

If only 10 percent of happiness is attributable to life conditions, then it’s pretty simple: You don’t need to alter them that much; political and economic change is actually an afterthought and may not be worth the effort. And you can’t do anything about your genetics. What you can do, the theory suggests, is change your attitudes and behaviors, more important by a factor of four than making ends meet, apparently.

The Meme as Myth

However, this idea, no matter how popular, is demonstrably false. The World Happiness Report ranks happiness or life satisfaction in 156 of the world’s countries. The data comes from Gallup, which polls about 1,000 people in each of these countries every year. Subjects are asked to report how satisfied they are with their lives using a popular long-running measure called the Cantril Scale and two other similar questions.

There is remarkable consistency to Gallup’s findings as reported by the UN.  The highest-scoring countries’ mean results fall in the high sevens, and essentially the same ones show up each year in slightly different order. This year, it’s Finland at 7.6, last year Norway, and, in most years since the report first came out in 2012, it was Denmark. The United States usually shows up in the mid-teens; this year it was number 18 (at 6.9, a sizeable drop from its 7.2 score in the period 2008-2010, the height of the recession; meanwhile 106 countries showed improvement or slipped less than the US did between 2010 and 2017). 

The top countries always include the Nordic nations, plus the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia and Canada. By contrast, the lowest-scoring countries are consistently in sub-Saharan Africa. This year, Burundi bottomed out at 2.9. 

The 2016 UN report often also measured standard deviation — the variance in countries from their own mean — which tells us how widely distributed happiness is within a nation. It might not come as a shock that the standard deviation is very wide for the United States, whose income gap is the widest among rich countries; in 2016, we were number 85 in the world by that measure. Number 1 was a small, poor, but egalitarian country — Bhutan — where the idea of measuring happiness is national policy. Most Bhutanese have scores close to its mean of 5.1 

Now, to get back to Lyubomirsky’s 50/40/10 meme. It seems a stretch to say that only 10 percent of the vast gap between the 7.6 and 2.9 scores in life satisfaction that separate Finland and Burundi can be attributed to life conditions. Such a view is not only statistically inconceivable, it could well be considered racist. Are the people of Burundi genetically inferior to the Finns, or are their behaviors and attitudes dramatically different (again not very likely)? 

What seems evident from this data is that life conditions account for almost all of the difference between the two countries — these include incomes, but also social support, health, freedom, generosity and perceived levels of corruption and trust, according to the UN report. The latest UN report shows that immigrants report roughly the same levels of life satisfaction as the native-born — in Finland, immigrants also score 7.6, and in the US, they also score 6.9 — itself an indication that as their life conditions improve, so does their happiness. Of course, immigrants aren’t flocking to Burundi.

And if this were not evidence enough that the 50/40/10 meme is deficient, two scholars, Nicholas Brown and Julia Rohrer, have recently pointed out that the survey data that was the basis for Lyubomirsky’s calculations is itself suspect, having been gathered from a US-only sample conducted in 1972 and 1973, at a time when the United States was far more egalitarian than it is today.

I certainly would have no problem if Lyubomirsky suggested that in relatively homogenous samples her 50/40/10 pie does predict most differences in happiness; indeed, I suspect that in egalitarian nations such as the Nordic countries or Japan, her numbers hold up well. But that’s a far cry from extending the meme to the entire world (or even to the sharply unequal United States), where conditions of life seem to make up most of the differences.

Hijacking Happiness

While Lyubomirsky’s more global theory of the “happiness pie” succumbs to scrutiny and carries the danger of making political and economic change seem irrelevant, her suggestions for increasing personal happiness — don’t focus on money, cultivate your spiritual being, be generous, help others, do work that is meaningful, and so forth — aren’t at all objectionable. Without question, they can help make individuals happier, but their validity isn’t dependent on the big 50/40/10 theory behind them and should not be considered a substitute for institutional change.

Yet there are other ways in which the newfound focus on happiness is being co-opted or hijacked. Some of the most popular happiness gurus, such as Harvard’s Shawn Achor, suggest that just the practice of smiling is an effective way to get happier. He earns a living from encouraging corporate leaders to improve productivity and the bottom line by the equivalent of passing out smile buttons. No need to pay people more or reduce organizational hierarchy or offer significant time off when you can just cajole employees into happiness. In return, they will reward you with more profit.

At a global happiness meeting in Dubai, I winced when I heard Achor make these points. Yet even more disturbing were the remarks of Martin Seligman, often called the “father of Positive Psychology.”

He started by claiming that survey results were not to be trusted since people don’t always tell the truth in surveys. This surprised me for two reasons: First, Seligman uses surveys frequently; his own website offers many that anyone can take. Secondly, when sample sizes are large, surveys are generally quite accurate; national political polling, for example, has consistently been within a couple of percentage points of actual results. Even the polls that showed Hillary Clinton ahead in 2016 were quite accurate; she won by three million votes, the mistakes came in very close states — Wisconsin, Michigan, etc. — that tilted the Electoral College in Trump’s favor. 

Gallup surveys of life satisfaction in various countries are excellent snapshots that accurately capture national moods and life conditions in those countries.

But no, Seligman said, you can’t trust surveys. If governments like that of the United Arab Emirates, which had invited all of us to its Global Happiness Summit, want to really assess how happy their people are, he suggested they study “big data” instead.  

Here’s how it works: First, you select a few dozen key words (or short phrases) commonly used to describe experiences. If people engaged in these experiences say they are “happy” or “very happy,” the words are considered positive indicators of happiness. If people describe themselves as “unhappy” during the experience, the word is considered a negative. What we are describing is solely the immediate affect — positive or negative — that most say they feel while having the experience. 

Seligman argues that leaders can tell if their people are happy by using big data to see how often the positive key words appear in social media such as Facebook or Twitter, or by contrast, how often the negative key words or phrases appear — traffic jam, for example. Because computers can handle massive amounts of data and billions of people use social media, Seligman suggests these key words or phrases, rather than surveys, give an accurate picture of localized satisfaction, whether the locality be a neighborhood or a country.

As he spoke, Seligman presented a series of Power Point slides. When he came to which words were positive, he offered a slide with a “word cloud” with the size of each word a reflection of its importance for gauging happiness. He started with women. Some of the words were obvious and certainly unobjectionable — love, family, friends. 

But the biggest of all the words in the cloud was “shopping.” When women used the word “shopping” on social media, it was an indication that they were happy.

But that’s only an immediate affect. It tells us very little about their actual life satisfaction. We know, for example, that many people actually go shopping because they are unhappy. It’s an immediate pick-me-up for them to be surrounded by bright, shiny items and they are excited by their purchases. But soon, the joy wears off, the credit card bills come due, the magnificent purchase joins others in the storage locker and the same dissatisfaction with life reasserts itself. 

Seligman, a smart man and a well-trained psychologist, must know this. And yet he came to glitzy Dubai, the world’s shopping capital, and told its leaders they could infer that their people are happy if the word “shopping” turns up a lot in local social media. There’s a word for this: pandering. I don’t know if it’s a happy word or a sad one. Meanwhile, when I spoke to members of the UAE prime minister’s staff while in Dubai, many expressed reservations about their country’s embrace of conspicuous consumption; they were particularly troubled by its impact on their children.

Seligman has earned a sizeable income by this kind of pandering, which asks nothing of countries or companies in terms of justice or reform. He gets paid a lot. In the days when I still believed that he was a credible guru, I once invited him to speak at a happiness conference. His minimum price was $25,000. We didn’t have it. 

In Praise of Happiness

The science of positive psychology offers a welcome and valuable counter to the commonly-held idea in the United States that more money (even for the wealthy), economic growth and consumerism are keys to happiness. The United States is certainly richer now than in the 2008-2010 period (the heart of the great recession) but it is measurably less happy.

The UN World Happiness report and UNICEF data about the happiness or well-being of children make clear that the world’s happiest countries are the so-called “welfare states,” social democratic countries with a strong concern for equity, compassion, generous health, education and social provisions, urban design that favors community over cars, transparent, honest and representative government, and protection of the environment. On this, the real big data are clear.

If we want a happier world, there is no escaping the need for political and social reform, which must include far greater sharing of wealth among nations.  Following the personal suggestions for greater happiness offered by Sonja Lyubomirsky and the positive psychologists — including greater altruism, less focus on money and achievement, more emphasis on friends and social connections, meditation or mindfulness practices — is both helpful and necessary even if it can’t explain global differences in life satisfaction. But it is no substitute for efforts to change the conditions of life as well as the habits of individuals. 

NOTE: For an excellent measure of your own life satisfaction and quality of life in many of the domains measured by Bhutan and by the UN, and for excellent information on both personal and social happiness, check out the website www.happycounts.org and take the 15-minute survey it offers. You can also use the survey to begin a happiness campaign in your community.

The post A “Happy” World Requires Institutional Change appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Keeping the “Public” in Public Art

Truth Out - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 13:57
The Harriet Tubman Memorial Statue in Harlem, New York, is an example of public art commissioned by the Percent for Art program.The Harriet Tubman Memorial Statue in Harlem, New York, is an example of public art commissioned by the Percent for Art program.Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

Money for the arts: Where does it come from and where does it go to? Every day there is another multimillion-dollar art auction some place. In New York City, the Metropolitan Museum — where entry had been on a contribution basis — recently instituted a hefty ticket price for non-New Yorkers. Just recently, the appointment of two white curators to the Brooklyn Museum’s African Art exhibit caused a furor.

Then, there’s public art. Starting in the 1930s, the US Treasury required 1 percent of the cost of federal buildings to be applied to art and what they called “decoration.” Now, more than half of the states maintain 1 percent for their art programs. In New York, the Percent for Art program has commissioned hundreds of site-specific projects by artists whose work they believe reflects the city’s diversity. But who decides where that 1 percent goes? If we all agree that arts and creativity are important ingredients of life, including city life, are we doing everything we can to support not just art, but also artists, including the ones that live in our midst?

I spoke to three guests who make it their job to figure out how we democratize access to art and art-making. Betty Yu is an artist and organizer of the Chinatown Art Brigade. Amin Husain is co-founder of the MTL Collective and professor at NYU. Charlotte Cohen is executive director of the Brooklyn Arts Council. For more forward-thinking interviews, go to www.lauraflanders.org.

Laura Flanders: There’s so many places we could begin, but let’s just start with the public part of art. In your view, Charlotte, what is public art and why do we need it?

Charlotte Cohen: We can talk about public art objects. That’s one place to start and that’s what the Percent for Art programs that you just mentioned, Laura, fund. That’s funding that comes from capital budgets for construction in the city. There’s temporary public art that happens by individual artists in many different places and by city agencies, private companies, you name it. Then, there’s the work that Brooklyn Arts Council does, which is in funding individual artists, collectives and very small nonprofit organizations with grant money that is mostly from public sources like the city and state. Those are in the amounts of $2,000 to $5,000. They often make or break an artist’s project. That money is really designated for the public part of that work. It’s not to buy the paint or the studio rent. It’s really to bring that artwork out to the public realm.

Betty, why is it important to you?

Betty Yu: For Chinatown, our brigade, I think public art is an incredible opportunity to really reflect on what’s happening in certain communities. When we first launched, we launched because [CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities (formerly known as the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence)] had an organization that they started to call “Chinatown Tenants Union.” After 9/11, there was a lot of massive displacement in Chinatown. They’ve been doing lots of organizing to prevent eviction. They realize they were really strong on their organizing strategies and direct action, but they really wanted to incorporate art and culture and wanted to do these outdoor projections at night. We collaborated with the illuminator that came out of Occupy Wall Street and we started to project these messages.

What were the messages?

Yu: Tenants were very clear about the three target audiences. One was reaching other immigrant tenants to get involved with the anti-eviction organizing. We’ve lost already 30,000 units of affordable housing in Chinatown or Lower East Side alone since 9/11, and 30 percent of the Asian population has declined. It’s a dire situation. We had messages like “Tenants unite,” “Get organized,” “Do you know your rights?” [and] “Do you know landlord harassment is [illegal]?” Different things like that in Chinese and in English and even Spanish. They also wanted to reach policy makers.

The third audience was artists and galleries who have been playing the role of the gentrifiers in Chinatown. The real estate developers know that they need to bring these galleries and artists in to raise the real estate level — what we talk about as the “Trojan horse.” These real estate developers have gotten so sophisticated in using artists — maybe artists that look like me in Chinatown — to come in with the 130 galleries that used to be mom-and-pop places and bakeries. They then raise the real estate. In about eight to 10 years, and then they’re big box stores. Then, even those galleries can’t afford it any more.

How do we prevent artists being [pitted] against one another, especially working-class, low-income artists like myself who are trying to survive doing the work that we do? When we talk about public art, we have to talk about accountability. Public art for who and for what? If it’s in a community, it must not, it cannot be used to displace people.

We have many things on the table here, from public funding of public art to how artists and art are sometimes used to “art wash” development that might displace artists. Part of your project is to democratize some of this decision-making.

Amin Husain: We collaborated with Chinatown Art Brigade as part of Decolonize This Place. For three months, we were in Tribeca. We got offered an exhibition and we said we’d take up the space and make it a movement space, a commons, where we could incorporate art and culture and these communities that are participating as a way to take a stand and have a conversation amongst ourselves as artists, cultural producers in the city, recognizing that we are complicit in the gentrifying, displacement and dispossession that’s happening. We have to build power in the process while recognizing our complicity.

Public art cannot be used to displace people.

It’s very difficult to live in New York City at all. But it’s impossible to live and not be a gentrifier, recognizing that we’re already on stolen land. We have a [Christopher] Columbus statue that’s public art that’s barricaded. Monuments in this city for whom? Public art for any purpose? Especially in a time when ICE is bordering our communities and taking immigrants from their homes. What’s the point right now?

Tom Finkelpearl is de Blasio’s appointed [commissioner] of the Department of Cultural Affairs. De Blasio is a progressive mayor who came in with a cultural agenda, which was kind of exciting in and of itself. Create New York brought in some $18 million, but also got a lot of grief. Charlotte, tell us a little bit about what you understand to be the agenda and then I want to hear some of the critique and where this could go.

Cohen: There has been a lot of critique of the plan and rightfully so. The plan is very aspirational as most strategic plans are. It lays out a whole series of potential ways to support individual artists, artists’ communities in different forms, collectives and neighborhoods. Part of that plan is about really providing access to the arts and culture in a way that probably hasn’t had a light shined on it in other administrations. The five arts councils — one in each borough of New York City — received more funding this year to re-grant to individual artists very specifically. That was a directive from the Department of Cultural Affairs. That was one way to try to get a flow of money out to individual artists. The city just appointed a nightlife mayor, which is a way to really take very seriously the challenges of DIY spaces that pertain to arts and culture and how they can remain in their spaces without being succumbed to the kinds of raids by the Fire Department and the Department of Buildings.

When you say “DIY spaces,” are these squatted buildings?

Cohen: No. They’re typically artists’ collectives or possibly nonprofits, 501(c)3s or even individual artists who have leases, but those leases are jeopardized by the incredible cost of running those spaces. Sometimes they have to sell liquor at shows that they would prefer to be all ages. That counts people out who would otherwise have access to that work. This has been really a very important case in Bushwick, for example, the Brooklyn neighborhood, and many other neighborhoods across the city where artists have been really challenged in regard to maintaining real estate, which is the biggest challenge of all in New York City, as we all know.

Amin, what’s your vision of how we move forward in a better way? This can’t just be a city of high-priced art auctions and high-ticket museums and then everybody else living as well as they can, stepping on each other’s necks.

Husain: In a way, we need to reorient towards each other. I think that the idea of galleries and the idea of people moving in as gentrifiers is a reality that we’re living in. It’s not about trying to create sides and demonize and not be productive. We need to move from an economy of scarcity to one of abundance.

The issue with art is that it creates spaces for people to care for one another at a time when we’re not allowed to. You saw this during Occupy. The previous administration moved everyone out of a park based on sanitation reasons when it was actually an issue of dissent in relation to the conditions — our economic conditions.

Are there pressures that we can put, not just on our public budgets, but on private developers and private industry, too? Betty?

Yu: In Chinatown, we’re in the front lines of ground zero in many ways, of art-washing. In terms of these private galleries and the insidious nature of how developers are using these galleries, we had Artist Space [and] Decolonize This Place organize a town hall meeting where a lot of galleries came out and they didn’t want to be the ones to be picked on, but we said, “It’s not about you as an individual. It’s about the system of gentrification. We understand that you’re a part of it, you’re complicit, but you’re obviously the little cog in the machine.” How do we figure this out together, and [give] them an opportunity to figure out how do you not be the A-hole in the community that only sees Chinatown as a cheap food and cheap rent and a place to sell your $10,000 paintings, but that you’re a part of community?

If you want to create equity within art in the city, you can’t do that without addressing the fundamental issues that working people are facing: gentrification, police violence, economic instability. What we’re seeing in our communities is an increase of police violence toward people who are actually from the neighborhood who’ve been living in the neighborhood, and the police are there to protect the newcomers and industry city, for instance.

Is there an example where a city program has really worked, Charlotte, in your view, on both a displacement and the art creation side?

Cohen: That’s a really big question. City programs really tend often to address very focused areas; for instance, arts education. The Su Casa program … funds creative aging programs all over the city. With many, many different disciplines in art, I think art’s education is a very grounding place to start in terms of then building up to communities that can be more vibrant and aware of the arts that exist right in their neighborhoods.

If you could do one thing, what would it be?

Husain: It would be for the galleries to open up their spaces for the communities in their neighborhoods to actually organize, make art, be that space.

The post Keeping the “Public” in Public Art appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Wealth Can’t Protect Environmentally-Ravaged Silicon Valley From Climate Change

Truth Out - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 13:16

Much has been written about how the tech boom has contributed to exorbitant housing costs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Less reported has been the environmental impact of this boom, which includes suburban sprawl, severe traffic congestion and other impending menaces. This is not surprising. PM Press, located in Oakland, California, has called its neighbor Silicon Valley the “crown jewel” of hypercapitalism, and one thing capitalism does is pollute.

The question here is whether the tech empire’s power, money, governance and green solutions can match the environmental challenge of Silicon Valley’s smoggy sprawl. The challenge includes the need for an end to low-density development (fewer McMansions surrounded by acres of cosmetically sculpted land, more apartment buildings), pollution controls, cleaner cars, inland parks and dealing with water shortages and climate change in one of its most drastic forms – wildfires, according to Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area, by Richard Walker. This book portrays a region where “boom and bust cycles are written into the landscape.”

Tech Empire’s Environmental Degradation

Although air pollution from traffic congestion and sprawl is the most visible environmental problem caused by Silicon Valley, there are others, according to Walker. Groundwater plumes of solvents have moved under working-class housing areas near industrial zones, as Walker explains in a recent email to Truthout. However, these plumes of solvents do not migrate to affluent Palo Alto or Menlo Park. It is the old story of proximity to environmentally hazardous industry causing working-class neighborhoods and communities of color to be far more exposed to pollution than whiter and wealthier areas.

“There are hundreds of sites in Santa Clara County [Silicon Valley] where solvents or other contaminants have been released to shallow soils and/or groundwater,” explains Vanessa De La Piedra, manager of the Santa Clara Valley Water District groundwater management unit, in an email to Truthout. “However, cleanup at these sites is overseen by various regulatory agencies … where these contaminant releases are located near residential areas, regulatory agencies may require additional monitoring and/or mitigation to ensure residents are protected.” She adds that these contaminated sites have limited impact on drinking water aquifers and that contaminant and solvent plumes “are not unique to Silicon Valley and groundwater can be impacted by various land use activities.”

Meanwhile, an area most affected by Silicon Valley’s traffic-caused air pollution is the Central Valley to the east. In addition to an incoming tidal wave of middle- and working-class residents fleeing sky-high housing costs in Silicon Valley, the Central Valley absorbs emissions from mammoth traffic jams to the west. The Bay Area metropolitan region extends more than 150 miles north to south, and 50 miles east to west, “or around 7500 square miles – an area larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined,” according to Pictures of a Gone City. Most of this is sprawl, and Walker argues that sprawl pays its real estate investors, delivering profits through property investment and capital accumulation, rather than fulfilling the American suburban dream. He explains that property capital aims to stretch suburbia as far as possible, “because the highest profits come from land value appreciation, not from building houses.”

Sprawl causes traffic jams, and California emits vast amounts of carbon dioxide, second only to Texas in the US, according to Walker. In Silicon Valley, cars and trucks are the dirty mainstay of transportation, and they burn huge quantities of fuel, idling in traffic. Sprawl worsens things by causing long commutes. The bus and rail systems are inadequate in a region where housing “is far too dispersed in the low-rise metropolis.”

Meanwhile, construction in Silicon Valley just continues; the building boom caused by the tech explosion of the 2010s surpassed the dot-com era, Walker writes, which added “about 7.5 million square feet of new office space, the latest wave is depositing a square footage twice that thick.” For Walker, Silicon Valley has been planned sprawl, while its core is an industrial district from Stanford south to San Jose, west to Cupertino – an area composed of “endless drifts of tract housing, windswept deserts of asphalt, replicant shopping centers, and ribbons of freeways and expressways.”

Another problem is tech production pollutants from precious metals, rare earth elements and plastics, though Walker writes that most of that blight is felt elsewhere in the world, due to globally far-flung supply chains. In the past, Silicon Valley used solvents to clean chips, but less so now. These days, soap and water are preferred.

Finally, the waterways are polluted. Walker singles out the San Francisco Bay Delta, although he explains that for purposes of pollution, it is difficult to consider Silicon Valley apart from the larger metropolitan area, because run-off carries gasoline, oil and brake dust from vehicles, soil from construction sites, pesticides and fertilizers from landscaping, and toxins from emissions to the air that settle on the ground. He also cites industrial production and refinery emissions as contributors to water pollution.

According to Pictures of a Gone City, the Bay Area “rolls in its own effluent … beginning with garbage.” Trash was dumped in Guadalupe Canyon, south of San Jose and other places. Bay Area waters are degraded by toxic metals (“washed out from mining and smelting in the nineteenth century”), toxins from past industry (“oil refineries, steel mills, pesticide plants and the U.S. Navy”), current surface run-off, and from ships and boats.

Although e-waste is also a problem, California does have mandated e-waste recycling. “Nine companies in Silicon Valley,” explains Russ Edmondson, public information officer of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), “have notified DTSC of their intent to recycle e-waste on site. Of these nine companies, six reported to DTSC that they shipped electronic devices or e-waste residuals (component parts) offsite in 2017.” Within Silicon Valley, the reported destinations of these residuals were San Jose and Gilroy. So, a good bit of e-waste recycling goes on in Silicon Valley, and some residuals remain there.

But the tech empire’s corporate leaders seem as unconcerned with the pollution the industry produces as with its vulnerability to climate change.

Climate Change Won’t Spare Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley “has swallowed its urban host, as the tech economy spreads throughout the larger metropolis,” Walker writes. The Bay Area “has more tech corporations, more web portals, more IT startups, more venture capital and a more complex tech ecosystem than anyplace else on Earth.” He sardonically calls it “capitalism’s shining star.”

Regarding the environment, the Silicon Valley “capitalist behemoth” overall espouses green tech and green solutions to environmental problems. Witness Elon Musk with Tesla. But self-driving electric cars will only resolve so much of our carbon pollution problems, while other theoretical tech solutions to climate change – such as seeding the atmosphere with sulfuric acid to reflect back sunlight – could be catastrophically dangerous.

But with climate change roaring apace, fueling California’s drought, hypercapitalism’s home base in Silicon Valley is bound to feel two major effects: out of control wildfires and water shortages. A lesson of wildfires is that exurbia should not be developed all the way into wildlands or canyons, Walker writes, and after a wildfire, houses and communities should not be rebuilt. That will be bitter medicine for billionaires with mansions lost to the flames. But real estate developers’ demand for land is voracious. If Silicon Valley can’t control its sprawl, wildfires may very well do so. And there are other, related environmental problems – the metropolitan outskirts reach way into central California, to “a very different landscape that has been reworked and degraded for 150 years … and into a stagnant mass of air pollution – much of it blown in from the Bay area itself.”

Already very dry most of the year, this region has irregular winter rains. Nevertheless, developers and their local government boosters have demanded more and more water. Walker reports how San Francisco sold the water of the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite to the suburbs of Silicon Valley and the peninsula. This does not sound like a wise water policy in the face of probable drought. Meanwhile, the worst abusers during the last drought “were the very rich living on large estates in the far suburbs.”

The Bay Area, including Silicon Valley, has another looming water problem: sea level rise. With much urban development around San Francisco Bay on the low ground, warehouses, offices, transportation and industry have covered the Bay’s flatlands, Walker reports, and gone are many of the tidal marshes, mudflats and sloughs, all diked and reigned. Natural barriers removed, the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts chronic inundation all around San Francisco Bay by the end of the century. Sea level rise threatens the built-up bay shore.

Unfortunately, according to Walker, bay fill has always been a cheap way for developers to create more land, and such places flood easily. That is because land filled in where water used to be tends to be quite low-lying. Inundation of airports, railways and highways can, he writes, shut the region down, while flooding into sewers would overwhelm treatment systems. A 2009 report estimates potential damage from storm surges with rising sea levels at “$100 billion in property risk and a half a million people forced from their homes” in a 100-year coastal flood, if sea levels rise five feet.

Pictures of a Gone City discusses the Netherlands’ model for dealing with sea level rise: “shore defenses, which have converted the ancient estuary of the Rhine and the Scheldt to mostly dry land and completely reengineered the rivers’ flow.” But Walker argues that this will not work for the San Francisco Bay, and that even the Dutch have learned that higher levees are not the solution. Instead, Walker advocates for expanded wetlands to help absorb storm surges, argues that urban retreat from the coast is necessary to avoid flooding and calls for “raising the land – or even putting structures on pilings, as is done in tropical zones.” One regional agency director is quoted in the book as saying: “The challenge ahead is to protect the Bay Area from the bay, not the other way around.”

Several agencies have united to assess the shoreline. But many are unprepared. Walker reports that Bay Area Rapid Transit has not readied for climate change, while the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has not incorporated sea level rise into its oversight of local transportation and housing plans. He cites local nonprofit Save the Bay’s efforts to restore marshlands, but notes that those only counter a foot or two of seal level rise.

Given how much warming is already locked in, green tech can only accomplish so much. Tech titans may find it hard to accept abandoning estates to wildfires or office parks in low-lying areas to floods, but climate change will not spare them. They do, however, have the political and economic clout to blunt its effects. If they wanted, they could promote smarter building, smarter development and a more thoughtful use of resources. So far, however, the will for this has been lacking, leaving capitalism’s prized tech empire belching out air pollution and exposed to fire and flood.

The post Wealth Can’t Protect Environmentally-Ravaged Silicon Valley From Climate Change appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Mexico's New Populist President Considers Foreign Pipeline Plans Despite Indigenous Protests

deSmog - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 10:57
Read time: 12 minsAndrés Manuel López Obrador at a rally in Mexico in 2012

By Martha Pskowski and Steve Horn

Andrés Manuel López Obrador looked out at the crowd of reporters at a Mexico City Hilton Hotel the night of July 1. It was a moment that he had waited years for: his victory speech for the Mexican presidency.

To win in his third presidential campaign, López Obrador, a left-wing populist whose roots are in the oil-producing state of Tabasco, had to calm business leaders, who warned that foreign investment would flee the country if he took office. However, the candidate who once said he would overturn Mexico's 2013 reforms privatizing its energy sector — which opened the oil and gas industry to foreign investment and created a subsequent pipeline boom — struck a different tone on election night.

Tags: TransCanadafrackinghydraulic fracturingAndrés Manuel López ObradorMexicoSempra Energy
Categories: News

Leak at Porton Down lab may be behind UK nerve-agent poisonings - Russian embassy

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 03:38

Leak at Porton Down lab may be behind UK nerve-agent poisonings - Russian embassy | 14 July 2018 | A leak at the Porton Down secret laboratory may explain the nerve agent poisonings in Britain, as both cases happened in nearby Salisbury and Amesbury, the Russian embassy in the UK has said. The Russian mission pointed out that both poisoning cases took place "in the vicinity of the secret military chemical laboratory in Porton Down," which may well lead to the conclusion that "some kind of 'leak' from this laboratory might have taken place. This cannot be excluded." The Porton Down chemical laboratory is located some 8km from both Salisbury and Amesbury. [Also, check Fort Detrick's little house of chemical warfare horrors.]

Categories: News

Update on Trans Prison Rebel Jennifer “Babygirl” Gann

It's Goin Down - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 02:30

The post Update on Trans Prison Rebel Jennifer “Babygirl” Gann appeared first on It's Going Down.

Update on legal situation of Jennifer “Babygirl” Gann, who needs support in current push for freedom.

Donate HERE

Rebel greetings, y’all!

Just wanted to update you on the situation with Babygirl. She recently won an appeal in the California supreme court and will soon have another hearing about having her sentenced reduced. Her original sentence, for armed robbery, was 7 years. For her third strike she was sentenced to 25-to-life. This 25-to-life sentence would be reduced to 20 years or less and lead to her release.

We been slowly chipping away at paying her legal fees. Currently, she still owes $894 to the legal firm that’s been working for her, NLPA. This month NLPA is having a promotion where they’ll match up to $250. Our crew is gonna take responsibility for scraping up that $250 which would take care of $500 toward her case. This would leave her owing a grand total of $394. Talkin bout some math right here, folks. Donate?

So, if you happen to be in the mood to contribute to the release of a Trans Woman and resolved anarchist prison rebel now is a time when your financial support is crucial seeing as the law people are almost completely paid off. However, if you ain’t got no funds, perhaps, consider sending her a letter at:

J. Gann E-23852
S.V.S.P. D3-1250
P.O. Box 1050
Soledad, CA 93960

Jenni also wanted me to post a heartfelt letter she received from some ARA comrades on her blog. Well, we’re a little scattered here in the… um.. support “office” and seem to have lost access to the blog so we’d like to share it here.

a

***

Jennifer Gann, A.K.A. Babygirl, is an anti-authoritarian trans woman and insurrectionist amazon held captive for over 25 years for armed robberies and a 1995 attack on a district attorney and associate prison warden. She took part in the 1991 Folsom Prison hunger strike, after which she was beaten and tortured, convicted for armed resistance, and sentenced to multiple 25-to-life sentences under the Three Strikes Law.

She has spent over ten years in solitary confinement at Folsom and the Pelican Bay Secure Housing Unit. Despite all of this, Jennifer continues to struggle for freedom, remaining a committed anti-authoritarian, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-fascist, and anti-capitalist. Jennifer now qualifies for a reduction under California’s Proposition 36, and early release under the newly enacted Prop. 57.

Categories: News

5th Person Arrested & Charged with Felonies for Olympia Mayday 2017

It's Goin Down - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 02:19

The post 5th Person Arrested & Charged with Felonies for Olympia Mayday 2017 appeared first on It's Going Down.

Over a year later, authorities are going back and charging yet another person over May Day actions in Olympia, in an effort to squash resistance in the streets of the Pacific Northwest, at a time when far-Right violence is spinning out of control.

A fifth person has been arrested and charged with four counts of felony assault in relation to the 2017 May Day demonstration in Olympia at which people defended themselves from cops, banks and businesses were attacked, and police arrested 9 people on felony riot charges then dropped the charges before the arraignment. In late April 2018 the city filed new misdemeanor charges against four of the nine, and now the county has filed felony charges against one more person.

We would like to have bail funds on hand in time for the comrade’s bail hearing in a few days – please donate and circulate this link widely: www.fundedjustice.com/maydayarrestees

Order shirts and tote bags to benefit bail and legal defense funds here.

If you are unable to donate, the most important form of solidarity is to continue the struggle against capitalism and the state in whatever way you can.

FTTP, FTP

Categories: News

The Brilliant episode 74

Anarchist News - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 01:13

http://thebrilliant.org/podcast/episode-74-heretics-ii-rotn/

The second interview is the heretic series is long time anarchist heretic Rotn. Rotn and I met just before the “battle in Seattle” that really boosted his notoriety (he appeared in 60 minutes in the following weeks) and is a great start to a two decade long friendship. During about a decade of that friendship we were publishing rivals. Me with Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed and he with Green Anarchy.

This conversation should have happened some time ago as our chemistry and spiritedness is apparent. If you want to ask us questions for a deeper discussion on topics, leave a comment here or email us!

Email – thebrilliant@thebrilliant.org

We appreciate correspondence

Tags: podcastThe BrilliantRotngreen anarchycategory: Projects
Categories: News

“They’ve Been Doing This Massive, Anti-Democratic Model of Education Reform”

Truth Out - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 17:09
Janine Jackson interviewed Wayne Au about the failure of Bill Gates’ educational initiatives for the July 6, 2018, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

Janine Jackson: A new report from the RAND Corporation concludes that the multi-million-dollar teacher evaluation project, championed and partially bankrolled by Bill Gates, did not increase teachers’ effectiveness or improve students’ academic performance, including the low-income minority students that were presented as the initiative’s major beneficiaries.

The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss, a generally critical assessor of what’s called “education philanthropy,” covered this new report. But most corporate media appear uninterested in this challenge to a set of ideas about “failing public schools” and how to fix them, that they themselves play a notable role in promoting.

Our next guest has critically engaged the Gates Foundation’s educational forays for years now. Wayne Au is professor at the University of Washington/Bothell Campus, and interim dean for diversity and equity on campus. He’s also editor at Rethinking Schools. He joins us now by phone from Seattle. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Wayne Au.

Wayne Au: Thanks for having me.

It’s important to note that while the Gates Foundation underwrote a reported $215 million of this project, that was less than half; school districts supplied the rest. So we’re not talking about an episode of perhaps naïve corporate noblesse oblige, troubling as that would be. But a lot of public resources were put into this “use test scores to evaluate teachers” project, that many, many educators knew from the get-go was misdirected.

That’s really unfortunate, but I think it makes sense if you look at things in the current context. The same thing happened with Common Core and Race to the Top as well. And we have a situation where public school districts are totally strapped for cash, we have class sizes that are just exploding, teachers paying out of pocket for classroom resources, and so school districts are really just hurting for money.

And what often happens is philanthropists like the Gates Foundation say, “Hey, we have this project. Would you partner with us on this? And we’re investing this much money in doing this thing, but you need to come and give X amount of dollars to this project as well, and devote your resources.” It’s within this context of what I would actually characterize as austerity funding for public education that many districts agree to partner with these foundations, because it looks like they’re bringing money in.

Unfortunately, what happens is that many of the districts end up finding that—this was the case with Common Core as well—that the money coming in for these new programs actually pales in comparison to what it took to implement the programs, or to cooperate with the research, and with these different kinds of programs.

And so in the end, it’s one of those things where we end up having our public dollars, public tax dollars, just being essentially sucked away into this whole other enterprise, and which often—and this is the sad part of it—even though there is this philanthropic money coming from, like, the Gates Foundation, and this public money coming from the school districts, often either nonprofits or for-profit corporations that are, like, creating the data tools for these things, they’re the ones who are actually getting this money, and essentially making money off of this kind of research project.

Right, it seems as though it’s ultimately—and if you scratch, you can see it, and they sometimes even admit to it—I mean, it’s ultimately about privatization, isn’t it, this gospel of the private sector and market forces being the right response to everything?

Oh, absolutely, and you get that from the Gates Foundation all the time. Gates is very clear. He’s trying to create, and he’s said this before, market conditions and market forces where everybody’s working to make money, but this will be in the best interest of kids and education; and that’s how he frames this whole entire agenda. For me, that’s the greatest fallacy of this whole idea of researching teachers in the way that the Gates Foundation did, and unfortunately in concert with the school districts, is that we’ve known for decades, from the research base, that teachers arecritically important in terms of how students learn things, how students experience classrooms. However, we also know that test scores are very limited measures of student performance, what students know, what students learn. Therefore, they are very minimal in terms of measuring what teachers teach.

But here we have the Gates Foundation essentially pushing high-stakes standardized testing, which teachers have actually very little effect on; the research has shown this for a very long time, that if you take any standardized test score, a teacher actually influences somewhere between 18 to 25 percent, depending on the study you’re looking at, and everything else is actually external factors. There’s all this stuff outside of schools that account for 75 percent of a test score. This is if you want to believe the test scores, right? So we’re talking things like food security, housing security, access to adequate healthcare, dental care, livable wages for their parents; these are the things that actually impact test scores, but this is only if you’re going after test scores as your main measure.

Again, they’re super limited, and honestly they don’t really measure what the students learn, and therefore also don’t really measure what teachers are teaching. And so here we have this massive investment of hundreds of millions of dollars, underwritten by the Gates Foundation, these districts and politicians and policymakers investing in it on the public education side, really trying to go after something that we’ve known has been fake, and it’s been a rabbit hole that we knew wouldn’t increase student performance. We’ve known that for a long time.

Yeah, and all of those other factors—like food security, likeousing—that of course, if you think about it, have an impact on test scores. That, to me, makes the making of props of black and brown kids and underserved kids especially cynical, and suggesting that this kind of scheme is going to uplift them and help them in particular.

Oh, for sure. In a way, I really see this as a colonizing agenda, in a sense, because essentially what we have are predominantly white, super-wealthy elite philanthropies, like the Gates Foundation, putting these programs into mostly black and brown, working-class communities, right? And it creates this dynamic where you essentially have these rich missionaries saying, “We know what’s best for you and your kids, we’re going to do these things.” Meanwhile, it sort of treats these children, these black and brown children, as experiments, right? And so the power dynamics are really, really skewed.

All at the same time that folks like Gates, here in Washington state, he’s very opposed to a more progressive tax structure. He’s actively fought against efforts here in our state to improve our tax structure so that we could give more basic services to more people in the state. We have one of the most regressive tax structures. And so to me there’s a great irony in—maybe irony is the wrong word—but you can just see the problems with these super-elite, white corporate folks just saying, “Hey, we know what’s best for these communities.”

And that’s also illustrated by the fact that all these reforms…. You know Gates wasn’t using these measures to study the teachers of his kids at the elite rich private schools in the Seattle area. None of these reforms are for his kids. These are reforms for everyone else’s kids.

Right. Well, the Gates Foundation, like others, has a strategy. They make their own echo effect, and part of that, as you know, is funding education journalism. That’s something else that you have, as one headline had it, “tangled with” — Gates-funded education blogs, so there’s an impact in the way these things are covered.

There’s no mistake that mainstream media has basically not followed up on the failure of the Gates study and interventions into teacher evaluation, because, again, here in Seattle, the Seattle Times’ education reporting is partially funded by the Gates Foundation, like this ”focus on solutions,” and there was a whole granting programming around that, but when you talk to those reporters about what they’re allowed to report on, they say, “Well, Gates doesn’t control us.” But then I’ll ask a follow-up and say, “Well, how come you’re not reporting on this, like we know ethnic studies helps kids do better in school, particularly low-income black and brown kids.” And they’ll say, “Well, it’s complicated.”

And so it’s clear that there’s this agenda that happens, that the Gates Foundation is going to fund, we used to see it with Education Nation and stuff every fall, on NBC or whatever, and they would promote this particular agenda, and at the same time, unwilling to promote things that don’t align with that agenda.

And we see the same thing in educational research as well. So it’s not just these major philanthropies impacting reporting; they’re also impacting what kind of research gets done, because they have their own whole funding machine that funds particular kinds of research. And so they are funding research on teacher evaluation and then, in turn, everyone who is chasing after grants starts trying to build their agendas around that so they can get the Gates money, but Gates only funds stuff that falls in line with standardized testing, and everything else that’s part of their neoliberal choice/market agenda.

And another frustration from the media perspective is that all of those sources who pointed out the flaws in this teacher-evaluation agenda from the beginning, and who were able to say quite clearly what the problems were, those sources—and now RAND is coming along, essentially certifying that point of view—those sources are still not going to be the ones who get to weigh in when the next big-money idea for education comes along, even though their concerns have borne out in this case.

Oh yes, no one ever talks to teachers. No one ever talks to parents. None of these big philanthropies go to communities to engage them, really. They like to pretend they are, and they say, “Well, look, we’re working with this nonprofit or this nonprofit,” right? But all of that is also a little bit fuzzy and a little shady, because maybe the nonprofits that they use are also themselves funded by the Gates Foundation, and are about promoting a particular agenda.

Versus there’s social justice–minded community activists committed to public education, parent activists; these folks need to be brought into the conversation, along with teachers, along with unions, frankly, as well. They should be involved in the decision-making, in the agenda-setting. Because we know what’s wrong on the ground level, we know what’s going on.

And we know that all these major reforms—from small schools, to even Common Core, to the teacher- evaluation stuff that Gates has been doing, those three major projects that they funded—they’ve been failing everywhere. And in part because they’ve been doing this massive, anti-democratic, top-down model of education reform, and they only pretend to talk to the folks down on the ground, and instead really focus on—they believe they know what’s right, and they’re just going to work their power and their money to get that implemented, until it doesn’t work.

We’ve been speaking with Wayne Au, professor at the University of Washington/Bothell, where he is also interim dean for diversity and equity, and he’s an editor at Rethinking Schools. Wayne Au, thank you so much for joining this week on CounterSpin.

Right on. Thanks for having me.

The post “They’ve Been Doing This Massive, Anti-Democratic Model of Education Reform” appeared first on Truthout.

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