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

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 15:34

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RASHID KHALIDI: Thank you, Amy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMY GOODMAN: The significance of this?

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

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

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

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

RASHID KHALIDI: I believe so.

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

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

AMY GOODMAN: And what is the significance of this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMY GOODMAN: A leading law professor at Columbia University.

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

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

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

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

Categories: News

Is the Current US-Saudi Relationship “Unreformable”?

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 14:36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: News

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

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 13:53

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: News

Building Power Among Farmworkers

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

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

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

What challenges have you seen that are unique to farmworkers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Building Power Among Farmworkers appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

How the Environmental Movement Can Better Engage Women of Color

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 18:06

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

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

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

“BIWOC are not involved in environmentalism.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: News

Supreme Court Silver Lining

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 16:02

The post Supreme Court Silver Lining appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

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

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 15:29

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMY GOODMAN: And in terms of countries?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMY GOODMAN: And what would the world look like?

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

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

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

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

Categories: News

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

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 15:28

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: News

Islamophobia Under Trump: The New McCarthyism

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 15:17

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

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

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

Islamophobes Galore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changing Bogeymen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: News

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

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 14:58

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not quite #Beers4Brett but #Bubbly4Brett instead

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

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

I’m not tired of winning……..Victory!

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 6, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

The smears backfired. #SCOTUSKavanaugh

— Dean Heller (@DeanHeller) October 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: News

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

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 14:28

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

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

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

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

— CREDO Mobile (@CREDOMobile) October 9, 2018

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

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

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

— FreeSpeechForPeople (@FSFP) October 6, 2018

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

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

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

Categories: News

“A Hidden History Runs Through Our Social Movements in This Country”

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 14:21
Janine Jackson interviewed Nathan Schneider about the co-op economy for the September 21, 2018, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

Janine Jackson: September 15 marked ten years since the largest bankruptcy in US history, that of Lehman Brothers, triggering — or exposing — a crisis that cost millions of people their homes, their jobs and their financial futures, followed by a government bailout of the banks behind the damage. The admission in a New York Times op-ed by former Treasury secretaries Henry Paulson and Timothy Geithner and former Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke that they “certainly didn’t get everything right” seemed to pass for reflection in corporate media.

But more substantive conversations are happening, have been happening, elsewhere, among those for whom the 2008 crisis and the response to it highlighted not only the flaws in the current system, but alternative visions.

We’re joined now by Nathan Schneider. He’s a journalist and assistant professor of media studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and author of — among other titles — the new book Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition That Is Shaping the Next Economy, out now from Nation Books. He joins us by phone from Boulder. Welcome to CounterSpin, Nathan Schneider.

Nathan Schneider: Thank you. I’m glad to be on the show.

Timothy Geithner was asked at a recent press event about the hardest moment for him, personally, of the 2008 crisis, and he said it was, as reflected in his wife’s face across the breakfast table, dealing with “the gap between what we thought would provide the broadest benefit … and what people thought was fair and just.” For him, it seems that that gap was kind of a perception problem, and overcoming it was a PR effort that he and others, alas, failed at. In a recent piece for Vice, you think about what it might have looked like to acknowledge that gap as real, and respond to it. I wonder if you’d share a little bit of what you were getting at there.

I think it was really, more than anything else, an accountability gap. It’s internalized accountability, but it’s really stemmed from the ownership structures, and the design of some of the largest companies in our economy, the companies that were bailed out after the crash that they helped create. What that accountability means is these are companies, these large banks, that are owned and governed for the purpose of protecting the profits, especially, of large shareholders. So when hard decisions are being made at the companies about what to do — and then they decide how they’re going to lobby Washington, and people who have been trained and schooled in those companies, who hold posts in Washington, have to make decisions about what to do in a crisis like this — that accountability, consciously or unconsciously, is at the forefront, that they have to protect those investors above all, rather than, for instance, protecting the millions of people who lost their homes and their jobs as a result of that disaster.

And what’s exciting about this moment, and what I hope we can turn to as we veer into possibly another such crisis, is to recognize that we can actually shift that accountability.

There’s a long tradition in American economic history, and the economic history of the world, of cooperative enterprise, businesses owned and governed by the people they serve, exemplified by, for example, in the financial industry, credit unions, which are banks that are owned by the people whose money they hold and whose loans they carry. And these kinds of businesses behaved very differently in 2007 and 2008, and those should be the model of how we move forward, rather than simply doubling down on this backwards and very dangerous accountability problem.

It seems important to underscore that you’re not necessarily always talking about — or we’re not necessarily talking about — smoke-filled rooms and conspiracies and evil people. It really is about structures of accountability, and the way systems are set up.

Well, the values of cooperative work, of cooperative ownership, they aren’t new, even though we don’t hear about them every day. It’s almost like a hidden history.

That’s right. And sometimes there are smoke-filled rooms involved, you know. For instance, a picture that came into my mind as you were saying that, an old picture from the offices of the Associated Press. You know, that was a classic smoke-filled room. It was founded in the 1840s, founded as a cooperative of news agencies in New York City, operated very much like a cabal for a lot of its history. It was gradually forced, by a series of court decisions, to open up, and be at least a little more inclusive in its governance.

This is by no means a perfect organization, and one can point to its flaws in all sorts of ways, but one thing that it does is it behaves very differently than a lot of other news organizations today. It hasn’t fallen into the problems of polarization and temptations to fake news, and funny business with advertising and surveillance of its readers, that many other publications have done, because of its ownership structure, because, for polarization, it can’t go that way, because it’s owned by both the New York Times, Fox News and my local paper. So its ownership structure, even when there are smoke-filled rooms and even when people are flawed and so forth, the ownership structure forces it to behave with a certain kind of responsibility that other kinds of publications might be missing, when their incentive structure is toward that short-term return at all costs.

I want to draw you out on one point that I’ve seen you make. We’ve been encouraged, I think, to subtract racism from the financial crisis narrative, even as we have testimony of banks specifically targeting communities of color, for pushing these subprime mortgages, calling them “ghetto loans.”

But the flip side, if you will, is that groups, including Black Lives Matter, talk about alternative economic models, talk about collective ownership. But these connections in the media are obscured, between an antiracism conversation and an economic justice conversation. They get separated, and we don’t see that, in fact, folks are making those connections all the time.

Oh yeah, and those groups are doing a lot more than talking, and they have been for a long time. There’s a hidden history that runs through our social movements in this country — including labor movements, and civil rights and racial justice movements, immigrant rights movements and so forth — where we see the acts of resistance when they appear on the street, we see the protests, we see the conflicts with police, in the media much more than we see the large efforts to build alternative economies that work beneath them.

I spent the first ten years of this crisis covering resistance. And I had these mentors who had been involved in the civil rights movement and so forth; they were advising me on how to cover stories of resistance better. And then when I started getting interested in this cooperative tradition, I asked them, “So were you developing cooperatives too?”

And they said, “Yeah, of course, everywhere we went, we were developing black farmworker cooperatives, we were developing credit unions.”

You know, Martin Luther King tried to set up credit unions and was rejected charters, because he saw this as crucial to building the strength that’s required to resist.

And the Black Lives Matter policy platform, more recently, includes more than 40 references to cognates of the word “cooperation,” and that’s partly because it was written by longstanding activists and organizers in developing a strong, cooperative economy, who knew what they were doing. So this is a longstanding piece of our legacy of resistance movements in this country, something that we need to learn to tell the stories about better.

The Onion headline, “‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Country Where This Happens,” about gun violence, is a painful joke about how we don’t see what we don’t see. And then we predicate things on the nonexistence of ideas that we’re just choosing to ignore.

“Single payer could never work!,” you know.

“Well, but what about these countries where it’s….”

“No, no, it could never work.”

How important is media in putting forward and sharing and disseminating alternative economic ideas (and that’s all kinds of media)?

Especially in a moment where media is not just something people are passively taking in, but it’s something that they’re engaging with and practicing, in the age of social media. As we engage with Facebook or Twitter or something, we are learning economic lessons, whether we know it or not.

And the more that we take for granted the notion that these are companies that should be controlled solely for the sake of investor returns, that they should be governed, as Facebook is, essentially as a kind of kingship, we’re learning those lessons.

And, actually, we really can organize these things differently. Both Facebook and Twitter have, at various times in their history, referred to themselves as utilities; they should be owned and governed like utilities. We look to models like Associated Press, or models like the rural electric utility cooperatives, where ratepayers of electric supply are the ones who own the companies that are providing their service. And the opportunity for this kind of model in our media is much greater than I think we allow ourselves to realize. The history demonstrates that this is possible. And the more we forestall these kind of models, the more we’re actually educating ourselves into thinking that there is no other way.

Let me just ask you, finally, this mid-September also marked the seven-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. For many, one of the most heartening, critical uprisings in recent memory.

I resent the way elite media ignored and misrepresented Occupy, but mostly the way they suggested that it was up to them to say what it meant, and when it was over, and then what did “we all” learn from it. What, for you, is the legacy or lasting impact of Occupy? How would you have folks place it in history?

I think it was a moment where, you know, a generation had just elected Barack Obama. There was a great deal of energy around that experience. And then very quickly, people [were] in the midst of this incredible cataclysm of the financial crisis, and Obama’s fairly modest capacity to bring about serious reform, it was a moment where people had to step back from the options that were being offered to them in electoral politics, and remind themselves what they were really seeking.

And that was part of why they were hard for the mainstream media, a lot of times, to acknowledge and understand, because they were not just choosing from among the options presented to them.

My book about Occupy Wall Street, Thank You, Anarchy, is a kind of close-up account of that process, that rationale, the reasoning for why people chose that kind of strategy rather than simply choosing from among certain choices of policies presented to them.

And this project on cooperatives really came out of that one. It was about a lot of those same people having to figure out how to live in this economy after the the protests died down. They turned to cooperative enterprise as a strategy for creating options that they could really live with and really thrive with, rather than simply entering into the kinds of options that the investor-driven economy was offering them.

We’ve been speaking with Nathan Schneider. His new book is Everthing for Everyone: The Radical Tradition That Is Shaping the Next Economy. It’s out now from Nation Books. Nathan Schneider, thank you for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

It’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

The post “A Hidden History Runs Through Our Social Movements in This Country” appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Florida, Georgia, North Carolina Still Purging Voters at High Rates

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 14:13

Earlier this summer, when the Brennan Center released a report examining voter purge data through 2016, we found that four million more people were purged from the rolls between the federal elections of 2014 and 2016 than between 2006 and 2008. Much of that increase came from states that were previously required under the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to get election changes cleared in advance, before that part of the law was eviscerated by the Supreme Court in 2013.

Although comparable data for the two years ending in 2018 won’t be available until early next year, we were able to use different data sources to figure out how many voters have been purged over the past two years in three states we had studied — Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. A preliminary analysis supports our initial alarm over the purge processes in these three states, showing that they continued to have high purge rates.

Purges in and of themselves aren’t bad. They’re commonly used to clean up voter lists when someone has moved, passed away, and more. But too often, names identified for removal are determined by faulty criteria that wrongly suggests a voter be deleted from the rolls. When flawed, the process threatens to silence eligible voters on Election Day — especially in states where purge rates are high.


From November 2008 to November 2010, the median purge rate in the Sunshine State was 0.2 percent. That number jumped to 3.6 percent from 2012 to 2014. And new data show it’s jumped again: Between December 2016 and September 2018, Florida has purged more than 7 percent of its voters.

Not only can we tell that purges have increased — we also know where the biggest purges are happening. Hardee, Hendry, Palm Beach, and Okaloosa counties have each purged more than 10 percent of their voters in the last two years.

Dade and Broward counties also have a number of zip codes that purged at higher rates. Some of those zip codes, however, include military bases or college campuses, which one would expect to have higher purge rates because of the transient nature of the population and the established processes for removing voters who have moved.

Purge rates from December 2016 through September 2018.Purge rates from December 2016 through September 2018.Florida Board of Elections. Georgia

Between 2010 and 2014 — a period of time that covers before and after the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act — Georgia’s median purge rate increased from 6.7 percent to 10.7 percent. Our analysis of the data shows that the state continues to have a high purge rate: Over the past two years, the state has purged 10.6 percent of voters. Nonwhite voters were slightly overrepresented among those purged when compared to the total population breakdown.

Ninety-seven of the state’s 159 counties purged more than 10 percent of their voters in the last two years. Four counties (Chattahoochee, Liberty, Dade, and Camden) are particular outliers, each purging at least 15 percent of their voters. At a more granular level, 430 of the 781 zip codes have purged more than 10 percent of their voters since 2016. This rebuts any speculation that the VRA’s preclearance provision may have blocked reasonable list maintenance practices. “Catching up” might have seemed like an excusable reason for increased rates in the first purge cycle without pre-clearance (2014-2016), but Georgia’s purge rates have not returned to pre-2013 levels in the five years since the decision was handed down.

Purge rates from September 7, 2016 through September 14, 2018.Purge rates from September 7, 2016, through September 14, 2018.Georgia Board of Elections. North Carolina

North Carolina’s purge rates fall in between Florida and Georgia. Forty of its one hundred counties were covered under Section V of the Voting Rights Act at the time of the Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013. The average purge rate in the state increased modestly between 2010 to 2014, from 8.0 to 8.8 percent. Like in Georgia and Florida, however, this didn’t represent a temporary increase, but rather has been sustained over the past few years. Between September of 2016 and May of 2018 (the latest date data is available), the state purged 11.7 percent of its voter rolls. Just 19 of its counties purged fewer than 10 percent of their voters, and no county purged fewer than 8 percent. These purges have been especially troubling for voters of color – in 90 out of 100 counties, voters of color were over-represented among the purged group.

Purge rates from September 7, 2016 through September 14, 2018.Purge rates from September 7, 2016, through September 14, 2018.North Carolina Board of Elections.

To voters living in these three states – and to voters around the country: Check your registration status to make sure that you’re still on the rolls. If you are not registered, and think you should be, call your local election official and find out why. There is still time to register in many states if you have a problem.

*Correction: This post originally said Harris County, Florida was one of the counties that had purged more than ten percent of its voters. In fact, it was Hardee County. There is no Harris County in Florida.

The post Florida, Georgia, North Carolina Still Purging Voters at High Rates appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Civilian Deaths in Yemen Increased by 164 Percent. Will Congress Act?

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 13:57

Weddings. Funerals. A school bus full of children. The Saudi-led coalition continues to bomb civilians in Yemen’s civil war. In fact, according to a recent report from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, the coalition’s offensive against the port city of Hodeida is largely responsible for a 164 percent increase in civilian deaths in Yemen since June. Thankfully, a group of 24 fed-up House representatives led by Reps. Ro Khanna (D-California) and Adam Smith (D-Washington) are reviving efforts in Congress to end US support for this brutal intervention. Their bipartisan legislation introduced last month, H.Con.Res.138, enjoys a privileged status that should guarantee it a floor vote in the House of Representatives. It deserves unanimous support.

Since March 2015, the US has provided what it calls “intelligence and logistical support” to a coalition of Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that intervened in Yemen’s civil war. While that role sounds innocuous enough, the support has included, for example, mid-air refueling of coalition warplanes that enable the coalition to kill civilians and destroy civilian infrastructure at a much higher rate than would otherwise be possible. This support was also never authorized by Congress. As legal experts argue, it needs to be, in order to adhere to US law.

Over the past three years, this US-backed intervention in Yemen has killed thousands of civilians, destroyed vital civilian infrastructure and pushed the humanitarian situation in the region’s poorest country from grim to apocalyptic. Beyond direct military support, the US has sold the coalition tens of billions of dollars’ worth of advanced weaponry since the start of the war. One such piece of hardware is Raytheon’s GBU-12 Paveway II guided bomb. When a coalition airstrike hit a wedding party in April, local media published photos showing fragments of Raytheon’s “smart” bomb in the rubble. That strike killed at least 33 people, including the bride of the wedding.

Far from anomalous, coalition airstrikes hitting civilian gatherings or infrastructure are reported on a regular basis. On August 9, it was a bus full of school children returning from a field trip. Forty-four children and 10 adults were killed when an airstrike hit the bus as the driver stopped for a drink in a busy marketplace. Astoundingly, the coalition defended the strike — which also employed a US-made bomb — as “legitimate,” before backing down amid international condemnation and calling it a mistake.

As a direct result of the war, 22 million Yemenis depend on humanitarian aid and more than 8 million are on the verge of starvation. According to UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, “If conditions do not improve, a further 10 million people will fall into this category [at risk of starvation] by the end of the year.”

While some legislators have taken a consistent stand against US support for the war, Congress as a whole has repeatedly refused to take action. In June of last year, 47 senators supported legislation introduced by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) that would have blocked a sale of precision-guided munitions (like Raytheon’s GBU-12 bomb) to Saudi Arabia. But 53 senators thought selling more bombs to Saudi Arabia was a good idea.

Last fall, Rep. Ro Khanna invoked the War Powers Act in an effort to force a vote on whether or not to end US support, but Republican leadership managed to strip the measure of its privileged status, preventing it from getting a vote. In March, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) invoked the War Powers Act again and succeeded in getting a procedural vote. But 55 senators thought having Congress actually take a vote on war as the Constitution mandates was a bridge too far.

Following another year of carnage in Yemen, Rep. Ro Khanna and a growing coalition in Congress are giving the war powers approach another go, this time with the support of key Democratic leaders who opposed the effort last year.

Congress should have stopped the US role in the war when the Obama administration first offered military support without congressional approval. It should have ended the US role when reports of US-made bombs killing civilians in Yemen started surfacing in 2015. But with millions of Yemenis facing starvation and indiscriminate airstrikes, better late than never is the right idea. Every member of Congress should support this renewed effort to end our complicity now. Conscientious Americans can call Congress and demand that they do.

The post Civilian Deaths in Yemen Increased by 164 Percent. Will Congress Act? appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Cruel Immigration Policies Tear Apart Southeast Asian American Families

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 13:56

When she was just a year old, Janit Saechao was cruelly separated from her father, who had just finished serving a prison sentence in the US. Many years ago, her family had come to the United States as refugees from the US’s secret war in Laos, hoping to make a better life for themselves. Yet, after her father was detained, Janit had only her mother to raise her. By the time her father returned home, she barely knew him. She struggled for years to understand what had happened and figure out how her father would fit into her life. “I’m happy you’re home, Dad, [but] you missed out on so much of my life,” Janit recalls thinking. “What do we do? Where do we go now?”

Janit’s story is not hers alone.

Children raised without their parents. Spouses torn away from each other. Families struggling to pay mounting legal bills. These stories are shared by more than 16,000 Southeast Asian Americans who have been issued orders of deportation since 1998 — and more than 14,000 continue to live in a state of uncertainty today, wondering if or when they will be deported.

While the Trump administration continues cracking down on immigrants, espousing racism and promoting horrific immigration policies that separate families, these actions come at a real human cost. Detention and deportation have loomed large for many Southeast Asian families, but over the past few years, a surge in deportations has torn hundreds of families apart and put the community on high alert. What’s more, over the past few months, the Trump administration has detained the largest number of Vietnamese and Cambodian community members in recorded history. Yet, for the most part, deportations within the Asian American community continue to go unnoticed and recognition of them is excluded from the narrative surrounding immigration.

A joint report from our organizations, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), seeks to highlight these narratives and show the effects of the US’s failing immigration policies on the women and families of those who are targeted for detention and deportation.

Detention and deportation hurt families. Southeast Asian Americans who are detained and deported suffer from extreme emotional distress that ensues from being separated from their family and forced to leave the only place they have ever known as home. Many are quite literally being deported to countries they have not stepped foot in since childhood — places they escaped as refugees, whose language they may not even know.

Even for those who are released, trauma continues long afterward and extends to their families as well. Spouses of those who were deported report feeling anxious, restless and uncertain about their futures and what was going to happen. Despite parents’ best efforts to shield their pain from the rest of their family, their children have picked up on their feelings of anxiety and helplessness as well. One woman in the report also describes having to take her teenage children to therapy to help them cope. Many relive these traumas and go on to have feelings of anger, confusion and loss for the rest of their lives.

The Trump administration has detained the largest number of Vietnamese and Cambodian community members in recorded history.

Our findings also showed that detention and deportation place a significant financial strain on families. Many of the women in the report took up additional jobs to help make ends meet. One of the women we interviewed, Jenny Srey, describes having to shell out thousands in legal fees to help get her husband released from detention. Another woman, Sokha Kul-Nhean, was unable to pay rent after her family became a single-income household and was forced to move back in with her mother. Others recalled racking up hundreds or even thousands of dollars in fees from calling their spouses who were in detention, in addition to the money they spent on transportation to visit them at the detention jails.

The women interviewed in our report are just a fraction of the millions of Asian Americans and people of color across the country whose lives have been disrupted and destroyed by detention, deportation and family separation. When people aren’t able to have control over what happens to their loved ones, they face devastating consequences: Parents are forced to leave behind spouses and children who might not remember them when they come back. Couples have to put their plans to have a child or to grow their families on hold. Children lose contact with their parents and suffer not only estrangement, but experience lasting feelings of abandonment and distress. Separating families is taking a financial and emotional toll on so many people across the US. We owe it to them, and millions of other Americans who have found themselves in the same situation, to fight so that everyone can have the fundamental right to make decisions about their bodies and lives.

The rapid increase in detentions and deportations in recent months is creating a new sense of crisis among the community. The stories of the Southeast Asian American families in the report bring to light the real human cost of failing immigration policy and expose the ugly underbelly of the hateful, racist rhetoric and legislation coming out of the White House. When individuals are unable to make choices about their own bodies and families, policymakers are violating some of their most fundamental rights. We call on our elected officials to stand with these brave women and speak out against the cruel and inhumane separation of Southeast Asian American families.

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Categories: News

Earth’s Ice Loss “Is a Nuclear Explosion of Geologic Change”

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 13:35

Much of the frozen water portion of the Earth, otherwise known as the cryosphere, is melting.

This is not news: It’s been happening for decades. What is news is that the long-term melting trends in the Arctic, Antarctica, and with most land-based glaciers are accelerating, often at shocking rates, largely due to human-caused climate change.

Antarctica is melting three times as fast as it was just 10 years ago, alarming scientists. A study earlier this year showed 3 trillion tons of ice had disappeared since 1992. That is the equivalent of enough water to cover the entire state of Texas with 13 feet of water, and raise global sea levels a third of an inch.

“From 1992 to 2011, Antarctica lost nearly 84 billion tons of ice a year (76 billion metric tons),” read the AP story on the study. “From 2012 to 2017, the melt rate increased to more than 241 billion tons a year (219 billion metric tons).”

“I think we should be worried,” one of the study’s 88 co-authors, University of California, Irvine’s Isabella Velicogna, told AP. “Things are happening. They are happening faster than we expected.”

In fact, the polar ice caps have melted faster in the last 25 years than they have in the last 10,000 years.

In the Arctic, the Greenland Ice Sheet is losing an average of 270 billion tons of ice each year, and the strongest sea ice in the region broke up for the first time on record this summer.

All of this melting is causing sea level rise to accelerate.

For glaciers that exist outside of the Polar Regions, the situation is even worse.

“You can count on all alpine glaciers in the world to be gone by 2100,” Dan Fagre, US Geological Survey (USGS) research ecologist and director of the USGS Climate Change in Mountain Ecosystems Project, told Truthout.

Truthout spoke with experts like Fagre, as well as others with expertise in the Antarctic and Arctic, who shared an often-grim prognosis of what lies in store for the cryosphere.


Ruth Mottram is a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute who has been studying Greenland for the last 11 years, and the Arctic for the last 15. Mottram is also one of the scientists behind the Polar Portal – a Danish web portal that gives near real-time data on the Arctic, including sea ice and Greenland ice sheet processes.

She explained to Truthout that melting in Greenland can vary significantly from year to year and is highly dependent upon weather conditions any given year.

“However, since the turn of the millennium there has been a series of summers where there have been increasingly large amounts of melt and runoff into the ocean,” Mottram explained.

She studies the surface mass budget, which is the balance between income — snowfall — and the outgoing melt and runoff. Mottram and her colleagues sum these up daily on the Polar Portal, as well as over the entire year, which in turn gives them an idea of the “health” of the ice sheet.

Her data is alarming.

“Of the top 10 lowest surface mass budget years,” Mottram said of this data, “only 2 occurred before the year 2000.”

She explained that on top of this, the ice sheet can also lose mass by calving (ice breaking off a glacier at its terminus) from glaciers and basal melting.

“Yet, both of these processes also have to be balanced by snowfall and what we see in the last two years is that the total budget, as opposed to the surface-only budget, has been roughly neutral – around 0,” she added.

However, Mottram also pointed out how the ice sheet has lost 200 – 300 gigatonnes (one gigatonne is about 1 cubic kilometer) of ice every year from 2003-2011. This means that the two aforementioned neutral and relatively lower melting years, as she put it, “do not nearly reverse the mass losses of the last decades.”

Greenland Ice Sheet meltwater is influencing the circulation of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a massive oceanic conveyor belt current that moves huge amounts of warm water from the tropics northward, and from the Atlantic up toward the Arctic. The AMOC plays a critical role in creating the mild climate of the UK and other parts of Western Europe.

“There is also some evidence that Arctic climate change in general is influencing mid-latitude weather patterns – leading to the kind of persistent and extreme weather that leads to, for example, the heatwave we had in northern Europe this year,” Mottram explained. “The idea is that the warming of the Arctic – which has been more rapid than in other parts of the planet – has led to a smaller difference in temperature between pole and tropics, which then leads to a more wavy jet-stream.”

While Mottram believes longer observations are needed on this topic, some studies have pointed out how the wavier jet-stream is intensifying extreme weather events like hurricanes, as well as altering global climate patterns.

Meanwhile, the increasing melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet is directly linked to the increase in calving and iceberg production at outlet glaciers.

“These can pose hazards to shipping and fisheries,” Mottram added. “But they also allow the ice sheet to contribute water to the ocean faster than just by melting.”

She and her colleagues also note the number of storms tracking up the east coast of Greenland of late, which have brought a lot of snow and rain to eastern Greenland and seem to be penetrating higher up into the Arctic – possibly due to the lower sea ice extent there.

“The winds associated with these storms can bring quite high temperatures to east and northeast Greenland, and this year we twice saw very unusual warm periods – associated with Foehn winds (similar to the Chinook in north America) – that also opened up the pack ice around the coast of Greenland,” Mottram explained. She also pointed out the role this could have played in the way in which the aforementioned “last ice area” of sea ice recently began to move away from the coast and break up.

This led to the north coast of Greenland briefly becoming navigable over the summer. The Polarstern and Oden – two research ships from Germany and Sweden respectively – were able to access areas of the Arctic to do research much more easily than had been expected.

The same is true of the Venta Maersk – the Danish “ice class” container ship that was the first to traverse the northern sea route this summer.

“It’s not to say it’s easy to sail in the Arctic right now, quite not,” Mottram said. “But the time is coming soon!”

Michael MacCracken, the chief scientist for climate change programs at the Climate Institute in Washington, DC, told Truthout that the loss of land ice, such as the loss of mass from the Greenland Ice Sheet, clearly raises sea level globally.

“This threatens low-lying coastal areas and island nations, and additionally, the rise in sea level can lift up glacial ice streams around Antarctica,” he said. “This then allows ocean waters better access to the ice streams, warming them and making calving more likely, ultimately contributing to further sea level rise.”


NASA emeritus scientist Robert Bindschadler, who worked for 35 years as a glaciologist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, previously told Truthout that the world may see three to four meters of sea level rise by the year 2200.

Bindschadler has led 18 field expeditions to Antarctica, published more than 130 scientific papers, and advised the US Congress and a former vice president on the stability of ice sheets and ice shelves. His current primary concern about what is happening in the Antarctic is linked to the fact that many of the glaciers there exist within deep valleys, as remote sensing has proven as of late.

“These deep valleys matter because they mean the glacier is sitting in a trough so deep that were you to remove the ice, it is below sea level,” Bindschadler told Truthout. “The damage the ocean can do only extends to the point where the glacier retreats onto the land. But the fact that these big outlet glaciers in Antarctica are sitting in a valley whose floor is below sea level means they can never escape the impact the oceans have on them.”

In other words, these land-based glaciers are now at risk of being melted from below by warming seawater that could flow into the valleys within which the glaciers are located.

He pointed out another worrisome fact about these valleys: Many of their depths may increase the further they get from the ocean.

“So, the ocean has greater impact on them the more they melt, which means the potential for fast and continual retreat of these outlet glaciers is probably more widespread than we appreciated four years ago,” Bindschadler added.

Bindschadler is concerned that these valleys – in which so many of the major glaciers exist – could be the next major factor in how glacial ice is rapidly released into the oceans, causing sea levels to rise further.

Alpine Glaciers

Fagre, who is the lead investigator in the USGS Benchmark Glacier Program and has been working in Glacier National Park since 1991, is concerned about how mountain snowpack has been shrinking in Glacier National Park, like in so many other places, over the last half century.

In Glacier National Park, the snow is on the ground an average of 30 days less than it used to be.

“Since the planet is warming up, more of the precipitation in Glacier is now falling as rain instead of snow,” Fagre told Truthout. Since they’re less likely to be covered in snow, glaciers are more directly exposed to the sun, which obviously hastens their melting.

In 1850, Glacier National Park, before it was designated a national park, contained 150 glaciers, covering around 100 square kilometers. Today, only between 14 and 15 square kilometers of ice coverage remain, an 85 percent loss. Instead of 150 glaciers, there are now only 26. Even this alarming tally of ice loss is a conservative estimate, as measuring area doesn’t account for thinning.

Fagre and his team started monitoring the mass balance of Glacier National Park’s Sperry Glacier in 2005.

“Our program mirrors what the others are seeing in Alaska and the Cascades,” he said. Aside from a couple of years where the glacier accumulated more ice, the glacier lost mass consistently, “as is true for almost every mountain glacier in the world for which we have mass balance information.”

“Our trajectory has well exceeded previous worst-case projections for many of our glaciers,” said Fagre, and added that the Blackfoot and Jackson Glaciers in the park had melted faster than the predictions by a full decade.

“What we’ve found since then is that they continue to go, and at unsustainable rates,” he said.

“This is an explosion, a nuclear explosion of geologic change,” Fagre said of the global impacts from climate change, particularly in the cryosphere. “This is unusual. It is incredibly rapid and exceeds the ability for normal adaptation. We’ve shoved it into overdrive and taken our hands off the wheel.”


Kevin Lister, an associate with the Climate Institute in Washington, DC, co-authored a paper with MacCracken for the UN that addressed the crisis in the Arctic, among other climate change-related issues.

Lister and MacCracken’s paper showed that the natural rate of carbon sequestration is so slow as to not be measurable. This doesn’t bode well for the possibility of halting climate change: The researchers say that carbon sequestration will be incapable of bringing atmospheric CO2 down to safe levels even in the hypothetical circumstance of a zero-carbon economy emerging.

Their paper also shows that while carbon sequestration and mitigation measures must continue to be pursued, “the likelihood is that that they will be unable to bring [atmospheric] CO2 down fast enough.”

Lister believes that climate change “is fundamentally irreversible as there is strong evidence that the heating effects of the amplifying mechanisms are greater than that of increases in [atmospheric] CO2.”

Lister told Truthout that he and MacCracken have argued that dramatic solutions to the climate crisis “must be pursued with all urgency.”

“Should we fail to make a start, then the scale of intervention that we need and the risks associated with it will increase exponentially with any delay,” Lister said.

The post Earth’s Ice Loss “Is a Nuclear Explosion of Geologic Change” appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

After the Confirmation of Kavanaugh, Women Will Continue to Resist

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 15:55

Thousands of women protested outside the US Capitol and across the country on Saturday as Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, just hours after the Senate voted to confirm him. “I hope that it is deep enough that it is forming a strong, cohesive movement among people that will resonate through this country and change the culture,” says Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink, who joined the protests. We also speak with longtime feminist activist and writer Soraya Chemaly, author of the new book, Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger. She says conservatives’ biggest fear since the “Me Too” movement is that women are telling the truth. “And if women are telling the truth,” Chemaly notes, “then it’s not just an indictment of a few bad apples, but an indictment of the entire system.”

Please check back later for full transcript.

The post After the Confirmation of Kavanaugh, Women Will Continue to Resist appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Beyond Columbus Day: Changing the Name Is Just the First Step

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 15:46

On Wednesday, October 3, the Cincinnati city council joined a growing trend when it voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It is now one of more than 70 cities across the country to do so. The first was Berkeley, California, which adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992, in recognition of the 500–year anniversary of the European arrival in the Western Hemisphere and the ensuing devastation to Indigenous nations already here in what became known as the Americas.

Other cities that have made the change include Los Angeles, Seattle and Phoenix, as well as states like Minnesota, South Dakota and Alaska, which have significant Native American and Alaskan Native populations. In 2017, the island country of Trinidad and Tobago made the change after a statue of Columbus was splattered in blood-colored paint. A grassroots group called the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project posted an explanation for the vandalism on Facebook at the time, explaining that the painting was soaked in red to protest the celebration of the “Genocidal Genovese Sailor” who “decimated the first peoples of the Americas, destroyed their way of life, then turned around and denied their humanity.”

There are rumors of more cities, including Dallas, Texas, following suit by today. More than 90 different entities (including cities, counties, colleges, universities, states and one country) have changed from honoring Columbus to honoring Indigenous people — at least in name — since 1990.

“I think history tells us that Christopher Columbus was not a good representation of the kind of people we’d want to value and appreciate,” said Chris Seelbach, a Cincinnati councilman, when explaining his vote. He also tweeted, “We can’t re-write history, but we can acknowledge the millions of people who didn’t need to be ‘discovered.'”

This year, the city of Los Angeles will also be celebrating its inaugural Indigenous Peoples’ Day after having voted last year to make the change. I interviewed Chrissie Castro, a Navajo activist who, as vice chairperson of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, helped get the change approved, on my podcast show “Not Your Disappearing Indian.”

In the interview, Castro describes what happened at the meetings that were mandated by the city council between the Native community and the Italian-American community to discuss the potential change. At the first meeting, a large group of Italian Americans came. The Italian-American community began celebrating Columbus Day in Denver, Colorado, in 1907. However, after Native activists read aloud excerpts from Columbus’s diary detailing the atrocities he and his men committed against the Indigenous people of the Caribbean, most were shocked. They admitted they were never told he did those things. Despite 100 years of celebrating the man, the Italian-American community members who attended the meeting seemed to know little about him or about what actually happened when Columbus got to the “New World.” Castro says at the next meeting, less than half returned to defend him.

By the time they got to the city council vote in August 2017, only a handful of community members remained defiant and defensive of the “Great Admiral of the Ocean Sea” (the title Columbus requested for himself from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain in 1492). Columbus also demanded to be appointed governor of all lands he discovered and given one-tenth of all revenue and one-eighth of the profits from any commercial venture from those lands in perpetuity. Neither Trump nor his father could have finagled a better deal.

I have detailed some of this history and the hell on earth Columbus and his men created on the beautiful island homelands of the Lucayan, Taíno and Arawak people in my article “Goodbye, Columbus.” The peaceful people were worked to death. Their hands were cut off if they did not bring him enough gold. Mothers murdered their own children to save them from the horror their world had become. Writing in his diary, Columbus described how the world he had wrought condemned young girls into sexual slavery, “A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general, and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”

“Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel,” wrote Bartolomé de las Casas, a 16th-century Spanish colonist and historian. “My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write.”

Given the horrors enacted in the past and the ongoing oppression in the present, changing the name of a holiday is not enough for many Native people. Diné anarchist and filmmaker Klee Benally tweeted the same day as the Cincinnati council vote, “#IndigenousPeoplesDay is meaningless when a city like #Flagstaff can pass a resolution while perpetuating & benefiting from our cultural genocide. #indigenousresistance will never be state-sanctioned. #abolishcolumbusdayforreal.”

Flagstaff, Arizona, which borders the vast Navajo Nation, finally passed a resolution last week to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD) after three years of debate. The sticking point was city council member Eva Putzova’s request that the city conduct a review of how well it has implemented a 2012 Memorandum of Understanding with the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission. The formal agreement was meant to foster “better race relations,” but at the time of the name change, little action had been taken to progress toward that goal.

Native activists are still frustrated about how little has been done by the city to meaningfully reach the goals agreed upon in that Memorandum of Understanding. Benally says he opposed Flagstaff’s resolution proclaiming Indigenous Peoples’ Day last week because “the initial conditions [review of the memorandum] were not met at all.” Activists will be demonstrating today, in part in “rejection of their window-dressing IPD.”

In urban settings far from their homelands, Native people and their nations are not on the radar for most city governments. Acknowledgement once a year is helpful to begin to build a relationship and recognition with municipal leaders but is not guaranteed. And the fight to get even this holiday name change has left some exasperated.

“Texas has a dark history of wanting to kill off all the Indigenous people here in the past,” Yolanda Blue Horse of Dallas, a member of the Lakota Nation, told Truthout. She is grateful that Texan cities are finally getting rid of a day that recognizes a murderer, but says, “People should look up why the Texas Rangers (which is still in existence but mainly now another arm of law enforcement) were originally created.”

Still, many see the name change as a beginning. To Guy Jones, Lakota activist and one of the founders of the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans in Dayton, Ohio, changing the name of Columbus Day “is a doorway that opens up to people who know themselves,” allowing for the reclamation of Indigenous histories.

The post Beyond Columbus Day: Changing the Name Is Just the First Step appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Amazon’s $15 an Hour Minimum Wage and the Federal Reserve Board

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 15:38

Last week Amazon announced that it would impose a $15 an hour minimum wage for its workforce, including those hired through staffing agencies. This was a huge victory for the labor and community activists in the Fight for $15 campaign, as well as for Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ro Khanna, who had recently proposed legislation that would have penalized huge companies like Amazon for paying low wages.

As the world’s second corporation (following Apple) to reach a market capitalization of $1 trillion, making CEO Jeff Bezos the world’s richest person, Amazon had become a symbol of inequality in the country and the world. Its warehouse workers put in long hours, doing highly regimented and grueling work, and often were paid little over the national minimum of $7.25 an hour.

This was the reason that Fight for $15, Sanders and Khanna made Amazon a central focus of their efforts. The decision by Bezos to agree to a $15 an hour minimum wage will not only benefit the hundreds of thousands of Amazon workers who will get pay raises, but it also places pressure on other large employers to similarly raise their wages. In fact, Bezos explicitly committed himself to work toward a national minimum wage of $15 an hour.

While this win shows the power of progressive organizing, there is another side to this issue that should not be overlooked. Bezos agreed to this increase in the context of the tightest labor market in almost two decades. At 3.7 percent, the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 1969.

The tight labor market forced Amazon to raise wages to attract the workers it needed to staff its warehouses. In some places, it may have already been paying close to its new $15 an hour minimum. In this context, the decision to accept $15 as a nationwide floor was much less of a lift than it would have been if the unemployment rate was still over 5.0 or 6.0 percent.

This low unemployment rate is largely possible because of policy decisions by the Federal Reserve Board. Specifically, the Fed decided to hold off on interest rate hikes that would slow the economy and reduce the rate of job creation. This was not an accident. The Fed was responding to political pressure from the Fed Up coalition.

The Federal Reserve Board has historically been excessively responsive to the concerns of the financial industry. This is largely due to its structure, which gives the industry a direct voice in setting the country’s monetary policy. As a result, the Fed has often given excessive attention to controlling inflation, even at the cost of higher unemployment.

In 2014, a poll of the Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC), which determines monetary policy, found that the median estimate of the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU), the effective measure of full employment, was 5.4 percent. This meant that if the unemployment rate fell below 5.4 percent then inflation would start to spiral upward. As the unemployment rate began to approach this level, many members of the FOMC began to call for the Fed to raise interest rates to keep unemployment from falling lower.

This is where Fed Up played an incredible role. They were a crucial voice on the other side, constantly reminding the Fed of its legal mandate to promote full employment. Fed Up had important allies in this effort, most importantly former Fed chair Janet Yellen, but it is likely that Yellen and her allies on the FOMC would have been forced to raise rates sooner and faster if not for pressure from Fed Up.

This is a huge deal. Allowing the unemployment rate to fall to 3.7 percent rather than, say 5.4 percent, added more than 3 million jobs. Furthermore, the people who filled these jobs were disproportionately those who were most disadvantaged in the labor market, such as Black and Latino workers, workers with less education, and those with criminal records.

In addition to creating jobs for millions of workers, the tighter labor market has also hugely increased the bargaining power of those at the bottom of the wage ladder. Employers are actually having to compete for workers, even in historically low-paying industries. For example, the average hourly pay of restaurant workers rose 4.2 percent in the last year.

To be sure, workers still have a long way to go to make up the ground lost in the Great Recession, and even longer to make up for the three decades of stagnating wages that preceded it, but the low unemployment rate we are currently seeing makes a huge difference. We need many more successes like the victory at Amazon, but the prospects for such victories will be much better if we can keep the unemployment rate low, and ideally push it still lower.

The post Amazon’s $15 an Hour Minimum Wage and the Federal Reserve Board appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Kavanaugh’s Snarl Takes on New Meaning Now That He’s a Supreme Court Justice

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 14:44

In the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and swearing in as the newest associate justice on the US Supreme Court at a subsequent private ceremony, journalist Ashley Feinberg was among those who returned to his charged testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, September 27 when she declared Saturday afternoon: “I just keep thinking about [his] sneering ‘what goes around comes around.'”

Those words by Kavanaugh were delivered as part of a sneering counter-attack aimed at Democratic members of the committee and the wider American public viewing the hearing on televisions nationwide. In part, it looked like this:

But while the overtly partisan remarks and the manner with which he delivered them led many to the conclusion that Kavanaugh did not have the “judicial temperament” to sit on the nation’s highest court, author and journalist Naomi Klein posited that it is more important than ever to understand that moment and recognize the profound ramifications it will have going forward now that Justice Kavanaugh is a reality.

As Feinberg’s colleague at the Huffington Post, Paul Blumenthal, points out — in a piece titled, “The Coming Kavanaugh Court Doctrine: Democrats Are Unconstitutional” — the threat of “what goes around comes around” could have serious implications for “cases that help Republicans and harm Democrats” in the future.

“Essentially what he did is he took his mask off and he revealed himself as a politician who wears a robe,” Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor, told Blumenthal.

Meanwhile, in her online thread composed on Saturday, Klein argued that the “snarl” Kanavaugh offered during his confirmation hearing is only a taste of what’s to come:

A thread about Kavanaugh on this dark day: No matter what happens next, we have to remember his snarl. Engrave it into our collective hippocampus.

— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) October 6, 2018

Kavanaugh has tried to present his partisan rage-storm as out of character, the result of being a “son, husband and dad” falsely accused. In the coming months, we can expect him to take great pains to perform a more reassuring judge-like character.

— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) October 6, 2018

But we must never be fooled. Because that snarl was a wide open window into what this fight has always been about. Kavanaugh is being appointed not *in spite* of that snarl but precisely because of it.

— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) October 6, 2018

Because underneath his “gee-whiz I-love-coaching-girl’s-basketball” kitsch, he is a snarling gargoyle who can be counted on not just to defend himself but the whole damn frat known as the Republican Party + its billionaire backers. Against all threats to their power + wealth.

— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) October 6, 2018

That’s what he showed as Ken Starr’s attack dog and that’s what he showed as George W Bush’s guard dog – even though it meant changing his legal position 180 degrees from one administration to the next.

— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) October 6, 2018

It is the combination of viciousness and total moral flexibility that is what had endeared him to the men behind his nomination and imminent confirmation. He has shown he will do whatever it takes to protect them. That’s why he was worth backing despite his copious baggage.

— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) October 6, 2018

So no matter how genteelly he forces himself to behave in the future, remember that the snarl was the truth – not just about his character but about his true purpose on the bench.

— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) October 6, 2018

The post Kavanaugh’s Snarl Takes on New Meaning Now That He’s a Supreme Court Justice appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News