After human resources was informed in 2014 that Emily Nestor, former front desk assistant for the Weinstein Company, was allegedly sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein, company officials reportedly informed Nestor that any complaints would be directly reported to Weinstein himself.
And when Helen Donahue, a former Vice employee, complained to human resources in 2015 that Jason Mojica, the head of Vice News at the time, had non-consensually groped her, she says she was told by then-human resources director Nancy Ashbrooke to "forget about it and laugh it off."
Engineer Susan Fowler says that when she complained to Uber's human resources department that a manager had propositioned her for sex, she was instructed to either move to a different job at Uber or continue working for her alleged harasser. A manager later threatened to fire Fowler for registering the complaint with human resources, she claims.
As #MeToo testimony shines new light on these industries' cultures of rampant sexual violence, the complicity of human resources is a thread running throughout several stories of predation and retaliation. While some have presented HR departments as a solution, the above experiences make clear that HR is at best a distraction from the real solution to workplace abuse: collective organizing led by, and accountable to, workers themselves. As unions and worker organizations have long recognized, workplace abuse will not be corrected by benevolent management -- it must be defeated by worker power.
Presented as neutral arbiters, human resources departments in fact report to management and function to shield bosses from repercussions. They emerged from early anti-union efforts and social-control initiatives implemented by notorious industry titans like the Ford Motor Company -- and today often house top-down efforts to undermine worker solidarity and protect companies from lawsuits. Some labor historians and organizers tell In These Times that the present climate offers an opportunity to dispense of the falsehood that human resources departments exist to protect workers.
"Human resources departments exist primarily to keep the employer from being sued," author and longtime labor organizer Jane McAlevey tells In These Times. "While they may play functional bureaucratic roles, the chief purpose of HR departments in my experience -- after a lifetime in the labor movement -- is to protect the company, not workers. Obviously they will be totally ineffective to address the sexual harassment crisis in this country."
As Weinstein and others of his ilk now fall from grace, any effective postmortem must examine human resources among the structural foundations that uphold powerful men as they perpetrate large-scale harm."Treating Labor as a Commodity"
According to the anti-harassment policy of the Society for Human Resource Management, human resources departments are in place to help employers "prevent, correct and discipline behavior" that qualifies as "unlawful discrimination or harassment of any kind."
Yet, the history of human resources departments tells a different story.
Elizabeth Anderson is a professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan and author of Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don't Talk About It). She tells In These Times that the roots of modern-day human resources can be traced to initiatives like the Ford Motor Company's "Sociological Department," established in 1914. With its introduction of a $5-per-day pay rate, deemed a boost at the time, the company established codes of conduct to ensure that workers were sufficiently orderly and worthy of this sum. The Henry Ford, an organization that oversees a museum in Dearborn, Mich., describes this program:
The Sociological Department monitored employees at home, as well as on the job. Investigators made unannounced visits to employees' homes and evaluated the cleanliness of the home, noted if the family had renters, checked with school attendance offices to determine if children were attending school and monitored bank records to verify that employees made regular deposits. Sociological Department investigators also assisted workers' families by teaching wives about home care, cooking and hygiene.
"They really said they were going to govern workers' lives," says Anderson, explaining that such efforts were often aimed at "Americanizing European immigrants."
In the 1920s and 1930s, the Australian sociologist Elton Mayo oversaw a series of experiments at Hawthorne Works, a Western Electric factory in Cicero, Ill. Researchers examined the impact that changes in conditions -- for example, brightening and dimming lights -- had on workers' productivity. He concluded that workers perform better when researchers show interest in them -- that the perception of attention and interest can itself boost output. The principle that attention is a key workplace motivator became the bedrock of the field of "human relations." This field influenced companies to create human resources departments to give the appearance that workers are cared for and tended to.
But Peter Rachleff, a labor historian and executive director of the East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul, Minn., tells In These Times that there is a significant gap between appearance and reality. "How can you get more of this commodity for less? How can you get more labor produced by that commodity? That's the grounding of human resources," he says."Where Union Busters Set Up Camp"
Early human resources departments also had other aims. Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, tells In These Times that human resources departments emerged as "a more serious development with the rise of unions. Companies started to see them as a way of keeping unions out. They put in place practices that would buy out discontent."
"These departments are not set up by the government, and their job is not to protect employees," emphasizes Cappelli. "These are private organizations."
With a spate of anti-workplace-discrimination laws and orders passed in the 1960s, including the Civil Rights Act, the focus of human resources shifted to protecting companies from lawsuits. "The idea was [companies] could shield themselves, and workers could be obliged to report their complaints to the internal process," explains Anderson. "You get a huge incentive for larger corporations to set up human resources departments to shield themselves from liability."
Today, human resources departments often operate in concert with efforts to undermine unions and other forms of worker organizing. In just one example, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Tesla in August 2017 charging that the company's security guards and human resources personnel directly intimidated workers at a Fremont, Calif., factory for distributing pro-union materials -- and ultimately forced them to leave the premises. The complaint states that a human-resources official "interrogated" an employee about "the employee's Union and/or protected, concerted activities and/or the Union and/or protected, concerted activities of other employees."
As McAlevey puts it, "The human resources department is the traditional place where union busters set up camp -- the office out of which union-busting firms will run union-busting campaigns."
Of course, the absence of a human resources department is not a good in itself, and abolishing HR wouldn't fix the problem. As Aída Chávez reported January 5 for The Intercept, The New Republic, AlterNet and The Nation Institute "had no real HR when abuses occurred" (Full disclosure: This author is a prior employee of AlterNet and formerly received reporting funding from The Nation Institute's Investigative Fund.)
While noting that "such departments are no panacea," Chávez argues that "the absence of any HR department at many small news outlets creates a unique vulnerability for employees, whose fates may rest entirely in the hands of their often charismatic leaders or founders."
And indeed, the problem of retaliation and intimidation encompasses the vast majority of industries, with or without HR. A 2003 study referenced by the federal US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission "found that 75 percent of US workers who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation."
Organizers have long argued that the solution to workplace harassment lies in building collective solidarity among workers -- and tilting the balance of power away from institutions that are under the control of management, including but not limited to human resources.
There is no shortage of organizing efforts lighting the way. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) highlights its worker-led Fair Food Program as a bottom-up strategy to protect some of the most vulnerable workers in the United States from a plethora of workplace atrocities, including sexual violence and slavery. The program includes a 24-hour, independent worker-complaint hotline, and worker-led political education and organizing programs. Through broad-based campaigning, CIW has forced 14 food industry giants to join their labor agreement.
From the fields to the factories, union and worker center members engage in day-to-day efforts to protect each other, by staging direct actions, organizing and enforcing contracts, and extending support and solidarity, in the many forms that takes. As McAlevey puts it, "What changes is if you have a union."
This past year in Louisiana's St. John the Baptist Parish, a small group of residents began organizing their community to compel the state to protect them against an invisible menace: the air they breathe. In 2018, the burgeoning group plans to get political and broaden its reach by banding together with similar groups in the region.
Robert Taylor next to one of the EPA air monitoring sites in LaPlace, Louisiana. (All Photos: Julie Dermansky)Support from readers keeps Truthout 100 percent independent. If you like what you're reading, make a donation!
This past year in Louisiana's St. John the Baptist Parish, a small group of residents began organizing their community to compel the state to protect them against an invisible menace: the air they breathe. Their parish, the Louisiana equivalent of a county, is situated in what's known as Cancer Alley, an industrial corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that hosts more than 100 petrochemical factories.
At the helm of the battle is the Concerned Citizens of St. John, a diverse group of parish residents pushing back against the area's historically bad -- and worsening -- industrial pollution. "One thing we all have in common is a desire for clean air," the group's founder, Robert Taylor, told me. Over the next year, the burgeoning group plans to get political and broaden its reach by banding together with similar groups in the region.
Taylor, a 76-year-old retired general contractor, recently spoke to me about the group from California, where he spent Christmas with his wife, who is recuperating from a stroke. Their extended family insisted Taylor keep his wife away from the Louisiana parish's polluted air.
Robert Taylor at a Concerned Citizens of St. John meeting at the Tchoupitoulas Chapel in Reserve, Louisiana, on June 27.
Lydia Gerard, a member of the Concerned Citizens of St. John, holding up a new sign at their public meeting on August 15.Coming Together for Cleaner Air
Taylor formed the Concerned Citizens of St. John after he and others learned that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined residents in their area were at higher risk of cancer than anywhere else in the country. The EPA's latest National Air Toxics Assessment, which evaluates air contaminants and estimates health risks, revealed that residents in six parish census tracts closest to the Denka Performance Elastomer factory in LaPlace have a lifetime risk of cancer from air pollution 800 times higher than the national average.
Denka Performance Elastomer factory in LaPlace, Louisiana.
Denka's LaPlace factory, formerly owned by DuPont, emits chloroprene and 28 other chemicals used to make the synthetic rubber commonly known as Neoprene. In 2010 the EPA reclassified chloroprene as a likely human carcinogen, but this fact only came to the community's attention at the end of 2016.
The Concerned Citizens of St. John group holds bi-weekly public meetings at the Tchoupitoulas Chapel in the town of Reserve. At meetings throughout 2017, Wilma Subra, a technical advisor to the environmental advocacy group Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), reviewed the results of EPA air monitoring from six sites in the parish, which she will continue this year.
Wilma Subra, LEAN’s technical advisor, at a meeting of the Concerned Citizens of St. John the Baptist Parish in Reserve, Louisiana, on June 27, 2017.
After the EPA's concerns became public, Denka agreed to cut harmful emissions by up to 85 percent. Yet a year after air monitoring began, pollution levels were actually worse at five of the six sites. And that was despite the plant making costly improvements due to an agreement with regulators, according to CNN. On December 19, at the group's last meeting of 2017, Subra went over the latest EPA data: Chloroprene emissions are, at times, still well above EPA-recommended standards.
As I documented Concerned Citizens throughout 2017 for DeSmog, I watched it grow into an advocacy force to be reckoned with -- a unity and power they acknowledged at a Christmas celebration following their last meeting.
"The group had some growing pains over the course of the year, but we are now stronger than ever," Taylor told me. "Our group can't be influenced by anyone, which makes us dangerous."
Pastor Lionel Murphy Jr. at the Tchoupitoulas Chapel in Reserve. Pastor Murphy made the church available as a meeting place for the Concerned Citizens of St. John. The church has been broken in to three times since the meetings began.
Robert Taylor, playing organ at a service held at the Tchoupitoulas Chapel in Reserve, where the Concerned Citizens of St. John holds most of its meetings.
Shondrell Perrilloux holding a sign up as she takes the podium at a parish council meeting.All Politics Is Local
In 2018 Concerned Citizens plans to find and back candidates to run for local offices in order to replace the politicians who brushed off their concerns in 2017. "Block by block, precinct by precinct, we are planning to choose candidates who will represent our interests over the industry's," Taylor said.
Geraldine Watkins (center), shown here at the November 29, 2017 parish council meeting, lives in LaPlace, less than a half mile from Denka's plant.
Denka Performance Elastomer factory in LaPlace is close to the 5th Ward Elementary School and residents' homes in Reserve and LaPlace, Louisiana. Flight made possible by SouthWings.
Geraldine Watkins, a 76-year-old great grandmother and member of Concerned Citizens, is considering running for office herself. Protecting the children who are forced to breathe the parish's toxic air has become her life's mission.
She has no intention of giving up the fight for clean air until Denka adheres to the EPA's recommended emission standard of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter, a figure printed on the red t-shirts the group wears.
Members of Concerned Citizens of St. John at a parish council meeting in LaPlace, Louisiana, on March 28 wearing red t-shirts printed with "Only 0.2 will do," emphasizing their point that chloroprene emissions should not exceed the EPA's recommendation.
The EPA emissions limits are determined with the goal of keeping the cancer risk from air pollution to less than one in every million people. When that goal is not achievable, the agency sets standards based on the "upper limit of acceptability," which is a risk of 100 in a million people. That figure is the basis for the EPA's 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter standard in St. John the Baptist Parish.
Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) Secretary Dr. Chuck Brown before addressing the parish council on November 14.
Members of the Concerned Citizens of St. John pack the November 14 parish council meeting the night LDEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Brown updated the council, but the group members were not given a chance to ask him questions.
Louisiana's state health officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry at the November 14, 2017 parish council meeting, saying there is no health emergency in the parish. At a December 2016 council meeting, however, he acknowledged that "no one should have to breathe chloroprene."
Denka and Dr. Chuck Brown, the state's top environmental regulator, have challenged the EPA's findings. Watkins and the other members of Concerned Citizens say they have no reason to believe the EPA got it wrong.
Though the EPA declined to comment when I asked if there were any problems with its findings on chloroprene, citing it as an open case, CNN reported that an EPA spokesperson said the science behind the agency's findings was solid.
"We appreciate that the EPA warned us about the chloroprene," Watkins told me, but it is clear to her that she and other parish residents "are mere guinea pigs in the scheme of things. The lack of action by the government since the EPA's findings were released makes it complicit in allowing Denka and DuPont to poison us."
In the new year, in addition to entering local politics, the Concerned Citizens of St. John also plan to form an alliance with other citizens groups in Cancer Alley which are also standing up to pollution.
"I'm not just fighting for myself. I'm fighting for everyone in the parish, especially the children," Watkins said.
The Handys, residents of LaPlace who live across from Denka's plant. George Handy, a member of the Concerned Citizens of St. John, purchased the house before learning about the local chloroprene emissions.
Councilmember Larry Sorapuru, the only councilmember in St. John the Baptist Parish who the concerned citizen group feels is standing up for them, speaking at a town hall meeting on pollution in LaPlace on November 26.
Mary Hampton, a member of the Concerned Citizens of St. John, listening to the results of the latest air monitoring test at a group meeting on December 18.
(Photo: Baona / Getty Images)
By all counts, 2017 was a bleak year, but a New Year's Eve twitter campaign started by prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba has given new impetus to efforts to end money bond within the US criminal legal system. #FreeThePeople Day raised $234,000 for 14 community bail funds to help the nearly half a million people being held in jail solely for lacking bail money.
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We squared off with authoritarianism, and we exhausted ourselves. That was the story of 2017. We fought, but things got dark, and we got tired. Then, in December, Republicans in Congress united around an idea that we lacked the power to stop -- the Republican tax scam. It was an ugly way to round out a year of struggle and loss, but it's worth noting that on the last day of 2017, something amazing happened.
At the year's end, organizer and prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba was as tired as anyone. But she had an idea. "I fired off a tweet suggesting that I was renaming New Year's Eve, #FreeThePeople Day and half-jokingly said that everyone should donate the cost of one drink to a community bail fund," she told me.
Bail funds are mostly grassroots projects that post bail for prisoners who are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford to post bail for themselves. Once the defendant's case is adjudicated, the bail (minus any court fees) is generally returned to the revolving fund so that it can be used to post bond for other prisoners.
Approximately 11 million people cycle through US jails each year. At any given time, almost 450,000 people are being held pretrial in local jails, and most of those are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford to post bond. Those who are held on money bond in pretrial incarceration have not been found guilty of a crime, and in fact have been cleared for release: If they had money, they could go home. They are, in effect, in jail for being poor.
When Kaba suggested the idea of #FreeThePeople Day, a few of her Twitter followers responded enthusiastically, so she set about creating a blog post listing some of the bail funds and efforts that she was aware of, and invited others to join the fundraiser on Twitter on New Year's Eve.
Kaba's whimsical idea created an opportunity to rally some assistance for the grassroots organizations doing bail work. "Quite honestly, I had no idea whether anyone would participate," says Kaba, "but I committed to spending the next day fundraising for the community bail funds."
In love with the idea, I made the same commitment, and by morning, we had a stash of information and resources for people to share.
"With some help from friends," Kaba says, "I spent New Year's Eve sharing facts and other information about the unfairness of pretrial detention and bail, asking people to share their favorite freedom songs, and uplifting donation tweets."
Hundreds of people joined the effort, and tweets using the hashtag #FreeThePeople reached over 2 million users. Out of the fourteen bail funds on the list, three of them -- Massachusetts Bail Fund, National Bail Out and Brooklyn Community Bail Fund -- had matching grants in effect.
"By the end of New Year's Eve, we had raised $234,000 (excluding matching funds) for at least 14 community bail funds and efforts," says Kaba. "It was astounding and also inspiring."
Almost a quarter of a million dollars were raised for bail funds in just one day. How did this happen? To answer that, we have to look at the momentum of the movement to end money bond and pretrial incarceration.A Growing Movement
"The enormous success of #FreeThePeople is a reflection of a growing awareness of the injustice of money bail and pretrial incarceration," says Sharlyn Grace, an attorney and co-founder of the Chicago Community Bond Fund, which raised $35,000 during the #FreeThePeople campaign on New Year's Eve. "Revolving bail funds around the country have also shown over and over again that money bail doesn't work, but that supporting our neighbors to get free does."
In Chicago, where Grace works and organizes, the fight against money bail has seen some major victories. In July 2017, in response to a lawsuit, a judge issued a new local rule requiring that all money bails in Cook County be affordable. According to Grace, "The rule states that it is 'intended to ensure no defendant is held in custody prior to trial solely because the defendant cannot afford to post bail,' and there are 1,500 fewer people in Cook County Jail now than when the order went into effect in September!"
Not all judges have complied with the Chicago rule, and thousands of pretrial prisoners remain in Cook County Jail whose bails were set prior to the July ruling. But Grace says that she and her co-organizers will continue following up to track compliance and support as many people as possible.
Since May, the National Bail Out collective has posted bond for over 200 people, providing some with short-term housing, healthcare, transportation, drug treatment and mental health services. "In the tradition of our enslaved Black ancestors, who used their collective resources to purchase each other's freedom before slavery was abolished, until we abolish bail and mass incarceration, we will free ourselves," the group pledges on its website.
Southerners on New Ground (SONG) bailed out over 60 Black mothers and caregivers across the South for Mother's Day.
Still, criminalization carries a heavy stigma, and the work has not come easy. The Massachusetts Bail Fund almost shut down in August, due to a lack of funds. But the movement rallied on social media, and donations rolled in. "A lot of nasty things are said on Twitter," says Atara Rich-Shea, the director of operations for the Massachusetts Bail Fund, "but in this instance, Twitter literally saved our bail fund. We raised $50,000 in a week through Twitter support."
Several months later, the Massachusetts Bail Fund also benefited from #FreeThePeople, bringing in $26,060 in donations from 208 people in one day. "It was overwhelming to check our Twitter mentions and our email and see the donations come in.... We are such a small bail fund -- all volunteers, and the bails we pay are relatively low; $500 or less plus a $40 fee for each bail," Rich-Shea explains. "$26,000 frees nearly 50 people."
Bail funds have played an important role in supporting people who've been criminalized for defending their own lives and bodies. The pretrial release of Naomi Freeman in Chicago was secured through a collaboration between the Chicago Community Bond Fund and other social justice groups in Chicago -- a process that ranged from grant-writing to direct action. Organizer Holly Krig, of Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration, believes that a commitment to post bond for abuse survivor Paris Knox helped expedite a plea deal that Knox was offered last week. "Paris will now be home in a matter of weeks, though she faced the possibility of 27 more years inside."
Krig notes that, like all defendants, survivors stand a better chance in court if they are released pretrial. "The longer the duration of pretrial incarceration," says Krig, "the greater the chances of a conviction with a longer sentence. We not only compound harm to survivors by incarcerating them, but the state further punishes survivors who've survived longer durations of that incarceration."
Krig, like Rich-Shea, Grace and Kaba, believes that the abolition of money bail, and ultimately, an end to pretrial incarceration, are the larger goals of the movement. With philanthropic billionaires having taken an interest in the idea of bond funds, there is a danger that people will begin to see bond funds as a matter of charity, rather than change. But groups like the Chicago Community Bond Fund have strived to set a different standard, taking on advocacy that tackles the root issue: the very existence of a system that cages people for being poor. And as Rich-Shea reminds us, "Posting bail, freeing the people, is essential work, not just because it's critical harm reduction, but because the lessons we learn, the coalitions we built, and the people who are free, all inform and support the work towards the larger goal of ending pretrial supervision once and for all."
Mariame Kaba also sees these efforts as part of an abolitionist movement praxis. "The funds that received these donations aren't bailing people out for charity, but because they are also working to end money bond altogether," Kaba says. "We engaged thousands of people through this effort: many donated but many more are now more educated about the unfairness of bail and pretrial detention."
Bails and circumstances vary from city to city, but with $234,000 spread across 14 bail funds, #FreeThePeople will be emptying a lot of cages in 2018.
Meiko Krishok, a young entrepreneur running a popular eatery in Detroit is navigating the challenges of doing business and serving healthy food in a city experiencing population decline, land misappropriation and infrastructure failure. Luckily, Krishok's business ethics and enduring patience offer a glimmer of hope to young, local up-and-comers. So does her food.Grassroots, not-for-profit news is rare -- and Truthout's very existence depends on donations from readers. Will you help us publish more stories like this one? Make a one-time or monthly donation by clicking here.
The specter of decades of population decline -- empty fields where neighborhoods used to thrive persist – is an internationally recognizable symbol of Detroit, Michigan. Emptiness also serves as a key talking point, central to positioning the city as a clean slate -- sheer potential for entrepreneurs and investors from elsewhere, available to any of the highest bidders. But empty fields are not always what they appear. In fact, in Detroit, they often come with a nearly impenetrable complex of restrictions, rules and regulations that result in committed, invested locals being unable to access land that entrepreneurs and investors seem to come by so easily.
"Digging In" is part of our investigative comics journalism series on barriers to water, housing and land access in southeastern Michigan and the first installment in our graphic miniseries on land. We talk to caterer Meiko Krishok, whose popular North Corktown eatery navigates a wide array of concerns facing many young entrepreneurs in this city, as well as the other cities across the nation experiencing population decline, land misappropriation and infrastructure failure. Luckily, Krishok's business ethics and enduring patience offer a glimmer of hope to young, local up-and-comers. So does her food. But while we can introduce you to Krishok and show you around on a warm summer day, one thing comics can't do is tell you how good the food is. For that, you'll have to come visit.
For an introduction to some of the issues facing growers in Detroit, the creators of this strip are grateful to the researcher Rachael Baker, whose work on urban agriculture and land access offered an excellent introduction to some of the concerns laid out in this strip.
- The Pink Flamingo menu is posted to its Facebook page. Accessed January 9, 2018: https://www.facebook.com/pinkflamingodetroit/
- Personal interview with Meiko Krishok, conducted on December 6, 2017.
- Loveland Technologies, http://makeloveland.com.
- "Testing Garden Soil," Keep Growing Detroit, April 19, 2017.
- "Digging Deep: Detroiters work to clean up city's toxic soil." Nina Ignaczak, Model D Media, December 12, 2016. Accessed January 9, 2018: http://www.modeldmedia.com/features/digging-deep-soil-121216.aspx
Net Neutrality Bill Gains Enough Support to Force Floor Vote, but 17 Senate Democrats Still Uncommitted
Demonstrators rally outside the Federal Communication Commission building to protest against the end of net neutrality rules, December 14, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Open internet defenders in the Senate reached an "important milestone" on Monday when Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) announced she will co-sponsor legislation that, if passed, would overturn FCC chair Ajit Pai's "corrupt and illegitimate" order to kill net neutrality.
McCaskill's support gives the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) the 30 votes necessary to force a vote on the Senate floor. The CRA gives Congress the power to pass a "resolution of disapproval" to nullify new regulations within a 60-day window.
Passage of a CRA would "repeal Pai's repeal," explains Dana Floberg of Free Press, which would leave the web "right back where [it] started -- with strong net neutrality rules."
McCaskill's announcement -- which was shortly followed by Sen. Cory Booker's (D-N.J.) own declaration of support for Markey's bill -- was applauded by internet freedom advocates, who concluded that every other lawmaker should get on board or face serious electoral consequences.
"Internet users are angry, educated, and organized. We refuse to back down. Net neutrality is too important to the future of our democracy," Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement on Monday. "Today's news shows that lawmakers from both parties cannot hide from their constituents on this issue. Every member of the US Senate will have to go on the record, during a tight election year, and either vote to save the Internet or rubber stamp its death warrant."
As Common Dreams reported last week, more than a dozen Democratic senators have thus far failed to go on the record.
With McCaskill and Booker co-sponsoring Markey's resolution, that leaves 17 Senate Democrats -- along with Angus King (I-Maine) -- who have yet to make a commitment to defend net neutrality (see list below).
In a statement following McCaskill's announcement, Matt Wood, policy director of the Free Press Action Fund, urged Senate holdouts to listen closely to the Americans who have "logged more than a million calls to Congress to reject FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's decision to kill net neutrality."
"Supporting net neutrality should be a no-brainer for members of Congress, whose constituents from across the political spectrum are united in their opposition to the Trump FCC's attack on the open internet," Wood added. "More and more lawmakers are recognizing this truth, helped along by the forceful outcry from the people they represent."
If every Democrat signs on, Markey's legislation will still need the support of two Republicans in the Senate and around 20 Republicans in the House to pass.
In addition to Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), what follows is an updated list of the Democratic senators who have yet to support Markey's bill:
Tom Carper (D-Del.)
Bob Casey (D-Pa.)
Chris Coons (D-Del.)
Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)
Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)
Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)
Doug Jones (D-Ala.)
Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)
Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)
Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)
Tina Smith (D-Minn.)
Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
Mark Warner (D-Va.)
A division of the World Health Organization declared CBD oil to be safe, with many potential benefits, and recommended that it should remain fully legal.
The recommendations came in a report from the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD), which advises the global body on how to handle various substances that could be addictive or otherwise harmful.
The authors were unambiguous about their assessment: "In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential."
The report also outlines numerous potential benefits of CBD, though the authors emphasized that more research is needed. The findings are an important sign of the shift in attitudes toward this beneficial extract, which thousands of people use regularly. It also places WHO policy at odds with that of the United States: last year, the Drug Enforcement Agency issued frightening statements insisting that CBD remains illegal.
CBD oil is a nutritional supplement made from agricultural hemp, a close relative of psychoactive cannabis, or marijuana, the substance that people consume to feel high. By contrast, while CBD causes few if any side effects, a growing body of evidence suggests it could help conditions ranging from depression to some forms of chronic pain. The hemp industry has promised to fight the DEA in court, if necessary, and so far individual consumers haven't faced legal trouble as a result of buying CBD-only products.
As we'll explain below, we believe the latest findings from the WHO could be an important part of changing how CBD is treated, worldwide.WHO: "CBD Is Not Associated Wwith Abuse" but Has Great Healing Potential
The ECDD's report was actually published in November, but received renewed attention from policy makers and in the media after the Dec. 13 publication of a set of the committee's recommendations for various narcotic substances. The committee raised a serious alarm about the risks posed by carfentanil, a dangerous synthetic opioid similar to the notorious fentanyl, but their response to CBD was sharply different.
While the ECDD wants to see the strictest possible controls put on carfentanil and other synthetic opioids, they argued that CBD should remain totally legal and recommended further investigation of its potential benefits.
"The ECDD therefore concluded that current information does not justify scheduling of cannabidiol and postponed a fuller review of cannabidiol preparations to May 2018, when the committee will undertake a comprehensive review of cannabis and cannabis related substances," the WHO reported.
The ECCD's report on CBD goes even further, both in suggesting that CBD is safe for human consumption and that CBD has many potential benefits that deserve deeper research.
"CBD is not associated with abuse potential," the authors wrote. They also reported that numerous studies have found that CBD is nontoxic with few side effects. Preliminary research, they noted, even suggests that CBD "has no effect on embryonic development."
Just as importantly, the report acknowledges the growing body of scientific evidence which suggests CBD has great healing potential. "The clinical use of CBD is most advanced in the treatment of epilepsy."
Many epilepsy sufferers, including children with forms of epilepsy that are difficult to treat through conventional means, have discovered that CBD can offer sometimes significant relief to their symptoms.
"There is also evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions," noted the ECCD. "However, this research is considerably less advanced than for treatment of epilepsy."
Additionally, the "diverse" range of conditions for which CBD has been considered by scientists as a possible treatment is "consistent with its neuroprotective, antiepileptic, hypoxia-ischemia [controlling the flow of oxygen], anxiolytic, antipsychotic, analgesic [pain relieving], anti-inflammatory, anti-asthmatic and anti-tumor properties."
The authors add that CBD might even help with tobacco and other forms of drug addiction. The report also includes a rather remarkable chart outlining all of CBD's potential benefits:Expert Committee on Drug Dependence Report on potential CBD benefits. WHO Report on CBD Can Lead the Way to Better Global Drug Policies
The ECCD's primary role is to advise the WHO and its member governments (including the US) about how to handle mind-altering substances. Based on their recommendations, drugs are "scheduled," or listed in the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, a 1961 international agreement that determines which drugs are illegal, and which are considered to have medical benefits despite their risks.
By recommending that CBD oil remain unscheduled, the ECCD sends a powerful message to the global community that CBD should be legal. While stopping short of openly recommending the use of CBD, the WHO also clearly expressed the need for more investigation into CBD and other similar "cannabinoid" substances.
It's not the only recent sign of thawing international attitudes toward CBD. As previously reported by Ministry of Hemp, the World Anti-Doping Agency, which sets global policy for substance use in sports, will allow athletes to use CBD starting in 2018.
Meanwhile, in the US, the debate rages on between hemp advocates who say CBD is both legal and beneficial and government officials who insist it is, and should remain, a "Schedule I" substance -- in other words, an illegal drug deemed to have no medical benefit whatsoever.
We believe there's every reason to hope that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence about the benefits of CBD, and the support of influential bodies like the WHO, will eventually force the United States to reevaluate its stance too. Thanks to the ECCD and so many passionate advocates for legalization, It's only a matter of time before CBD, and cannabis in all its forms, are fully embraced as a miraculous gift to humanity.Thanks to reader support, Truthout can deliver the news seven days a week, 365 days a year. Keep independent journalism going strong: Make a tax-deductible donation right now.
The Trump administration unveiled its draft five-year plan for offshore drilling last week to replace the Obama administration plan that went into effect last year. Trump is proposing to open to oil and gas development vast untouched areas of coastal waters including the Atlantic and the eastern Gulf of Mexico -- part of his administration's stated quest to make the US the world's "strongest energy superpower."
How vast is the area targeted for drilling? While the current federal offshore drilling program crafted by the Obama administration bars leasing to private drilling companies in 94 percent of the outer continental shelf, the Trump plan would open more than 90 percent of the OCS to potential future oil and gas development. It proposes 19 lease sales off Alaska, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, nine in the Atlantic (three each for the Mid- and South Atlantic, two for the North Atlantic, and one for the Straits of Florida), and seven in the Pacific.
Among the areas now being considered for drilling are the waters off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina -- even though governors of those states have expressed opposition amid widespread concern about the impacts in coastal communities.
As the Southern Environmental Law Center pointed out:
The Trump administration's proposal defies formal requests from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe that their states be omitted from the five-year plan. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam have also voiced opposition to seismic testing and offshore drilling.
The administration of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper submitted formal comments to federal regulators in July opposing offshore seismic testing for oil and gas reserves, the first step toward drilling. At that time Cooper also stated his opposition to offshore drilling, saying that it would pose unacceptable risks to the economy, environment, and coastal communities.
Then in August, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia wrote to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) asking that his state be excluded from the five-year drilling plan. And though he didn't submit formal comments, Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina announced his opposition last summer to both offshore seismic testing and drilling.
Cooper and McAuliffe are Democrats while McMaster is a pro-Trump Republican. Opposition to offshore drilling has been particularly strong in the Carolinas, where more than 50 coastal communities have passed resolutions opposing seismic testing and/or offshore drilling.Governors Ready for a Fight
Listening to governors when drawing up a five-year offshore drilling plan is not merely a matter of courtesy: Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, it's the law.
The section of the act laying out the principles that are supposed to guide the federal offshore drilling program says that granting of leases in the OCS shall be based on consideration of eight factors, including
laws, goals, and policies of affected States which have been specifically identified by the Governors of such States as relevant matters for the Secretary's consideration … .
The Obama administration's five-year plan for the 2017-2022 period initially proposed leases in the waters off Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, where the governors at the time specifically requested inclusion in the plan. But it excluded states like Florida where political leaders strongly oppose drilling. The Southeastern states were eventually dropped from the final plan after the public comment process revealed widespread opposition in the coastal communities that would be most directly affected.
However, the Trump administration -- which has received generous financial support from the fossil-fuel industry -- was eager to scrap the Obama plan for a more aggressive one.
Back in early April, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that President Trump would issue an executive order amending the plan by expanding offshore drilling to areas now off limits, including the Atlantic. Zinke made the announcement at a closed-door meeting of the National Ocean Industries Association, an influential lobbying group that represents the offshore drilling industry. Trump signed the order on April 28.
Then in July, the administration published a notice in the Federal Register seeking information from coastal and other stakeholders to develop a new five-year plan. That kicked off the process that led to last week's proposal. There will now be another multi-year comment process leading to a final plan. At the same time, the administration is seeking to roll back regulations adopted in the wake of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster off the Louisiana coast.
In unveiling the new proposal, Zinke acknowledged that some areas included at the outset might not in fact be suitable for oil and gas development. "Today's announcement lays out the options that are on the table and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period," he said. "Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks."
Since Zinke's announcement, a number of governors have said that they intend to fight to keep drilling rigs away from their coasts. For example, Gov. Cooper released a statement saying that his administration would "pursue every option to prevent oil drilling near North Carolina's beaches, coastal communities, and fishing waters."
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott (R) of Florida said he has asked to "immediately" meet with Zinke to discuss his concerns about the plan and what he called "the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration."
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)
Words that speak the truth begin to disappear under authoritarian regimes. We see this under President Trump, who has attacked the language of civic literacy by undermining science and reason in the press and subjecting society to a barrage of theatrical falsehoods rooted in empty consumerism, white supremacy and nationalism. Progressives must fight back with new language that defends critical thinking and the values of cooperation and democracy.
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)
What are the longer-term trends that gave rise to the presidency of Donald Trump? What will be the national and global impacts? And what do we need to do to resist? Henry A. Giroux tackles these questions in The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism. "This courageous and timely book is the first and best book on Trump's neo-fascism in the making," says Cornel West. To order your copy, click here and make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout now!
George Orwell warns us in his dystopian novel 1984 that authoritarianism begins with language. Words now operate as "Newspeak," in which language is twisted in order to deceive, seduce and undermine the ability of people to think critically and freely. As authoritarianism gains in strength, the formative cultures that give rise to dissent become more embattled along with the public spaces and institutions that make conscious critical thought possible.
Words that speak to the truth, reveal injustices and provide informed critical analysis begin to disappear, making it all the more difficult, if not dangerous, to hold dominant power accountable. Notions of virtue, honor, respect and compassion are policed, and those who advocate them are punished.
I think it is fair to argue that Orwell's nightmare vision of the future is no longer fiction. Under the regime of Donald Trump, the Ministry of Truth has become the Ministry of "Fake News," and the language of "Newspeak" has multiple platforms and has morphed into a giant disimagination machinery of propaganda, violence, bigotry, hatred and war.
With the advent of the Trump presidency, language is undergoing a shift in the United States: It now treats dissent, critical media and scientific evidence as a species of "fake news." The administration also views the critical media as the "enemy of the American people." In fact, Trump has repeated this view of the press so often that almost a third of Americans believe it and support government-imposed restrictions on the media, according to a Poynter survey. Language has become unmoored from critical reason, informed debate and the weight of scientific evidence, and is now being reconfigured within new relations of power tied to pageantry, political theater and a deep-seated anti-intellectualism, increasingly shaped by the widespread banality of celebrity culture, the celebration of ignorance over intelligence, a culture of rancid consumerism, and a corporate-controlled media that revels in commodification, spectacles of violence, the spirit of unchecked self-interest and a "survival of the fittest" ethos.
Under such circumstances, language has been emptied of substantive meaning and functions increasingly to lull large swaths of the American public into acquiescence, if not a willingness to accommodate and support a rancid "populism" and galloping authoritarianism. The language of civic literacy and democracy has given way to the language of saviors, decline, bigotry and hatred. One consequence is that matters of moral and political responsibility disappear, injustices proliferate and language functions as a tool of state repression. The Ministry of "Fake News" works incessantly to set limits on what is thinkable, claiming that reason, standards of evidence, consistency and logic no longer serve the truth, because the latter are crooked ideological devices used by enemies of the state. "Thought crimes" are now labeled as "fake news."
The notion of truth is viewed by this president as a corrupt tool used by the critical media to question his dismissal of legal checks on his power -- particularly his attacks on judges, courts, and any other governing institutions that will not promise him complete and unchecked loyalty. For Trump, intimidation takes the place of unquestioned loyalty when he does not get his way, revealing a view of the presidency that is more about winning than about governing. One consequence is myriad practices in which Trump gleefully humiliates and punishes his critics, willfully engages in shameful acts of self-promotion and unapologetically enriches his financial coffers.
David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to President Obama, is right in stating:
And while every president is irritated by the limitations of democracy on them, they all grudgingly accept it. [Trump] has not. He has waged a war on the institutions of democracy from the beginning, and I think in a very corrosive way.
New York Times writer Peter Baker adds to this charge by arguing that Trump -- buoyed by an infatuation with absolute power and an admiration for authoritarians -- uses language and the power of the presidency as a potent weapon in his attacks on the First Amendment, the courts and responsible governing. Trump's admiration for a number of dictators is well known. What is often underplayed is his inclination to mimic their language and polices. For instance, Trump's call for "law and order," his encouraging police officers to be more violent with "thugs," and his adoration of all things militaristic echoes the ideology and language of Philippine President and strongman Rodrigo Duterte, who has called for mass murder and boasted about "killing criminals with his own hand."Fascism starts with words. Trump's use of language and his manipulative use of the media as political theater echo earlier periods of propaganda, censorship and repression.
At the same time, it would be irresponsible to suggest that the current expression of authoritarianism in US politics began with Trump, or that the context for his rise to power represents a distinctive moment in American history. As Howard Zinn points out in A People's History of the United States, the US was born out of acts of genocide, nativism and the ongoing violence of white supremacy. Moreover, the US has a long history of demagogues, extending from Huey Long and Joe McCarthy to George Wallace and Newt Gingrich. Authoritarianism runs deep in American history, and Trump is simply the end point of these anti-democratic practices.
With the rise of casino capitalism, a "winner-take-all" ethos has made the United States a mean-spirited and iniquitous nation that has turned its back on the poor, underserved, and those considered racially and ethnically disposable. It is worth noting that in the last 40 years, we have witnessed an increasing dictatorship of finance capital and an increasing concentration of power and ownership regarding the rise and workings of the new media and mainstream cultural apparatuses. These powerful digital and traditional pedagogical apparatuses of the 21st century have turned people into consumers, and citizenship into a neoliberal obsession with self-interest and an empty notion of freedom. The ecosystem of visual and print representations has taken on an unprecedented influence, given the merging of power and culture as a dominant political and pedagogical force. This cultural apparatus has become so powerful, in fact, that it is difficult to dispute the central role it played in the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Analyzing the forces behind the election of Trump, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt provide a cogent commentary on the political and pedagogical power of an old and updated media landscape. They write:
Undoubtedly, Trump's celebrity status played a role. But equally important was the changed media landscape…. By one estimate, the Twitter accounts of MSNBC, CNN, CBS, and NBC -- four outlets that no one could accuse of pro-Trump leanings -- mentioned Trump twice as often as Hillary Clinton. According to another study, Trump enjoyed up to $2 billion in free media coverage during the primary season. Trump didn't need traditional Republican power brokers. The gatekeepers of the invisible primary weren't merely invisible; by 2016, they were gone entirely.
What is crucial to remember here, as Ruth Ben-Ghiat notes, is that fascism starts with words. Trump's use of language and his manipulative use of the media as political theater echo earlier periods of propaganda, censorship and repression. Commenting on the Trump administration's barring the Centers for Disease Control to use certain words, Ben-Ghiat writes:
The strongman knows that it starts with words.... That's why those who study authoritarian regimes or have had the misfortune to live under one may find something deeply familiar about the Trump administration's decision to bar officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from using certain words ("vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based" and "science-based"). The administration's refusal to give any rationale for the order, and the pressure it places on CDC employees, have a political meaning that transcends its specific content and context…. The decision as a whole links to a larger history of how language is used as a tool of state repression. Authoritarians have always used language policies to bring state power and their cults of personality to bear on everyday life. Such policies affect not merely what we can say and write at work and in public, but also [attempt] to change the way we think about ourselves and about others. The weaker our sentiments of solidarity and humanity become -- or the stronger our impulse to compromise them under pressure -- the easier it is for authoritarians to find partners to carry out their repressive policies.
Under fascist regimes, the language of brutality and culture of cruelty was normalized through the proliferation of the strident metaphors of war, battle, expulsion, racial purity and demonization. As German historians such as Richard J. Evans and Victor Klemperer have made clear, dictators such as Hitler did more than corrupt the language of a civilized society, they also banned words. Soon afterwards, they banned books and the critical intellectuals who wrote them. They then imprisoned those individuals who challenged Nazi ideology and the state's systemic violations of civil rights. The endpoint was an all-embracing discourse of disposability, the emergence of concentration camps, and genocide fueled by a politics of racial purity and social cleansing. Echoes of the formative stages of such actions are with us once again. They provide just one of the historical signposts of an American-style neo-fascism that appears to be engulfing the United States, after simmering in the dark for years.
Under such circumstances, it is crucial to interrogate, as the first line of resistance, how this level of systemic linguistic derangement and corruption shapes everyday life. It is essential to start with language, because it is the first place tyrants begin to promote their ideologies, hatred, and systemic politics of disposability and erasure. Trump is not unlike many of the dictators he admires. What they all share as strongmen is the use of language in the service of violence and repression, as well as a fear of language as a symbol of identity, critique, solidarity and collective struggle. None of them believe that the truth is essential to a responsible mode of governance, and all of them support the notion that lying on the side of power is fundamental to the process of governing, however undemocratic such a political dynamic may be.In a throwback to the language of fascism, he has repeatedly positioned himself as the only one who can save the masses.
Lying has a long legacy in American politics and is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes. Victor Klemperer in his classic book, The Language of the Third Reich, reminds us that Hitler had a "deep fear of the thinking man and [a] hatred of the intellect." Trump is not only a serial liar, but he also displays a deep contempt for critical thinking and has boasted about how he loves the uneducated. Not only have mainstream sources such as The Washington Post and The New York Times published endless examples of Trump's lies, they have noted that even in the aftermath of such exposure, he continues to be completely indifferent to being exposed as a serial liar.
In a 30-minute interview with The New York Times on December 28, 2017, The Washington Post reported that Trump made "false, misleading or dubious claims … at a rate of one every 75 seconds." Trump's language attempts to infantilize, seduce and depoliticize the public through a stream of tweets, interviews and public pronouncements that disregard facts and the truth. Trump's more serious aim is to derail the architectural foundations of truth and evidence in order to construct a false reality and alternative political universe in which there are only competing fictions with the emotional appeal of shock theater.
More than any other president, he has normalized the notion that the meaning of words no longer matters, nor do traditional sources of facts and evidence. In doing so, he has undermined the relationship between engaged citizenship and the truth, and has relegated matters of debate and critical assessment to a spectacle of bombast, threats, intimidation and sheer fakery. This is the language of dictators, one that makes it difficult to name injustices, define politics as something more than rule by the powerful, and make and justify real equitable rules, shared relations of power, and a strong democratic politics.
But the language of fascism does more that normalize falsehoods and ignorance. It also promotes a larger culture of short-term attention spans, immediacy and sensationalism. At the same time, it makes fear and anxiety the normalized currency of exchange and communication. Masha Gessen is right in arguing that Trump's lies are different than ordinary lies and are more like "power lies." In this case, these are lies designed less "to convince the audience of something than to demonstrate the power of the speaker." For instance, Trump's endless tweets are not just about the pathology of endless fabrications, they also function to reinforce as part of a pedagogy of infantilism, designed to entertain his base in a glut of shock while reinforcing a culture of war, fear, divisiveness and greed.Memories inconvenient to authoritarian rule are now demolished, so the future can be shaped so as to become indifferent to the crimes of the past.
How else to explain Trump's desire to attract scorn from his critics and praise from his base through a never-ending production of tweets and electronic shocks reminiscent of the tantrums of a petulant 10-year-old? The examples just keep coming and appear to get more bizarre as time goes on. Peter Baker and Michael Tackett sum up a number of bizarre and reckless tweets that Trump produced to inaugurate the New Year. They write:
President Trump again raised the prospect of nuclear war with North Korea, boasting in strikingly playground terms on Tuesday night that he commands a "much bigger" and "more powerful" arsenal of devastating weapons than the outlier government in Asia. "Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform [North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un] that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" It came on a day when Mr. Trump, back in Washington from his Florida holiday break, effectively opened his new year with a barrage of provocative tweets on a host of issues. He called for an aide to Hillary Clinton to be thrown in jail, threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan and the Palestinians, assailed Democrats over immigration, claimed credit for the fact that no one died in a jet plane crash last year and announced that he would announce his own award next Monday for the most dishonest and corrupt news media.
Trump appropriates crassness as a weapon. In a throwback to the language of fascism, he has repeatedly positioned himself as the only one who can save the masses, reproducing the tired script of the savior model endemic to authoritarianism. In 2016 at the Republican National Convention, Trump stated without irony that he alone would save a nation in crisis, captured in his insistence that, "I am your voice, I alone can fix it. I will restore law and order." Trump's latter emphasis on restoring the authoritarian value of law and order has overtones of creating a new racial regime of governance, one that mimics what the historian Cedric J. Robinson once called the "rewhitening of America." Such racially charged language points to the growing presence of a police state in the US and its endpoint in a fascist state where large segments of the population are rendered disposable, incarcerated or left to fend on their own in the midst of massive degrees of inequality. There is more at work here than an oversized, if not delusional ego. Trump's authoritarianism is also fueled by braggadocio and misdirected rage. There is also a language that undermines the bonds of solidarity, abolishes institutions meant to protect the vulnerable, and a full-fledged assault on the environment.Trump's language does more than produce a litany of falsehoods, fears and poisonous attacks on those considered disposable; it works hard to prevent people from having an internal dialogue with themselves and others.
In addition, Trump's ceaseless use of superlatives models a language that encloses itself in a circle of certainty while taking on religious overtones. Not only do such words pollute the space of credibility, they also wage war on historical memory, humility and the belief that alternative worlds are possible. For Trump and his followers, there is a recognizable threat to their power in the political and moral imperative to learn from a dark version of the past, so as to not repeat or update the dark authoritarianism of the 1930s. Trump is the master of manufactured illiteracy, and his public relations machine aggressively engages in a boundless theater of self-promotion and distractions -- both of which are designed to whitewash any version of the past that might expose the close alignment between Trump's language and policies and the dark elements of a fascist past.
Trump revels in an unchecked mode of self-congratulation bolstered by a limited vocabulary filled with words like "historic," "best," "the greatest," "tremendous" and "beautiful." As Wesley Pruden observes:
Nothing is ever merely "good," or "fortunate." No appointment is merely "outstanding." Everything is "fantastic," or "terrific," and every man or woman he appoints to a government position, even if just two shades above mediocre, is "tremendous." The Donald never met a superlative he didn't like, himself as the ultimate superlative most of all.
Trump's relentless exaggerations suggest more than hyperbole or the self-indulgent use of language. This is true even when he claims he "knows more about ISIS than the generals," "knows more about renewables than any human being on Earth," or that nobody knows the US system of government better than he does. There is also a resonance with the rhetoric of fascism. As the historian Richard J. Evans writes in The Third Reich in Power:
The German language became a language of superlatives, so that everything the regime did became the best and the greatest, its achievements unprecedented, unique, historic, and incomparable…. The language used about Hitler, Klemperer noted was shot through and through with religious metaphors; people 'believed in him,' he was the redeemer, the savior, the instrument of Providence, his spirit lived in and through the German nation….Nazi institutions domesticated themselves [through the use of a language] that became an unthinking part of everyday life.
Under the Trump regime, memories inconvenient to authoritarian rule are now demolished in the domesticated language of superlatives, so the future can be shaped so as to become indifferent to the crimes of the past. For instance, he has talked about the Civil War as if historians have not asked why it took place, while at the same time ignoring the role of slavery in its birth. During a Black History Month event, he talked about the great abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass as if he were still alive. Trump's ignorance of the past finds its counterpart in his celebration of a history that has enshrined racism, tweeted neo-Nazi messages, and embraced the "blood and soil" of white supremacy.
How else to explain the legacy of white racism and fascism historically inscribed in his signature slogan "Make America Great Again" and his use of the anti-Semitic phrase "America First," long associated with Nazi sympathizers during World War II? How else to explain his support for bringing white supremacists such as Steve Bannon (now resigned) and Jeff Sessions, both with a long history of racist comments and actions, into the highest levels of governmental power? Or his retweeting of an anti-Islamic video originally posted by Britain First, a far-right extremist group -- an action that was condemned by British Prime Minister Theresa May?
It gets worse: Trump created a false equivalence between white supremacist neo-Nazi demonstrators and those who opposed them in Charlottesville, Virginia. In doing so, he argued that there were "very fine people on both sides," as if fine people march with protesters carrying Nazi flags shouting, "We will not be replaced by Jews." Trump appears to be unable to differentiate "between people who think like Nazis and people who try to stop them from spewing their hate."If fascism is to be defeated, there is a need to make education central to politics.
But there is more than ignorance at work in Trump's lengthy history of racist comments. Trump's sympathy for white nationalism and white supremacy offers a clear explanation for his unbroken use of racist language about Mexican immigrants, Muslims, Syrian refugees and Haitians. It also points to Trump's use of language as part of a larger political and pedagogical project to "mobilize hatred," legitimate the discourse of intimidation and encourage the American public "to unlearn feelings of care and empathy that lead us to help and feel solidarity with others," as Ben-Ghiat writes.
Trump's nativism and ignorance works in the United States because it not only caters to what the historian Brian Klass refers to as "the tens of millions of Americans who have authoritarian or fascist leanings," it also enables what he calls Trump's attempt at "mainstreaming fascism." He writes:
Like other despots throughout history, Trump scapegoats minorities and demonizes politically unpopular groups. Trump is racist. He uses his own racism in the service of a divide-and-rule strategy, which is one way that unpopular leaders and dictators maintain power. If you aren't delivering for the people and you're not doing what you said you were going to do, then you need to blame somebody else. Trump has a lot of people to blame.
Trump's language, especially his endorsement of torture and contempt for international norms, normalizes the unthinkable, and points to a return to a past that evokes what Ariel Dorfman has called "memories of terror … parades of hate and aggression by the Ku Klux Klan in the United States and Adolf Hitler's Freikorps in Germany…. executions, torture, imprisonment, persecution, exile, and, yes, book burnings, too." Dorfman sees in the Trump era echoes of policies carried out under the dictator Pinochet in Chile. He writes:
Indeed, many of the policies instituted and attitudes displayed in post-coup Chile would prove models for the Trump era: extreme nationalism, an absolute reverence for law and order, the savage deregulation of business and industry, callousness regarding worker safety, the opening of state lands to unfettered resource extraction and exploitation, the proliferation of charter schools, and the militarization of society. To all this must be added one more crucial trait: a raging anti-intellectualism and hatred of "elites" that, in the case of Chile in 1973, led to the burning of books like ours.
The language of fascism revels in forms of theater that mobilize fear, hatred and violence. Sasha Abramsky is on target in claiming that Trump's words amount to more than empty slogans. Instead, his language comes "with consequences, and they legitimize bigotries and hatreds long harbored by many but, for the most part, kept under wraps by the broader society. They give the imprimatur of a major political party to criminal violence." Surely, the increase in hate crimes during Trump's first year of his presidency testifies to the truth of Abramsky's argument.
The history of fascism teaches us that language operates in the service of violence, desperation, and troubling landscapes of hatred, and carries the potential for inhabiting the darkest moments of history. It erodes our humanity, and makes too many people numb and silent in the face of ideologies and practices that are hideous acts of ethical atrocity. By undermining the concepts of truth and credibility, fascist-oriented language disables the ideological and political vocabularies necessary for a diverse society to embrace shared hopes, responsibilities and democratic values.There is no democracy without informed citizens and no justice without a language critical of injustice.
Trump's language -- like that of older fascist regimes -- mutilates contemporary politics, empathy, and serious moral and political criticism, and makes it more difficult to criticize dominant relations of power. Trump's language does more than produce a litany of falsehoods, fears and poisonous attacks on those considered disposable; it works hard to prevent people from having an internal dialogue with themselves and others, relegating self-reflection, critical thinking, and the ability to question and judge to a scorned practice.
Trump's fascistic language also fuels the rhetoric of war, toxic masculinity, white supremacy, anti-intellectualism and racism. What was once an anxious discourse about what Harvey Kaye calls the "possible triumph in America of a fascist-tinged authoritarian regime over liberal democracy" is no longer a matter of speculation, but a reality.
Any resistance to the new stage of American authoritarianism has to begin by analyzing its language, the stories it fabricates, the policies it produces, and the cultural, economic and political institutions that make it possible. Questions have to be raised about how right-wing educational and cultural apparatuses function both politically and pedagogically to shape notions of identity, desire, values, and emotional investments in the discourses of casino capitalism, white supremacy and a culture of cruelty. Trump's language both shapes and embodies policies that have powerful consequences on people's lives, and such effects must be made visible, tallied up, and used to uncover oppressive forms of power that often hide in the shadows. Rather than treat Trump's lies and fear-mongering as merely an expression of the thoughts of a petulant and dangerous demagogue, it is crucial to analyze their historical roots, the institutions that reproduce and legitimate them, the pundits who promote them, and the effects they have on the texture of everyday life.
Trump's language is not his alone. It is the language of a nascent fascism that has been brewing in the US for some time. It is a language that is comfortable viewing the world as a combat zone, a world that exists to be plundered. It is a view of those deemed different as a threat to be feared, if not eliminated. Frank Rich is correct in insisting that Trump is the blunt instrument of a populist authoritarian movement whose aim is "the systemic erosion of political, ethical, and social norms" central to a substantive democracy. And Trump's major weapon is a toxic language that functions as a form of "cultural vandalism" that promotes hate, embraces the machinery of the carceral state, makes white supremacy a central tenant of governance, and produces unthinkable degrees of inequality in wealth and power.
Trump's language has a history that must be acknowledged, made known for the suffering it produces, and challenged with an alternative critical and hope-producing narrative. Such a language must be willing to make power visible, uncover the truth, contest falsehoods, and create a formative and critical culture that can nurture and sustain collective resistance to the diverse modes of oppression that characterize the times that have overtaken the United States, and increasingly many other countries. Progressives need a language that both embraces the political potential of diverse forms racial, gender and sexual identity, and the forms of "oppression, exclusion, and marginalization" they make visible while simultaneously working to unify such movements into a broader social formation and political party willing to challenge the core values and institutional structures of the American-style fascism. No form of oppression, however hideous, can be overlooked. And with that critical gaze must emerge a critical language, a new narrative and a different story about what a socialist democracy will look like in the United States.
At the same time, there is a need to strengthen and expand the reach and power of established public spheres as sites of critical learning. There is also a need to encourage artists, intellectuals, academics and other cultural workers to talk, educate, make oppression visible, and challenge the normalizing discourses of casino capitalism, white supremacy and fascism. There is no room here for a language shaped by political purity or a limited to politics of outrage. A truly democratic vision has a broader and more capacious overview and project of struggle and transformation.
Language is not simply an instrument of fear, violence and intimidation; it is also a vehicle for critique, civic courage, resistance, and engaged and informed agency. We live at a time when the language of democracy has been pillaged, stripped of its promises and hopes. If fascism is to be defeated, there is a need to make education central to politics. In part this can be done with a language that exposes and unravels falsehoods, systems of oppression and corrupt relations of power while making clear that an alternative future is possible. A critical language can guide us in our thinking about the relationship between older elements of fascism and how such practices are emerging in new forms. The search and use of such a language can also reinforce and accelerate the need for young people to continue creating alternative public spaces in which critical dialogue, exchange and a new understanding of politics in its totality can emerge. Focusing on language as a strategic element of political struggle is not only about meaning, critique and the search for the truth, it is also about power, both in terms of understanding how it works and using it as part of ongoing struggles that merge the language of critique and possibility, theory and action.
Without a faith in intelligence, critical education and the power to resist, humanity will be powerless to challenge the threat that fascism and right-wing populism pose to the world. All forms of fascism aim at destroying standards of truth, empathy, informed reason and the institutions that make them possible. The current struggle against a nascent fascism in the United States is not only a struggle over economic structures or the commanding heights of corporate power. It is also a struggle over visions, ideas, consciousness and the power to shift the culture itself.
Progressives need to formulate a new language, alternative cultural spheres and fresh narratives about freedom, the power of collective struggle, empathy, solidarity and the promise of a real socialist democracy. We need a new vision that refuses to equate capitalism and democracy, normalize greed and excessive competition, and accept self-interest as the highest form of motivation. We need a language, vision and understanding of power to enable the conditions in which education is linked to social change and the capacity to promote human agency through the registers of cooperation, compassion, care, love, equality and a respect for difference.
Any struggle for a radical democratic socialist order will not take place if "the lessons from our dark past [cannot] be learned and transformed into constructive resolutions" and solutions for struggling for and creating a post-capitalist society. Ariel Dorfman's ode to the struggle over language and its relationship to the power of the imagination, collective resistance and hope offers a fitting reminder of what needs to be done. He writes:
We must trust that the intelligence that has allowed humanity to stave off death, make medical and engineering breakthroughs, reach the stars, build wondrous temples, and write complex tales will save us again. We must nurse the conviction that we can use the gentle graces of science and reason to prove that the truth cannot be vanquished so easily. To those who would repudiate intelligence, we must say: you will not conquer and we will find a way to convince.
In the end, there is no democracy without informed citizens and no justice without a language critical of injustice.
As the nation prepares to mark Martin Luther King Day next week, modern day civil rights leaders have launched a new Poor People's Campaign, inspired by the historic 1968 action led by King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In the coming months, organizers are planning six weeks of direct action at statehouses across the country and the US Capitol to call attention to systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation. For more, we speak with Reverend William Barber, president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach. He's the leader of Moral Mondays and the author of Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement. We also speak with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, evangelical minister and director of the School for Conversion in Durham, North Carolina. He is author of the upcoming book, Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion. Wilson-Hartgrove grew up as a white Southern Baptist, and he served as a page for the late South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, a fierce foe of the civil rights movement and supporter of segregation. Wilson-Hartgrove's political transformation began after hearing William Barber preach.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman. As the nation prepares to mark Martin Luther King Day next Monday, modern day civil rights leaders have launched a new Poor People's Campaign, inspired by the historic 1968 action, 50 years ago, led by King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: Millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity. But there is another America. And this other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this other America, millions of people find themselves walking the streets in search for jobs that do not exist.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Dr. Martin Luther King, speaking about the 1968 Poor People's Campaign. In the coming months, organizers are planning six weeks of direct action at statehouses across the country and the US Capitol to call attention to systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation.
We're joined by two of the organizers of the campaign. Reverend Dr. William Barber, president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, leader of the Moral Mondays and author of Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement. We're also joined by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, an evangelical minister and director of the School for Conversion in Durham, North Carolina. He's author of the upcoming book, Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion. While the two men have organized together for years, they were not always in political agreement. Barber grew up in the black-led freedom movement. Wilson-Hartgrove grew up as a white Southern Baptist, served as a page for the late South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, a fierce foe of the civil rights movement, a supporter of segregation. Wilson-Hartgrove's political transition began after hearing Reverend Barber preach.
Well, we welcome you both to Democracy Now!
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Barber, talk about the significance of Dr. King Day and your launch of the Poor People's March, 50 days [sic] after his -- 50 years after his.
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: Fifty years. Well, thank you so much, Amy. In January, on the 5th of January, we actually launched, after traveling to 15 states, doing regional trainings, organizing a thousand people in 25 states, District of Columbia, that have committed to do direct action civil disobedience training, preparing for voter registration, to launch a movement. We have black, we have white, we have brown, young, old, gay, straight, Jewish, Muslim, Christians, people of faith, people not of faith, who are coming together, 50 years later, Amy. And one of the things we're doing is we're writing something called "The Souls of Poor Folk: Auditing America 50 Years Later." IPS, Institute for Policy Studies, is helping with activists, and impact the people.
AMY GOODMAN: Referencing W.E.B. Du Bois's book.
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: W.E.B. Du Bois, that's right. And to talk about the souls of poor folk, because so often the poor are just dismissed. Both parties, we don't even talk about the poor. We talk middle class, working class, not the poor.
So, 50 years later, we have 30 -- we have nearly 100 million poor and working poor people in this country, 14 million poor children. Fifty years later, we have less voting rights protection than we had on August 6, 1965. Fifty years later, Strom Thurmond, for instance, filibustered the Voting -- filibustered the Civil Rights Act of '57 for a day. Ryan, McConnell and Boehner have filibustered fixing the Voting Rights Act now for over four years, over 1,700 days. We have tremendous ecological devastation.
And when we look at, for instance, systemic voter suppression and you map it -- we've done some maps -- every state where there's high voter suppression is also high poverty, denial of healthcare, denial of living wages, denial of labor union rights, attacks on immigrants, attacks on women. So, it's the same states. And what's happening, this is not for the poor. It's with the poor. And it's launching a multi-year campaign, that we're beginning now.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, about your life story. I mean, for young people, they may not have even heard of Strom Thurmond, one of the longest-serving senators in U.S. history, also ran for president --
JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: -- on a segregationist platform. What was your involvement with him?
JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: Well, that was 1948. And I was born in 1980, so I wasn't, you know, very aware of that, either, growing up. I grew up in a Southern Baptist culture that told us, you know, if you're faithful, you're Republican. And I wanted to do all that I could for Jesus, so I was trying to make it to the White House. And Jesse Helms referred me to Strom Thurmond, and that's how I ended up in his office.
But when I got there, I began to realize that something wasn't quite right, in terms of these values that I was taught of love and justice and concern for the community, and what was happening there, which was really about holding onto power. And I began to realize, you know, what Reverend Barber was saying, that my people in North Carolina and in the South had really been duped, that we -- that we were told that this was good for us and good for America and good for the world, and, as a matter of fact, that they were using religion to serve this white supremacist agenda, that really wasn't very different from what he had advocated in '48 or in the '50s and the '60s, but had changed its language a bit.
And so, I was very grateful for Reverend Barber teaching me that freedom movement history, beginning to realize that there really has been a movement that has pushed for an inclusive democracy in this country since the 19th century and that that effort to reconstruct this country is also very faith-rooted -- and we connected because of our faith -- and beginning to realize that there were some faith leaders who were using that faith to serve the agenda of this, really, white supremacy campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you understand this when you were a page for Senator Thurmond?
JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: No, I was very confused. That's why I needed a teacher like Dr. Barber here.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever confront Senator Thurmond as you came to understand and believe in a different path?
JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: No. He was in his nineties and, I don't think, was very open to confrontation. The only serious conversation he ever had with me was telling me, when I got to DC as a 16-year-old young white man from North Carolina, that I ought to be careful, because this is a dangerous town. See, that's the way race was talked about in that movement. Still is.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me play a clip of your senator, Senator Strom Thurmond, speaking in 1948, when he ran for president as a nominee of the pro-segregationist, states' rights Democratic Party, more popularly known as the Dixiecrats. Thurmond spoke out against Harry Truman's civil rights platform at the time.
SEN. STROM THURMOND: It simply means that it's another effort on the part of this president to dominate the country by force and to put into effect these uncalled-for and these damnable proposals he has recommended under the guise of so-called civil rights. And I'll tell you, the American people, from one side or the other, had better wake up and oppose such a program! And if they don't, the next thing will be a totalitarian state in these United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Needless to say, he didn't win in 1948. But that philosophy of segregation carried on. As you watched what happened in Virginia, in Charlottesville, this past summer, did you see the echoes of Strom Thurmond, as the self-proclaimed fascists, the self-proclaimed white supremacists marched across the university?
JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: Absolutely, because if you listen to something like that, as somebody who grew up in the church, you realize that what he's doing there is preaching. He's preaching in the public square. And that's what folks like Richard Spencer are trying to do. They're trying to bring a vision for --
AMY GOODMAN: Who organized that march.
JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: Right -- for what they want the world to be into the public square, and they're using religion to do it. And so, I had to learn that whiteness is a religion that people are sold on, and that someone like me, who wants to follow Jesus, needs to be converted, needs to be converted from the religion of whiteness to the religion of Jesus, or many other traditions that are willing to embrace a kind of universal humanity that whiteness can't embrace.
AMY GOODMAN: And how do your compatriots respond to your gospel, to what you preach now as a minister?
JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: Well, you know, I think a lot of times when it's framed as something against what people are doing, they react. Right? Everyone is defensive when you attack what they are. But when you hold forth the invitation to be part of something? You know, this Poor People's Campaign that we're talking about now is a movement that is for everyone. You know, Sister Mashyla, who was with us in DC, came from Washington. She said -- she said, "I'm the white trash that they threw out and forgot to burn. But I'm glad to be part of a movement that includes me," right? And I'm part of that movement, too.
So, I think the constructive vision of the movement is an invitation that many people are beginning to respond to, because they -- you know, if you're a poor person in North Carolina or Alabama, what you have to realize at the end of the day is that these people who say, "Vote for me because I'm a good Christian leader," are not serving your interests. You don't have healthcare, you don't have a living wage, because the same people who say they're standing up for God and righteousness are, when they're voting, voting against the interests of poor people, whether you're black, white, brown or whatever.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you something. In the Roy Moore race, yes, he was defeated, but as someone tweeted out that night, when it was even closer, on December 12th, "If we can beat a pedophile by 0.8 percent, we can do anything." That was the tweet. And, Reverend Barber, "If we can beat a pedophile by 0.8 percent, we can do anything," you know, obviously, a sarcastic comment. How could it possibly have been that close? And now we see the home of Tina Johnson burned to the ground in Alabama, as people raise money for her, one of Roy Moore's accusers.
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: Well, Amy, I think Jonathan hit on something. And that is, it is important for us to remember that the movement for justice has always been biracial. Abolition movement was biracial. Civil rights movement was biracial, triracial sometimes. The first Poor People's Campaign was not just Dr. King. It was Cesar Chavez. It was Jewish. It was the welfare workers, rights workers. It was Al McSurely, who had organized up in Kentucky.
In some sense, we lost that sense of fusion politics, and that's what Moral Monday has been about. That's what this Poor People's Campaign is about. Not only can we beat a pedophile, the reality is, if we focus on policy -- we went to Alabama, and they said we couldn't organize white ministers to stand up against Roy Moore, not about what he had allegedly done to children, but his policies. And we did -- 65 percent of the people who got arrested on Moral Monday were white -- on policy, saying --
AMY GOODMAN: The Moral Mondays meaning in North Carolina, where you are.
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: In North Carolina, that's right, where we were, that I am now. What we're saying is: Do you have healthcare? You know, when all the Southern states denied healthcare, the people who got elected by voter suppression then used that power to deny healthcare, the majority of the people that are being denied are white. When you don't have a living wage, the majority of the people that are being affected are white, in raw numbers. There are 8 million more white people poor than there are African-American. We have got to show how people are being played.
And you can't always look just at a Charlottesville or Strom Thurmond. Remember, they changed that language after '68. See, Kevin Phillips said, "We can't talk like that anymore. What we're going to talk about now is tax cuts and entitlement cuts and forced busing." That's the language of the Southern strategy. It changed, but it was the language -- it was coded language to say, number one, this is what needs to change for your life to be better. The policies are going to hurt mostly black people and brown people, in a percentage basis, but it's also going to make people think that black people are the problem. That's why Trump went to an all-white audience and then talked about black people. You know, what do they have to lose?
One of the things I think we've got to -- that's why this movement, we're saying, we need a Poor People's Campaign, a national call for a moral revival. We need to reshift the moral narrative. For instance, in this week, King week, I've been looking at how people are focusing now on Trump's, quote-unquote, "mental status." I think that's the wrong thing. I mean, I have my own opinions about that. But Dr. King talked about America being sick. See, we're talking about an individual. We should be examining that tax policy. We should be going down the list, every media station, and looking at how are these policies that these senators and others passed impacting the poor -- even the Democrats didn't talk much about the poor -- in those states. We should be talking about the judges he's trying to put on the -- quietly, like the one out of North Carolina, Tom Farr, he's trying to put on the bench. But the senators are helping; he's not doing this stuff by himself. If we get fixated on a person, rather than do what Dr. King said, examine the societal moral crisis that creates characters like a Trump, all right, that empowers them, then we're really in trouble. And we have to deal with the sickness of the society.
Dr. King said, lastly, any society that puts more money in war than it does in social uplift is headed toward spiritual death. When we have an exacerbation of racist voter racism -- systemic racism through voter suppression, we have extreme poverty, we have ecological devastation and a war economy and a mixed-up moral narrative, where people can literally run for office, Amy, and look you in the face -- "If you elect me, I'm going to take your healthcare" -- and get elected -- "If you elect me, I'm going to be a racist. If you elect me, I'm going to put hundreds of thousands of people out of the country. If you elect me, I'm going to attack 800,000 students, DACA students. If you" -- and say that boldly, we have more than a personality problem. We have a moral crisis. And the only thing that can combat that is a movement that challenges that crisis.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break and then come back to this discussion. You're listening to the Reverend Dr. William Barber of Repairers of the Breach, up from North Carolina, and minister Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of the School for Conversion in North Carolina. This is Democracy Now! They're starting a Poor People's March, 50 years after Dr. King's. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: "Wavin' Flag" by K'naan, performing here in our Democracy Now! studios back in 2010.
President Trump is meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House today over his offer to protect the nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers in exchange for funding to build a border wall. The meeting comes one day after the Trump administration announced it is ending the temporary protected status for as many as 250,000 Salvadorans who have been living in US since 2001. The temporary protected status, known as TPS, had given the Salvadorans legal permission to live and work in the United States. It was enacted in 2001 after a devastating pair of earthquakes hit El Salvador. The Trump administration has already said it will end temporary protected status for tens of thousands of Haitian, Nicaraguan and Sudanese immigrants living in the United States. For more, we speak with a Stony Brook University student named Rodman, who is a member of Make the Road New York. He is a US citizen whose parents are Salvadoran TPS recipients. He asked us not to use his last name to protect his family. We also speak with Anu Joshi, immigration policy director at the New York Immigration Coalition.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to look at the battle over immigration in Washington. President Trump is meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House today over his offer to protect the nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers in exchange for $18 billion to build a border wall. The meeting comes one day after the Trump administration announced it's ending the temporary protected status for as many as 250,000 Salvadorans who have been living in the US since 2001. The temporary status, known as TPS, had given the Salvadorans legal permission to live and work in the United States, enacted in 2001 after a devastating pair of earthquakes hit El Salvador. The announcement sparked immediate protest outside the White House and in several cities. Here in New York, Salvadoran TPS recipient Urania Reyes spoke at a news conference.
URANIA REYES: [translated] We are begging to our President Trump and to the public to stand up and ask for our permanent -- not temporary -- legalization. We have been in the US for more than 20 years, and they didn't give us any permanent status. I think we are honorable people. We do the work other people don't want to do. We earn very little money. We pay for housing and taxes and school for the children -- for my three children -- and they go to the school. And today I feel very sad, because they want to take the TPS from us.
The people who brought our children here with us and who brought them here when they were young, it's not their fault. It's our fault. We were looking for an improvement after our country was destroyed by war. And after that, in 2001, it was destroyed by the earthquake, on January 13th, 2001. I hope they give us legal status. That's what we are asking. We are honorable people, worthy of this country. And this country is our country, because we spend our lives here.
AMY GOODMAN: The Trump administration has already said it will end temporary protected status for tens of thousands of Haitian, Nicaraguan and Sudanese immigrants living in the US
For more, we're joined now by two guests. Rodman is a student at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York, a member of Make the Road New York. He's a US citizen whose parents are Salvadoran temporary protected status recipients. He asked us not to use his last name, to protect his family. And we're joined by Anu Joshi, who is immigration policy director at the New York Immigration Coalition.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Rodman, let's begin with you. Tell us about your family. What will happen? Were you surprised by President Trump's announcement yesterday?
RODMAN: So, well, thank you so much for having me on your program. I am the son of two immigrant parents from El Salvador. My mom and my dad both have TPS. They've been living on Long Island for the past 25 years. My parents, my two sisters and me, we consider ourselves all to be Long Islanders, because that's where our home is. That's where we have been going to church, to school. Everyone we know, you know, is from Long Island.
So, the news that we received -- the announcement yesterday was absolutely devastating. I think we were kind of anticipating it. So, for the past few months, we've been living in a state of fear and anxiety. But actually hearing the news, just it's a nightmare for us.
AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean?
RODMAN: To us, it means that our sense of protection, our sense of security, all of that is going to vanish.
AMY GOODMAN: Your parents would be sent back in 18 months?
RODMAN: That risk is -- it's very possible. It's very possible that my two parents, who have been living here since the early 1990s, who have been working and contributing here, on Long Island -- it's very possible that they are going to be sent back to a country that they haven't visited in over 20 years.
AMY GOODMAN: So what would happen to the three of you? You're all US citizens?
RODMAN: Yes. So, I was born here. So was my -- my two sisters were also born here. We depend so much on our parents, for not only financial support, but also emotional support. I think a lot of the things that me and my sisters are able to accomplish in life, whether it's school or work, it's because of all the support that our parents have given us. And I am very thankful for not only all the sacrifices that they've made, but also the examples that they've set for us. They are my role models. And I think they've given us the tools that makes us become very responsible.
AMY GOODMAN: And temporary protected status was extended to your parents because of the earthquakes, because of what happened in El Salvador?
RODMAN: Yeah. So, my two parents, they left in early 1990s, before the earthquake. But they left during the civil war. So they were escaping the civil war. El Salvador is a country where there's no real job opportunities, where there's no real stability and where there's corruption. So, they escaped in the early 1990s. And in 2001, there was a devastating earthquake that devastated the entire country. So, they came to this country seeking stability, seeking a better future for themselves and their family, pursuing the American dream. And to them, the American dream is that me and my two sisters would be able to get an education and move ahead in life.
AMY GOODMAN: Anu Joshi, can you talk about what this means for 250,000 people? And then we've got to extend the number by what? Another 200,000, the American kids, like Rodman?
ANU JOSHI: Mm-hmm, that's exactly right. So, as you mentioned, this administration already eliminated TPS for Sudan, Nicaragua and Haiti, Haiti being the next largest population at 50,000, many of whom live here in New York.
But for the people like Rodman's parents and hundreds of thousands of people like Rodman's parents across the country, this means that, in 18 months, the businesses that they've started are going to shutter. The companies where they work are going to lose employees. The places, the federal government, the states, the local taxes they pay are no longer going to be paid. The mortgages they own, the houses that they own -- almost a third of Salvadorans with TPS own their home or have a mortgage -- are not going to be paid. And these people, who are completely integrated into American society, have been here for over two decades, many of them, are going to be pushed into the shadows.
And it's really unconscionable, what this administration is doing. And I think, with these four decisions and the attack and termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, we've seen that this administration is not -- is really pursuing an aggressive, extremist attack on immigrants and all communities of color.
AMY GOODMAN: Salvadorans have been major labor organizers, as well. Do you see this as an attack on the labor community?
ANU JOSHI: One hundred percent. Yesterday we had a press conference, and we had a SEIU 32BJ member, who is a housekeeper on Long Island, who has been a member for over 15 years. We had a cook from UNITE HERE, who has worked at the same restaurant for 17 years. And he's worked his way up. He started as a dishwasher, and now he's a cook. And he's had TPS. He has two children. This is an attack on labor. This is an attack on working people. It's also an attack on people who have started businesses and raised families.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to Hugo Rodríguez, a Salvadoran beneficiary of temporary protected status, who spoke at Monday's news conference in New York.
HUGO RODRÍGUEZ: [translated] We have one foot here and the other in a republic, El Salvador. And even though my heart is always there in that country, for me, living here, as my predecessor said, is a matter of life and death, because we cannot go back to our country. There are a lot of compatriots that have tried it and have tried to start a business, to start a life there. And they haven't been able to do it, because of the evil our country is suffering. … President Trump and the politicians do not know who the beneficiaries of temporary protected status are. We are not gang members. We are not criminals. We are people that, as the majority of the people who live here, we came following a dream, an American dream, a dream that, sadly, we cannot have in our countries, but it was possible here. We achieve it, thanks to our work.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response?
ANU JOSHI: I mean, I don't understand how anyone could look at that and say that that's someone that's not contributing to our society. You know, everything that this administration is doing is not about keeping our country safe or making this country greater. It's about making our country worse, by trying to push into the shadows -- or worse, deport -- people like Hugo, who are just, you know, raising their families and making a living.
AMY GOODMAN: Rodman, we're not using your last name, to protect your family. But you mentioned the civil war, which often people do not refer to as a civil war in Salvador, because the studies shows overwhelmingly it was the US-backed military government and paramilitaries that were killing off the majority of people, as happened in Nicaragua, the illegal war in Nicaragua, when it came to the Contras. The US was not supposed to be supporting the Contras but was getting around various laws, like the Boland Amendment. Can you talk about this, as my colleague Juan González wrote a book called Harvest of Empire, people fleeing, sadly, US-connected violence in their countries, and then, when they get here, being told they have to go back?
ANU JOSHI: And to that point, the creation of the temporary protected status program was in response to the US involvement in El Salvador in the early '90s. And so, it was a recognition by our government that we had created a part of this problem, and we needed to provide safe haven. We needed to protect these people. We could not send them back into that violence.
And if you look at El Salvador as a country right now, it has the third-highest homicide rate in the world. It's considered the most violent country that's not currently in a war zone, by the United Nations. Seventeen percent of its GDP comes from remittances from the United States. And if you try to send or repatriate hundreds of thousands of people into a country where -- has weak government institutions, where violence is rampant, where gangs are conscripting youth every day, it's going to destabilize the region. And that's not going to be good for the United States, either.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to put this in the larger context right now of what's happening in the White House. You have President Trump meeting with Democrats and Republicans. And this is led -- and this is not often the case -- by the chief of staff, this meeting, General Kelly, General Kelly who, before being chief of staff of President Trump, was head of Department of Homeland Security and, before that, in charge of SOUTHCOM, Southern Command. Can you talk about the significance of Trump saying this weekend at Camp David that it is DACA and the wall, or no DACA?
ANU JOSHI: Well, and let's be clear: He didn't just say DACA and the wall. He also said, "And additional CBP agents and an end to the diversity" --
AMY GOODMAN: Customs and Border Patrol.
ANU JOSHI: Sorry, Customs and Border Patrol agents, end to the diversity visa, ending family reunification, which has been the cornerstone of our immigration policy for decades, since the 1960s. So, he laid out a laundry list of the most extremist anti-immigrant agenda, in exchange for 800,000 young people, you know, which is a situation that he created, when he terminated DACA in September. You know, we're telling Senator Schumer, here in New York, and the Democrats in both sides of the House and the Senate that they need to stand strong against this, that this is a wish list that -- it's not a wish list at all. I don't even know what it is. This is not in good faith.
AMY GOODMAN: And do you have confidence in the Democrats?
ANU JOSHI: Maybe. I hope so.
AMY GOODMAN: Rodman, is your university, Stony Brook, on Long Island, part of the State University of New York system, an esteemed university around the country, standing up for you and other students who have temporary protected status themselves or, in your case, your parents?
RODMAN: Yeah, so, a group of me and a group of students, we have started a club, trying to push our administrators from Stony Brook to adopt policies that would benefit students not only who have DACA, who are losing their DACA statuses every day, but also for parents, for students whose parents have TPS, because, for example, like I sometimes depend on my parents for financial support to pay my tuition. And once TPS is gone --
AMY GOODMAN: Sounds like that's in New York's interest.
RODMAN: It is, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: That your tuition is paid.
RODMAN: Yeah. We really depend on our administrators, but also our local and state representatives, to become advocates for us and to really push for legislation that's going to benefit people like me and my family. I think that investing more money into ICE agents or having the local police department collaborate with immigration -- I think it's misguided. And if it's -- we need our representatives to really push for permanent legislation, like permanent residency for my parents. I think these -- once you really invest in communities, like my community and my family, that's one of the best ways that you can really uplift this country.
AMY GOODMAN: And how are Salvadorans in Long Island organizing?
RODMAN: OK, so, this news has affected everyone from where I come from on Long Island. Long Island has a large Salvadoran and also Haitian population. So, everyone is pretty much really in a state of panic. So, what people are doing is that they're getting informed. I'm part of a community organization called Make the Road New York. We're doing workshops. We're holding Know Your Rights workshops. And we're also telling, you know, people like me, like youth like me, who are citizens, that we have a lot of power. Once we share our stories, we can make a difference. And also, we have lots of voting power. So, it's very important for us to get organized, to know our rights, you know, to stand up for our parents. Our parents have always been there for us, so it's time now -- it's really urgent that we stand up for them.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. Rodman, I hope soon to be able to say your whole name, but while you feel your family is vulnerable, we'll stick with your first name. Rodman, a US citizen, a student Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, Long Island, New York, whose parents are Salvadoran temporary protected status recipients. And Anu Joshi, immigration policy director at the New York Immigration Coalition.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, a new Poor People's March, an unusual coalition. We'll be joined by the Reverend William Barber as well as an evangelical minister who worked for the segregationist presidential candidate, longtime Senato Strom Thurmond, now joining in a Poor People's March. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: "Young, Latin and Proud" by Helado Negro, or Black Ice Cream, performing here in our Democracy Now! studios.
US Army special operations forces fire an MK19-3 40 mm grenade machine gun during a field training exercise at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, October 30, 2013.Support from readers allows Truthout to produce the authority-challenging journalism that's going to be imperative in the years to come. Click here now to support this work!
At around 11 o'clock that night, four Lockheed MC-130 Combat Talons, turboprop Special Operations aircraft, were flying through a moonless sky from Pakistani into Afghan airspace. On board were 199 Army Rangers with orders to seize an airstrip. One hundred miles to the northeast, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters cruised through the darkness toward Kandahar, carrying Army Delta Force operators and yet more Rangers, heading for a second site. It was October 19, 2001. The war in Afghanistan had just begun and US Special Operations forces (SOF) were the tip of the American spear.
Those Rangers parachuted into and then swarmed the airfield, engaging the enemy -- a single armed fighter, as it turned out -- and killing him. At that second site, the residence of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, the special operators apparently encountered no resistance at all, even though several Americans were wounded due to friendly fire and a helicopter crash.
In 2001, US special operators were targeting just two enemy forces: al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In 2010, his first full year in office, President Barack Obama informed Congress that US forces were still "actively pursuing and engaging remaining al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan." According to a recent Pentagon report to Congress, American troops are battling more than 10 times that number of militant groups, including the still-undefeated Taliban, the Haqqani network, an Islamic State affiliate known as ISIS-Khorasan, and various "other insurgent networks."
After more than 16 years of combat, US Special Operations forces remain the tip of the spear in Afghanistan, where they continue to carry out counterterrorism missions. In fact, from June 1st to November 24th last year, according to that Pentagon report, members of Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan conducted 2,175 ground operations "in which they enabled or advised" Afghan commandos.
"During the Obama administration the use of Special Operations forces increased dramatically, as if their use was a sort of magical, all-purpose solution for fighting terrorism," William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, pointed out. "The ensuing years have proven this assumption to be false. There are many impressive, highly skilled personnel involved in special operations on behalf of the United States, but the problems they are being asked to solve often do not have military solutions. Despite this fact, the Trump administration is doubling down on this approach in Afghanistan, even though the strategy has not prevented the spread of terrorist organizations and may in fact be counterproductive."Global Commandos
Since US commandos went to war in 2001, the size of Special Operations Command has doubled from about 33,000 personnel to 70,000 today. As their numbers have grown, so has their global reach. As TomDispatch revealed last month, they were deployed to 149 nations in 2017, or about 75% of the countries on the planet, a record-setting year. It topped 2016's 138 nations under the Obama administration and dwarfed the numbers from the final years of the Bush administration. As the scope of deployments has expanded, special operators also came to be spread ever more equally across the planet.
In October 2001, Afghanistan was the sole focus of commando combat missions. On March 19, 2003, special operators fired the first shots in the invasion of Iraq as their helicopter teams attacked Iraqi border posts near Jordan and Saudi Arabia. By 2006, as the war in Afghanistan ground on and the conflict in Iraq continued to morph into a raging set of insurgencies, 85% of US commandos were being deployed to the Greater Middle East.
As this decade dawned in 2010, the numbers hadn't changed appreciably: 81% of all special operators abroad were still in that region.
Eight years later, however, the situation is markedly different, according to figures provided to TomDispatch by US Special Operations Command. Despite claims that the Islamic State has been defeated, the US remains embroiled in wars in Iraq and Syria, as well as in Afghanistan and Yemen, yet only 54% of special operators deployed overseas were sent to the Greater Middle East in 2017. In fact, since 2006, deployments have been on the rise across the rest of the world. In Latin America, the figure crept up from 3% to 4.39%. In the Pacific region, from 7% to 7.99%. But the striking increases have been in Europe and Africa.
In 2006, just 3% of all commandos deployed overseas were operating in Europe. Last year, that number was just north of 16%. "Outside of Russia and Belarus we train with virtually every country in Europe either bilaterally or through various multinational events," Major Michael Weisman, a spokesman for US Special Operations Command Europe, told TomDispatch. "The persistent presence of US SOF alongside our allies sends a clear message of US commitment to our allies and the defense of our NATO alliance." For the past two years, in fact, the US has maintained a Special Operations contingent in almost every nation on Russia's western border. As Special Operations Command chief General Raymond Thomas put it last year, "[W]e've had persistent presence in every country -- every NATO country and others on the border with Russia doing phenomenal things with our allies, helping them prepare for their threats."
Africa, however, has seen the most significant increase in special ops deployments. In 2006, the figure for that continent was just 1%; as 2017 ended, it stood at 16.61%. In other words, more commandos are operating there than in any region except the Middle East. As I recently reported at Vice News, Special Operations forces were active in at least 33 nations across that continent last year.
The situation in one of those nations, Somalia, in many ways mirrors in microcosm the 16-plus years of US operations in Afghanistan. Not long after the 9/11 attacks, a senior Pentagon official suggested that the Afghan invasion might drive militants out of that country and into African nations. "Terrorists associated with al-Qaeda and indigenous terrorist groups have been and continue to be a presence in this region," he said. "These terrorists will, of course, threaten US personnel and facilities."
When pressed about actual transnational dangers, that official pointed to Somali militants, only to eventually admit that even the most extreme Islamists there "really have not engaged in acts of terrorism outside Somalia." Similarly, when questioned about connections between Osama bin Laden's core al-Qaeda group and African extremists, he offered only the most tenuous links, like bin Laden's "salute" to Somali militants who killed US troops during the infamous 1993 Black Hawk Down incident.
Nonetheless, US commandos reportedly began operating in Somalia in 2001, air attacks by AC-130 gunships followed in 2007, and 2011 saw the beginning of US drone strikes aimed at militants from al-Shabaab, a terror group that didn't even exist until 2006. According to figures compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US carried out between 32 and 36 drone strikes and at least 9 to 13 ground attacks in Somalia between 2001 and 2016.
Last spring, President Donald Trump loosened Obama-era restrictions on offensive operations in that country. Allowing US forces more discretion in conducting missions there, he opened up the possibility of more frequent airstrikes and commando raids. The 2017 numbers reflect just that. The US carried out 34 drone strikes, at least equaling if not exceeding the cumulative number of attacks over the previous 15 years. (And it took the United States only a day to resume such strikes this year.)
"President Trump's decision to make parts of southern Somalia an 'area of active hostilities' gave [US Africa Command or AFRICOM] the leeway to carry out strikes at an increased rate because it no longer had to run their proposed operations through the White House national security bureaucratic process," said Jack Serle, an expert on US counterterrorism operations in Somalia. He was quick to point out that AFRICOM claims the uptick in operations is due to more targets presenting themselves, but he suspects that AFRICOM may be attempting to cripple al-Shabaab before an African Union peacekeeping force is withdrawn and Somalia's untested military is left to fight the militants without thousands of additional African troops.
In addition to the 30-plus airstrikes in 2017, there were at least three US ground attacks. In one of the latter, described by AFRICOM as "an advise-and-assist operation alongside members of the Somali National Army," Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken was killed and two US personnel were injured during a firefight with al-Shabaab militants. In another ground operation in August, according to an investigation by the Daily Beast, Special Operations forces took part in a massacre of 10 Somali civilians. (The US military is now investigating.)
As in Afghanistan, the US has been militarily engaged in Somalia since 2001 and, as in Afghanistan, despite more than a decade and a half of operations, the number of militant groups being targeted has only increased. US commandos are now battling at least two terror groups -- al-Shabaab and a local Islamic State affiliate -- as drone strikes spiked in the last year and Somalia became an ever-hotter war zone. Today, according to AFRICOM, militants operate "training camps" and possess "safe havens throughout Somalia [and] the region."
"The under-reported, 16-year US intervention in Somalia has followed a similar pattern to the larger US war in Afghanistan: an influx of special forces and a steady increase in air strikes has not only failed to stop terrorism, but both al-Shabaab and a local affiliate of ISIS have grown during this time period," said William Hartung of the Center for International Policy. "It's another case of failing to learn the lessons of the United States' policy of endless war: that military action is as likely or more likely to spark terrorist action as to reduce or prevent it."
Somalia is no anomaly. Across the continent, despite escalating operations by commandos as well as conventional American forces and their local allies and proxies, Washington's enemies continue to proliferate. As Vice News reported, a 2012 Special Operations Command strategic planning document listed five prime terror groups on the continent. An October 2016 update counted seven by name -- the Islamic State, Ansar al-Sharia, al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, al-Murabitun, Boko Haram, the Lord's Resistance Army, and al-Shabaab -- in addition to "other violent extremist organizations." The Pentagon's Africa Center for Strategic Studies now offers a tally of 21 "active militant Islamist groups" on the continent. In fact, as reported at The Intercept, the full number of terrorist organizations and other "illicit groups" may already have been closer to 50 by 2015.Saving SOF Through Proxy War?
As wars and interventions have multiplied, as US commandos have spread across the planet, and as terror groups have proliferated, the tempo of operations has jumped dramatically. This, in turn, has raised fears among think-tank experts, special ops supporters, and members of Congress about the effects on those elite troops of such constant deployments and growing pressure for more of them. "Most SOF units are employed to their sustainable limit," General Thomas told members of Congress last spring. "Despite growing demand for SOF, we must prioritize the sourcing of these demands as we face a rapidly changing security environment." Yet the number of countries with special ops deployments hit a new record last year.
At a November 2017 conference on special operations held in Washington, influential members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees acknowledged growing strains on the force. For Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the solution is, as he put it, "to increase numbers and resources."
While Republican Senator Joni Ernst did not foreclose the possibility of adding to already war-swollen levels of commandos, she much prefers to farm out some operations to other forces: "A lot of the missions we see, especially if you... look at Afghanistan, where we have the train, advise, and assist missions, if we can move some of those into conventional forces and away from SOF, I think that's what we need to do." Secretary of Defense James Mattis has already indicated that such moves are planned. Leigh Claffey, Ernst's press secretary, told TomDispatch that the senator also favors "turning over operations to capable indigenous forces."
Ernst's proxies approach has, in fact, already been applied across the planet, perhaps nowhere more explicitly than in Syria in 2017. There, SOCOM's Thomas noted, US proxies, including both Syrian Arabs and Kurds, "a surrogate force of 50,000 people... are working for us and doing our bidding." They were indeed the ones who carried out the bulk of the fighting and dying during the campaign against the Islamic State and the capture of its capital, Raqqa.
However, that campaign, which took back almost all the territory ISIS held in Syria, was exceptional. US proxies elsewhere have fared far worse in recent years. That 50,000-strong Syrian surrogate army had to be raised, in fact, after the US-trained Iraqi army, built during the 2003-2011 American occupation of that country, collapsed in the face of relatively small numbers of Islamic State militants in 2014. In Mali, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Honduras, and elsewhere, US-trained officers have carried out coups, overthrowing their respective governments. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, where special ops forces have been working with local allies for more than 15 years, even elite security forces are still largely incapable of operating on their own. According to the Pentagon's 2017 semi-annual report to Congress, Afghan commandos needed US support for an overwhelming number of their missions, independently carrying out only 17% of their 2,628 operations between June 1, 2017, and November 24, 2017.
Indeed, with Special Operations forces acting, in the words of SOCOM's Thomas, as "the main effort, or major supporting effort for US [violent extremist organization]-focused operations in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, across the Sahel of Africa, the Philippines, and Central/South America," it's unlikely that foreign proxies or conventional American forces will shoulder enough of the load to relieve the strain on the commandos.
Bulking up Special Operations Command is not, however, a solution, according to the Center for International Policy's Hartung. "There is no persuasive security rationale for having US Special Operations forces involved in an astonishing 149 countries, given that the results of these missions are just as likely to provoke greater conflict as they are to reduce it, in large part because a US military presence is too often used as a recruiting tool by local terrorist organizations," he told TomDispatch. "The solution to the problem of the high operational tempo of US Special Operations forces is not to recruit and train more Special Operations forces. It is to rethink why they are being used so intensively in the first place."
"The innovation and vision of Black people is critical, along with the activation of millions who understand that our futures are tied to one another." —Alicia Garza. (Photo: KK Ottesen)With your support, Truthout can continue exposing inequality, analyzing policy and reporting on the struggle for a better world. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation.
Across the globe, 2017 brought us to new lows. Yet, even as crisis after crisis shook us to the ground, they also inspired many to rise up and take to the streets and other venues of popular power. Donald Trump as president awakened millions, sparked new cross-sectoral coalitions, and galvanized people to creative and effective action.
Across the world, those who never had the luxury of complacency continued their struggles for participatory democracy; economic justice; an end to wars and violence; protection of the global commons; the rights and security of women, LGBTQ folk, and other excluded populations; and an end to theft and plunder of indigenous and small-farmer lands.
Here, nine movement leaders share their hopes for the new year. From the head of Greenpeace USA to an opponent of patriarchal capitalism in Zimbabwe, these thinkers, strategists, and organizers have made significant contributions to different sectors and continents. And cutting across all their aspirations is a common theme: that solutions to some of the most intractable challenges on the planet will come from people uniting and organizing into powerful movements.Alicia Garza
Oakland, Calif.-based organizer and co-founder of Black Lives Matter
My hope for 2018 is that Black people are joined by the rest of the nation in solidly rejecting the new regime that has taken power. From suffrage to voting rights, from anti-Apartheid, emancipation, and #BlackLivesMatter to UndocuBlack and #MeToo, Black people have kept our eyes on freedom. Though we are not mules on whose backs freedom depends, the innovation and vision of Black people is critical, along with the activation of millions who understand that our futures are tied to one another. Let this be the year that sexual harassment and violence is seen through the eyes of Black women, the year that Congress is reorganized, and the year that progressive movements nurture and support Black communities by decisively taking on the fight against anti-Black racism as a fight for all of us. I hope that not another mother loses her child to police violence or the violence of government neglect. I hope a new movement emerges, committed to the fight against anti-Black racism in all its forms and united in pursuit of a future for all of us. I hope this is the year that the current administration is soundly rejected in favor of an interdependent, mutually beneficial global community.Annie Leonard
Executive director of Greenpeace USA
Annie Leonard. (Photo: Marcus Donner)
I have high hopes for the new year, hopes based on the very real momentum building across the country. In 2017, millions of people who have long felt concern about climate change, increasing inequity, the deterioration of our democracy, and more went from being isolated and angry to united and active. That gives me hope since an inclusive peoples' movement is the best line of defense against those who want to plunder the planet and its people. And that movement is growing more powerful by the day.
Closer to home, I hope that Greenpeace and allies win the lawsuit attempting to shut us up or shut us down. In 2017, Energy Transfer Partners, the company that built the Dakota Access pipeline (the focus of the Standing Rock protest), filed a $900 million SLAPP suit against Greenpeace. This is an attempt to silence and intimidate critics of pipelines and defenders of indigenous rights. I hope 2018 brings a resounding dismissal of this lawsuit, sending a strong message to corporations everywhere that they can't silence constitutionally protected advocacy. Dissent, nonviolent protest, and activism are crucial parts of our democracy, and are needed now more than ever.Gustavo Castro
Co-coordinator of Friends of the Earth Mexico/Otros Mundos; co-coordinator, Mesoamerican Movement against the Mining Extractive Model (M4)
Gustavo Castro. (Photo: Beverly Bell)
Responding to advanced capitalism with its savage extractivism in Latin America, organized peoples are resisting with more force, giving hope to the planet and me for the coming year. Electoral, military, and corporate coups d'état have encountered stronger fight-back from the Left, regardless of the cost to life and liberty; so too have free trade and investment agreements, the vehicles for making gigantic corporate investments in the territories of indigenous people and rural farmers (for everything from drilling and fracking of oil and gas; mining; monocultural production of African palm and other crops; and shrimp and factory cattle farming). Left movements are also fighting the theft and pillage of lands, waters, and other commons of nature, as well as the infrastructure needed to make huge profits from them, like oil pipelines and dry canals.
If the criminalization of social movements has grown, it is because the resistance continues to grow too, more than ever. In Latin America, people organized into organizations, and movements are defending their human rights, territories, and life.Samia Shoman
Palestinian American educator in the San Francisco Bay Area
Samia Shoman. (Photo courtesy of Samia Shoman)
On Dec. 21, when 128 member countries of the United Nations voted with Palestine against the US president's declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, my hope for Palestine was renewed. This hope grew when popular singer Lorde cancelled, on moral grounds, her upcoming concert in Tel Aviv on Christmas Day. Her announcement revalidated that the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which seeks to end international support for Israel's brutal occupation of Palestine, is growing and working. The action and resilience of Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian teen activist who stood up to Israeli soldiers' aggression, has filled Palestinians with hope that there is a new generation leading the resistance.
My hope is that one day soon the American populace will catch up to the international community, which seems more aware of the growing violence and oppression against Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government and military forces, and more willing to speak out about it. And when the streets of America are filled with people supporting Palestinians' right to self-determination and liberation, this hope will be fulfilled.Michelle L. Cook
Diné (Navajo) human rights lawyer focused on protecting indigenous rights and territories
Michelle L. Cook. (Photo courtesy of Michelle L. Cook)
The indigenous human rights movement was infused with new energy by the mass mobilization on the ancestral territories of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota, against the Dakota Access pipeline.
There is no tidy ending to that tale. The safety and future of indigenous people, lands, and waters still hang in the balance, and still need the world's full support.
At the same time, Standing Rock sparked a movement to stop international capital from flowing to the Dakota Access pipeline via banks, cities, and pension funds. In 2018 and beyond, indigenous people wielding the divestment tool -- with women in the forefront -- will be working to stop more financing of harmful projects and corporations.
This promises to be another year of indigenous mobilization to protect ancestral lands from plunder, such as Bears Ears in Utah from uranium mining and Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin from the Bayou Bridge oil pipeline.
We are hopefully at a turning point in human rights in America, for indigenous self-determination and treaty rights, and for remedy by state and non-state actors. Moving forward from Standing Rock, as after the 1965 civil rights activity in Selma, Alabama, we are in a societal shift that will continue to inspire more just alternatives.Melania Chiponda
Feminist activist and climate justice campaigner who was part of the Zimbabwean uprising that toppled Robert Mugabe
(Photo courtesy of Melania Chiponda)
The march of millions across Zimbabwe on Nov. 18 for our democracy, peace, and economic salvation succeeded in bringing down Mugabe. It was a revolution.
As an African feminist, I marched for something deeper, as well: for the liberation of women, for equality for people from all races, religions, genders, ethnic groups, and classes.
But from a feminist perspective, the real revolution has not yet happened. My dream for 2018 and beyond is for true change, not just for a changing of the guard, from Mugabe to his former henchman, the vicious Emmerson Mnangagwa. If we want to correct the political and economic system, then we should get rid of patriarchal capitalism. I feel trapped where every avenue to power is overwhelmingly male-dominated. A more cooperative and egalitarian economic system cannot be based on male supremacy.
In a world where women are viewed as mothers and caregivers before anything else, and have to overcome strong ideological and political resistance from men to participate in political and economic systems, my hope is that we start a real revolution against patriarchal capitalism.Greg Asbed
Cofounder of the farmworker-driven human rights and economic justice group the Coalition of Immokalee Workers
Greg Asbed. (Photo courtesy of Greg Asbed)
There were real glimmers of hope in 2017 that, when seen together, just might be the light at the end of one of the darkest years in this country's history. No glimmer shone brighter here in Immokalee, Florida, where some of this country's poorest, least powerful, most exploited workers found a way by building common cause with consumers, to turn what had been called "ground zero for modern-day slavery" into what is today known as "the best working environment in US agriculture." Through the Fair Food Program, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is eliminating longstanding abuses from sexual assault to forced labor and, in the process, giving farmworkers a real voice in the decisions that shape their lives.
If transformational, worker-led change can happen in Southern agriculture, it can happen anywhere. And that is my hope: that we come together in 2018 and start building the new day in the new year.Erika Guevara Rosas
Americas director at Amnesty International
Erika Guevara Rosas. (Photo courtesy of Erika Guevara Rosas)
Across the Americas throughout 2017, a growing social discontent inspired people to take to the streets and raise their voices for an end to repression, marginalization, and injustice. My inspiration to continue fighting for a better world in 2018 comes from countless small, brave acts by individuals and campaigns and resistance from movements that have and can make a real difference as we stand up to defend human rights.
Inspiration in 2017 came from the massive social movement of Ni Una Menos, or Not One Fewer, denouncing femicide and other violence against women and girls across Latin America. The long struggle of Peruvian activist Maxima Acuña had stopped a mining company that wanted to take over her land; recently, the Peruvian Supreme Court ruled in her favor. The decriminalization of abortion in Chile was a testament to the work of millions of women across the continent. And these are just a few of last year's stories of courage that have profoundly impacted people's lives.
In spite of the repressive response from governments, massive mobilizations in every corner in the region demanding state accountability and respect for human dignity will continue this year to transform the paradigms of power.Emem Okon
Director of Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre, a Nigerian eco-feminist organization battling oil companies
Emem Okon. (Photo courtesy of Emem Okon)
As women in the Niger Delta, we hope for this for 2018: Nothing about us without us! Throughout this new year, we will be aiming for greater power for the eco-feminist movement as we battle the oil companies who have stolen our lands, degraded the environment and biodiversity, and increased violence. I expect more visibility of women as we take action for the protection, remediation, and restoration of our environment. I anticipate ever-larger women's mobilizations and look forward to deep consultations with women pushing oil companies to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments before commencing activities on their communities' land. I envision the aspirations of community people being recognized and respected by oil corporations. Finally, I take hope from knowing we will push for a women's rights perspective as we engage with and monitor the Sustainable Development Goals, to ensure that no one is left behind and to ensure that government and the oil companies do the right thing.
Dedicated to Haj Ali Shallal Alqaisi, Iraqi peace activist and Abu Ghraib survivor. Thanks to Robert Naiman, Neil Tangri and Patrick Bond for their help.
Budget deficits can be a very powerful weapon in the battle against poverty, inequality, economic environmental and social justice. I worry very much about the vilifying of budget deficits and the use and reliance and dependence on questions of how social spending will impact budget deficits, to the complete disregard for the impact of programs and policies on people.
I worked with Senator Bernie Sanders as he pushed an ambitious policy agenda to do things like raise the minimum wage, put millions of people to work on large scale public investments, provide paid family leave, tuition-free colleges universal healthcare, and so on. And in every turn, no matter what he proposed, the first question on everyone's lips was, "How are you going to pay for it?" And then, "What does the [Congressional Budget Office] say? Does it get a good score or does it get a bad score, in which case the deficit might increase and it might add to the national debt?"
Everything in Washington revolves around this impact on debt and this question of paying for it. And my opinion -- and I was the chief economist on the Senate Budget Committee -- is that this is absolutely the least important question that anyone could possibly ask.
It has nothing to do with people or the ways in which these policies and programs really matter. No one asks, "How many kids would be lifted out of poverty if we did program X, Y, or Z? How would the programs reduce wealth inequality? Racial wealth inequality? How would the poor, the sick, the elderly be impacted? Would they be safer and more secure if we pursued these policies? What about the planet?"
We need to hold policymakers accountable and push them to focus on the things that matter. They need to know that we will not stand for excuses that have to do with the budget deficit and the impact on the national debt.
My position is that the federal government of the United States of America can move forward with a poor people's agenda because it can always create the money to fund that agenda, and we can't settle for any pushback that says anything else. The federal government is nothing like a household. It doesn't have to play by the same set of rules, and in fact it's damaging when it tries to play by the same rules of a household or a private business when it comes to its own budget.
I want to suggest that in this effort, this moment, never let anyone draw you into a toxic conversation about budget deficits or public debt. These are barriers that are erected to protect the government from the demands of its citizenry. We have public money that can be used to serve the public purpose. Settling for less is not an option. It will never get us full transformative policies.Auditing the US
I've been involved in trying to promote a federal job guarantee program. We recently looked at this, and we costed it out. If we were to do something big and bold like a living wage, and include benefits and healthcare, make it a permanent feature of the US economy, we estimate that the cost of a program like this is something like $500 to 600 billion a year.
How are you going to get there if you have to answer to paying for the deficit? It will never cost out under any circumstance with the CBO or any other wonky DC establishment. You must push beyond settling for programs that meet their scoring targets. We can't be worried about where the money will come from or how the program will affect the budget.
As probably the most famous economist of all time, John Maynard Keynes, said nearly 100 years ago: "Look after the unemployment and the budget will look after itself." If we are going to have programs envisioned as part of a moral agenda, then they are going to be big, they are going to be expensive, and they are going to impact the deficit. And you know what? That's okay.
So what I want to suggest is that there is an army of economists ready to stand by you, to use the weight of their credentials and training to defend a moral agenda against the inevitable cries that America is too poor to do anything else.
Members of the dominant media may portray themselves as defenders of the public interest who relentlessly scrutinize those in power, but there are long-standing backchannels between Capitol Hill reporters and shadowy government agencies. Recent revelations from former New York Times reporter James Risen show that secret deals between spies and publishers that shape the media narrative did not end after the 1960s and '70s.
Longstanding backchannels remain unseen. (Photo: DNY59 / E+ / Getty Images)
Steven Spielberg's new movie The Post presents the story behind Katharine Graham's decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in The Washington Post. As the closing credits roll, one is left with the impression of a publisher who adopts an adversarial stance towards powerful government officials. Despite the director's $50 million budget (or, perhaps, because of it), there are crucial details that are swept under the rug -- details that might lead viewers towards a more accurate understanding of the relationship between the mainstream corporate press and the government.
The public record offers some clarity. Three years after Graham decided to go public with the Pentagon Papers, Seymour Hersh revealed a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program called Operation CHAOS in The New York Times. Hersh cited inside sources who described "a massive, illegal domestic intelligence operation during the Nixon Administration against the antiwar movement and other dissident groups in the United States." Hersh's article on CIA domestic operations is pertinent because, along with earlier revelations by Christopher Pyle, it prompted the formation of the Church Commission.
The Church Commission was chartered to examine abuses by United States intelligence agencies. In 1976, the commission's final report (page 455 of Book I, entitled "Foreign and Military Intelligence") found that the CIA maintained "a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda" and that "approximately 50 of the [Agency] assets are individual American journalists or employees of US media organizations."
These initial findings were further corroborated by Carl Bernstein, who unearthed a web of "more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency." Note that Bernstein was one of the Washington Post journalists who helped to expose the Watergate scandal. He published his piece on the CIA and the media with Rolling Stone magazine in 1977.
So who exactly were these media collaborators? A declassified memo from 1965 offers a clue. In particular, the memo lists a series of journalists and publishers that periodically spoke with Ray Cline, then deputy director of the Directorate of Intelligence for the CIA. These were individuals who were picked in an effort to allow Cline to serve as a "source of information" in order to "benefit the general rapport of the agency" with the press. Guess whose name is included on this list? Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post and Newsweek.
According to former New York Times journalist James Risen, ongoing stealthy arrangements serve a purpose. Risen indicates that officials are "regularly engaged in quiet negotiations with the press to try to stop the publication of sensitive national security stories." To do so, they need to offer incentives. Hence, in exchange for being granted veto power, these same officials soft-pedal leak investigations so that insiders can provide juicy bits of classified data to the press on a steady basis. The big-name publishers are able to create the kind of headlines that attract eyeballs, and shadowy government agencies acquire leverage to quash certain stories. Risen was on the receiving end of this dynamic for years. Publishers boost sales, spies frame the narrative to suit their purposes and honest journalists suffer. Insiders win, democracy loses.
But it gets worse. It's not just certain news outlets that have been compromised. Infiltration and subversion are techniques that have been refined to high art over the decades by the spy masters in Langley. Back in 1967, Ramparts magazine revealed that the CIA had been covertly funding the National Student Association. As Hugh Wilford's extensive research demonstrates, this was just the tip of the iceberg. The CIA's "mighty Wurlitzer," as the agency's covert propaganda apparatus was referred to internally, covered a broad range of front groups that spanned society.
To think that all of this simply vanished in the late 1960s is a dubious proposition. Consider that when President Reagan signed Executive Order 12333 in 1981, the definition of special activities (i.e. clandestine operations) changed. The original definition of special activities was (emphasis added): "Activities conducted abroad in support of national foreign policy objectives which are planned and executed so that the role of the United States Government is not apparent or acknowledged publicly."
In 1981 the definition of special activities became: "Activities conducted in support of national foreign policy objectives abroad which are planned and executed so that the role of the United States Government is not apparent or acknowledged publicly."
In other words, as things stand now, domestic operations are fair game. In light of this, perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that while the large agenda-setting members of the corporate media portray themselves as defenders of the public interest who relentlessly scrutinize those in power, there are long-standing backchannels that remain unseen. Far from being opponents of the political class, media figures are often their close partners.Support from readers provides Truthout with vital funds to keep investigating what mainstream media won't cover. Fund more stories like this by donating now!
An activist displays a sign during a rally for Palestinian rights on March 26, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)
Advocacy groups vowed to continue their fight for peace and justice on Sunday after the Israeli government announced they are banned from the country for their support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement known as BDS.
"By banning the leaders of peace organizations like CODEPINK, Israel is isolating itself even further as an apartheid state," said Ariel Gold, national director of CODEPINK. "Their BDS blacklist is contrary to democratic principles and Jewish values. As an American Jew, I am proud of my work to challenge Israel's policies of repression. I will not give up the fight."
"We have shifted from defense to offense," said Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan. "The boycott organizations need to know that the State of Israel will act against them and not allow [them] to enter its territory to harm its citizens."
In addition to CODEPINK, the US-based groups on the list include the Nobel Peace Prize-winning American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), National Students for Justice in Palestine, and US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. Among the European organizations on the list are War on Want and Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
According to JVP executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson, the development "is disconcerting but not surprising, given the further erosion of democratic norms as well as rising anxiety about the power of BDS as a tool to demand freedom. JVP members are now joining Palestinians as well as Muslims from around the world, people of color, and other activists who are often barred from entry."January 7, 2018
For CODEPINK member Nancy Kricorian, being included on the list is actually a source of pride.
"As I read through the names of groups now banned from entering Israel because of their advocacy for Palestinian rights," she said in a statement, "I thought that this list was rather a roll of honor. Israel's desperate attempt to counter the BDS movement with this latest blacklist, along with the millions of dollars they are spending on internet trolling and propaganda campaigns, will not stop our principled support of equality and justice for the Palestinian people."Exposing the wrongdoing of those in power has never been more important. Support Truthout's independent, investigative journalism by making a donation!
The GOP decided to cover the costs of their tax cut bill in part by whacking Democratic states like California and New York, which have relatively high state and local taxes. The tax increase was explicitly designed to make it more expensive for progressive states to provide services like health care and education to their people. These states absolutely should look to fight back by finding ways to avoid the tax increase.
(Photo: Googibga / Getty Images)With everything going on in the White House, the media must maintain relentless pressure on the Trump administration. Can you support Truthout in this endeavor? Click here to donate.
The Republican Congress gave themselves and their contributors a huge Christmas present with the tax cut bill they pushed through at the end of last year. They decided to cover the costs in part by whacking Democratic states like California and New York, which have relatively high state and local taxes.
The big hit was limiting the amount of state and local taxes that could be deducted. As a result, many upper-middle-class families and rich families will be paying thousands more in taxes each year.
While most of these people probably can and should pay more in taxes, this tax increase was explicitly designed to make it more expensive for progressive states to provide services like health care and education to their people. In this context, it's time to take the gloves off. These states absolutely should look to fight back by finding ways to avoid the tax increase.
Fortunately, there is a way. States can look to replace much of their income tax with an employer-side payroll tax. This will effectively preserve the tax deductibility of the income tax and even extend this benefit to people who don't itemize.
To take a simple case, suppose that a state has a 5 percent flat income tax. A person earning $200,000 a year would pay $10,000 a year in taxes. Under the former system, this $10,000 was fully deductible from federal income taxes, under the theory that this was money they never saw: The state taxed it away.
Now, much of this could be taxable, since the new law limits total deductions for state and local taxes, including property taxes, to $10,000. Depending on how much this person paid in property taxes and other deductible taxes, they may be able to deduct little or none of the money they pay in state income taxes.
Suppose we replace the 5 percent income tax with a 5 percent employer-side payroll tax. The person's employer will now have to pay 5 percent of the worker's salary or $10,000 to the state.
Economists usually think that employer-side payroll taxes are taken pretty much dollar-for-dollar out of workers' wages. The idea is that if an employer is willing to pay $200,000 to hire a worker, they don't especially care whether they are paying that money to the worker or to the government. If the company now has to pay the government a $10,000 payroll tax, they will look to lower the worker's pay to $190,000.
It is worth noting that this adjustment may not apply everywhere and typically is not going to happen immediately. In other words, we wouldn't expect that employers will suddenly cut their workers' pay by 5 percent. Rather, workers might see smaller pay increases than would otherwise be the case so that after two or three years their pay ends up being 5 percent less than otherwise would have been the case. (Actually, since employers just got a big tax cut, it would be nice to see them eat some of this payroll tax and let workers enjoy some real wage gains.)
Anyhow, this matters for federal taxes, because after this adjustment takes place this worker would only have $190,000 of taxable income, rather than $200,000. This worker is left with the same amount of money after paying their state taxes as when they had the income tax, but their federal tax burden will be substantially less. If this person is in the 25 percent tax bracket, this little trick saves them $2,500 a year on their taxes.
This benefit even goes to people who don't itemize. Imagine a more middle-income person who earned $60,000 a year before the employer-side payroll tax was put into effect. They would see their taxable income fall to $57,000. If they are in the 22 percent tax bracket, they will save $660 a year from this switch.
There will be some complications from this policy. Many people work in one state and live in another. We would want to make sure that this means neither that they escape state taxation nor get taxed by two states. This will require some work, but it is a problem that already exists under the current system.
There also is a problem of preserving progressivity. For many reasons it is best to keep a flat payroll tax, but we would want lower-income people to pay a smaller share of their income and higher-income people to pay a larger share. This can be addressed with an Earned Income Tax Credit, which many states already have, and maintaining an income tax for high earners, as well as for income from stocks and other property.
There are undoubtedly other details that have to be worked through and the end product will surely not be perfect. But an employer-side payroll tax is a great way for progressive states to fight back against this Republican tax scam.
A man watches a television news broadcast showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's New Year's speech, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, on January 1, 2018. (Photo: JUNG YEON-JE / AFP / Getty Images)
Donald Trump's veiled threat to use nuclear weapons against North Korea is illegal as well as horrifying; it warrants his removal from office, under the 25th Amendment or by impeachment. Impeachment is a political, not a legal, process, but we cannot expect the Republican-controlled Congress to take action to remove Trump.
A man watches a television news broadcast showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's New Year's speech, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, on January 1, 2018. (Photo: JUNG YEON-JE / AFP / Getty Images)Exposing the wrongdoing of those in power has never been more important. Support Truthout's independent, investigative journalism by making a donation!
Donald Trump's veiled threat to use nuclear weapons against North Korea is not only horrifying, but also illegal. It warrants his removal from office.
On New Year's Day, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un asserted, "The entire area of the US mainland is within our nuclear strike range. The United States can never start a war against me and our country," adding, "The United States should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table." Kim clarified that he would not use those weapons except in response to aggression.
Not to be outdone by Kim, Trump tweeted in response, "I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"
The president's cavalier threat to start a nuclear holocaust cannot be dismissed as the rant of an immature bully. Trump controls a powerful nuclear arsenal. In fact, a few days after Trump's nuclear button tweet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared it would sponsor a public meeting to cover "planning and preparation efforts" in the event of a nuclear attack.Trump's Tweet Is Illegal
Trump's tweet violates several laws. Threatening to use nuclear weapons runs afoul of the United Nations Charter, which forbids the use of or threat to use military force except in self-defense or when approved by the Security Council. North Korea has not mounted an armed attack on the United States nor is such an attack imminent. And the UN Security Council has not given the US its blessing to attack North Korea. Trump's tweet also constitutes a threat to commit genocide and a crime against humanity.
The ominous tweet follows Trump's promise last summer that North Korean threats would be "met with fire and fury," a phrase that found its way into the title of Michael Wolff's explosive new book. Trump also told the UN General Assembly he would "totally destroy North Korea."
"Nuclear war is not a game," said Derek Johnson, executive director of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, in a statement. "We are flirting with unacceptably high risks that carry catastrophic consequences for the country and the world. No one can afford to not take Trump's threats seriously -- least of all the North Koreans, who could be provoked into striking first in order to preempt what they perceive as an imminent attack."
Lawmakers are echoing the concerns of advocates like Johnson.
"A nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula would be a catastrophe, leading to the deaths of potentially millions of people, including American service members and families stationed there," Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) stated.
Indeed, "even a conventional war between the US and [North Korea] could kill more than 1 million people; a nuclear exchange, therefore might result in tens of millions of casualties," The Intercept reported.
Jeffrey Lewis, an expert in nuclear policy at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told HuffPost that after a nuclear strike, "there would be survivors for days trying to make their way out of the rubble and back home, dying of radiation poisoning."
Markey said that Trump's tweet "borders on presidential malpractice," adding, "We cannot let this war of words result in an actual war."
Eliot A. Cohen, assistant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the George W. Bush administration, was alarmed by Trump's nuclear button tweet.A president can be constitutionally removed from office without actually committing a crime.
Cohen tweeted, "Spoken like a petulant ten year old," adding, "But one with nuclear weapons -- for real -- at his disposal. How responsible people around him, or supporting him, can dismiss this or laugh it off is beyond me."
Some of those surrounding Trump are indeed laughing: Consider the disturbing comments of Michael Flynn Jr., son of Trump's former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Flynn Jr. thought Trump's tweet was "just awesome." Flynn Jr. tweeted, "This is why Trump was elected. A no bulls#t leader not afraid to stand up for his country."Removal Under the 25th Amendment
A president can be constitutionally removed from office -- either by using the 25th Amendment or impeachment -- even without actually committing a crime.
The 25th Amendment provides for the vice president to assume the presidency when he and a majority of the president's cabinet declare in writing that the president "is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." If the president challenges that determination, two-thirds of both houses of Congress are required to affirm that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.
"This tweet alone is grounds for removal from office under the 25th Amendment," tweeted Richard Painter, ethics lawyer for George W. Bush and currently vice chairman of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington DC. "This man should not have nukes."
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The New York Times in October that Trump was setting us "on the path to World War III." He said, "I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it's a situation of trying to contain him." Corker noted that those apprehensions "were shared by nearly every Senate Republican."
In his new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Wolff writes that his interviewees "all say [Trump] is like a child." One source said it was frequently impossible for staff to determine what Trump wished to do. It was like "trying to figure out what a child wants."
Wolff wrote in the Hollywood Reporter, "Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country's future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all -- 100 percent -- came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job."Impeachment of the President
The Constitution provides for impeachment when the president commits "high crimes and misdemeanors." This does not require actual law breaking. A president can be impeached for abuse of power or obstruction of justice, which were two of the articles of impeachment charged against Richard Nixon.
Impeachment is a political, not a legal, process. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 65, offenses are impeachable if they "proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust." Hamilton added, "They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself."
As I described in my article, "Time to Impeach Trump," his illegal threats against North Korea and his efforts to obstruct justice regarding the Russia investigation constitute grounds for impeachment.
But we cannot expect the Republican-controlled Congress will either impeach Trump or affirm a decision to remove him under the 25th Amendment. They are thrilled that Trump spearheaded their tax cuts for the rich and is appointing radical right-wing judges who will eliminate reproductive and LGBTQ rights.
"By all accounts," Eric Levitz wrote in New York Magazine, "most GOP Congress members recognize that Donald Trump" maintains "only peripheral contact with reality." But, Levitz added, "They have, nonetheless, decided to let him retain unilateral command of the largest nuclear arsenal on planet Earth because it would be politically and personally inconvenient to remove his finger from the button."
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) introduced a bill that would establish a commission to evaluate Trump's fitness for office. It has 57 co-sponsors.
Tell your Congress member to sign on as a co-sponsor to H.R. 1987, the Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity Act.
Hollywood actors and actresses celebrated the #MeToo movement and demanded gender and racial justice at Sunday night's Golden Globe Awards. Many attendees answered the call to wear black and wore pins that read "Time's Up!" On Sunday, Oprah Winfrey made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win the Golden Globe lifetime achievement award. The first African American to receive the honor was Sidney Poitier in 1982. During the ceremony, Golden Globes host Seth Meyers joked with Oprah, suggesting she should run for president. The joke, and Oprah's powerful acceptance speech, fueled a wave of speculation and enthusiasm about a possible 2020 bid by the actress. In response, Oprah's longtime partner Stedman Graham said, "It's up to the people. She would absolutely do it." We air Oprah's acceptance speech, as well as speeches by Golden Globes host Seth Meyers and award winners Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern of "Big Little Lies," Elisabeth Moss of "The Handmaid's Tale," Frances McDormand of "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," and Sterling K. Brown of "This Is Us."
AMY GOODMAN: "Time's Up!" That was the message at last night's Golden Globes ceremony in Hollywood, where actors embraced the #MeToo movement and called for gender and racial justice in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. The red carpet went dark, as many actors answered the call to wear black and wore pins that read "Time's Up!" Golden Globes host Seth Meyers kicked off the evening with a speech focused on sexual harassment in Hollywood, taking aim at disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey.
SETH MEYERS: It's 2018. Marijuana is finally allowed, and sexual harassment finally isn't. … Harvey Weinstein isn't here tonight, because, well, I've heard rumors that he's crazy and difficult to work with. But don't worry, he'll be back in 20 years, when he becomes the first person ever booed during the "in memoriam." … Well, despite everything that happened this year, the show goes on. For example, I was happy to hear they're going to do another season of "House of Cards." Is Christopher Plummer available for that, too? I hope he can do a Southern accent, because Kevin Spacey sure couldn't.
AMY GOODMAN: Eight actresses brought social justice activists with them to the Golden Globes this year: Michelle Williams brought #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke; Meryl Streep walked the red carpet with Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; Shailene Woodley was accompanied by Suquamish Tribe member Calina Lawrence; Emma Stone brought tennis champ and LGBT advocate Billie Jean King -- Stone portrayed the athlete in the film Battle of the Sexes; Susan Sarandon brought media justice activist Rosa Clemente; and Amy Poehler's guest was Saru Jayaraman, president of Restaurant Opportunities Center. In a few minutes, Clemente and Jayaraman will join us from Los Angeles, after their long night at the Golden Globes. This is Golden Globes host, comedian Seth Meyers.
SETH MEYERS: I want to point out that sitting next to Amy is Saru Jayaraman. Give it up for Saru, everyone. She is one of many activists from outside of this industry who have been invited here tonight in support of the #TimesUp initiative. It's great, yeah. Give it up. It's great that this movement understands that what tarnished our world this year tarnishes so many others, and it's reaching out to help them, too.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, the first Golden Globe of the night went to actress Nicole Kidman for her performance in HBO's the Big Little Lies. Kidman won for best actress in a limited series for her performance.
NICOLE KIDMAN: My mama was an advocate for the women's movement when I was growing up. And because of her, I'm standing here. My achievements are her achievements. Antonia Kidman, my sister, and I say say, "Thank you, Janelle Kidman, for what you fought for so hard." And this character that I played represents something that is the center of our conversation right now: abuse. I do believe, and I hope, we can elicit change through the stories we tell and the way we tell them. Let's keep the conversation alive. Let's do it.
AMY GOODMAN: Also from Big Little Lies, Laura Dern took home the award for best supporting actress in a limited series or TV movie.
LAURA DERN: The most outrageous, complicated woman and a terrified mother, terrified because her little girl was being abused and bullied, and she was too afraid to speak up. Many of us were taught not to tattle. It was a culture of silencing, and that was normalized. I urge all of us to not only support survivors and bystanders who are brave enough to tell their truth, but to promote restorative justice. May we also please protect and employ them. May we teach our children that speaking out, without the fear of retribution, is our culture's new North Star.
AMY GOODMAN: Elisabeth Moss won the award for best actress in a television series -- drama, for her role in "The Handmaid's Tale." The series is based on the novel by author Margaret Atwood, which was originally published in 1985. Moss used her acceptance speech to honor Atwood.
ELISABETH MOSS: This is from Margaret Atwood: "We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories." Margaret Atwood, this is for you and all of the women who came before you and after you who were brave enough to speak out against intolerance and injustice and to fight for equality and freedom in this world. We no longer live in the blank white spaces at the edge of print. We no longer live in the gaps between the stories. We are the story in print, and we are writing the story ourselves. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: A movie that connects to the #MeToo moment emerged as the night's top film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, about a mother avenging the rape and murder of her daughter, won best picture -- drama, best supporting actor, best screenplay and best actress -- drama, for Frances McDormand, who referred to being part of a "tectonic shift" in Hollywood.
FRANCES McDORMAND: I keep my politics private. But it was really great to be in this room tonight and to be a part of the tectonic shift in our industry's power structure. Trust me, the women in this room tonight are not here for the food. We are here for the work. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: In another historic first for the night, actor Sterling K. Brown became the first African-American man to win a Golden Globe for best actor in a TV series -- drama, for his role in "This Is Us."
STERLING K. BROWN: Throughout the majority of my career, I have benefited from colorblind casting, which means, you know, like, "Hey, let's throw a brother in this role." Right? It's always really cool. But, Dan Fogelman, you wrote a role for a black man, like that could only be played by a black man. And so, what I appreciate so much about this thing is that I'm being seen for who I am and being appreciated for who I am. And it makes it that much more difficult to dismiss me or dismiss anybody who looks like me.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Sterling K. Brown. Well, among all of the major achievements and speeches at Sunday night's Golden Globes, the most talked about was Oprah Winfrey, who became the first African-American woman to win the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. The first African-American to receive the honor was Sidney Poitier in 1982. This is Oprah Winfrey.
OPRAH WINFREY: In 1964, I was a little girl, sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother's house in Milwaukee, watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: "The winner is Sidney Poitier." Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white, and, of course, his skin was black. And I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that. And I have tried many, many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats, as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people's houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney's performance in Lilies of the Field: "Amen, amen. Amen, amen." In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille Award right here at the Golden Globes. And it is not lost on me that, at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award.
It is an honor. It is an honor, and it is a privilege, to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who have inspired me, who have challenged me, who have sustained me and made my journey to the stage possible: Dennis Swanson, who took a chance on me for A.M. Chicago; Quincy Jones, who saw me on that show and said to Steven Spielberg, "Yes, she is Sofia in The Color Purple"; Gayle, who has been the definition of what a friend is; and Stedman, who's been my rock -- just a few to name.
I'd like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, because we all know that the press is under siege these days. But we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice, to -- to tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before, as we try to navigate these complicated times.
Which brings me to this. What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I'm especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell. And this year, we became the story. But it's not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It's one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault, because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They're the women whose names we'll never know. They are domestic workers and farmworkers. They are working in factories, and they work in restaurants. And they're in academia, in engineering, in medicine, in science. They're part of the world of tech and politics and business. They're our athletes in the Olympics, and they're our soldiers in the military.
And there's someone else: Recy Taylor -- a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and a mother. She was just walking home from a church service she had attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped and left blindfolded by the side of the road, coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone. But her story was reported to the NAACP, where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case. And together, they sought justice. But justice wasn't an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died 10 days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed, if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up! Their time is up. And I just hope -- I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks's heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it's here with every woman who chooses to say "Me, too," and every man -- every man who chooses to listen.
In my career, what I've always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave, to say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere, and how we overcome. And I've interviewed and portrayed people who have withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say "Me, too" again. Thank you. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Oprah Winfrey, accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement Sunday night at the Golden Globes. Just after her speech, Natalie Portman took the stage to announce what she noted were the all-male nominees for best director. During the ceremony, Golden Globes host Seth Meyers joked with Oprah, suggesting she should run for president. The joke, and Oprah's powerful acceptance speech, fueled a wave of speculation and enthusiasm about a possible 2020 bid by the actress. In response, Oprah's longtime partner Stedman Graham said, quote, "It's up to the people. She would absolutely do it," he said.
When we come back, we'll speak with two of the social justice activists who accompanied actresses on the red carpet and to the Sunday Golden Globes. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: "Remember Me" by Miguel and Natalia Lafourcade. It's the theme song to the movie Coco, which just won a Golden Globe for best animated motion picture.
Time's Up: Activists Join Actresses on Golden Globes Red Carpet to Call for Gender and Racial Justice
At Sunday night's Golden Globes ceremony in Hollywood, actors embraced the #MeToo movement and called for gender and racial justice in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. Eight actresses brought social justice activists with them: Michelle Williams brought #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke; Meryl Streep walked the red carpet with Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; Shailene Woodley was accompanied by Suquamish Tribe member Calina Lawrence; Emma Stone brought tennis champ and LGBT advocate Billie Jean King; Susan Sarandon brought Puerto Rican media justice and former Green Party vice-presidential nominee Rosa Clemente; and Amy Poehler's guest was Saru Jayaraman, president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. For more, we speak with Rosa Clemente and Saru Jayaraman.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.
"Time's Up!" That was the message at last night's Golden Globes ceremony in Hollywood, where the actors embraced the #MeToo movement and called for gender and racial justice in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. Eight actresses brought social justice activists with them: Michelle Williams brought #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke; Meryl Streep walked the red carpet with Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; Shailene Woodley was accompanied by the Suquamish Tribe member Calina Lawrence; Emma Stone brought the tennis champ and LGBT advocate Billie Jean King, who Stone portrayed in the film Battle of the Sexes; Susan Sarandon brought the Puerto Rican media justice activist, former Green Party vice-presidential nominee Rosa Clemente; and Amy Poehler's guest was Saru Jayaraman, president of the Restaurant Opportunities Center.
We're joined right now by Rosa Clemente and Saru Jayaraman, after a very long night, I am sure. Rosa Clemente's latest project is -- she'll talk all about it -- "PRontheMap.com." And Saru Jayaraman is the director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley. Her latest book is titled Forked: A New Standard for American Dining, author of Behind the Kitchen Door.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Saru, let's begin with you. Talk about your experience last night at the Golden Globes, certainly a breakthrough night in so many ways.
SARU JAYARAMAN: It was incredible. It was electric. And it was especially moving for me to be with Amy Poehler, because she actually worked in the restaurant industry, in which I organize, for many years. She experienced a lot of the things that the women in our industry experience, and was able to really let the media know that there are very clear policy solutions to getting rid of harassment in our industry, which really impacts -- our industry actually really impacts even the women in Hollywood, because one in two Americans, like Amy and many celebrities, worked in our industry in their youth.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what it was like in the room, the whole approach, the theme, #MeToo, so many people wearing that. Talk about, you know, something you may have watched on TV before, or maybe you never did, and, as well, we just heard Oprah Winfrey's speech describing her own breakthrough experience.
SARU JAYARAMAN: I saw so many people moved. And it wasn't just in the room, outside of the room. I can't tell you the number of people in Hollywood and outside of Hollywood who said that this was the most important moment of their careers, that so many people in Hollywood told me that the Golden Globes never meant as much, or anything at all, until last night. And I think, for women outside of Hollywood, the women in the restaurant industry, domestic workers, farmworkers, women in Puerto Rico, women all over, last night was also incredible because it was women standing together, across so many different sectors and places and, you know, situations, to say, "Enough is enough, and our power is collective, and we're going to, as Oprah said, see another horizon."
I mean, in our case, last night actually wasn't just about Hollywood. It wasn't just about women wearing black. It wasn't just a show of solidarity. In fact, in our case, last night -- because of last night and everything last night represents, we're seeing real policy change in our industry. We've been fighting for many years for One Fair Wage, which is the elimination of the lower wage for tipped workers, which really is the source of harassment in our industry, because you've got a mostly female workforce living on tips, having to tolerate all kinds of inappropriate customer behavior. And you can cut that in half. Our research shows you can cut that in half by getting rid of that lower wage for tipped workers, because women actually then get a wage and don't tolerate, you know, harassment for tips. And actually, as a result of the movement and the moment and last night, Governor Cuomo in New York has suggested that he will move forward to eliminate lower wages for tipped workers in New York. Now, we have to make that happen, but wow! What an extraordinary thing that women coming together, it's not just about wearing black, it's not just about an awards show, but it could actually result in policy change for millions of the lowest-wage women in the United States. And that is historic. That's historic.
AMY GOODMAN: Rosa Clemente, talk about how you got involved with the #TimesUp movement, what your experience was last night, going to the Golden Globes with Susan Sarandon.
ROSA CLEMENTE: Well, first, we have to say that if it wasn't for Mónica Ramírez from the Farmworkers Alliance, and the Farmworkers Alliance writing a letter to Hollywood women, letting Hollywood women know you're just not actresses, you're also workers, and there's this entertainment industry where you're exploited, as well, and you're subject to sexual violence, none of us would have been there, because Mónica and them wrote that letter and then reached out to Tarana Burke of #MeToo, and then Tarana Burke reached out to the rest of us, and that's how we got there.
I think it's critically important also to uplift actresses of color that were not nominated, because you don't get into the Golden Globes unless you're nominated, like America Ferrera and Tracee Ellis Ross and Ava DuVernay and so many women of color who are actresses, who also suffer from violence and racial injustice in that industry, who wanted to also make sure we were there. You know, so, of course, because Susan Sarandon has been one of the most left, radical actresses or advocates in that peer group, me and Susan know each other, especially through our mutual work and political leanings in the Green Party.
You know, so, obviously, as a Puerto Rican, it was an interesting moment, because I knew most of my people in Puerto Rico could not see me, because they don't have power. And it was also a good moment, because --
AMY GOODMAN: In a lot of senses of the world -- in a lot of senses of the word, Rosa.
ROSA CLEMENTE: -- the energy was -- it was very overpowering, in this sense, that every person in that room, that we know have access and power to something and resources that can help us take these movements to another level, were very serious. And there were many women who people would assume because of their visibility and their perceived power that have never been affected by violence, and the amount of hugs and gratitude and thank-yous that we got shows that we have a shared empowerment at this moment. And it was fantastic.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what some have described as this elite group, obviously, Hollywood? Even if the pay grade, for example, is different between men and women, still women make much more, obviously, than the women you represent, Saru, in the restaurant industry, than the people who are in crisis right now, Rosa, where you just were, in Puerto Rico. But how Hollywood can set a tone, can change the climate, can really shape mores in America? Rosa, the importance of Hollywood?
ROSA CLEMENTE: Well, look, you know, even at the end of the day, these are people that financially are multimillionaires and part of what, you know, our movement and our people have rightfully deemed the 99 percent. I think this is going to take a lot of conversations about how we talk about capitalism and what that means when everything in the society is monetized. With that said, #TimesUp has raised $16 million, and all that money will go to those, particularly mostly women, who don't have any money to pursue any type of case, any type of reparation and damage that has been done to them, and to have lawyers to represent them.
I also think it's important that people understand this, right? It is Hollywood, but there's levels of inequality in Hollywood. And I really think people need to know these names of actresses that have spoken out about Harvey Weinstein for over 20 years and were some of the most targeted, that, I know from conversations, have felt marginalized from this group, like a Rose McGowan, an Annabella Sciorra, a Mira Sorvino, a Rosanna Arquette. You know, and that's something that these women are going to have to, with our support, more advocate for themselves. But the first group of women, who I just named, who came out around Harvey Weinstein were the ones that have most been affected in this sense. Most of them have not worked in a decade. Most of them have not worked in 15 years, because they were some of the first ones to speak out. And also they were some of the ones that were subjected to rape, not only once, but twice.
Salma Hayak was there. And it was powerful to see her, and it was powerful to talk to her, in the sense that even with all the power and money that she has, it was only through the #MeToo movement and through the work of social and racial justice activists, like all of us, that she felt it was her time to speak up.
So, there's a lot of nuances to it. And at the end of the day, #TimesUp is also going to have to support all of our organizations. They're going to have to support all of our work. But primarily, right now, they have to step up hard and set aside a fund, that would allow the women to not only have like reparations, some type of settlement, where they can live, if they're never going to work in the industry again, but also that these women can have access to mental health services to get them through the crisis that they're in right now.
AMY GOODMAN: I want --
SARU JAYARAMAN: Yeah, I was really pleasantly amazed, actually, how genuine the women in that room, that are part of #TimesUp, actually recognize their privilege, recognize their station in life and their situation and how different it is from other people, and continuously kept saying, you know, "If I have felt very disempowered, you know, afraid to speak up, imagine how restaurant workers and domestic workers and farmworkers and so many other women around the world feel. How could they possibly speak up?" And yet, like you said, I mean, the leverage that this group has, they recognize their privilege, which is why they were so willing to extend it to us, in an incredible moment, to actually leverage that situation and privilege for power for all of us.
It's so funny. I mention that, because of this moment, Governor Cuomo is moving, is talking about eliminating the lower wage for tipped workers, for 400,000 tipped workers in New York. And that's obviously a long time in coming. We've been working on these issues for many years. But Amy Poehler said it well. She said, "We're so happy to help unscrew a lid that you've been unscrewing for decades. We're so happy to stand there with you while we take it off together." That is what this moment represents. Yes, it is women with power, but women with power extending their privilege and their platform to other women, who also have -- as Mónica Ramírez has said, from the farmworkers, "We have power, too. Farmworkers have power. Restaurant workers have power. It's our collective power." It's the power of women who've been working on these issues for decades and decades, now standing together with women who have a platform, to announce #TimesUp, and we can actually make not just -- we can not just dethrone individuals. We can not just come out and name our truths. We can actually create policy and structural change on these issues.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break and then come back to this discussion with Saru Jayaraman, who's president and co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, or ROC United, representing restaurant workers. Rosa Clemente is a well-known Puerto Rican activist, independent journalist, walked the Golden Globes red carpet Sunday night with actress Susan Sarandon. We'll find out more about their work in a moment.