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Trump’s Aggressive Plans to Stifle Democracy

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 17:19

In a Trump administration where policy, on issues from taxes to education to the environment, is skewed sharply in favor of wealthy special interests and driven by officials who previously served as corporate lobbyists, and where the president himself mocks victims of sexual assault, makes common cause with racists, and seems to believe the justice system is his to manipulate for personal gain, it is unsurprising, but still appalling and alarming, that Trump and his underlings are aggressively pushing measures to stifle public protest and citizen participation in our democracy.

Start with a modest, but meaningful, example. Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has not only stocked her senior staff roster with former officials of predatory for-profit colleges, but, forced to go through steps called “negotiated rule-making” before she can gut Obama-era rules aimed at protecting students, she has taken multiple steps to try to rig the process. In earlier meetings, she stacked the deck by filling as many negotiator slots as possible with executives of for-profit schools. Her aides also tried to block the public from live streaming the negotiator meetings on the Internet, until Department of Education lawyers told them that position was untenable. When DeVos issued her proposed rules, which gave the worst predatory schools everything they wanted, she gave the public only 30 days (mostly in August) to comment, instead of the usual 90 days.

For the latest rule-making round, announced Thursday, DeVos has eliminated negotiator spots for representatives of consumer organizations and state attorneys general — after people representing those interests acted as powerful advocates for pro-student, pro-taxpayer positions in the prior rounds, repeatedly demonstrating the bankruptcy of the Devos Department’s arguments. DeVos and her aides didn’t like hearing the truth, so they’ve eliminated the speakers. They’ve also barred the public from attending some of the meetings.

Second, a broader example, one that requires an urgent response from conscientious, freedom-loving citizens out there: The National Park Service is proposing new rules that would dramatically restrict the rights of people to hold protests in Washington, DC — barring demonstrations in front of the White House, prohibiting the use of sound systems and stages for spontaneous protests, and potentially charging high fees to stage marches and rallies.

These proposed rules would undermine our traditions of free speech and public protest. But they fit well with President Trump’s repeated attacks on people who question or demonstrate against, or even simply report on, his policies, pronouncements, and personnel. Trump doesn’t want to see protests, or have the world see protests, over his attacks on women’s rights, civil rights, LBGT rights; over his separation of parents and children at the border; over his refusal to act on climate change despite the violent storms ravaging our communities; over his efforts to undermine workers and unions; over his failure to seek reasonable gun controls; and much more. So his administration is working to curb demonstrations.

(Meanwhile, the law firm of Trump’s long-time personal attorney Marc Kasowitz is leading efforts to use anti-racketeering laws to sue Greenpeace and other groups associated with protests against energy pipelines and forest logging abuses.)

The public has only until this Monday, October 15, to tell the Park Service what you think about these anti-speech rules.

One more troubling example: Trump’s hand-picked candidate to be the Republican nominee for governor of Georgia, hard-line conservative Brian Kemp, currently serves as Georgia’s secretary of state. In that role, which includes overseeing state elections, Kemp seems to be doing everything in his power to dump people from the voter rolls for his general election contest next month against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Most recently, it was reported Kemp has frozen more than 53,000 voter registration applications — about 70 percent from African Americans — because of mostly minor discrepancies, such as a typo, between a voter’s registration info and that on their identification cards. Kemp also has purged some 1.5 million voters from rolls in recent years by labelling them “inactive.”

Kemp’s effort to cut from the voter lists people who may favor Democrats dovetails with efforts by other GOP politicians across the country to restrict voting rights, through measures like harsh “Voter ID” laws and restrictions on early voting.

If Trump and his allies are truly confident in the righteousness of their policies, why are they taking so many steps to stifle dissent, debate, and even the right to vote in our nation?

The post Trump’s Aggressive Plans to Stifle Democracy appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Latin America Backslides in Struggle to Reach Zero Hunger Goal

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 17:00

For the third consecutive year, South America slid backwards in the global struggle to achieve zero hunger by 2030, with 39 million people living with hunger and five million children suffering from malnutrition.

“It’s very distressing because we’re not making progress. We’re not doing well, we’re going in reverse. You can accept this in a year of great drought or a crisis somewhere, but when it’s happened three years in a row, that’s a trend,” reflected Julio Berdegué, FAO’s highest authority in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The regional representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations said it is cause for concern that it is not Central America, the poorest subregion, that is failing in its efforts, but the South American countries that have stagnated.

“More than five million children in Latin America are permanently malnourished. In a continent of abundant food, a continent of upper-middle- and high-income countries, five million children … It’s unacceptable,” he said in an interview with IPS at the agency’s regional headquarters in Santiago.

“They are children who already have scars in their lives. Children whose lives have already been marked, even though countries, governments, civil society, NGOs, churches, and communities are working against this. The development potential of a child whose first months and years of life are marked by malnutrition is already radically limited for his entire life,” he said.

What can the region do to move forward again? In line with this year’s theme of World Food Day, celebrated Oct. 16, “Our actions are our future. A zero hunger world by 2030 is possible,” Berdegué underlined the responsibility of governments and society as a whole.

Governments, he said, must “call us all together, facilitate, support, promote job creation and income generation, especially for people from the weakest socioeconomic strata.”

In addition, he stressed that policies for social protection, peace and the absence of conflict and addressing climate change are also required.

New Foods to Improve Nutrition

In the small town of Los Muermos, near Puerto Montt, 1,100 kilometers south of Santiago, nine women and two male algae collectors are working to create new foods, with the aim of helping to curb both under- and over-nutrition, in Chile and in neighboring countries. Their star product is jam made with cochayuyo (Durvillaea antarctica), a large bull kelp species that is the dominant seaweed in southern Chile.

“I grew up on the water. I’ve been working along the sea for more than 30 years, as a shore gatherer,” said Ximena Cárcamo, 48, president of the Flor del Mar fishing cooperative.

Julio Berdegué, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, in his office at the agency’s headquarters in Santiago, Chile, during an interview with IPS to discuss the setback with regard to reaching the zero hunger target in the region.Julio Berdegué, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, in his office at the agency’s headquarters in Santiago, Chile, during an interview with IPS to discuss the setback with regard to reaching the zero hunger target in the region.Orlando Milesi / IPS

The seaweed gatherer told IPS from Los Muermos about the great potential of cochayuyo and other algae “that boost health and nutrition because they have many benefits for people,” in a region with high levels of poverty and social vulnerability, which translate into under-nutrition.

“We are adding value to products that we have in our locality. We want people to consume them and that’s why we made jam because children don’t eat seaweed and in Chile we have so many things that people don’t consume and that could help improve their diet,” she explained.

In the first stage, the women, with the support of the Aquaculture and Fishing Centre for Applied Research, identified which seaweed have a high nutritional value, are rich in minerals, proteins, fiber and vitamins, and have low levels of sugar.

The seaweed gatherers created a recipe book, “cooking with seaweed from the sea garden,” including sweet and salty recipes such as cochayuyo ice cream, rice pudding and luche and reineta ceviche with sea chicory.

Now the project aims to create high value-added food such as energy bars.

“We want to reach schools, where seaweed is not consumed. That’s why we want to mix them with dried fruit from our sector,” said Cárcamo, insisting that a healthy and varied diet introduced since childhood is the way to combat malnutrition, as well as the “appalling” levels of overweight and obesity that affects Chile, as well as the rest of Latin America.

The Paradox of Obesity

“Obesity is killing us…it kills more people than organised crime,” Berdegué warned, pointing out that in terms of nutrition the region is plagued by under-nutrition on the one hand and over-nutrition on the other.

“Nearly 60 percent of the region’s population is overweight. There are 250 million candidates for diabetes, colon cancer or stroke,” he said.

He explained that “there are 105 million obese people, who are key candidates for these diseases. More than seven million children are obese with problems of self-esteem and problems of emotional and physical development. They are children who are candidates to die young,” he said.

According to Berdegué, this problem “is growing wildly…there are four million more obese people in the region each year.”

A seaweed gatherer carries cochayuyo harvested from rocks along Chile’s Pacific coast. The cultivation and commercialisation of cochayuyo and other kinds of seaweed is being promoted in different coastal areas of the country, to provide new foods to improve nutrition in the country.A seaweed gatherer carries cochayuyo harvested from rocks along Chile’s Pacific coast. The cultivation and commercialisation of cochayuyo and other kinds of seaweed is being promoted in different coastal areas of the country, to provide new foods to improve nutrition in the country.Orlando Milesi / IPS

The latest statistic for 2016 reported 105 million obese people in Latin America and the Caribbean, up from 88 million only four years earlier.

In view of this situation, the FAO regional representative stressed the need for a profound transformation of the food system.

“How do we produce, what do we produce, what do we import, how is it distributed, what is access like in your neighborhood? What do you do if you live in a neighborhood where the only store, that is 500 meters away, only sells ultra-processed food and does not sell vegetables or fruits?” he asked.

Berdegué harshly criticised “advertising, which tells us every day that good eating is to go sit in a fast food restaurant and eat 2,000 calories of junk as if that were entirely normal.”

Change of Policies as Well as Habits

“You have to change habits, yes, but you have to change policies as well. There are countries, such as the small Caribbean island nations, that depend fundamentally on imported food. And the vast majority of these foods are ultra-processed, many of which are food only in name because they’re actually just chemicals, fats and junk,” he said.

He insisted that “we lack production of fruits, vegetables and dairy products in many countries or trade policies that encourage imports of these foods and not so much junk food.”

And to move toward the goal of zero hunger in just 12 years, Berdegué also called for generating jobs and improving incomes, because that “is the best policy against hunger.”

The second of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which make up the 2030 Development Agenda, is achieving zero hunger through eight specific targets.

Poverty Making a Comeback

“In Latin America we don’t lack food. People just can’t afford to buy it,” Berdegué said.

He also called for countries to strengthen policies to protect people living in poverty and extreme poverty.

According to the latest figures from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), poverty in the region grew between 2014 and 2017, when it affected 186 million people, 30.7 percent of the population. Extreme poverty affects 10 percent of the total: 61 million people.

Moreover, in this region where 82 percent of the population is urban, 48.6 percent of the rural population is poor, compared to 26.8 percent of the urban population, and this inequality drives the rural exodus to the cities.

“FAO urges countries to rethink social protection policies, particularly for children. We cannot allow ourselves to slow down in eradicating malnutrition and hunger among children,” Berdegué said.

He also advocated for the need for peace and the cessation of conflicts because “we have all the evidence in the world that when you lose peace, hunger soars. It is automatic. The great hunger hotspots and problems in the world today are in places where we are faced with conflict situations.”

“We have countries in the region where there is upheaval and governments have to know that this social and political turmoil causes hunger,” he concluded.

The post Latin America Backslides in Struggle to Reach Zero Hunger Goal appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

An Introduction to the Koch Digital Media Network

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 16:26

Though they have wildly diverse business interests, the Koch brothers are more famous for how they spend their money than for how they make it. Koch Industries is active in asphalt products, medical hardware, construction materials, glass, fuel, cattle and fabrics used to make everything “from rugged work clothes to sexy underthings,” according to the Koch Industries website. But the breadth of the political funding they coordinate may be even greater.

Elements of the Kochs’ pro-market anti-interventionist philosophy have been thrust to the forefront of politics in recent years thanks in part to their influence. Although their political operation is sometimes portrayed as a monolithic force, tipping the scales of public opinion toward economic libertarianism and directly bankrolling their candidates of choice, a closer look reveals a more complex operation. Thanks to campaign finance laws limiting political spending, the Kochs have to find creative ways to leverage their influence effectively.

The result of these maneuverings is the “Koch network,” a web of PACs, think tanks, nonprofits and LLCs likened to an octopus by Jane Mayer, the journalist who wrote the book on the Kochs. The names of some organizations in the network, like Americans for Prosperity or Freedom Partners(which exists in several incarnations, including Freedom Partners Action Fund, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Freedom Partners Institute and Freedom Partners Shared Services) might seem familiar. Others, like American Encore or Concerned Women for America might not.

According to BBC, the Kochs’ total spending may hit $400 million this midterm cycle. Exactly how much of that will go to digital advertising is impossible to determine at this point, but using the tools Google, Facebook and Twitter introduced to increase digital ad transparency in the wake of 2016 election controversies gives a glimpse at which races and issues the network is currently interested in.

Based on its name alone, the Institute for Humane Studies is not a group most people would know to associate with the Koch-network or its libertarian political leanings. But the group built up by the brothers and chaired by Charles Koch paid $814,798 for “student marketing” in 2016. According to the group’s 2016 tax returns, which covers their fiscal year through August 31, 2017, the student marketing budget “introduces new audiences to the ideas of liberty through printed materials, emails, websites, direct mail, networking, and paid advertisements.”

As of October 5, the Institute for Humane Studies’ recent promoted tweets focus on city planning and zoning laws, especially in San Francisco. Promoted tweets are essentially paid-ads in the form of social media posts. Facebook has a similar promoted posts system.

One of the promoted tweets links to a video entitled “How Zoning Laws Are Holding Back America’s Cities.” In it, an economist Sandy Ikeda explains how zoning laws can drive up prices.

The video is hosted by the Institute for Humane Studies Youtube account which has additional videos in its feed entitled “Capitalism vs. Socialism Debate – Libertycon 2018” and “Your Next Government? From the Nation State to Stateless Nations.”

Meanwhile, Freedom Partners, a more visibly Koch-affiliated group, has been promoting anti-tariff tweets. One of their recent promoted tweets links to a page on the Freedom Partners website titled “Trade Builds America.” Another links to a Washington Post opinion piece that argues against tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. The piece’s author is Charles Koch.

“One might assume that, as the head of Koch Industries — a large company involved in many industries, including steel — I would applaud such import tariffs because they would be to our immediate and financial benefit,” Koch says in the piece. “But corporate leaders must reject this type of short-term thinking, and we have.”

Freedom Partners groups are also active on Google and Facebook. On Google, Freedom Partners Action Fund has bought 12 ads since the transparency tool launched. They have spent over $11,000 on advertising. Since July, their spending has increased steadily, and all ads that can be currently viewed in the transparency tool are for Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.). DeSantis received $15,000 in contributions from Koch Industries in 2016 and $5000 in 2018.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, Freedom Partners Shared Services ran more than 30 versions of an ad attacking Nevada gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak for taking campaign contributions. Freedom Partners Action Fund ran ads in support of Adam Laxalt, Sisolak’s opponent.

Freedom Partners also ran more than 90 promoted posts that were essentially open thank-you letters to politicians who had backed Koch-endorsed policies.

Political ads posted by a given organization can only be browsed via transparency tools if they were “promoted” as ads during or after May 2018 on Facebook and Google. The Facebook Ad Archive also kicks you off the tool if you view too many posts in a short period of time.

Still, the Facebook and Google transparency tools provide far more latitude than Twitter’s. Promoted ads on Twitter can only be viewed as far back as a week, so the Koch network’s digital ad-buys on Twitter from more than seven days ago are invisible. You can go back a little further with a paid subscription to AdEspresso University. That gets you access to a gallery with a handful of additional archived ads.

Using the AdEspresso tool, you can view a two-year-old promoted Facebook post from the Mercatus Center — of which Charles Koch is a board member and director according to the Center’s 2016 tax return — linking to an article that suggests Americans have “lost their mojo.” You can also see posts from American Energy Alliance, a Koch-funded group that according to 2015 tax documents paid i360 $116,215 for media services in 2015. i360 is a Koch-affiliated data company that builds profiles on potential voters by analyzing voting records alongside data from credit bureaus and social networks. American Energy Alliance posts support coal mining and write off subsidies for wind power as a sort of “Christmas gift” for special interests. American Energy Alliance has also provided grants to American Commitment and the 60 Plus Association, both of which are also Koch-associated.

The AdEspresso tool also reveals older promoted Facebook posts from Americans for Prosperity, the network’s flagship group. One post links to a Daily Caller article that credits fracking with reducing greenhouse emissions and another links to an Americans for Prosperity produced Ebook about the “10 biggest lies of socialism.”

Facebook’s official transparency tool retrieves over 2,000 promoted posts by Americans for Prosperity. That is not counting promoted posts by state-level versions of the group like Americans for Prosperity Utah, Americans for Prosperity Kansas, Americans for Prosperity Florida, et cet. A recent promoted post from Americans for Prosperity Illinois sounded the alarm about the Netflix tax.

According to Facebook’s transparency tool, between Aug. 31 and Sept. 16, Americans for Prosperity ran half a dozen ads against Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and in favor of her opponent Leah Vukmir(R-Wis.). In that same period, they ran five ads against Sen. Claire McCaskill (R-Mo.). The McCaskill ads were only run in Missouri, but they all cost at least $5,000. Americans for Prosperity also spent at least $500 against Sen. Susan Collins in her home state of Maine from late June to mid-July. Facebook removed an anti-Collins post because it violated their policies, though it is not clear exactly how.

Americans for Prosperity started running 22 versions of a promoted post on August 25 that invite browsers to “swipe” to see the four “most common” beliefs of past justices of the Supreme Court. These beliefs include “not seek(ing) to subvert the proper rule of law with judicial activism” and “never compromis(ing) our congressional rule of law to be ‘politically correct.’”

Occasionally the Americans for Prosperity Facebook account promotes posts linking to episodes of “Torch Talk,” a sort of chat show in which Gabrielle Broad, the organization’s national press secretary, interviews conservative politicians. The show seems to exist mostly on social media. Episodes of Torch Talk are also posted on YouTube but they are buried in episodes of a show with the same name about glassworkers who make elaborate marijuana pipes.

Over on Twitter, Americans for Prosperity has promoted four tweets in the past week as of this writing. One reads “Stop Wasteful Spending! Fish on treadmills, Hamlet performed by dogs – taxpayers have paid for some crazy stuff! Hold Congress accountable!” It links to StopOverSpending.com, a website affiliated with Americans for Prosperity.

Americans for Prosperity has spent $830,100 advertising on Google platforms and purchased 287 ads since May of this year. Their top five most viewed ads, each of which received between 1 and 10 million views, cannot currently be viewed in the transparency tool. The top four cost at least $50,000 apiece.

“While we are able to review these ads for compliance with advertising policies, due to technical limitations, we are currently unable to display the content of the ad in the Transparency Report,” says a notice displayed beneath the invisible ads.

Americans for Prosperity’s spending on Google ads has steadily increased since mid-September.

All of this barely skims the surface of the Koch digital advertising operations. There are almost certainly other Koch network groups that have promoted posts or bought ads on social networks, and there are thousands more ads from Americans for Prosperity alone available to view through the transparency tools (which are publicly available through Facebook, Twitter and Google). On top of that, the tools are seriously limited, so most pre-2018 advertisements are a mystery.

Digital advertising is only one sliver of what the Koch network does to exert its influence in Washington and beyond. In 2016, Americans for Prosperity alone spent $50,000 in lobbying and spent over $13 million on independent expenditures against Democrats.

Therein lies the trouble with examining the network. Looking at just one piece does not give you the full picture, but trying to take it all in at once is overwhelming. The only way to understand the Koch network is to look at its pieces, to go arm-by-arm and work your way toward the center. Digital advertising is a great place to start, but to really get to know the network one has to follow the money.

The post An Introduction to the Koch Digital Media Network appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Addressing Sexual Violence and Misogyny Within the Green Movement

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 16:16

While most of us may be irritated but not surprised to deal with misogyny in our day-to-day lives, we don’t expect to experience it within our supposedly “woke” environmental organizations. Alongside the commitment to saving the planet from abuse, we’d like to assume preventing abuse and microaggressions between our comrades would also be a priority. Unfortunately, that has not necessarily been the case.

Both the deep green movement and the environmental movement at large have at times struggled to respond to sexual violence and abuse among their ranks in an appropriate, effective, and supportive manner. The history of responses to such incidents indicates that internal policies need to be backed up by clear, and at times public, communications about incidents of harassment, abuse, and assault. This communication must coincide with clear support for survivors who come forward.

Unfortunately, power dynamics within the green movement impact who receives this support. One way in which the patriarchal dynamic is perpetuated within the radical green movement, for instance, is in how tasks are often relegated during direct actions. While men do more of the physical and visible direct-action work, women are often expected to “do the housework” behind the scenes — wash dishes, act as secretaries, cook the meals, and gather food. Additionally, men who have vital skills for the movement often share those skills only with other men, which perpetuates the pattern of “active” and “passive” gendered roles. Thus, women consistently are expected to act as the “agents” for male activists, who take the role of “celebrities.” This kind of systemic misogyny enables violence against marginalized women and trans people, and protects abusers and misogynists.

Boudicca, who was involved in radical environmentalism in the Pacific Northwest in the early 2000s and whose name has been changed to protect her identity, says call outs of abusive behavior often tend to be ignored by movement members if the person making the accusation is seen as less socially “vital” to the community. (Call outs are a way anarchist groups, which don’t believe in the State, hold their members accountable instead of filing charges or going to the police.) Such complaints would only garner attention if “a socially ‘rich’ person joined the fray,” she says. And inevitably, an accusation of abuse would end up highlighting the various ways misogyny was impacting the group, with survivors being seen as suspect and urged to stay quiet for the sake of the movement. This mimics a larger social expectation that women should remain silent about direct and indirect misogyny in order to protect leadership, often male.

Let’s look deeper at one such example.

Rod Coronado, a 52-year-old Native American of Yaqui heritage, is something of a folk hero to many in the radical movements. These days, Coronado leads Wolf Patrol, a group that eschews Earth First!-style monkey-wrenching and observes and documents wolf hunts in the US with the goal of exposing the cruelty of wolf hunting. But back in the 1990s he was a key part of “Operation Bite Back,” a nationwide campaign waged by the Animal Liberation Front, against the fur industry.

In 1995 Coronado was sentenced to 57 months in prison for destroying equipment at Michigan State University’s animal testing research facilities. In early 2006, he was convicted again for explaining, during a 2003 lecture in San Diego, how he made the incendiary devices he used in his arsons. Another charge related to the talk in San Diego was brought in 2007. He pled guilty to these charges and accepted a deal for a one-year prison term that ended in December 2008. But there are other serious charges against Coronado circulating within the movement that he has been doggedly evading. These have to do with his supposedly predatory behavior.

Reports about Coronado’s sexual misconduct first surfaced in the summer of 2014, when a group of activists started raising concerns about his reportedly abusive behavior. We’ve reviewed emails sent between July 2014 and February 2015, which claim Coronado had been violent towards an ex-partner. The emails also assert that Coronado had been predatory towards younger women in EF!.

Wendy, loosely affiliated with EF! between 2005-2014, told us via email about her involvement in bringing Coronado’s behavior to light that year. She, and two EF! activists, Panagioti and Toby, tried several times to get Coronado to initiate an accountability process. Coronado appeared open to this at times, but never followed through. While the trio were trying to figure out the best course of action, in November 2014, Coronado apparently sexually assaulted a younger Wolf Patrol member named Julie.

When Wendy heard about Julie’s experience, she felt “a stark clarity of Fuck, we made the wrong choice.” She says the three of them had failed to grasp the urgency of the situation, particularly the risks they took by waiting to alert the broader community about him.

Julie, too, wanted a public call-out of Coronado, this time on the EF! Journal newswire. After a prolonged, painful debate among movement members, the magazine published an interview where Julie outlined the story of her relationship with Coronado, eventual rape, and the subsequent backlash and victim-blaming. (Full disclosure: The interview was done by one of the authors of this piece).

While many in the movement offered solidarity and support, others, including Coronado, called Julie everything from a liar to a snitch who was using FBI-style tactics. Brett, a former member of Wolf Patrol, shared Julie’s statement on Facebook in March 2015. After doing so, he reportedly received an email from Lauren Regan, the executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Centre in Eugene, Oregon. In the email, Regan suggested that sharing Julie’s statement on Facebook, a platform monitored by the FBI, was “the equivalent of snitching” on a former political prisoner like Coronado.

In November 2016, Julie wrote a personal account in Earth First! Journal of the assault and “the most bizarre and confusing in-fighting” that followed. The account included the original statement that Brett and others had shared a year and a half earlier. She wrote:

“This assault didn’t happen in a dark alley. He didn’t grab me by the hair and shove me into a closet and put his hand over my mouth. That would be easier to comprehend, easier to forgive myself. No. Rod was my friend. I thought we had established a great working relationship. I thought he respected me as a comrade, that we got shit done together. He was my friend. That’s what makes this so incomprehensible. He was my friend.”

For Julie, speaking up was about making the movement safer. After all, Coronado had put her and others at risk by his actions. Over email in July, Julie wrote that she spoke up because staying silent was enabling “Rod Coronado to continue to use the movement as his platform, as his hunting ground.” She also wanted the movement, including the EF! Journal, to offer unequivocal survivor support. She is ambivalent about whether this happened. “It depends on how much you know of the situation,” she wrote. “Did the EF! Journal appear to [offer support], after we pressured and pressured? Yes. Did we go thru our own trauma trying to make that happen? Yes.”

The publication of her interview didn’t lead to further call-outs in the EF! Journal of other possible perpetrators in the movement. Meanwhile, Coronado continues to run Wolf Patrol. (Earth Island Journalran a cover story on Wolf Patrol in its Winter 2016 issue. At the time the editors were unaware of these allegations against Coronado.) Julie continues to feel the repercussions of Coronado’s actions. According to a recent report in The Intercept, Julie was targeted by an FBI agent in February 2018, who was trying to exploit the current #metoo movement as a way of pressuring Julie to become an informant against Coronado or other environmental activists. This example underscores the disruptive nature of abusive and harassing behavior in the environmental movement. In addition to reducing organizational effectiveness, such behavior can leave groups, and survivors like Julie, vulnerable to heightened levels of state interference.

While the Coronado Case is a pretty clear illustration of how #MeToo has been necessary to move forward public discussion of these difficult issues and to hold offenders accountable, it is not the only such incident by any means. Neither are sexual harassment and violence, or the tendency to ignore them, limited to the radicals within the environmental movement.

Take, for instance, the February resignation of Humane Society of the United States President and ceo Wayne Pacelle following allegations that he had sexually harassed three female subordinates. Interestingly, Pacelle quit a day after the HSUS board voted to allow Pacelle to retain his job and Board Chair Rick Bernthal announced that the board “did not find that many of these allegations were supported by credible evidence.” (The vote did lead to the immediate resignation of seven HSUS board members in protest.) Pacelle is now working with Animal Wellness Action, a new political action committee whose executive director, Marty Irby, is a former colleague of Pacelle’s at HSUS.

Greenpeace is another big green group hit with sexual harassment scandals at its international offices in recent years. In 2015, a former employee of Greenpeace India spoke out in a blog post about her experiences of sexual harassment, rape, and misogyny in the organization’s New Delhi office, opening up a can of worms that revealed that senior staff at Greenpeace India had not only ignored earlier complaints against a serial sexual harasser, they had gone so far as to label one of the women who had complained about workplace sexism as “hysterical” and “menopausal,” and had advised her to see a psychologist. That woman eventually quit. Due to the public outcry that followed the 2015 blog post, Greenpeace India’s executive director and communications director were forced to resign.

In April, the organization was in the hot seat again over the alleged abusive practices and harassment of women by the executive director of Greenpeace Argentina, Martin Prieto.

Prieto, who was also responsible for Greenpeace’s offices in Chile and Colombia, was suspended after more than 40 former Greenpeace employees and volunteers wrote a letter accusing him of “discrimination and gender-based violence, abuse of power against female employees, sexual harassment, workplace harassment and bullying.” Previously, Greenpeace Argentina’s head of logistics had been dismissed over similar accusations.

In June this year, Greenpeace International executive directors Jennifer Morgan and Bunny McDiarmid made a commitment to survivors of sexual harassment in the organization that they would ensure “all cases, no matter when they occurred, are appropriately considered and responded to.” They listed multiple ways in which they planned to fulfill that promise, including increasing the number of women in senior leadership positions and following through on their zero-tolerance position around “harassment, bullying, and discrimination.”

It is clear that a viral focus on misogyny and abuse has impacted environmental groups in a significant way. Victims are beginning to speak up and they are, to quite an extent, being listened to. Many organizations are making renewed commitments to taking action around misogyny in the workplace that goes beyond setting up official policies. As Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune wrote in his essay “#MeToo Moments in the Outdoors” in March, “If anything has become clear during the past year, it’s that official policies are not an end solution — they are merely a starting point. To eliminate harassment will require confronting and rejecting the toxic culture that tolerates and encourages violence against women.” The group aims to manifest that confrontation in multiple ways, including anti-oppression training and partnering with their labor unions to “create new policies that define and establish accountability for toxic behavior among our staff,” says Kerry O’Donnell, Sierra Club’s human resources director.

But it is also clear that there is a long way to go until systems for victim-centered and anti-oppressive accountability are in place. Continued efforts to eliminate misogyny in these spaces will take work, care, and a desire to see growth — just like any seed planted in rocky soil, it cannot blossom without consistent care. May we live to see women in the environmental movement given the safety they deserve, and treated with the same respect that we seek to show Mother Earth.

Last names have been withheld to protect identities.

The post Addressing Sexual Violence and Misogyny Within the Green Movement appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

In Convicting Van Dyke, Chicago Jury Rejected Broader Policing Norms

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 15:56

When the defense team for Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago cop who last week became the first in decades to be convicted for a killing while on duty, painted young black male Laquan McDonald as a “monster” during the trial, they were defending not just Van Dyke but the practice of policing in America.

The jury’s guilty verdict was a rejection of the ways police have interacted with black communities — and a significant foothold in the fight for transformative justice in Chicago.

But that initial step pales in comparison with the wrongs that the Van Dyke case revealed. He was a cop who had a history of complaints, including racism — issues that didn’t start in Chicago with him.

The history of the Chicago Police Department reflects that of so many others in America, and makes it clear that law enforcement has been a driver of injustice. Over the past 50 years, major scandals have rocked the CPD that show the department has targeted and worked hard to control black and brown communities. The department killed Black Panther Illinois chapter chairman Fred Hampton. Late Chicago police Commander Jon Burge‘s department was tied to the torture of black and brown people for decades with impunity. Both of these scandals occurred long before Van Dyke’s.

The instances we’ve heard about from CPD, the ones that get national attention, are only the tip of the iceberg. Chicago needs a public truth-telling project in the vein of truth and reconciliation commissions to document the intergenerational harm CPD has imposed on black and brown communities — and it must be led by the people most affected by police violence.

A History of Corruption, Violence

In the defense’s retelling of what happened between McDonald and Van Dyke, McDonald was no longer a teenager or even a person. Instead, he was a “whacked-out,” knife-wielding threat. The defense urged the jury to remember that McDonald didn’t appear to be a Boy Scout. Van Dyke called McDonald an aggressive threat with “huge white eyes” and a “dead soul.”

Van Dyke had a documented history of civilian complaints, including misconduct. He had also been accused of using the n-word in reference to people he was sworn to protect.

After the public release of the McDonald video in 2015, the Department of Justice announced a wide-ranging investigation of the Chicago Police Department focused on police accountability, use of force and racial disparities. The final report documented systemic racism and deficiencies in CPD operations including at least 51 instances of aggravated battery, 42 counts of reckless conduct and at least 24 counts of obstruction of justice.

The CPD uses force against young black men approximately 14 times more than against young white men, according to the Invisible Institute. It targets young black women with force 10 times more frequently than white women and two times more frequently than white men.

Even the most mundane department activities indicate racial bias — more than half of all bike tickets issued by CPD were in majority black neighborhoods. Only 18% were given in white neighborhoods.

That history of corruption and violence made the guilty verdict a historic moment in the Movement for Black Lives and one that was brought about by black youth’s relentless demands for accountability and justice.

After McDonald’s death, Chicago’s young black people shut down the streets, occupied city hall, and crafted powerful messages demanding justice and accountability and exposing CPD as racist and corrupt.

Alternative Justice Long Overdue

While DOJ documentation supports the call for change, it’s not enough to merely document the harm CPD has imposed upon Chicago. True healing requires changing police systems and policies. And that the proposed ordinance for a Civilian Police Accountability Council — an elected body of Chicago residents that would push to keep city police in check — becomes law.

This idea might sound radical, but the reality is that elected boards control part or all of many state functions — from education to the judiciary, from water reclamation to the county sheriff. Why shouldn’t a civilian board be permanently responsible for ensuring that law enforcement stop abusing city residents? Policing is not more specialized than education or water purification. Those who reject community control of the police are likely too invested in the police existing to control the community.

But it’s also not enough to ensure that bad cops are disciplined. Chicago must overhaul its entire public safety system from one that’s punitive to one that is proactive and stems from the desire to heal.

Chicago’s leaders must focus on investing in communities and diverting people away from the formal justice system. Strategies like restorative justice and community conferencing allow people in conflict to acknowledge and repair harm without the life-destroying consequences of a conviction. Interruptions like pre-arrest diversion allow officers to divert people in crisis — people like McDonald — to care providers as opposed to the county jail.

Racist police practices are historical, systemic and seemingly intractable. Where they exist — justice cannot.

The harm perpetuated by the CPD on Chicago’s black and brown communities has a depth and a width that could never be addressed through a single jury verdict.

Even so, the Van Dyke verdict demonstrates that through the work of black organizers, the seeds of transformative justice have been planted and could be belatedly ready to bloom.

Public truth-telling about the CPD, true community control of the police, and justice system diversion initiatives are long overdue.

This article was originally published in USA TODAY.

The post In Convicting Van Dyke, Chicago Jury Rejected Broader Policing Norms appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

How Genetics and Pollution Are Threatening Wild Dolphins

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 15:05

Dolphins are beautiful, highly intelligent and uncannily human in their interactions. Yet, they also have a language we humans cannot fully hear, and a culture that is in some ways similar to our own, and in others, a complete mystery.

Like us, they have circles of friends and acquaintances, with different greetings for different individuals, as if by name. They travel swiftly within a home range of about 100-square kilometers but can go further when they want to. They have the sleek design of a jet plane fuselage and the intelligence that comes with a 1,600-gram complexly structured brain. (The human brain is 1,300 grams.)

Found in almost all the world’s oceans, they communicate with friends and family through clicks and whistles, and echolocation allows them to view the world around them. They pass on knowledge of culture and tools through the generations from mother to daughter, a matrilineal line that preserves and protects their heritage.

Approximately 40 species of dolphins exist. Many belong to the Delphinidae (ocean dolphin) family, including the orca; others live in rivers. Collectively, there are approximately 90 species of cetaceans, the order comprising whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Scientists analyzing the dolphin brain have determined that, like us, they possess a very complex neocortex — a region of the brain linked to awareness, emotions, problem-solving and other human-like abilities. Further, the limbic (emotional) system in some species is even more complex than humans.

These sensitive creatures have made the headlines in the past few months. An endangered orca known as Tahlequah mourned the tragic loss of her baby, carrying her dead calf for a record 17 days and 1,000 miles on what some have deemed a “tour of grief.”

Shortly following Tahlequah’s tragedy, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the species of orca on the West coast of the US that has become critically endangered. The suit alleged that the agency has neglected to establish habitat protection for the orcas. With only 75 of these orcas left, the population is the lowest it has been in 30 years.

Meanwhile, a combination of factors is threatening the very survival of these animals.

Genetics and Pollution

A recent study published in the journal Science delivers a serious warning as to the likelihood that dolphins and other marine mammals could be extirpated by pollutants. The discovery concerns an evolutionary change to DNA approximately 53 million years ago, which makes cetaceans particularly sensitive and therefore vulnerable.

Their bodies underwent various gradual changes during this evolutionary period. One of these changes was the alteration of DNA that codes for a particular enzyme known as PON1. Scientists believe the enzyme’s metabolic processes were no longer needed for a life underwater. Terrestrial mammals, by contrast, maintained the intact DNA and its enzyme, which humans have to this day.

But 53 million years later, the genetic change has become marine mammals’ Achilles’ heel, thanks to human invention. The enzyme has a second function — an ability to defend against neurotoxins found in pesticides. Without PON1, these animals are unable to break down the neurotoxin and can be poisoned.

Dolphins and other sea creatures with the PON1 problem are thus defenseless against agricultural runoff containing pesticides. Part of the reason the endangered infant orcas off the coast of California are having trouble is this kind of pollution. Marine mammals by the Florida coast are at risk as well, as scientists sampling waterways have found significant levels of chlorpyrifos pesticide contamination.

Dolphins have also been disappearing from areas around the globe they once inhabited, such as off the coast of Argentina. There, where dolphins were once common, only “a single resident population” is believed to be left. Heavy metal contamination and overfishing are likely contributors the decline. Elevated levels of lead, zinc, copper and cadmium have been found in mollusks, crustaceans and sea lions, as well as elevated levels of mercury, cadmium, zinc and copper in bottlenose dolphins. Metals pass from mother’s milk to the baby, resulting in the newborn dolphin having a weakened immune system and a lower probability of survival. The bottlenose dolphin is believed to be a common species globally, and consequently, people are less concerned about the threat to the species, yet in certain localities these dolphins are quietly disappearing, as along the Argentinian coast. Scientists warn that the Argentina study “provides an example of how the failure to recognize local population declines can threaten the national (and eventually the international) status of a once common marine species.”

To be sure, dolphins are facing similar toxic threats around the world. While metal pollution off the coast of Argentina is assumed to have resulted from decades-old mine waste, it is by no means unique to South America. Scientists examining the waters of Lake Geneva, Switzerland, discovered high levels of toxic metals including bromine, lead, mercury and cadmium. The toxins came from plastics, some of which had been banned or restricted decades ago, indicating the toxins remain in the environment for years. Plastic pollution is especially pervasive in oceans that dolphins inhabit – estimated at 150 million metric tons, with 8 million more tons added annually. Tellingly, a Malaysian dolphin was found dead after digesting nine pounds of plastic bags.

Chemicals can have a lasting and sometimes irreversible impact on the environment. Without containment, poisons that were banned years ago seep out of landfills, into streams and oceans, permanently contaminating water. For some species, a death sentence has already been assured. Change has come too late for the orca variety of dolphin, also known as the killer whale. This is the sad revelation recently published in the journal Science regarding polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and orcas. PCBs banned more than 30 years ago have leached into the oceans, and killer whales as apex predators are “the most PCB contaminated mammals in the world,” say the researchers, who found some of the killer whales had 1,300 milligrams per kilo of PCBs in their blubber – 50 milligrams per kilo has been shown in previous research to be sufficient to cause infertility and serious immune system problems. As with metals, mothers pass the PCBs on to their babies through milk. The researchers predict that “PCB-mediated effects on reproduction and immune function threaten the long-term viability of [more than] 50% of the world’s killer whale populations.” They forecast a population collapse of orcas near industrialized regions, as well as in regions where orcas feed on larger prey. In short, half of the world’s orcas will be gone in just a few decades.

Some dolphin species are already very close to extinction. The Yangtze River dolphin, also known as “baiji,” has lived in the river for 20 million years. There were thousands in the 1950s, but in the year 2000, there were a mere 13. By 2006, scientists pronounced the species extinct after an unsuccessful six-week hunt by conservationists. Its current status is either extinct or near extinction — in 2016, some amateurs believe they may have seen a baiji, although they are not certain. The baiji would be the first dolphin made extinct by humans, in this case through pollution, dam-building, overfishing and boat traffic.

Dolphins face threats from climate change as well. Twelve dolphins were washed ashore in one week this summer in Florida, as a result of a red tide disaster, due in part to rising temperatures, with six killed in 24 hours. Such numbers have usually been an annual loss in the past.

Dolphins face a particular and cruel peril in Japan. The town of Taiji holds an annual dolphin “drive hunt” in which more than 1,000 dolphins are massacred each year. Hunters find a pod of dolphins and first create a clamor to disrupt the dolphins’ sonar, upsetting the dolphins and driving them into a cove, where they are then killed one by one, as the water in the cove turns red.

Even when dolphins are captured and kept in captivity, they react to their surroundings.

Dolphin Intelligence and the Future of the Animal Population

That dolphins are highly emotional is well-known. Peter — a dolphin kept in captivity after being moved to a smaller facility and permanently separated from the regular keeper he loved — fell into depression. Dolphins do not breathe air automatically the way humans do; each breath must be made consciously. A dolphin who has lost the will to live does not swim to the surface for his next breath. This was the fate of Peter; imprisoned and friendless at the new facility, he did not swim up for air and was found lifeless on the tank floor.

The emotional intelligence of dolphins reveals that trauma and separation will hurt dolphin families for years to come. The bloody waters of Taiji might hold the carcasses but not all the casualties. The many Peters of the world, having lost loved ones forever, can also lose the will to live.

At the 2010 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, scientists pondered the ethical and policy implications of dolphin intelligence. Neurobiologist Lori Marino argued that they may be Earth’s second-smartest creature. One can only agree.

A philosopher at the meeting proposed that dolphins perhaps ought to be considered “nonhuman persons.” He marvels at how, in addition to emotions and self-awareness, dolphins have personalities, exhibit self-control and even treat others ethically.

If a dolphin species becomes extinct, we lose not only a beautiful animal but a society and its culture. Dolphin habitat often spans the seas of many countries. Preserving them at home only to have them slaughtered on another shore is heart-wrenching. Preserving them abroad only to see them poisoned by pollution here is equally tragic. Countries must work together to ensure the survival of dolphins who swim beyond our borders, particularly as risks are compounded by climate change and pollution. The killing of whales for commercial purposes has been banned for many years. At the very least, this can be extended to their cousins now that we know they are under threat.

Pesticide use has to be regulated, particularly along the coasts to minimize PON1-related neurotoxic poisoning. Allowing a 53-million-year-old Achilles’ heel to be shot with the dart of human invention would be a tragedy. Minimizing plastic pollution is essential to dolphins as well. Preventing further PCB leakage into the oceans must also be a priority to save the orca populations, half of which are already facing collapse due to PCB-poisoning.

We have already witnessed the long-lasting effects of chemical runoff, from the decades-old plastic-derived toxins in Lake Geneva, to the 30-year-old PCBs seeping into oceans around the world. Once waters are contaminated, no one can go back. It is already too late for some orcas. Consequently, while we still can, we must prevent further contamination.

If nations can work together to minimize ocean pollution and affect laws to prevent chemical runoff, perhaps then Tahlequah and her fellow orcas will have greater success with the next generation of calves, and hopefully, our own children and grandchildren will continue to know the pleasure of seeing an orca or a bottlenose dolphin leap magnificently from the ocean.

The post How Genetics and Pollution Are Threatening Wild Dolphins appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Five Ways to Make Direct Action Organizing Less Ableist

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 13:36

There is an ableist misconception that those with disabilities don’t participate in marches, rallies, lockdowns and resistance camps. In reality, we are here and more of us would like to get in on the action.

I am multiply disabled due to a host of illnesses, chronic pain and mobility impairments. The issues of ableism have been a constant plague for me. I’ve lost jobs, wages, friends, family, romantic partners and more due to others’ unwillingness to make necessary accommodations and supports for me.

I also experience ableism in activist organizing spaces that purport to support the rights of the marginalized. We are often excluded from leadership and from conversations regarding justice, and our accessibility needs to attend events and meetings are rarely met. I have witnessed this the most in direct action organizing.

There is no justice without disability justice. Nineteen percent of the US population — adding up to 56.7 million people — were living with disabilities as of the most recent Census recorded in 2010. This number is only growing, as is the intensity of the multiple marginalizations that many with disabilities suffer.

Approximately 40 percent of the incarcerated population in the US has a disability and almost half of the people murdered by law enforcement are disabled. Sixty-two percent of disabled women in the US have been abused with 40 percent experiencing sexual assault and 90 percent of those with developmental disabilities having been sexually assaulted. The American with Disabilities Act passed in 1990, yet the rates of employment in 2017 were only 18.7 percent, minus employment in jobs that legally pay less than minimum wage.

Facing these intense forms of structural and interpersonal violence, people with disabilities have been deeply involved in many different struggles for justice, but ableism within direct-action organizing spaces continues to make participation more difficult than it needs to be.

What follows is a list on how to check ableism in your direct action organizing and to be inclusive of the disability justice community. This is not meant to be a complete list, but rather a beginning guide for the able-bodied.

1) Check your privilege.

If you’re able-bodied, then you have privilege based on your ability. Your access to the world and resources are, in general, far greater than for those with disabilities. Able-bodied people don’t have to worry about many of the concerns those with disabilities do. You’re likely not juggling multiple medical appointments, accessing housing, employment, social events, and more to meet your health needs all while often feeling horrible. There is no concern of whether or not you can even get into the physical space you need to traverse or convincing people, including medical providers, that your illness or disabilities are real. Able-bodied people may suffer from other forms of oppression, such as racism or sexism, but still have privilege based on ability. Remember that and keep it in check while organizing.

2) Seek meaningful inclusion of those with disabilities.

We are very often erased from the process of organizing and speaking to our experiences because we are seen as incapable or childlike. This act of ableism is one that devalues us. All organizing spaces need meaningful inclusion of those with disabilities in order to combat the issues of ableism both in society and in grassroots work.

Coupled with having us in leadership is the importance of working with local disability justice organizers as well as those on a national level. The needs of the disability community vary greatly, and organizers working on local issues must be included. It’s also vital that in coalition building the right organizations are invited. Only disability organizations that are operated primarily by those with disabilities should be welcome.

3) Add a disability justice lens to your work. Don’t think for one minute that there aren’t any people with illnesses or disabilities in your organizing space. We’re here, we’ve always been here, and we’re not going away.

The disability community is extraordinarily diverse. We are made up of every religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, race and more. Adding a disability justice lens to your organizing work is crucial to the meaningful inclusion of those with disabilities. Sit down and ask yourself how the issues you work on directly impact disabled people and how your organizing might be ableist. The environmental justice movement, for example, is in desperate need of a disability justice lens. Our illnesses and disabilities are made worse by global climate chaos and evacuation during human-made disasters is much more difficult, often impossible, for us. The push for drinking straw bans, the uproar over Whole Foods’ pre-peeled oranges and pressure by often multiply privileged vegans to adopt their diet all in the name of saving the environment are perfect examples of where progressive activists have failed and demonized those with disabilities. Straws are sometimes needed for people with more severe mobility impairments in order to drink and eat. Items like oranges that are pre-peeled help people with dexterity issues to access fresh produce. Depending upon dietary needs, as well as financial and physical access to food, many with illnesses are unable to follow a vegan diet. Veganism is often racist and colonizing because the vegan movement often attempts to shame Indigenous people for eating our traditional foods, such as bison and whale, and block access to them, despite the fact that the loss of our traditional foods is one of the reasons Native people in the colonized US have high rates of diabetes. Organizing work must reflect the needs of all community members, not merely the able-bodied.

4) Honor and pay us for our work.

Don’t expect people with disabilities to give free labor or to pay for the expense of accessibility in organizing. We live with greater rates of poverty, our expenses are significantly higher, and even the cost of transportation to and from organizing meetings and actions is often a burden to our participation. Placing a line item for disability accessibility in your budget and fully funding it is necessary for meeting access needs. ASL interpreters, accessible meeting spaces, transportation and mobility equipment are very expensive and crucial to the meaningful inclusion of the disability community. Don’t take shortcuts either. For example, if your action has a stage, then you need to ensure that there is a safe and accessible way to get people with mobility impairments on and off the stage. Trying to simply pick us up, which I’ve seen happen numerous times, can lead to injuries as well as harm to our mobility devices, which are highly expensive and very rarely replaceable.

5) Modify your action to make it accessible.

Don’t think that because someone has a disability that they won’t participate in direct actions. We throw down hard: The 500 arrests in two months of protests led by members of ADAPT are proof of that. There are numerous ways to make your direct action more accessible.

Being honest and realistic about the demands of your action and providing “know your rights” trainings that include information on the health care rights and realities that those arrested might face are important first steps to ensuring those with disabilities can make a fully informed decision on how they want to participate in an action.

Modifying an action in creative ways, such as offering pillows and seating, choosing more accessible locations for actions, and changing the apparatus for lockdowns are easy ways to meet some accessibility needs. Make sure you have your comrades’ backs while in more dangerous situations. It can be more difficult for us to sense and/or flee from danger. Assigning someone who is able-bodied to those with disabilities who request it can be an important safety measure, as well as training your able-bodied organizers on what disability can look like and the additional dangers it may bring.

Remember that we also have specific jail support needs. Make sure that bailing out those with disabilities and illnesses, when requested, is a high priority, as is fighting for our access to medications, mobility devices, and dietary and other health care needs while in custody. This may mean sending more money to people with disabilities who are incarcerated so they can pay for medical care or buy food and supplies from commissary. Or it can mean fighting for your comrades with hearing impairments so they may have ASL access. Make sure that when your members come out of jail that you have their medication, any special foods they eat, and anything else necessary to meet their needs. Arrest and incarceration are traumatic for all people, but they come with extra dangers and challenges for us.

Last, but certainly not least, don’t think for one minute that there aren’t any people with illnesses or disabilities in your organizing space. We’re here, we’ve always been here, and we’re not going away.

The post Five Ways to Make Direct Action Organizing Less Ableist appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Unaffordable Higher Education Leads to Low Graduation Rates

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 13:29

After two years of juggling full-time study with full-time work, Josefa, a student at Brooklyn College, decided to take a semester off. “I was exhausted,” she said, “and decided to move to Florida where I thought things would be cheaper.” This was in 2016.

Josefa quickly found a waitressing job and secured an apartment. But she also learned that as a non-resident of Florida, attending a public college would be even more expensive than continuing at Brooklyn College. Six months after heading to the Sunshine State, she returned to New York and once again registered for classes.

“Right after I got back to the city, I started working in housekeeping,” Josefa told Truthout. “This became troubling because I didn’t work a set schedule…. It meant I missed classes because I had to go in whenever I was needed. I felt my bills on top of me and could not focus on school in the way I wanted to, but I needed the $70 or $80 I got for each apartment I cleaned and felt that I had no choice.”

Josefa receives financial aid—enough to cover the full cost of tuition—but explains that her $700 rent, plus utilities, phone bill, transportation and food costs, to say nothing of books and other supplies, feels crushing. “My family can’t help me,” she said. “I’m completely on my own.”

Josefa kept the cleaning job for 18 months—she said she was too busy to look for other work—and admits that she was often nearly penniless after paying her rent. At one particularly low point, she said, “I had to tell my teachers that I was missing class because I could not afford a MetroCard. Most understood and told me that as long as I stayed caught up on work, it would be OK. One teacher, though, she reached into her pocket and gave me her MetroCard. I never expected anything like this. For me, it meant everything, because the $30 I saved on subway fare would pay for food for that week.”

Josefa’s voice broke as she recounted the interaction, and she took a deep breath before continuing. She is now in a much better place, she said: She recently got a job in a bank and works set hours, for a set salary with benefits. Her goal is to finish her bachelor’s degree in psychology and then pursue a master’s in counseling so that she can work in a public school with struggling, low-income students.

Josefa is far from alone. Nonetheless, her persistence makes her an anomaly since students facing similar challenges drop out at an astronomical rate.

Post-High School Training or Degree Is Imperative

The consequences of high drop-out rates are potentially dire because economic analysts predict that by 2020, 65 percent of US jobs will require post-high school training or a degree.

Right now, only one-third of US residents hold a bachelor’s degree, let alone a master’s. And it’s not for lack of trying. Although increasing numbers of students are enrolling in college, just 54.8 percent graduate within six years, with 47 percent of community college students and 31 percent of four-year college students dropping out before finishing their studies.

Economists predict that 2015 college grads will have to work until the age of 75. If life expectancy stays at 84, this means they will have just nine years of retirement.

Not surprisingly, the number one reason for leaving is financial.

But the cost of remaining is also staggering: 70 percent of college students graduate with debt, with an average of $37,172 owed. This is up by $20,000 since 2005; monthly payments, an average of $227 in 2005, soared to $393 a month in 2016.

Economists worry that such financial burdens will have a demonstrable impact on everyday life. To wit, they predict that 2015 college grads will have to work until the age of 75. If life expectancy stays at 84, this means they will have just nine years of retirement. In addition, millennials are unlikely to be able to buy homes and some may delay, or completely sidestep, childbearing due to financial concerns.

How Did This Happen?

There are several reasons for this phenomenon. First and foremost is the cost of tuition. Between 1988 and 2018, tuition at public four-year colleges increased by an astounding 213 percent (from $3,190 in 1988 to $19,828 during the 2017-18 academic year). Meanwhile, tuition at private not-for-profit colleges went up 129 percent (from $15,160 in 1988 to $34,740 for 2017-18).

If you’re wondering how this occurred, you’re not alone, and several theories have been floated to explain the phenomenon. One hypothesis blames the decline in federal funding for higher education. Another blames the bloat in the number of college administrators, which went up by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009.

Between 1988 and 2018, tuition at public four-year colleges increased by an astounding 213 percent.

Stagnant wages, of course, also enter the mix. According to the College Board, average annual incomes vary by region, with families in the US South living on an average of $66,510 a year, while those in the Northeast average $81,500. Race is also at play, with the average yearly income of Asian households at $93,500 while Black families live on an average income of $49,370. For Latinx families, the average is $51,110; for white families, $82,070.

Needless to say, paying for college tests all but the most economically secure among us.

Christine Hutchins, an assistant professor of English at Hostos Community College in New York’s South Bronx, said students’ failure to complete coursework is often misread as disinterest or inability. “You hear people say, ‘Oh, they’re not cut out for college.’ This does not read the facts about how complicated our students’ lives are,” she told Truthout.

Hutchins said students rarely tell their instructors what’s happening in their lives; but if a teacher is attentive and asks, intervention can sometimes be arranged. “You get a student who got an A in first-level classes and then suddenly gets Fs…. Obviously, something happened. Students almost never come in and … tell you that they’re working two jobs because a family member was deported or that they were evicted and are now in a shelter. Their situations are typically really complex but for most, financial instability is a primary issue.”

Laura Kina, director of Critical Ethnic Studies and a professor of Art, Media and Design at DePaul University in Chicago, said her students face similar difficulties. Although she mostly works with graduate students, when she perceives a problem or potential problem, she meets with the student and attempts to intervene. “I always look for resources — a scholarship that might be available or other aid. If the student is in an emergency, or homeless, we help the best way we can. I don’t always know the ins and outs of what to do, but I know where to go for resources. In some situations, I explain the college’s leave policy as an option.”

Sympathetic Teachers Make a Huge Difference

According to Renee, a 37-year-old student at Utah Valley University (UVU), having an understanding teacher or adviser is key. Renee returned to school in 2010, following a divorce. A single parent of two children, now 11 and 14, she attended several colleges before enrolling at UVU: Brigham Young University-Idaho; Barstow College; and a proprietary college she declined to name. “I’d gotten married at 21, had two kids, and was a military wife who had grown up in a military family,” she began. “I did not know how to move in a world that was not in a military context. I started college eight years ago because it seemed like the next step.”

It did not take long for her to feel unmoored. “I couldn’t work at a job, do the parent thing and also do the school thing,” she said. “My children’s father had just left and I wanted to be there for them, tuck them in at night. To my kids, my being in school seemed like they’d lost both parents. I couldn’t do it.”

When she re-enrolled at UVU in 2013, the experience was similarly unsettling. She said that people told her she had to work to the bone in order to graduate. “I kept asking myself why they were telling me I had to suffer,” she said. “I felt a lot of despair.” Then, an on-campus sexual assault in 2014 led to another withdrawal.

Two years later, Renee returned to UVU. “I’d learned that UVU has resources for single moms,” she said. “The Women’s Success Center specializes in helping women like me navigate academic scholarships and campus life.” Renee is presently enrolled in two programs: a state vocational rehabilitation course in technical writing and a bachelor’s program in philosophy. Nonetheless, she still questions whether the degree and certification are worth the effort. “I’ll owe $60,000 by the time I’m done,” she said.

Staying on track has been equally difficult for accounting and finance student Dazia, a 25-year-old married mother of two, now in her senior year at William and Mary College in Virginia. “After my husband had to leave the military due to disability, my family income took a major hit,” Dazia said. “I started offering students rides to the airport and accepted a paid internship at a public accounting firm two hours away from my home.” But spending three days a week at the firm and two days in class for the 16-week semester took a toll on her. “I barely saw my family and friends,” she said. She also reports that she had to take several “incompletes,” which, on one hand, gave her additional time to complete the required coursework, but also meant that she had little-to-no time off between semesters.

“I have depression and ADHD so I use accommodations,” Dazia added. Nonetheless, staying on track so that she can graduate on time has been difficult. “I feel singled out as a person of color, as a parent, as an older student and as a student with invisible disabilities,” she said. “I’ve had professors change my life for the good. I’ve also had professors change my life for the worse.”

High Costs Compound Barriers for Students With Disabilities

Like Josefa, Dazia is anomalous, since just 16.4 percent of students with disabilities finish college. And while finances usually intersect with other issues impacting the disabled—not the least of them being discrimination—money is often at the crux of the abysmal graduation rate.

Wendy Harbour, director of the National Center for College Students with Disabilities, has had firsthand experience as an advocate. When pursuing her Ph.D., Harbour, who is deaf, requested that the large private university she attended provide an interpreter and allow her service dog to accompany her on campus. The school refused both requests.

“I had to fight really hard,” she said. “The college said it would not pay for the interpreter because I could speak and read lips. They felt that this meant that I did not need help.”

Harbour took the matter to the State Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Massachusetts and ultimately prevailed. Had she lost, she estimates that hiring an interpreter on her own would have cost between $40,000 and $50,000 a year. It would also have made graduate study impossible. “When you’re a deaf college student, you need an interpreter for your classes, for meetings with faculty and staff, for your work-study job and for events on campus. For most students, paying for this out-of-pocket would be impossible, but I want to stress that the accommodations for most disabilities rarely cost this much.”

The center is presently creating an online database which will provide information about every US college and its accessibility for students with all types of disabilities. Harbour expects the site to roll out in the fall of 2019.

Beyond Information: Creating Political Change

But while high-quality information is essential, most activists agree that free college for all is the best, and perhaps only, way to make college truly accessible. A survey conducted in June 2018 found 78 percent of US residents support the idea. A bill, the College for All Act, is currently pending in both Houses of Congress. It was introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) in April 2017.

Chris Gannon, vice president of the US Student Association (USSA) said that the USSA is working to “normalize the concept of free college and bring it into the national conversation.” Thanks to Bernie Sanders, he continued, the idea has begun to gain traction. Still, he admits that when people first hear about the plan, their first reaction is that it sounds preposterous. Still, he said that “when we talk about how it will impact the country’s future, reduce the burden on students and improve communities, people pay attention. The idea that young people won’t ever be able to buy homes, or won’t be able to buy them for very long time, changes people’s minds.”

Nonetheless, despite increased momentum, everyone agrees that free college for all is not going to be won anytime soon.

Deborah Vagins, senior vice president of Public Policy and Research at the American Association of University Women (AAUW), said her organization is focused on several short-term goals, including: reauthorizing the Higher Education Act which has, for 53 years, provided grants and loans to help students go beyond high school; increasing state and federal funding of public colleges and universities; increasing consumer protections for those borrowing money to attend college; and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), a bill that will address, and protect against, the gender pay gap for US workers.

While the Higher Education Act of 1965 is now up for reauthorization, Vagins reports that Republicans are pushing to eliminate it and replace it with the far weaker Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act. Education activists are enraged since the PROSPER Act will replace Stafford and PLUS Loans — the subsidized low-interest loans that most middle-income families rely on — with one wholly unsubsidized loan; phase out all federal higher education grants except Pell; and eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program which allows a small number of people to reduce their debt. “We want more service loan forgiveness and expanded Pell and other grant programs,” Vagins explains.

In addition, she points out the disproportionate impact borrowing has on women. Today, she continues, “Sixty-two percent of the 7.1 million Pell recipients are women. Two-thirds of the national debt — $890 billion of the $1.4 trillion owed — is held by women and $29 million of the $44 million in student debt is owed by women. The wage gap persists, which is why the AAUW supports the Paycheck Fairness Act.”

If passed, the PFA will amend the 1963 Equal Pay Act and require the federal government to collect data on pay differentials by gender and make prior salary history irrelevant in setting wages. “Furthermore,” Vagins adds, “it will give women more tools to attack the wage gap in negotiations and in court.”

By working on multiple fronts, activists are not only pushing for free college education for all, they’re also analyzing how programs like New York’s Excelsior Scholarship, which was passed in 2017 and billed as providing a free education to anyone with a family income below $125,000, have failed to meet student need. The upshot, they’ve discovered, is that requiring students to be enrolled full-time with no breaks in attendance severely hampers eligibility. In addition to this, however, education activists throughout the US are working to improve student access to financial resources so that more people will be able to complete their degrees. Few of these changes will benefit folks like Dazia, Josefa and Renee, but they may help Generation Y and younger students as they come of age.

The post Unaffordable Higher Education Leads to Low Graduation Rates appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 17:49

We are constantly confronted by the problems of modern society: homelessness, violence, underfunded schools, environmental pollution, and the list goes on.

Many people who want to address these urgent issues figure that working at a nonprofit or nongovernmental organization is a great way to make a difference, and get paid for doing it.

And it seems like the number of jobs available at nonprofits keeps growing. As politicians hack away at government programs, social service agencies and other safety-net programs that provide crucial supports for poor and working-class people, service nonprofits often fill the gaps.

While “nonprofit” can refer to any institution with that business status, the phrase “service nonprofit” is more specific, referring to nonprofits that engage directly in providing services to people, such as beds for homeless people, or advocating for services, like Planned Parenthood’s Action Fund.

Service nonprofits are part of what some progressives and leftists sometimes refer to as the “nonprofit-industrial complex.” The US nonprofit sector today accounts for more than $1 trillion in annual economic activity, making it on its own one of the world’s largest economies.

The anthology The Revolution Will Not Be Funded defines the nonprofit-industrial complex as “a set of symbiotic relationships that link political and financial technologies of state and owning-class control with surveillance over public political ideology, including and especially emergent progressive and leftist social movements.”

So what are the limits of nonprofits in the fight against injustice in the here and now, and against capitalism in the long term?

For folks who have worked at nonprofits, one of the most obvious problems is the professionalization of nonprofit work, including the growing numbers of people seeking advanced degrees in nonprofit management — which seeks to bring corporate management techniques to the world of nonprofits.

Nonprofits may be required to have employees with certain advanced degrees in order to bill for services and receive funding from programs, such as Medi-Cal in California or the federal Medicaid health care program. Foundations themselves may place whatever stipulations they want in grants, including requiring those who provide services to have advanced degrees, such as a PhD in psychology, even if it’s not necessarily needed.

This professionalization creates stratification between nonprofit employees and the clients they serve, as well as among those with and without such degrees within a nonprofit.

One consequence of this dynamic is that the people who are clients of service nonprofits are practically locked out of jobs at these organizations — which is a shame because the people who experience the problems are the ones who should be crafting the solutions.

The Ideology of Nonprofits

Service nonprofits — and the related programs and institutions that support them — also have an ideological purpose. Don Lash writes about the relevance of the idea of the Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramsci to the child welfare system in his book When the Welfare People Come. His analysis applies to service nonprofits as well.

One of Gramsci’s insights was to explain how capitalist society is able to maintain its legitimacy, despite the yawning chasm between those with immense wealth and those who suffer deep poverty.

Key to his argument are the concepts of “civil society” and “political society.” By “political society,” Gramsci meant those state institutions that rule through force, such as the prison system, the courts and police. By “civil society,” he meant those aspects of the state that rule through consent (which differs from the way many today use the term to mean “voluntary associations”).

“Political society” stands ready to enforce decisions when “civil society” cannot obtain consent. When employees of service nonprofits are mandated reporters — for example, when they are required to make a report to child protective services when child abuse or neglect is suspected — they are enlisted as agents of the coercive function of the state.

Some professionals are mandated reporters through the licensure process, but others, such as administrative assistants, may be required to be mandated reporters because a grant says so. Lash goes into great detail as to why the child welfare system is oppressive, deeply racist and not capable of productively transforming the lives of families under its control.

Thus, the label of a mandated reporter can turn an entire profession or an entire workplace into a place to surveil and punish poor families, which are almost exclusively Black and Latino.

This coercive state is also manifested when nonprofit employees are forced to call the police.

For example, a drug rehab facility may permit only adults without children to access its services. Perhaps their grant requires this, and so there is little that workers on the ground can do. If a man staying there brings his daughter, he may be asked to leave, in effect making the family homeless. If he refuses, the cops might be called.

These specific examples offer some worst-case scenarios, and but even when nonprofits are not directly extending the coercive role of the state, they play a supporting role through their “civil society” functions.

The phrase “civil society” may conjure up any number of images — governmental bodies, schools and other “civil” institutions. In Lash’s book, he describes civil society as “the network of organizations used to elaborate and disseminate ideology.” Lash goes on to write, “Gramsci’s ‘extended theory of the state’ holds that civil society maintains ‘hegemony’ of dominant ideas.”

Nonprofits — through the services they provide and the media and other campaigns they design — explicitly and implicitly reinforce and perpetuate certain ideas. For example, in their work they frame what is the “appropriate” solution to social problems.

The existence of homeless shelters and the various networks that interact with and depend on these shelters reinforce the idea that shelters are the appropriate solution to homelessness — as opposed to, say, homeless people organizing themselves, or transforming an economic system that produces far more empty homes than there are homeless people to fill them.

A different example is Planned Parenthood’s Action Fund, which reinforces and perpetuates the idea that the solution to large-scale political problems is donating to an organization that then hires a lobbyist — as opposed to, say, building a mass movement capable of occupying Congress or otherwise disrupting business as usual until its demands are met.

By framing the solutions to problems in a particular way, nonprofits also implicitly frame where these problems come from in the first place. When the solution to homelessness is individualized — beds for each person, often given on a day-by-day basis — the logical conclusion is that the cause of the problem is also individual. This ideology is necessary to justify the use of coercion and force, if and when it is used.

And because there is a hegemonic idea about the cause of these problems — namely individual bad luck or irresponsibility — it makes a collective solution seem “irrational.”

Finally, nonprofits also reinforce an ideology about the most appropriate way to bring about change — namely, working for a nonprofit.

And who benefits when good-willed people committed to social justice get drawn into a system that they depend on for their livelihood and that incentivizes not rocking the boat? The people who stand to lose the most when powerful social movements rock the boat — in other words, corporations and the wealthy.

This ideology — about what is acceptable and what is not, about where social problems come from and where they don’t — is taught to nonprofit workers in their workplaces, to professionals in their training programs as they prepare to enter the nonprofit job market, and to the larger society as witnesses to all this.

And often the organizations perpetuating these ideas, writing the curricula for schools and hosting trainings are themselves nonprofits.

This helps to illustrate what is meant by the phrase “nonprofit-industrial complex”: the web of nonprofits that interacts at different points to avert the worst social catastrophes, perpetuates the ideology that explains poverty and hardship as a matter of individual responsibility, and, when need be, justifies coercive and violent elements of the state.

Seeing Ourselves as Workers

Every worker has the power to withhold their labor, and when coordinated with co-workers, the collective withholding of labor halts the work of any factory, school or enterprise.

If you work at a nonprofit, you may be a therapist or a fundraiser or an administrative assistant — but you are also a worker.

Nonprofit workers will have experiences similar to most other workers — they get paid too little, while the boss gets paid way too much. And when workers try to fight back, even at nonprofits, they face the same hostility from bosses that they would at any other workplace.

At the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston, workers were seeking to unionize in order to address chronic understaffing and underpayment of wages. In response, management hired a law firm whose website boasted of having “helped dozens of employers successfully defeat union organizing drives.”

Just six days before the June 20 vote to unionize, the clinic went on the offensive, firing 20 workers. Coincidentally, many of those who were fired were publicly in support of the union.

The next day, workers protested outside the clinic, and the day after that, the workers had their jobs back. All of this happened before the union vote, and once the vote took place, workers voted overwhelmingly to join 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

At Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) in Colorado, employees won their vote to unionize in fall 2017.

Executives at PPRM turned to the Trump administration’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), arguing that the union effort “ought to include all the clinics in the regional agency, which spans three states.” They argued that they are “not currently opposing efforts to organize our affiliate; we have asked the NLRB to consider whether all of our employees should be able to participate.”

Forcing workers to organize across three states was a surefire way to tank the unionization efforts of these employees, and turning to Trump’s NLRB risked setting a bad precedent for nonprofits. So why do it? Because under capitalism, there is a fundamental tension between bosses and workers.

Workers want their rights respected; bosses want to reduce workers’ struggles in order to keep costs at a minimum. This is true in factories when workers are making car parts, and it’s true at Planned Parenthood when workers are providing health care.

Unionizing is important for nonprofit workers for a few reasons. Unions are formal organizations that give workers a way to resist the bosses’ efforts to drive down their wages and working conditions. Secondly, unions, unlike nonprofits, are membership organizations that give people the opportunity to fight on their own behalf.

No union is perfect, but unions give workers a voice in how their workplaces are run, and you are able to have more of a say in how your union is run than a nonunionized workplace. If you want more of a say in how your nonprofit workplace is run, unions provide a vehicle for accomplishing that type of democratic change.

Nonprofits and Anti-Capitalist Strategy

Not all nonprofits fit the image of a horrible, union-busting organization. There are many nonprofits that participate in movement activism, and that socialists may find many points of agreement with.

In September 2017, staff with the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA) interrupted a press conference by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to demand a “clean” DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act would provide a pathway to citizenship for 2.1 million immigrant youth and young adults who came to the U.S. children, and a clean DREAM Act would do this without other measures harmful to immigrant communities, such as funding for border walls, border enforcement, more detention centers and so on.

After the protest, CIYJA’s statewide coordinator wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post denouncing Obama as the “Deporter-in-Chief” and defending the use of direct-action tactics aimed at politicians.

Interrupting politicians, demanding amnesty for all immigrants, highlighting the complicity of both political parties in terrorizing immigrant communities — these are strategies that any social-justice activist would agree with. CIYJA does admirable work.

The point is that not all nonprofits do bad things, but they do all share certain limitations. Nonprofits address the symptoms of a broken system — racist, anti-immigrant policies; lack of access to health care, housing or emotional support — but they do not have a strategy for addressing the underlying disease, namely capitalism.

In The Revolution Will Not be Funded, Paul Kivel writes:

When temporary shelter becomes a substitute for permanent housing, emergency food a substitute for a decent job, tutoring a substitute for adequate public schools, and free clinics a substitute for universal health care, we have shifted our attention from the redistribution of wealth to the temporary provision of social services to keep people alive.

Is that all we can hope for — keeping people alive? As socialists, we know that society has enough wealth and sufficient technical means to do much more than simply keep people alive. We are fighting for a world where people’s basic needs are not only met, but for a world where we all can thrive.

Working at a nonprofit doesn’t necessarily advance the struggle for such a world, which would require getting rid of the profit motive as the key mechanism for allocating and coordinating society’s productive assets.

The best nonprofits seek to bring improvements in people’s lives. But our aim is to fight for a socialist society that puts people before profits — that puts the working class in control of the factories and offices, and in control of the products of their own labor.

If nonprofits don’t have this as their aim, it’s important to ask what method of organization willbring about the change we want to see?

If, as Marx wrote, the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself, then a professional class of nonprofit workers advocating for liberation on behalf of other people won’t be sufficient to transform society.

It’s critical that all workers and oppressed people participate in their own liberation — through social movements, unions, coalitions and socialist organizations — and organize themselves to fight in their own interests for a world free of oppression and exploitation.

The post Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

“The Total Failure” of Trump’s Drug War Policies

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 17:16

Janine Jackson: The September 20th Columbus Dispatch ran an op-ed from Jim Carroll, identified as “deputy director of national drug control policy and President Trump’s nominee for drug czar.” Carroll evinced concern for the “lives lost” to drug overdoses and empathy for the “loved ones devastated by their loss,” as well as “those in recovery”—all by way of explaining why he was

in Columbus to meet with law enforcement officers from Ohio and across the Midwest about working together to stop heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamines and other drugs from entering our communities and ruining people’s lives.

That immediate recourse to a policing response is writ large in Trump’s “call to action” on what his administration calls the “World Drug Problem,” but it doesn’t reflect the direction of much of the actual world. So how much impact can that disconnect have?

Hannah Hetzer is senior international policy manager at Drug Policy Alliance; she joins us now by phone from here in town. Welcome to CounterSpin, Hannah Hetzer.

Hannah Hetzer: Thank you for having me.

As you have reported, the nature of the UN event at which this document, the Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem [was presented], the nature of the event is, itself, telling. The UN has its maybe Byzantine ways, but this was still special. What was the story behind this less-than-18-minute meeting?

I think, ultimately, what this was was just an attempt by Trump and his administration to have a photo-op where they’re surrounded by other countries that look like they are giving support to the administration, and to demonstrate leadership on the drug issue without providing any real solutions both domestically and internationally.

So Trump hosted this high-level event that was called the “Call to Action on the World Drug Problem,” where he and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and UN Secretary General Guterres all gave remarks. At the event, Trump launched into very outdated ’80s, ’90s drug war rhetoric about a drug-free world, drug-free futures, about eradicating supply and the scourge of drug addiction, while Ambassador Haley just went on and on praising Trump for his leadership on this issue, and saying he’s ready to take this leadership worldwide.

The event in itself, this rings so false, because Trump has demonstrated no leadership on this issue domestically. He’s actually ignored the advice of scientists, advocates, people from the medical profession, about what actually works to help treat addiction and support people who use drugs and may be struggling. And has just enforced a very criminal justice-heavy approach.

Connected to this event was a document called the Call to Action on the World Drug Problem, which the US Mission circulated to other UN member states, which was a one-page document. And there are several things wrong with this document, both the way it was circulated, which was, it was given to these countries, saying, “This is not open for negotiation, it’s a final document,” and if they sign, they’re invited to this event with Trump and can have this photo-op with Trump.

The UN is, as you said, very bureaucratic, but it does rest on the pillars of negotiation and consensus. So all documents are agreed upon, and other countries get to weigh in and negotiate the language.

This just came out of nowhere, and said it was final and non-negotiable. So it’s very contrary to regular UN processes, and also UN processes on drug policy, where there’s several avenues for debate, and this is not one of them.

There’s also problems with the language of the letter. It doesn’t mention key UN agencies, like development program, or it doesn’t even mention development goals, the UN aides, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. And it ignores some of the agreed-upon language in the last few years at the UN about human rights, development, key populations—you know, women, children—and harm-reduction strategies. It doesn’t have the words “harm reduction in it. So there’s a problem with the language of the text. There’s a problem with the way it was circulated. And, ultimately, I think it was just a ploy by the administration to look like they’re showing leadership on this issue.

Yeah, the non-mention of human rights seems central, as we think about the impact that the drug war has had. But there’s not just—as media might lead a casual reader to think—there’s not just this Trump worldview of things, and then people who are only defined by their opposition to that. There is, in fact, a developed, evidence-based conversation that runs counter, in terms of the definition of the problem, and in terms of the responses represented. And, in fact, those views, as it happens, were showcased on the very day Trump had his dog-and-pony show.

That’s right. It’s ironic that on the day that Trump had this event, former prime ministers and heads of state that make up the Global Commission on Drug Policy—this is a distinguished group of world leaders, the ex-presidents of Switzerland and Greece and Colombia and Brazil, together with people like Richard Branson and, before he passed away, Kofi Annan—they make up this Global Commission on Drug Policy.

And on that very day, they were launching their report, that’s called “Regulation: The Responsible Control of Drugs,” where they call for an end to drug prohibition. They talk about the harms that drug prohibition has wreaked across the world, and call for taking control of drugs, through governments, responsibly.

And this isn’t coming from grassroots activists; this is coming from people who used to hold high positions of power, who you wouldn’t think would necessarily be the ones presenting these very innovative, groundbreaking strategies. But they have experience, and their language is just in such stark contrast to Trump’s language. They’re forward-thinking. They’ve seen what hasn’t worked. They’re calling for new approaches that do work, and for trying new things as well, while Trump just looks backwards.

And then there’s just also not a consensus within the UN member states. Unfortunately, a lot of countries signed on to this that domestically are more reform-oriented, and probably did so out of a lot of heavy diplomatic pressure from the United States. It was unfortunate that Canada signed on, even though they are ramping up their harm-reduction interventions, increasing the number of supervised consumption facilities, moving to legalize marijuana. And there are other countries that signed on to this that have much more progressive policies domestically, but probably just felt a lot of pressure from the Trump administration.

And then there are countries that are engaging in brutal, lethal war on drugs. A good example is the Philippines, in which thousands of people have been killed in this drug war, and President Trump actually has praised the Philippine president for his approach. So there’s a fractured consensus. There are countries that are more forward-thinking, and the US is definitely trying to regain control of the debate and take us backwards.

Speaking of Philippine President Duterte: Donald Trump, has he not even endorsed the idea, or sort of floated the idea, of executing drug dealers in this country?

That’s right. It’s so, I mean, it’s terrifying. It’s extremely worrying that not once but twice, Trump has mentioned the idea of the death penalty for people who sell drugs. It’s concerning, when you don’t see human rights language being put first and foremost. It’s incredibly frightening.

I feel like sometimes in media, the “human rights over the punitive” approach is sort of set up as “in this corner…,” you know. But for one thing, humaneness is good. But for another, it’s effective, if our goal is individual and public health and well-being. But I sometimes believe that many media conversations on this debate leave out what various parties would even define as winning. For some people, anybody who alters their consciousness in any way should be punished, period. But we don’t explore that. There’s fundamental debate about the framing of whether this is a health issue, or this is a morality issue, I think.

That’s right, I mean, we’ve just seen the total failure of repressive policies. Prohibition and repression and punishment are unethical in and of themselves, but they are also inefficient. It doesn’t work. And there are examples of strategies that do work, that do center public health and human rights and dignity and development. It’s not just immoral. It’s also inefficient.

Domestically, too, there are things happening. In Ohio, where I understand 12 people die each day from accidental overdoses, there was a conference, September 27 to 28, that talked about “health-centered treatment,” that talked about “harm-reduction,” terms you note are missing from this Trump document. So we’re having this conversation within this country as well, of these varying approaches.

In localities, leaders and advocates are really being about to push through groundbreaking strategies that were almost not conceivable in this country up until now. The big example of that right now is the discussion around supervised consumption facilities, which is taking place in a number of cities around this country, and this is not a new idea globally. There are many countries that have supervised consumption facilities, many cities, and there has never been a single overdose death in any of them. They’ve been peer-reviewed. There’s evidence that these work to support people who are using drugs, that they lower the rates of infectious diseases, of overdose deaths. They’re incredibly effective, and they’re incredibly humane.

And I think now we’re at a point where, in desperation, a lot of cities are finally accepting the words of people who use drugs, and people who advocate for people who use drugs, to say that, “This is what we want and this is what works.” And it looks like we’re going to be able to open one in this country over the coming year, which is very exciting. But we also need to scale up other programs that have proven to work, like syringe-exchange programs, the availability of Naloxone, all of these harm-reduction strategies that have worked elsewhere and here.

Media could be playing a role in letting folks know that those things are possible and happening.

Absolutely, which is why I’m very thankful that you’re hosting this program because, again, this is not inventing the wheel; these are proven strategies, and the more that that’s presented as viable and helpful the better, and if we think about the amount of resources that we pour into prohibition and law enforcement, that could go to treatment and support and harm reduction, we would just be in a much better place.

I don’t want to close without noting the maybe most recent positive step, as we record, which is that the SITSA Act, the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act of 2017, that the House passed in [June], I understand it was kept out of the final congressional bill on opioids. So something that would have pushed things in the more punitive direction that we’re talking about, it sounds like it has been halted for the moment?

There are these little glimmers of hope, because I think more people are becoming more sensitized to this issue. So that is a small victory, yes.

We’ve been speaking with Hannah Hetzer, senior international policy manager at Drug Policy Alliance. You can find their work online at DrugPolicy.org. Hannah Hetzer, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

Thanks so much for having me.

The post “The Total Failure” of Trump’s Drug War Policies appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

It’s Time to Write Women Back into Labor History

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 16:29

This article was originally published at Labor Notes.

Union women are leading labor forward. You can see it in the flurry of teacher strikes—Los Angeles teachers were the latest to authorize one—and in the September walkout by McDonald’s workers in many major cities, an anti-sexual harassment action linked to the Fight for $15.

Teachers union membership is predominately female, and has been so for decades. In fact, elementary school teaching in the 1970s was a very low-paid “pink-collar ghetto,” wrote noted labor historian Philip Foner in his groundbreaking book, Women and the American Labor Movement—recently reprinted at last, and covering its topic from Jacksonian times to 1982.

Women haven’t always been at home in the labor movement. Women workers struggled through the 19th and 20th centuries to be accepted not just by management but also by male-dominated unions. For decades the AFL did little more than pay lip service to equal pay for equal work. But not so the Industrial Workers of the World, nor later the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Unlike the AFL, the IWW in the early 20th century employed women as organizers. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was the “rebel girl” of Joe Hill’s song. A socialist and labor radical, she held an executive position in the IWW.

Women were crucial in the great 1936-7 CIO organizing campaigns. This was the era of the wildly successful sit-down strike—before the Supreme Court declared that union tool illegal. In 1937, Foner writes, “there were 477 sit-down strikes, affecting over 300,000 workers.”

Bread and Roses

Foner lists dozens of female labor notables over the course of two centuries, many unsung.

They took part in the great Lawrence, Massachusetts, textile strike of 1912. “‘A considerable number of boys and girls die within the first two or three years after beginning work,’ wrote a medical examiner studying health conditions in the Lawrence mills. “Thirty six out of every hundred of all men and women who work in the mill die before…they are 25 years of age.’”

Among the most militant strikers were foreign-born women, who rallied around the battle cry, “Better to starve fighting than to starve working.” Their signs read, “We want Bread and Roses Too.” By the time the strike was settled, more than 10,000 workers joined the IWW, 60 percent of them women.

Rosie the Riveter

As is well known, women surged into the labor force during World War II. Foner observes that from 1940 to 1945, women in the labor force expanded from 14 million to over 20 million. Most of the female labor union additions came through the CIO, which embraced unskilled workers, unlike the AFL. Most women were in jobs labeled as unskilled and easily excluded from craft union membership.

Day care centers opened for these workers’ children. “Throughout the war [unions] worked for the improvement of daycare facilities,” Foner writes.

Out in front with its progressive approach to women workers stood the United Electrical Workers. Also trailblazing with equal pay contract clauses were the United Rubber Workers and the United Auto Workers. Union leaders stressed that “under fascism, women suffer the most,” while labor leader Walter Reuther spoke about the virtues of “not chaining women to the kitchen sinks.”

Indeed a mass movement of women trade unionists emerged out of the war. Though many women lost their jobs when male veterans returned, there was no “reversion to the pre-war trade union approach to the woman worker.”

But then came the expulsion of “communist-dominated” unions from the CIO. In the early 1950s, Foner writes, “several CIO leaders had voiced the view that pressing for the unionization of women might subject them to the charge of being communist dominated.” Of the eleven progressive unions expelled, Foner notes, several were pace-setters for women, so this was a setback for women in the labor movement.

Hospital Strikes

Foner also covers New York City’s hospital strikes in the 1950s and ’60s, when organizers realized that to bring in African American and Latino women hospital workers, they needed a coalition with the civil rights movement.

These hospital workers received poverty wages until 1968, when Local 1199, Retail Drug Employees, had a “spectacular success in winning a $100 per week minimum for non-professional voluntary hospital workers.” The union started a friendship with Martin Luther King Jr., who called 1199 “my favorite union.”

By 1965, Foner writes, 1199 had achieved much: “Hospital union membership had grown from five or six thousand in 1959 to thirty thousand. Wages had more than doubled, and health and medical coverage for workers and their families had been won in union contracts.”

Farmworker Strikes

Also covered in this invaluable book is the role of female workers in La Huelga—the great strike and boycott by farmworkers, which began in 1965 and led to recognition of their union.

It started in California with the strike against the Delano growers. “When it was over, five years later, unionization had come for farm laborers.” There followed the boycott in 1970, and in 1971-2 the end of some of the anti-woman bias in the fields.

The first woman organizer working for the union out in the fields was Jessie Lopez de la Cruz, who, as told to Ellen Cantarow, recalled: “One night in 1962 there was a knock at the door and there were three men. One of them was Cesar Chavez. And then next thing I knew they were sitting around our table and talking about a union…Cesar said ‘The women have to be involved. They’re the ones working out in the fields with their husbands. If you can take the women out to the fields, you can certainly take them to meetings.’ So I sat up straight and said to myself ‘That’s what I want!’”

During the strike—whose picket lines the Teamsters crossed—“women were attacked by men wielding 2×4 boards, hoping to provoke a riot, while fifty policeman were waiting with patrol wagons to arrest the women if they fought back.” According to Foner, in 1973, “while picketing growers who had signed with the Teamsters, Juan de la Cruz was killed by a rifle fired into the picket line from a truck.”

Textile Strikes

Toward the end, this book focuses on 1970s textile strikes in the South (back when there still was a textile industry in the South), including the one featured in the film Norma Rae. There were many women in these textile workforces.

The Oneita strike stands out. As one reporter wrote then: “Black women were the vast majority of the strikers, and black women are the angriest, most militant and courageous in the working class, because they felt the lash of exploitation and racist abuse even more than black men.”

In this strike, the AFL-CIO boycotted all Oneita products “under the K-Mart, J.C. Penney, Sears and Montgomery Ward labels.” After six months, the strikers signed a contract, “the first union contract won in the South in over a decade.”

The book ends in 1982, by which time Foner observes a worrying decline in union membership. Things have only deteriorated since then, to the point where one can only wonder what an old labor supporter like Philip Foner would say about the Supreme Court’s Janus decision and that other feature of contemporary life, the gig economy. The answer is certainly: nothing good, so every reason to unionize.

New book from Labor Notes: Secrets of a Successful Organizer is a step-by-step guide to building power on the job. “Full of so many creative examples and powerful rank-and-file stories, it makes you want to dive right in.” Buy one today, only $15.

The post It’s Time to Write Women Back into Labor History appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Election 2018: What’s at Stake for Families

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 15:45

The United States is experiencing an extraordinary political moment. Apart from the omnipresent chaos that surrounds the Trump presidency itself – the near-daily stress test on the country’s democratic institutions – there’s also contention around how the economy functions, around social benefits, around civil rights, around gender relations, immigration policy, the environment, the composition of the US Supreme Court (not to mention a slew of lower federal courts), voting rights and myriad other big-ticket items.

“We’re at a crossroads,” says Brigid Flaherty, the co-founder and co-director of Down Home North Carolina, a group that has spent the past two years organizing Appalachian communities in the state around social justice and economic issues. “Depending on how things go in the midterms, this sets the course for the next 10 years, if not more,” Flaherty says. “Everybody’s issues are on the chopping block.”

With the 2018 midterm elections fast approaching, Equal Voice News talked with a number of social justice organizers to get their read on what is most at stake over the coming years. Many say that the interwoven nature of the challenges – from sweeping attacks on voting rights and longstanding systemic racism in housing and education, to the rolling crisis of climate change and the criminalization of protest – creates great political dangers. But at the same time, they see opportunities for alliance and movement building and the sort of cross-issues organizing, especially for families, that was too often muted before.

“We’ve asked if this is a new political moment. It is,” says Cindy Wiesner, the Miami-based national coordinator for the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. “No single faction alone can take on what we’re facing. The resurgence of right-wing populism globally. We see it as a manifestation of multiple systemic crises – neo-liberalism, a crisis of the environment, people questioning state legitimacy.”

Wiesner says GGJA is particularly concerned with “a dismantling of public services, the growing power of the super-rich – it’s no hold barred for corporations and the super-rich – the blatant rise of White nationalism, the using of race, gender and class in a very clear and divisive manner.”

Wiesner adds: “We’ve seen an unprecedented mobilization of forces and [traditionally] unorganized people in this country. We have to think about not just the resistance that is necessary, is defensive, but ways to get on the offensive. We have to have the audacity to not lose that hope. Because the level of devastation, from children in cages to extreme rollback on climate regulations, to worker protections, you see it every day. We have to be really bold in this moment, fighting for this country, for our dignity and for humanity. Everything we care about and value is being taken away. But we are the majority in a lot of ways. People all over the world are wanting something different. We believe another world is possible.”

That sense of risk combined with possibility runs as a recurring theme through conversations with organizers. “There is no resting now,” Flaherty says. “Every day should be a fight to ensure we are really talking about the issues in a way that resonates with voters.”

Increasingly, that involves a much more assertive conversation about economic, environmental and legal change.

Health Care and the View From Nebraska

James Goddard, director of anti-poverty and health care programs at Nebraska Appleseed notes that after the November 2016 election, “the idea for months and months was getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. That was something that’s helped many people in Nebraska get health insurance.”

When the Republican effort in Congress to roll back the Affordable Care Act (ACA) failed, Goddard’s organization moved from being on the defensive – telling the stories of Nebraskans who benefited from increased access to insurance, in an effort to drum up support for preserving core parts of the ACA – to pushing to expand Medicaid in the state. When the state Legislature failed to support the expansion, Appleseed and other organizations worked to put a Medicaid-expansion initiative on the November 2018 ballot.

The signature-gathering effort proved fruitful, even in extremely conservative, rural areas of the state. Similar measures will also be on the ballot in November in Idaho and Utah. And Montanans will vote on an initiative to make their state’s 3-year expansion of Medicaid permanent.

“I think we have a really good chance,” Goddard says. Now, however, there is a new worry: What if Nebraskans vote to expand Medicaid and then the next Congress tries to repeal the ACA again? Or what if a newly minted conservative majority on the Supreme Court issues a series of decisions that have the same ultimate effect? “There’s a lot at stake,” Goddard says. Absent certainty in the health care markets, he is concerned that rural hospitals will end up particularly vulnerable. Some, he says, could even close.

Some organizers around the country are concerned that a “domestic gag rule,” barring federal dollars to organizations that have anything to do with abortion services, will end up removing Title IX funding from thousands of health clinics that serve low-income women. More generally, organizers worry that the Supreme Court might dilute or even eliminate the protections of Roe v. Wade, which would then put the issue before state legislatures and governors.

Goddard also is preoccupied with what he regards as an ongoing crisis in wages. Nebraska largely escaped the unemployment catastrophe that plagued so much of the country post-2008 and currently posts a mere 2.8 percent unemployment, but the availability of jobs hasn’t eliminated economic hardship. “People still really struggle with poverty and hunger,” he says. “Twelve percent face food insecurity. Families with kids, it goes up to 16 percent. People are working hard, and they’re still struggling. We have work to do around policies relating to wages, including the minimum wage, and benefits.”

Nationwide: “Pathways to Mobility” for All

Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which works to organize low-income, frequently immigrant, domestic workers around the country, agrees. “There is a narrative that the economy is good, and there’s job growth,” she says, referring to the less than 4 percent national unemployment rate. “But the pressure on low-wage workers is intensifying, and benefits and services are being gutted. We should be doubling down on making poverty-wage jobs good jobs with pathways to mobility. You want to resume the notion of economic mobility from one generation to the next, but we’re going in the exact opposite direction.”

Over the coming years, workers’ ability to organize into trade unions in the private sector will come under renewed threat. And in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31 decision in June 2018, public sector unions will face huge challenges in maintaining their funding streams from membership dues. A conservative Supreme Court could well issue even more restrictions on unions.

The issues won’t only be decided in the courts. How the economy functions and how wealth and opportunity will be distributed are, of course, political questions. In many states with conservative legislatures, more interventionist city councils have attempted to go their own way when it comes to increasing the local minimum wage, implementing prevailing wage rules and making available certain benefits.

Over the coming political cycles, some states will likely try to pass laws preventing their cities from implementing such policies. Already, that has happened in Alabama with state lawmakers essentially blocking the city of Birmingham from increasing the minimum wage. Another example is Missouri, where the Legislature pushed back against St. Louis’s efforts to raise the minimum wage. Iowa also has preempted some counties that raised the minimum wage within their boundaries.

Goddard is concerned that progressive organizers in Nebraska might win local wage increases only to see legislators preempt them. And he worries that, depending on the composition of Congress and the Supreme Court in coming years, new federal laws and legal rulings could make it all-but-impossible for local governments across the country to increase protections for the poor – dramatically shifting the balance of power away from cities.

Protecting the Poor, Especially in Arizona

Cynthia Zwick, executive director of the Arizona Community Action Association, is concerned about protections for the poor in an era when technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and robot-laborers are making it harder for many low-skilled workers to find stable employment. And that concern deepens regarding immigrant communities experiencing an increasingly xenophobic moment nationally. “The impact on communities – and families, and children,” she says. “That is a huge concern.”

Zwick worries about a combination of deliberately harsh social policies, deregulation and simple ineptitude in the face of rapid economic changes. She feels that among policymakers, there is “a lack of a sense of where we’re headed. And this supports more chaotic responses going forward.”

ACAA works with impoverished Arizonans, many of whom rely on public benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps and often referred to as SNAP. Since 2016, the political conversation at a federal level has shifted toward both cutting the amount of benefits issued and imposing work requirements on families accessing SNAP and Medicaid – both proposals depending on the outcome of the midterm elections. These proposals are likely to either move to the center of the political stage or be neutered by Congressional opposition.

The Trump administration also recently unveiled plans to reshape a more-than-century-old definition of “public charge” to make it harder for legal immigrants and their US-citizen children to access a range of nutritional, health and other services. After November, immigrants’ ability to use the country’s safety net will likely be further eviscerated or fortified against Trump’s regulatory changes by a newly assertive Congress.

“Every area of the federal administration is being used to target and punish immigrant communities and gut the legal immigration system, in addition to the hyper-criminalizing and traumatizing of people arriving [without documents] at our borders,” says Ai-jen Poo. “The stuff happening under cover is a revolutionary overhaul of how immigration happens.”

The Trump administration has put its muscle behind policies that would, in essence, pull out the underpinnings of America’s post-1965 immigration system. Family unification would no longer be a priority, and geographic and racial diversity would no longer be seen as desirable. Fewer immigrants would be allowed entry into the United States, including fewer refugees and asylum seekers. The proposals floated by the administration and by conservative legislators such as Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas call for roughly halving the number of immigrants admitted – and those would be essentially barred from all public services, even emergency health and nutritional interventions.

Some of these policy changes are specifically aimed at immigrants; others are part of a larger assault on the notion of the social safety net. That assault will continue after the midterms, regardless of who wins, and it will be guided by an executive branch that prioritizes cutting down non-military branches of government. “There’s a very deliberate dismantling that’s happening,” says Wiesner. “This version of the Republican Party has an agenda – the dismantling of the state apparatus.”

“The worst-case scenario is that the status quo continues to operate,” says Zwick. “The best-case scenario is that we begin to shift that division and moderate a coming together of people willing to sit down and address the issues.”

This story was produced by the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice News, a digital storytelling platform.

The post Election 2018: What’s at Stake for Families appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

How Can We Reconcile Prison Abolition With #MeToo?

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 15:17

“We call on social justice movements to develop strategies and analysis that address both state AND interpersonal violence, particularly violence against women. Currently, activists/movements that address state violence (such as anti-prison, anti-police brutality groups) often work in isolation from activists/movements that address domestic and sexual violence.” Those words were written in 2001 by prison abolition organization Critical Resistance and INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence.*

The past 17 years have seen an increase in prison abolition groups and organizing. In stark contrast to prison reform advocates, who push to improve prison conditions but posit that prisons are ultimately necessary for societal safety, prison abolitionists charge that prisons themselves are sites of violence and can never be adequately reformed. Instead, prisons must be eliminated; so too must the conditions that send people to prison, including racism, poverty and root causes of violence.

Conspicuous by its absence in many of the conversations about prison abolition, however, is how to address gender-based violence and harm without relying on police and prisons.

At the same time, many of the most prominent organizations and movements fighting domestic and sexual violence continue to rely on policing and prisons. In the aftermath of the six-month prison sentence imposed upon Brock Turner, the white Stanford student convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, feminist groups and activists expressed outrage at the shortness of the sentence and called for the ouster of his sentencing judge.

Similarly, as accusations against celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby mounted, calls for justice centered arrest and prison. The most vocal calls for “justice” failed to recognize that harsher punishments and lengthier sentences have always fallen hardest upon—and devastated—people and communities of color, while providing little safety or prevention from gender violence.

This reliance on criminalization reinforces state violence, which is not only perpetrated against overwhelmingly Black and brown and poor men, but also upholds a system punishing women (cisgender and trans), trans men, gender non-conforming and intersex people, even when they themselves are victimized by violence. We’ve seen this in the case of Marissa Alexander, the Florida mother initially sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a warning shot to stop her abusive husband’s assault. We’ve seen this in the case of Ky Peterson, a Black trans man currently serving a 20-year prison sentence after fatally shooting the man who raped him.

How Did We Get to This Divide?

In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which pushed police to respond to complaints of domestic violence, sexual assault and other gender-based violence. The act was the result of years of lawsuits and organizing by many feminists to force law enforcement to respond to gender-based violence rather than dismissing it as an interpersonal issue. In many jurisdictions, VAWA resulted in mandatory arrest laws and more punitive prison sentences. It also led to policies such as dual arrests, in which police arrested both people. Some jurisdictions jail victims as material witnesses or impose fines and threaten a survivor with arrest if they do not cooperate with prosecution. (The city of Columbus, Georgia, changed its policy of non-cooperation fines and arrests after a lawsuit by abuse survivor Cleopatra Harrison and the Southern Center for Human Rights.)

Carceral feminism is the term often used to describe this reliance on increased policing, prosecution and imprisonment as the primary solution to gender-based violence. By and large, carceral feminism views solutions to gender-based violence through a white middle-class lens, one which ignores the ways in which intersecting identities, such as race, class, gender identity and immigration status, leave certain women more vulnerable to violence, including state violence.

At the same time, women’s incarceration has skyrocketed. In 1980, the nation’s jails and prisons held 25,450 women; 10 years later, that number had nearly tripled to 77,762. By 2000, that number had doubled again to 156,044 and continues to grow. As of 2017, jails and prisons incarcerate 209,000 women. (These numbers do not include women in immigrant detention or youth jails or trans women in men’s jails or prisons.) At least half of incarcerated women reported surviving violence even before being arrest.

It’s still also true that nearly 90 percent of incarcerated people are men (or classified as men). But not every feminist and anti-violence activist espouses a carceral solution. For years, anti-violence activists and organizations, such as Beth Richie and INCITE!, have argued that increased criminalization replaces abuse by an individual with abuse by law enforcement, courts and prisons while doing nothing to address the root causes of violence against women. We’ve seen this with Marisa Alexander, Ky Peterson and countless other women and trans people.

No one knows how many thousands of survivors are sitting behind bars after law enforcement failed to guarantee their safety. That’s because no agency tracks this data. The most recent statistics are nearly 20 years old, from a 1999 Department of Justice report stating that nearly half of women in local jails and state prisons had been abused prior to their arrest. But, because women make up approximately 10 percent of the nation’s prison population, many of the conversations about mass incarceration and prison abolition continue to center men, a focus that leads to a false binary in which men are incarcerated and women are victims. It’s a divide that excludes people (of any and all genders) impacted by both interpersonal and state violence, and thus fails to meet their needs.

I’ve interviewed numerous adult survivors of domestic violence imprisoned for defending themselves. Again and again, they tell me that they turned to the police and legal system, both of which failed to protect them. Perhaps the police took their abuser away for a few days, but that didn’t stop the violence. Perhaps the courts issued an order of protection, a piece of paper that their abuser flagrantly ignored. Perhaps the police did nothing. Perhaps their abuser was the police. This same legal system that failed to protect them then punished them for their survival. In prison, many are subject to violence—at the hands of other incarcerated people, staff members or the day-to-day practices.

At the same time, much prison abolition organizing continues to reflect larger society’s failure to consider the societal and cultural shifts needed to end gender-based violence or to develop concrete ways to prevent and address domestic and sexual violence in daily life.

“The two are not really talked about together,” says Hyejin Shim. Shim works at the intersections of gender and state violence, as both a staff member at the Asian Women’s Shelter and an organizer with Survived and Punished, a grassroots group supporting criminalized and incarcerated survivors of gender-based violence. Though efforts to end gender-based violence and prison abolition are often positioned as incompatible, Shim notes that “both are focused on ending violence,” whether that violence is from an individual, the state or both.

Transformative Justice

One way to address interpersonal violence without relying on state violence is through transformative justice. Transformative justice refers to a community process that addresses not only the needs of the person who was harmed, but also the conditions that enabled this harm. In other words, instead of looking at the act(s) of violence in a vacuum, transformative justice processes ask, “What else needs to change so that this never happens again? What needs to happen so that the survivor can heal?” There’s no right or wrong set of footprints to follow in transformative justice; instead, each process depends on the people and circumstances.

Shim notes that people frequently engage in transformative justice processes, even if they don’t use that term. They come together to support people in their circles who have been harmed—helping them identify what they need and how to access those needs. At the same time, Shim points out that these kinds of skills are often undervalued in organizing circles. “In movement spaces, you might have a direct action training or a facilitator training, but not one for skills to work through conflict or support survivors,” she noted. In this #MeToo moment when more people are coming forward with their own experiences of sexual and domestic violence, “the support needed is not really there or been developed.”

Anti-violence organizers have developed resources to help fill those gaps. Creative Interventions, an organization dedicated to providing “resources for everyday people to end violence,” has developed a 608-page on-line guide of strategies to stop interpersonal violence. Organizers and abuse survivors Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani and Leah Lakshmi Piepnza-Samarasinha compiled a 111-page zine entitled “The Revolution Starts at Home” (which later became a book), documenting ways that social justice organizers have held abusers accountable.

Creative Interventions’ guide, for example, recounts the way a Korean cultural community center in Oakland, California handled an incident of sexual assault, made even more complicated by cross-cultural factors.

In the summer of 2006, the Oakland center invited a drumming teacher from South Korea to teach at a week-long drumming workshop. One night, he sexually assaulted one of the students. The Oakland center handled the process through a series of actions, beginning with an immediate telephone call to the head of the drumming center in Korea. Even though it “was culturally difficult for the Korean American group to make demands of their elders in Korea, everyone decided this was what needed to be done.”

After the Korean institution took responsibility and apologized, the Oakland center sent a list of demands, including that the Korean institution establish sexual assault awareness trainings for their entire membership, a commitment to send at least one woman teacher in their future exchanges to the US, and a request that the teacher step down from his leadership position for an initial period of six months and attend feminist therapy sessions directly addressing the assault.

The Oakland organization also took actions on their part, including providing a set of sexual assault awareness workshops for the center members and members of other local drumming groups, and dedicating their upcoming festival to the theme of healing from sexual violence. With consent from the victim, facts regarding the incident were printed in the program “as a challenge to the community to take collective responsibility for ending the conditions perpetuating violence including collusion through silence.”

The story has far from a perfect ending; the victim (as she preferred to be called, rather than “survivor”) never returned to the cultural center; the lengthy process of both institutional reflection and engagement “sapped the energy and spirit of the organization and the friendships that had held it together;” and, while the drumming teacher returned to participate in festivals in South Korea, he was viewed with resentment and suspicion by Korean American visitors. But when Liz, the center’s president, reflected later on the series of events, she said: “Some people asked us later why we didn’t call the police. It was not even a thought in anybody’s mind.”

A chapter of “The Revolution Starts at Home” (the zine) called “taking risks: implementing grassroots community accountability strategies” provides another example. The authors, a collective of women of color from Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA)—Alisa Bierria, Onion Carrillo, Eboni Colbert, Xandra Ibarra, Theryn Kigvamasud’Vashti and Shale Maulanaauthor—describe a series of actions taken by members of an alternative punk community to address sexual assaults by Lou, a man employed by a popular club.

The authors report that Lou “encouraged […] women to get drunk and then forced them to have sex against their will.” In their discussions about what to do, community members “not only reflected on the survivors’ experiences, but also how the local culture supported bad behavior.” For instance, the popular alt-weekly paper often glamorized the massive amount of drinking prevalent at Lou’s parties. With the survivors’ consent, the group designed fliers that identified the man and his behaviors, called for accountability, critiqued the local paper and suggested boycotting the club.

In response, the newspaper published an article defending the man, implying that since the survivors had not filed criminal charges, their allegations were not credible. Lou also threatened to sue them for libel. But the group persisted, working with the survivors to create a document that not only shared their experiences, but also articulated a critical analysis of sexual violence and rape culture in their community and what they meant by community accountability. They released the full statement to the press and posted it to their website, sparking discussions in the larger music community about sexual violence and accountability. Lou stopped being invited to parties and events, locals began boycotting the club and out-of-town bands avoided playing there, prompting Lou to agree to engage with the group and negotiate a face-to-face meeting. Ultimately, however, he never took accountability for his actions.

The group also began a process to learn more about sexual violence, safety and accountability, learning to facilitate their own safety and accountability workshops and supporting CARA and other anti-violence organizations. “It’s a critical shift to decide to use your resources to build the community you want [rather] than expend all of your resources by fighting the problem you want to eliminate,” CARA organizers wrote.

Reflecting recently on that scenario, Bierria, now an organizer with Survived and Punished, noted that “it was a powerful counter-response to something that’s usually not spoken about.”

At the same time, she pointed out, “community accountability is not just a process of accountability. It’s creating conditions within the community that prevent harm.” It can be frustrating, she acknowledged. “We [often] want a more direct solution. But sexual and domestic violence are more complicated than that.” Over the past two decades, she and others working at the intersections of gender violence, community accountability and prison abolition have documented their processes, creating blueprints and road maps that she and other organizers did not have 20 years ago.

These examples show that the processes of community accountability are messy and rarely follow a uniform path. They often, however, mix and match from a distinct set of alternative tools that include actions for both organizations and individuals. Counseling for the person who caused harm, removal from leadership positions, admission of guilt, public and/or private apologies, workshops and trainings, and specific behavioral changes are just some of the demands that communities can make. Regardless of what forms they take, continuing to explore alternatives to state violence in response to gender-based violence is an essential piece of the movements to end both.

*INCITE! has since changed its name to INCITE! Women, Gender Non-Conforming, and Trans people of Color Against Violence

This article was originally published by Filter, a magazine covering drug use, drug policy and human rights. Follow Filter on Facebook or Twitter.

The post How Can We Reconcile Prison Abolition With #MeToo? appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Facebook Accused of “Full-Frontal Suppression of Dissent”

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 14:52

After Facebook announced on Thursday that it shut down and removed hundreds of pages and accounts that it vaguely accused of spreading “spam” and engaging in “inauthentic behavior,” some of the individuals and organizations caught up in the social media behemoth’s dragnet disputed accusations that they were violating the platform’s rules and raised alarm that Facebook is using its enormous power to silence independent political perspectives that run counter to the corporate media’s dominant narratives.

While it is reasonable to assume that some of the more than 800 total pages and accounts shut down by Facebook were engaged in overtly fraudulent behavior—such as the use of fake accounts and bots to generate ad revenue—numerous independent media outlets that cover a wide array of issues say they were swept up in the massive purge despite never using such tactics.

“Facebook has removed the pages of several police accountability/watchdog/critic groups, including Cop Block, the Free Thought Project, and Police the Police,” Washington Postjournalist Radley Balko noted in a tweet following Facebook’s announcement. “They’ve also apparently severely restricted activity for the Photography Is Not a Crime page.”

Activist, comedian, and political commentator Lee Camp argued that Facebook’s purge is clear evidence that the “purging of anti-establishment thought is upon us” and described the account shutdowns as “full-frontal suppression of dissent.”

Speaking to journalist Alex Rubinstein after they found out Facebook shut down their pages—some of which had hundreds of thousands of followers—the founders of Police the Police, the Free Thought Project, and other now-shuttered pages denied Facebook’s hazy charge of “fraudulent” activity and accused the company of attempting to suppress dissenting voices that refuse to toe the corporate line.

“Our approach generally is to cover stories and angles that corporate media underreport or misreport and to amplify activist and anti-war voices and stories. All of our content is professionally fact-checked and edited,” said Nicholas Bernabe, founder of The Anti-Media, a self-described “anti-establishment” website whose Facebook page was shut down along with hundreds of others on Thursday. “I can only speculate that these suspensions were a coordinated effort to stifle our message ahead of the coming elections.”

While some of the pages Facebook removed on Thursday were affiliated with right-wing sites that were spreading patently false stories, censorship opponents have long warned of the “slippery slope” of empowering corporate giants to suppress certain kinds of content, given that the suppression almost always expands far beyond the original target.

“Those who demanded Facebook and other Silicon Valley giants censor political content—something they didn’t actually want to do—are finding that content that they themselves support and like end up being repressed,” noted The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald in response to Facebook’s announcement. “That’s what has happened to every censorship advocate in history.”

Though Facebook has yet to release a full list of the pages and accounts it removed, several individuals affected by the purge have taken to other social media platforms to denounce the social media giant for squashing pages that took years to develop.

The post Facebook Accused of “Full-Frontal Suppression of Dissent” appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” Shows Democrats’ Complicity in Electing Trump

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 14:30

Unlike the standard Michael Moore film that is replete with cheap shots and lurid tangents aimed at hooking and pleasing his choir, Moore cuts back on candy for his Trump-hating fans in Fahrenheit 11/9 and instead provides them with much-needed political truths.

The substance of Fahrenheit 11/9 challenges his fans to go beyond their easy contempt for the obnoxious Trump. Moore pushes his audience to consider how the corporatist blue team — an authoritarian Democratic National Party, a clueless self-serving Hillary Clinton, a slickly betraying Barack Obama and an ultimately pathetic Bernie Sanders — helped elect Trump to the presidency. Moore exposes the Democratic Party’s complicity in Trump’s victory and in US social and economic injustice. Sadly, it appears that Fahrenheit 11/9 will have a smaller audience than previous Moore films.

Fahrenheit 11/9 is being portrayed by many in the mainstream media as merely a Trump-bashing film that is a box-office failure because audiences are bored with Trump trashing. This misrepresentation of Fahrenheit 11/9 is made easier by Moore himself, who has not completely shed his compulsion to treat audiences like circus customers needing to be manipulated into the big tent with freakish side shows; for example, Moore can’t stop himself from inserting familiar shots of Donald Trump’s lechery toward his daughter.

But once Moore feels like he’s given his audience enough to stick with him, he gets to some uncomfortable realities that have real political value, truths that will provoke at least some blue team voters to reconsider why approximately 100 million potential voters didn’t even bother voting — and why Trump won.

Moore informs his viewers of some unsettling facts that the vast majority of Americans are unaware of. One such fact is that in the 2016 Democratic primary in West Virginia, Bernie Sanders won all 55 counties—yes, all of them; yet because of the authoritarian and corrupt Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee, Clinton ended up with more West Virginian delegates than Sanders. And Moore points out that West Virginia was not the only state where this kind of disenfranchisement occurred.

Moore, very effectively, links Democratic Party legal corruption to voter apathy and Trump’s victory. Many Americans didn’t bother voting not because they were lazy, but because they felt voting doesn’t matter. I live in Ohio, a 2016 Trump state, and I know Democrats who in the past had dutifully voted for the lesser-of-two-evils Democrat, but who in 2016 just couldn’t stomach Hillary Clinton — and stayed home. I also know Trump voters who actually thought highly of Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein as they were disgusted with both the Democrats and the Republicans, but ended up voting for Trump because he at least seemed willing to blow up the Republican Party. And I know Sanders supporters who have vowed to never take a politician seriously again after Sanders—looking like a POW fearful of being tortured by his guards for truth-telling—gave his support to Hillary Clinton, who his supporters absolutely despised.

Moore does not spare Barack Obama, making it starkly clear how little Black lives matter to him — at least the Black lives in Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, the scene of a devastating and shameful water crisis. Flint’s poisoned water supply is a tragedy that is killing and severely injuring its citizens, and Moore shows how it was precipitated and criminally covered up by Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. When Flint residents heard, in the spring of 2016, that then-President Obama was visiting Flint, they became hopeful that surely, he would do something about their water. However, as Moore vividly shows, Obama put a knife in their hearts.

Obama came to Flint and gave a speech that minimized the dangers of their toxic water supply and then performed a despicable stunt for the camera — insisting on having a glass of Flint water. And to make matters worse, in a friendly meeting with Snyder, Obama performs the same water stunt, providing Snyder and the Michigan ruling class with propaganda to prove that Flint’s water problem had been fixed. Even cynical viewers may shed a tear when they see African American safe-water activists emotionally crushed by a president who they had previously given their hearts to.

You know that you are not living in a genuinely democratic society when dissent is ignored. Moore shows that both the Democrat and Republican Parties are obedient servants of the ruling class, and that both these parties expect US citizens to be happy with their freedom to vote and voice dissent regardless of how impotent that voting and dissent are. While dissent can be effective in a genuine democracy, as the US anti-authoritarians I profile in Resisting Illegitimate Authority discovered, dissent alone is impotent with authoritarian rule. Thomas Paine, Malcolm X, Jane Jacobs, Noam Chomsky and Edward Snowden understood that safe dissent without strategic disobedience is easily ignored by authoritarians.

Moore ultimately uplifts anti-authoritarians by depicting Americans who get it and who move to strategic disobedience — and are successful in gaining real justice. Moore focuses on poorly paid West Virginia public school teachers. These teachers were fed up not only with their uncaring government employer, but by their own cowardly union leadership. The teachers went on strike, then rejected their union leadership’s acceptance of small concessions, and stayed on strike until they achieved complete victory. Their victory was contagious, empowering oppressed teachers in other locales.

After studying the lives of several great US anti-authoritarians, there is reason to have hope for Moore. Some of history’s most revered figures took time to mature from crowd-pleasers to become powerful anti-authoritarians. George Carlin (1937-2008) in his twenties had already appeared on the “Tonight Show,” but by the end of the 1960s, he had become disgusted with his “mainstream dream” and “people-pleaser job.” Carlin ultimately came to realizations such as: “Laughter is not the only proof of success. Boy, what a liberating recognition that was!” In the last chapter of his life, fully liberated from people-pleasing, Carlin came to relish the joys of being an artist who could powerfully convey vital truths. Ultimately, Carlin would become an anti-authoritarian prophet of sorts (“Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice! You have owners!”).

In Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore has taken a step toward liberation from being foremost a “people-pleaser” who merely validates his fans’ feelings to becoming the kind of artist who, like George Carlin, challenged his fans to think and is cherished and revered by anti-authoritarians.

The post Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” Shows Democrats’ Complicity in Electing Trump appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Why the FBI Used Its Kid Gloves on Brett Kavanaugh

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 13:36

There has always been a stunning double standard when it comes to FBI investigations: The FBI uses its kid gloves for people being vetted to serve the larger US governmental system while ruthlessly hounding activists and others who are perceived as threats to state power. The FBI’s cursory investigation into the charges made by Christine Blasey Ford against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was just the latest example of this double standard.

At the core of contention in Kavanaugh’s now-completed confirmation process was the need for a more complete investigation to see if the nominee was “suitable” to sit on the Supreme Court — specifically if the claims of sexual assault against him had any merit. For their part, Republicans said due diligence had already been done, noting that Kavanaugh had already been subjected to six background checks. What they didn’t make clear is that those checks were done previously over the course of his career, for positions less than that of the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, quite a few people — thanks largely to the Democratic leadership and the mainstream media — were led to believe that another FBI investigation was the best vehicle for getting at the truth of things. Many were then sorely disappointed when the new FBI investigation failed to turn up anything “disqualifying.”

So what happened? Was the FBI’s lack of findings a result of a constrained inquiry dictated by the Republicans and the president, predisposed against finding anything untoward about Kavanaugh? Perhaps, but a deeper explanation lies in the FBI’s long history of double standards — its smoothing the way for those seen to be in service of the larger US governmental system while reserving boundless efforts against those seen as opponents.

Criteria for the FBI’s “Suitability Reviews”

Contrary to what many reasonable people might think — and to the assumptions that left witnesses who independently approached the FBI to offer information about Kavanaugh feeling surprised after their offers were disregarded — the FBI’s checks on people being vetted to serve the larger US governmental system are not set up to go very deep or be particularly analytical. According to Greg Rinckey, a lawyer whose specialty is employment law and the security clearance process, “FBI background checks aren’t meant to dig up decades-old claims that never resulted in a police report or criminal charges.”

Yale University, which prepares a considerable number of people for government service, has a webpage dedicated to laying out the governmental background check process to its advancing students. As it explains, the first level of investigation is something called a “Suitability Review,” which itself has different categories:

High Risk positions require a full Background Investigation (BI), which is a MBI [Minimum Background Check] plus a review of the candidate’s employment, residential, and educational history for the preceding five years with the possibility that some of the information sources will be interviewed in person.

A suitability review, it should be noted, is different from a security clearance — something judges do not require. That check is more intensive, including checking with “former employers, coworkers, friends, neighbors, landlords, and schools along with a review of credit, tax, and police records.”

That process however, does not seem to go all that deep either, which would explain why criminal records and malfeasance — while sometimes weeding out certain people — often become an issue after people have been in office, as was the case for recent Trump administration officials Scott Pruitt, Brenda Fitzgerald, Tom Price and Rob Porter. Porter is particularly noteworthy in this regard. Unlike Kavanaugh — who recommended him for his job as a White House adviser — he had a police report for domestic violence as late as 2010, but this does not appear to have been an issue in his vetting.

Such is the relative kid-glove treatment enjoyed by those seeking to work for the United States government. For those perceived to be working against the government, however, there are other criteria entirely. Anyone who has watched “The Sopranos” understands that FBI agents don’t just sit at their computers doing background checks but are instead proactive, carrying out their investigations over an extended period of time. The Bureau itself says it “may delay making an arrest in order to obtain additional evidence proving the suspect’s guilt.” What it doesn’t mention is that there may never be an arrest.

That is the case with unambiguously criminal cases. However, the FBI is more than a “crime-fighting” outfit; it is also the country’s chief domestic intelligence agency, and as such, carries out the open-ended investigations of a political police.

Comparing Kavanaugh’s Experience to the FBI’s Treatment of Dissidents

According to press reports, the FBI conducted only nine interviews on Brett Kavanaugh in its final investigation — this for a man accused by multiple women of sexual assault. It is worth contrasting Kavanaugh’s experience with an investigation of the famous American composer, Aaron Copland — someone who was neither applying for a government job nor suspected of committing a crime. Aaron Copland was, however, suspected of being a member of the Communist Party in the ’30s and ’40s, and as a result, was intensively investigated.

Copland’s FBI file contains a report from 1950 that includes 20 pages of investigatory data, outlining every time his name appeared in the Daily Worker (the Communist Party’s newspaper), every organization perceived to be a Communist front he was associated with, references to 32 “Confidential Informant” sources that supplied information on Copland, and three “leads” to be pursued in New York, Los Angeles and the Berkshires in Massachusetts, to ascertain more information.

Similarly, the musicologist and folk archivist Alan Lomax — someone else accused of no crimes, but who worked for the Library of Congress — was also suspected of being a communist. Lomax’s file documents interviews with what appear to be his former professors at the University of Texas — the names are redacted — his employers and his wife’s background.

The subsequent reports on Lomax offer evidence not of his “unsuitability” let alone any law-breaking, but of his politics. For example, one interviewee “informed that LOMAX was an extreme liberal in his political views.” Another informant deigned to psychoanalyze Lomax — which the FBI felt was relevant enough to include in the report — saying that Lomax “was a victim of too much adulation by his father and being very intellectual, was extreme in his views and dealt in theory rather than actuality.” That said, the source could offer “no information indicating any connection the Communist Party.”

The efforts against the Communist Party, were not just about passively compiling dossiers, but were part of a larger program of disruption, that, among other things, led to Copland and Lomax being included in the infamous “Red Channels” — a manual for the blacklist of the fifties.

While the FBI surveilled a range of individuals and organizations beyond the Communist Party throughout the sixties, its methodology for monitoring and investigating the different groups was largely the same. One example of its approach is apparent in the case of activist Stephen Charles Hamilton. In 1966, the FBI undertook an investigation of Hamilton, who had taken part in the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley. Hamilton was an early anti-Vietnam War activist and for a time was associated with the Progressive Labor Party.

Even though he had no record of criminal activity aside from his arrest at the Free Speech protest, Hamilton nonetheless was subjected to an investigation that included checking his records at East Los Angeles College, checking police records in South Gate Los Angeles, reviewing indices in Chicago and “where appropriate, contact informants”; and reviewing records in Wheaton, Illinois, where he had attended school. One report, by way of follow-up, noted that Hamilton had “never been in any trouble” in South Gate, but the clerk who reported to the FBI said her son was a friend of Hamilton and she had heard he had been arrested in the Berkeley area recently for “carrying a concealed weapon. She said she believed the weapons was a pipe cleaning tool.” In turn, Hamilton, then 22, was recommended for inclusion in the Bureau’s Security Index, a decades-long program that called for the detention of certain individuals in the case of war or national emergency, and required ongoing monitoring of them as a result.

A Rigorous Vetting of the FBI’s Own Informants

It was not, however, only political dissidents that the Bureau investigated with such rigor. The Bureau also vetted its informants thoroughly. A good example of this is Richard Aoki, the Japanese American radical activist who secretly informed for the FBI throughout the ’60s and early ’70s. Not only did he have a full background check done on him before he was offered the position, the Bureau itself sent the preliminary findings on Aoki back to its field agent for further information. Specifically, they decided that, “Authority is not granted at this time to take any steps to develop Aoki as an informant.” Their reasons?

Your letter does not disclose results of your file search, efforts to obtain information regarding his reliability, stability, general reputation, present and past employment and check of local credit and arrest records.

In Aoki’s case, the agents responsible were able to clear the matter up, and he would go on to be what the Bureau considered a “reliable source” for almost 20 years, giving highly damaging intelligence on the Black Panther Party, the Socialist Workers Party, and the strike for ethnic studies at UC Berkeley, among other things.

The FBI’s Current Scrutiny of Antifa and Anarchists

The FBI’s stark double standard continues into the present. Indeed, had the FBI taken the kind of interest in Kavanaugh as it does for anarchist activists, we would likely have seen a much more thoroughgoing investigation of our newest Supreme Court justice.

Just as the FBI used to expose suspected communists to exhaustive and invasive screenings, it now has turned its focus to antifa (anti-fascist) activists. Note how broadly — and open-ended — the Bureau’s parameters are for investigating this category of activist is. Here is what FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress in November 2017:

[W]e are not investigating antifa as antifa, that is an ideology and we don’t investigate ideologies, we are investigating a number of what we would call anarchist extremists investigations [sic], where we have properly predicated subjects of people who are motivated to commit violent criminal activity on kind-of an antifa ideology. So we have a number of active investigations in that space all around the country.

Here it is worth noting that while much was made about avoiding a “fishing expedition” in the Kavanaugh matter, the Bureau’s mandate and scope of inquiry into “anarchist extremism” appears to be boundless and with no temporal limitations:

Anarchist extremism is nothing new to the FBI. One of our first big cases occurred in 1919, when the Bureau of Investigation (as we were called then) investigated a series of anarchist bombings in several US cities. And during the 1970s, the FBI investigated anarchist extremists such as the Weather Underground Organization, which conducted a series of bombing campaigns.

Not only does the Bureau trace back anarchist extremism to 1919, it also lumps the Weather Underground — ostensibly a Marxist-Leninist organization — into that category, making that example fit the definition. It is also a way of reinforcing a notion of criminality – which can be used to suppress those given that label. Nonetheless, it is illustrative of a plasticity that the Bureau appears to have when its target is something other than a potential Supreme Court justice.

While the background checks and security efforts undertaken for people like Kavanaugh are aimed at elevating individuals and ultimately strengthening the overall state system, the efforts against dissidents have an entirely opposite objective. Such people are to be watched closely, arrested when possible, or otherwise have their lives and efforts disrupted and derailed. No wonder the “process” of investigation should be so strikingly different.

Lessons From the Kavanaugh Debacle

Brett Kavanaugh’s recent confirmation process cannot be understood as anything other than a concentrated effort at the reassertion of patriarchy and the extolling of misogyny. In that respect, it is perhaps not surprising that the FBI, never known for its left-leaning sensibilities, so firmly reinforced the wrong side.

That said, given the contention (ostensibly between Democrats and Republicans, but reflecting a larger divide among the ruling elites) over the future direction of the United States, it is possible that the FBI at some point could be forced to unearth uncomfortable “facts” — there are no absolutes in this equation. However, that the FBI was forced to carry out even a superficial investigation is testament to the presence of those — especially women — willing to step outside “respectable” bounds to challenge the politicians and their institutions.

Regardless, the cursory background investigation of Brett Kavanaugh — someone whose record shows a commitment to depriving people of their rights, reinforcing inequality and intensifying the oppression of women — stands in stark contrast to the FBI’s invasive investigations of and unwanted attention toward those who stand in opposition to such things.

The post Why the FBI Used Its Kid Gloves on Brett Kavanaugh appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Why We Should Strike Against Rape Culture

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 15:43

Switch to paranoid from having fun
Will he use his hands, knife, or a gun
Knuckles are white, wrapped around my mace
Comes from living in a terrorist state.

Donita Sparks, “Can I Run” from L7, Hunger for Stink

I was 18 and he seemed like a possible mentor. On my first day shadowing him on his social work rounds, he drove me to a waterfall in a remote area and killed the engine. He told me his wife didn’t have feelings for him anymore and put his hand on my knee. I froze and didn’t say a word. Where was I going to run? I thought he might kill me.

We sat in the cab of his truck for what felt like an eternity, so that almost 40 years later, the gray colors of the rocks out the window are emblazoned in my memory. I remember that I remained mute as he chattered on, moving his hand up my leg. I didn’t move a muscle. Eventually, he must have given up on me, because he turned the key in the ignition and drove back to the office.

I think I actually thanked him for the ride. I never told a soul about what happened at the waterfall. He did not become a mentor.

I’m almost embarrassed to tell this story at a time of national emergency about rape culture. I did not get raped that day. It is one of a thousand near-misses I have experienced as a result of repeatedly taking the risk of trusting men to act like human beings. These occurrences are the ground of being cis-female, queer, trans, or any other gender or sexual non-conforming person in the contemporary United State. They are the price of living in the “terrorist state” Sparks describes in the song quoted above.

The terrorism imposed by rape culture is not incidental. As Sylvia Federici argues in her magisterial history, Caliban and the Witch, eruptions of violence against women have historically been the hallmarks of transitions in global economic and political regimes. Federici explains that widespread allegations of witchcraft against women during the early modern period helped insurgent mercantile capitalism to dispossess prior modes of knowledge and landholding. In tandem with the transatlantic slave trade and Indigenous dispossession, witchcraft trials and recriminations constituted a regime of violence that cleared the way for the emergence of capitalist enterprise, white supremacy and patriarchy. Sexual and gendered violence are central to global histories of domination and inequality.

The particular sex and gender terror of the current regime distinguishes the emergence of a particular mode of neoliberal capitalism. Rape culture, the war against abortion and birth control, ongoing and state-supported violence against LGBTQ people constitute part of a neoliberal austerity regime that profits from continuous dispossession and mass incarceration.

Along with millions of other people, I watched the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh on September 27. The trauma Ford described is pervasive. In my experience, any sample of undergraduate journals typically include stories of rape. Ask a group of young teenage girls about whether they would accept an open cup at a party, and they will roll their eyes: They know. Rape culture is pervasive.

That day’s testimony brought us, collectively, deeper into the well of unfiltered agony illuminated by Tarana Burke and the Me Too campaign, which started a decade ago. Since the advent of a presidential administration that rose to power in part through its shamelessness in face of accusations of rape and harassment, the #MeToo movement has propelled the trauma of sexual violence into public consciousness.

Ford’s galvanizing testimony before Congress and the world described the stakes of “living in a terrorist state.” Writer adrienne marie brown writes that Ford’s testimony is a victory, transforming forever “the long war against patriarchy and rape culture.”

Since the testimonies, I have been wondering: Where do we go from here? Surely, we cannot unknow what is now clear: the ongoing emergency of rape culture, the way it pervades every single second of life in the current regime. How do we respond collectively to this emergency?

Striking Reproductive Labor

During Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony, I was taken by the expression on his wife’s face. Ashley Estes Kavanaugh did not affect the familiar, dutiful, chastened-but-loving face of the wife of the political perp. Instead, she looked wrecked, like she could barely hold it together. Maybe Kavanaugh’s handlers did not bother to prepare her. Or maybe her expression was a strategy meant to corroborate her husband’s assertion of the harms they had suffered together, the state of their “ruined” family. But her face looked a lot to me like unfiltered agony. What experiences do she and other “women for Trump” conceal — and at what cost to them and to all of us?

Public, unfiltered agony is a powerful political tool. Unfiltered agony has been part of the creation of the #MeToo movement. It is the mode that sexual assault survivors Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher spoke in when they confronted Sen. Jeff Flake in a DC elevator on the day of the congressional hearings. Their conscious and bold display of their agony precipitated Flake’s insistence on an FBI investigation. Expressing our agony and rage is the opposite of shutting the car door and calling “have a nice day” to your would-be predator.

Women and femmes not only suffer the slings and arrows of rape culture; the effective work we are culturally assigned makes it possible to survive and enjoy the livelong day in this regime. Maybe because of the constant threats against us, we learn to be gracious. Our smiles are the lubricant that allows rape culture to proceed, compliance leveraged by the force of the “terrorist state.”

Federici writes, “It is through the day-to-day activities by means of which we produce our existence that we can develop our capacity to cooperate and not only resist our dehumanization, but learn to reconstruct the world as a space of nurturing, creativity and care.”

Federici locates the “reproductive” labor of birthing and caregiving, of feeding and clothing and “fucking” as central to economic production. No labor, she argues, is possible without reproductive labor. Of course, this labor is not exclusively performed by women and/or queers. But, Federici argues, unpaid work is associated with women and naturalized by gender hierarchy. The system that assigns low wages to crucial caregiving work for children, the infirm and elders operates similarly, through racial as well as gender hierarchies. Naturalized inequality silences the million acts of violence that maintain this system.

What if we stopped? Stopped making nice, stopped greasing the wheels with our smiles and affirmations, stopped or slowed any kind of labor: reproductive, effective or productive. We could skip work where it is possible, serve the coffee without a smile where it is not. Teachers could teach-in, communication workers could speak-in during “A Day Out of Rape Culture.” Everyone could join in as they were able, men as well as women, straight folks as well as LGBTQ people.

There are historical precedents for work stoppages in response to injustice. Immigrant rights organizers have convened tremendous strikes during “Day(s) Without Immigrants” since 2006. By conjuring the specter of a day without immigrant labor, these mobilizations have demonstrated the power of immigrant workers and mobilized a broad movement. Politically, these strikes have been part of successful efforts to defeat anti-immigrant legislation at the state and federal level. The work of the Days Without Immigrants has included organizing support for those who faced repercussions for missing work.

Collective action in the form of strikes created the labor movement in the United States and transformed the conditions of productive labor for millions. Collective bargaining secured reforms such as the eight-hour day, workers’ compensation, overtime and health care benefits. The labor movement won important concessions from management, and forced the federal government to mediate unequal relations between workers and owners. But it represented primarily white men, excluding the agricultural and domestic paid labor done by working-class white women and people of color, and pretty much ignoring the question of labor outside of the industrial workplace, caregiving labor in particular.

In a similar vein, the National Organization for Women (NOW) convened the Women’s Strike for Equality in 1970 to draw attention to widespread gendered inequities in pay. Organizers asked women to stop working for a day; around the US, supporters held marches and rallies. While NOW focused on workplace equality, some organizers drew attention to other kinds of injustice: the way newspapers display photos of brides but not grooms, the existence of plenty of men’s (but few women’s) bathrooms in public buildings. This component of the feminist movement succeeded in opening spaces for some women in previously exclusively male domains. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who pioneered legal strategies on behalf of women’s rights in the workplace, benefited from these changes.

In 1983, 12,000 women from all over the world came together in the Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice. Camping out in Romulus, New York, participants created an imaginative historical link to the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention, a gathering for equal rights and suffrage that took place there in 1848. At the same time, by living collectively and engaging in civil disobedience against the nearby Seneca Army Depot, the Peace Camp brought together reproductive and productive labor. It conjured a mode of politics existing outside of the contours delimited by the regimes of capitalist nation-states.

In contrast to productive labor, which historically takes place during specific hours and in a designated location, caregiving work pervades daily life. Creating “A Day Out of Rape Culture” could not mean that children go unfed or elders unattended, or that the effective labor that makes social life possible would stop. As adrienne marie brown points out, the ongoing crisis of our times makes holding one another more important than ever. Our work, then, is to strike against rape culture while simultaneously creating institutions of collective support.

The author thanks Benjamin Balthaser, Wendy Kozol, Maureen Ryan and the Center for 21st Century Studies for reading, discussing and time to think.

The post Why We Should Strike Against Rape Culture appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

New Internet Bill of Rights Introduced in Wake of Digital Privacy Breaches

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 15:23

Facebook and Google recently admitted major privacy breaches. Facebook says the personal information of nearly 50 million users was exposed after an online attack. Meanwhile, Google is shutting down its social network Google Plus after revelations of a data breach that exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users. The breach was discovered in March but was not disclosed to the public. We speak to Rep. Ro Khanna who recently introduced an Internet Bill of Rights.

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our conversation with Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna. I want to switch gears from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, to talk about Amazon, which recently became the country’s second $1 trillion company. On October 2nd, a video went viral showing an Amazon senior vice president telling hundreds of Amazon workers the company’s minimum wage was being increased to $15 an hour.

UKNOWN: [inaudible] that we are also establishing a new Amazon minimum wage of $15 an hour.

EMPLOYEES: [cheers]

UNKNOWN: [inaudible]

AMY GOODMAN: Amazon’s embrace of a $15 an hour minimum wage made headlines, was praised by many in Washington and all over the country. But it turns out Amazon’s new pay structure might result in lower take-home compensation for many workers because Amazon is removing some incentive-based bonuses and stock options. Congressman Ro Khanna, you’re the author of the Stop BEZOS Act in Congress. Can you talk about this latest news?

REP. RO KHANNA: Sure. Well, Senator Bernie Sanders and I, about four weeks ago, introduced the Stop BEZOS Act, which was very simple. We said if you’re working at a billion-dollar company and you’re not making enough to be able to afford food and you’re reliant on public benefits like food stamps, then the taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for that; the company should be paying for that. And we publicly called on Jeff Bezos to raise wages to $15, to look to the model of Henry Ford who did that in 1914.

Jeff Bezos, to our surprise and to his credit, responded. He raised wages to $15. I think he saw all of these Amazon workers who courageously were testifying. Our bill, by the way, was panned by all of the Beltway economists, but it did put pressure on Bezos and I do think 350,000 people are going to get a raise. Now, you are correct that they have taken away some of the bonuses and grants to stock options. I don’t think they should have done that. I do think that’s going to hurt a small number of workers, and I hope they’ll reconsider that. But in the aggregate, this is a huge raise for many, many workers, and my hope is Walmart, McDonald’s and other industries will follow.

AMY GOODMAN: The salary change will not apply to contract workers. That’s right? Just salary workers. The majority of Amazon workers are contract.

REP. RO KHANNA: That is correct. It applies to part-time workers, it applies to about 350,000 workers but it does not apply to contract workers. And you raise an excellent point: contract workers are being underpaid, not just at Amazon, but many places in my district in Silicon Valley where they are not being able to unionize and they’re not getting benefits, and that is a huge issue for our society.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Khanna, I also want to ask you about the fallout from last week’s Facebook data breach announcement, which continues as the company is rushing to reassure users that there is no evidence that hackers were able to access third-party apps such as Instagram, Spotify or The New York Times, which many people access via their Facebook accounts. The breach may have affected up to 50 million users. And we should point out you are a congressmember from California, from Silicon Valley.

REP. RO KHANNA: Absolutely. This is why I have called for an Internet Bill of Rights. I just released it with Tim Berners-Lee, who was the founder of the world wide web, with some very simple principles. That people should know what is happening to their data. People should be notified if there is a breach. People should have the right to consent before their data is collected. It has been a year since the Cambridge Analytica—or six months since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a year since the Equifax scandal and now there are new breaches with Facebook, with Google. It is time that the Congress do something. We have laid out a ten-part principles for rights for folks online and I believe this has to be a top priority for the next Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google will shut down its social network, Google+, after revelations of a data breach that exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users. The breach was discovered in March but was not disclosed to the public. An internal Google memo showed executives were worried they’d face new regulations if news of the data breach got out. Congressmember Khanna?

*REP. RO KHANNA: Well, that’s unacceptable, and it’s why we need an Internet Bill of Rights. One of the bill of rights is that you have to be notified in a timely manner, within 24 to 48 hours. And if the breach were discovered in March, people would have, by law, been required to be notified in March. And they would have known where their data was sent and what that data was used for. Right now, there are no laws. Obviously, Google should have acted more responsibly, but I also blame the United States Congress, because we have not required these laws. Europe has, with the GDPR, and it’s time that the United States Congress act to protect people online.

AMY GOODMAN: Ro Khanna, we want to thank you for being with us, Democratic congressmember from California. He has called for congressional hearings into possible Saudi complicity in the disappearance and the probable murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He has been a leading critic of U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. He has also introduced the Internet Bill of Rights.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the remarkable story of Henrietta Lacks. Johns Hopkins University has just named a building for her. We will speak with her grandson and with the woman who made—her granddaughter—and the woman who made her story known around the world, Rebecca Skloot, who wrote the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Stay with us.

The post New Internet Bill of Rights Introduced in Wake of Digital Privacy Breaches appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Trump Rejects Calls to Stop Saudi Arms Sales After Journalist’s Disappearance

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 15:15

President Donald Trump is rejecting calls to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia following the disappearance and probable murder of the Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Washington Post is reporting the Turkish government told US officials it has audio and video evidence that Khashoggi was killed last week inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Officials say the recordings confirm that a Saudi security team detained Khashoggi after he walked into the consulate on October 2 before killing him and dismembering his body. We speak with Ro Khanna, Democratic Congressmember from California. He is calling for congressional hearings into Khashoggi’s disappearance. Khanna has been a leading critic of US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

TRANSCRIPT:

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

We begin today’s show with the shocking disappearance and probable murder of the Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Washington Post is reporting the Turkish government told U.S. officials it has audio and video evidence that Khashoggi—in English, Jamal Khashoggi–was killed last week inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Officials say the recordings confirm that a Saudi security team detained Khashoggi as he walked into the consulate on October 2nd before killing him and dismembering his body. The full audio and video recordings have not yet been released. One person with knowledge of the audio recording told The Washington Post “You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic. You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”

Khashoggi had written critically about the Saudi government and the Saudi crown prince, MBS—Mohammed bin Salman. He fled Saudi Arabia last year and had been living in Virginia. The Washington Post has also reported that based on U.S. intelligence intercepts, the crown prince had directly ordered an operation to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia. The Turkish government has accused Saudi Arabia of flying two planes into Turkey, carrying a 15-man assassination squad to carry out the murder.

One of the Saudi men was reportedly a forensic expert known for pioneering rapid and mobile autopsies. Turkish officials say the men used a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi’s body before smuggling body parts out of the consulate. According to The Washington Post, at least seven of the other 15 Saudi men have ties to the Saudi military. The planes then left Istanbul within eight hours of Khashoggi entering the consulate.

Khashoggi had entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul seeking a document he needed to get married. His fiancée waited for him outside the building, but he never came back out. They were supposed to get married the next day. In Washington, a growing number of lawmakers are demanding the United States halt weapons sales to Saudi Arabia over the incident, but on Thursday, Trump rejected the idea.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP: I would not be in favor of stopping a country from spending $110 billion, which is an all-time record, and letting Russia have that money and letting China have that money. Because all they’re going to do is say, “That’s OK, we don’t have to buy it from Boeing, we don’t have to buy it from Lockheed, we don’t have to buy it from Raytheon and all these great companies. We’ll buy it from Russia. We’ll buy it from China.” So what good does that do us? There are other things we can do.

REPORTER: Well, do you think they should pay a price, if it turns out that the Saudis—

PRES. DONALD TRUMP: Yeah. There will be something that has to take place. First I want to find out what happened, and we’re looking. Again, this took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is not a United States citizen. Is that right, or is that not?

REPORTER: Permanent resident.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP: He’s a permanent resident, OK. We don’t like it, John. We don’t like it. And we don’t like it even a little bit. But as to whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country, knowing they have four or five alternatives, two very good alternatives, that would not be acceptable to me.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Washington, D.C., where we are joined by Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California, calling for congressional hearings into possible Saudi complicity in the disappearance and the possible murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, or Khashoggi in Arabic. Congressmember Khanna has been one of the most vocal critics on Capitol Hill of the U.S.-backed Saudi-led war in Yemen. Congressmember Khanna, welcome back to Democracy Now! What is the latest you understand has happened to the Washington Postcolumnist Jamal Khashoggi?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, it’s appalling. I don’t think there has been any precedent for someone, a journalist, being taken to a consulate, going to a consulate and being murdered. And we don’t know all the facts. We need to find out all of the facts. But this is a pattern with Saudi Arabia of barbarity. And they have been doing this in Yemen, where almost 16,000 civilians have been killed. Many of those civilians have been killed with Lockheed Martin and Raytheon bombs. And this is why many of us on Capitol Hill want to stop any arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about the Yemen war in a minute, the U.S.-backed Yemen war.
But on this issue of Khashoggi—Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, when pushed on is the Pentagon investigating this, he said something like, “Intellectually.” Donald Trump, obviously, the famous tweeter, had not tweeted almost anything on this in the days after Khashoggi’s disappearance. Can you talk about exactly what the U.S. relationship is with Saudi Arabia? Also, of course, it implicates Jared Kushner, the senior advisor, President Trump’s son-in-law, very close to Mohammed bin Salman.

And this information The Washington Post put out about they already had wanted to get Khashoggi, to lure him back to Saudi Arabia for, well, who knows what they wanted to do with him, to lure him from Saudi Arabia. Also this information that he had gone to the Saudi consulate, the embassy in Washington, but they told him he had to go to Istanbul. He goes to Istanbul, to the consulate there, and they tell him, fine, they’re going to give him that marriage document he needed, but he had to come back in a week.

So he goes to London, participates in a meeting last week, and goes back, which presumably is for them to prepare and to bring these two planes in with the forensic expert and the military intelligence people. And at least, according to these latest reports, if this is true, with the video and audio evidence, he was murdered and dismembered within a few hours, and then the planes flew out.

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, it’s brutal. And what we also know are reports that U.S. intelligence agencies may have been aware that Khashoggi’s life was going to be at risk. And Mark Pocan and I have written calling for the declassification of information that our intelligence agencies had about any threats to Khashoggi’s life. Because as you know, it’s against the law for us not to have warned a resident, a permanent resident of the United States, about a possible threat to his life, and there are many unanswered questions about what the United States government knew, why we didn’t give advanced warning if we did have any information.

And of course, as you alluded to, Kushner has been pushing since he has been in the administration for a closer tie to the Saudis, largely because he sees the Saudis as facilitating a peace deal, from his perspective, with Israel. And they’ve really had carte blanche under the Trump administration to do what they want in Yemen. And now I think the administration is embarrassed when they see the brutality that the Saudis are capable of in this case.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to President Trump speaking Thursday about calls to cut off Saudi arms sales.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP: —don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that is being poured into our country. I know they’re talking about different kinds of sanctions, but they are spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs. I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States. Because you know what they’re going to do? They are going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else. So I think there are other ways. If it turns out to be as bad as it might be, there are certainly other ways of handling the situation.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Ro Khanna, you’re a Democratic member of the House of Representatives. Trump says they’re not cutting off military weapons sales. Of course, the military weapons contractors in the United States benefit enormously, and if you could maybe name some of those that do? But what does the House of Representatives have the power to do?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, we and the Senate can cut off these arms sales. And it’s very important that the President is peddling falsehoods and to correct the record. It’s not as if Saudi Arabia can go and suddenly buy aircrafts or tanks from Russia; it would take decades for them to switch. They are so dependent on U.S. technology. It would be as if you had an iPhone and an Apple computer; suddenly you couldn’t go switch to Windows. These things aren’t transferable. And the president knows this. He knows that if we were to cut off the arms sales, the Saudis wouldn’t be able to quickly switch to Russia or China, and it would really hurt their efforts in Yemen. And the reality is, it is Lockheed Martin, Raytheon’s bombs that are being found in Yemen, responsible for the deaths of children and women.

So first, the president is wrong that the Saudis could switch. Second, $100 billion in the context of a $20 trillion economy is not a significant detriment to the United States. I don’t think there’s a single American citizen who would say that we should be aiding the Saudis and killing women and children for $100 billion. That that’s a price worth paying.

AMY GOODMAN: In August, the Twitter account for Canada’s Foreign Ministry tweeted, “Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.” That was a tweet.

Within six hours of the tweet, Canada’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia was barred from returning to Saudi Arabia, the Saudi ambassador to Canada was recalled, new trade with Canada was halted, it was ordered to withdraw Saudi investment in Canada, more than 8,300 Saudi post-secondary students were told to pull out of Canada, flights to Canada by the Saudi-owned airline were canceled. This is for one tweet urging the Saudi Arabian government to release some of the women driver activists.

REP. RO KHANNA: This is a pattern of brutality. It is a pattern of no concern for human rights. And my concern, representing Silicon Valley, is that the Saudis have had, as you know, a huge influence in Silicon Valley. They’re trying to put a foothold. They’re invested in Uber. They have this Davos in the Desert conference where they invite tech leaders. The tech community needs to be very clear that they are not going to take Saudi money and Saudi investment. And this has to be not just Congress stopping arms sales, but the United States technology and investment community cutting off ties with the Saudis. I am pleased that Uber has said they’re not going to participate in the conference, and Sam Altman from Y Combinator recently said that. And I hope others will follow their lead.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about that. If people haven’t heard of it—maybe people haven’t until now—many journalists and media organizations are beginning to pull out of this high-profile conference in Saudi Arabia that’s scheduled for next week following the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. But the Future Investment Initiative conference, which is scheduled for the 23rd to the 25th of October, still has a long roster of high-level attendees including executive chair of Colony Capital, Thomas Barrack; global markets editor for Fox Business, Maria Bartiromo; United States General David Petraeus; president of the World Bank, Jim Kong Kim; U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin; Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman; BlackRock CEO Larry Fink; Raytheon Company CEO Thomas Kennedy. I think The New York Times has pulled out. There are other top journalists or TV personalities who are also going. Well, what about even the government officials? Can Congress say no to government officials going, like Steven Mnuchin?

REP. RO KHANNA: I don’t know if Congress has the authority to prevent the secretary of treasury from going. We can certainly write to him and urge him not to go, and I think common sense on his part should lead him to cancel the trip.

Look, it’s not a controversial statement for the United States to stand up for an American resident who is engaged in the freedom of press, the freedom of expression and is being brutally murdered at a consulate, a place that is supposed to be safe. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. And I was encouraged that even Senator Bob Corker raised the question that is on so many minds—”Why do we need Saudi Arabia?”

Saudi Arabia is overestimating their strategic importance to the United States, and I think this incident has forced a re-examination. And when we look deeper, we’re going to see the extraordinary barbarity and the killing of civilians that the Saudi government has been engaged in, in Yemen.

AMY GOODMAN: Trump just said “The king needs us.” But you have this growing number of Republicans like Lindsey Graham who said if this is proven, what happened to Khashoggi, there would be hell to pay. As you mentioned, there’s Corker. Rand Paul had said some things. I think even Marco Rubio. So what would this take to get a vote in Congress in both houses?

REP. RO KHANNA: I think we’re building towards that. I think you’ve seen bipartisan support growing. Several things—one, we need to get more of the facts. I think it is an encouraging development that Turkey has video and audio evidence of what took place, and I think that will be very compelling if there is evidence that clearly links the killing to the Saudi government.

Second, we need to look at what the U.S. government knew, as I raised earlier, because if there is evidence that we were somehow sitting on information and didn’t share it, that is a bombshell and that will influence people’s opinion. But you see a growing sense among my colleagues that the relationship with the Saudis is not consistent with our values and isn’t in our national interest. That a few hundred billion dollars is not worth an entanglement in further wars, in complicity in human rights abuses.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go very quickly to Yemen. Last month, you introduced a resolution invoking the 1973 War Powers Act declaring Congress never authorized U.S. support for the coalition in Yemen. Even during the Obama years, the U.S. was providing weapons support for the Saudi-UAE attack on Yemen that has caused the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world. But President Trump went a step further, pulled back any restrictions on these weapons and refueling. What happened to your resolution and will you be reintroducing it?

REP. RO KHANNA: We had introduced this resolution, Amy, as you know, about a year and a half ago, and very few people had gotten on board. You were of course ahead of the curve and really have been sounding the alarm in Yemen, one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes. I am encouraged that we reintroduced this about four weeks ago and we now have Steny Hoyer, who is the number two person in the House, and the chair of the—the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the ranking member of the Rules Committee, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee all on board with the resolution to stop any aid in the Saudi bombing of Yemen.

And the reason is they have seen the same reports—the bus bombings killing children and women, the fact that Lockheed Martin and Raytheon’s bombs have been found in Yemen, responsible for the deaths of children. This is something that has stirred the conscience of the United States Congress, and I am actually quite optimistic that certainly if we take back the House of Representatives, we will be able to pass this. And we may even be able to pass this in the lame duck, given the Khashoggi case and given the changing opinion among Republicans.

AMY GOODMAN: Ro Khanna, I want to ask you to stay with us. I want to ask you about Amazon, Facebook and your Internet Bill of Rights. Ro Khanna is a Democratic congressman from California, has called for congressional hearings into possible Saudi complicity with the disappearance and probable murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He has been a leading critic of U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. We will be back with him in 30 seconds.

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