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Updated: 16 min 1 sec ago

Protecting Voting Rights After Hurricane Florence

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 13:13

As the response to Hurricane Florence shifts from relief to recovery mode in the Carolinas, voting rights advocates are taking steps to ensure people living in or displaced from flood-stricken communities have access to the ballot in the upcoming election.

Just days after the storm made landfall south of Wilmington on Sept. 14, the North Carolina NAACP announced it was launching a campaign to provide absentee ballot applications to registered voters in impacted counties. Under state law, any registered North Carolina voter may request an absentee ballot, no excuses needed, through 5 p.m. on Oct. 30.

“It is imperative that while our communities struggle to recover from the devastating flooding and other destruction from this storm, citizens’ right to vote should not be impaired,” said Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, the group’s president.

The N.C. NAACP also called on the legislature to extend the Friday, Oct. 12 voter registration deadline in the 28 disaster-designated counties to Wednesday, Oct. 17. That’s the day the state’s one-stop early-voting period begins, when people can register and vote on the same day at any open polling site in their home county; it extends through Friday, Nov. 3. The elections board offers a one-stop voting site lookup tool.

When North Carolina lawmakers met on Oct. 2 for a one-day special session on hurricane relief called by Gov. Roy Cooper (D), they didn’t go as far as the NAACP wanted, but they did extend the voter registration deadline in disaster-declared counties to Monday, Oct. 15. They also voted to give an extra $400,000 to the state elections board to educate voters affected by the disaster and is requiring it to distribute voter information to shelters and other organizations aiding storm victims.

This North Carolina State Board of Elections map shows the 28 Florence-stricken counties where the voter registration deadline has been extended from Friday, Oct. 12, to Monday, Oct. 15. They are Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Lenoir, Moore, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Wayne, and Wilson.This North Carolina State Board of Elections map shows the 28 Florence-stricken counties where the voter registration deadline has been extended from Friday, Oct. 12, to Monday, Oct. 15. They are Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Lenoir, Moore, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Wayne, and Wilson.

Meanwhile, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) is distributing fliers to help North Carolinians affected by the storm understand their voting rights. SCSJ notes that:

    • Voters who have temporarily left their homes and intend to return to the address where they are registered can vote by absentee ballot mailed to the temporary address.
    • Voters who have temporarily left their homes and intend to return to the address where they are registered to vote can also vote during early voting or on Election Day in their home county. SCSJ notes that some polling places have been damaged by the storm; if you have any questions, call the group at at 919-321-1848.
    • Voters whose homes have been seriously or permanently damaged, are unsure as to whether they will ever be able to return, and intend to remain indefinitely at their new location have the right to register to vote there.

South Carolinians are also getting more time to register to vote — and not only in Florence-affected counties. In late September, state Attorney General Alan Wilson sued the State Election Commission to extend the voter registration period to Oct. 17; it was originally set to close 10 days earlier. Last week a judge approved Wilson’s request, which the commission didn’t oppose. It applies across the entire state to both in-person and mail-in registration.

“The right to vote is fundamental,” Wilson said in his complaint, adding to changing the date was critical “to protect this right to the extent possible in the wake of a major hurricane causing unparalleled flooding.”

South Carolina residents can register online or by using the My scVOTES mobile app available in the Apple and Google Play stores; both methods require a South Carolina driver’s license or a DMV ID card. They can also register in person at their county election office (contact information available here) or by downloading, completing and returning a voter registration form (here) to that office. If sent by fax or email, it must be received by midnight on Wednesday, Oct. 17; if by mail, it must be postmarked by Oct. 17.

The post Protecting Voting Rights After Hurricane Florence appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Kavanaugh’s Terrible Anti-Worker Stances Are Anti-Woman Too

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 13:12

On October 6, the Senate voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, the Republican federal appellate judge accused by multiple women of sexual assault, to the Supreme Court.

In light of the allegations—which include attempted rape—the opposition to Kavanaugh has been dominated by concerns about the impact he will have on the lives of women. In addition to his alleged history of physical and sexual violence, protesters fear what Kavanaugh’s “radical” conservatism may augur for reproductive-rights victories, namely Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that expanded the legal right to abortion in the United States. Yet these don’t constitute the only perils of the judge’s appointment: Kavanaugh bears a pattern of anti-worker adjudication—a stance that inordinately harms women.

Kavanaugh’s catalog of judicial decisions indicates a clear predilection for the capitalist class. In 2008’s Agri Processor Co. Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board, Kavanaugh argued that a kosher-meat wholesaler, Agri Processor Co., wasn’t required to bargain with an employee union. Before the suit, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after Agri Processor Co. refused to bargain. Kavanaugh upheld the company’s claim that the workers who had voted in the union election were undocumented workers and therefore didn’t qualify as “employees” protected by the National Labor Relations Act—and thus were prevented from unionizing, so their votes in the union election were invalid.

There are numerous other examples of Kavanaugh issuing anti-worker rulings. In 2015, Kavanaugh ruled in favor of a Las Vegas casino that requested that police officers issue criminal citations against demonstrators protesting the lack of collective-bargaining rights of casino employees. And in 2013, he argued that a Black woman, LaTaunya Howard, couldn’t pursue a race discrimination suit after being fired from her position at the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives for “insubordination.” Howard alleged that her termination was both racially motivated and in response to complaints she’d made about racial pay disparities at her place of work. What’s more, Kavanaugh helped thwart an NLRB order that would have required the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino to bargain with the United Auto Workers.

This anti-labor positioning is particularly injurious to women, who benefit disproportionately from union membership. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that women covered by a union contract earn an average of 30.9 percent more per week that women with non-union jobs, compared to men’s increase of 20.6 percent. Correspondingly, the wage gap between men and women workers is more narrow among those with union representation than those without it. The Economic Policy Institute reported last year that female union workers earn 94 cents for every dollar their male peers earn, versus 74 cents on the dollar without union safeguards.

Kavanaugh also has a history of jeopardizing the work benefits that inform earnings. Workers with union representation enjoy greater access to family, medical and maternity leave—an advantage for women, who are more often tasked with child and elder care than men, and often lose wages as a result. Unionized women are much more likely to have at least partially paid health insurance than those who aren’t unionized: Notably, 73.1 percent of women in union jobs have employer- or union-provided health insurance, an advantage only 49.1 percent of their non-union counterparts receive. It’s virtually the same case for retirement: The ratio of unionized to non-unionized women with employer-sponsored plans is 74.4 percent to 41.8 percent.

If unions and earnings among women are to be examined, it’s necessary to consider the huge impact a figure like Kavanaugh could have on Black women. Though the unionized workforce has decreased precipitously over the last several decades, Black women have traditionally had a higher rate of unionization, particularly in public-sector jobs, than women of other racial and ethnic groups. As of 2013, Black women outnumbered white, Latinx and Asian-American women in terms of unionization. And by 2015, unionized Black women outnumbered unionized Black men.

This is essential for a demographic that, research shows, would have to work an additional seven months to receive the same pay as white men, despite working more hours than white women. (Black women are also paid less than white men for the same job, independent of education level.)

The same urgency for protections applies to Latinx women, who are now the least likely of all women to have union representation. Statistics show that they’re in the most dire need of the boons of organized labor: Latinx women, for example, make 54 cents for every dollar earned by white men. As Esther López of United Food and Commercial Workers urges, “There exists a sure-fire way for Latina women to earn the better wages they deserve: joining a union in their industry. Latina women who have joined a union earn more than their non-union counterparts—$242 more per week, in fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Another concern arising from Kavanaugh’s anti-labor record—and one particularly pointed in the wake of the allegations levied against him—is women’s vulnerability to workplace sexual harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that “25 percent to 85 percent of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.” Echoing López, writer Michelle Chen contends that collective bargaining is a viable means of combating this. “Union agreements,” she writes, “protect equality at work, provide everyday organizational support for workers, and promote public accountability by establishing legally binding conditions of employment,” and can pursue such measures as municipal anti-harassment ordinances.

Heeding Kavanaugh’s roster of rulings, the AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America, National Nurses United and other unions have formally opposed the now-Supreme Court associate justice. NNU has cited specific concerns for women, stating his assaults on collective bargaining rights and workers’ healthcare render him “unfit to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.” The subtext is that women will pay the greatest price.

The post Kavanaugh’s Terrible Anti-Worker Stances Are Anti-Woman Too appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Do We Really Have the Time and the Tools to Fix Climate Change?

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 13:06

As part of the Paris agreement, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was asked “to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 [degrees Celsius] above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.” That report was released on October 8.

The report’s “Headline Statements” are divided into four main sections: 1.) “Understanding Global Warming of 1.5 [Degrees Celsius]”; 2.) “Projected Climate Change, Potential Impacts and Associated Risks”; 3.) “Emission Pathways and System Transitions Consistent with 1.5 [Degrees Celsius] Global Warming”; and 4.) “Strengthening the Global Response in the Context of Sustainable Development and Efforts to Eradicate Poverty.”

What the Report Says and Does Not Say

In the first chapter, the IPCC points out that human activities have already caused about 1 degree Celsius (1°C) of warming, and that we will reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 at the current pace. They state that what has already been emitted into the atmosphere will result in ongoing warming, sea-level rise and other effects for “centuries to millennia” (even in the absence of ongoing and future emissions), but that the emissions to date on their own will not raise temperatures to 1.5°C. So, the good news then is that reaching and sustaining net zero emissions, even at this late stage in the game, would “halt warming on a multi-decadal time scale.” The IPCC also concludes that impacts generally would be less at a 1.5°C stabilization than a 2°C stabilization.

These numbers are convenient for discussion, but realistically, the atmosphere is not like the thermostat in our living room, where we can simply dial and set in order to heat the house to some desired level. We are not in control for the most part. It is also worth keeping in mind that the IPCC has consistently underestimated the pace and magnitude of global warming. It is probably safe to say that this is still the case. Feedbacks and “tipping points” are not some distant thing to avoid, they are already happening, and their trajectory is impossible to predict. They include things like soil respiration, melting permafrost, warming and acidification of the oceans and loss of ice. The IPCC has shifted its assessments of the warming potential of methane to consistently use the 20-year timeframe comparison with CO2 [carbon dioxide], and revised upward the quantity of methane released by livestock, just as one example. There are most likely some major sources of emissions we are not even aware of. Further, there are some major sources of emissions we are aware of, but have been granted exclusion from consideration, such as the vast quantity of emissions from military activities.

Assessing climate change is a monumentally challenging endeavor, and the IPCC deserves credit for tackling it, but we cannot expect that its analysis will be 100 percent accurate and perfectly predict the future. A precautionary approach would have to lead to the conclusion that it is unacceptable to continue to emit any more greenhouse gases whatsoever. We are already bearing witness to tipping points and feedbacks we cannot control or even measure. Moreover, we know that there is a lurking and latent inevitable warming associated with greenhouse gases already released into the atmosphere. In sum, we do not have any remaining “carbon budget,” and we should be doing everything humanly possible to halt emissions altogether and immediately. That may sound “wishful,” but should in fact be our level of ambition.

Whether or not we can predict or control the future temperature rise, we clearly should put everything possible into doing whatever we can to minimize the impacts. For all but a few, there is little point in standing around watching and measuring the unfolding disaster. We need to take action, which is why the focus for most should be on the IPCC’s third chapter: “Emission Pathways and System Transitions Consistent with 1.5°C Global Warming.”

Can We Overshoot the Target and Clean Excess Carbon Out of the Atmosphere?

The IPCC uses “integrated assessment models” for their analyses. Those models plug in a suite of assumptions about changes in energy production and use, land use change and other factors, and then use those to provide trajectories (pathways) to a goal — in this report, either 1.5°C or 2°C of warming. Those trajectories are not always straight lines from here to there. Many — in fact, most of them — involve exceeding thresholds for greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere in the near term, with the intention of somehow later removing the excess. This is called “overshoot.” It is an extremely risky proposition. Earlier drafts of the report did not even evaluate models that did not include overshoot to some degree. Fortunately, the final draft does evaluate pathways without or with limited overshoot.

Enabling overshoot is especially problematic because there is currently no technology available for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The IPCC points to potential use of “BECCS,” which refers to bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration. BECCS is currently nonexistent, technically unlikely to ever become viable, and in any case, would require such a massive supply of biomass as to result in conversion of lands currently in agriculture or natural ecosystems to grow crops and/or trees for biomass. That is directly the opposite of what many would consider the most promising approach — restoring and protecting natural ecosystems. A much-welcomed feature of the report is that it offers a “BECCS-free” pathway, and goes even a step further to call for a reduction in bioenergy use generally. Perhaps that turnaround (at last) reflects the mountains of peer-reviewed literature showing that burning trees for electricity or converting land for corn ethanol is anything but a solution to climate change.

There is a huge array of potential pathways that involve the restoration of degraded ecosystems and changing agricultural practices. The IPCC recognizes these, but treats them in a muddled and superficial way. A forthcoming report (to be released on October 15) from a broad coalition of groups known as the Climate Land Ambition Rights Alliance (CLARA) outlines the potential for holistic approaches to ecosystem protection and restoration, including shifting practices in agriculture and forestry for drawing down carbon from the atmosphere. The authors reject risky techno-fixes such as BECCS and state correctly: “The battle against climate change is inseparable from efforts to ensure food security, protect human rights, plus protect and restore natural ecosystems.”

Similarly, the Global Forest Coalition recognizes that Indigenous peoples’ and local community conserved territories and areas comprise between 12 and 22 percent of Earth territory, and that full legal recognition of the rights and effectiveness of their long-term stewardship of lands and biodiversity is key. A Community Conservation and Resilience Initiative report released in 2018 highlights key examples of community conservation and assesses how those can best be supported to ensure that biocultural diversity is preserved. The report finds that local, bottom-up, participatory efforts to protect lands are most effective.

In contrast, the IPCC analyses are a top-down process, which works well in the context of assessing global and regional impacts of warming. But ultimately, when it comes to advising the world about “what to do” about climate change, the IPCC simply does not have the democratic structures in place to provide technology assessments. They have recently even embraced consideration of the ultimate risky techno-fix approach: climate geoengineering, which involves spewing sulfate particles into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back out into space, which proponents aim to test in open air over the coming year. Such climate geoengineering approaches are highly risky and unproven, and are far more likely to worsen rather than improve conditions.

The choice of authors plays a significant role in shaping the nature of IPCC reports. The emphasis on maintaining economic growth and minimizing costs of mitigation reflects the engagement of many economists and physicists. The somewhat garbled manner in which IPCC addresses ecosystem-based approaches reflects a lack of engagement of ecologists.

In May 2017, a letter to the IPCC chair from 108 civil society organizations expressed deep concern over the selection of authors who are or were senior employees from major oil companies (ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco), the second- and third-largest corporate emitters of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The letter pointed out that Exxon holds the most patents and financial interests relating to carbon capture and sequestration (or “clean coal” technology) of any company worldwide, and has, to put it mildly, blatant conflict of interest.

Ultimately, it is increasingly clear that the real solutions to climate change are not global-scale techno-fixes, but rather the locally adapted and locally controlled solutions that people have been pushing for decades, including preventing buildout of fossil fuel infrastructure, protection of lands, respect for rights of humans and nature. The ruthless pursuit of corporate wealth and power and economic growth at all costs stifles those local, grassroots solutions from reaching fruition.

Perhaps we are past the point of limiting warming to levels that will avert serious consequences. We already are witnessing those, and clearly our progress toward making change is far too slow. But that is no reason to stop working for change, and there is reason to feel a bit hopeful that we can certainly do many things to lessen the damage. A key step will be to halt the ongoing destruction of ecosystems, recognize and protect the rights of those who are good stewards of land, and shift our agriculture and forestry practices and our diets. These will need to go hand-in-hand with other kinds of changes, especially in the energy sector. Further, let’s not forget the elephant in the room — the US military. The task can feel overwhelming, but with so much at stake, how can we do anything other than try our absolute hardest?

The post Do We Really Have the Time and the Tools to Fix Climate Change? appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

In Yemen, Trump Is Taking Tolerance for War Crimes to a New Level

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 13:04

Twenty days after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) bombed a school bus full of children in Yemen this August, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis hosted officials from the two US allies at the Pentagon. They were all gathered as part of a meeting of representatives from the Gulf Cooperation Council, at which Mattis thanked them for their “regional leadership and years of close cooperation with the United States.”

The US bears tremendous responsibility for the August attack, and for broader devastation and suffering in Yemen, where it is waging not one, but two wars.

There is the first, ongoing war that started under President Bush — and was dramatically escalated under Obama — as part of the so-called “War on Terror.” Since 2002, the US has killed over 1,000 people in Yemen through drone strikes, cruise missile attacks and other activities involving Special Operations personnel — and has brought untold death and misery the world over under the banner of “counterterrorism.”

The second war is the one that has garnered more headlines recently and has eclipsed the first in its destruction: The aerial siege prosecuted by Saudi Arabia and the UAE with extensive cooperation from the United States. The coalition has carried out over 16,000 air strikes since 2015, framing their operations as an intervention on behalf of Yemen’s nominal government since the country’s Houthi opposition seized the capital, Sanaa.

In this war, the Saudi and Emirati militaries are dropping the bombs, and the United States plays a critical role in every step of the operations. The coalition’s munitions are made in the US, as are the planes dropping them — all of which were sold to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in deals brokered by the US government. The US is supplying intelligence as the coalition selects its targets. And the US Air Force is running a program of fueling coalition aircraft midair, as they fly their deadly missions. With US personnel and US planes, the United States is literally fueling the war.

It is remarkable that — despite the international spotlight on the war in Yemen resulting from the highly publicized school bus bombing — Trump administration officials continue to embrace Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and their operations. The killing of dozens of children and wounding of dozens more in the bombing was not itself an aberration from the daily operations of the war — which have involved the coalition targeting weddings, funerals and markets with alarming regularity. What stood out about the attack however, was the level of attention that it received in the US.

Both The Washington Post and The New York Times editorialized against US involvement in the war. In a move that may be unprecedented, CNN not only covered the atrocity extensively, but also reported on the US weapons manufacturers who made the bombs for that and other attacks.

The US is enthusiastically supplying weapons to countries that demonstrate a clear pattern of targeting civilians.

Criticism of the war — and US involvement — even extended to Capitol Hill. Representative Ro Khanna sponsored a war powers resolution as part of an effort in the House to end US support for the coalition, getting 41 co-sponsors. Similarly, Sen. Chris Murphy introduced an amendment to the 2019 defense appropriations bill that would make continued US funding to the coalition contingent on a certification from the secretary of defense that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are not committing war crimes. Republican opposition prevented the amendment from coming to the Senate floor.

Congress actually wrote a similar requirement into the military budget that it passed this summer, calling on the defense secretary to review the coalition’s actions and certify that it is taking steps to avoid civilian casualties. After Trump signaled in a statement that he made upon signing the legislation that he intended to ignore this restriction, Secretary of State Pompeo offered his certification that the coalition was doing enough to minimize harm to civilians. He did so the month after the coalition bombed the school bus.

Looming in the background of the tensions and conflicts throughout the Middle East — as well as the US involvement in them — is a showdown between the United States and its allies on one hand and Iran on the other. The ongoing catastrophe in Syria, for example, is driven in great part by a struggle between these two sides — each intervening directly and with combatants acting on their behalf.

Yemen’s civil war cannot be neatly framed as a proxy struggle in this way. Iran is not participating in Yemen in a way that drives the conflict — though the Trump administration and the coalition say otherwise. While, in the polarization between Riyadh and Tehran the Houthis gravitate toward cooperation with Iran, they are not acting as an agent of the regional power. Even Stephen Seche, a former US ambassador to Yemen who very much considers Iran to be a “threat” that the US and its allies should confront, has testified to the US Senate that the Houthis are a “100 percent Yemeni phenomenon” — not one conjured or backed in any decisive way by Iran.

Nevertheless, in the regional struggle against Iran, the Obama administration backed its Saudi ally, and Trump has belligerently escalated this policy.

Having undone Obama’s signature Iran nuclear deal, Trump devoted a large portion of his recent speech at the UN to vilify Tehran — and rally his friends against it.

Central to Trump’s approach has been giving a green light to the US’s favorite allies in the region — Saudi Arabia and Israel, each with its own axe to grind against Iran — to do whatever they want. Trump’s moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was his signal to Israel, and his continued support — both military and rhetorical — for Saudi Arabia’s crimes in Yemen is the US’s carte blanche to that regime.

The president has combined this with an open hostility toward international law. His stance was on full display during his UN speech, particularly when he denounced the International Criminal Court, saying, “as far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority.”

The United States has long flouted international law. But Trump is taking its defiance of any notions of accountability whatsoever, and its tolerance for blatant war crimes, to a new level. It is openly assisting those crimes in Yemen. After all, the US is enthusiastically supplying weapons to countries that demonstrate a clear pattern of targeting civilians. The coalition has also committed the crime of targeting medical facilities and civilian infrastructure, and has only received affirmation, weapons and other support from the United States.

The US, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have dug in. Evidently, the sheer atrocity of the coalition’s actions in Yemen, and the depth of Yemeni suffering alone are not enough to force a question to the US’s commitment to the disaster. Those of us who stand in solidarity with the people of Yemen and oppose the coalition’s war must also dig in for a serious fight — to do our part to stop the crimes that the US government is committing in our names.

The post In Yemen, Trump Is Taking Tolerance for War Crimes to a New Level appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Detective in Chief

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 12:59

The post Detective in Chief appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Hurricane Michael: Floridians Paying for Governor Scott’s Climate Denialism

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 17:10

For the first time in recorded history, a Category 4 hurricane is striking the Florida Panhandle.

Hurricane Michael made landfall today, packing winds of 145 miles per hour — strong enough to collapse houses and cause massive damage to other infrastructure. Forecasts have also warned of a storm surge that could reach a stunning 14 feet in height.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Hurricane Center describes a Category 4 hurricane’s winds thus:

Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

The storm is powerful enough that it will remain a hurricane long after it is far inland: Models show it will still have hurricane-force winds by the time it reaches as far inland as Albany, Georgia.

The storm exploded in intensity in the 24 hours before making landfall. Reuters reported on Weather Underground meteorologist Bob Hensen’s assessment of this phenomenon: “Satellite images of Michael’s evolution on Tuesday night were, in a word, jaw-dropping.”

Experts are warning that damage is expected to be “catastrophic,” and rainfall of up to half a foot could be dumped across much of the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

Truthout has reported repeatedly on how human-caused climate change is super-charging the amount of rainfall potential for hurricanes. The current storm is displaying what scientists have been warning us about for years.

Hurricane Michael Is Not a Surprise

NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory has been warning us for years that human-caused climate change would increase key variables of hurricanes, including wind strength, the amount of rainfall, and storm surge levels.

Given his denialism, Gov. Scott has not committed state resources to relocating people in flood zones, or preparing communities for storms like Hurricane Michael.

The lab’s main conclusions on “detectable” changes are clear: Sea-level rise should be causing higher storm surge levels, rainfall rates will likely increase, tropical cyclone intensities around the globe will increase, and the proportion of storms being either Category 4 or 5 will increase.

Meanwhile, Florida Governor Rick Scott, who made a name for himself as a world-class climate change denialist by forbidding state employees from using the words “climate change” or “global warming,” is warning state residents of the ferocity of the current storm.

In 2017, Gov. Scott approved Florida’s “anti-science law,” which The Guardian reported as being “aimed at allowing legal challenges to the teaching of the realities of climate change and global warming in the state’s classrooms.”

Last year, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Gov. Scott’s personal investments in the energy industry actively helped shape Florida’s lack of adequate policies towards dealing with climate change impacts. The report showed how parts of Gov. Scott’s quarter-billion-dollar fortune were invested in petroleum and power-generating companies that are directly opposed to restricting greenhouse gas emissions, as well as environmental regulations.

More importantly, given his denialism, Gov. Scott has not committed state resources to relocating people in flood zones, or preparing communities for storms like Hurricane Michael.

Given that we know human-caused climate change impacts will only continue to intensify from now on, and damage from hurricanes such as this one will increase right along with them, Florida is the micro of the macro of a country led by a climate change-denying president.

The post Hurricane Michael: Floridians Paying for Governor Scott’s Climate Denialism appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Was Susan Collins’s “Yes” Vote the GOP’s Final Surrender to Trump?

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 17:07

Back in February of this year, Axios reported that Donald Trump had a plan for the midterms:

A source close to the White House tells me that with an eye to getting Republicans excited about voting for Republicans in midterms, the president this year will be looking for “unexpected cultural flashpoints” — like the NFL and kneeling — that he can latch onto in person and on Twitter. The source said Trump “is going to be looking for opportunities to stir up the base, more than focusing on any particular legislation or issue.”

I think we can accurately observe that the confirmation of the right-wing political operative and accused attempted rapist Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court counts as just such an “unexpected cultural flashpoint.” And as predicted, Donald Trump is taking full advantage of it. Since it happens to be the same “cultural flashpoint” that hit his campaign at roughly the same moment in 2016, when the “Access Hollywood” tape of him bragging about assaulting women was reported, he undoubtedly sees it as a winning strategy. It worked for him, after all.

Recall that after the tape hit and women started to come forward to say that Trump had assaulted them in exactly the way he described, he went on the offensive — in both senses of the word — by going before his cheering crowds and insulting the women as being too ugly to attack and declaring that they were all liars. He got angry. He promised to sue them all. And his crowds cheered him on. By this point in the campaign it had become nothing more than a rank racist misogyny festival, punctuated with chants of “Build That Wall!” and “Lock Her Up!”

Trump being Trump and believing that his every passing thought is genius, obviously believes that attacking women is an excellent way to win elections. And so, after insincerely proclaiming that he found her testimony credible, he switched gears and went after Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford:

WATCH: President Trump mocks Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Trump’s Supreme Court pick Judge Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, during rally in Mississippi.

— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 3, 2018

After the vote, Trump took credit for getting Kavanaugh over the line with this attack, telling Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro, “There were a lot of things happening that weren’t true and a lot of things left unsaid. I thought I had to even the playing field. Once I did that, it started to sail through.” This was nonsense in terms of the confirmation battle, but according to the Washington Post, GOP strategists believe it does fire up the conservative base.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is certainly on board. He’s been pushing the other “unexpected cultural flashpoint” they’ve adopted, which is that those women who came to Washington to protest the Kavanaugh confirmation, many of them assault survivors, are an angry, threatening mob who frightened those poor senators to death with all their chanting and yelling.

Fox News has taken it to the next level, telling their anxious elderly white viewers that Democrats are coming to kill them in their beds, following Trump’s rallying cry: “You don’t hand matches to an arsonist, and you don’t give power to an angry left-wing mob.” (This would be in contrast to the torch-bearing, murderous Nazis in Charlottesville whom Trump described, at least in part, as “very fine people.”)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., having fully morphed into a poisonous, reptilian Trump toady, is on it as well. But then, Graham was obviously one of the strategists behind Kavanaugh’s explosive testimony in the hearing. He had telegraphed the white male rage tactic out in the hallway just prior, brushing off a rape survivor who was trying to talk to him by saying, “You should have told the cops.” Clearly that was meant to suggest that women who don’t report their rapes are not to be believed. As Salon’s Amanda Marcotte wrote on Tuesday, the mask has fallen from Republicans’ faces, at least for now, and the misogyny is staggering.

Graham’s line dovetailed nicely with the president’s sarcastic tweet:

I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018

Republicans have also exploited their insulting thesis that #MeToo is really about lying or delusional women falsely accusing men, which they are trying to spin into a female lament about sons and husbands and fathers and brothers being the real victims. Graham, naturally, finds a clever way to make the point:

Twenty-nine days from now you’ve got a decision to make, America. Do you want to live in the world of Sen. [Mazie] Hirono where you’re guilty until proven innocent because you’re a Republican, or do you want to live in the Susan Collins world where you will be listened to and evaluated?

Graham likes to use Hirono as his example of the angry woman trying to railroad the poor, white male, mostly because she made the statement “Men, shut up and step up” which he instinctively understands are fighting words to misogynist abusers. The fact that she is a woman of color makes it all the more potent.

But what of our nice Republican white lady, Sen. Susan Collins, the woman the entire political world, including Democrats, has put on a pedestal for years as the representation of modest, feminine moderation? Trump was effusive in his compliments after her speech — and her vote to confirm Kavanaugh. He told the press, “I thought that Susan was incredible yesterday. She gave an impassioned, beautiful speech yesterday. And that was from the heart, that was from the heart.”

He was referring to the speech in which Collins gaslighted the entire country with a paean to a man who doesn’t exist, calling him “an exemplary public servant, judge, teacher, coach, husband and father.” She told the entire country that the real Brett Kavanaugh was not the angry, petulant, bully they watched testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She whitewashed his record on health care and women’s rights, insisting that the man who just months ago, as a federal appeals court judge, voted to force a 17-year-old rape victim to give birth against her will, was not a threat to Roe vs Wade.

She attacked the protesters complaining about “dark money” being used to whip them into a “frenzy.” Worst of all, she adopted the absurd line that while she believed Christine Blasey Ford had likely suffered an attack, Kavanaugh was not the attacker. This has become the “empathetic” approach among Republicans who can read polls and see that women are running from the party as fast as they can.

But this line is nothing new. Women have been told they were “crazy” when they say things that people don’t want to hear since the beginning of time. And the echoes of the cruder formulation deployed against Anita Hill back in 1991 — “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty” — are obvious. It’s progress, I suppose, that they dropped the “slutty” part in 2018.

Collins was lobbied heavily by George W. Bush, Kavanaugh’s benefactor, and her deceitful speech shows the final absorption of the tattered remains of the GOP establishment into Trumpism. Collins and Trump are now two sides of the same coin, bound together with a common willingness to tell their voters that they can believe them or they can believe their lying eyes. It’s all there is.

The post Was Susan Collins’s “Yes” Vote the GOP’s Final Surrender to Trump? appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

The Power of Public Outrage: Laquan McDonald’s Place in History

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 16:25

On October 5, 2018, a Cook County jury comprised of one Black woman, three Latina women, an Asian man, and seven whites returned a verdict of guilty of second-degree murder against Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. The jury also found Van Dyke guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each of the 16 shots that Van Dyke fired into Laquan McDonald’s body over a 14-second period, all but two while he was writhing on the ground. The jury found that Van Dyke believed that he had the right to kill Laquan but that this belief was not reasonable, thereby convicting him on a charge of second-degree murder. The conviction carries a 4-to-20-year sentence with probation as an option. Meanwhile, each aggravated battery count — classified as aggrieved because the batteries were committed with a weapon — carries a 6-to-20-year non-probationable sentence. Hence, according to criminal defense experts, the most likely minimum sentence for Van Dyke would be 12 years, with a very unlikely maximum of 90 years.

The convictions were a victory for activists who waged the “Justice for Laquan” campaign in the streets and at the courthouse for nearly three years after the shocking video of police murder came to public light. Indeed, many Chicagoans applauded the verdict as just. However, the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), true to its racist history, called the trial a “sham” and a “disgusting charade,” and the verdict “shameful,” saying the jury was “duped into saving the asses of self-serving politicians at the expense of a dedicated public servant.” In the Southwest Side Mount Greenwood neighborhood, where many of Chicago’s white officers live, blue ribbons supporting the police were tied to almost every tree and light pole, and according to the Chicago Sun-Times, one resident went so far as to call Van Dyke a “political prisoner.”

The verdict was front-page news over the weekend, and the Chicago Sun-Times published an article claiming that “Van Dyke’s trial is now destined to be listed alongside other key Chicago police controversies, including the face-off with demonstrators outside the 1968 Democratic Demonstration, the 1969 police shooting of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, and decades of alleged torture committed by the so-called midnight crew overseen by Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge — who died during the first week of Van Dyke’s trial.”

I came to Chicago in the summer of 1968, a week after what the Kerner Commission called a “police riot,” and have been involved in the legal struggles that arose from the notorious events referenced by the Sun Times ever since. From that perspective, a deeper look into Chicago’s racist police history and its connection to the Laquan McDonald case is warranted.

The Murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark

On December 4, 1969, 14 heavily armed Chicago police officers assigned to the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan, conducted a murderous predawn raid on a West Side apartment where numerous Black Panther Party (BPP) members were staying. Firing more than 90 shots from shotguns, machine guns and pistols, the raiders murdered the 21-year-old chairman of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, as he slept in his bed. They also killed Peoria BPP leader Mark Clark, and wounded several other Panthers. A massive police cover-up followed, as did outrage in the African American community. The cover-up featured blatantly false police reports, perjured testimony, fabricated ballistics reports, and a slanderous official publicity campaign. President Richard Nixon’s Justice Department, led by John Mitchell of Watergate infamy, investigated but refused to indict any of the police raiders or the prosecutors who planned and approved the raid, but renewed protests led to the appointment of a Cook County special prosecutor.

Hampered by the chief judge of Cook County and a rigged grand jury, the special prosecutor was not able to obtain murder or attempted murder indictments, but rather only indictments for obstruction of justice against the raiders and State’s Attorney Hanrahan, who was running for re-election as Mayor Richard J. Daley and the Democratic machine’s chosen candidate. The case was assigned to a Democratic machine judge, and the raiders waived the jury and proceeded to trial before the judge. The special prosecutor rested his case the week before the 1972 election, and the judge dutifully granted a verdict for the defendants, thereby giving Hanrahan a clean record before the voters went to the polls. As was the case with the brutal police officers who victimized demonstrators and reporters at the Democratic National Convention, none of the perpetrators of the deadly violence went to jail. This reinforced the racist reality that Chicago police officers — acting with Cook County prosecutors, unblinkingly backed by the Police Union, and protected by Cook County judges and the police code of silence — could act with absolute impunity when it came to policing Chicago communities of color.

However, the mass movement in the African American community that had formed around the murders of Hampton and Clark returned its own verdict, voting Hanrahan out of office. Ten years later, this movement was largely responsible for electing Chicago’s first Black mayor, Harold Washington.

Jon Burge and Chicago Police Torture

Also, in 1972, Chicago police detective Jon Burge and his midnight crew of “asskickers” began a 20-year reign of terror in Chicago’s African American communities, torturing more than 125 people of color with electric shock, suffocation, mock executions, and other forms of racist brutality during interrogations. Prosecutors participated in the interrogations, falsely denied knowledge of the brutality, and used the confessions obtained to send the victims to prison and, in some cases, to death row. Ten years later, in 1982, the state’s attorney of Cook County, Richard M. Daley, who was Richard J. Daley’s son, was officially informed about the torture but chose to ignore it, leading to a second decade of torture and wrongful convictions. For their part, Cook County Judges uniformly rejected the mounting evidence of torture presented in their courtrooms.

In both the Jon Burge and Jason Van Dyke cases we see the power of public outrage, community activism and Black-led multiracial movements.

In 1989, the cover-up was pierced, thanks in large part to a federal civil rights trial, an anonymous police source, and an investigative reporter. Activists led protests that compelled Burge’s firing in 1993, but no prosecutors, federal or Cook County, sought to prosecute Burge or his crew, and the police department and then Mayor Richard M. Daley suppressed, then rejected, an internal report that condemned the torture as “systematic.” Undeterred, the Fraternal Order of Police continued to defend Burge and his men and held them up as heroes.

The battle to expose the torture scandal and to seek justice for the victims continued, and nearly a decade later, in 2002, a Cook County special prosecutor was appointed, but he had close ties to the Daley machine. After a four-year investigation that cost Cook County taxpayers more than $7 million, the special prosecutor returned no indictments, instead releasing what was widely considered to be a whitewashed report.

Once again, the failure to indict occasioned outrage and disgust, so the Chicago City Council and the Cook County Board of Commissioners held highly publicized public hearings and issued resolutions calling for a federal investigation, a call that was underscored by similar findings made by the United Nations Committee Against Torture. This time the US Attorneys’ Office took heed, but the statute of limitations had long since expired on the torture itself. As a result, in October of 2008, the Feds indicted Burge for lying, under oath, about the torture that he had masterminded, and for obstruction of justice.

In front of a fair and impartial federal judge, Burge and his lawyers, who were paid handsomely by the Fraternal Order of Police, were forced to take their chances with a predominantly white federal jury. Five Black torture survivors powerfully told their stories, and were subjected to a transparently racist grilling by Burge’s lawyers. A Burge associate, testifying under a grant of immunity, demonstrated the power of the police code of silence by backing off from his prior grand jury testimony, in which he had admitted to witnessing Burge torturing one of his victims. Burge, sometimes tearful, denied everything from the stand.

Nonetheless, swayed by the enormity of the underlying torture, the jury convicted Burge of perjury and obstruction of justice in June of 2010. The following January, the judge, while condemning the police department, the state’s attorneys’ office, and the Cook County judiciary, sentenced Burge to four and a half years in the federal penitentiary. None of Burge’s confederates were ever prosecuted for their crimes.

Meanwhile, the struggle against torture continued. An intergenerational and interracial movement formed, and, largely as a result of its activism, the City of Chicago granted a historic package of reparations to the survivors.

Parallels to the McDonald Case

When we view the McDonald case through the lens of Chicago history, we can identify many parallels. We see outrageous and overtly racist police violence; a cover-up that is exposed despite the best efforts of the police involved; and the complicity of police superintendents, mayors, prosecutors and other high-ranking officials in the cover-up. We see the police code of silence reaching into the Burge and Van Dyke trials, with police partners and associates defying the prosecutors who granted them immunity in an attempt to aid their fellow officers. We see racism as the elephant in those court rooms, unspoken by the prosecutors, but fanned at every opportunity by the defense, which depicted the victims at every opportunity as subhuman monsters. We see a powerful and racist police union that has defended the indefensible for the past 50 years, exalting Burge and Van Dyke, paying for their defenses, and intimidating police witnesses in the courtroom when they are summoned to testify against their fellow officers.

But we also see that even a predominantly white jury can summon the courage to do the right thing, at least when the police crime is so enormous and the proof so clear as it is in the Burge and Van Dyke cases. Most importantly, we also see the power of public outrage, community activism and Black-led multiracial movements that march, demonstrate, disrupt and demand a seat at the table. These forces must continue to march forward, so long as the fundamentally racist criminal injustice system represses and incarcerates communities of color.

The post The Power of Public Outrage: Laquan McDonald’s Place in History appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

A Majority of Veterans Want Troops to Return From Afghanistan

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 15:50

Seventeen years after the United States led an invasion of Afghanistan, a majority of the general public — especially military veterans — do not think the seemingly endless war has been successful. Most Americans support bringing US troops home.

According to a new poll conducted by YouGov and released this week, about 57 percent of people living in the United States said they would support a move by the president to remove all troops from Afghanistan. Among military veterans, support for ending the war was even stronger: 69 percent were in favor of bringing the troops home. About 63 percent of the general public and 64 percent of veterans said some or all of the US troops stationed in Afghanistan should return within the next five years.

A majority (53 percent) of those surveyed — including 60 percent of veterans — said the US government does not have a clear military objective in Afghanistan.

After criticizing foreign wars on the campaign trail, President Trump announced a vague strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan last year. However, he also lifted restrictions on wartime spending and gave military commanders on the ground wider latitude to launch attacks without White House permission. Earlier this year, Trump signed a defense spending bill authorizing $69 billion for foreign conflicts such as the war in Afghanistan, the highest price tag since 2014.

The poll was commissioned by the conservative-leaning news site RealClearPolitics and the Charles Koch Institute, a right-libertarian think tank funded by billionaire Charles Koch. Progressives and the anti-war left have opposed the war from the beginning, and growing concern among fiscal conservatives is a clear sign that opposition to the war in Afghanistan crosses ideological and party lines.

“Looking back at the many years of fighting in our longest war, at the successes and setbacks, and the death or wounding of thousands of Americans, allied servicemen and women, and our Afghan friends, it’s clear that continuing on the current course is not in our national interest,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat from Arizona and a veteran of the war in Iraq, in a statement this week. “American troops should come home.”

In the YouGov poll, about two-thirds of respondents and a striking 73 percent of veterans do not think the war has been a success for the US, despite the high-profile killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Forty percent of veterans now say the war effort has been unsuccessful, while 33 percent characterized the war as neither successful nor unsuccessful, according to the poll. Less than one in four veterans said the war has been a success, along with about 21 percent of the public.

Sunday was the 17-year anniversary of the US and British-led invasion of Afghanistan aimed at toppling the Taliban and rooting out al-Qaeda militants, less than a month after the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban marked the occasion with attacks on US-backed security forces, and dozens were killed as violence erupted across the country over the weekend.

Less than one in four veterans said the war has been a success, along with about 21 percent of the public.

A Taliban assault on Monday in northern Jawzjan province left 12 security members of the Afghan security forces dead and 10 others wounded, according to reports. The Taliban released a statement the same day calling upcoming elections in Afghanistan “bogus” due to the continued US occupation of the country and called on militants to disrupt the process with attacks.

After 17 years of war, the Taliban still claims to control about half the territory in the country. By the most recent US estimates, the US-backed government controls only 56 percent of Afghanistan’s districts, and about 30 percent remain contested. Nearly 14 percent of districts are under control of insurgents, a 1 percent increase from mid-2017.

Meanwhile, the cost of the war continues to mount. More than 104,000 people have lost their lives due to the war in Afghanistan, including more than 31,000 civilians and 2,351 US servicemen and women. Thousands more US military members have returned home with injuries and mental health problems.

In a commentary preceding the 17th anniversary of the war, Mary Hladky of the grassroots group Military Families Speak Out noted that much of that money goes to military contractors. US taxpayers have spent an estimated $5.6 trillion on the “war on terror” since the Bush administration launched the worldwide war in 2001 — including about $45 billion on the war in Afghanistan each year.

At least $15.5 billion in taxpayer funding has been wasted on faulty programs, failed efforts and fraud and abuse among contractors in Afghanistan.

“Wars since 9/11 have little to do with protecting Americans but are all about the immensely profitable business of war,” Hladky, whose son served in Afghanistan, wrote. “We are told that our massive war spending is necessary to support the troops. But, in fact, it supports defense contractors making record profits.”

From 2002 to 2017, the US government spent about $4.7 billion on “stabilization efforts and programs” in Afghanistan, according to the most recent quarterly report to Congress from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Despite this massive investment, the report concedes that Afghanistan is “clearly not yet stable;” and it remains unclear how the country can be stabilized after enduring violent invasions and occupations by foreign governments for decades.

SIGAR also told lawmakers in July that at least $15.5 billion in taxpayer funding has been wasted on faulty programs, failed efforts and fraud and abuse among contractors in Afghanistan.

Looking back at 9/11 and early days of the war, the public is divided and unsure about whether invading Afghanistan was a good idea in the first place. Thirty-nine percent now say that sending troops to Afghanistan was a “mistake,” while 30 percent say it was the correct choice and 31 percent are not sure. A slim majority of veterans (54 percent) say President Bush made the right choice, but 31 percent say it was a mistake and 15 percent are unsure.

“When will we stand up to change the direction of our country?” Hladky asked.

Now, with an overwhelming majority of veterans questioning US wars, maybe the time has come.

The post A Majority of Veterans Want Troops to Return From Afghanistan appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

From Iran to Palestine, Nikki Haley Put a Nice Face on Trump’s Horrific Policies

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 15:34

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has announced she is resigning her post at the end of the year. The former South Carolina governor — one of the few women in Trump’s Cabinet — gave no reason for her departure. During Nikki Haley’s time as US ambassador to the United Nations, the United States withdrew from the Paris climate accord; the UN Human Rights Council; the Iran nuclear deal;UNRWA, the UN agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinians; andUNESCO, the UN Educational and Cultural agency. We speak with Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, about the significance of Haley’s departure and the role of the United States at the United Nations. Khalidi is the author of Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East. His next book, titled The Hundred-Years War on Palestine will be out in May.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, “,” The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has announced she is resigning her post at the end of the year. The former South Carolina governor was one of the few women in Trump’s cabinet. She gave no reason for her departure. Haley made the surprise announcement at the White House Tuesday alongside President Trump. During her remarks, she praised the president for pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and for being a close ally to Israel.

NIKKI HALEY: What I am most excited—look at the two years. Look at what has happened in two years with the United States on foreign policy. Now the United States is respected. Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do. They know that if we say we’re going to do something, we follow it through. And the president proved that, whether it was with the chemical weapons in Syria, whether it’s with NATO saying that other countries have to pay their share, whether it is the trade deals, which have been amazing.
They get that the president means business and they follow through with that.

But then if you look at just these two years at the U.N., we cut $1.3 billion in the U.N.’s budget. We have made it stronger. We’ve made it more efficient. South Sudan, we got an arms embargo, which was a long time coming. Three North Korean sanctions packages which were the largest in a generation, done in a way that we could really work toward denuclearizing North Korea. The Iran deal, bringing attention to the world that every country needs to understand you can’t overlook all of the bad things they’re doing. You have to see them for the threat that they are. I think you look at the anti-Israel bias and the strength and courage that the president showed in moving the embassy and showing the rest of the world, “We will put our embassy where we want to put our embassy.”

AMY GOODMAN: During Nikki Haley’s time as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the United States withdrew from the Paris climate accord, the U.N. Human Rights Council, the Iran nuclear deal, UNRWA—the U.N. agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinians—and UNESCO, the U.N. educational and cultural agency. The Trump administration also threatened to sanction judges on the International Criminal Court if it went after Israel or the United States for war crimes. And the U.S. refused to sign the Global Compact on Migration, a set of non-binding rules for safe, orderly and regular migration.

While Nikki Haley did not say why she was resigning, she dismissed speculation she’ll be running for president in 2020. President Trump says he will name a replacement in the coming weeks. On Tuesday, he said his daughter Ivanka Trump would be incredible at the job. Ivanka Trump later tweeted that she would not be replacing Haley. The person who does replace her will have to go before a Senate confirmation.

Donald Trump also said one possible candidate is Dina Powell, an Egyptian-born Goldman Sachs executive and Trump’s former deputy national security adviser. Powell is said to be close to the president as well as his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner. While at the White House, Powell focused in part on U.S. relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia. She attended President Trump’s first meeting with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman. NBC reports she was also involved with overseeing a $200 billion arms deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

To talk about the significance of Nikki Haley’s departure and the role of the United States at the United Nations, we’re joined now by Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, author of several books, his most recent Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East. His next book, titled The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine will be out in May. Professor, welcome back to Democracy Now!

RASHID KHALIDI: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Your first response? Was this a shock to you like to so many others?

RASHID KHALIDI: It was a surprise because she put such a nice face, an articulate face on a policy that is horrific in many respects, vis-à-vis Palestine, vis-à-vis Iran, on so many fronts. What she was putting forward, while perhaps red meat to the president’s base, is probably abhorrent to most Americans and has, contrary to what she said, made the United States much more isolated internationally.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s also interesting, the timing. She just said—they were saying that they didn’t want to look like after the midterm elections, but they say that last week, the resignation letter was put in, which was right after Judge Kavanaugh at the time testified and during the FBI supposed investigation. So to say the least, there was a lot of tension within the Trump administration around this. She didn’t say anything about this at the time, but of course, if she ran in the future, she could refer back to the period of time that she actually resigned.

RASHID KHALIDI: Right, and she distanced herself from the president during the campaign by saying any allegations by women should be heard and should be investigated. She is a very ambitious woman. If she is planning a run should Trump not run again in 2020, or in 2024, this sets her up perfectly. It fits perfectly—the ambitious, calculating nature that she has already shown at the U.N. and in South Carolina.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to what Nikki Haley said sitting next to President Trump in the White House about her relationship with both Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. During the news conference, she singled them out for praise.

NIKKI HALEY: Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands. I mean, to redo the NAFTA deal the way he did, what I have done working with him on the Middle East peace plan—it is so unbelievably well done. And Ivanka has been just a great friend. And they do a lot of things behind the scenes that I wish more people knew about, because we are a better country because they are in this administration.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Nikki Haley, again speaking in the Oval Office next to President Trump, talking about Jared Kushner. This is your expertise. You are a Palestinian-American professor. You are the Edward Said professor at Columbia University. Talk about Jared Kushner and what she described as his remarkable or incredible role in dealing with the Middle East.

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, you would only consider it remarkable if you think that denying that the Palestinians have a role, that the Palestinian refugees should return or have any rights, that UNRWA is a good thing, that Jerusalem is a capital and should be a capital for Palestine. The policies that she has put forward and advocated so effectively and articulately are policies that are abhorrent to most of the world, most of the Arab world. Many Israelis realize that this is leading them down the path to a situation where no compromise is possible, where Israel becomes the sole ruler of everything.

And Trump seems to be very content with this. The Palestinians should accept whatever place is offered to them in this process. And that is what Kushner has been doing systematically, on Jerusalem, on refugees, on the idea of a Palestinian state. They have dismantled all of the elements of what I have always considered—a very bad American policy has become much worse, thanks to her. So Jared Kushner is a genius if you believe that Israel has won and can impose any terms it wants on the Palestinians who should not have sovereignty, self-determination or statehood. If you believe that, then it’s a wonderful policy.

AMY GOODMAN: On May 14th, the Israeli military massacred at least 61 unarmed Palestinians, wounded in this one day 2,700 more, for protesting in Gaza against the Israeli occupation and the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley blocked a call for an international investigation into Israel’s actions.

NIKKI HALEY: I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council, who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.

AMY GOODMAN: Since March 30th, the beginning of the right of return campaign protests, Israeli soldiers and snipers have killed at least in the area of 195 Palestinians, wounded more than 18,000. Your comments on what she performed at the United Nations?

RASHID KHALIDI: No country on earth that shot thousands of people on the other side of its border in a situation in which none of its own citizens were hurt—one Israeli soldier actually was killed, but with that exception—would be free of condemnation in the United Nations. Imagine if the United States shot down hundreds of Mexicans, killed 200, and wounded or maimed thousands across the border inside Mexico, in the sovereign territory of another country. It would be completely unacceptable. The Palestinians clearly don’t have rights. They can be—the victim can be vilified by people like Nikki Haley. It’s revolting. The very description of the Palestinians as the aggressors and the Israelis as the victim—Israeli snipers are targeting these people one by one and the Israelis are being defended by Nikki Haley at the United Nations.

AMY GOODMAN: Just before the U.N. General Assembly denounced Washington’s decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, U.S. Ambassador Haley tweeted a warning to other nations. She wrote “At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names,” the ambassador famously said. Professor Khalidi?

RASHID KHALIDI: Yeah. I mean, this is the most vibrant expression of American exceptionalism I’ve ever heard. The United States is not bound by laws. The United States is not bound by conventions. The United States does exactly as it pleases. The issue of Jerusalem is a complicated legal issue, but it’s not that complicated. Everything the United States has done has shredded seven decades—in fact a little more—of international consensus as far as the treatment of Jerusalem. And they don’t care. The United States under Trump—the United States has always done more or less as it pleased, but at least it paid lip service to law and international legitimacy. Not under this administration.

AMY GOODMAN: Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has to say the least been—whatever is happening behind the scenes—in lockstep with the administration. She announced in June that the United States was withdrawing from the U.N. Human Rights Council, accusing the Council of being biased against Israel.

NIKKI HALEY: For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias. Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance of this?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, yet again, the United States is proclaiming that only its views count. The views of the entire world on these issues are simply irrelevant, as far as this administration is concerned. The United States has run interference for Israel, protecting it in the United Nations, for decades now, and I expect that to continue irrespective of whether Trump stays on after 2020, unfortunately. But this is the most egregious example of this I’ve ever seen.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to John Bolton, because he’s the powerhouse there now. Last month, the national security advisor announced the Trump administration would close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington in response to a Palestinian effort to push the ICC—the International Criminal Court—to investigate Israel for war crimes. This is Bolton making the announcement in a speech at The Federalist Society.

JOHN BOLTON: The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC or any other organization to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s John Bolton, not Nikki Haley, but she has supported this. And today is the day?

RASHID KHALIDI: I believe so.

AMY GOODMAN: That the mission is going to be closed in Washington?

RASHID KHALIDI: I believe the mission is finally closed today.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is the significance of this?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, it’s once again a diminution of the idea that the Palestinians can speak for themselves, permission to narrate. That they can have a voice in Washington. That they can—that they are a party to this conflict. In fact, they’re the main party to this conflict. And what the United States and Israel have been doing is to sideline them, weaken them, divide them and essentially try to dictate terms. And this is part of a whole process that this administration has taken to a new level, of knocking out the pillars that had formerly been assumed to be absolutely essential for any approach to peace in Palestine—refugees, Jerusalem, recognition of Palestinian self-determination.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about refugees. The Trump administration said in September it would end all U.S. funding for UNRWA, the U.N. agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinians. The move was seen as an effort to undermine Palestinians’ right to return to the lands they were displaced from by Israeli settlers. This is chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

SAEB EREKAT: So now this is an American political decision, added to their decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, move the embassy, consider the settlements legal, refuse the two-state solution of ’67. So, actually, this is the program and the agenda of Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu. The United States may have the right to say, “We don’t want to give taxpayers’ money.” But who gave the U.S. the right to approve the stealing of my land, my future, my aspiration, my capital, my Aqsa Mosque, my Holy Sepulchre Church? They have no right whatsoever.

AMY GOODMAN: The ending of UNRWA funding. I think the U.S. was something like $350 million, but a third, for this U.N. agency that helps Palestinians. What does this mean for Palestinians?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, it’s going to mean further immiseration of a population that in many places like the Gaza Strip are at the point of a humanitarian crisis, or are in a humanitarian crisis. But what it is is a part of what this unrecognized genius—in Nikki Haley’s words—Jared Kushner, is pushing, which is to say there are no Palestinian refugees. This is a false problem created by the Arab states to embarrass Israel. That three generations on, they should be forced to stay in the countries to which they were expelled by ethnic cleansing in 1948, and the problem is settled. It has been solved. Israel kicked them out and they must not ever be allowed to return.

So this is, again, kicking out a pillar of a settlement, making in fact peace much, much more difficult. If the United States doesn’t recognize that there are Palestinian refugees—if it tries to impose on Palestinians in Jordan, for example, because they have Jordanian nationality, they are therefore Jordanians, not Palestinians, not refugees—then you’re denying [laugh] one of the major issues that has bedeviled the world for 70-odd years.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about Lara Alqasem, the 22-year-old student at the University of Florida who has been detained in an Israeli airport for more than a week for supporting a pro-Palestinian boycott campaign. She arrived at Ben Gurion Airport last week with plans to enroll at an Israeli University and has been held there while she appeals a deportation order. On Tuesday, the Israeli government told her to apologize and renounce her support for BDS or return to the United States. Professor Khalidi, what about Laura?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, the thought police are at work here. And this is part of an effort to repress speech in this country, in Europe, in Israel, around this issue, around the issue of Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights generally, and specific issues like occupation or refugee return. The person who is making the statements in Israel is actually a very important character by the name of—Gilad Erdan, who is the minister of strategic affairs, is in fact one of the central people in this worldwide campaign. We see an element of it in turning back people at Ben Gurion Airport—not just activists, Palestinian-American activists—American Jewish leaders, people who are being detained, harassed and in some cases turned back. Katherine Franke of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and many others.

AMY GOODMAN: A leading law professor at Columbia University.

RASHID KHALIDI: One of my colleagues at Columbia. Precisely. And in this country, the same centralized apparatus is harassing students on campus, bringing lawsuits of absolutely no merit again and again and again, spending hundreds of millions of dollars, it seems to me, on a campaign worldwide—in Britain, in Germany, in this country—to essentially shut down discourse on Palestine. “You can’t talk about that,” they’re saying.

AMY GOODMAN: What needs to happen, and does it matter who is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Trump?

RASHID KHALIDI: It probably matters, but this administration’s policies aren’t going to change if a less or more articulate representative of nauseating and horrific policies is installed in that seat. The American government’s policies on Iran are causing enormous suffering inside Iran. American policies on Palestine are causing enormous suffering in places like Gaza. Schools will shut down. Children will go without education. Those are awful policies guided by a sense that the only evil in the Middle East is Iran and its clients and allies—people, for example like Hamas, who rule the Gaza Strip—ignoring the enormities perpetrated by U.S. allies, like for example the Saudi Arabian regime, which is making war on Yemen, creating a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and at the same time, apparently liquidating dissidents, prominent dissidents.

The post From Iran to Palestine, Nikki Haley Put a Nice Face on Trump’s Horrific Policies appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Is the Current US-Saudi Relationship “Unreformable”?

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 14:36

I’m starting to wonder if the current US-Saudi relationship might be “unreformable.” You see a certain pattern over and over and you start to think that it might be structural. This pattern can no longer be considered a “mistake.” There must be an underlying structural cause for why this melody keeps getting repeated.

We’ve seen this pattern before in US foreign policy, where the US government appeared to be “captured” by its purported “client.” It happened with Ngô Đình Diệm in Vietnam, it happened with Augusto Pinochet in Chile, it happened with the Mohammad Reza Shah in Iran. The US government reaches a point where it’s very clear that the client is behaving in a way that is not only destructive to himself, but destructive to the interests of the US government, as the US government perceives them. So the US government tells the client to stop behaving like that. But the client doesn’t stop. The client keeps going, harming US interests, as the US government perceives them.

Why doesn’t the client stop when the “patron” tells the client to stop?

Maybe because the client has a fundamentally different understanding of the power relations from the patron. The client has come to believe that the patron needs the client as much as the client needs the patron. When that happens, they are no longer “patron” and “client.”

I’m reading pieces now claiming that the US needs to intervene with the Saudi regime to save the all-important, crucial US-Saudi relationship. Maybe that’s just a tactic to try to introduce a new idea to the ever-more-war “Blob” of the US foreign policy establishment, a kind of liberation theology for the Blob, to gently introduce the idea that the US-Saudi relationship needs to be reformed because it’s in mortal peril.

But maybe the idea that the US-Saudi relationship is sacrosanct is the original sin, the idolatrous golden calf that is causing all these problems in the first place; and maybe we can’t stop the monster until we free ourselves of this idolatrous belief.

What, exactly, are the “US interests” with respect to the Saudi regime? People in the US foreign policy establishment love to talk about “US interests” like it’s a fixed thing and we all know what it is. But what if that’s not true? What if your definition of “US interests” depends on what your own interests are?

When the Saudi-led crackdown on the democracy movement in Bahrain was unleashed, the line of the Blob was: Bahrain is the headquarters of the Fifth Fleet. What can we do? They have us over a barrel.

Finally, there was a piece in a foreign policy journal where someone said: Let’s talk about whether we really “need” the naval base in Bahrain. It’s a convenience, not a necessity. The “headquarters” of the Fifth Fleet is an office building. The ships are mostly at sea. The US Navy likes to dock in Bahrain because the sailors can drink and fraternize there. But it’s a convenience, not a necessity. We could let it go and the Earth would keep turning on its axis. And keeping it is not sufficient justification for putting our finger in the dike to help block peaceful democratic change of the apartheid regime in Bahrain.

What’s true in this case? How much of the current US-Saudi relationship is necessity, and how much is convenience? How come nobody seems to be asking that now, when the Saudi regime has repeatedly, ostentatiously demonstrated its strong belief that we are the servant, and they are the master?

Under the Bush administration, after the September 11 attacks, there was a plan to distance the US from Saudi Arabia. This was a US government internal justification for the US invasion of Iraq. “The Saudis are insane, we need a new base of operations in the Middle East.” That’s a direct quote from an official at the Bush State Department. So we invaded Iraq, we’re buddies with Iraq now, we have troops in Iraq now.

But still the foreign policy establishment claims that we are hopelessly dependent on our relationship with the Saudi regime.

The Obama administration also had a plan for distancing the US from Saudi Arabia. Their plan was to make the US energy independent. So, now, supposedly, we’re energy independent.

But still the Blob claims that we are hopelessly dependent on our relationship with the Saudi regime.

How come the Blob continues to insist that we are hopelessly dependent on the Saudi regime, when we have troops everywhere in the Middle East now, when we are energy independent now?

Maybe our fundamental problem isn’t with the Saudi regime, but with people in the US foreign policy establishment who insist that our purported dependency relationship with the Saudi regime was created on the Eighth Day. Maybe when these people speak about “US interests,” they are actually speaking primarily about their own interests. Maybe the interests of the majority of Americans are fundamentally different with respect to the US relationship with the Saudi regime than the interests of the Blob. Maybe we need new leadership on US foreign policy, outside the Blob, that will articulate the interests of the majority of Americans with respect to the US-Saudi relationship rather than the interests of the Blob.

After all, the Saudi regime and the Blob badly wanted a Syrian war in 2013, but the overwhelming majority of Americans across party lines didn’t want it. That’s why peace advocates were able to stop it: because the overwhelming majority of Americans, across party lines, didn’t want it.

What if the current US-Saudi relationship is like the Syria war in 2013 – something the Blob wants, but something the majority of Americans don’t want and don’t need?

Let us put this proposition to a test with a referendum. Let us put this proposition to a test with a clean, up or down floor vote in the people’s House in November on ending unconstitutional US participation in the Saudi war in Yemen. Let’s urge our Representatives to support the House War Powers Resolution resolution to force a floor vote.

The post Is the Current US-Saudi Relationship “Unreformable”? appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

As Midterms Approach, Fast-Food Workers Plan Strikes in Battleground States

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 13:53

To make sure she, her partner and her one-year-old daughter have what they need, Hannah Jones has had to take a second job on top of her work at a Wendy’s in Atlanta, Georgia. After more than two years, she’s still making just $7.50 an hour at Wendy’s, even though she knows how to do everything in the restaurant — run cash registers, work the drive-through, restock, wash dishes, prep and draw on the sandwich boards. Her pay “is not enough,” she told Truthout. “By the time the money comes, it’s gone by the next day.”

If she made $15 an hour, on the other hand, “It would change my life,” she said. She would be able to afford the necessities — rent, car payments, food, baby supplies for her daughter — and also save money. She wants to open an account for her daughter to pay for college, but she can’t do it on what she makes now.

Those are the reasons she decided to go on strike for the first time last week. “I really wanted to let everyone know my struggle,” she said. “It was really amazing, the feelings …” she added, emphasizing that we are “all in this together and all of us can make a difference.”

“If all of us come together in a strike, we get what we want,” she added.

The strike that Jones joined in Georgia was part of a series of increasingly large strikes that fast-food workers have staged nationwide since they first walked off the job six years ago in New York City. On October 3, more than 200 fast-food workers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, went on strike at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and other chains as part of the Fight for 15 to demand they be paid at least $15 an hour and be allowed to unionize. During the strike, more than 25 workers were arrested alongside local politicians and community members, according to organizers from the Fight for 15.

The day before, hundreds of fast food workers in Detroit and Flint, Michigan, went on strike and nearly 20 were arrested, including congressional candidate Rashida Tlaib. Meanwhile, on October 4, hospital workers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also walked off the job while higher education workers in Florida and child-care workers in California rallied.

More strikes are planned in the coming weeks in midterm election battleground states such as California, Connecticut, Florida and Georgia.

“Honestly, it’s 2018 and I can’t think of a job that shouldn’t start at $10 or more,” Wendy’s employee Solo Littlejohn told Truthout, explaining why he went on strike with fellow fast-food workers in Milwaukee. “I can’t think of a job that shouldn’t allow you to unionize.” He and his fellow strikers are demanding not just that they be paid at least $15 an hour but also that they be allowed to form unions. “The same rights that any other worker has,” he noted.

“If you want our votes, we want our union.”

After the strike, he traveled to Chicago to protest in front of the McDonald’s headquarters, where more than 1,000 fast-food and other service workers protested. “Hopefully our demands are met,” he said. “It’s just so sad that we have to come out and protest like this for something I think we deserve.”

Fast-food workers were also on strike just a month ago, when McDonald’s employees walked off the job in 10 cities across the country to protest what they say is the company’s inaction in addressing sexual harassment.

But now workers are hoping to spread their influence beyond corporate headquarters. Organizers are going from strike lines to door knocking, planning to canvass across California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin ahead of November’s elections.

Bleu Rainer’s first job after graduating high school 11 years ago was working at a McDonald’s. He immediately realized he couldn’t make ends meet on his pay, especially because he was trying to support his mother, who is a single parent. He moved from fast-food chain to fast-food chain, even moving states and eventually settling in Tampa, Florida, in search of better pay. And yet, he was still making less than $8 an hour. “That’s devastating,” he said. He wants to go to college and one day raise a family. But “there’s no way possible you can do that” on that kind of pay, he said.

Still, when a member of Fight for 15 first approached him while he was working at an Arby’s, he was skeptical. “I was like, ‘Y’all crazy,’” he recalled. “Fifteen dollars an hour? We barely make 8 dollars.” But the conversation stuck with him, and he remembered something his grandma had told him: “If you want something, you got to fight for it. Even if it sounds unreachable, if you feel like it’s worth a fight, it’s worth a fight.” So he signed up and started getting more and more involved.

“If you support Fight for 15, then we support you.”

He’s since left fast-food and is now using the skills he learned working with Fight for 15 to be a community organizer. “With the Fight for 15, we focus on issues,” he pointed out. “Fight for 15 has given a lot of folks hope. It gave me hope.” The same applies as he registers people to vote and educates people about the issues. “Fight for 15 has made me a leader,” he said. “It has taught me unity, it has taught me that if one person is being treated unjust we’re all being treated unjust.”

“We’re really mobilizing a community of folks around the whole of Florida to understand the importance of voting and actually get them out to vote,” he said. He noted that his organization has registered tens of thousands of people to vote in six counties across the state.

The Fight for 15 movement is going to deploy members to canvass door-to-door to get people out to vote for candidates that favor higher wages and better union rights. “We’re drawing a line in the sand…. If you want our votes, we want our union,” Littlejohn said. “If you support Fight for 15, then we support you. If you support union rights for all, we support you.”

“We are about one month away from going to the polls and casting our votes,” he pointed out. “We’re all trying to flex our voting power, trying to show people you do have voting power and you do have a say. We’re here to get rid of corrupt officials who are anti-worker and anti-union.”

The movement needs to get political to get what it wants, workers say. “There’s no way you can talk about raising wages for [millions of] folks through the whole nation without it being political,” Rainer said. “Politicians and these big corporations have been playing hand-in-hand for the longest.” Fight for 15 wants to be a counterweight to that corporate power. “All our Fight for 15 members are out hitting the streets.”

“We’re just getting out there and letting people know that you do have a say in the matter,” Littlejohn said. “Not just as a fast-food worker, but as a citizen. Not just as a union member, but as a member of this country.”

“Fight for 15 — we’re out there, we’re getting it done,” Rainer said.

The post As Midterms Approach, Fast-Food Workers Plan Strikes in Battleground States appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Building Power Among Farmworkers

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 13:18
In North Carolina, as in many other places across the South and nation, agricultural workers are among the most unprotected workers. Because they realize the power in numbers, many have joined the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), which represents agricultural workers in North Carolina and the Midwest. Founded in Ohio in 1967 by migrant farmworker Baldemar Velasquez, FLOC has been affiliated with the AFL-CIO since 2006. We recently spoke to FLOC Vice President Justin Flores about his organizing work for our ongoing “Voices of Resistance” series, which aims to draw insight and inspiration from the South’s deep history of struggle for social change and to learn from a new generation of Southern leaders working in today’s volatile political climate. His responses have been lightly edited for clarity. If you have ideas for other Southern change makers to feature in the series, please contact Rebekah Barber at

Rebekah Barber: Tell me about your background and what led you into your work with FLOC.

Justin Flores: I was going to law school at the University of North Carolina when I met Baldemar Velasquez, the founder and president of FLOC. He’s a pretty inspiring and amazing figure. When I was finishing school, we kept in touch. He invited me to come out to Dudley, North Carolina, where our office is located, and do some campaign work for a short six-month project. That was in 2009, and I’ve been organizing with FLOC ever since. In 2013, at our constitutional convention, I was elected vice president and re-elected in 2017.

What challenges have you seen that are unique to farmworkers?

First of all, agricultural workers were excluded from the Labor Relations Act, so they don’t have the same right to organize that other workers do. That means that this is an industry — especially in the South — that has largely not had a lot of organizing, a lot of unions, a lot of collective bargaining to improve wages and working conditions over the years. And so, in many ways, we’re still stuck in a labor relations situation that hasn’t changed much over the last 100 years.

What impact did Hurricane Florence have on already-vulnerable agricultural workers?

You add on top of that the fact that most agricultural workers are not from here — they are either undocumented or here on a guest worker visa. For undocumented workers, there are limited employment choices. And for guest workers, the employer controls their visa; if they are not requested back at the end of the year, they cannot even come back into the country. This creates a huge power imbalance and gives employers and labor contractors a lot of power to retaliate and threaten to retaliate when people speak up. It is a difficult situation for agricultural workers trying to improve wages and working conditions.

The impact that most people are familiar with is the fact that agricultural workers often live in substandard housing or housing that is not the strongest — whether it be houses, trailers, or sometimes cement barracks. Because of this, agricultural workers dealt with housing damage and flooding.

We really believe there’s power in numbers, and that when people come together and try to address issues collectively they can get further than as individuals.

But on top of that, in the southeastern part of the state, the tobacco crop was pretty much ruined. For the most part, growers had crop insurance that will make sure that the impact of the flood does not totally bankrupt them, but that insurance doesn’t help farmworkers at all.

We have a lot of people who are going weeks without work, trying to scramble, and trying to find employment in different parts of the state or be transferred to a different farm. Agricultural workers are also trying to wait on the sweet potato crop, hoping that work is still happening.

So on top of the physical damage, agricultural workers, like growers, depend on the weather. When a storm like Florence comes through, there’s a lack of work and income for families.

What are some of the ways FLOC has been able to organize to overcome some of the challenges faced by agricultural workers?

We really believe there’s power in numbers, and that when people come together and try to address issues collectively they can get further than as individuals. The first part of our work is just bringing people together and building the organization so that when there are issues on the farm it’s not one person or two people, but a group of workers on that particular farm linked up with groups of workers all over the country, linked up with support and solidarity from other individuals, churches, students, and other unions around the country.

That building of the organization is key. Unfortunately for agricultural workers, there’s often a lot of legal violations on farms, so the trick is, once people know their rights are being violated, then we have to create a plan on how to deal with it. Retaliation is real, so planning for retaliation and having a legal strategy, combined with an organizing strategy, combined with a media strategy, combined with some research on where growers’ and contractors’ crops ultimately end up is really important to fight back against the almost inevitable retaliation.

We also push for supply-chain solutions. In this industry, for the most part, growers don’t have any control over what the price of their crops are going to be. Big companies like Reynolds American and other tobacco companies gauge prices. They do everything they can to keep prices down and make a situation where growers have to have a very high quality crop at a very low cost, so oftentimes labor is the only place that can really cut costs — and that results in low wages and bad housing.

We’ve been involved in a 10-year campaign to get Reynolds American to guarantee labor rights in their supply chain by changing the way they do business and incentivizing good behavior. Because as it stands, whether a grower pays their worker $7.25 or if they pay them $12 an hour, Reynolds American still pays the same price for the tobacco. They have created a system that incentivizes bad behavior. That’s a big piece of our campaign — to improve wages and conditions and get these purchasers to take responsibility for their supply chain.

A federal judge recently blocked the North Carolina Farm Act of 2017. What does this ruling mean for farmworkers?

In North Carolina, we have seen successful organizing campaigns where workers have gotten improved wages and won union contracts. The passage of the bill last summer was the inevitable backlash of the ultra-conservative super majority in the state House and Senate. Many of these political leaders are also growers themselves.

The bill they passed aimed to stop our work by trying to make it illegal for workers to pay dues to their union. It banned dues check off, where union dues come straight out of the worker’s paycheck, which was the most convenient way for them to pay dues. The bill also tried to make it illegal for workers to negotiate union contracts as part of a legal settlement.

In the state, workers already don’t have the right to organize, the right to collectively bargain. They already are in a right-to-work state in the South. But legislators are trying to do everything they can to make sure that workers don’t organize and don’t stand up. This law was aimed only at agricultural workers — who are largely Hispanic — and it was directly aimed at one specific organization: FLOC. It was a violation of workers’ right to organize.

We filed a lawsuit in federal court, and on [Sept. 20] we got the decision that a federal judge is stopping the enforcement of the law. It’s certainly only step one, because the decision means that the law can’t be enforced while the legal process plays out. We still want to win in the long run, but it’s good that a federal judge really saw through what they were trying to do — that this was a racist law and violation of workers’ rights and constitutional rights. We are sort of back at where we were before this law was passed, but we still have a long fight ahead of us in the court system.

The post Building Power Among Farmworkers appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

How the Environmental Movement Can Better Engage Women of Color

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 18:06

As a cisgender woman of South Asian Indian descent who has decided to make a career in the environmental space, I often get asked to discuss challenges faced by people with marginalized identities in the environmental and conservation space. A part of me gets it: Black womxn, Indigenous womxn, and womxn of color (BIWOC) in particular do face some challenges. But viewing inclusion and equity as a challenge, rather than an opportunity, is where the environmental movement often stumbles and fails.

True, BIWOC are underrepresented in mainstream environmental organizations, and particularly in the Big Green sector (check out data from Green 2.0). And notwithstanding the mainstream environmental movement’s push to recruit BIWOC into entry level positions, we continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions.

The recruitment, retention, promotion, and engagement of BIWOC can seem daunting to mainstream environmental groups. But the reality is quite different. We are not a challenge; we are an opportunity. And the opportunity lies in reimagining what the “environmental movement” is, and actively dismantling some of the barriers we face. So below are some common misperceptions about BIWOC and the environmental movement, and ways organizations with resources and power can work to change the paradigm.

“BIWOC are not involved in environmentalism.”

Though well-intentioned, this statement amounts to erasure of the efforts of BIWOC throughout history to address environmental issues, as well as the work of BIWOC leaders of today. BIWOC have been on the front lines of environmental justice advocacy since the beginning — often because they and children of color are disproportionately impacted by environmental harm. Here I think of Dolores Huerta and womxn delegates at the First National People of Color Environmental Summit in 1991. BIWOC continue to lead organizations that connect communities in meaningful ways to their environment. Here I think of Rue Mapp of Outdoor Afro, Jaylyn Gough of Native Women’s Wilderness, and Jolie Valera of Indigenous Women Hike, among others. BIWOC were pivotal in important environmental events in history as well as in shaping the environmental ethos that mainstream organizations embrace. Here I think of Zilpa White, a freed slave who lived independently on Walden Pond prior to Henry David Thoreau, who had no choice but to live “off the grid,” and who actually served as an inspiration to Thoreau (for more information, read “Black Walden”).

“BIWOC should reclaim their space in the environmental and public lands movement. After all these lands are all of ours.”

This statement has been a rallying cry of the public lands conservation sector, which has been clamoring to involve more people of color in their work because the votes of the growing majority are pivotal to their advocacy efforts. But this statement constitutes a different kind of erasure, one that perpetuates colonialism by erasing the centuries of genocide, removal, dispossession, assimilation, and dehumanization of Indigenous people by the US government and White settlers in service of creating public lands (among other things). This means that I (as a non-Indigenous womxn) don’t use a possessive narrative around public lands. This means that I refrain from using the term “people of color” in a sweeping and simple way to refer to an entire group of people as if they are a monolith. There is so much diversity amongst us. And this also means I need to acknowledge settler colonialism and support Indigenous peoples.

“As one of few BIWOC in this movement, you should serve on a panel to speak to ways we can diversify our movement and become more culturally relevant.”

This one is tough because I have indulged this request often. But then again, I make my living from doing this work. Other BIWOC, especially those who are committing their time to supporting their own communities, are often pressured into speaking for “their people,” which can be oppressive on many fronts. First, it feels tokenizing to be asked to speak simply because of our identities. Second, it feels as if we’re asked to speak for an entire group of people simply because we all share an identity. And finally, my colleagues are asked to speak but often not compensated or supported in return.

“We’ll give you funding once you create a theory of change, a logic model, show you’ve applied for 501(c)(3) status, and create world peace.”

Ok that last piece was facetious, but the point is that organizations of color receive disproportionately less funding than white-led organizations, and BIWOC-led organizations even less. Ironically, studies show that the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs are BIWOC, who are bucking the system and establishing their own organizations to do the work of community engagement and equity that the mainstream environmental movement has struggled to make happen. Logic models, theories of change, flow charts, and business plans are all hallmarks of a dominant culture that is attached to linear thinking and frameworks and documents and research (I find this piece on White Supremacy culture helpful in unpacking this one). As long as foundations and grantors continue to make funding contingent upon organizations jumping through this many hoops, BIWOC will continue to be underfunded.

“Can you speak to women’s experiences in the environmental movement? But don’t talk about race: We’re just interested in talking about women.”

Equity and inclusion efforts in the environmental space are siloed. There are initiatives and programs for women, for people of color, for people in the LGBTQ community, and other marginalized identities. But the reality is that we don’t walk through the world with just one identity, or one marginalized identity. As a woman of color, I cannot just speak to the experience of being a woman because those experiences are inextricably intertwined with my experience as a person of color. Intersectionality demands we recognize the way oppression is interconnected. For example, a heterosexual, Black, female-identified person may experience power and privilege differently than a queer, Black, female-identified person or a heterosexual, White, female-identified person. Activist Audre Lorde reminds us: “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

“You’re so articulate, put together, and professional. You’re a great fit for a senior level position.”

Those BIWOC who are rewarded in the mainstream environmental space through promotion, etc. are often rewarded because they possess one or more dominant identities or they’re able to code switch and change their behavior or appearance to access privilege. I credit part of my success to the fact that I was raised in an upper middle-class stable family environment, went to college and graduate school, assimilated early to “American” ways of being after my family immigrated here, and was able to practice my stoic demeanor after years of practicing law. A combination of anti-Blackness, respectability politics, and other oppressive structures has created a system in which only those BIWOC who play by certain rules are rewarded. If we don’t play by the rules, we’re either unprofessional looking, inarticulate, angry, hard to understand, or (if you’re using code), “just not a great fit for the position.”

At this point, you might be feeling guilty (“I’ve said some of these things!”) angry (“Who is this lady purporting to tell me what to do?”) or sad (“I’ll never get this right. I’m going to give up.”). I’ll ask you all to lean into these uncomfortable feelings for a bit and process through them, and come out the other end with a plan to take one of more of the misperceptions above and flip the script. There is so much opportunity to better engage and include BIWOC.

The post How the Environmental Movement Can Better Engage Women of Color appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Supreme Court Silver Lining

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 16:02

The post Supreme Court Silver Lining appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

We Need a “Marshall Plan” for Climate Change, Says Climate Expert

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 15:29

A new report from the United Nations’ climate panel warns humanity has only a dozen years to mitigate global warming and limit the scope of global catastrophe. Otherwise, millions will be imperiled by increasing droughts, floods, fires and poverty. The sweeping report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urges immediate and unprecedented changes to global policy in order to keep global warming at a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. We speak with Kevin Anderson, Zennström professor in climate change leadership at the Centre for Environment and Development Studies at Uppsala University and chair of energy and climate change at the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester in Britain. He says that the IPCC report fails to hold the world’s highest emitters accountable and argues a “Marshall Plan” for climate change is necessary to save the planet from destruction. “About 70 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide [come] from about 20 percent of the world population. … When we try to address climate change and reduce our emissions by focusing on all 7.5 billion people, I think it misunderstands where the actual responsibility of emissions resides,” Anderson says. “We’re not developing policies that need to be tailored to that particular 20 percent.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. In Central America, at least 13 people have died after torrential downpours from Hurricane Michael hit Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, causing major flooding and landslides. The monster hurricane is expected to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle as a Category 3 storm Wednesday, with Florida Governor Rick Scott declaring a state of emergency in 35 counties, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declaring a state of emergency for the entire state.

Florida is preparing for the massive storm as a new report from the United Nations climate panel warns humanity has only a dozen years to mitigate climate change or face global catastrophe. This is UN meteorological agency chief Petteri Taalas.

PETTERI TAALAS: There is extreme urgency, and countries giving their pledges after the Paris Agreement and so far the progress hasn’t been good enough that we would move towards 1.5 or two degrees target. So there is clearly a need for much higher ambition level to reach even two degrees target. So we are more moving towards three to five at the moment.

There are some estimations—what is the difference between 1.5 degree and two degree. And one of the major issues is that there would be 420 million people less suffering because of climate change if we would be able to limit the warming to 1.5 degree.

Already the emissions that we have emitted to the atmosphere means that this negative trend will continue for the coming decades. So that’s going to happen and that means a growing amount of disasters and challenges to climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: The IPCC report lays out several possible pathways to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, including transitions in land use and transportation systems and the adoption of future technologies, including removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. According to the report, global net carbon emissions would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero around 2050. On Monday, President Trump traveled to Orlando, Florida, but made no mention of climate change or the new United Nations landmark report.

For more, we’re joined by Kevin Anderson. He is Professor in Climate Change Leadership at the Centre for Environment and Development Studies at Uppsala University. He is also Chair of Energy and Climate Change at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester in Britain. Dr. Anderson, welcome back to Democracy Now! I wanted to ask you first about this report as this monster hurricane goes through Latin America and bears down on Florida and Alabama.

KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, the report makes very clear that between 1.5 degrees centigrade of warming and two degrees centigrade of warming, we will expect to see more extreme weather conditions, which indeed is why many of the poorer parts of the world asked the scientific community to actually investigate what are the actual differences between impacts at 1.5 and two degrees. And of course, two degrees was the previous threshold that we were all apparently aiming for, but as has come out from the report, it is very clear that there are a whole suite of impacts that are much worse at two degrees centigrade than 1.5, and that these impacts will primarily hit poorer and more climate-vulnerable communities around the world.

So it’s a very important report in terms of understanding the impacts of climate change and making clear that we must aim, really, for 1.5 rather than two degrees, though as we will probably discuss later, I think even two degrees isn’t looking very hopeful now.

AMY GOODMAN: You write in your response to this landmark UN report that climate change is ultimately the responsibility of a few high emitters. Explain who they are.

KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, just to put some numbers on this, about half of global emissions arise from the activities in just about 10 percent of the world’s population, and about 70 percent of all global emissions of carbon dioxide come from about 20 percent of the world population. And very closely, the emissions relate to the wealth or the income of the citizens. So a professor like myself will be a relatively high emitter. Typically professors live in large houses and have a relatively large car. They’ll travel quite often. Some of them I know would have second homes. Some of them use business flights. They’ll consume lots of goods. So it does correlate quite closely with income.

So my concern here is that when we try to address climate change and reduce our emissions by focusing on all 7.5 billion people, I think it misunderstands where the actual responsibility for the emissions reside, and therefore, we’re not developing policies that need to be tailored to that particular 20 percent.

So many people listening to your show now in the US or elsewhere in the world will be medium to low emitters. And to them, yes, it’s important they make some changes. But there will also be people listening who the show who are very high emitters. It is those of us that really the policies needs to aim at, to drive the emissions out of our lifestyles. And we must make sure in doing that we don’t impoverish people who already are struggling with the current economic system.

AMY GOODMAN: Who are the highest carbon emitters, Dr. Anderson?

KEVIN ANDERSON: [laugh] The highest carbon emitters? Well, they’re going to be the very wealthiest in this world. From a climate point of view, when you hear the Al Gores and the DiCaprios talking about climate change and you look at their carbon footprint, they will be many thousands of times more than an average African, and many hundreds of times more, probably, even than many Americans. So the very wealthy are the very high emitters.

But also I think a professor like myself, senior lecturers in universities, the people who are more what we like to see as senior — the language we use — senior in our organizations, whether that’s in companies or in the public or indeed the private sector — these people will be the high emitters. I won’t make any comment on journalists, but certainly some of the journalists I am familiar with, they are also very high emitters. So it is that upper echelons of society.

AMY GOODMAN: And in terms of countries?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Oh, in terms of countries, well, the biggest emitter now is China, followed by the US. In both of those countries, of course, there’s a big difference between the high emitters within that country and the low emitters within that country. So the two big emitting countries, though, are the US and China, and then obviously shortly followed by the European Union.

AMY GOODMAN: So can you talk about what the US is facing right now? This monster hurricane hitting the Panhandle. If you look at weather reports — and the networks are, at a time like this — increasingly take up more and more news time are the weather reports, because whether we are talking about wildfires in California or these monster storms in the Carolinas and now possibly hitting Florida and Alabama — Alabama, the whole state has been called a state of emergency — there is almost no mention by meteorologists — and I’m not talking even Fox; I’m talking MSNBC and CNN — of the connection between these increasingly violent storms and climate change. Is there one, and can you explain it?

KEVIN ANDERSON: There certainly is a connection. What we have done by putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is we have made the atmosphere warmer. In other words, we have put a lot more energy into the atmosphere. That energy will play out in terms of a whole suite of different more extreme weather conditions.

Now, whether this particular hurricane is caused by climate change is impossible to say, but what is often the case is that we are exacerbating or increasing the power in these hurricanes, in these extreme weather events. And this what we call the fancy language of attribution, where we are trying to say, “Is this event a climate change event?” — we’re getting better with understanding that. And certainly there’s quite a lot of evidence now to suggest that some of the more recent severe weather conditions we’ve seen have been seriously exacerbated by the additional warming that we have put into the atmosphere from our burning of fossil fuels and the release of carbon dioxide.

So whilst I can’t comment on this particular hurricane and say, “This hurricane was caused by climate change,” the severity of this hurricane and the severity of some of the other events that we’ve seen in recent years certainly has been exacerbated by issues of climate change, by our burning of fossil fuels, and the meteorologists should be making that clear link when they’re discussing these issues during the weather forecast within the US.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about what’s needed, Professor Anderson. The report says there is no documented historic precedent for the scale of changes required. You have talked about a Marshall plan. What do you mean, a new Marshall plan?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, the Marshall plan was the deliberate strategy after the Second World War to try and reconstruct Europe after it had been obviously very severely bombed and destroyed both institutionally but mostly physically during the war. So I’m saying that that is probably the nearest metaphor, analogy we have to the scale of the challenge that we actually face to decarbonize, to shift away from a fossil fuel-based energy system to a zero-carbon energy system, and to do that within the wealthy parts of the world really within about two decades, and probably three or three and a half decades for the slightly poorer parts of the world.

So we’re not going to do that through small price mechanisms, through just tweaking the markets. It is going to require strategic intervention by governments to make the necessary rates of change. Now that sounds initially very challenging, and certainly it will be. But I think there is also a — there is a positive narrative behind this in that this transition, this transformation to a zero-carbon energy system will come with lots of job opportunities, long-term secure job opportunities, not just in building low-carbon power stations, but in the massive electrification program that will be necessary in retrofitting — in other words making our existing building infrastructure, which we will still be using for the next 20, 30, 40 years — to make that building infrastructure suitable for the 21st century, so you require much less energy to heat it or to cool it, and it is a much safer environment to be in as the climate continues to change, which it undoubtedly will. Even if we stopped emissions today, we will still see some ongoing climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: You have criticized the IPCC for constraining its policy advice to fit neatly within the current economic model. Can you explain? I mean for some, to have a landmark report like this is simply critical because we live in a country in the United States where the president proudly denies climate change, calls it a Chinese hoax. And so to have any kind of report like this — but you are a critic of the report in some respects.

KEVIN ANDERSON: Certainly. Whilst I think it is a really good report in trying to understand the impacts between 1.5 and two degrees centigrade of warming, when it comes to what we have to do about it, I think again, it runs scared of really being very honest. And given it is effectively a scientific report, I think our role as scientists and as academics is to tell it like it is, not to color it or sweeten the pill to make it more attractive.

So my comments here — and it’s not just with this report. It has really repeatedly come out at the IPCC. So whilst we’re quite direct and honest about the impact side, when it comes to what we have to do about this, we run scared. We don’t want to scare the politicians or the public. We don’t want to move away from this, of the energy systems that we have today, so we always try to broadly sort of massage the status quo, so incremental changes, if you like.

And what I’m saying is that actually when you really look at the numbers behind the report, look at the numbers the science comes out with, then we’re talking about a complete revolution in our energy system, and that is going to beg very fundamental questions about how we run our economies. And again, you can turn around and say, “Well, that seems just far too removed from the current economic system we have.” But we have to remember it has only been 10 years now since the banking crisis and many parts of the world are still suffering the repercussions of that banking crisis. So the current economic framework has struggled within its own remit, if you like.

So I think this has been a real opportunity, which we are now losing, to reshape that economy to an economy that’s suitable for society, not as a society that’s suitable for the economy. And I think the policymakers or the academics have just run scared of this, of being honest about what our numbers tell us about the rates of change that we require and how we have to move the productive capacity of our society from building second homes for professors or private jets or private yachts or large four-wheel drive cars — moving from that to building public transport, electrification, improved homes for everyone. So it’s a shift of that productive capacity, the resources and the labor from the — if you like, the luxury for the 20 percent — to the essential low-carbon infrastructure for all of us.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Anderson, the effect of Trump pulling the US out of the Paris agreement? We just had a segment on Brazil. The front runner Jair Bolsonaro, who our guest called an open fascist, an extremely far right-wing candidate, has promised that he will pull out of the Paris Agreement as well and would abolish Brazil’s Ministry of Environment, which environmentalists fear would lead to deforestation of the Amazon. Your thoughts on both Bolsonaro and Trump?

KEVIN ANDERSON: They are completely, from a scientific perspective — and I would also argue probably from a moral perspective — they are completely out of tune of what our analysis is saying. I also think we have to be very careful when we see these extreme figures — and both of these I think are certainly extreme figures — we have to remember that they are a little bit of noise on the system. The general trend line is more recognition that climate change is a serious issue. Even the poll data in the States shows this. I have not seen data from Brazil, so I’m not sure. So we are seeing climate change events and people are thinking this is an important issue.

Because some of our — and perhaps not always the brightest people who are leading our countries and can’t understand that or think that they have a political base they have to appeal to who does not want to hear that message, I think the rest of us should not run scared of them. We just have to redouble our efforts. And indeed, when President Trump decided to pull out of the Paris Agreement, which of course he can’t do yet anyway but plans to, then the Chinese and the French stepped forward and said, “Well, we will try and make some extra effort to compensate.” And we also see in the US many mayors saying actually climate change is still an important issue. So the US is not a dictatorship. Trump cannot dictate what the population of the US is going to do. Of course he is important and he is influential, but so are the mayors.

So it is incumbent on the rest of us who are more informed by the science, and I would argue with a more reasoned moral and progressive background to our analysis, it is up to us to redouble our efforts and make sure that we move in the right direction and not to run scared of the Trumps of this world. There are plenty of them. They will come and they will go, but the overall issue of climate change, the physics of climate change, is here to stay regardless of the ephemeral whims of the occasional president.

AMY GOODMAN: And in this last minute, what does the future look like? How bad can things get if we proceed on this course?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, the way things are going at the moment, I think it is quite reasonable to think we’re heading to about four degrees of centigrade warming across this century. That would be utterly devastating. Just remember, the difference between now and an Ice Age is about five degrees, so we’re talking about changes that would normally occur over probably tens of thousands of years occurring over a little more than 100 years. And 100 years in some respect sounds like a long time, but many of the people listening to this, their children will still be alive in 100 years, and certainly, their grandchildren will be. A hundred years is just tomorrow, really, in so many respects. And what we do today locks in the infrastructure.

AMY GOODMAN: And what would the world look like?

KEVIN ANDERSON: We will be seeing far more famine, drought, floods, changes in food patterns. I think we will probably start to see lot more tensions within communities, and that means then a lot more tension between communities. So we see even in — we look at Syria. Syria clearly wasn’t caused by climate change, but the 12 years of drought in that region was an exacerbating factor, and that’s with just one year of — one degree of warming.

As we head towards four degrees centigrade of warming, we’re talking about breaking down many of the ecosystems of the world that pollinate our crops, that make our air clean for us. So this is a different planet from the one in which we live. And the chaos that will ensue will be bad for our species, for humans, but also indeed of course the many other species around the planet. And that is why we have to do everything we can to hold to ideally two — two degrees centigrade — well, to hold for two degrees centigrade, and ideally aim for 1.5. I think that’s looking very challenging. So let’s do everything we can to keep the temperature as low as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: Kevin Anderson, we want to thank you for joining us, the Zennström Professor in Climate Change Leadership at the Centre for Environment and Development Studies, Uppsala University. Also Chair of Energy and Climate Change at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester in Britain, where he’s speaking to us now. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we will talk about nuclear weapons with the representative Beatrice Fihn of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Stay with us.

The post We Need a “Marshall Plan” for Climate Change, Says Climate Expert appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Far-Right Demagogue Follows Rousseff’s Ouster and Lula’s Jailing in Brazil

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 15:28

In a stunning upset that may radically alter the political landscape of Latin America, far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro won 46 percent of the vote in Sunday’s presidential election in Brazil in a far more decisive victory than expected. The former army officer has a long history of making racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments and has openly praised Brazil’s military dictatorship. He will now face Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers Party in a runoff on October 28. Haddad won 29 percent of the vote Sunday. Many are warning that the future of democracy in Brazil hangs in the balance. We speak with Maria Luísa Mendonça, director of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil, who says Bolsonaro is a “fascist” and that his election would create “a very dangerous situation in Brazil.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We begin today’s show in Brazil, where a far-right former army officer is moving closer to becoming the next president of the world’s fourth largest democracy. On Sunday, Jair Bolsonaro won 46 percent of the vote in a far more decisive victory than was expected. Because he didn’t hit 50 percent, he will now face Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers’ Party in a runoff on October 28th. Haddad won 29 percent of the vote Sunday.

Many critics of Bolsonaro warn the future of democracy in Brazil is now at risk. Bolsonaro has openly praised Brazil’s military dictatorship, which lasted from 1964 to 1985. He also has a long history of making racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments, once telling a female lawmaker she was too ugly to rape. He has encouraged police to kill suspected drug dealers. In April, he was actually charged with hate speech over his tirades. But Bolsonaro’s popularity has soared in recent weeks after he was stabbed while out on the campaign trail. On Sunday, he briefly spoke after casting his vote.

JAIR BOLSONARO: All of this has brought and awoken the people to the idea that Brazil can’t continue on the path to socialism. We don’t want to be tomorrow what Venezuela is today.

AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday, Jair Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party won unexpected victories across Brazil. In Brazil’s lower house, Bolsonaro’s party won 52 seats, up from just eight. It’s now the second largest party in the chamber. Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo received more votes than any Congressional candidate in Brazil’s history. Meanwhile, Brazilian voters ousted a stunning two-thirds of incumbents Sunday.

Jair Bolsonaro also directly benefited from the jailing of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva who had been leading all presidential polls earlier this year. Lula has been in jail since April on what many consider trumped-up corruption charges. His handpicked successor, former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad, now faces an uphill fight against Bolsonaro in the October 28th runoff. On Monday, Haddad traveled to meet with Lula in his cell and discuss strategy. Afterwards, he said he was ready for the next round of voting.

FERNANDO HADDAD: We are very excited for the second round, because the second round offers an opportunity that we didn’t have in the first round to debate the projects that each one of the remaining candidates advocate for the country. We will have an important opportunity to compare these two projects so that voters have the opportunity, in my opinion, that they didn’t have in the first round, of comparison.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, the Workers’ Party suffered major defeats in legislative races. Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff lost her bid for a Brazilian Senate seat, winning just 15 percent of the vote. We are joined right now by Maria Luísa Mendonça. She is director of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil, joining us in our New York City studio. Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what took place on Sunday and the significance of Bolsonaro’s — not outright victory; he still has the runoff — but he got many more votes than was expected.

MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: Yes. It’s a very dangerous situation in Brazil that I think is very important to monitor, because that could have an impact in the whole region. Like I said before, former President Lula — actually if he was able to run, he would probably win very easily. But there was a vacuum created because he was put in jail with charges of receiving a bribe, but actually there is no evidence that he received the bribe. So since the parliamentary coup against President Dilma Rousseff two years ago, we are in the situation of a limbo. We cannot consider that we have a democracy in Brazil right now. So Bolsonaro is the result of a series of attacks on democracy that started two years ago with the parliamentary coup against Dilma Rousseff.

AMY GOODMAN: So Dilma Rousseff is coup’ed out — she is forced out of the presidency — and then Lula, who decided to run for president, is imprisoned.

MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: Exactly. We said that there was a coup because there was no evidence that she committed any crimes, but she was impeached anyway. And Bolsonaro at that time voted as a congressmember, voted for the impeachment in the name of the person who tortured her during the military dictatorship when she was in prison.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, he supported the impeachment in his honor?

MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: Yes, because during the vote in Congress, most congressmembers voted in the name of the God, in the name of their family, and Bolsonaro voted in the name of the person who tortured Dilma during the military dictatorship.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Dilma Rousseff. I interviewed her in April here. She was ousted in 2016 in what she has described as a coup. I asked her about the rise of the far right.

DILMA ROUSSEFF: Yes, I can indeed. The far right in Brazil, like the far right everywhere, is anti-woman, anti-black, anti-indigenous persons, and it is in favor of ending all oversight. And they struggled for this. They want to end any oversight of labor work situations analogous to slavery that continue to exist in Brazil. They are full of prejudice and intolerance. And they believe that they can resolve the most complex problems using brute force of violence, open violence.

What happened in the vote in the impeachment process that I suffered—well, legislator Bolsonaro cast his vote paying tribute to the military dictatorship and torture, and the torturer, whose name was Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra. In casting his vote, he paid tribute to this man who was a torturer in São Paulo. And he was recognized in all of the processes of truth and justice that unfolded in Brazil. He said the following to pay tribute to someone who brought terror to President Dilma Rousseff. A person who is capable of doing an impeachment proceeding to justify his vote in this manner is a person who sows hatred. He spread hatred because he only understands one language, the language of violence.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Dilma Rousseff, the former Brazilian President who was impeached. I was speaking to her when she was at University of California Berkeley. Maria Luísa Mendonça, she describes Bolsonaro. If you can talk more about Bolsonaro’s history and exactly what he represents?

MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: Yeah. He represents the sector of the military that is openly fascist. Like I said before, he talks about raping women openly. He said that he would rather have a dead son than a gay son. He praises the military dictatorship. He said that he will give the police — the police should be free to kill. So it’s a very —

AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to him in his own words, a 2013 interview with — then, well, he was Congressman Jair Bolsonaro — on BBC.

JAIR BOLSONARO: I went into battle with the gays because the government proposed anti-homophobia classes for the junior grades. That would actively stimulate homosexuality in children from six years old. This is not normal. Your culture is different to ours. We are not ready for all of this in Brazil, because no father would ever take pride in having a gay son. Pride, happiness, celebrate if his son turns out gay? No way.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Jair Bolsonaro, the frontrunner in Brazil. Also, as you said, told a congresswoman she was too ugly to rape.

MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: Exactly. Yeah. What happens now also is there is a lot of media manipulation. Since the impeachment of President Dilma two years ago, there is constant attacks on the PT, on the Workers’ Party. It was almost like all mainstream media in Brazil is like Fox News. There is no alternative. And also now during the campaign, Bolsonaro started a campaign of fake news, especially on WhatsApp, that is not controlled. For example, Facebook has closed several accounts that were spreading fake news against Fernando Haddad and against the candidate for vice president, Manuela. Also, Steve Bannon is one of the advisors for Bolsonaro. So there’s a lot of misinformation and manipulation.

AMY GOODMAN: In August, Jair Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo posted a photo on Twitter of him with former Trump strategist Steve Bannon. Eduardo Bolsonaro wrote “It was a pleasure to meet STEVE BANNON, strategist in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. We had a great conversation and we share the same worldview…and we are certainly in touch to join forces, especially against cultural Marxism.” The significance of what Eduardo himself — Jair’s son?

MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: Yes, exactly. Well, I think that it’s also important to understand that the media in Brazil is portraying Fernando Haddad, the progressive candidate, as far-left, but when he was the mayor of São Paulo, actually what he did was he built several daycares and more than 30 hospitals and he tried to make the traffic in the city better, for example, having infrastructure for bikes. When he was ministry of education under the Lula administration, he created more than 18 new federal universities, more than 300 new campuses, university campuses, and there was much more incentive and fellowships for education at all levels. So, you know, he comes from an educational background. He doesn’t come from any type of extreme left background.

So what we have now is a very extreme fascist candidate running against a moderate candidate. And our hope now is that three other candidates, progressive candidates, have said that they would support Fernando Haddad now in the runoff elections in a few weeks. So hopefully, between now and then, they will be able to —

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that could make up the difference in the runoff?

MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: I think so, because those progressive candidates together will probably get about 20 percent of the votes, and if they are able to convince people that this is a dangerous path — the challenge is how do we deal with media manipulation. Not just mainstream media, but the manipulation on social media.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Noam Chomsky who just recently went to Brazil. He met with Lula in prison, and when he came out, Chomsky condemned Brazil’s right-wing media.

NOAM CHOMSKY: We have just had the great privilege of spending an hour with Lula, and one of the points that he emphasized was that during his entire tenure in office, there was just a constant flood of attacks from all of the media. Constant. Thousands of attacks from every direction, which of course confuses and undermines public opinion. So the answer to your question is, something is needed to counter the concentrated power of right-wing media, which particularly in Latin America just overwhelms everything.

AMY GOODMAN: That is the world-renowned linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky. As we wrap up and leading into this runoff, the significance of the media in shaping popular opinion in Brazil?

MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: That’s very important, because during the administration of Dilma Rousseff, just an example, unemployment rate was 4 percent, and now it is 15 percent. So of course, you know, there is an economic crisis, but instead of looking at the future, the mainstream media plays this role of giving incentive to fear and that creates the space for fascist candidates like Bolsonaro.

So the question is how the — because the left-wing parties already announced they’re going to unite, be united for the second round. The question is how the neoliberal parties — let’s say the mainstream conservative parties that are implementing structural adjustment policies — how let’s say the mainstream conservative neoliberal parties would then — what decision they’re going to make. Because it’s a risky decision to support a far-right fascist candidate. So I think that’s the main question.

AMY GOODMAN: Maria Luísa Mendonça, we want to thank you so much for being with us, director of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Manchester, England, to speak with Dr. Kevin Anderson about a new UN climate report as a monster hurricane bears down on the Panhandle in Florida and the Alabama governor declares the whole state an emergency. Stay with us.

The post Far-Right Demagogue Follows Rousseff’s Ouster and Lula’s Jailing in Brazil appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Islamophobia Under Trump: The New McCarthyism

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 15:17

These days, our global political alliances seem to shift with remarkable rapidity, as if we were actually living in George Orwell’s 1984. Are we at war this month with Oceania? Or is it Eastasia? In that novel, the Party is able to erase history, sending old newspaper articles down the Ministry of Truth’s “memory hole” and so ensuring that, in the public mind, the enemy of the moment was always the enemy. Today, there is one constant, though. The Trump administration has made Muslims our enemy of the first order and, in its Islamophobia, is reinforced by an ugly resurgence of fascism in Germany, Italy, Hungary, and other European countries.

It’s hard today even to imagine that, in the late 1980s, the right-wing Christian Voice Magazine published a “candidate’s biblical scoreboard,” urging its readers (and potential voters) to rate their politicians by how “biblically” they cast their ballots in Congress. One key measure of this: Did that legislator support the anti-Communist Muslim jihadis in Afghanistan, a cause warmly supported by evangelist Pat Robertson in his 1988 presidential campaign? Now, attempting to appeal to twenty-first-century evangelicals, President Trump has announced that “Islam hates us.”

The kaleidoscope of geopolitics and Islamophobia is now spinning so fast that it should make our heads spin, too. At times, it seems as if Donald Trump is the anti-Ronald Reagan of the twenty-first century, idolizing former KGB operative Vladimir Putin, but seeing former US allies in the Muslim world like Pakistan as purveyors of “nothing but lies and deceit” — until, that is, with bewildering rapidity, he suddenly gives us the “good” (that is, oil-rich) Muslims again, willingly performing a sword dance with the Saudi royals, seemingly entirely comfortable with the scimitar of the Saracen.

Islamophobes Galore

While the president oscillates between abusing and fawning over the elites of the Muslim world, his true opprobrium is reserved for the poor and helpless. His hatred of refugees uprooted by the horrific Syrian civil war, for instance, stems from his conviction that this population (predominantly women and children, as well as some men fleeing the fighting) might actually be adherents of the so-called Islamic State group (also known as ISIL, ISIS, or Daesh) and so part of the building of a secretive paramilitary force in the West. He’s even speculated that “this could be one of the great tactical ploys of all time. A 200,000-man army, maybe.”

This summer, he also tweeted: “Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!” And a day later claimed it had risen by 10%. Though immigrant communities can indeed produce some crime until they find their footing, the crime rate in Germany, despite the welcoming of two million immigrants in 2015 alone, has fallen to a 30-year low, as have crimes by non-German nationals.

Nor, of course, is there an army of terrorists the size of the active-duty forces of France or Italy among those hapless Syrian refugees. Still, that outlandish conspiracy theory may be part of what lay behind the president’s blatantly unconstitutional 2015 call for a “total and complete shut-down” of Muslims coming to the United States. Consider it a great irony, then, that some significant part of the turmoil in the greater Middle East that helped provoke waves of refugees and an Islamophobic backlash here and in Europe was, at least in part, the creation of this country, not Muslim fundamentalists.

The Islamophobes like to argue that Islam is an inherently violent religion, that its adherents are quite literally commanded to such violence by its holy scriptures, the Qur’an. It’s a position that, as I explain in my new book, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires, is both utterly false and ahistorical. As it happens, you would have to look to far more recent realities to find the impetus for the violence, failed states, and spreading terror groups in today’s Greater Middle East. Start with the Reagan administration’s decision to deploy rag-tag bands of Muslim extremists (which al-Qaeda was first formed to support) against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. That set in motion massive turmoil still roiling that country, neighboring Pakistan, and beyond, decades after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Of course, al-Qaeda notoriously blew back on America. Its September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington were then used by American neoconservatives in the administration of George W. Bush — some of whom had served in the Reagan years, cheering on the American-backed Afghan fundamentalists, as well as their Arab allies — to set the United States on a permanent war footing in the Muslim world. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, promoted on the false pretext that Saddam Hussein’s government supported al-Qaeda, kicked off a set of guerrilla insurgencies and provoked a Sunni-Shiite civil war that spread in the region.

Hundreds of thousands would die and at least four million people, including staggering numbers of children, would be displaced over the years thanks to George W. Bush’s boondoggle. The al-Qaeda franchise ISIL (formed initially as al-Qaeda in Iraq in the wake of the US invasion) arose to expel American troops there. Ultimately, its militants made inroads in neighboring Syria in 2011 and 2012 and the US allowed them to grow in hopes of putting pressure on the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

As is now all too clear, such policies created millions of refugees, some of whom streamed towards Europe, only to be greeted by a rising tide of white Christian bigotry and neo-Nazism. There’s no way to measure the degree to which America’s wars across the Greater Middle East and North Africa have, in fact, changed our world. When, for instance, British Prime Minister Tony Blair signed on to Bush’s illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, how could he have foreseen that he was helping set off events that would result in a British withdrawal from the European Union (a decision in which anti-immigrant sentiment played an outsized role) — and so the diminishment of his country?

Having helped spread extremism and set in motion massive population displacements, Western elites then developed a profound fear of the millions of refugees they had helped chase out of the Middle East. Executive Order 13769, President Trump’s abrupt January 2017 visa ban, which created chaos at American airports and provoked widespread protests and court challenges — many of its elements were, however, ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court — appears to have been premised on the notion that a Trojan Horse of Muslim extremism was headed for American shores.

In reality, the relatively small number of terrorist attacks here by Muslim-Americans (covered so much more intensively than the more common mass shootings by white nationalists) have most often been carried out by “lone wolves” who “self-radicalized” on the internet and who, had they been white, would have been viewed more sympathetically.

Still, realities of that sort don’t make a dent in the president’s agenda. In 2018, the Trump administration will likely only admit about 20,000 refugees, far less than last year’s 45,000, thanks to administration demands that the FBI carry out “extreme vetting” of all applicants without being given any extra resources to do so. Of the refugees admitted in the first half of this year, only about one in six was a Muslim, while in 2016, when 84,995 refugees were admitted, they were equally divided between Christians and Muslims.

On average, the US still admits a little more than a million immigrants annually, of which refugees are a small (and decreasing) proportion. Since 2010, more immigrants have come from Asia than any other area, some 45% of them with college degrees, which means that Trump’s very image of immigrants is wrong.

His ban on immigrants from five Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia) was largely symbolic, since they were generally not sources of significant immigration. It was also remarkably arbitrary, since it did not include Iraq or Afghanistan, where violent insurgencies and turmoil continue but whose governments host American troops. It does, however, include the relatively peaceful country of Iran.

Trump’s Muslim ban has broken up families, even as it harmed American businesses and universities whose employees (or in the case of colleges, students) have been abruptly barred from the country. The restrictions on immigration from Syria and Yemen are particularly cruel, since those lands face the most extreme humanitarian crises on the planet and the United States has been deeply implicated in the violence in both of them. Moreover, Iranians who do emigrate to the US are, for the most part, members of minorities or political dissidents. In fact, no nationals from any of those five banned states have committed lethal acts of terrorism in the United States in the last 40 years.

The Islamophobia of President Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and others in the administration, aided and abetted by the megaphone that Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News offers, has had a distinct impact on public opinion. Attacks on Muslim-Americans have, for instance, spiked back to 2001 levels. A recent poll found that some 16% of Americans want to deny the vote to Muslim-Americans, 47% support Trump’s visa restrictions, and a majority would like all mosques to be kept under surveillance. (A frequent, if completely false, talking point of the Islamophobes is that Muslims here have a single ideology and are focused on a secret plan to take over the United States.) You undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn that such unhinged conspiracy theories are far more prevalent among Republicans than Democrats and independents.

Similarly unsurprising is the fact that Americans in the Trump era give a lower favorability rating to Muslim-Americans (a little over 1% of the US population) than to virtually any other religious or ethnic group (though feminists and evangelicals are runners-up). By a spread of about 20 points, they believe that Muslim-Americans are both more religious than Christian Americans and less likely to respect the country’s ideals and laws. They slam Muslims for according women and gays low status, though a majority of Muslim-Americans say that homosexuals should be accepted in society, a belief that Muslim-American women hold in the same percentages as the rest of the American public. As for those women, they are among the best educated of any faith group in the country, suggesting extremely supportive families.

In reality, Muslim-Americans are remarkably well integrated into this country and have committed little terrorism here. In the past decade and a half, on average, 28 Muslim-Americans a year were associated with acts of violent extremism out of a population of 3.5 million and most of those “acts” involved traveling abroad to join radical movements. Muslim-American extremists killed 17 people in 2017, a year in which white gunmen killed 267 Americans in mass shootings.

Changing Bogeymen

The Islamophobia that Donald Trump has made his own arose in the decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, once the bogeyman of Communism was removed from the quiver of the American Right. The 1990s were hard on the Republican Party and its plutocrats (with a popular Clinton in the White House), and on the arms manufacturers facing a public increasingly uninterested in foreign adventurism with no sense of threat from abroad. The Pentagon budget was even briefly cut in those years, producing what was then called a “peace dividend.” (It wasn’t.) And though it’s now hard to imagine, in 1995 the United States was not involved in a conventional hot war anywhere in the world.

In this no-longer-so-new century, the Republican Party, like the Trump presidency, did, however, find the bogeyman it needed and it looks remarkably like a modernized version of the rabidly anti-Communist McCarthyism of the 1950s. In fact, the endless demonization of Muslims may be less a cudgel to wield against the small Muslim-American community than against Democratic opponents who can be lambasted as “soft on terrorism” if they resist demands to demonize Muslims and their religion.

In my own state of Michigan, Elissa Slotkin, an acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Obama years and a former CIA analyst, is running as a Democrat in the 8th District against Congressman Mike Bishop. Slotkin played a role in developing the anti-ISIL strategies that Trump adopted when he came into office. Nonetheless, our airwaves are now saturated with pro-Bishop ads smearing Slotkin, a third-generation Michigander, for her supposed involvement in President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal and so for being little short of a Shiite terrorist herself. Similarly, in San Diego, California’s 50th district, the scandal-ridden campaign of Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter (indicted for embezzling $250,000 in campaign funds) continues to broadly intimate that his opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Christian American of Palestinian and Mexican descent, is a Muslim Brotherhood infiltrator seeking to enter Congress.

Still, despite all the sound and fury from the White House, the US Muslim population continues to grow because of immigration and natural increase. Over the past 30 years, between 3,000 and 13,000 immigrants have arrived annually from Egypt, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey, and a handful of other countries. Their governments are close geopolitical allies of the US and to interdict their nationals would be politically embarrassing, as Trump discovered when he attempted to include Iraq on his list of banned countries and was persuaded to change his mind by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

Of course, not all Americans share Trump’s bigotry. Two-thirds of us actually disapprove of politicians engaging in hate speech toward Muslims. Some 55% of us believe that Muslim-Americans are committed to the welfare of the country, a statistic that would break the 60% mark if it weren’t for evangelicals. Two Muslim-American politicians, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, won Democratic primaries in Detroit and Minneapolis and so are poised to become the first Muslim-American women in the House of Representatives.

Such an outcome would be one way in which Americans could begin to reply to the wave of Islamophobia that helped lift Donald Trump into office in 2016 and has only intensified since then. The decency of Middle America has certainly been tarnished, but as the polls indicate, not lost. Not yet anyway.

The post Islamophobia Under Trump: The New McCarthyism appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Post-Kavanaugh, Republicans Throw Salt in Women’s Wounds

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 14:58

If the bruising battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court cemented one new truism of American politics in the Trump era, it is that Republicans have grown insatiable.

Since Donald Trump’s surprise election victory nearly two years ago, the president and his followers have suffered from a “sore winner” syndrome that finds them locked in a perpetual search for a fight in which they can declare themselves the true victims — even after a clear and dominant victory. Their complaints have only grown louder the further away from real-world harm they move.

Even after managing to lock in a conservative Supreme Court by confirming the least popular nominee since Robert Bork, Republicans have reveled in rubbing their victory in the faces of sexual assault survivors everywhere, apparently to gin up their base ahead of the midterm elections.

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, couldn’t bother to offer a decent explanation for why there has never been a female Republican on the committee in its 202-year history. The Republican men on the committee had to hire a “female assistant,” Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, to question Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during her Senate testimony.

After admitting that he and his chief of staff of 33 years failed to “get the job done,” Grassley pointed to the workload as a deterrent for women who would serve on the powerful committee.

“It’s a lot of work — maybe they don’t want to do it,” he concluded.

He later added, after receiving widespread backlash, that “on average, any woman in the United States Senate, whether they’re on Judiciary or any other committee, probably works harder than the average man.”

But Republicans continued that flippant attitude towards women even after it became clear that the GOP had won the long-fought battle.

President Trump has mocked Ford’s testimony and portrayed Kavanaugh as “a man that was caught up in a hoax set up by the Democrats.” Apparently not satisfied with Kavanaugh winning a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, Trump called in to Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro to demand that alleged sexual assault survivors be criminally prosecuted for publicly accusing Kavanaugh.

“I think that they should be held liable,” he said of the women who he claimed made up “fabrications” about his nominee. “You can destroy somebody’s life.”

As with all of the outrageous antics that emanate from Trump, this sentiment has spread well beyond the president.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page, which the previous night had published an op-ed by Kavanaugh, ran the headline “Susan Collins Consents,” an implicit rape joke, after the Maine Republican announced her intention to support Kavanaugh. The hashtag #BeersforBrett began trending Saturday night after Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, tweeted an image of his congratulatory drink for Kavanaugh by gloating about the newest Supreme Court justice’s frat boy image:

Not quite #Beers4Brett but #Bubbly4Brett instead

— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) October 6, 2018

“I think the roles were reversed: The slut whore drunk was Kavanaugh,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said, spiking the football following a successful final confirmation vote on Saturday.

I’m not tired of winning……..Victory!

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 6, 2018

The ultimate goal of the conservative narrative is to create an atmosphere that depresses Democratic turnout, but it could also backfire and create more force behind the Blue Wave.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation may serve to undercut the “white men are the real victims” shtick that got Trump elected — at least for anybody outside his hardcore base. Pew Research Center is now reporting that 63 percent of women disapprove of how Trump is doing his job. According to a new Post/Schar School poll, in 69 House districts that Donald Trump or a Republican member of Congress won in 2016 by 15 points or more, women voters now favor the Democratic candidates by 54 to 40.

Of course, the crucial question to ask when presented with that kind of political data would be: Which women are we talking about?

In 2014, when Republicans won control of the Senate and grew their lead in the House, white college-educated women preferred a Democratic Congress by just 2 points. College-educated white women now prefer Democrats by a whopping 62 to 35 percent. Even more notably, 54 percent of independent women opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination, according to a NPR/Marist poll released last week. And a new CNN poll reports that 52 percent of all voters say they believe the women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct over the judge’s denials.

But as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said after the initial accusations against Kavanaugh were made public, Republicans look ready to just “plow” through whatever woman-powered resistance may be rising out there.

“I know I’m a single white male from South Carolina, and I’m told I should shut up, but I will not shut up,” Sen. Lindsey Graham defiantly shouted during his memorably heated “Braveheart” moment in defense of Kavanaugh. After an unprecedented prime-time swearing-in ceremony on Monday, Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, up for re-election in state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, tweeted that the “smears backfired”:

The smears backfired. #SCOTUSKavanaugh

— Dean Heller (@DeanHeller) October 8, 2018

All this GOP gloating is about one thing: driving turnout.

Midterms are about base turnout. Historically low turnout rates mean that pivotal elections are dominated by the most animated voters. Republicans have obviously calculated that their voters appreciate all this whining even in victorious times and that a sense of shared, collective victimhood can overcome the tangible rage of nearly all groups of women.

For a path of resistance for Democrats frustrated by Republicans’ antics, look to how Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota has handled her controversial decision on Kavanaugh. After her Republican challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer, criticized her “no” vote by dismissing #MeToo, led by sexual assault survivors, as a movement for the weak, Heitkamp doubled down by sharing her personal experience of assault and defending her vote in campaign ads.

The battle lines have already been drawn, so Democrats would be wise to own this loss as fuel. The midterms will ultimately be the lingering battle of 2016; a fight between the indignant losers and the sore winners.

I’ve always contended that Hillary Clinton’s campaign made its biggest strategic blunder when it decided not to explicitly link Donald Trump to the entire Republican Party. Writing about interviews with 10 lifelong Republican women who have left the GOP since the 2016 election, Politico’s E.J. Graff notes that “Trump alone didn’t push these women to shed their Republican labels; other GOP politicians’ unquestioning support for Trump did that. Several told me they were angry that an all-Republican government has become the party of fiscal waste, deficits, trade wars and rebates for the wealthy.”

Prior to the Kavanaugh fight, health care consistently ranked as the top concern of voters in polls. Republicans’ failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act was a big loss that had clearly depressed enthusiasm of the GOP base. Winning a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, even on the wounds of women — and especially on the wounds of the women apparently most turned off by the maneuver — may have given Republicans a short-term boost. In the end, it may cost them dearly.

The post Post-Kavanaugh, Republicans Throw Salt in Women’s Wounds appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Organizers Say Kavanaugh Isn’t “Above the Law” as Petitions to Impeach Him Surge

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 14:28

Surging towards its goal of 200,000 signatures since it was launched over the weekend, a petition calling for the impeachment of newly-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — just one among others circulating — has already garnered nearly 80 percent of its goal in just over two days.

“Kavanaugh has been credibly accused of sexual assault and lying under oath in 2004, 2006 and at least 30 times during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings,” reads the CREDO Action petition. “Perjury is an impeachable offense. The House Judiciary Committee should immediately investigate these accusations and work to remove Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court.”

As of this writing, the CREDO petition had gathered 158,887 signatures, but that number was quickly climbing.

ACTION NEEDED: We need you to raise your voice to impeach accused sexual predator and proven perjurer #BrettKavanaugh. Make a call and ask House members to use their power to #ImpeachKavanaugh: #SaveSCOTUS #KavanaughLiedUnderOath

— CREDO Mobile (@CREDOMobile) October 9, 2018

“A majority of Americans opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court and we believe a majority will ultimately support his impeachment as well,” Heidi Hess, the group’s co-director told NBC News in an interview.

And CREDO isn’t alone. Another citizen action group, Free Speech for People, is also pushing a petition — part of its campaign — in the wake of Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Saturday and calling on the House of Representatives to immediately begin hearings to further explore the allegations of sexual assault, perjury, and Kavanaugh’s bringing of “disrepute” onto the judiciary.

Brett Kavanaugh MUST be impeached and removed from the bench. We are calling on @HouseJudiciary to launch immediately an impeachment investigation. Learn more here: #ImpeachBrett #StopKavanaugh

— FreeSpeechForPeople (@FSFP) October 6, 2018

“This shouldn’t be controversial, but US Supreme Court justices should not be sexual assailants or perjurers,” said Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech For People, in a statement on Monday. “The evidence suggests that Brett Kavanaugh committed sexual assault in his youth, and continues to lie about it today — just as the White House emails reveal that he lied in his first confirmation process about receiving stolen documents. The Senate rushed through this process without taking the opportunity to conduct a real investigation of the serious charges against Kavanaugh. It’s not too late for the House of Representatives to demand answers, and if warranted after a full investigation, to impeach Kavanaugh.”

John Bonifaz, FSFP’s co-founder and president, added, “No one is above the law, not even a Supreme Court Justice.”

The post Organizers Say Kavanaugh Isn’t “Above the Law” as Petitions to Impeach Him Surge appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News