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Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump

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For avalanche-level lying, deceiving, and misleading, mega-mimic Donald Trump need look no further than the history of the corporate advertising industry and the firms that pay them.

Dissembling is so deeply ingrained in commercial culture that the Federal Trade Commission and the courts don’t challenge exaggerated general claims that they call “puffery.”

Serious corporate deception is a common sales technique. At times it cost consumers more than dollars. It has led to major illness and loss of life.

Take the tobacco industry which used to sell its products in the context of health and facilitating mental concentration. Healthy movie stars and athletes were featured in print and on TV until 1970.

Despite studies showing that sugary soft drinks can damage health, increase obesity, and reduce life expectancy, the industry’s ads still feature healthy, fit families in joyous situations guzzling pop. Fortunately, drinking water has regained its first place position as the most consumed liquid in the U.S.

Whether it is the auto industry’s false inflation of fuel efficiency or the e-cigarette companies deceiving youngsters about vaping, or the food industry selling sugary junk cereals as nutrition for children, or the credit banking companies misleading on interest rates, truth in advertising is oxymoronic.

To counter these “fake ads,” the consumer movement pushed for mandatory labeling on food and other products. The Federal Trade Commission is a chief enforcer against deception in advertising, but it has waxed and waned over the decades. The FTC describes its duties to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive acts or practices as follows:

“In advertising and marketing, the law requires that objective claims be truthful and substantiated. The FTC does not pursue subjective claims or puffery — claims like “this is the best hairspray in the world.” But if there is an objective component to the claim — such as “more consumers prefer our hairspray to any other” or “our hairspray lasts longer than the most popular brands” — then you need to be sure that the claim is not deceptive and that you have adequate substantiation before you make the claim.”

A few times, companies, caught engaging in false advertising, were compelled by the FTC to announce the correction in their forthcoming ads and apologize. Those days are long gone.

Another way consumers fought back is the spectacular success of Dr. Sidney Wolfe and his associates at Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. They researched hundreds of prescription drugs and over the counter medicines and found they were not effective for the purpose for which they are advertised. Relentless publicity on such dynamic mass media as the Phil Donahue Show led to the withdrawal of many of these products, likely saving consumers billions of dollars and protecting them from harmful side-effects (see Pills that Don’t Work).

When large companies are fighting regulation their lies become “clear and present dangers” to innocent people. I recall at a technical conference in the early nineteen sixties, a General Motors engineer warned that seatbelts in cars would tear away the inner organs of motorists from their moorings in sudden decelerations as in collisions. For the longest time, lead, asbestos, and a whole host of chemicals were featured as safe, not just necessary. All false.

Someone should write a book about all the prevarications by leading spokespersons of industry and commerce justifying the slavery of the “inferior races,” arguing against the abolition of child labor in dungeon factories, and predicting that legislating social security would bring on communism.

Interestingly, corporations can lie vigorously and not lose credibility. Artificial corporate personhood comes with immunity from social sanctions that apply to real human beings.

In 1972, The People’s Lobby in California, led by the impressive Ed and Joyce Koupal, qualified an initiative called “The Clean Environment Act.” Corporations threw millions of dollars and made false claims to defeat the Act. Their public relations firm, Whitaker and Baxter, put out a fact sheet reaching millions of voters. The oil companies declared that “lowering the lead content of gasoline would cause automobile engines to fail, resulting in massive congestion and transit breakdowns.” They also claimed that “reducing sulfur oxide emissions from diesel fuel would cause the state’s transportation industry to grind to a haul,” with huge joblessness and “economic chaos.”

Other companies said a “moratorium on nuclear power plant construction” would lead to “widespread unemployment and darkened city streets.” Banning DDT in California would “confront the farmer with economic ruin and produce critical shortages of fruits and vegetables” and more lurid hypotheticals.

The lies worked. Voters turned down the initiative by nearly two to one. All these reforms have since been advanced nationwide with no such disasters.

The media did not distinguish itself by separating the lies from the truth. Later in 1988, the media, led by the Los Angeles Times, did not let the auto insurance industry get away with lies about Prop 103, pushed by a $70 million television/radio buy. Prop 103 won and has saved California motorists over $100 billion according to leading actuary and consumer advocate J. Robert Hunter (see https://www.consumerwatchdog.org/prop-103-california-insurance-reform).

Corporate fibbing pays monetary rewards. Informed consumers, their champions and regulatory agencies at the national, state, and local level must continue to make these companies pay a price, especially over social media. Madison Avenue calls the effect of such pushback “reputational risk.”

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The Sacking of John Bolton

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“Every time the president, or Pompeo, or anyone in the [Trump] administration came up with an idea, they had to face Dr No.”

– Cliff Kupchan, Chairman of the Eurasia Group, The Washington Post, Sep 11, 2011.

It was compelling viewing (one does not so much read Twitter as see it as a series of violent flashes). John Bolton, the armed-and-ready national security adviser who has been tiring of the US President’s jerks and adjustments, had floated the prospect of resignation. “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.’” To the New York Times, Bolton reiterated the account. “Offered last night without [Trump] asking. Slept on it and gave it to him this morning.”

Hours are lethal in Trumpland; entire worlds can implode at that time, and new ones grow with equal violence. President Donald Trump was keen to set the record crooked. “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed in the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration”. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was certainly one of them. “There were many times Ambassador Bolton and I disagreed; that’s for sure.” It pays, however, to qualify: “But that’s true for lots of people with whom I interact.”

What matters in a Trump sacking is less the normality of its occurrence but its manner of execution. The axe is always held aloft, and, as with any court run by a fickle despot, may fall at any given time. On Tuesday morning, the signs of any movement regarding Bolton were entirely absent. At 11, a news briefing was announced by the White House for 1.30 that afternoon. Bolton would keep company with Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a chat on terrorism. Bolton never appeared, leaving Pompeo and Mnuchin to chuckle before the cameras.

Pompeo, unlike Bolton, has certainly found it easier keeping up appearances. Disagreements with the President are kept close to his broad chest. He is the manager of Trump’s ever changing approach to policy, and capable articulating foreign policy swerves. But do not be fooled, suggest the talking heads. “Pompeo is as much a hawk on Iran as Bolton,” claims John Glaser, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. Glaser’s diagnosis of it all? “It mostly boils down to Bolton’s reputation as a bureaucratic manipulator who makes enemies within the executive branch as a matter of habit.”

The manipulation had been placed in another register over the US-Taliban peace agreement. Trump was happy with the detail; Bolton wanted the agreement sunk as textbook example of capitulation. Trump’s circle of aides had gotten irate as Bolton’s public dissatisfaction grew. There were leaks into the atmosphere, and not very pleasant ones at that.

The decision to evict Bolton could easily have been caused by something else, the straw that tantalisingly, and destructively, broke the camel’s back. On Monday, the possibility of easing sanctions against Iran as part of a preliminary step to meeting Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani, was mooted by the President and aides. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin was certainly open to the suggestion. Trump tested the water and concluded that “they’d like to make a deal.” A far cry from June, when Bolton’s apocalyptic fantasy was being entertained: a possible airstrike on Iran. With 10 minutes to spare, Trump called it off.

On Wednesday, the president attempted to add more light and shine to the canvas. Areas of disagreement with Bolton were articulated. The former adviser had not been “getting along with people” in the administration; he had been “way out of line” on Venezuela. Such points merely underscore the difficulties Bolton was always going to face: from his moustache, which Trump detests, to his priestly dogmatism in international relations.

North Korea was always a case in point: for Trump, a moment for the picture books, the firm handshake for history, and promises for rosy readjustments; for Bolton, a chance to cause a flutter of terror in Pyongyang, airing the view that a “Libya” solution for nuclear disarmament might be in the offing. (That corker eventually assisted the toppling of the Qaddafi regime, hardly a recipe for smooth talking and deal making.)

The point was something Trump did not miss. “We were set back very badly when John Bolton talked about the Libyan model! And he made a mistake! As soon as he mentioned that, the Libyan model, what a disaster! Take a look at what happened to Qaddafi with the Libyan model.”

Bolton’s sabre-rattling enthusiasts were bound to see things differently. “While John Bolton was national security adviser for the last 17 months, there have been no bad deals,” claimed a Bolton confidante. In another take, Bolton has been portrayed as the less mad of the two. Jay Nordlinger, senior editor at The National Review, saw JB as a model of consistency. Trump, on the other hand, had been dancing merrily off queue, breaking much fine china on the way. Certainly on Russia; certainly on Ukraine. At the last G7 meeting in Biarritz, Trump expressed his desire that Russia be readmitted to the club. He sported a curious account of Crimea, which was “sort of taken away from President Obama”. It was “embarrassing” for him, being “outsmarted by Putin” as he was.

Trump had put a halt on military aid to Ukraine and shown a coldness to the newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky. His idea here is to push for a Ukrainian investigation of Joe Biden, the stuff of side-splitting hilarity. Bolton, on the other hand, was in Kiev paying respect to Ukrainians felled “in the defence of their nation against Russian aggression.” In saluting “the Stache” Nordlinger was hoping for his return. The chicken hawks will have their day.

Such shuffling and bloodletting is normally the stuff that thrills political wonks and media vultures. Engineered in-house political assassinations are manna from heaven, and supply good copy in bureaucratic hot houses like Washington. But Trump has made political sacking the stuff of banal ritual, ceremonial inevitability made that much duller for its frequency. Bolton came in praise, worked in disagreement and discomfort, and was ejected. Time for the next mug to take his place.


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Wild Love Preserve Founder: Our Path Forward

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In 2010 when I founded Wild Love Preserve, folks told me it would not be possible to bring stakeholders together in a new light, one told me to stop reinventing the wheel, another even attempted to shut me down, however I stayed true to my beliefs and spearheaded collaborative efforts with the Idaho Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and stakeholders. Wild Love Preserve is a unique legacy project that includes our innovative wild horse conservation program, conflict resolution, education platform, comprehensive range health fixed on sustainability, and the creation of our wildlife preserve in the heart of Idaho’s wild horse country, which will serve as permanent home to our current 136 Challis-Idaho wild horses and future Idaho wild horses not otherwise adopted. Kindness, mutual respect, accountability, science, and education drive Wild Love’s mission to protect and preserve western wild horses in their native habitats and nurture the legacy of respective indigenous ecosystems as an interconnected whole by bridging divides, and our conservation efforts have turned Challis-Idaho wild horses into an asset for the community, region, and state.

For Wild Love Preserve, wild horses lead our way in protecting the whole, meaning all indigenous wildlife and habit. We’re not a fenced wild horse sanctuary, but rather a wildlife preserve engaging public and private lands to address all facets of regional wild horse populations on native turf and in balance with all indigenous wildlife, and livestock where applicable. This is how we save wild lives and wild places, nurture balanced ecosystems and bring stakeholders to the table to encourage collaborative management. After creating Wild Love Preserve, my role has often been that of a mediator and negotiator, bringing together folks previously locked in opposition to work in concert, hence, we work with the BLM, cattle ranchers, environmentalists, wildlife biologists, wild horse advocates, youth employment groups, regional communities, and others. Because of Wild Love’s due-diligence, collaborative, and pro-active efforts over since 2010 with the Challis-Idaho BLM, there has not been a helicopter roundup of the Challis Herd since October 2012, and our programs have saved American taxpayers well over $7.5 million in a few short years following 2013 as result of our Adoption Project and our collaborative Native PZP-1Year population management program Viewed as a paradigm project by stakeholders from all sides, we’ve pioneered an all-inclusive model in wild horse conservation which has garnered national attention for years and is serving as a framework for other western states.

By way of boots-on-the-ground action, Wild Love has successfully demonstrated, that coexistence, humane treatment, sustainable management, protecting wild lives and indigenous habitats, and saving tax dollars, work together with our multi-faceted model. 2019 marks the sixth year of our humane and collaborative Native PZP fertility management program which has proven successful in slowing population growth with free-roaming wild horses on the Challis HMA darting with the BLM on the range, and with Wild Love’s adopted wild horses. By design, Wild Love’s adopted Idaho wild horses also serve as our control herd because management on our private preserve mirrors our collaborative work on public lands. Native PZP has enabled us to keep our numbers at roughly 136 over the last six years, and we’ve witnessed firsthand that it does not result in adverse behavioral issues, does not impact band or herd dynamics, has not altered the natural breeding season, does not negatively impact the fetus or cause birth defects if a pregnant wild mare is darted, and we have healthy babies born to our wild mares ensuring genetic viability.

Currently Wild Love Preserve is working to meet a vital funding deadline to secure the purchase of 10,000-acres for our permanently protected Idaho wildlife preserve before the  Challis BLM’s upcoming November helicopter roundup. This wild expanse will serve as permanent home for Wild Love’s adopted 136 Challis-Idaho wild horses removed from public lands in 2012, and additional Challis wild horses, not otherwise adopted, from this November roundup. Because of Wild Love’s collaborative work since 2010 with the Challis wild horses, Idaho BLM, and stakeholders, there hasn’t been a government roundup of the Challis Herd since 2012, versus every 2-3 years. Project support translates to lasting wildness for our iconic wild horses and places as an interconnected whole. If you would like to learn more and/or help, contact me through WildLovePreserve.org

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, our work is made possible by donations, grants, in-kind services, and sponsors. Conservation-minded individuals and foundations such as Stone Gossard and Pearl Jam Vitalogy Foundation, Duff McKagan, the Raymond James Endowment Fund, The Earth and Humanity Foundation, The Science and Conservation Center, ASPCA, Summerlee Foundation, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have been instrumental in supporting our work over the last nine years, and by design, our advisory council represents stakeholders from all sides.

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The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End But Do Any Americans Care?

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On Saturday September 7, Russia and Ukraine agreed to a prisoner swap which has brought hope of improved relations between the two countries and an end to the 5-year long conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

A peace accord is being planned for later this month in Normandy involving Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.

Ukraine’s newly elected comedian president Volodymyr Zelensky called the prisoner exchange a “first step” in ending the war in Eastern Ukraine, which has killed an estimated 13,000 civilians.

The Ukraine War remains largely unknown to the American public even though the United States has had a great stake in it.

The war started after a coup d’états in Ukraine in February 2014, which overthrew the democratically elected pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovuch.

In a subsequent referendum, 89% in Donetsk and 96% in Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine voted for independence, which the new government of Petro Poroshenko government did not accept.

The United States was a heavy backer of the coup and dirty war that unfolded in the East.

Victoria Nuland, the head of the State Department’s European desk, traveled to Ukraine three times during the protests that triggered the coup, handing out cookies to demonstrators.

She told U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in a telephone conversation that was tapped and later leaked that Arseniy Yatsenyuk, neoliberal head of the “Fatherland” Party, should be Prime Minister as he was thought to have the “economic” and “governing experience.”

Nuland further revealed that the U.S. had invested over $5 billion in “democracy promotion” in Ukraine since 1991 through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which was carrying on the kind of work previously undertaken by the CIA during the Cold War.

Ukraine has long been considered an important bridge between Eastern and Western Europe and holds lucrative oil and gas deposits.

NED president Carl Gershman called Ukraine “the biggest prize” and an important interim step towards toppling [Russian President Vladimir] Putin who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

To help achieve this end, the Obama administration pledged $1 billion in loan guarantees to the post-coup government in Ukraine, which Putin considered as the “ideological heirs of [Stephen] Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice in World War II.”

Swayed by a slick lobbying campaign backed by supporters of the Afghan mujahidin in the 1980s looking for a new cause and by the Senate’s Ukraine Caucus, the Obama administration further provided nearly $600 million in security assistance to the Ukrainian military.

It was supplied with counter-artillery radars, anti-tank systems, armored vehicles and drones in a policy expanded upon by Trump.

Before and after the Ukrainian military’s campaign began, Secretary of State John Kerry, CIA Director John Brennan, and Vice President Joe Biden visited Kiev, followed by a flow of senior Pentagon officials.

A back-door arms pipeline was set up through the United Arab Emirates and Blackwater mercenaries were allegedly deployed.

American military advisers embedded in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry provided rocket propelled grenades, carried out training exercises and planned military operations including with members of the fascist Azov battalion, which had Nazi-inspired Wolfsangel patches emblazoned on their sleeves.

Obama’s National Security adviser, Samantha Power, claimed that the [Ukrainian] governments “response [to alleged provocations by eastern rebels] [was] reasonable, it is proportional, and frankly it is what any of our countries would have done.”

The Ukrainian military and allied warlord and neo-Nazi militias were not acting reasonably or proportionally, however, when they carried out artillery and air attacks on cities and struck residential buildings, shopping malls, parks, schools, hospitals and orphanages in Eastern Ukraine, and tortured and executed POWs in what amounted to clear war crimes.

NYU Professor Stephen Cohen notes that even The New York Times, which mainly deleted atrocities from its coverage, described survivors in Slovyansk living “as if in the Middle Ages.”

That the American public knows nothing of these events is a sad reflection of the superficiality of our media and decline in the quality of international news coverage.

It is also a testament to the failing of the political left, which has embraced the cause of immigrant and Palestinian rights and fighting climate change, legitimately, but neglected the plight of the Eastern Ukrainian people.

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Protect the Sacred Grizzly Bear, Follow Those Who Know Grandmother Earth

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Led by Chief Stan Grier, the Blackfoot Confederacy of the Piikani, Blackfeet, Siksika and Blood Tribe has been at the forefront of publicly elevating the role of the Great Bear in Blackfoot culture and the bear’s role in protecting sacred lands due to its status as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Just three years ago, the Blackfoot Confederacy was joined by tribal leaders and their people from the Missouri to the Pacific at a treaty signing event in Greater Yellowstone. Hundreds of tribal members bore witness to this historic event. Only once before, when the Blackfoot Confederacy initiated the Innii Treaty to preserve and restore the buffalo, had so many united to develop a treaty with the express purpose of protecting a sacred being. “The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration”— now the most-signed tribal treaty in history — is testament to our unwavering commitment to defend the sacred, and to keep our ancient guardian and teacher the grizzly protected.

The tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy are not the only people with narratives from time immemorial that honor the ancient connection between the grizzly and our people, and the blessings brought by the grizzly in sacred bundles. Tribal nations from across North America have similar traditions. The grizzly is sacred to us, an integral part of our religious and ceremonial life ways. The reverence we have for this sacred being transcends any historical grievances those from outside our cultures have ascribed to us in their books.

Cultural connection

We reaffirm this very clearly here, in the words of Chairman Davis: “The Blackfeet Nation has a covenant with the grizzly bear. We, the Blackfeet Nation, do not support the hunting of the grizzly bear because of our spiritual relationship, our religious ceremonies and our cultural connection to the grizzly bear. The border separates us from our northern brothers and sisters but only as a matter of geography. We, like our northern Blackfoot brothers and sisters, are joined together as a matter of religious, historical, ceremonial and cultural covenants with the grizzly bear.”

But now, the Blackfeet Nation with the Piikani, Blood and Siksika Nations, are once again on the frontlines of another dangerous attempt by the federal government to remove grizzly bears from the Endangered Species list. Under Interior Secretary Bernhardt, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now proposing to delist the grizzly bear in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. This area is not only the heartland of the Blackfoot Confederacy, but also the heart of the grizzly bear nation. Whether you know anything about our people and culture or not, and whether you consider the grizzly to be sacred or not, if you care about Glacier National Park, you need to stand with us and the Great Bear.

We have seen the relentless efforts by this administration and some states hostile to our cultural values, to ravage our lands in taking away protections and accelerating fossil fuel extraction, that in turn is accelerating potentially irreversible damage to the earth’s climate. Yet, it is our voices — those of the original stewards of the land — that should be heard above any extractive industry corporation in listing and delisting decisions of species that have deep cultural significance to us, and which survive on our ancestral lands.

We call on the FWS to abandon this latest attempt to remove protections from the sacred grizzly — and in turn the protections on our sacred lands the grizzly roams.

We ask the government to restore management of grizzlies to tribal nations and implement the Grizzly Treaty.

Relocate, don’t hunt

Instead of trophy hunting the grizzly, relocate grizzlies from Greater Yellowstone and the NCDE to tribal nations with biologically suitable habitat in the Great Bear’s historic range and inspire cultural, economic and environmental revitalization to those tribes.

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the FWS proposed relocating grizzlies to achieve a viable population in the North Cascades, so why does FWS not discuss the Grizzly Treaty with us?

Last fall, we provided testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on this issue. The disregard of the federal-Indian trust responsibility by the FWS in the grizzly delisting process coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the ESA under the Trump Administration, prompted tribal nations to move forward with the formulation of a Native American Endangered Species Act (NA-ESA) as a counterweight. Sovereign tribal lands hold several threatened and endangered species and vital habitat, and it is time for tribal people to have a greater input into the management and protection of these species.

In the present political climate, for some species an NA-ESA may be the only viable path to survival. As tribal nations, our sovereignty is consistently compromised by the FWS and the states in respect to wildlife management, including FWS’s administration of the ESA on tribal lands. A NA-ESA would enhance tribal sovereignty, provide vocational opportunity for tribal members, and enable the melding of contemporary biological discipline with tribal Traditional Ecological Knowledge in management policies and practices.

When the Yellowstone grizzly was taken off the Endangered Species list, Wyoming proposed one of the most egregious trophy hunts that would likely have driven these sacred grandparents to near extinction again. Even without a hunt, the threats to grizzlies are endless: rapid changes to their habitat due to climate change and human encroachment, dwindling food sources, and endless oil and gas leasing on our ancestral lands upon which the grizzly depends. For too long, the state of Wyoming and Trump administration have ignored our perspective. Every day, the U.S. government is revealing that its allegiances to fossil fuel companies matter more than its fiduciary responsibilities to tribal nations, a responsibility that began 243 years ago at the birth of the nation.

Badger-Two Medicine

The Blackfoot Confederacy recently urged the FWS to stop these abuses and flawed attempts to delist the grizzly bear. In our submission, we urged the government to keep the grizzly listed and protected.

As we write, one of our most sacred sites, Badger-Two Medicine — a holy site imbued by the Ba’ksíkoyi, the sacred grizzly bear — is once more threatened by fossil-fuel leases. It is long overdue that tribal people have greater input into the management and protection of these species.

Our collective door is open to the federal government to sit down and discuss a positive route forward that is a “win-win” for all concerned, not least for the sacred grizzly bear. That blueprint is the “The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration”

The tribal coalition succeeded in protecting these sacred beings in Yellowstone for the time being, but other areas and connected populations are in grave danger. The NCDE is on the administration’s chopping block. Join with us to defend the sacred; it is not only our children and future generations that will be robbed of a critical part of their heritage – it will be yours, too.

Stan Grier, of Fort Mcleod, Alberta, is chief of the Piikani Nation and president of the Blackfoot Confederacy Chiefs.

Tim Davis of Browning is chairman of the Blackfeet Nation.

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Super-Delegated and Relegated

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After reading a number of recent articles by Norman Solomon in which he seems to be chronically bristling under his democrat identity, his frustration with his party keeps reminding me why the democrats and republicans are both wastes of energy.

In the supposed bipartisanship of the faking USA, it seems that priorities themselves get prioritized because of a need to organize a strategy wherein one might make progress toward ensuring that (at least some of) the various priorities become more manifest. This process is perhaps usually the result of a desire to improve one’s situation in life. One may need to rely on delegating some of the necessary efforts in making one’s priorities more apparent because of logistical restrictions such as economics, health, coordinating actions which are happening in disparate locations, limited available space, and any number of other reasons. The bottom line with such delegating has to be that there is a defining unity between the delegator and the delegate who is their supposed representative. This assumed unity itself must also display an alignment of priorities which can transcend any of the more minor (and possibly more numerous) differences if this method’s possible progression is to produce the delegator’s desired results.

It has only become more and more difficult to see where so-called “progressive democrats” might be having any influence within their party in addressing how to proceed on any of what the supposed progressives say are the most important issues. The overwhelming numbers of democrats and the republicans seem to be narrowly focussed on the same religiosity toward privatizing capital. Postponing and undermining all concerns beyond gaining power through and for money while reducing the voices of those who seek a healthy environment and equal justice for all people is portrayed as a necessity. As soon as it appears that the supposed progressives have made an impact that supposed impact is usually and rather quickly reduced to being merely a sound-bite by and for the party. There really is no significant priority they share beyond spreading fear and promoting subservience to established private power. Fearfulness seems to be their chronic, misguided, version of supposed unifying integrity. The bosses bossing and the would-be progressives submitting. This has been the case – with a few, slight variations in the 1960’s and 70’s – since the 1940’s.

The republican-democrat narrow continuum of capital before justice and healthiness depends upon the insecurities of its members and has regularly used cunning to lead would-be progressives into fearfully colluding in numerous, vicious, economic sabotages and slaughterings within their own vacant lots and around the planet. The dismal pretentiousness of democracy which is used to rally the identity-laden, would-be progressive democrats has all of the frustratingly harmful effects of any other support of the desires of authoritarian regimes anywhere. They are a debased supposed base upon which the proponents of privatizing phallic militarizing capital draw a sizable amount of energy.

Religiously, they try to lead their followers to invest faith, hope, and charity in the party. Lately, as the democrats have clearly become less deserving of such investments, these investments are becoming more stridently demanded by the masters in this sadomasochistic charade and those who try to question the direction in which the party is headed are treated as being the most unworthy of charity. It seems that whipping the servants into submission is still one of the most righteous manifestations of religiously capitalist fealty in the faking USA of democrats and republicans.

Hypocrisy is rampant and is a main ingredient in the democrat-republican gas-filled balloon of nationalistic superiority. Saying words to give an impression while implementing policies and laws which undermine the possibility of that given impression has, for decades, been the standard procedure for democrats and republicans alike. The self-serving elites and their chief servants are using their privatized balloon to become farther distant from the effects of their toxic handiwork on the ground.

A favorite current delusional obsession with those who identify as democrats is to try to portray Trump’s offensiveness as if it is not something which the democrats have enabled. It is especially noteworthy that, Again, the powerful seem very eager to silence people within their own party who try to push priorities which the controllers of the party seem to think are too far removed from what Trump supporters would want.

It was quite possible that Trump could have sought the democrat’s nomination in 2016. He, like other money-obsessed, id-driven corporatists, has a history of monetary support for both democrats and republicans. He and his relatives have given over a hundred thousand dollars to the Clinton Foundation and he has contributed to a variety of campaigns, including Hillary Clinton’s senatorial campaign. Trump’s attempts at hooking both democrats and republicans into his private schemes is of the same prioritizing as the DNC as it is trying to appeal to republican voters. That priority is a dismissal of any commitment to the wellbeing of society and the environment in the name of private domination and power. It could easily be argued that in 2016 no one did more to elect Trump than did the DNC and Hillary Clinton and no one did more to make Hillary Clinton look appealing than did Trump. Their real priorities and the phony wordings they both employed to deceive the suckers were infused with the same cynical manipulation of the suckers who supported either of them.

So, now the greatest priority for democrats as a whole (or is it – as a hole) is again in rallying around the united chant that Trump must be defeated. The abundance of would-be Trump defeater candidates seems to be, Again, a method through which the democrats can blur and abandon what the majority of those who identify as democrats say are their priorities. Prioritizing fear and the defeat of Trump while willfully ignoring the red flags of inconsistencies within the histories of the democrat’s candidates is another example of a de-prioritization of accountability, openness, and clarity. This is just as Trump and the Clintons would have them behave.

I have no way to trust any candidate who is a democrat or republican. These identities have shared histories of relegating social and environmental concerns to less effective positions while they substitute the empowering and expanding of debilitating, pricey corporate traps and the attendant, exceedingly toxic deviousness of global militarism.

The most blatant display of authoritarian impunity and disdain by Trump is also merely a reflection of the systemic disingenuousness which would use so-called super-delegates in the democrat’s undemocratic scheming. The abundance of would-be democrat presidential candidates is almost a guarantee that their double-voting fellow super-delegates will control the outcome and will promote a candidate who is the most appealing to those voters who identify as republicans. This is the so-called pragmatism of democrats – to abandon what they say they believe and to let republican beliefs determine the future.

Identifying as a progressive democrat clearly means that you are willing to be relegated to the same level of participation as the curtains in the oval office. Without a repudiation of both the DNC and its partner RNC the concerns expressed by so-called progressives will never be a priority to the corporate controlled parties. The money and energy given to democrat and republican candidates is money and energy which is fueling an increasingly larger, fiery, global balloon crash. All of their candidates have pledged to stay within the balloon and they will say anything to keep the energy and money coming in – even as the party elites tell their supporters to shut the fuck up and get in line. That is how it went in 2016 and how it is going today.

All of the democrat candidates are supporters of the super-delegate corruption and they will again work to relegate the concerns of the would-be progressives to a form of decorative display for the advantage of the greediest elites – like Trump – when the super-corporates pronounce their approved candidate.

If you are a democrat, your faith, hope, and charity are tied to the priorities of republican voters by your own party’s controllers and their tolerance for different priorities will only become less and less as the election of 2020 approaches. They have a power game to win and progressive concerns are, to them, a distraction from their game.

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Lessons From America’s Greatest Grassroots Campaigns 

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For 50 years the environmental movement has depended on laws and regulations from the 1970’s enforced by lawyers and judges to achieve its goals. But since Trump’s election, the regulations, processes, courtesies, assumptions and norms undergirding America’s approach to the environment have been systematically discarded, reversed and dismantled. Accordingly, grassroots organizing will have to evolve and play a larger role in the future.

In the last 125 years, American grassroots campaigns have forced legislatures to pass laws on women’s suffrage, social security, civil rights, wilderness, clean air, and clean water. In each of these campaigns public opinion was mobilized to compel elected officials to pass measures politicians and corporations abhorred. Although all these campaigns used similar strategies and tactics, yesterday’s proven organizing methods are rarely found in today’s campaigns, except in vanishingly diminished form.

Whether you hope to use grassroots organizing and mobilization to stop a bad project in your neighborhood or reform our political system, five elements seem to be common to all past and current successful grassroots campaigns. If you omit one element, you may achieve success for a time, but your success might only be temporary, as with Prohibition, which was later repealed. Or you may solve a problem here at the price of acquiescing to the creation of a problem elsewhere. The series, Organize To Win, shows how to use very specific tools for organizing grassroots campaigns on any scale. But all of their tools and guides are always embedded in a few foundational principles which are indispensable in any campaign which seeks a long-term impact. Successful campaigns:

+ change the way a majority of a jurisdiction’s voters view the issue.

+ use barnstorming, traveling educators, and speakers to educate those voters.

+ have charismatic leaders who care more about the issue than life itself.

+ never involve foundations or nonprofits because controversial change means fighting corporations or doing electoral politics; “grantees” usually aren’t permitted to do either.

+ establish active local organizations in numbers appropriate to the geographical scope of their issue, with dues-paying members, officers, meetings, newsletters, and programs.


The movements for prohibition and civil rights show the differences between campaigns that change voters’ views and those that don’t. In 1919, the 18th Amendment outlawing alcoholic beverages was passed after a long, successful fight by a national grassroots campaign against alcohol, which began before 1900. Its leader was Wayne Wheeler, a master organizer who was for a time the most powerful political person in the U.S.

Prohibition’s first important success was the defeat of 60 incumbent legislators in Ohio who refused to support state prohibition legislation. The victory showed the country that politicians who did not support prohibition could be defeated in primaries. The campaign proved—better than any other grassroots campaign ever conducted—that if you make legislators afraid of losing their jobs, you can pass anything, even legislation they oppose. But prohibition’s subsequent repeal in 1933 reflects its flaw. It never fundamentally altered the majority American view that drinking was OK. In fact, more people drank after prohibition than before.

A similar thing happened with the civil rights movement in the 1870s, which produced the 14th and 15th Amendments of 1868-1870 that gave blacks the right to vote. After these amendments passed, about 2,000 black people were elected to public office in the Deep South, including 14 congressmen and two senators. But white people after the Civil War, including many abolitionists, still believed in white supremacy. So, beginning in the 1880s white terrorist groups began murdering blacks who held office or tried to vote. By 1900, black voters and black elected officials had been eliminated throughout the South, although the amendments giving them the right to vote were still on the books. Prohibition and the civil rights amendments changed laws without changing public opinion. These laws were simply ignored, as are most laws which lack public support.

However, in the 1960s Martin Luther King began a grassroots civil rights educational campaign that persuaded a majority of voters nationally that blacks should have the same rights as whites. Only then were civil rights laws passed that a majority of the country would allow the government to enforce.


Successful grassroots campaigns (such as those for social Security, women’s suffrage, Earth Day and Adirondack wilderness), all recruited huge numbers of traveling speakers. Movements which made permanent legislative and social change engaged in massive public information campaigns on a scale nearly impossible to imagine today. The thousands of Townsend clubs, which organized to pass the original Social Security law in 1936, had millions of members. The women’s suffrage cause was promoted by tens of thousands of speakers. Earth Day in the ’70s organized thousands of schools and involved tens of millions of people. A hero of the women’s suffrage movement, Inez Mulholland, in the days before airplanes, once gave 30 speeches in seven states in 16 days. And she did this while suffering from tonsillitis.


All the great grassroots movements have had charismatic leaders with a gift for organizing. Colonel Francis Townsend for Social Security, Inez Holland for suffrage, Martin L. King for civil rights, and Denis Hayes for Earth Day. Prohibition was essentially the product of one man, Wayne Wheeler. The modern anti-toxics movement was created by Lois Gibbs, a 27-year-old suburban mom with a high school education and no organizing experience. The present protected state of the Adirondack wilderness is essentially due to the grassroots organizing efforts in the 1950s of carpenter Paul Schaefer.

A good example of the average person leading a successful campaign was Townsend, a retired doctor in Long Beach, California, who became upset by the poverty he saw all around him in the 1930s. He did not apply for grants or create a 501(c)3 nonprofit; he just created a newsletter and began to organize his neighbors. His small initial efforts spread to a national movement that led to the passage of the original Social Security Act three years later.

Of the 200 or so recent successful environmental campaigns I have personal knowledge of, only one or two have been led by people with professional training in ecology or biology. However, in almost every campaign, the opposition always employed “- ologists.” Successful campaign leaders are generally average people who, before becoming involved, were not particularly political, or liberal or progressive or trained scientists or professors of public policy. The best leaders and working members of successful grassroots campaigns are ordinary everyday people.


Real change usually involves opposing corporations, doing electoral politics, or both, and you can’t do either as a nonprofit or when funded by a foundation or an NGO. Nonprofits and foundations are fine for issues like public health, children’s reading programs, expanding farmers markets or other issues where there is no serious political resistance, no underlying societal issues are addressed, and no powerful financial interests are involved. Foundations usually avoid funding grassroots organizers, even though all successful campaigns must have them. Usually foundations fund effective grassroots groups in just one situation: to acquire them in order to control “the seat at the table” that the grassroots group has already earned. Most foundations never truly defeat the opposition; their “wins” are later reversed, or they merely move a problem from one place to another.

The expenses of successful campaigns have almost never been borne by nonprofits or foundations. Mark Dowie’s book, American Foundations, explains the problem with foundations: their primary job is not to fund good causes but to protect their endowments.1 Also, nonprofits cannot engage in direct electoral activity, but most social, economic and political problems can only be solved through electoral politics and voting. The foundation/nonprofit industrial complex, which has developed in the past 75 years, put an end to grassroots campaigns by directly or indirectly placing them under the control of large corporations.

If one was to set up a civic model that guaranteed powerful interests would never be seriously challenged, you could not do better than create our present system. All the nonprofits that support environmental, social justice and democracy furtherance are forbidden to engage in politics. Most of them are funded by discretionary competitive grants awarded in secret processes by foundations whose main responsibility is to protect their endowments, which consists of stocks in corporations. This places all nonprofits in competition with each other for funds when they should be cooperating. Finally, most people who want to improve society don’t have the time and resources to become involved in politics, legislation, or elections. But corporations, banksters and lobbyists can fund politicians and political campaigns to an unlimited extent.


Successful national campaigns involve or create thousands of local organizations and recruit millions of members who pay dues, elect officers, hold meetings, publish newsletters, and conduct active local programs.

The women’s suffrage campaign lobbied for women’s right to vote, which they obtained in the 20th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. The movement had over 2 million members and organized giant parades in D.C. with 10,000-20,000 women. It picketed the White House during WW1 with 3,000 picketers who were brutally beaten, jailed, tortured, and force-fed to interrupt their hunger strikes. Some died.1 The campaign to create Social Security (the Townsend movement) was supported by millions of active members and thousands of chapters. The first Earth Day (1969-70) involved 12,000 schools and 20 million people, leading to many of America’s important environmental laws, including the creation of the EPA, and clean air and water protections.

The problems the country faces today are relatively no greater than those faced by past campaigns. To pass Social Security, Colonel Townsend set up 7,000 individual local income security clubs and persuaded more than 2 million people to pay 25-cents-ayear dues in the midst of the Depression—$10 a year in today’s dollars.

Without grassroots support of sufficient size and scope, social change efforts invariably end up like the 14th Amendment of 1868 that supposedly gave rights to black “persons.” Twenty years later, although black voting had been entirely extinguished in the South, the Supreme Court used the amendment to extend a host of civil rights (originally intended to apply to human beings) to corporations, who the Supreme Court decided were “persons,” too. The only permanent environmental protection or social progress that can resist efforts to overturn or pervert them are those placed into constitutions and laws by overwhelming popular grassroots demand. It is never the particular legal form that protects or changes anything, but the fact that the protections or rights were created by popular demand.

Since the 1970s, large corporations and foundations have radically changed the way public interest campaigns are imagined, financed, organized, and managed. Successful methods from past campaigns have been largely abandoned and forgotten and have not been replaced by better methods. By any metric, such as mailings sent, meetings held, organizations involved, speeches given, new local clubs or groups created, or voters mobilized, past grassroots campaigns mobilized from 10 to 1,000 times as much pressure or political action as anything attempted in the last 50 years. And these older campaigns accomplished this before email, fax, internet or the photocopier were available. Long distance trips took longer, too; phone calls were expensive, and, if you needed copies of text, you used carbon paper or cut stencils. And when you discovered a mistake in your letter or article, you retyped a whole page or more.

Today, it is not surprising that we seem unable to arrive at solutions to problems even where public support of a reform is universal. That’s because in today’s faux “campaigns,” we usually fail to use the tools great organizers of the past said you must always use, while simultaneously employing all the approaches they said you shouldn’t.

The main effect of the new world of foundations and nonprofits has been to ensure that public opinion is always entirely disconnected from grassroots organizing. And where grassroots organizing has been used in politics to generate candidate support, such as in Obama’s first campaign, campaigns have been quickly dismantled after they have served their purpose.

“Doing politics” through Facebook “likes” and “shares” merely makes money for billionaires. Expecting public opinion and information disconnected from grassroots organizing to result in political action is like operating a car with the transmission in neutral. You can race the engine until it is in the red RPM danger zone, but it will just sit there until you put the car in gear. Even a very tiny motor when engaged will create some forward movement, but the largest engine in the most powerful car in the world running at full throttle will never move if left in neutral.

Foundations can never seriously support most grassroots organizing because, once citizens are mobilized and successful in a bonafide grassroots campaign, some of them will want to identify larger and more powerful sources of malfeasance to oppose.

Inevitably their newfound clout will turn against corporate malfeasance (e.g., dechartering corporate bad actors). This would threaten the primary purpose of all foundations: to preserve their endowments, which consist of corporate investments. So, if you want to create a bonafide grassroots movement or succeed in a local campaign, you can’t be in the work for money, and you ordinarily can’t be funded from foundations or NGOs.

successful grassroots campaign educates the public to create anger, awareness and concern, and then channels concern into political action. That is the surest path to create effective laws and regulations, which are not later repealed or ignored. If we expect to ever get fundamental reforms—to health care, campaign finance, education, and the environment, or stop the plundering of our public lands—we must rediscover the proven, and abandoned, strategies of historic great campaigns. They alone provide the tactics to couple public opinion to political action. The American people have shown repeatedly that they can organize themselves and force needed political change. The books below will give you all the tools and insights you need to create a grassroots organization to solve problems in your neighborhood or the wider world.

This essay is adapted from Organize to Win Vol 3 chapter 1. Volumes 1,2 can be downloaded for free.  Sign up for my blog on grassroots organizing here.

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Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy

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As someone who has been a union member since I was a Marine with the American Servicemen’s Union until I retired last year as a Teamster as well as a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, I have lived the reality of mistreatment of workers in the United States.

It is good to see labor rising with teacher and other strikes increasing across the country and with the US public showing its highest support for unions in decades. The next president should harness the energy of working people and build political power for a transformation agenda for working people who have not gotten a real raise in decades, while executives and investors have been getting rich off of higher rates of exploitation with increased productivity and globalized markets and corporate-managed trade deals that enable global corporations to pit the working classes of different countries against each other in a race to the bottom.

Urgent Reforms Needed, Time to Transform the Workplace

The centerpiece of my campaign for president is an ecosocialist Green New Deal. Responding to the climate crisis is going to require changes to many sectors of the economy. We need to create a new democratic and ecological economy. We must define this economy with the rights of workers in mind, not only their right to collective bargaining but the need to make workers into owners to end the capitalist crisis highlighted by the reality that three people have wealth equal to 50 percent of the population.

We need social and cooperative ownership where workers receive the full value of their labor. Now we are exploited. We get a fixed wage and all the surplus value we create with our work in taken by capitalists as profits simply because they own the company, not because they did any work.

The Green New Deal requires the United States to reconstruct all economic sectors for ecological sustainability, from agriculture and manufacturing to housing and transportation. This means millions of new jobs in a democratized economy where some sectors are nationalized, others are controlled by state and municipal government and more are re-made into cooperatives that are worker-owned.

A Green New Deal must include a Just Transition, which means income to compensate all workers whose jobs are eliminated by steps taken to protect the environment. Displaced workers should be guaranteed up to five years of their previous income and benefits as they make the transition to alternative work.

As part of the Green New Deal, I am calling for an Economic Bill of Rights, which includes a job guarantee and a guaranteed minimum income above poverty for all. The housing crisis will be alleviated with the institution of universal rent control and expansion of public housing in walkable communities with access to regional mass transit. Air and water pollution will be relieved by putting in place a 100% electrified transportation system emphasizing freight rails, high-speed inter-city rails, and urban light-rail mass transit, with electric powered cars and trucks where they are still needed.

A crash program of federal government investment and public enterprises to rebuild our economy for zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030 will create will create full employment and shared prosperity. But not everyone is able to work. And some things should by human rights, not commodities you can only get if you have enough money. That’s why we need a social safety net of social services funded publicly, not privately out of pocket. That means a national health service for universal health care, lifelong free public education, student debt relief, and a secure retirement by doubling Social Security benefits. The ecosocialist Green New Deal is a plan to remake the economy so that it serves the people and protects the ecology and the climate. Those objectives require a socialist economic democracy so that we the people–not big business interests–have the power to choose economic justice and ecological sanity.

Immediate Reforms For Working People

In addition to changes coming as a result of putting in place an ecosocialist Green New Deal, we need are immediate labor law reforms.

Repeal Repressive Labor Laws: Repeal the sections of the Taft-Hartley Act, the Landrum-Griffin Act, the Hatch Act, and state “Right-To-Work” laws that have crippled labor’s ability to organize by outlawing or severely restricting labor’s basic organizing tools: strikes, boycotts, pickets, and political action. This should include putting in place Card Check which extends union bargaining status to majority sign-up or card-check recognition.

A Workers’ Bill of Rights: Enact a set of legally enforceable civil rights, independent of collective bargaining. This should include:

(1) Extending the Bill of Rights protections of free speech, association, and assembly into all workplaces.

(2) Establishes workers’ rights to living wages, portable pensions, information about chemicals used, report labor and environmental violations, refuse unsafe work, and participate in enterprise governance. OSHA must be funded adequately to protest workers and communities and workers empowered to enforce safety and health regulations. Retirement should include a mandatory system of Guaranteed Retirement Accounts that provide a return of at least 3 percent above inflation guaranteed by the federal government.

(3) Establishes workers’ rights to freedom from discharge at will, employer search and seizure in the workplace, sexual harassment, and unequal pay for work of comparable worth. These rights should ensure that workers can take legal action to stop wage theft. In addition to a living wage, workers should have subsidized, high quality child care and elder care. Workers should receive six week of paid vacation annually in addition to federal holidays. For every seven years worked, they should receive one year of paid educational leave and one year of parental leave for each child with no loss of seniority.

Employer Accountability: There must be strong and speedy penalties for employers who break labor laws. In addition, federal law needs to ban striker replacements provide, triple back pay for illegally locked-out workers, and there must be unemployment compensation for striking and locked-out workers.

Labor Law Protections for Farmworkers: Extend to farmworkers the same rights under labor law as other workers, including A Day of Rest, Overtime Pay, Collective Bargaining Protections, Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Child Labor Protections, and Occupational Safety and Health Standards.

Labor Law Protections for Prisoners: Enact legislation to end the super-exploitation of prison labor at pennies per hour, which undercuts the wages of workers outside the prison system. The prison labor system as it exists now is akin to slavery and the prison labor camps in other authoritarian countries. Work done by prisoners can be part of rehabilitation and enable prisoners to acquire job skills, support their families, and have savings upon release. Work done by prisoners for private contractors and for public works and services should be paid prevailing wages. Prison workers should have all the protections of labor law, including the right to organize unions.

Fair Trade. Trade deals should be rewritten to uplift labor and environmental standards across borders. Fair trade pacts should eliminate secretive trade tribunals to which only governments and corporations have access. Trade disputes should be adjudicated in public courts to which workers, unions, and public have access.

It is time to correct the decades of diminishing worker rights and shrinking unions as well as low-pay. The United States is about to begin a transformation to a clean, sustainable energy future. The new economy we create must prioritize the rights of workers to create an economy that works for the 99 percent, not just the 1 percent.

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‘Justice is Indivisible’: Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call

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The death of Israa Ghrayeb has ignited furious reactions regarding the so-called ‘honor-killings’ in Palestine and throughout the Arab world.

It also wrought confusion with respect to the jurisprudential foundation of such crimes, which are often committed in the name of protecting the honor of the family.

Israa, a 21-year-old makeup artist from the town of Beit Sahour in the West Bank, was reportedly beaten to death by her own brother for ‘dishonoring’ the family. The tragic episode was ignited by a video posted on social media where Israa was seen spending time with her soon-to-be fiancé.

While Palestinians and other Arab communities are genuinely angry regarding the violent mistreatment of women, others have found another platform to indict Islam and condemn Arab society. Predictably, the issue quickly and conveniently branched into the realms of politics, ideology and religion.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Lenient laws regarding ‘honor killing’ in the Middle East (and other parts of the world) do not originate from Islamic Sharia law, but from the so-called Napoleonic code of 1810, which largely tolerated “crimes of passion”. In countries like France and Italy, laws concerning ‘honor killing’ were not abrogated until 1975 and 1981, respectively.

The exploitation of weaknesses in Arab and Muslim societies is an old and thriving business. Anti-Arab and anti-Muslim rhetoric has always been at the forefront of every military and political campaign by the West, from the early colonial era to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. For many years, elaborate discourses have aimed at justifying war and rationalizing intervention to distract from the real motives of economic exploitation and violence.

“Mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes,” said former US President George W. Bush in January 2002, celebrating his country’s supposed ‘victory’ in Afghanistan. “Today, [Afghani] women are free.”

Bush made that preposterous claim only weeks after his wife, Laura, supposedly the defender of women worldwide, declared in November 2001 that “the fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women”.

The fact that hundreds of thousands of girls and women were killed and millions of others were widowed or orphaned in America’s protracted ‘war on terror’ doesn’t seem to impede the fallacious logic in any way. The sad, but predictable, truth is that the rights and wellbeing of Afghani, Arab and Muslim women have sharply deteriorated as a result of US-western military interventions.

But this is the crux of the problem. As intellectuals, educators and human rights activists, we often find ourselves trapped in a restricting paradigm. Aware of the real motives of western media and official propaganda, we engage in a battle of self-defense, desperately trying to shield our religions, countries and societies from ill-intentioned criticism. In the process of doing so, however, we often neglect to speak out on behalf of the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, the likes of Israa Ghrayeb and millions like her.

We neglect our responsibility to stand up for the marginalized sectors of our society because we are afraid to be misunderstood, and for our words to be misinterpreted and misused by the rising far-right propagandists from the US to France, and from India to Brazil.

But this is hardly fair to Israa and millions of other women. Palestinian and Arab women are suffering from dual injustices that men don’t experience. They are victims of war, political instability and economic marginalization, but are also victims of patriarchal societies and outdated laws.

It is infuriating and inexcusable, for example, that Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza are coping with multilayered forms of violence, emanating both from the Israeli occupation and from their own family and society; the former justifying its violence in the name of ‘security’ and the latter in the name of ‘honor’ and tradition.

But where is the honor in the fact that nearly 30 percent of all married women in the West Bank and 50 percent in Gaza “have been subjected to a form of violence within the household”? According to the United Nations group, UN Women, the majority of these women prefer to remain silent in the face of these abuses, most likely to protect their families and avoid further abuse.

Palestinian and Arab women (and many men) are not just angry over ‘honor killings’ and the tolerant laws that make it possible for criminals to get away with their brutal deeds; they are also angry because the practice merely symbolizes a much wider phenomenon, where women are marginalized and victimized as a matter of course in all societal aspects.

21 Palestinian women and girls have been killed in so-called honor killings in 2018, reports Amnesty International. This requires immediate attention and a complete overhaul of Palestinian laws that allow criminals to walk free after serving reduced prison sentences. But the fight should not end there. Palestinian women are more educated than men, yet enjoy far less work opportunities. Despite their crucial role in the resistance against Israeli occupation and apartheid, they are marginalized in politics and decision-making.

Those who killed Israa and hundreds of women like her in the name of ‘honor’ should know that the agonizing screams of their sisters and daughters are no different from the cries of pain of Razan Al-Najjar, after she was shot and killed by Israeli snipers at Gaza’s March of Return; that the same pain endured by these women is the pain being felt every hour of every day by Israa Ja’abis and her sisters in Israeli prisons; that the abuse of women at the hands of their families is the same abuse they experience at Israeli military checkpoints and by unhinged Israeli Jewish settlers.

‘Justice is indivisible’, and it is time that we break our silence and respect this noble maxim. Speaking out against violence, discrimination and marginalization of women in our societies should be part and parcel of any genuine struggle against human rights abuses, regardless of the identity and motive of the abuser.

Let the screams for help and pleas for mercy of Israa Ghrayeb be our guide as we fight against injustice in all of its forms and manifestations.

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It’s Not About Your Straws and Your Light Bulbs

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A few years ago, I had a cupcake problem. I’d go to the cupcake store almost daily and I’d eat at least one cupcake, sometimes more.

At the same time, I wanted to lose weight, or at least stop gaining it. So I kept looking up information about diets and superfoods, just looking for some magical solution to present itself.

Something like: “The key to weight loss is eating large quantities of parsley every day.” Or turmeric, maybe? Ginger? Garlic? Finally, I realized, there is no magical fix. The problem was the cupcakes.

It’s tempting to look for easy ways to fix big problems by trimming around the edges to avoid making the real changes you don’t want to make. Tempting, but not feasible.

That’s similar to what presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren just said about fixing climate change. She was asked about her position on small changes like banning plastic drinking straws or inefficient light bulbs.

“Give me a break,” she said. “This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry wants us to talk about… They want to be able to stir up a lot of controversy around your lightbulbs, around your straws” when “70 percent of the pollution” comes from “the building industry, the electric power industry, and the oil industry.”

Like my cupcakes, those three industries are the real problem. Banning straws while leaving those three industries in place will make about as much of a dent in the climate as eating two cups of parsley a day while continuing my cupcake habit would have made in my waistline: Not much.

My cupcake habit was a problem, but it was also a symptom of a larger problem. In the end, I got therapy for difficult feelings I was dealing with. Once I took care of my mental health, the emotional eating stopped, and I lost 30 pounds.

Carbon pollution is also a problem as well as a symptom of a larger problem. As Warren pointed out, fossil fuel companies exert too much influence on Washington, preventing us from regulating them in the ways we need to save our climate.

They also hire public relations firms to dupe the public into doubting that the climate crisis is caused by humans — or at least, not by them — and to convince us not to regulate them in a way that would save the planet but cost them money.

We should be looking for win-win solutions to the climate crisis: solutions that create jobs and preserve quality of life and individual freedoms while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions.

In order to do that, we need to curb the corrupt influence of polluting industries that are profiting off of carbon emissions while harming the future of our planet. And, when they try to distract us with light bulbs and drinking straws, we can’t allow ourselves to be fooled.

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Montana’s Wilderness Deficit

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Beartooth Range, Montana. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Montana has a wilderness deficit. People may be surprised to learn that only 3.4 million acres out of the state’s nearly 94 million acres are congressionally designated wilderness under the 1964 Wilderness Act. There are at least 6.3 million more U.S. Forest Service acres that potentially could be designated as wilderness, as well as additional lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service.

Among the areas that deserve wilderness protection are the Great Burn outside of Missoula, Scotchman’s Peak south of Libby, the Blue Joint near Darby, the East and West Pioneers near Dillon, the Ten Lakes and Whitefish Range near Kalispell, the Big Snowies outside of Lewistown, the Lionhead by West Yellowstone, the Gallatin Range by Bozeman, the Crazy Mountains by Livingston, Bitter Creek by Glasgow, Mount Baldy by Helena, the Pryor Mountains by Billings and the Terry Badlands near Miles City.

We often hear opponents of wilderness arguing that the designation of more wilderness will somehow harm the state’s economy. California, which is only slightly larger than Montana, has nearly five times as much acreage in the wilderness, with 15.3 million acres in the federal wilderness system. California remains one of the economic powerhouses in the entire world. Wilderness designation has not harmed the California economy.

Increasingly, Montanans recognize that protecting our wildlands is key to the state’s economic prosperity. While the clean water, wildlife and scenic grandeur are critical to the state’s growing tourism industry, it’s important to note that preserving wildlands goes beyond direct tourism employment.

Many people live or move to the state due to the proximity of wildlands. Over the years, I have lived in Missoula, Helena and Livingston. I never had a “local” job, with nearly all of my income from sources outside of the state. However, I spent my earnings locally, buying supplies, food, owning property and paying taxes that otherwise supported the local economy and community.

I am not alone. Non-labor income contributes to 44% of Montana’s citizen’s earnings.

I would argue a contributing factor in the decision by many people to live has to do with the attractiveness of the state’s wildlands —whether one goes into them or not.

However, I do not wish to dwell too much on the economic value of wildlands protection — as vital as it may be to some. The real value of wilderness protection is the cultural value it engenders. When we designate wilderness, we are expressing humility, restraint and a sense that nature is bigger than us. These are critical conservative values for society to express.

The designation of wilderness shows a commitment to not only future generations but also to all the creatures who do not have a voice at the table.

Protecting wildlands is a counteraction to the old paradigm of colonization, subjugation and servitude. It is a recognition that we humans as a society, can observe and practice limits. Wilderness designation is our society’s way of expressing a sense of the “sacredness” of the Earth.

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Officials Ignore Pesticides and Blame Alcohol and Biscuits for Rising Rates of Disease

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The information below and the quotes were taken from the 12-page report that accompanied Rosemary Mason’s recent open letter to the Chief Medical Officer to England, Sally Davies. It can be accessed here.

Much of what follows focuses on the situation in the UK, but the chemical onslaught on our food chain is global. For instance, researcher and policy expert Devinder Sharma, cites that, according to Pesticide Action Network India, there are 291 pesticides registered; 112 of them are highly hazardous; 85 are possible carcinogens; 71 are possible endocrine disrupting chemicals; and 159 are possible reproductive and development toxins.

In Punjab, pesticide run-offs into water sources have turned the state into a ‘cancer epicentre‘ and India is one of the world’s largest users of pesticides and a profitable market for the corporations that manufacture them. Ladyfinger, cabbage, tomato and cauliflower in particular may contain dangerously high levels because farmers tend to harvest them almost immediately after spraying. Fruit and vegetables are sprayed and tampered with to make them more colourful, and harmful fungicides are sprayed on fruit to ripen them in order to rush them off to market.

Research by the School of Natural Sciences and Engineering (SNSE) at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore has indicated disturbing trends in the increased use of pesticide. In 2008, it reported that many crops for export had been rejected internationally due to high pesticide residues. Moreover, India is one of the largest users of World Health Organization (WHO) ‘Class 1A’ pesticides, which are extremely hazardous.

Research by SNSE showed farmers use a cocktail of pesticides and often use three to four times the recommended amounts. It may come as no surprise that a report about children in Hyderabad are consuming 10 to 40 more times pesticides in their food than kids in the US.

Pushback against pesticides

Campaigner and environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason has written an open letter to the Chief Medical Officer of England, Sally Davies. In it, Mason states that none of the more than 400 pesticides that have been authorised in the UK have been tested for long-term actions on the brain: in the foetus, in children or in adults.

The UK Department of Health (DoH) has previously stated that pesticides are not its concern. But, according to Mason, they should be. She says that Theo Colborn’s crucial research in the early 1990s showed that endocrine disrupters (EDCs) were changing humans and the environment, but this research was ignored by officials. Glyphosate, the most widespread herbicide in the world, is an EDC and a nervous system disrupting chemical.

In a book published in 1996, ‘Our Stolen Future: How Man-made Chemicals are Threatening our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival’, Colborn (d. 2014) and colleagues revealed the full horror of what was happening to the world as a result of contamination with EDCs. There was emerging scientific research about how a wide range of these chemicals can disrupt delicate hormone systems in humans. These systems play a critical role in processes ranging from human sexual development to behaviour, intelligence and the functioning of the immune system.

In addition to glyphosate, EDCs include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). DDT, chlordane, lindane, aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, toxaphene, heptachlor, dioxin, atrazine and dacthal.

Colborn stated:

“The concentration of persistent chemicals can be magnified millions of times as they travel to the ends of the earth… Many chemicals that threaten the next generation have found their way into our bodies. There is no safe, uncontaminated place.”

Mason says that Colburn predicted that this would involve sexual development and adds this is why certain people may be confused about their sexuality.

She says to Davies:

“You were appointed as interim CMO by David Cameron in June 2010; you became the permanent holder in 2011. Was that once you had assured him of your loyalty by not mentioning pesticides?”

She continues by saying:

“You did not train as a specialist in public health but as a consultant haematologist, specialising in haemoglobinopathies. You joined the Civil Service in 2004 and became Chief Scientific Adviser to the Health Secretary. Did David Cameron instruct Tracey Brown OBE from Sense about Science, a lobby organisation for GMO crops, to be your minder? When the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published a paper saying that exposure to chemicals during pregnancy could damage the foetus, you and Tracey Brown publicly made fun of it.

“After that I wrote to you about the Faroes Statement: in 2007, twenty-five experts in environmental health from eleven countries (including from the UK) met on the Faroes and contributed to this statement: ‘The periods of embryonic, foetal and infant development are remarkably susceptible to environmental hazards. Toxic exposures to chemical pollutants during these windows of increased susceptibility can cause disease and disability in infants, children and across the entire span of human life.’ You asked Dr John Harrison from Public Health England to write to me to reassure me that there was no evidence that it was true.

“You made an announcement in 2011 that antibiotic resistance was an apocalyptic threat to humans and the issue should be added to the government’s national risk register of civil emergencies… When I informed you that one of glyphosate’s many actions was as an antibiotic, you ignored me. Dr Don Huber, a Plant Pathologist from Purdue University, Indiana, says that glyphosate is an antibiotic, an organic phosphonate, a growth regulator, a toxicant, a virulence enhancer and is persistent in the soil. It chelates (captures) and washes out the following minerals: boron, calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, nickel and zinc.”

Mason doesn’t waste much time in drawing conclusions as to why her previous letters to Davies and other officials have been ignored or sidelined. She notes that between May 2010 and the end of 2013 the UK Department of Health alone had 130 meetings with representatives of industry and concludes that commercial interests are currently in control of key decisions about the public’s health.

In 2014, an open letter from America warned citizens, politicians and regulators in the UK and EU against adopting GM crops and glyphosate. It was endorsed by NGOs, scientists, anti-GM groups, celebrities, food manufacturers and others representing 60 million citizens in the US. Mason draws attention to the fact that the letter outlined eight independent papers describing environmental harm and six about the threat to human health.

But David Cameron, PM at the time, ignored it. The European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority also ignored it. Glyphosate was relicensed.

Mason asked relevant officials why the EFSA was regularly increasing the maximum residue levels of glyphosate in foods at the request of Monsanto but has received no reply.

Professor Philippe Grandjean, the leader of the conference that issued the ‘Faroes Statement’, released the book: ‘Only One Chance: How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development – and How to Protect the Brains of the Next Generation’ (2013). In reviewing the book, Theo Colbern said:

“This book is a huge gift to humankind from an eminent scientist. Grandjean tells the truth about how we have been ruining the brain power of each new generation and asks if there are still enough intelligent people in the world today to reverse the problem. I cannot rid myself of the idea that too many brains have been drained and society is beyond the point of no return. We must learn from the follies and scandals that Grandjean reveals and stop the chemical brain drain before it is too late.”

But pesticides are ignored

A key point that Mason wants to make to Davies is that lifestyle choices are not to blame for rising rates of diseases, cancer and obesity; these increases are the outcome of the toxic cocktails of pesticides and other chemicals we are consuming.

Mason says to Davies about the Chief Medical Officer for England’s 2019 annual report:

“For your final report, you failed to mention many diseases afflicting people in the UK… You claim that you work independently and you are going to write about childhood obesity in September. But why did you collude with Cancer Research UK to blame the people for obesity?”

Not only did David Cameron ignore the ‘Letter from America’, he also appointed Michael Pragnell, founder of Syngenta and former Chairman of CropLife International, to the board of Cancer Research UK in 2010. He became Chairman in 2011. As of 2015, CropLife International´s member list included BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, FMC Corp., Monsanto, Sumitomo and Syngenta. Many of these make their own formulated glyphosate.

Mason says to Davies:

“CRUK, you, the Chief Medical Officer for England, and Public Health England, linked cancer to alcohol, obesity and smoking. You all blamed the people for ‘lifestyle choices’. Where is the scientific evidence for this?”

Syngenta is a member of the European Glyphosate Task Force, which sought to renew (and succeeded) European glyphosate registration. Not surprisingly, Mason says, the CRUK website denies that there is any link between pesticides and cancer. Its website says the following about pesticides:

“For now, the evidence is not strong enough to give us any clear answers. But for individual pesticides, the evidence was either too weak to come to a conclusion, or only strong enough to suggest a “possible” effect. The scientific evidence on pesticides and cancer is still uncertain and more research is needed in this area.”

Mason refers to a survey commissioned by CRUK, ‘People lack awareness of link between alcohol and cancer’, but asks what credible scientific evidence is there that alcohol causes seven different types of cancer and that obesity causes 13 different types of cancer? She concludes, none, and writes that certain top scientists have questioned (ridiculed) the messages being conveyed to the public about alcohol use.

In the Observer and the Guardian in July 2019, CRUK took out half-page advertisements stating that obesity (in huge letters) is a cause of cancer. In a smaller box, it was stated that, like smoking, obesity puts millions of adults at greater risk of cancer. Bus stops and advertising hoardings were replete with black text on a white background. The adverts invited people to fill in the blanks and spell out OBESITY, asking the public to ‘Guess what is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking’.

Mason notes that CRUK has also paid for many TV adverts, describing how it looks after people with cancer and encourages donations from the public. It claims to have spent £42 million on information and influencing in 2018.

She says that the Department of Health’s School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) has residues of 123 different pesticides that seriously impact the gut microbiome. Mason states that obesity is associated with low diversity of bacteria in the microbiome and glyphosate destroys most of the beneficial bacteria and leaves the toxic bacteria behind. In effect, she argues (citing relevant studies) that Roundup (and other biocides) is a major cause of gross obesity, neuropsychiatric disorders and other chronic diseases including cancers, which are all on the rise, and adversely impacts brain development in children and adolescents.

She asks Davies:

“Why did you not attend the meeting in the Houses of Parliament on Roundup? If you were away, you have hundreds of staff in the DOH or Public Health England that could have deputised for you. Dr Don Huber, Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, Indiana, and one of four experts on Roundup, spoke at a meeting in the House of Commons on 18th June 2014 on the dangers of Roundup. In what was one of the most comprehensive meetings ever held in Europe on Glyphosate and Roundup, experts from around the World gathered in London to share their expertise with the media, members of a number of UK political parties, NGO representatives and members of the general public. EXCEPT THAT NONE OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA WAS PRESENT, NOR THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH NOR PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND. They are protecting the pesticides industry.”

Mason makes much of the very cosy relationship between the Murdoch media and successive governments in the UK and asks:

“Roundup weed killer is present in all our foods: why does the UK media not want us to know?”

She notes that women in the UK are being warned to cut back on sweet treats or risk cancer. Sally Davies says women are consuming “two biscuits too much each day” and should lose weight. Davies says obesity will surpass smoking as the leading cause of cancer in women by 2043. Last year, official figures revealed 30 per cent of women in the UK are overweight and 27 per cent are obese. Obesity levels across all genders have risen from 15 per cent to 26 per cent since 1993.

But as Mason has shown time and again in her reports and open letters to officials, pesticides (notably glyphosate) are a key driver of obesity. Moreover, type 2 diabetes is closely associated with being very overweight. According to NHS data, almost four in five of 715 children suffering from it were also obese.

“Type 2 diabetes is a disaster for the child and their family and for the NHS,” says Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular health at Queen Mary University of London who is also the chair of the campaign group Action on Sugar. “If a child gets type 2 diabetes, it’s condemning them to a lot of complications of that condition, such as blindness, amputations and kidney disease,” he said. “These figures are a sign that we are in a crisis and that the government doesn’t seem to be taking action, or not enough and not quickly enough. The UK obesity levels now exceed those of the US.”

Mason explains:

“I am one of the many British women in 2014-16 who were spending nearly 20 years of their life in poor health (19.3 years) while men spend just over 16 years in poor health. Spanish women live the longest, with UK longevity ranked 17th out of 28 EU nations, according to Public Health England’s annual health profile. Each year there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers, with no treatments making any difference to the numbers.”

She concludes:

“Britain and America are in the midst of a barely reported public health crisis. These countries are experiencing not merely a slowdown in life expectancy, which in many other rich countries is continuing to lengthen, but the start of an alarming increase in death rates across all our populations, men and women alike. We are needlessly allowing our people to die early.”

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Me First and the Loss of Compassion

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America stands at a crossroads today. Terrorism and nuclear proliferation, immigration, climate change or the growing gap between rich and poor reveal policy priorities that increasingly segregate society. Americans have been taking their divisions to the streets. Voicing opinion as part of the political process or outside of it are signs of a healthy democracy. However, more and more, political parties and interest groups promote their goals with the sole purpose of winning without any real interest in compromise, let alone collaboration. As we are losing interest in and eventually the ability to compromise, we are losing the very essence of our democracy.

Blaming the president or illegal immigrants is far too easy. The reasons for the renewed and increasing divisions of American society are rooted much deeper than political slogans or religious or moral prescriptions. Instead, many of the tensions that shape American society today likely stem from a combination of long-held myths about American exceptionalism and the rise of individualism at the expense of community.

We tell our children early on that they can be anything they want to be. We aim for them to be special and we prove it with our bumper stickers. We hire tutors so they can be first among the best. This is all good, of course, if that drive comes from the child, but not so much when it is the parent pushing an unhappy child.

If that is our approach, instead of providing opportunity for creative free play with others, we already force our preschoolers to sit still for hours, so they can be ahead of everybody else even before they enter first grade.

Sliding further down the slippery slope toward elitism, we’ve been bribing coaches so our children receive athletic scholarships for sports they don’t even play.

As a college instructor, I see the results in my classrooms. Many students do not know what they want to do after graduation and some don’t even know why they are in college. Many are disconnected, frustrated, alienated. Many have a closer relationship with their smart device than they do with their classmates. All know, however, they have to get good grades to succeed. As a result, many take “easy” classes to boost their GPA. One of the most frequent questions students ask me is what will be on the exam and whether there is a study guide.

But, in college, shouldn’t classes be challenging, preparing graduates for success in life without a study sheet? Should we not empower our students to think creatively, critically, compassionately and for themselves?

The way we have been socializing our children for decades, trying to make them better, smarter, faster than others they compete against has resulted in a “me first” attitude that has lost consideration and compassion for others.

One of the crucial lessons we often fail to impart to our children is that life is not a zero-sum game; that is, the success of another child is not a corresponding failure for me. Children ought to learn how to help one another so they can take joy in crossing the finish line together, building closeness instead of separation, segregation and adversarialism.

And the incessant use of digital media often exacerbates this development.

In a society where we are rewarded for thinking about ourselves first, we disconnect from one another. Just go to the mall and look for shopping carts and trash strewn across the parking lot, oversized trucks and SUVs parked across multiple parking spots, non-handicap vehicles in handicap spots and cars parked in dedicated motorcycle spaces. No consideration for others.

Gone are the days of compassionate conservatism. “America first” finds a ready breeding ground in this “me first” mentality. It is finally time to catch up for those left behind by social progress made in the name of equality. After all, they too are better than others, better than those abroad and better than those from abroad. The new aMEricaFIRST echoes that sentiment, segregates American society and separates us from friends and allies around the world.

How can we get our compassion back? How can we reconnect with each other and engage with the world? At the personal level, take small steps and start a conversation with someone different from you, expose yourself to the diversity that makes this country so unique–and involve your children in that exposure to pluralism, normalizing it, modeling it. Put yourself in the shoes of someone less fortunate and find the “things that unite.”

At the social level, we – including our children – must recognize that the rights and freedoms we cherish and enjoy also come with responsibilities. Success in America has focused on maximizing individual freedoms limited only when their exercise encroaches on the freedoms of others. Today, we need to reconnect and rebuild our communities by focusing on the needs of others. To achieve this, let’s reconsider the idea of mandatory public service: citizens serving others in need. A public service requirement between the end of high school and the beginning of college – fulfilled in many ways, including such service opportunities as AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, Meals on Wheels or other freely helpful initiatives – brings those in service in contact with those from whom they have been disconnected, both at home and abroad. Only through connection will we regain compassion and only then will we be able to make America great again.

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The Rise and Rise of Green Politics

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Alongside the flag-waving surge of right-wing and extreme right-wing groups, political parties concerned with environmental issues are on the rise.

Public awareness of climate change and associated issues is growing; a recent poll in Britain found that 85% of people are concerned about climate change, 52% ‘very concerned’. As a result of this increased concern, we are witnessing a major turning point for green parties, particularly in Europe, and it’s young people that are driving it.

In the May EU elections green parties achieved unprecedented levels of success in northwest Europe, a third of under 30-year-olds voting Green, and in Germany (where The Green Party has historically been strongest), a national poll ranked the Greens first in a federal election. Green centered parties, the Financial Times reports, now, and for the first time, have “a strong hand at the European level and in the national politics of more than half the EU’s population.”

At the heart of the Greens’ campaign is a “Green New Deal”, (something that is also animating some on the US left), which requires huge public investment in green infrastructure, and the idea of a ‘Carbon Tax and Dividend’ scheme. The model proposes a levy to be applied on, for example, fuel, airfares, education etc., creating a dividend or rebate to be universally distributed to offset the costs involved in moving to a low carbon economy. The German Green Party has endorsed the scheme, as has Ska Keller, the European Green party leader.

Differences in approach, values, policies and attitudes between Green Politics and the Divisive Ways of the Right could not be starker: Contrary ways of approaching the issues of the day representing broader divisions within the world; divisions that, as we transition from one civilization to another, are becoming increasingly stark.

The present modes of living, values and structures are crystallizing. Based on ideals that promote the individual over the collective, life is defined in a somewhat narrow materialistic way. Ideologies, religious, political and social, exert a powerful influence, creating separation and intolerance, entrapping all who adopt them in dogma. In contrast, the Movement of the New, tends towards synthesis, cooperation and understanding.

As the differences become more apparent, the choices clearer, the methods of the right and far-right become more extreme, lines of polarization increase, the demands for change intensify.

The principle obstacles to change are the reactionary, conservative forces in the world. They are powerful groups, many of which are actually in power: Trump’s Presidency, the Republican Party in the US more broadly, the Conservatives in Britain, which, under the leadership of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have formed what may constitute the most far-right cabinet ever assembled in the country.

Russia, Turkey, Israel, Hungary and Poland all have right-wing governments, Japan, under Shinzo Abe has moved the Liberal Democratic party to the right, and, eager to take their share of the populist vote, governments in Australia and Canada are drifting. India has recently re-elected the Hindu nationalist BJP party with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, and in 2018 Brazil voted in a former army captain and rabid right-wing politician Jair Bolsonaro. He has been much in the news of late over the deliberate, government-sanctioned burning of the Amazon rain forest – an act of Environmental Terrorism.

All such governments are inward-looking, promote tribal nationalism in varying degrees and seek not only to maintain the unjust status quo, but to intensify it. They represent the past, their methodology and ideals are completely out of sync with the rhythm of the times, and, as The New Narrative becomes increasingly defined, and forms are set in place through which the purifying waters of justice and unity can flow, they will fall into ruin.

The demographics of the divide are complex of course but are broadly founded not so much on class and occupation as age and education. In 2017 a YouGov survey in the UK found that the Labour Party were 19% ahead (in the polls) when it came to 18-24 year-olds “and the Conservatives [led] by 49% among the over 65s.” Research from the Pew Institute shows that younger people (18-29) in every country cited ‘favor greater [cultural and ethnic] diversity in their country’, and that education levels play a major part in forming attitudes – progressive or otherwise; in America e.g., 71% of people with ‘more education’ favored diversity compared to 51% with less education. In Germany it’s 65% – 44%, Brazil, 67% – 38%.

Despite outward signs to the contrary, and the bullying tactics of those that would obstruct change, an unstoppable momentum is being established that will sweep away the old worn-out structures. The Green Wave is a sign and expression of this global movement. All that divides and destroys must be laid aside; unity, sharing and tolerance are the values of the time, and, these will increasingly be the principles upon which a new world order will be built.

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Why is the Left Without a Single Elected Official in LA?

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In no way is this essay attempting to “situate” or “articulate” the vast complexity that is Los Angeles through the question the title poses. Instead, it is a public engagement with humanist social movements in LA, focused on human recognition and human value, and their inability to be institutionalized as government, especially as city commissions. Like many other cities in the US, Los Angeles suffers from what Alex Honneth terms “a failing sociality” or “a failure in the power of civic imagination, political will, and open democracy”. Henri Giroux elaborates on the idea in The Terror of The Unforeseen, his masterpiece of a takedown of American fascism and its complexity and complicities. Like many other cities, this failing sociality has come with late capitalism, as an urbacide of community, personality, and life in general. Like many other cities, large parts of Los Angeles refuse to die, despite the failing sociality.

A crucial aspect of the American political process is that there is no demobilization of justice movements, though leaders are certainly targeted. What this means is that unlike after anti-colonial mass movements in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, there were no Generals and no church-elite-government counter revolutionary forces killing politics and ethics with guns. in the US, there is betrayal by mass movement leaders who join organizations, parties, etc, and become “adults”. This “adulthood”, a synonym for civility according to some, is often just betrayal of principles for varying reasons.

What no demobilization also means is that we’ve been carrying the same signs, celebrating the same wins, writing the same reports for generation after generation really, where generations have passed down movements to other generations by passing on the organizing to new generations. No demobilization has meant persistence but a kind of persistence that seems to get some in power and then persist some more. Who can forget that third way political democrat Bill Clinton was a product of organizing against the fundamentalist state that Reagan imposed? Who can also forget that Obama emerged out of a confluence of many 90’s and 00’s movements such as those against the Iraq war, those against patriarchy, those for black lives, those for a new environment, the same ones that Democratic candidates today purport to support.

This brings us back to the city of Los Angeles, and the fact that despite a proliferation of community groups, social movements, and this from this city’s earliest days, in a city where ⅓ of the population is poor, there is no leftist elected official. So, despite the 1992 riots / rebellion, despite the marches against prop 187, despite LA have been the breeding ground of the Black Lives Matter movement, despite the power of unions in LA, despite the activism of citizens, no city council member is on the left, the mayor certainly is not, and communities are facing existential threats as targets of real estate capital. Why? How have we not achieved what Chicago, Berkeley and other cities have achieved?

It would be too simplistic to say that capitalism is the problem. Yes, capitalism is the problem, and also one of many problems that existed before capitalism that we deal with today. However, the “location” of this problem, or the site of this crisis is in the fact that Los Angeles is a city of very poor human relations and a very small public sphere, which means that Los Angeles’s democracy is fractured, coopted, and often inexistent, enough to not be able to, yet, support a leftist insurgency into office and for that left to begun to shape institutions. It has been tried and continues to be, the efforts of Ground Game LA being the most recently notable, but the truth is that the city is split into several districts that are their own cities in truth, and really one daily well financed popular paper purporting to speak for the “city”, the LA Times, but doesn’t really speak for the city in its political complexity. Two public spheres exist in LA, one in English and one in Spanish, to the point where unions in LA have become masters in fishing for votes in the Spanish language public sphere to edge out a win. The english language left and the spanish language left overlap but are separated by language. The left in LA today is an English language phenomenon, though it has historically been strongly a spanish language phenomenon with the organizing that happened in Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, and other traditionally chicano but very importantly central american communities who were on display as striking janitors in the 90s.

In other words, a common horizon has not been spelled out by both english language leftists (those with resources) and spanish language leftists (some resources but mostly numbers), though political correctness would lead one to believe so. What this means is that the left remains unarticulated because it is fragmented, and so when the center comes around and articulates some thing that resembles some of one’s convictions, the vacuum remains and one’s vote goes to the center.

What this means is that one left has to emerge in LA, one dialogue, one sphere, and especially one pedagogy as this sphere’s engine. That way solidarity trumps identity, identity being the bread and butter of both spanish language and english language black and brown centrist politics. This sphere has to discuss housing, justice, human rights, etc, together in order to create an audience for leftism as an alternative. This sphere has to reinvigorate schools and literature as the engine of itself, and not protest and adherence. Or else manipulation of kind hearted activists will continue as the inside outside strategies of career oriented organizers posing as prophets of justice and right. Where do we begin? Good public schools. Books written and immediately translated. The discussion of commitments and convictions, and the articulation of a multilingual horizon.

The post Why is the Left Without a Single Elected Official in LA? appeared first on CounterPunch.org.

All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace A Chance (Bring It Home!)

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As you come to know the seriousness of our situation – the war, the racism, the poverty in the world—you come to realize it is not going to be changed just by words or demonstrations. It’s a question of living your life in drastically different ways. – Dorothy Day

[if conflict there must be] let these conflicts take place not on the ground of vague aspirations…but upon broad ideas which inspire men by the grandness of the horizon which they bring into view….the conflict will [then] depend less upon guns than upon the force of the creative genius which will be brought into action in the reconstruction of society…The conflict being thus engaged on larger issues will purify the social atmosphere itself… – Peter Kropotkin, Memoirs of a Revolutionist

I make no secret of the fact that I believe peace is a local matter as much as a national and international or global one. Just as feminism taught us the personal is political, so the local is the very first social stage upon which we create, or fail to create, peace, or love for that matter. The center must return to localities such that real life is local life. Now, the “most real” seems to be at the “top,” at the centers of power which appear, through the reality enhancement made possible by electronic mass media, glamorous, their talking heads magnified and god-like. Screen realities have become a demeaned substitute for the higher, more inclusive, spiritual reality to which the mass of educated, liberal people like ourselves have lost connection.

Inasmuch as we fail here, in our local places, to hold it together, to maintain the commitment to unity, to being-as-one, we will continue to fail at the national and international levels. In this time of multiple threats to the environment, when contraction of the industrial economy and way of life is called for, the anarchist call to “decentralize” is ever more appropriate. The center must be shifted from the power centers at the top, that saturate us in their meanings through their control of government, major institutions, and mass media, to the most local and unmediated relationships, such that social organization is bottom-up, not top down. If centralization is a major cause of our disassociation from nature and from each other, of our disempowerment, our political lethargy, our divisiveness, etc., then we must figure out what it means to decentralize. More important, we must face the severe fact that, given our way of life and the sum total of beliefs, attitudes and assumptions we share, and most critically, the extent to which we remain unconsciously obedient to top-down authority, restoring centrality in the most local (decentralized) relationships, including the relationship to place, is for us nearly impossible.

If we wish to do any more than just saying “give peace a chance,” we must come to realize we know practically nothing about it. The dream of peace epitomized in Woodstock is by now a vapid T-shirt banality, as removed from our actual lives as the proverbial “pipe dream.” For certain, we do not share the meaning experienced by the great majority of people on the planet for whom “peace” means what they do not have: the safety, stability and means of sustenance necessary for people in their communities to live productively, meaningfully and interdependently from birth to death in their home places, and to be able to expect the same for their children. For most people with whom I’m acquainted, this vision of peace in in-place stability is a picture of failure! To return to living in such a way that no improvement is made from generation to generation would be like peasant life in the middle ages! We do not, as a whole, share this aim of peace because this sort of peaceable living, locally contained and limited, is not what we want. Our needs, conditioned to the material expectations of bourgeois liberalism, are far more complex.

Who, anymore, can desire the degraded reality that community life in place, regarded as it is in industrial and neoliberal society as a kind of failure, has become? In particular, who can desire the terrible stability of face-to-face living, over time? Like everyone else raised in western society, we are unprepared for this kind of utter mutual dependency, the kind against which our educated forefathers and mothers, influenced by the liberating effect of enlightenment thinking, struggled over centuries to escape! Largely forgotten is the fact that most of the centralized social systems and economic structures we take for granted have their base in the destruction of the very ways of life – i.e., interdependent, mutualistic, communalistic, etc. – that would be needed to de-centralize. The truth is by this time we are ill-prepared to be comrades. How easily, in our social dyads and triads we scapegoat, project our mistrust, tear the ones we hate to pieces, and sometimes the ones we love. Because to us “growth junkies, the constricted face-to-face reality, in a world with no unifying positive dream, ” has become unbearable. Over and over we fail in little, daily ways to live as if this were our only world, in which we must persist in and insist on being human.

The return to local living in our existing demeaned and degraded communities, reduced to being colonial outposts for Dunkin Donuts and Walmart, returns us to a kind of social “enchainment” we no longer consider good or necessary. It’s revolutionary potential is easily missed. We cannot see the “broader, unifying ideas,” which as Kropotkin said, can “purify the social atmosphere.” But this is so only because of our neoliberal conditioning; the brute face of authority is hidden from those of us who conform to it. Revolutions in the past have depended upon situations of abusive power in which the victims find their commonality in recognizing the oppressor. In contrast, the revolution of the local demands of us that we cultivate a conscious relationship to legitimate authority. Beginning with a sound sense of inner authority we can, like past revolutionaries, distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate authority, to claim support from the former and commit disobedience against the latter. Whether or not one adheres to traditional religion, such as did Dorothy Day, or Martin Luther King, Jr., legitimate authority that will stand against illegitimate authority will only be found within, in the imaginal, creative function of the soul.

After several generations of rationalist conditioning, and of top-down mediated reality replacing genuine in-place relationships, we are incapacitated for coming to grips with revolutionary consciousness. Not only the loss of a transcendent frame of meaning, but the complete modernist disdain for metaphysical reality has left us neurotically, even psychotically, dominated by internal struggles with invisible “authorities,” or demons, that have no opposition. Our relationships begin and end in projections we can neither see nor challenge nor escape or rebel against, for to be aware of projections one must enter the inner wilderness of oneself. We dwell in separate, obsessive “micro-worlds” managing diets and fitness routines, keeping our crystals clear of impurities – futile, imaginary struggles that make actual revolution, in contrast, the thing that’s unreal!

The powerful projections involved in relationships, especially and intensely the intimate ones, unless everyone involved can manage to fulfill each other’s positive projections and avoid the negative (good luck!), turn the honest desire for mutual trust, cooperation and friendship, into destructive, divisive power struggles. Hence the news headlines: murderously enraged spurned boyfriends, battered wives and girlfriends, a category of differences deemed “irreconcilable” by the legal establishment, estrangements and divorce. Hence our over-dependence upon legal authority to resolve our conflicts and to implement “outing” movements like #MeToo, which serve mainly to deepen divisions and to thwart the aim of peace.

Having no longer an in-common spiritual authority that can call for peace-making, the very real power struggles between people in face-to-face communities can have no resolution in reconciliation. Discouraged under neoliberalism from individuality, unable to authorize our subjectivities (lost in to be or not to be?) we fail to make the evolutionary “next move in consciousness,” the humanly empowering move to “self-creation.” With no way to resolve individual internal struggles, most of us succumb to the inner wilderness, losing ourselves in neurosis, managing to cope, but never to act. What choice do we have but to give up the impossible anarchist project and submit to the current arrangements in the neoliberal totality that always has room for one more?

Having so thoroughly banished, under neoliberalism, non-rational kinds of knowing, having been conditioned to consider literature and art and the imaginative realm as nonessential, we’re left prey to media-magnified, top-down (illegitimate) authority. Passively we’ve gone along with the smug establishment assurance that science has gained us superiority over superstitious “primitive” peoples whose religions were nature and imagination-based. We’re left with no way to receive the wisdom from below (the other within) that could free us from the unwinnable internal neurotic struggles and thus provide us a (non-material) basis for local, communal, de-centralized living.

As long as we remain obedient to the authority that grants us a place within the (neoliberal) world, we are limited to expressing our dissatisfaction in either adolescent-stage rebellion against, or passive submission to, illegitimate authority; either way, peace remains a T-shirt slogan. The peasant culture in which Kropotkin placed his anarchist hope retained remnants of its indigenous strength because the peasants had been systematically shut out from the enticements and rewards of power and affluence. In neoliberal bourgeois society, we have largely succumbed to these same enticements, that provide the “payoff” for our disempowering acceptance of the normalization of vast inequality and endless war, and of disabling neurosis.

How then, can we give peace a chance? How can we restore to the world its human meaning such as it has for the majority of the world’s people who do not have peace, who suffer under want, war, treatable diseases, political oppression, etc., due mainly to the illegitimate actions of nations dominated by greedy self-serving capitalists and neoliberal abstractions? How can we return the human experiment to its proper locus in the struggle for peace in the close-up and unmediated, the de-centralized and the local?

Despite my confidence in the authority of the soul, it would be dishonest of me to claim I have the “solution” to this major obstacle to the revolution of peace love and understanding in our time. De-centralizing our lives does not bring us onto safe utopian islands of like-minded “, i.e, “sane” people. Far from it! For me, whose geographical center of Utica is a “sacrifice zone” in the global marketplace (as most of our places ultimately are) I’m brought into the reality of my outsiderhood in dehumanized neoliberal reality. However, it’s possible this “stranger-hood” has an advantage for the project of de-centralization, over an easier affiliation with “the like-minded.” De-centralization depends upon its constituent individuals having allegiance to inward authority (that is, to their being individuals!) Thus, standing in one’s inner authority, which is to stand in one’s confounding otherness, one’s difference, means that relationships no longer can depend on the illusion of sameness. They instead become conscious acts of ongoing reconciliation, of peace-making, as they should be. Such a local center thus becomes in anarchist fashion a “federation” among affiliated autonomous individuals. One can only hypothesize – for all of this is in – and will forever be in – the experimental stage: by each one being our difference, realized in the primary revolutionary act of creative expression, the peace-making revolution can be brought home in our families and our most local communities.

The post All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace A Chance (Bring It Home!) appeared first on CounterPunch.org.

The End of Aquarius and The Dawn of a Death Star: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

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These days, reaction to a film overrides the work itself. Critical success depends on whether a filmmaker has ticked all the right boxes from a template checklist of criteria based on an HR manual outlining conduct and hiring practices.

Quentin Tarantino’s latest (and last?) film was under fire for its subject matter (a mostly fictional retelling of the Manson murders) even before it went into production, and has since taken hits on multiple fronts from the thumb sucking segment of the peanut gallery, convinced that the director is hiding a fugitive agenda at odds with their prevailing group think imperatives. Chief among them: A howling mob should be put at the helm of a film to ensure the audience is safely strapped into their car seats. As usual, Tarantino’s detractors are flinging birdshot at a master flame thrower.

‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ not only defies any pre-conceived notion of a Tarantino film, but defies gravity itself as a transcendent, multi-dimensional mind fuck that unravels in the opposite of ‘real-time’ and re-directs consciousness itself.

The filmmaker in his most ambitious work to date, makes a quantum leap through the cathode rays of bad television and discovers a whole new galaxy. Tarantino’s slow-burning comedy places a clear line of demarcation between people who derive genuine pleasure from art, and those who see it as a chance to ‘call out’ the artist for perceived crimes against a trending Twitter hashtag.

They’re outraged because Margo Robbie isn’t given pages of lines to ‘explain’ her character, but tasked instead with illuminating an enigma from within. Up-and-coming screen Goddess Sharon Tate is mostly photographed from the neck up, demanding Robbie to act between the ears and replace dialogue with unadulterated sunshine. Tate is no ‘character’ but a once in a million-year solar event, ushering at the end of Aquarius, and the dawn of a collapsing death star.

These wilted arrow slingers are unanimously apoplectic that Bruce Lee isn’t portrayed as a eunuch ‘Oriental’ sage, but a drop-dead sexy dancer, cynically playing up his ‘other’ mystique to a bunch of honkies. It’s a risk, to be sure, but one that pays off as a clever plot device that gives lug nut stuntman Cliff Booth an entire backstory in one unreliably narrated anecdote. Cliff’s decision to take down the diminutive star is the catalyst event of his downward career spiral and the crowning cherry on his dunce cap. Bruce Lee is later redeemed in Sharon’s memory as her martial arts coach. We see him as a generous mentor, and all-round good guy, far removed from the arrogant pontificator who gets body slammed into a Chevy by a second rate stuntman.

They’re pissed because Tarantino views women in fight scenes as adversaries who require the same strength to take down as their male counterparts. They conveniently ignore the fact that it’s a little girl who provides the intellectual impetus for washed-up actor Rick Dalton to give the only memorable screen performance of his lifetime. Nor do OUATIH’s social justice critics seem to notice Tarantino’s clearly marked line in the sand that prevents Cliff from accepting a blow job from an underaged hitchhiker on her way back to the Spahn ranch. Cliff’s refusal is grounded in ethics, even if he cites the unwanted risk of jail time as an excuse. If anything, Cliff is pained by the proposition. He is guided by the same unspoken principle when he makes a safety check on the ranch’s blind and bedridden owner, and later when he pulverizes a hippy with a monkey wrench. If Tarantino has a message to mankind, it’s “obliterate fascists completely” and “don’t fuck with women”.

Tarantino presents the Mansonettes as a grubby mob of servile, mean girl ‘Sister Wives’ cut from the same cloth as his detractors, and led no less, by Lena Dunham. Like Manson followers, self-tethered to the prevailing orthodoxy, his critics most often amplify a message in unison with a self-anointed pack leader, determined to mete out punishment for any deviant interpretation of its gospels. Tarantino has broken the first commandment of ‘acceptable’ filmmaking by prioritizing vision over ‘voice’ to bring a screen legend to life.

Sharon Tate is re-imagined in radiant spirit form; the briefly glanced apparition seen from ground level as Manson slithers by the house on Cielo Drive. That moment she steps out on to her own front porch to glimpse the departing nightcrawler, she is Eve in the garden of evil, momentarily aware of an unsettling presence. She gives the beady-eyed stranger a nervous little wave, the first and only indication that she is saying goodbye to the other-world idyll of her canyon home, and to life itself. Cliff’s fate is similarly sealed when he makes an impromptu visit to the Spahn Ranch and incurs the wrath of its bloodthirsty inhabitants. Again, the camera is placed where a bottom dweller would lurk as Cliff shit kicks the Manson follower who has fucked with his car.

In defiance of the “male gaze” canard lobbed at directors skilled at lighting, Tarantino puts his mostly silent star behind the camera to capture eternity as a hologram playing out in an amber. It’s Sharon’s own gaze capturing her giddiest moments as evidenced by her solo trip to the cinema to see, or rather ‘experience’ herself on film. Dead Sharon hovers over all the proceedings as her swooping camera eye looks down on LA.

Her male doppelgänger, the more earth-bound Cliff Booth, shares the same view (and viewpoint) from the rooftop next door to her where he is fixing a TV antenna. Cliff is Sharon and Sharon is Cliff. Angel/Avenger resurrected to re-direct history as an unfolding, sublimely felt present. Cliff is literally ‘Heaven S(c)ent’ as the commercial jingle in the soundtrack suggests, played at top volume as he barrels down an LA boulevard in his boss’s fancy car.

Still, there’s evidence of an impending rupture that threatens the delicate membrane insulating Tate from her murderers as Mick Jagger sings “Baby, you’re out of time” as she heads home towards the hills. The song is an ominous reminder of the gathering storm ahead. “My poor old fashioned baby . . . “ The “out of time” refrain also underscores the intersection between a dawning era into the unknown, and the fossilizing remainders it leaves behind.

Steve McQueen, sidelined at a Playboy Mansion shindig, where Sharon Tate, Michelle Phillips and Mama Cass are doing an interpretive poolside go-go dance, looks suddenly past his prime slumped next to a stiffly coiffed Connie Stevens. The approaching middle-aged star and his Camelot-era companion are relegated to observer status. He explains the unconventional Tate/Polanski marriage to the still nubile brat packer – already a symbol of old Hollywood headed for the next decade’s game show circuit. They may not realize it yet, but the stoned, freewheeling celebrants are poised to upend old hierarchies, leaving Tinseltown’s old guard remnants at the bottom of its food chain, where second-tier stars like Rick Dalton struggle to maintain a foothold.

Once again, Tarantino plays fast and loose with facts to present a parallel cosmology made up of mostly dead and imagined stars. A greater truth is revealed in a can of dog food, and a pulp novel about an injured, down on his luck bronco buster. Nazis get blowtorched in a film within a film, and then in the film itself. Sharon lives.

Once doomed to be perpetually remembered and eternally murdered, Tate’s new existence under Tarantino’s direction is forever re-living the thrilling milestones of her own life, sidestepping fate and driving headlong into the Hollywood Hills. It’s hard to imagine a more principled premise than Tarantino’s take on the lurid legend of ‘Helter Skelter’ and his rescue of Sharon Tate from the clutches of collective memory. Tarantino’s ‘call-out’ critics seemed to have missed countless signposts leading away from Cielo Drive to OUATIH’s moral, another dimension center.

A version of this piece first appeared in the Chiesler

The post The End of Aquarius and The Dawn of a Death Star: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood appeared first on CounterPunch.org.

Never Forget

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Never forget. Never forget. Never forget.

Never forget that the U.S. government was warned that Osama bin Laden was determined to strike within the United States.

Never forget that the hijackers who used airplanes as weapons on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, not from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Never forget that George W. Bush spoke to a joint session of Congress and to the American people, saying, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” before launching a war that would become never-ending.

Never forget that George W. Bush called the 9/11 terrorists enemies of freedom.

Never forget that George W. Bush used the 9/11 tragedy as a military recruitment tool.

Never forget that George W. Bush used coercion to build a coalition to oust Saddam Hussein, the leader of a country that had no connection to 9/11.

Never forget that George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” accomplished a mission—to destabilize the Middle East.

Never forget that George W. Bush and his administration and subsequent presidents and their administrations used fear to manipulate the psyches of the American people.

Never forget that thousands of U.S. troops and troops from countries coerced to join a U.S.-led catastrophe have been killed.

Never forget that thousands of U.S. troops and troops from countries coerced to join a U.S.-led catastrophe have suffered traumatic brain injuries.

Never forget the civilian slaughter in the countries invaded by the U.S.-led catastrophe.

Never forget the DNA-altering chemicals used in weaponry unleashed on the people of the countries attacked by the U.S.-led catastrophe.

Never forget that George W. Bush and subsequent presidents used the events of 9/11 to justify the mass surveillance of our lives.

Never forget that the U.S. government uses the threat of terrorism to increase military spending that now costs $3800 per capita yearly.

Never forget that never forget is branded, seared into our flesh, is, in fact, a brand.

Never forget is unforgettable because on September 11, every year after the events of September 11, 2001, never forget is repeated as families and politicians commemorate the dead—the dead killed in the collapse of the Twin Towers, the dead at the Pentagon, and the dead in that Pennsylvania Field.

But never on this unforgettable day do imperialists speak to the carnage in those countries that God told George W. Bush to invade.

Never forget that 9/11 changed everything, transforming the majority into a frightened and obedient population.

Never forget.

We couldn’t never forget if we tried.

The post Never Forget appeared first on CounterPunch.org.

Prodding ‘Nones’ to Vote

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Progressives hope for an America where health care is a human right for everyone — and women’s right to choose remains secure – and gays are safe from cruelty – and people of all sorts are welcome equally in a multicultural society – and college is affordable without crushing debt – and marijuana no longer brings jail terms – and safety measures curb gun massacres – and sensible steps reduce global warming – and hidebound religion isn’t forced onto unwilling people – and extreme incarceration doesn’t outstrip the rest of the world – and science prevails over superstition — etc., etc.

The best way to attain these advances is to boost voting by the swelling ranks of young Americans who say their religion is “none.” More than any other population segment, “nones” tend to have liberal, tolerant, humanistic, modern views.

If they could be induced to participate more strongly in elections, America’s moral climate would improve. But there’s the rub: churchless Americans often don’t vote. They shun politics as much as they shun supernatural religion. So their potential power lags.

In contrast, white evangelicals – although fading – are intense voters who form the core of the Republican Party. These fundamentalists have shrunk to just 15 percent of the population (down from 20 in 2012), yet they’re so politically active they provided 26 percent of the 113 million votes cast in the 2018 election. Three-to-one, they supported GOP candidates.

But figures for the nonreligious are sad: They’ve climbed to one-fourth of the adult population, but they were just 17 percent of 2018 voters. Almost three-to-one, they backed Democratic candidates. It’s too bad their turnout was so poor.

American politics reveals a travesty among white evangelicals. Jesus actually was a liberal who taught followers to help the poor, heal the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, uplift the underdog, etc. His “social gospel” matches the public safety net supported by left-leaning Democrats. But white evangelicals overwhelmingly back the GOP, which tries to slash the safety net. In effect, they oppose Jesus.

Even worse, those fundamentalists laud President Trump, a much-divorced vulgarian whose view of women was expressed in his notorious “grab ‘em by the pussy” recording. It’s ludicrous for people calling themselves Christian to rally behind such a crass leader, and help his party hurt less-privileged families.

What can be done to persuade more “nones” to vote, to counter the overblown political power of white evangelicals? Could America’s widespread secular movement unite in a get-out-the-vote drive?

Some efforts already are afoot. The Secular Coalition for America operates Secular Values Voter, publicizing the rising power of the irreligious. Similarly, other groups support Secular America Votes, which declares:

“Showing politicians that atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and other secular people are a powerful (and growing) voting bloc requires getting out the vote and demonstrating that we are a force to be reckoned with at election time.”

But this isn’t enough, because the secular turnout remains weak. The ratio of “none” voters doubled from 8 percent in 2002, but they still fail to vote in full force.

Atheist Alliance International President Gail Miller wrote:

“There are 1.2 billion religiously unaffiliated people in the world…. more than there are Hindus. The sad fact is that atheists punch well below their weight…. Atheists love to exchange memes and engage in online discussions, but precious few of us do more….

“When religious folk have a cause, they mobilize. They have established leadership, they get organized and they get out and help and donate generously. But we are keyboard warriors. The hard truth is: religious folk are better at this than we are.”

During the 2018 campaign, the fundamentalist Faith & Freedom Coalition of Ralph Reed spent $18 million “to micro-target 125 million social conservative voters across 19 different states through door-to-door interactions, digital ads, phone calls and mailers,” The Christian Post reported. The Family Research Council and Watchmen on the Wall mobilized thousands of born-again pastors to push their congregations for the GOP. The New York Times called this blitz “God’s Red Army.”

Obviously, secular groups can’t spend $18 million on electioneering. But they need to do more.

Could many freethought organizations team up to appoint a volunteer task force to plan low-cost get-out-the-vote tactics for 2020 and beyond? One tactic might consist of a rousing message to be e-mailed to hundreds of skeptic outfits, who could send it to their member lists – and the members could resend it to like-minded friends.

The Democratic Party itself should launch an effort to mobilize the churchless as a large potential progressive voting bloc. David Niose of the American Humanist Association helped the Massachusetts Democratic Party pass a resolution praising the irreligious, saying: “The ‘nones’ are a group that, as much as any other, advocates for rational public policy based on sound science and universal humanistic values.”

Why can’t the entire Democratic Party see the looming power of this growing cohort?

It isn’t easy to corral “nones,” because they aren’t gathered in well-marked congregations like white evangelicals. They’re free spirits, scattered almost invisible through society.

However, America’s future will be brighter if more of the churchless can be induced to wield the power of the ballot.

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For the First Time in My Life I’m Against Impeaching the President

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I had hoped to make the above statement after electing a president whom I did not consider a vile mass-murderous warmongering climate-destroying threat to humanity. I’m saying it early. I’m saying it while Trump is president.

But I’m not saying it because I’ve come to share any of the common views of the matter. I do not think it matters more who is president than whether presidents can be held accountable, so I’m not quaking in fear of President Pence. I do not think an indictment is useless without a conviction, so I’m not predicting doom and demanding inaction. Nor have I gained the magical ability to foresee the impossibility of conviction. Nor do I have any interest in electing Democrats, much less the belief that more of them will be elected the more they look like losers who will roll over and take any abuse. I also think the failure to impeach Trump makes Trump more likely to stay in office an extra four years — no matter how much he squeals about being left in a briar patch.

The reason I’m against impeachment is that House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler has made clear that he will use it to focus on the disastrous and counterproductive unproven and unprovable claims of Russiagate rather than on the dozens of indisputable public acts through which Trump has committed open and acknowledged (and in some cases acknowledged by Nadlerimpeachable offenses.

Yes, yes, yes, someone in Russia may have bought an infinitesimally small amount of very weird advertisements on Facebook.

Yes, of course, Trump has shady business dealings in Russia as in every other part of the earth.

Yes, Trump has obstructed justice and refused to comply with subpoenas in connection with Russiagate-ish things.

But a Russiagate impeachment is good for Trump and bad for humanity.

It amounts to an endless repetition of the basic truths that nobody Russian, much less the Russian government, influenced the outcome of the U.S. election, that Trump never conspired with the Russian government to influence the election, that Russia never hacked into election machines or electricity grids, that Trump has not been a Russian agent for decades, that Trump didn’t steal Democrats’ emails or give them to WikiLeaks, that the content of those emails (the corruption of the Democratic primaries, and the nastiness of the Democratic nominee) were the reason for the invention of the Russiagate distraction, and that the Democrats have made themselves look like jackasses for three years.

All of this is bad for any hope of cleaning up actual problems with the U.S. election system, including the financial corruption, the media failure, the electoral college, the two-party system, debate access, ballot access, gerrymandering, unverifiable counts, racist roll purging, and a candidate who openly intimidates and instigates violence.

Russiagate also creates a competition among its various supporters and detractors to appear tougher than the other guy on Russia, more eager to enflame hostilities, more prepared to consign us all to nuclear apocalypse. If Russiagate were a prescription drug, every “news” story about it would have to have carried that warning: “Viewing this may increase the risk of nuclear war.”

Russiagate is also horrible for impeachment. After making Trump look good and his critics look like idiots, a Russiagate impeachment is the most likely to fail in the House and if passed by the House to fail in the Senate. The result will be a free pass, even more powerful than the post-Bill-Clinton pass handed to George W. Bush, for presidents to do simply anything without fear of impeachment. Because, just as the Democrats blame Russia for their lousy election, they will blame the impeachment process itself for their lousy impeachment.

It didn’t have to be this way. I have been far from alone in demanding impeachment for the right reasons since before inauguration day. I have not been the only one denouncing Russiagate since its birth. Impeachment could have and should have happened in January 2017 on the grounds of violation of both emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Impeachment could have and should have happened when Trump tried to ban Muslims, when he threatened nuclear war, when he took children from their families and locked them up, when he abused the pardon power, when he declared phony emergencies in order to violate the law, when he failed to prepare for or respond to hurricanes, when he waged wars and plotted coups and told various subordinates he’d have their backs if they broke the law.

If impeachment at any point had reversed the offenses, had reformed the policies — which is what impeachment efforts in the past have usually done — that would have been a significant accomplishment. Instead, Trump has been given immunity, and his brazenness has increased accordingly.

Even now, impeachment hearings for the right reasons would educate the public, and the media, and the Senators. But that will clearly never ever happen. “Impeachment” simply means Russiagate to U.S. Congress Members and television viewers. So, I am against it. At the risk of having all the wrath of the impeachers redirected to myself, let me say that I am in favor of friendship and peace with Russia, and of survival for the human species.

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