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Updated: 7 hours 35 min ago

Bannon's Ouster Welcomed, but Much Bigger Problem Remains in White House: Trump

Sat, 2017-08-19 00:00

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 23, 2017, in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Michael Vadon)

"The problem was never just Steve Bannon. It was and always will be Donald Trump."

That's how Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) responded to news that Friday would the last day on the job for Trump's top political strategist.

Others echoed Sanders on the heels of the breaking reports, saying that while Bannon's departure is a welcome step, the fight against white nationalism is far from over.

"Bannon has unquestionably been a driving force behind the racial turmoil that threatens to tear this country apart. Such a divisive figure has no place in the White House," Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement.

"While it is appropriate that Steve Bannon go, his departure is not enough," Clarke concluded. "The Trump administration must end its pursuit of policies that promote the marginalization of minority communities which emboldens the very white nationalists who descended on Charlottesville last weekend."

Echoing this argument, UltraViolet said on Friday: "Good riddance Steve. The larger and more urgent crisis however is that a white supremacist sympathizer is the president of the United States."

Friends of the Earth also weighed in:

Bannon is OUT! A victory for all decent people who choose love over the hate and racism in Trump’s White House. https://t.co/uaGGH2Dqt1

— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 18, 2017

It is unclear whether Bannon resigned or if Trump, who has of late been under pressure to remove the "nationalist wing" of his administration, ultimately decided to fire him.

The New York Times summarized:

The president and senior White House officials were debating when and how to dismiss Mr. Bannon. The two administration officials cautioned that Mr. Trump is known to be averse to confrontation within his inner circle, and could decide to keep on Mr. Bannon for some time. As of Friday morning, the two men were still discussing Mr. Bannon's future, the officials said. A person close to Mr. Bannon insisted the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7.

Bannon made headlines earlier this week after The American Prospect's Robert Kuttner published the details of a phone conversation he had with the former executive chair of the right-wing outlet Breitbart.

During the call, Bannon casually discussed administration in-fighting and mocked the White House's stance on North Korea.

At an impromptu press conference on Tuesday, Trump seemed to express doubt about Bannon's future.

"We'll see," he said in response to questions about Bannon's status.

In a now infamous speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) earlier this year, Bannon described his ambitious plan to fundamentally alter the American political system. The called the end goal of his vision "the deconstruction of the administrative state" -- everything from the tax system to trade deals to regulations.

For now, at least, that plan appears to be on hold.

White House officials, for their part, don't seem worried that his departure will cause any internal turmoil.

"His departure may seem turbulent in the media, but inside it will be very smooth," one official told Swan. "He has no projects or responsibilities to hand off."

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Revolutionary Ferment: From the Russian Revolution to the Contemporary US

Sat, 2017-08-19 00:00

While it's impossible to know when and where a revolution is going to happen and under what conditions, there is currently a broad radicalization taking place internationally and in the US, with large numbers of people not accepting the capitalist status quo, says labor historian and author Paul LeBlanc.

While it's impossible to know when and where a revolution is going to happen and under what conditions, there is currently a broad radicalization taking place internationally and in the US, with large numbers of people not accepting the capitalist status quo, says labor historian and author Paul LeBlanc. (Photo by Darrian Traynor / Getty Images)

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Labor historian Paul Le Blanc is the author of more than 20 books and has served as an editor of the eight-volume International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest (2009) and of the Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg (begun in 2013). Le Blanc has more than half a century of activist experience in social movements and is an internationally recognized scholar of working-class history and revolutionary politics.

In this interview, Le Blanc discusses the radicalization process that he sees unfolding in the United States today and possible revolutionary strategies for the future.

Vaios Triantafyllou: Given the current shape of the left in the United States and in Europe, do you think that it is possible to build a revolutionary movement that is conscious of its demands and tactics? What would the role of the vanguard of the working class be in this process, and how would spontaneity be nurtured into consciousness?

Paul LeBlanc: I think that, as you said, there is this broad radicalization that is taking place internationally ... with large numbers of people not accepting the status quo, challenging the status quo, reacting against the status quo (which is a capitalist status quo).... All of this does create circumstances for the coming together of a substantial left-wing force in American politics, and I think the same thing has happened in various other countries. There is nothing automatic about that. It may not be realized, but possibilities exist now that haven't existed for years in this country for that kind of left-wing development.

I want to talk more about both the word vanguard and the word working class, because they are both so important.

The working class is comprised of people who are selling their ability to work for a paycheck. The great majority of people are working class, but this [category is internally] very diverse. It's diverse in different ways: it's racially diverse, it's age diverse, it's gender diverse, etc. But it is diverse in a different way, as well. There are certain layers of the working class that are conscious of various problems, are developing ideas on what those problems are, are developing ideas on what should be done, are starting to engage in struggles to bring about changes for the better ... when I talk about the vanguard, that's what I'm talking about.

Things are very different today compared to 1917.... Things have changed, but not everything has changed. So, the question is: Can we find lessons and insights from the earlier experience [of revolutionary uprising] that are relevant to our experience?

One question is: What is meant by spontaneity? If I am guided by a left-wing organization and doing things on behalf of the organization, that's not necessarily spontaneous. If, on the other hand, I (along with my friends, and neighbors and workmates, and so forth) react against something bad that is happening, trying to do something about it, that could be considered spontaneous.

The thing about that kind of spontaneity, though, is that I am influenced by what others have done. For example, some of my thinking is influenced by Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, some of my thinking is influenced by what happened with the labor movement (my parents were part of the trade union movement), and so on and so forth.

The fact is that there were left-wing organizations in the past, organizations that shared ideas, that engaged in action, that spread ideas of socialism and human rights and the socialist perspective that all of us have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- not just politically, but economically. I have soaked that in, and some of my neighbors and workmates may have soaked that in. We don't know exactly where it came from, but it came from the larger political struggles and culture of previous times and that were influenced by left-wing organizations.

The kind of process that I envision, the kind of process that has been taking place and will continue to take place, is this interplay between organization and spontaneity, the interplay between left-wing groups that may be competing with each other but which also are all contributing to the larger ferment. There is an interplay of such groups with the thinking and actions of people who are reacting to their experience, as it develops under the present stage of capitalist development.

There are several movements that engage in one-issue campaigning. Many people fighting for these rights are liberals opposing socialist principles. How can socialists engage in such campaigns alongside liberals?

There are some liberals who have an anti-socialist perspective, because although they may understand what socialism is, they just believe it won't work, and therefore they support capitalism. In fact, the majority of people in this country don't self-identify as socialists. How do you work with them? How do you win them to socialism?

You can't win them simply by giving them a damn good book, or a leaflet, or by having a series of conversations with them. That may influence their thinking but it won't win them to socialism. They have to win themselves to socialism, in large measure through their own experience, and discussions that we have will be part of the chemistry of that. But there has to be a certain experience through which the idea of socialism makes sense. Now one thing that is helpful in this is capitalism, and the way it is functioning right now is horrible....

There are many people like Al Gore who now favor single-payer health care, just like Gore is in favor of fighting against climate change, although on the matter of being in favor of capitalism, I would imagine Gore has not changed his mind on that. But I can work in a united front with Al Gore and people like him around an issue. We can build a united front around an issue, agree to disagree on questions of socialism and all kinds of other things, but unite on the issue that we agree on, build enough of a coalition to win the battle. Now, in that struggle, any socialist worth his or her salt will be connecting that to the idea of socialism and to the need for socialism.... We talk, we share ideas, we do good work, and we show that these socialists are good people and good activists, that they do good work, that they have interesting ideas. This is how we will build a socialist consciousness and a socialist movement, not just by giving people a pamphlet to read or giving a speech, but by this practical experience through struggle, through united front campaigns around specific issues.

Do you believe that some principles that govern modern representative Western democracies, such as separation of powers, would still be applicable to a socialist democracy? If not, what would be the "checks and balances" and how would a bureaucratic abuse of power be prevented?

Those are crucial questions. You make a reference to bureaucracy, and with this we have a cluster of questions that anyone who is seriously thinking about socialism has to wrestle with. I want to focus on that in a moment.

We don't have a clear model of socialism because there has never been a socialist society in the way that I define socialism. There have been societies and countries with governments that define themselves as socialist, but these have generally been dictatorships, some of them terrible, some of them not as terrible, but still dictatorships, not genuinely democratic and therefore not genuinely socialist.

What would socialism look like? Marx, unlike many of the so-called utopian socialists, didn't draw any blueprints of what the future society should look like. The utopian Charles Fourier, for example, drew up elaborate, fascinating blueprints. One of the reasons Marx didn't draw any blueprints is that he saw socialism as organically blended with democracy and with the majority class that was coming into being -- the working class. Therefore, he didn't want to be some kind of dictator over the working class, with his own plans and his own blueprint to superimpose on the future society. Rather, the future society is something that needs to be worked out by the people of that society -- the working-class majority that is going to shape the socialist society. There are some general principles that Marx articulated. But not blueprints on the exact structure of the economy, or the exact structure of the government. Also, it is impossible to know when and where the revolution is going to happen and what the actual conditions are going to be. So, part of your blueprint might not be relevant to the actualities of that situation. So, Marx's reluctance about blueprints is valid.

On the other hand, when there was a working-class uprising in Paris, creating the Paris Commune of 1871, there were specific organizational structures that crystallized. Engels afterwards said, "Hey, you want to see the dictatorship of the proletariat? That's it!" Marx wrote a pamphlet explaining the structure of the Paris Commune and said that's what we want. That structure involved a certain degree of representative democracy; that is, there were representatives elected to help oversee things, there was a multiparty situation, there was a lot of control by the people over their representatives, you didn't have a government so far above the people that the people couldn't control it. All the people in the government were not paid more than a well-paid worker in society, so that there was a close interplay between the genuinely democratic government and the people. Marx and Engels said that's the kind of thing we should look for.

In my opinion, the transition to socialism will require some kind of representative democracy, at least in much of our political and economic life. Not all of us are in a position to be focusing all of our energy and all of our attention to making sure that the right decisions are made all the time on various complex issues. That has to be delegated to people who we elect, control and trust. That means representative democracy. There needs to be representative democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of organization, freedom to put forward alternatives to the existing policies, whether they are political or economic. There need to be "checks and balances." The interests of the workers at the workplace are not necessarily fully consistent with government that seeks to represent the general interests of society as a whole. This means that workers need to have some say over what is happening at work -- that is a check....

Socialism will require a certain amount of pluralism, and checks and balances can be valuable. The transition period can be chaotic, so there will be a need to determine what is the line of authority, but there have to be various ways for people to express their opinions and discontent and to push for a different balance from what the balance has come to be in a community or workplace. There will be different parties or organizations with different values or plans that they will push for and try to win others to. That is essential for genuine socialism to work. If there is only one party, with one leadership and one program, you can't have socialism or democracy.

I think that a transition to socialism should be seen in that way. But at the same time, you are talking about people's lives: food, clothing, shelter. You can't wait 20 years to get certain things right. There are going to have to be certain things done immediately or in the short-term. Certain basic things need to be guaranteed to everyone as a matter of right, and therefore there is a certain matter of central planning that needs to be implemented right away. Everyone should have a right to good health care, everyone, as soon as possible should have the right to a decent home, everyone should have food -- at least a basic, decent diet; there needs to be a decent transit system.

While certain centrally implemented policies will be required from the beginning, it seems to me within such central implementation there have to be checks and balances and democratic expression. Beyond providing for the basic needs, there is greater room for testing alternative policies -- we can try one thing or another thing and see what happens. What role can the market play that would be positive? Marxists debate that today. But, there has to be an openness, pluralism, a democracy if we are going to get to socialism.

It seems like a central planning of the economy is a very demanding task, most probably demanding a very sophisticated system, or structures, to translate the concept "from each according to his ability to each according to his needs" from meaningless jargon to a much-needed actuality. Is it possible to create such a blueprint in advance, or is this something that will be developed in the process as you mentioned above? Was there such a plan in the case of the Russian Revolution?

First of all, it seems to me that as we build an effective, large socialist movement that is struggling for power, through reform efforts and people's assemblies, through trade unions, and through our own political party with running candidates, we must have a program. We won't have everything mapped out and blueprinted, but there are certain proposals that we should make. Some of them will involve central planning, as I have already indicated: Everyone should get food, clothing, shelter; everyone should get health care and education; there should be mass transit; there must be preservation of a livable environment -- these will be part of the program. There are limited resources, and this has to factored into the program, so we cannot promise everything to everyone. There are a lot more resources than there appear to be, because they are monopolized and used wastefully by those who control the economy now. But even if there is a democratization of the economy, there will be limitations and urgent needs. So, built into the actual struggles there have to be program proposals that will be implemented if we take power.

There has also to be an understanding that there will be a transitional period. In the Communist Manifesto, if you take a good look at it, Marx and Engels talk about the development of democracy within the larger economy. They don't see the transition as an immediate establishment of a socialist economy. As the working class takes power, there will be more and more policies that erode, undermine and ultimately replace capitalism. What that means is that we are not talking about an immediate transition to socialism, and Lenin was aware that this was impossible in Russia, because you didn't have the economic basis for that. Russia was an impoverished country. Socialism cannot be built on the basis of poverty, because then regardless of what is supposed to happen, people will be competing for scarce resources. Those that will get a little bit more power will be able to get more resources and push others down, and the same thing that has afflicted all class societies will start all over again. This was an idea developed by Marx, and it was keenly felt by Lenin and others: We cannot have socialism based on poverty.

Even in a more prosperous economy, there will have to be a transitional period, which means that there will still be a mixed economy, which means that there will still be capitalism. But there will be regulation of capitalism, the creation of public services that will be guaranteed, and public sectors of the economy. The new government must work to facilitate that with an array of organizations, pluralist organizations -- community, city and factory-wide, as well as national entities -- that are elected and controlled by the people, that will help push in this socialist economic direction. There will be controversies and there will inevitably be some chaos, as is natural in any political situation, certainly in one of revolutionary transition.

So, it will not be a simple process, and Lenin didn't envision a simple process. But what he envisioned (and it turned out he was wrong, it didn't work out this way) was the following: He came in with a plan and one aspect of it was workers' control of the economy through trade unions and factory committees. This did not mean the workers taking over the factories (and there were workers who wanted to do that, and they put their bosses and managers in wheel barrels, rolled them out of the factories, and dumped them on the street). But what Lenin argued, and what the workers found out, was that they didn't know how to run the factory yet. It's one thing to make certain kinds of things in the factory, but then how do you connect it to the rest of the economy and run the economy? It is not a simple process.

And so, Lenin was assuming and hoping that an understanding could be worked out at least with many of the capitalists: they would continue to function, but workers would be watching, workers would be making sure the capitalists would not be cheating, workers would be learning more and more how this operates and eventually there could be a transition. That was the intention of "workers' control" -- the workers would know how to operate this part of the factory, connected to the other factories, and other parts of the economy, workers in conjunction with the central government, and a transition would take place. That was the original notion of how to make the transition.

Lenin was also aware that you cannot have a socialist economy in a single country, because what you had at that time (as well as today) was a global capitalist economy. So, you had an economic interdependence of various national economies, and for this socialist thing to work there would need to be working-class socialist revolutions in other countries as well, which is why Lenin and his comrades were helping to build the Communist International. That issue still is the case, I think, and poses a challenge for us.

But what happened after the Russian Revolution was that successful revolutions did not take place in other countries, and the Russian capitalists didn't go along with their long-term extinction. As quickly as they could, they helped enemies of the revolution, they got out and tried to take back as much of their factories as they could (that's why you need workers' control, too, to stop them from doing that). The result was that the economy was prematurely nationalized. The workers didn't know how to run the factories and the Communists didn't know how to run the economy. So, while there was a premature attempt at very extensive central planning, all kinds of mistakes were made. This was taking place amidst a civil war, under the impact of World War I on the Russian economy, as well as under the impact of an economic blockade imposed by capitalist countries. So, you had a super-centralized situation that was destroying the early Soviet economy. As soon as the civil war basically was ended, Lenin and the majority of the Bolsheviks shifted back to the direction of a mixed economy, a New Economic Policy. They did it in many different ways, it's interesting to look at it -- they made mistakes, but some things they did were good, and they got the economy going again.

All of this may not be completely applicable to our situation. We don't know what the situation is going to be. What we know is that there is going to be a transitional period, that there are going to be screw-ups, that certain balances could be established, that we need to go in aware that we are dealing with life and death issues, and therefore we have to have some initial plans in place.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Time to Impeach Trump

Sat, 2017-08-19 00:00

President Donald Trump waves from his motorcade vehicle after departing Trump Tower on August 16, 2017, in New York City. Trump is traveling to Bedminster, New Jersey, as fallout continues from his comments on the violence in Charlottesville. (Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

It's time to urge the House of Representatives to bring articles of impeachment against Trump for his abuse of power and before he launches a new civil war and/or nuclear war. When the people elect a president, they are entrusting that person with their security, well-being and survival. Trump clearly has betrayed that trust and must go.

President Donald Trump waves from his motorcade vehicle after departing Trump Tower on August 16, 2017, in New York City. Trump is traveling to Bedminster, New Jersey, as fallout continues from his comments on the violence in Charlottesville. (Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

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As we mourn the death of Heather Heyer, murdered by a white supremacist at the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally on Saturday, and hope for the recovery of the dozens of other anti-racist counterdemonstrators injured that day, Donald Trump continues to fan the flames of hatred and bigotry he has nourished throughout his brief presidency.

The president's reprehensible behavior in this moment creates a new sense of urgency. We cannot postpone consideration of impeachment until Special Counsel Robert Mueller finishes his criminal investigation. It is time to pressure the House of Representatives to bring articles of impeachment against Trump for his abuse of power. We must stop this president before he launches a new civil war and/or nuclear war.

Commentator Robert Tracinski, writing on the conservative website The Federalist, concurs. "We're done with the 'Well, maybe it won't be so bad and we should take what we can get' phase of this administration," he wrote, apparently referring to Republicans who are holding their noses while hoping for tax cuts and more right-wing Supreme Court justices.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

"It's time for the 'He's a disaster and needs to go' phase," Tracinski continued. "For everybody's good, Donald Trump needs to not be president, and he needs to not be president yesterday."

Tracinski noted, "In a country where 99 percent of the population is opposed to Nazis, it should be the easiest thing in the world for an American president to unite the country by appealing to our shared values."

But that is not what Trump did after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville resulted in the death of Heyer and wounding of 34 people. The rally drew together neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and self-described members of the "alt-right" -- a racist, radical right-wing movement that seeks to rebrand white supremacy, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant, anti-feminist politics, homophobia and transphobia under a more polished, middle-class veneer.

In a classic example of false moral equivalency, Trump ultimately responded on Tuesday to the racist, anti-Semitic attacks by saying there were "very fine people on both sides" and "many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists."

Outrage at Trump's Remarks

A Washington Post editorial stated, "Tuesday was a great day for David Duke and racists everywhere. The president of the United States all but declared that he has their backs." It continued, "We've all seen the videotape: One side was composed of Nazis, Klansmen and other avowed racists chanting, 'Jews will not replace us.' The other side was objecting to their racism."

As Tracinski pointed out, "this was a Nazi march from the beginning, planned by Nazis, for Nazis." The day before the deadly rally, the neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched through Charlottesville with Ku Klux Klan-like tiki torches, also chanting the Nazi slogan, "Blood and Soil."

Five members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and National Guard, condemned the neo-Nazis, stating that their beliefs contradicted the military's core values.

A dozen CEOs of powerful corporations, outraged at Trump's remarks, agreed to disband the Strategic and Policy Forum, an elite group chosen to advise the president on economic issues.

After Trump's comments conflating the neo-Nazis and white supremacists with anti-racist protestors, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), tweeted, "We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity."

Ryan is no anti-racist hero; if his policy proposals were enacted, they would devastate communities of color. But Trump went too far, even for Ryan.

So, will Ryan exercise moral leadership and shepherd the House through impeachment of the president?

Abuse of Power

The proceedings would begin in the House Judiciary Committee, which can recommend impeachment. The full House would then decide whether to issue articles of impeachment, which requires a majority. If the House votes to impeach, the case would go to the Senate for trial, where a two-thirds majority is necessary for a finding of guilt and removal from office.

The Constitution provides for impeachment of the president when he commits "high crimes and misdemeanors." They include, but are not limited to, conduct punishable by the criminal law. One of the articles of impeachment filed against Richard Nixon was "abuse of power."

Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist No. 65 that offenses are impeachable if they "proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust."

"They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself," Hamilton added.

No individual embodies the trust of the public more than the president, who is elected by the people. When the people choose their president, they are entrusting that person with their security, well-being and survival. The voters should be able to trust the president to act in their best interests and protect them from harm.

The neo-Nazis and white supremacists are on a roll, with rallies planned across the country. By emboldening them and encouraging widespread polarization, Trump is abusing his power and placing the country at risk of a new civil war.

Five months before Charlottesville, Keith Mines, a State Department expert on internecine conflict, predicted, "the United States faces a 60 percent chance there will be a civil war over the next 10 to 15 years." The consensus among several national security thinkers interviewed by Foreign Policy about the likelihood of a new civil war is closer to a 35 percent chance -- lower than Mines' estimate but still quite significant.

Since 2002, militant right-wingers have killed more people in the United States than Islamic extremists have, according to Newsweek. 

Trump has also illegally threatened North Korea with nuclear annihilation. The United Nations Charter prohibits the threat or use of military force against another country except in self-defense or with the Security Council's blessing. After the Department of National Intelligence restated a four-year-old unconfirmed claim that North Korea had miniaturized nuclear warheads for its missiles, Trump stated, "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." Four days later, Trump warned North Korea that the US military is "locked and loaded." If Trump attacked North Korea, he would not be acting in self-defense or with approval of the Security Council.

By supporting neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and threatening to start a nuclear war, Trump is violating the trust and abusing the power "We the People" have placed in him.

Obstruction of Justice

Another article of impeachment leveled against Nixon was "obstruction of justice." Even before Charlottesville, there was sufficient evidence of Trump's obstruction of justice and law-breaking to support impeachment.

Trump prevailed upon then-FBI Director James Comey to halt his investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn's wrongdoing. When Comey refused, Trump fired him. In addition, Donald Trump Jr. violated the Federal Election Campaign Act by meeting with Russians to get damaging information on Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign. When it became public, Trump wrote a statement trying to cover it up.

Trump has also violated the Constitution's Take Care Clause, which says the president "shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed." He pledged to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (the law of the land), encouraged police brutality (advocating violation of the Fourth Amendment), promulgated an unconstitutional Muslim Ban, illegally bombed Syria and killed numerous civilians, and violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

Do Republicans Have the Will to Impeach Trump?

An August 2-8 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found that 40 percent of Americans -- including almost three-quarters of Democrats and 7 percent of Republicans -- favored Trump's impeachment. That poll took place before the deadly Charlottesville rally.

Several GOP Congress members issued strong statements against the terrorist attack by white supremacists. Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) wrote, "We should call evil by its name. My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged at home." Only a few Republicans defended Trump.

But do Republicans have the will to impeach Trump? Maybe not. Of those who took issue with his statements, almost none called out the president directly. Sen Cory Gardner (Colorado), one of the few who did, tweeted, "Mr. President -- we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism."

After Trump's statement about "very fine people on both sides," David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, rewarded Trump with the tweet, "Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa."

Duke was drawing a false equivalency. Antifa, short for "anti-fascist," is a loose affiliation of radical leftists who chronicle and demonstrate against militant right-wingers throughout the country. Black Lives Matter (BLM) was also represented in Charlottesville. It should go without saying that members of these groups, who acted in self-defense against the neo-Nazis and white supremacists, are not terrorists.

In February, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has documented over 900 active hate groups in the United States, stated, "The radical right was more successful in entering the political mainstream last year than in half a century."

Moreover, a new CBS poll found 67 percent of GOP voters approve of Trump's statements about Charlottesville.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, has called for hearings into the Charlottesville attack and the rise of white supremacists in the United States. But no Republican has publicly discussed impeachment, and the GOP has a majority on the House Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, announced he plans to introduce articles of impeachment against Trump. He stated that Trump had "failed the presidential test of moral leadership," adding, "There are no good Nazis. There are no good Klansmen." Cohen said, "None of the marchers spewing such verbiage could be considered 'very fine people' as the President suggested.... No moral president would ever shy away from outright condemning hate, intolerance and bigotry."

The Democrats have mounted a full-court press against Republicans to denounce Trump on this issue. "No tool has been overlooked," Mike Lillis and Scott Wong reported in The Hill. "The Democrats have sent letters, called for hearings, launched campaign ads and promised resolutions of censure and impeachment."

The GOP is at a critical juncture. It must decide whether it wants to become the official party of the white supremacists.

We must pressure the members of the House Judiciary Committee in every way we can to initiate impeachment proceedings.

Farm-to-School Movement Fights for a Foothold in Corn Belt Cafeterias

Fri, 2017-08-18 10:10

As the movement for a local and ethical food system continues to gain traction, school food is slowly but surely becoming a focus in the fight for change. 

School districts serve lunch to 30.4 million students a day through the USDA's National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The NSLP provides cash subsidies and USDA foods to enrolled schools, which in turn provide free and low-cost meals for qualifying students. In total, meals served through the NSLP amount to as many as 5 billion per year.

Due to the program's scale and the influence of Big Ag interests, the lion's share of food served through the NSLP has typically been sourced from large-scale producers, transported from afar and heavily processed. The resulting meals are often less than nutritious. In 2009, the ground beef the USDA bought from five major meatpackers and distributed through the program failed to meet the quality standards of most fast food restaurants.

But two initiatives, the farm-to-school movement and the Good Food Purchasing Policy (GFPP), a nonprofit-backed policy initiative, are challenging this lunchroom reality, and working to transform the food chain status quo. 

The numbers look promising: the Chicago Public School Board voted to implement the GFPP in July, the first city district outside of California to do so, and 42 percent of school districts nationwide are participating in farm-to-school programming, according to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census.

"Farm-to-school looks different in every community," says Helen Dombalis, executive director of the National Farm-to-School Network. "[But] it's a nationwide effort that we need to undertake ... to regionalize supply chains, all the way from production to aggregation to processing to distribution."

Larger school districts have pulled off impressive food purchasing feats in recent years, suggesting that changes to the supply chain are already underway. But on the ground in Corn Belt states like Illinois, where only 6 percent of the food consumed by residents is produced locally, smaller school districts face obstacles to participating in this vision of a regionalized food system. Rural America In These Times spoke with several school food providers and experts about these obstacles, and about the local movement can chip away at corporate power in the food chain.

The Long Road to Local

Getting fresh produce into the cafeteria of the Williamsville-Sherman Community Unit Schools District (WCUSD) has been a challenge, says Pauline Osman, the district's dietician. The district sits 20 miles northeast of Springfield, Ill., and began pushing for substantive changes in the cafeteria in the 2012–13 school year.

Last year, Osman bought directly from a local farmer, but found that the cost was high and the logistics of transportation complicated. "We paid a premium for the farmer's market produce, even though I worked with one farmer and picked up the tomatoes myself," says Osman. Unfortunately, she says, many of the tomatoes spoiled quickly because wet ground delayed the harvest.

Williamsville, Ill. (Map: City-data.com)

For now, the district will look to the high school's brand new greenhouse for tomatoes, and perhaps other vegetables. While the development of a horticultural program at WCUSD is exciting, the produce will likely contribute a negligible portion of the food the cafeteria serves over the course of the year.

The district's main food distributor, Central Illinois Produce, sources much of its produce from farms and vendors in California, and one vegetable farm in Wisconsin -- regional, maybe, but not local. (Their "Illinois products" page, on the other hand, features yogurts, salad dressing, prepared soups, and El Milagro tortillas.) WCUSD has so far been unable to get Michigan-grown apples for a Farm-to-School initiative through its distributor, but hopes that they will be able to in coming years.

Vendors and distributors have the greatest potential to shift purchasing practices, according to some local school food experts. "Vendors have the capacity to purchase in large enough quantities to really shift the supply chain," says the National Farm-to-School Network's Dombalis. Once vendors start making regional bulk purchases, she says, farmers, food hubs, processors and aggregators will catch on, too.

Thirty miles to the west of Springfield, the Jacksonville School District is purchasing 27 percent of its food "locally" through its distributors. In the 2014–15 school year they were able to select regionally produced foods through several different distributors, in addition to purchasing their bread and milk locally.

Jacksonville, Ill., School District 117. (Photo: Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Like WCUSD, however, Jacksonville has also encountered difficulties purchasing directly from local farmers. While Jacksonville was once able to purchase some produce through a farm stand, the district's food service director Joyce Hiler says, the stand closed several years ago and they haven't found an alternative.

"Maybe we have more [produce] in our area that people are growing," says Hiler, "but I don't know how close any local providers would be -- as far as getting the product in a timely manner. There's just a lot of logistics to work out."

As distributors and school districts in central Illinois, like Jacksonville and WCUSD, find their footing in a shifting food chain, the National Farm-to-School Network is working to provide districts with support. Education is half the battle, says Lydia Van Slyke, the state lead for the Illinois Farm-to-School Network, particularly getting kids to realize that local produce simply tastes better.

In 2015, the Illinois Network piloted a "Great Apple Crunch" program, which partners schools with apple-producing farms in the larger region. On a designated day in October, the schools have a special celebration, and the kids all crunch into an apple at the same time. "These are all kids who get apples presented to them all the time because they're cheap and easy and usually mealy, and taste terrible and have been sitting in storage in Washington state for a year," Van Slyke says.

Other programs piloted by the Illinois Farm-to-School Network include the "Harvest of the Month," which provides support for schools to partner with farms once a month to get a locally available fruit or vegetable onto kids' plates. The students do "taste tests" of the produce and can visit the source farm to learn about the growing process. The relationships schools establish with farms for this monthly purchase, Van Slyke says, can hopefully serve as a stepping-stone to more regular purchasing from local vendors.

Nurturing Good Will With Corporate Dollars

The Illinois Farm-to-School Network has an ambitious goal of engaging every Illinois school district in a local food event by 2020. As of 2015, around 24 percent of school districts statewide were participating in farm-to-school programming, with 11 percent reporting plans to start in the future. (Thirty-nine percent of districts did not respond to the 2015 USDA Farm-to-School Census, so the percentage of participating schools may in fact be marginally higher.)

But the National Farm-to-School Network is not the only food-oriented group looking to reach rural school districts.

Since 2011, Monsanto has been sinking funds into rural school districts. Through an education fund called "America's Farmers Grow Rural Education," Monsanto lets local farmers nominate rural school districts to receive $10,000 or $25,000 grants toward advancing math and science curricula. By 2014, the fund was giving grants to as many as 15 rural Illinois districts.

Since 2011, as part of its "America's Farmers Grow Rural Education" initiative, Monsanto has been issuing grants in the form of photogenic oversized checks to rural schools across the country. (Photo: The Skyhawk Trail)

Monsanto's funding reaches beyond school districts and into the heart of rural communities. Monsanto also offers agriculture scholarships and directs small grants toward community organizations, like 4-H groups or volunteer fire departments. While such funding is undoubtedly welcomed, Monsanto's underlying intentions should be interrogated. Monsanto has an interest not in helping schools think innovatively about their place within the food system, but in preserving the status quo established in rural regions: intensive large-scale farms, corn and soy monoculture and reliance upon the herbicides and genetically modified seed they manufacture.

In Illinois, upwards of three-quarters of all land under cultivation is planted with corn and soy. Although corn acreage has fallen by one million since 2011, soy acreage has risen by a staggering 1.1 million acres in the same window -- 93 percent of which is grown with genetically modified seed. Approximately three of Illinois' 10 million acres of soybeans are RoundUp Ready 2 Xtend, a dicamba- and glyphosate-resistant soybean. Although illegal to apply to summertime soybean crops, the herbicide Dicamba is seeing heightened usage this year after Monsanto released its new soybean strain. Dicamba drift has damaged 2.5 million acres of soybeans across the Midwest this year -- which will likely force many farmers to switch to the resistant strain in time for next growing season. Furthermore, 44 percent of Illinois grains are grown for export to other countries and most of the money in the agricultural industry does not remain in the community.

Estimates of dicamba-injured soybean acreage as reported by state extension weed scientists (as of July 19, 2017). Official dicamba-related injury investigations by state departments of agriculture, however, have only reported 1,411. (Source: ipm.missouri.edu)

According to data from Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap project, the most food insecure counties are in the central and southern regions of the state, where corn and soy dominate the landscape. The same counties where school systems are having the most trouble procuring local foods.

An influx of corporate money can influence the ways in which residents think about the food system and the role corporations play in maintaining that system. In northwestern Arkansas, near the corporate headquarters of Tyson and Walmart, food workers and residents have seen firsthand how difficult it can be to garner opposition to harmful corporate practices when the same corporations are supplying much-needed funding for schools and community organizations.

"Tyson and Walmart gave away so much money to the community, to nonprofits, to churches, to schools, to universities, to museums, to everything," says Magaly Licolli, executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Workers Justice Coalition (NWAWJC), based in Springdale, Ark. Like Monsanto, Tyson Foods, the world's second largest chicken processor, has a robust grant program.  "So it was really hard for us to gain the allies here, locally, because people either respected the corporations or they are afraid to stand up to the corporations," she says.

Magaly Licolli, executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Workers Justice Coalition. (Image: YouTube / 40-29 News)

Licolli is leading efforts in Fayetteville, a town near Springdale, to implement the GFPP. The policy provides municipalities with the resources to evaluate the companies from which they source food according to five different criteria: animal welfare, environmental sustainability, nutrition, proximity to distribution site and fair labor practices. While the GFPP applies not just to a city's school districts but also to major municipal institutions, it's school districts that are often a city's largest food purchaser.

The NWAWJC first became interested in the GFPP after it helped to document horrific labor practices in Tyson-operated chicken processing plants. After seeing how different interest groups -- animal welfare groups, workers rights groups and environmental sustainability groups -- came together to secure a promise from Tyson to raise wages and security standards, Licolli thought the GFPP could help other cities gain leverage over large food corporations.

"The good thing about the GFPP is that you force the corporation to follow these standards, because they need to keep the contract [with the school] and they need to keep the profit," says Licolli. "And it's not only Tyson, but all the suppliers the school district gets from."

The GFPP has proven itself a catalyst for change in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the first to implement the policy. Since its adoption in 2012, the school district has increased its local produce purchases (defined as within 200 miles) from 10 percent to between 50 and 72 percent. More recently, the district declined to renew a contract with Tyson because they did not meet the criteria for employee welfare.

But the Golden State grows nearly half of the nation's produce, and the LAUSD is the nation's second-largest public school system -- in other words, they already have purchasing power and a produce network in place. It remains to be seen how the policy could effect change for smaller districts in the Midwest and beyond, where budgets are pinched and fresh produce is not as readily available.

(Source: USDA, Economic Research Service using data from the department's Food and Nutrition Service)

As the NWAWJC gears up for its campaign, however, Licolli is optimistic that their work will begin to lay the foundation for a more equitable food system. "We really want to have people who represent all different values: farmers of color, food workers, environmentalists," she says.

"We are like guinea pigs trying to explore how this campaign will be accepted here in rural areas. A lot of people are working toward all of these values that the campaign embraces, so we just have to make sure that we are working together."

Arsonist in Chief

Fri, 2017-08-18 00:00

Trump's DOJ Demands Personal Info on 1.3 Million Visitors to Inauguration Protest Website

Fri, 2017-08-18 00:00

The Justice Department is demanding web hosting provider DreamHost turn over 1.3 million IP addresses of people who visited the website DisruptJ20.org, which was used to organize the protests against President Trump's inauguration. The Justice Department is also seeking names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and other information about the owners and subscribers of the website. More than 200 protesters were arrested during the Inauguration Day protests and are now facing decades in prison on trumped-up charges. We are joined by Nate Cardozo, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. His group is assisting DreamHost in its opposition to the government's search warrant.

TRANSCRIPT

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

AMY GOODMAN: The Justice Department is demanding web hosting provider DreamHost turn over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses of people who visited the website DisruptJ20.org, which was used to organize the protests against President Trump's inauguration. The Justice Department is also seeking names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and other information about the owners and subscribers of the website. More than 200 protesters were arrested during the Inauguration Day protests and are now facing decades in prison on trumped-up charges.

For more, we go to Berkeley, California, where we're joined by Nate Cardozo, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. His group is assisting DreamHost in its opposition to the government's search warrant.

Nate Cardozo, welcome to Democracy Now! First, explain what exactly the government is demanding.

NATE CARDOZO: Hi, Amy. Thanks for having me. So, the government is demanding that DreamHost, which is a web hosting provider based in LA, turn over literally every record that it has regarding one of its customers, the site DisruptJ20.org. So that would be all of the billing information, which actually the government already has via a subpoena that they issued back in January. It means all of the email that was ever sent or received from DisruptJ20.org. And, most importantly, it means the IP addresses of everyone who ever visited the site, which, apparently, according to DreamHost, is more than 1.3 million people, Americans and people around the world, including, of course, yours truly.

AMY GOODMAN: How unusual is this request?

NATE CARDOZO: We haven't seen it quite in this context before. You know, we have seen the government make requests this broad, for instance, in the child photography context, where actually visiting a website is at least arguably capable of being a crime. In terms of this context, where the speech hosted on DisruptJ20.org was inarguably perfectly legal, we haven't seen it before.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the website, who put it up, the point of it, and then how you are assisting DreamHost in fighting the government's request.

NATE CARDOZO: Well, DisruptJ20.org was and remains a place for people opposed to the policies of the Trump administration to organize and protest. It was set up sometime after the election, and it was focused, obviously, hence the name, on January 20th. There were protests in DC and around the country on the day of the inauguration. And DisruptJ20 was a place where folks could get together and share information about how -- how, where and why to protest the inauguration.

The site owner is potentially someone who EFF, my organization based here in San Francisco, may end up representing, so I'm not going to go into there. But we've been helping DreamHost since they received this search warrant. The general counsel of DreamHost was, frankly, shocked at the overbreadth of this search warrant and called us right away and said, you know, "Is there a way for us to fight it?" And we said, "Yeah, absolutely." DreamHost got paid outside counsel, so they didn't -- they didn't need us, because, as a nonprofit, we work pro bono, and we generally don't represent companies who can afford outside counsel. DreamHost got great outside counsel, filed a motion in DC to set aside the search warrant. And it's my understanding, at least, that there will be a hearing today on the case.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how did they get -- how did the government get such a wide-ranging search warrant?

NATE CARDOZO: Well, this is sort of a sad story about the American judiciary. The DC Superior Court judge who signed off on the search warrant is not young. And it's my speculation, my uninformed speculation here, that the judge who signed the search warrant didn't understand what he was signing off on. The search warrant itself puts all the juicy bits that the government is seeking in an attachment at the end. And in the places-to-be-searched and things-to-be-seized section of the search warrant, it just says, "records identified with DisruptJ20.org." If I'm a judge who doesn't know an IP log from a Yule log, you know, I'm not going to understand the implications of what's actually being sought here. The government, of course, in its order to show cause against DreamHost for refusing to turn over -- for, thankfully, refusing to turn over all of this data, the government says, "You know, this is standard. We do this all the time." That may be what they told the judge, even though it's patently false.

AMY GOODMAN: More than 200 protesters were arrested during the Inauguration Day protests, face decades in prison. How does that relate to this demand and what -- and DreamHost fighting back?

NATE CARDOZO: Good question. So, under the Fourth Amendment, in order for a search warrant to issue, there has to be probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that the places to be searched or things to be seized will have evidence related to that crime. The government asserts that there were crimes committed on January 20th. You know, there was some petty vandalism or whatever. The government is claiming, of course, felony rioting, which is another thing altogether.

So, the government's theory of the case, laughable as it is, is that everyone who visited J20 -- DisruptJ20.org did so in order to plan a crime. That theory is simply wrong. Right? The Fourth Amendment was ratified, in large part, to prevent the government from issuing general warrants. Right? The founders were very concerned about fishing expeditions, about a warrant that says, "Let's collect everything, regardless of whether it's evidence of a crime or not, and sift through it." You know, what essentially the government is doing here is they're doing the equivalent of going to a library, and instead of saying, "Give us the name of this person who checked out this book on this day," they're telling the library, "Give us the name of everyone who's ever checked out a book at your library, because one person may have committed vandalism after checking out a book." That's ridiculous.

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, Nate Cardozo, I wanted to get your -- the Electronic Freedom Foundation's response to the web hosting company GoDaddy recently severing ties with the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer after the site posted an article mocking Heather Heyer, the anti-racist protester who was killed. You have five seconds.

NATE CARDOZO: So, we despise the sort of racist speech that Daily Stormer hosted, but we're very uncomfortable when infrastructure providers make the decision that I'm not allowed to read that speech. That does not seem like the proper role for a company like GoDaddy to take. The remedy for bad speech is more speech. It's not silencing the bad speaker.

AMY GOODMAN: Nate Cardozo, I want to thank you for being with us, of Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Anne Frank Center: Trump's Personal Twitter Account Amplifies Hate and Should Be Suspended

Fri, 2017-08-18 00:00

President Donald Trump continues to face outrage over his response to last weekend's deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where racism and anti-Semitism were on clear display. We speak with Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, which is calling on Twitter to suspend Trump's personal account, after branding him an accomplice to domestic terrorism.

TRANSCRIPT

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

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump continues to face outrage over his response to last weekend's deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where racism and anti-Semitism were on clear display in scenes like this one, when torch-bearing protesters marched on the University of Virginia campus Friday night chanting "Blood and soil," a phrase drawn from Nazi ideology.

WHITE SUPREMACISTS: Blood and soil! Blood and soil! Blood and soil! Blood and soil!

AMY GOODMAN: At Saturday's Unite the Right rally, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members also displayed swastikas on flags and banners as they protested the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Members of the local synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel, said that ahead of the protest, while they were praying, men dressed in fatigues and carrying semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the synagogue, prompting people to leave the service from the back of the building in groups as a safety precaution. Later in the afternoon, Heather Heyer was killed, on Saturday, when a 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer named James Alex Fields plowed his car into a crowd of anti-fascist demonstrators. In another incident, white supremacists beat 20-year-old African-American protester De'Andre Harris.

Following the protests, Monday, the New England Holocaust Memorial was vandalized in Boston, Massachusetts, by a teenager who threw a rock through a glass panel etched with numbers symbolizing the numbers tattooed on the arms of Jews and others imprisoned in Nazi Germany's concentration camps. The attack marked the second time this summer that Boston's Holocaust Memorial has been vandalized.

It took until Tuesday for President Trump to place blame on white supremacists for the deadly violence in Charlottesville. During a news conference at Trump Tower, he attacked the counterprotesters, repeating his earlier claim that both sides were to blame for the violence. He also seemed to ridicule the national movement to remove Confederate monuments, saying the protesters would next want to tear down statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Trump also defended some of the white nationalist protesters who descended on Charlottesville.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee."

AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, President Trump took to Twitter to further complain that it's, quote, "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. ... [T]he beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!" he tweeted.

Leaders of four congressional caucuses are now demanding the White House fire senior aides Sebastian Gorka, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller over their white supremacist views. In a letter to President Trump, the Congressional Asian Pacific American, Hispanic, Progressive and Black Caucuses wrote, quote, "We are deeply concerned that their continued influence on US policy emboldens and tacitly approves the ideological extremism that leads White supremacists to spread violence and hatred."

Now the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect is calling on Twitter to suspend President Trump's personal account, after branding him an "accomplice to domestic terrorism."

For more, we're joined by the group's executive director, Steve Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Explain what you're calling for.

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN: Amy, Twitter has a choice here: It can stand with the love that Heather Heyer's life stood for, or it can stand for the hatred that Donald Trump stands for. There are no two sides. Where is Twitter going to stand? Twitter is under no obligation, as a private company, to carry Donald Trump's hatred. So, President Trump has two accounts. He has his POTUS account, and for the sake of free speech and getting his hate on record for future generations to look at it and to say "Never again," listen, for those reasons, keep his presidential account. But he has a personal account, @realDonaldTrump, that amplifies his hate. Twitter doesn't have to double down on hate. Twitter has a choice. Get rid of the @realDonaldTrump hatred account, not but better than the POTUS account. At least get rid of one.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned about issues of free speech here?

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN: Well, again, he has his POTUS account. Free speech doesn't mean that you have to give hate twice the megaphone, when he already has one megaphone. That seems, to us, a Solomonic solution.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about his response. On Monday, a teleprompter news -- he makes a teleprompter statement -- some called it a hostage video -- where he condemned and named the Ku Klux Klan, the white supremacists, the neo-Nazis, this directly contradicting what he had said two days before, when he said that all sides were responsible for the violence, and then, the next day, on Tuesday, reverting back to what he said on Saturday and particularly focusing on the fact that the white supremacists were -- had a permit for their protest, unlike the counterprotesters.

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN: Well, Amy, I was horrified on Monday by the coverage of the mainstream media that applauded the president for his hostage news conference in which he read a teleprompter with all the energy of a power outage in New York City. He didn't look like he meant every word -- any word. He looked like there was a figurative gun to his head. He didn't want to be there. And when I read the media reports, they said, "Aha, the president finally came out!" You've got to be kidding. The president said nothing after Charlottesville. Finally, he was forced to. Have we so normalized hate that that Monday press conference, that was scripted, should get applause?

AMY GOODMAN: Not even a press conference, a statement.

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN: And not even a press conference. But what kind of world has America landed in? Where is our morality, that we are settling for the crumbs of a fake condemnation? Now, we --

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we learned it was fake on Tuesday.

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN: And we learned it was fake on Tuesday. Here's the thing. It's time not to limit ourselves to saying that President Trump commits acts of racism, sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBT. The president is racist, the president is Islamophobic, and the president is anti-Semitic. Call it out for what it is, because if you don't, you're normalizing the underlying conditions. Now, why would I say that? We've seen again and again a pattern. How many times do we have to see that if a president quacks like a racist duck, walks like a racist dock and does everything in his power to be a racist duck, he is a racist duck?

AMY GOODMAN: What does this have to do with Anne Frank? You're executive director of the Anne Frank Center.

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN: So, let me say this. There are those -- not in your audience -- who would say, "Uh, Steven, aren't you coming on a little too strong for the Anne Frank Center?" No. Anne Frank did not just write her diary as her own personal experience, which she included. She also wrote it as one of social justice's greatest exhortations. She wrote that we have to act to prevent "never again." So, Amy, "never again" is supposed to be an early warning system. If we don't shout this danger from the rooftops, when will we? When history has taken its worst stages of progression? That's when we're going to shout it from the rooftops? Please.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, leaders -- let me turn to leaders of four congressional caucuses demanding the White House fire senior aides Sebastian Gorka, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller over their white supremacist views. In a letter to President Trump, the Congressional Asian Pacific American, Hispanic, Progressive and Black Caucuses wrote, "We are deeply concerned that their continued influence on US policy emboldens and tacitly approves the ideological extremism that leads White supremacists to spread violence and hatred." Talk about who Sebastian Gorka is today and also the calls, the exposé by the Jewish Forward about his ties to far-right Nazi groups in Hungary.

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN: Well, Sebastian Gorka has links to a Hungarian neo-Nazi organization called the Vitézi Rend. His father was a member, so the daily Forward reported. And Sebastian Gorka actually wears his father's neo-Nazi-sympathetic Vitézi Rend medal. Sebastian Gorka has worn it on many occasions, and there are photos. Sebastian Gorka says wearing this neo-Nazi medal is merely a tribute to his late father. I'm sorry, didn't dad have a favorite tie? Really? I mean, I don't know about you, but I don't particularly wear my father's neo-Nazi medals.

AMY GOODMAN: And Steve Bannon?

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN: OK, Steve Bannon is beneath contempt. Here's the politics we have in the White House. President Trump is clearly afraid to fire Steve Bannon, because President Trump probably wonders what hell Steve Bannon will cause out there. Steve Bannon is destroying the country. He's got to go.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me play what President Trump had to say about him, insisting that Steve Bannon is not a racist.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I like Mr. Bannon. He's a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late. You know that. I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that. And I like him. He's a good man. He is not a racist. I can tell you that. He's a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. But we'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he's a good person. And I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.

AMY GOODMAN: Donald Trump, talking about Steve Bannon.

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN: Well, Donald Trump really is the expert on seeing whether somebody is racist? Give me a break. Come on. But, you know, I'm intrigued by that clip. We had Heather Heyer die on Saturday, and President Trump is talking about his alleged victory for president. How narcissistic can you get? What President Trump should have done in Trump Tower is be a leader, commune with our grief. And, Amy, this isn't -- this isn't partisan, because we had -- every president of the last few generations knew how to commune with grief. Not this president.

AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, neo-Nazi leader Richard Spencer spoke with Israeli media and compared his views to those held by Zionists. This is Spencer speaking to Channel 2 News Israel.

RICHARD SPENCER: As an Israeli citizen, someone who understands your identity, who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood and the history and experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me, who has analogous feelings about whites. I mean, you could -- you could say that I am a white Zionist, in the sense that I care about my people. I want us to have a secure homeland that's for us and ourselves, just like you want a secure homeland in Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: That is white supremacist Richard Spencer.

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN: Well, I'm a proud Jew. I'm a proud supporter of Israel. I'm a proud supporter of a two-state solution for Israel living side by side with an independent Palestinian state together in love and cooperation. That is repulsive. Wherever you stand on the Middle East -- I don't care if you're left, right or center -- what we just heard is repulsive. And President Trump is bad for the Israelis. He's bad for the Palestinians. Talk about an opportunity to unify us. That was exploitation. I want to throw up.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to end with David Duke speaking in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend. The KKK leader said white nationalists are going to, quote, "fulfill the promises of Donald Trump's presidency."

DAVID DUKE: This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in. That's why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he's going to take our country back. And that's what we've got to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, during the presidential campaign last year, then-candidate Donald Trump came under fire for inciting his supporters to violence. Here's one example.

DONALD TRUMP: If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.

AMY GOODMAN: So that was President Trump then. And, of course, we see what he's saying today. Final comments, Richard [sic] Goldstein of the Anne Frank Center?

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN: Steven Goldstein, but I have a brother Richard.

AMY GOODMAN: Steven Goldstein.

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN: I don't mind. But listen, how is Melania's cyberbullying campaign going? We see in that clip that there is almost no space -- in fact, none -- between Donald Trump's rhetoric and David Duke's rhetoric. We have a rhetorical convergence between the hate speech of the president of the United States and, as we saw in that clip, David Duke. That's what America has become. And we can all weep.

AMY GOODMAN: Steven Goldstein, we'll leave it there, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.

When we come back, Part 2 of our conversation with a former white supremacist as well as a nephew of a white supremacist who marched this weekend in Charlottesville. Stay with us.

Economic Update: Economics as Deception

Fri, 2017-08-18 00:00

This week's episode discusses how millennials have fallen behind their parents in wealth, poor US medical outcomes, deepening German car scandals and the economic lessons revealed by a Chinese T-shirt maker's investment in Arkansas. The episode also includes an interview with Professor Michael Hudson on "junk economics."

To see more stories like this, visit Economic Update: Your Weekly Dose of Revolutionary Economics

To listen in live on Saturdays at noon, visit WBAI's Live Stream

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Visit Professor Wolff's social movement project, democracyatwork.info.

Permission to reprint Professor Wolff's writing and videos is granted on an individual basis. Please contact profwolff@rdwolff.com to request permission. We reserve the right to refuse or rescind permission at any time.

Steve Bannon's Former Site Is the New Monarch of Right-Wing Media

Fri, 2017-08-18 00:00

Breitbart News merchandise is for sale in the Exhibitor Hub during the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, February 23, 2017, in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Editor's Note: Today, the White House stated that Steve Bannon has resigned from his role as White House chief strategist.

So in the midst of a national firestorm over neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates coming together under the banner of white nationalism to "Unite the Right" last weekend in Charlottesville, presidential adviser Steve Bannon, former publisher of Breitbart News, the self-proclaimed "platform of the alt-right," decided out of the blue to call up Robert Kuttner of the liberal American Prospect to chew the fat. Kuttner told Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi that he believes Bannon when he says he forgot to say it was off the record and that he really saw it as "a candid strategy talk with a comrade." Kuttner said:

[Bannon] simultaneously tries to make alliances with lefties on economic nationalism, while doubling down on the racist, anti-immigrant stuff, and assumes that people will naively work with him on selected issues and excuse his larger role. It's classic hubris.

If Bannon had been able to persuade his boss to tackle infrastructure right out of the gate when the Democrats were still reeling in disbelief, and if he had distanced himself from the worst elements of the right once he took office, that might even have worked. But that also would have required the boss to be someone other than who he is.

People have been focusing on Bannon's comments that the far right are "losers" who need to be crushed, and his taunting of the left, which he hopes will "keep talking about race" so Team Trumpists can win on economic nationalism. This is disingenuous to say the least. To the extent Bannon truly believes that the neo-Nazis are "losers," it's largely a matter of aesthetics. As Vice reporter Elle Reed explained on MSNBC on Wednesday, the "alt-right" is re-branding itself as the new fascism:

That means getting rid of swastikas because they call that a dead ideology so there's no point in bringing that out. They also want to cut out, as they call it, "white trash." They want to look like a middle-class movement with clean-cut, good-looking men. It's a movement focused on aesthetics. They want to look like successful people so that people want to join them.

When Bannon was the publisher of Breitbart News he oversaw the publication of the manifesto for what Taibbi describes as the" snooty, college-based wing of the racialist right Bannon leads … the thinking man's Nazi movement" called "The Establishment Conservative's Guide to the Alt-Right." Bannon knows which side his swastika is buttered on. Insulting the "low-IQ thugs" of the neo-fascist right may best be seen as his own version of Bill Clinton's Sistah Souljah moment.

Bannon's "outreach" to the American Prospect was a transparent attempt to exacerbate what he sees as the division on the left between economic populism and "identity politics." Perhaps he was under the weather or had had a few cocktails but Kuttner was not born yesterday, and saw through his ploy. Choosing this moment to make such a pitch was ill-timed to say the least.

But if Bannon's stategic prowess is overstated, his propaganda chops are not. At that he is very, very good and extremely influential. On Wednesday Robert Faris, Ethan Zuckerman and a group of scholars at Harvard's Berkman Center and MIT's Media Lab released their full study about the effects of media, particularly online media, on the last election. If there is a superstar among all the media outlets it was Breitbart News.

This is a fascinating finding considering all the money and amplification that Fox News and talk radio -- led by the Big Kahuna, Rush Limbaugh -- had created over the years. But it seems the right was looking for something fresh and found it in Breitbart, which, according to the study, was the single most important information hub for the right wing on the internet during the presidential campaign.

If you are still scratching your head that someone as ill-prepared and outrageously unfit as Donald Trump could get tens of millions of people to vote for his, the study explains why:

Our clearest and most significant observation is that the American political system has seen not a symmetrical polarization of the two sides of the political map, but rather the emergence of a discrete and relatively insular right-wing media ecosystem whose shape and communications practices differ sharply from the rest of the media ecosystem, ranging from the center-right to the left. Right-wing media were centered on Breitbart and Fox News, and they presented partisan-disciplined messaging, which was not the case for the traditional professional media that were the center of attention across the rest of the media sphere. The right-wing media ecosystem partly insulated its readers from nonconforming news reported elsewhere and moderated the effects of bad news for Donald Trump's candidacy.

While we observe highly partisan and clickbait news sites on both sides of the partisan divide, especially on Facebook, on the right these sites received amplification and legitimation through an attention backbone that tied the most extreme conspiracy sites like Truthfeed, Infowars, through the likes of Gateway Pundit and Conservative Treehouse, to bridging sites like the Daily Caller and Breitbart that legitimated and normalized the paranoid style that came to typify the right-wing ecosystem in the 2016 election

Trump pulled off his electoral miracle for a lot of reasons. But the data is clear: He couldn't have done it without Steve Bannon and Breitbart.

According to this New York Times profile of Breitbart editor Alex Marlow, the site is now suffering from growing pains, having lost some of its bigger names over the past year due to controversy over its editorial direction in the Trump era. Marlow wrings his hands over the perception that Bannon is still directing the site's editorial line for his own nefarious purposes to wield power in the White House. He also insists Breitbart is moving beyond the hyper-partisan, bomb-throwing style that got the site where it is and made it so influential.

Perhaps the Breitbart management needs a new slogan. I hear "Fair and Balanced" is available.

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Drop the Charges: Organizing to Protect the Durham Freedom Fighters

Fri, 2017-08-18 00:00

Thanks to a long history of organizing and collaboration in North Carolina, activists were able to quickly mobilize legal aid for the freedom fighters who took down the statue in Durham, says activist Angaza Laughinghouse, who helped organize the protests there. He organizes workers to fight white supremacist anti-union efforts.

Activist Takiyah Thompson speaks at the Durham World Workers Party protest where a statue of a Confederate soldier was pulled down in Durham, North Carolina, August 14, 2017. (Photo: Rodney Dunning)

Since election night 2016, the streets of the US have rung with resistance. People all over the country have woken up with the conviction that they must do something to fight inequality in all its forms. But many are wondering what it is they can do. In this ongoing "Interviews for Resistance" series, experienced organizers, troublemakers and thinkers share their insights on what works, what doesn't, what has changed and what is still the same. Today's interview is the 65th in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.

In the wake of the white supremacist attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, protests have sprung up around the country. In North Carolina, a place laden with its own history of white supremacist violence, protesters pulled down a statue of a Confederate soldier outside of the Durham County Courthouse. Arrests and raids on activists' homes followed; so have further protests in solidarity with those who took down the statue, including, on Thursday morning, an attempt by hundreds to march on the jail and turn themselves in to protest the arrests and call for charges to be dropped.

We asked Angaza Laughinghouse, a long-time organizer in the area, to share his thoughts on the protests, the long fight against white supremacy in the South and workers' role in that struggle.

Sarah Jaffe: One of the things that is striking right now is how many people forget how close the history of racial segregation is.

Angaza Laughinghouse: Me, it is my life experience. ... I am a long-time community activist and labor union leader. I'm the former president of North Carolina Public Service Workers Union. I was a founding member of Black Workers for Justice. Engaged in this whole fight against white supremacist actions since we've arrived here. I am from North Carolina. My parents are from Greenville, North Carolina. I grew up around the main streets [near] the demarcation line for apartheid right there in Greenville, North Carolina: Line Street and Boundary Street ... the demarcation line for Blacks and whites.

We had no public libraries in Greenville for the Black community. We couldn't cross over the line on Boundary Street to get to any of the facilities. No equal access to public facilities at all when I was growing up part of my life in Greenville, North Carolina.

In North Carolina, following the events in Charlottesville this weekend, people took it upon themselves to remove the Confederate statue in Durham. Tell us a little bit about what happened and the aftermath of that.

Well, obviously, people were angered Friday night when they saw those people marching around with those torches, those racist, white supremacist chants, and we knew right then and there that that couldn't happen without more people being engaged in this discussion and this fight to challenge this growing right-wing popular movement, this white supremacist movement. Discussion started that weekend. By the time Saturday rolled around, everybody was on the phone -- all the activists were -- [and sending] emails, texts communicating that this cannot stand without us responding to the death of our comrade there who was murdered, people who were injured.

Then, later on, people were communicating about the young Black man that was beaten [when] he went to the parking deck to retrieve his car. In that moment, people began talking about Sunday, that we'd have to mobilize across the State of North Carolina to tell them, to tell the world, that we weren't going to let these fascist Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists just murder and injure and rally their forces to push this historic white supremacist outlook.

That Sunday we began planning the activity in Durham. We began planning, also, another activity in Raleigh. In Raleigh, we had a candlelight vigil in front of the Martin Luther King statue in the heart of the Black community. Nine hundred people gathered to, number one, mourn the death of our comrade who was murdered and 19 injured people. Durham, as you know, had the other activity. Initially we rallied to show some solidarity in action in terms of the freedom fighters that were attacked. It had a great impact on the community here. We talked about it.

I know for a fact that on December 3 of last year the Ku Klux Klan tried to march in Raleigh to celebrate Trump. Some of them heard about the thousands of people who were gathering in Raleigh and decided to do a quick drive through a small rural town called Roxboro, North Carolina. ... So, we are accustomed here in North Carolina to them raising their ugly heads, ugly hate. There has been a long history of it here in North Carolina.

After the rally in Durham and the statue being pulled down, I understand there have been arrests, that the police have been raiding people's homes. Can you tell us a little bit about what has been happening?

Well, at the press conference which was held the following day after the statue was pulled down, two undercover agents approached Takiyah Thompson of North Carolina Central University, a Black student and also a long-time activist with several of the leading organizations that are a part of building a broader people's assembly. They just came and they asked her, "Are you Takiyah Thompson?" and she said, "Yes." They arrested her for the incident that had occurred. There was a group of people who surrounded her immediately after the press conference and they walked her and told her "We love you and we have got your back" as she approached the undercover car that they put her in after they handcuffed her.

The following day they continued to round up individuals. One is a lawyer, Peter Gilbert, and one is a union organizer, Dante Strobino, and others. They are continuing to round up as we speak, picking them up. We are fortunate that we have a long history of working together in this community. We were able to acquire the legal services of a well-known social justice and criminal lawyer by the name of Scott Holmes. He is helping us get them out and process them as we try to pull together a team of lawyers to represent these freedom fighters that took down the statue.

The governor, who is now a Democrat, said that these statues should come down in the wake of this, right?

Yes. Yesterday, Governor Roy Cooper came out with an actual press statement outlining steps for the removal of all Confederate statues from state property. Under the leadership of the Republican governor, who he defeated, Pat McCrory, under his administration they passed a law that states that they cannot move, replace, relocate any of these historical confederate statues from any state property. The governor wants to repeal this law that was passed by the majority Republican state legislature. ... [The state legislature] successfully [pushed] through the North Carolina House of Representatives a bill that states they will not hold liable any driver driving a vehicle through any [of] these protests. The governor is urging the State Senate not to pass this bill and said that we need to make sure people don't drive through demonstrations, they can find some other route, and that they will be held liable, because otherwise, the bill that was passed by the Republicans will be used to injure other demonstrators and murder people as they turn their vehicles into actual weapons.

You were telling me that you have experienced that when you are organizing, people sometimes try to run you down with a car.

One of the things that we do as a union is we oftentimes go to the workplaces, whether it is street maintenance or it is the sanitation yard, and usually they are in areas where people have to drive down a road to get into their workplace, to pick up their trucks, their sewer trucks or their equipment. While we are handing out the flyers, oftentimes some of the anti-union people, some of the people that have old white supremacist ideas and they are union haters -- "You goddamned union communist organizer" -- they try to hit you. So, it is very important that the governor stop this, make sure people are held liable as criminals when they hit or try to run over people as they hand out flyers in front of workplaces.

It is not just a question of protests and rallies. In the "right-to-work" South, where less than 3 percent of all workers in North Carolina are unionized, there is a lot of anti-union feeling. This white supremacist thinking is institutionalized. It is everywhere: in the history, in the workplace, part of the anti-union "right-to-work" climate. These supremacists ... are now calling the county government telling them to prosecute these folks who pulled down the statue to the fullest extent of the law. It is fully institutionalized, it is systematic, this white supremacy thing. It is not just a few crazies as some people want to write it off.

Could you tell us a little bit more about the history in North Carolina? [Black people] have been confronting this stuff for a long time.

Black people certainly have been confronting this for hundreds and hundreds of years. Whether it was lynchings or whether it was the Wilmington riots of 1898, where there was a populist [movement] down in Wilmington, North Carolina, that's in the history books, where the white supremacists came and they burned down a Black newspaper, Black businesses and murdered and slaughtered Black people.

There has been a long history of white supremacists and their violence, since that is what they have always done. I think back to the stories my grandmother told me [about why] my dad was missing a portion of his chest, about how they robbed my great-grandfather's store way back in the early 1900s (it was around 1920s/'30s down in Greenville, North Carolina) and threw the safe on my father's chest. My dad had a big scar on his chest. He was missing a whole pectoral muscle. As I reflect upon that, peace and blessings be on my dad who passed in 2007. A long history of white supremacist violence.

What brought me back to North Carolina -- although I have been here in North Carolina every summer of my life since I was born in 1952 -- was the murder of those five union organizers, political activists in Greensboro. This was the historic Greensboro Massacre of November 3, 1979, when the Klan came into a Black community known as Morningside Heights and gunned down five community and union organizers who were having a rally there. There is a long history.

Also, there is a lawyer working down rural areas, particularly Newton Grove, Johnson County, more what we call the Black Belt region, where the African Americans live and the farmworkers, there again. It was very apparent the role that these white supremacists played in intimidating the workers. They would cheat them out of their wages, they would work them overtime without paying them, spray the fields with pesticides knowing the workers were still working in the fields -- it shows just how this white supremacist ideology devalues Black lives.

How can people support the folks that were arrested? How can people support your work in North Carolina and the organizing that is still going on in North Carolina?

One of the things we are asking people to do is call the district attorney in Durham County: dial 919-808-3010. We are asking them to tell whoever answers the phone to drop the charges on the freedom fighters that took down the statue. The other thing we are doing is we are asking people to please donate. If they go online to the Durham Solidarity Center Freedom Fighter Bond Fund, they can donate toward the legal representation of the people who took the statues down.

Certainly, we are doing organizing, during community town hall meetings, on a host of other issues that we should take time out to discuss the importance of us all participating in efforts to get these statues down, all these racist monuments to white supremacy. That is a very important role they can play. I think workers, too, have a unique role to play. In light of what is happening in our workplaces, I think we have to take up this discussion of why all workers have to make every effort to defeat white supremacy, this white nationalism and neo-fascist popular [movement] that is developing. The reason why is it keeps workers divided in our workplaces so we can't unionize and win basic rights and better conditions and wages in our workplace. Many of us have heard about the recent loss down in Mississippi with the United Auto Workers Union organizing of the Nissan plant down there in Mississippi. It is just very important to take time out to see how this impacts our workplace.

Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission.

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Plantations Were Prisons: An Interview With Law Professor Angela A. Allen-Bell

Fri, 2017-08-18 00:00

On Saturday, Aug. 19, ex-prisoners and activists from across the US will gather in Washington, DC, for the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March. There will also be solidarity events taking place in states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.

Sponsored by the iamWE Prison Advocacy Network, the march will focus on the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which was ratified in 1865 following the end of the Civil War. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery except for prisoners, stating: "Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

The march organizers are calling for the 13th Amendment enslavement clause to be amended to abolish legalized slavery. They are also calling for a congressional hearing on the 13th Amendment's enslavement clause and its role in producing the world's largest prison population.

To draw attention to the march and its demands, Angola 3 News published this interview with Angela A. Allen-Bell, a law professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and an expert in restorative justice and civil and human rights. Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, which works to draw attention to human rights abuses at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a former plantation-turned-prison farm operated by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. The prison was nicknamed "Angola" after the home country of many of the enslaved Africans who worked the plantation.

Bell opens the interview by discussing her recent Mercer Law Review article on Louisiana's criminal jury system, which in some instances allows non-unanimous verdicts that bring sentences of hard labor, and how that relates to institutionalized white supremacy in the US justice system. Oregon is the only other state that allows non-unanimous verdicts in some criminal cases.

"When it comes to African Americans, we have been incarcerated from the time we arrived in this country," Bell says. "Plantations were prisons. The change from incarceration on a plantation, to incarceration in custodial institutions, to incarceration where there are no physical limitations, but where one exists in a state of civic and political oppression, in my view, is nothing more than semantics. Mass incarceration started when slavery started."

Angola 3 News: Your recent article published by the Mercer Law Review, entitled "How The Narrative About Louisiana's Non-Unanimous Criminal Jury System Became a Person of Interest in the Case Against Justice in the Deep South" examines "instances where twelve-person juries are allowed to cast judgement with fewer than twelve individuals voting in favor of a finding of guilt in non-capital, criminal cases involving hard labor sentences."

Can you please explain what your critique of this policy is, and how it relates to your broader critique of institutionalized white supremacy in the US criminal justice system?

Angela A. Allen-Bell: In felony cases that are not death penalty cases, Louisiana seats twelve jurors, but allows a conviction upon the vote of only ten of those jurors.

In 1803, when Louisiana became a territory, unanimous verdicts were required. Non-unanimous verdicts were introduced in Louisiana after slavery ended. This Jim Crow era law made its way to the Constitution of 1898 after a convention of all white males expressed that their:  "mission was … to establish the supremacy of the white race."

The change from unanimity was to: (1) obtain quick convictions that would facilitate the use of free prisoner labor (vis-à-vis Louisiana's convict leasing system) as a replacement for the recent loss of free slave labor;  and (2) ensure African American jurors would not use their voting power to block convictions of other African Americans. In my view, this law:

• Creates an arbitrary system whereby defendants of 48 states are afforded greater 6th Amendment protections than defendants in Louisiana and Oregon, the only two states that allow the use of criminal, non-unanimous juries.

• Establishes an illogical disparity in 6th Amendment protections between state courts and federal courts since all federal courts require unanimous juries (even federal courts in Louisiana and Oregon).

• Contributes to wrongful convictions.

• Ignores the credible research on group thinking, which suggests that unanimous verdicts are more reliable, more careful and more thorough.

• Creates a legal means for prosecutors to discriminate when it comes to jury practices by allowing them to circumvent the US Supreme Court's 1986 Batson v. Kentucky decision, which prohibits prosecutors from using race as a reason not to select someone for jury service. 

• Contributes to the creation of an automated justice system whose aim is speed as opposed to justice and genuine concern for public safety.

• Ignores longstanding 6th Amendment tenants calling for unanimity dating back to the enactment of the 6th Amendment and the time of the Framers.

• Allows different standards between the states and the federal government for the protection of fundamental rights in defiance of the Bill of Rights, which mandates otherwise. 

• Undermines public trust in the judicial system.

• Contributes to the oppression of classes of people.

• Contributes to mass incarceration.

We often think of slavery in racial terms. The scale of slavery is often overlooked. When slavery was abolished, it was the largest financial asset in the American economy. This is significant because it speaks to the coveted nature of the system and hints to the veraciousness of the appetite that would have existed to maintain it.

Laws such as the 13th Amendment and Louisiana's non-unanimous jury law create the appearance of legitimacy in government while simultaneously serving as legal blueprints for the oppression of certain people. They were written to ensure that African Americans could not achieve social or political equality. These laws represent the legislation of oppression and white supremacy. Justice and oppression can't coexist. Therein lies the problem.  

The historical record is replete with examples of this taking form under the cover of law, policy and/or practice. For example, following the end of segregation in Louisiana, the legislature created a Segregation Committee and an Association of Citizens Councils. These bodies were to work in close cooperation with the legislature to preserve white supremacy. One of the things they did was set up programs for parish voting registrars where registrars were trained on how to promote white political control.

Mississippi's legislature created a Sovereignty Commission for using legislation to maintain white supremacy. Alabama added language to its constitution that prevented people from voting if they were convicted of certain enumerated crimes. The crimes that they included in the legislation came from conviction statistics. They used those statistics to select crimes that African Americans were mostly convicted of and then those crimes were put into the constitutional enumeration with the intent of disenfranchising African Americans.

I encourage people to stop viewing these injustices as solitary wrongs. They are so much more than bad laws or bad policies. Justice seekers must view these laws within the context of the system they were designed in. Fixing these laws will accomplish a very narrow goal:  one bad law gone. I discourage a fix. I encourage a solution.

The real issue is the system that plays host to such injustices and human rights abuses. The focus of this generation has to be on systemic change. This is the only way to finally confront the complex layers of institutionalized racism and supremacy in the criminal justice system.

Since the late 1980s, Congressman John Conyers has repeatedly introduced H.R. 40, which calls for the establishment of a "Commission to Study the Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act." What's important about this legislation is the aspect that would create a federal commission to review the institution of slavery, the resulting racial and economic discrimination against African Americans, and the impact of these forces on African Americans who are living today. Studies are routinely done in this country concerning lesser matters. It makes logical sense for the government to devote its resources to fully acknowledging the far-reaching impact that slavery has had on us -- all of us.

Since slavery ended, there have been too many instances of law and policy being used as an agent of repression. And it is law and policy that has defined our economic, political and social existence. At what point have we collectively confronted this reality and what it has done to the infrastructure of our government and our legal system? The upcoming march wisely seeks to confront this void.

What is the current status of the non-unanimous jury rule in Louisiana? Are there currently any challenges to it in the courts or elsewhere?

The law remains in the criminal code and in the state constitution. It continues to be championed and used by many prosecutors on a regular basis. At the same time, there are continuous defense challenges in Louisiana (and Oregon) state courts. Louisiana courts render predictable and ritualistic rulings that maintain the status quo.

On rare occasions when Louisiana courts have agreed to review the merits of non-unanimous jury challenges, they harmoniously declare that the solution to this injustice is to place a toilsome burden of proof on criminal defendants. Notably, on February 9, 2017, in the case of State v. Lee, Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter ruled that proof of disproportionate impact requires the testimony of a statistician or social scientist who has:

"[P]reformed a peer-reviewed study which looked at raw data concerning jury verdicts. This data would have been divided based on unanimous and non-unanimous juries. The data then would have been analyzed for guilty, not guilty, hung juries, and overturned verdicts. The data would also be teased apart based on race, gender, and even religion…To show disparate impact, the court needs to see a full-scale study which looks at the numbers to provide conclusive demographic data…"

There are ongoing efforts by Oregon and Louisiana defense attorneys to have this issue reviewed by the US Supreme Court (who last spoke on this issue in its flawed, 1972 Apodaca v. Oregon plurality opinion). A mounting grassroots advocacy effort led by the ACLU of Louisiana, the Innocence Project New Orleans, myself and a few other local lawyers and exonerees devoted to the dismantling of this law has also formed.

In your Mercer Law Review article and earlier in this interview, you present the historical context for the non-unanimous jury rule by citing how the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, except for prisoners. The 13th Amendment is a central focus of the upcoming Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March in Washington DC August 19.

In your opinion, in order to understand our present circumstances, how significant are these historical origins of the US prison system? What is the legacy of the laws criminalizing former slaves, known as the Black Codes and the convict lease system that accompanied the 13th Amendment's legalization of slavery for prisoners?

After Abraham Lincoln was elected, Southern states started to secede from the Union.  The Civil War ended in May 1865. The 13th Amendment was ratified in December 1865. The 13th Amendment was an attempt by Congress to get those Southern states back. Thus, the exceptions clause. The primary architect of the legislation was a slaveholder. In his recent book, Slaves of the State, Dennis Childs poignantly describes this legislative charade. He writes:

"The grandest emancipatory gesture in US history contained a rhetorical trapdoor, a loophole of state repression, allowing for the continued cohabitation of liberal bourgeois law and racial capitalist terror; the interested invasion of 'objective,' 'color-blind,' and 'duly' processed legality by summary justice and white supremacist custom; and the constitutional sanctioning of state-borne prison-industrial genocide." 

The legacy is that they all contributed to the continuation of the conditions of slavery.  They collectively ensured that slavery never ended, but merely changed forms. These historical origins help us understand the current state of affairs as much as they underscore the significance of the upcoming march, which seeks to eradicate these structural defects in our "injustice" system.

You write that your Mercer Law Review article "advocates against impersonal, mechanized systems of justice that are built upon defendants, dockets, cases, quotas, formulas and rapidity. This article calls for the justice community to see cases in a highly personal way -- to see cases as stories written about humans."

In this same vein, even human rights activists can perhaps get so caught up in the statistics of injustice (like mass incarceration and the racially discriminatory so-called "war on drugs.") that we can downplay or even forget the human story behind the statistics. What is that story? What do you think is the US prison system's impact on prisoners, prisoners' families, and the broader human community?

Nothing about who we are as a mass incarcerator should be viewed as a current event. When it comes to African Americans, we have been incarcerated from the time we arrived in this country. Plantations were prisons. The change from incarceration on a plantation, to incarceration in custodial institutions, to incarceration where there are no physical limitations, but where one exists in a state of civic and political oppression, in my view, is nothing more than semantics. Mass incarceration started when slavery started. And, since that time, African Americans have experienced some form of imprisonment -- the differences are in the degrees.

The notion of incarcerating people as a form of individual punishment did not always exist. The practice was to convict then punish, not to confine. Death and corporal punishment were used extensively before opposition to the death penalty formed. The practice of using physical structures to separate people from society came as an alternative to this.

These institutions (along with immigrant detention centers) have transcended the Southern racist and exploitative agenda and morphed into incubators for capitalist contrivances. At this moment in America, there are over 2.2 million incarcerated people. Incarceration has increased by more than 500% in the last forty years. My research does not offer justification for such sweeping efforts to lock people up. What it does show is that laws, policies, racism, bias, unjust practices, abuses and a nearly automated judicial system has led to the creation of what I liken to an organized human trafficking system where poor people are ushered through courts on virtual conveyor belts and funneled into the unyielding grip of custodial detention and state supervision.

As people understand this, they will approach conversations about prisons and convictions with caution and begin to develop the capacity to see inmates as something more than just "defendants" or "criminals." This matters because perception and characterization shapes our level of empathy.

In no way am I suggesting that every prisoner is free of culpability and is undeservingly in custody. I don't feel that way at all. I am suggesting that the system is so inherently flawed and so riddled with bias (both implicit and explicit) that it often treats the innocent and the guilty the same and, once in it, the system engulfs a person and often fast-tracks them to becoming their worse self.

Prisons are breeding grounds for sickness, recidivism, exploitation, cruelty and destruction. In their current form, they are not a good use of public dollars. With this appreciation, we can no longer dismiss conversations about prisoners. We can't rest on the notion that inmates put themselves there.

In this same vein, we must fight the overuse and abuse of solitary confinement, both in the general population and on death row. This system affords too much unchecked authority to prison officials. The harms far outweigh the benefits. The situation has been too well studied to be refuted at this point. Prolonged solitary confinement causes anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, psychosis and a host of other medical and emotional challenges. It costs more. It is disproportionately used on minorities and vulnerable populations, such as the mentally ill and members of the LGBT community.

The march organizers are correct when they refer to solitary confinement as torture and torture as a human rights violation. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has declared it to be so.

This march represents a moment for people to see what prisons are as much as what they are not. Certainly, they are needed for public safety in some instances. But the scale of the situation in the United States far exceeds what is necessary for public safety.

Prisons create and ensure an underclass. Prisons provide a free labor base. Prisons destroy families and kill potential in people. Prisons provide profits to those who have a stake in them.

When "Free Speech" Kills

Fri, 2017-08-18 00:00

A chalk mural of Heather Heyer, murdered by a white supremacist hitting her and other anti-racist protesters with his car, adorns the Charlottesville Downtown Mall on August 16, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo: Bored_Grrl)

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The way we were going, this was always going to end in blood. Every person who's ever misused arguments for free speech to defend Nazis or white supremacists  --  just so they could puff out their chests and apocryphally quote Voltaire with smug certitude  --  has some measure of Heather Heyer's blood on their hands.

The road that James Alex Fields Jr. sped down was paved with countless editorials in major newspapers and magazines that positioned student movements or black women on Twitter as existential threats to "free speech." It was paved by those who said they were less afraid of Richard Spencer than the man who punched him. It was paved by countless people saying, "they're just words" or "it's just the internet, it's not real life" in defence of extremists' vitriol, never realizing that such statements are not mere words on the wind: they are promises.

After all, how many times have we seen white people online call for mowing down protesters? What happened in Charlottesville wasn't even the first time someone went out and actually did it. As a recent Slate article notes: "On July 10, 2016  --  the same day a South Carolina fire captain threatened to run over BLM protesters who had shut down Interstate 126  --  an SUV driver in southern Illinois plowed through a group of BLM protesters after yelling 'All lives matter, not blacks, all lives.'"

That was over a year ago, and we should have seen then how quickly hateful social media slogans quickly become action.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of Heyer's murder, a Springfield, MA policeman wrote on Facebook  --  in response to a news article about the terror attack  --  "Hahahaha love this, maybe people shouldn't block roads." He added, to someone trying to argue with him, "How do you know [the driver] was a Nazi scumbag? Stop being part of the problem." An incredible two step: celebrating a woman's murder, and then tut tutting someone who insulted her murderer while retreating behind formless relativism.

The many instances of whites letting loose their hatred online and calling for the mowing down of protesters are wishes being loosed into the ether. Eventually, they'll coalesce into a deed. As I said, they are not just words, they are promises, given force and urgency by the overheated rhetoric that prevails on social media, where even the most extreme racists are given free reign to agitate without limit.

Years ago, a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center made abundantly clear that hate sites like Stormfront were a common denominator for the spate of white nationalist terrorism we've seen on both sides of the Atlantic. The SPLC describes what should now be an all too familiar profile of an angry young white man with internet access:

"Assured of the supremacy of his race and frustrated by the inferiority of his achievements, he binges online for hours every day, self-medicating, slowly sipping a cocktail of rage. He gradually gains acceptance in this online birthing den of self-described 'lone wolves,' but he gets no relief, no practical remedies, no suggestions to improve his circumstances. He just gets angrier.
And then he gets a gun."

This was written in the days before GamerGate and the alt-right co-optation of 4chan, but the analysis readily applies to these larger, more easily accessible echo chambers, which have now claimed whole fiefdoms on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit; their combined reach vastly outstrips that of the two decade-old Stormfront.

It was an important first step that GoDaddy and then Google booted the white supremacist Daily Stormer from their hosting services after the site's role in radicalizing Fields  --  and celebrating his rampage  --  was made abundantly clear. That decisiveness was vital, and an even stiffer moral spine will be needed in the days and weeks to come. The time for pretending this group of white-right terrorists are playing the same game of democratic discourse was over decades ago, but some continue to refuse to wake up and acknowledge this reality.

Sacrificing Lives for Liberal Principle

In truth, we need to add the ACLU to this list of naysayers; they actually defended the Nazi and white supremacist mob, fighting the city of Charlottesville when they tried to move or cancel the march. Now, the rally they fought for  --  because of vague, abstract "free speech" principles grounded in a liberalism allergic to meaning  --  has claimed a life and seriously injured many others.

Liberals like Jonathan Chait, Jon Ronson, and Michelle Goldberg deserve their share of criticism for their spinelessness, and free speech absolutism originates  --  from both Constitutional minimalism and a particular school of liberalism that sees principle as an end in itself  --  but there are leftists who are quite keen on the usual cliched arguments as well.

Glenn Greenwald, for instance, defended the ACLU at length for their choice to defend both the extreme right troll Milo Yiannopoulos and the Charlottesville march. He likens us  --  those who openly criticize the reductive use of the Constitution to support hate crimes  --  to people who attack the ACLU for defending the civil liberties of terror suspects, or who attack the Council on American-Islamic Relations as "terrorists."

Take note of the following, content-free argument I'm sure you've never heard before: "One of the defining attributes of fascism is forcible suppression of views."

(Running over a young socialist woman does indeed suppress her views, but Greenwald is wringing his hands here for her murderers, keep in mind.)

Or this equally vacuous cliche:

"Is it not glaringly apparent that the exact opposite will happen: by turning them into free speech martyrs, you will do nothing but strengthen them and make them more sympathetic? Literally nothing has helped Yiannopoulos become a national cult figure more than the well-intentioned (but failed) efforts to deny him a platform."

As someone who watched Yiannopoulos' rise, I've borne witness to the fact that no one with any real power stood up to him and his abuses; this absence is what abetted his growing popularity. The passive permission granted to him by social media platforms, universities, and the press carried with it an imprimatur of approval and acceptability. The grating noise you heard was the sound of the Overton Window shifting.

Greenwald's words are interchangeable with those of any number of liberals he otherwise abhors and disdains as warmongering crypto fascists  --  a fact I find darkly amusing. But he makes a more novel argument here that's also worth quoting:

"It's easy to be dismissive of this serious aspect of the debate if you're some white American or non-Muslim American whose free speech is very unlikely to be depicted as 'material support for terrorism' or otherwise criminalized."

This is as insulting as it is fantastical. Most of the noble warriors for abstract free speech I've encountered, who especially elevate the speech of Nazis and their ilk to prove their virtuous fealty to a principle, are white. In truth, it's marginalized people, queer/trans people and women of color like myself, who often look askance at the tremendous amount of ink spilled by white men like Greenwald defending the untrammeled rights of people who A) say they want to kill us and take away our rights, and B) do so on a regular basis.

We don't look at Nazis being too scared to march and think "there but for the grace of God go I," but instead think, "good, I can breathe that much easier."

His defense of the ACLU here also makes no note of how their Virginia chapter was apparently trolling the counter-protesters hours before Fields' terror attack, snarkily pointing out how a black counter-protester was carrying a bow and arrow.

Spotted a counter protester with bow and arrow. #Charlottesville pic.twitter.com/XkJGPgRKeN

-- ACLU of Virginia (@ACLUVA) August 12, 2017

In addition to functionally narc'ing for the very police state Greenwald claims to abhor, it expresses the same tut tutting of our self-defense and political expression liberals love to indulge in. At the risk of stating the obvious, it wasn't that counter-protester who ended up killing anyone; it was the ACLU's client and object of Greenwald's fetish principle.

There is a difference between defending the civil liberties of someone accused of terrorism (I have no doubt Fields, as a white man, will be accorded every democratic legal courtesy) and saying that a group of people who we know will likely be aggressively violent and bigoted should be permitted to congregate -- with weapons -- in a public square rich with targets.

Further, Greenwald's direct comparison of the defense of Muslims (a vastly diverse group of 1.6 billion people who, in the West, comprise a religious minority routinely subject to discrimination and abuse) to the defense of Nazis (a discrete affinity group united by racial supremacism with murderous intent towards those self-same minorities), and the racism directed at the former to justifiable outrage at the latter, is completely obnoxious.

Much like his comparison between Nazis and left wing activists.

Since Greenwald is so eager to liken us to Dick Cheney, I might point out that this invidious equation of fascists, socialists, and communists is itself a popular right wing talking point. But one need only say this: there are many kinds of socialism and communism that are not Stalinism; there is no expression of fascism but Hitlerism. We can and should be able to make moral judgements accordingly.

Our deaths  --  the deaths of trans folks, POC, and members of other marginalized communities  --  are the true content of Nazi, white supremacist, and neo-Confederate speech. Their rallies are "peaceful" in the way Richard Spencer's promise of "peaceful ethnic cleansing" is peaceful.

Contrary to Greenwald's bizarre fantasy about how all non-whites agree with his absolutism, we understand that reality and organize around it. Securing unlimited rights for Nazis does not guarantee my rights; it forfeits them. Bear in mind who Fields targeted with his car: a group of protesters, many of whom were women and people of colour carrying "Black Lives Matter" signs.

As I was at pains to point out months ago, this vision of untroubled free speech always runs afoul of the fact that there are rights conflicts in any democracy. No one person can have unlimited rights, lest they inevitably interfere with the rights of others. In this case, the privileged indulgence in the rights of Charlottesville's Nazi marchers conflicted quite directly with the right to life putatively enjoyed by the counter-protesters (who all comprise direct targets of Nazi violence).

How many of us must die before liberal and left wing white men realize that they're not the ones being asked to make the ultimate sacrifice so they can hold on to a parlor game principle? Why do they not see that the "free speech" argument creates a moral loophole large enough for these murderers to drive through?

Jeremy Christian, who murdered two men on a light rail train in Portland, OR, reportedly said "Get stabbed in your neck if you hate free speech" to police, days after attending a "free speech rally" in the city that hosted extreme right wing groups. These people are adopting this term for a reason. When we use "free speech" as moral spackle to cover up the true content of these people's' beliefs and deeds, they will take that as a cue and use it accordingly.

This nonsense will keep getting people killed until we grow up as a society and accept that we can make decisive moral judgements about speech acts. Taking action against Nazis is not a slippery slope; it's a sticky floor. It is the ethical ground on which we must stand in order to take our bearings.

A Foolish Consistency

The catastrophic failure of mealy mouthed "both sides"-ism, which Greenwald's editorial is but the liberal version of, was revealed this week when Trump's initial condemnation only blamed nameless "many sides" for violence that had a single source.

To look at how white supremacists, neo-Confederates, and Nazis cheered on that statement, even though it (in some vague, abstract way) condemned them, is instructive. It tells you how and why they thrive on moral ambiguity and relativism, why condemning "both sides" is illusory in its fairness and how it actually emboldens the true culprits by enabling them to skulk in the shadows of namelessness.

One of the last social media posts that Heather Heyer made was the popular slogan "if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." Her final act was to march with Black Lives Matter protesters and members of the local DSA chapter  --  which has fundraised a storm for Heyer and her family. Meanwhile ten others remain in hospital, like Natalie Romero, a Latina student at UVA who joined the counterprotest.

It didn't have to come to this.

But every inch of permission granted by our liberal thought-leaders, and the leftists who've abetted their arguments, every bit of digital earth ceded by Twitter, Google, and Facebook, every "it's the principle of the thing!" argument made by well-meaning whites in defense of our would-be assassins, brought us closer and closer to the point where Charlottesville was inevitable.

As so many of us pointed out, the Klansmen, Nazis, and neo-Confederates were marching en masse in broad daylight without hoods or masks. That boldness has its origins in the permission granted by powerful institutions and prominent commentators who said the "marketplace of ideas" would crush Nazism, in Twitter's ongoing failure to stamp out the Nazi presence on the platform, in the excuses made by liberal/left commentators eager to score easy points off of student activists rather than do the hard work needed to fight an actual threat to freedom.

All this in the name of that foolish consistency that Emerson excoriated so long ago, as if discernment were not also a moral and intellectual skill.

I could say "the time for illusions is over" or some such thing, but people of color have been dying for decades so that people like Greenwald or Chait could cling to a fantasy of "free speech" that never includes us when we need it most, that privileges the speech rights of our murderers over our right to live. It needs to stop now.

I am not the price to be paid for the hobgoblin of your consistent arguments.

This story originally appears at The Establishment.

Pardon Me! High Crimes and Demeanors in the Age of Trump

Thu, 2017-08-17 00:00

Let me try to get this straight: from the moment the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 until recently just about every politician and mainstream pundit in America assured us that we were the planet's indispensable nation, the only truly exceptional one on this small orb of ours.

We were the sole superpower, Earth's hyperpower, its designated global sheriff, the architect of our planetary future. After five centuries of great power rivalries, in the wake of a two-superpower world that, amid the threat of nuclear annihilation, seemed to last forever and a day (even if it didn't quite make it 50 years), the United States was the ultimate survivor, the victor of victors, the last of the last. It stood triumphantly at the end of history. In a lottery that had lasted since Europe's wooden ships first broke out of a periphery of Eurasia and began to colonize much of the planet, the United States was the chosen one, the country that would leave every imperial world-maker from the Romans to the British in its shadow.

Who could doubt that this was now our world in a coming American century beyond compare?

And then, of course, came the attacks of 9/11. A mere $400,000 and 19 suicidal hijackers (mostly Saudis) armed with box cutters and organized from Afghanistan had challenged the greatest power of all time. In the process, they would bring down iconic structures in what would soon be known to Americans as "the homeland," while killing almost 3,000 innocent civilians, acts so shocking that they really did change the world.

Yet even then, a fervor for world-organizing triumphalism only took firmer hold in Washington. The top officials of President George W. Bush's administration almost instantly saw the 9/11 attacks as their very own "Pearl Harbor," the twenty-first-century equivalent of the moment that had launched the U.S. on the path to post-World War II superpowerdom. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld instantly told his aides in the rubble of the Pentagon, "Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not." And indeed they would do just that, seizing the moment with alacrity and promptly launching the "Global War on Terror" -- aka, among the cognoscenti, World War IV (the third, in their minds, having been the Cold War).

No simple "police action" against the modest al-Qaeda organization and Osama bin Laden would do (and those who suggested something so pathetically humble were to be laughed out of the room). At that moment, their newly launched "war" was to be aimed at no less than 60 countries. The world was to be swept clean of "terror" and the tool for doing so and for imposing Washington's version of a world order on much of the planet would be the U.S. military, a force like none ever seen before. It was, President Bush would claim, "the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known." It was, as both he and Barack Obama affirmed, as became gospel on both sides of the aisle in Washington (until Donald Trump arrived in the presidential race of 2016), "the finest fighting force" in history. It was so unquestionably powerful that no enemy could conceivably stand in its path. It would "liberate" not just Afghanistan, but Iraq, a country in the Middle Eastern oil heartlands that had nothing to do with either al-Qaeda or Islamic terror but had a ruler despised in Washington.

And that, mind you, would only be the beginning. Syria and Iran would undoubtedly follow and soon enough the Greater Middle East would be brought under the aegis of a Pax Americana. Meanwhile, globally, no country or even bloc of countries would be capable of rising to challenge the United States into the imaginable future. As Bush put it in a speech at West Point in 2002, "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." In that year, the U.S. National Security Strategy similarly called for the country to "build and maintain" its military power "beyond challenge."

What a soaring dream it all was! In response to the destruction of part of the Pentagon and those towers in New York City, a small group of top officials in Washington, long waiting for just such an opportunity, were determined to impose their version of order and democracy, military-first, on significant parts of the planet and no one would be capable of resisting. Not for long anyway.

Almost 16 years later, you know how that dream of domination turned out, but to Washington's power players at the time it all seemed so obvious. Except for a few retrograde Muslim rebels, it was clearly no one else's planet but ours to organize as we wished. The Soviet Union was already an instant historical memory, its empire scattered to the winds, and Russia itself largely immiserated. The Chinese had a capitalist economy of no small means (even if run by a Communist Party), but as a military force, as a great power, they were anything but impressive. And if you looked at the rest of the world, there were no other potential great powers, no less superpowers, on any imaginable horizon.

Given the history of the Global War on Terror and of the stunning inability of the U.S. military to impose Washington's will, no less its planetary dreams, on more or less anyone, it took an awful long time for such thinking to begin to die. And before it did, the political class, in a fervor of defensive exaggeration, began insisting in a mantra-like way on the "indispensability" and "exceptionality" of... well, us. It was as if the sense of decline most Americans had started feeling in their bones wasn't happening. Of course, the constant invocation of the country's singular specialness should itself have signaled just how wrong things were, because when you're truly indispensable and exceptional you don't need to repeatedly say so (or even say it at all). 

It took a reality TV star with a curious comb-over who had run a set of casinos into the ground to pick up a Reagan-era slogan, "Make America Great Again," and bodysurf it into the White House. He did so in part on the widespread sense in the American heartland that, a quarter-century after the Soviet Union imploded, the U.S. was indeed in decline, even heading for the exit at a creep, not a gallop. The "again" in that slogan was the telltale signal that the billionaire "businessman" (and classic American huckster) had an intuitive handle on an American world of failed war-making and raging inequality about which both his Republican opposition and his Democratic opponent in election 2016, all still priming the pump of indispensability and exceptionality, seemed clueless. 

Who? Us?

Now, here we are on the planet the U.S. was to dominate and run for an eternity with an embattled president surrounded by generals whose skills were honed in America's losing wars of the twenty-first century. If you want a personal gauge of American decline, consider this: barely half a year into office, Donald J. Trump is already threatening to launch a nuclear war and exploring whether he has the power not just to pardon aides, friends, and family, but himself in case of future convictions. With the previous decade and a half in mind, here's a question for you: Pardon me, but even if he pardons himself, who's going to pardon the rest of us?

I mean, am I wrong, or aren't we living in the mess of a world the sole superpower had a major hand in creating and was, once upon a not-so-distant time, all too eager to take credit for? So I find it strange that no one who matters here seems to feel the slightest responsibility for the planet's dismal state. All the politicians, power players, and pundits in Washington who wouldn't have hesitated to take complete credit, had the U.S. achieved anything like its fantasy of a Pax Americana world, couldn't be quicker these days to place the blame for what's actually happened elsewhere.

You know the tale. When it comes to the world's ills, it's Vlad, the Ukrainian Impaler, or Vlad, the Hacker, who's spoiled so much. Among other things, he had, we're told, the temerity to mess with the sacrosanct electoral system of the most democratic country on the planet, a place so pure that its denizens had never heard of such a shocking act -- except, of course, for the scores of times Washington did exactly that to other countries. (Who in the U.S. these days even remembers "the first 9/11"?) The Russian president now gets much of the blame in Washington for the sorry mess of our world, from Eastern Europe and the unsettled NATO alliance to Syria. As for where the rest of the blame lands: it's the Chinese, of course, who've had the nerve to flex their potential great-power muscles by bulking up their military, building fake "islands" in the South China Sea, and claiming parts of that body of water as their own, while not pressuring the North Koreans harder to stand down. It's the Iranians who somehow are responsible for much of the mess in the Middle East, along with various jihadi successors and spin-offs from the original al-Qaeda. They take the rest of the blame for the world of chaos that continues to spread across the Greater Middle East, parts of Africa, and now the Philippines (not to mention the refugees fleeing embattled and desperate lands who are, we are regularly assured, threatening the continental U.S. with disastrous harm).

I don't mean to say that such a crew (refugees excepted) shouldn't bear some of the blame for our disintegrating world, but just remind me: Wasn't the Islamic State born in an American military prison in Iraq? Weren't the Iranian theocrats, those Great-Satan haters, born in the grim crucible of the Shah's rule (and that of his brutal secret police) after the CIA helped hatch a coup that overthrew the elected prime minister of that country in 1953? Didn't Washington ignore promises made to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and others and do its damnedest to move NATO's line of control into parts of the former Soviet empire and associated satellite states?

Didn't the Bush administration lump North Korea with Iraq, a nation it was eager to invade, and Iran, another it planned to take down sooner or later, in the infamous "axis of evil," even though the North Koreans had nothing to do with either of those countries? In the most public manner possible, in a State of the Union address to the nation, the American president linked all three of those countries to terrorism and evil in what was unmistakably a "regime change" package. (If you were eager to convince the North Korean leadership that possessing a nuclear arsenal was the only way to go, that certainly was a good start.) In the process, didn't George W. Bush and his officials functionally shred the Clinton-negotiated agreement by which the North Koreans had indeed frozen their nuclear program, in part by listing that country in its 2002 Nuclear Posture Review "as one of the states that might become the target of a preventive strike"? 

And that's just to begin to explore what it meant to be in the world of the sole superpower from 2001 to 2017. Remind me, for example, which country only recently announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, the crucial global architecture for protecting the planetary environment, and so humanity's future, from a grim kind of dismemberment?

Who's Going to Sanction Us?

So here's my next question: If you're parceling out blame on this planet of ours, why just dump it on the evil doers? What about us? What about the sole superpower, its changing leadership, and the finest fighting force in the history of the universe? Don't we have any responsibility for the situation we now face globally, from North Korea to the Greater Middle East, Ukraine to Venezuela? Didn't the actions of America's leaders and its national security state have anything to do with the world that called forth the Trumpian wave, which could now swamp so many ships of state? Maybe President Trump can indeed pardon himself (an issue being debated at the moment by constitutional scholars), but who pardoned everyone else who lent a hand, large or small, to the creation of what increasingly looks like a failed world?  

Are there no high crimes and misdemeanors for which we Americans are responsible on a planet of the otherwise guilty? 

Here's one thing I think about sometimes on bleak nights. I'm sure you remember the way the Bush administration used fraudulent claims about weapons of mass destruction, or WMDs, as an excuse to launch an invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq and occupy his country. In fact, there was indeed a weapon of mass destruction in Iraq and no one needed to search for it. I'm talking about the U.S. military. 

It was also a weapon of destructive creation. It cracked Iraq open, set Shia and Sunni at each others' throats, loosed a grim process of religious "cleansing" there and across the region, and so provided fertile ground for the worst of the worst. Its "successful" invasion was the crucial factor in preparing the way for the birth of al-Qaeda in Iraq and then of the Islamic State in a country where no such organizations had previously existed.

In truth, in every land across the Greater Middle East and Africa where that military has gotten involved in hostilities, from Libya to Iraq, Yemen to Afghanistan, it has left in its wake shaken or failed states, untold numbers of desperate refugees, and spreading terror movements. It has been a major player in a decade and a half of disaster that has helped destabilize significant parts of the planet. And yet when it comes to apportioning blame, the main people tarred with the disaster that's been the war on terror are those who have been made into refugees in its wake, those who, we are told, would be a mortal danger to us, were we to welcome them here.

And while we're at it, it might be worth mentioning one other weapon of mass destruction in our world: the rise to glory of the 1% and the widening inequality chasm that's accompanied their successes. From Ronald Reagan's presidency on, a series of administrations, Republican and Democratic, have presided over a country and a world growing ever more disastrously unequal, as the rich make staggering gains in income and wealth while the poor and working classes labor ever harder for, relatively speaking, ever less. Consider that but another story of devastation on what reputedly was once an American planet.

In such a global context, our Congress has been eager indeed to sanction the Russians, the Iranians, and the North Koreans for their roles in spreading misery, but who's going to sanction us? Honestly, don't you wonder how we got off the hook so easily for the world we swore that we alone would create? Isn't the U.S. responsible for anything? Doesn't anyone even remember? 

We now have a president with the strangest demeanor imaginable, a bully spouting a kind of rhetoric that eerily echoes the bellicose threats of North Korea. However, like the spreading terror movements and failed states of the Greater Middle East, he should be seen as a spawn of the actions, programs, and dreams of the sole superpower in its self-proclaimed glory and of its plans for a military-enforced global Pax Americana. By the time he's done, President Trump may be responsible for high crimes, including nuclear ones, of a sort that even impeachment wouldn't cover and who, these days, could ever miss his demeanor? 

Blame the evil doers for the devastation visiting this planet? Sure thing. But us? Not for a second.

And while you're at it, welcome to the post-American world.

Trump's "Both Sides" Rhetoric: Liberals Beat Him to the Punch

Thu, 2017-08-17 00:00

While Trump's "both sides" rhetoric has been widely condemned, some liberals and centrists have also lent cover to violent white supremacists by taking aim at the tactics of antifa and Black Lives Matter activists who held their ground in the face of fascism.

(Photo: Vadimguzhva / Stock / Getty Images Plus)

"The thing about us fascists is, it's not that we don't believe in freedom of speech. You can say whatever you want. We'll just throw you in an oven." -- Peter Tefft, white nationalist.

Which side are you on? When one side is composed of Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists, and the other is made up of people attempting to stop them, the answer should be simple: not with the Nazis. But the president of the United States has infamously taken a different view, characterizing the counter-protesters who squared off with Nazis in Charlottesville as having incited the deadly violence the city saw last weekend. Trump also assured the press that there were "fine people" at the Charlottesville convening of white nationalists and other proponents of ethnic cleansing. By lending political cover to his brutish, racist fandom, Trump has both emboldened his followers and further normalized white nationalism in the public consciousness. But amid our ubiquitous condemnations of Trump's "both sides" rhetoric, the left has largely erased the fact that another group beat Trump to the punch: Respectable Liberals.

Social media has been awash in leftist condemnations of antifa and other counter-protesters who disrupted white supremacist events in Charlottesville last weekend. Many liberals have also criticized protesters in Durham, North Carolina, who removed a Confederate statue on Monday. Liberals who condemned the actions of the Durham protesters stated that the protesters' cause was just, but that there are "better ways" (i.e., legislative solutions).

When I hear such arguments, I can't help but wonder, where were these movement critics during all of the years that the Durham statue, a monument to slavery and hatred, stood undisturbed? Where were their legislative solutions then? How many Respectable Liberals have walked past Confederate monuments each day, without any thought of what it would take to bring them down?

In the years before Bree Newsome heroically declared, "This flag comes down today!" I don't recall any of the white pundits who've condemned protesters in Durham initiating campaigns to remove these statues. For many liberals, the Confederate flag was nothing more than a symbol that reified their own superiority -- as if their snide comments about those who still displayed the flag were, in and of themselves, political activism.

But as soon as Taqiyah Thompson climbed onto the base of a Confederate statue and attached the nylon rope that pulled it down, Respectable Opinions arose from the ground like weeds. It was as if the statue, and its impacts on Black people, had been invisible until it was lashed and pulled to the ground.

Because for many, this statue was, in fact, invisible until Thompson's transformative act of rebellion occurred.

In liberal discussions of the Durham statue, you will rarely hear mention of how much, or how little, Respectable Liberals themselves have contributed to efforts to remove racist iconography. Because for most, no such solidarity existed. Many struggles don't exist within the scope of the white gaze until white eyes are forcibly fixed on major events. What precipitated the removal of Confederate flags in South Carolina? Sadly, it wasn't the well-reasoned arguments of Black people.

It took a massacre at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in Charleston, and Bree Newsome's removal of a Confederate flag, for most liberals to see the removal of Confederate imagery as a political priority. As is often the case, it took both Black death and Black disobedience to bring a long-ignored issue into focus.

Some Respectable Liberals have argued that there is a distinction between Bree Newsome's removal of the Confederate flag, which they supported, and the upending of the Durham statue -- an act that they condemn. Why? For some, it is the imagery of property destruction, as they have been taught to understand it: A solid object was actually broken before their eyes, and capitalism has taught them that is bad. Both the flag and the statue were public property, and while Newsome didn't destroy the flag, most leftists would have been happy to see it fall from its pole and land in a trashcan. So, what is the difference between a discarded scrap of fabric and a toppled pile of bronze?

A subconscious fear of Black people and Black rebellion is likely also at the root of many white people's negative view of the events in Durham. It's been documented that white people are simply more likely to fear Black and Brown people than white people. A 2015 study in "Evolution and Human Behavior" concluded that "prevailing impressions of Black and Hispanic men as large and muscular are connected to perceptions of physical aggressiveness."

Amongst the many factors that inform such racial biases, one of the most politically obvious is that Black people in the United States have always had cause for revolt.

Most people would agree that human beings have a natural right to defend their own lives, and the lives of their families. Many more would concede that it's reasonable for a person to reclaim what's been stolen from them. If one examines the position of Black people within such a belief system, the possibilities become frightening to a whole lot of white people.

Put simply: The idea of angry Black people breaking things scares most white people, even if they think the object in question should be destroyed.

So, Respectable Liberals pay lip service to the issues while demanding that the oppressed wait patiently and do things the "right way," just as the white moderates of King's time implored him to be patient. But as marginalized people have learned, across the course of many oppressions, freedom is not delivered on request.

The Respectable Liberals' condemnations of counter-protesters in Charlottesville are also rooted in the need to maintain white order. It has long been their policy to acknowledge inequity, but to argue that it must be allowed to continue, for now. To such people, a lynch mob is "speech" until someone is killed. For the sake of order, and everyone's freedoms, we are supposed to watch as our would-be killers gather, pick up torches and rally for our deaths. Liberals have repeatedly echoed that Nazis and the KKK should be starved of attention, but the truth is, the liberal plan of ignoring fascists until they go away helped deliver us to this moment. The current surge in openly white-supremacist behavior, which drags all racist violence further into the mainstream, was allowed to incubate, undisturbed, by leftists who wrote its brutes off as basement-dwelling internet trolls. Now, they have emerged. They have marched brazenly, chanted "blood and soil" and killed a human being in full view of the world. And yet, we are still told that if we ignore them, they will go away.

What purpose does this strategy serve, except to maintain our participation in a system of order that does not protect us? Marginalized people are being treated as though we are the ones failing institutions that have never protected us. But we, as people who have been living under threat our entire lives, can no longer accept bureaucratic barriers to our dignity and survival. Liberals who cannot bring themselves to agree, or to confront these threats should, at the very least, learn to hold their tongues when a tactic they wouldn't personally attempt comes into play. 

To destabilize this damaging Respectable Liberal narrative, those embedded in communities that espouse it must take responsibility for pushing back against it. If you agree, but don't know where to begin, I have a few suggestions.

Tell your Respectable Liberal friends that they don't have to comment on every tactic they don't agree with, or don't understand. Assure them that, whatever society has taught them, it's OK for them to have unexpressed thoughts. Tell them that when they find themselves writing a Facebook post about how a racist statue should have come down more bureaucratically, it's time to hit delete and share a cat meme instead. Tell them that the first thing they need to do, to be of any use to anyone in our struggles, is to realize that the enemy is on the other side. Tell them that this work is complicated, but that they have a lot of role models to learn from. One of them died on Saturday. Her name is Heather Heyer.

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Stonewall Jackson's Great-Great-Grandsons Call for Removal of Confederate Monuments

Thu, 2017-08-17 00:00

As President Trump faces growing outrage over his response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, we bring you an exclusive: an interview with the great-great-grandsons of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. At least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be found in public spaces across the country. But now a number of the monuments are coming down. Calls for the removal of the statues are even coming from the descendants of the leaders of the Confederacy. We speak with two of the great-great-grandsons of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Jack and Warren Christian have just written an open letter to the mayor of Richmond calling for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in Richmond. They write, "Our sense of justice leads us to believe that removing the Stonewall statue and other monuments should be part of a larger project of actively mending the racial disparities that hundreds of years of white supremacy have wrought."

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: Momentum is growing across the country to remove Confederate statues in the wake of Saturday's deadly white supremacist, neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. At least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be found in public spaces across the country. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, most of them were built during the early decades of Jim Crow or in reaction to the civil rights movement -- not after the Civil War. But now a number of the monuments are coming down. In Baltimore, the city, under orders from the mayor, has just removed all four of its Confederate statues. In Durham, North Carolina, protesters toppled a Confederate statue after a college student named Takiyah Thompson climbed up a ladder and looped a rope around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument. She appeared on Democracy Now! just before going to court on Wednesday.

TAKIYAH THOMPSON: And I did this because the statue is a symbol of nationalism, and it's a symbol of white nationalism. And the type of white nationalism I'm talking about is the type of white nationalism that is sending me death threats on Facebook. I'm talking about the type of white nationalist that, you know, has killed a woman in a protest.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, on Wednesday, in Brooklyn, New York, the Episcopal Church removed two plaques honoring Robert E. Lee. On Monday, a monument to Confederate soldiers in Gainesville, Florida, was also removed. And several other Confederate monuments are slated to be removed across the country. On Wednesday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe encouraged all local governments to remove Confederate monuments, saying they've become "flashpoints for hatred, division and violence," unquote.

And the calls for the removal of the statues are even coming from the descendants of the leaders of the Confederacy. Today, an exclusive interview with two of the great-great-grandsons of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Jack and Warren Christian have just written an open letter to the mayor of Richmond calling for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in Richmond. They write, quote, "[O]ur sense of justice leads us to believe that removing the Stonewall statue and other monuments should be part of a larger project of actively mending the racial disparities that hundreds of years of white supremacy have wrought. We hope other descendants of Confederate generals will stand with us." Jack Christian joins us from western Massachusetts, from Chicopee, Mass. And Warren Christian is in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Jack and Warren, welcome to Democracy Now!

JACK CHRISTIAN: Thanks for having us.

WARREN CHRISTIAN: Thanks, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It's great -- it's great to have you both with us. Talk about why you've decided to speak out right now. Let's begin with Jack Christian.

JACK CHRISTIAN: Yeah, well, I think that [inaudible] wrote definitely is a product of something that we've been thinking about and feeling for a long while now, but was also very much catalyzed by what we saw in Charlottesville, and particularly in Durham, pulling down their Confederate monument. So that inspired Warren and I to kind of feel like this was the time to write this letter.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Warren Christian, in Baltimore, under cover of night, two nights ago, the mayor had four Confederate monuments pulled down. One of them was a monument of your great-great-grandfather, Stonewall Jackson. Your thoughts today and how you came, together with Jack, to call for the removal of not only monuments to your great-great-grandfather, but all other Confederate monuments?

WARREN CHRISTIAN: Yes. Well, this -- like Jack said, this is something that we've felt for a long time. I think it's very clear, if you look at the context in which the monuments were put up, they weren't -- they weren't celebrating kind of benign war heroes. They were very clearly meant to be things that would intimidate black people and further white supremacy in the U.S.

Where I work, at UNC, there's a prominent Confederate memorial, monument, statue right in the heart of campus. And since I've been at the University of North Carolina, I have wanted for that statue to be removed, and felt like speaking out about it, and now, finally, kind of got the courage to do so.

I think Jack and I, and along with our parents, it's kind of some mixed feelings, mixed emotions, about being direct descendants of Stonewall Jackson. It's not something that I, you know, widely share, outside of a very close group of friends. So this is really kind of a coming out, in a sort.

And also, the -- I think the other thing is, in some ways, I don't feel like it should matter too much, you know, how we feel about the statues, but I do understand that it does -- it is important to some folks how we feel about it. And, for example, this statue at the University of North Carolina, when it was put up, the speaker, Julian Carr, who is a prominent local businessman, talked a lot about how the Confederate soldiers were working to save the Anglo-Saxon race. And then, really kind of disgustingly, at the end of his speech, he bragged about having the -- his quotes -- "pleasant duty of horsewhipping a black woman in front of a hundred federal soldiers and leaving her clothes in tatters." So I think the racist and white supremacist intent of these monuments is clear. And I think it's past time that they're all removed from the public squares of our country.

AMY GOODMAN: You work at the University of North Carolina?

WARREN CHRISTIAN: Yeah, so I work at the University of North Carolina, and I am somewhat disgusted walking past that statue on campus. And I can only imagine how it feels to students of color, and particularly black students, who have to walk by that on their way to class.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you --

WARREN CHRISTIAN: And I know that -- yes, sorry, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you told the president of the university or other students? You said you've kept pretty quiet about this until now, but --

WARREN CHRISTIAN: I have, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: -- about your desires to have that monument to your great-great-grandfather removed?

WARREN CHRISTIAN: Not in a public forum, but I -- you know, I'd say this is it. I'd like that statue, of course, removed. I think the University of North Carolina, there's a lot of great people doing great work to try to recruit, retain and support students of color and black students, and having this monument on campus just completely goes against that spirit.

AMY GOODMAN: Jack, can you tell us who Stonewall Jackson was?

JACK CHRISTIAN: Yeah, it's -- I'll do my best. It's funny, serendipitous almost, that this summer, earlier in the summer, I had started reading the biography from a few years ago called Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne, that humanizes Stonewall in some new ways.

He is -- he's famous, he got his nickname, for, you know, standing in battle and not being pushed back by federal forces, if I'm not mistaken, in the first Bull Run, and other Confederate generals observed him standing like that and said he's standing like a stone wall. So that's where his nickname comes from. His fame, after that, is for the Valley Campaign that he waged in the western part of Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, where he -- you know, he, with a much smaller force, was able to hold off Union forces for a long time, which had the effect of greatly extending the Civil War, in all likelihood. So that's who he was as a soldier.

As a person, he was very complicated. He was an orphan who did well academically and graduated high in his class at VMI. He did, in his adult life, own slaves. He also was very religious. And as part of his religious calling, he taught -- he taught Sunday school to enslaved peoples where he lived, in Lexington, Virginia, which was, in my understanding of it, at least controversial, if not an illegal thing to do. So, you know, this is sort of the person that we have, kind of all our lives, been thinking about, grappling with. That's my thumbnail sketch of him.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to go to a break, then come back to this conversation. Then we're going to go to Fargo, North Dakota, to speak with the nephew of one of the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville this past weekend. That white supremacist's father wrote an open letter on Facebook saying the family was disowning his son, was disowning his white supremacist son. And we're going to speak with a recovered white supremacist who is part of an organization called Life After Hate. This is Democracy Now!, our exclusive interview with the great-great-grandsons of Stonewall Jackson. We'll also hear, after break, them reading a part of the letter that they have written calling for monuments to their great-great-grandfather to be taken down around the country. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Inti-Illimani, here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we bring you this exclusive interview with two of the great-great-grandsons of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Let's go back to President Trump speaking at this fiery, unhinged news conference he had on Tuesday in Trump Tower here in New York.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So, this week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder: Is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you -- you really have to ask yourself: Where does it stop?

AMY GOODMAN: So that was President Trump. We're joined by Jack and Warren Christian, two great-great-grandsons of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, who have written a letter calling for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in Richmond, Virginia.

Warren and Jack, I was wondering if you could both read a part of this open letter that you have written.

JACK CHRISTIAN: Sure, I'd be glad to. I'm going to read the first couple paragraphs, and Warren's going to read the last couple paragraphs. So we write:

"Dear Mayor Levar Stoney" -- that's the mayor of Richmond -- "and members of the Monument Avenue Commission,

"We are native Richmonders and also the great-great-grandsons of Stonewall Jackson. As two of the closest living relatives to Stonewall, we are writing today to ask for the removal of his statue, as well as the removal of all Confederate statues from Monument Avenue. They are overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display. Overnight," -- two nights ago now -- "Baltimore has seen fit to take this action. Richmond should, too.

"In making this request, we wish to express our respect and admiration for Mayor Stoney's leadership while also strongly disagreeing with his claim that 'removal of symbols does [nothing] for telling the actual truth [nor] changes the state and culture of racism in this country today.' In our view, the removal of the Jackson statue and others will necessarily further difficult conversations about racial justice. It will begin to tell the truth of all of us coming to our senses."

We go on in the letter to detail some of our rationale and family history. And then Warren is going to read the last few paragraphs.

WARREN CHRISTIAN: "Ongoing racial disparities in incarceration, educational attainment, police brutality, hiring practices, access to health care, and, perhaps most starkly, wealth, make it clear that these monuments do not stand somehow outside of history. Racism and white supremacy, which undoubtedly continue today, are neither natural nor inevitable. Rather, they were created in order to justify the unjustifiable, in particular slavery.

“One thing that bonds our extended family, besides our common ancestor, is that many have worked, often as clergy and as educators, for justice in their communities. While we do not purport to speak for all of Stonewall's kin, our sense of justice leads us to believe that removing the Stonewall statue and other monuments should be part of a larger project of actively mending the racial disparities that hundreds of years of white supremacy have wrought. We hope other descendants of Confederate generals will stand with us.

"As cities all over the South are realizing now, we are not in need of added context. We are in need of a new context -- one in which the statues have been taken down."

AMY GOODMAN: Those, the words of Jack and Warren Christian, the great-great-grandsons of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, calling for the removal of his monument in Richmond. Are you calling for the removal of his monument around the country, Jack?

JACK CHRISTIAN: We're calling for the removal of his monument in Richmond firstly, but our argument is that all Confederate monuments and symbols should be removed from public display.

AMY GOODMAN: You take a different approach than Bertram Hayes-Davis, the great-great-grandson of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who talks about contextualizing monuments. He's not against moving them, perhaps into museums, but really emphasizes this issue of contextualizing. Warren, your response to that?

WARREN CHRISTIAN: I think the context is, is that they were put up in support of this myth of the Lost Cause, that the Confederate soldiers were fighting kind of a noble fight, and that that doesn't give the full weight to the fact that they were fighting to continue the institution of slavery. And the --

AMY GOODMAN: That's an interesting --

WARREN CHRISTIAN: I mean, I think, so that's --

AMY GOODMAN: That's an interesting point you raise, is that these Confederate monuments didn't go up right after the Civil War --

WARREN CHRISTIAN: No.

AMY GOODMAN: -- but decades later, with the rise of the Klan and the introduction of Jim Crow laws.

WARREN CHRISTIAN: And that's why I think they shouldn't be -- I don't think any American, and especially black Americans, should be forced to pass these symbols of white supremacy on their ways to work, church, school. I don't think that's -- I don't think we can -- I think, as part of our national healing -- we're still, very clearly, in my eyes, dealing with the effects of slavery, of Jim Crow, of segregation, of racist policies like redlining. And I think this, removing the monuments, ultimately, in my eyes, is just a small step that's necessary for racial healing in the country, along with many other much larger steps that are necessary.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking about a proposed Gettysburg memorial in 1869, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, quote, said, "I think it wiser ... not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, [and] to commit to oblivion the feelings [it] engendered." So, even the Confederate general, who has I don't know how many monuments of his likeness, of him, around the country, said there shouldn't be Confederate monuments, Jack. And I wanted to ask if you'd end by talking about whether you have your family's support, and, for example, your parents'.

JACK CHRISTIAN: Yeah, we have not talked directly to our parents, although we sent the letter to them. But we very much believe that we have their support and know that this works in -- really in the spirit in which they brought us up, to work and to fight for justice. I've been -- you know, this went up -- this letter went up about midnight Eastern time last night, and I've been heartened to see others in our extended family have already reached out and said "thank you" and that they -- that they appreciate, you know, what we've said. We certainly haven't heard from everyone, but the response from our family -- and even I've gotten some response from other people who have Confederates in their ancestry, that have said -- they have said that they feel similarly. So, we're very heartened by the response so far --

AMY GOODMAN: As you --

JACK CHRISTIAN: -- both from our family -- yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: As you watched what happened in Charlottesville, do you feel like there is a kind of new civil war in this country?

JACK CHRISTIAN: I certainly hope not. I was sickened by what we saw. I hadn't thought about it in quite so stark of terms. But I have thought about it that -- where we definitely are at a incredibly tense and stratified moment. And I think that we need to -- we need to all take steps to have these conversations and to heal ourselves. So, that's my hope.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read -- I wanted to read you a quote from Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who reportedly is under fire in the White House. Who knows if that's true? But he did an interview with Bob Kuttner of The American Prospect, the liberal magazine, and said, quote, "President Trump, by asking, 'Where does this all end' -- Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln -- connects with the American people about their history, culture and traditions. The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it's all racist. Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can't get enough of it," Bannon said. Jack, your response?

JACK CHRISTIAN: I wondered if you were going to ask me about that, and I listened to this on the news on my way into the TV station this morning. I think that -- I think that, ironically, part of Trump's statement has to do -- I'm choosing my words carefully -- part of Trump's statement has to do with a larger conversation that is taking place and that needs to take place, where we recognize that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were also white supremacists and slave owners, and we think about that history. A writer on the online magazine The Root had a funny, but apt, take that I think sums it up, that said -- the writer said, "Leave it to Trump to have a woke take on Thomas Jefferson." And I think there is -- I think there's some truth or some pithiness there.

AMY GOODMAN: You --

JACK CHRISTIAN: So, I -- go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: Jack and Warren, you're both teachers?

JACK CHRISTIAN: Yes.

WARREN CHRISTIAN: Yeah.

JACK CHRISTIAN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: What will you be telling your students today?

JACK CHRISTIAN: I have until September 6 to think about what I'll tell them.

AMY GOODMAN: Well --

JACK CHRISTIAN: But --

WARREN CHRISTIAN: I'm in the fortunate -- yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, and Warren?

WARREN CHRISTIAN: I'm in the fortunate position of working with international students, so it's really great to -- you know, when they come to the U.S., they very quickly, if they haven't before they got here, realize that race is a huge issue in the U.S., but they still haven't fully formed their decisions. So, what I try to do is always, in contextualizing what the situation surrounding race is in the U.S., is starting with slavery and segregation, and making sure they understand that history to see how it's led us where we are today. And then -- and because they don't have so much kind of skin in the game, they're often very receptive to those messages, in a way that working with American students and having discussions about race can be much more difficult.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Warren and Jack, I want to thank you so much for being with us. I think you've taught this whole country a lot today. Jack and Warren Christian, the great-great-grandsons of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, written a joint letter calling for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in Richmond, Virginia. We will link to your letter at democracynow.org.

When we come back, we're going to be joined by a nephew of one of the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. And we'll talk about his family's reaction to the extremist activism, disavowing him, disowning him. And we'll speak with the head of an organization that -- of white supremacists who have changed their ways. It's called Life After Hate. Stay with us.

Threat Assessment

Thu, 2017-08-17 00:00

Trump's Economic Council Implodes as White House Defends White Supremacists

Thu, 2017-08-17 00:00

Donald Trump speaks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017, in New York City. He fielded questions from reporters about his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and white supremacists. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Donald Trump's private and political career has been colored by several accusations of blatant racism, but it was the President's recent defense of white supremacists and neo-Nazis that forced CEOs to finally distance themselves from the administration.

Two White House panels, staffed with CEOs of top companies, were abruptly disbanded on Wednesday by President Trump, whose hand was forced by several high-profile resignations in the wake of the President's reaction to the racist violence in Charlottesville, Va.

The CEO of the mining company 3M, Inge Thulin, and Campbell's soup CEO Denise Morrison announced they were leaving Trump's Manufacturing Advisory Council on Wednesday morning. They were the seventh and eighth business leaders to step down from the panel since the attack in Charlottesville on Saturday.

Trump reacted by nixing the council and a parallel body, known as the Strategic and Policy Forum, whose members issued a statement on Wednesday, affirming their opposition to racism and bigotry.

"As our members have expressed individually over the past several days, intolerance, racism and violence have absolutely no place in this country and are an affront to core American values," the group wrote.

Trump tweeted in response: "Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!"

Three members of the forum had already resigned prior to the events in Charlottesville. Following Trump's Muslim travel ban, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down. Tesla chief Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger left later after Trump announced his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.

This latest exodus was prompted by the President's apparent defense of white supremacists and neo-Nazis who rallied in Charlottesville over the weekend. Their demonstrations featured a Tiki torch-lit gathering at the University of Virginia that led to violent attacks against students and Black Lives Matters counter protesters. Friday night's event also featured chants of, "Jews will not replace us!" and "White lives matter!"

A Planned rally on Saturday was called off by police following white supremacist clashes with leftist organizations and anti-fascist blocs in the streets of Charlottesville. Later that afternoon, an individual who participated in the rally with the fascist group Vanguard America sped his car into a group of counter protestors, injuring 19 people and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Trump responded to the events Saturday by immediately blaming the violence on "many sides." He later, on Monday, clarified his remarks, reading from a teleprompter: "Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."

But during a Tuesday press conference, Trump reverted back to giving cover to the white extremist movement. "Not all of those people were white supremacists," he said of individuals who rallied under white power organization and Nazi flags over the weekend.

"I do think there's blame on both sides," the President went on to say, equating antifa with rightwing extremists. "You look at both sides. I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it."

"You had some very bad people in that group," he said of far-right protesters. "You also had some very fine people on both sides," he claimed.

Trump also used the term "alt-left" in his press conference, a smear created by right-wing ideologues like Sean Hannity, and signal boosted by prominent liberal Democrats to shut down leftist criticism.

The now-disbanded advisory councils were set up to formulate policy solutions to stimulate American manufacturing and create jobs, but met on only a few occasions. They primarily provided President Trump with photo-ops with US business leaders.

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Voices of the Palestinian Diaspora: Ramzy Baroud and Rima Najjar on Identity and Resistance

Thu, 2017-08-17 00:00

Palestinians have been artificially divided for nearly seven decades, but from generation to generation, members of the Palestinian diaspora have neither forgotten their identity nor despaired. Diasporic Palestinians are fundamental to the struggle for equality and justice in several key ways, say journalist and author Ramzy Baroud and retired English professor Rima Najjar.

An activist holds up a Palestinian flag at a protest outside the White House during Donald Trump's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 15, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

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Uprooted from their native dwellings, loved ones and joint heritage, Palestinians have embraced a steadfastness (sumud) that has been one of the principles of their struggle for justice.

For over 69 years since the inception of Israel, the Palestinian identity has undergone systematic division and abuse. Its endurance is a testament to the inextricable nature of a collective ethos from the human psyche.

Nonetheless, members of the diaspora are indispensable to the collective struggle for Palestinian self-determination and against Israeli oppression. They function as crucial intermediaries between Palestinians within Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and the outside world, lobby for support and against discriminatory policies at their locales, actively engage in the media battle for accurate reporting and against propaganda, and facilitate campaigns, such as the ones spearheaded by the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Two prominent Palestinians of the diaspora are journalist and book author Ramzy Baroud and retired English literature professor Rima Najjar. Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for more than 20 years, authoring several books on Palestine. Najjar has written an extended essay about returning to work in Palestine, following an exile from the West Bank and a period of living in the US.

In this interview, Baroud and Najjar discuss Palestinian identity, society, roots and resistance.

Yoav Litvin: Ramzy, you are a Palestinian-American and Muslim man originally from the Gaza Strip in Palestine. Please describe your political history and current endeavors.

Ramzy Baroud: I rarely define myself by my religion. Group identities of any kind make me quite nervous. While they have the potential of giving one an automatic membership, thus acceptance within a larger group, they also have the tendency of stifling one's intellect and inviting groupthink and restrictive conformity.

I was born into a refugee family in the Gaza Strip. My family arrived there soon after the 1948 war and ethnic cleansing of most Palestinians from their historic homeland. Being a refugee has more than physical attributes -- living in tents, being stateless and so on; it is the emotional and physiological scars that linger most. Refugees who never go home are scarred forever. I have a home, but I cannot get to it, and no alternative home ever suffices. Believe me, I tried.

[Palestinian poet] Mahmoud Darwish wrote,

"I am from there. I am from here.

I am not there and I am not here.

I have two names, which meet and part,

and I have two languages.

I forget which of them I dream in."

And between the "there" and "here," you are lost yet grounded, rebellious yet scared, angry yet patient, happy yet broken and every other contradictory feeling there is in between.

My focus in my academic studies, books and many of my articles is people's history. I dedicated years of my life to convey the stories of seemingly ordinary people, and how collective popular movements shape history, as opposed to being docile factors in historical events. My next book will bear the title: A People's Story of Palestine. Recently, I concluded a project for Al Jazeera English (also available in Arabic) called Palestine in Motion. It is the first digital attempt at providing a people's history of Palestine.

My childhood was difficult, yet interrupted by many happy memories: the love of my parents; the sea; playing football with my friends in the refugee camp. I grew up in a household where old books of poetry and high literature were scattered about in a place with little food and rarely running water or electricity. Everything I owned was a hand-me-down from my older brothers, whose clothes were also hand-me-downs from others. I grew up in a socialist community that practiced socialism without designating itself as such.

My father was a rebel, but eventually a broken warrior. He grew old and lonely in the refugee camp. Most of his friends -- old soldiers who fought in the battlefields in Gaza, Lebanon and Jordan -- either died or were reduced to begging for scraps from the Palestinian Authority (PA). He remained proud 'til the end, but terribly cynical about everything. My mother was gentle and filled with faith. She cared for everyone and loved us profusely. She died at 42. Immediately following her death, we comforted ourselves by saying how lucky she was that she died, since she suffered so much. It didn't help much, though. The pain remains until this day.

Rima Najjar (Photo: Loai Najjar) Rima, you are a Palestinian American, Muslim-born woman originally from Jerusalem (al-Quds), Palestine. Please describe your political history.

Rima Najjar: I worked in the West Bank first with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and then as a professor of English literature at two Palestinian universities for 11 years.

Throughout my entire life, I have thought of myself as Palestinian, period. My father's side of the family is originally from the village of Lifta, Jerusalem, and my mother's from Ijzim, Haifa.

I don't know what it means to be Palestinian Jordanian, which is how I began my life, nor do I really understand what it means to be Palestinian American, which is my current status. But I know in my bones what it is to be Palestinian. Yes, I am "Muslim-born" -- and that has a lot to do with being Palestinian, because in many ways, Muslim Arab culture is the culture of all Palestinian Arabs -- Jews, Christians and Muslims -- whereas Western culture is the culture of Israel.

Ramzy, you grew up in the Gaza Strip. Those were different times and the generations before you had to contend with a different set of challenges. How has the Palestinian identity evolved in the Gaza Strip since 1948?

Baroud: When Israel was established in '48, what remained of Palestine fell under the control of Jordan and Egypt. The Egyptians controlled Gaza through a military administration, but the Jordanians streamlined their control of East Jerusalem and the West Bank as part of the Jordanian kingdom in the East Bank of the River Jordan. Nearly 20 years of this schism afflicted the Palestinian identity. Many in the West Bank elites found themselves oscillating toward the Jordanian king, who expected loyalty to the crown, even from Palestinians -- in fact, especially from Palestinians. The same, more or less, happened in the relationship between Gaza and Cairo. However, the Palestinian identity remained unified despite the volatile geography of their existence, as an occupied, militarily administered population made up mostly of refugees. What kept them whole is the fact that they aspired for one objective, returning to Palestine, and adhered to armed resistance as the means of achieving it.

A psychologist and a fighter himself, Frantz Fanon explained the armed Algerian resistance to French colonialism, not on the basis of whether it is a rational strategy or not. He saw violence as a way for a nation to rebel against its emasculation and degradation, regardless of the tangible outcomes. By uniting around the idea of resistance, Palestinians also remained united as a nation. True, they were poor, stateless and geographically fragmented, yet somehow still espoused a robust identity, a sense of self and nationhood.

The current situation is different. While Gaza itself remains strong in its identity -- since it continues to resist despite the siege and successive wars -- the relationship between Gaza and the West Bank is palpably weakening. The PA in Ramallah doesn't view resistance as a viable option, and offers nothing in return. It works diligently to suffocate any dissent [and] supports the Israeli military through "security coordination" to apprehend, and if necessary, kill resisters, while it continues to invest in an unhealthy relationship of financial dependency between it and the people. Since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, the PA managed to create the illusion of Palestinian control in population centers, sustained by international handouts and governed by corrupt local officials.

But Palestinians in the West Bank are sure to rebel and change the status quo. It is this rebellion that will once more repair the severed relationship between Gaza and the West Bank as was the case during the First Intifada in 1987.

Rima, Jerusalem (al-Quds) has historically been the center of Palestinian cultural and political life. It is the home to the al-Aqsa mosque, and is therefore a focus of the entire Muslim world. Please describe some of the challenges and difficulties al-Quds Palestinians face today.

Najjar: Jerusalem is the spiritual homeland for Jews, as it is for Christians and Muslims. By insisting on placing Jerusalem at the center of the political Jewish entity, Israel is pushing Palestinian Arabs out and claiming the physical city as an a priori right for Jews worldwide.

Today in Jerusalem, Israel has 220,000 illegal Jewish settlers who reside on land confiscated from 300,000 Palestinian residents, now landless. It boasts of 50,000 illegally displaced Palestinian Arabs and 685 illegally demolished Palestinian homes that have rendered 2,500 Palestinian Arabs homeless.

Israel's occupation is legalized through its own jurisprudence but has never been legitimized, as it violates international humanitarian law.

Palestinian Jerusalemites' status in their own hometown is unique in the entire world; they live in constant fear of the power of Israeli authorities to revoke their residency permits. These permits must be renewed every two years and can be revoked if the holder is granted the nationality of another country. They are "permanent residents" contingent on their being loyal to the state that is occupying their city and has annexed it illegally, according to international law. Al-Quds Palestinians have to prove that "the center of their lives" is in Jerusalem and avoid being outside the city for extended periods of time -- for example, to work or study abroad. They are considered stateless under international law (although most are entitled to a Jordanian passport).

There are other conditions that al-Quds Palestinians struggle with. The most substantial is the physical. While they are in a constant state of limbo over their residency status, they have to contend with the hardship of the Israeli annexation/Apartheid wall, which has fragmented many families and cut Jerusalemite Palestinians off from the West Bank. The harsh daily struggle of navigating the Qalandia checkpoint/ bottleneck in order to get to work on the other side is another factor in the "silent transfer" of the Palestinian population out of East Jerusalem.

Al-Quds Palestinian Arabs battling Jewish encroachment on al-Aqsa mosque are the pride of the Muslim nation (umma) worldwide, but even more so, they are the pride of every Palestinian Arab.

Growing up myself as an Israeli in west Jerusalem, since I can remember, the city has been predominantly Jewish, segregated, tense and often violent. How can one learn about Palestinian life and identity in Jerusalem pre-1948?

Najjar: Many Palestinians have written about life and culture in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Palestine before the advent of Zionist colonizers, most notably in diaries and memoirs where the personal and political are enmeshed. One of the most valuable records of Palestinian urban life during the first decade of the 20th century is The Storyteller of Jerusalem: The Life and Times of Wasif Jawhariyyeh, 1904 -1948, recently published in an English translation. Jawhariyyeh, a self-taught chronicler and musician, brings Jerusalem vividly to life as a place without clear boundaries, embodying cohesiveness through social mixing, street festivities and shared ceremonial occasions among the four religious quarters of the Old City (the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Muslim Quarter). "What comes out of this," writes Salim Tamari in the introduction, "is an intimate portrait of Jerusalem's Ottoman modernity at the very moment when Zionism was about to clash with an emerging Palestinian nationalism."

My aunt, Aida Najjar, recently published two books in Arabic: a book about the cultural and social life in Jerusalem in the last century, and a book about Lifta, our family's forcibly depopulated village northwest of Jerusalem, for which Jerusalem was the urban life-line, as it was for other depopulated villages surrounding Jerusalem whose lands are now largely swallowed up by the "Greater Jerusalem" area marked out by Israel.

The maintenance of identity is largely dependent on education. What is the quality of education for Palestinian children in Jerusalem? What are some of the challenges they face to their unique identity?

Najjar: Maintaining Palestinian identity and culture in Jerusalem has become a nightmare for parents, especially in connection with their choice of schools and curriculum. This particular issue, like so many others, followed the same pattern that began developing at the time of the Nakba.

After the occupation of West Bank and the Gaza Strip (schools until then were administered by Jordan and Egypt, respectively) and before the advent of the PA in 1993, Palestinian education was systematically obstructed by the Israeli military governor. This obstruction continues to this day. The system of education in East Jerusalem relies heavily on costly and inadequate private schools. More and more of these schools, due to financial incentives from the Israeli government, are opting for the Israeli rather than the PA's curriculum, which is taught in the public schools.

As a result, Palestinian children study a curriculum that uses Zionist terminology (for example, "Temple Mount" for "Haram al Sharif") and denies their heritage, insisting that Jews worldwide, not Palestinian Arabs, are heirs to that heritage.

Nevertheless, some parents painfully send their children to such schools because the curriculum is recognized by Israel and can get their children into Israeli universities with the promise of good job opportunities. At the same time, Israel has revised the PA textbooks used by roughly 32,000 children, deleting large sections of text, including text from the Quran, and biographical information about Yasser Arafat as well as images, including the Palestinian flag.

Palestinians compensate through home education and through their Palestinian connections on the other side of the wall -- connections that are fraying with each passing decade.    

Rima, please describe the Palestinian diaspora, its history and where it stands today.

Najjar: The estimated 6 million Palestinians who are registered refugees [with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)] living in 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria (many of whom are now refugees for a second time), the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and "exiles" scattered all over the world are the bulwark upon which the core of the Palestinian struggle rests.

The biggest contribution of the Palestinian diaspora to the cause is our steadfastness. For 70 years, from generation to generation, we have not forgotten our identity and have not despaired.

Israel refuses to acknowledge the inalienable and internationally recognized right of return of Palestinian Arabs to their homes and land, insisting on recognizing instead a "right of return" of Jews worldwide to Palestine. Israel now has sovereignty over all of mandate Palestine and continues to dispossess non-Jewish Palestinian Arabs, transferring their land and property into Jewish hands -- a continued act of settler colonialism.

By and large, Palestinians in the diaspora outside refugee camps are highly educated as a group. Many are multilingual and have excelled in various fields, adapting to their new surroundings in ways that refugees who remain stuck in the camps are unable to do. Palestinian society was 80 percent agrarian at the time of the Nakba, and displacement into refugee camps cut them off from their villages and land.

Some examples of contributions from the Palestinian diaspora include the Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN) program, which was introduced by [the United Nations Development Programme] in several countries in 1977 and was invigorated as a full-fledged and vital instrument for development after it was launched in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 1994. Under the UN umbrella, this volunteer program draws on the powerful desire among Palestinian expatriates to contribute to Palestine, countering the brain drain from Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Palestinian territories, and at the same time facilitating our temporary return.

The Palestinian diaspora is behind major investment institutions in Palestine, such as the Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC), PADICO Holding, REACH Holding and the Palestinian Diaspora Investment Company, as well as private universities such as the Arab American University in Jenin (AAUJ).       

Ramzy Baroud. (Photo courtesy of Ramzy Baroud) Ramzy, how has the relationship between the diaspora and Palestinians in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories changed through the years?

Baroud: The Palestinian diaspora (shattat) was an integral part of the Palestinian collective, but this has weakened.

When the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was in its prime, there was an unmistakable rapport between shattat Palestinians and those in Gaza and elsewhere. Palestinian workers in the Gulf paid a small portion of their monthly salaries to support the PLO budget, which operated regionally but also in local Palestinian communities.

But Oslo essentially dismantled the PLO, replacing it with the PA that returned to the occupied Palestinian territories with the promise of building a state. No such state was ever built and the PA eventually became the local police, protecting the interest of the elites and guarding the security of Israel. The PLO is no longer there to fill its traditional role of being the bridge that connects all Palestinians everywhere. Thus, the division that exists in occupied Palestine itself now exists at a large scale, dividing Palestinians everywhere. There is not a single moral authority that has been able to bridge the gap that exists today.

The ones most hard hit by this are Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. They were in a state of limbo to begin with, but now they are almost entirely neglected. The war in Syria made it clear that the struggle for Palestinian refugees is not a dilemma concerning history books, but a constantly renewed struggle. With UNRWA, meant to look after Palestinian refugees, poorly funded and lacking political mandate, Palestinian refugees are now suffering the dual neglect of the international community and their own leadership.

Rima, as an activist here in the United States, what would you say is the role of the Palestinian American community in resistance to Israeli occupation?

Najjar: The role of the Palestinian American community is twofold. The first is to impact American public opinion positively and the other is to lobby Congress. Both tasks are herculean.

The endeavor involves not only countering Israel's erroneous narrative on Palestine, which is deeply entrenched in the media, educational institutions and the entertainment industry, but also countering Islamophobia, which Israel fuels through various campaigns, linking Palestinian resistance with "Islamist" terror activities.

Further, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) grip on Congress is entrenched in the US political system, where it often uses unsavory tactics.

The tactics include criminalizing Palestinian advocacy through lawfare, the goal of which -- according to Brooke Goldstein, director of the Lawfare Project -- is "to make the enemy pay and to send a message [that protesting Israeli policies] will result in massive punishments."

What have been some of the pressures within academic institutions coming from Zionist supporters and lobby groups?

Najjar: One goal of Palestine solidarity activists on university campuses, and that includes both students and faculty, is to implement an academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions "until such times as Israel brings its conduct into line with international law and humanitarian norms."

BDS initiatives in academic associations, as well as any pro-Palestine activity on campus, are opposed vigorously often through false, misleading and well-funded campaigns. This necessitates the investment of enormous amounts of energy, time and money in defense campaigns. A recent example is the dishonest accusation of anti-Semitism and of having links with terrorist organizations directed by the Lawfare Project against Professor Rabab Abdulhadi of San Francisco State University (SFSU). The "Academic Defense Campaigns" page on the website of the US campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has many more examples, including a scathing letter addressing "the cancellation of the faculty search at California State University for the Edward Said Professorship, on 'procedural' grounds, after intense pressure from right-wing Zionist groups."

Palestine Legal helps Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and other organizations or individuals whose rights are violated as a result of their advocacy. Currently featured on its website is a lawsuit it filed on behalf of students at Fordham University against the school over its refusal to grant club status to SJP.

Ramzy, let us turn to global affairs, which inevitably affect the Palestinian struggle. How does the recent surge in right-wing reactionism play into the Palestinian struggle? What is the role of the left?

Baroud: Right-wing reactionism is a self-destructive phenomenon. It is the outcome of mass manipulation of people's anger and despair over their economic woes and future fears as they are living the imminent decline of their countries as powerful players that once controlled the globe. While the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu is capably exploiting the rise of such populism in the West for immediate political gains, one can hardly determine the future directions of that movement, since by definition it is erratic and irrational. We know that the age of fascism in the West is upon us, but how the global order will change is still somewhat difficult to predict.

While the left has traditionally been more sympathetic to Palestine, we cannot speak about the "left" as one unit. In the beginning, the American left was quite charmed by the misleading idea of "socialist" Israel. While, now, many would not openly support Israel, at least not with the same enthusiasm of the past, they are guardedly pro-Palestine. For others, Palestine is an item on a global agenda rife with a long shopping list of causes and struggles. They either fail to understand the centrality of Palestine in the global paradigm of war and peace and the destructive force of Zionism, or [are] too cowardly to admit it. My personal experiences tell me it is the latter.

Yet the left in South America, other parts of the global South, and the radical few in the West fully fathom the meaning of Palestine in their own fight against old and new imperialism. For them, Palestine is not a shopping list item, but a joint fight against colonialism.

Which countries/governments inspire you as a Palestinian activist and why? Do you find specific Arab countries to be more or less supportive of Palestinians?

Baroud: I am inspired by peoples and nations that are able to pick themselves up and rise above their collective pain. While I refuse to romanticize -- as I know that no collective phenomena can be reduced to a single sentence or cliché -- I find myself humbled by the strength of many nations: the Venezuelans navigating their current crisis; the Cubans proudly withstanding a harsh blockade and yet thriving as a community and a nation; the Algerians' resistance against French colonialism inspires and astounds me; the Italian people's fight toward the end of WWII against fascism and Nazism is legendary; the Malaysians' refusal to heed the diktat of the Washington Consensus during the Asian market crisis in the 1990s was an expression of rare tenacity; the South African nation that took down Apartheid and continues to struggle for true equality and rights is most inspiring, but also a reminder that apartheid is both evil and not sustainable.

I think all Arab peoples are unconditionally pro-Palestine. Their governments and ruling elites, however, are only pro-themselves. They are masters of self-preservation and would do anything to sustain their privilege at the expense of the great majority of their peoples. There is no doubt in my mind that the Arab people's struggle for freedom is part of the same struggle shouldered by Palestinians.

That said, I find that the most genuine and heartfelt support of Palestine comes from countries that either truly relate to the Palestinian experience fighting military occupation and colonialism, or poor countries that fully fathom the nature of hardship faced by Palestinians, or both. I find this solidarity in full display in Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. As for Egypt, despite the endless media manipulation and the anti-Palestinian military dictatorship of Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, the bond between Palestine and Egypt is too strong to be easily broken. Precious Egyptian blood has been spilled on Palestinian soil, and many Palestinian and Egyptian comrades, all descendants from peasants and poor urban communities, fought together and died together.

Lastly, perhaps some hope. Identify a recent campaign that has united and inspired Palestinians. What did it achieve? Is it a model for future resistance? How so?

Baroud: The prisoners' hunger strike was a reminder that Palestinians are one. It united hundreds of prisoners in Israeli jails, but also millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories and abroad. It also reminded all that Palestinians have leaders, and most of these leaders are in prison. While the Fatah movement -- which controls the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank -- is undergoing a pitiful power struggle, another branch of the Fatah movement is alive and well in Israeli jails, capable of mobilizing millions and articulating a revolutionary discourse.

It is definitely a model for future resistance if it is predicated on the supremacy of the collective good over factional interests. If a faction is not there to serve the cause of all Palestinians, then it has the potential of being the enemy of the people. In their hunger strikes, prisoners -- many of whom remained committed to a specific faction -- often transcended the confines of that faction in the search for the common good of the community.

I see the future of Palestinian leadership nurtured not in conference halls, PA offices or government buildings, but in Israeli jails. It is these seemingly "powerless" prisoners that will eventually define the future of the Palestinian struggle.

Editor's Note: This piece has been edited for length and clarity.

Trump Has Broad Power to Block Climate Change Report

Thu, 2017-08-17 00:00

(Photo: Mikequozl)

Earlier this month, someone involved in the government's latest report on climate change provided The New York Times with a copy of the version submitted to the Trump administration for final approval. The main intent of the leak, according to several people tracking the report, was to complicate any attempt to suppress the study or water down its findings.

Publication of the document inflamed an already-fraught debate about climate change. Administration officials and Republican lawmakers accused the leaker and journalists of manufacturing a dispute. They said the report, which was required by law, was moving through a normal process of White House review.

The report was submitted in late June and the Trump administration has broad authority to review its findings. Any one of a number of government agencies can block its release, which is ultimately subject to presidential review.

Some of the scientists involved in preparing the document expressed concern that it might never see the light of day. Katharine Hayhoe, a lead author of the report and director of Texas Tech University's Climate Science Center, said the motivation of its 50-plus authors -- a mix of government and academic researchers -- was to convey to the public and government officials the scope of a building crisis.

"As a climate scientist, I feel communicating this science is a moral responsibility," she said, noting that the contributors from academia were working without pay and taking away time from their teaching and scholarships. "We are the physicians of the planet," she added. "Climate change poses risks to people and our economy."

Several people involved with the study said the heat drawn by the early disclosure of the document might well have the opposite of its intended effect. They said there are signs that the Trump administration would subject the draft climate report to a "red team" vetting process in which a group of scientists would be invited to vigorously question its premises.

Government officials in intelligence and national security have long used the "red team" approach to stress test policy and intelligence conclusions about issues like Russian military strength. Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, has called publicly for a "red team" review of the government's position on climate science.

Sobering Science

In many ways, the 669-page "Climate Science Special Report" is utterly unremarkable. It is a review of existing science that concludes human activities are largely responsible for the warming of the planet. Worsening climatic and coastal impacts are almost inevitable unless the world's industrial nations significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Its contents came as no surprise to foes or supporters of polices aimed at cutting climate-warming emissions. Earlier drafts, with the same basic conclusions as those in the submitted document, had been publicly posted and in wide review since January.

What makes the report significant now is the challenge it poses to a White House that has been moving aggressively to reverse the Obama administration's policies and rules on climate change. So far, the Trump administration has begun withdrawing the U.S. from the 2015 Paris Agreement, cut relevant environmental agency budgets and removed from some government websites language describing the risks of unabated global warming.

The science report, due out in final form late in the year, is actually just one component of a much bigger, and congressionally mandated, document, the Fourth National Climate Assessment, scheduled for publication in late 2018.

A 1990 law has required such assessments every four years by an office -- the U.S. Global Change Research Program -- created in 1989 by Republican President George H.W. Bush to coordinate research on climate change and other global environmental issues across more than a dozen government agencies.

There have been tussles over these assessments from the start. In the final years of the Clinton administration, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which advocates for limited regulation and is heavily supported by industry groups, filed a legal challenge to aspects of the climate assessment process. The George W. Bush administration was accused by whistleblowers of blocking federal agencies from citing the 2000 report, which had been prepared under the Clinton administration.

That climate assessment projected temperatures in the U.S. would rise "more rapidly in the next one hundred years than in the last 10,000 years" and described "widespread water concerns," but said agriculture could likely adapt while coastal regions faced rising danger with rising seas.

An "interim" version of the second climate assessment was published by the Bush administration in May 2008, but only after pressure from a critical Government Accountability Office report requested by Senators John McCain and John Kerry, and a successful lawsuit filed by environmental groups to force action.

It's notable that the three full assessments produced so far -- in 2000, 2009 and 2014 -- were all published under Democratic administrations. More than a few analysts and experts involved in this arena suspect the next assessment will not appear before a Democrat wins the presidency.

Despite the requirements of the 1990 law, the White House has substantial power to derail such assessments, said Nicky Sundt, who managed communications for the global change program office through most of the two terms of George W. Bush. The law, for instance, doesn't specify the scope or nature of the periodic assessments, said Sundt, who is now a senior fellow for climate at the Government Accountability Project, which in 2005 released documents showing that a political appointee had edited a different government climate report to soften its findings.

The climate science report at the center of the current dispute is being managed by a subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council, a body established in 1993 by President Bill Clinton through an executive order to coordinate science policy.

That body, in theory, is chaired by the president or a designated proxy, Sundt said. The subcommittee managing the report, she said, operates by consensus, with anyone from a host of agencies able to block approval. "That opens up the possibility of all sorts of delays and changes," she said.

And the president has the final say on what goes forward.

Another issue at the moment, she said, is simply transparency, describing the administration's actions so far on this report as "troubled and opaque."

Trump administration officials declined to comment on the climate science report as long as it is in draft form.

In an interview last week with a morning talk show on WBAP radio in Dallas-Fort Worth, Pruitt criticized efforts to publicize the draft findings and described next steps.

"This is a report that's issued every four years -- it's just an assessment," he said. "We're going to review it like all the other twelve agencies and evaluate the merits and demerits and methodology and efficacy of the report," he said, adding, "Science should not be politicized. Science is not something that should be just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington, D.C."

In the interview, Pruitt appeared to offer conflicting signals on the climate issue. He hailed "what we've achieved in our country in reducing our CO2 footprint." Then, seconds later, he questioned the science that has identified greenhouse gases released by burning fossil fuels as the prime driver of global warming.

Red Team, Blue Team

Trump administration officials focused on climate remain in close touch with groups challenging global warming science and determined to undo climate polices adopted by President Obama. According to both the Washington Examiner and the news section of the journal Nature, the administration has been weighing lists of skeptical climate scientists provided by the Heartland Institute, an industry-backed group that has for years run conferences aiming to cast doubt on climate change research.

In a blog post in late June, Patrick J. Michaels, a climate scientist at the Cato Institute, a think tank that advocates for reducing government regulation, argued that the government's climate assessments were driven by a mix of politics and self-interest.

He pointed to the website of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which described the Third National Assessment as "a key deliverable in President Obama's Climate Action Plan'." He added this quip: "No politics there, just science (sarc)." Then he asserted that hundreds of government officials and academic researchers make a living from the perennial reviews and research budgets on climate change. "It has always been in their interest to portray global warming as alarming, and therefore in need of even more federal research dollars," Michaels wrote.

His post laid out several options for Trump, including replicating the Bush-era delays. He added, "If there is going to be a 2018 version, it had better be at least a 'red team/blue team report.'"

The national assessment process has other influential critics, including Steven E. Koonin, who for two years was undersecretary for science in the Department of Energy in Barack Obama's second term. Koonin now directs the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University and has periodically criticized what he sees as oversimplifications of climate findings.

An op-ed article by Koonin in The Wall Street Journal in April was the inspiration for the plan by EPA's Pruitt, first reported in late June by ClimateWire, to develop an adversarial "red team -- blue team" exercise to probe climate change conclusions.

In a phone interview last week, Koonin said government reports like the national climate assessments could benefit from this kind of scrutiny, no matter who is in office, to separate spin from substance.

He said issues can arise as authors choose which papers to include or exclude, and even in phrasing, especially in the summaries most people pay attention to. "You can look at the same data and say 'we have low confidence hurricanes are increasing' or you can say 'we have high confidence hurricanes are not increasing," he said. "I would like to have that discussion."

This proposal has been widely pilloried by scientists, including John P. Holdren, who was science adviser to Barack Obama through his two terms. In a recent Boston Globe op-ed, Holdren compared the "red team" notion to a "kangaroo court."

Koonin said he was not calling for a reassessment of scientific findings that were published by reputable scientific journals. "I don't think this is the kind of review that should be applied to the original scientific literature," he said. "We have peer review for that. It's not perfect tool, but it works."

He said he's spoken about participating in such an exercise with Pruitt and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry (who has endorsed the idea).

Asked about the potential for politicization, he said: "I would not become engaged in this myself unless I could do so with integrity, thoroughness and transparency. But if I can do that and it aligns with the administration's plans, that's fine."

Can Climate Science Survive the Political Climate?

Prediction is inadvisable. But there still is a chance the report could survive relatively unscathed, according to interviews with a range of people involved with the process, or closely tracking it.

For one thing, while the report reaches conclusions at odds with the views of Scott Pruitt and others in the administration, it also contains long sections on the scientifically established uncertainties that surround critical questions. Given the longstanding and bipartisan Washington tradition of highlighting findings that suit some agenda, there's plenty for everyone.

Here's a look at the clear and murky.

Drafted and reviewed by dozens of scientists within and outside government and endorsed earlier this year by the independent National Academy of Sciences, the report details findings drawn from a host of studies that are as close to certainties as science can produce.

One example is a section on human-driven trends in extreme heat and rainfall. It includes these points:

"The frequency and intensity of extreme temperature events are virtually certain to increase in the future as global temperature increases (high confidence). Extreme precipitation events will very likely continue to increase in frequency and intensity throughout most of the world (high confidence)."

Many findings directly contradict assertions of top administration officials. Here's what the draft says about evidence for a human role in recent warming:

"[I]t is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation ... Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are primarily responsible for the observed climate changes in the industrial era."

In an appearance in March on CNBC, Pruitt emphatically disagreed with that assertion.

"I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don't know that yet ... We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis."

The report also lays out in detail sources of uncertainty around some of the most critical questions for the intended audience: institutions and individuals in the U.S., from the local to national scale, charged with protecting coasts, cities, croplands and other areas at risk from rising seas and disrupted weather patterns.

After noting three different sources of uncertainty about the pace of warming in the 21st century, the report says that changes in precipitation -- often the critical interface between climate and human welfare -- are even harder to predict:

"Due to the greater level of complexity associated with modeling precipitation, uncertainty tends to dominate in precipitation projections throughout the entire century, affecting both the magnitude and sometimes (depending on location) the sign of the projected change in precipitation."

In a section on how the frequency of hurricanes and cyclones is likely to change, the report cites what's been called a "hurricane drought" -- a remarkable gap, "unprecedented in the historical records dating back to the mid-19th century" -- in the U.S. being hit by storms category 3 or higher.

"In this case the assessment reaches conclusions inconvenient for political advocates on both sides -- but that is how science works," said Roger A. Pielke, Jr., a political science professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who's been writing on the evolution of the global change research office since its early days and has frequently been called on by Republicans in Congress to testify about climate policy.

He said concerns about possible suppression were "misplaced," noting the science report is being produced under procedures laid out in the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which includes transparency provisions that make it difficult to disrupt.

"As we've seen, the report couldn't be suppressed even if they wanted to," Pielke said. "It has been public, it is public, it will continue to be public. There are plenty of things to be concerned about -- this report not seeing the light of day or somehow being reclassified is not one of those things."

The best defense of the climate report's integrity going forward may simply be how it reflects the scientific process itself, said David Hawkins, who directs the climate program at the Natural Resources Defense Council and worked at the EPA during the Carter administration.

"Thank goodness we have science-based institutions and dedicated professionals who work there," he said. "Absent a dark ages, science is relentless. Trump may be able to sit on a report that the government is required to issue but he can't issue a report with alternate science -- at least not one signed by credentialed scientists."

For her part, the report author Katharine Hayhoe has been busy on Twitter trying to cut through the noise:

Our 600 page climate report in one tweet:
It's real
It's us
It's serious
And the window of time to prevent dangerous impacts is closing fast

— Katharine Hayhoe (@KHayhoe) August 11, 2017

Capitalist Economies Create Waste, Not Social Value

Thu, 2017-08-17 00:00

More production means more waste; more waste means more production. Waste is a sign of capitalism's success. In this excerpt from Creating an Ecological Society, Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams show the immense levels of waste created by capitalism today, including by the prison-industrial complex, food system and housing in the United States -- not to mention the horrendous expensive and wasteful US military.

(Photo: hroe / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

What would a truly just, equal and ecologically sustainable future look like? Why would it require a change in our economic system, namely the end of capitalism? Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams answer these questions in Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation. Suffused with radical hope, this book can be yours with a donation to Truthout!

In this excerpt, Magdoff and Williams show the immense levels of waste created by capitalism today, including by the prison-industrial complex, food system and housing in the United States -- not to mention the horrendous expensive and wasteful US military.

More production means more waste: more waste means more production. Waste is a sign of capitalism's success. When people throw away a product after using it for a short period of time, in the spirit of planned obsolescence, they will buy a new one, contributing to growth and corporate profits.

As early as the 1920s Stuart Chase identified four systematic sources of waste under capitalism: (1) the labor power used to produce "vicious or useless goods and services"; (2) labor power wasted due to unemployment; (3) the unplanned nature of production and distribution of goods leading to inefficiencies and overproduction; and (4) the senseless waste and overuse of natural resources. Addressing the term coined by nineteenth-century writer and social reformer John Ruskin, Chase wrote that what capitalism produces is not wealth, but "illth."

Illth abounds under capitalism. In Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order, first published in 1966, Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy included an appendix by Joseph D. Phillips titled "Estimating the Economic Surplus." Phillips demonstrated that the economic surplus -- aspects of the economy that served no socially useful purpose and would therefore be considered waste in a more rationally organized society -- averaged over half of the gross national product of the United States.

Illth comes in many forms. One is conspicuous consumption by the very rich -- the luxury cars, yachts, private jets, huge houses, and other forms of ostentatious living. World Bank economists calculate that the wealthiest 10 percent of the world's population uses close to 60 percent of all the world's resources. If this richest 10 percent reduced their consumption to the average consumption of the rest of humanity, total global resource use would be cut in half. The New York Times estimated the amount spent on luxury items in the United States in 2012 -- leaving out the luxury homes -- at $302 billion. A 2015 report by the British charity Oxfam found that the wealthiest 10 percent were responsible for half of all emissions of greenhouse gases, whereas the poorest half of the world's people were responsible for about 10 percent.

The prison-industrial complex, expanded primarily due to the racist "war on drugs," and developed in large part to control communities of color, is most certainly illth. Essentially all the enormous economic financial sector does is find ways to make money with money, providing little of social value. The same can be said for marketing, advertising, and packaging for brand promotion and the proliferation of products designed with built-in obsolescence or to stimulate new wants.

The system of giant multinational supermarket companies controlling food supply and sales produces vast quantities of wasted food. It is estimated that between 30 and 50 percent of the food grown in the United States goes to waste. Food is left in the field if it doesn't meet certain cosmetic standards of large buyers, even if it is perfectly good quality. Supermarkets routinely overstock their produce shelves in deliberate displays of abundance, knowing that a portion will spoil and be thrown away. Globally, about one-third of food is wasted, amounting to about 1.8 billion tons and worth approximately $1 trillion. All of this wasted food means wasted water, labor power, energy, and all the other resources that went into making it -- petrochemicals for pesticide and fertilizer production, energy to run agricultural machinery and transportation to markets, and so forth.

The vast majority of food waste is due to an agricultural and food system set up to generate profit. However, a lack of storage infrastructure in the Global South is a major cause of spoilage and pest infestation before the food reaches markets.

The spread of online shopping was once touted as environmentally more benign than trips to the retail shops, but instead it is adding a new dimension to the waste of resources. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Giant warehouses are springing up across the country as surging online sales send retailers scrambling to find space to house products destined for delivery to customers' homes." The huge increase in e-commerce deliveries means corresponding increases in cardboard boxes, the most rapidly growing part of the 35 million tons of containerboard produced in 2015. Transport of the packages from warehouses creates further environmental damage. Ardeshi Faghri, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Delaware, said that a 20 percent increase of various vehicle emissions that was measured was at least partially caused by more deliveries of goods: "Online shopping has not helped the environment…. It has made it worse."

U.S. per capita energy consumption is twice that of the most industrialized European countries despite a similar standard of living. The United States consumes 25 percent of world energy, but it does so almost 50 percent less efficiently than Europe. Clearly, there is ample room for improvement, especially because Europe is not particularly energy-efficient in the first place.

Waste is also a routine by-product of capitalists' tendency to overbuild capacity in good times, assuming that growth will continue at its same trajectory. The company that overbuilds capacity eventually comes up against a much lower cost producer or mistaken market possibilities or a recession, leading to abandoned factories and stores that are then repurposed, torn down, or just left to decay. Abandoned or torn-down facilities such as steel mills, clothing factories, movie theaters, and malls represent a huge waste of resources. In many cases it makes no social or environmental sense to abandon or tear down such properties, but it becomes a reasonable thing to do in an economy in which decisions are made on whether more profits can be made by abandoning a facility than by repurposing the building or constructing a new one.

The same occurs with homes. Tear-downs are common in middle class and wealthy neighborhoods. A Wall Street Journal article titled "Multimillion-Dollar Homes Face the Wrecking Ball" describes a fourteen-bedroom house being purchased for $11.5 million and the empty lot marketed three years later, after the house was torn down, for $14 million. According to the article, "It's almost becoming routine: eight-figure listings treated as tear-downs -- and marketed as such. Buyers see value in the land, especially in exclusive neighborhoods or on the waterfront. There, they can build brand-new homes with modern design and cutting-edge technology." In other areas, whole working-class neighborhoods have been torn down and residents dispersed in order to build highways through cities or advance urban "renewal" to gentrify or commercialize a district.

During the rapid growth in international trade in the early 2010s, large numbers of ships were constructed to haul raw materials as well as parts and finished goods. But with the decline in global economic growth in the middle of the decade, scrapping the ships became common. "About 1,000 ships that have the combined capacity to haul 52 million metric tons of cargo will be dragged onto beaches, cut into pieces and sold for scrap metal this year [2016]. That is second only to the record amount of capacity of 61 million so-called dead-weight tons that were scrapped and recycled in 2012." While at least the steel is being recycled, the buildup of shipping overcapacity that ends with ships on the scrap heap when shipping prices plunge during a slowdown is a colossal waste of material and human resources.

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In addition to all the other sources of waste we've discussed, the military needs to be acknowledged as a sinkhole into which large amounts of resources disappear. One example is the Obama administration's $1 trillion plan to "modernize" U.S. nuclear weapons and the introduction of the most expensive weapons project in history, the F-35 fighter jet. This plane became notorious for escalating costs and failed tests. "With an American fleet of more than 2,400 planes planned by the late 2030s -- projected total costs will exceed $1 trillion. One billion dollars will be needed just to pay for the highly advanced pilot helmets, running to $400,000 apiece." Imagine what might be able to be done to repair U.S. public schools if $2 trillion (the cost of the F-35 and nuclear weapon "modernization") was used to create healthy and pleasant places for children to learn. The $178 million cost of just one of the planes is enough to provide 3,358 years of college money.

And though the human costs of the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early decades of the twenty-first century are horrendous, the financial costs run into the trillions of dollars -- money that could have done much good if spent on social programs in the United States and abroad.

The military also wastes incredible quantities of fuel. It is exempt from all international climate agreements and local environmental regulations at its hundreds of bases worldwide, allowing the U.S. military to be the single largest institutional user of fossil fuels and by far the world's biggest polluter. A full 80 percent of the energy consumption of the federal government is for the operation of the Department of Defense. According to the CIA's World Factbook, in 2006 only thirty-five countries used more oil per day than the Pentagon. The U.S. war in Iraq emitted more CO2 each year than 60 percent of all countries on the planet combined. Even within the military, a voluminous budget of almost $1 trillion and guaranteed cost-plus contracts facilitate gargantuan waste, such as the $385 billion for military contractors for U.S. overseas bases over a twelve-year period.

Copyright (2017) of Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams. Not to be reposted without permission of the publisher, Monthly Review Press.

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