Republican who bragged about derailing Clinton with Benghazi investigations issues absurd warning to Dems on Trump

2 days 19 hours ago
"I think there's other problems out there that we really should be focused upon," McCarthy insisted.

It was Fall, 2015. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was all set to become Speaker of the House after John Boehner announced his retirement.

But his own gaffe (and challenges with the English language) got in the way, ultimately derailing his candidacy.

On September 29, 2015, Rep. McCarthy, the number two man in the House Republican caucus, bragged live on-air that the Republicans' Benghazi investigation was a political, partisan attack designed to derail Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy.

"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?" McCarthy told to Fox News' Sean Hannity. "But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought."

Exactly one month later, October 29, 2015, Congressman Paul Ryan was sworn in as Speaker of the House.

Fast forward to the summer of 2016.

"There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump," McCarthy infamously said in recorded audio, referring to GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and then-candidate Donald Trump. Rohrabacher, a far right wing extremist, lost his House seat last month. Trump went on to become president.

And now, fast forward to today.

Rep. McCarthy, who will move from being the House Majority Leader to House Minority Leader in January, on Monday insisted that America has had enough of the Mueller investigation. He thinks illegal campaign donations, conspiring with a corrupt foreign power that attacked American democracy, and obstructing justice are just "too small" for America's citizens to be concerned about.

"I think America is too great of a nation to have such a small agenda," McCarthy warned House Democrats on Fox News Monday morning.

"I think there's other problems out there that we really should be focused upon," McCarthy insisted.

"Less [sic] see where we can work together," he continued. "Less [sic] move America forward."

"We've investigated this for a long period of time. Both sides have come up with nothing in the process, " he lied. "I think we should put the American people first."


McCarthy urges House Dems to not investigate Trump: "I think America is too great of a nation to have such a small agenda. I think there are other problems out there that we should be focused on... we've investigated this for a long time."

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 10, 2018

Far from coming "up with nothing in the process," Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has already produced (according to details from NPR) a conviction for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Also, guilty pleas from former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen,  former Trump campaign junior foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Also, guilty pleas from W. Samuel Patten, Alex van der Zwann, and Richardo Pinedo.

The Mueller investigation has also produced charges against former Manafort associate Konstantin Kilimnik, 12 Russian intelligence officers, 13 Russians, and three Russian entities.

David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

Here's the solution to the Democrats' impeachment dilemma

2 days 21 hours ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098606'; Click here for reuse options! History can be instructive in the case of Donald Trump.

If President Donald Trump is brought down, it will be Republicans who finally seal his fate, not Democrats.

No matter how much evidence is uncovered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the U.S. attorney from the Southern District of New York, the New York Attorney General, or any other prosecutors who happen to be investigating the president — it's almost certain that impeachment is the only viable way the government could respond. While a president may be indictable, even critics of Trump acknowledge that allowing charges against Trump to go to trial before he is removed or his term is ended poses serious constitutional challenges that may be insurmountable, as former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal has argued.

But while Democrats hold the power to impeach Trump in the House of Representatives, they'll need at least 20 Republican senators to join with all the Democratic senators to successfully remove him from office. As of now, that appears to be a steep hill to climb.

Conservative Trump critic Jennifer Rubin argued that this places Democrats in a troubling "impeachment dilemma."

With the new court documents filed last week revealing profoundly troubling connections between Trump and the Kremlin during the 2016 campaign, a clear assertion from prosecutors that the president directed a criminal violation of campaign finance laws, and more evidence that he continues to attempt to obstruct justice, the demands upon the new Democratic House majority to use its major tool to hold Trump accountable for these actions will grow. At the same time, the Republican power in Congress indicates that any successful impeachment will be an embarrassing failure in the Senate.

And despite the fact that Trump's approval rating is consistently underwater by a large margin, the general public's sentiment stands against impeachment. Polling on the question shows that starkness of the dilemma — while impeachment is extremely popular among Democrats, the majority of Americans are against it by 51-33. Even while Americans, by and large, don't like Trump, they see impeachment as an extreme step. 

The split between what the Democratic base wants and what a majority of Americans wants (and what appears to be impossible) may be less problematic for soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her party as it initially seems. While the party's voters may want impeachment, most may be savvy enough to realize that there's no point in pursuing a doomed gambit and that the best hopes for removing Trump lie in 2020.

But there's another downside to largely avoiding impeachment talk, as Democrats succeeded in doing during the midterm elections. It sends the signal that, despite Trump's obvious wrongdoing, his actions are not impeachable. It allows the public to get used to the fact that the president has, by all appearances, broken important laws and precedents, and the longer this goes on, the more Republicans are able to shift the goalposts with regard to what needs to be proven in order to justify impeaching Trump.

It's possible that with enough new revelations the political dynamics will shift and Republicans will join calls for impeachment. But Trump's conduct has long passed the point at which any other presidency should have collapsed, and Democrats need a strategy that accommodates political realities without capitulating to the GOP's corruption.

There is a solution to this dilemma, and it's one surprisingly few Democrats have embraced: Call for Trump's resignation.

There's overwhelming justification for Trump to step down. Even before he was elected, his misconduct toward and abuse of women was known. Former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was called upon to resign and eventually did when faced with a significantly shorter, but still condemnable, list of alleged offenses.

And since the election, the scope and number of Trump's misdeeds have only escalated. While no criminal indictments yet lay out explicit violations of the law with regard to his interactions with Russia during the campaign, they are clearly well beyond what is acceptable for any candidate for public office. Trump continually lied about these contacts with the Kremlin while also covering up the Russian government's active and ongoing disinformation and cyberwarfare campaign targeting American elections. He lied to the American people about his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin while these attacks were continuing, and he accepted the Kremlin's help in covering up his lies.

With these actions, Trump opened himself up to being compromised by a foreign power. Even if no criminal conduct on his part occurred, this is unacceptable behavior from a commander-in-chief that undermines national security and requires that he step down.

And while the FBI continues to investigate the clear effort Russia went to infiltrate and corrupt his campaign, Trump has fought the probe at every step by obstructing justice. Were Trump simply a victim of clever Russian spies, that would be worrying enough in its own right. But by actively working to obstruct justice by undermining the investigation into these acts, Trump has sided with a hostile foreign intelligence agency. This is, again, a betrayal of national security and, in the view of many former prosecutors, a clear criminal act.

Calling for Trump to resign over these offenses may seem an awkward solution because we've known about them for so long. Some of the information has come out in slow drips, normalizing Trump's violation and undermining the necessary outrage.

But last week, prosecutors gave Democrats the perfect inflection point. With the court filings revealed last week by Mueller and the SDNY prosecutors, the party has a newfound basis for calling for Trump's resignation.

As many observers pointed out, Trump was directly implicated in SDNY's sentencing memo about Michael Cohen's crimes. Prosecutors have now said, clearly and on the record, that Cohen carried out hush money payments at Trump's direction in a criminal violation of campaign finance law. Cohen will be sentenced to prison time this week, in part on the basis of that crime. The fact that the person who ordered him to commit those crimes — which helped him get elected — remains president is a national disgrace. This is a perfect reason to call on Trump to resign.

The filings also built upon the evidence for collusion and obstruction as well, codifying them in prosecutors' words that can serve as a solid foundation for Trump's resignation. Mueller's filing about Paul Manafort's lies indicated that the former Trump campaign chair had strong ties to a man believed to be involved with Russia intelligence, ties which Manafort allegedly tried to cover up in a criminal way. Cohen, too, criminally covered up his and president's ties to Russia, and both Cohen and Manafort were shown to have had continuing contact with the Trump administration in the last year that bolsters obstruction of justice claims.

Of course, Republicans and the White House will dismiss calls for resignation as ridiculous. But there's a very strong case to be made for it, and it will provide a useful countermeasure to Trump's complaints if impeachment hearings are to proceed, as will likely become necessary.

Even if Trump is technically innocent of all the crimes here is clearly implicated in — as he will no doubt continue to insist — the evidence still demands that Democrats take the apparent crimes very seriously. Republicans would no doubt be wielding pitchforks if a President Hillary Clinton were implicated in one-tenth of the misdeeds Trump has brazenly engaged in before our eyes.

Republicans will say that impeachment, investigations, and scrutiny of the president's misdeeds will damage the country. They are probably right. But ignoring the mountains of evidence against the president would do much more harm to the country by sending a signal that the people cannot trust their government and that powerful people will never be held accountable.

And if Republicans are concerned about the harm the proceedings will cause, they can join with Democrats in the calls for resignation. Democrats could rightly say they've been backed into a corner, but that resignation offers the country a way out of the unfolding chaos. If Trump stepped down, he'd be saving the country from an awful lot. If he stays on, despite the damning case against him, he is responsible for the trauma the ongoing fights inflict upon the American people, not the Democrats.

The history of presidential impeachment is pretty clear on this as well. President Bill Clinton's impeachment was doomed from the start, which is why it eventually failed in the Senate. President Richard Nixon himself, on the other hand, was doomed as soon as the White House tapes revealed the stark nature of his crimes — which is why impeachment never made it to the Senate. His Republican allies told him he would be removed, so he resigned instead.

Trump may prove more difficult to oust than Nixon if it ever comes to that. But Vice President Mike Pence might be able to offer the right incentive to leave: the promise of a pardon — perhaps not only for Trump but for any of his family members who are likewise implicated in crimes.

That might be enough to get Trump to go of his own accord. And maybe Pence would follow through, or maybe he would not. President Gerald Ford was not treated kindly by the voters for pardoning Nixon.

But forced resignation, rather than impeachment, will likely end up being the best way to hold Trump accountable for any crimes if it comes to that. Democrats should start laying the groundwork for that potentiality by demanding he step down now.

This story was corrected to reflect the number of Republicans needed to remove the president from office.

var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2018 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1098606'; Click here for reuse options!  Related Stories
Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

‘Proud Boys’ founder Gavin McInnes banned from YouTube days after being booted from conservative TV network

2 days 21 hours ago
It's a bad week for far-right media personality Gavin McInnes.

Gavin McInnes is out.

YouTube has banned the founder of the Proud Boys, a far right wing self-described "chauvinist" organization labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"McInnes had amassed more than 220,000 subscribers on YouTube before the ban, but now both his YouTube profile and channel on YouTube show up as deleted," The Daily Beast reports.

The YouTube ban comes just two days after McInnes was booted from his online conservative TV network gig at CRTV. The company merged with Glenn Beck's The Blaze, and McInnes found himself de-platformed one week later.

Blaze Media no longer has a relationship with Gavin McInnes, and per company policy, cannot comment on personnel matters.

— BlazeTV (@CRTV) December 9, 2018

"McInnes’ YouTube ban, which follows earlier bans from Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, means he no longer has access to any major social-media platform."

In a viral video exposing McInnes and his Proud Boys (he recently claims to have resigned from the Proud Boys), McInnes describes the group he created:

"We will kill you," he says. "That's the Proud Boys in a nutshell."

McInnes (or one of the Proud Boys) also says in the video, "Fighting solves everything. We need more violence from the Trump people," and, "Trump supporters: Choke a motherfucker. Choke a bitch. Choke a tranny. Get your fingers around the windpipe."

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that "rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. Proud Boys have appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings like the 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville."

"McInnes himself has ties to the racist right and has contributed to hate sites like and American Renaissance, both of which publish the work of white supremacists," the SPLC adds.


David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

Here's what we can learn from reading Sylvia Plath’s copy of ‘The Great Gatsby’

2 days 22 hours ago
For centuries, readers have written in the margins of their books to indicate admiration, disagreement or inspiration. Plath was no different.

As a rare books curator, I get to interact with first editions of novels I love, illustrated versions of my favorite poets’ works, and lavish editions of historical engravings.

In 2015, I started using the University of South Carolina’s first edition of “Lyrical Ballads” in my survey of British literature courses. Written by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, this collection of poems is commonly thought to have launched British Romanticism.

I would bring the volume to class to discuss its visual appearance as a printed text. But each time I shared the volume with a new group of students, we found ourselves drawn to the comments written in the book’s margins by its early owner, John Peace.

Peace was, I learned, an acquaintance of Wordsworth. And some of his comments in the margins of one of the volume’s most well-known poems, “Tintern Abbey,” explore the poem’s themes of memory, place and return.In this poem, Wordsworth describes his return to the Wye River valley after an absence of five years. He also recalls his memories of his first visit to the valley and looks forward to the memories this second visit will create.

“In this moment,” he writes, “there is life and food / For future years.”

When Peace responds to these lines, he describes a different kind of experience – visiting the poet in his home – in a similar way: “So thought I when my foot first step’t upon his threshold, and so have I found.”

It is a singular piece of literary history, and it’s one example of how the study of words written in the margins of historic texts – called “marginalia” – can illuminate the history of reading in new ways.

As prominent book historian Roger Chartier has noted, marginalia can reconstruct past reading experiences through the “sparse and multiple traces” ordinary readers left behind.

One particularly vivid example that is far from ordinary is Sylvia Plath’s copy of “The Great Gatsby.”

Reading ‘Gatsby’ with Sylvia Plath

Acquired by the University of South Carolina in 1994 from a former professor, the Matthew J. & Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald includes Fitzgerald’s personal ledger, a flask from his wife Zelda, and early drafts of his works.

It also includes an inexpensive 1949 edition of “The Great Gatsby.” Compared to other items in this collection, it might not seem like anything special.

But the book’s owner – and the words she wrote in its margins – are quite noteworthy.

The bookplate identifies Sylvia Plath as the owner of this copy, which she most likely read as an undergraduate at Smith College. Some marginal comments were probably notes she took during lectures about the novel. But others show the way Fitzgerald’s novel sparked her imagination and inspired her own work.

She wrote on almost every page, underlining passages in black and blue ink, drawing stars beside her favorites and occasionally writing notes – some quite arresting – in the margins.

Plath wrote “L'Ennui” – a French word that describes a feeling of listlessness and boredom – next to a description of the character Daisy’s world-weary view of life: “I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” “L'Ennui” would become the title of a poem Plath is thought to have written shortly after reading this novel.

Other notes are, in the context of Plath’s painful life and tragic suicide, haunting.

She writes that Daisy shows a “desire for a secure future” – a longing that seems to have struck a chord for Plath.

On another page, she hints at masculine aggression when she comments, as Gatsby watches the Buchanans from outside their home, “knight waiting outside – dragon goes to bed with the princess.” This was a motif that would reappear in her own life: In her recently published letters, Plath details the physical and emotional abuse her husband, the poet Ted Hughes, inflicted upon her in the months before her death.

Sylvia Plath’s copy of “The Great Gatsby” speaks to the value of marginalia. As Makenzie Logue, a student of mine who is currently studying the volume, put it, preserving these notes means that you can “read The Great Gatsby with Sylvia Plath.”

Making marginalia accessible

In recent years, marginalia left by ordinary readers has become a subject of large-scale data collection efforts.

At the University of Virginia, English professor Andrew Stauffer leads a team that has made a book’s annotations, inscriptions and insertions discoverable as part of UVA’s online library catalog. Any user will be able to find such markings through a simple online search.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, librarians are developing ways to discover marginalia digitally – and quickly – across large digital collections.

Using the methods developed at the University of Virginia, my colleague Michael Weisenburg and I have organized searches for historical markings in library books at the University of South Carolina. Student workers and library staff have enhanced records for annotated volumes in the school’s online catalog.

While digital technology has made marginalia more accessible, digital reading has made the actual habit of writing in books much less common.

What would Sylvia Plath and John Peace have done if they had a Kindle? Would they have still left traces of their reactions to the texts – so valuable to scholars today – behind?

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Jeanne Britton, The Conversation

French populists from the ‘50s can teach us a lot about the 'yellow vests’ roiling Paris today

2 days 23 hours ago
The populist protests roiling France remind me of a similar anti-tax revolt that occurred in Paris nearly 65 years ago.

The populist protests roiling France remind me of a similar anti-tax revolt that occurred in Paris nearly 65 years ago.

In January 1955, tens of thousands of French men and women gathered at the Porte de Versailles in Paris to express their disgust for the elites who had burdened their lives with crushing taxes. They had come to hear the populist icon Pierre Poujade, a bookstore owner from the rural Lot valley and the leader of a movement that tried to topple the government of Pierre Mendès-France.

Today, the French government is again facing an existential threat over an unpopular tax, but this time by the “gilets jaunes,” or yellow vests. And even though President Emmanuel Macron has since nixed his government’s plan, the demonstrations show no sign of abating.

I believe that the Poujadist protests, which I am studying as part of a book project on the political economy of France, can shed light on today’s unrest – as well as on the many other populist movementsagitating governments across the world.

The ‘gilets jaunes’

The “gilets jaunes” movement started in November as a response to a fuel tax hike meant as an environmental measure.

Cars, trucks and tractors play a critical role in the lives of rural and suburban French people, and the insensitivity of the government to this reality sparked the anger of these “non-metropolitan” citizens. They have long felt marginalized by city-dwelling French elites, who would barely be affected by the rising fuel prices.

The yellow vest itself perfectly embodies the resulting sense of grievance.

All French drivers are required to keep a yellow vest in their car for emergencies. Practically speaking, therefore, it is a cheap and readily available garment for supporters of the movement.

More than that, the yellow vest is a potent symbol because motorists don it to attract attention in an emergency. For many protesters, that is exactly what they are trying to do by marching through the streets.

Revolt or revolution?

But the protests have evolved from a pure tax revolt into something broader, combining a wide range of political views.

recent poll shows that about 42 percent of the protesters supported the far right candidate Marine Le Pen in the last elections. The survey also shows that 20 percent of them backed the far leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, while many others voted a blank ballot or even supported the conservative François Fillon.

And perhaps because the movement lacks a leader, its demands have included everything from reinstating a wealth tax to increasing welfare protections. Students are demanding that the government backtrack on proposed education reforms, while more radical elements want a fundamental transformation in government.

To top it all off, extremists known as “les casseurs” – literally “people who break things” – and anarchists have added violence to what were primarily peaceful protests. As a result, there have been hundreds of arrests and injuries.

Under tremendous pressure, Macron, on Dec. 5, backed away from the fuel taxes. But protests continued on Dec. 8, with more violence reported, and signs that they will continue.

Loose talk among some extremists of violently overthrowing the government, along with a small but growing current of anti-Semitism, has done little to calm the situation.

The past and the present

The perception of burdensome taxes as a symptom of unjust elite rule was something shared by Pierre Poujade and his followers in their day.

His protests – like today’s – represented a populist rejection of “the system,” which the lower middle classes saw as serving only the elite and leaving them behind.

In the 1950s, France was just a few years past the suffering caused by the Second World War, the German occupation and the quasi-fascist Vichy regime. In order to rebuild the country, the leaders of the new Fourth Republic adopted a system of economic planning to channel huge amounts of central investment to selected industries.

Many historians believe this helped drive the incredible growth that France experienced through the early 1970s. But it had a downside for millions of small business owners, especially those outside the big cities, who believed that their high taxes were being used to help privileged big businesses take over the economy.

Populism today

The “gilets jaunes” are very much following in the tradition of the anti-elite movements before them, especially the Poujadists.

Today, as then, the French economy is doing reasonably well, with its annual growth rate improving since 2012 and currently close to 2 percent.

But, as in the 1950s, the times are not good for everyone. The unemployment rate remains stubbornly above 9 percentand is much higher at 15 percent among those without a high school diploma. Data from the French economist Thomas Piketty shows that income inequality has widened since the 1980s.

More importantly, the rising cost of living makes it difficult for members of the lower middle class to make ends meet. And all the while they see the privileged enjoying a lifestyle that they cannot imagine.

All of this echoes the Poujadists, but the “gilets jaunes” of today are responding to economic challenges that are very different from the ones of the past.

Today, what matters most are the uneven gains of globalization. Although deeply integrated world markets have benefited many in France, they have left behind workers and small-business owners who lack the skills to profit from them.

And Macron’s policies are seen as exacerbating these inequalities and favoring the elites over the lower classes. Besides the fuel tax, his decision to abolish the wealth tax and plan to make university admissions more selective have added to Macron’s pro-elite image.

So how might it all end? Poujade’s movement, for its part, was able, at its height to win 52 seats in the French National Assembly. Poujadism did eventually disintegrate, but its longevity shows how it had tapped into something much deeper than a simple aversion to taxes.

This “something deeper,” a suspicion of the system, is shared by the yellow vests and explains why we should not be surprised that Macron’s backtracking on the fuel tax has done little to quiet the protests.

Populism around the world

Their rage against out-of-touch elites also links the “gilets jaunes” protests with other recent populist movements in Britain, the United States and elsewhere.

In all these places, populism has emerged as a result of the uneven distribution of economic gains that have accrued from globalization.

For example, while most elites have fully recovered their losses from last decade’s global financial crisis, nearly everyone else has seen their income and wealth little changed. This situation is especially galling for the many who blame those very elites for causing the crisis in the first place.

When Macron upended the French political system to become president in 2017, many hoped that he could channel the anti-elite anger brewing in France into his new, youthful party. But Macron’s paradoxical “centrist populism” has not delivered the change that many citizens sought, one reason the vast majority of the public supports the protests.

The “gilets jaunes” represent a reckoning. It is a reckoning that will take more than tax policy to avert, and one whose future impact will be difficult to predict.

After all, among the young legislators first elected on Poujade’s ticket was Jean-Marie Le Pen, a man who would go on to create the modern French far-right.

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Charles Hankla, The Conversation

Standing Rock changed the course of this doctor’s entire life

2 days 23 hours ago
The camp was “one of the most soulfully powerful places I’ve ever been,” says a volunteer medic.

In November 2016, emergency physician Dr. Tara Sood rushed to volunteer with the Indigenous-led protest against the construction of an oil pipeline across the water supply for the Standing Rock reservation. Sood is one of many activists profiled in Road Map for Revolutionaries by Elisa Camahort Page, Carolyn Gerin, and Jamia Wilson. Here she recalls the protest and how “one of the most soulfully powerful places I’ve ever been” continues to inspire her activism.

I showed up in Cannon Ball, North Dakota (the largest community near the Standing Rock protests), at a basketball gym that was acting as an evacuation center for people too old or sick to remain in camp. Two nurses, retired friends from Portland, were there, as was an OB/GYN who had been volunteering for a few days and was just leaving. They showed me around the gym, where there was no heat, but it was indoors. People were sleeping on cots and bleachers. Supplies were stored. There was a kitchen, bathrooms, and showers.

We also had a place to sit and talk to people to see what their needs were. If they needed to go to the hospital in Bismarck, no ambulance would come if called, so someone had to volunteer to drive them. Someone always did.

There was every type of person there. There were people who felt left out in their own worlds and found community. There were “protest tourists”: kids who sought to socially document their “commitment,” when in reality, they sat around and did nothing. But mostly there were regular, everyday people who felt they had to do something to fight against the injustice. Nurses, lawyers, veterans, Marines, students, homemakers, farmers, journalists, construction workers, engineers—people from every walk of life. The majority of the people felt they were fighting for a cause bigger than themselves. I’d say the ratio of committed individuals to protest tourists was probably 500 to 1. Most of the people in camp helped in every way they could—including cleaning the compost toilets, shoveling massive amounts of snow, cooking, cleaning, building shelters, hooking up solar panels, and more.

There was little formal organization. However, if you were a Native elder, people deferred to you. There was a sense of respect. Every female elder was called “Grandmother.”

Of the 100 to 200 people who were in that gym on any given day, only a handful of folks stayed at the gym; the vast majority were in camp, and they preferred to be in camp.

Ultimately the gym-cum-evacuation center was shut down because the city needed to take back the space to use for upcoming planned Christmas activities. So after one week, I headed out to the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the encampment that was closest to direct protest actions.

At the Oceti camp, there was a medic/healer council and section. There was an herbalist, midwives, mental health practitioners, EMTs, paramedics, social workers, body workers, nurses, and another new doctor.

It was not truly organized, and there was no medical supply chain. We didn’t always have resources needed to take care of people. You’d hope to catch people going into Bismarck and give them a list of things that were needed. People were taking back roads because the police had closed the highway. Those of us at Standing Rock had to take alternate routes to get to Bismarck.

Large numbers of donations were coming in, but because of the lack of organization, the donations often weren’t providing what was really needed. As an example, when news got out that the authorities were teargassing the water protectors, people started sending Mylanta, but we had bottles and bottles long after it wasn’t needed anymore. Or people sent heat packs that can’t be stored below certain temperatures and so were useless. We had a few supplies, but not necessarily the right amounts of the right things.

I saw people who willingly sacrificed treatments or medications they needed because there was such limited supply, in case “someone else needed it more.”

This also seemed so different from the real world.

The typical story was that the police would arrest people, strip them, and put them in buses with no heat, hence the hypothermia. There were reportedly beatings, and I saw lacerations and one woman who lost an eye to a rubber bullet. Many Americans can’t imagine the level of mistreatment that happened at Standing Rock—right here in the United States. We were witness to the courage of the protesters at Standing Rock as well as to the brutality of those sent to “protect us.” Three weeks at camp changed my life and informed my future activist activities.

The camp was one of the most soulfully powerful places I’ve ever been. I brought nothing to eat or drink, and every day people would bring me supplies and check on my well-being. There was such a strong sense of community.

Coming back was harder than I expected. In addition to witnessing difficult “this can’t be happening” experiences, I returned to hear from people in my life who seemed curious about my work there, but who didn’t really care about what was happening. But Standing Rock inspires me to continue.

Reprinted with permission from Road Map for Revolutionaries by Elisa Camahort Page, Carolyn Gerin, and Jamia Wilson, copyright © 2018. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House

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Elisa Camahort Page, Carolyn Gerin, Jamia Wilson, YES! Magazine

How the media's obsession with Trump helped Washington’s militarized global policies disappear into the shadows

2 days 23 hours ago
Trump looms over our lives, our planet, in a way no other human being ever has, not even a Joseph Stalin or a Mao Zedong, whose images were once plastered all over the Soviet Union and China.

Breaking News! -- as NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt often puts it when beginning his evening broadcast. Here, in summary, is my view of the news that’s breaking in the United States on just about any day of the week:

Trump. Trump. Trump. Trump. Trump.

Or rather (in the president’s style):

Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!!!!!!!!

Or here’s another way of thinking about the news unmediated -- a word that's gained new resonance in the age of The Donald -- by anyone but him: below you’ll find a set of run-on tweets from you-know-who to his base -- and by that I mean not just his American fans but "the Fake News Media" that treats such messages as the catnip of their twenty-first-century lives. These particular ones are from the afternoon of November 29th and the morning of November 30th @realDonaldTrump (mistakes and all). Consider it a wee sampling of the unmediated DJT (SAD!). However, given the desperately sped up all-Donald-all-the-time universe we live in, these -- being almost two weeks old -- are already ancient history, the equivalent of so many messages from Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, scratched in cuneiform on clay tablets:

“Just landed in Argentina with @FLOTUS Melania! #G20Summit. ‘This demonstrates the Robert Mueller and his partisans have no evidence, not a whiff of collusion, between Trump and the Russians. Russian project legal. Trump Tower meeting (son Don), perfectly legal. He wasn’t involved with hacking.’ Gregg Jarrett. A total Witch Hunt! Alan Dershowitz: ‘These are not crimes. He (Mueller) has no authority to be a roving Commissioner. I don’t see any evidence of crimes.’ This is an illegal Hoax that should be ended immediately. Mueller refuses to look at the real crimes on the other side. Where is the IG REPORT? Arrived in Argentina with a very busy two days planned. Important meetings scheduled throughout. Our great Country is extremely well represented. Will be very productive! Oh, I get it! I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly). Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail... Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!”

And so it goes in an America already preparing to sign off on 2018 in a blur of Trump.

Or think of the Trumpian news cycle as just a set of trigger names: Paul (pardon “not off the table”) Manafort, Michael (“very weak”) Cohen, Robert (“phony witch hunt”) Mueller, Mia (“gave me no love”) Love, Vladimir (“very, very strong”) Putin, Elizabeth (“Pocahontas”) Warren, Mohammed (“might have done it” ) bin Salman, Justin (“stabbed us in the back”) Trudeau, Emmanuel (“very insulting”) Macron, Rex ("dumb as a rock") Tillerson, James (“weak and untruthful slime ball”) Comey, Jim (“rude, terrible person”) Acosta, Roger (“guts”) Stone.

Or here are the names of the 13 New York Times reporters with bylines on pieces in some way related to Donald Trump and in that paper on the day after the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pled guilty to lying to Congress about a “potential Russian business deal during the presidential campaign”: Mike McIntire, Megan Twohey, Mark Mazzetti, Benjamin Weiser, Ben Protess, Maggie Haberman, Peter BakerDaniel Politi, David D. Kirkpatrick, Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere, Linda Qui, and David E. Sanger. And these six reporters were given credit for helping on one or more of the pieces those 13 were involved in producing: Katie Benner, Nicholas Fandos, Eileen Sullivan, William K. Rashbaum, Neil MacFarquhar, Matt Apuzzo, and Andrew Kramer. (And that’s not even including whoever wrote the unsigned editorial page column, “Why It Matters That Mr. Cohen Lied,” or Kitty Bennett who, according to a note, “contributed research” to one of those pieces.)

And if you’re not yet feeling satisfied that I’ve caught our Trumpian moment adequately, I could certainly launch into a list of the endless insults the president regularly tosses out at “the Fake News Media” and “the Clinton News Network” in the feeding frenzy that now passes for “the news” or I could simply offer you the most relevant insults he aimed at individual reporters -- mainly black ones -- on the week of November 5th. (“What a stupid question. What a stupid question. But I watch you a lot and you ask a lot of stupid questions.”) At this point, though, let me take pity on your souls. I suspect you’ve already got the gist of things. I have a feeling, in fact, that you already had it long before I ever put down a word of the above.

After all, as hard as it may still be to believe, HE looms over our lives, our planet, in a way no other human being ever has, not even a Joseph Stalin or a Mao Zedong, whose images were once plastered all over the Soviet Union and China. Even the staggering attention recently paid to an otherwise less than overwhelming dead president, one George H.W. Bush, could only have occurred because, in his relative diffidence, he seemed like the un-Trump of some long gone moment. The blanket coverage was, in other words, really just another version of Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!!!!!!!!

All in all, check off these first two presidential years of his as a bravura performance, which shouldn’t really surprise any of us. What was he, after all, but a whiz of a performer long before he hit the White House?  And what are we -- the media and the rest of us -- but (whether we like it or not, whether we care to be or not) his apprentices?

Now, for a little breaking news of another sort! Unbelievably enough, despite all evidence to the contrary, there’s still an actual world out there somewhere, even if Donald Trump’s shambling 72-year-old figure has thrown so much of it into shadow. I’m talking about a world -- or parts of it, anyway -- that doesn’t test well in focus groups and isn’t guaranteed, like this American president, to keep eyes eternally (or even faintly) glued to screens, a world that, in the age of Donald Trump, goes surprisingly unnoted and unnoticed.

So consider the rest of this piece the most minimalist partial rundown on, in particular, an American imperial world of war and preparations for the same, that is, but shouldn’t be, in the shadows; that shouldn’t be, but often is dealt with as if it existed on the far side of nowhere.

What We Don’t See

Let’s start with the only situation I can recall in which Donald Trump implicitly declared himself to be an apprentice. In the wake of the roadside-bomb deaths of three American soldiers in Afghanistan (a fourth would die later) -- neither Donald Trump nor anyone else in Washington gives a damn, of course, about the escalating numbers of dead Afghans, militaryand civilian -- the president expressed his condolences in an interview with the Washington Post. He then went on to explain why he (and so we) were still in Afghanistan (14,000 or so U.S. military personnel, a vast array of American air power, and nearly 27,000 private contractors). “We’re there,” he said, “because virtually every expert that I have and speak to say[s] if we don’t go there, they’re going to be fighting over here. And I’ve heard it over and over again.”

Those “experts” are undoubtedly from among the very crew who have, over the last 17-plus years, helped fight the war in Afghanistan to what top U.S. commanders now call a “stalemate,” which might otherwise be defined as the edge of defeat. In those years, before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office threatening to dump the longest war in American history, it had largely disappeared from American consciousness. So had much else about this country’s still-spreading wars and the still-growing war state that went with them.

In other words, none of what’s now happening in Afghanistan and elsewhere is either unique to, or even attributable to, the Trumpian moment. This president has merely brought to a head a process long underway in which America’s never-ending war on terror, which might more accurately be thought of as a war to spread terror, had long ago retreated to the far side of nowhere.

Similarly, the war state in Washington, funded in a fashion that no other set of countries on this planet even comes close to, and growing in preeminence, power, and influence by the year, continues to go largely unnoticed. Today, it is noted only in terms of Donald Trump, only to the degree that he blasts its members or former members for their attitudes toward him, only to the degree to which his followers denounce “the deep state."  Meanwhile, ex-CIA, ex-NSA, and ex-FBI officials he’s excoriated suddenly morph into so many liberal heroes to be all-but-worshipped for opposing him. What they did in the “service” of their country -- from overseeing torturewarrantless wiretappingwars, and drone assassinationprograms to directly intervening for the first time in an American election -- has been largely forgiven and forgotten, or even turned into bestsellerdom.

Yes, American troops (aka “warriors,” aka “heroes”) from the country’s all volunteer force, or AVF, continue to be eternally and effusively thanked for their service in distant war zones, including by a president who speaks of “my generals” and “my military.” However, that military has essentially become the U.S. equivalent of the French Foreign Legion, an imperial police force fighting wars in distant lands while most Americans obliviously go about their business.

And who these days spends any time thinking about America’s drone wars or the assassin-in-chief in the Oval Office who orders “targeted killings” across significant parts of the planet? Yes, if you happened to read a recent piece by Spencer Ackerman at the Daily Beast, you would know that, under President Trump, the already jacked-up drone strikes of the Obama era have been jacked-up again: 238 of them in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan alone in the first two years of Trump’s presidency (and that doesn't even include Libya). And keep in mind that those figures also don’t include far larger numbers of drone strikes in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The numbers of dead from such strikes (civilian as well as terrorist) are essentially of no interest here.

And here’s another crucial aspect of Washington’s militarized global policies that has almost completely disappeared into the shadows. If you read a recent piece by Nick Turse at the Intercept, you would know that, across the continent of Africa, the U.S. now has at least 34 military installations, ranging from small outposts to enormous, still expanding bases. To put this in the context of the much-ballyhooed new great power struggle on Planet Earth, the Chinese have one military base on that continent (in Djibouti near the biggest U.S. base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier) and the Russians none.

In the Greater Middle East, from Afghanistan to Turkey, though it’s hard to come up with a good count, the U.S. certainly has 50 or more significant garrisons (in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Oman, Qatar, and Turkey, among other places); Russia two (in Syria); and China none. In fact, never has any country garrisoned the planet in such an imperial and global fashion. The U.S. still has an estimated 800 or so military bases spread across the globe, ranging from tiny “lily pads” to garrisons the size of small American towns in what Chalmers Johnson once called its “empire of bases.” And the American high command is clearly still thinking about where further garrisons might go. As the Arctic, for instance, begins to melt big time, guess who’s moving in?

And yet, in the age of Trump, when on any given day the New York Times has scads of employees focused on the president, neither that paper nor any other mainstream media outlet finds it of interest to cover developments in that empire of bases. In other words, for the media as for the American public, one of the major ways this country presents itself to others, weapons in hand, essentially doesn’t exist.

The world as it is -- the world of those wars, those bases, and a national security state looming in its own unauditable fashion over the nation’s capital as well as the planet -- has essentially been obliterated from American life, except as it relates to one man. Only when he manically tweets, complains, insults, or comments about any of this, does it, or a cast of characters connected to it, briefly emerge from the shadows and become a modest part of American life.

“We Came, We Saw, He Died”

Donald Trump is hardly alone in this process of self-focused obliteration. Consider, for instance, the former first lady, senator, secretary of state, and failed presidential candidate whom the president still likes to call “crooked Hillary.” In a Guardian interview, she recently made headlines by offering a little unsolicited advice on right-wing populism to political figures on another continent. “I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame,” she said. “I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message -- ‘we are not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support’ -- because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.”

In other words, when it comes to dealing with the staggering number of displaced people on this planet, she had some words of wisdom for Europe’s leaders, but curiously -- or perhaps not so curiously at all -- there was a small personal connection she managed to avoid. When you look at where those refugees eager to flood Europe are coming from, the three countries that have led the list since 2014 are Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan; the fourth is Nigeria. In other words, refugees from the top three lands now creating a political crisis in Europe were displaced, at least in significant part, thanks to the American war on terror and the never-ending fallout from the 2003 Bush administration invasion of Iraq. Hillary Clinton, of course, backed that invasion big time as a senator and she was involved in all of those American wars as secretary of state.

In addition, Nigerian and other desperate African refugees heading north for possible nightmarish journeys across the Mediterranean normally pass through another war-torn catastrophe of a land. Its name should certainly ring a bell with the former secretary of state. After all, she infamously mocked the 2011 death of its autocratic ruler during a U.S./NATO military intervention she had promoted this way: “We came, we saw, he died.”

Think of that as the epitaph on the gravestone not just of the now-failed state and terrorist haven of Libya, but of the twenty-first-century Washington Dream of a world of successful American wars and of a planetary Pax Americana. In other words, given the last 17-plus years, there was nothing strange about the fact that Hillary Clinton offered advice to the Europeans (don’t let them in!), but not to us (get out!).

Or think of it this way: those shadows were there, obliterating much of a splintering and splinted world even before Donald Trump shambled into the Oval Office. In this century, Americans have been in something like a contest of avoidance when it came to what their country and the planet it garrisons were becoming. If anything, Donald J. Trump has only made that avoidance easier -- at least for the moment -- as his penumbra spreads ever more darkly across our land.

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Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch

With an impeachable Trump and Pence, are you ready for President Pelosi?

3 days ago
It seems like a remote possibility now, but the twists and turns of a major federal investigation could land us with a very different kind of president.

So, now that we know that Donald Trump and Mike Pence reached the White House through at least two specific and separate criminal conspiracies, what do we do about it?  

Can they be removed from office? Can the election be done over? Can the Trump/Pence administration’s actions over the past two years be reversed, particularly the appointments of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and all the damage to our federal agencies?

According to federal court filings last week from the Southern District of New York, and from the Special Counsel’s office, Donald Trump and Michael Cohen criminally conspired to hide from the American people the fact that Trump had sexual relations immediately after the birth of his son Baron with both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, and that his affair with McDougal lasted about a year.  

Had Republican voters known about those affairs long before Trump gained the momentum he did during the period of the cover-up, Trump wouldn’t have become the GOP’s nominee and would now be back to playing the roles of a faux billionaire and a reality TV star.

Similarly, those same court filings tell us that even after Trump won the GOP’s nomination for president, he continued to negotiate with the Russian government to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Presumably construction would begin right after he lost the election of 2016, which is fully what he expected: he hadn’t even bothered to write an acceptance speech.

That Moscow property would have brought him, according to the court filings, “hundreds of millions of dollars” in net revenues, probably more than any other project he’d ever engaged in. It would finally make him financially secure.

And, because it was going to be financed by a Russian bank that’s under sanctions, and both Cohen and Manafort were expecting to get a cut of the action, they led his campaign to corruptly change the GOP’s platform to go soft on the Russians. The goal was to end the sanctions so they could move forward with the Moscow construction right after the elections.

In exchange for Trump Tower Moscow, it appears that either Russian oligarchs (who were presumably in on the Trump Tower Moscow deal) and/or the Russian government itself (which quite reasonably wanted the sanctions lifted) set out, at Trump’s explicit and public request, to help Trump.  

They hacked the DNC and took down Hillary Clinton, both with the WikiLeaks revelations and a widespread social media campaign, which also constituted an illegal campaign contribution and further ensnared the Trump/Pence campaign in a campaign finance crime.

All of this adds up to Trump and Pence holding control of the Executive Branch of government fraudulently; the rightful claimant to the White House is Hillary Clinton, and the rightful claimant of Scalia’s SCOTUS seat is Merrick Garland.  

Trump not only knew about these frauds but, according to the court filings, directed at least the sexual cover-up.  We’re still waiting to hear the details of Trump’s involvement in altering the GOP’s platform to benefit the Russians, but it strains credulity that Trump didn’t know about this, if not being the force behind it.  

Meanwhile, Mike Pence – who ran the transition into the White House – either knew or, with even a small bit of competence and common sense, should have known but was looking the other way.  Thus, he’s complicit, legally and/or morally and politically.

We don’t yet know all the dirt that Mueller and company have on Trump, but just these two things that Trump successfully hid from the electorate – that he was porking porn stars and Playboy bunnies prior to the primaries, and that he was negotiating with the Russians right through the first half of the general election – mean that he committed two separate massive frauds to become president.  

If he had not committed that fraud, he would never have become the GOP nominee and, even if he had won the nomination through some inexplicable miracle, he and Pence would not have squeaked through the Electoral College with about 70,000 votes spread over three or four states. Hillary Clinton would be president, but for Trump and Pence’s fraud.

So, what do we do?

The Framers of the Constitution had such confidence in the “wise elders” of the Electoral College that they didn’t even envision such a scenario, so there’s no mention of such a situation in the Constitution.  And, while courts have ordered that elections be done over on numerous occasions all over the country, I can’t find a single case of that happening years after the initial election. (If you know of one, please let me know!)

As to solutions, it’s remotely possible that the election of Trump and Pence could be challenged in federal court.  

In the Federal District Court case of Donohue v Board of Elections (1976), Judge Mishler wrote in his decision that ordering a new election is within the purview of the courts, and that this has been done in the past.  He wrote:

“The point, however, is not that ordering a new Presidential election in New York State is beyond the equity jurisdiction of the federal courts. Protecting the integrity of elections, particularly Presidential contests, is essential to a free and democratic society. See United States v. Classic, supra.

“It is difficult to imagine a more damaging blow to public confidence in the electoral process than the election of a President whose margin of victory was provided by fraudulent registration or voting, ballot-stuffing or other illegal means. Indeed, entirely foreclosing injunctive relief in the federal courts would invite attempts to influence national elections by illegal means, particularly in those states where no statutory procedures are available for contesting general elections.

“Finally, federal courts in the past have not hesitated to take jurisdiction over constitutional challenges to the validity of local elections and, where necessary, order new elections. The fact that a national election might require judicial intervention, concomitantly implicating the interests of the entire nation, if anything, militates in favor of interpreting the equity jurisdiction of the federal courts to include challenges to Presidential elections.”

But this case from December 7, 1976 was a futile attempt by the GOP to prevent New York State from casting its electoral votes for Jimmy Carter (thus handing the presidency to Gerald Ford) before the swearing in of Carter in January, 1977; it wasn’t an effort to reverse an election that had already been decided and the candidate had been sworn into office.  

Additionally, such a case could take years and would certainly end up before the Supreme Court; given the current composition of the Supreme Court, it’s hard to imagine that they’d invalidate Trump’s “victory” and possibly remove two of their own from the Court.

But there is a constitutional route that can be taken by Congress, via impeachment.

In January, Nancy Pelosi will become the Speaker of the House.  As such, should the nation lose its president and vice-president to impeachment, we’d have President Pelosi.  It wouldn’t reverse the damage the GOP and Trump/Pence have done, but it would be a start.

The key is to illuminate Mike Pence’s role in Trump’s frauds, so both men succumb to impeachment in the House, and conviction and removal from office by the Senate.  

The level of criminality engaged in by Donald Trump, his family, his campaign, and his “fixer/lawyer” is broad and sweeping, consistent with lifetime patterns of criminality on all of their parts (and we still have more to learn).  

To imagine that Mike Pence didn’t know about this, or at least suspect it, is simply inconceivable, making him an accessory to those crimes – as well as being the principle secondary beneficiary of those crimes.

As evidence that Pence was complicit or knowledgeable, or should have been, comes to the fore, an impeachment effort must include both men.  The nation can no easier withstand the incompetence of a corrupt former right-wing talk show host (Pence) than a corrupt former reality TV star and real estate con man.

And that evidence must be strong enough that it’ll overcome the concerns of nearly a dozen Republican senators, so both Trump and Pence are removed from office.  

Nothing less than the integrity of our nation and the survival of democracy are at stake.

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Thom Hartmann, Independent Media Institute

Accused Russian spy poised to plead guilty in deal with prosecutors: report

3 days ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098594'; Click here for reuse options! Butina was indicted on charges that she acted as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian government.

Maria Butina, the alleged Russian agent who federal prosecutors say infiltrated the National Rifle Association (NRA) in order to gain access to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and members of the Republican Party, is preparing to enter a guilty plea—MSNBC reports.

JUST IN: Maria Butina, woman accused of being an unregistered foreign agent for Russia, will change her plea in a court hearing that is likely to be scheduled for this week, attorneys say in joint filing - @Tom_Winter

— MSNBC (@MSNBC) December 10, 2018

On July 17, Butina was indicted on charges that she acted as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian government. She pleaded not guilty. But according to MSNBC, Butina has changed her mind and will soon be entering a guilty plea in federal court.

On Twitter, Politico’s Kyle Cheney has posted a U.S. District Court memo requesting a “joint motion to set change of plea hearing.” The document noted that Butina and attorney A.J. Kramer are “available for a hearing” his Tuesday morning, Nov. 11.

It appears Maria BUTINA is about to plead guilty to ... something.

— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) December 10, 2018

The document states, “The parties have resolved this matter, and the defendant, Maria Butina, remains in custody.”

According to the Daily Caller, Butina’s boyfriend, GOP political operative Paul Erickson, allegedly contacted the Trump campaign in May 2016 to seek a meeting between Russian politician Alexander Torshin and Trump.

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Alex Henderson, AlterNet

A former evangelical explains the values she learned from Christianity — and why their secular counterparts are even more profound

3 days ago
"I can make my life meaningful through what I create and how I affect other lives.‌"

People who leave Evangelical Christianity often carry scars, either from their time in the walled community of believers or from their struggle to break free. Getting God’s self-appointed messengers out of your head can be the work of a lifetime, as Recovering from Religion hotline volunteers and therapists can attest; and religious communities can be cruel and unforgiving toward defectors, even when these defectors were once beloved. I’ve written about this with Dr. Marlene Winell, who has a full-time counseling practice with clients who are working to release toxic religious teachings and so reclaim their own thoughts, values and chosen purpose in life.

But no set of religious dogmas or community practices is all downside, and I found myself musing recently on a question that isn’t usually front and center for outspoken critics of religion like myself. What did I get from my time as an Evangelical that I still cherish? How did my former religion—either the years as a believer or the process of leaving, shape me in ways that I still appreciate today? What teachings or experiences do I still embrace and strive to carry forward?

Some of the things I appreciate most about my Christian experience are lessons taken from my exodus, but not all.

Gifts from Leaving
The gradual realization that my religion was laced with moral and rational contradictions and provably false claims ultimately made belief impossible for me. But that final break came only after years spent searching the scripture to bolster faith, witnessing to others, and even teaching Sunday school. Doubts and depression alternated with a sweet sense of God’s presence during worship. So, the implosion of faith left a profound sense of my own ability to be mistaken—an awe of how real things can feel when they are not. It left me permanently suspicious of simple answers and wary of groupthink. It tattooed a question onto the edge of my consciousness that never quite fades, no matter how bold my proclamations may sound: What if I’m wrong?

Knowing that wrong can feel so right gave me a deep respect for the scientific method, which has been called “What we know about how not to fool ourselves.” Hypothesis testing forces researchers to ask the questions that could show them wrong. That is why, though individual scientists and indeed whole generations may be mistaken, science is ultimately self-correcting. Scientists can be wrong, but they can’t be wrong for 2000 years.

I especially appreciate this hard-won perspective now that the political Right and Left in the U.S. seem so full of fervor. Some people earnestly proclaim that certitude is a virtue and behave as if righteous ends justify dishonest means. Well-intentioned tribes of activists eschew nuance or complexity, and treat requests for evidence as breaches of loyalty. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. Having been burned once, these dynamics feel all too familiar. I think that’s a good thing.

Gifts from My Sojourn as a Believer
Obviously, my Evangelical mentors never meant to inoculate me against fervor or certitude; quite the opposite. But they did actively work to instill some other attitudes and values that, in modified form, still define my better self.

  • A sense that issues of meaning and goodness are at the heart of what it means to live well.
    –Evangelical version: The meaning of life and definition of goodness can be found in the Bible.
    –Secular version: I can make my life meaningful through what I create and how I affect other lives.‌
  • Appreciation for community organized around shared values and sense of purpose.
    –Evangelical version: Our purpose is to worship God and save souls for heaven.
    –Secular version: My community works toward broad lasting wellbeing here on Earth.‌
  • A robust conscience.
    –Evangelical version: You are a sinner, forgiven but otherwise deserving of death. You should feel guilty when you break God’s commandments (as interpreted by your church).
    –Secular version: I should feel shame and guilt when I cause harm to sentient beings who are capable of feeling pleasure or pain, who have fears and desires just like I do.‌
  • Sensitivity to anti-Semitism.
    –Evangelical version: Jews are God’s chosen people.
    –Secular version: I stand guard because Jews are fully human—and vulnerable.‌
  • The conviction that if you believe something, you should do something about it.
    –Evangelical version: Go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
    –Secular version: Volunteer, advocate, write, march, vote.
  • A cultivated sense of wonder and reverence.
    –Evangelical version: God is great; singing his praises forever will be heaven, literally.
    –Secular version: The world is full of wonders great and small, intricate and expansive; they are all around if I pause to look and listen.‌

When outsiders hear the word Evangelical, what comes to mind often is dogmatic, insular, judgmental, sexist, homophobic, indifferent-to-evidence, anti-science, right-wing cultural imperialists. The world knows that American Evangelicals drove the election of Donald Trump, which carries a host of other ugly associations. In Latin America, conversions from Catholicism to Evangelicalism are seen as fueling the rise of far-right demagogues who are antagonistic to human rights, the needs of the poor and the mere survival of other species. In other words, the reputation of Evangelical Christianity is in the sewer, with reason.

Given this, it might seem ludicrous to suggest that, up close, most Evangelicals are decent people who sincerely think they are doing good in the world. But in my experience they are—which makes it even more painful to think about the harm many of my former co-religionists are doing in the name of God. The problem, as I see it, is this: If we want to make things better, being well-intentioned isn’t enough. We also have to understand the complicated cause-and-effect relationships that govern our world. Granting inerrancy to the decontextualized scribblings of Iron Age goatherds and conjurors just isn’t a good place to start.

But granting inerrancy to our own epic myths isn’t so great either. For those of us on the outside, living in the real world means—among other things—reminding ourselves that orcs and stormtroopers are fictional, scripted as all-bad so that we can enjoy the fantasy of them being obliterated en masse with nothing lost. It means conceding that people are complicated and most harm done in the world is done with righteous intent, which makes the problem harder to fix. It means living with the awareness that despite our own best intentions we may sometimes do harm when we want to do good—and that is true no matter what our journey into or out of faith.

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Valerie Tarico,

Supreme Court sides with Planned Parenthood after states try to cut off Medicaid funding

3 days ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098592'; Click here for reuse options! The 6-3 denial is a big victory for health care rights — for now.

On Monday, the Supreme Court denied appeal of two lower court rulings against state laws terminating Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood — leaving intact decisions that protected the provider in a victory for health care and reproductive rights activists.

The decision to deny certiorari was 6-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts and embattled new Justice Brett Kavanaugh siding with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, over the objections of Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch. It takes four justices to grant certiorari to a case.

The cases originate with Louisiana and Kansas' attempts to "defund" Planned Parenthood following the discredited 2015 video from anti-choice activist David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress, which was deceptively edited to make it look like Planned Parenthood technicians were selling the body parts of aborted embryos to medical researchers. Excluding Planned Parenthood from Medicaid would have serious consequences. 60 percent of Planned Parenthood patients rely on either Medicaid or Title IX grants to cover their cost, and 54 percent of Planned Parenthood clinics are in "health professional shortage areas, rural or medically underserved areas."

Health officials warned that excluding a qualified medical provider from a Medicaid contract solely based on politics is against federal law when Texas made a similar move. And the Fifth and Tenth Circuits subsequently ruled that Planned Parenthood and individual Medicaid recipients could challenge Louisiana and Kansas, and were likely to prevail in claims that terminating the contracts was illegal.

While this decision is good news, it does not mean Planned Parenthood is totally in the clear. Since the justices declined to review the decisions, rather than taking them up and affirming them, they did not create a nationwide precedent — and a separate lawsuit continues over Arkansas' attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, which the Eighth Circuit is currently allowing.

Nonetheless, women can breathe more easily after this ruling, and hope that, at least for now, it is a sign that the Court is wary of moving toward right-wing judicial fiat that the GOP has sought.

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Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

NYPD yanks baby from mother’s arms during confrontation at food stamp office: ‘They’re hurting my son!’

3 days 1 hour ago
A disturbing video shows New York City police officers trying to yank a 1-year-old child from his mother’s arms.

A disturbing video shows New York City police officers trying to yank a 1-year-old child from his mother’s arms during an incident at a social services office.

The boy’s mother, Jazmine Headley, had sat on the floor of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program office in Brooklyn because there were no available chairs, and another person called police after the 23-year-old mother argued with a security guard, reported the New York Post.

Another woman, Nyashia Ferguson, began recording video of the incident, and it begins with Headley lying on the floor and cradling her son as four officers — three of them women — surround her and her baby.

"They’re hurting my son! They’re hurting my son!” Headley shouts. One of the female officers then yanks the child from his mother’s arms, and then she waves as stun gun at onlookers — including several children. Department guidelines limit stun gun use to only people who are physically resisting being taken into custody, people who verbally state they will not be taken into custody, or people who are posing a danger to themselves or others.

The police department called the Friday incident “troubling,” and said officers had responded to a 911 call for harassment after security guards said Headley refused to leave.

Police said Headley had refused to leave and was endangering her child, who was later placed in the care of a relative.

Headley was charged with resisting arrest, acting in a manner injurious to a child, obstructing governmental administration and trespassing, and she remained in jail Sunday at Rikers Island, where she is being held without bond.

Police are investigating the incident, and all the officers involved remain on full-duty status.

Ferguson, who recorded the incident and posted video on social media, said police made the situation worse and said the officer who waved the stun gun had forced Headley to the ground.

“They’re always rude,” Ferguson told the New York Times. “They think that people that are poor don’t have nothing, so you can treat them any kind of way.

Ferguson said the young mother had been sitting on the floor for two hours as she waited for assistance in the crowded office, and she said security guards taunted Headley after she complained about the wait.

Being poor is not a crime,” said Letitia James, the city’s city’s public advocate and state’s attorney general-elect. “No mother should have to experience the trauma and humiliation we all witnessed in this video.


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Travis Gettys, Raw Story

Former FBI Director James Comey: Trump would be 'in serious jeopardy of being charged' if he wasn't the president

3 days 1 hour ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098588'; Click here for reuse options! The former FBI director answered the question on everyone's mind.

The latest court filings against President Donald Trump's former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen directly implicate Trump in the scheme to pay off women he slept with ahead of the 2016 presidential election — which prosecutors with the Southern District of New York say constitutes a federal crime.

This raises the a huge question: did Trump himself commit a felony?

According to former FBI Director James Comey in an interview with NBC's Kasie Hunt, it is unclear — but Trump should count himself lucky he is president right now.

"Is the President of the United States right now an unindicted co-conspirator?" asked Hunt.

"We don't know," said Comey, who was famously fired by Trump last year in an attempt to shut down the Russia investigation. "Not in the formal sense that he's been named in an indictment, where you could actually say that this defendant and named others, or others by pseudonym, conspired together, and that's how you formally name someone as an unindicted co-conspirator. But if he's not there, then he's certainly close, given the language in the indictment, in the filing that the crimes were committed at his direction."

"So if Trump wasn't the president, someone went to court, Southern District of New York, sponsored information that they directed a crime, what would happen to that person?" asked Hunt.

"Well, that person would be in serious jeopardy of being charged," said Comey. "Because the government wouldn't make that sponsoring allegation if they weren't seriously contemplating going forward with criminal charges. Now, where it stands here I can't say."

Watch below:

Jim Comey on MSNBC at the 92nd Street Y said that Trump would be "in serious jeopardy of being charged” if he wasn’t president.

— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) December 10, 2018

The indictment of a sitting president is uncharted territory. A 1973 memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, and cited in subsequent DOJ opinions, argues the president cannot be indicted, only impeached, and Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani has claimed special counsel Robert Mueller told him he intends to honor this precedent. But the Constitution is not actually clear on this, and it has never been tried in court. Making matters even more complicated, federal prosecutors reportedly think the statute of limitations would allow Trump to be prosecuted as a private citizen in 2021 if he loses reelection in 2020.

Regardless of what happens next, the country finds itself in an extraordinary situation due to Trump's reckless disregard for the law — and the American people deserve accountability.

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Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Ex-CIA Director John Brennan nails Trump: ‘Impossible for you to escape justice’

3 days 1 hour ago
Trump's unhinged Mueller attack shows signs of hot water.

Former CIA Director John Brennan on Monday fired back at President Donald Trump over his latest tweet attacking the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

After Trump claimed that there is no “smocking gun” proving his campaign conspired with Russian officials, Brennan responded by gloating that the president must know he’s in deep legal jeopardy to post such frantic and misspelled messages on social media.

“Whenever you send out such inane tweets, I take great solace in knowing that you realize how much trouble you are in and how impossible it will be for you to escape American justice,” Brennan wrote. “Mostly, I am relieved that you will never have the opportunity to run for public office again.”

Earlier this year, the Trump White House revoked Brennan’s security clearance on the grounds that the former CIA chief was trying to “sow division and chaos” with his criticisms of the president.

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Brad Reed, Raw Story

Legal experts and prosecutors dismantle Trump's claim his secret payment to Stormy Daniels was a 'simple private transaction'

3 days 1 hour ago
What the president claims was no big deal, say critics, was actually a very clear campaign violation and at least one member of Congress says they "certainly" could be "impeachable offenses"

Legal experts and prosecutors are pushing back against the claim President Donald Trump made early Monday morning when he said his secret payments to silence women claiming extramarital sexual affairs with him were nothing more than a "simple private transaction."

Trump was referring to the recent court filings involving his former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and the revelations that Cohen, at the order of the president, created payment schemes to get both porn actor Stormy Daniels and former playboy model Karen McDougal to be quiet about the affairs they claim to have had with Trump while he was married to First Lady Melania Trump. Trump has denied the affairs, but previously pretended not to know anything about the payments.

Trump calls creating a shell company to pay off a porn star from disclosing an extramarital affair weeks before a presidential election a "simple private transaction."

It's also *smoking gun.

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 10, 2018

New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg noted in response to Trump's morning tweet, "In Stormy Daniels/Karen McDougal hush $ deals prosecutors didn’t see 'simple transactions,' they saw a brazen effort to deceive the voting public through illegal means meant to hide that deception from campaign disclosure requirements."

As Reuters notes in its reporting on the president's claim, "Under U.S. law, campaign contributions, defined as things of value given to a campaign to influence an election, must be disclosed. Such payments are also limited to $2,700 per person."

According to a Saturday column in the Times by government watchdog experts Barry Berke, Noah Bookbinder and Norman Eisen, the sentencing memos released last week are, in fact, quite damaging to Trump and put him at legal risk:

The Trump Organization’s reimbursements to Mr. Cohen for payments were fraudulently disguised as legal fees — and, according to the memo, were approved by senior executives at the organization. The New York prosecutors also disclosed that they are investigating additional unspecified matters involving Mr. Cohen and, presumably, the Trump Organization. In light of these disclosures, the likelihood that the company and the Trump campaign face charges is now high. 

Although President Trump may avoid a similar fate because the Justice Department is unlikely to indict a sitting president, he could be named as an unindicted co-conspirator, as was President Richard Nixon, or charged if he leaves office before the statute of limitations runs out (most likely in 2022).

"Contrary to the president's claim that all of this 'totally clears' him," the trio of legal experts wrote, "the danger to Mr. Trump, his business and his campaign has compounded significantly."

In response to Trump's morning tweet on Monday, the Washington Post reports that "prosecutors disagree" with the president's latest claim:

In morning tweets, Trump says payments to silence women were a "simple private transaction," not illegal campaign contributions.

Prosecutors disagree.

— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 10, 2018

Appearing on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday morning, Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-NY) said that what Cohen is alleging transpired during the 2016 campaign in terms of Trump's personal payments to the women would be a clear campaign law violation and could be grounds for impeachment:

Rep. Jerry Nadler: Illegal payments would "certainly" be "impeachable offenses" if directed by President Trump

— The Hill (@thehill) December 10, 2018
Jon Queally, Common Dreams

Harvard law professor issues scathing takedown of DOJ policy that bars prosecutors from indicting a sitting president

3 days 1 hour ago
This Harvard law professor believes Trump can be indicted and should be.

Laurence Tribe is a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School. He's argued cases before the Supreme Court 36 times,  and he's taught students who went on to become U.S. Senators, Supreme Court justices, and even a U.S. President. Among them, Barack Obama, John Roberts, Elena Kagan, and Ted Cruz.

And he's become an outspoke critic of President Donald Trump.

Tribe is going after the Justice Department's policy – which is not law and not in the Constitution – that bars prosecutors from moving to have a sitting U.S. President indicted by a grand jury.

He made the case back in May.

"Nothing" in the "text, structure, or history" of the U.S. Constitution says a sitting President cannot be indicted, Tribe said: "Some people claim that, even if Rosenstein gives Mueller permission to indict Trump as DOJ rules allow, the Constitution forbids such indictment. No! Nothing in its text, structure, or history supports that 'POTUS-is- above-the-law' view, nor does any SCOTUS precedent support it."

Back in August, suggesting Michael Cohen's guilty plea means Trump is equally guilty, Tribe said Trump's crimes are both impeachable and indictable offenses:

And Monday morning, Tribe issued perhaps the best example yet – ironic, too, after Trump claimed he could "stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody" and "wouldn't lose voters."

Here's what Tribe says would happen if Trump, indeed, tested his own claim:

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David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

InfoWars conspiracy theorist threatened by Russia probe files ridiculous lawsuit accusing Mueller of blackmail

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var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098583'; Click here for reuse options! His lawyer's complaints against the special counsel are barely a step above gibberish.

On Sunday evening, POLITICO reported that Jerome Corsi, the Birther conspiracy theorist and former InfoWars writer who allegedly helped President Donald Trump's campaign adviser Roger Stone in his collaboration with WikiLeaks to disseminate Russian-hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign, has filed a $350 million lawsuit against special counsel Robert Mueller.

Corsi's lawsuit alleges that "Mueller and his partisan Democrat, leftist, and ethically and legally conflicted prosecutorial staff" leaked information from grand jury proceedings, illegally surveilled Corsi, and attempted to blackmail him into lying as part of a "legal coup d'etat" against Trump:

"Defendant Mueller and his prosecutorial staff have demanded that Plaintiff Corsi falsely testify that he acted as a liaison between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange concerning the public release of emails downloaded from the DNC's servers," the complaint says.

Corsi is demanding $100 million in actual damages and $250 million in punitive damages for injury to his reputation.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, is just the latest maneuver in a public campaign against Mueller by Corsi and his attorneys. Last month, they gave reporters copies of draft court documents showing that Mueller wanted Corsi to plead guilty to a false statements charge.

The lawsuit is ridiculous on the face of it. Quite apart from offering no evidence for Corsi's claims against Mueller, the lawsuit contradicts Corsi's own statements about his involvement in the investigation, gets Election Day wrong, and accuses Mueller of violating Section 702 of the "Foreign Sovereignties Immunity Act," which does not exist.

This move is the latest in a series of stunts that appear suited more to garner sympathy with Trump's base than with federal judges.

Corsi's lead attorney Larry Klayman, a far-right legal activist who tried to make a citizen's arrest of President Barack Obama and claimed Democrats paid off the Florida pipe bomber, seems to be giving Corsi terrible legal advice. Last week, on Corsi's request, Klayman filed a "criminal complaint" against Mueller for false statements, extortion, and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. At no point does Klayman seem to have informed his client that private citizens can't file criminal complaints with the federal government — only U.S. attorneys can do that.

Corsi made a personal decision to refuse the plea bargain Mueller reportedly offered him. Now, given the way things are going with his legal defense, his prediction on MSNBC that he "might die in jail" is looking entirely plausible.

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Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

It's not just Silicon Valley: Here's the history behind imperialistic technology that's permeated the Bay Area for 500 years

3 days 2 hours ago
Long before Silicon Valley colonized our minds, the Spanish forced their technological logic on the Ohlone natives.

Excerpted from “A People’s History of Silicon Valley: How the Tech Industry Exploits Workers, Erodes Privacy and Undermines Democracy,” by Keith A. Spencer, on sale now from major booksellers. © 2018 Eyewear Publishing. Reprinted with permission.

Though Silicon Valley is regarded as one of the most affluent, productive economic centers on the planet, it is hard to imagine a more generic landscape. Wall Street, that other great American economic hub, is situated in the downtown of the densest, most bustling cultural center in the United States. In contrast, much of Silicon Valley looks like any affluent American suburb: Wide-set streets lined with deciduous trees, cookie-cutter tract houses, generic strip malls populated by corporate franchises, an anemic public transit system, vast parking lots and six-lane expressways. Local critic Rebecca Solnit once wrote that “finding the landscape of Silicon Valley isn’t as easy as getting lost among the subdivisions and freeway exits and industrial parks.” Indeed, Silicon Valley is a great place to raise a car.

Many of the most valuable tech companies in the world squirrel themselves away in bland industrial parks, surrounded by asphalt and manicured trees — a far cry from the towering skyscrapers that house America’s industrial titans in cities like Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. This stretch of car-choked suburbia, extending from South San Francisco to Cupertino, is home to some of the most celebrated whiz-kid capitalists of our generation: Apple’s Steves (Jobs and Wozniak), Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison all built their fortunes driving up and down the 101 freeway that runs along the axis of this region, whose epicenter sits, appropriately, at Stanford University.

If you’re familiar with the billionaires listed above, you might notice something peculiar: most of them are white. And men. This is not random chance: Silicon Valley produces a lot of wealth, but the spoils are directed towards those who resemble these people, culturally and ethnically; 70% of the tech industry is male. At the four biggest tech companies, Hispanics and blacks only make up 9% of the workforce. And throughout the whole industry, women tend to make a lot less than men: in fact, the gender pay gap in Silicon Valley is much worse than it is in the country at large.

All tech companies speak enthusiastically and often about “diversity” and the need for diversity, and yet it seems perpetually as if the Valley’s diversity problem is incapable of being solved by a few well-planned corporate initiatives. That’s because there are historical reasons for the composition and exclusion of certain castes of people in Silicon Valley, and these reasons date back to when Northern California was first settled by Europeans.

Before Colonization

We think of “technology” as something universal, a concept connected to all cultures and civilizations, but in fact that is not the case. It is an idea—and a relatively new idea at that, having not achieved its modern meaning until the Industrial Revolution. The word “technology” derives from the Greek “techne” —  meaning art or craftsmanship — and, true to its Greek origin, it is a European concept.

Nowadays, the idea of technology is tied a notion of progress: we all take for granted that that technology exists on a scale of constant improvement and reinvention. We must cast aside old technologies in favor of consuming new ones. Those with better technology are more advanced than those with lesser technology. Philosophers Jacques Ellul and Martin Heidegger described technology as a “cultural system that restructures the entire social world as an object of control.” In other words, technology is not merely a built world of things—a device, or a piece of software, or a cotton gin—but a system of thinking, and one with the potential to take over, like an infection. To paraphrase philosopher Andrew Feenberg:

[Technology] is characterized by an expansive dynamic which ultimately overtakes every pretechnological enclave and shapes the whole of social life. The instrumentalization of society is thus a destiny from which there is no escape other than retreat. Only a return to tradition or simplicity offers an alternative to the juggernaut of progress.

If you study the history of what is now called Silicon Valley, you can see how this rings true. There was a point in time, before colonization, when the San Francisco Bay Area was dominated by a people with a way of life and philosophy that did not revolve around technology or technological improvement. One might argue that the colonization of California by Europeans marked the first of many historical moments that the people of the Bay Area would undergo a cultural “restructuring” to fit a technological doctrine.

Five hundred years ago, this swath of Northern California was populated by the Ohlone peoples, about 10,000 of whom lived in the stretch of land that we call the San Francisco Bay Area. So rich in plant and animal life was this region that the Ohlone were able to survive without farming or animal domestication; indeed, Western explorers, when they eventually arrived, were amazed at the quantity of wild animal life.

The Ohlone lived off acorns from all the different varieties of oaks, blackberries and gooseberries, chia, shellfish, and the roots of many plants. They hunted squirrels, rabbits, elk, bear, whale, otter and seal. They did not “farm” in the Western sense of the word, though they had a complex knowledge of how to use controlled burns to cultivate plant and animal food sources.

Though they are called Ohlone now, at the time they did not think of themselves as a contiguous group: There were at least eight different languages between their small tribelets, each one spoken by about a thousand people. One might walk twenty miles and be unable to understand the local tongue. Their laissez-faire social relationships were alien to the hierarchy-obsessed Spanish missionaries, who commented that “in their pagan state no superiority of any kind was recognized.” Likewise, the Ohlone lived in a communal society—which vaguely resembled a gift economy—that shocked the missionaries. “They give away all they have… [and] whoever reached their dwelling is at once offered the food they possess,” one missionary said.

There was no obvious form of government. Status and competition were unimportant to the Ohlone; generosity and family were. This led early missionaries, who were subject to powerful governments, to conclude that the Ohlone lived in “anarchy.”

The Ohlone peoples had a very different relationship with animals than the Europeans. Predators like foxes, bobcats, mountain lions and coyote were plentiful, yet coexisted peacefully with the Ohlone. “Animals seem to have lost their fear and become familiar with man,” said Frederick William Beechey, an English captain. It has been suggested that as the European colonizers openly hunted and killed easy game over several generations, animals adapted to the presence of gun-toting hunters and learned to keep their distance. “We take it entirely for granted that animals are naturally secretive and afraid of our presence,” wrote historian Malcolm Margolin, “but for [the Ohlone] who lived here before us, that was simply not the case.”

In the late 18th century, the newly-arriving Spanish quickly set up missions in California, and began forcibly taking Ohlone subjects into the missions — ostensibly to convert them. Yet the Ohlone were held against their will and forced to labor for the Spanish, who separated men and women and lashed and hit them when they refused to act as the missionaries pleased. One firsthand account describes the Spanish missions as indistinguishable from slave plantations. In addition to violence against the Ohlone, the missionaries brought measles and other diseases with them, which killed many Ohlone independently. Various epidemics in the 1790s killed hundreds at Mission San Francisco and Mission Santa Clara. And over the course of the 19th century, the native population of California dropped from an estimated 310,000 to 100,000. This mirrors what was happening in the rest of North America: there were an estimated 10 million American Indians living “north of Mexico” when Columbus arrived, a number that eventually fell to less than one million.As the Spanish established their Missions, they also imposed their technological ideals on the land.

By 1777, Mission Santa Clara (in present-day Santa Clara, California, now home to the Intel Corporation) had a farming and livestock operation that included pigs, chickens, goats, roosters, corn and wheat, mostly non-native species. Despite re-shaping the landscape to their technological whims, the missionaries were surprised at how the Ohlone continued to “nourish themselves” on acorns, trout, and other wild harvests. The Spanish did not understand why the Ohlone did not have reverence for their “superior” systems. “For one who has not seen it, it is impossible to form an idea of the attachment of these poor creatures for the forest,” wrote Basque missionary Fermín Francisco de Lasuén. “[Outside the Mission] they are without a roof, without shade, without food, without medicine, and without any help. Here they have all of these things to their heart’s content. Here the number who die is much less than there. They see all this, and yet they yearn for the forest.” It was unfathomable to missionaries like Lasuén that the Ohlone might prefer a world without the rigid hierarchies and controlling attitude towards nature that the Europeans possessed.

The differences between the Ohlone and the Spanish ways of life reveal the contradictions inherent to our present-day idea of “technology.” To borrow the Silicon Valley business-speak of today, who possessed more advanced technology? The Ohlone or the Spanish? Who was more innovative? The deep knowledge of the maintenance of the landscape, and the communal lifestyles enjoyed by the Ohlone, meant that the Bay Area remained in a relatively stable ecological state for a thousand years. The incursion of the colonizers disrupted this; they imposed their technological whims and their agricultural logic on the landscape and enslaved and exploited the Ohlone. You can no longer survive in the Bay Area on acorns and wild trout and blackberries, as the Ohlone did; much of the plant and animal life has been extirpated to make way for Western civilization.

Hence, the notion that the Spanish were more “advanced,” technologically-speaking, is arguable. As I write this in 2018, I am reminded of a recent news story about a newly-released consumer product called the “Juicero.” The Juicero is a $400 juicer whose parent company is backed by $120 million in investment capital, including money from Google. It is a Wi-Fi–enable juicer that connects to the Internet to inform you of your juice’s origin as you drink. Despite being called a juicer, it doesn’t really juice anything; you can’t drop a carrot, apple, or orange inside it. It can only make juice by wringing out proprietary, pre-sealed packages shipped by the company to consumers. A mini-scandal erupted after a Bloomberg reporter discovered that one could use one’s hands to wring juice out of the proprietary juice packs, and fill a glass with juice much faster than the machine can. Shortly thereafter, the company ran out of money and shut down.

Human hands are not generally thought of as particularly high-tech. But in this case, they were, from a technological standpoint, superior to the $400 Juicero.

The Juicero saga attests to the fact that sometimes technology doesn’t make us more advanced, or intelligent, or make our lives better or faster at all. Sometimes it merely makes us dependent on new, more resource-intensive systems, while casting aside those that are incompatible with so-called economic logic.

Excerpted with permission from “A People’s History of Silicon Valley: How the Tech Industry Exploits Workers, Erodes Privacy and Undermines Democracy,” by Keith A. Spencer, available now from major booksellers. © 2018 Eyewear Publishing.



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Keith A. Spencer, Salon

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat claims WASPs were better rulers — and longs to restore the white elite

3 days 3 hours ago
Columnist sneers at diversity and claims the WASPs were better rulers.

The president of the United States is a larger than life figure. As seen with George H.W. Bush, this is even more true in death.

The senior President Bush, who died last week, is now the subject of hagiographies that depict him as humble, kind and decent: A leader and man whose life was committed to public service, an exemplary human being and role model of civility in an ugly and tumultuously partisan America.

In the age of Donald Trump, George Herbert Walker Bush has taken on new significance. It can appear as if for every way that Trump befouls the presidency and the White House, the elder Bush elevated it.

Bush's critics have refused to play along with that script, instead highlighting the late president's many shortcomings. These include the race-baiting of the infamous 1988 "Willie Horton" campaign ad, lack of empathy for AIDS victims, efforts to restrict women's reproductive rights, the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, usurping the Constitution in the Iran-Contra scandal, fueling the racist and classist "War on Drugs," defaming the family, personal character and patriotism of Bill Clinton and others who opposed him, and providing cover and support for human rights abuses and crimes in Latin America, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

But some observers have chosen to see something else in the George H.W. Bush's life.

Writing at the New York Times, resident right-wing provocateur and troll Ross Douthat sees in George H.W. Bush a scion of whiteness, a royal heir to a WASP culture that Douthat believes can heal America's wounds and make a better future by looking to the past.

In "Why We Miss the WASPs," Douthat describes "Bush nostalgia" as:

a longing for something America used to have and doesn’t really any more — a ruling class that was widely (not universally, but more widely than today) deemed legitimate, and that inspired various kinds of trust (intergenerational, institutional) conspicuously absent in our society today.

Put simply, Americans miss Bush because we miss the WASPs — because we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well.

Douthat's argument is built on less than a foundation of sand or mud. It floats on swamp gas. His claim of a decline in WASP culture is based on a fictionalized version of benign whiteness and noblesse oblige. This is the worst sort of nostalgia.

Here are The facts.

According to the Census Bureau, just over 60 percent of Americans are classified as "non-Hispanic white." Around 80 percent of members of Congress are white. All presidents except one have been white. On a state level, 92 percent of governors are white and 85 percent of state legislators are white. The CEOs of the Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies are almost all white. Since before the founding of America and through to the present, white people have controlled every major social, political, and cultural institution in the country.

Perhaps Douthat and others who worship WASP elites as the rightful leaders of the country believe that group to be great stewards of American prosperity?

The facts again are unkind. During the last few decades (and centuries) of their leadership wealth and income inequality have skyrocketed. Americans' lifespans are decreasing, loneliness has increased and "deaths of despair" -- largely referring to suicide, drug overdose and alcohol-related disease -- are ravaging many parts of America.

How does this WASP leadership class share its power and influence to the betterment of society?

They do not. Like other elites, Douthat's beloved WASP caste largely protects its own power and social capital. It hoards opportunities and resources within its exclusive  clubs, neighborhoods, schools, places of employment and other social institutions.

This myth of a great white Anglo-Saxon leadership class is also sustained by a culture where the very powerful -- especially rich white conservative Christian men -- are rarely if ever punished for their crimes and other failings.

Writing at the Baffler, Jim Newell explains how this culture of WASP entitlement and superiority is reinforced at elite institutions like Harvard University:

It’s not as though Harvard lacks for alums whom the institution should be ashamed to be associated with, or who have befouled “the public perception of integrity in higher education.”

There was former Harvard President, Treasury Secretary, and deregulator extraordinaire Larry Summers; there was Summers’s predecessor at Treasury and mentor in the intricate art of fucking up global economies of weaker nations for no good reason, Robert Rubin (AB ’60 and member of the Corporation, Harvard’s governing body); there was the CEO of America’s most ruthless megabank (“the smart ones,” in financial expert circles), Lloyd Blankfein (AB ’75, JD ’78); and then there were approximately 100 percent of the other key figures who engineered this wholly preventable near-reversion to the state of nature — all Crimson men with at least one tour of duty.

The university offers no protest as these apocalypse machinists drop John Harvard’s name in their pursuit of sinecures atop whatever remaining elite institutions and systems they have yet to destroy; instead, it covers them with laurels and showers them with money.

But Douthat does something special in "Why We Miss the WASPs." He takes a silent aspect of conservatism in post-civil rights America and chooses to say it loud and clear. The "white" in WASP is then followed by: "we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well." Then Douthat continues:

So if some of the elder Bush’s mourners wish we still had a WASP establishment, their desire probably reflects a belated realization that certain of the old establishment’s vices were inherent to any elite, that meritocracy creates its own forms of exclusion — and that the WASPs had virtues that their successors have failed to inherit or revive.

Those virtues included a spirit of noblesse oblige and personal austerity and piety that went beyond the thank-you notes and boat shoes and prep school chapel going — a spirit that trained the most privileged children for service, not just success, that sent men like Bush into combat alongside the sons of farmers and mechanics in the same way that it sent missionaries and diplomats abroad in the service of their churches and their country.

The WASP virtues also included a cosmopolitanism that was often more authentic than our own performative variety — a cosmopolitanism that coexisted with white man’s burden racism but also sometimes transcended it, because for every Brahmin bigot there was an Arabist or China hand or Hispanophile who understood the non-American world better than some of today’s shallow multiculturalists.

Notice that for Douthat, the first-person plural, as in "our own performative variety," describes white people of a certain educational and class background. In his view, America's multiracial democracy and by implication nonwhite people -- especially African-Americans, given the country's history of white-on-black chattel slavery -- are defective and inferior, incapable by virtue of either biology and culture or some mix of the two of being equal participants in a proper democracy.

Conservatives and others invested in Douthat's fantasies of Whiteness and America's idealized past treat history like a buffet where they pick the good and tasty morsels and leave aside anything they find distasteful and unpleasant. Consequently, racism, sexism, bigotry against gays and lesbians, nativism, violence, anti-Semitism and other socially pathological behavior is largely ignored except as footnotes to a story of WASP goodness and American triumph, rather than as key elements in how White America and WASP power was created and sustained.

The reality is that the WASP power Douthat remembers longingly was enriched by Jim and Jane Crow, redlining, housing segregation and other white supremacist public policies, as well as by informal day-to-day practices. On a basic level, "sundown towns" and other exclusive all-white communities were a way of stealing and expanding white wealth at the literal expense of nonwhites.

It was not just the stereotypical white rabble which ran amok, killing and terrorizing black Americans after the Civil War and through to the middle of the 20th century. The white Anglo-Saxon elites whom Douthat idolizes participated in, encouraged, legitimated and profited from racial terrorism against black Americans and other nonwhites.

Doctors, lawyers, bankers and other members of "polite" white society were members of the Ku Klux Klan. This was especially true during the height of that terrorist group's power in the 1920s.

At the Atlantic, Joshua Rothman explains:

Typical [Klan] members were neither wealthy and powerful nor impoverished and dispossessed. Rather, they were middle-class white American men and their families: small-business owners and salesmen, ministers and professors, clerks and farmers, doctors and lawyers.

Klan members showed up in churches on Sunday mornings to donate money and they ran charity drives. They threw Christmas parties for orphans and raised money to build Protestant-only hospitals. They made efforts to fight supposed Catholic influence in public schools by donating American flags and Bibles. They created special Klan rites for wedding ceremonies, christenings, and funerals. They ran candidates for hundreds of state and local offices, and Americans elected countless Klan members as mayors, school-board and city-council members, sheriffs, and state legislators. Klan officeholders in particularly prominent and powerful positions included Governors Edward Jackson of Indiana and Clifford Walker of Georgia, as well as U.S. Senators Earle Mayfield of Texas and Rice Means of Colorado.

For every Klansman who joined for the opportunity to bully, threaten, and beat blacks, immigrants, and adulterers, there were dozens attracted by these sorts of avenues for communal and civic engagement, for forging business and political connections to other middle-class white people, and for the chance to be publicly proud of being white, Protestant, and a native-born American.

Typical [Klan] members were neither wealthy and powerful nor impoverished and dispossessed. Rather, they were middle-class white American men and their families: small-business owners and salesmen, ministers and professors, clerks and farmers, doctors and lawyers. ...

Klan members showed up in churches on Sunday mornings to donate money and they ran charity drives. They threw Christmas parties for orphans and raised money to build Protestant-only hospitals. They made efforts to fight supposed Catholic influence in public schools by donating American flags and Bibles. They created special Klan rites for wedding ceremonies, christenings, and funerals. They ran candidates for hundreds of state and local offices, and Americans elected countless Klan members as mayors, school-board and city-council members, sheriffs, and state legislators. Klan officeholders in particularly prominent and powerful positions included Governors Edward Jackson of Indiana and Clifford Walker of Georgia, as well as U.S. Senators Earle Mayfield of Texas and Rice Means of Colorado.

For every Klansman who joined for the opportunity to bully, threaten, and beat blacks, immigrants, and adulterers, there were dozens attracted by these sorts of avenues for communal and civic engagement, for forging business and political connections to other middle-class white people, and for the chance to be publicly proud of being white, Protestant, and a native-born American.

More often than not, white women and girls in those WASP households were not the natural allies of black and brown women. They could be as cruel as their husbands, fathers, brothers or sons.

The history of the global color line is also the history of resistance and fighting for a more equal and real American democracy. Black maids and washerwomen and those "men named George" were leaders and soldiers in the civil rights movement. White America and its WASP leaders convinced themselves that the "happy" and/or stoic black mask was real; the arrogance of the white gaze blinded them to the fire and rage beneath.

Paul Laurence Dunbar channeled this is in his poem "We Wear the Mask":

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

The resistance struggles and social movements that have sought to force American democracy to live up to its potential is one of the many gifts that black people and other nonwhites have given to America. These successes of black and brown people and their white allies forged an America that is more dynamic, prosperous, innovative and free for all people than had it remained a country of, for, and by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

Douthat is not alone in his white supremacist yearnings: one of the most important social science research studies in recent memory shows that white Americans -- especially Republicans and Trump voters -- are willing to jettison democracy to preserve white privilege and white dominance in America.

Douthat and other conservatives of his ilk claim to reject Trumpism. But on a fundamental level they share the same racist and authoritarian yearnings. Ultimately, it is Trump's style and presentation which is the problem for the Douthats of the world. They prefer their white supremacy polite, gracious and properly attired for cocktails at the club, rather than as MAGA-hat-wearing "deplorables."


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'Theology of the Antichrist': A closer look at the heresy of white Christianity

3 days 3 hours ago
James H. Cone, the father of black liberation theology, understood that the privileged can never grasp religion's true essence.

There are, as Cornel West has pointed out, only two African-Americans who rose from dirt-poor poverty to the highest levels of American intellectual life—the writer Richard Wright and the radical theologian James H. Cone.

Cone, who died in April, grew up in segregated Bearden, Ark., the impoverished son of a woodcutter who had only a sixth-grade education. With an almost superhuman will, Cone clawed his way up from the Arkansas cotton fields to implode theological studies in the United States with his withering critique of the white supremacy and racism inherent within the white, liberal Christian church. His brilliance—he was a Greek scholar and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Swiss theologian Karl Barth—enabled him to “turn the white man’s theology against him and make it speak for the liberation of black people.” God’s revelation in America, he understood, “was found among poor black people.” Privileged white Christianity and its theology were “heresy.” He was, until the end of his life, possessed by what the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called “sublime madness.” His insights, he writes, “came to me as if revealed by the spirits of my ancestors long dead but now coming alive to haunt and torment the descendants of the whites who had killed them.”

“When it became clear to me that Jesus was not biologically white and that white scholars actually lied by not telling people who he really was, I stopped trusting anything they said,” he writes in his posthumous memoir, “Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian,” published in October.

“White supremacy is America’s original sin and liberation is the Bible’s central message,” he writes in his book. “Any theology in America that fails to engage white supremacy and God’s liberation of black people from that evil is not Christian theology but a theology of the Antichrist.”

White supremacy “is the Antichrist in America because it has killed and crippled tens of millions of black bodies and minds in the modern world,” he writes. “It has also committed genocide against the indigenous people of this land. If that isn’t demonic, I don’t know what is … [and] it is found in every aspect of American life, especially churches, seminaries, and theology.”

Cone, who spent most of his life teaching at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary, where the theological luminaries Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr preceded him, was acutely aware that “there are a lot of brilliant theologians and most are irrelevant and some are evil.”

Of the biblical story of Cain’s murder of Abel, Cone writes: “… [T]he Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He said, ‘I don’t know; am I my brother’s keeper?’ And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen: your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!’ ” Cain, in Cone’s eyes, symbolizes white people, as Abel symbolizes black people.

“God is asking white Americans, especially Christians, ‘Where are your black brothers and sisters?’ ” Cone writes. “And whites respond, ‘We don’t know. Are we their keepers?’ And the Lord says, ‘What have you done to them for four centuries?’ ”

The stark truth he elucidated unsettled his critics and even some of his admirers, who were forced to face their own complicity in systems of oppression. “People cannot bear very much reality,” T.S. Eliot wrote. And the reality Cone relentlessly exposed was one most white Americans seek to deny.

“Christianity is essentially a religion of liberation,” Cone writes. “The function of theology is that of analyzing the meaning of that liberation for the oppressed community so they can know that their struggle for political, social, and economic justice is consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor is not Christ’s message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology. In a society where [people] are oppressed because they are black, Christian theology must become Black Theology, a theology that is unreservedly identified with the goals of the oppressed community and seeking to interpret the divine character of their struggle for liberation.”

The Detroit rebellion of 1967 and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. a year later were turning points in Cone’s life. This was when he—at the time a professor at Adrian College, a largely white college in Adrian, Mich.—removed his mask, a mask that, as the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote, “grins and lies.”

“I felt that white liberals had killed King, helped by those Negroes who thought he was moving too fast,” he writes. “Even though they didn’t pull the trigger, they had refused to listen to King when he proclaimed God’s judgment on America for failing to deal with the three great evils of our time: poverty, racism, and war. The white liberal media demonized King, accusing him of meddling in America’s foreign affairs by opposing the Vietnam War and blaming him for provoking violence wherever he led a march. White liberals, however, accepted no responsibility for King’s murder, and they refused to understand why Negroes were rioting and burning down their communities.”

“I didn’t want to talk to white people about King’s assassination or about the uprisings in the cities,” he writes of that period in his life. “[I]t was too much of an emotional burden to explain racism to racists, and I had nothing to say to them. I decided to have my say in writing. I’d give them something to read and talk about.”

Cone is often described as the father of black liberation theology, although he was also, maybe more importantly, one of the very few contemporary theologians who understood and championed the radical message of the Gospel. Theological studies are divided into pre-Cone and post-Cone eras. Post-Cone theology has largely been an addendum or reaction to his work, begun with his first book, “Black Theology and Black Power,” published in 1969. He wrote the book, he says, “as an attack on racism in white churches and an attack on self-loathing in black churches. I was not interested in making an academic point about theology; rather, I was issuing a manifesto against whiteness and for blackness in an effort to liberate Christians from white supremacy.”

Cone never lost his fire. He never sold out to become a feted celebrity.

“I didn’t care what white theologians thought about black liberation theology,” he writes. “They didn’t give a damn about black people. We were invisible to their writings, not even worthy of mention. Why should I care about what they thought?”

“After more than fifty years of working with, writing about, talking to white theologians, I have to say that most are wasting their time and energy, as far as I am concerned,” he writes, an observation that I, having been forced as a seminary student to plow through the turgid, jargon-filled works of white theologians, can only second. Cone blasted churches, including black churches that emphasize personal piety and the prosperity gospel, as “the worst place to learn about Christianity.”

His body of work, including his masterpieces “Martin & Malcolm & America” and “The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” is vital for understanding America and the moral failure of the white liberal church and white liberal power structure. Cone’s insight is an important means of recognizing and fighting systemic and institutionalized racism, especially in an age of Donald Trump.

“I write on behalf of all those whom the Salvadoran theologian and martyr Ignacio Ellacuría called ‘the crucified peoples of history,’ ” Cone writes in his memoir. “I write for the forgotten and the abused, the marginalized and the despised. I write for those who are penniless, jobless, landless, all those who have no political or social power. I write for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and those who are transgender. I write for immigrants stranded on the U.S. border and for undocumented farmworkers toiling in misery in the nation’s agricultural fields. I write for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, on the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem. I write for Muslims and refugees who live under the terror of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. And I write for all people who care about humanity. I believe that until Americans, especially Christians and theologians, can see the cross and the lynching tree together, until we can identify Christ with ‘recrucified’ black bodies hanging from lynching trees, there can be no genuine understanding of Christian identity in America, and no deliverance from the brutal legacy of slavery and white supremacy.”

The cross, Cone reminded us, is not an abstraction; it is the instrument of death used by the oppressor to crucify the oppressed. And the cross is all around us. He writes in “The Cross and the Lynching Tree”:

The cross is a paradoxical religious symbol because it inverts the world’s value system, proclaiming that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word, that the last shall be first and the first last. Secular intellectuals find this idea absurd, but it is profoundly real in the spiritual life of black folk. For many who were tortured and lynched, the crucified Christ often manifested God’s loving and liberating presence within the great contradictions of black life. The cross of Jesus is what empowered black Christians to believe, ultimately, that they would not be defeated by the “troubles of the world,” no matter how great and painful their suffering. Only people stripped of power could understand this absurd claim of faith. The cross was God’s critique of power—white power—with powerless love, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

Present-day Christians misinterpret the cross when they make it a nonoffensive religious symbol, a decorative object in their homes and churches. The cross, therefore, needs the lynching tree to remind us what it means when we say that God is revealed in Jesus at Golgotha, the place of the skull, on the cross where criminals and rebels against the Roman state were executed. The lynching tree is America’s cross. What happened to Jesus in Jerusalem happened to blacks in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Kentucky. Lynched black bodies are symbols of Christ’s body. If we want to understand what the crucifixion means for Americans today, we must view it through the lens of mutilated black bodies whose lives are destroyed in the criminal justice system. Jesus continues to be lynched before our eyes. He is crucified wherever people are tormented. That is why I say Christ is black.

Every once in a while, when Cone expressed something he thought was particularly important, he would say, “That’s Charlie talking.” To know Cone was to know Charlie and Lucy, his parents, who wrapped him and his brothers in unconditional love that held at bay the dehumanizing fear, discrimination and humiliation that came with living in Jim and Jane Crow Arkansas. He, like poet and novelist Claude McKay, said that what he wrote was “urged out of my blood,” adding “in my case the blood of blacks in Bearden and elsewhere who saw what I saw, felt what I felt, and loved what I loved.”

The essence of Cone was embodied in this radical love, a love that was not rooted in abstractions but the particular reality of his parents and his people. The ferocity of his anger at the injustice endured by the oppressed was matched only by the ferocity of his love. He cared. And because he cared, he carried the hurt and pain of the oppressed, the crucified of the earth, within him. As a boy, after dark, he waited by the window for his father to return home, knowing that to be a black man out on the roads in Arkansas at night meant you might never reach home. He spent his life, in a sense, at that window. He wrote and spoke not only for the forgotten, but also in a very tangible way for Charlie and Lucy. He instantly saw through hypocrisy and detested the pretentions of privilege. He never forgot who he was. He never forgot where he came from. His life was lived to honor his parents and all who were like his parents. He had unmatched courage, integrity and wisdom; indeed he was one of the wisest people I have ever known.

Cone was acutely aware, as Charles H. Long wrote, that “those who have lived in the cultures of the oppressed know something about freedom that the oppressors will never know.” He reminded us that our character is measured by what we have overcome. Despair, for him, was sin.

“What was beautiful about slavery?” Cone asks in his memoir. “Nothing, rationally! But the spirituals, folklore, slave religion, and slave narratives arebeautiful, and they came out of slavery. How do we explain that miracle? What’s beautiful about lynching and Jim Crow segregation? Nothing! Yet the blues, jazz, great preaching, and gospel music are beautiful, and they came out of the post-slavery brutalities of white supremacy. In the 1960s we proclaimed ‘Black is beautiful!’ because it is. We raised our fists to “I’m Black and I’m Proud,’ and we showed ‘Black Pride’ in our walk and talk, our song and sermon.”

He goes on:

We were not destroyed by white supremacy. We resisted it, created a beautiful culture, the civil rights and Black Power movements, which are celebrated around the world. [James] Baldwin asked black people “to accept the past and to learn to live with it.” “I beg the black people of this country,” he said, shortly after “Fire” [“The Fire Next Time”] was published, “to do something which I know to be very difficult; to be proud of the auction block, and all that rope, and all that fire, and all that pain.”

To see beauty in tragedy is very difficult. One needs theological eyes to do that. We have to look beneath the surface and get to the source. Baldwin was not blind. He saw both the tragedy and the beauty in black suffering and its redeeming value. That was why he said that suffering can become a bridge that connects people with one another, blacks with whites and people of all cultures with one another. Suffering is sorrow and joy, tragedy and triumph. It connected blacks with one another and made us stronger. We know anguish and pain and have moved beyond it. The real question about suffering is how to use it. “If you can accept the pain that almost kills you,” says Vivaldo, Baldwin’s character in his novel Another Country, “you can use it, you can become better.” But “that’s hard to do,” Eric, another character, responds. “I know,” Vivaldo acknowledges. If you don’t accept the pain, “you get stopped with whatever it was that ruined you and you make it happen over and over again and your life has—ceased, really—because you can’t move or change or love anymore.” But if you accept it, “you realize that your suffering does not isolate you,” Baldwin says in his dialogue with Nikki Giovanni; “your suffering is your bridge.” Singing the blues and the spirituals is using suffering, letting it become your bridge moving forward. “For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard,” Baldwin writes in his short story “Sonny’s Blues.” “There isn’t any other tale to tell, and it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.”

“I would rather be a part of the culture that resisted lynching than the one that lynched,” Cone writes at the end of the book. “I would rather be the one who suffered wrong than the one who did wrong. The one who suffered wrong is stronger than the one who did wrong. Jesus was stronger than his crucifiers. Blacks are stronger than whites. Black religion is more creative and meaningful and true than white religion. That is why I love black religion, folklore, and the blues. Black culture keeps black people from hating white people. Every Sunday morning, we went to church to exorcize hate—of ourselves and of white racists.”

There will come difficult moments in our own lives, moments when we are faced with an impulse, driven by fear or self-interest or simple expediency, to turn away at the sight of suffering and injustice. We will hear the cries of the oppressed and want to shut them out. We will count the cost to our careers, our reputations and perhaps our security, for to truly stand with the oppressed is to be treated like the oppressed. But a force greater than our own will compel us to kneel down and pick up the cross. The weight will cut into our shoulders. Our step will slow. Our breathing will become labored. We will be condemned by the powerful and ignored or reviled by the indifferent. But we will demand justice. And when we do, we will say to ourselves, “That’s Cone talking.”

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