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Updated: 2 hours 12 min ago

Colin Kaepernick Isn't Unpatriotic, Levi's Is

4 hours 40 min ago

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick speaks at a news conference in New Orleans, January 30, 2013. (AJ Mast / The New York Times)

Even though the season doesn't start for another two weeks, the National Football League is already embroiled in controversy.

The latest lightning rod for sports radio hot takes is San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who surprised pretty much everyone last week when he refused to stand for the national anthem during a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.

When asked why he did what he did, Kaepernick said he was trying to raise awareness about the fact that this country isn't living up to the motto of "liberty and justice for all."

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

He also said that he would continue to sit through the national anthem "until there's significant change," and the "flag represents what it's supposed to represent."

Not surprisingly, Kaepernick's protest has sparked a firestorm of outrage, quite literally so in the case of one 49ers fan, who burned the quarterback's jersey and then put a video of it on Facebook.

Conservative pundits in the media haven't gone quite so far as that one 49ers fan -- no one on "Fox So-Called News" has burned a jersey live on air, not yet at least -- but they've been just as fierce in their criticism of the San Francisco quarterback.

According to these conservatives, Kaepernick's decision to sit during the national anthem is deeply unpatriotic because it's disrespectful to the military and the police who've given their lives to keep us safe.

Former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson gave a version of this argument during an appearance on Fox this weekend.

This is the standard conservative argument that comes up every time someone "disrespects" the flag or "insults" the military, and it's just as wrong as now as it was the hundreds of other times someone used it to condemn a legitimate protest.

Right-wingers would never admit it, but using our constitutional protest right to take a stand for something you believe in is as patriotic as it gets.

You’d think conservatives would understand this, given how they’re always going on about the US Constitution and "personal liberty," but apparently they only mean that for white people.

Unnoticed in most of the media is the ultimate irony of all this: Levi's, the clothing company that bought naming rights for the 49ers' stadium, is way more unpatriotic than Kaepernick will ever be.

Even though it likes to portray itself as a salt-of-the-Earth, American company, Levis's, like most of corporate America, has taken advantage of the so-called free trade era to send most of its manufacturing jobs overseas.

Only one line of Levi's jeans, the 501 classics, is now made here in the US.

Meanwhile, the company's finance, customer relations and IT departments are now also all handled abroad, mostly in India.

The outsourcing of Levi's financial department alone cost 500 jobs.

And, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, Levi Strauss is sitting on more than $100 million overseas to avoid paying US income taxes on the money. Very patriotic!

In other words, while Kaepernick risks his career (and possibly his life) to take a stand for people who live and work here in the US, and Levi's exploits its reputation to participate in and contribute to the death of the middle class while enriching its executives and shareholders.

But you won't hear anything about that from Republicans.

They've been on Levi's side all along.

They've supported so-called free trade deal after so-called free trade deal, all while talking tough about God, country and the flag.

For conservatives, patriotism is just a slogan, and their crocodile tears about Kaepernick prove it.

Categories: Latest News

Donald Trump in the Bayou

9 hours 15 min ago

(Photo: Jc. Winkler)

This essay has been adapted from Arlie Hochschild's new book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (The New Press), which will be published on September 6.

Sometimes you have to go a long, long way to discover truths that are distinctly close to home. Over the last five years, I've done just that -- left my home in iconically liberal Berkeley, California, and traveled to the bayous of Tea Party Louisiana to find another America that, as Donald Trump's presidential bid has made all too clear, couldn't be closer to home for us all. From those travels, let me offer a kind of real-life parable about a man I came to admire who sums up many of the contradictions of our distinctly Trumpian world.

So come along with me now, as I turn right on Gumbo Street, left on Jambalaya, pass Sauce Piquant Lane, and scattering a cluster of feral cats, park on Crawfish Street, opposite a yellow wooden home by the edge of waters issuing into Bayou Corne, Louisiana. The street is deserted, lawns are high, and branches of Satsuma and grapefruit trees hang low with unpicked fruit. Walking toward me along his driveway is Mike Schaff, a tall, powerfully built, balding man in an orange-and-red striped T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. He's wearing tan-rimmed glasses and giving a friendly wave.

"Sorry about the grass," he says as we head inside. "I haven't kept things up." On the dining room table, he has set out coffee, cream, sugar, and a jar of homegrown peaches for me to take when I leave. Around the edges of the living and dining rooms are half-filled cardboard packing boxes. The living room carpet is rolled into a corner, revealing a thin, jagged crack across the floor. Mike opens the door of the kitchen to go into his garage. "My gas monitor is here," he explains. "The company drilled a hole in my garage to see if I had gas under it, and I do; twenty percent higher than normal. I get up nights to check it." As we sit down to coffee at the small dining room table, Mike says, "It'll be seven months this Monday and the last five have been the longest in my life."

After the disaster struck in August 2012, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal issued an emergency evacuation order to all 350 residents of Bayou Corne -- a community of homes facing a canal that flows into an exquisite bayou (a river through wetlands) with white egrets, ibis, and spoonbills soaring across the water. When I visited in March 2013, Mike was still living in his ruined home.

"I was just starting life with my new wife, but with the methane gas emissions all around us now, it's not safe. So my wife has moved back to Alexandria, a hundred and eighteen miles north, and commutes to her job from there. I see her on weekends. The grandkids don't come either, because what if someone lit a match? The house could blow up. I'm still here to guard the place against a break-in and to keep the other stayers company," he says, adding after a long pause, "Actually, I don't want to leave."

I had come to visit Mike Schaff because he seemed to embody an increasingly visible paradox that had brought me to this heartland of the American right. What would happen, I wondered, if a man who saw "big government" as the main enemy of local community, who felt a visceral dislike of government regulations and celebrated the free market, was suddenly faced with the ruin of his community at the hands of a private company? What if, beyond any doubt, that loss could have been prevented by government regulation?

Because in August 2012, exactly that catastrophe did indeed occur to Mike and his neighbors.

Like many of his conservative white Cajun Catholic neighbors, Mike was a strong Republican and an enthusiastic supporter of the Tea Party. He wanted to strip the federal government to the bone. In his ideal world, the Departments of Interior, Education, Health and Human Services, Social Security, and much of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be gone; as for federal money to the states, much of that, too. The federal government provides 44% of Louisiana's state budget -- $2,400 per person per year -- partly for hurricane relief, which Mike welcomes, but partly for Medicaid and, as he explained, "Most recipients could work if they wanted to and honestly, they'd be better off."

Louisiana is a classic red state. In 2016, it's ranked the poorest in the nation and the worst as well in education, health, and the overall welfare of its people. It also has the second highest male incidence of cancer and is one of the country's most polluted states. But voters like Mike have twice elected Governor Bobby Jindal who, during his eight years in office, steadfastly refused Medicaid expansion, cut funding for higher education by 44%, and laid off staff in environmental protection. Since 1976, Louisiana has voted Republican in seven out of ten presidential elections and, according to a May 2016 poll, its residents favor Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by 52% to 36%.

Mike was an intelligent, college-educated man with a sense of stewardship over the land and the waters he loved. Given the ominous crack in his floor and the gas monitor in his garage, could he, I wondered, finally welcome government as a source of help? And had the disaster he faced altered his views of the presidential candidates?

"Alka Seltzer" in the Rain Puddles

The first sign that something was wrong had been a tiny cluster of bubbles on the surface of Bayou Corne's waters, and then another. Had a gas pipe traversing the bottom of the bayou sprung a leak? A man from the local gas company came out to check and declared the pipes fine. At the time, Mike recalls, "We smelled oil, strong."

Soon after, he and his neighbors were startled when the earth began to shake. "I was walking in the house when I felt like I was either having a stroke or drunk, ten seconds," Mike recalls. "My balance went all to hell."

It was then that he noticed that crack in his living room floor and heard a sound like a thunderclap. A single mother of two living in a mobile home a mile from Bayou Corne thought her washing machine was on, and then remembered it had been broken for months. Lawns started to sag and tilt. Not far from Mike's home, the earth under the bayou started to tear open, and, as if someone had pulled the plug in a bathtub, the bayou began sucking down brush, water, and pine.

Majestic century-old cypress trees crashed in slow motion and disappeared into the gaping mouth of the sinkhole then forming. Two clean-up workers had cast out booms not far from the sinkhole to contain an area of water shiny with oil. To steady their boat, they tied it to a nearby tree, which then slid into the sinkhole, as did their boat, though both men were rescued.

In the following weeks, pristine swamp forest was replaced by oily sludge as the earth began to leak natural gas. "During a rain, the puddles would shine and bubble, like you'd dropped Alka Seltzer tablets in them," Mike said. Gradually, gassy sludge infiltrated the aquifer, threatening the local drinking water.

What had caused the sinkhole? The culprit was Texas Brine, a lightly regulated, Houston-based drilling company. It had drilled a hole 5,600 feet beneath the floor of Bayou Corne to mine intensely concentrated salt, which it sold to companies making chlorine. The drill accidently punctured one wall of an underlying geological formation called the Napoleon Salt Dome, three miles wide and a mile deep, sheathed in a layer of oil and natural gas. (One hundred twenty-six such domes lie under Louisiana's land and water and are often mined for brine, with toxic chemicals sometimes being stored in the resulting cavities.) When the drill accidentally pierced the side of a cavern inside the dome, the wall crumpled under the pressure of surrounding shale, sucking down everything above it.

The sinkhole grew. First, it was the size of one house lot, then five house lots, then the length of Crawfish Street. By 2016, it covered more than 37 acres. The pavement of the main road into and out of Bayou Corne began to sink, too. Levees along the bayou, originally built to contain rising waters in times of flood, also began to go down, threatening to extend the oily sludge over nearby grassland and forest. Meanwhile, shell-shocked evacuees doubled up with family members in spare rooms, campers, and motels, turning to each other for news of the expanding sinkhole.

Environmental Protection: Missing in Action

Mike backs his boat into the canal. I climb in. It sputters to life and putts out into the wider bayou. "Around here you pull up bass, catfish, white perch, crawfish, and sac-a-lait," he says, "at least we used to."

Mike was a water baby. He loved to fish and could describe the habits and shapes of a dozen kinds of local fish. He headed for the water as often as he could, although he got little time off. So "environment" wasn't simply a word to him; it was his passion, his comfort, his way of life.

Mike has long disliked the idea of a strong federal government because "people come to depend on it instead of on each other." He grew up in a close-knit community not far from Bayou Corne on the Armelise sugarcane plantation, the fifth of seven children of a plumber and a homemaker. As a boy, he tells me, "I went barefoot all summer, and used to shoot crows with my rifle, use the guts for fish bait." As an adult, he worked as an estimator, measuring and pricing materials used in constructing the gigantic platforms that house oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. As a child of the old South who grew to manhood in an era of big oil, he was for state's rights and wanted even state government kept to a minimum.

This, however, was the last situation he'd ever imagined being in. "We're a close community here. We leave our doors unlocked. We help each other rebuild levees during floods. You got the two-beer levee job, or the four-beer one." He laughs. "We love it here."

For a man who could lose himself for hours in his garage welding together parts of a two-seater Zenith 701 airplane from a kit, and who described himself as "to myself," he welcomed the easy sociability of Bayou Corne. It wasn't the simple absence of government Mike wanted; it was the feeling of being inside a warm, cooperative group. That's what he thought government replaced: community. And why pay heavy taxes to help the government rob you of what you most prize?

At a distance, we see a sign nailed to the gray trunk of a Tupelo tree: "DANGER, KEEP OUT, HIGHLY FLAMMABLE GAS." Around it in the water are concentric circles of bubbles, scuttling outward like small bugs. "Methane," says Mike, matter-of-factly.

By mid-2013, officials had declared Bayou Corne a "sacrifice zone" and most of the 350 residents had fled. A small group of "stayers" like Mike were now criticized by the "leavers" who feared their presence suggested to Texas Brine that "it wasn't so bad," and so might lower the price the refugees could set for their suffering.

Everyone knew that the company's drill had caused the sinkhole, but that didn't settle the question of blame. To begin with, Texas Brine blamed Mother Nature, claiming (falsely) that earthquakes were natural in the area. Then it blamed its insurers and the company from which it rented space in the dome. 

Both those who stayed and those who left were mostly angry at "the government." For one thing, Governor Bobby Jindal had waited seven months before visiting the victims. And why was his first visit so delayed, he was asked, and why was it announced so abruptly on the morning of a mid-week day when most sinkhole refugees were at work?

Like so many of his neighbors, Mike Schaff had twice voted for Bobby Jindal and, as someone who had worked in oil all his life, approved the governor's $1.6 billion tax incentive program to lure more of that industry to the state. For three years, it was impossible to tell whether the oil companies had paid a penny to Louisiana since, under Jindal, the job of auditing their payments had been handed over to the Office of Mineral Resources, which has close ties to the industry and between 2010 and 2013 performed no audits at all.

In Louisiana, on-the-books environmental regulations were laxly enforced by conservative state legislators many of whom were oilmen or, like Governor Jindal, took donations from Big Energy. An eye-opening 2003 report from the Inspector General of the EPA ranked Louisiana last in its region when it came to implementing federal environmental mandates. Louisiana's database on hazardous waste facilities was error-ridden. The state's Department of Environmental Quality (a title missing the word "protection") did not know if many of the companies it was supposed to monitor were "in compliance." Its agents had failed to inspect many plants and even when it did find companies not in compliance with state regulations, it neglected to levy or collect penalties.

The Inspector General was "unable to fully assure the public that Louisiana was operating programs in a way that effectively protects human health and the environment." According to the state's own website, 89,787 permits to deposit waste or do other things that affected the environment were requested between January 1967 and July 2015. Of these, only 60 -- or .07% -- were denied.

The Redder the State, the More the Toxic Waste

Louisiana was, it turned out, in good company. A 2012 study by sociologist Arthur O'Connor showed that residents of red states suffer higher rates of industrial pollution than those of blue states. Voters in the 22 states that went Republican in the five presidential elections between 1992 and 2008 live in more polluted environments. And what was true for Red States generally and Louisiana in particular was true for Mike himself. Looking into exposure to toxic waste, my research assistant Rebecca Elliot and I discovered that people who believe Americans "worry too much about the environment," and that the US already "does enough" to protect that environment were likely to be living in zip codes with high rates of pollution. As a Tea Party member enmeshed in the Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster, Mike was just an exaggerated version of a haunting national story.

Mike wanted to live in a nearly total free-market society. In a way Louisiana already was exactly that. Government was barely present at all. But how, I wondered, did Mike reconcile his deep love of, and desire to protect, Bayou Corne with his strong dislike of government regulation? As it happened, he did what most of us tend to do when we face a powerful conflict. He jerrybuilt a new world out of desperate beliefs, becoming what he termed a "Tea Party conservationist."

Seated at his dining room table surrounded by cardboard boxes filled with his belongings, he composed letter after letter of complaint to members of the Louisiana legislature, demanding that they force companies like Texas Brine to pay victims in a timely way, that they not permit storage of hazardous waste in precarious waterways, or again permit drilling in Lake Peigneur, which had suffered a devastating drilling accident in 1980. By August of 2015, he had written 50 of them to state and federal officials. "This is the closest I've come to being a tree-hugger," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of the environmentalists I meet are liberal. But I've had to do something. This bayou will never be the same."

As we putted around the bayou, I asked, "What has the federal government done for you that you feel grateful for?"

He paused.

"Hurricane relief," he finally responded.

He paused again. "The I-10...," he added, referring to a federally funded freeway.

Another long pause. "Okay, unemployment insurance." (He had once briefly been on it.)

I ask about the Food and Drug Administration inspectors who check the safety of our food.

"Yeah, that too."

The military in which he'd enlisted?

"Yeah, okay." 

"Do you know anyone who receives federal government benefits?"

"Oh sure," he answers. "And I don't blame them. Most people I know use available government programs, since they paid for part of them. If the programs are there, why not use them?"

And then the conversation continued about how we don't need government for this, for that, or for the other thing.

Mike and his wife had recently moved from their ruined home near the sinkhole into a large fixer-upper on a canal flowing into Lake Verret, some 15 miles south of Bayou Corne. At nights, he can hear the two-toned calls of tree frogs and toads. He had jacked up the living room floor, redone the bedroom molding, put in a new deck, and set up his airplane-building kit in the garage. A recent tornado had ripped the American flag from a pole on that garage, although it hadn't harmed the Confederate flag hanging from the porch of his neighbor. 

His new home lies near the entrance to the spillway of the magnificent Atchafalaya Basin, an 800,000-acre National Wildlife Refuge -- the largest bottomland hardwood swamp in the country -- overseen, in part, by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. On my last visit, he took me in his flatboat to fish for perch, pointing out a bald eagle on the bare branch of a tall cypress. "I've gone from the frying pan to the fire," he explained. "They are disposing of millions of gallons of fracking waste -- the industry calls it 'produced water' -- right here in the Basin. It can contain methanol, chloride, sulphates, and radium. And they're importing it from Pennsylvania and other fracking sites to go into an injection well near here. Salt can corrode the casing of those wells, and it's not far from our aquifer."

A Sinkhole of Pride

Mike loves the waters of Louisiana more than anything in the world. A vote for Hillary Clinton would protect the Clean Water Act, secure the EPA, and ensure that government would continue to act as a counterbalance to the Texas Brines of the nation. But there was one thing more important to Mike than clean water: pride in his people.

He had struggled hard to climb out of the world of a poor plumber's fifth son, to make it to a salary of $70,000 a year with a company that built oil rigs, to a third and at-last-right wife, and to a home he loved that was now wrecked. At the entrance gate to the middle class, he felt he'd been slapped in the face. For progressive movements from the 1960s on -- in support of blacks, women, sexual minorities, immigrants, refugees -- the federal government was, he believed, a giant ticket-dispensing machine in an era in which the economy was visiting on middle-class and blue-collar white men the sorts of punishment once more commonly reserved for blacks. Democrats were, he was convinced, continuing to make the government into an instrument of his own marginalization -- and media liberals were now ridiculing people like him as ignorant, backward rednecks. Culturally, demographically, economically, and now environmentally, he felt ever more like a stranger in his own land.

It mattered little to him that Donald Trump would not reduce the big government he so fervently wanted cut, or that The Donald was soft on the pro-life, pro-marriage positions he valued, or that he hadn't uttered a peep about the national debt. None of it mattered because Trump, he felt, would switch off that marginalization machine and restore the honor of his kind of people, of himself. Mike knew that liberals favored care for the environment far more than Republicans, Tea Partiers, or Donald Trump. Yet, despite his lost home in a despoiled land, like others of his older white neighbors back at the Bayou and here in the Basin, Mike was foursquare for Trump; that's how deeply his pride was injured and a measure of just how much that injury galled him.

What would Trump do to prevent another calamity like Bayou Corne with its methane-drenched mud, its lost forest, its dead fish? He has been vague on many of the policies he might pursue as president, but on one thing he was clear: he would abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.

Categories: Latest News

Don't Underestimate How Much Steve Bannon Can Damage Hillary Clinton

10 hours 21 min ago

Trump presidential campaign CEO, Steve Bannon. (Photo: Karl Heubaum)Working in the film business, I briefly met the Donald Trump Republican presidential campaign's new CEO, Steve Bannon, during the 1990s when he was a Hollywood investment banker. As one producer whom Bannon helped raise capital for told me, even back then he was an angry, racist, egregiously aggressive, and inappropriately temperamental character.

Bannon was also whip smart with a sophisticated understanding of how the media works.

Inside the liberal bubble, Democrats may be taking Bannon's appointment to help run Trump's campaign as a something of a joke. But, at their peril, they underestimate Bannon's ability to harm Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

Bannon was one of the early Harvard MBA-type financial pirates who realized that Wall Street money could be tapped to finance film and television, often with disastrous results for the investors but with great results for the Hollywood studios and the financial engineers like Bannon who brokered the deals.

In the late '80s-early '90s, Wall Street discovered that intellectual property like movies and television and the companies that owned them could be bought, sold and traded just like hard assets such as real estate and commodities. Bannon engineered some of those transactions, first as a specialist at Goldman Sachs, then at his own boutique investment bank Bannon & Co., and briefly in partnership with a volatile manager Jeff Kwatinetz (whose first claim to fame was discovering the heavy metal band Korn and managing The Backstreet Boys).

Bannon was tough and merciless. It was Bannon who personally stuck the shiv in the heart of former superagent and Disney President Michael Ovitz, effectively ending the career of the man who had been known as the most powerful person in Hollywood.

After being fired by Disney, Ovitz set out to create a powerful new entertainment company called the American Management Group, with clients like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, in which Ovitz invested over $100 million of his own money. (I remember visiting AMG's new offices, the most expensive and lavish in Beverly Hills, with millions of dollars in art by the likes of Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns adorning the walls.) But AMG was an abject failure, bleeding millions of dollars a month, while Ovitz desperately sought a buyer. Finally, the only available buyer was Kwatinetz and Bannon.

According to Vanity Fair, Bannon went alone to see Ovitz and offered him $5 million, none in cash. After a moment of silence, Ovitz told Bannon, "If I didn't know you personally, I'd throw you out of the room." But out of options, Ovitz ended up selling to Kwatinetz and Bannon's company, effectively ending Ovitz's legendary Hollywood career. (Remember that, Hillary.)

Bannon's smartest (or luckiest) deal was brokering the sale of Rob Reiner's company, Castle Rock Entertainment, to Ted Turner. In lieu of part of its brokerage fee, Bannon & Co. agreed to take a piece of the future syndication revenues from five TV shows, one of which turned out to be "Seinfeld." The rest is history.

The Seinfeld royalties freed Bannon (with a reported net worth of $41 million) from needing to work for a living, allowing him to try his hand at producing (including the Sean Penn-directed "Indian Runner" and a number of right-wing documentaries) and then to throw himself into extremist and racist alt-right politics.

He invested $1 million in a laudatory film about Sarah Palin and became a close confidante. He then attached himself to Andrew Breitbart and took over Breitbart News after Andrew Breitbart's sudden death at 43, moving the already far-right website closer to the openly white nationalist alt-right. There he became a major advocate for Trump before being tapped to help run his campaign.

But Bannon's real danger doesn't come so much from his work with Breitbart News, which plays mostly to the angry, racist white base. It comes more from the Bannon-funded Government Accountability Institute, a research institute staffed with some very smart and talented investigative journalists, data scientists and lawyers.

GAI's staff does intensive and deep investigative research digging up hard-to-find, but well-documented dirt on major politicians and then feeding it to the mainstream media to disseminate to the general public.

Among other things, its staff has developed protocols to access the so-called "deep web," which consists of a lot of old or useless information and information in foreign languages which don't show up in traditional web searches, but often contains otherwise undiscoverable and sometimes scandalous information which Bannon then feeds to the mainstream media.

For example, Bannon is responsible for uncovering former liberal New York congressman Anthony Weiner (husband of Hillary Clinton's personal aide Huma Abedin) tweeting photos of his crotch to various women. Bannon hired trackers to follow Weiner's Twitter account 24 hours a day until they eventually uncovered the infamous crotch shots. They released them to the mass media, effectively ending Weiner's political career. (Remember that, Hillary.)

Bannon's mantra for GAI is "Facts get shares, opinions get shrugs." GAI's strategy is to feed damaging, fact-based stories that will get headlines in the mainstream media and change mass perceptions. According to Bloomberg, "GAI has collaborated with such mainstream media outlets as Newsweek, ABC News, and CBS's "60 Minutes" on stories ranging from insider trading in Congress to credit card fraud among presidential campaigns. It's essentially a mining operation for political scoops."

One of Bannon's key insights is that economic imperatives have caused mainstream media outlets to drastically cut back budgets for investigative reporting. "The modern economics of the newsroom don't support big investigative reporting staffs," says Bannon. "You wouldn't get a Watergate, a Pentagon Papers today, because nobody can afford to let a reporter spend seven months on a story. We can. We're working as a support function."

So GAI's strategy is to spend weeks and months doing the fact-based research that investigative reporters in the mainstream media no longer have the resources to do, creating a compelling story line, and then feeding the story to investigative reporters who, whatever their personal political views, are anxious in their professional capacity to jump on. As a key GAI staffer says, "We're not going public until we have something so tantalizing that any editor at a serious publication would be an idiot to pass it up and give a competitor a scoop."

It's likely no accident that in the week since Bannon officially joined the Trump campaign, media attention has shifted from focusing primarily on Trump's gaffes to potential corrupting contributions to the Clinton Foundation in exchange for access to Secretary of State Clinton.

GAI's biggest, and most effective project has been to uncover the nexus between Bill and Hillary's paid speeches, contributions to the Clinton Foundation by corrupt oligarchs and billionaires, and access to the State Department by donors. The research culminated in the book "Clinton Cash" by Peter Schweitzer, president of GAI, and published by mainstream publisher Harpers.

The back cover of "Clinton Cash" summarizes its premise:

"The Clintons typically blur the lines between politics, philanthropy, and business. Consider the following: Bill flies into a Third World country where he spends time in the company of a businessman. A deal is struck. Soon after, enormous contributions are made to the Clinton Foundation, while Bill is commissioned to deliver a series of highly paid speeches. Some of these deals require approval or review by the US government and fall within the purview of a powerful senator and secretary of state. Often the people involved are characters of the kind that an American ex-president (or the spouse of a sitting senator, secretary of state, or presidential candidate) should have nothing to do with."

Bannon and Schweitzer have so far failed to prove any explicit quid pro quo. But they're highly successful at making the nexus between the Clinton Foundation, Bill and Hillary Clinton's paid speeches, and special access for donors feel dirty and unseemly.

Before and after its publication, "Clinton Cash" got considerable play in the mainstream media. The New York Times ran a front-page story with the headline, "Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal," drawing on research from "Clinton Cash."

In an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, Larry Lessig, Harvard Law professor and progressive crusader against money in politics concluded, "On any fair reading, the pattern that Schweitzer has charged is corruption." And it seems that Bannon and Schweitzer have more damaging research on the Clintons that they will drip out through the campaign. Schweitzer has warned that more emails are coming showing Clinton's State Department doing favors for foreign oligarchs.

Bannon's strategy may not be enough to win the White House for Trump. But it will almost certainly do further damage to Clinton. Voters already think Clinton is less trustworthy than Trump. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, 53 percent of likely voters say Trump is not honest (with 42 percent saying he is honest). But a huge 66 percent of voters say Clinton is not honest, compared to 29 percent who say she is.

Bannon's work for Trump could drive Clinton's honesty score even lower. Clinton's core strategy has been to disqualify Trump as a potential president and commander-in-chief among a majority of voters. Bannon's strategy is to do the same for Clinton.

Faced with a choice between two presidential candidates whom a large swath of voters find untrustworthy and distasteful, Trump's outrageousness may still enable Clinton to grind out a victory from a sullen electorate. But it's going to get even uglier. And even if Clinton wins, popular distrust could harm her ability to govern.

In that context, it would be a huge mistake for Democrats and the Clinton campaign to underestimate Steve Bannon.

Categories: Latest News

Investing in the Care Economy: Domestic Workers in California Hope for Overtime Pay

10 hours 41 min ago

Aleks Zeygerman comforts his mother Nelli Leventon during a visit in New York, June 3, 2013. (Photo: Michael Nagle / The New York Times)

California's SB 1015 attempts to permanently protect domestic workers who have historically been excluded from overtime pay. But where does that leave disabled people who need home care but often are themselves low-income? San Francisco's new Support at Home initiative offers one solution.

Aleks Zeygerman comforts his mother Nelli Leventon during a visit in New York, June 3, 2013. (Photo: Michael Nagle / The New York Times)

Nikki Brown-Booker, 49, was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as a child. Today, she uses a wheelchair and she employs domestic workers who help her get dressed, prepare her meals, clean her home and drive her to her work as a Bay Area nonprofit executive.

Brown-Booker is also a vocal supporter of California Senate Bill 1015, a bill that would make permanent a 2013 California law that requires her to pay domestic workers overtime -- a protection from which home care workers have historically been excluded.

"I support this legislation, and we need to move it forward," Brown-Booker told Truthout.

And the legislation is indeed moving forward: On August 18, SB 1015 passed the California state assembly. The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), now heads to the desk of California's democratic governor, Jerry Brown. The law provides even more protections than new federal regulations that also ensure domestic workers are eligible to earn overtime.

Yet, some organizations who advocate for people with disabilities are opposing SB 1015 -- and their opposition has influenced Governor Brown's decision to veto past attempts in California to secure domestic workers' overtime protections. These disability rights advocates, including Disability Rights California, argue that requiring overtime pay will cause challenges for people with disabilities -- many of whom, like domestic workers, are historically low-income or vulnerable to poverty and may not be able to afford to pay overtime. Indeed, people who identify as having disabilities are twice as likely to be poor as those who do not.

At its core, this opposition to overtime protections for domestic workers reveals the need for greater public investment in care work generally, so that care workers are paid well and those who need care are not economically challenged by hiring domestic workers. Indeed, there is overlap between these communities, as some domestic workers are living with disabilities and are elderly, too. Greater public investment can help all of these communities.

Changes in state law (like the recent victory of SB 1015) are critical to establish baseline protections for domestic workers who have been historically excluded from laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The sector of domestic work is still rife with exploitation, abuse and wage theft. Case in point as to why this legislation is necessary is the story of Etelvina Lopez, 34, who cleans houses in Oakland, California. She often worked 7:30 am to 5 pm, five days per week, and she was paid $150 per week by the woman who employed her. Lopez is raising two daughters on her own.

"I was robbed by my employers," Lopez told Truthout. "And I do not want to continue as a fooled worker." Lopez is active in Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), an Oakland-based worker center that focuses on know-your-rights trainings to empower workers like Lopez. MUA also advocates for legislation like SB 1015.

The domestic work sector has been largely unregulated, which has created room for exploitation like that experienced by Lopez. The vast majority of domestic workers are women. Many are women of color who are raising children or providing care for members of their families, in addition to their paid work.

While advocates wait to see if Gov. Brown will sign this state legislation, a small local San Francisco program is beginning to model what greater public investment in the care economy can look like. Support at Home is a new San Francisco initiative that will provide subsidies for people who need care and are lower-income yet still earn too much to qualify for existing state programs. A requirement of any person who receives these subsidies is that they must pay a living wage (approximately $15 per hour), as well as receive educational materials about being a fair employer.

The need for such public investment is clear. A Support at Home fact sheet, developed by Senior and Disability Action, states that in San Francisco, "An estimated 14,419 seniors (called "upper poor") do not qualify for [existing state programs] but do not have enough income to afford private home care.... Many adults with disabilities cannot accept good jobs because they would lose [Medicaid benefits] and cannot afford privately-paid support."

The fact sheet also points out that private home care through an agency can cost $25,236 per year in San Francisco, and hiring an individual provider averages $11,784 per year. The average cost of living for a senior in San Francisco is $29,896. Adding the cost of home care to this average, the typical senior would need an annual of income of at least $41,680-$55,132 to afford home care, and more for those with greater needs. An estimated 1,400 middle-income seniors and people with disabilities have difficulty dressing or bathing and could potentially benefit from assistance.

Support at Home has received $1.65 million in funding from the City and County of San Francisco. This funding is expected to support care for up to 240 people. The program will launch in 2017.

"Support at Home will ensure people get support they need, and also make it sustainable for domestic workers. We're really interested in continuing to work on this and replicate it nationally," Lindsay Imai Hong, the Bay Area organizer of Hand in Hand, the Domestic Employers Association, told Truthout. Hand in Hand is a national organization of people who employ domestic workers and who also advocate for domestic workers' rights.

Jessica Lehman, executive director of Senior Disability Action, has been instrumental in launching Support at Home. "We know that people around California and the US are interested in looking to expand or replicate the program," Lehman told Truthout. "We need to continue to include more poor people in [larger] government-funded programs like In Home Supportive Services (IHSS), but this program is a creative way to provide a little bit of support to the many people who can afford to put some money into home care but need some extra help."

A wide range of workers' rights and disability rights groups in San Francisco are backing this initiative, including Jobs With Justice, La Colectiva, Caring Across Generations, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, the Independent Living Resource Center and the IHSS Public Authority.

Support at Home is an important step in the right direction. Despite the need for heightened public investment, the opposite has been occurring in recent decades. In their 2012 book Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State, scholars Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein, note that "Starting in the 1970s, government boosted a for-profit industry in home care services, opening new conflicts over public funding and the responsibility of the state.... Given public ambivalence over paying for social services for the poor and people of color, especially for labor that many believed should be freely given by wives, mothers and daughters, home care illuminates the continual renegotiation of the terms, funding and institutional structures of federal governance."

Boris and Klein note that beginning in the 1970s and 80s, "states turned more to outsourcing and the reclassification of attendants as independent providers. Over the years, the work became harder, but fiscal pressures squeezed the workforce."

"State funded programs allow people to remain at home with dignity, which cannot occur through the exploitation of those who provide care," Boris, who is Hull Professor of Feminist Studies at UC Santa Barbara, told Truthout. "Only through decent work can we obtain the kind of aid that those who require personal attendants and home care workers deserve. The real conflict of interest is between politicians who refuse to fund such programs and those who benefit from them, workers and consumers alike."

Support At Home is an important new dimension to the domestic workers' movement, which has successfully advocated for the enactment of state legislation. Since 2013, four more states have codified protections for domestic workers: Massachusetts in 2014, Connecticut and Oregon in 2015, and Illinois in 2016. Most critically, new federal regulations were approved in 2013 to finally include domestic workers within the overtime provisions of the FLSA.

Domestic workers themselves, particularly women of color, have been instrumental in advocating for SB 1015. For example, Myrla Baldonado, a former domestic worker who is now an organizer with the Pilipino Worker Center (PWC), has been organizing trips for domestic workers to advocate for the bill in Sacramento, California's capital. One trip in March included more than 70 workers, employers and allies who successfully reached over 25 legislative offices -- including every member of the Senate Labor Committee. Advocates featured the powerful testimonies of PWC caregivers and employers. Their advocacy earned the support of the key leaders of the Asian Pacific Islander (API), Black and Latino Caucuses, according to Baldonado.

"Our advocacy in Sacramento helps convey the powerful stories of the benefit of the overtime law to the workers [and] the families that employ them," Baldonado said.

Plus, new local programs like Support at Home reflect the potential for the movement for domestic workers' rights to foster cultural and social transformation in very concrete ways, beyond just legislation. Hand in Hand has also secured signatures from 150,000 employers of domestic workers in California for the Fair Care Pledge, a document that urges people who employ domestic workers to pay $15 per hour plus overtime, set clear expectations in the employment relationship, and provide paid time off.

As a recipient of care, Brown-Booker is optimistic about the future of the domestic workers' movement.

"Even though there's been opposition [to SB1015], there's been awareness built on both the part of the employer and employee -- there is more empathy for each other," Brown-Booker told Truthout. "It's important to remember that this movement is really all of us against a bigger system."

Categories: Latest News

War Not Over: US Occupation Is Still Poisoning Iraq's Children

11 hours 3 min ago

After years and countless lives lost, the US government is refusing to fully acknowledge the health crisis its burn pits in Iraq have unleashed upon the US service members exposed to airborne contaminants, even after the VA was ordered by Congress last year to establish a registry for those who have suffered ill health as a result. But when it comes to the long-term hazards of burn pits, bombings, bullets and chemical weapons upon the people of Iraq, whose exposure is exponentially greater and continues to the present day, such recognition is virtually non-existent.

In fact, if it were not for the crusading work of environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, key information about the environmental legacy of the US occupation of Iraq would be completely lost to US scholarship. Earlier this month, Savabiesfahani released a troubling new study, which unearths further evidence that air pollution directly tied to war is poisoning the most vulnerable members of Iraqi society: children.

Published in the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, the investigation evaluated "elemental bio-imaging of trace elements in deciduous teeth of children with birth defects from Iraq," the report states. These teeth were then compared with "healthy and naturally shed teeth from Lebanon and Iran." According to Savabiesfahani's published findings, "Lead (Pb) was highest in teeth from children with birth defects who donated their teeth from Basra." In fact, she writes, "Two Iraqi teeth had four times more Pb, and one tooth had as much as 50 times more Pb than samples from Lebanon and Iran."

"What we saw in these baby teeth is that children had very high levels of lead," Savabiesfahani, who won the 2015 Rachel Carson prize for her work on the environmental legacy of war in the Middle East, explained to AlterNet. "If children have this much lead in their teeth there is probably a whole lot of lead in their bones."

As Flint, Michigan emergency revealed, lead poisoning poses a severe hazard to public health. This fact is acknowledged by the World Health Organization, which notes, "Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system. Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as minor malformations."

And like in Flint, the epidemic of lead poisoning in Iraq was human-made. Savabieasfahani, who is based close to Flint in Ann Arbor, told AlterNet that the "major environmental disruption in the Middle East has been the massive war events There is no other impact as enormous as this. Iraq has had a number of major pollutants released in it since 2003, and this lead, I suspect, is coming from aerial bombardments. While there may have already been lead in the environment, bombings raise the background levels of lead to the point that it impacts the health of children on a large scale."

Her report notes that, in war zones, "the explosion of bombs, bullets, and other ammunition releases multiple neurotoxicants into the environment. The Middle East is currently the site of heavy environmental disruption by massive bombardments. A very large number of US military bases, which release highly toxic environmental contaminants, have also been erected since 2003."

"Our hypothesis that increased war activity coincides with increased metal levels in deciduous teeth is confirmed by this research," Savabieasfahani concludes.

Savabieasfahani is not the first to document the environmental poisoning by the US occupation of Iraq; numerous civil society organizations in the country, including the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq have long sounded the alarm. Iraqi organizations, along with US-based anti-war organizations, have long demanded US reparations, in light of the lasting harm done by American intervention, dating back to the 1991 Gulf War.

Yet, a scholarly report published last year by Eric Bonds, assistant professor of sociology at University of Mary Washington, found that mainstream media outlets have systematically ignored the impact of burn pits in both Iraq and Afghanistan on civilians nearby, instead focusing nearly exclusively on the health effects for US military service members and veterans.

According to Savabieasfahani, her own colleagues shoulder much of the blame. "As a public health researcher, I feel like my colleagues have seriously failed to save people's lives. They have shied away from holding administrations responsible for massive environmental damage to the planet. War is a public health issue. War is a global issue."

"The situation is not hopeless," she emphasized." There is a lot we can do. Wealthier countries that perpetuate this kind of environmental disaster should be held accountable. The US and UK have done enormous environmental damage to the Middle East, and I think they should clean up this damage."

Categories: Latest News

On the Caging of Bresha Meadows: What Does Justice Look Like?

Sun, 08/28/2016 - 21:00

Fourteen-year-old Bresha Meadows has been caged for killing her violently abusive father. In a moment such as this, what does justice look like? Accountability lies with all of us and our systems, which offer few exits to those trapped in cycles of domestic violence.

(Photo: Raffaella)

This morning, the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collective attempted to deliver more than 6,000 signatures to the Trumbull County Prosecutor's office, in Warren, Ohio, on behalf of a national coalition petitioning for the freedom of Bresha Meadows. The group was turned away by a deputy, but plans to return tomorrow.

Bresha Meadows is a child accused of killing her abusive father with his own gun, while he lay sleeping. The mere thought of what might drive a young girl with a warm smile, who loves animals and music, to pick up a gun at 14 years old and take her own father's life should terrify us all. And we should want accountability for that nightmarish turn of events. But who is it that should be held accountable for the death of Jonathan Meadows?

As a child living in an abusive household, Bresha had done everything children in her situation are taught to do. She had reached out to trusted adults and authority figures. She had voiced her fears to those who might have offered protection. She had even run for her life -- only to be sent back home by police.

Acting within the law, what was Bresha to do? Wait and hope that her mother wouldn't be murdered, or that she herself wouldn't be killed by a father who, at times, angrily pointed a gun at his own family?

As a Black child who bore witness to her mother's unsuccessful efforts to leave her father, Bresha was forced into an early acquaintance with the realities of domestic violence in the US. Abused women -- particularly women of color -- are rarely offered realistic paths to freedom from abuse, and are routinely denied access to the most basic of assistance.

Thanks to Bill Clinton's efforts to toughen up the image of the Democratic Party, "welfare reform" has led many women to stay with abusive partners, rather than strike out on their own, without adequate financial resources.

As outsiders, there's much we don't know about exactly what kept Bresha's mother Brandi locked in a dangerous relationship. We do know that abusers psychologically ensnare their victims and instill a great deal of fear. We know that Brandi took out a restraining order in 2011, stating at the time that she was  certain her husband would kill her if he found her. We know that she was at much greater risk of being killed by her abuser, simply because he owned a gun and that 75 percent of the women who are killed by an abusive partner in the US are killed while attempting to leave or move on with their lives.

We know that once women have become trapped in a cycle of violence, we as a society don't offer many exits.

As I have dedicated time and thought to telling Bresha's story of late, I have been haunted not only by her case but also by the thought of how many young survivors I've known who could have been where Bresha is now -- or could yet be. People don't often announce to the world the crimes they might have committed, if things had happened just a little bit differently, but in truth, most of us probably know someone who could have wound up doing what Bresha did. But when a trigger isn't pulled, these stories often go untold.

So why don't we entertain these thoughts or conversations?

Because it's hard. And because we feel guilty. Because we know we can do better and it's easier to react with shock on a case-by-case basis than take responsibility for conditions we're all too aware of in communities all around us -- conditions that continue to trap both adult abuse survivors and their children in cycles of violence that they may or may not survive.

Some members of Jonathan Meadows' family have stated that they want Bresha punished and have made public calls for "justice" in this case. But what does justice look like in a moment such as this? Knowing what we do about Bresha's life and circumstances, and all that she did to save herself and her mother prior to her father's death, we should at least know what justice doesn't look like in this case.

Justice isn't Bresha being charged as an adult, in a world where she was at the mercy of adults who couldn't help her figure out how to save herself or her mother without stepping outside the law.

Justice isn't Bresha being tried as a juvenile. The criminal punishment system has nothing to offer this child that even resembles justice.

But rejecting these carceral measures does raise a larger question: In a moment such as this one, what does justice look like? And can we be bold and brave enough to allow this moment to propel us to envision it? Can we be culturally accountable for Jonathan Meadows' death? Can we acknowledge that this did not have to happen and that the blame for this nightmare does not rest at the feet of a frightened, 14-year-old child? Can we contemplate what it must have taken for her to even consider pointing a gun at her own father?

Can we carry the names of living breathing women and girls with as much ferocity as we carry the names of fallen men?

Everyone who has carried a sign or shared a link declaring Black Lives Matter: This is a life you can help save. Bresha is still with us. She is at a tragic, statistical disadvantage as a young Black girl, thrust into the criminal punishment system for a defensive act. She has been charged with murder, but she could still grow up free from the violence of her past and live a self-determined life. But this system is at odds with that outcome and if we want a different one, we are going to have to rally around her. And if we want accountability, we are going to have to hold ourselves and the system accountable for all that it didn't do for Bresha, and all that it won't do for abused young people everywhere who won't pick up a gun but are in need of a reckoning.

Categories: Latest News

Glenn Greenwald on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's Impeachment

Sun, 08/28/2016 - 21:00

Embattled Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is slated to testify today at her impeachment trial -- a trial that many are calling a coup by her right-wing political rivals. Rousseff has denounced the proceedings and called for early elections to unite the country. Rousseff's impeachment stems from accusations she tampered with government accounts to hide a budget deficit. She was suspended earlier this year and has maintained her innocence, accusing her political opponents of spearheading the proceedings to shield themselves from prosecution and undo years of progressive policies. The Brazilian group Transparency Brazil says 60 percent of Brazilian lawmakers are currently under criminal investigation or have already been convicted of crimes ranging from corruption to election fraud. Rousseff's opponents now need 54 votes, or two-thirds of the 81-seat Senate, to convict her of violating budget laws. Her impeachment would end 13 years of left-wing Workers' Party rule in Brazil and bring to power interim President Michel Temer for the remaining two years of Rousseff's term. Temer is also deeply unpopular and currently under investigation himself, accused of receiving illegal campaign contributions linked to the state oil company Petrobras.


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

AMY GOODMAN: Embattled Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is slated to testify today at her impeachment trial -- a trial that many are calling a coup by her right-wing political rivals. Rousseff has denounced the proceedings and called for early elections to unite the country.

PRESIDENT DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] For that, we say that if the impeachment is confirmed, without proof of culpability, it will be a coup d'état. I give my full support of referendum, so people can decide to call for early elections and for political and electoral reform, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Dilma Rousseff's impeachment stems from accusations she tampered with government accounts to hide a budget deficit. She was suspended earlier this year, has maintained her innocence, accusing her political opponents of spearheading the proceedings to shield themselves from prosecution and undo years of progressive policies. The Brazilian group Transparency Brazil says 60 percent of Brazilian lawmakers are currently under criminal investigation or have already been convicted of crimes ranging from corruption to election fraud. On Saturday, Senator Paulo Paim of Rousseff's Workers' Party challenged the impeachment as an attack on the democratic right of the Brazilian people to choose their president.

SEN. PAULO PAIM: [translated] This impeachment process against the president is an attack on democracy, an attack on the president, an attack on the Brazilian people.

AMY GOODMAN: Dilma Rousseff's opponents now need 54 votes, or two-thirds of the 81-seat Senate, to convict her of violating budget laws. Her impeachment would end 13 years of the left-wing Workers' Party rule in Brazil and bring to power interim President Michel Temer for the remaining two years of Rousseff's term. Temer is also deeply unpopular and currently under investigation himself, accused of receiving illegal campaign contributions linked to the state oil company Petrobras.

Meanwhile, Rousseff's mentor, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is also facing a rash of legal woes. Brazilian federal police are recommending corruption charges against him and his wife, Marisa Letícia. The police say the couple benefited from renovations to a seaside apartment made by a construction firm. The da Silvas deny owning the property, and their lawyer said Friday there's no evidence linking the couple to the apartment.

All this comes as Brazilians are battling an economic recession, a massive Zika outbreak and the aftermath of the 2016 Olympic Games. Both pro- and anti-impeachment protesters have gathered in Brazil's capital of Rio de Janeiro as the political future of Brazil lays in limbo.

For more, we go directly to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where we're joined by Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He recently helped launch The Intercept Brasil in Portuguese to cover Brazilian social and political news. Glenn Greenwald is also closely following the US presidential elections.

Glenn Greenwald, let's begin with what's happening in Brazil right now, and welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff.

GLENN GREENWALD: So, literally this very minute, at 9:00 a.m. local time, 8:00 Eastern, Dilma is arriving at the Senate, where she will confront her accusers, in essence, and give her final 30-minute speech as part of her impeachment trial. She doesn't need to do it; she chose to do it. And it's really quite a remarkable contrast with her former vice president, now the interim president, who's about to become the country's unelected president, Michel Temer. During the Olympics, Mr. Temer broke protocol by demanding that his name not be announced at the opening ceremony, because he was scared of being booed by the crowd. That's how unpopular and hated he is. And yet, when the crowd actually saw him, even without his being announced, they did boo him, quite viciously. And then he hid during the closing ceremony by skipping that. And while he's hiding, Dilma, who, of course, has a history as a fighter against this country's former military dictatorship, who went to prison over that, who endured years of torture while imprisoned as a political prisoner, chooses to go and confront her accusers face to face and will give what, by all accounts, will likely be a very strong and aggressive and defiant speech consistent with her character and her political persona.

And it's really quite remarkable, for so many reasons, including the fact that, as you said, the majority of the Senate, just as was true of the majority in the House that impeached her, the majority of the Senate sitting in judgment of her are people who themselves are extremely corrupt, if not outright criminals. They are either people who are convicted of crimes or who are under multiple investigations, including the president of the Senate, who in 2007 had to leave his position over a serious scandal involving lobbyist money to pay off his mistress, is now under multiple investigations, just like the president of the House that impeached her was found with millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts hidden away. So you have a band of criminals removing this woman who became twice the elected president of her country, in a country that had never previously elected a woman, only 19, 20 months ago with 54 million votes. It's really extraordinary to watch it unfold, given what a young and vibrant democracy Brazil is and how this group of people in Brasília are literally trifling with the fundamentals of democracies before our eyes.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's turn to suspended President Dilma Rousseff in her own words this past May.

PRESIDENT DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] It isn't an impeachment; it's a coup. I did not commit high crimes and misdemeanors. There is no justification for an impeachment charge. I don't have bank accounts abroad. I never received bribes. I never condoned corruption. The trial against me is fragile, legally inconsistent, unjust, unleashed against an honest and innocent person. The greatest brutality that can be committed against any person is to punish them for a crime they did not commit. No injustice is more devastating than condemning an innocent. What is at stake is respect for the ballot box, the sovereign desires of the Brazilian people and the Constitution. What is at stake are the achievements of the last 13 years.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Dilma Rousseff speaking in May. She has been ousted, and she's being impeached today, where she is testifying on her own behalf. Glenn, explain exactly what she is accused of and then what this -- what the whole process will be, how long it will take and what this means for the country.

GLENN GREENWALD: So, the formal charge against her that they're using to justify impeachment in Portuguese is called pedaladas, which really means pedaling. It refers to a budgetary maneuver where the government borrows money from a state bank and then delays repayment in order to make it appear that the government owes less money. So she's essentially accused of using budgetary tricks to make the state of the government budget look better in order to win re-election -- something that when you talk to Europeans or Americans, they react with befuddlement that something like that could justify the removal of a democratically elected president, given that that's extremely common for political leaders around the world to do, and, in fact, prior Brazilian presidents have used this same -- this same method. And, in fact, when the House actually impeached her, as a lot of people watched around the world, one after the other stood up to justify their impeachment vote, and virtually none of them even referenced fleetingly this charge against her regarding these budgetary maneuvers, because it's so plainly not the reason she's being removed. That is the pretext for the reason that she's being removed.

The reason she's being removed is because she is an unpopular president. The economy of Brazil is weak and is -- a lot of people are suffering because of it. And as you indicated earlier in the opening package, the party to which she belongs, the Workers' Party, has been in power for 13 years, and the reason they've been in power for 13 years is because they've won four consecutive national elections. And there is no way that the opposition, which is composed of oligarchs and business interests and media barons and conservatives and uber-nationalists -- this opposition faction has concluded that they are incapable of defeating this party in the ballot box, meaning within the democratic process, and so they are opportunistically using her unpopularity and the serious mistakes she's made to remove her undemocratically.

And I think the most important thing to realize about this process, Brazilian media elites, who are almost uniformly behind impeachment, and have been from the beginning, constantly say, "Oh, look, in the United States you have impeachment; in Europe there's impeachment. This is a constitutional means of removing a president." But the big difference is that in the United States, if you impeach the president, if you had impeached Bill Clinton in 1997 or 1998, Al Gore would have become president, the Democratic Party would have continued to remain in power, and the agenda and ideology that the American people ratified would have been the same. In Brazil, it's exactly the opposite. The vice president, who has now become the interim president, who's about to become the president, is not part of the Workers' Party. He's part of the centrist party and has aligned himself with this right-wing party, the PSDB, that has continuously lost at the ballot box. Their candidates have been rejected. And yet, as a result of this impeachment process, the very party and the very ideology that the Brazilian people have over and over rejected, when asked to vote, when asked to consider their candidates, is now ascending to power. And their agenda of privatization and cutting social programs and keeping taxes low to benefit the oligarchs is now gradually being imposed, as is their foreign policy of moving away from BRICS and regional alliances, and becoming once again extremely subservient to the United States and to Wall Street and to international capital. And so, you can call it a coup, you can debate whether that word applies, but what it is is a complete reversal of democracy in a way that is ushering in an agenda that benefits a small number of people that the Brazilian citizens have never accepted and, in fact, have continuously rejected.

And the process now is that the Senate is nearing the end of its trial. It will likely vote within the next week to 10 days. There is almost no doubt that they have the votes in order to convict her. Already 52 senators have said they intend to vote yes, and only 54 are needed. And so, once this conviction happens, Dilma will be permanently removed from office, and the interim president, Michel Temer, will then serve out the remainder of her term through 2018, even though he is under far more investigation and implicated in far more corruption than she is, and even though the Supreme Court has said that you can't divide them when it comes to impeachment -- you have to essentially consider the impeachment of both, because they both participated in the same transactions. All of that law, all of those corruption issues are being completely ignored, for one reason and one reason only. And that is that the most powerful people in this country want this right-wing agenda. They know they can't make it happen through the ballot box, and so they're making it happen through brute force, which is exactly what's taking place.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, earlier this year, you interviewed the former Brazilian president, Lula da Silva. Lula described the situation in Brazil as a coup.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] I'll tell you why it is a coup. It is a coup because while the Brazilian Constitution allows for impeachment, it's necessary for the person to have committed what we call high crimes and misdemeanors, and President Dilma did not commit a high crime nor misdemeanor. Therefore, what is happening is an attempt by some to take power by disrespecting the popular vote. That's why I think the impeachment is illegal. There is no high crime or misdemeanor. As a matter of fact, I believe that these people want to remove Dilma from office by disrespecting the law, carrying out, the way I see it, a political coup. That's what it is, a political coup.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that's former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Glenn Greenwald, explain what's happening to him right now, the most recent charges brought against him.

GLENN GREENWALD: So, Lula is involved in several very serious scandals, including allegations of criminality. The most recent case is one where the federal police, who investigated, have recommended that he be indicted on claims that he received many, many hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements to a triplex apartment that the police say that he owned, and that this was intended to be a gift from a large construction giant here in Brazil that has been close to the Workers' Party, that has received a lot of contracts, lucrative contracts, from the Workers' Party, and that they claim is illegal, that he intended to hide these assets, that they were intended essentially to constitute bribes. He vehemently denies that he ever owned the apartment, that it's not -- that it's his. He has not been convicted. But those allegations should play themselves out. They should be investigated, and the process should be permitted to run its course.

I think that one really important thing to note is that a lot of people in Brazil, including people who have favored impeachment, including the nation's largest newspaper, Folha of São Paulo, have long said that you should remove Dilma, but you should also remove Temer and have new elections, which is the obvious thing to do. If the vice president and the president are both implicated in wrongdoing, if there's serious unpopularity that they both share, which they do, why let the people in Brasília, who are corrupt, choose the leader? Why not have new elections, as lots of people have called for? And the reason is, is that they're petrified that if they have new elections, the person who's going to win is Lula. He leads in all polls, when polls show -- when ask people who their preference is in new elections. They're also petrified that even if they wait until 2018, he'll run again. And so, there's a lot of people who believe that these investigations are about rendering him incapable of running, by charging him with crimes, by convicting him of something, not trying to put him in jail, just making it so that he can't become president again, so they don't go through this whole process of removing Dilma only to end up with Lula again.

But, you know, look, he's somebody who is involved in lots of possible scandals. And he's subject to the law like anybody else, and these processes should be allowed to take their course. The problem is that there are lots of people in Brasília who are also implicated in very serious corruption allegations, who are currently being protected in all sorts of ways by virtue of the fact that they hold political office, including people extremely close to the interim president himself. And one of the things that you played in that clip of my interview with Lula was him talking about how this is a coup. And only two months ago, there were recordings released, secret recordings that were made by a police informant with one of the closest senators to the current president, Temer, who was originally one of his ministers, who had to resign after this tape was revealed, in which he said that the reason that Dilma was being impeached and the motive for doing this was to shut down the investigation against the officeholders in Brasília, and that the Supreme Court and the media and the military of Brazil were all on board, that he had spoken to all of those institutions, and they were all on board. So, when you look at that tape, which, to me, is the most significant evidence about what's taking place in Brazil, you have the leading institutions of Brazil, including the court and the military, secretly conspiring to remove the elected president as a means of protecting all of the other officeholders in Brasília from ongoing corruption investigations. And I think that really bolsters the claim that Lula made in that interview, regardless of whether he's also guilty of wrongdoing.

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Is Donald Trump a Sign That Fascism Is on the Rise in the US?

Sun, 08/28/2016 - 21:00

Wednesday afternoon Donald Trump held a campaign rally at the Tampa Fairgrounds, his forth in Tampa since the start of his campaign. Although Donald Trump's three previous rallies in Tampa have been peaceful -- at least one was marked by a shouting match between his supporters and his opponents. At other Trump rallies across the country there have been several incidents of violence. Trump himself has suggested several times that violence is a way to deal with protestors or others with whom he and his supporters disagree. On Radioactivity Wednesday, our guest Henry A. Giroux,  McMaster University Professor for Scholarship in the Public Interest, says that Trump's call to respond to dissent with violence is encouraging an atmosphere of "Neo-facism."

Giroux  is  The Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. He also is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University. His most recent books include The Violence of Organized Forgetting, Dangerous Thinking in the Age of the New Authoritarianism, and  coauthored with Brad Evans, Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle. Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. He has a new book out called is America at War with Itself?

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Did President Obama Threaten National Security in Negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Sun, 08/28/2016 - 21:00

President Obama discusses the Trans-Pacific Partnership with diplomats at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 13, 2015. As both presidential candidates campaign against it, the White House is negotiating with Republicans in Congress to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest regional trade agreement ever. (Zach Gibson / The New York Times)

The latest line from proponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) implies that President Obama threatened long-standing national security relationships in his negotiating of the TPP. These proponents are not pushing the economic merits of the TPP, but rather arguing that its rejection by Congress would jeopardize longstanding ties between the United States and Asia. The claim is that if Congress is not prepared to approve the TPP, then countries like Japan and South Korea will no longer be able to rely on defense commitments that have been in place for more than half a century.

As Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, commented on a trip to Washington:

“It [rejecting the TPP] hurts your relationship with Japan, your security agreements with Japan, … And the Japanese, living in an uncertain world, depending on an American nuclear umbrella, will have to say: On trade, the Americans could not follow through; if it's life and death, whom do I have to depend upon?”

Other proponents of the TPP have made similar comments. The idea is that if the US won't follow through on a trade pact that is has spent almost eight years negotiating, then how can it be counted on to honor its defense commitments to the countries of the region.

If this claim is taken at face value, it implies that President Obama was unbelievably irresponsible in negotiating the TPP. He knew that many aspects of the deal would be highly controversial. For example, the deal includes no enforceable provisions to prevent the sort of currency management by China and other countries that have been the major cause of the country's $500 billion (2.8 percent of GDP) annual trade deficit.

The deal also includes provisions that make patent and copyright protection longer and stronger. These provisions will lead to higher prices for prescription drugs and other protected items in other countries, and possibly the United States as well. In addition, more money for the drug companies and entertainment industry in royalties means that our trading partners will have less money to spend on US manufactured goods.

In addition, the TPP provides for the creation of investor-state dispute settlement tribunals -- extra-judicial bodies that give special privileges to foreign investors -- including foreign subsidies of US corporations. These tribunals will be able to override US laws at all levels of government.

For these and other reasons, President Obama surely knew that the TPP would be highly controversial when it was debated before Congress. Is it really plausible that he did not make it clear to our negotiating partners that he couldn't guarantee approval of the final agreement?  

The proponents of the TPP would have us believe that President Obama told our trading partners that approval of the TPP was a slam dunk. That they could count on congressional approval in the same way that they could count on Congress to honor its military commitments in the region. That one doesn't sound very likely.

In the lack of plausibility department we are also asked to believe that the governments in the region are incredibly ignorant about the state of US politics. The TPP has been a hot item for debate long before Congress voted to grant fast-track authority in the summer of 2015. It has continued to be a major issue in the presidential primaries of both parties. Is it plausible that the staffs of the Japanese, Vietnamese and other embassies of the TPP countries somehow missed these debates or failed to report back to their governments on how contentious the pact is?

That one hardly passes the laugh test. Surely these embassies are staffed by competent and intelligent people. It is precisely their job to follow debates like the one on the TPP and to report back to their governments. While the governments of the other countries in the TPP may be disappointed by the decision of Congress not to approve the pact, it is inconceivable that they would be surprised by it.

There is an alternative hypothesis that makes far more sense. The Obama administration, along with other supporters of the TPP, doesn't feel it can sell the deal based on its merits as an economic pact. Therefore they are inventing a national security rationale for the TPP that does not exist. It's not a pretty story, but as they say in Washington: You throw it against the wall and see what sticks.

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Anarchists and the Rise of the Welfare State

Sun, 08/28/2016 - 21:00

Between the 1930s and the 1950s, anarchists overwhelmingly viewed the New Deal, and more generally the rise of the Keynesian welfare state, as a sophisticated form of co-optation that represented a severe setback for the labor movement and, hence, for social anarchism.

Anarchist protesters gather at a rally held in Seattle, Washington, on May 1, 2015. (Photo: Adam Cohn)

This article is excerpted from Unruly Equality: US Anarchism in the 20th Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016).

Also see: "Unruly Equality": A Brief History of Anarchism

During the presidential campaign of 1931, the patrician Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt instilled hope in a deeply shaken electorate by claiming "the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid" deserved a "new deal." During his famous first hundred days in office, Roosevelt proposed a flurry of new programs and policy changes aimed at reversing the downward spiral of the domestic economy, then already in its third year.

US anarchists approached the New Deal with their typical skepticism toward government initiatives heightened by suspicions stemming from the manipulative ways in which Mussolini and Hitler had recently ascended to power. In the April 1933 issue of the insurrectionary anarchist newspaper Man!, editor Marcus Graham dubbed FDR's approach a "new hoax" and reminded readers that they could expect nothing from government but "deceit and treachery." He took particular umbrage with the Civilian Conservation Corps, the first experiment with a work-relief program, in which young men would be paid a modest wage to develop natural resources under the auspices of the War Department. "What this dastardly scheme really implies isn't hard to guess," Graham wrote. "It will be used for a two-fold purpose: first, to further lower the workers' wage scale; second to have a standing army ready to drown in blood any uprising that appears now so imminent." By August, Graham had concluded that the New Deal was a plot to introduce "American Fascism" under the guise of assisting the unemployed.

In early articles on the subject, contributors to the anarcho-syndicalist journal Vanguard focused more attention on Roosevelt's National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) but arrived at similarly pessimistic conclusions. The act suspended antitrust laws and created boards to establish "industrial codes" with the intention of raising commodity prices by limiting competition. It also affirmed the right to organize, called for labor to be represented on its industrial boards, and set a minimum wage and maximum hours for participating corporations. Writing in May 1933, Mark Schmidt critiqued the "rigging and freezing up of prices" that the NIRA's industrial codes attempted, and predicted that the NIRA would dangerously increase the government's role in labor conflicts. "Democracy will become attenuated to the vanishing point, the powerful trusts merging with bureaucratic State apparatus, the workers' organizations deprived of any right to strike and act independently, 'coordinated' with the State…. This is the trend toward Fascism." Melchior Steele, a contributor to Man!, likewise believed that with the government acting as "a party to contracts," strikes would amount to "rebellion against the government," further disinclining patriotic workers from taking part.

In actuality, a quite different scenario played out. Firms stridently resisted the NIRA's prolabor planks, refusing to abide by them and challenging their constitutionality in court. The president of the United Mine Workers, John L. Lewis, meanwhile publicly explained the new policy as a mandate from the president for workers to join unions as a means of combating the Depression. They responded enthusiastically, joining unions by the hundreds of thousands. The largest strike wave since the end of the Red Scare broke out the next year, as workers throughout the country fought to enact and defend via direct action the new labor rights that Congress had declared but had done little to enforce. As Staughton Lynd and other historians have demonstrated, the labor upsurge of the early 1930s was driven by local unions that mobilized entire communities, frequently bridging racial and gender divides. Following the lead of former Wobblies and other radicals, many adopted democratic decision-making procedures and militant tactics to ward off strikebreaking police and replacement workers. Yet self-identified anarchists do not appear to have played significant roles.

Having grown disheartened by the labor movement and distanced from less radical workers during the 1920s, anarchists often viewed the new unionism with jaundiced eyes. During the summer of 1934, to cite one example, communist longshoremen in California organized some 130,000 San Franciscans to halt work for four days in support of striking dockworkers. Marcus Graham dismissed the event's significance, telling readers of Man!, "There was no General Strike in San Francisco worthy of the name." Though Graham lauded the rank-and-file workers who had walked off the job, they had, to his mind, been betrayed in a predictable fashion by "despicable and treasonous" union spokesmen who had curtailed the strike. He could only hope the workers had learned their lesson: "never again to entrust their struggles in the hands of leaders." Though the critique of overly conciliatory representatives had merits, the pessimistic and critical commentary issued by anarchists in the 1930s won them few new blue-collar supporters, given that they offered no organizational alternative.

Although the Supreme Court eventually ruled that the NIRA's industrial boards were an unconstitutional interference with private business, the 1935 National Labor Relations Act bolstered the standing of unions. It declared collective bargaining not only legal but also a social good, and it established a government-monitored procedure by which a majority vote established a union as the sole representative of the entire workforce of a facility. (New Deal politicians believed government backing would make it easier for workers to organize and command wage hikes. This would increase their purchasing power, redistributing wealth and reducing the threat of overproduction that had catalyzed the crisis in the first place.) Bolstered by the new law, but faced with continuing employer recalcitrance, unionists launched major organizing drives among semiskilled workers in the steel, mining, automobile, and other industries that had become the centerpiece of the American economy.

Much of this organizing occurred under the auspices of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), a new umbrella organization that broke away from the AFL in 1935. Like the IWW, the new CIO unions sought to organize industrially -- uniting every worker in a given field of production, regardless of skill level and race. Unlike with the IWW, the abolition of capitalism was not a goal, and internal union democracy was not a priority. Indeed, John L. Lewis and other CIO leaders "preferred to act as labor generals who led their troops in battle, not as temporarily elected representatives who reflected the wishes of the ranks."

To the publishers of Vanguard, the CIO was barely distinguishable from the AFL, an object of anarchist disdain since 1886. "A new unionism will not spring up as a result of those puny efforts," an October 1936 editorial assured readers. "The militancy of the great mass of unorganized workers will be stifled from the very beginning and whatever may be accomplished ... will be distorted by the monstrous centralization of power in the hands of an irresponsible bureaucracy." The CIO did quickly move to consolidate many of the local unions formed in the early 1930s, and Vanguard was perceptive in anticipating the autocratic grip Lewis would exercise over the organization.

Yet the group misjudged the potential for a new, militant unionism to arise in the 1930s. The next years saw the invention of the mass sit-down strike in Akron, Ohio, and Flint, Michigan. Union membership grew by 5 million over the course of the decade, raising the percentage of the organized workforce from 7.5 to 19.2. Moreover, the CIO actively organized African American industrial workers and built multiracial locals with the intent of breaking the color line that still characterized many AFL unions.

In the wake of these advances, Vanguard published more nuanced considerations of the emerging social order. Contributor Joseph Zack argued in 1937 that the United States was becoming a "State Capitalist" system. Responding to the crisis features of traditional capitalism evidenced by the Depression, the government would henceforth take on "regulation of wages, prices, working hours, of 'social security' legislation and monetary manipulation" -- in short, "the superstructural manipulation of capitalism for the purpose of defending its base." In Zack's view, the farsighted capitalists who favored this method of stabilizing the system could only overcome the resistance of traditionalist elites through the mobilization of working people. Roosevelt embraced the CIO to this end. In turn, Zack felt, "the aim of the C.I.O. leaders is to get an expanded, well implemented and regimented N.R.A. [National Recovery Act], in the operation of which the new union bureaucracy will be the important and well paid servants of the new capitalism." Zack lauded the sit-down strike as a powerful new weapon developed by militant rank-and-filers, one that gave them greater leverage not only against their employers but also vis-à-vis the union bureaucracy. The sit-down strike, he concluded, "promises to be as much of a fighting instrument on the part of labor as the system of state capitalism is for the capitalist."

Vanguard's developing perspective anticipated many points later elaborated by C. Wright Mills, C.L.R. James, and other influential critics of mid-twentieth century unionism. Yet it may also have reinforced the anarchists' sense of paralysis. While hundreds of communists and socialists took up organizing responsibilities in the new CIO unions during the 1930s and 1940s, attempting to radicalize them in the process, anarchists largely continued to sit on the sidelines.

What, then, did anarchists suggest that those impoverished by the Depression do? Here the factions split in predictable ways. By late 1935, the Vanguard Group's Abe Bluestein could acknowledge that "Roosevelt's New Deal has lifted this country from the low depths of March, 1933." He felt its effects personally, as his wife, Selma, a painter, had taken a position with the Works Progress Administration. Nonetheless, Bluestein issued a pamphlet arguing that too many people remained unemployed, while those working for New Deal agencies remained scandalously underpaid. Reiterating that a complete solution required revolution, Bluestein nevertheless proposed a program to fight "for some measure of security from starvation." First, workers should demand "prevailing wages" for the unemployed and publicly employed, paid for by "the wealthy." Next, they needed to "get back into industry" by fighting for shorter hours with no reduction of pay, as a means to spread out the work. Winning these reforms, he believed, required the courage to break the law: "Let the unemployed show a little more respect for their persons and a lot less for private property, and the government and the wealthy will also begin to fear and respect their strength." With little fanfare, then, a cofounder of the Vanguard Group acknowledged that despite a half decade of Depression, the final break with capitalism wasn't imminent and the federal government now represented a legitimate target from which anarchists might wring concessions, assuming they did so using disruptive direct-action tactics rather than elections and lobbying.

To Marcus Graham, who anticipated the arguments of late-twentieth century anarcho-primitivists, however, "getting back into industry" was precisely the wrong approach. In late 1934, he wrote, "As it appears to me, the gravest of danger for mankind lies in the continued immense growth of industrialization of life to the point where the individual loses more and more of his significance as a self-reliant, self-creative and self-ingenuitive [sic] human being." Moreover, Graham believed the Depression was rooted in overproduction occasioned by industry's adoption of new technologies. With other countries following suit, the United States could not rely on expanded foreign markets to pull it out of the slump. War, he presciently asserted, would be the only way to eliminate oversupply and reverse the trend. For all of these reasons, Graham insisted, "the decentralization of every centralized power and activity is the only safe assurance for the building up of a true and free society." To that end, in 1932 he urged an Austin, Texas, audience not to wait for federal assistance but to seize uncultivated land with the aim of supporting themselves. In Memphis, he was even more direct: "Abandon the cities; leave them as monuments to the folly of man." It is impossible to know how many people -- if any -- took this advice. Any who did would have been forced to learn the rudiments of homesteading during one of the most severe droughts in the nation's history -- one that sent thousands of "Okies" and other dust bowl residents fleeing to California.

Between the 1930s and the 1950s, anarchists overwhelmingly viewed the New Deal, and more generally the rise of the Keynesian welfare state, as a sophisticated form of co-optation that represented a severe setback for the labor movement and, hence, for social anarchism. This interpretation was essentially built into their bedrock belief that political states can do no good for ordinary people. Worries about the depoliticizing potential of state income supports were not unwarranted. Yet this perspective naturalized the outcomes of Keynesianism in two troubling respects. First, it discounted the pressure labor and radical movements had exerted on elites in order to win unemployment insurance, overtime pay, and other gains, reinforcing gloomy assessments of the midcentury labor movement. Thirty years later, however, the Diggers, Murray Bookchin, and other anarchists claimed that new utopian possibilities arose from the unprecedented growth of first-world economies. They assumed this "postscarcity" condition would continue indefinitely, as it appeared to be an outgrowth of technological developments as capitalism ran its course, rather than (at least partly) a politically imposed division of wealth. For this reason, few anarchists saw the gains won by workers in the 1930s as vulnerable, or even as "their" gains to defend when the business class launched a concerted attack against them in the 1970s. Like many other progressive and radical forces, they were caught off guard by the onset of neoliberalism.

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Ohio Residents Clash With State and County Government in Fight to Ban Fracking Via the Ballot

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 21:00

A 2012 anti-fracking protest in Ohio. (Photo: Josh Lopez /

For years, local Ohioans have been told by courts and elected officials that they have no control over fracking -- "it is a matter of state law."

However, groups of determined residents are refusing to accept this argument, taking steps to establish local democratic control over what they see as vital societal questions of health, safety, and planetary survival. But not without resistance from their own governments.

In recent years, Ohio has seen fracking-induced earthquakes, contaminated waterways, and new proposals for natural gas pipelines and compressor stations, all amidst the accelerating march of climate change. Together, these events have brought the fight against fracking to a fever pitch for the Buckeye State.  

Fed up, residents have taken to the local ballot initiative process -- by which citizens write, petition for, and vote on legislation -- to propose "Community Bill of Rights" ordinances to ban fracking, injection wells, and associated infrastructure for natural gas production and transportation. Their efforst are part of a growing nationwide Community Rights movement

This summer, citizens of Medina, Portage, Athens, and Meigs counties collected signatures for county-wide ballot initiatives that would establish new county charters and enshrine rights to local democratic control over fossil fuel development. All four gathered enough signatures to get on their respective November ballots. Normally, that would be enough. But not in Ohio, where Secretary of State and gubernatorial hopeful Jon Husted has done everything he can to stymie the movement's use of direct democracy.

It is a rematch from last year, which ended in the Ohio Supreme Court pulling three county-wide initiatives -- in Medina, Fulton, and Athens counties -- from their ballots, just weeks before the November 2015 elections.

The court battle came after Husted claimed "unfettered authority" to determine the legality of local initiatives, before they go to a vote. Though his power grab was struck down by the court, Husted won the case on a technicality, and no votes were cast. The court ruled that the county initiatives failed to define a new "form of government," a requirement for new county charters, which all the initiatives proposed.

Making Adjustments for 2016

This year, petitioners fine-tuned their initiatives to insure they would satisfy the "form of government" requirement; though they argue the requirement is being politically applied. Nonetheless, petitioners updated their initiatives, going so far as to detail how county coroners will be compensated under the new charters.

With Husted's power to remove local ballot initiatives squashed, he has turned to organizing county boards of elections -- appointed by Husted himself -- to do his bidding. The links between Husted, the boards of elections, and the industry are clear. In Meigs county, for example, one member of the board of elections is Ohio Gas Association President Jimmy Stewart, and in March 2016, the Ohio Oil and Gas Association hosted a fundraiser for Husted.

In July, the county boards of elections in Meigs, Portage, and Athens all voted 4-0 to pull their measures from the ballot. The boards of elections say the measures are invalid because they do not delineate every single duty of all county officers. In Medina -- where a local judge and prosecutor have cautiously resisted the NEXUS natural gas pipeline and a gas compressor station -- the board split 2-2. The decision was then put to Husted, who broke the tie in favor of the fossil fuel industry.

Petitioners in all four counties are filing appeals. "It's a form of voter suppression," said Tish O'Dell of the Ohio Community Rights Network, who has worked with Ohio communities since 2012 to propose and pass similar measures.

Meigs, Portage, and Athens petitioners have filed protests against their boards of elections, but like Medina's tie breaker vote, their protests will be sent to Husted's desk. If and when he denies them, petitioners say they will appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. Medina's appeal of Husted's tie-breaking vote will head straight to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Husted is doing his best to expand on the 2015 Ohio Supreme Court decision, which recognized an "alternative basis for invalidating [ ] charter petitions." Namely, via the "form of government" requirement. Upon closer look, however, it appears that a basic assumption underpinning the tactic is flawed.

In 2015 the court clarified that Husted and boards of elections have no authority to rule on the legality or constitutionality of petitions. The basis of Husted's argument is that the "form of government" question is an administrative one, not a legal one. But the requirement comes from the Ohio Constitution; ruling on it requires interpreting the constitution.

Athens County's own county prosecutor pointed this out in a letter to his board of elections, advising them to place their initiative on the ballot. "It is the Judicial Branch and not the Executive Branch that is to interpret issues of Constitutionality," the prosecutor writes. "The Board [of Elections] should perform a ministerial function and allow the initiative process to take place if the number of signatures required are valid and properly presented." Instead, the Athens County Board of Elections invalidated the initiative because it "relies on the [Ohio] Revised Code to determine qualifications and salaries of elected officials."

Democracy at Stake

In his tie-breaking decision for Medina, Husted points to the only other Ohio county charters that were passed via the initiative process -- in Summit and Cuyahoga counties -- as positive examples of how the 2016 measures should be written. 

Husted's office declined to comment on how the Summit and Cuyahoga initiatives satisfied the "form of government" requirement and what distinguishes them from those being proposed for the November 2016 election. "It would be inappropriate to offer additional comment while the matter is pending before our office," wrote an Ohio Secretary of State spokesperson in an email.

In their appeals, the petitioners argue that the Summit and Cuyahoga examples actually support their argument. In protest, the petitioners point out that the Ohio County Commissioners Handbook "notes that neither Summit County nor Cuyahoga County…have followed" the form of government requirement.

Ohio's county boards of elections and Secretary of State give no guidance for petitioners on how they can satisfy this "form of government" standard. When queried by DeSmog, the Secretary of State's office gave no comment on this. As a result, petitioners are left guessing and the democratic process held hostage by the personal interpretations of boards of elections and the Secretary of State.

Climate at Stake

Meanwhile, climate change is accelerating by leaps and bounds. Anthrax bacteria are being liberated by thawing permafrost, Lake Erie is warming, melting glaciers could release Cold War-era toxic waste buried beneath Greenland's ice, the Zika virus has hit the United States, ecosystems are becoming unbound, and the sea continues to rise.

But for the oil and gas industry, millions of dollars are at stake in this local ballot battleground. The anti-fracking ballot initiatives would have immediate impacts not only on extraction and injection of fracking waste, but on large infrastructure projects -- like the NEXUS pipeline, which is slated to carry fracked gas across Ohio but is seeing opposition from local residents who are holding up the project. According to NEXUS court documents, for every month of delay, the pipeline project loses $17 million. In Medina, the project is a year behind schedule.

The pipeline, which proposes to pump 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas through Ohio each day, has been met with opposition again and again. Defiant private property owners and county prosecutors and judges have postponed land surveying, jeopardizing NEXUS's permit application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The last thing the pipeline's owner, Spectra Energy, needs is a legal fight against a new county charter. For Spectra, the drawn-out nature of the democratic process currently at play in Ohio is a liability.

Regardless of the accuracy of their legal arguments, the actions of Ohio Secretary of State Husted and the boards of elections have already affected that process.

Every day the measures are caught up in court is a day of full-out campaigning lost. Among the uncertainty, petitioners continue to campaign as though the measures will be voted on this fall. And if they are refused the ballot, Ohio petitioners say they will try again next year. And the year after that. And the one after that.

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"Necessary Trouble" and a Long, Hard Struggle: Talking Movements With Sarah Jaffe

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 21:00

Perhaps the most essential book of the year, Sarah Jaffe's Necessary Trouble provides an extensive and vivid overview of organizers and movements from the 2008 financial crisis onwards and the connections between them, along with a nuanced historical summary of the issues at hand.

Sarah Jaffe. (Photo: Julieta Salgado)What connects the recent movements that have shaken the foundations of US inequality? In her acclaimed book Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt, Sarah Jaffe introduces us to the people making trouble from Wisconsin to Ferguson, from Occupy Wall Street to Moral Mondays. Click here to order what Robin D.G. Kelley calls "The most compelling social and political portrait of our age."

Sarah Jaffe's Necessary Trouble is one of the most essential books of the year -- an extensive, vivid overview of "trouble-making" organizers and movements from the 2008 financial crisis until, if not quite today, then the moment the book went to press. Each chapter not only covers a movement or group of campaigns, but also provides a concise but nuanced historical summary of the issues at hand.

It's a book that feels "necessary" indeed, almost overdue. Whether we realized it or not, we have been in need of a book that traces the connections between the Wisconsin Capitol occupation and the campaigns waged by Walmart and fast-food workers, that looks honestly at what the Tea Party has had both in common and in conflict with protesters at Occupy Wall Street and in Ferguson, and that gives due credit to Moral Mondays and Black Lives Matter.

And we have been in need of someone like Jaffe to do it, someone who understands intersectionality and class struggle, who resists simplistic narratives and avoids backseat organizing or condescending lectures about strategy, instead largely letting the people who made these movements happen tell their own stories. She spoke to Truthout about some of the issues raised in Necessary Trouble including racism, horizontalism, and why climate change is a class issue.

Joe Macaré: Necessary Trouble is in many ways an optimistic book, one that on the whole celebrates a range of movements and campaigns. Was that a conscious choice or did you just find more to uplift than to critique?

Sarah Jaffe: This is a book with an overarching argument about this historical moment more than a book meant to be a deep dive into any particular movement. If I had 100,000 words to delve into Occupy Wall Street or Moral Mondays or any one in particular I might have spent more time diving into critiques of particular aspects of each one, but that just wasn't the book I was writing.

"Trying to understand why people feel a certain way isn't trying to excuse them. It's part of the job of journalism."

I don't think I'm uncritical or cheerleading in this book, yet I am optimistic. I remember the 1990s, the early 2000s, the things you just couldn't say in polite company. The world is a different place now. Things are still hard, people are still struggling, but people are fighting and that is, as Jane McAlevey says, the best news I've had in a long, long time.

The Tea Party are a fascinating presence in your book: You treat their initial anger at the financial system in good faith, but you're clear about the racism that quickly became prominent and how the politicians, who were elected in their name, acted. What can we learn from the Tea Party's story?

There's a tendency lately to treat racism as either/or, as something that only bad people are, rather than something that is a quality of the society we live in that none of us can escape. That doesn't mean we can't fight it, but it means that it's something we all have to grapple with, not just the people who like Donald Trump.

So I think people can be racist and be advocating policies that I think are wrong and harmful and also be angry at many of the same things I'm angry at. We can never convince those people that progressive policies are better if all we do is wag our fingers piously and call them names. Trying to understand why people feel a certain way isn't trying to excuse them. It's part of the job of journalism.

The politicians who call themselves Tea Partiers are largely opportunists who saw a chance to hitch themselves to something that looked like a rising star. The wealthy ideologues who dump money into elections were doing that already and had been for decades. Your average Tea Party protester wasn't calling for privatizing Social Security. Opportunist politicians and billionaires who claim to come bearing gifts aren't just a problem on the Right, and I think the biggest lesson we can take from the Tea Party is to be wary of them.

You also show how white people's reluctance to acknowledge racism as an issue has caused setbacks, from labor's Operation Dixie to Oath Keeper groups that split over whether or not to show solidarity with Black protesters in Ferguson. What have been the hallmarks of movements and campaigns where solidarity across racial lines has been possible?

My favorite example is in Robin D.G. Kelley's Hammer and Hoe, a book everyone should read about the Communist Party in Alabama during the Depression years. The Communist Party had a lot of problems in the US, but what it did in the South, particularly, was take the struggles of Black workers and Black sharecroppers as key to the class struggle it wanted to wage in the US. So the Communist Party in Alabama was made up of those workers, and they fought against lynching and police violence and false arrests alongside labor struggles for fair wages and equal treatment and inclusion for Black workers in unions. That wasn't a sideline struggle, it was the struggle.

"If there isn't just one leader, then it's harder for things to fizzle if something happens to one person."

I was saying that we tend to personalize racism. We think of racism as people who say racist things or join racist groups or show up at a Trump rally with a sign saying "Build the Wall." We don't think of racism as where houses are built, what kind of a mortgage you get and what kind of air you breathe. We spend a lot of time trying to cleanse ourselves from the original sin of racism rather than trying to come up with ways to fight to change the systems that maintain it.

You identify many of the movements in the book as having a "horizontal" structure, to one extent or another, almost to a defining extent. "Horizontalism" has not been without its critics, but what are the advantages it has given these movements?

Horizontalism, I think, in this moment, is a response to a deeply hierarchical society in which people feel taken advantage of by and failed by elites. Chris Hayes wrote about this period as the "Twilight of the Elites." If our ideas about meritocracy are wrong, if the people in power have proven themselves catastrophically unworthy of that power -- the financial crisis being the latest, biggest example -- then maybe we need some new structures.

But it's been hard to implement. In practice, a handful of people tend to get anointed leaders of the movement by the media, whether they in fact are or are just really good at getting themselves interviewed. Reporters tend to move in packs and so once one outlet calls someone a leader, everyone else will rush to follow -- not even always in bad faith, but because they are busy and very few people get the luxury of being social movement beat reporters.

Consensus process, particularly 100 percent consensus, is unwieldy and most groups seem to have scrapped it after Occupy. Watching the different organizations of the Movement for Black Lives experiment with organizational forms is really fascinating, but I don't know that anyone has "solved" the problems yet.

I think horizontalism and the viral character of these movements -- their tendency to spread across the country and the world very quickly -- go hand in hand. If you don't have to wait for the leader to come to your city and start a protest, you can just plan one, call one and connect to people online to get them to turn out. If there isn't just one leader, then it's harder for things to fizzle if something happens to one person; which is a real concern, as we're starting to see activists brought up on harsh charges and facing serious sentences.

"We don't really know the shape of things while we're in them."

One movement that is less horizontal featured in a chapter of the book is Moral Mondays. What's exciting and worth emulating about Moral Mondays?

As a feminist and someone who came of age politically in the 1990s -- peak culture wars -- I'm really fascinated by a movement calling itself "moral" that embraces queer and trans rights and abortion rights as issues. I also appreciate the southern-ness of Moral Mondays, since there's an annoying tendency, particularly in the Northeast, to disparage the South and make jokes about letting it secede every time some reactionary policy happens in the South. Ignoring the reactionary policies being implemented in the North and West Coasts, of course.

Moral Mondays has been emulated not just in the South but in Illinois and New York, where people have felt a real connection to the idea that they can make demands that are not just based on the law or the constitution but based on a real idea of justice and right.

The question of whether -- and how -- to engage with electoral politics is one with which various movements in the book wrestle. What has the Bernie Sanders campaign shown about the opportunities and limits of movement engagement with elections?

It's certainly the question on everyone's mind these days, I think. I'm writing to you on the train to Seattle right now, so heading for Kshama Sawant country, and I don't think there's any doubt that her election has had an impact on that city.

"The struggle is long and hard and successes are signposts along the way."

I grappled with the question of elections the most -- really trying to answer it -- in the chapter that groups the Wisconsin movement and the Chicago teachers together, because both of those had an unsuccessful move into electoral politics. I posited in that chapter that we would need to see candidates with more of a grounding in the movement in order to have movement electoral successes.

Since then, we've seen the #ByeAnita campaign in Chicago and the parallel campaign in Cleveland to get rid of Timothy McGinty, and both of these were basically run without endorsing their opponents, which is really interesting. The Teaching Assistants Association in Wisconsin tried to do the same -- endorsing Scott Walker's ouster without endorsing Tom Barrett, the Democrat running against him -- with less luck.

As far as Sanders goes, in the last week I've had several conversations with people who are really grappling with where to go next after Bernie's ultimately unsuccessful bid to be the Democratic nominee. There is no doubt that people were really drawn into something there that felt real and important and new to them, and I don't think that energy just disappears. The question of where it goes is going to be one I'll have my eye on for the next couple of years, for certain.

If electoral campaigns are not necessarily the end goal, are there better metrics to assess the success of movements? Is it turning out big crowds, passing legislation, providing direct aid to people, or something else?

"Success" is such an interesting question. Pretty much everyone, at the time I was pitching this book to publishers, thought that Occupy was a "failure." By the same metric people think Bernie Sanders is a failure. I think both of those assumptions are wrong.

I think it was my friend Jesse Myerson who said a few years ago that we don't call the Civil Rights movement the bus boycott movement. Montague Simmons of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis said "It's not 1964, it's 1954." We don't really know the shape of things while we're in them. Writing this book gave me the opportunity at some points to reflect back a few years and in others, I really had to struggle to figure out a place to stop, a way to evaluate, because things were and are so very much in flux.

"The same wealthy class that exploits our labor and fraudulently forecloses on our homes has also destroyed the climate."

But in terms of the demands of these movements, we really see what I think of as a range of demands, sometimes for one very particular immediate thing -- vote out Anita Alvarez, fire Bill Bratton, raise the minimum wage to $15 -- and then something medium-term -- a union contract for fast-food workers, say, or closing a prison or a jail -- and then the ultimate goal, something like abolishing police, abolishing capitalism. So do you evaluate the movement based on the immediate goal, the medium-term one, or are you totally disingenuous and do you say "Well Occupy didn't create the revolution so it was garbage?" The struggle is long and hard and successes are signposts along the way, often toward an ultimate goal that I hear many people saying they know they won't be around to see.

Right now we're seeing the return of camps as a tactic, this time used by Black-led movements against police violence: Freedom Square in Chicago, Abolition Square in New York City, and the (recently evicted) #DecolonizeLACityHall. Why do you think tents have gone up again and what are the advantages of an "occupation"?

I just wrote a long piece about this so I'll just say briefly that I think at a time when public space is more and more scarce, privatization reigns and social institutions like labor unions are in decline, the fact that people come together to hold a space to be political in public together is really meaningful. Like horizontalism, it seems to illustrate the desires that protesters have for a society that feels more equal and more connected.

The book points out several examples of how organizers identified connections between different issues and used those to bring in new people and find new targets for actions. Which connection of overlapping or intersecting issues do you think is most exciting and important right now?

I can't say enough times that the Vision for Black Lives document is an amazing piece of work that everyone should read and engage with.

It almost feels like it misses the point to pick out a particular connection, because the point is that these things all overlap. But one of my favorite bits in the book is Mychal Johnson from South Bronx Unite, an environmental justice organization in New York, who notes that Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a police officer on Staten Island, grew up in a heavily polluted area and suffered from asthma. The South Bronx too has the highest asthma rates in the country and when fighting the location of yet another polluting business in their community, South Bronx Unite used the slogan #WeCantBreathe, citing Garner's last words and noting that the people who are the first victims of environmental degradation are usually Black and Latinx people, in whose communities trash dumps and factories and hazardous waste are situated. Inequality, he said, is in the air we breathe. That same community flooded during Hurricane Sandy, with that polluted water flooding back onto their streets.

You describe climate change in the book as "the ultimate intersectional issue" -- can you say a little about what that means?

(Image: Nation Books)When I proposed this book, climate change wasn't a chapter. I realized very quickly that it needed to be and eventually I realized that it needed to go last, because it sums things up in a way. The same wealthy class that exploits our labor, sells us bad mortgages and fraudulently forecloses on our homes has also destroyed the climate. Those people are not going to be the ones who suffer the most for it, because they have the money to get out of the way of the disaster.

I went to college in New Orleans. I was gone by Hurricane Katrina and I remember watching it on TV and wondering what had happened to my neighbors and my friends -- this was before you could mark yourself "safe" on Facebook -- and remembering an old rumor that the city had rigged the levees to blow in the Lower Ninth Ward in the case of a storm like this one. Not true, but a fairly good metaphor for how things happened. The working-class Black people who mostly lived in that neighborhood were the ones who suffered the most. An unequal society will not deal with tragedies and crises equally, so to fight climate catastrophe we need to change the relations of power that we live under.

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Graduate Students Are Workers: The Decades-Long Fight for Graduate Unions, and the Path Forward

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 21:00

Graduate student workers publicly launch their union drive at Columbia University on December 5, 2014. (Photo: David Klassen)

The National Labor Relations Board's ruling that teaching and research assistants at Columbia University are workers and are legally protected by US labor law is historic. The ruling vindicates years of organizing by graduate employees across the US and creates a path forward for organizers at many other universities.

Graduate student workers publicly launch their union drive at Columbia University on December 5, 2014. (Photo: David Klassen)

In the summer of 2004, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the five-member body which adjudicates US labor law, ruled that graduate student teaching assistants and research assistants at Brown University were "primarily students, and not workers." The Bush-appointee-dominated board's ruling had immediate implications for graduate students at private universities, who had won protected status under the National Labor Relations Act four years earlier, when the board had ruled in favor of graduate employees' organizing efforts at New York University (NYU).

The NYU administration, freed by the Brown University ruling from its obligation to negotiate a second contract with the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC), the first, and to this day, only union to win recognition at a private university (and twice, at that), elected to use the NLRB to break the union. In an attempt to force the recalcitrant administrators back to the bargaining table, NYU's graduate employees went on strike on November 9, 2005, and remained on strike well into May of the following year. It was, and remains, the longest strike in the history of the US academic labor movement.

Striking graduate student workers picket outside NYU's Bobst Library in November 2005. (Photo: Steve Fletcher)

As a first year graduate student at NYU in 2005, I experienced the strike firsthand, organizing colleagues across the university to vote to strike and walk the picket lines. As the weeks turned into months, there were long debates on the picket line and in innumerable meetings over strategy and tactics. Could we both force NYU to return to the bargaining table of its own accord through direct action, and also utilize political pressure at the federal level to reverse the Brown decision and restore legal protections and labor rights to graduate student teaching and research assistants? Even with broad support across the graduate employee labor movement, it was hard to wrap our heads around how we could bring NYU to the table, much less undo Brown.

Graduate employees will no longer have to engage in stultifying debate against the false premise that what they do is not work.

Today NYU graduate employees are once again unionized. After 10 years of organizing, the GSOC, officially known as GSOC-United Auto Workers (UAW), won a second contract with the administration last spring. And this week, on August 23, 2016, the NLRB announced that it was finally overturning Brown after 12 years, ruling that Columbia University graduate employees (save those whose research is funded by outside foundations) are indeed workers. The decision will permit graduate employees at Columbia to hold a union representation election, 14 years after the board confiscated and ultimately destroyed the ballots of an earlier unionization drive at the university. Perhaps more importantly, the board has restored to graduate employees at private universities the legal rights and protections which US labor law extends to those whose work it recognizes as such. Aaron Greenberg, chair of the Local 33 graduate employee unionization campaign at Yale recently chartered by UNITE HERE, which represents the food service, maintenance, clerical and technical workers on campus, told Truthout that Local 33's members are "ecstatic.... The law now recognizes the work that we do and that we have a right to unionize and to organize."

Graduate student workers take part in a civil disobedience action on April 27, 2006, as part of the 2005-2006 GSOC-UAW strike at NYU. (Photo: Tracy Neumann)One would be hard pressed to gather from breathless headlines in the academic trade press that endlessly re-stage the same bad-faith debate -- "Are unions an appropriate forum for graduate employee representation? Are grad employees workers?" -- that such unions have existed as recognized bargaining units for nearly half a century. The first attempts to organize graduate students at the University of Wisconsin (UW) took place in 1962. The Teaching Assistants Association (TAA) first bargained on behalf of UW's teaching assistants in 1969. It did so for 42 years, and today continues to fight for graduate students' labor rights in the face of the state government's attacks on public-sector collective bargaining.

Long before the TAA, there were attempts to organize graduate student unions at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1930s, and again in the 1960s. And the TAA itself was hardly alone, riding a wave of faculty and graduate student organizing which also led to the University of Michigan's Graduate Employee Organization (formed in 1970) and the University of Oregon's Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (formed in 1975).

Picket signs lie in a heap after a graduate student worker picket at NYU on November 10, 2005. (Photo: Tracy Neumann)It's common for advocates to point out that there have been graduate employee unions at public universities for decades, and none of the apocalyptic prophesies proffered by anti-union administrators, legislators and jurists have been realized. Less well known is the longer history of graduate employee organizing at private universities. Almost immediately after the NLRB extended its jurisdiction to workers at private universities, teaching assistants began to organize. In 1972, teaching assistants at Yale engaged in a series of rolling grade strikes, raising stipends by as much as 100 percent in some departments. This culminated in the formation of the short-lived Teaching Assistants Organization. In the 1980s and 1990s, new organizing drives at Yale, the University of California, the University of Minnesota, the University of Washington and the University of Iowa inspired more campaigns -- at the University of Illinois, at the University of Maryland and at NYU. Glossing over this history aligns with administrative anti-union arguments that unions do not belong in private institutions. It maintains the fiction that academic labor unions are novel, intrusive and disruptive, when in fact graduate employees have been organizing them since many current university presidents were children. It also underscores how important and how overdue this week's ruling really is.

When the GSOC won representation and its first contract in the early 2000s, new organizing drives began at Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell and Brown. With GSOC's recertification in 2013, organizing began again at many of these institutions, but also took off at schools like Harvard and The New School, which had never been part of the wave of pre-Brown graduate employee organizing. Over the past 12 years, while graduate employee organizing at private universities was mostly trapped in a holding pattern, it continued at public institutions like the University of Connecticut, where graduate employees formed a UAW local in 2014. Across the US, organizing by adjunct teachers and post-doctoral workers has exploded, with unions forming everywhere from local Catholic institutions to prestigious and wealthy, globally known research universities like Duke and Georgetown. The NLRB's recent Columbia decision means that graduate employees at private universities can rejoin this broader movement of contingent academic workers, that they can ally with adjuncts, food service and maintenance workers, faculty and other campus staff to build a broad movement to transform how higher education functions as an employer. This week's decision may well spark dozens of new organizing campaigns.

"We have a path to victory, and we feel really pleased with the decision, really excited about our path forward."

The questions that the Columbia decision settles -- whether graduate employees are workers and whether unions are appropriate to higher education -- are questions whose answers virtually everyone has agreed, save university administrators, their lawyers and their lobbyists. During the NYU strike, picketers playfully mocked the logic of the Brown decision and the university administration, chanting, "If we're not workers, then we're not working!" This week, the majority of the labor board announced that it has "no difficulty" affirming that graduate students are workers. Nor should it -- teaching assistants and research assistants work long hours for low wages, producing significant value for their institutions and often receiving little in return. It's unionization, which, in many instances, has allowed graduate employees access to affordable health care. The GSOC's first contract at NYU raised pay by an average of almost 40 percent across all departments, less a testament to how much students were earning after the contract, than how little they were being paid prior to it.

Graduate student workers and undergraduate supporters picket on November 30, 2005, as part of the GSOC-UAW strike at NYU. (Photo: Tracy Neumann)

In the Columbia decision, the majority ruled, "There is undoubtedly a significant economic component to the relationship between universities, like Columbia, and their student assistants," noting that "on average, private nonprofit colleges and universities generate a third of their revenue from tuition." Importantly, the board threw out the Brown argument that the instructional character of graduate student labor made it not-labor, offering this explanation:

The fact that teaching may be a degree requirement in many academic programs does not diminish the importance of having students assist in the business of universities by providing instructional services for which undergraduate students pay tuition. Indeed, the fact that teaching assistants are thrust wholesale into many of the core duties of teaching -- planning and giving lectures, writing exams, etc., including for such critical courses as Columbia's Core Curriculum -- suggests that the purpose extends beyond the mere desire to help inculcate teaching skills.

University administrators have been quick to respond to Columbia with a boilerplate approach that is even more disingenuous now than it was a decade ago. While clinging desperately to the increasingly tenuous claim that graduate employees aren't workers, a claim belied by the many hours teaching assistants and research assistants spend grading, teaching, preparing for class and meeting with students, university administrations and their organizations have also cynically continued to claim that unions threaten academic freedom and instruction.

The amicus brief filed in February by several Ivy League universities against the union in the Columbia decision parrots the language the NYU administration used 11 years ago to explain why it had chosen to bust GSOC. The brief adopts the NYU administration argument that the union had filed grievances that impinged on academic matters when it sought to combat the administration's attempts to erode the bargaining unit by hiring adjuncts to teaching assistant's courses for less money and fewer benefits than unionized teaching assistants. Another amicus brief filed by higher education lobbying associations points to graduate employees at the University of California's fight for small class sizes (an obvious workload matter) as evidence that collective bargaining necessarily encroaches on similar territory. The cynicism here lies in the way that university administrators have, for many years, managed academic concerns as business concerns and cried foul when their employees have attempted to respond on that terrain.

Unless the combined lobbying might of the Ivy League and its union-busting law firms can prompt another Brown or a reversal by the Supreme Court, graduate employees will no longer have to engage in stultifying debate against the false premise that what they do is not work, that one can't be both a student and a worker at the same time, and will no longer have to defend themselves against spurious arguments about the damage that unions do to a profession that management has itself steadily degraded over the last half-century. Now, the graduate employees who are holding the torch for all of those who have organized and fought for this moment for so many years can focus on fighting for important issues like child care, parental leave, health care, equitable workload and prompt and fair payment. For Aaron Greenberg, Columbia is a "major decision for the academic labor movement and the graduate employee labor movement in particular."

"It's exciting for us," Greenberg told Truthout. "We have a path to victory, and we feel really pleased with the decision, really excited about our path forward."

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Anti-Abortion Groups Sue for Right to "Counsel" Patients Entering Clinics

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 21:00

Anti-abortion groups are reasserting their claim that the First Amendment allows them to "counsel" patients entering clinics as well as set up religious "crisis pregnancy centers" adjacent to full-spectrum reproductive health care facilities.

Opponents of abortion protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 2, 2016. (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)

Two anti-abortion organizations -- the Pro-Life Action League and the Live Pro-Life Group -- filed suit against the City of Chicago this week, claiming that the "Bubble Zone Ordinance" enacted on October 7, 2009 violates their constitutional right to "counsel" patients approaching reproductive health care facilities.

In their suit filed on August 23, 2016, the plaintiffs cite both the US and Illinois Constitutions, claiming they "have suffered and are suffering irreparable injury to their constitutional rights" because they cannot approach patients inside an eight-foot "bubble" within 50 feet of an abortion clinic entrance.

"The Bubble Zone Ordinance ... targets certain categories of speech; that is, passing a leaflet or handbill, displaying a sign, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling," the complaint states. "It was enacted and is applied so as to restrict pro-life speech, but to permit unrestricted speech in favor of abortion or concerning topics and speakers not disfavored by the City."

Bubble and buffer zones -- which vary in size and specifics, such as whether protections are stationary (radiating from a fixed point) or encircle patients (moving with them as they approach clinics) -- have not been enacted randomly to target groups that oppose abortion, as the suit against the City of Chicago purports. These laws and ordinances are a response to violence and threats of violence from opponents of abortion rights.

The Feminist Majority Foundation's National Clinic Access Project surveys have tracked the targeting of abortion providers since the early 1990s. The most recent, released last year, found that 25 percent of clinics experience anti-abortion activity on a daily basis and 42.8 percent experience such activity weekly, while only 12 percent of clinics say they never experience anti-abortion activity. Additionally, 92 percent of abortion providers report that patients entering their facility have expressed safety concerns.

"It is very distracting and stressful for the patients and their friends and family to be subjected to this behavior."

In 2014, the Supreme Court's McCullen v Coakley decision struck down the state of Massachusetts' buffer zone ordinance, which provided 35 feet of protection from health care facility entrances. Some reproductive rights advocates predicted that a wave of lawsuits challenging other buffer zone laws around the country would follow -- but those lawsuits never materialized. A federal lawsuit was filed and withdrawn without comment in Englewood, New Jersey, early last year, challenging that city's newly enacted buffer zone. The precedent set in Hill v. Colorado, which affirmed that state's 100-foot protection area around clinic entrances in June 2000, continues to provide municipalities with legal grounds to maintain similarly crafted ordinances and laws. Chicago Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey told ABC News that the Chicago ordinance is "almost identical" to the Colorado law -- "except that our buffer zone is half the size." He vowed that "the city will vigorously defend against this suit."

The Pro-Life Action League and Live Pro-Life Group are attempting to be the first plaintiffs since Eleanor McCullen to successfully challenge abortion clinic protections, citing the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech and due process to do so. The bulk of the complaint sidesteps the foundational claims of constitutional violations, instead outlining incidents of the Chicago ordinance being inconsistently enforced -- something that clinic escorts and staff report to Truthout as well -- and responding officers not knowing the "plain language" of the law. The plaintiffs cite specific officers and clinic escorts who provide a shield outside facilities for patients approaching and leaving, in an attempt to prove that the law is unnecessary and that the protesters are themselves in need of protection. Clinic escorts, meanwhile, reject the claims made by the plaintiffs.

Betsy Schaack has been volunteering as a clinic escort for more than five years in the Chicago area. She told Truthout that while some groups simply pray outside clinics, in a clear expression of First Amendment expression of religion and free speech, the Pro-Life Action League protesters in particular are "decidedly more aggressive in their attempts to stop patients."  

"Usually, these [Pro-Life Action League] protesters reach into car windows with their propaganda as patients are dropped off at the door of the Washington [Family Planning Associates] clinic," Schaack said. "Since this is clearly within the eight-foot patient 'safety net,' there is no place this woman is free from protesters. If we ask a protester to move out of the eight-foot area, we are met with comments like 'Shut up; we don't have to listen to you,' or they just yell their misguided sound bites louder -- 'Don't let them kill your baby!' 'The abortion pill can be reversed!' etc. I understand freedom of speech, but what the [Pro-Life Action League] engages in is harassment."

The other group Schaack witnesses harassing patients regularly is the Christian Liberty Academy -- a private school that's a part of the other plaintiff in the suit, the Live Pro-Life Group. Their clearly labeled buses are stationed prominently outside the Washington clinic once a month on average as students are led in "sidewalk counseling" (the name that Pro-Life Action League founder Joe Scheidler gave to patient targeting when he wrote the book on the practice in 1985). Patients don't typically recognize picketers as "counselors," according to Schaack.

"Most times [after asking] to be left alone, the patient will continue to be terrorized until she gets into the clinic," said Schaack. "In fact, last week as I was walking a patient from her car, her partner actually asked the picketer to 'Stop speaking to the lady that way.' It is very distracting and stressful for the patients and their friends and family to be subjected to this behavior."

Schaack and her fellow escorts regularly rely on the bubble ordinance, calling police to enforce restrictions to the clinic entrance as well as to assist patients attempting to cross a very busy street from the public parking lot to the door. Clinic escorts serve as the community response to harassment and abortion clinic targeting, but can only legally and effectively do so much to protect patients. They provide a visible zone of support for patients approaching a picketed clinic and allow them relief from the stress of being stalked, shamed and shouted at. 

Until abortion is seen as a public good and communities at large are aware of the harassment, galvanizing enough support for clinics to effectively expel picketers from their sidewalks without needing to call the police remains a significant challenge.

Schaack acknowledged the frustration many escorts and social justice groups feel right now.

"Unfortunately, calling the police is the only thing that gets the attention of the protesters," she said. "We ask them numerous times politely to move out of the eight-foot buffer zone and we are met with comments like, 'That's not a law, that's just something arbitrary,' or, 'We follow God's law.'"

The response from law enforcement is inconsistent at the clinic, but a car is always sent to respond to the call. Once the officers leave, however, Schaack says the harassment often resumes.

"Four or more protesters will all descend on an individual patient or couple, surround them with graphic signs, and begin rapid-fire quoting Bible verses and sharing condemnation."

Halfway across the country, the anti-abortion group A Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center has used similar grounds -- First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech, religion and equal treatment under the law -- to file a federal suit against the city of Raleigh, North Carolina, for denying their request to open a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) next door to the Preferred Women's Health Center, which offers abortion as one of its services. CPCs are typically religiously run and masquerade as reproductive health facilities. They shame and lie to prospective and current patients about everything from the law surrounding abortion access to how far along they are to risk factors for terminating a pregnancy.

Opponents to the opening of this new CPC included those concerned about access to abortion care as well as those simply trying to prevent conflict that could come from the two businesses operating adjacently. As reported by local outlet The News & Observer, Tonya Baker Nelson, founder and executive director of Hand of Hope, said those concerns are unwarranted. "We do not protest and we will not allow people to protest on our property," Nelson said. "And we don't need to stand on the corner to try to get people to come see us."

The presence of a CPC, however, might encourage an increase in harassment from anti-abortion protesters, even if those protesters don't specifically come from Hand of Hope. Local clinic escorts tell Truthout that picketing is routine and aggressive in Raleigh, and an extensive national investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice America found that proximity to CPCs increases the likelihood that a full-spectrum reproductive health care facility's patients will be harassed.

"Raleigh actually has three different CPCs that seem to have different protester followings," Kelsea McLain, who is director of patient advocacy at A Woman's Choice, Inc., told Truthout. "Birthchoice [a local crisis pregnancy center] also opened a [location] within walking distance of our clinic and routinely sends representatives to the public space in front of the clinic to try and nab our patients and bring them over to the crisis pregnancy center. We find their brochures shoved in our fence and mailbox constantly, never quite sure if annoyed patients or over zealous protesters placed them there."

McLain said Raleigh does not have a buffer or bubble zone like Chicago's, but would gladly welcome one to protect both clinic staff and patients.

"Our patients often say this quote, almost verbatim: 'They have a right to be out there, but I have a right to not be harassed,'" said McLain, who added that she doesn't feel safe accessing public areas around the building because in the past, picketers have surrounded her while trying to access the mailbox. The protesters also position themselves on either side of the public easement at the clinic's driveway, waving patients away, standing in front of cars and trying to hand out fliers with anti-choice propaganda and false information.

"Our protesters specialize in something we call 'the swarm,'" said McLain. "Four or more protesters will all descend on an individual patient or couple, surround them with graphic signs, and begin rapid-fire quoting Bible verses and sharing condemnation. These swarms have a great track record of terrifying patients and sometimes will result in patients running back to their cars and leaving the area, missing their appointment."

McLain says a buffer or bubble zone would "give patients breathing room" and make accessing the parking lot safer.

A long-time Chicago-area clinic escort agreed with McLain's assessment that bubble and/or buffer zones -- while imperfect in their ability to guarantee an end to harassment -- provide significant protection and relief to patients and staff. Speaking anonymously due to security concerns, the escort told Truthout what it was like before Chicago enacted the ordinance being challenged.

"Before the bubble zone, anti-choice protesters could get as close to patients and the clinic door as they wanted," she said. "They couldn't block the door because of the FACE Act, however, when large groups of people congregate in front of a place, blocking happens indirectly. The outside of our clinics looked like a mob scene when there were large groups of protesters -- even with small groups."

The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in May of 1994 in response to more than a decade of violence such as arson and the assassination of abortion providers. As reported in a Religion Dispatches article by Alana Massey, the Pro-Life Action League in particular has been active in the violence that led to the FACE Act and nationwide recognition that abortion clinics had become battlegrounds.

According to Massey's report, "In 1985, following a year during which there were 10 bombings and 16 cases of arson, the senior Scheidler famously called for 'a year of pain and fear.' For over a decade he was a named defendant in the high-profile case, Scheidler v. NOW, in which the National Organization for Women argued that Scheidler and others effectively formed a criminal conspiracy to close clinics that provided abortion services."

The Chicago-area escort who spoke with Truthout was volunteering in the days where picketers chained themselves to doorways and took other extreme measures.

"It was very stressful with protesters shouting and having large signs right by our entrances," she said. "The bubble zone allows an eight-foot bubble of protection within 50 feet of the clinic entrance; this small bubble -- especially by the door -- has made a world of difference."

She points out that eight feet is certainly close enough for picketers to communicate with patients, despite the suit's claim that things like "ambient noise" prevent them from doing so.

"I am grateful the bubble zone exists now," she said. "While some protesters just come and pray and not say or bother anyone, the folks who yell hurtful things and shame patients are not counseling, in my opinion."

Categories: Latest News

Chefs Get Creative About Restaurant Food Waste

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 21:00

(Image: Pixabay)

The numbers are big. $218 billion of food is wasted every year in the United States -- 1.3 percent of national GDP, or $1,500 a year for a family of four. In a country with 48 million food-insecure people, this represents 1,250 calories per person, every day.

For restaurants and chefs, reducing food waste is becoming business as usual. Not only does it help the bottom line -- a potential savings of $1.6 billion a year in an industry with tight margins -- it saves resources all along the food supply chain.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for Restaurants

The "three Rs" mantra of enviros everywhere (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) is equally applicable to restaurants and other commercial and institutional food services, according to Dana Gunders of the National Resources Defense Council. Gunders breaks it down like this: Plan smart and don't have extra food to begin with, feed surplus to people if possible, animals second and then look at composting as a last resort.

She also points out that not all food waste is created equal. More resources go into producing animal products. Not wasting meat goes a long way in saving resources overall. Gunders compares throwing away a hamburger to taking a 90-minute hot shower, whereas throwing away an egg is like taking an 11-minute shower.

Gunders and others spoke Wednesday during a Chef Power Hour, a monthly conference call that gathers food experts, journalists and chefs from around the country to discuss issues buffeting the food system.

Chef Steven Satterfield of Miller Union Restaurant in Atlanta gets even more specific, advising chefs to purchase only what they can serve in a day or two. Tracking sales trends and waste closely, engaging staff in the waste reduction conversation and accessing large-scale composting services when possible also are key. In addition, he makes it a practice to source ingredients locally whenever possible and to purchase seconds from farmers for dishes where the produce's shape or color is not integral to the quality of the dish (think gazpacho).

Donating surplus food is not often an option for well-run restaurants, says Satterfield, because the volume is usually not enough for a feeding program. Restaurants could, however, feed their own employees before and after shift, as he does at Miller Union twice a day. 

Don't forget the egg. Everything, especially leftovers, tastes better with a fried egg on top. One surprisingly effective solution to reducing waste? Shrink the size of the takeout container. Restaurants that switch to smaller containers for leftovers find more food goes home, Gunders said. Apparently customers feel more comfortable taking a half a pork chop or that side salad home in a tiny package. After all, who wants to lug a big box around to save a little bit of food?

Lastly, Satterfield recommends reducing portion size on dishes that routinely come back from the table with leftovers. Restaurants can even lower the price on reduced portions and perhaps sell more overall.

Put an Egg on it

Reducing food waste is great and all, but what about the actual food? Culinary creativity, after all, is what chefs aspire to and one reason we go to restaurants. Satterfield encourages chefs to embrace creativity to use every possible part of an ingredient.

Garlic and onion peels, even corncobs, can be used for stock. Carrot tops can enhance pesto and herbal sauces. Overripe berries become jams and jellies. At Miller Union, fried carrot peels are a favorite garnish.

Specials created from diverted waste could be a chef's next culinary triumph. Satterfield created a popular $13 appetizer at his restaurant by soaking day-old bread strips in juiced kale stems and topping with apple jelly made from cores and peels and a chicken liver mousse. The mousse was inspired by a delivery of whole chickens that came with a bonus -- livers still intact.

Or, Satterfield says, chefs can simply blanch and freeze excess produce for future use. And don't forget the egg. Everything, especially leftovers, tastes better with a fried egg on top.  

The Policy Picture

Katherine Miller of the James Beard Foundation says chefs participating in their education programs are very receptive to making changes in their restaurants to reduce food waste. Still, there are barriers at the larger community and policy levels. For example, access to a large scale composting facility can be hit or miss. The Washington, DC area is home to 2,500 restaurants but has no composting business serving the food industry.

Betsy Barrett of Food Policy Action works to promote legislation before Congress to overhaul the US food system for safety, health, waste reduction and food access, among other improvements. One bill, the Food Recovery Act, includes Good Samaritan protection for businesses donating food as well as explicit labeling for "use by" dates that distinguishes between safety and peak quality dates. Both will keep food out of the landfill and on plates, says Barrett.

The Chef Power Hour is hosted by Chefs Collaborative, a Massachusetts-based program hoping to make sustainable practices second nature for every chef in the United States. Realizing that vision, says programs director Alisha Fowler, starts with raising awareness, educating food professionals and in turn, those professionals educating their customers. A little support at the policy level doesn't hurt either.

As Dana Gunders of NRDC puts it: "If the restaurant is setting a culture and having a dialogue with their customers about food waste, that's the best way to realize change."

Categories: Latest News

Disrupting the Myth of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Age of Trump, Sanders and Clinton

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 21:00

The 2016 presidential election cycle and its three prominent candidates are being held up as representing polarizing interests that are emblematic of the political, economic and cultural tensions of our time. Yet, a look back at the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt reveals some familiar tones and policy positions that capture those of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

As president, Roosevelt is widely celebrated by American "progressives" for fathering the New Deal, which encompassed financial regulations, union rights and a number of social programs. While FDR's extramarital affairs are well known, what is less known is his racist and anti-Semitic worldview and white supremacist loyalties, which contributed to the suffering and death of millions of the most vulnerable people.

Many understand the New Deal as a program to save US capitalism based on Keynesian interventions meant to soften its blow via social programs and collective bargaining rights, while simultaneously regulating the most volatile aspects of the banking system. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was passed to serve this purpose. According to the National Labor Relations Board:

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the US economy.

The NLRA offered accommodations via basic legal protections to an increasingly radicalized labor movement during a time of intensive labor strife when communist and socialist affiliations or sympathies in the US were on the rise. Championed by a working-class German immigrant (Senator Robert Wagner) and signed by a hesitant President Roosevelt, the NLRA went on to be an increasingly effective instrument in regulating organized labor as a means to conform to, and partner with, the interests of capitalists. As Roosevelt described the act when signing it:

A better relationship between labor and management is the high purpose of this Act. By assuring the employees the right of collective bargaining it fosters the development of the employment contract on a sound and equitable basis. By providing an orderly procedure for determining who is entitled to represent the employees, it aims to remove one of the chief causes of wasteful economic strife.

As an act of recognition rights, the NLRA legally protected union activity and collective bargaining rights for most private sector workers, while at the same time making unions wards of a federal government that was constitutionally constructed to prioritize the interests of individualism and property rights.

As a presidential candidate and during his four terms in office, Roosevelt had a close relationship with Southern Jim Crow Democrats ("Dixiecrats") and often went out of his way to not disrupt the "southern way of life" of Jim Crow. Thus, he remained silent on segregation and in 1935 refused to support the federal anti-lynching legislation of the Costigan-Wagner bill. In 1937 FDR appointed Hugo Black, a U.S Senator from Alabama and known member of the Ku Klux Klan, to the US Supreme Court. Black went on to validate FDR's decision to incarcerate Japanese Americans by writing the court's majority opinion in the case of Korematsu v. United States. In 1941, FDR appointed James F. Barnes, a former US Senator from South Carolina and staunch segregationist to the US Supreme Court. Barnes left the court a year later to serve as FDR's Director of Office of Economic Stabilization, and between 1943-1945 served as the Director of FDR's Office of War Mobilization. Barnes was on FDR's short list for Vice President in 1944.

Catering to the demands of Dixiecrats, FDR excluded Black workers from key provisions of the New Deal, as Juan Perea of the Loyola University School of Law describes it, "to preserve the quasi-plantation style of agriculture that pervaded the still-segregated Jim Crow South." To do so, the New Deal was crafted to exclude agricultural and domestic workers from the Social Security Act (old-age benefits), the National Labor Relations Act (union rights) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (pay and hours standards). At the time, sixty-five percent of the Black workforce were agricultural and domestic workers. Filipino, Native, Japanese and other subordinated groups also made up a significant portion of the farm and domestic labor force. Writing in the Ohio State Law Journal, Juan Perea goes on to explain:

During the New Deal Era, the statutory exclusion of agricultural and domestic employees was well-understood as a race-neutral proxy for excluding blacks from statutory benefits and protections made available to most whites. Remarkably, despite these racist origins, an agricultural and domestic worker exclusion remains on the books today, entirely unaltered after seventy-five years. Section 152(3) of the National Labor Relations Act still excludes agricultural and domestic workers from the protections available under the Act.

Immediately following the 1936 Berlin Olympics hosted by Nazi Germany, FDR only invited white US Olympians to the White House, excluding eighteen Black athletes, including the four-time gold medal winner Jesse Owens. Owens would go on to comment, "Hitler didn't snub me -- it was our president who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram."

When elected president in 1933, FDR inherited the racist and unconstitutional program known as the "Mexican Repatriation Program." In the midst of the Great Depression when unemployment was high, white scapegoating of Black, Brown and Indigenous people only intensified. Within this context, the Mexican Repatriation Program, coordinated between federal, state, local governments and industry deported to Mexico more than one million people of Mexican ancestry living in the United States. Approximately sixty percent of those were Mexican American citizens. In the Pace Law Review, Kevin Johnson writes:

It is clear today that the conduct of federal, state, and local officials in the campaign violated the legal rights of the persons repatriated, as well as persons of Mexican ancestry stopped, interrogated, and detained but not removed from the country. The repatriation campaign also terrorized and traumatized the greater Mexican-American community.

Roosevelt actively supported the program during his first term in office and thereafter passively allowed the program to continue into the 1940s. When World War II led to a shortage of farm workers, FDR negotiated the 1942 Bracero Program with Mexico, which was a "guest worker" program that allowed Mexican farm laborers to enter the US on a temporary basis. Writing in the Cleveland State Law Review, Ronald Mize points out, "[t]hough the specific link has not been directly demonstrated, it is certainly more than coincidence that only six months previously, thousands of Japanese farmers and farm laborers (mostly residing in California) were detained as suspected 'dangerous enemy aliens.'"

As documented by historian Greg Robinson, long before he became president, FDR believed that Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, and Indians "should be excluded, on racial grounds, from equal citizenship and property rights with whites." In a 1923 essay in Asia magazine, FDR wrote, "that the mingling of white with oriental blood on an extensive scale is harmful to our future citizenship."

As tensions mounted between the US and Japan leading up to World War II, Japanese American citizens and residents (already legally prevented from owning property and interracial marriage) were further subjected to discrimination and violence, rationalized by unfounded suspicions of disloyalty. Although German and Italian Americans were not feared to be agents of Hitler and Mussolini, Japanese Americans were cast as a sinister race and inherent agents of Imperial Japan.

In early 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) took steps to more deeply examine these fears by appointing a number of investigators, most notably a wealthy businessman (and alleged intelligence agent) named Curtis B. Munson to investigate Japanese Americans on the Pacific Coast to determine if they were indeed a national security risk. Munson spent months traveling throughout the region interviewing military officers, military commanders, municipal leaders, FBI agents, Japanese Americans and those associated with them. When Munson's investigation was complete, he turned in an intelligence report on November, 7, 1941 titled Report on Japanese on the West (better known as the Munson Report), which concluded:  

There is no Japanese 'problem'… [t]here will be no armed uprising of Japanese. There is far more danger from Communists and people of the Bridges type [homeless people]… than there is from Japanese. For the most part the local Japanese are loyal to the United States or, at worst, hope that by remaining quiet they can avoid concentration camps or irresponsible mobs. We do not believe that they would be at least any more disloyal than any other racial group in the United States with whom we went to war.

Additional intelligence reports communicated to FDR during this time included a letter from John Steinbeck, which was solicited by an intelligence agent who knew that Steinbeck was closely associated with the Japanese community in Salinas, California. Steinbeck summarized his thoughts by writing, "there is no reason so far to suspect the loyalty of Japanese-American." In October 1941 Munson confided in a letter (not in his report), "the Japs here are in more danger from us than we are from them."

The US declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Two months later, ignoring his own administration's intelligence findings and defying his Attorney General's council against it, FDR signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. This presidential action ordered the evacuation and indefinite incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese decent, of all ages, most of whom were US citizens, with many more being legal permanent resident "aliens." The evacuation involved those who lived in "military areas" that included all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona.

In February 1942, as World War II intensified and Japanese American incarceration was being enacted, Curtis B. Munson warned, "we are drifting into a treatment of the Japanese corresponding to Hitler's treatment of the Jews." In the same month US Army General Ralph Van Deman, known as the "The Father of American Military Intelligence," expressed that the removal of Japanese communities from the West Coast is "about the craziest proposition that I have heard of yet."

Roosevelt came from a wealthy aristocratic family who, like many patrician families of the time, were openly anti-Semitic. While serving as an Overseer of Harvard University in the 1920s, FDR initiated quotas on Jewish admission to the University.

FDR's long-standing anti-Semitism had grave consequences during the Jewish Holocaust. As Nazi Germany proceeded to persecute then exterminate European Jews in the 1930s and into the early 1940s (pre-war), FDR went out of his way to maintain diplomatic ties with Hitler. While Roosevelt was well aware of the Jewish Holocaust as it was intensifying, he was mostly silent about it publicly and consistently blocked Congressional and Jewish American efforts to save the lives of European Jews by allowing them to immigrate to the United States. This position was reflected in 1939 when nine-hundred and thirty Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi's aboard the German ship St. Louis implored the FDR administration through telegrams at sea to allow them entry into United States. Telegrams sent directly to FDR were not responded to, while a State Department response to passengers stated they must "await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States." Also in 1939, the Wagner-Rogers bill was introduced in Congress that would have allowed 20,000 German Jewish children into the US above and beyond the existing quotas. FDR refused to support Wagner-Rogers. Accordingly, Rafael Medoff, the founding director of The David Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, reports "there is evidence" that FDR once dismissed pleas from Jewish refugees as "Jewish wailing" and "sob stuff."

The book titled The Diary of Anne Frank details the 15-year-old Anne Frank's personal saga of when she and her family were hiding in an attic apartment for two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. In the years leading up to the Frank family going into hiding, their eventual capture and Anne, her sister and mother's death; Otto Frank (Anne's father) desperately applied for US visas for his family on numerous occasions. In a futile attempt to use personal connections within the US to secure visas, Frank wrote to his influential American friend Nathan Straus Jr. in 1941 pleading, "I would not ask if conditions here would not force me to do all I can in time to be able to avoid worse… perhaps you remember that we have two girls. It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance." As Professor of History at American University Richard Kreitman frames it, "Frank's case was unusual only in that he tried hard very late -- and enjoyed particularly good or fortunate American connections. Still, he failed. The fact that Anne Frank was one of those who did not make it is a poignant reminder of what was lost."

Roosevelt friend and donor, Breckinridge Long, was appointed as the Assistant Secretary of State that oversaw immigration in 1940. In his diary, Long reported that when he described his visa procedures to FDR, "I found that he was 100% in accord with my ideas." Thus, at the behest of FDR, Long made already strict immigration laws even stricter. This resulted in ninety percent of the stringent quota slots available to immigrants from countries ruled over by the Nazi's never being filled. If Long had not done this, it is estimated that up to 190,000 Jews would have escaped the Holocaust under the restrictive polices alone. According to Arthur Klein, the author of the book An Unplanned Roundtrip, Long "obstructed rescue attempts, drastically restricted immigration, and falsified figures of refugees admitted." In a 1940 intra-department memo, Long wrote:

We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length the number of immigrants into the United States. We could do this by simply advising our consuls to put every obstacle in the way and to require additional evidence and to resort to various administrative devices which would postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of the visas."  

In response, one refugee aid worker declared, "We cannot continue to let these tragic people [German Jews] go on hoping that if they comply with every requirement, if they get all the special documents required…if they nerve themselves for the final interview at the Consulate, they may just possibly be the lucky ones to get visas when we know that practically no one is granted visas in Germany today." The simple fact remains, if the US would have relaxed its immigration polices and proactively intervened to rescue European Jews instead of mollifying Hitler, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of lives would have been saved.

In 1942, FDR appointed Johns Hopkins University president Isaiah Bowman (a known racist and anti-Semite) to lead the Office of Post-War Planning, tasked with examining population resettlement after the war with a focus on "problems arising out of racial admixtures and…the scientific principles involved in the process of miscegenation [interbreeding]." One such concern of FDR's that was posed to Bowman was if the darker "South Italian stock" was "as good as the North Italian stock" and how their biological characteristics compared with other national groups. FDR also expressed concern about Jewish influence in postwar North Africa, fearing they would "overcrowd the professions." FDR had expressed similar concerns about Jews in the US and elsewhere. FDR claimed that Jewish quotas,

…would further eliminate the specific and understandable complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany, namely, that while they represented a small part of the population, over fifty percent of the lawyers, doctors, school teachers, college professors, etc, in Germany, were Jews.

FDR is also on record claiming that antisemitism in Poland resulted from Jews dominating the economy.

As documented by Henry Wallace (FDR's Vice President) when approving a post-war plan recommended by Bowman, Roosevelt expressed his desire to "to spread the Jews thin all over the world." According to Wallace's diary, FDR claimed to have done this during his time as a prominent resident of Merriwether County, Georgia "and at Hyde Park [New York] on the basis of adding four or five Jewish families at each place. He claimed that the local population would have no objection if there were no more than that." With the knowledge of the president, Bowman's Office of Post-War Planning distributed reports throughout the Roosevelt administration that "advised against mixing races and warned that the admission of significant numbers of foreigners would endanger America's racial well-being." Bowman implored, "Our civilization will decline unless we improve our human breed… [t]o support the genetically unfit and also allow them to breed is to degrade our society."

In sum, it is important to understand FDR's worldview as being reflective of the inequitable cultural political economy the United States was founded upon. It is also important to recognize the best and worst of FDR's "progressive" policies as being pragmatic actions to save and preserve the nation's original social order. Yet, in the era of global financialization, true power has no national loyalties, possesses no conscience, its domain knows no borders, its institutions have no center and its wealth has no real material value. While Trump and Sanders represent a return to variations of the nation's "good ole days," both of which the FDR administration encompassed; it is Clinton whose popularity depends on certain myths while more thoroughly representing the pragmatic interests of this era's inequitable power structures.

Categories: Latest News

Climate Change Pledges Not Nearly Enough to Save Tropical Ecosystems

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 21:00

US Secretary of State John Kerry signs the Paris Agreement at the UN in New York while holding granddaughter Dobbs Higginson on his lap. Scientists warn that the agreement is insufficient to prevent disastrous climate change. (Photo courtesy of US Department of State)

The Paris Agreement marked the biggest political milestone to combat climate change since scientists first introduced us in the late 1980s to perhaps humanity's greatest existential crisis.

Last December, 178 nations pledged to do their part to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels -- adding on an even more challenging, but aspirational goal of holding temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

To this end, each nation produced a pledge to cut it's own carbon emissions, targeting everything from the burning of fossil fuels to deforestation to agriculture.

It seems like a Herculean task, bound, the optimistic say, to bring positive results.

Yet, less than eight months later, a study in the journal Nature finds that those pledges are nowhere near as ambitious as they need to be to keep temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees. And in August, British scientists reported that this year's record El Niño has already pushed us perilously close to the 1.5 degree milestone.

The Bramble cay melomy (Melomys rubicola) declared extinct in 2016 due to habitat loss due to rising sea levels, the first mammal known to go extinct due to human caused climate change. (Photo by Ian Bell courtesy of the Government of Queensland, Australia, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY) license)

Meanwhile, temperatures are not rising evenly around the planet, with the Arctic warming far faster than the tropics. That fact originally caused scientists to hypothesize that polar ecosystems would suffer more dire climate change impacts ahead of tropical habitats.

But over recent years, researchers began seeing that some tropical ecosystems are being decimated by climate change far faster than expected -- think coral reefs -- while many more habitats may be weakened over time -- think mangroves, cloud forests and rainforests -- if global human effort and political willpower don't surge quickly.

Toward a Hotter World

Study leader, Joeri Rogelj, told Mongabay that he wasn't surprised by his findings showing that current national carbon reduction pledges would blast past the 2 degree target, leading to global warming of between 2.6 degrees Celsius and 3.1 degrees Celsius.

"The pledges currently on the table are a first step in a continuous process of pledging, reviewing, and taking stock to what they add up," said Rogelj, a Research Scholar at the Energy Program of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). "This process has been defined by the Paris Agreement, and nations are thus expected to review and adjust their pledges in light of the best science over the coming years."

The Paris Agreement was structured from the bottom up, whereby national pledges would be reviewed every 5 years (beginning in 2020) in order to make sure that carbon cut targets are boosted as time goes by.

Still, Rogelj cautioned, if pledges aren't sufficiently ramped up – and followed through on – it will make achieving the 2 degrees Celsius goal "significantly more ambitious" after 2030.

While a temperature rise of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, as opposed to 2.6 to 3.1 degrees Celsius, may not sound like much in numerical terms, many scientists have pinpointed the 2 degree target as the limit beyond which the world would face dangerous climate change.

Impacts would likely, many say, become catastrophic if temperatures are allowed to come anywhere near 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Yet, for some ecosystems a 2 degree C rise in temperature is already going to be a catastrophe. Tropical ecosystems, just like Arctic ecosystems, appear to be particularly vulnerable because species there have evolved within very specific and often narrow temperature ranges. As many species face escalating temperatures, they may simply not survive.

And temperature rise isn't the only global warming impact to consider: extreme weather, ocean acidification, and sea level rise are all effects that are currently, and will continue to be, felt across the tropics.

Coral Reef-mageddon

"We're kidding ourselves that a 2 degree Celsius global increase will be safe for coral reefs and for the people who depend on them, given the damage we're already seeing," Terry Hughes bluntly stated in a Mongabay interview.

"Most reefs have already bleached three or more times in less than 20 years," explained Hughes, who is the Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

He points to his own country's global warming-catastrophe: the Great Barrier Reef. Super-warm waters this year led to around half of the coral in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef dying off. In some places, nothing is left but white coral ghosts. These massive changes came far earlier than were forecast by climate models.

Tropical corals -- tiny animals that build up reefs over time out of the exoskeletons of their ancestors -- live in a complex, symbiotic relationship by trading nutrients with single celled algae called zooxanthellae. It's these zooxanthellae that lend corals their splendid bright colors along with the bulk of their energy.

But when coral reef water temperatures get too high, the coral expels the zooxanthellae and the symbiotic partnership, at least for a while, is shattered. This is called coral bleaching and it doesn't mean the coral is dead – yet. But it is starving.

Corals can recover from such bleaching events, but not if they occur too often or if the waters simply become too hot for the zooxanthellae to return. If that happens, a tipping point is reached where the coral will starve for energy and the whole reef is at risk of dying and being taken over by seaweed -- setting up a new, less biodiverse marine ecosystem.

Coral reef biodiversity is seriously threatened by climate change. (Photo by Richard Ling licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version)"This is the third global bleaching event since the first one in 1998, triggered by a rise in average global temperature of just one [degree] Celsius," Hughes noted darkly.

What's happened on the Great Barrier Reef due to a 1 degree Celsius rise is almost beyond comprehension -- a 2 degree Celsius increase and the world's biggest coral reef and one of the globe's greatest ecosystems may be eradicated -- something that could happen within a few decades.

While nearly 50 percent of the northern Great Barrier Reef was lost this year, the southern portion was also damaged. In all, around 90 percent of the entire ecosystem was hit by this current bleaching -- an event linked to high El Niño temperatures supercharged by climate change.

The Great Barrier Reef is not alone: what happened there is just a part of a vast global bleaching event that began in 2014 (the longest yet recorded) which is striking many of the world's reefs with similar devastation. The full impact will likely not be known for months, if not years.

This mass-bleaching event, combined with recent ones, raises a serious question: can coral reefs survive any further climate change? Or have they already hit their survival threshold?

Jan Lough weighs in, asserting that the "only acceptable level" for coral reefs is the Paris aspirational goal of 1.5 degree Celsius. But this is a goal some scientists believe we have already passed, or inevitably will pass shortly -- there already being too much heat in the climate system to avert this temperature increase.

Add to this the fact that even if global carbon emissions begin to fall soon, it's extremely unlikely they will fall fast enough to conserve the bulk of the planet's coral reefs.

Lough said that even if the improbable 1.5 degree Celsius goal were achieved, some coral reefs are "likely to change in terms of community composition, as resilient species survive, and vulnerable species are lost, with future bleaching events." This will make surviving reefs "much simpler ecosystems."

And science tells us that simpler ecosystems tend to be less robust and more vulnerable to stressors. Among those escalating stressors: ocean acidification -- caused when high levels of atmospheric carbon are absorbed by the oceans. Acidification at high levels could eventually cause corals and shellfish to melt away into the seawater.

Coral is threatened by both warmer ocean temperatures and ocean acidification. (Photo by Nhobgood Nick Hobgood licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Tropical coral reefs are arguably the ocean's most important ecosystem. They are by far the most biodiverse marine habitat: although they cover just one percent of the ocean's surface, it's estimated they may house a staggering 25 percent of the world's marine species at some point in their lifecycles.

That is bad news for human beings too: coral reefs are vital to many of the world's fisheries and provide food and work to hundreds of millions of people.

"Tragically, we're losing corals from the most remote, most pristine places where there are no other human pressures," said Hughes. "We simply have to reduce emissions if we want our children to see reefs for themselves."

"Shocking" Mangrove Die-off

There is some good news on the climate change front regarding tropical coral reefs. Last year, scientists reported finding a reef-building refuge for corals -- they hide from high temperatures and acidification extremes by growing in the shade of mangrove tree roots. But now, the bad news: other scientists have found that mangrove forests are being seriously impacted by global warming and sea level rise.

Norman Duke, an expert on mangroves with James Cook University, suffered a terrible shock in June when he flew a helicopter over northern Australia's Gulf of Carpentaria to witness a reported mass die off of mangrove forests in an otherwise remote and healthy region.

"I have not seen such imagery anywhere before," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). "I work in many places around the world, and I look at damaged mangroves as part of my work all the time. These are the most shocking images of dieback I've ever seen."

Duke estimated that this mass mangrove death covered some 7,000-10,000 hectares (17,297-24,710 acres). Looking at past satellite images, he was able to confirm that the mangroves only died during the past year.

He believes super-hot temperatures, combined with a lost rainy season are responsible.

The mangroves simply couldn't stand up against the one-two punch of extreme drought combined with climate change. Duke now believes the Gulf of Carpentaria mangrove ecosystem could change over time into saltmarsh and saltpans.

"Where rainfall is higher, then these wetlands are dominated by mangroves, and where rainfalls are low, then these same wetlands are dominated by saltmarsh and saltpans," he explained.

This year's die off, emphasized Duke, was "an extreme response instead of the previously observed gradual shift in the zonal ecotones." Climate change is popularly presented in the media as unfolding slowly over decades, with a gradual shift in temperature and precipitation regimes. But the reality we are seeing in the tropics and elsewhere is sometimes quite different, with some years (such as 2015-16) bringing sudden, abrupt temperature increases accompanied by drastic shifts in rainfall levels around the globe.

In the same way that coral reefs in a warmer world could be suddenly forced past a tipping point into a new type of ecosystem dominated by seaweed, mangrove forests could shift to become less-biodiverse and less productive saltmarsh, saltpan, or other type of ecosystem.

The climate change double punch of increased heat and drought could even prove to be a quadruple punch: mangroves are also threatened by rising sea levels and by extreme weather events, such as global warming-induced super-storms.

Mangroves already represent some of the best buffers against intensifying extreme weather along coasts worldwide, but battering by too many severe storms can take its toll and weaken mangroves already struggling against rising temperatures and more erratic rains. Studies have shown that warmer seas are breeding more intense hurricanes, a reality that will escalate as global atmospheric and ocean temperatures climb.

Sea levels will also continue rising -- due to both the expansion of ocean water as it is heated, and the melting of land-based glaciers. As that happens, marine waters will swamp many mangrove forests, eventually likely killing them.

One ray of hope for mangrove forests: rising sea levels may allow this ecosystem to move inland, taking over freshwater marshes as they become inundated by salt water -- but such a takeover depends on many factors. The potential for mangrove expansion also doesn't take into account the rapid degradation and clear cutting of mangrove forests to make way for fish and shrimp aquaculture operations to feed the globe's rapidly rising human population.

Burning Rainforest

Predicting the impact of climate change on rainforests is difficult, but scientists expect some major shifts and potential shocks.

One way in which climate change is expected to hit rainforests is by changing rainfall levels, likely increasing the length and intensity of droughts and thereby increasing the risk of wildfires.

Massive drought and huge wildfires that were once rare to non-existent in tropical forests are becoming more common in places like the Amazon and Indonesia. (Though it is important to point out that these gigantic fires are often stoked or directly caused by careless deforestation and agroindustry policies. In Indonesia, for example, it's been customary for locals to clear land through burning.)

But continuing drought this year, NASA warns, has left the Amazon drier than any year since 2002. Doug Morton, an Earth scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a press release that the regional drought has "set the stage for extreme fire risk in 2016 across the southern Amazon." The risk of fire from July to October exceeds levels seen in both 2005 and 2010 when vast areas of the Amazon rainforest burned.

Intensified droughts and wildfires certainly harm wildlife and plant life in the tropics where species haven't adapted to fire as in temperate forests.. Such events also have another impact: they worsen climate change.

Last year's Indonesian wildfires, for example, released more carbon than the entire US economy over the time period the country was burning. In the Amazon, extreme drought in 2010 impeded tree growth and increased tree death, shutting down the Amazon's vast and vital carbon sink, temporarily preventing carbon storage across the region. And of course, the shutdown of tropical forest carbon sinks could mean more carbon in the atmosphere, worsening in turn the global warming impacts on rainforests.

Still, Lucy Rowland, a University of Exeter post-doctoral research fellow, said the future impacts of global warming on rainforests remain "very hard to predict."

"We can say that rising temperatures, particularly accompanied by drought, are likely to limit rainforest atmospheric carbon uptake and most likely lead to tree mortality." But part of what makes forecasts difficult, according to Rowland, is that warmer temperatures and drought in rainforests are also offset in part by increased levels of photosynthesis fueled by rising CO2 levels.

Unfortunately, non-plant species will receive no such compensation. A recent study in Scientific Reports found that even with a warming of only 2 degrees Celsius, some animal populations (as well as many human populations) may have to move as much as 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) over less than a century in order to stay within their current temperature regime.

And of course, the specific trees, shrubs, or flowering plants which those animals associate with, and rely on for food and other needs, must likewise somehow move along with them.

If they don't move, the authors of the paper write, "they will simply bear the cost of elevated environmental temperatures."

Those species unable to move or adapt will go extinct.

Cloud Forests Marching Too Slowly

While scientific uncertainties make climate change effects on rainforest ecosystems hard to predict, the impacts on tropical cloud forests are more straightforward. In fact, "cloud forests are among the most vulnerable terrestrial ecosystems to climate change," according to one Nature study.

Like rainforests, cloud forests thrive in a very particular temperature range and require a significant amount of moisture. But cloud forests are also found in high mountains; they crown summits at very specific altitudes in great luminescent rings of green, and require almost constant cloud cover -- hence their names -- to survive.

Scientists predict that as the world warms, cloud forest plant and animal species will be forced to migrate upslope to stay within safe, livable temperature ranges. Indeed, researchers have already documented cloud forest plants attempting to move upward. But already scientists are finding that although some plants are migrating toward mountain summits, they are not doing so fast enough to keep up with rapidly rising temperatures.

And those migrating forests could hit roadblocks. A 2013 study presented in PLOS ONE found that cloud forests in Peru were finding it difficult to move into the habitat occupied by the puna grasslands above them. The researchers don't know why this is the case, but it may spell doom for many of the plant and animal species in this region unless humans intervene and provide assistance. Many cloud forests will also run into human-dominated landscapes, such as livestock pasture or montane agriculture as they try and move upslope.

Also, as temperatures climb up the mountain, that will open the door for the large scale movement of lowland species upward, potentially resulting in conflicts with upland species. In Costa Rica, one researcher reports that 25 lowland bat species have already moved up into the famed Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Climate change may also shift cloud cover and life giving rains away from tropical cloud forests. Without clouds, cloud forests and the unique wildlife and plants they support are unlikely to persist. The Monteverde cloud forest is already seeing such drying out.

If global temperatures rise unabated, cloud forests will eventually be forced to retreat higher and higher up mountain slopes, until upon reaching the very peaks, they simply have no place to go. With no escape route to cooler climes, submerged in heat, cloud forest species would be obliterated.

Norman Duke said it's important to remember that none of these climatic changes and impacts are strictly linear. "While there may be a longer term trend upwards, sea level doesn't just rise steadily, it also goes up and down. This applies to most of the [climate change] factors, including temperature."

But as temperatures rise, there is no question that impacts will follow suit. "The greater the rise in temperature the worse the consequences," noted Duke.

The Potential for Mass Extinction

Mark Urban, with the University of Connecticut, in a study last year looked at extinction risks for species linked to climate change. To get the best estimate possible, Urban analyzed findings from 131 studies.

He found that currently 2.8 percent of species face extinction due to climate change -- this with a warming of around 0.9 degrees Celsius. If that warming jumps to the Paris pledged 2 degrees, extinction rates could rise to 5.2 percent of all species on the planet.

And if we hit 3.1 degrees Celsius this century, as projected by Joeri Rogelj's study, which totaled up the current Paris pledges and the maximum temperature rise they could bring?

Then we could lose 9 percent of the world's species due to global warming.

That's nearly one-in-ten species facing extinction from climate change -- and of course that doesn't figure in extinction from other human induced threats like habitat degradation and destruction, deforestation, pollution, overharvesting, poaching, invasive species, or a lethal combination of any two or more of these combined with climate change.

Greenpeace Climate March 2015 Madrid. World leaders are under increasing public pressure to take action on global warming. The current carbon cut commitments made by 178 nations under the Paris Agreement, though a start, are not enough to prevent serious damage to tropical ecosystems. (Photo by OsvaldoGago licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

It's also important to realize that climate change impacts, including extinctions, won't suddenly just cease in 2100. Without action they will continue apace into the next century.

"With every increase in the global temperature, extinction risks do not just increase, they accelerate," Urban explained. "Therefore, even going a bit beyond the current 2 degree Celsius limit greatly enhances the risk to the Earth's biodiversity."

That's why "nations have to start implementing their [Paris] pledges without delay." said Rogelj.

He added that he hoped studies like his "help countries to increase the ambition of their pledges, even before 2020." That's the year when countries must come up with their second round of pledges.

Raising the Stakes, Avoiding the Endgame

But cutting emissions is only part of the answer. Warming is already occurring and will keep occurring due to the climate forcing already introduced into the climate system. And ecosystems are already suffering its impacts, as are many human populations.

As a result, William Laurance, a rainforest ecologist with James Cook University, asserts that conservationists should also turn to an old, but tried, tool to combat climate change: protected areas.

"In terms of [climate] mitigation measures, the best strategies are to conserve large, topographically and climatically complex, and interconnected protected areas," he said. "This will give species the best chance to move or find refugia during extreme climatic events." Those large core areas could be linked by wide wild corridors that allow for mass animal and plant migrations to adjust for climate change.

For species and ecosystems in dire straits, humans will have to decide whether or not to intervene. Should we pick up and move species to help them remain in the right climate? Should we bring especially climate-sensitive species into captivity to create insurance populations -- captive refugia -- against extinction? Could some ecosystems only survive in manmade climate-controlled facilities, with hopes that one day the world could be rewilded?

At the same time, Laurance said, conservationists can't ignore other threats "such as poaching, illegal fires, and habitat fragmentation" that could wipe out species already struggling in a warming world.

In addition rapid research and response scientific teams may be needed to respond to climate change induced ecosystem emergencies already impacting endangered species and biodiversity hotspots.

Paris was a first step. But it was a late step -- the world has already warmed 0.9 degrees Celsius. Now countries must struggle to achieve individual carbon cut pledges that will add up to meet the overall goal. Then in 2020 -- or preferably before -- they will need to step up and redouble their efforts to meet new more stringent goals. This was always the plan, but it won't be easy.

However, coral reefs and cloud forests haven't the time to wait. And nature does not negotiate. Nor does the 2 degree Celsius goal set in Paris offer any real assurance to the survival of many tropical ecosystems and species.

"I remain optimistic that we can still limit warming," said Urban. "But even if we manage to meet [the Paris] targets, we still have the challenge of keeping natural and human systems intact for a long and protracted heat age as a result of centuries of emissions."

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We Can Have a Healthy Climate With Zero Warming in Our Lifetimes

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 21:00

A healthy climate is not always as it seems. Redkill Lodgepole Pine stand behind a field of Douglas' Sunflower at Steamboat Lake State Park, Colorado. Less than 0.7 degree Celsius of average warming across the globe was responsible for allowing the native mountain pine beetle to kill 20 percent of western US forests between the late 1990s and 2010. The attack continues today with the addition of spruce and fir beetles to the infestation. (Photo: Bruce Melton)

We can have a climate with zero warming. Some of the tools for getting us there, such as alternative energy, are widely known but they cannot reverse the trend in our lifetime. Atmospheric carbon renewal can, and we have the proven technologies to do it.

A healthy climate is not always as it seems. Redkill Lodgepole Pine stand behind a field of Douglas' Sunflower at Steamboat Lake State Park, Colorado. Less than 0.7 degree Celsius of average warming across the globe was responsible for allowing the native mountain pine beetle to kill 20 percent of western US forests between the late 1990s and 2010. The attack continues today with the addition of spruce and fir beetles to the infestation. (Photo: Bruce Melton)

We can have a healthy climate -- a climate with zero warming -- in our lifetimes. The message for the last 20 years has been that we have to reduce emissions drastically to prevent dangerous climate change of more than 2 degrees C (3.6 F). This strategy would have likely worked when it was first suggested, but we have delayed far too long since then. Now, even stringent emissions reductions allow our warming to at least double and likely triple before finally beginning to cool.

We must begin to reduce the load of already-emitted, long-lived carbon dioxide (CO2) climate pollution in the sky, regardless of costs. The good news is that, not only will costs be very similar to many things we do in our society today whose costs are taken for granted, but by disconnecting emissions reductions strategies from the removal of already-emitted climate pollution in our sky, we vastly simplify the myriad strategies that have been developed to avoid dangerous climate change.

Haven't We Begun to Deal With Climate Pollution?

The Clean Power Plan, implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in February 2016 seeks to limit emissions to Kyoto Protocol Era levels by 2030 -- 18 years later than Kyoto's 2012 target. Meanwhile, at the UN Paris Climate Conference in 2015, President Obama committed the US to an emissions reduction of 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. This is 30 years behind Kyoto Phase 2 goals of 80 percent emissions reductions by 2050.

Clearly, current rules and commitments are far behind those set 20 years ago. Moreover, since the beginning of the Kyoto Era, we have emitted almost as much climate pollution as we emitted in the previous 230 years. The Clean Power Plan has been stayed by an unprecedented Supreme Court decision pending a decision in the lower courts, but will likely be upheld.

Because of the great delay in action, current US emission reduction policy -- along with 80 percent commitments around the globe -- would allow the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere to rise to 440 ppm by 2050-60, and would allow the temperature to rise by anywhere from 1.6 to 2.7 degrees C, or double to triple our current warming. Under this best-case scenario of aggressive emissions reductions, global temperature still would not fall back to today's levels for 400 to 500 years and would not fall back to preindustrial "zero warming" for thousands of years.

Is 2 Degrees C Safe?

The demarcation of the "2 degrees C" threshold for dangerous climate change -- set in 1990 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- was an effort to put real numbers to the concept of "dangerous climate change." The IPCC's 166-page document is summarized by two sentences that spell out the risks of climate change with a certain warming:

Beyond 1.0 °C may elicit rapid, unpredictable, and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage....

An absolute temperature limit of 2.0°C can be viewed as an upper limit beyond which the risks of grave damage to ecosystems, and of non-linear responses, are expected to increase rapidly.

The wording of the two statements above sheds light on just how "safe" 2 degrees C actually is. In contrast to these statements from 26 years ago, current extreme events are happening with less than a degree of warming. Even the most aggressive emissions reduction strategies allow for warming that is over double what has already occurred. Plus, warming-caused feedbacks generally grow more profound with increased heat, meaning that impacts will increase faster and become more extreme relative to impacts happening already.

What Is the Safe Target?

The Paris climate talks last year -- the 21st meeting of the IPCC -- made the strong suggestion that we stop using 2 degrees C of warming as a description of a "safe threshold" to dangerous climate change; and it was agreed that efforts would be made to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C or less. But is this sufficient?

The IPCC has a long and significant history in the academic literature of badly underestimating the impacts of climate change. An excellent example is that as late as the 2007 IPCC report, Antarctica was not supposed to begin losing ice until after 2100. In the 2013 report, however, Antarctic ice loss is now approaching that of Greenland. Importantly, the first academic findings on Antarctic ice loss were published in 1994. The consensus process of the IPCC causes their statements to lag recently published science; in this case, by 20 years.

Meanwhile, in 2008, James Hansen, the former 32-year director of the US climate modeling agency at NASA, lowered his threshold for dangerous climate change to 300-350 ppm CO2, or about 0.5 to 1.0 degree C of warming. We are at 400 ppm today; preindustrial CO2 was 280 ppm.

The rapid increase in extreme weather events we have been experiencing could hardly be viewed as "safe." However, other dramatic impacts are quickly making themselves apparent. Reports of the initiation of the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) are becoming frequent. Megafires, according to an article in National Geographic, have grown to sizes that National Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell says would have been "unimaginable" two decades ago. NASA and Columbia University say heat extremes, such as the $12.7 billion Texas/Southern Plains drought in 2011, are made 10 to 100 times more likely with already experienced warming. This work also says that these extreme heat events, that once happened across 0.1 to 0.2 percent of the Northern Hemisphere, now happen across 10 percent of the Northern Hemisphere every year.

Prehistoric evidence of abrupt sea level rise when Earth was about as warm as it is today -- about 121,000 years ago -- shows that the collapse of the WAIS resulted in 6.5 to 10 feet of sea level rise in what could be as little as 10 to 24 years. After more than two decades of IPCC sea level rise estimates of about two feet in 100 years, modeling is finally beginning to approach prehistoric evidence. The challenge has been that the IPCC rely on modeling that they themselves admit is underestimated. The former modeling of only four inches from Antarctica by 2100 is now at three feet. It is important to understand that this new modeling work is in its infancy and like the IPCC, likely underestimates. The good news is that modeling has broken free of the previous constraints that so badly underestimated ice sheet collapse relative to actual prehistoric evidence.

With the latest ice sheet collapse warning in April 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is looking forward to upcoming publication of ongoing research from multiple sources. NOAA says that because the lag in time between academic research and inclusion of that research in the scientific consensus can be as much as "ten years," in the next few years we will see academic publication that shows 10 feet of sea level rise from Antarctica will happen in the next 50 years. This rate is far greater than the adaptability threshold of three feet per century.

With only two meters of total sea level rise (6.5 feet), 187 million people would be physically displaced. Work from the German National Science Academy says that flooding from only 1.2 meters (4 feet) of sea level rise would impact up to 310 million people and cause up to $210 trillion in damages by 2100.

The excessive heat and flooding extremes that we have already endured -- as well as the unimaginable impacts from the 10 feet of sea level rise that is set to occur -- have been caused by warming of 0.7 degrees C or less. That current policy and commitments allow additional warming that is more than double what we have already seen is ample evidence that current climate pollution strategy is far behind.

Zero Warming -- a Primer

This brings us back to that question: How do we move forward?

Some of the tools for getting us there are widely known: efficiency increases, alternative energy, agriculture improvements, reforestation, electric cars, smart grids, DC power transmission, showering with a friend. These are all important and critically so, because of the great risk of further increasing extremes. But these tools all allow warming of double to more than triple our current level before the temperature begins to very, very slowly cool. Emissions reductions help -- in that they reduce the amount of CO2 that we are releasing into the sky -- but even with aggressive emissions along the lines of the greatest reductions feasible, our climate continues to warm for at least 50 years. What is needed, if we are going to leave our children a healthy climate, are tools that can immediately begin to reduce the very long-lived CO2 that is already in our sky.

Fortunately, science has advanced a bit over the past 20 years. There is now a set of technologies out there that have been proven to do the job of atmospheric carbon removal. For $21 trillion (the cost of US health care from 2000 to 2009), we could create an infrastructure that would remove 50 ppm CO2 from our sky and make a huge dent in the atmospheric loading that is causing the warming. This cost is about $200 per ton of CO2. Newer technologies hold even more exciting prospects cost-wise. The best estimates for new technologies are at $20 per ton for capture and 20 percent more for disposal. The company, Global Thermostat, in Menlo Park, California, has a full-scale industrial pilot project that uses waste heat and is reportedly capturing CO2 at $10 per ton.

Some of the new technologies are even more compelling. One new line of research shows that CO2 captured directly from the sky can be used to create carbon nanofibers, a very advanced material that could be used to build almost anything from automobiles to homes. Production costs are similar to that of aluminum and the carbon fibers have a value 1,000 times that of aluminum. There is a fuel cell technology that can capture carbon dioxide from direct fossil fuel generation emissions that does not require additional energy and actually increases the generation capacity of the energy facility.

Then there are the solar radiation management technologies (SRM), such as injecting sulfates or tiny mirror-like particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight. There is some very important work ongoing in this field of geoengineering that could be revolutionary as well. But whereas the climate pollution removal techniques described above are relatively simple, the implications of SRM are no less significant than the greenhouse gas experiment we have been implementing for centuries. Take sulfate injection, for example. This technique is often suggested to have grave acid rain consequences but the amount of sulfates used is 100 times less than what is required to create significant acid rain. Maybe more importantly, once sulfate injection ceases, impacts to the atmosphere are completely gone after two years or less. The bottom line, however, is that atmospheric geoengineering is little studied and fraught with challenges, and far more work needs to be done before implementation is seriously considered.

The Next Steps to a Healthy Climate

We need to give ourselves permission to go beyond emissions reductions alone and seek a healthy zero-warming climate. A group of dedicated academics and climate science outreach specialists are doing just that. The Healthy Climate Project is the first to approach the issue of a zero-warming healthy climate.

What we can do as individuals is vitally important because policy grows from public will. Discuss healthy climate goals with your peers. Mainstream the concept. We need to fund development and increased research for even more compelling technologies than already exist, build a safety monitoring organization (like the Food and Drug Administration, but for carbon removal), and scale up these technologies.

The Healthy Climate Project is the first of its kind. Its "Declaration" asks President Obama to authorize research to complete the industrialization of new atmospheric CO2 removal and storage technology and commit to a healthy climate for America.

We have the tools. Now we need to allow ourselves to go beyond emissions reductions alone, in order to leave our children a planet free from dangerous climate change.

Note: Detailed references for the claims in this article can be found here.

Categories: Latest News

Socializing the Corrupt: Cheating, Education and Law Enforcement in Pennsylvania

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 21:00

Collaborations between higher education institutions and law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania have multiplied in the past two decades. Although they purportedly aim to improve law enforcement by educating current and future law enforcers, they have effectively lowered academic integrity standards and encouraged systemic cheating.

(Photo: ini budi setiawan / Flickr)

Collaborations between higher education institutions and law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania have multiplied in the past two decades. Although many of these collaborations purportedly aim to improve law enforcement by educating current and future generations of police officers, they have unfortunately produced ethically questionable and socially deleterious consequences, such as lowering academic integrity standards, encouraging systemic cheating and artificially inflating graduation rates. As a result, higher education institution executives and law enforcement leaders in Pennsylvania have managed to create an educational system for socializing successive generations of corrupt police.

The expression socialization of the corrupt is Charles Bahn's. In the 1975 article "The Psychology of Police Corruption," he compares police corruption to academic cheating. In a study of students' attitudes towards cheating and their actual cheating behavior, there was no correlation. Students who disapproved of cheating still cheated; others who approved of cheating chose to abstain. Bahn concludes that, "while verbal morality is learned, it is not necessarily true that the related behaviors are also learned." The implication of this study for police training is that being taught the importance of an institution's core values (e.g., honesty, integrity, fidelity) and expressing one's commitment to these values do not curtail unethical behavior. Socializing the corrupt means filling students' heads with empty slogans and moral platitudes, hoping that they will do what is right in any particular situation.

In their own lapses of moral judgment and unethical behavior, higher education and law enforcement leaders effectively socialize students to behave similarly. For this reason, we should be particularly alert to partnerships between higher education institutions and law enforcement agencies that lower standards for ethical conduct, fail to enforce academic integrity policies or tolerate and/or encourage systemic cheating. When cheating is systemic, the problem cannot be reduced to the actions of a few bad actors or wayward students. Instead, it must be appreciated in terms of the relations and processes of the whole system. Executive leadership, administration and/or faculty explicitly or implicitly accept and endorse certain features of the entire learning process (e.g., lack of exam proctors, students' advance access to exam questions, widespread use of cheat sheets), the acceptance and endorsement of which gives an imprimatur to students' cheating behavior. Although most (though not all) of these features violate college and university policies, they are tolerated -- and in some cases encouraged -- by instructors, administrators and executive leaders who prioritize the achievement of productivity goals (e.g., retention and graduation rates) over academic integrity. In Pennsylvania, collaborations between law enforcement and academic institutions that enable systemic cheating and socialize the corrupt are becoming increasingly widespread.

Penn State World Campus

As a higher education institution, Penn State has suffered its fair share of controversy over the past decade. The Sandusky scandal, Joe Paterno's unpopular banishment (as well as his subsequent death) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association sanctions have scarred the institution's reputation, though perhaps not permanently. The Paterno family and the successor to Penn State's president Graham Spanier have sought to recover the good name of the former football coach and Penn State. I have worked as a philosophy faculty member at Penn State's Hazleton campus for the past seven years.

When former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky raped boys from his charity, The Second Mile, Penn State administrators covered up the crimes in order to protect the institution's reputation. However, the victims came forward; Sandusky was convicted on 52 counts of child molestation, and Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier and other university officials who failed to report the abuse were ousted. Not surprisingly, Penn State's student enrollment declined sharply soon after the Sandusky scandal became news. Enrollment numbers, especially at the satellite campuses, are still far below what they were prior to the scandal. The only division of Penn State with growing enrollment is World Campus, Penn State's online division.

In 2006, I was recruited to teach courses for World Campus. One of World Campus's academic integrity policies, intended to prevent systemic student cheating, was that the final exams for all its courses had to be proctored in person by someone approved by the administration. Otherwise, administrators and instructors feared that students would pay someone more knowledgeable than them to take their exams in their place. This unethical form of student cheating, called "ghosting," is specifically prohibited in the boilerplate academic integrity policy that is included in almost every Penn State course syllabus. For many students, finding a proctor and having the proctor approved by a World Campus administrator was an inconvenience. A year later, the policy had been largely scrapped in favor of the honor system for most courses in Penn State World Campus's course catalog (only a few online courses in math, sciences and sociology still require proctors).

When I complained in 2009 about the disappearance of proctors, I soon found myself without courses to teach the following term. In 2015, when I was invited back to World Campus and taught one course, I complained about poor course design and my suspicion that many students were cheating. One of the most engaged and industrious students in the course, Matthew Gagala, also complained to the philosophy department chair and academic division dean that the course was poorly designed. I was promptly told that I would never teach another philosophy course for World Campus again.

The removal of the proctoring safeguard is obviously a sore issue for faculty, since we are duty-bond to uphold academic integrity standards. For executive leaders and administrators, though, dispensing with the proctoring requirement meant one less barrier to increasing enrollments and generating tuition dollars from Penn State's only growing division.

Penn State World Campus serves an emerging and largely untapped student population from the corporate and military sectors. These students have limited time. For most, their employers are willing to pay the entire tuition bill or a substantial portion of it. Retaining and graduating these tuition-paying students is a major objective of Penn State. Many who earn their Penn State degrees through World Campus, particularly those serving in the military, eventually pursue careers in law enforcement. The removal of the exam-proctoring safeguard signaled to students that cheating in online courses was not only tolerated, but to some extent, also encouraged by Penn State. Academic integrity was nothing more than an empty slogan that took up space in the cluttered policies section of a course syllabus.

The decision to scrap the proctor requirement in most of the World Campus courses is not on par with the Sandusky scandal cover-up. Nonetheless, the lesson Sandusky teaches us is that we should voice our outrage when Penn State's leaders try to hide the truth. Former Penn State student and instructor Kristin Rawls hopes others will see the Sandusky scandal as a call for social action and public accountability. "Ultimately, I hope that the Sandusky case will have an important public impact, empowering others like me to speak out and motivating the public to demand answers about just what goes on in State College -- even beyond the football stadium," she writes.

Likewise, we should ask why World Campus decided to lower its academic integrity standards and demand accountability, including an explanation of what alternative to in-person proctoring prevents ghosting in Penn State's online courses.

In their own examination of the fallout from Penn State's Sandusky scandal, Henry and Susan Giroux noted, "The corporate university is descending more and more into what has been called 'an output fundamentalism,' prioritizing market mechanisms that emphasize productivity and performance measures that make a mockery of quality scholarship and diminish effective teaching -- scholarly commitments are increasingly subordinated to bringing in bigger grants to supplement operational budgets negatively impacted by the withdrawal of governmental funding."

Penn State's key productivity measures include enrollment, retention and graduation rates, which help in the recruitment of new cohorts of students who apply, accept and enroll at Penn State every year. Lowering academic integrity standards and encouraging systemic cheating in online courses has artificially inflated the figures for these output measures, including (but not exclusively for) military students, many of whom go on to pursue careers in law enforcement. In this way, Penn State has contributed to socializing new generations of corrupt police in Pennsylvania.

Harrisburg Area Community College

Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) has become embroiled in its own share of controversy over the past two decades, including employee theft of a quarter-of-a-million dollars by an executive vice president and warnings from their accreditor for lack of student learning and curriculum assessment. The same accreditor, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, had also warned Penn State over its mishandling of the Sandusky scandal.

In 2004, a cheating scandal erupted at HACC's municipal police academy. Cadets in the present and past classes reported that copying exams and employing them as cheat sheets was tolerated and even encouraged by instructors who announced in class that test questions and entire exams were reused from term to term. The release of the copied exams to the media led to an administrative crackdown and enforcement of HACC's long-neglected academic integrity policy. 

In its press release, HACC's leadership team offered its own account, clearly aimed at softening perceptions that the cheating was systemic:

The cadets involved had received copies of questions gleaned from earlier tests. Many of those questions are used from year to year and they are supposed to remain confidential even after the cadet leaves the academy. The earlier tests appear to have been recreated from memory after leaving the exams. There is no indication that physical copies of the exams ever left the testing room.

After three parallel investigations, no instructors or administrators at HACC's municipal police academy were punished for reusing test questions or entire exams. While a majority of the cadet class had been involved in the cheating, only two would be dismissed from the academy. HACC's leadership merely assured the public that it was "working with the Municipal Police Officers Training Commission to enhance the security of the entire testing procedure."

Similar to Penn State, HACC does not require proctors for online exams. A relative of mine in one of HACC's Associates programs once confessed to me that she had cajoled boyfriends and family members for years to complete her online coursework for her, including writing her papers and taking her online exams. As an educator, I felt I had an ethical duty to report her plagiarism and ghosting to HACC. Without inspecting all of the available evidence, HACC reported that it had completed an investigation and found no reasons for disciplining the student. I then filed a FOIA request to find out why HACC would so easily dismiss these flagrant academic integrity violations, but HACC denied my request on the grounds that disclosing the investigation records would violate the student's privacy, as protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). I believe that the FERPA exemption claim was only a pretext to hide the mechanisms by which HACC tolerates and encourages systematic student cheating for the sake of bolstering its retention and graduation rates.

Pennsylvania State Police Academy at Hershey

In February 2016, another cheating scandal came to light, this one at the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Academy in Hershey. The similarities between it and the HACC municipal police academy scandal would shock, except for the long history of police training collaborations between PSP and HACC. (For instance, PSP and HACC jointly manage a Polygraph Institute at the Northeast Counterdrug Training Center.)

The official story of how the cheating scandal was exposed is that an instructor found a cadet's cheat sheet and contacted the media to report the wrongdoing. However, this account overlooks the curious fact that the cheating was made possible by the PSP instructor (and others like him at the Academy), who recycled test questions and entire tests from term to term. An alternative story offered by dismissed cadets is that one cadet had a crisis of conscience, alerted the media and administrators at the Academy, only to become a casualty of the affair, one of the 29 cadets who either quit or were forced to leave the Academy.

Many of the incoming cadets have little or no college education. Their anxiety about memorizing the procedures, laws and codes in the 1,900-page Criminal Justice Handbook likely influenced their decision to cheat. Almost identical to the HACC cheating scandal, prior cohorts of cadets had prepared the cheat sheets and handed them to successive incoming classes. Some instructors looked the other way, while others openly supported reliance on these inherited shortcuts. According to a report from Wallace McKelvey on, four cadets who either gave up or were told to leave anonymously described the cheating scheme as instructor-approved.

McKelvey writes: "Instructors routinely told the cadets, 'the next class should have it easier than you did.' That meant that members of the 143rd class provided study materials to the 144th class that they had been given by the members of the 142nd class." After a cadet confessed, he learned the truism that a good deed never goes unpunished. "Telling the truth did nothing for me," he said.

Meanwhile, in an earlier report on, McKelvey also reported that an anonymous source within the PSP Academy expressed disappointment that the platitudes about honesty and integrity that instructors teach cadets never influenced their behavior:

One thing I preach to young troopers is don't lie, period. Police officers don't get rich from this job. The one thing you bring to this profession, and should leave with, is your integrity.

Another lamented, "You're not supposed to lie, cheat, or steal." Nevertheless, Bahn's conclusion rings true in the wake of the PSP Academy cheating scandal: verbal morality and actual moral behavior, never the twain shall meet.

An Unfortunate Way Forward

Besides the collaborations between HACC and the PSP, Penn State has also offered to become a partner with the PSP in its struggle to overcome this public relations nightmare and recruit a larger and more diverse police force. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf described the challenge the state of Pennsylvania and the PSP face: "We're trying to address the issue of replenishing the state police force with more cadet classes. Obviously, if there indeed is a cheating scandal and people disqualify themselves because they aren't living up to the high standards of the state police in terms of integrity, that will create a problem, but I'm doing what I can." Penn State researchers will survey cadets and determine ways to boost recruitment, retention and graduation rates, similar to how Penn State overcame the Sandusky scandal by tapping a new population of students through its online division, World Campus. Unfortunately, this way forward may mean that the PSP Academy emulates HACC and Penn State, continually lowering academic integrity standards and encouraging systemic cheating, while maintaining secrecy and silencing dissent for the sake of artificially inflating productivity figures. In short, Pennsylvania is now poised to socialize whole new generations of corrupt state troopers.

Categories: Latest News

Economic Update: Capitalism's Lack of Sense

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 06:56

This episode of Professor Wolff's radio show discusses universities, politicians, graduate students unionizing, Bill Gates' obscene wealth and Harley-Davidson's illegal pollution. The show also examines capitalism's insufficient demand, unemployment's wastes and state subsidies for all systems.

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Categories: Latest News