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Updated: 2 hours 32 min ago

Stateless People: How Immigration Gaps Create Poverty in the US

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 21:00

Fresno, California --  They came to the United States in the 1970s and 1980s as child refugees, members of the Hmong minority in Laos fleeing that country's new communist government and persecution for helping the CIA in its covert war in Southeast Asia.

The United States held the promise of safety and a piece of the American dream.

Many of them chased that dream in California's Central Valley, slowly, sometimes painfully, building lives in a new country where their language and culture were virtually unknown. Largely from poor rural farming families, they often struggled to adjust to a dramatically different society, with few relevant skills and limited support. 

But, they went to school, got married, bought homes and had children. They built their new lives by working, finding jobs among the region's casinos, farms and health care providers.

Some among them also broke the law, committing crimes that ranged from robbery to assault. Like anyone else, they served their time or probation. But for some, the end of their time marked the beginning of a new ordeal.Since they were convicted of a felony, they lost their green card, which signifies not only their permanent resident status but their all-important license to live and work in America and access to the American dream itself.

They were caught in an unusual legal limbo, unlikely to be deported because the U.S. and Laos don't have a repatriation agreement, but also unable to fully participate in the economic life of the only country they had left. Today, they feel shoved aside, a forgotten part of a community that was already largely invisible -- the Hmong are one of the most isolated ethnic groups in the nation.

They are allowed to stay in the United States, but many feel like second-class citizens, says Dai Vang, 44, who lost his green card roughly 20 years ago after serving six years for robbery.

They were forgotten, even though they are in this country because their families helped the CIA fight its "Secret War" against communist forces in Laos and North Vietnam in the early 1970s. When the U.S. lost that war in 1973, Hmong families were targeted and persecuted for their collaboration. Many were forced to flee Laos.

In the 1970s and 1980s, waves of Hmong refugees arrived in America, sometimes after years hiding in the jungles of Southeast Asia and spending a decade in Thai refugee camps.

"Our green card is our freedom. We are still here. We are not illegal. But our rights were taken away from us," Vang, whose name was changed because he remains concerned about his safety, said. "It is the grass we walk on. It is the air we breathe."

They lost their green cards when they made the same mistake. They were convicted of a felony that violated U.S. immigration law and drew the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The agency detained them, sometimes for years, and legally confiscated their physical green cards.

These refugees then faced deportation, even though that is unlikely with Laos. The entire process triggered the loss of their green card status.

They have not made another mistake in the years or decades since their convictions, they say, adding that they have paid their price to society. Since they have not been deported they simply want a chance to support their families and contribute to society. Instead, they live in a permanent state of disruption, unclear of their status and future. Without a green card and with a felony conviction, they have struggled to work. Some have managed to navigate the system of one-year work permits, while others have remained jobless, and on the fringe.

In a country of second chances, they barely got a first chance.

Regardless of what they did five, 10 or 20 years ago, making it harder to work does not help them, their families, or their communities, said Anoop Prasad, an attorney in the Immigrant Rights Program at the Asian Americans Advancing Justice's Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco.

"They are not going anywhere. Would you rather have them working?…Or, live on the margins?" Prasad said. "They are making it so difficult for these" people.

Their lives were already often difficult.

The Hmong remain one of the poorest ethnic groups in the nation. In Asia, they often live in mountainous areas in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos. Often isolated by language and poverty, their voices are rarely heard beyond their communities in the U.S., according to Kao Kalia Yang, author of "The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir."

They are a largely forgotten legacy of U.S. wars in Southeast Asia from 40 years ago, which sent them to a country where they have little leverage and power, Yang added.

"I don't think we have been heard," Yang said. "It is hard to just get to a place where others will listen."

The Hmong are struggling to be heard even though they came to the U.S. as veterans, though unofficial and unrecognized, of the "Secret War" the U.S. waged in Laos.

After arriving, many Hmong refugees had a hard time finding their place in their new country because they were placed in poor neighborhoods -- at 31 percent, Fresno's poverty rate is double the national rate -- with failing schools, few jobs, and little cultural and mental health support, Prasad said.

More than 50 percent of Hmong children live in poverty, the Center for American Progress reported last year.

Though the Central Valley is home to a well-known agricultural industry, parts of it rank as some of the poorest in the country.

In Fresno, Vang is among a handful of Hmong who shared their stories of losing green cards, though they say the issue extends deeper into their community. It's a community they were sent back to without the ability to support themselves and their families, according to Lue Yang, executive director of the Fresno Center for New Americans.

"This is not healthy," Yang said. "I cannot find jobs for them. I cannot find any support for them."

Their struggles show a side of U.S. immigration the public too rarely sees. Immigration is not always about undocumented or documented, borders and raids. It is also a system that cannot always react to the complexity of real lives, including ones disrupted by U.S. foreign policy.

Their stories are echoed, in many ways, by those of refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam, and the flood of children who fled chaos and violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in recent years.

The U.S. immigration enforcement system may be designed to deal with drug and human smuggling, says Edgar Saldivar, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, but not necessarily children escaping violence or Hmong refugees fleeing persecution.

In Limbo

Many evenings Blong Thao ends up at the same dusty park just outside downtown Fresno. Sometimes, he watches other Hmong men throw dice from their bright pink, blue and green stools in the corner of the park, other times a pick-up soccer game on the patchy grass field.

Often, though, he walks alone on a beaten track that rings the park because he wants to forget for a while. He wants to forget that he hasn't worked consistently in 10 years. He wants to forget he spent a month in jail and detention for reasons immigration officials never fully explained.

Thao winds up here after spending most of the day away from the cramped three-bedroom apartment he shares with his wife and four children. He stays away, in part, because he worries ICE agents could detain him again, like they did nine years ago when they took away his green card.

"The fear is with you every day and every night," said Thao, whose name was changed because he is concerned about his safety. "You don't know when they are going to pick you up."

It all began early one morning, when immigration agents arrested Thao outside his house and in front of his crying children and wife. Thao didn't understand why he was being detained, though he now suspects it was related to a decade-old felony conviction for assault.

Even though he had served his probation and kept out of trouble, he spent the next two weeks in the Bakersfield Jail, and then another two weeks in detention centers in Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas.

Then one day, he was suddenly released, he says, without a hearing, a clear explanation, his green card, other identification, or any money, in Dallas, a city he had never visited, and with no way to get home. A relative wired him money for a plane ticket, but ICE had to send an agent with him to the airport so he could clear security.

Back in Fresno, he spent $2,000 on an immigration lawyer, who told him it would cost more than $10,000, which he didn't have, to work on securing his green card. He called ICE, but worried that if he went down to its office he could be arrested again.

"I don't go to ICE because I am scared they are going to grab me," said Thao, who says he failed one exam for U.S. citizenship, after studying for the wrong test, and never found time to try again amid the crush of work and raising a family.

Thao, who had worked since he washed dishes until 2 a.m. as a teenager, now couldn't support his family. He came to the U.S. as a teenager, leaving Laos, after his father worked for the CIA in its war against the communist forces that were taking over the country.

"Now, they took away everything, and you are living a nightmare," said Thao, who added that he felt safer hiding from government soldiers in the jungles of Laos than in Fresno today. "We have no rights at all…We have a broken dream."

A handful of members of Fresno's Hmong community tell similar stories, though they say the problem spreads far beyond them.

Dai Vang struggled to find work after spending about a decade in federal prison -- six years for burglary and another four years in an immigration detention facility. Once he was out, his parole officer took time and eventually helped him apply for one-year work permits that have allowed him to keep a steady job.

It would have been tough enough finding that job and building a life with a felony conviction, Vang says, but since he couldn't show potential employers a green card it was twice as hard. He has seen that stress break a lot of Hmong families.

"It was a hard road I took, worse than when I was incarcerated," Vang, who remains happily married and whose name also was changed for his safety, said. "It has been so long. I mean, if you can't deport us, give (us) our green cards."

Even though other Hmong are struggling without green cards in Fresno, and perhaps around the country, Vang says no one seems to care. They are a small slice of a relatively small ethnic group -- there were fewer than 300,000 Hmong Americans in 2013, according to the Center for American Progress.

"People don't care about our condition," Vang said. "It has been in the shadow too long."

Practical and Possible Solutions

In the current political climate, it is unlikely Congress would include help for Hmong refugees who lost their green cards in a broad immigration reform bill, according to the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, a national organization that has offices in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento.

The center is working for a more targeted solution by raising awareness of the problems these and other refugees and immigrants face.

Congress could restore the discretion of immigration judges in cases where people have lost their green cards. Judges lost the ability to consider an individual's circumstances, such as those of the Hmong, when ruling on whether to take away a green card and deportation in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty acts in 1996, said Mari Quenemoen, the center's director of communications.

Recently, though, more than 30 members of Congress co-sponsored a resolution that supports restoring this discretion, but it remains a long shot in the immediate future because of opposition among Republicans and some Democrats, she said.

"Why do they leave these people in limbo, with no green card?" said Quenemoen, referring to Hmong without green cards. "It is sort of a perpetual punishment the rest of their life."

Federal agencies and organizations could take smaller and practical steps that could help pull these Hmong men and women out of limbo, according to advocates.

The federal government, for example, could clarify regulations that govern the work status of refugees from Laos who have removal, or deportation, orders, but nowhere to go, they say.

"How should these people…be living?" Mee Moua, who is president and executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Asian Americans Advancing Justice's AAJC and Hmong, said. "I don't think anybody has really answered and answered it with clarity."

Advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations could offer more clinics that help refugees and immigrants navigate the nation's complex immigration laws. Hmong refugees who lost their green cards can apply for year-long work permits, advocates say. But it's a technical process, particularly for people who struggle with English. It's a lot easier to navigate with professional help, according to the Asian Americans Advancing Justice's Asian Law Caucus.

The caucus has held clinics but usually in larger cities, such as San Francisco. They could expand clinics to smaller cities, including those in the Central Valley, but that would require additional funding.

In Blong Thao's case, he could hire an immigration lawyer to explore whether he could get his case reopened and apply for a waiver that would get his green card back, though that is a long shot, according to the Immigrant Rights Program's Prasad.

For now, a more likely and limited solution is that he could apply for a one-year work permit, and receive help with that complicated process at a free clinic, though they are usually held in cities hours from Fresno.

Many of these targeted solutions also would require resources and coordination, and the Fresno Center for New Americans is working to connect with Asian Americans Advancing Justice -- Los Angeles and advocacy organizations in the Central Valley. The center is searching for a solution that respects the law and gives members of the community caught in this limbo a clear way to work, support their families and contribute to their communities.

Being stateless can lead people into poverty, and keep them there, because they struggle to secure the right to work, according to a 2011 report for the U.S. State Department.

"We cannot do it alone. We have to partner with many other agencies," said Lue Yang of the Fresno Center for New Americans.

Stuck in Limbo

Thao remains stuck in limbo.

Some days he visits his father's grave outside the city to talk with the man who helped the CIA in its "Secret War" 40 years ago, a decision that led his family to flee into the jungle, spend 14 years in refugee camps in Thailand, and eventually move to America. At the cemetery, Thao asks: "Why did you bring us here?"

"I told my dad it is all your fault. You joined the CIA," Thao said. "Now, you take us to the U.S. I can't support my life. I can't support my kids."

He wants something different for his four children. He wants them to have the opportunity to pursue the American dream, a dream integrally tied to the freedom to work.

It is an opportunity he has lost, at least for now.

Categories: Latest News

Olympic Chefs Pledge to Salvage Unused Food and Feed the Hungry With It

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 21:00

Some of the big-name chefs cooking for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are also activists for the hungry. Knowing full well there will be tremendous food waste at that massive event, the chefs plan to salvage as much as they can. With it, every night of the games, they will feed the hungry.

Each day, the food preparation staff for the Olympics will have to feed an incredible 60,000 meals to 18,000 athletes, coaches and other personnel. To do that, they need a specially built kitchen that will be as big as a football field. A whopping 460,000 lbs of food will be delivered every day. Meals will be prepared and served as Brazilian, Asian, Halal, Kosher, International and Pasta/Pizza buffets.

When each day concludes, invariably there will be a lot of leftovers. Instead of throwing it all away, chefs Massimo Bottura and David Hertz came up with a better idea. They believe they'll end up with about 12 tons of surplus food over the course of two weeks. They're going to use all that food to prepare 100 free meals a night for the nearby hungry.

Bottura and Hertz are world class chefs on a mission. Even before the 2016 Olympic Games, both sought ways to minimize food waste and feed the needy. In 2006, Hertz founded Gastromotiva, an organization that provides vocational kitchen training throughout Brazil and Latin America.

Among Gastromotiva's guiding principles are the goals of improving health and well-being by means of food safety and gastronomy as well as mobilizing society on issues of social responsibility through gastronomy.

Massimo Bottura owns the Italian restaurant currently sitting at number two on the list of the world's 50 best restaurants -- Osteria Francescana, a three Michelin star restaurant. Asserting that "cooking is a call to act," Bottura needed to do more. He therefore founded the non-profit Food For Soul.

Its aim is to promote social awareness about food waste and hunger by collaborating with chefs, artisans, food suppliers, artists, designers and institutions on a wide range of initiatives. Among its projects, Food for Soul has opened soup kitchens associated with major events like ExpoMilan 2015 to do exactly what will happen at the 2016 Olympic Games -- feed the hungry with food that would otherwise go to waste.

Watch Bottura discuss his Food for Soul initiative in this video:

Clearly, Hertz and Bottura can't use the athletes' dining areas for this purpose. Instead, the city of Rio took over an empty store on the Rua da Lapa and turned it into a community soup kitchen. The newly named ‎RefettoRio Gastromotiva will feed the needy during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and then remain in place as a community center helping locals with food-related programs and classes.

This marvelous plan is a step in the right direction. The world wastes so much food that could be repurposed and used to feed people. Food is a precious resource, yet worldwide we waste an astounding 1.3 billion tons a year. In a world with 795 million undernourished people, that level of waste needs to stop.

These chefs will already have so much to do at the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and yet they insist on adding this terrific initiative to their busy days. That's dedication to a cause. We need more activists like this in the world. Let these fine gentlemen inspire you. Volunteer somewhere and find out if you're an activist at heart. Get out there and do good for others.

Categories: Latest News

How Much Do Shady Financial Practices Cost You, Exactly?

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 21:00

(Photo: geralt / Pixabay)

The United States' financial system is broken for all but a few at the top -- that much is plain. The rest sense that we are stuck on the minus end of some great financial formula, but given the complexity and size of Big Finance, it's hard to pin down exactly why it happens and how it all adds up.

Enter economist Gerald Epstein of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has dived in and crunched the numbers, and the results are eye-popping. Epstein and his colleague Juan Antonio Montecino look at exactly how families, taxpayers and businesses get ripped off by dubious financial activities and tally up the costs in a new paper for the Roosevelt Institute, "Overcharged: The High Cost of Finance." (The Institute for New Economic Thinking has also supported several papers by Epstein).

Epstein and Montecino report the grand total of the loss to Americans: 

We estimate that the financial system will impose an excess cost of as much as $22.7 trillion between 1990 and 2023, making finance in its current form a net drag on the American economy.

That is indeed a drag. 

The researchers look at three key areas, including the excessive profits nabbed by financiers; the price of diverting resources away from non-financial activities; and how much you lose from blow-ups like the 2008 financial crisis.

I asked Epstein how all this breaks down for an ordinary American employee, say, the manager at a retail store -- let's call her Jane. Epstein explained to me how bankers and financiers shrink her wallet as she goes about her normal activities.

See Jane Lose

Epstein begins with a few examples, such as late fees on credit cards. 

A late fee might be $30. Interest rates can go up as high as over 20 percent. Then there are the ATM fees which Jane may not see, and which Congress tried to limit with little success in Dodd-Frank. Consumer groups have also tried to limit bank and credit card fees, but also unsuccessfully because the bank lobby is so strong in protecting them. If Jane has an erroneous fee, good luck to her in getting that reimbursed.

If Jane is lucky enough to have some retirement savings, she is very possibly getting taken for a ride there, too. Epstein notes that if you have a 401(k) plan and your employer has hired an asset management firm to manage your funds, the costs are very high compared to index funds or low-cost managed funds. Often 2 percent is skimmed right there. 

"If Jane had put $10,000 into an index fund instead of an actively managed fund," he notes, "then after 30 years, she would have 44 percent higher wealth, and after 40 years, she would have 65 percent higher wealth. After 35 years or so, Jane loses half of the wealth that could have been hers without the high fees paid through actively managed funds."

An employee is often given the illusion of choice between different funds, but in reality they may all have high fees and do no better -- or even worse -- than the overall stock market. Even if Jane has the choice of an index fund, notes Epstein, she may still get swindled. If the employer has set things up with an asset manager, fees on index funds can still be higher than if you did it yourself.

What can Jane do? Can she educate herself on the intricacies of fee structures to avoid this pitfall? Good luck with that too, says Epstein.

"There's very little requirement that these asset managers provide real, clear, upfront information about the fees, about the returns relative to alternatives, and so on." He explains that managers and advisors typically don't even have fiduciary responsibility to Jane and her fellow employees. In other words, they aren't obligated to do what's in her best interest and they may well have conflicts of interest, luring people into investments that produce the biggest fees for themselves.

The asset management company, the broker, or the manager is richer; Jane is poorer.

Big Finance Family Values

Jane's whole family is going to pay heavily for all these overpayments, which, for poor families, include gouging by payday lenders and other predators. But there are hidden costs, too, which pile up from a financial system that is too big and attracts vast numbers of talented, smart people who want to get rich instead of teach, practice medicine or build things.

This bloated, inefficient financial system tends to lower economic growth -- Epstein reckons that between 1990 and 2005, the cost to the overall economy was between 2½ and 4 trillion. Americans have also paid because of the banking shenanigans which helped set off the 2008 financial crisis -- they may have lost their jobs or seen their wages reduced or their homes foreclosed. Many never regain their financial footing.

"If you add up all of these costs," says Epstein, "which we do in this report, you get a figure somewhere between 13 trillion and 23 trillion dollars. That comes out to between $40,000 and $70,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. from roughly 1990 to 2005." 

Jane's household lost $105,00 and $180,000. The typical household would have doubled its wealth in retirement if not for these costs. Frankly, these numbers are probably underestimated because of conservative estimates we used.

Epstein calls the whole process a "negative sum game ." This means that it costs people like Jane more than simply a dollar to transfer a dollar of wealth to financiers -- significantly more because of all the ways their destructive activities impact her, like reduced governments services due to a stagnant economy. "We actually pay five dollars for every extra dollar that ends up in the pockets of bankers," Epstein notes. "It drags down the economy as a whole."

Neoclassical economists love to talk about the efficiency of the market. But this is anything but efficient.

"We're not saying that there's no financial activity which is useful," Epstein emphasizes, "but we are saying that the kinds of finance that generate these high rents and these high profits, are also extremely damaging to all the Janes and Johns in our economy." He points out that these financial activities are a big engine of inequality: "The benefits are accruing to the one percent and the costs are hitting the 99 percent."

Taking Back the Economy

Can the excess costs of finance be reduced? Can the financial sector once again play a more productive role in society?

Epstein and Montecino say yes. "To accomplish this," they write, "we need three complementary approaches: improved financial regulation, building on what Dodd -Frank has already accomplished; a restructuring of the financial system to better serve the needs of our communities, small businesses, households, and public entities; and public financial alternatives, such as cooperative banks and specialized banks, to level the playing field."

"We know how do this," says Epstein. "In the past, we had strict regulations on banks by the New Deal coalition, but they fell apart in part because the bankers themselves were never happy with it. They did ok, but not so much better than, say manufacturers. They made respectable incomes, but not mega profits. So they pressed very hard to get rid of the restrictions, and they eventually got their way. By 1999, with the repeal of Glass-Steagall, it was a fait accompli."

Financiers and bankers still have enormous political power through the revolving door and they've managed to poke enormous holes in Dodd-Frank. In Epstein's view, the next president has to make breaking up the biggest banks a priority if the wild horses of finance are to be corralled. 

The banks are too big to fail, too big to manage, too big to jail. Our results suggest that they use subsidized government funds in the form of bailouts to do risky, destructive speculative activities. That's the number one priority. Number two is to bring the shadow banking system, which includes like hedge funds and private equity funds, under strict regulation, which they aren't now. Number three is to make the regime of regulation of derivatives much stronger.

Epstein is also keen on the idea of alternative financial institutions, such postal banks, which the U.S. Postal Service has been discussing bringing back (these banks existed in the 1930s and '40s). "That way," says Epstein, "people don't have to go to the pawnbroker for a credit card. We really need alternatives for all financial areas -- everything from mortgages to retirement investing."

The public option for finance is not yet being discussed among mainstream political candidates, but perhaps, like the public healthcare option, the time for taking it seriously is on the horizon.

Epstein adds that there is much more research that needs to be done by economists to study the myriad processes by which Americans are drawn into the financial web and the ways in which they are overcharged —a whole range of activities from student loans to debt collection. "We need to know more about how they affect us as individuals and collectively." 

Categories: Latest News

The NYPD Is Already a Small Army -- Now It Is Hyping Terror Threats to Militarize Even More

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 21:00

The NYPD's effort is part of a nationwide push by police departments to exploit the massacre at Orlando's Pulse LGBTQ nightclub and the killing of five Dallas police officers to ramp up the militarization and funding of their forces. (Photo: Mike Tigas)

The NYPD is already the largest and most well-resourced police force in the United States, with more than 34,000 officers on its payroll and a budget that hovers over $5 billion annually.

But now, the New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio are invoking the specter of ISIS-style terror and the supposed "war on cops" to spend at least another $7.5 million on military-style gear.

Their effort is part of a nationwide push by police departments to exploit the massacre at Orlando's Pulse LGBTQ nightclub and the killing of five Dallas police officers to ramp up the militarization and funding of their forces. They do so as growing numbers take to the streets across the United States to charge that it is police who pose a threat to public safety, following the deadly cop shootings of black men Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

In a press statement released Monday, the NYPD directly referenced "instances of localized terror attacks, active shooter incidents, and even direct ambushes of police officers" in justifying the massive purchase.

"Twenty thousand ballistic helmets will be distributed to all uniformed members of the service assigned to patrol functions," the statement continued. "Additionally, six thousand heavy ballistic vests, which contain a front and rear level three panel, will be furnished in 3,000 vehicles assigned to patrol duties (two per vehicle)."

The purchases come on top of the more than $320 million that "has been secured to fund a broad spectrum of equipment and training since 2014, including: ballistic vests; helmets and vehicles; tactical escape hoods and belt-worn trauma kits; M4 rifles, OC spray and Tasers; smartphones and tablets; along with a host of training initiatives," according to NYPD News. The police-affiliated site states, "Much of this funding has been provided by City Hall, the City Council, the New York County District Attorney, among others."

International Business Times reporter Cristina Silva wrote Monday, "Some special units will also receive automatic long guns, more powerful pepper spray and Tasers." And indeed, guns are included among images of new equipment to be disbursed to the NYPD, in addition to the vests and helmets.

However, the NYPD refused to directly answer repeated requests from AlterNet for clarification on which pool of money will be used to purchase the guns, Tasers and chemical weapons.

The expenditures come on top of the at least $1.9 billion funneled into training and new equipment over the last three years, according to Bratton. Remarkably, the city is moving to purchase 6,000 ballistic vests after it already bough bullet-proof vests last year.

Meanwhile, the NYPD receives a windfall from the federal program known as Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) -- a "war on terror" creation that operates as a slush fund for the militarization of police forces nationwide.

"As the NYPD spends millions on military gear this week, it is key to remember that they're also the number one recipient of UASI funds, securing $178 million just last year," Skanda Kadirgamar, organizer for the War Resisters League, told AlterNet. "UASI funds police militarization trainings -- convincing cops there's a war against them, and compelling them to wage war on us. The NYPD and its team of NYC politicians are right on cue, as electoral candidates continue fueling fear and hate, and twisting tragic loss of life to their ends."

As for Bratton, he told reporters at a press conference on Monday, "You name it, we are buying it... There's not a police department in America that's spending as much money, as much thought and interest on this issue of officer safety."

Lumumba Bandele, a member of the New York organization Communities United for Police Reform, told AlterNet that such proclamations are alarming. "What do they think this is, shoe shopping?" Bandele asked. "The NYPD force is like a child who gets a new toy. Whenever they get new equipment, they can't wait to get out in the streets and test it. This makes it more likely that they will engage in high-risk activities, leading to greater loss of life, particularly for our community members."

"At this point," Bandele added "we've gone decades attempting to demilitarize the NYPD."

Mayor Bill de Blasio rallied behind Bratton. "Obviously all over the country people have been deeply trouble by the attack on our officers," he said. "We made this decision quickly in light of the challenges we face."

The massive purchase comes amid growing outcry at the department's aggressive and racially discriminatory policing, including Stop-and-frisk policies that overwhelmingly target black and Latino people, as well as law enforcement repression of Black Lives Matter protests, in which the movement is treated like a terrorist threat.

Bratton, one of the most powerful police figures in the country, has used the specter of terrorism to press for expanded police powers, including access to phone data and ongoing, massive law enforcement deployments throughout New York.

His administration has recently fallen under criticism for aggressive raids targeting public housing communities across the city, during which one man plunged to his death in April.

"People are screaming at the top of their lungs that police are part of the problem," Josmar Trujillo, a writer and grassroots organizer with New Yorkers Against Bratton, told AlterNet. "We literally have to get arrested and throw our bodies into the street to even be noticed."

The NYPD announcement immediately followed a nationwide surge of protests, organized by the Movement for Black Lives, under the banner of "Freedom Now." Police killings of black people in 2015 outnumbered lynchings of African Americans during the worst year of Jim Crow. At least 1,146 people total were killed by police that year, according to the Guardian, in what is likely a conservative estimate due to the underreporting of law enforcement killings.

"Regular people can't get resources, can't get money for communities and schools," Trujillo said. "Police can stomp their feet and get what they want. Police get everything they want, even though they are part of the problem."

Categories: Latest News

Hillary Clinton and Her Hawks

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 21:00

As Hillary Clinton begins her final charge for the White House, her advisers are already recommending air strikes and other new military measures against the Assad regime in Syria.

The clear signals of Clinton's readiness to go to war appears to be aimed at influencing the course of the war in Syria as well as US policy over the remaining six months of the Obama administration. (She also may be hoping to corral the votes of Republican neoconservatives concerned about Donald Trump's "America First" foreign policy.)

Last month, the think tank run by Michele Flournoy, the former Defense Department official considered to be most likely to be Clinton's choice to be Secretary of Defense, explicitly called for "limited military strikes" against the Assad regime.

And earlier this month Leon Panetta, former Defense Secretary and CIA Director, who has been advising candidate Clinton, declared in an interview that the next president would have to increase the number of Special Forces and carry out air strikes to help "moderate" groups against President Bashal al-Assad. (When Panetta gave a belligerent speech at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night, he was interrupted by chants from the delegates on the floor of "no more war!"

Flournoy co-founded the Center for New American Security (CNAS) in 2007 to promote support for US war policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then became Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in the Obama administration in 2009.

Flournoy left her Pentagon position in 2012 and returned to CNAS as Chief Executive Officer.  She has been described by ultimate insider journalist David Ignatius of the Washington Post, as being on a "short, short list" for the job Secretary of Defense in a Clinton administration.

Last month, CNAS published a report of a "Study Group" on military policy in Syria on the eve of the organization's annual conference.  Ostensibly focused on how to defeat the Islamic State, the report recommends new US military actions against the Assad regime.

Flournoy chaired the task force, along with CNAS president Richard Fontaine, and publicly embraced its main policy recommendation in remarks at the conference.

She called for "using limited military coercion" to help support the forces seeking to force President Assad from power, in part by creating a "no bombing" zone over those areas in which the opposition groups backed by the United States could operate safely.

In an interview with Defense One, Flournoy described the no-bomb zone as saying to the Russian and Syrian governments, "If you bomb the folks we support, we will retaliate using standoff means to destroy [Russian] proxy forces, or, in this case, Syrian assets."  That would "stop the bombing of certain civilian populations," Flournoy said.

In a letter to the editor of Defense One, Flournoy denied having advocated "putting US combat troops on the ground to take territory from Assad's forces or remove Assad from power," which she said the title and content of the article had suggested.

But she confirmed that she had argued that "the US should under some circumstances consider using limited military coercion – primarily trikes using standoff weapons – to retaliate against Syrian military targets" for attacks on civilian or opposition groups "and to set more favorable conditions on the ground for a negotiated political settlement."

Renaming a "No-Fly" Zone

The proposal for a "no bombing zone" has clearly replaced the "no fly zone," which Clinton has repeatedly supported in the past as the slogan to cover a much broader US military role in Syria.

Panetta served as Defense Secretary and CIA Director in the Obama administration when Clinton was Secretary of State, and was Clinton's ally on Syria policy. On July 17, he gave an interview to CBS News in which he called for steps that partly complemented and partly paralleled the recommendations in the CNAS paper.

"I think the likelihood is that the next president is gonna have to consider adding additional special forces on the ground," Panetta said, "to try to assist those moderate forces that are taking on ISIS and that are taking on Assad's forces."

Panetta was deliberately conflating two different issues in supporting more US Special Forces in Syria. The existing military mission for those forces is to support the anti-ISIS forces made up overwhelmingly of the Kurdish YPG and a few opposition groups.

Neither the Kurds nor the opposition groups the Special Forces are supporting are fighting against the Assad regime.  What Panetta presented as a need only for additional personnel is in fact a completely new US mission for Special Forces of putting military pressure on the Assad regime.

He also called for increasing "strikes" in order to "put increasing pressure on ISIS but also on Assad." That wording, which jibes with the Flournoy-CNAS recommendation, again conflates two entirely different strategic programs as a single program.

The Panetta ploys in confusing two separate policy issues reflects the reality that the majority of the American public strongly supports doing more militarily to defeat ISIS but has been opposed to US war against the government in Syria.

poll taken last spring showed 57 percent in favor of a more aggressive US military force against ISIS. The last time public opinion was surveyed on the issue of war against the Assad regime, however, was in September 2013, just as Congress was about to vote on authorizing such a strike.

At that time, 55 percent to 77 percent of those surveyed opposed the use of military force against the Syrian regime, depending on whether Congress voted to authorize such a strike or to oppose it.

Shaping the Debate

It is highly unusual, if not unprecedented, for figures known to be close to a presidential candidate to make public recommendations for new and broader war abroad. The fact that such explicit plans for military strikes against the Assad regime were aired so openly soon after Clinton had clinched the Democratic nomination suggests that Clinton had encouraged Flournoy and Panetta to do so.

The rationale for doing so is evidently not to strengthen her public support at home but to shape the policy decisions made by the Obama administration and the coalition of external supporters of the armed opposition to Assad.

Obama's refusal to threaten to use military force on behalf of the anti-Assad forces or to step up military assistance to them has provoked a series of leaks to the news media by unnamed officials – primarily from the Defense Department – criticizing Obama's willingness to cooperate with Russia in seeking a Syrian ceasefire and political settlement as "naïve."

The news of Clinton's advisers calling openly for military measures signals to those critics in the administration to continue to push for a more aggressive policy on the premise that she will do just that as president.

Even more important to Clinton and close associates, however, is the hope of encouraging Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have been supporting the armed opposition to Assad, to persist in and even intensify their efforts in the face of the prospect of US-Russian cooperation in Syria.

Even before the recommendations were revealed, specialists on Syria in Washington think tanks were already observing signs that Saudi and Qatari policymakers were waiting for the Obama administration to end in the hope that Clinton would be elected and take a more activist role in the war against Assad.

The new Prime Minister of Turkey, Binali Yildirim, however, made a statement on July 13 suggesting that Turkish President Recep Yayyip Erdogan may be considering a deal with Russia and the Assad regime at the expense of both Syrian Kurds and the anti-Assad opposition.

That certainly would have alarmed Clinton's advisers, and four days later, Panetta made his comments on network television about what "the next president" would have to do in Syria.

Categories: Latest News

Clinton's DNC Speech Lays Out a Progressive Agenda; Is It Too Little, Too Late?

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 21:00

Hillary Clinton accepts the Democratic presidential nomination on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. (Photo: Sam Hodgson / The New York Times)

Hillary Clinton made history in more ways than one in Philadelphia.

By Tuesday, she was the first woman nominated by a major political party. On Wednesday, President Obama wholeheartedly passed her the leadership baton. Before she took the stage Thursday, mainstream media was calling the Democratic National Convention a great success, while the TV ratings at the DNC have exceeded the GOP's overall. And then Clinton gave a poised and clear-eyed speech accepting the nomination and presenting a very progressive agenda.

And, in a manner unmatched by any previous speaker on the previous three nights, Clinton thanked Sanders for his campaign, thanked his supporters for their energy, and invited them to join her to win the White House and make their agenda a reality.

"I want to thank Bernie Sanders," she said. "Bernie, your campaign inspired millions of Americans, particularly the young people who threw their hearts and souls into our primary. You've put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong."

"And to all of your supporters here and around the country: I want you to know, I've heard you," she continued. "Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion. That's the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America. We wrote it together -- now let's go out there and make it happen together."

Sanders supporters did not respond with wild cheers. But that's to be expected, not just because the leader of the revolution they believed in didn't win. But because even as she laid out an agenda that shared many of their goals, one far more progressive than what Obama campaigned on or hoped for, many weren't ready to take her at her word.

That's because the convention was not welcoming for the representatives of the largest grassroots insurgency in the party's history since Rev. Jesse Jackson's 1988 bid -- and this one is quite a bit bigger. It may seem small to step back from Clinton's agenda spanning the social and economic justice spectrum, her trashing Donald Trump with poise and wit and barbs, and her sincere-sounding an invitation for all to join her revolution.

But for most of the 1,900 Sanders delegates in Philadelphia, the convention was a turbulent and trying affair. It began with DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz being forced to resign a day before it opened, after WikiLeaks posted emails of aides plotting against Sanders, but then she was rewarded with a top appointment to the Clinton campaign. That didn't just affirm their suspicions about DNC bias, but it more ominously signaled that the party and Clinton campaign didn't care about them. And it set a tone that many Sanders delegates felt all week here.

All week long there were petty slights, from turning off the lights above their California delegation when they vocally protested, to yanking a Sanders delegate's credentials after she apparently refused to read a nominating script they drafted for her. "It's just stupid as hell. What the DNC is doing is sabotaging this election," said Danny Fetonte, a retired union organizer and delegate from Austin, Texas. "It makes it harder for us who are trying to convince those Bernie people to come along [and support Clinton]."

But it wasn't just the DNC that was squandering the chance to turn a page with Sanders delegates, who are the messengers to the party's progressive base. Clinton delegates, beyond the party apparatus, could have reached out but mostly did not. As state after state announced it delegate counts, the speeches -- in some states Sanders won big -- did not mention that. "It didn't reflect the voters on the ground whatsoever," said Karen Bernal, a California delegation leader. "It spat in their faces. There was no reflection of their voices whatsoever."

That smoldering attitude was part of the backdrop to Clinton's speech Thursday, which was the last opportunity in the convention to change hearts and minds inside the party and across America. On TV, Clinton delegates waved "stronger together" posters, but on the floor their delegations more often than not were like ships in the night passing at uncomfortably close range. It was a strange dichotomy that lasted for days, creating a mood that didn't really break until Clinton herself spoke on Thursday.

"Democrats are the party of working people," she said at one point, then raising many issues that Sanders campaign on. "I believe that our economy isn't working the way it should because our democracy isn't working the way it should. That's why we need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will get money out of politics and expand voting rights, not restrict them. And we'll pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United!"

She didn't stop there. "And I believe Wall Street can never, ever be allowed to wreck Main Street again," she said. "I believe in science," she continued, to laughs. "I believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs… Whatever party you belong to, or if you belong to no party at all, if you share these beliefs, this is your campaign."

"If you believe that we should say 'no' to unfair trade deals," Clinton continued, citing perhaps the hottest-button issue for Sanders delegates, opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, "join us."  And then she mentioned Sanders again by name and a key issue, college affordability.

"Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all! We will also liberate millions of people who already have student debt," she said. "It's just not right that Donald Trump can ignore his debts, but students and families can't refinance theirs."  

And as she closed, she once again implored everyone who shares these goals to join her campaign. "I know that at a time when so much seems to be pulling us apart, it can be hard to imagine how we'll ever pull together again. But I'm here to tell you tonight -- progress is possible."

Those were some of the most forward and direct appeals during the convention to the people who responded to Sanders' call for a political revolution. Before the speech, it was common to hear delegates say they planned to go home and get involved in local politics. Whether Clinton's invitation is too little, too late, remains to be seen.

It was, however, the most appreciated words spoken to the Sanders delegation all week.

Watch Clinton's nomination acceptance speech:

Categories: Latest News

"Eat, Pray, Starve": Greg Grandin on Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton and the US Role in Honduras

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 21:00

On Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton's running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, delivered a prime-time speech in which he spoke about the nine months he spent with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras in 1980. To talk more about the significance of Tim Kaine's time in Honduras, we speak with Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University. His most recent article for The Nation is headlined "Eat, Pray, Starve: What Tim Kaine Didn't Learn During His Time in Honduras."

Please check back later for full transcript.

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Kshama Sawant vs. Rebecca Traister on Clinton, Democratic Party and Possibility of a Female President

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 21:00

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes history by becoming the first woman to accept a major-party presidential nomination, we speak with Rebecca Traister, writer-at-large for New York Magazine who has covered Clinton for a decade. Her most recent article is headlined "Hillary Is Poised to Make the 'Impossible Possible' -- For Herself and for Women in America." We are also joined by Kshama Sawant, a Socialist city councilmember in Seattle who helped win a $15/hour minimum wage for all workers in Seattle.

Please check back later for full transcript.

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Patriot Games, From Watergate to Email Hacks

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 21:00

"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

  -- Sir John Harington (1561-1612)

There has been a break-in at the Democratic National Committee. Documents were stolen with the apparent intention of manipulating the results of a presidential election.

Did this happen in 1972, at the Watergate complex, or in 2016, at 430 South Capitol Street Southeast? Was the break-in a physical burglary, or was it a digital theft? Were the apparent perpetrators naturalized Cubans, or were they Russians in the service of the SVR? To paraphrase Mark Twain, history never repeats itself exactly, but there are occasions when it rhymes.

The crucial difference between 1972 and 2016 is that in the former instance, there was no collusion between an American politician and a foreign state. In the present case, even if there is not (yet) any incontrovertible evidence of collusion, there is a serendipitous congruence of economic interests between Donald Trump and a foreign power, as well as the striking coincidence of his campaign manager, his top European foreign policy adviser and others associated with the candidate's campaign having economic or career ties with Russia.

To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

The idea that a major-party candidate would conspire with a foreign power to influence a US election is an implausible hypothesis that the mainstream media may have difficulty reporting on, and not merely because of bias or caution, but because the public may not fully absorb it. As Marshall McLuhan observed, "Only the small secrets need to be protected. The large ones are kept secret by public incredulity." Or, unfortunately, indifference.

One secret that has been hiding in plain sight for almost 50 years also involves Richard Nixon, the author of the Watergate affair, but this time with the participation of a foreign government. The occasion was a closely fought 1968 election that hinged on the candidates' stance on the Vietnam War, and on the progress of the Paris peace talks.

The incumbent president, Lyndon Johnson, never did succeed in obtaining an agreement with the North Vietnamese on a bombing halt before the election, an achievement that would have favored the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey. Instead, Nixon, claiming a "secret plan to end the war," narrowly defeated Humphrey and proceeded to continue pointless military involvement for his entire first term.

There have long been rumors that the Nixon campaign colluded with Anna Chennault, a stalwart of the old China lobby, to open a back channel between Nixon's campaign and the South Vietnamese government. Since that government already took a very hard line against North Vietnam (any peace agreement with the North would likely undercut the Saigon government's legitimacy), it would be more than willing to block agreement on a bombing halt. In the event, there was no agreement, and Nixon won a narrow victory.

Now, thanks to a remarkable book by Ken Hughes, we know that the rumor is actually incontestable fact. The author produces archival evidence from the Johnson presidential library, intercepts from the FBI and NSA and the Johnson tapes themselves to demonstrate not only that Nixon was conspiring with a foreign power to undermine US diplomacy (an act of treason on its face) but that Johnson knew it and concealed it -- which is why most Americans don't know it.

Why didn't Johnson blow the whistle, when he himself knew it was treason? One reason was the old chestnut of "sources and methods," meaning protecting the secrecy of the FBI and NSA intercepts. Another was the argument (which the proverbial man from Mars would find amazing) that the American people's naïve faith in their institutions and politicians had to be protected at all costs, even in the face of illegality and treason. The foremost advocate of this outrageous thesis was Johnson's defense secretary, Clark Clifford, a slippery Deep State operative who later came to grief himself over shady dealings with foreign entities.

But I suspect the foremost reason was Johnson himself. By that point, the strain of dealing with the Vietnam War had fatally warped his judgment. He became so obsessed with defending his (futile) Vietnam policy that he was willing to give Nixon (himself a hawk) a pass. By contrast, he had bullied his vice president, Humphrey, for so long that he had lost all respect for him. When Humphrey showed signs of deviating from the party line on Vietnam, Johnson took actions which, as Hughes shows us, objectively favored Nixon, and one may infer that Johnson secretly wanted Nixon to win. Hughes does not explicitly say that, but it is readily deduced from the tone of the transcripts that the author reproduces.

Nixon got away with treason and rigging an election. That makes the idiotic risks he took in Watergate far more understandable in retrospect. After all, he got away with it before.

Fast forwarding 48 years, the evidence is more tenuous. We know that Donald Trump has had extensive connections going back decades with Russia and Russia's oligarchs. From forensic evidence, the hack of the DNC appears to have been undertaken by elements of Russian intelligence. This allegation should not be surprising, because that's what foreign intelligence services do -- toward the end of my tenure on Capitol Hill, we were frequently warned about foreign governments engaging in phishing expeditions to hack our email accounts.

It may be that Trump's and the Russian government's financial interests are simply aligned by happenstance, with no overt collusion. Trump's financial ties would likely make him instinctively sympathetic to the Russian government's claims. Russia, for its part, would definitely like to see a US president elected who would reverse economic sanctions against the Kremlin.

The Republicans' 2016 campaign platform, however, is suggestive of something a little more intense. As a former political operative myself, I know that written platforms are largely a headache to candidates, who would prefer not to have them. But they are a bit more than symbolic nuisances: once written, they can become bludgeons in the hands of the opposing party, which will quote any infelicitously chosen plank loud and long during the general election campaign. Accordingly, the candidates' campaign personnel normally expend effort to make sure platforms are inoffensive mush.

But not this time. Party activists, mainly from the religious right wing of the party that is not the core of the Trump movement, confected a 2016 platform whose social policy elements were so retrograde that they might have been crafted in 1690s Salem, or present-day Islamabad. Trump, the cosmopolitan libertine, did not care and did not lift a finger to change any of it, despite the fact that it will be a gift to the Clinton campaign in the two parties' competition for independent voters.

With one exception.

With respect to foreign policy, Trump's operatives pushed back hard against the GOP's tradition of an implacably militant stance in one particular: they forced the platform committee to drop any reference to arming Ukraine against Russia. Is it possible that a foreign entity did not understand the labyrinthine intricacies of American politics, and the fact that platforms are mainly campaign symbolism? Did somebody demand a guarantee in writing?

This could also explain why Trump has not released his tax returns -- something that every major-party candidate has done ever since Nixon gave the public a reason to demand such information. The common belief about Trump's refusal is that he is not as rich as he brags he is, that he is extremely stingy with charities or that he pays little or no personal income taxes. But would his returns also reveal business connections with Russian financial interests?

The ironies abound. Through the National Endowment for Democracy and the US Agency for International Development, the United States has meddled often enough in foreign elections. Are foreign governments with an axe to grind now turning the tables on us? We should take heed of our own behavior, even as we condemn presumed foreign interference in our own affairs.

It is also obvious that the US government cannot, even in its wildest dreams, pursue its Captain Ahab-like quest to fight a war on terror throughout the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa without maintaining tolerable relations with major powers like Russia. To fight the so-called "War on Terror" while ginning up Cold War 2.0 is irrational and dangerous, even if lucrative for the merchants of death who infest the Beltway policy process.

The sad irony is that the champion of a renewed détente should be Trump. It is said that a blind hog finds an occasional acorn, and so it is in this case. Nevertheless, we can declare that it should be the goal of US diplomacy to improve relations with virtually every country on the planet -- but that does not mean our leaders should come with financial strings attached to them that lead to a foreign capital.

The final irony is this: Why are the most annoyingly ostentatious patriots always the first ones to name their price? Nixon was the first president to wear an enameled flag pin on his lapel -- Nixon, who committed treason with a foreign government, compiled an enemies list and went on to subvert the Constitution. Now we have a candidate who says "America first," denounces whole groups of people for not being American enough and has suggestive financial connections with a foreign power.

Trump held a press conference in which he expressed a wish that Russia or China would "find" Hillary Clinton's missing emails from when she was secretary of state. His statement crosses the line from legitimate criticism of government policy to encouraging foreign powers -- meaning foreign espionage services -- to commit cybercrimes and spy against Americans. We shall see in the coming days how Trump's phalanx of Real Americans digests and rationalizes his outburst of subversion and quislingism.

History may not repeat itself, but the melody is close enough that we should be on our guard.

Categories: Latest News

Nose Holding Time

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 21:00
Categories: Latest News

Dangerous Liaisons: ChemChina's Bid for Syngenta

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 21:00

Protesters in Munich, Germany, demonstrate against "patents on life" by companies such as Syngenta and Monsanto, January 20, 2016. (Photo: Michaela Handrek-Rehle / Campact)

We all love to hate Monsanto. We also know that Monsanto isn't the only poison-maker trying to pass itself off as a "farmer-friendly producer of food to feed the world."

Monsanto belongs to an exclusive club of dominant pesticide makers. That club, which includes Dow, Dupont, Bayer, Syngenta and BASF, is about to get a lot smaller. And a lot more dangerous.

Bayer has been trying for months to buy Monsanto. Dow and Dupont are in talks to merge. And Switzerland-based Syngenta may soon be owned by ChemChina.

It's bad enough that less than a dozen multinational corporations (including Monsanto, Dupont, Bayer and Syngenta) control nearly 70 percent of the global seed market. If these mergers and buyouts go through, that number will shrink even further.

The recent merger and acquisition in the seed and chemical (why are the words "seeds" and "chemicals" even uttered in the same breath?) signals trouble in the industry, a fact Bayer CEO Werner Baumann recently admitted. That's probably a good sign. 

But giving more control to even fewer corporations will definitely have a downside. Martha Rosenberg and Ronnie Cummins take a look at the proposed buyout of Syngenta by ChemChina.

Who Is Syngenta?

Switzerland-based Syngenta AG is best known for its top-selling herbicide, atrazine; for trying to fool the world into thinking its genetically engineered Golden Rice will save the world; and for taking out pollinators with its neonicotinoid pesticides.

The global agro-toxics corporation, which produces agrochemicals, seeds and GMOs, was formed in 2000, through the merger of Novartis Agribusiness and Zeneca Agrochemicals. The merger made Syngenta the world's largest crop chemical producer by 2014, and also a world market leader in seeds and biotechnology. 

Syngenta describes itself as an integrated "crop protection" business that sells herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and seed treatments (including bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides), and also a lawn and garden business that sells flowers, turf, landscape supplies and pesticides. 

Syngenta operates in 90 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America, Latin America and in the Asia Pacific. In late 2015, Syngenta had a total market capitalization of $37 billion.

In 2014, Monsanto tried to acquire Syngenta, a clear rival, for a reported $40 billion. Syngenta rejected the offer, partly because Monsanto's behavior has made the Biotech Bully from St. Louis one of the most hated corporations on the planet. Less than two years later, Syngenta said "yes" to a similar offer from China National Chemical (also called ChemChina,) a state-owned enterprise (SOE), which offered to buy the Swiss agrochemical company for $43 billion.

ChemChina is an amalgam of chemical, oil processing, agrochemicals and tire and rubber Chinese firms that are largely in government hands

The deal is one of three potential mega-mergers in recent months of chemical-seed-biotech giants. The others being Bayer-Monsanto and Dow Chemical-Dupont. As we recently noted about the proposed purchase of Monsanto by Bayer, the consolidations signal that the industry is not doing well.

"The crop chemicals industry is bound to consolidate because target companies are spending too much on research and development for new products," admitted Monsanto's Chief Operating Officer Brett Begemann during its bid for Syngenta last year. "Pressures on the industry" are causing declining profits said Begemann. In fact, times have been so rough, last year the New York Times reported that Monsanto, "has been diversifying, emphasizing more conventional breeding and moving into new businesses, such as using microbes to control pests and offering digital data to help farmers manage their fields." 

In April, analysts were bearish about Syngenta stock because of "continuous weakening of crop protection business and insecticide sales."

While food safety and sustainability advocates oppose such vertically integrated models of patented seeds, fertilizers and pesticides for obvious reasons -- they lock in supply chains of harmful foods and chemicals that imperil the environment, humans and other animals -- the proposed buyout of Syngenta by a Chinese government-owned corporation raises a whole set of additional questions.  Specifically, a ChemChina purchase of Syngenta would be the biggest overseas Chinese acquisition in history, making China a multinational powerhouse in global agriculture in a way it has never been before. ChemChina's takeover of Syngenta dwarfs China's 2013 purchase of the U.S. factory farm meat giant Smithfield Foods for "only" $5 billion. 

US Producers Fear a China-Owned Syngenta

U.S. agribusiness and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) view a China-owned Syngenta as an economic threat to current U.S. imports to China and commodity prices. "Inconsistency" and policies "not based on science" may move China to block imports of U.S. bio- engineered crops, said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack recently. "I have a watchful eye on all of this and continue to be extremely concerned about the way in which biotechnology and innovation is being treated and impeded," he said.  

Vilsack is no doubt thinking of China's recent rejection of MIR 162 corn that U.S. farmers grew with Syngenta seeds, despite assurances from Syngenta that the seeds were pre-approved for China sales. Many lawsuits brought by U.S. producers have followed. Because of China's rejection of two types of Syngenta GMO corn -- Viptera and Duracade -- "exports of U.S. corn were down some 85 percent since 2013," says acomplaint filed by farmer Jon Dereadt in Illinois 2015. China also rejected crops grown by U.S. farmers from Monsanto seeds in 2013, provoking more lawsuits.

These multinational consolidations are also being criticized by many U.S. farmers. A pork producer in North Dakota wrote in a letter to the Grand Forks Herald, noting China's takeover of Smithfield Foods,  that "Shanghai Penguin Group of China has tried to buy the Kidman Ranch," and such consolidations are "good only for the one doing the consolidating, never for the consumer or for the family farms producing Herald readers' food."

Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan agreed, asking, "Where are the Teddy Roosevelts and the trust busters of today?" to put a stop to such ag consolidations.  "Enough is enough," he said.

Bad News for Syngenta's Flagship Atrazine?

Most people associate Syngenta with its top-selling herbicide atrazine, a hormone-disrupting chemical, banned in Europe, but still the second most-used chemical in U.S. agriculture, only behind Monsanto's glyphosate (Roundup). Atrazine is consistently one of the most frequently detected toxic crop chemicals in drinking water because of its wide use on Midwestern corn fields.

In response to organic and food safety advocates exposing the obvious health and environmental risks of Atrazine, Syngenta conducted shameless disinformation and smear campaigns against scientists reporting the dangers. In fact, Syngenta's PR team investigated the press and "spent millions to spin news coverage and public perceptions" about atrazine's safety, reported the Center for Media and Democracy. Syngenta especially tried to block citizen lawsuits to make Syngenta pay for removal of atrazine from drinking water systems.

In addition to viciously attacking the credibility of Dr. Tyrone Hayes, professor of Integrative Biology at University of California, Berkeley, whose research identified how atrazine demasculinizes and feminizes male frogs,  Syngenta planted ghost-written "scientific" papers by its paid operatives to make atrazine look safe. The company also  published a book in 2011 called "Scared to Death: How Chemophobia Threatens Public Health," which attacked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and "harmful, unnecessary regulation."

Syngenta's tactics didn't work. In June, the EPA announced that the amount of  atrazine being released into the environment in the U.S.  is likely harming most species of plants and animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. 

"In the terrestrial environment, there are risk concerns for mammals, birds, reptiles, plants and plant communities across the country for many of the atrazine uses," concluded the 518 page report from the EPA. While corn growers and Syngenta quickly tried to discredit the report, the EPA assessment will, we hope, finally lead to tighter regulatory limits on the product.

Golden Rice Scam

One of the most audacious Syngenta ventures was Golden Rice, genetically modified to make pro-vitamin A in the endosperm and aggressively billed in 2000, as a cure for widespread vitamin A deficiency in developing countries. 

Created by Ingo Potrykus at the Institute of Plant Sciences in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and Peter Beyer at the University of Freiburg in 1999, the pair worked out a deal in which Syngenta could develop Golden Rice commercially, overseen by a "Humanitarian Board" which included Syngenta, the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID and public relations and marketing experts. 

Backers of the initiative to address world hunger with Golden Rice included the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the European Community Biotech Programme, the Swiss Federal Office for Education and Science, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Helen Keller International. 

Also helping Golden Rice was the International Rice Research Institute led by Gerald Barry, previously Director of Research at Monsanto.

Condemnation of the GMO rice product was swift and widespread. Critics pointed out that it was absurd to offer Golden Rice as the cure for vitamin A deficiency when there are plenty of alternative, infinitely cheaper sources of vitamin A or pro-Vitamin A, including green vegetables and unpolished colored rice, especially black and purple varieties which would also add essential vitamins and minerals. 

Golden Rice critics also cited scientific evidence that Vitamin A uptake depends on dietary fats or oils, often lacking in the diets of poor people -- without those oils, GMO rice is useless as a source of Vitamin A.  And they pointed out that Golden Rice will exacerbate the industrial monocultures of the Green Revolution, which obliterate agricultural biodiversity and soil fertility, and result in ever-worsening mineral and micronutrient deficiencies in our food. These are the main causes of hunger and malnutrition in the Third World, said critics, along with poverty -- and these problems can't be solved with technology and GMOs.

The whole idea of GE seeds is to make money," said Sarojeni V. Rengam, executive director of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP). "We want to send out a strong message to all those supporting the promotion of Golden Rice, especially donor organizations, that their money and efforts would be better spent on restoring natural and agricultural biodiversity rather than destroying it by promoting monoculture plantations and genetically engineered (GE) food crops."

"Vitamin A rice is a hoax, and will bring further dispute to plant genetic engineering where public relations exercises seem to have replaced science in promotion of untested, unproven and unnecessary technology," agreed Dr. Vandana Shiva. Since the daily average requirement of Vitamin A is 750 micrograms, and one serving contains 30g of rice "one family member would consume the entire family ration of 10 kg. from the PDS in 4 days to meet vitamin A needs through 'Golden rice.' This is a recipe for creating hunger and malnutrition, not solving it, Shiva said.
 
The website Food Freedom points out the similarities between Golden Rice to the "Sweet Potato Project," launched by USAID and Monsanto in 2011, used as a Trojan horse to penetrate Kenyan markets. "Once in place, these regulations open the door for the biotech industry to bring in commercial, patented GE crops...[raising] serious equity concerns for both farmers and national governments as they become beholden to biotech giants and lose their rights to save and exchange seed," according to the website.

Golden Rice could also be dangerous according to a number of scientists. The retinal it contains is reduced to retinol, or oxidized to retinoic acid which controls development of the nervous system, nerve differentiation and embryonic segmentation -- making it a potential contributor to birth defects said David Schubert at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences La Jolla, California.

Sixteen years after its highly-publicized launch, even the scientific community has become skeptical of Golden Rice. "Heralded on the cover of Time magazine in 2000 as a genetically modified (GMO) crop with the potential to save millions of lives in the Third World, Golden Rice is still years away from field introduction and even then, may fall short of lofty health benefits still cited regularly by GMO advocates, suggests a new study," according to Science Daily.

Syngenta's Other Dangerous Products

Sadly, for consumers and the environment, atrazine and Golden Rice are not the only controversial products sold by Syngenta. U.S. and European farmers have brought lawsuits claiming that toxicity from Syngenta's GMO Bt 176 corn (which expresses an insecticidal Bt toxin derived from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis and a gene conferring resistance to glufosinate herbicide) has caused livestock deaths.

The charges originated with a German farmer who claimed his dairy cattle suffered mysterious illnesses and deaths after eating Bt 176. The farmer pointed to a feeding study allegedly commissioned by Syngenta that resulted in four cows dying in two days and abrupt discontinuation of the corn in dairy cow feed. Reports of similar deaths from Syngenta corn fed to livestock surfaced in the Philippines and India.

Like Bayer, Syngenta also makes neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of toxic chemicals responsible for the current bee genocide. Like Bayer, Syngenta is aggressively fighting regulation to phase out the dangerous chemicals. Syngenta's application for a neonicotinoid pesticide was not approved in the UK 2014, a victory for environmental and bee activists. 

Will the ChemChina-Syngenta Deal Go Through?

While the Global Capital website announced in June that ChemChina had procured its needed financing and the deal is "pretty much done," other sources remain skeptical.  

According to the Diplomat website, the ChemChina offer to Syngenta "has sent government regulators in a tizzy, bringing into the limelight a little known American regulatory body called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Operating under the auspices of the U.S. Treasury Department, the committee is authorized to investigate foreign capital transactions and assess their possible national security implications for the United States." A dealer breaker, says the Diplomat, could be how close some planned Syngenta's U.S. plants would be to military bases. 

In addition to CFIUS scrutiny, the deal must also be approved by the European Union's own regulatory body, the Directorate-General for Competition (DG COMP) of the European Commission, which could be tougher. In previous decisions, consolidations have been nixed by the body because the decision-making powers of Chinese companies in question were not "sufficiently autonomous from the Chinese state." ChemChina is state owned.

Still, questions about the ChemChina deal and Syngenta's history of unsafe products have not stopped the Swiss giant's new product lines or its U.S. approvals. In 2015, Syngenta rolled out its Acuron herbicide, Solatenol fungicide and Orondis fungicide and this year, California approved Syngenta insecticide Arilon.

The time has come for the Millions Against Monsanto movement and concerned consumers worldwide to state the obvious: Syngenta is just as bad as Monsanto. We need to boycott foods, seeds and garden supply products tainted with atrazine, neonics and GMOs whether or not Syngenta changes its name to ChemChina. Our health and the literal survival of our bees, butterflies and biodiversity depend upon consumers and farmers worldwide rejecting not only GMOs, but the entire degenerative system of industrial agriculture and factory farming.

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Revealed: AARP Is Funding ALEC

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 21:00

AARP, the non-profit seniors organization that exists to promote the financial security, pensions and healthcare of those over 50, is secretly funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization whose bills have acted against the interests of ordinary Americans, including retirees and their families.

The Center for Media and Democracy has learned that AARP has recently joined ALEC, and that it is a named sponsor of the ALEC annual meeting taking place in Indianapolis, Indiana from July 27-29, 2016.

AARP isn't exactly hiding its new financial relationship with ALEC, at least to ALEC legislators. Its logo appears in the conference brochure (see here) and attendees at the conference were each provided with an AARP branded portable USB power pack as they registered for the event.

ALEC exists to help its corporate funders advance their lobbying agenda through pushing bills that ALEC peddles as national "model" legislation. As CMD has documented in numerous ways, ALEC is a pay-to-play operation.

Since CMD launched ALECexposed in 2011, more than 100 corporations have quit the group, with many echoing Eric Schmidt of Google who told NPR as his company quit ALEC: "I think the consensus within the company was that that was some sort of mistake and so we're trying to not do that in the future."

Here are just five (of the many) ways ALEC has acted against the interests of retirees and AARP members:

1) For more than a decade ALEC peddled a proposal to privatize key tax revenue for Social Security, which would undermine this crucial insurance program.

When it comes to social security, ALEC has cried wolf about the financial soundness of social security, proclaiming as recently as June 2016 that "leadership to reduce the debt must take place soon to prevent Social Security's insolvency in fewer than 20 years."

Such hyperbole is typical of ALEC, which fails to acknowledge that such "insolvency" could easily be fixed by lifting the Social Security Payroll tax earnings cap, currently set at $118,500.

ALEC's go-to solution to future potential shortfalls has been to privatize a portion of the tax revenue that would otherwise fund Social Security Insurance by putting it into private accounts.

In its "Resolution Urging Congress To Modernize the Social Security System With Personal Retirement Accounts (PRA's)," which corporate lobbyists voted on with legislators on its task force in secret in May 2000, ALEC claimed that "Social Security tax revenues alone will be insufficient to pay current benefits as early as the year 2015."

Yet as of 2016, despite these prognostications, social security remains healthy, solvent and wildly popular with the American public. It's no wonder that ALEC quietly has sought to distance itself from this long-standing "model" resolution by removing it from its website.

However, ALEC has done nothing to get that deeply flawed Resolution which was embraced by ALEC legislators revoked in state legislators. And ALEC has done nothing to educate its legislators that its privatization scheme for removing revenue streams from the Social Security trust fund was and remains a terrible idea.

Such privatization schemes have been promoted by ALEC's billionaire funders, the Koch Brothers. Charles Koch began attacking Social Security way back in the 1970s through his Cato Institute and David Koch ran on that policy in 1980. Koch-backed groups like ALEC have sought to privatize Social Security in a variety of ways.

ALEC has spread propaganda about Social Security to thousands of state legislators over several years, including through its proposal to take significant tax revenue out of the Social Security system as a guise to saving it, which would actually collapse the program.

But AARP is now funding ALEC.

2) ALEC has pushed bills that limit retirement security for public workers by attacking defined benefit pension plans in favor of riskier retirement options. 

Particularly, ALEC's "Defined Contribution Pension Reform Act" would push more workers away from negotiated retirement benefits to 401(k) plans that pose greater risks to pensioners' income security and can include more private fees to manage. Meanwhile, ALEC has assailed socially responsible investing efforts.

ALEC has used straw man arguments like claiming that the bankruptcy of Detroit was primarily caused by public pension insolvency and "should serve as a lesson" for lawmakers about pension agreements.

But as documented by DEMOS and others, "Detroit's bankruptcy was caused by a decrease in tax revenue due to a population decline and long-term unemployment, not an increase in the obligations to fund pensions."

As with its history of peddling of myths about Social Security along with its laughably inaccurate economic state "report cards," ALEC routinely uses bad math to shill for the agenda of its bankrollers, like the extremist billionaire Koch Brothers, an approach predicated on the organization's obedience to its pledge to never raise taxes, particularly on wealthy individuals and corporations (who not coincidentally fund ALEC).

3) ALEC has sought to amend the Constitution to pass a "Balanced Budget Amendment," which would destroy our economy and result in drastic cuts to discretionary government programs that help people's lives.

ALEC has dedicated significant resources to passing a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA), peddling amendments, handbooks, and more to "educate" ALEC legislators.

As noted by CMD, the passage of such an amendment would constitute a massive threat to fiscal stability. Economists like Dean Baker warn that a balanced budget amendment would radically alter Social Security and Medicare, and would fundamentally limit the federal government's ability to respond to economic challenges and opportunities.

4)  ALEC bills would undermine Medicare and it continues to attack the Affordable Care Act, despite its protections for millions of Americans including Americans with pre-existing conditions, like AARP members who are not yet retirement age.

As noted by the healthcare industry whistleblower and CMD Fellow Wendell Potter in 2011, "ALEC has been at work for more than a decade on what amounts to a comprehensive wish list for insurers: from turning over the Medicare and Medicaid programs to them – assuring them a vast new stream of revenue – to letting insurers continue marketing substandard yet highly profitable policies while giving them protection from litigation."

5)  ALEC seeks to restrict limits on drug price gouging and aids its big donor, Big Pharma, in other ways.

Time and again, ALEC has supported model policies that benefit the bottom lines of pharmaceutical companies, like the organization's "Drug Liability Act," which would exempt drug makers from any punitive damages liability for the potential harms caused by their products if those products were previously approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration.

Similarly, ALEC has opposed efforts to give Americans access to more affordable medications from Canada.

ALEC has even supported limits on non-pecuniary damages when a corporation is liable, meaning that someone who is retired and cannot show lost income can receive lesser damages for pain and suffering. ALEC's bill on this was applied by ALEC legislators in Wisconsin to lawsuits against nursing homes to limit their payouts to victims of nursing home neglect or mistreatment who prove that the skilled nursing industry's practices harmed them or their beloved parents or grandparents.

These are just a few of the many ways ALEC legislation hurts Americans, in addition to its legacy of making it harder for Americans to vote and thwarting efforts to address climate changes that are harming our planet and our families and future.

Categories: Latest News

Both Parties Are Playing the Mexico Card

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 21:00

Surprisingly, Mexico has taken center stage in this year's U.S. presidential elections.

While it has been cast mainly as the villain, the unexpected spotlight has sent politicians and activists on both sides of the border seeking to get their message out. If they've learned anything from the Trump playbook in the past months, it's that negative attention is still free publicity.

The July 22 visit of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to Washington played up Mexico's role in U.S. electoral politics. Since Republican candidate Donald Trump first launched his peculiar brand of invective against Mexico and Mexican migrants, he and his party have been mining an unexpectedly rich vein of anti-Mexican racism and xenophobia in U.S. society. Meanwhile, Democrats and Latino rights organizations have been thrown into defensive mode.

Mexico as an election-year wedge issue was the unspoken theme of Obama and Peña Nieto's last meeting. In the joint press conference, The Donald was the elephant in the White House. Obama began with a direct reference to he-who-shall-not-be-named: "Let me start off by saying something that bears repeating, especially given some of the heated rhetoric that we sometimes hear: The United States values tremendously our enduring partnership with Mexico and our extraordinary ties of family and friendship with the Mexican people."

The meeting sought to remind the U.S. public that it's impossible to cut ties with Mexico -- whether by building a wall, deporting some 11 million mostly Mexican immigrants, or canceling trade agreements, all of which Trump has proposed.

It also sought to woo the Latino vote, which could make the difference in this year's elections -- a fact that both Obama and Hillary Clinton are well aware of.

For Peña Nieto, the visit offered an opportunity to score some foreign policy points just as he's he tanking domestically. The Mexican president's approval ratings have hit an all-time low at 29 percent. His government's involvement and cover-up in the case of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, the restructuring of the education system that led to widespread protests from teachers and parents, the police killing of nine of those protesters, and the peso's freefall have left his presidency battered with two more years to go.

Peña Nieto first saw Trump's virulent anti-Mexicanism as a way to unite the country around something that wasn't opposition to his presidency. Now, with the Republican candidate looking like a possible winner, he backed off earlier criticisms (saying his comparison of Trump's tone to Mussolini and Hitler was taken out of context) and repeatedly stated his willingness to work with whomever the U.S. public elects.

Of course, he has no choice. As the presidents pointed out, $1.5 billion in trade and investment cross the border every day. The two countries need each other, but Mexico's dependency on the U.S. is particularly notorious.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is the main reason. Like leap year, NAFTA pops up every four years -- when U.S. presidential candidates scramble to disassociate themselves from it.

NAFTA is especially toxic in critical blue-collar states, and there's no getting around the fact that the agreement has been a disaster for U.S. workers. Although Trump portrays it as Mexico "winning," it also hurt Mexicans, sending migration rates soaring in the early 1990s as small farmers were displaced en masse. Obama sunk Hillary Clinton's boat in 2008 in part based on the Clintons' support of NAFTA. As president, though, he turned around and promoted an expanded versión -- the regional Trans-Pacific partnership, or TPP. Now the TPP may be on the ropes, as both Trump and Clinton have stated they oppose it. Trump has gone further, openly calling for renegotiation or cancellation of NAFTA.

At the press conference, the presidents walked a fine line between defending the trade relationship and avoiding providing fodder for the Trump fire. When Peña Nieto praised twenty years of NAFTA and plugged the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a continuation of that policy, Obama jumped in, stating, "We've learned from our experience in NAFTA what's worked and what hasn't." He assured listeners that "a number of the provisions inside of the Trans-Pacific Partnership address some previous criticisms of NAFTA."

Their united front on the issue became another opportunity to take a shot at the Trump platform: "Global integration is a fact," Obama stated. "We're not going to be able to build a wall around that."

The presidents also made common cause on immigration, again with an anti-Trump subtext. Obama reiterated his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, rebutting the Trump image of an unprecedented immigrant "invasion" by pointing out that rates of undocumented immigration were much higher during the Reagan and Bush administrations. For his part, Peña Nieto thanked the Obama administration for supporting the "35 million people of Mexican origin living in the U.S." -- a figure that highlights the Latino vote and changing demographics, but strikes fear in the hearts of Trump supporters.

One more point completed the Obama-Peña appeal to U.S. voters -- a pledge to fight the heroin epidemic, which is a major campaign issue in some regions. "I applaud President Peña Nieto's commitment to combating organized crime and for developing a new plan to curb poppy cultivation and heroin production," Obama noted. They announced the creation of a high-level task force focused on heroin production and trafficking.

In the end, the mutual back-patting may not have done much to advance either president's goals or stop the Trump momentum. Mexican Americans are not necessarily big Peña Nieto fans, and the nod of support to measures like the TPP and oil privatization could create distance rather than rapport with post-NAFTA economic migrants. The omission of human rights on the bilateral agenda alienates young Mexican Americans protesting Mexican government repression, and neither president seems to recognize growing skepticism around the joint drug war, which has dramatically increased violence in Mexico and driven hundreds to seek asylum in the United States.

The point is that that binational relationship is complicated. But when politics gets this polarized -- and ominously visceral -- real solutions vanish. The reality of the relationship today is neither the glowing scenario of the presidential summits or the doomsday scenario of the Trump camp. There's a lot that needs to be fixed in U.S.-Mexico relations. But building border walls, spewing hate speech, and destroying migrant families won't fix it.

Donald Trump is now leading in the polls. A Trump presidency would have grave repercussions for U.S. foreign policy throughout the world. But nowhere will it be more damaging than in the country that would be physically cut off by the new Imperial Walled Nation of the United States of America: Mexico.

Categories: Latest News

Yo, Texas: Protecting Transgender Rights Is Not Dangerous, but Discrimination Is

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 21:00

Washington and 12 other states have filed an amicus brief opposing a Texas-led lawsuit against the federal directive on transgender rights to bathroom access, calling it discriminatory and based on unfounded safety concerns.

Safety concerns are unfounded, says a 13-state amicus brief against the Texas challenge to bathroom access. (Photo: hermitsmoores / Flickr)

A dozen states and the District of Columbia have a message for Texas: The sky does not fall when policy makers seek protections for transgender people.

In an amicus brief filed with a federal court in Texas on Wednesday, the attorneys general of 12 states and the District of Columbia, led by Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington, came out swinging against a Texas-led lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's May 2016 guidance directing public schools to protect the civil rights of transgender students, including their right to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender.

Texas and 10 other states filed a lawsuit against the guidance soon after, claiming that school districts that choose not to comply with the guidance could lose federal funding under Title IX, the federal statute that protects against gender discrimination in public schools. The Education and Justice Departments have released guidance saying that Title IX protects against discrimination based on both biological sex and gender identity, a move that opponents say circumvents Congress.

The states, which include Oklahoma, Louisiana, Wisconsin and several others with socially conservative administrations, have asked a federal court in Wichita Falls, Texas to issue an injunction against the Obama administration that would block the federal government from issuing guidelines that prohibit employers and school districts from discriminating against transgender people, particularly when it comes to using the bathroom.

Washington and the other states filing the amicus brief in opposition to the request for an injunction have all instituted explicit protections for transgender people or modified anti-discrimination laws to include "gender identity." They argue that their experience shows that Texas and its allies have no grounds to continue policies that allow discrimination against people on the basis of gender identity.

"We are clear that our experience [has been] a positive one, and I think the court can benefit from our perspective," Ferguson told reporters on Wednesday. In a statement, he called the Texas lawsuit "just another example of the discrimination that transgender individuals experience" and denounced it as an attempt to "hide behind unfounded safety concerns."

The plaintiffs argue that an injunction is needed because school districts will either lose Title IX funding or be forced to spend a considerable amount of money remodeling bathrooms to accommodate transgender students. Moreover, the plaintiffs, which include rural school districts in Texas and Arizona, also reference concerns over "safety" and "sex crimes" in school bathrooms, perpetuating hateful myths about transgender people -- particularly transgender women -- that have been debunked many times over.

However, the states opposed to the injunction point out that schools are not actually required to build "single user" restrooms to accommodate transgender students and quell the concerns of parents. The experience of school districts in more progressive states shows such measures are unnecessary. Public schools in Los Angeles, for example, report that they have had "no issues, problems or lawsuits" since instituting a 2004 policy that allows transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender.

Nearly 20 states offer protections for transgender people in one way or another, and none of the states have experienced an increase in sexual violence since instituting the policies -- some as far back as 25 years ago, according to the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, an organization that represents shelters and crisis centers in 43 states.

"We've protected gay and transgender people from discrimination in Washington for 10 years, with no increase in public safety incidents as a result," said former Snohomish County Sherriff John Lovick, who is quoted in the amicus brief opposing the injunction request.

Ferguson and his allies argue that Texas does not face "irreparable injury" if its schools comply with the federal guidance, rather it's the transgender individuals -- who already face high rates of violence -- who are likely to be harmed by continued discrimination in schools, which causes "stigma, isolation and exclusion."

The plaintiffs have no real data to back up their claims, which are more likely based in "negative attitudes, misunderstandings or misplaced fear about transgender people," says Ferguson.

The federal court in Wichita Falls has a history of siding with Texas in its challenges against federal policies and some observers expect that the case will eventually end up in the US Supreme Court.

The states that joined Washington in filing the brief supporting transgender rights are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Plaintiffs supporting Texas' case are Alabama, Arizona, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia.

Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming filed a similar lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's transgender guidance earlier this month.

Categories: Latest News

Economic Update: Economic Crisis, Fascism and History

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 21:00

This episode discusses inequality in India's, the poverty in Philidelphia behind the DNC's front, new union initiatives, Starbuck's profiteering and the gutting of the federal estate tax. We also interview Adam Hochschild on the economic crisis, fascism and Spain's civil war.

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

Economic Update is in partnership with Truthout.org

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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.

Categories: Latest News

Trump Gets His Talking Points From White Supremacist Twitter Accounts

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 14:13

Donald Trump in Reno, Nevada, January 10, 2016. (Photo: Darron Birgenheier / Flickr)Donald Trump's call on Russia to hack and release Hillary Clinton's deleted emails was one of the stranger moments in what's been one of the stranger campaigns in US history.

It was a sign that Trump is either stupid or trying to join the Ronald Reagan/Richard Nixon club of Republicans who have betrayed their country to get elected president.

But as bizarre as it was, Trump's "Russian request" wasn't the most interesting part of his press conference yesterday in Tampa, Florida -- that came when he accused Vladimir Putin of calling President Obama "the N-Word."

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

He said, "Putin has said things over the last year that are really bad things, okay? He mentioned the N-word one time. I was shocked to hear him mention the N-word. You know what the N-word is, right? He mentioned it. I was shocked."

So, there is almost zero chance that what Trump said happened actually happened.

As Robert Mackey points out in The Intercept, it's never been reported in any reputable news outlet anywhere the world, and since Trump himself admits that he's never met Putin, there's no chance the Russian President said it to him in private.

So if Trump didn't hear Putin calling President Obama the N-word himself, and didn't read about him saying it in a newspaper, where did he get the idea that it happened (assuming, of course, that he's not just making this all up for show)?

Well, as Robert Mackey goes on to explain in his Intercept piece, right-wing racists on Twitter have been daydreaming for years about the idea that Putin calls President Obama the N-word.

For example, one Twitter user who goes by the name "Craig-infidel" and calls himself an "Arch-conservative" tweeted back in July, 2013, "I'll bet you a dollar to a donut that Putin uses the "N" word when talking about Obama!"

Another Twitter user named Jasper Mallis sent out a similar tweet in 2014, quoting the hard-right website Free Republic as saying, "'I bet that Putin and his advisers use the N word constantly when discussing how to deal with Obama.'"

In other words, unless Trump simply pulled this line out of his backside, he got it from reading Twitter -- and believing everything he reads!

This actually isn't the first time Trump has drawn inspiration from neo-Nazis and racists on Twitter.

Just a few weeks ago, he sent out and then quickly deleted a tweet with an image of Hillary Clinton in front of a background of dollar bills and what appeared to be a Star of David. Mic.com later traced that image to a neo-Nazi message board.

A few months before that, Trump retweeted a graphic that claimed that 81 percent of murdered white people are killed by Black people. The person who originally tweeted that graphic was a neo-Nazi whose Twitter account featured a Swastika avatar and openly praised Hitler.

Obviously, Twitter can be a confusing place. Everyone tweets irresponsible things now and then.

But with Trump, these mistakes aren't really mistakes -- they're a feature, not a bug, of his candidacy.

This is scientific fact. One recent study by the social media analytics company Little Bird found that over the course of just one week in January, "62 percent of the people Trump retweeted also followed white supremacist accounts."

In other words, neo-Nazis really like Donald Trump, and he likes them back.

This is unsettling enough already, but what's really scary is that if yesterday's N-word comments are any indication, the relationship between Trump and his neo-Nazi Twitter followers could be more than just one of mutual flattery.

It now looks like Trump could actually believe what those neo-Nazis think.

This is absolutely terrifying.

Here we have a candidate for the most powerful political office in the world openly flirting with the darkest fringes of the far-right.

And even if Trump doesn't believe what these people think, he's bringing their ideas out in the open by tweeting memes and giving them shout-outs in press conferences.

He's not making America great again; he's making US white supremacy acceptable again.

Trump is a racist and a crypto-fascist, and the many of the people who actually are paying attention to his policies and still support him are even worse.

Categories: Latest News

Convention Dissent: There's Less Than Meets the Eye

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 07:15

Supporters of Bernie Sanders silently protest at the Wells Fargo Center on the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016. (Photo: Josh Haner / The New York Times)

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Cast your memory back exactly eight years, to the opening night of the Democratic Convention in Denver: Aug. 25, 2008. The story that night was the threat of the "PUMA" which either stood for "People United Means Action" or Party Unity My Ass." According to Adam Nathaniel Peck writing in The New Republic, "PUMAs appeared dozens of times on cable news to defend Clinton and to promise mischief at the nominating convention and in the general election. Their anger epitomized a wider unrest that has been mostly forgotten as Obama went on to win two general elections."

Peck, writing in the spring of 2015, was seeking to make the point that even PUMAs are not that into Hillary Clinton anymore. But the real truth was, they were almost entirely a creation of a media desperate for a "Democratic disarray" narrative upon which to hang their quote-stringing, I mean reporting. Rebecca Traister did a long pre-convention bit of actual reporting for Salon on the alleged phenomenon and found approximately a dozen reasons some Clinton die-hards were reluctant to jump on the Obama bandwagon in June of that year. She followed up in Denver at the convention and found that their major event -- a protest made to order for MSNBC attracted maybe 50 people. I tried to report out the story in Denver by finding the people these protesters represented -- i.e., convention delegates who would refuse to vote for Barack Obama but would instead either stay home or support John McCain and Sarah Palin. Thing was, I couldn't find any. The PUMAs who Chris Matthews insisted were causing a "civil war" within the party were always all hat and no cattle.

To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

Sure, some of them gave great quote. There was Harriet Christian, who warned the DNC's rules committee that it was "throwing the election away" by awarding delegates to an "inadequate black male." And most famously, there was the incomparably named Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, who complained, "I got in trouble because I said in the newspaper I love my country more than my party." Poor thing. De Rothschild went on to become charmed by McCain's running mate that year. While she admitted that the two might "disagree on some issues," she announced: "I love Sarah Palin," adding, "I think she's pretty cool."

The numbers of people represented by die-hard Bernie Bros who booed their own hero yesterday and chanted "bulls–t" whenever the party's nominee was praised, might turn out to be more numerous than the PUMAs, whose existence soon came to manifest itself only as a metaphor for ridicule. But the signs are hardly encouraging. After all, going into the convention, polls showed that 90 percent of Sanders supporters were already on board with Clinton. One has to figure that the number will rise when:

  • They take a look at Donald Trump.
  • They ponder, even for a moment, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren's enormously eloquent speeches directed specifically at their particular complaints.
  • They realize, a la Sarah Silverman that they've become "ridiculous" even in the eyes of most enthusiastic Sanders supporters (like Silverman).
  • They get a few months older and more mature in time to actually vote in November.

In the meantime, thanks in part apparently to Russian hackers who may or may not have been trying to undermine our voting system on behalf of Putin Bro Trump, the media had its narrative going into the convention. It was all "party disunity" all the time. "Whatever you thought of Sanders, Warren or Obama, Day One was mostly a disaster. The heckling was loud and distracting for the party," explained the new PRAVDA, I mean Politico Playbook writers. It was a particularly delicious narrative because it came packaged as a counter-intuitive meme. "You thought the Republicans were mad at each other? Ha. Look that these darned Democrats."

In fact, all we learned yesterday was that extremists on the fringe of US political parties enjoy going to demonstrations where they can enthusiastically denounce those who hold some of their views but not all of them and without the requisite passion and focus that said extremists believe they deserve.

In Cleveland, this demonstration took place inside the hall and was led by the party's candidate: Trump. (I've been to a lot of demonstrations in my 56 years; I don't recall ever seeing an "Establishment Republican" at any of them. Golf courses, on the other hand….) In Philadelphia, they were mostly outside the hall, in front of the TV cameras and occasionally inside the hall, behaving rudely during excellent speeches by first lady Michelle Obama and America's two most important and potentially effective progressive politicians, Warren and Sanders. And as Silverman could not help but noting, while killing time before a Paul Simon performance, they were "ridiculous." By tomorrow they will be forgotten, save for the rudeness.

Now what about that Russian hack on behalf of Trump? Might there be a story in there somewhere? Maybe in between parties someone could look into that…

Categories: Latest News

Lessons in Activism: Middle School Students Advocate for Syrian Refugees

Wed, 07/27/2016 - 21:00

Nassim Zerriffi's activism campaign class introduces middle-schoolers to the complexities of history, the realities of ISIS and why Syrians are fleeing their country. An effective activism curriculum doesn't deny these types of realities. Rather, it helps students find ways to defy reality with actions and in the process, learn that even the smallest acts matter.

Manhattan Country School students hold a banner in front of the White House. (Photo: Ian Weill)

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On the last day before spring break at Manhattan Country School, a progressive school in New York City, the 7th and 8th graders were busy at work with their activism campaign, "Build Bridges, Not Borders." In one classroom, a group of students gathered near the phone, waiting for their turn to call Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office to encourage the resettlement of Syrian refugees in New York. In another room, students practiced their talking points and arguments in anticipation of their lobbying trip to Washington, DC, where they would ask congressional representatives to oppose bills that would block the refugee resettlement process and sign a resolution that would condemn hateful rhetoric against Muslims in the United States.

Groups of students rotated through the various classrooms until they arrived at a mock refugee screening process. Here, teachers pretended to be interrogators and security agents as they took the students through the nine steps asylum seekers have to go through before they even enter the United States, and explaining that there are more steps after that and that it takes an average of 18-24 months to complete the process. The idea was to refute the common argument that a "terrorist" or ISIS member may come into the country disguised as a Syrian refugee, and to help the students understand what refugees who are escaping war and violence have to go through as they attempt to resettle.

This is not a standard curriculum course, but it is part of what 7th and 8th graders learn in a school committed to activism and social justice.

Each year, the 7th and 8th graders at this sliding-scale tuition school in New York City, where I teach Spanish, vote on a topic for their class to take on with activism. This year, a group of 38 students decided to tackle Islamophobia and raise money to go to Washington, DC, to participate in the National Day of Action led by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and lobby to let more Syrian refugees into the United States. The students searched for answers to questions, such as: What is Islamophobia? What is Islam? Is ISIS representative of Islam? How did Muslim scholars and scientists contribute to the European Renaissance? What is the experience of a Syrian person who is trying to resettle in the United States? How can we speak out against hate speech and anti-Muslim bigotry? This inquiry was a central part of the education of these 13- and 14-year-olds as they created and carried out their activism campaign.

Teaching About Reality Without Giving Up Hope 

Teaching activism to middle school students matters. Years before high school and college, when the need to belong is at its strongest -- young teens want to be part of something that can help them feel more powerful -- that pull toward "belonging" is a source of untapped potential. "This could be done through a clique, a sports team, a rock band, or a school's activism program," Nassim Zerriffi, a 7th and 8th grade teacher at Manhattan Country School, told me in an email.

Knowing that we don't live in isolation and that separation is fundamental to oppression, Zerriffi tells his students that "activism is the only logical response to a thorough understanding of history." Teaching activism allows for positive risk-taking and group identity, conveys empathy and a sense of agency and uses ideas as instruments to solve social problems by acting on the world.

"I do encounter many skeptics." Zerriffi says. "Sometimes people initially look scornfully at children doing activism. That itself should be a sign that there's something there."

For the campaign around Syrian refugees, students learned about the complexities of history, the realities of ISIS and why Syrians are fleeing their country. An effective activism curriculum doesn't deny these types of realities. Rather, it helps students find ways to defy reality with actions and in the process, learn that even the smallest acts matter. Students learned that the US announced plans to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year, but that this isn't enough. After the Paris attacks last November, the House of Representatives immediately passed a bill that could severely limit the acceptance of people fleeing from Syria and Iraq. Students discussed the consequences of that legislation in activism class as they depicted and critiqued the SAFE Act bill. "We'd like the representative to oppose the SAFE Act, which lengthens the process for refugees to apply for asylum. We'd also like you to oppose the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act (HR 4731), which gives the government the power to defund certain refugee resettlement agencies," wrote Carolina, 13, in one of the talking points she prepared for the class's lobbying trip to D.C. "We'd also like people in Congress to speak out against Islamophobia and bigotry against Muslims and refugees ... they already have a tough life fleeing terrorism and oppressive government," said Vidar, who is 14 years old.

A group of 7th and 8th grade students sitting in a round table in Washington, DC, making their case for Syrian refugees. (Photo: Ian Weill)

The students' activism class also examined some of the myths around refugees. For example, some politicians insist ISIS agents could sneak in with refugees, implicitly linking ISIS with the Syrian refugee crisis. Before Donald Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, both he and Marco Rubio agreed that the US should turn away Syrian refugees for now, and both bandied about the possibility of closing mosques in the wake of the Paris attacks -- being more explicit about connecting Islamophobia to those fleeing Syria. As these current events developed, the 7th and 8th graders learned that the process to enter the United States is anything but easy. They were taken through a refugee screening and background check simulation by teachers who wanted to help them understand the refugee experience. During an assembly, a group of students in the activism committee shared what they learned with 5th and 6th graders, and also took them through the simulated screening process to help explain how improbable it would be for a "terrorist" to filter through that process.

The Muslim faith of millions of Syrian refugees has become a flashpoint in the US, where anti-Islamic sentiment is on the rise. To learn more about Islam, students explored Islamic art and culture through museum trips and hands-on activities. The school also invited guest speakers from the Arab American Association of New Yorkto talk about how Islamophobia affects their lives and communities, such as having NYPD spying on them. Linda Sarsour, executive director of the association, shared her own personal story with the students, about growing up Muslim in Brooklyn, seeing negative Muslim stereotypes in the media and experiencing surveillance as part of normal life.

To raise funds for this trip, the students filmed a short video expressing why the US should let in more refugees, how Islamophobia prevents that and what current US residents can do to help. Although the activism campaign was able to reach a broad audience and raise enough money to cover trip expenses, students also had to learn to defend their case with those who opposed their cause. The groups who met with representatives from more conservative states had to explain to them how some of their fears and reasoning were grounded in flawed beliefs. "It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to convince those who have illogical fears to accept more refugees," wrote Giacomo, 14, in his activism class reflections. "The best we can do is convince those in favor of saving lives to say so publically and change the broken narrative we have of these innocent people."

Before the students' trip to DC, New York City lawyers who belong to the AILA explained to the class the basics of immigration law, and gave talking point ideas to students, who had to write their own arguments supporting Syrian refugee resettlement and against Islamophobia as part of their homework assignments. "I was able to develop my public speaking skills as well as my ability to persuade," wrote Giacomo, who was straightforward when arguing with a Missouri representative staff member, saying "it makes no logical sense for a terrorist to come into the US through the refugee system."

"The AILA lawyers called me 'bad ass' afterwards," Giacomo added in his reflections.

In Washington, DC, 7th and 8th graders meet with KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. (Photo: Ian Weill)

Once in DC, students also met with Aisha Rahman, executive director of KARAMAH and head of the organization's Family Law Division, who gave the group a brief overview of the organization's work and engaged the students in a case study. She concluded by offering suggestions on how to counter some of the big misconceptions about Muslims, specifically Muslim women, circulating in the media. "At Karamah, I learned that children are forced to go to court without a lawyer, and that nine [out of] every 10 [undocumented] children get deported," wrote Jessica, 13, in her reflections. "The case study showed me how hard it is for an undocumented person to get a visa and taught me to think about the problems undocumented people face."

Assuming Responsibility for Younger Generations

Philosopher Hannah Arendt, who describes education as "the task of renewing a common world," argued that "education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it." Teaching activism is central to this task. "If other people were to take one thing from our trip to D.C., it would be the difference between being activists and learning about activism," wrote Jack, 13, in his reflection. "Our day of lobbying was one of the first times I felt that I was having a positive impact on the world, which felt much better than brainstorming how I can convince Congress to help more Syrian refugees. If you want to make a change, do it; don't just think about it."

"Kids want to, and need to, take risks," said Zerriffi. "Talking to strangers on the street, public speaking, meeting elected officials and others in fancy offices with leather chairs, marching down the street chanting at the top of their lungs." In his teaching experience, Zerriffi says, "Just about every time, some kid is like, 'We get to do this? We're allowed to yell on the street like this?' It's exciting and feels disobedient and it's their right."

Ultimately, the experience of pushing for tangible change -- loudly -- makes a much deeper and more lasting impression than a textbook, Zerriffi added. "This is what democracy feels like, and it's a powerful thing for a group of young people to yell."

Getting the younger students in the school on board was also a learning process. After the DC trip, once they had grasped the issues as deeply as possible, 7th graders made their own lesson plans and were invited as guest speakers to teach activism to younger students.

"Does anyone know what Islamophobia is?" asked Osiris, 13, introducing the lesson to a class of 5th graders who gave him their complete attention. Two other students passed around a cartoon image with the text "Muslim Shooter = 1.3 billion people held accountable,"to show how some people are more prone to be categorized as "terrorists."

Anika, who is 11, raised her hand to say, "It's showing that all Muslims are held accountable for the actions of one person."

Interpreting another image -- of a white shooter classified as a Lone Wolf with emotional issues -- Gabi, 11, said: "For the white people, it shows them like they have emotional issues or were trying to do the right thing if they shot someone, but are not as 'bad' as a Black or Muslim person."

The 4th graders participated in several sessions on the foundations of Islam and the influence of Islamic culture on American music, taught by the activism coordinator. They also had 7th graders show profiles of Syrian refugees featured on the Humans of New York website. "It felt empowering to teach kids about it. Because you are passing it out to the next generation," said Osiris.

"I want you to imagine for a second every single child in the New York City school system, all 1.1 million or so," Zerriffi said. "Imagine them all walking out of school and refusing to go back until an agreed-upon set of demands are met. Think about how much potential political power there is in youth!"

Envisioning a scenario where hope is grounded in acts of defiance helps us see that no issue is truly hopeless.

Categories: Latest News

Michael Eric Dyson vs. Eddie Glaude on Race, Hillary Clinton and the Legacy of Obama's Presidency

Wed, 07/27/2016 - 21:00

On Wednesday night, President Obama addressed the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and implored the nation to vote for Hillary Clinton. As Obama seeks to pass the torch to his secretary of state, we host a debate on Hillary Clinton, her rival Donald Trump and President Obama's legacy between Princeton University professor Eddie Glaude and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson. Glaude's most recent book is Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul, and he recently wrote an article for Time magazine headlined "My Democratic Problem with Voting for Hillary Clinton." Dyson is the author of The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America and wrote a cover article for the New Republic titled, "Yes She Can: Why Hillary Clinton Will Do More for Black People Than Obama."

TRANSCRIPT

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, our two weeks of two-hour specials daily, "Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." I'm Amy Goodman. We're broadcasting this week from the Democratic National Convention here in Philadelphia. To talk more about the convention, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and President Obama's legacy, we're joined by two guests.

Eddie Glaude is chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. His most recent book is Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul. He recently wrote an article for Time magazine headlined "My Democratic Problem with Voting for Hillary Clinton."

Also with us, Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University professor, author of many books, including The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America. Last November, he wrote a cover article for the New Republic titled "Yes She Can: Why Hillary Clinton Will Do More for Black People Than Obama."

Professors Michael Eric Dyson and Eddie Glaude, thanks so much for joining us.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Thanks for having us.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Thanks for having us.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let's start with you, Professor Dyson, on this issue of why Hillary Clinton, you say, will do more for African Americans than President Obama.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Well, I was making that argument in the context of a host of things, the least -- not the least of which is that President Obama, for a variety of reasons, has been hamstrung, has been disinclined to deal with race, has been hesitant and procrastinating about engaging race. And I think that Hillary Clinton, for many of those reasons, will be more forthcoming. She's spoken, I think, very intelligently about implicit bias. She has asked white people to hold themselves accountable vis-à-vis white privilege. She's been talking about systemic racism, as well as individual acts of bigotry and violence. So, I think, in the aggregate, when we look at the degree to which she is capable, because of that very white privilege, to speak about race, in a way that Obama, even if he chose to be more forthcoming, would be categorized and put in a black box, in a certain way, that she has both the drive, the intelligence, the ability and the privilege to speak about it in a way that he is perhaps not only disinclined to do so, but maybe restricted, in his own mind.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Eddie Glaude?

EDDIE GLAUDE: Well, you know, I understand the claim around the limits or the constraints faced -- Obama faced, but I think the claims around Hillary Clinton are basically aspirational, because there's no real -- there are no real -- there's no real evidence in her immediate past of any kind of genuine and deep concern about the material conditions of black life. And so, in other words, what I'm suggesting is that part of what -- the problem is that we can't infer from anything that she's done that when she gets in office, that she's going to change and address the circumstances of black folk in any substantive way, or the most vulnerable in any substantive way, because at the end of the day, I think, Hillary Clinton is a corporate Democrat, that she is committed to a neoliberal economic philosophy.

AMY GOODMAN: What does "neoliberal philosophy" mean?

EDDIE GLAUDE: Well, a neoliberal economic philosophy involves a kind of understanding that the notion of the public good is kind of undermined by a basic market logic that turns us all into entrepreneurs, where competition and rivalry define who we are, where the state's principal function -- right? -- is to secure the efficient functioning of the economy and the defense, and creating the market conditions whereby you and I can pursue our own self-interest. And part of what that does, if we only read it as an economic philosophy and not understand it as a kind of political rationale producing particular kinds of subjects, who are selfish, who are self-interested, who are always in competition with one another, then we lose sight of how neoliberalism attacks the political imagination. So the interesting question that I ask of Hillary Clinton is that, will she fundamentally change the circumstances that are at the heart of the problem facing this country? In fact, I think she's illustrative of the problem confronting the country.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Well, I mean, that's interesting.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Dyson?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I mean, obviously, I agree with your analysis of neoliberalism. But in terms of dissecting the constitutive elements that make up what neoliberal vision is, we'd have to -- given what you were talking about in terms of self-interest and competition, we'd have to say Bernie Sanders exhibits, in a profound way, some of the same elements, if that becomes the litmus test.

EDDIE GLAUDE: No, we're all in it, though.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right? So, if we're all in it, that means then the distinction makes no difference, because, ultimately, if you're talking about affecting material conditions of black people, I think that not only does she vote 93 percent of the same way that Bernie Sanders voted, say, as one, if you will, lodestar for what a progressive politics might look like, it's not simply about inference. It's about the fact that she's spent her time working with Marian Wright Edelman. It's about the way in which, as a first lady, she championed causes that black people could not only be concerned about, but were involved with. It's not only the fact that, as a senator and then as a secretary of state, her awareness of what ethnicity and race and, of course, gender, those differences, might make at least provide the platform for her to articulate that vision. And more especially, in the aftermath of racial crisis in America, she has responded in a way to mobilize the public understanding of those interests.

So, for me, if material interests are the predicate for us determining the legitimacy or efficacy of a particular policy, yeah, it's aspirational, but I want that aspiration to be about taking black life seriously. I want that aspiration to be about what we can do to transform the fundamental condition of our people. And I know, given the fact that Cory Booker has a prominent blurb on your book that's supporting you --

EDDIE GLAUDE: Oh, but we disagree.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right, I know you disagree, but I'm saying you disagree with him, but you're still in league with him in terms of your analysis of what happens, even though -- and I'm a fan of Cory Booker, but the devastating analysis of the consequences of neoliberalism in Newark.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Absolutely, absolutely.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: So, I'm saying, so all of us are going to be associated with people who are not perfect --

EDDIE GLAUDE: Nobody -- but let's be --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: -- but we've got to figure out a way to transform the context.

EDDIE GLAUDE: But let's be very clear. Nobody's trying to occupy --

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Glaude.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Nobody's trying to occupy a pure, pristine space. We all have dirty hands.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: But let's be honest, right? In terms of -- we can all do -- people have been talking about her work with Marian Wright Edelman. You know, we know about the brother Peter, left the Clinton White House for a reason, right? What did he leave it for? He left because --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right. Her husband. Her husband.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Not only her -- no, see, this is what we want to -- we want to attribute CHIP to her -- right? -- when we know Senator Edward Kennedy was leading that charge.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: She had to convince the White House in order to support CHIP, right? But we know what welfare reform did. What did it do? It moved all these folk off the rolls, right?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I'm with you.

EDDIE GLAUDE: As poverty increased. And it increased extreme, deep, extreme, deep poverty, right?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: But I have no -- I agree with you.

EDDIE GLAUDE: I know. I know you do. So, part of that, we need to understand, right? What do we talk -- how do we talk about her response to those babies, those children -- right? -- who were leaving the violence, who were fleeing the violence of Honduras and Central America? We've got to send them back.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Right? How do we respond to an economic philosophy -- right? -- that holds Wall Street in high regard and Main Street in particular sorts of ways -- right? -- as secondary, in certain sorts of ways? So, part of what I'm suggesting here -- right? -- is not that I'm trying to defend Bernie Sanders.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: As you say, that's just one bloom --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: -- of the blossom of democratic awakening taking place in this country.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: No doubt.

EDDIE GLAUDE: What I'm saying is, we need to understand who Hillary Clinton is, just as we need to understand who Barack Obama is.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: No doubt.

EDDIE GLAUDE: And part of -- and what I take it to be is that part of what these folks are, they're representatives of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. These folk --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: -- it's been on their watch.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Let me say this --

EDDIE GLAUDE: Crime bill, the welfare bill, dismantling Glass-Steagall -- it's been on their watch.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: You ain't no doubt -- ain't no doubt about that. But here's the bottom line, and here's the context.

EDDIE GLAUDE: All right.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: As they say in basketball, you've got to deal with what the defense gives you. We are talking about Donald Trump. We're talking about Hillary Clinton in the context. Let's bring it back to reality. We're talking about within the --

EDDIE GLAUDE: We haven't been in reality, though, Mike?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: We've been in a serious reality that is abstract in considering the philosophical consequences of particular ideologies. What I'm saying, in light of the real-life circumstances we face now, we're talking about the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton -- and, of course, Jill Stein and the Libertarian candidate, but I'm talking about those who've got a real chance to win. And when we're talking about those who've got a real chance to win, if we're concerned about the very people you're speaking about -- you and I are going to be fine whether Donald Trump is president or whether Hillary Clinton is president, in terms of our material conditions, but the people that we claim ostensibly to represent, those whose voices we want to amplify by our visions, by our own reflections upon the conditions they confront, ain't no doubt in my mind that Hillary Clinton represents the only possibility to at least address the undeniable lethargy of a political system -- neoliberalism, in particular; more broadly, the kind of epic sweep and tide of capital and its impact on the conditions of working-class and poor black people. But I'm saying, ain't nobody got a possibility of doing none of that in a context where Donald Trump is the president. It may mobilize and galvanize grassroots movements that will articulate their resistance against him. What it will not be able to do is leverage the political authority of the state in defense of those vulnerable bodies. It's not been perfect, but it certainly represents a huge advantage over a possibility of a Donald Trump presidency.

EDDIE GLAUDE: So, let me make this point really quickly, right? So it is the case that we have to keep Donald Trump out of the White House. But it's also the case that, under current conditions, 38 percent, close to 40 percent, of children in the United States are growing up in poverty. In my home state of Mississippi, 50 percent of black children are living in poverty, right?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: It is the case under these current conditions, with Barack Obama in office.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I've documented --

EDDIE GLAUDE: It is the case that Freddie Gray's mother is still grieving, right?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: That's right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Rekia Boyd's mom is still grieving.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I'm with you.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Right? We can just -- we can call the roll.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I'm with you.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Call the roll. So, part of what we're saying is that one of the things we have to do -- we have to do two things simultaneously. One is keep Donald Trump out of office. And two -- right? -- announce that business as usual is unacceptable.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Yeah, but --

EDDIE GLAUDE: So, what does that mean?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Are they competing?

EDDIE GLAUDE: If you're going -- so, no, no. Of course. If it's going to mean that if the --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: It's a priority.

EDDIE GLAUDE: No, if it's going to mean -- hold on, let me make the claim.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: It's going to mean that the fear of electing Donald Trump cannot be the principal motivation of how we engage politically. So, part --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Absolutely, right now, it must be the principal motive --

EDDIE GLAUDE: No, no, no. No, no.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: No, no. Let me tell you why.

EDDIE GLAUDE: That's a very limited conception of what democratic --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: No, no, no, because -- because your --

EDDIE GLAUDE: -- democratic action --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: -- your ideals will be subverted, undermined, marginalized and totally put to the periphery, if Donald Trump --

EDDIE GLAUDE: You have a -- you have an anemic conception of demos, brother.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: No, no, no. I'm saying it ain't the demos, it's the demon I'm talking about. And the demon right now, in my mind, is Donald Trump. I'm saying, if we don't make that the priority of preventing the flourishing of an ethic, of a politic and of a conception of the state, much less of the global theaters within which America operates, if we don't prevent Donald Trump from ascending, so to speak, to that throne, all the legitimate stuff that you and I agree on, any analysis you make -- if you read my book on President Obama, I lay all that stuff out there. I lay out the way in which black lives have been decentered in terms of their economic and social stability. And, furthermore, when you talk about the degree to which black life matters, if that is -- do you think -- in a Donald Trump presidency, not only can we not acknowledge that black lives matter, we can't even see if black lives can exist on a particular kind of plane that represents anything like democracy. So, I'm saying that's the priority. And if that is addressed -- I don't want to reduce all of the complicated political energy in America to electoral politics, but electoral politics is a crucial wedge that can be inserted into the contemporary political scene to at least be able to make a change.

EDDIE GLAUDE: So we've already agreed on a basic claim, right? The basic claim is that we need to keep Donald Trump out of office.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: No doubt, as a priority.

EDDIE GLAUDE: No, but -- as a priority, right?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: And as an additional priority, not a secondary priority --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right, right, right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: -- we need to announce that business as usual is unacceptable.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I'm down with that.

EDDIE GLAUDE: But you seem to be supporting business as usual, because Hillary Clinton, no matter what they -- how they try to rebrand her over these next few days, over these -- over this last few days -- right? -- no matter how they try to brand her as a change maker, she is the poster child -- right? -- of the corporate takeover of the Democratic Party.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: She's the poster child of Blue Dog Democrats, I would even say, of a certain kind of conservative tendency in the Democratic -- so, what does it mean --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: No, I would disagree with that. But go on.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Well, I mean, of course, we can -- we can debate that. I might have overstated the case there. But what does it mean for us to be committed to a radical conception of democracy?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I'm down with the radical conception of democracy.

EDDIE GLAUDE: No, I don't -- I don't want to -- I know, but you seem to be putting forward a kind of Niebuhrian realism here.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: No, what I --

EDDIE GLAUDE: Reinhold Niebuhr.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: No, no, what I'm putting forth is --

EDDIE GLAUDE: But part of what -- but hold up. Let me make this point, though.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: -- an existential anxiety in the face of --

EDDIE GLAUDE: I know. But it seems to me --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: -- creeping demagoguery that renders -- that renders our philosophical differences abstract.

EDDIE GLAUDE: It's not abstract. It's not abstract.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Because in the real world that you claim to be concerned about, what we are concerned about is how black people and poor people and people of color and people across the board who are vulnerable --

EDDIE GLAUDE: What I'm concerned --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: -- get represented in a politics of representation in our democracy.

EDDIE GLAUDE: What I'm concerned about, Mike, is what you know as well as I do, is that political scientists have said that black folk are a captured electorate. That is to say, the Republican Party doesn't have to care about what we do, and the Democratic Party, every four, two, four, six years, come into our communities --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I'm with you on that.

EDDIE GLAUDE: -- and try to herd us to the polls like we're cattle chewing cud.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I'm with you on that.

EDDIE GLAUDE: And then they have no obligation -- no obligation -- to deliver on policy.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: But so --

EDDIE GLAUDE: So, she shows up -- she shows up --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Wait a minute.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Hold up, hold up. She shows up in a church.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: They come to churches.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: They come into our communities. And when we talk about policy, how are you addressing the legacy of doing --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: But I'm with you on that.

EDDIE GLAUDE: So, point on point on point on point -- so, then, if you're with me on that --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: -- how is it then that a Democratic candidate can come into our community, come into this moment, where all of this suffering -- where you and I have been laid it out in both of our books -- all this suffering is engulfing our communities, when we look at the back of Barack Obama's head, what's going to be behind it are the ruins of black communities, the ruins of the most vulnerable in this country.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I agree.

EDDIE GLAUDE: And then we get business as usual, rebranded --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: But what I'm saying, look --

EDDIE GLAUDE: -- and only because we're afraid of Donald Trump and not understanding our power as the demos.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: You know what? But it's both-and, isn't it?

AMY GOODMAN: Let me let President Obama weigh in on this.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right, OK.

AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday night, he said no one is more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Even in the midst of crisis, she listens to people, and she keeps her cool, and she treats everybody with respect. And no matter how daunting the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits. That is the Hillary I know. That's the Hillary I've come to admire. And that's why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman -- not me, not Bill, nobody -- more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.

AMY GOODMAN: That's President Obama on Wednesday night addressing, oh, 17,000, 18,000 people who packed into the Wells Fargo convention center. Professor Dyson?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Well, first of all, the importance of that statement was to mitigate the vicious, lethal legacy of sexism that has become so normalized that we don't even pay attention to it.

But let me get back to the point we were making before the break of Obama's rhetoric. The point is that -- why is it that we reduce the complicated legacy of our freedom struggle to present moments? Howard Thurman, the great prophetic mystic, said, refuse the temptation to reduce the level -- to reduce your dreams to the level of the event, which is your immediate experience. And what I'm arguing for, Brother Eddie, is that we pull upon the very romantic, in the best sense of that word, conceptions of self-determination and the flourishing of black agency -- all those technical terms. In other words, for black people to get stuff done under impossible circumstances.

The reason I can maintain the hopefulness -- and Niebuhr, since you brought him up, talked about the difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is a shallow virtue; hope is a deep virtue. Even in the face of impossibility, I happen to believe in a religious and spiritual reality that has been manifest politically, that has motivated black people from the get-go. And what that says is, I don't care what you put before me, I don't care what's going on, I'm not going to give in to what's happening. If you're talking about it's tough now, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Ella Baker were operating under conditions where black people didn't even have the franchise.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Right.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: If black people were able to leverage their political authority, and especially their moral compelling arguments, their narratives and their stories in defense of their vulnerable bodies, who are we now, with enormous access to the vote, to lament the impossibility of the situation? As if this choice between maintaining a conception of the flourishing of black people under impossible circumstances versus putting Donald Trump in office -- let's do both. Let's both acknowledge that Donald Trump is the most immediate priority to be prevented, and then, at the same time, as you say, speak about these other interests. But it doesn't mean it has to be either-or. Why can't we do both? Why can't we put Hillary Clinton in office, the way you have conversation with Cory Booker, the way you have engagements in an elite white institution? You ain't teaching at Howard, and neither am I.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Right.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: All of our hands are dirty.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Morehouse.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right, but you ain't -- I'm saying --

EDDIE GLAUDE: I know. I got you.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I got you. My son graduated from there. Marc Hill, what's up? Professor there. But my point is that it's not an either-or situation. And I think that what you say, I agree with. But what I don't agree is deferring the legitimacy of the priority of Donald Trump being stopped from occupying space that will bring -- if it's bad now, it's going to be -- it's a Bobby Womack ethic. If you think you're lonely now, wait until the night, until Donald Trump becomes president.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Eddie Glaude, who do you want to see as president?

EDDIE GLAUDE: With these two choices?

AMY GOODMAN: In this election.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: That's no choice for you, those three, four.

EDDIE GLAUDE: I have -- I have no interest. I have -- neither one.

AMY GOODMAN: You don't think it matters whether --

EDDIE GLAUDE: I don't want Donald Trump to be in office. I can only put it in the negative.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Well, that's good enough. That's good enough.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Right. Yeah, so I'm only going to put it in the negative.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I'll run with that.

AMY GOODMAN: And if you don't want Donald Trump to be in office, how would you prevent that from happening?

EDDIE GLAUDE: So, part of what I've been arguing -- and I wrote a piece with Fred Harris, a political scientist at Columbia -- that we should vote strategically. And that is to say, if you're an African American or if you're a person of color or you're a progressive of conscience, who's -- where the word actually means something, right? -- in a swing state, it makes all the sense in the world to me, in a battleground state, that you vote for Hillary Clinton, because one of the objectives is to keep Donald Trump out of office. But if you're in a red state, like my mom and dad -- my mom and daddy are in Mississippi. Right? They're Democrats, but we know Mississippi is going Trump. Right? What do you do? You can actually blank out. You can leave the presidential ballot blank. You can vote for a third-party interest. Right? Because what will happen? In that moment --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Wow!

EDDIE GLAUDE: -- you will actually, 2020, given the turnout of how many people vote for the presidential -- the Democratic candidate, will actually impact the number of delegates that come from that state to the convention in 2020. I'm in a blue state.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: I'm talking straight, because part of what we have to do is shift the center of gravity of how African Americans engage the political process, because this is what -- 1924, James Weldon Johnson says it's almost as if the "Negro vote" -- quote -- has already been prepackaged and sealed to be delivered before they vote.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I got you.

EDDIE GLAUDE: In 1956, "Why I Won't Vote," W.E.B. Du Bois writes this piece and says, "I reject the lesser of two evils."

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: We got all that.

EDDIE GLAUDE: In 1965, Malcolm X said we should treat the ballot like a bullet, and, until we get our targets set, keep our ballot in our pockets. Right? So, part of what I'm saying --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: And all I'm saying --

EDDIE GLAUDE: Hold up, hold up, hold up, Mike. You -- no, hold up. You invoked the grandness of the tradition. I'm giving you examples --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: But we ain't got enough time to give --

EDDIE GLAUDE: -- of what does it mean --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right.

EDDIE GLAUDE: -- to think strategically about the vote and what does it mean to actually embrace a radical Democratic vision. If you are a centrist liberal, own that.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right. Here's my point.

EDDIE GLAUDE: If you're not, then embrace a different kind of politic.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Michael Eric Dyson?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: But I'm saying you're not a centrist liberal, but you've got a centrist liberal on your book. You engage with him.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Oh, it's published by Crown.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Well, let me -- let me finish. Let me finish. But what I'm saying to you -- making my point even more.

EDDIE GLAUDE: I'm not trying to claim a pure space, Mike.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: But what I'm saying to you -- no, no, but if you ain't claiming a pure space, don't claim a space that sounds to most black people out there listening -- this is the problem with these Negro intellectuals. You're talking about an abstract articulation --

EDDIE GLAUDE: No, I'm not.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Let me finish -- of grand principles and possibilities. When the woman asked you -- or, as in our tradition, aksed you -- who you're going to vote for, you're stumbling and stammering and --

EDDIE GLAUDE: I didn't stumble.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Hold on. What I'm saying, you had a pregnant pause. It delivered and birthed in us a --

EDDIE GLAUDE: I'm leaving it blank.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: What I'm saying to you -- and that is not neutral. As you know more than anybody else, that's not a neutral thing. And I wish that black people were political scientists who could adjudicate competing claims about rationality, on the one hand, and demagoguery, on the other. I'm telling you, at the end of the day, the black people you're concerned about, the vulnerable people you're concerned about, can't make distinctions -- if you're in a blue state or in a red state -- they can't color-book like that.

What they have to understand is, the junta that is in the offing with Donald Trump coming into office has to be resisted. Go out and vote for Hillary Clinton, because a vote for Hillary Clinton preserves the possibility that the very dialogue that Professor Glaude and I are having, the very possibility of evoking a grand tradition of Du Bois and Malcolm X and James Weldon Johnson -- however, none of them got you the vote. Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Ella Baker, those are the linchpins in the narrative of black resistance to white supremacy, social injustice and economic inequality that have delivered. I agree that we should study this in class, but on your ass, you should go out and vote for Hillary Clinton, who makes a tremendous difference.

EDDIE GLAUDE: See, no, no, no. See, now, this is the thing. You have to have a fundamental faith in everyday, ordinary people.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I've got a people in it.

EDDIE GLAUDE: What you're -- what you're representing as abstract, it's actually condescending to them.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Not at all. I preach to them every Sunday.

EDDIE GLAUDE: I can imagine BYP -- I can imagine Black Youth Project 100 organizing in Chicago around this particular issue.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: They should. It's important.

EDDIE GLAUDE: This is what you need to do. Don't worry about who's going to -- who's going to be elected at -- selected in the Democratic primary. We're going to get this DA out of office.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Let's do both. I'm with that.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Let's do -- Dream Defenders -- no, you're trying to say that --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Alvarez, Anita Alvarez.

EDDIE GLAUDE: What you tried to suggest is that everyday, ordinary people can't distinguish between blue and red. What we're talking about is organizing.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: No, no, no, no, I did not say that. No, no, I didn't say that.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Yes, you did suggest that, Mike.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I said they can't distinguish the kind of abstract political principles you're talking about, in terms --

EDDIE GLAUDE: I wasn't talking about abstract principles.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Wait a minute -- in terms of if you're a red state and a blue state. I'm saying the BYP youth --

EDDIE GLAUDE: I'm saying organizing, organize, organization.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: But wait a minute. But it's not either-or. It's not either-or.

EDDIE GLAUDE: But, see, this is the thing.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: But it's not either-or.

EDDIE GLAUDE: If it's the case --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: It's not either-or, Eddie.

EDDIE GLAUDE: If it's the case, Mike --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Is it either-or?

EDDIE GLAUDE: Let me ask you this question.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: No, I'm asking you, is it either-or?

EDDIE GLAUDE: The strategic plan that I'm suggesting suggests that it isn't either-or.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: OK, that's all we're saying.

EDDIE GLAUDE: No, but you need to give me -- but, see, the thing is that you're out here stumping for Clinton.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I'm out here stumping for a tradition of black liberation that happens --

EDDIE GLAUDE: Oh, no, do not --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Hold on. Wait a minute.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Do not link our tradition to this nonsense.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: No, wait a minute. It's not that -- I didn't have to abstractly link it to it; I am the embodiment of that. When I'm out there on the streets preaching -- I don't know about you, but I'm preaching in churches every Sunday.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Oh, am I in churches?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I'm out there helping -- I didn't ask you that.

EDDIE GLAUDE: OK.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I'm telling you what I'm doing. I'm telling you I'm in churches with black people, preaching every Sunday. I'm talking about the way in which we leverage the political, moral and spiritual authority of ordinary black people, who, when we, you and I, walk out the -- when you and I walk out this place, ordinary black people are going to look at me and see me as the embodiment of their dreams. I'm sure it happens to you, as well. They stop me and tell me, "Thank you." They congratulate me for at least having the authority, the courage. I don't take that seriously, but what I take more seriously is their identification with me as a voice piece for their aspirations and hopes.

And all I'm saying to you, sir, is that I agree with you in the full sweep of your analysis. I'm saying the everyday, ordinary black folk I know, that I'm in contact with, that I'm with at political organizations, and I'm on the front line, when I spoke yesterday for the black caucus of the Democratic National Convention, when those thousand -- 2,000 people said, "What you say represents that" -- all I'm saying to you, Eddie, is that at the end of the day we cannot afford the luxury of engaging in abstract reflections on the conditions of black people, when what's at stake is a demagogue, that you and I both resist, that you and I both think is problematic, getting into office. Once that happens, then we begin to leverage BYP. We begin to also articulate a countervailing narrative that says it ain't either-or, it's both-and. I believe in the spirit of our people to overcome and prevail against the odds.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break and then come back to this discussion. We are joined by Princeton professor Eddie Glaude. His article in Time magazine, "My Democratic Problem with Voting for Hillary Clinton." And Professor Michael Eric Dyson, who you were just listening to, Georgetown professor and author of The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America. He just wrote a piece in the New Republic headlined "Yes She Can: Why Hillary Clinton Will Do More for Black People Than Obama." This is Democracy Now! Stay with us.

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"No More War": Protesters Disrupt Ex-CIA Director Leon Panetta's DNC Speech

Wed, 07/27/2016 - 21:00

Protests on the floor of the convention continued on Wednesday. They reached a peak when former CIA Director Leon Panetta took the stage. While Panetta was criticizing Donald Trump's appeal to the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's emails, many delegates started chanting "No more war!" We hear Panetta's remarks and speak to a Bernie Sanders delegate who took part in the protest.

TRANSCRIPT

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

AMY GOODMAN: Protests on the floor of the convention continued on Wednesday. They reached a peak when former CIA Director Leon Panetta took the stage. While Panetta was criticizing Donald Trump's appeal to the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's emails, many delegates started chanting "No more war!"

LEON PANETTA: Donald Trump asks our troops to commit war crimes; endorses torture; spurns our allies, from Europe to Asia; suggests that countries have nuclear weapons; and he praises dictators, from Saddam Hussein to Vladimir Putin.

DELEGATES: No more war! No more war! No more war! No more war! No more war!

LEON PANETTA: Today --

DELEGATES: No more war! No more war! No more war! No more war!

AMY GOODMAN: Just after Leon Panetta stopped speaking, Democracy Now!'s Deena Guzder caught up with one of the delegates who took part in the protest.

ALEXIS EDELSTEIN: My name is Alexis Edelstein. I'm a delegate for California for the District 33. And I'm a Bernie delegate.

DEENA GUZDER: Who was speaking, and what happened here at the DNC right now?

ALEXIS EDELSTEIN: The former director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, was speaking. The Oregon delegation started to chant "No more war!" All the Bernie delegations, all 57 of them, states and territories, chanted "No more war!" with them. As soon as that kept going and going, the DNC shut off the lights to the Oregon delegation, almost as a way of showing that they want to silence them.

DEENA GUZDER: Why did this action happen when Panetta was speaking, in particular?

ALEXIS EDELSTEIN: The "No More War" action, plus, as you know, Leon Panetta is CIA. The CIA, you know, it's supporting foreign wars nonstop, continuously, also initiating drone wars. Hillary Clinton is a warmonger. Hillary Clinton wants to continue all the wars in the Middle East. Hillary Clinton is with Israel on the Palestinian issue. We are for a free Palestine. Hillary Clinton wants to continue all acts of foreign insurgency. And Hillary Clinton, as the secretary of state, was also responsible in supporting the coup in Honduras. Myself being from Argentina, I'm very sensitive to Latin and South American issues. I was born under a military dictatorship in Argentina that was supported by Henry Kissinger. And Hillary Clinton is a supporter of Henry Kissinger. So, that's why we're very antiwar, anti-Hillary Clinton. Half of the budget goes to the war budget, to the defense budget, and that really sacrifices what else we can invest in infrastructure, education, healthcare, all the things that this country is lacking and that -- what Bernie Sanders is fighting for.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Bernie Sanders delegate Alexis Edelstein. When we come back, we'll host a debate between professors Michael Eric Dyson and Eddie Glaude. Stay with us.

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