AlterNet.org: Amy Goodman https://www.alternet.org/authors/amy-goodman-0 en 'Will the 9/11 Case Finally Go to Trial?': Andrew Cockburn on New Evidence Linking Saudis to Attacks https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/new-evidence-linking-saudis-911 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Saudi Arabia is already trying to change the law so that they can’t be sued.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2017-05-30_at_12.05.16_pm.png?itok=iwsxSIbp" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As the nation marks the 16th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, questions still swirl about the role of Saudi Arabia in the attacks. The 9/11 attack was carried out by 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were from Saudi Arabia. Sixteen years after the attacks, 9/11 families and survivors are continuing their efforts to take Saudi Arabia to trial. Just this week, the New York Post reported new evidence presented in the case alleging the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., funded a "dry run" of 9/11 two years before the attacks. The families’ lawyers say the new allegations offer "a pattern of both financial and operational support" by the Saudi government. We speak with Andrew Cockburn, whose latest piece is headlined "Crime and Punishment: Will the 9/11 case finally go to trial?"</p><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> As the nation marks the 16th anniversary this week of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, questions still swirl about the role of Saudi Arabia. The 9/11 attacks were carried out by 19 hijackers. Fifteen of them were from Saudi Arabia. Sixteen years later, 9/11 families and survivors are continuing their efforts to take Saudi Arabia to trial. Just this week, the <em>New York Post</em> <a href="http://nypost.com/2017/09/09/saudi-government-allegedly-funded-a-dry-run-for-911/">reported</a> new evidence presented in the case alleging the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., paid for two Saudi nationals who were living in the U.S. undercover to fly from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., quote, "in a dry run for the 9/11 attacks," unquote. The families’ lawyers say the new allegations offer, quote, "a pattern of both financial and operational support" by the Saudi government.</p><p>We go now to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by Andrew Cockburn. His latest <a href="https://harpers.org/archive/2017/10/crime-and-punishment-4/">piece</a> in <em>Harper’s</em> is headlined "Crime and Punishment: Will the 9/11 case finally go to trial?"</p><p>Welcome, Andrew. Can you please lay out that case?</p><p><strong>ANDREW COCKBURN:</strong> Well, the case, it’s a consolidation of various lawsuits that were brought in almost immediately after the attacks. And it alleges that the hijackers received material support and backing, and both financial and organizational, from agents of the Saudi government, acting in their capacity as agents of the Saudi government, and therefore, that the Saudi government is itself liable for the attacks on 9/11.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And talk about who the plaintiffs are.</p><p><strong>ANDREW COCKBURN:</strong> Well, they’re a whole bunch of people, 6,500, roughly, in all. They are the, first of all, bereaved families, widows, parents, children, orphaned or not orphaned, but bereaved families, whose husbands, sons, mothers were killed in the attacks. Also includes survivors, people who were—you know, who were in the attacks but managed to at least escape with their lives, even if they were injured. And it also includes insurance companies, who had to pay out millions and billions of dollars in claims, but are now seeking to get some of that money back from the people they allege actually caused the attacks.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Andrew, last year, I interviewed former Senator Bob Graham, the former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, co-chair of the joint congressional inquiry into the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This is what he said.</p><blockquote><p><strong>BOB GRAHAM:</strong> Immediately after 9/11, the government began to look for suspects who had helped these hijackers, and they focused on Iraq. They even had a concocted story that a representative of Saddam Hussein had met with al-Qaeda operatives in Prague, in the Czech Republic. That turned out to be false. My feeling is that what happened is they wanted to go to war with Iraq, had wanted to, particularly people like Cheney and Rumsfeld, and it was embarrassing to find out that the information that was becoming available seemed to more point to Saudi Arabia as having been the country that aided the 9/11, rather than Iraq. And so, the response to that is, let’s suppress the information about Saudi Arabia’s involvement, so that we don’t confuse the people in the Congress as we push hard to get authorization for war in Iraq.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That’s the former U.S. Senator Bob Graham. Talk more about what he’s saying, Andrew Cockburn.</p><p><strong>ANDREW COCKBURN:</strong> Well, that’s right. I mean, in a way, there’s one thing that the Bush administration and Senator Graham agreed on, which was that the—for the hijacking, for the 9/11 operation to succeed, they had to have had the support of—the structured support of a nation-state, I mean, the elaborate—in terms of money, in terms of contacts, in terms of—you know, these were a bunch of, basically, sort of hicks, who—most of them, who arrived in this country, didn’t speak English, didn’t know people. And they were all taken care of and found places to live and given money and, you know, steered to flying lessons. You know, it was a very sophisticated or well-organized operation. And that had to have been—in Graham’s view, and, it seems, in mine, too, had to have been done by a state. Now, the Bush administration tried to say it was Iraq. In fact, they so wanted it to be Iraq, or wanted people to believe it was Iraq, that prisoners—interrogators at Guantánamo were under instructions to torture detainees in Guantánamo into admitting, falsely, this link between Iraq and the 9/11 hijackings.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, why was Iraq the focus after—I mean, if you polled most people in the United States, they would not know that 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Why was it in the interest, do you believe, of the state to do this?</p><p><strong>ANDREW COCKBURN:</strong> Well, first of all, the relationship with Saudi Arabia is so sacrosanct in the eyes of the—if you want to call it, the sort of ruling apparatus in this country. And it runs very, very deep. You know, there’s all sorts of aspects to it—most vividly, obviously, the huge financial benefits that flow at least to the U.S. defense industry, the U.S. military-industrial complex, in terms of arms contracts, consultancy contracts for retired general officers. You know, there’s just a very close sort of symbiotic relationship between the two. The whole relationship of the oil companies to Saudi Arabia, you know, things that you wouldn’t think of. For example, every American—I’ve been informed that every time an American military flight flies over Saudi Arabia, which they really have to do to get to the big bases in the Gulf, they have to ask permission from the Saudis, which the Saudis, just to jerk our chain, occasionally refuse. There were subsidies on the price of oil for a long time. There was allegedly support in the worldwide network of mosques. So, you know, this was the idea that we would—even though they had just attacked us, that we would sort of suddenly turn on the Saudis, I think, just couldn’t—didn’t compute.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Can you—</p><p><strong>ANDREW COCKBURN:</strong> Go on.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Can you talk about Michael Jacobson, who he was and what he uncovered, Andrew?</p><p><strong>ANDREW COCKBURN:</strong> He’s absolutely key. Let me say, Jacobson was an investigator on the Senate, the intelligence—the joint inquiry by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which was chaired by Bob Graham, that was set up right after the attacks. Jacobson was an investigator in that. And really early on, he noticed an odd discrepancy, an odd mention in FBI files here in Washington, that seemed to say—that said that one of the hijackers had been in contact with an FBIinformant. And he thought, "This is quite interesting." And he wanted—he put in to go to San Diego. This is a hijacker, sorry, I should say, who had been living in San Diego. He pushed to go to San Diego to look into the files in the local FBI office. Interestingly, the then-head of the FBI, Mr. Mueller, Robert Mueller, now investigating the Trump—allegations about Donald Trump, pushed—moved heaven and earth to stop Jacobson going to San Diego. Nevertheless, the committee insisted he do so. And he went there and found most of what we know about the Saudi connection.</p><p>He found that in the files they had—there was plenty of information about a Saudi agent, Mr. al-Bayoumi, who everyone in the FBI, certainly, out there believed was a Saudi agent, who had been in close contact with the hijackers, who had found them a place to live in San Diego, had opened a bank account for them, had helped them—well, introduced them to people who helped them get flying lessons, helped them to get driver’s licenses—had basically been their case officer, it seemed. This was all turned up in—I mean, I could go on. You know, there’s other people. There were checks that went from the Saudi Embassy in Washington that went, more or less—I mean, indirectly, but in a pretty straightforward procedure—to the hijacker, or to Mr. Bayoumi, for looking after the hijackers. Mr. Bayoumi himself worked for a company owned by the Saudi Ministry of Defense, but never showed up to work.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Andrew, we just have 20 seconds, but the subtitle of your piece, "Will the 9/11 case finally go to trial?" Will it?</p><p><strong>ANDREW COCKBURN:</strong> Yes. I mean, despite the best efforts of the U.S. government and court system. It’s moving remorselessly toward that. We’ve had the complaint. We’ve had the motion to dismiss, that will be answered. Looks like sometime next year we’ll actually get an actual trial going. And the Saudis, I might say, are freaked out about this. They’re making every effort to derail this thing, to try and get the law changed so that they can’t be sued.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’re going to have to leave it there, but we will continue to follow it. Andrew Cockburn, Washington editor for <em>Harper’s</em> magazine. We’ll link to your <a href="https://harpers.org/archive/2017/10/crime-and-punishment-4/">piece</a>, "Crime and Punishment."</p><p>And that does it for today’s broadcast. My co-host Juan González’s continuing <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events">speaking tour</a>, you can check our website at <i>Democracy Now!</i> He’ll be in <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/9/juan_gonzlez_talk_and_book_signing_at_changing_hands_tempe_1415">Tempe</a> on Thursday, and <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/9/juan_gonzlez_talk_and_book_signing_at_workers_defense_project_1418">Austin</a>, as well.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/9/13/will_the_9_11_case_finally" width="640"></iframe></p> Fri, 15 Sep 2017 13:53:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1082457 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics saudi arabia 9/11 Andrew Cockburn terrorism Pink Floyd Founder Roger Waters: BDS Is One of 'Most Admirable' Displays of Resistance in the World https://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/roger-waters-supports-bds <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Waters criticized a bill being considered in the Senate to silence supporters of BDS.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_64658812.jpg?itok=rBtNADNN" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Today we spend the hour with the world-famous British musician Roger Waters, founding member of the iconic rock band Pink Floyd. In recent years, he has become one of the most prominent musicians supporting BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. Waters is scheduled to play Friday and Saturday in Long Island, despite attempts by Nassau County officials to shut down the concerts citing a local anti-BDS bill. Despite this, Roger Waters has continued to speak out. Last week, he wrote a piece in The New York Times titled "Congress Shouldn’t Silence Human Rights Advocates." In the op-ed, he criticized a bill being considered in the Senate to silence supporters of BDS. Roger Waters joined us in the studio on Wednesday.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/9/14/pink_floyd_founder_roger_waters_bds" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p><em>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</em></p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Today, we spend the hour with the world-famous British musician Roger Waters, founding member of the iconic rock band Pink Floyd. The band is perhaps most well known for their records <em>The Wall</em> and <em>Dark Side of the Moon</em>. Roger Waters recently released his first new studio album in 25 years and is touring stadiums across the country.</p><p>But the tour has not been without controversy. Waters is scheduled to play on Friday and Saturday nights in Long Island, despite attempts by Nassau County officials to shut down the concerts, which will take place at the county-owned Nassau Coliseum. The reason? Water’s outspoken support for BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. Nassau County officials had claimed the concerts would violate a local law which prohibits the county from doing business with any company participating in the economic boycott of Israel.</p><p>Waters has also been met by protests on many other stops on the tour. Ahead of his concert in Miami, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation took out a full-page ad in the <em>Miami Herald</em> with the headline "Anti-Semitism and Hatred Are Not Welcome in Miami." The group also pressured the city of Miami Beach to prevent a group of schoolchildren from appearing on stage with Waters to sing during the concert.</p><p>Despite all this, Roger Waters has continued to speak out. Last week, he wrote a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/opinion/roger-waters-congress-silencing-advocates.html">piece</a> in <em>The New York Times</em>. The op-ed was headlined "Congress Shouldn’t Silence Human Rights Advocates." In the op-ed, he criticized a bill being considered in the Senate to silence supporters of BDS. Waters writes, quote, "By endorsing this McCarthyite bill, senators would take away Americans’ First Amendment rights in order to protect Israel from nonviolent pressure to end its 50-year-old occupation of Palestinian territory and other abuses of Palestinian rights."</p><p>Well, <em>Democracy Now!</em>'s Nermeen Shaikh and I spoke to Roger Waters on Wednesday. I began by asking him to respond to a recent statement by Howard Kopel, a Nassau County legislator, who attempted to shut down Roger Waters' upcoming concerts in Long Island. He called Waters a, quote, "virulent anti-semite" and said, quote, "[E]mbrace the BDS movement and Nassau will not do business with you. There is no room for hatred in Nassau."</p><blockquote><p><strong>ROGER WATERS:</strong> Well, the first thing that leaps out of that statement is the notion that I might be in some way anti-Semitic or against Jewish people or against the Jewish religion or against anything that has Jewishness attached to it, because I’m not. I’m clearly not. You know, they comb through my past, and they find it very difficult to substantiate that accusation. But they use that accusation as they do with anybody who supports BDS or anybody who criticizes Israeli foreign policy or the occupation. That is their standard go-to response, is to call you an anti-Semite, to start calling you names, and, hopefully, to discredit you.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>As far as Nassau Coliseum is concerned, and the specific thing there, I was hoping that the state’s attorney, I guess—I’ve forgotten his name for the moment—was was going to try and take the case to court, and was going to actually litigate with the management of Nassau Coliseum on the grounds that they were breaking some law, because it would have given us a chance to have our day in court and for what I consider to be the side of reason and dialogue and decency and the law and the Constitution and freedom and rights and being grown up about things. I think they—eventually, they’ve looked at it and thought it was too dangerous, because if they had gone to court with us, I think there’s no question but that we would have won the case. And it would have provided a precedent to stop legislatures around the rest of the United States from bringing frivolous cases in similar circumstances.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>So, guys, I don’t know where you are, but I’m really sorry that you didn’t bring this out into the open, because it bears discussion that they’re attempting to take away the First Amendment rights of American citizens and others.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> But you are playing Friday and Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ROGER WATERS:</strong> Yeah, we are. And I really look forward to it. And we will be playing, you know, to great audiences, who will completely understand, as well, that there is no hatred in my show. I mean, I’m somewhat critical of the current administration in a satirical and playful way, I like to think. But my show is all about the idea that if this—if this race, the human race, is to survive even the next 50 or 100 years, we need to start looking at the possibility of the transcendental nature of love, and we have to start looking after one another and recognizing our responsibility to others, which is what BDS is about, really.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NERMEEN SHAIKH:</strong> So, Roger Waters, you wrote recently this <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/opinion/roger-waters-congress-silencing-advocates.html">op-ed piece</a> for <em>The New York Times</em> headlined "Congress Shouldn’t Silence Human Rights Advocates," and this is about the proposed bill, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. So could you explain what the act calls for and what your own experience has been with it?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ROGER WATERS:</strong> Well, yeah. As I read it—I haven’t read the complete draft, but—and I know it sounds ludicrous, but it’s true. There is a bill before Congress, S 720, which seeks to criminalize support for Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions, which is a nonviolent international protest movement to protest the occupation of Palestinian land that’s been going on for 50 years. And they want to make it a felony to support BDS, as far as I understand it, with criminal penalties that are, in my view, absurd. Somebody like me, for instance, if the bill was passed in its current drafting, would be subject to a fine of between $250,000 and $1 million and a term of imprisonment of up to 20 years—for peaceful, nonviolent political protest on behalf of basic human rights for beleaguered people, which is absurd, clearly. When you put it like that, you think, "Well, that’s ridiculous." Why would Congress—why would Congress even be using any of the precious time in the legislature to even discuss such a thing, contravening as it does the First Amendment to the Constitution, which is one of the basic rights that American citizens have, freedom of speech, to say what they believe.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NERMEEN SHAIKH:</strong> Well, explain your own involvement with BDS. How did you come to learn of it and then to support it in the way that you have?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ROGER WATERS:</strong> Well, many years ago, in 2006, in fact, I was doing a tour, and I was asked to play in Israel, to do a gig in Tel Aviv. And I’ll try and tell this very quickly. And I started getting—and I agreed to do a gig in Tel Aviv. And I immediately started getting emails from people saying, "Are you sure you want to do this?" And then I was told about BDS, which was started by Palestinian civil society in 2005. And I engaged in a dialogue—that famous word—with these people and with Palestinians, and they convinced me that I should cancel the gig that we were going to play in Tel Aviv.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>But as a kind of an act of compromise, I moved the gig to a place called Neve Shalom, or Wahat as-Salam, I think it is, in Arabic, which is an agricultural community where many different religions—Christians, Jews, Muslims, Druze—all live together. Their children all go to school together. And, you know, so it’s an—they grow chickpeas for a living. And so we did the gig there, outdoors. And it was a huge success. Sixty thousand Israelis came. No Palestinians, of course, because they are not allowed to travel, but—which is kind of the start of my story. At the end of that gig, I stood up, and they’d been hugely enthusiastic, the audience. And I said, "You are the generation of young Israelis who have the responsibility to make peace with your neighbors and to figure out this terrible mess that your country has got itself into." And there was complete silence. It was like—I saw the 60,000 kids all looking at me, going, "What is he talking about? This is not in the script." So, anyway, I went back the next year, at the invitation of UNRWA.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> The United Nations agency?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ROGER WATERS:</strong> Yes, exactly. And a lovely woman called Allegra Pacheco, who—and we went all over the West Bank. We didn’t go to Gaza, unfortunately, but we went everywhere else that we could think of in the West Bank. And I was flabbergasted. I mean, I had never been—I had never been into—I’d never seen that kind of repression in action—you know, the roads that the Palestinians aren’t allowed to drive on. And they start showing me the development of the settlements. This is 10 years ago now, 11 years ago now. And so—and I went and talked to people in the refugee camps. And I determined, when I left there, that I would do everything that I could, until there was some kind of justice for the people who live there, to help them, which is why we’re here today. So, and the fight goes on. But I’m happy to say that it’s a fight that is being won by BDS. This is why there are people beginning to picket my gigs. They haven’t done for the last 10 or 11 years, but now they are, because they’re beginning to panic, I think.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Roger Waters, founding member of the iconic rock band Pink Floyd. We’ll be back with him in a minute and look at the documentary he narrates, <em>The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States</em>.</p><p>[break]</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Roger Waters singing "Pigs," live at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, earlier this week.</p><p> </p> Thu, 14 Sep 2017 12:26:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1082504 at https://www.alternet.org Grayzone Project Activism Culture Grayzone Project News & Politics bds Roger Waters music culture How Wealthy White Communities Are Resegregating Alabama's Public Schools https://www.alternet.org/education/how-wealthy-white-communities-are-resegregating-alabamas-public-schools <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">White towns in Alabama are pulling out of regional school districts and creating new schools that are overwhelmingly white.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/aspire-kids-1.jpg?itok=172f-BTo" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As students return to school across the country, we continue our look at the resegregation of schools—particularly in Alabama. A new article in this week’s New York Times Magazine titled "The Resegregation of Jefferson County" by Nikole Hannah-Jones looks at how predominantly white towns in Alabama are increasingly pulling out of regional school districts and creating new schools that are overwhelmingly white. Critics say this is a new form of segregation. For more, we speak with Nikole Hannah-Jones. Her article about choosing a school for her daughter in a segregated school system won a National Magazine Award this year.</p><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> As students return to school across the country, we turn now to look at the resegregation of schools. Today, we look at Alabama. A new <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/06/magazine/the-resegregation-of-jefferson-county.html">article</a> in this week’s <em>New York Times Magazine</em> headlined "The Resegregation of Jefferson County," by Nikole Hannah-Jones, looks at how predominantly white towns in Alabama are increasingly pulling out of regional school districts and creating new schools that are overwhelmingly white. Critics say this is a new form of segregation.</p><p>Well, we’re joined by Nikole Hannah-Jones in our studio. Her <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/magazine/choosing-a-school-for-my-daughter-in-a-segregated-city.html">article</a> about choosing a school for her daughter in a segregated school system won a National Magazine Award this year.</p><p>Welcome back to <em>Democracy Now!</em>, Nikole. So, talk about what you’re finding and why you chose to look at Jefferson County.</p><p><strong>NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES:</strong> So, one of the reasons that integration was so successful by court order in the South was the South tends to operate countywide school systems. And that meant that white parents wanting to flee desegregation couldn’t just simply move into a white town to get away from these orders. But what we’re finding in Alabama, and really across the country, are white communities, wealthier white communities, wanting to pull away from these regional or countywide school districts and form their own racially isolated, much more wealthy school districts. And that’s happened in Jefferson County, Alabama.</p><p>The reason I looked at that case, in particular, is, most of the time when white communities want to—they’re called school district secessions. When they want to secede from a larger school district, there’s very little scrutiny, and we don’t actually get to see their motivations. But the school system that this town, this suburban community called Gardendale, wanted to split off from was under a desegregation order, so they actually had to go to trial, and there was discovery. And in that discovery, the racial motivations of the white people in that community became very clear. So it provided an unusual opportunity to actually explore why communities who say they want to break off from local control are often motivated by race.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That trial is fascinating, that you write about. And in it, the judge actually reads from <em>Brown v. Board of Education</em>. Especially for young people who don’t even know what that is, more than half a century ago, explain what happened then and why it applies now, and why this judge found it important to recite it in court.</p><p><strong>NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES:</strong> So, <em>Brown v. Board of Education</em>, of course, is the landmark Supreme Court ruling that found legally mandated school segregation unconstitutional.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Back in 1954.</p><p><strong>NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES:</strong> Back in 1954. Prior to that, we operated under the <em>Plessy v. Ferguson</em> doctrine, which said segregation of black citizens was legal and constitutional as long as it was equal. Of course, it was never equal. But <em>Brown</em>doesn’t actually deal with that. It deals with citizenship. And it’s basically saying that the separation of black students from white denies them their full citizenship.</p><p>The way that we kind of commonly learn this history, though, is the Supreme Court makes this ruling, and then we all agree segregation was bad, and we integrate our schools, or we tried really hard. But actually what happened was there was massive resistance, both in the North and the South. And it takes a very long time for school desegregation to occur, where it occurred at all, largely because of these court orders.</p><p>What was so fascinating about this trial, though, is many federal judges have basically taken the position that these court orders, some of them 50 years old, have gone on too long and that there’s no more segregation for them to deal with. But Judge Madeline Haikala, who was appointed by President Obama, has been one of the rare federal judges who is taking these rulings very seriously. And I was reading through the court transcripts. There was just this amazing moment where she’s interviewing the superintendent that the all-white school board of Gardendale appointed, and found out that he—on cross-examination, it came out that he had never hired or worked with a black teacher in his career, even though he was coming down to, basically, Birmingham, Alabama. And so, I think—she declined to be interviewed for the story, but it’s clear that she calls a recess, she goes and gets copies of the <em>Brown</em> ruling and begins to question him about had he ever read the ruling, and then reads parts of it, particularly the parts about how segregation demeans black students, aloud. And it was amazing moment. I’ve written about school segregation for more than a decade. I’ve sat in on these trials. I’ve read transcripts. I’ve never seen a judge do that before.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And so, explain what happened in Gardendale.</p><p><strong>NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES:</strong> What’s the status of the case right now? So, she does this really interesting ruling. She finds that Gardendale was in fact motivated by racism, which is a very rare thing for a judge to find these days. But she kind of splits the baby. So, Gardendale wanted to break off. She, in the ruling—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> To secede, the school system—</p><p><strong>NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES:</strong> To secede, yes.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —which is quite amazing, even to be called that.</p><p><strong>NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES:</strong> Yeah, exactly. It’s evocative of kind of all the right things, I think. She allows them, in her ruling, to take over two of the elementary schools in the town, and says she’s going to watch over the case and see, you know, how do they act, basically, with the black students that they have to bus in because of this court order. And if all goes well, then she would allow them to form their own district. So, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which was fighting the secession, clearly didn’t agree with that ruling. But when you read it, you see she was very conflicted about what to do with this case, understanding that if she didn’t allow them to break off, it could be very soon that Jefferson County would be released from this court order, and Gardendale could do whatever it wanted. And by allowing them to break off, she could put them under their own desegregation order and watch them longer. I think it really gets to the challenge of undoing racial caste in this country. It is not easily done.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I want to ask you to stay after the show so we can continue to talk about this and some of the players, and also your own pursuit of a school for your daughter, not in Alabama, but here in New York. Nikole Hannah-Jones is the award-winning reporter for <em>The New York Times Magazine</em>. We’ll link to her <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/06/magazine/the-resegregation-of-jefferson-county.html">piece</a>, "The Resegregation of Jefferson County."</p><p>That does it for our show. <i>Democracy Now!</i>’s Juan González is in California, Los Angeles. Check our website for his <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events">book tour</a>.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="200" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/9/8/nikole_hannah_jones_how_wealthy_white" width="400"></iframe></p> Mon, 11 Sep 2017 12:08:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1082329 at https://www.alternet.org Education Education alabama segregation integration resegregation nikole hannah-jones education Watch: A Toxic Tour of Houston from Refineries to Superfund Sites in Wake of Harvey https://www.alternet.org/environment/watch-toxic-tour-houston-refineries-superfund-sites-wake-harvey <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Houston, the &quot;Petro Metro,&quot; is home to a quarter of the petroleum refining capacity in the United States.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_485393380.jpg?itok=gOEJVkS4" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div><div><p>In Texas, the devastation from Hurricane Harvey continues. At least 63 people have died, more than 40,000 homes have been lost, and as many 1 million cars have been destroyed. Meanwhile, the long-term environmental impact of the storm is just beginning to be felt. The Center for Biological Diversity reports flooded oil refineries and chemical plants released as much as 5 million pounds of pollutants into the air during the storm.</p><p>On Friday night, another large fire broke out at the flooded Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas. Then, on Sunday, authorities set fire to six remaining containers of chemicals in what was described as a controlled burn. The company continues to refuse to inform local residents of what chemicals burned at the site. For more, Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman, Renée Feltz and Hany Massoud take a "toxic tour" of Houston's fenceline communities, led by environmental justice organizer Bryan Parras.</p><p>Watch:</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/9/5/petro_metro_a_toxic_tour_of" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p></div></div><div id="transcript"><div>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</div><div><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We turn now to Texas, where the death toll continues to rise from Hurricane Harvey. At least 63 people have now died in the unprecedented flooding. The damage caused by the storm is staggering. More than 40,000 homes have been lost, as many as a million cars destroyed. Meanwhile, the long-term environmental impact of the storm is just beginning to be felt. The Center for Biological Diversity reports flooded oil refineries and chemical plants released as much as 5 million pounds of pollutants into the air during the storm. On Friday night, another large fire broke out at the flooded Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas. Then, on Sunday, authorities set fire to six remaining containers of chemicals in what was described as a controlled burn. The company continues to refuse to inform local residents what chemicals burned at the site.</p><p>Well, this weekend, <em>Democracy Now!</em> headed to Texas. I went there with <em>Democracy Now!</em>'s Renée Feltz and Hany Massoud—both are from Houston. We went to get a closer look at the environmental and public health impact of Hurricane Harvey and related flooding. Houston, the Petro Metro, is home to a quarter of the petroleum refining capacity in the United States; include the entire Gulf Coast, and the percentage increases to half. Some of the major refineries in the region are run by ExxonMobil, Valero and the Saudi-owned Motiva. This weekend, we took a "toxic tour" of the facilities along the Houston Ship Channel, where plants spewed toxins into the air of nearby neighborhoods, so often poor communities of color. Our guide was Bryan Parras, organizer with the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign and t.e.j.a.s., Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.</p><p>Our visit came as the number of people who have died from Harvey rose to at least 63, including the first reported death of a volunteer rescuer, who was also a recipient of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The body of Alonso Guillén was found Friday, after he disappeared Wednesday when his boat hit a bridge and capsized. His mother told the <em>Houston Chronicle</em> she tried to come from Mexico to the U.S. to bury her son but was turned away by Border Patrol agents. She said, "When we are with God, there are no borders."</p><p>As we begin our toxic tour in Houston, we stop by a fundraiser that was set up to pay for the funerals of four undocumented rescue volunteers who were killed when their small boat was swept away by churning floodwaters last Monday and ran into downed power lines. They were electrocuted—brothers Yahir Vizueth and Benjamin Vizueth, their uncle Gustavo Rodríguez-Hernández and their friend Jorge Pérez, electrocuted when they fell into the water. Another brother, José, survived, along with two British <em>Daily Mail</em> journalists who were also on the boat to document the rescue missions. All of them suffered severe burns. They clung to trees until they were discovered the next day, some 18 hours later. At Sunday’s fundraiser, we spoke to family member Stepheny Jacquez.</p><blockquote><p><strong>STEPHENY JACQUEZ:</strong> On Monday, around 3 p.m.—well, started that morning—they were out rescuing people, a group of five men. They went out on a different part of town to save families affected. There wasn’t enough, you know, boats on the water. They had a boat. They said, "Why not? We can help. We want to help." They saved a total of seven people, two families.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Then they heard that on the east side of town, towards Normandy and Wallisville, it was getting flooded horribly. So they said, "Well, now we’re heading that way to see what we can do and how we can help." On the way over there, they were trying to cross a bayou, and they lost control of the boat. I’m not exactly sure the details, but they lost control, of what we’ve heard, and wrecked with an electricity pole. They had to jump out of the boat. And when they jumped in the water, they all got electrocuted. Three of them were saved the next day at 11 in the morning.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And those three were the—José, the brother—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>STEPHENY JACQUEZ:</strong> José Vizueth was saved. Two reporters from the <em>Daily News</em> U.K. were also saved.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> <em>Daily Mail</em>?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>STEPHENY JACQUEZ:</strong> <em>Daily Mail</em>. They were saved. They were also on the boat. Within the next day or so, we heard news of Yahir being found, one of the other brothers, one of the three brothers on the boat. Jorge was also found. And we were still missing two. They were found on Thursday. We took it upon ourselves. We gathered a search group, the family. There was around a hundred people in that search. Around 3 p.m., we found Gustavo behind a neighborhood. And the search continued. We were still missing one more, and he was found by boat.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ELIZABETH BARNABY:</strong> Hi. My name is Elizabeth Barnaby. These four guys were undocumented. You know, they didn’t have papers. That’s true. And they didn’t care. They still risked their lives, and they saved a lot of lives.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>RENÉE FELTZ:</strong> So, we’re going to leave this fundraiser and get back in a car and head out on our toxic tour with Bryan Parras.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> So there are some relatives that are undocumented. And, you know, we’re fearful of any attention that they would draw to themselves by asking for help. And we’re in Texas. You know, people are very proud, don’t like to ask for help. But we need it. We all need it right now. Yeah, so, we’re in Denver Harbor right now, and it’s just north of Buffalo Bayou.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, we’re going to continue from here, from this just terrible story of four young—four heroes who were killed as they were trying to save people, for you to take us on this toxic tour of Houston.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> Yeah. I mean, you know, this isn’t normally a stop. You know, I think this is emblematic of the very, very strong part of these neighborhoods.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>We’re just driving on 610, and this is the on-ramp. We’re going north right now. And what you’re looking at is Manchester. This is the beginning of the Petro Metro, Amy. You know, this goes on for 30-plus miles, all the way to Galveston Bay, and then it even wraps around Galveston Bay to Texas City and then to Baytown, another, you know, onwards to Port Arthur, Beaumont.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And can you talk about what’s happened to this industry in the midst of Harvey?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> Yeah. So, a lot of these plants had to go into emergency shutdown prior to the storm coming. And that’s a precautionary move, but it’s one that they know is going to happen, particularly if a hurricane is coming. And over the years, they’ve done nothing, you know, to prevent the toxic release of the chemicals that are sent out while these shutdowns are happening.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This area didn’t get flooded?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> This area, I don’t believe, got flooded. Yeah, it was OK. But the smells from all of the burn-off from many, many refineries is something that they had to contend with. And it’s something, you know, I could smell, even two miles from here.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>This is Westway, yeah, and these are storage tanks. And I’m not sure what they have in here, you know? A lot of times it’s really hard to know what these facilities are doing. As we saw with the Crosby situation, they oftentimes claim that because of terroristic threats, it’s better to not inform the community. Yeah, we have folks who don’t really know what all of the threats are. And throughout the day, you know, they have to hear alarms and bells, and things go off that worry them. You know, they cause undue stress and anxiety.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>We just passed by a house completely surrounded by tanks. And across the street is Hartman Park. And this is the only green space for the neighborhood here. And so, across from the park, literally, one street, is Valero, Valero refining.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>So I’m going to stop here. And this is a friend of ours. Yudith Nieto’s grandmother lives here. And during the storm, I was getting messages from her aunt, because they were really concerned about the Crosby plant and how that might affect things here. And, of course, they were having to deal with the toxic fumes, as well. So I promised I would bring them some masks.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> The smell here is pretty intense.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> Yeah, this is—this is every day, too. And this isn’t even as bad as it gets. You know, it’s intense. Yeah, and this is why I said, Amy, you know, this is the everyday poison that people have to breathe.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Is this every day, the smell in the air?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>MARIA NIETO:</strong> [translated] Yeah, it’s very normal. Lately, they’ve been feeling it more so with the—in the nose, and the eyes get teary. It’s very normal for that type of reaction to occur with them. So they usually wear store-bought masks that are not necessarily as prepared for this type of exposure.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Did they warn you when they closed this plant down that more toxins would be going into the air?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>MAURO NIETO:</strong> No.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>MARIA NIETO:</strong> [translated] No one from the refineries or the spaces have told them. They found out during the TVs that they watch and family members that are on the lookout and let them know.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, you just delivered masks to the Nietos in the shadow of Valero, this massive plant here in Houston.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> Yeah. You know, it’s shameful and really, really upsetting to think that families who live here have to make modifications and change the way they live, to shelter in place in your own home, Amy, to have masks on hand and to have painful reactions to just breathing, you know, the itchy eyes, the throats, the headaches, and that that’s an everyday experience.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>RENÉE FELTZ:</strong> We’re going to exit our car here and approach some men who look like they’re working on fuel pipes that go over a bridge.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, we’re going down to where they’re fixing the bridge and pipelines right around these facilities. Hi. You guys working on the pipeline or the bridge?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PIPELINE WORKER 1:</strong> The pipeline.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> The pipeline. Getting it ready to go back online?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PIPELINE WORKER 1:</strong> Yes, ma’am.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What does it look like. What kind of damage did it have?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PIPELINE WORKER 1:</strong> Just real minimal, but we can’t comment.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What happened? What was the damage?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PIPELINE WORKER 1:</strong> We really can’t comment. I apologize. It was all from the storm, though.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Yeah.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PIPELINE WORKER 2:</strong> Storm water.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, what role do you think climate change has to do with all of this?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PIPELINE WORKER 3:</strong> How much we sweat.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PIPELINE WORKER 1:</strong> Yeah.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Do you think that would be a good place to start, to start dealing with?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PIPELINE WORKER 3:</strong> Nah. Save your money.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Are you guys working for Valero?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ENTERPIPE CONTRACTOR:</strong> No, for—we’ve been a contractor for Enterpipe, and we’re working with some job for Enterprise.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What’s wrong with the pipeline? What happened?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ENTERPIPE CONTRACTOR:</strong> Oh, well, just the water goes too high, and we moved the pipe over with the—over the—this pipe, we’ve got to set up. We move it over, and we’re trying to put it back in place.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Oh, because the water pushed it over?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ENTERPIPE CONTRACTOR:</strong> Right.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I see.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ENTERPIPE CONTRACTOR:</strong> Right.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Are they going to be able to turn back the pipe—turn the pipelines back on soon?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ENTERPIPE CONTRACTOR:</strong> Oh, yeah, pretty soon, maybe in an hour or two. We’re going to be—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> In an hour or two?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ENTERPIPE CONTRACTOR:</strong> In an hour or two, we’re going to be the same like it is before.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>RENÉE FELTZ:</strong> We’ve heard that the factories and the refineries you’re showing us shut down, and that was dangerous, but now they’re starting it back up. Is that also dangerous?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> Yeah. The same thing that happened during the shutdown is going to happen again during the startup. And I don’t know how long that startup process lasts. But if you can imagine all of the liquids that are in the pipes that feed into the facilities, you know, all that’s going to have to get turned back on, and it’s going to take a good while for, you know, the system to be properly sort of running as it normally does. A lot of these facilities are not meant to ever stop. They just keep going. And so, that’s what causes, you know, the dirty burns and the problems—not to think that it’s safe at all when it’s running, you know, normally. It’s still putting toxins into the air. But when these other events, shutdowns and startups, happen, it’s even worse.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That’s Bryan Parras of the [Beyond] Dirty Fuels campaign of Sierra Club, taking us on our toxic tour of the Houston Ship Channel, which continues in a minute.</p><p>[break]</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> "Texas Flood" as performed by the Texas blues musician Stevie Ray Vaughan. This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we continue with our toxic tour of Houston, the Petro Metro, home to a quarter of the petroleum refining capacity in the United States. I was in Houston this weekend our <em>Democracy Now!</em> colleagues Hany Massoud and Renée Feltz, both Texan natives. Our guide was Bryan Parras, organizer with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign and t.e.j.a.s., Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.</p><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> We’re on our way to Baytown. Baytown is home to Exxon, you know, a very, very old plant. It’s the second-largest refinery Exxon has. And it was inundated with water during the storm. It may still be. I haven’t been there yet. But they had some massive flares that were documented by <em>USA Today</em>, and burning these chemicals that we were just talking about, you know, during their shutdown process.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And did the EPA give them waivers to burn all this out or all these companies to release toxins?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> Yeah. So, normally, in a regular situation, you know, they would be limited in how long they could flare. In this case, the EPA gave them a waiver so that there were no penalties for exceeding those time limits.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’re looking at a sign that says "Kinder Morgan. Warning! Gas pipeline crossing."</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> And just, you know, 20 feet behind it is someone’s home. You know, someone lives right here.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> There’s not much regulation in Texas, is there?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> This is what people look at when they say there’s no zoning. These are the sorts of situations that happen. And just—we just drove by new pipelines, which makes me think that there have been some breaches, some leaks, something, you know, or else why are these pipelines here? It looks like they’re going to do some repair jobs right here in this person’s backyard.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’re standing in front of a Motiva plant. Motiva is run by Aramco of Saudi Arabia. It’s the largest oil refinery in the country, right here in Houston, Texas. Right behind us is a warning sign for a pipeline that says Energy Transfer Partners. Energy Transfer Partners built the Dakota Access pipeline. We just passed pipelines or equipment for Kinder Morgan, Motiva, the largest oil refinery here, Energy Transfer Partners, which makes the Dakota Access pipeline, all within a few yards of each other.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> This is the concentration that exists here.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And, of course, directly next to a neighborhood.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> Yeah, and this is another predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood. This is the definition of a fenceline community.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> As opposed to a front line?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> As opposed to a front line. So, look, here’s a nice little flare. And so, yeah, there’s a distinction, right? When folks say "front-line communities," of course, there are a lot of people who live near different toxic sites, but a fenceline community is literally bordered by these facilities, like you see here. And it’s not just what you see above ground; it’s the many pipelines that are underneath the ground. And there have been studies done here to point out that the pipelines are also leaking benzene from the ground. So you’re getting rained on from above, and you’re also getting gassed from below. There’s no escape.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>We’re riding over the Hartman Bridge, and below us is the Houston Ship Channel, and it empties out into Galveston Bay to our right. And to our left is ExxonMobil, the second-largest refinery in the country. And this is a plant that was inundated with water. And we’re coming to check it out, because we just heard that it’s coming back online.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> As we’re going around on this toxic tour to the ExxonMobil refinery here in Baytown, Bryan Parras and Crystal Ibarra stopped at the local church to deliver them some food and some clothes.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Can you tell us your name and the church?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> My name is Pastor Carlos Caban from Templo Emanuel here at 1328 Cherry Street, Baytown, Texas. We did get hit hard. I mean, we—instead of crying, we are helping. And as you guys bring help, that’s how—that’s how it goes, you know? And it’s not easy. You know, this is a real low-income community. This house is like—water was up to here, to the taillight of your vehicle. And they’re still living in there. And they’re afraid of coming and getting help. Like—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> I didn’t see a lot of furniture out in the streets.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Not in this community, because they’re a low-income community. So—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> So, they’re—even though it got wet, they’re—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> I had a lady that, this morning, on service, I had to tell her, beg her, "Please, I’ll get some rescue guys to go in there." She goes, "That’s all I have. If I throw it out, why am I living?" I said, "Well, I’d rather you not live in there. You’ve got to choose which one: live in there or, honestly, die from cancer." You know, the molds are turning black already.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> The mold? The mold’s already coming?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Yeah.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Why are they afraid to get help?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Well, we have different laws that are in place. Here, what we are doing is just taking names and the addresses. And some people think that, you know, immigration is going to take them. And as that happens—we tell them this is a place of refuge. This is a—this line right here divides us from the city and divides us from anything else. This is a safe haven here. You could come and be here.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, a lot of people are afraid to seek help or shelter because they’re afraid they could be taken by—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Immigration. We’ve got the SB 4 in place. That’s a big one here. I mean, I’ve gotten people who say, "I can’t give you my address or my phone number." But for me to continue getting help—you know, sometimes it’s guys like you guys that bring help. But then I’ve got cities that come back and ask for documentation and "How many people did you feed?" or "Is the truck getting to the people that need it?" And that’s one of the major things.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>RENÉE FELTZ:</strong> What’s across the street?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> That’s the entrance of Exxon, Exxon refinery. So, we’re 20 feet from the refinery. And that’s what we’ve got in our backyard.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, how does that affect people who live here?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Man, I don’t know how to answer that one.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Do many of the people who live here work there?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Yes and no. Yes and no. I got a lot of guys that work in there, in the refinery, as they’ve got to maintain the families, so... Right now, they’re not working, so we’re helping out. Some of them—I have a guy that is not going because the area has been flooded. And y’all know what goes with that, but at the end of the day, you know, he’s not actually working no more.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Do they get paid if they’re not working?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> No, no. There is guys that are contractors. As being a contractor, they don’t get paid.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What’s in the air and the water here?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Well, there’s chemicals. You know, there’s different chemicals that are around. I’ll give you an example. If you cross over 225, that water that looks blue is the water from the refinery, when it leaked out. So, it’s some of the stuff that is out here.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, the refinery is not back on?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Not yet. They haven’t turned it on. I don’t know how long they will start it back up. But right now it’s actually off, so it’s not working.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>RENÉE FELTZ:</strong> Can you tell us if they explained anything when they shut it down? What was that like when they shut it down? Did they—what did they tell you?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Oh, they didn’t call nobody. They didn’t say—they didn’t say no volunteer or anything else. They just shut it down. All you can see is—well, right here, if you look right here, right behind that tree is a flare. So, as we were out here, we were getting—as we’re giving relief, you’re still getting the impact of the flares.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Is the flare always raging? Or was it—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> No, just last night, and, I want to say, when the hurricane was here, the whole week, day and night.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, the flare burns not all the time, but when the plant closes down?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Yes. Well, no, I can’t say. When they got an upset, they do burn. So, for us, I mean, we’re in the community, you know? Where can I go?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> How is the cancer rate here?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Oh, it’s big. It’s big. If you noticed, four years, I want to say, you take this street right up, right across the refinery, they had the—there was the city projects, were there. And they were affected by gases. And they eliminated them all completely. Exxon bought them all up.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Are you concerned about climate change?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Ah, yes and no. Yes and no, in the sense it’s—we are seeing the effect right now. When it comes about climate and anything else, we’re seeing it right now. I’ll give you an example. When in history have we seen a flood just like this? It has to do with climate change, and it has to do with what’s going around the world. You know, for me to live here so many years, and now, suddenly, a flood of this magnitude, I mean, even here, I mean, it’s unbearable. It’s unbearable.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What do you think of the fact that the president of the United States, President Trump, denies that climate change, that the fossil fuel industry or human beings have anything to do with climate?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> We just got to look at what—what our signs are, you know, our effects. I know we pulled out of an important treaty, which is the climate.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> The Paris climate accord.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Yeah. And I think that was—that was a big mistake for us, you know, as a country. And I think we have to have rules. I think we have to have regulations.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Have you heard from Exxon since the plant shutdown, since the hurricane?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> No, ma’am. No, ma’am.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> How about FEMA?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> We don’t got FEMA here.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Federal Emergency Management Agency.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> We don’t got them here. We, as churches, as part of the city, working with the city, we’re on our own.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What about Red Cross? Have they been here?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> No. We were a shelter for five days. And the city put a response together of pastors to help out. Nobody else.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> President Trump is deciding on DACA, whether to end it, the DREAMers, their ability to stay and work.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> That affects me, affects me as a church, affects me—it affects us all. We’ve got people that don’t have papers, but we’ve got to protect them, too, you know? They’re human beings. Their kids grew up with us. I’m going to tell you, "Get out of here"? You know, so it’s hard. It’s hard. It hurts all of us. It hurts our economy. Sometimes we think that it’s not going to hurt our economy. And I’ve got people that are—that need our help. And they help. They work.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Do you feel forgotten here, in the shadow of the second-largest refinery in this country, in the shadow of the ExxonMobil refinery?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> I will say yeah. I will say yeah.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> we’re here at Baytown Emanuel Temple Church. It looks out on the second-largest refinery in this country, ExxonMobil here in Baytown. People here, a number of them have lost everything, but they’re helping other people getting clothes, whatever deliveries come in. And now we’re going to just go inside, take a look. People took refuge here. And now, Pastor, you’re showing us video of ExxonMobil. Someone took drone footage. What are you looking at?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> You see the different colors of the—you see the chemicals there?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Mm-hmm.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> That’s the chemicals.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This is ExxonMobil underwater.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Yeah, yeah. So...</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> With the—and this is the kind of water that came to you—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Yeah.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —and that inundated people’s homes.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> That would be the same, yeah.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And what about the flares?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Oh, they were going. As you see, they’re still going on right there.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What’s your concern about the flares?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PASTOR CARLOS CABAN:</strong> Benzene, we know, is a carcinogen. And benzene is in your—is an additive for gasoline and for diesel. And it’s a byproduct of what the refinery does. So, I tell you, it’s one of the worst things that you can imagine.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>RENÉE FELTZ:</strong> We’re leaving the church now, where we can see a flare in the distance, and we’re headed to the last stop on our toxic tour. It’s a Superfund site in the middle of the San Jacinto River.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, Bryan, why don’t you tell us what this Superfund site is that we’re standing at, in the—on the edge of the Jacinto River, under an overpass? I don’t even even see any signs that say "danger."</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> There’s one little sign over here.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Tell us what this is. Why should we be concerned?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> Yeah, well, this is one of the most dangerous Superfund sites here in the Houston area. It’s got dioxin, a very, very, very highly toxic substance. And it’s an underwater Superfund site, but you can kind of see the mound of rocks over in the middle of this river. And that’s where it’s nearby.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Explain what exactly is in this Superfund site. Who built it? Why is it here? Who’s cleaning it up? And what happened during the storm to it?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> Well, a lot of those questions as to what’s happening, we don’t—we don’t know, because, you know, there have been articles about the EPA not being out here yet to do testing. But it’s an old paper mill waste site. They basically dumped a lot of their old waste product. And we know that paper mills, when they bleach their waters, that there’s a lot of dioxins that are the byproduct of that. And so, it’s some of the really nastiest chemical on Earth.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, we see refineries in the background. Then we see the Superfund—well, we see top of it—site. And then we see these circular—what would you call these? Tanks?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> And, you know, something obviously hit one of them, because it’s—this one is tilted, right? And the other one looks like it’s been like ripped apart, like its outer layer has just been torn off.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, has EPA been here?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BRYAN PARRAS:</strong> To my knowledge, they have not. You know, there was a report out that said they hadn’t been to any of the waste—to the Superfund sites. EPA had not been to any of the Superfund sites. EPA recently has issued some of their own press releases saying that they are monitoring all of the sites. But I don’t—I haven’t heard from anyone on the ground that has seen them. And these areas are areas where people would fish, ski, swim, you know, despite all of the industrialization of this area. It’s still a water body, and people are attracted to it, and they want to use it. You can’t swim. You can’t breathe. You can’t eat the seafood. It’s a wasteland.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And we just got word that the black smoke plume that we see in the background, just beyond the San Jacinto River, is the Arkema chemical plant. It makes organic peroxides. An area as wide as a mile and a half has been evacuated for days now. It looks like the plant and the local authorities have decided to do a controlled burn of the rest of the property. It’s not clear what chemicals are there, because the company has refused to release that information. That does it for our toxic tour of Houston. I’m Amy Goodman, for <em>Democracy Now!</em></p><div> </div></blockquote></div></div><p> </p> Thu, 07 Sep 2017 12:00:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1082047 at https://www.alternet.org Environment Environment Investigations Video houston texas fossil fuel Superfund Harvey hurricane environment refinery Harvey Flood Victims Don't Even Know What's in the Chemical Plumes They Are Inhaling https://www.alternet.org/human-rights/should-texas-residents-know-chemicals-theyre-breathing-after-arkema-plant-explosion <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">FEMA head says the plume of chemicals leaking from the plant is &quot;incredibly dangerous.&quot;</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2017-09-03_at_1.46.37_pm.png?itok=PPUT956e" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div><div><p>Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical depression as it moves over Louisiana and into Mississippi. Texas officials say at least 44 people were killed by the storm and nearly 100,000 homes are damaged by flooding. This comes as a chemical plant about 25 miles northeast of Houston, in Crosby, was rocked by two explosions early Thursday morning. The facility produces highly volatile chemicals known as organic peroxides, and at least 10 sheriff’s deputies were hospitalized after inhaling fumes. Officials had already evacuated residents within a one-and-a-half-mile radius of the plant in the town of Crosby, after it lost primary and backup power to its coolant system. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez insisted in an early-morning press conference that the plant had not exploded, describing the event as a "pop" followed by smoke. But Federal Emergency Management Agency head Brock Long said a plume of chemicals leaking from the plant was "incredibly dangerous." We speak with Matt Dempsey, reporter with the Houston Chronicle who questioned Arkema about what is stored at the plant and who produced the investigative series "Chemical Breakdown," which examined regulatory failures of the chemical industry.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 12px;">Transcript</span></strong></p></div></div><div id="transcript"><div><em>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</em></div><div><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical depression as it moves over Louisiana and into Mississippi. In Houston, floodwaters have begun to recede, revealing corpses and mass devastation. Texas officials say at least 44 people have been killed by the storm. Nearly 100,000 homes are damaged by flooding. More than 30,000 people remain in shelters. Health officials are taking steps to minimize the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid, and nearly 150,000 homes have been told to boil their water. East of Houston, in hard-hit Beaumont, drinking water is completely shut off, and emergency workers are evacuating Beaumont’s main hospital. Meanwhile, flooding continues in North Houston as the Neches River surged beyond its banks and is expected to rise another foot by Friday afternoon.</p><p>This comes as a chemical plant about 25 miles northeast of Houston, in Crosby, that’s swamped by about six feet of water, was rocked by two explosions early Thursday morning that sent thick black smoke into the air. The facility produces highly volatile chemicals known as organic peroxides, and at least 10 sheriff’s deputies went to the hospital after inhaling fumes. Officials had already evacuated residents within a one-and-a-half-mile radius of the plant in Crosby after it lost primary and backup power to its coolant system. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez insisted in an early-morning press conference that the plant had not exploded, describing the event as a "pop" followed by smoke. But Federal Emergency Management Agency head—that’s FEMA head—Brock Long said a plume of chemicals leaking from the plant is "incredibly dangerous."</p><blockquote><p><strong>BROCK LONG:</strong> So, the bottom line is, is that we do what’s called plume modeling, and that’s what we base a lot of the evacuations on. And so, by all means, yes, the plume is incredibly dangerous.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This comes as the company, Arkema, has refused to state precisely which chemicals are produced or how many of them are still on site at the time of the explosions. During a call with reporters, Arkema CEO Richard Rowe said the company expected the chemicals on site to catch fire or explode, and admitted it is a way to prevent a fire or potential—it has no way to prevent a fire or potential explosion near the plant. He was questioned by reporter Matt Dempsey with the <em>Houston Chronicle</em>.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MATT DEMPSEY:</strong> I have the 2015 Tier II chemical inventory for your facility. Are you going to provide a updated—the most current Tier II chemical inventory for the facility to the media?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>RICHARD ROWE:</strong> I don’t—I don’t know that we see the need to do that. I mean, all the—they’re all involved with the—the peroxides that we’re discussing.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>MATT DEMPSEY:</strong> No, I understand that. There’s a lot more detail in the Tier II chemical inventory for reporters that could be useful. Just to be clear, though, it sounds like you’re not willing to release your current chemical—or your Tier II chemical inventory to the media?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>RICHARD ROWE:</strong> I mean, again, I don’t—I don’t—we do not see the need at this time to do that.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> To talk about what we know about what could blow up at the Arkema plant in Crosby, we go now to Houston, where we’re joined by the reporter you just heard questioning the Arkema CEO. Matt Dempsey is a data reporter with the <em>Houston Chronicle</em> who contributed to the <a href="http://www.houstonchronicle.com/chemical-breakdown/1/">investigative series</a> called "Chemical Breakdown," which examined regulatory failures of the chemical industry. His latest <a href="http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/texas/article/New-explosions-expected-at-Crosby-chemical-plant-12163386.php">article</a>, "New explosions expected at Crosby chemical plant."</p><p>Thanks so much for joining us on <em>Democracy Now!</em>, Matt. Start off by just explaining what do we know at this point about these chemicals in this chemical plant in Crosby.</p><p><strong>MATT DEMPSEY:</strong> Right. So, yesterday around 8:30 or 9:00, the company sent me a list of the names of the chemicals, but that is not a Tier II. In fact, I sent a really pretty angry email back saying, "This is not helpful. This is not what we asked for." And the reason why I want that Tier II chemical inventory is because it has the amounts of the chemicals, and it will tell you what kind of containers those chemicals are contained in. And I’ve also asked for like a map of the facility. Yesterday, at the press conference in the morning, they told—they assured me that they would provide a Tier II. They assured me they’d provide a map of the facility. I have gotten neither of those things. I have asked for—a bunch of other questions that remain unanswered.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What do you mean by Tier II, Matt?</p><p><strong>MATT DEMPSEY:</strong> All right. So, the Tier II is a chemical inventory that’s required under the—under EPCRA. It’s the Emergency Preparedness and Community Right-to-Know Act, I believe. So, that requires companies who have certain types of materials—it’s pretty broad—to send a list of what chemicals they have, the names of them, a chemical index code, the amounts of them, where they’re located, what kind of containers they’re in, to local law enforcement, to the state, to local emergency planning committees. And it’s supposed to be used for emergency preparedness.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, you were in Crosby yesterday?</p><p><strong>MATT DEMPSEY:</strong> Yes.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Can you explain how it’s possible that when you have 10 sheriff’s deputies that go off to the hospital, that the public cannot know exactly what chemicals are poisoning people, not to mention the cause of this one-and-a-half-mile radius that has been evacuated around the plant?</p><p><strong>MATT DEMPSEY:</strong> Right. It’s challenging. I mean, like I said, there is a federal right-to-know law, but that federal right-to-know law has a clause in it that says it can’t override any state law. And nationwide, not just in Texas, though it’s been particularly bad in Texas, that law has been chipped at—right-to-know has been chipped away by states, making it harder and harder to get access to these chemicals. So, I can ask. I can ask questions. I can bug the company. I can send emails and make calls to the state and other agencies. But it’s just very difficult to make any progress, because they’ve made it so that they can use terrorism as—the threat of terrorism as an excuse, in Texas, to shut down access to most chemical inventories.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I want to turn to Harris County Fire Chief Bob Royall saying the explosion wasn’t dangerous.</p><blockquote><p><strong>FIRE CHIEF BOB ROYALL:</strong> We’re trying to make sure that our citizens are comfortable in what’s going on and that they know the truth. And so, with that, these are small container ruptures that may have a sound—excuse me—may have a sound of a pop or something of that nature. This is not a massive explosion.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Matt Dempsey, your response?</p><p><strong>MATT DEMPSEY:</strong> I know Chief Royall. He’s a good man. He’s actually a really smart expert at hazardous material response for the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office. He’s probably one of the most experienced people at that in the country.</p><p>My impression of what he’s doing there is trying to be as accurate and precise about what he’s describing to the public as possible. I think there was a lot—I think, especially in response to—being in Crosby, there is tons of rumors going on. And it would be easier if the public—if government officials were more clear about what is going on and what’s not going on. So, my thought is, when I heard that, because I was in route when he said that—my thought, when he said that, was that he’s trying to make sure people don’t think that there’s going to be like a shockwave blast from this. And he’s right. There probably won’t be a shockwave-type blast, like something you’d see in the movies or something like—or an action movie. But yeah, it’s going to be a fire.</p><p>And my concern—my concern continues to be not the organic peroxides exploding and catching fire, which is dangerous. My concern is there are tanks of sulfur dioxide and isobutylene that are very large tanks. In their worst-case scenario report that they filed with the—that Arkema filed with the EPA, that said that, you know, if that stuff ruptures, then we have a really serious problem on our hands. I know people think this is serious. It is. But if that stuff goes out, gets released, then you have a very, very big problem.</p><p>So, I keep asking Arkema, "Where are the tanks?" They say they’re in a remote area far away from the organic peroxides. So I’ve specifically asked, "How many feet away?" That’s why I asked for a map of the facility. "Can you show me where the organic peroxides are and where the tanks are, so I can reassure people, more than just ’They’re far away’?" You know, and they’ve refused to have done that at this point.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. We’re talking to Matt Dempsey, the data reporter at the <em>Houston Chronicle</em>, who was in Crosby, the lead reporter on the paper’s <a href="http://www.houstonchronicle.com/chemical-breakdown/1/">series</a> "Chemical Breakdown," which investigated regulatory failures of the chemical industry. His new <a href="http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/texas/article/New-explosions-expected-at-Crosby-chemical-plant-12163386.php">article</a>, "New explosions expected at Crosby chemical plant." This is <em>Democracy Now!</em></p><p>[break]</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That’s Aric Harding, a Houston resident who went home—his house is flooded—playing his piano, only the keyboard above the water in his house.</p></div><div><em>The original content of this program is licensed under a <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/">Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License</a>. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us</em>.</div><div> </div></div><p> </p> Sun, 03 Sep 2017 13:42:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1081989 at https://www.alternet.org Human Rights Environment Human Rights texas chemicals hurricane Naomi Klein: Face It, the Flooding Disaster Is Climate Change https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/naomi-klein-face-it-flooding-disaster-climate-change <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s time to make weather political—our planet depends on it.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/8155815_98f864cb38_z.jpg?itok=zNS_IJhW" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The World Meteorological Organization announced Tuesday that Hurricane Harvey’s devastation is linked to climate change. All past U.S. rainfall records have been shattered, and the devastating storm is expected to bring even more rainfall to Louisiana and Texas in the coming days. Still, the corporate networks have avoided linking the record-breaking storm to the climate crisis. We examine storm coverage with Naomi Klein, best-selling author of several books, including "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate."</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/8/30/naomi_kleins_message_to_the_media" width="400"></iframe></p> Wed, 30 Aug 2017 08:48:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1081804 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics Environment News & Politics climate change hurricane harvey environment naomi klein Your Race and Zip Code Will Determine How Much Devastation You'll Face After Hurricane Harvey https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/zip-code-race-determine-who-will-bear-burden-climate-change <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Stranded communities are “literally getting gassed by these chemicals.&quot;</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/170827-a-zw944-001h.png?itok=nO1mPTL6" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Concern continues to grow over the environmental impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Houston area, home to more than a dozen oil refineries. The group Air Alliance Houston is warning the shutdown of the petrochemical plants will send more than 1 million pounds of harmful pollution into the air. Residents of Houston’s industrial communities have reported unbearable chemical-like smells coming from the many plants nearby. Stranded communities are “literally getting gassed by these chemicals," according to Bryan Parras, an activist at the environmental justice group t.e.j.a.s. Those closest to these sites in Houston are disproportionately low-income and minority communities. We speak with Dr. Robert Bullard, known as the “father of environmental justice.” He is currently a distinguished professor at Texas Southern University. Dr. Bullard speaks to us from his home in Houston, which he needs to evacuate later this morning due to the rising Brazos River.</p><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Dr. Bullard, I want to talk about this issue of justice. You live in the fourth-largest city in the country, Houston. The most diverse city in the country, Houston. And it is the "petro metro." That’s right, the Houston area home to more than a dozen oil refineries. The group Air Alliance Houston warning the shutdown of the petrochemical plants will send more than a million pounds of harmful pollution into the air. Residents of Houston’s industrial communities already reporting unbearable chemical-like smells coming from the many plants nearby.</p><p>Yesterday, we interviewed Bryan Parras with the group t.e.j.a.s., the environmental justice group, who said, "Fenceline communities can’t leave or evacuate, so they are literally getting gassed by these chemicals." This is an issue you have dealt with for a long time, from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to Houston, Professor Bullard. The communities closest to these petrochemical sites in Houston, disproportionately low income and minority.</p><p>You have Saturday, as we reported in the lead, a massive fuel storage at Kinder Morgan’s Pasadena terminal, spilling after being toppled in the storm. The tank held 6.3 million gallons of gasoline, but unclear how much gas leaked. Can you talk about the significance of where people live and the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of color and poorer communities?</p><p><strong>DR. ROBERT BULLARD:</strong> Well, the best predictor of health and well-being in our society, and including Houston, is ZIP Code. You tell me your ZIP Code, I can tell you how healthy you are. And one of the best predictors of environmental vulnerability is ZIP Code and race. And all communities are not created equal. Houston’s people of color communities historically have borne the burden for environmental pollution, and also the impact of flooding and other kinds of natural and man-made disasters.</p><p>When we talk about the impact of sea level rise and we talk about the impacts of climate change, you’re talking about a disproportionate impact on communities of color, on poor people, on people who don’t have health insurance, communities that don’t have access to food and grocery stores. So you talk about mapping vulnerability and mapping this disaster and the impact, not just the loss of housing and loss of jobs, but also the impact of having pollution and these spills, and the oil and chemicals going into the water, and who is living closest to these hazards?</p><p>Historically, even before Harvey, before this storm, before this flood, people of color in Houston bore a disproportionate burden of having to live next to, surrounded by, these very dangerous chemicals. And so you talk about these chemical hotspots, these sacrifice zones. Those are the communities that are people of color.</p><p>Houston is the fourth-largest city, but it’s the only city that does not have zoning. And what it has is—communities of color and poor communities have been unofficially zoned as compatible with pollution. And we say that is—we have a name for it. We call that environmental injustice and environmental racism. It is that plain and it’s just that simple.</p><p>And so this flood in Houston is exacerbating existing disparities, so that is why I say we have to talk about—when we talk about moving past the flooding part, and moving to cleanup and recovery and rebuilding, we have to build in environmental and economic justice into that formula. Otherwise, we will be rebuilding on inequity. We say that’s unacceptable.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Dr. Bullock, we only have 30 seconds. But your own situation now, you are being forced to move?</p><p><strong>DR. ROBERT BULLARD:</strong> I am being forced to move because of the rising Brazos River. It is supposed to crest at 59 feet. And so I live in an area where we have been told we have to evacuate. And so I am packing up right now and getting ready to leave out of here. And so, it doesn’t—there is nobody in this town that this flood has not touched. And so, that is the nature of and the horrific—how this has touched so many people. And we have to do the right thing.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Dr. Robert Bullard, we want to thank you for being with us. Father of environmental justice movement, as he talks about environmental racism. Currently Distinguished Professor at Texas Southern University. This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>. When we come back, how is this affecting undocumented immigrants? As President Trump heads to Texas today, it is also said he is threatening to end DACAimminently. 85,000 residents in Houston are under DACA, meaning they can live and work legally in Houston. What does this mean for them right now?<br />Stay with us.</p><p> </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/8/29/hurricane_harvey_zip_code_race_determine" width="400"></iframe></p> Tue, 29 Aug 2017 12:22:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1081752 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics hurricane harvey natural disasters inequality economic justice environment Stonewall Jackson's Great-Great-Grandsons Call for Removal of Confederate Monuments https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/tonewall-jacksons-great-great-grandsons-call-removal-confederate-monuments <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">At least 1,500 are left across the country.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/untitled_design_24_1.jpg?itok=r85SHLIa" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As President Trump faces growing outrage over his response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, we bring you an exclusive: an interview with the great-great-grandsons of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. At least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be found in public spaces across the country. But now a number of the monuments are coming down. Calls for the removal of the statues are even coming from the descendants of the leaders of the Confederacy. We speak with two of the great-great-grandsons of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Jack and Warren Christian have just written an open letter to the mayor of Richmond calling for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in Richmond. They write, "Our sense of justice leads us to believe that removing the Stonewall statue and other monuments should be part of a larger project of actively mending the racial disparities that hundreds of years of white supremacy have wrought."</p><p>Transcript</p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Momentum is growing across the country to remove Confederate statues in the wake of Saturday’s deadly white supremacist, neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. At least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be found in public spaces across the country. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, most of them were built during the early decades of Jim Crow or in reaction to the civil rights movement—not after the Civil War. But now a number of the monuments are coming down. In Baltimore, the city, under orders from the mayor, has just removed all four of its Confederate statues. In Durham, North Carolina, protesters toppled a Confederate statue after a college student named Takiyah Thompson climbed up a ladder and looped a rope around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument. She <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2017/8/16/meet_the_college_student_who_pulled">appeared</a> on <i>Democracy Now!</i> just before going to court on Wednesday.</p><blockquote><p><strong>TAKIYAH THOMPSON:</strong> And I did this because the statue is a symbol of nationalism, and it’s a symbol of white nationalism. And the type of white nationalism I’m talking about is the type of white nationalism that is sending me death threats on Facebook. I’m talking about the type of white nationalist that, you know, has killed a woman in a protest.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Meanwhile, on Wednesday, in Brooklyn, New York, the Episcopal Church removed two plaques honoring Robert E. Lee. On Monday, a monument to Confederate soldiers in Gainesville, Florida, was also removed. And several other Confederate monuments are slated to be removed across the country. On Wednesday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe encouraged all local governments to remove Confederate monuments, saying they’ve become "flashpoints for hatred, division and violence," unquote.</p><p>And the calls for the removal of the statues are even coming from the descendants of the leaders of the Confederacy. Today, an exclusive interview with two of the great-great-grandsons of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Jack and Warren Christian have just written an <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/08/stonewall_jackson_s_grandsons_the_monuments_must_go.html">open letter</a> to the mayor of Richmond calling for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in Richmond. They write, quote, "[O]ur sense of justice leads us to believe that removing the Stonewall statue and other monuments should be part of a larger project of actively mending the racial disparities that hundreds of years of white supremacy have wrought. We hope other descendants of Confederate generals will stand with us." Jack Christian joins us from western Massachusetts, from Chicopee, Mass. And Warren Christian is in Raleigh, North Carolina.</p><p>Jack and Warren, welcome to <em>Democracy Now!</em></p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> Thanks for having us.</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> Thanks, Amy.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> It’s great—it’s great to have you both with us. Talk about why you’ve decided to speak out right now. Let’s begin with Jack Christian.</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> Yeah, well, I think that [inaudible] wrote definitely is a product of something that we’ve been thinking about and feeling for a long while now, but was also very much catalyzed by what we saw in Charlottesville, and particularly in Durham, pulling down their Confederate monument. So that inspired Warren and I to kind of feel like this was the time to write this letter.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And, Warren Christian, in Baltimore, under cover of night, two nights ago, the mayor had four Confederate monuments pulled down. One of them was a monument of your great-great-grandfather, Stonewall Jackson. Your thoughts today and how you came, together with Jack, to call for the removal of not only monuments to your great-great-grandfather, but all other Confederate monuments?</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> Yes. Well, this—like Jack said, this is something that we’ve felt for a long time. I think it’s very clear, if you look at the context in which the monuments were put up, they weren’t—they weren’t celebrating kind of benign war heroes. They were very clearly meant to be things that would intimidate black people and further white supremacy in the U.S.</p><p>Where I work, at UNC, there’s a prominent Confederate memorial, monument, statue right in the heart of campus. And since I’ve been at the University of North Carolina, I have wanted for that statue to be removed, and felt like speaking out about it, and now, finally, kind of got the courage to do so.</p><p>I think Jack and I, and along with our parents, it’s kind of some mixed feelings, mixed emotions, about being direct descendants of Stonewall Jackson. It’s not something that I, you know, widely share, outside of a very close group of friends. So this is really kind of a coming out, in a sort.</p><p>And also, the—I think the other thing is, in some ways, I don’t feel like it should matter too much, you know, how we feel about the statues, but I do understand that it does—it is important to some folks how we feel about it. And, for example, this statue at the University of North Carolina, when it was put up, the speaker, Julian Carr, who is a prominent local businessman, talked a lot about how the Confederate soldiers were working to save the Anglo-Saxon race. And then, really kind of disgustingly, at the end of his speech, he bragged about having the—his quotes—"pleasant duty of horsewhipping a black woman in front of a hundred federal soldiers and leaving her clothes in tatters." So I think the racist and white supremacist intent of these monuments is clear. And I think it’s past time that they’re all removed from the public squares of our country.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> You work at the University of North Carolina?</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> Yeah, so I work at the University of North Carolina, and I am somewhat disgusted walking past that statue on campus. And I can only imagine how it feels to students of color, and particularly black students, who have to walk by that on their way to class.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Have you—</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> And I know that—yes, sorry, Amy.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Have you told the president of the university or other students? You said you’ve kept pretty quiet about this until now, but—</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> I have, yeah.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —about your desires to have that monument to your great-great-grandfather removed?</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> Not in a public forum, but I—you know, I’d say this is it. I’d like that statue, of course, removed. I think the University of North Carolina, there’s a lot of great people doing great work to try to recruit, retain and support students of color and black students, and having this monument on campus just completely goes against that spirit.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Jack, can you tell us who Stonewall Jackson was?</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> Yeah, it’s—I’ll do my best. It’s funny, serendipitous almost, that this summer, earlier in the summer, I had started reading the biography from a few years ago called <em>Rebel Yell</em> by S.C. Gwynne, that humanizes Stonewall in some new ways.</p><p>He is—he’s famous, he got his nickname, for, you know, standing in battle and not being pushed back by federal forces, if I’m not mistaken, in the first Bull Run, and other Confederate generals observed him standing like that and said he’s standing like a stone wall. So that’s where his nickname comes from. His fame, after that, is for the Valley Campaign that he waged in the western part of Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, where he—you know, he, with a much smaller force, was able to hold off Union forces for a long time, which had the effect of greatly extending the Civil War, in all likelihood. So that’s who he was as a soldier.</p><p>As a person, he was very complicated. He was an orphan who did well academically and graduated high in his class at VMI. He did, in his adult life, own slaves. He also was very religious. And as part of his religious calling, he taught—he taught Sunday school to enslaved peoples where he lived, in Lexington, Virginia, which was, in my understanding of it, at least controversial, if not an illegal thing to do. So, you know, this is sort of the person that we have, kind of all our lives, been thinking about, grappling with. That’s my thumbnail sketch of him.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’re going to go to a break, then come back to this conversation. Then we’re going to go to Fargo, North Dakota, to speak with the nephew of one of the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville this past weekend. That white supremacist’s father wrote an open letter on Facebook saying the family was disowning his son, was disowning his white supremacist son. And we’re going to speak with a recovered white supremacist who is part of an organization called Life After Hate. This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, our exclusive interview with the great-great-grandsons of Stonewall Jackson. We’ll also hear, after break, them reading a part of the letter that they have written calling for monuments to their great-great-grandfather to be taken down around the country. Stay with us.</p><p>[break]</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Inti-Illimani, here on <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman, as we bring you this exclusive interview with two of the great-great-grandsons of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Let’s go back to President Trump speaking at this fiery, unhinged news conference he had on Tuesday in Trump Tower here in New York.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder: Is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you—you really have to ask yourself: Where does it stop?</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So that was President Trump. We’re joined by Jack and Warren Christian, two great-great-grandsons of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, who have written a <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/08/stonewall_jackson_s_grandsons_the_monuments_must_go.html">letter</a> calling for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in Richmond, Virginia.</p><p>Warren and Jack, I was wondering if you could both read a part of this open letter that you have written.</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> Sure, I’d be glad to. I’m going to read the first couple paragraphs, and Warren’s going to read the last couple paragraphs. So we write:</p><p>"Dear Mayor Levar Stoney"—that’s the mayor of Richmond—"and members of the Monument Avenue Commission,</p><p>"We are native Richmonders and also the great-great-grandsons of Stonewall Jackson. As two of the closest living relatives to Stonewall, we are writing today to ask for the removal of his statue, as well as the removal of all Confederate statues from Monument Avenue. They are overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display. Overnight,"—two nights ago now—"Baltimore has seen fit to take this action. Richmond should, too.</p><p>"In making this request, we wish to express our respect and admiration for Mayor Stoney’s leadership while also strongly disagreeing with his claim that 'removal of symbols does [nothing] for telling the actual truth [nor] changes the state and culture of racism in this country today.' In our view, the removal of the Jackson statue and others will necessarily further difficult conversations about racial justice. It will begin to tell the truth of all of us coming to our senses."</p><p>We go on in the letter to detail some of our rationale and family history. And then Warren is going to read the last few paragraphs.</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> "Ongoing racial disparities in incarceration, educational attainment, police brutality, hiring practices, access to health care, and, perhaps most starkly, wealth, make it clear that these monuments do not stand somehow outside of history. Racism and white supremacy, which undoubtedly continue today, are neither natural nor inevitable. Rather, they were created in order to justify the unjustifiable, in particular slavery.</p><p>“One thing that bonds our extended family, besides our common ancestor, is that many have worked, often as clergy and as educators, for justice in their communities. While we do not purport to speak for all of Stonewall’s kin, our sense of justice leads us to believe that removing the Stonewall statue and other monuments should be part of a larger project of actively mending the racial disparities that hundreds of years of white supremacy have wrought. We hope other descendants of Confederate generals will stand with us.</p><p>"As cities all over the South are realizing now, we are not in need of added context. We are in need of a new context—one in which the statues have been taken down."</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Those, the words of Jack and Warren Christian, the great-great-grandsons of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, calling for the removal of his monument in Richmond. Are you calling for the removal of his monument around the country, Jack?</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> We’re calling for the removal of his monument in Richmond firstly, but our argument is that all Confederate monuments and symbols should be removed from public display.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> You take a different approach than Bertram Hayes-Davis, the great-great-grandson of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who talks about contextualizing monuments. He’s not against moving them, perhaps into museums, but really emphasizes this issue of contextualizing. Warren, your response to that?</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> I think the context is, is that they were put up in support of this myth of the Lost Cause, that the Confederate soldiers were fighting kind of a noble fight, and that that doesn’t give the full weight to the fact that they were fighting to continue the institution of slavery. And the—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That’s an interesting—</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> I mean, I think, so that’s—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That’s an interesting point you raise, is that these Confederate monuments didn’t go up right after the Civil War—</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> No.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —but decades later, with the rise of the Klan and the introduction of Jim Crow laws.</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> And that’s why I think they shouldn’t be—I don’t think any American, and especially black Americans, should be forced to pass these symbols of white supremacy on their ways to work, church, school. I don’t think that’s—I don’t think we can—I think, as part of our national healing—we’re still, very clearly, in my eyes, dealing with the effects of slavery, of Jim Crow, of segregation, of racist policies like redlining. And I think this, removing the monuments, ultimately, in my eyes, is just a small step that’s necessary for racial healing in the country, along with many other much larger steps that are necessary.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Speaking about a proposed Gettysburg memorial in 1869, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, quote, said, "I think it wiser ... not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, [and] to commit to oblivion the feelings [it] engendered." So, even the Confederate general, who has I don’t know how many monuments of his likeness, of him, around the country, said there shouldn’t be Confederate monuments, Jack. And I wanted to ask if you’d end by talking about whether you have your family’s support, and, for example, your parents’.</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> Yeah, we have not talked directly to our parents, although we sent the letter to them. But we very much believe that we have their support and know that this works in—really in the spirit in which they brought us up, to work and to fight for justice. I’ve been—you know, this went up—this letter went up about midnight Eastern time last night, and I’ve been heartened to see others in our extended family have already reached out and said "thank you" and that they—that they appreciate, you know, what we’ve said. We certainly haven’t heard from everyone, but the response from our family—and even I’ve gotten some response from other people who have Confederates in their ancestry, that have said—they have said that they feel similarly. So, we’re very heartened by the response so far—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> As you—</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> —both from our family—yeah.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> As you watched what happened in Charlottesville, do you feel like there is a kind of new civil war in this country?</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> I certainly hope not. I was sickened by what we saw. I hadn’t thought about it in quite so stark of terms. But I have thought about it that—where we definitely are at a incredibly tense and stratified moment. And I think that we need to—we need to all take steps to have these conversations and to heal ourselves. So, that’s my hope.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I wanted to read—I wanted to read you a quote from Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who reportedly is under fire in the White House. Who knows if that’s true? But he did an <a href="http://prospect.org/article/steve-bannon-unrepentant">interview</a> with Bob Kuttner of <em>The American Prospect</em>, the liberal magazine, and said, quote, "President Trump, by asking, 'Where does this all end'—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln—connects with the American people about their history, culture and traditions. The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it’s all racist. Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can’t get enough of it," Bannon said. Jack, your response?</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> I wondered if you were going to ask me about that, and I listened to this on the news on my way into the TV station this morning. I think that—I think that, ironically, part of Trump’s statement has to do—I’m choosing my words carefully—part of Trump’s statement has to do with a larger conversation that is taking place and that needs to take place, where we recognize that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were also white supremacists and slave owners, and we think about that history. A writer on the online magazine <em>The Root</em> had a funny, but apt, take that I think sums it up, that said—the writer said, "Leave it to Trump to have a woke take on Thomas Jefferson." And I think there is—I think there’s some truth or some pithiness there.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> You—</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> So, I—go ahead.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Jack and Warren, you’re both teachers?</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> Yes.</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> Yeah.</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> Yeah.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What will you be telling your students today?</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> I have until September 6 to think about what I’ll tell them.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well—</p><p><strong>JACK CHRISTIAN:</strong> But—</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> I’m in the fortunate—yeah.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Yes, and Warren?</p><p><strong>WARREN CHRISTIAN:</strong> I’m in the fortunate position of working with international students, so it’s really great to—you know, when they come to the U.S., they very quickly, if they haven’t before they got here, realize that race is a huge issue in the U.S., but they still haven’t fully formed their decisions. So, what I try to do is always, in contextualizing what the situation surrounding race is in the U.S., is starting with slavery and segregation, and making sure they understand that history to see how it’s led us where we are today. And then—and because they don’t have so much kind of skin in the game, they’re often very receptive to those messages, in a way that working with American students and having discussions about race can be much more difficult.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, Warren and Jack, I want to thank you so much for being with us. I think you’ve taught this whole country a lot today. Jack and Warren Christian, the great-great-grandsons of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, written a <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/08/stonewall_jackson_s_grandsons_the_monuments_must_go.html">joint letter</a> calling for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in Richmond, Virginia. We will link to your letter at democracynow.org.</p><p>When we come back, we’re going to be joined by a nephew of one of the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. And we’ll talk about his family’s reaction to the extremist activism, disavowing him, disowning him. And we’ll speak with the head of an organization that—of white supremacists who have changed their ways. It’s called Life After Hate. Stay with us.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/8/17/exclusive_stonewall_jacksons_great_great_grandsons" width="400"></iframe></p> Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:25:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1081248 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics stonewall jackson confederate monuments jack christian warren christian Charlottesville racism Meet the College Student Who Pulled Down a Confederate Statue in Durham & Defied White Supremacy https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/takiyah-thompson-took-down-confederate-statue <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Takiyah Thompson had the courage to do what elected officials did not.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2017-08-16_at_12.31.19_pm.png?itok=mojTuWrl" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>A crowd of activists toppled a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday, just two days after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. As the crowd shouted "We are the revolution," a college student named Takiyah Thompson climbed up a ladder, looped a rope around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument in front of the old Durham County Courthouse and then pulled the statue to the ground. She was arrested the following day on two charges of felony inciting a riot and three misdemeanor charges, including defacing a statue. Thompson was released last night on a $10,000 unsecured bond. We speak with Thompson about her actions before her scheduled court hearing this morning.</p><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p>JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show in Durham, North Carolina, where a crowd of activists toppled a Confederate statue in Durham on Monday, just two days after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The crowd of activists shouted "We are the revolution," as a college student named Takiyah Thompson climbed up a ladder, looped [a rope] around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument in front of the old Durham County Courthouse and then pulled the statue to the ground as the crowd erupted in cheers.</p><blockquote><p>PROTESTERS: We are the revolution! No cops, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.! No cops, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.!</p></blockquote><p>AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, Takiyah Thompson was arrested on two charges of felony inciting a riot and three misdemeanor charges—injury to personal property, injury to real property and defacing a statue. She spoke in Durham just before she was arrested.</p><blockquote><p>TAKIYAH THOMPSON: I think what we did was the best way, and not just the best way, but the only way, because the state and the Klan and white supremacists have been collaborating. Right? So what we did, not only was it right, it was just. I did the right thing. Everyone who was there, the people did the right thing. And the people will continue to keep making the right choices until every Confederate statue is gone, until white supremacy is gone. That statute is where it belongs, right? It needs to be in the garbage, incinerated, like every statue—every Confederate statue and every vestige of white supremacy has to go.</p></blockquote><p>AMY GOODMAN: Takiyah Thompson, speaking in Durham, North Carolina. Shortly after she spoke, she was arrested, given a $10,000 unsecured bond. She was released last night, heads to court this morning. But just before she does, she joins us here on <em>Democracy Now!</em> Takiyah Thompson is a student at North Carolina Central University and a member of Workers World Party, Durham branch.</p><p>Welcome to <em>Democracy Now!</em>, Takiyah. I know you’re under enormous pressure as you head to court for—after being arrested for climbing a ladder, looping a rope around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument and pulling down the statue. Talk about why you engaged in this, and exactly what you did.</p><p>TAKIYAH THOMPSON: OK. I participated in a march and a rally. And I decided to climb to the top of the Confederate soldiers statue and put the rope around its neck and throw the rope down to the crowd. And the crowd could decide if they wanted to pull it down or not. And I did this because the statue is a symbol of nationalism, and it’s a symbol of white nationalism. And the type of white nationalism I’m talking about is the type of white nationalism that is sending me death threats on Facebook. I’m talking about the type of white nationalist that, you know, has killed a woman in a protest. We’re talking about the type of white nationalism that would drive a car at high speeds into a crowd of women and children. And I think vestiges of that, and I think anything that emboldens those people and anything that gives those people pride, needs to be crushed in the same way that they want to crush black people and the other groups that they target.</p><p>JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Takiyah, could you talk about how the events in Charlottesville influenced you or affected you, especially, obviously, the stunning symbols of those marches with torches on Friday night through the campus of the University of Virginia?</p><p>TAKIYAH THOMPSON: Well, when I look at Charlottesville, I look at Durham, North Carolina. I look at Richmond, Virginia. I look at Atlanta. I look at Georgia. I look at Stone Mountain. I look at the entirety of America and American history. And I know that Charlottesville is Durham, North Carolina. Charlottesville is America. The sentiment that was expressed in Charlottesville is part and parcel of what built this country. And I know that Charlottesville can erupt anywhere.</p><p>AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what happened when you were arrested, Takiyah? Where did they take you? You now had to post—cover $10,000 bond?</p><p>TAKIYAH THOMPSON: Right. Being arrested was in and out. I think the powers that be knew that if I wasn’t released in a timely manner, that, politically, that would not be a good move for them. So, I was in and out very quickly. As soon as I got there, people inside were recognizing me, so I know that they knew that, with the climate and the situation in the city, that they had to release me.</p><p>AMY GOODMAN: You’re charged with felony inciting a riot, three misdemeanor charges—injury to personal property, injury to real property and defacing a statue. Your answer to those charges?</p><p>TAKIYAH THOMPSON: The sheriff, Andrews, and the establishment want to make a political prisoner of me, and they want to make an example of me. And they want to scare people, and they want to scare black people, and they want to scare people of color, and they want to scare people who are reclaiming their agency. And they can’t, as we have seen. I haven’t been keeping up with the headlines, but listening to the headlines from today, you can’t keep your foot on people’s neck forever. And people are going to rise up, as we’re seeing throughout this country. We’re seeing the rise of white nationalism, and we’re seeing the rise of actual resistance. And I’m not talking about writing your senator. I’m not talking about casting a ballot in a voting booth. I’m talking about voting with your actions. And people are doing that right now.</p><p>JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I want to turn to President Trump speaking Tuesday at a press conference at Trump Tower in New York City.</p><blockquote><p>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Are we going to take down statues to George—how about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>REPORTER: I do love Thomas Jefferson.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: OK, good. Are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?</p></blockquote><p>JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Takiyah, what are you—what’s your response to the president equating the actions that have been occurring now with the—with taking the statues of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson down?</p><p>TAKIYAH THOMPSON: I think he knows what he’s doing. I don’t know how to—I’m not sure how to express how I feel about that, but I feel as though the people will decide. And we live in a representative democracy. And our representatives are supposed to enforce our will. And when our representatives fail to enforce our will, then the people are left with no choice but to do it themselves. So, in this instance, I can’t really speak to whether or not people want statues of whoever removed, but if the people do, then the people will do it, and the people will find a way.</p><p>AMY GOODMAN: Takiyah, you’re certainly not alone in wanting statues taken down. Just today in the headlines, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have revived calls to remove all the Confederate monuments from the halls of Congress. People were protesting in places like Memphis, Tennessee, a large crowd linking arms, surrounding a monument of the former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In fact, Robert E. Lee, the Confederate soldier, the monument to him in Charlottesville is what’s at the core of the controversy here, that they’re taking it down, said he did not believe in Confederate monuments. But Democratic Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina, your governor, initially tweeted racism is "unacceptable but there is a better way to remove these monuments." On Tuesday, he unequivocally said the statues must come down. And this is what he said.</p><blockquote><p>GOV. ROY COOPER: Unlike an African-American father, I’ll never have to explain to my daughters why there exists a monument for those who wished to keep her and her ancestors in chains. Some people cling to the belief that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights. But history is not on their side. We can’t continue to glorify a war against the United States of America, fought in the defense of slavery. These monuments should come down.</p></blockquote><p>AMY GOODMAN: So, your governor is saying these monuments should come down. You just took one down. He says, though, there’s a better way. Your response, Takiyah?</p><p>TAKIYAH THOMPSON: I’m going to let the governor breathe for now. I’m glad he made that statement. And—</p><p>AMY GOODMAN: Did he make that statement after you took the monument down?</p><p>TAKIYAH THOMPSON: I’m sorry, could you—what was that?</p><p>AMY GOODMAN: Did he make that statement after you took that monument down?</p><p>TAKIYAH THOMPSON: Yes, yeah, yeah. My problem with his initial statement was that he’s like, you know, "There’s no place for racism," and then he goes on to say, "But there’s a better way." And if there was a better way, we wouldn’t have been waiting almost a hundred years to do that. And like I’ve been trying to reiterate over and over again is that there is no "but" when we’re talking about racism, right? There is no "but" when we’re talking about people’s right to life and people’s right to not be psychologically attacked with these dehumanizing images. So, there’s only a right side and a wrong side. But I’m glad he did release that statement, and I’ll let him breathe.</p><p>AMY GOODMAN: Takiyah, I know you have to go right now to court, but I want to ask you: The effect that Bree Newsome and her act two years ago in South Carolina, when she shimmied up the flagpole of the Confederate flag on the grounds of the South Carolina state Capitol and took down the Confederate flag, what kind of effect that had on you in your actions this week?</p><p>TAKIYAH THOMPSON: Well, earlier this week, I spoke to some news, and they asked me like what was I thinking when I was going up the steps. And my response was that as I was going up the steps, I was thinking about the history of like black nationalist organizing and black nationalist struggle and black struggle, and I was thinking about my ancestors, and included in that is Bree Newsome. I could not have—you know, she created a model of possibility for me. And I was thinking about her. I was thinking about people who believe in people’s power and the power that they have within themselves. I was thinking about people like Kwame Ture. I was thinking about people like Ella Baker, organizers, grassroots people, who give power to the people and let them decide.</p><p>AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Takiyah, Heather Heyer is being buried today. There is a memorial for her, a major memorial, in Charlottesville. She was on the streets, killed by the white supremacist who plowed his crowd [<i>sic</i>] into the antifascist protesters—plowed his car. What are your thoughts about Heather today, a white ally in this struggle?</p><p>TAKIYAH THOMPSON: My thoughts about Heather’s murder is that it’s a tragic death, especially to be killed so violently and so brutally. My condolences to her family. May she rest in power. And I won’t stop fighting, and the people won’t stop fighting, against people who did this, right? And we’re not fighting against hatred, right? We’re fighting against an ideology. We’re fighting against a system, right? When you create a pseudoscience to prove your superior—superiority to the world, we’re talking about more than just hate, right? We’re talking about something a lot bigger than that. Of course this ideology is rooted in hate, but we’re talking about systems, systems of government—right?—systems of disenfranchisement. And that’s what we’re fighting against. And we won’t stop until we have equality and we have justice.</p><p>AMY GOODMAN: Takiyah Thompson, I want to thank you for being with us. Takiyah now heads to court. She’s a student at North Carolina Central University. She climbed up a ladder this week, after the Charlottesville attack, looped a rope around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument in front of the old Durham County Courthouse, pulled the statue to the ground.</p><p>This is <em>Democracy Now!</em> When we come back, Bree Newsome joins us from Charlotte, North Carolina. Stay with us.</p><p> </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/8/16/meet_the_college_student_who_pulled" width="640"></iframe></p> Wed, 16 Aug 2017 09:23:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1081187 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics Activism News & Politics Tawkiyah Thompson confederate statues north carolina Durham white supremacists Ta-Nehisi Coates: With a Racist in the White House, the Bloodshed in Charlottesville Was Predictable https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/ta-nehisi-coates-bloodshed-charlottesville-was-predictable <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Racism is baked into the foundation of America.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/640px-ta-nehisi_coates_1_-_2015_macarthur_fellow.jpg?itok=5bJc9tVT" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The nation continues to grapple with the fallout from this weekend’s violence after a Nazi sympathizer drove into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one person and injuring 19. President Donald Trump finally condemned white supremacists on Monday for the bloodshed this weekend, after initially failing to directly blame the group. The move followed mounting pressure and severe backlash from nationwide street protests and corporate CEOs who resigned from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council over his failure to quickly condemn the deadly violence. Meanwhile, a Foreign Policy report revealed that an FBI and Department of Homeland Security bulletin concluded that white supremacist groups were responsible for more homicides "than any other domestic extremist movement." Despite these findings, the Trump administration recently slashed funds to organizations dedicated to fighting right-wing violence. To discuss all these developments, we speak with award-winning acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates in his first major interview since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. He is the author of a forthcoming book, due out in October, "We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy."</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/8/15/ta_nehisi_coates_with_a_racist" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>Related Segments</strong><br /><a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2017/8/15/we_were_8_years_in_power">We Were 8 Years in Power: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Obama, Trump &amp; White Fear of 'Good Negro Government'</a></p><p><a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2017/8/15/ta_nehisi_coates_i_would_like">Ta-Nehisi Coates: I Would Like to See Donald Trump Resign &amp; Leave White House</a></p><p><a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2017/8/15/ta_nehisi_coates_on_how_cities">Ta-Nehisi Coates on How Cities &amp; Municipalities Are Winning Reparations for Slavery at Local Level</a></p><p><a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2017/8/15/full_interview_ta_nehisi_coates_on">Full Interview: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Charlottesville, Trump, the Confederacy, Reparations &amp; More</a></p><p>Transcript</p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> We turn now to look at the fallout from Saturday’s violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer killed one anti-racist activist and injured more than a dozen others when he intentionally drove his car through a crowd of counterprotesters. On Monday, the driver of the car, James Fields, appeared in court for the first time.</p><p>President Trump initially failed to directly blame white supremacists for the bloodshed in Charlottesville, saying the violence was committed by, quote, "many sides." On Monday, amidst growing street and corporate protest, Trump finally condemned the deadly white supremacist violence.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America. And as I have said many times before, no matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws. We all salute the same great flag. And we are all made by the same almighty god. We must love each other, show affection for each other and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans. Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.</p></blockquote><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> That was President Trump speaking on Monday. Meanwhile, <em>Foreign Policy</em> has <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/08/14/fbi-and-dhs-warned-of-growing-threat-from-white-supremacists-months-ago/">revealed</a> the existence of a recent FBI and Department of Homeland Security bulletin that concluded white supremacist groups were, quote, "responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016...more than any other domestic extremist movement," unquote. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security report went on to state, quote, "Racial minorities have been the primary victims of [white supremacist] violence. The second most common victims were other Caucasians...and other white supremacists perceived as disloyal to the white supremacist extremism movement."</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Despite the FBI and Department of Homeland Security findings, the Trump administration recently cut funds to organizations dedicated to fighting right-wing violence.</p><p>Well, as the nation grapples with what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, we turn now to the best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates, the national correspondent for <em>The Atlantic</em>, where he writes about culture, politics and social issues. He’s the author of <em>Between the World and Me</em>, which won the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and the author of the forthcoming book titled <em>We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy</em>.</p><p>Ta-Nehisi, it’s great to spend this hour with you. I want to start by asking your response to what happened in Charlottesville and then to President Trump’s actions in response.</p><p><strong>TA-NEHISI COATES:</strong> My response is that it’s predictable. You had eight years before President Trump, a situation where the opposition party basically ran in opposition to the president on a platform of thinly based racism. That doesn’t mean that the politicians themselves were outright racist, but when charges of birtherism came up, no one repudiated it. When the House majority leader at the time, John Boehner, claimed the president had never worked a real job, no one repudiated it. When Newt Gingrich called the president of the United States a "food stamp president," no one repudiated it. And so you found yourself in a situation in the 2016 election where all of that hate and all of that racism had been stoked at the party’s base.</p><p>And so, the idea that President Trump—or that Donald Trump would then become president, that he would become the winning candidate, is not surprising at all. And that Trump himself, you know, who was the stoker of birtherism, who has this long history of racism himself, going back to the 1970s, when he was accused of housing discrimination, into the 1990s, when he called for the death penalty for the Central Park Five, who were later exonerated, in the 1990s, when he claimed that he didn’t want black people counting his money at his casinos, that that person, that that figure, that political figure, would then use that same energy that was in the party to become president, and the reaction would be violence, is predictable. It’s lamentable, but it’s predictable. And no one should be surprised.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Well, I wanted to ask you, this Unite the Right rally and the resurgence now of white supremacists publicly throughout the country, largely in—under the symbolic protests against the taking down of these various Confederate monuments and statues around the country, your sense of how this—the saving of these Confederate statues becomes the rallying call of the supremacist movement?</p><p><strong>TA-NEHISI COATES:</strong> Well, it makes sense. I mean, the Civil War was the most lethal war in American history. The casualties in the Civil War amount to more than all other wars—all other American wars combined. More people died in that war than World War II, World War I, Vietnam, etc. And that was a war for white supremacy. It was a war to erect a state in which the basis of it was the enslavement of black people. And so that, you know, these forces that I discussed, that really, you know, bubbled from the base of the Republican Party and that Trump nakedly activated, would then rally around the cause of the Confederacy makes complete sense.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion with Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for <em>The Atlantic</em>, where he writes about culture, politics and social issues. His forthcoming book will be out in October; it’s titled <em>We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy</em>. This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>We’ll be back with Ta-Nehisi in a minute.</p><p>[break]</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> "This Little Light of Mine" by Odetta. This is the song activists were singing Monday in Nashville, Tennessee, as they rallied against the bust of Confederate Army General Nathan Bedford Forrest, putting a black cloth over his head and demanding the bust be removed from the state Capitol. It’s also the song that clergy sang on Friday night as they held a gathering in a chapel at the University of Virginia, as, outside, hundreds of torch-bearing white supremacists marched past. This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Well, massive protests against white supremacists and the Trump administration continued nationwide on Monday, from the streets of North Carolina, where a crowd of activists toppled a Confederate statue in Durham, to the halls of Washington, where three separate corporate CEOs resigned from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council over his failure to quickly condemn the deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. In Durham, the crowd of activists shouted "We are the revolution!" as a woman climbed up a ladder, looped a rope around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument in front of the old Durham County Courthouse and then pulled the statue to the ground as the crowd erupted in cheers.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PROTESTERS:</strong> We are the revolution! No cops, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.!</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Meanwhile, in Nashville, Tennessee, activists rallied against the bust of the Confederate Army General Nathan Bedford Forrest, putting a black cloth over his head, demanding the bust be removed from the Capitol. In Gainesville, Florida, workers removed a Confederate soldier’s statue from downtown, while officials in Baltimore, San Antonio, and Jacksonville, Florida, all said Monday they would take steps to remove Confederate statues from public spaces. Major protests were also held in Washington, D.C., in Naples, Florida, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where activists burned an effigy of a Nazi.</p><p>Still with us for the hour, best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates, the national correspondent for <em>The Atlantic</em>. He is the author of <em>Between the World and Me</em>, which won the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction, author of a forthcoming book, in October, <em>We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy</em>. And we are talking to him in his first major broadcast interview since President Trump was inaugurated.</p><p>This weekend, describe the groups, Ta-Nehisi, what they represent and the significance of President Trump taking two days to speak out against white supremacist violence.</p><p><strong>TA-NEHISI COATES:</strong> Well, I’m having a bit of difficulty, I guess, generating much outrage here. I don’t know what people expected. Given Donald Trump’s record, given that he has somebody in the White House right now advising him, you know, who was the publisher for Breitbart media. Breitbart media is named after the same gentleman who basically framed Shirley Sherrod during the Obama administration. Steve Bannon, who was the publisher, bragged about Breitbart being the platform for the alt-right. The alt-right is who was protesting. And so, the notion that Donald Trump, when he has, you know, folks who provided that platform right in his—in the White House, would come out and provide some sort of strong statement against white supremacy, I don’t know where that expectation comes from. He is who he said he was. You know, you can say a lot about Trump, but, you know, he didn’t hide it. He is exactly who he said he was. And so I think the expectation that he will morph into some strong opponent or foe of white supremacy, even the kind of blatant white supremacy you saw on display in Charlottesville, I think, is misguided.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Well, Ta-Nehisi, I wanted to ask you, in that same vein, that he is who he said he—who he was during the campaign, he established a presidential advisory commission to look into the issues of voter integrity.</p><p><strong>TA-NEHISI COATES:</strong> That’s right. That’s right.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> And your—I’m wondering your reaction to what’s been going on now in terms of turning the entire political process of voting upside down by going after those who are already being disenfranchised.</p><p><strong>TA-NEHISI COATES:</strong> Yeah, I mean, you know, not to be repetitive here, but again, I mean, it fits right along with what he said. And again, you know, because I think what happens is that people get too focused on Donald Trump and forget that what this comes out of is a long campaign, over—especially over the past 10 years or so, especially during the time when we had our first black president, where people sought to cast, A, the president as illegitimate, and that was basically accepted—you had a majority of the opposition party that believed the president was not a legitimate president—and then the notion of voter fraud was taken up across the party, by some of the same Republican politicians who are now coming out and denouncing Donald Trump.</p><p>They made Donald Trump. Donald Trump is not, you know, separate from it. You know, you can’t come out at the last minute, now that somebody has been killed, now that somebody is dead, and pretend that, you know, "Oh, we had no part in this." This is the result of a process. Donald Trump did not appear by magic. And so, when you see him taking up this form on alleged voter fraud, going out and soliciting the names from various states of voters, it’s right in line not just with what Trump said, but with the rhetoric of the base and of many of the politicians in the Republican Party over the past eight to 10 years.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And your response to those who are focusing on the Confederate statues around the South right now and actually physically, as in Durham yesterday, taking them down?</p><p><strong>TA-NEHISI COATES:</strong> I’m happy to see it. I think I’m happy to see them. I’m happy to see that sort of awareness. I came up in a period where a show like <em>Dukes of Hazzard</em> was on TV, and people just basically accepted the Confederate flag in a sort of way, even as African Americans knew deep in their heart there were something deeply wrong with that. It’s good to see, you know, that there’s some sort of mass movement moving in that direction. I will say that there is some danger if it simply stops at taking down statues. I think the basic problem—and I think, honestly, this country has proved to itself over and over again—is a real lack of understanding of what the Civil War was and what its consequences were and the fact that we live with it, you know, even today. And so, I just—you know, I support the removal of the statues, but I just want to make sure that we’re not skipping over a conversation, you know, by taking down symbols and saying, "OK, that’s nice. That’s over."</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> One of those busts was the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest.</p><p><strong>TA-NEHISI COATES:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And you wrote a <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2009/06/nathan-bedford-forrest-has-beautiful-eyes/19546/">piece</a> about him, what, like in 2009, called "Nathan Bedford Forrest Has Beautiful Eyes."</p><p><strong>TA-NEHISI COATES:</strong> I did. So the piece was about—I don’t want people to think like it was just, you know, lauding Nathan Bedford Forrest. But it was about how we award a certain kind of romanticism to Confederate generals and why they’ve proven so illustrative, you know, over the past—really since the end of the Civil War and the movement for the Lost Cause. And so, there’s been this movement to award glamor and glory and a kind of cowboy mystique to Confederate generals and ignore the fact that people like Nathan Bedford Forrest, for instance, perpetrated the massacre at Fort Pillow, where he murdered, in cold blood, African-American soldiers, before the Civil War, was a slave trader, literally had what he called a "NegroMart," where he vended black bodies. And people forget that. And instead what you get is the sort of swagger and glory and the mythology of the old Confederacy.</p><p> </p> Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:47:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1081128 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Ta-Nehisi Coates Charlottesville racism violence kkk Trump Considers Prolonging Afghan War to Secure $1 Trillion in Untapped Mineral Deposits https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/donald-trump-wants-more-war-afghanistan <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">He wants to get rich off untapped mineral deposits. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/32376481810_c99c638304_o.jpg?itok=tKextIOh" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>On Wednesday, two U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan after a suicide car bomber rammed a NATO-led convoy near a major U.S. base in Kandahar. The attack came a day after at least 33 worshipers died when suicide bombers attacked a Shiite mosque in the city of Herat. The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. The latest round of violence comes as The New York Times reports that Trump may have found a reason to prolong the nearly 16-year-old war: Afghanistan’s untapped mineral deposits, which could be worth nearly $1 trillion. Trump reportedly discussed Afghanistan’s vast deposits of minerals with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and is considering sending an envoy to Afghanistan to meet with mining officials. We speak with Jodi Vittori, senior policy adviser for Global Witness on Afghanistan policy. Jodi spent 20 years in the U.S. military, where she served in several countries, including Afghanistan. She has received numerous military awards, including two Bronze Stars. We also speak with Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare.</p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="300" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/8/3/trump_considers_prolonging_afghan_war_to" width="400"></iframe><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p><em>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</em></p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We turn now to Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history. On Wednesday, two U.S. soldiers died after a suicide car bomber rammed a NATO-led convoy near a major U.S. military base in Kandahar. The attack came a day after at least 33 Afghan worshipers died when suicide bombers attacked a Shiite mosque in the city of Herat. The dead included the father of an Afghan teenage girl who made international headlines recently when she took part in a robotics competition in the United States. The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.</p><p>Meanwhile, the U.S. is intensifying its air war in Afghanistan. During the month of June, the U.S. carried out 389 airstrikes—the highest monthly total in five years. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is seeking to send another 4,000 U.S. troops to join the 8,700 currently in Afghanistan.</p><p>This comes as <em>The New York Times</em> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/world/asia/afghanistan-trump-mineral-deposits.html">reports</a> Trump may have found a reason to prolong the nearly 16-year war: Afghanistan’s untapped mineral deposits, which could be worth nearly a trillion dollars. Trump is being pressured by a billionaire financier and a chemical executive to escalate the U.S. war in Afghanistan in a bid to exploit the country’s mineral wealth. The <em>Times</em> reports Trump discussed Afghanistan’s vast deposits of metals and rare earth metals with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and is reportedly considering sending an envoy to Afghanistan to meet with mining officials.</p><p>We’re joined now by two guests. Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare, she has made many trips to Afghanistan, including one earlier this year, has twice been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Jodi Vittori is a senior policy adviser for Global Witness on Afghanistan policy. She’s joining us from Washington, D.C.</p><p>Kathy Kelly, let’s begin with you. The casualties only continue to mount. Your response to what’s happening in Afghanistan right now?</p><p><strong>KATHY KELLY:</strong> Well, it seems that the United States has been exacerbating a war that seems unlikely to change, even if the United States sends 4,000 or many more than that number of troops over to Afghanistan. When they had 100,000 troops, they weren’t able to substantially change the direction, which now has the Afghan government in charge of 60 percent of the districts within Afghanistan, and the Taliban and other warlords in charge of 40 percent of the districts but also commandeering many of the roadways that lead into major cities.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I wanted to turn to an interview, when Bill O’Reilly was still on Fox News. It’s an interview with President Trump, who said the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil. Even though he was opposed, he said, to the war in Iraq, once the U.S. was in there, it shouldn’t have left until it took Iraq’s oil, following the 2003 invasion.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> I always said take the oil. If you would have taken the oil, there would be no ISIS, because they used that to fuel their growth.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>BILL O’REILLY:</strong> But if you—if you took the oil, the Iraqi oil, you would have to put in U.S. troops to do that, and then that would have started another round of it.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> And you would have made a lot of money with the oil, and you would have had assets. And to the victor belong the spoils and all of that. But forget that.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, that might be very instructive, Jodi Vittori—you’re a former military soldier—when looking at what President Trump’s intentions are for Afghanistan right now. <em>The New York Times</em> reporting Trump is being pressured by a billionaire financier and a chemical executive to escalate the U.S. war in Afghanistan in a bid to exploit Afghanistan’s mineral wealth. Can you explain what you found?</p><p><strong>JODI VITTORI:</strong> Sure. It’s a troubling parallel to the 2012 reports that you just noted out when it comes to Iraq and oil. In the case of Afghanistan, a report this morning that President Trump is deeply troubled that he—he acknowledges that the United States is not winning in Afghanistan. He doesn’t like the strategy that his generals have given him from his national security staff. And for some reason he has leaned towards this sort of vague plan put forward by the head of the private security company DynCorp, Stephen Feinberg, who was a major campaign contributor to the Trump campaign, that somehow the United States would come in, they would send—DynCorp would send in their private security forces, that would somehow control these mining areas, including areas with the mineral lithium in it, which is important for our cellphone batteries and so forth, and somehow extract that, secure it so that other companies could extract that, and—it’s unclear—apparently, take that money to pay back the United States for the invasion of Afghanistan. Obviously, troubling on a conflict of interest level, an ethics level, a human rights, social level. And, frankly, it’s just completely impractical, as well.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Kathy Kelly, when you hear this and read this piece in the <em>Times</em>about exploiting Afghanistan for its mineral wealth, and hearing the previous comment about President Trump, even if he says he was supposed to the war in Iraq, "Once you’re there, take their oil," your thoughts?</p><p><strong>JODI VITTORI:</strong> Obviously—</p><p><strong>KATHY KELLY:</strong> I think it’s repugnant.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Let’s get Kathy Kelly’s response and then yours, Jodi.</p><p><strong>KATHY KELLY:</strong> Well, that it’s repugnant for the United States to believe that we somehow should be able to subordinate the rights and the hopes and the possibilities for another country to serve our national interest. We have no right whatsoever to take over resources in Afghanistan. And we’ve already caused so much death and destruction. We should be paying reparations for that.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And, Jodi Vittori, can you talk about the mineral industry and who’s currently benefiting from it in Afghanistan, in the midst of this longest war in U. S. history?</p><p><strong>JODI VITTORI:</strong> Certainly. In 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that Afghanistan, at the time, had up to $1 trillion in minerals in reserve under the ground there. Not all of that would be able to be pulled out economically, and that was at a time when these mineral prices were at their high point. That estimate is certainly not accurate now. Afghanistan is awash in minerals. Just its geography is incredible when it comes to minerals, and possibly natural gas, as well.</p><p>But right now, those who are benefiting seem to be primarily groups like the Taliban and groups like the various warlords and corrupt politicians in the country. What we don’t see is the Afghan people normally getting a benefit from this mining. There is actually a tremendous amount of mining in Afghanistan. The German development agency GIZ estimates that about 3 to 6 percent of the population is involved in mining or its upstream or downstream activities. And yet, at the same time, a lot of that is really going into the hands of nefarious characters. The United Nations has estimated that, after narcotics trafficking, the second-largest source of revenue for the Taliban is illegal mining and coring in Afghanistan. And Global Witness has done reports, for example, on the role that lapis plays, both in the hands of illegal armed groups, various corrupt officials in patronage networks and the Taliban itself. So, it’s very, very troubling in the country.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This is Part 1 of our discussion. We’ll post the rest at democracynow. org. Jodi Vittori, thanks for joining us, from Global Witness on Afghanistan policy, formerly served in South Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq and other places. And, Kathy Kelly, thanks for joining us, as well.</p><p> </p> Thu, 03 Aug 2017 08:53:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1080562 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics afghan war donald trump military David Cay Johnston: Trump Is 'Appallingly Ignorant' on Health Care and Puts Greed Above Human Lives https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/david-cay-johnston-trump-appallingly-ignorant-health-care-and-puts-greed-above <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Those grandiose campaign promises vanished after the inauguration.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_321867665.jpg?itok=RByTbHxp" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The Congressional Budget Office has warned that 32 million Americans would become uninsured over the next decade if Obamacare is repealed without an alternative in place. Seventeen million would become uninsured next year alone. The analysis also found the cost of a medical insurance policy would increase 25 percent next year and double by 2026. We speak with David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and founder of DCReport.org.</p><iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/7/20/david_cay_johnston_trump_is_appallingly" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="true"></iframe><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p><em>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</em></p><p><strong>NERMEEN SHAIKH:</strong> The Republican-controlled House Budget Committee approved its 2018 budget resolution on Wednesday. It would slash welfare spending, gut financial regulations and rewrite the tax code to favor the wealthy. The budget would also slash funding for Medicaid and Medicare over the next decade. In addition, the Republican budget would add another $30 billion to Trump’s record-setting $668 billion request for Pentagon spending. The resolution passed along party lines, but the budget faces opposition from both moderate and conservative Republicans. This is Budget Committee Chair Diane Black.</p><blockquote><p><strong>REP. DIANE BLACK:</strong> Our budget this year is set to increase the spending for our military, because we know that the military has been decimated over the last eight years. And with all of the additional threats that we have around the world, we need to make sure that our military is ready and that we’re defending—we’re making sure that our men and women that are serving have what they need to serve. We are looking at this being a vehicle for doing tax reform, which is obviously one of the things that all Americans are looking forward to—a fairer, simpler and flatter tax code.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office has warned 32 million Americans will become uninsured over the next decade if Obamacare is repealed without an alternative in place. Seventeen million would become uninsured next year. The analysis also found the cost of a medical insurance policy would increase 25 percent next year and double by 2026. The Republican-controlled Senate has twice failed to pass the healthcare bill.</p><p>To talk about the budget, healthcare and more, we’re joined now by David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, previously with <em>The New York Times</em>, now founder and editor of <a href="https://www.dcreport.org/">DCReport.org</a>. His most recent <a href="https://www.dcreport.org/2017/07/19/is-this-trumps-vision-for-america/">piece</a> is headlined, "Is This Trump’s Vision for America? In His Budget, You Can See a Country That Looks Like a Police State." Johnston’s biography of Donald Trump is titled <em>The Making of Donald Trump</em>.</p><p>Well, welcome back to <em>Democracy Now!</em>, David Cay Johnston. Why don’t we begin with healthcare? So much changed in just a day, from it looking like the Senate was just not going to deal with this, the Republican bill collapsed, President Trump bringing them to a White House lunch—the senators—and demanding that they pass at least repeal before they recess, but hopefully a replacement, as well. Can you talk about these latest developments, not to mention now the latest news, John McCain, so essential to these votes, the Republican senator from Arizona, being diagnosed with malignant cancer?</p><p><strong>DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:</strong> Yeah, John McCain has been a real conscience in the Senate and a powerful force against all sorts of corrupting influences, despite early in his career his own difficulties with not being careful about his relationship to donors. He learned his lesson, though, and got better.</p><p>What you’re seeing the Republicans do on healthcare is make it worse. There’s not a single proposal in any of the various plans the Republicans have put up, the ones Donald Trump calls "beautiful" and "terrific," that would give more people healthcare or better healthcare or lower the costs. And that’s because the Republicans really don’t have a plan. Obamacare, at its heart, is a Republican idea: Make everyone buy insurance, so there are no free riders and everyone shares in the cost, and subsidize those people who have incomes too small to afford insurance.</p><p>Now, to put this in perspective, Amy, if we had in America the French or German universal healthcare systems, where everyone is covered, it would save an amount of money equal to all the income taxes paid by everyone who makes less than $500,000 a year in America—actually, about $550,000. That’s over 99 percent of the American public. We have a horribly inefficient sick care system that routinely kills people through lack of care. And the Republicans’ goal here is to fulfill their promise to their supporters that they were going to stop the provision of publicly subsidized or financed healthcare for poor people, and they were going to address what they’ve clearly identified as the major economic problem in America: The rich don’t have nearly enough, they need to get more to the rich, and the way to do that is you take it from the sick, the disabled, the elderly and children.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, interestingly, David Cay Johnston—</p><p><strong>DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:</strong> And at least they’re following through on their promise.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I wanted to bring up what President Trump said yesterday during the lunch with Senate Republicans.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> We have no Democrat help. They’re obstructionists. That’s all they’re good at, is obstruction. They have no ideas. They’ve gone so far left, they’re looking for single payer. That’s what they want. But single payer will bankrupt our country, because it’s more than we take in, for just healthcare. So single payer is never going to work. But that’s what they’d like to do. They have no idea what the consequence will be. And it will be horrible, horrible healthcare, where you wait on line for weeks to even see a doctor.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Now, this is very interesting that Trump referred to single payer in this way—</p><p><strong>DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:</strong> Yes.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —because, in fact, he hasn’t always referred to it in this way. David Cay Johnston, you’ve spoken to him over the decades. Can you talk about the position he’s staking out now versus what he’s told you?</p><p><strong>DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:</strong> Oh, yes. Well, in the past, Donald said to me, when I asked him once about healthcare, "It should be just like roads: When you need them, you use them." And he was, for a long time, a proponent of single payer.</p><p>And the ideas that he’s putting forward about single payer are absurd. People in France see doctors more quickly than in the U.S. They have better health status. And longevity is increasing in the other modern countries of the world that have universal healthcare faster than America. If Portugal, whose median income is half that of America, can afford universal healthcare, with promptly examined—promptly being given access to doctors, how can America not afford it? This is absurd.</p><p>Remember, Donald Trump’s the guy who made all these grandiose promises—he’s an advertising and entertainment sort of person—and, when he got in office, made the astonishing statement, "Who knew healthcare was so complicated?" Trump doesn’t know anything. He is appallingly ignorant on all sorts of issues, and healthcare is one of the leading issues. But has he proposed anything? What did Trump say? "I’m sitting here with my pen in hand." That is the political definition of passive-aggressive behavior.</p><p><strong>NERMEEN SHAIKH:</strong> David, I want to go, before we move on to the budget, about something that you wrote about in your book, namely, that during a dispute over their father’s will around—this is around the year 2000, Trump cut off benefits from the family health plan that were paying for the medical care of his nephew’s extremely ill son. So could you talk about that incident?</p><p><strong>DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:</strong> Yes. When Fred Trump died, there were five children in the family. An when the will was read, the heirs of Fred Trump Jr., who had already died, before his father, discovered they had effectively been cut out of the will. Surprise, surprise, they went to court and complained. The Trump Organization, which, like many family businesses, provides healthcare to everybody in the family, had been paying all the bills of young William, who, as soon as he was born, a couple of days after Fred Trump’s funeral, developed enormous medical problems, that have continued now throughout his life. Donald Trump immediately cut off healthcare. And when he was asked about this by Heidi Evans of the <em>New York Daily News</em>, he made no apologies. You know, "Well, what else could I do?" he said, in effect. "I don’t like people who sue my father’s estate." This is a man who is so lacking in compassion or concern for anyone else, even his own blood, that he would put the life of a sickly infant in jeopardy in order to have more money. You know, greed is a sin. And Donald Trump is greed on steroids.</p> Thu, 20 Jul 2017 12:31:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1079963 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics david cay johnson donald trump healthcare policy Gaza on Verge of Collapse as Israel Sends 2.2M People 'Back to Middle Ages' in Electricity Crisis https://www.alternet.org/world/gaza-verge-collapse-israel-sends-22m-people-back-middle-ages-electricity-crisis <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s a humanitarian catastrophe with hospitals and homes unable to perform critical tasks.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/gaza-014-1024x614.jpg?itok=GH1und_W" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Israeli-imposed restrictions have limited electricity in Gaza to barely four hours a day, creating a humanitarian catastrophe for its 2 million residents. In 2012, the World Health Organization warned that Gaza would be uninhabitable by 2020. The U.N. now says the area has already become unlivable, with living conditions in Gaza deteriorating faster than expected. We go directly to Gaza to speak with Raji Sourani, an award-winning human rights lawyer and director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza. We also speak with Tareq Baconi, author of the forthcoming book, "Hamas Contained: The Rise &amp; Pacification of Palestinian Resistance." He is a policy fellow at Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network.</p><p>Transcript</p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We turn now to Gaza, where Israeli-imposed restrictions continue to limit electricity to barely four hours a day, creating a humanitarian catastrophe for its 2 million residents. The Palestinian Authority has backed the Israeli siege in an attempt to isolate and weaken its political rival, Hamas, the group that has controlled Gaza for the last 10 years. Gaza has been under Israeli siege for more than a decade. In 2012, the World Health Organization warned Gaza would be uninhabitable by 2020, but now the U.N. says the living conditions in Gaza have deteriorated faster than expected and the area has already become unlivable. This is the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper.</p><blockquote><p><strong>ROBERT PIPER:</strong> I see this extraordinarily inhuman and unjust process of strangling, gradually, 2 million civilians in Gaza that really pose a threat to nobody. I don’t know—you know, we talk about the unlivability of Gaza. When you’re down to two hours a day of electricity, which is the case earlier this week, when you’ve got 60 percent youth unemployment rates, where you really do have such a little horizon, I—for me, and you probably, and most of the people watching, that unlivability threshold has been passed quite a long time ago.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> To talk more about the situation, we go directly to Gaza, where we’re joined by Raji Sourani, the award-winning human rights lawyer, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, on the executive board of the International Federation for Human Rights. He received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1991, was also twice named an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.</p><p>We welcome you to <em>Democracy Now!</em>, Raji. Can you talk about what is happening right now in Gaza?</p><p><strong>RAJI SOURANI:</strong> Well, it’s the 50th anniversary of belligerent, criminal Israeli occupation, and it’s 11 years since the siege on Gaza has been imposed, which is illegal, inhuman and consists collective punishment. And at this moment, I mean, the siege on the peak, we are living the biggest man-made disaster. And as the Israelis promised, rightly, they will send us to the Middle Ages, and they do—Gaza completely disconnected from the outside world, subjugated during this period to three offensives by Israeli. In the eye of the storm were civilians and civilian targets. And after all these years, we are unable to rebuild or reconstruct most of these destructions.</p><p>This led us to a situation where almost 65 percent are unpaid or unemployed, 90 percent under the poverty line. And almost 85 percent of the population depends on UNRWA, World Food Program and other charities’ rations and food. Effectively, they are making Gaza animal farm, international community dumping some food and medicine. We cannot treat our water. We cannot treat our sewage, and our entire sea polluted and our water undrinkable. They put people in a situation where no hope for tomorrow and the people on the verge of collapse. There is 2 million people suffering this for the last 11 years.</p><p>The last thing, Amy, we are having, it’s the electricity. Used to be six, seven hours a day. Now we are having only two hours. And you can imagine the drastic effect for this on all aspects of life, on medical care, on operations, on dialysis, on heart surgeries, on people who are suffering, on the food stuff should be fridged, and so on. All aspects of life in Gaza on the verge of collapse, and we are sure the worst yet to come, every day the Israelis bringing evil mind and evil practice to this part of the world.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Just can you describe, even in more detail, what it means not to have electricity? I mean, for people in any city—like New York years ago, we suffered the blackout. Obviously, it’s catastrophic. But explain what it means to have two—if you’re lucky, four—hours of electricity a day, how it affects daily living, how it affects the hospitals, how it affects the clean water, etc.</p><p><strong>RAJI SOURANI:</strong> I mean, Gaza is one of the most densely populated area on Earth. And we are having buildings with 14, 16 stories now. And it’s mission impossible, I mean, to send water to these stories up, because you need electricity even to pump this unusable water. So, having water, most of Gaza, I mean, it’s not there. Second, the desalination factories, it doesn’t work. I mean, if it works, it works like two hours, which is not enough. Minimally, it should work like 20 hours a day to supply Gaza with water. The sewage factories cannot work. And because it cannot work, it cannot be treated, and the entire raw sewage dumped to the sea. And this affects, I mean, the entire sea, and it’s contaminated. And it’s—nobody can swim in it, because it’s totally polluted.</p><p>If you go to the meat store, you will find it, I mean, max for one day. The rest, I mean, they will send it to the garbage, because, you know, most of the people here, because they are poor, they depend on frozen meat and frozen fish imported from outside. They cannot store it, so it just gets bad, and it’s not for human use.</p><p>If you go to the hospitals, I mean, it’s the real disaster. Operation theaters cannot work, and the operations cannot be carried. Dialysis machines, most of the time, because they stop, they get, you know, interrupted and broken. So, many of the dialysis patients, I mean, cannot do that. All those who are in automatic respiratory systems or intensive care units, you can imagine, when you are lack of electricity, about that.</p><p>Even, I mean, simple things like housewives, I mean, they cannot use laundry. They cannot store food at their fridges and so on. Factories, it’s mission impossible, I mean, to make it work. I mean, Gaza almost with no ice cream, I mean, for the time being, or other kinds of food stuff needs, you know, electricity. Most of the Gaza, I mean, like 20, 22 hours a day, it’s dark. I mean, during the night, you cannot really have the light in the streets, and that’s what makes even the number of fatal car accidents, you know, happens here. And people, I mean, as a result of that, pay with their life.</p><p>And on the level of education, people who just want to go back from their schools, from their work, to the high stories, they cannot, I mean, you know, go up 14, 16 stories back and forth. You can imagine people who are sick, and he or she have heart surgery, want to get back, you know, go to the hospital or to be treated. It’s not normal life. We are just in the middle centuries, while we are paying a bill. It’s not less than of the cost than the European standard bill of electricity.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Raji Sourani, award-winning human rights lawyer, speaking to us from Gaza City. In the background, you hear a generator. Raji, can you talk about how the situation has gotten to this point? Talk about what the Israeli government is saying, what they’re saying about Hamas, and how you see some kind of solution coming out of all of this.</p><p><strong>RAJI SOURANI:</strong> Well, I mean, on Gaza beautiful shores, I mean, we are having one of the biggest gas—gas wells in the Mediterranean. And all what we need is small pipe, I mean, coming to Gaza and to instill a factory for electricity, and then we can have factory for us and for the region maybe. But we are not lack of business people, of scientists. We are not lack of professionals. We are lack of opportunity.</p><p>The occupation wants us to be as such, living in such conditions. They want to shift Gaza to be not Hamas place, but ISIS country. When you put collectively 2 million people under such pressure, nobody can leave or come in. Movement of individuals, mission impossible. When you make them unable to receive developed medical care, when you make them unable to receive their basic needs of goods, when you make them disconnected from the outside world, when you make them unable to go and receive developed medical care outside or developed education outside, when they are not allowed to import and export normally and as they want, when you make the death and destruction around them day and night, when you make them lose hope of tomorrow, this is the recipe for ISIS, I mean, to exist in this part of the world, because what we are having here, the Qu’ran of ISIS, it’s the rule of jungle. That’s what we are having here.</p><p>And all what we are seeking, asking, rule of law, nothing less, nothing more. There is 2 million civilians living this in part of the world. They are subjugated. As even the ICRC, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, everybody says in the international arena and international community, this is illegal, inhuman, collective punishment, and should be imminently and completely lifted, and give people the right of movement. We are not asking anything more than what the rights enjoyed and should be ensured by the international community, the right has been guaranteed in international law and international humanitarian law. This is not a war crime. This is a crime against humanity. But we are seeing nobody moving in this regard. Nobody thinks, after 50 years, of having an end for occupation, if not an end of occupation, which is our right—it’s our absolute right on the individual and collective level—but at least, I mean, give us the right of movement, the right to be basically enjoying minimal conditions of human being. We are not. We are not.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Raji Sourani—</p><p><strong>RAJI SOURANI:</strong> We are living these conditions, and situation deteriorating. Yeah?</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Has the situation changed—</p><p><strong>RAJI SOURANI:</strong> Sorry.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —in any way? What kind of effect has the new president in the United States, President Trump, had on the situation? And what do you feel that Americans can do?</p><p><strong>RAJI SOURANI:</strong> Americans can do a lot, a lot. America is a great country, and they can contribute positively. President Eisenhower, in 1957, when Israel occupied Gaza, in one day, he ordered them to be out, and they were out.</p><p>And obviously, since President Trump came to his presidency, I think the Palestinians one of the scapegoats for his policy, and we are paying dearly and heavily, because he’s giving 100 percent support, from wall to wall, to a criminal Israeli policy against the Palestinian people. He doesn’t talk about end of occupation. He doesn’t talk about end of the Palestinians’ suffering. He doesn’t talk about a two-state solution. He is just leaving 100 percent control for the Israelis over the Palestinians. He didn’t criticize what American government, in very consecutive way, used to do by condemning settlements policy and the siege policy. He is doing nothing except supporting, endorsing the Israeli policy. Even criticizing Israel in the U.S. or the UNESCO, he consider it as a crime, and he gave the oath. And the representative of him in the U.N. Security Council said, "We will not allow anything happen against the state of Israel," as if Israel is little god, mini god, above a criticism, they are doing nothing.</p><p>It’s not what we are saying against Israel. Forget what Palestinian human rights organizations and civil society are saying against Israel. Look what the Israeli human rights organizations saying about the policies of Israel. Look to what B’Tselem is saying against Israel. Look to what all international human rights organizations, with no exception, criticizing Israel and the policies about war crimes and crimes against humanity. Even if we want to go and resort to the ICC, International Criminal Court, to hold Israel accountable, U.S. is threatening.</p><p>So, effectively, President Trump giving license to kill to Israel. They are giving them the authorization, full authorization, to do whatever they want against the Palestinian civilians. We are not in defense of Hamas or Fatah or PFLP. We are defense—in defense of the Palestinian civilians, who are—in international law, should enjoy absolute protection. And they are called in Geneva Conventions the protected civilians, meaning there is real obligation, by law, to Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories. And they are in the eye of the storm of the Israeli criminal policies in the Occupied Territories.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I want to thank you, Raji Sourani, for joining us, joining us from Gaza City under these extremely difficult conditions, what the U.N. is calling "unlivable." Final 30 seconds that we have on the satellite with you, Raji, for your final comment?</p><p><strong>RAJI SOURANI:</strong> We have no right to give up, and we will not give up. We have just, fair and right cause. We are strong, strong enough, because we are fighting for the rule of law, not for the rule of jungle, as Israel want. We will keep our level of moral superiority on a criminal occupation. We know we are not alone. Free, committed people across the globe standing with us. They are standing with justice, rule of law and dignity of human being.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Raji Sourani, joining us from Gaza City, award-winning human rights lawyer, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, on the executive board of the International Federation for Human Rights, received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Prize in 1991, twice named an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.</p><p>We, in New York, are joined by Tareq Baconi, who is the author of the forthcoming book, <em>Hamas Contained: The Rise &amp; Pacification of Palestinian Resistance</em>, a policy fellow at Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network. And he has written a new <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/how-israels-10-year-blockade-brought-gaza-to-the-brink-of-collapse/">article</a> for <em>The Nation</em> titled "How Israel’s 10-Year Blockade Brought Gaza to the Brink of Collapse."</p><p>Very briefly, Tareq, you’re here in the United States, though, of course, you’ve also been in Gaza, but there is almost no coverage of what’s happening in Gaza here, so most Americans have no idea.</p><p><strong>TAREQ BACONI:</strong> I think that’s absolutely right. I think the way that Gaza gets portrayed in American media is in one of two ways. It’s either portrayed as nothing more than a humanitarian catastrophe, you know, some sort of post-apocalyptic reality where life is catastrophic, which, of course, that is one side of the situation in Gaza. And the other way it’s often portrayed is as a terrorist haven, you know, as an enclave on the Mediterranean that is ruled by a bloodthirsty terrorist organization. And both those ways of portraying Gaza are extremely simplistic. They leave no room for understanding the complexities of the situation, for understanding what people in Gaza are facing on a human—on a human level, on a day-to-day basis. It dehumanizes everything about the Gaza Strip. So it removes any room for empathy or understanding the complexity, and it removes the fact that this is a political problem that’s man-made.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Have things gotten worse since President Trump took office?</p><p><strong>TAREQ BACONI:</strong> Absolutely. I think things have gotten much worse, and in a very short period of time, for a number of reasons. I think what we’re seeing happening in the region, let’s say, between the GCC and Qatar now, is mirrored in the microcosm that is Gaza now, or the Palestinian territories. The way these countries have taken solace in the Trump administration, the way they’ve started to move against, quote-unquote, "Islamic extremism," we see that happening on a very small scale within the Palestinian territories. So, President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision in the West Bank to start tightening the blockade, although it’s informed by local politics, as well—and we can talk about that—but it’s very much a signal to the Trump administration to say, you know, "This is—I’m taking a tough stance against Islamic extremism. I’m taking a tough stance against Hamas. If there’s a peace process that’s going to start, I’m your man on the ground." And so this message plays into this rationale of isolating the Gaza Strip and of using 2 million inhabitants as political pawns.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Your sense of, right now, Israel vis-à-vis Hamas and the victims being the 2 million people who are in Gaza right now? What do you see as the solution?</p><p><strong>TAREQ BACONI:</strong> Look, I think Gaza has long been a problem for Israel, even before Hamas was even created, let alone come into power. So the idea that the Israeli policies towards the Gaza Strip are somehow informed by Hamas is a misreading of the history of the situation. You know, the reason that Gaza presents such a problem for the Israelis is because they’re a majority refugees, they have political rights, they’re demanding their political rights. And so Hamas, in a way, presents Israel with a fig leaf, with an excuse to maintain the policies of isolation and the policies of containment. So, even if Hamas were to be removed from the equation tomorrow, the policies that are in Gaza aren’t necessarily going to change. And so, to my mind, until we start dealing with Gaza as a political problem rather than an economic problem or religious problem, until we start addressing the political drivers that animate resistance from Gazans—the right of return, the right to self-determination—Dr. Sourani spoke very eloquently about the right to live and the freedom of movement—until we start talking about these political rights, the situation in Gaza isn’t going to change.</p><p>And the U.S. has a big role to play in that. The U.S. has, not just under the Trump administration, but under previous administrations, as well, played a very strong role in supporting Israeli policies to divide the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and to prevent any form of unity government between the PA and Hamas from emerging. The blockade is not criticized at all by the U.S., even though it is a form of collective punishment and even though it also comes with, you know, three military assaults that resulted in thousands of deaths, of civilian deaths, that are disproportionate, and crimes against humanity. And so, until we start addressing Gaza as a political problem, not as a humanitarian problem, until we start seeing it as part and parcel of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, nothing will change.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Tareq Baconi, I want to thank you for being with us. His forthcoming book, <em>Hamas Contained: The Rise &amp; Pacification of Palestinian Resistance</em>. Thanks so much.</p><p><strong>TAREQ BACONI:</strong> Thank you.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And we’ll link to your <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/how-israels-10-year-blockade-brought-gaza-to-the-brink-of-collapse/">piece</a> in <em>The Nation</em>.</p><p>This is <em>Democracy Now!</em> When we come back, a Haitian resident of New York with four U.S. citizen children has a check-in with immigration authorities Thursday morning. He fears he will be deported. We’ll speak with him and his daughter. Stay with us.</p><p> </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="200" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/7/19/unlivable_gaza_on_verge_of_collapse" width="400"></iframe></p> Wed, 19 Jul 2017 10:57:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1079901 at https://www.alternet.org World World gaza Israel electricity humanitarian crisis Israeli-Palestinian crisis How Betsy DeVos Undermines Civil Rights and Favors Predatory Lenders Over Students https://www.alternet.org/education/betsy-devos-undermines-civil-rights <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">She&#039;s gutting the Department of Education&#039;s Office of Civil Rights.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_519055645.jpg?itok=b6owCPpp" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, joins us to discuss recent developments with billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime backer of charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools. DeVos said earlier this month that she wanted to return the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights "to its role as a neutral, impartial, investigative agency." An official with the office came under fire last week after she said that most campus rape claims amount to two young people who are "both drunk." Meanwhile, attorneys general in 18 states are suing DeVos and the Department of Education over a rule to protect student loan borrowers that was set to go into effect on July 1, until DeVos announced a "reset" of the rule, known as "borrower defense to repayment."</p><iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/7/17/how_education_secretary_betsy_devos_undermines" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="true"></iframe><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> We turn now to look at billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime backer of charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools. She has said she considers education a, quote, "industry," and called the public school system a "dead end." A recent <a href="https://credo.stanford.edu/pdfs/CMO%20FINAL.pdf">study</a> by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, however, found that students attending for-profit charter schools have significantly lower academic gains than those attending nonprofit charters.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> DeVos is back in the news this month after she said she wanted to return the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, quote, "to its role as a neutral, impartial, investigative agency," unquote. An official with the office came under fire last week after she said that most campus rape claims amount to two young people who are "both drunk." Meanwhile, attorney generals in 18 states and the District of Columbia are suing DeVos and the Department of Education over a rule to protect student loan borrowers that was set to go into effect July 1st, until DeVos announced a "reset" of the rule, known as "borrower defense to repayment."</p><p>To discuss all this and more, we’re joined by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.</p><p>It’s good to have you with us. Can you assess, starting with today and the latest news, what’s happening in the Department of Education?</p><p><strong>RANDI WEINGARTEN:</strong> Yes. It’s a disaster. I mean, it’s—so, what we said—so, we’ve spent a lot of time, as we just talked about before, in Michigan. And we watched Betsy DeVos when she was, you know, an advocate for privatization and charters and for busting up public schools in Michigan. And we said she was the most anti-education secretary who had ever gotten that position. And I think everything she’s done since then has proven that.</p><p>So this is what she’s doing. Number one, it’s not just promoting for-profit charters and vouchers, but it’s also taking a meat ax to the federal budget that goes to vulnerable kids, both in education and in healthcare. That’s number one. That’s part of the budget. Number two, she is cutting the enforcement. And number three, probably more important than anything, even though I think the budget cuts are really important, is that an agency that is supposed to be about equity, that is supposed to fight for the vulnerable, she is focused—she is squarely on the side of lenders instead of borrowers. And you see that with the borrower defense rule you just talked about. She is squarely on the side of—you know, of the powerful and not the vulnerable. So, she’s stripped away the transgender rules, the stuff that’s going on with campus violence and campus rape—and what Candice Jackson said, saying, essentially, even though she apologized, that, you know, 90 percent of these cases are because somebody is drunk. And now the entity that is supposed to be there to protect against discrimination, protect and ensure that people have a shot at education, she’s saying, is now going to be neutral.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> And, Randi, the importance of her hiring as one of her deputy assistant secretaries Adam Kissel, who comes out of the Koch Foundation—</p><p><strong>RANDI WEINGARTEN:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> —for higher education?</p><p><strong>RANDI WEINGARTEN:</strong> Well, this is what—it’s not just the fox guarding the hen house. This is an active, active undermining of the equity and discrimination rules that were embedded since Johnson in terms of the Department of Education. So it’s cutting the money for public schools. It’s preferring lenders over—and for-profit colleges over students. And now it is actively undermining what OCR, the Office of Civil Rights, is supposed to do for the vulnerable.</p><p>Let me add one more thing, because the healthcare bill comes into this, as well.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Yeah, wanted to ask you about that. Yes.</p><p><strong>RANDI WEINGARTEN:</strong> Seventy-eight percent of school districts in America use Medicaid. Seventy-eight percent. So if you—if you take the healthcare bill, that basically takes a huge whack out of Medicare, ends Medicare as we know it, that then hugely hurts every child in these 78 percent of districts—wheelchairs, feeding tubes, the screening and these kinds of things. So, this is taking a whack out of the most vulnerable, taking away funding from those who—from people who are poor, who need opportunity, like after-school programs and things like that, and then, on top of it, basically, not just undermining the enforcement, but basically saying, "We are no longer going to be the agency that makes sure that there’s no discrimination for America’s schoolchildren."</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Explain this latest news on OCR, the Office of Civil Rights. Explain the implications of this.</p><p><strong>RANDI WEINGARTEN:</strong> So, what—since—from the moment—from all of the civil rights laws back to the 1960s, one of them was the education law. There was public access. There was voting. There was education. And part—and what was created was the Office of Civil Rights. And so, there was a presumption that that office was going to fight against discrimination and fight for equity. This was not just something that Barack Obama did. This goes back to every president, Republican and Democrat alike. And so, when she says she’s going to make that agency neutral, she is taking a step away from the enforcement of civil rights laws.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Neutral between the perpetrators of discrimination and the victims of discrimination.</p><p><strong>RANDI WEINGARTEN:</strong> I mean, how do you make—how do you make a law that—where—you know, look, I represent a union. I represent people. I believe people should have due process. And I believe there are false accusations. But, frankly, as a survivor, as a rape survivor, how do you not create some kind of climate to actually help people tell their stories and get redress? And it’s not just on—you know, it’s not just in terms of Title IX, but it’s every other law. I mean, think about what happened after <em>Brown v. Board of Education</em>. Think about how the so-called choice movement was used by segregationists to stop people from having—stop black and brown kids from having opportunity. So, the OCR, that entity, is the one that people go to in order to enforce discrimination laws.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> And what alternative is there at the state level to be able to beat back some of these things that are happening now—</p><p><strong>RANDI WEINGARTEN:</strong> Well, the good—</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> —at the level of the federal Department of Education?</p><p><strong>RANDI WEINGARTEN:</strong> Look, the great thing is that 18—you know, we went to—we went to the attorney generals. It is fantastic that the attorney generals, 18 or 21 of them, are now, you know, suing to enforce the borrower defense law—or, regulation. I mean, what this essentially means—let me just—because those are code words. What this essentially means is that Corinthian College went bankrupt. All these kids were left holding the bag, with the student debts. What the borrower defense law means—or, rule means, is that just like Corinthian gets its debts discharged in bankruptcy, these kids should not be holding the bag. That’s what it means. So, the AGs are suing on that. And look, we—thankfully, we were able, in a bipartisan way, to get the new federal law covering K-12 passed last year in the Congress. And even Lamar Alexander just said to Betsy DeVos, "You’re misreading the law."</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I wanted to ask you about—well, NPR is reporting Wayne Johnson will be the new head of Office of Federal Student Aid, after James Runcie abruptly resigned last month.</p><p><strong>RANDI WEINGARTEN:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This is according to the Department of Education. FSA is an agency responsible for administering $1.4 trillion in outstanding student loans from 42 million borrowers, plus aid programs for millions of college students. As not mentioned in the department’s press release and first reported by BuzzFeed, Johnson is currently the CEO of Reunion Financial Services Corporation, a private student loan company.</p><p><strong>RANDI WEINGARTEN:</strong> Right. I mean, this is—I don’t think saying the fox guarding the hen house is enough to describe what is going on. You basically have people from an industry that bilked kids, that have had predatory practices, now running the student aid programs. And it’s just—again, it is this preference, this out-and-out preference for the lenders, for the for-profit colleges, that we have fought for the last several years. Like, you can’t give worthless degrees and leave kids holding the bag with unsustainable debt. And basically, we are winding back the clock on this, as well as on rights.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, Randi Weingarten, we want to thank you very much for being with us, president of the American Federation of Teachers, as we move on to other education news.</p><p> </p> Mon, 17 Jul 2017 12:19:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1079806 at https://www.alternet.org Education Education Betsy DeVos education predatory lending Randi Weingarten Battle For the Net: Mass Day of Action Aims to Stop Trump's FCC from Destroying Free & Open Internet https://www.alternet.org/activism/mass-day-action-net-neutrality <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Supporters of the day of action include internet giants such as Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Reddit. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_572669776.jpg?itok=7iOwYq4B" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>On Wednesday, nearly 70,000 websites and organizations are planning to take part in massive online protest to save net neutrality. Participating websites will reportedly display messages on their homepages and encourage users to take action to save the internet as we know it. Supporters of the day of action include internet giants such as Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Reddit. Earlier this year, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai outlined his plans to dismantle net neutrality rules despite polling that shows most Americans support a free and open internet. For more, we speak with former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps and Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future. She is helping organize Wednesday’s Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality.</p><iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/7/11/activists_plan_mass_day_of_action" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="true"></iframe><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> We turn now to look at the fight for the future of the internet. On Wednesday, nearly 70,000 websites and organizations are planning to take part in a massive online protest to save net neutrality. Participating websites will reportedly display messages on their homepages and encourage users to take action to save the internet as we know it. Supporters of the action include internet giants such as Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Reddit. Supporters of net neutrality say the rules are needed to keep the internet open and prevent corporate service providers from blocking access to websites, slowing down content or providing paid fast lanes for internet service.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> But net neutrality has come under attack by the Trump administration. Earlier this year, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has outlined his plan to dismantle net neutrality rules, despite polling that shows most Americans support a free and open internet. The FCC has a ready received a record 5.6 million comments on net neutrality.</p><p>For more, we’re joined by two guests. In Washington, D.C., Michael Copps is with us, who served as FCC commissioner from 2001 to 2012. He’s currently special adviser on media and democracy reform at Common Cause. And joining us from Boston, Massachusetts, is Evan Greer, the campaign director of Fight for the Future. She’s helping organize Wednesday’s Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality.</p><p>Evan, let’s begin with you. Talk about this nationwide action tomorrow, on Wednesday, what it’s all about, what specifically you’re targeting.</p><p><strong>EVAN GREER:</strong> So, this is a moment for everyone, whether you’re an ordinary internet user with a few hundred Instagram fans or a major website with hundreds of thousands of daily visitors, to harness the power of the web to defend this profoundly democratizing technology that’s given more of us a voice than ever before. We need to stop companies like Comcast and Verizon from being able to control what we can see and do online, and protect this platform for freedom of expression and social change.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> And, Commissioner Copps, could you go over for our listeners and viewers the importance of this Title II decision that the new chairman of the FCC is seeking to overturn?</p><p><strong>MICHAEL COPPS:</strong> Well, first of all, the network is so vital to economic opportunity and innovation, and especially to democracy. I think Evan said it well. This is a tool of unparalleled power that can help us to build democracy. When you look at what has happened to mainstream media—radio, television and cable—how it has been corporatized and commercialized and consolidated, how much journalism we have lost, you really get down to the essential question: Is media providing the news and information that citizens need in order to make intelligent decisions for the future? There’s a lot of evidence that that’s really not happening right now.</p><p>Net neutrality, however, is a free speech issue. And at its center is the ability of Americans to go where they want on the internet, to access the content that they want and to be treated like everybody else is treated, so you don’t have Comcast and AT&amp;T and Verizon acting as gatekeepers and having the power to slow down sites that they don’t like or to block or to throttle, or to give fast lanes to a few while the rest of us struggle along on slow lanes. To be a fully participating citizen in 21st century America, you have to have access to high-speed, affordable broadband. And that’s what’s at issue now.</p><p>This issue has been to the federal courts three times now in the last 10 years. And three times the court has said, if you want to protect net neutrality, the only enforceable way to do it is through the rules that were passed in 2015 by the Tom Wheeler-led Federal Communications Commission. There’s no other way to do it. So, for Chairman Pai to come now and say, "Well, I’m going to figure out some other way to do this that’s not Title II," just means that he’s trying to get rid of net neutrality, just like they’re trying to get rid of privacy, just like they’re trying to get rid of subsidized broadband for the poor in America. It’s really—it’s really full speed in reverse.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> You’ve called this FCC commission, Commissioner Copps, the worst you have ever seen. Why?</p><p><strong>MICHAEL COPPS:</strong> Well, because, you know, we’ve been building for the last five or six years and doing good things on communications, on E-rate, the program for schools and libraries, to expand that, to expand Lifeline so all Americans could enjoy it, no matter what their economic status, to spread broadband around the country in hard-to-reach inner cities and rural America, and now we’re doing away with all of that.</p><p>And there’s no question in my mind that a communications so important as broadband has to have some public interest oversight. It has to be used for the benefit of the people, and it cannot be turned over wholesale to a few ISPs. You know, for a long time, people in the early stages of the internet thought, "Well, you don’t have to worry about the internet, because it’s so open, it’s so dynamic, it’s immune from the laws of consolidation and all this stuff. Power is at the edges." And it didn’t take too many years for us to figure out that that’s not the direction it was going. It was going down the same road as radio and television and cable. And we cannot let that happen to this most powerful tool, technology tool, in all of history to help us expand democracy, to build a society where democracy is paved with those broadband bricks mentioned at the outset of the show.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> I want to turn to FCC Chair Ajit Pai speaking earlier this year about the future of internet regulation. This is what he said.</p><blockquote><p><strong>AJIT PAI:</strong> The economics are simple here: More heavily you regulate something, the less of it you’re going to get. And when you talk about less infrastructure investment, many people’s eyes glaze over. But I think it’s important to explain in plain terms what the consequences are. Reduced investment means fewer Americans will have high-speed internet access. It means fewer Americans will have jobs. And it means less competition for American consumers. So, what happened after the FCC imposed Title II? Sure enough, infrastructure investments declined. Among our nation’s 12 largest internet service providers, domestic broadband capital expenditures decreased by 5.6 percent, or $3.6 billion, between 2014 and 2016, the first two years of the Title II era.</p></blockquote><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Well, former Commissioner Copps, what about this issue that Ajit Pai raises that infrastructure investment by the private sector has declined rapidly since the Title II net neutrality laws were put into effect?</p><p><strong>MICHAEL COPPS:</strong> That’s just absolutely nonsensical. I don’t know where Ajit got his facts from, but not too many weeks ago I heard Michael Powell, former chairman of the FCC, who now runs the cable association, talk about how phenomenal the investment was in the internet. And open up your papers every day, and you see these companies paying billions and billions of dollars for one another. And the bazaar has really opened at the FCC now, because everybody knows this FCC is going to approve more and more mergers, more and more acquisitions and transactions, leading to further commercialization and consolidation. So, it’s a huge threat. And most of the studies are telling us that investment is more than holding its own. I mean, this is one of the most dynamic sectors in the economy. So, I think that’s a case of fearmongering tied to ideology and tied to the special interests.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I wanted to turn to comedian John Oliver. Earlier this year, he dedicated nearly 20 minutes of his HBO program to explaining that net neutrality is under threat. He directed much of his criticism to FCC Chair Ajit Pai.</p><blockquote><p><strong>JOHN OLIVER:</strong> Pai’s main argument is that we don’t need Title II to have net neutrality. But some of his ideas for what to have instead are almost laughably lax. For instance, he reportedly floated just having ISPs voluntarily agree not to obstruct or slow consumer access to web content by putting that promise in their terms of service—you know, the things that no human being has ever read, and that can change whenever companies want them to. That idea would basically make net neutrality as binding as a proposal on <em>The Bachelor</em>.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> John Oliver ended his show by calling on his viewers to write to the FCC, just as he did after a similar segment in 2014. Once again, the enormous response broke the commission’s website—which goes to the issue of activism, which is why we go back to Evan Greer. Specifically tomorrow, what are you going to be doing?</p><p><strong>EVAN GREER:</strong> So tomorrow is a day, again, where everyone can come together. So, on many of your favorite websites, from Amazon, Netflix, Kickstarter, Etsy, OkCupid, you’re going to be seeing prominent messages that will direct people to a place where they can easily take action. We have a site, <a href="https://www.battleforthenet.com/">BattleForTheNet.com</a>, where anyone can easily submit a comment to the FCC and contact their member of Congress at the same time.</p><p>That second part is really important, because, as Commissioner Copps said, this FCC commissioner, Ajit Pai, has made it very clear that he’s not listening to the public. He’s only listening to the cable companies, that he used to work for, and he intends to give them exactly what they want, which is the power to pick and choose what we can all see and do on the internet. But the thing is, the FCC answers to Congress. And our members of Congress are supposed to answer to us. The polling shows that voters from across the political spectrum—Democrats, independents, Republicans, doesn’t matter—overwhelmingly agree we don’t want our cable companies to be able to censor us, charge us extra fees or essentially be the editors-in-chief of the internet. So, this is why it’s so important that people use these tools, speak out, show up at their member of Congress’s offices and make this an issue that they know they will be burned by if they burn their constituents. These members of Congress are already reeling from the backlash to their attack on our internet privacy rules just a few months ago, and they’re particularly sensitive to this right now. So this is an incredibly important moment for everyone to be speaking out.</p><p>There’s lots of tools at <a href="https://www.battleforthenet.com/">BattleForTheNet.com</a>, where anyone, whether, again, you’re an internet user that’s just posting on social media, you run a website, you have a small business, there’s lots of ways to get involved. And we can’t sit back and expect big companies to save us, because, in the end, this is really about all the weird, interesting, small, alternative things that make up the beautiful fabric of the internet, whether it’s <a href="http://chess.com/">Chess.com</a>, the largest chess service online, or online gaming forums or communities where people find alternative news. This is our free speech fight of our generation. Net neutrality is the First Amendment of the internet, and we intend to fight to defend it.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Evan Greer, we want to thank you for being with us, campaign director of Fight for the Future. And we’ll cover what happens tomorrow in the Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality. And, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, former commissioner, we’d like to ask you to stay with us as we address other issues around your former time at the FCC and the current FCC commission. This is <em>Democracy Now!</em> We’ll be back in a minute.</p><p>[break]</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> "New Orbit" by the Matthew Shipp Trio, from the album <em>Rock the Net: Musicians for Network Neutrality</em>. This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.</p><p> </p> Tue, 11 Jul 2017 12:14:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1079538 at https://www.alternet.org Activism Activism google reddit net neutrality Ajit Pai fcc Bernie Sanders: Why the Democratic Party Is an 'Absolute Failure' and More https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/bernie-sanders-resisting-trump <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;Trump didn’t win the election; the Democratic Party lost the election.&quot;</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/31219599023_c0a30a2499_z.jpg?itok=Z9auDTe_" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Last month more than 4,000 people gathered in Chicago for the People’s Summit. Independent senator, former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delivered the keynote speech. During his speech, he repeatedly criticized the Democratic Party, calling it an "absolute failure," and blaming it for the election of President Trump. "I’m often asked by the media and others: How did it come about that Donald Trump, the most unpopular presidential candidate in the modern history of our country, won the election?" Sanders said. "And my answer is that Trump didn’t win the election; the Democratic Party lost the election. Let us be very, very clear: The current model and the current strategy of the Democratic Party is an absolute failure."</p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="250" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/7/3/bernie_sanders_on_resisting_trump_why" width="400"></iframe><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p><em>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</em></p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Over 4,000 people gathered in Chicago in June for the three-day People’s Summit, organized in part by National Nurses United. Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gave a major speech, where he attacked both President Trump and the Democratic Party. Senator Sanders spoke at a time when some of his supporters are pushing for him to form a new political party ahead of the 2020 election and run again for the White House. Today we spend the hour airing Bernie Sanders’ address.</p><blockquote><p><strong>SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:</strong> I want to thank many, many of you for your work on our presidential campaign. You understood something that the establishment, the pundits and the corporate media did not know and still do not know. And that is that the American people are profoundly sick and tired of establishment politics and establishment economics. As RoseAnn just said, the question all over this country that people are asking themselves is: When will my life get better? And it ain’t gonna get better through establishment economics or establishment politics, that’s for sure. At a time of massive—and vulgar—income and wealth inequality, and the movement of our country toward an oligarchy, where a handful of billionaires control our economy, our political life and much of the media, you understood that the American people want a government that represents all of us, not just the 1 percent. And that’s what all of us are fighting for, and I thank you very much for all that you have done, are doing and will do.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And, by the way, Jane and I just returned from the U.K. the other day. And I want to tell you—want to tell you what you already know, is that the movement for economic, social, racial and environmental justice is not just growing here in the U.S., it is growing worldwide. All over the world—all over the world, people are asking: How does it happen that, globally, the top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 99 percent? How does it happen that the eight wealthiest people on this planet own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population—3.4 billion people? And just the other day—just the other day, in the U.K., against all of the predictions, the Labour Party there won 30 new seats. And they won those seats not by moving to the right, not by becoming more conciliatory; they won those seats by standing up to the ruling class of the U.K. And all of us congratulate Jeremy Corbyn and his team for what they’ve accomplished.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>This evening, what I want to do is give you, as I see it, some good news. I want to be honest and tell you about the bad news that I see. But I’m going to conclude with very good news.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Now, the good news—the good news is that, together, because of the grassroots efforts of millions of Americans, from coast to coast, taking on the entire political establishment, our campaign was able to win 22 states in the Democratic primary, over 13 million votes, some 46 percent of the popular vote. Together—together, in virtually every state, in virtually, I think, every single state, we won the votes of young people under 40, young people who are black and white and Latino and Asian-American and Native American. We won those votes by overwhelming numbers, and we ended up, I believe, getting almost twice as many votes as Clinton and Trump combined, among young people.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And what that means—what that means—and please do not forget this—is that our ideas and our progressive vision, we are the future of this country.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AUDIENCE:</strong> Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:</strong> No.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AUDIENCE:</strong> Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:</strong> It’s not "Bernie." It is you! We are in this together, and always have been and always will be. Together, during our campaign, we organized some of the largest rallies in the campaign, speaking to over 1.4 million people. In other words—in other words, we have the enthusiasm. We have the momentum. And as I look around this theater tonight, I can see we have the energy to transform America.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And this is what else we have accomplished. After the campaign, we helped write the most progressive political platform of any party in American history. Together, we transformed campaign finance in this country and showed the world you don’t Wall Street and corporate money to run an effective campaign. When you stand for something, people will respond. We received two-and-a-half million individual contributions, averaging—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AUDIENCE:</strong> Twenty-seven dollars!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:</strong> That’s right, 27 bucks. But, most importantly, we may have lost the election in 2016, but there is no question—there is no question—there is no question that we have won the battle of ideas. And we are continuing to win that battle. And that is, brothers and sisters, no small thing.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Because of the grassroot efforts of activists like you throughout this country, we have in recent years made enormous progress in advancing the progressive agenda. And I want all of you—you know, sometimes what we all do is we look at today, and we say, "Well, you know, that’s kind of the way it always was." That’s not the case. Ideas that just a few years ago seemed radical and unattainable are now today widely supported, and, in fact, some of them are being implemented as we speak. And I want you to appreciate what together we have accomplished. Don’t take this for granted.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Five years ago, not a long time ago, with a federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour—a starvation wage—if five years ago somebody here jumped up and they said, "Bernie, you know, we’ve got to raise that minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour," person next to you would have said, "You are nuts. You can’t double the minimum wage at one time. Can’t be done." In fact, three years ago, what the Democratic leadership was talking about was $10.10 an hour. That was then. Today, federal legislation for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, which I introduced in the Senate a few weeks ago, now has—now has 31 co-sponsors in the Senate and—and 155 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. And $15-an-hour legislation is being passed by city councils and state legislatures all across America. My understanding is that right here, in the state of Illinois, a $15-an-hour minimum wage bill is on the governor’s desk. Governor, sign that bill! All over in Illinois and all over this country, the working people of this nation need a raise. And what we are saying, as loudly and clearly as we can, is that if you work 40 or 50 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>But it’s not just a minimum wage and the fight for 15. I want you to think about this: Five years ago, if we were here, the majority political sentiment in this country, among Republicans and many Democrats, was that our trade policies were just great. What was the problem with NAFTA and PNTR with China or the TPP? So what if those trade policies cost us millions of decent jobs and drove us into a downward spiral, a race to the bottom? Our trade policies were great. That was five years ago. Today, the American people, all across the political spectrum, are saying that we need new trade agreements that work for workers, not just the CEOs of large corporations. And I want to thank all of you for creating the movement that defeated the Trans-Pacific Partnership.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>But it’s not just trade that we’ve had an impact on. Today, the idea of a trillion-dollar investment to create up to 15 million jobs, good-paying jobs, by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure is now widely accepted. Just three years ago—not even five years ago, three years ago—I proposed a trillion-dollar investment, got virtually no support, had to cut it in half. But today, all across the political spectrum, people understand that we need to repair our broken bridges, our roads, our water systems, our wastewater plants, our levees, our dams, our airports. We need to build affordable housing.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Five years ago, you talked about paid family and medical leave, people didn’t even know what you were talking about. But today, not only is support growing for paid family and medical leave, but the very radical concept that women in the year 2017 should not be paid 79 cents on the dollar, that we need equal pay for equal work, that’s also growing.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Former presidential candidate, independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, addressing 4,000 people at the People’s Summit in Chicago in June. We’ll return to the speech in a minute, as he talks about healthcare, fossil fuels and his free college tuition plan. Stay with us.</p><p>[break]</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return now to the former presidential candidate, independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, addressing 4,000 people at the People’s Summit in Chicago in June.</p><blockquote><p><strong>SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:</strong> Five years ago—think about it, not a long time ago—five years ago, there was almost no discussion about making public colleges and universities tuition-free. Today, all across this country, people understand that in a highly competitive global economy, it is insane that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college and that many of you have left school deeply, deeply in debt. And what we are seeing now in states and in communities all over this country, the movement toward making public colleges and universities tuition-free. And let me tell you this, because I’ve introduced the legislation. Next fall, on college campuses all over this country, you’re going to see young people stand up and tell the establishment, "We’re not leaving school $100,000 in debt."</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Think back five years ago. There was, at that point, widespread belief that the Affordable Care Act, so-called Obamacare, was about as far as we could go as a nation in healthcare. That’s about it. Past Obamacare, can’t do any more. Today, as you know, that view is radically changing. Nurses, thank you for your help on this. Today, all over our country, the American people understand that there is something profoundly wrong when we remain the only major country on Earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people as a right, not a privilege. And there is also something profoundly wrong when millions of Americans cannot afford the prescription drugs that their doctors prescribe. And what the American people from coast to coast are catching onto is the function of healthcare is to provide quality care to all people, not to make billions in profits for the insurance companies or the drug companies. And as we—as we sit here tonight, the California state Senate has passed single payer. Thank you, nurses! And now, now it’s up to the California House and the governor to do the right thing and help us transform healthcare in this country by leading the way.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Today, by very large and growing numbers, the American people understand that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and poses a very serious threat to our planet. And there is strong and growing support—numbers have never been higher—for taking on the fossil fuel industry and for moving our energy system to sustainable energy and energy efficiency. Despite the current president of the United States—oh, you know who I am talking to—you know who I’m talking about—the American people, whatever Trump may think, or, as usually the case, not think—the American—the American people understand that we have a moral responsibility to leave this planet healthy and habitable for our children and for our grandchildren, and that we can and must lead the world in combating climate change. And, by the way, when we do that, we create millions of good-paying jobs in America.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Further, again, by overwhelming numbers—and you have to understand this—by overwhelming numbers, the American people support comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship. No, we’re not going to scapegoat—we’re not going to scapegoat the undocumented in this country. They are hard-working, honest people, and we’re going to work with them to create a path toward citizenship. And again, that is—again, that’s not my view. That’s not your view. That, in fact, is the view of the overwhelming majority of the American people.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Today, again—again—by overwhelming numbers, the American people understand that our criminal justice system is broken and that there is something wrong and disgraceful when the United States of America has more people in jail than any other country on Earth, including China, and that there is something profoundly wrong when we understand that the people in jail are disproportionately African-American, Latino and Native American. The American people, including a growing number of conservatives, understand that it is absurd, that it is crazy, that we spend over $80 billion a year to lock up over 2 million of our fellow Americans. And all across the political spectrum, including conservatives, there is a growing belief that it makes a lot more sense, for our young people, to invest in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Further, not only are we winning the battle of ideas on almost every major issue facing this country—the vast majority of the American people are on our side—but not only are we winning the battle of ideas, we are seeing more and more progressives becoming involved in the political process, running for office and winning office. And let me just very briefly—because there have been victories all across this country, let me just mention a few. And I apologize if I mispronounce some names; I’m not so good at that. Jackson, Mississippi—let me repeat that in case you didn’t get it right—Jackson, Mississippi, has a new mayor, Mayor Lumumba. Great City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, has a new district attorney, Larry Krasner. Christine Pellegrino—where is Christine? OK. Hi, Christine. Christine won a landslide victory for the New York State Assembly in a—in a district that had overwhelmingly gone for Donald Trump. Iowa has a new progressive in their House, Monica Kurth. In South Fulton, Georgia, City Council has a new member, Khalid Kamau. Andrea Jenkins, Minneapolis City Council, Jillia Pessenda, Minneapolis City Council—two members. John Courage, San Antonio City Council. Stephanie Hansen, Delaware state Senate. Valdez Bravo, Portland, Oregon. Rita Moore, Oregon school board. Natalie Vowell, St. Louis Board of Education. Lori Kilpatrick, Dallas school board. And, brothers and sisters, those are just a few of the victories that we have had. Let me ask you a question: How many of you have run for office or are actively involved in local campaigns? Stand up! All right! Brothers and sisters, this is the political revolution!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Now, clearly, clearly, our progressives have not won in every election they contested. We have lost some tough races in Montana, in Kansas and in Nebraska. But what we showed is that even in these very, very red states, strong progressives could do far, far better than anyone imagined, and that with proper organization and financial resources, we can win, in any district in the United States of America. So the point that I want to make—and I hope you all appreciate it—is that because of your efforts and the efforts of millions of people all across this country, we are making enormous progress in creating our progressive vision. Now, that’s the good news.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Let me give you the bad news that you also know. And that is—that is—that is, today—today, in the White House, we have perhaps the worst and most dangerous president in the history of our country. And we also have—not to be forgotten—extreme-right-wing leadership in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. Now, what I find particularly disgraceful about Trump is not just his reactionary economic, environmental and social policies or the fact that he lies all the time. What I find beyond belief is his incredible hypocrisy. This is a man who ran for president telling the people of this country that he was going to stand up for the working class, that he was going to stand up to the political and economic establishment. And then—then, once he got elected, and without a second’s hesitation, he brings more billionaires into his administration than any president in history, and he hires the former president of Goldman Sachs to be his chief economic adviser. And then—then, four months in his—within his administration, he pushes some of the most destructive pieces of legislation in the modern history of our country, legislation that will cause intense suffering and pain for millions of working-class families.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Mr. Trump, do not tell us that you are a friend of the working class, when you propose to throw 23 million Americans off of healthcare. Don’t tell us that you care about working families, when you want to cut Medicaid by over $800 billion, when you want to raise premiums for older workers in a very dramatic way, and when you tell, Mr. Trump, two-and-a-half million women in this country that they no longer have the option of getting their healthcare at Planned Parenthood. President Trump, spare us the lies and the hypocrisy. Don’t tell us that you are a friend of working families, when you propose devastating cuts to Head Start, child care, public education, when you make it harder for working-class kids to get a college education because of massive cuts in the Pell Grant program. Don’t tell us that you support workers, when you propose massive cuts in nutrition programs, including the WIC program, designed for low-income pregnant women and their newborn babies.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Meanwhile, at the exact same time and within the exact same legislation as Trump makes massive cuts to life-and-death programs for millions and millions of children, working people, the elderly, the sick and the poor—at the same exact time, he proposes a budget that, over a 10-year period, would provide $3 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1 percent. Trump’s budget is the most massive transfer of wealth from working people to the billionaire class that we have ever seen in this country. If you can believe it, he wants to repeal the estate tax, which applies only to the top two-tenths of 1 percent. And that means that while children will go hungry, people will die because they don’t have access to healthcare, the Walton family, a family worth $130 billion, could get up to a $52 billion tax break. What kind of morality is that, when you take from the most vulnerable people in this country to give to the very, very richest? And, Mr. Trump, we say to you tonight, you are not going to get away with that absurd set of priorities.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, speaking at the People’s Summit in Chicago in June. We’ll return to the conclusion of his speech in a minute, where he talks about why he believes the Democratic Party is an absolute failure. Stay with us.</p><p>[break]</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return now to the former presidential candidate, independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, addressing 4,000 people at the People’s Summit in Chicago in June.</p><blockquote><p><strong>SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:</strong> We have a president who displays every day a massive disrespect for democracy, for tolerance and for traditional American values. His unprecedented attack against the media is nothing less than an effort to intimidate those who would criticize him and to undermine respect for dissent and a free press. His attacks against the judiciary seek to diminish the separation of powers that our Constitution outlined. The degree to which he tells blatant lies is unprecedented for an American president. And his outrageous claim that up to 5 million people in the last election voted illegally is nothing less than an attempt to tell Republican governors all across this country to accelerate their efforts to suppress the vote.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>I also find it strange that we have a president who seems to be more comfortable with autocrats and authoritarian politicians than with leaders of democratic nations. All of us are scratching our heads trying to find out why is Trump so much enamored with Vladimir Putin, a man who has severely repressed democracy in his own country and spent the last number of years trying to destabilize democracy in countries around the world, including our own. Americans are wondering why Trump seems to have such affection for the leaders of Saudi Arabia, a hereditary monarchy which treats women as third-class citizens and which promotes Wahhabism, a radical and extreme version of Islam that has spread throughout the Muslim world.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And lastly, in terms of Trump—lastly, in terms of Trump, he is doing what demagogues have done throughout history. And that is, instead of bringing people together to confront the serious problems that we face, what he is doing is trying to divide us up by our religion, by our race, by our gender or where our families came from. Even a very conservative president—even a very conservative Republican president like George W. Bush understood that one of the important functions of a leader in a democratic society is to bring people together, not separate them. And I say—I say to President Trump: This country has struggled too long, too many people have fought, too many people have died, too many people have been beaten, too many people have gone to jail, in the fights against racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia. Mr. Trump, we are not going backwards. We are going forwards!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Now, I am often asked—I’m often asked by the media and others: How did it come about that Donald Trump, the most unpopular presidential candidate in the modern history of our country, won the election? And my answer is—and my answer is that Trump didn’t win the election; the Democratic Party lost the election. Let us—let us be very, very clear: The current model—the current model and the current strategy of the Democratic Party is an absolute failure. This is not—this is not my opinion. This is the facts. You know, we focus a lot on the presidential election, but we also have to understand that Democrats have lost the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate. Republicans now control almost two-thirds of the governors’ chairs throughout the country. And over the last nine years, Democrats have lost almost 1,000 legislative seats in states all across this country. Today—today, in almost half of the states in America, Democratic Party has almost no political presence at all. Now, if that’s not a failure, if that’s not a failed model, I don’t know what a failed model is.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>The Democratic Party—Democratic Party needs fundamental change, fundamental change. What it needs is to open up its doors to working people and young people and all people who are prepared to fight for social and economic justice. The Democratic Party must, finally, understand which side it is on. And that cannot be the side of Wall Street or the fossil fuel industry or the drug companies.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters, these are difficult times and pivotal moments in American history. And I am more than aware of the political obstacles that we face. I understand very well the nature of our corrupt political system, which, as a result of <em>Citizens United</em>, allows billionaires like the Koch brothers to spend unlimited amounts of money, allows them and their billionaire friends to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in an election on ugly 30-second ads that try to undermine the honesty and integrity of progressive campaigns. And that’s all they can do, because they can’t stand and defend their position on the issues. And we just saw this a few weeks ago in Montana’s Rob Quist. And what happened to Rob is going to continue to happen. What happened to Rob is he did a great job raising money from small individual contributions. I think it was 25 bucks a contribution. Fantastic! Raised over $5 million, $6 million. Fantastic! Did great. But—but the billionaire class got very, very nervous, and they put almost $7 million in independent expenditures by—and by a 10-to-1 ratio, their independent expenditures outspent Rob’s. And he lost that election.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Now, I also understand that corporate media is not particularly interested in our issues, the issues that impact working families, but very often they prefer six-second sound bites and endless discussion about political gossip. In fact, in the last presidential election, there was less discussion about the real issues impacting the American people than in any election in American history. And I also understand that over 90 percent of talk radio is right-wing or extreme right-wing. I got all of that. I know that. That’s what we’re up against.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And we also have to deal with the fact that the American people are today extremely demoralized, that we have the lowest voter turnout of any major country on Earth. And I am more than aware that Republican governors all across this country are working overtime to suppress the vote, to make it harder for people of color, poor people, old people, young people to vote. That is what we are facing today. And that is a lot of obstacles.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>But this is what I also know. I also know something about American history. And I know that 150 years ago in this country, working people had no rights. They were treated like animals. They were forced to work 12, 14 hours a day. Children of 10, 11 years of age were working in factories and losing their fingers. Kids were working in fields. And workers 150 years ago stood up, under tremendous—with tremendous opposition against them. And they said to their bosses—they said, "We are not animals. We’re not beasts of burden. We are human beings. We’re going to form trade unions." And I thank the American trade union movement for all they have done. And my pledge to you is we will pass legislation making it easier for workers to form unions.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And when we think about American history, we think about a hundred years ago, 120 years ago, when African Americans, under the most outrageous conditions, stood up and fought for dignity. And we will never know—never know—how many were beaten, how many were lynched, how many were jailed in the fight for basic human dignity. But we do know that over the years millions of people, black and white and everybody else, stood together and said that we will end the scourge of racism in this country.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And many of the children don’t know this, but a hundred years ago today, women in America did not have the right to vote, did not have the right to do the jobs, to get the education they wanted to have—a hundred years ago, no time at all. But women stood up. They went on hunger strikes. They went to jail. And they said, "Women in America"—and they stood with their male allies. They said, "Women in America will not continue to be second-class citizens."</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And 20 years ago, 25 years ago, no time at all, people who were gay, who were public with their sexuality, were humiliated, were beaten. But the gay community, and their straight allies, against incredible pressure, stood up and said that in the United States of America, people will have the right to love whomever they want, regardless of their gender.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Now, I’ve given you that brief overview of American history to make this simple point: Now is not the time to throw your hands up and say, "I’m giving up. I’m in despair. I’m burnt out." I want you to think about the incredibly brave heroes and heroines in our history, against unbelievably daunting odds, who risked their lives for social justice, for economic justice, for racial justice.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Now, the fight that we are engaged in now is a tough one. No question about it. We are taking on an extremely powerful billionaire class whose greed has destroyed the middle class of this country, whose greed says that it is not enough that the top 1 percent today owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Not enough! They want it all. And what we are saying today: We are going to stand up to that greed, to that recklessness, and tell the billionaire class that this nation belongs to all of us, this democracy belongs to all of us. And when we stand together, when we stand together and not allow demagogues to divide us up by the color of our skin or the country we came from or our sexual orientation or our gender, when we stand together, there is nothing that will stop us! Thank you all very much!</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, speaking at the People’s Summit in Chicago, addressing about 4,000 people.</p><p></p> Mon, 03 Jul 2017 07:52:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1079173 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics bernie sanders the resistance democratic party elections organizing Trump's First Supreme Court Pick Is 'Far to the Right' of the Man He Replaced, the Right-Wing Antonin Scalia https://www.alternet.org/right-wing/neil-gorsuch-further-right-antonin-scalia <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">He has been in lockstep with none other than Clarence Thomas.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2017-02-03_at_5.10.21_pm.png?itok=LVeVJc3r" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Supreme Court reporter Dahlia Lithwick examines the new make-up of the court and the rumors that Justice Anthony Kennedy might resign. Neil Gorsuch joined the court in April to replace the late Antonin Scalia. So far, Gorsuch has been in lockstep with Clarence Thomas. According to Lithwick, Gorsuch is proving to be "far to the right" of Scalia.</p><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, now I want to go to the speculation that has, to say the least, been percolating. During a press briefing on Monday, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer about who Trump might pick as his next Supreme Court nominee.</p><blockquote><p><strong>REPORTER:</strong> Will President Trump rely on that previous list of 21 potential Supreme Court justices?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER:</strong> I’m sure that that will definitely be a strong part of it. I can’t say that there won’t be someone added on or not. But, you know, that proved to be a very, very helpful list the first time. So, he feels very comfortable about the list, but I can’t say for certain that there’s no one that couldn’t get added to a future list.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, Dahlia Lithwick, they’re talking about this speculation that Anthony Kennedy might step down. Where is it coming from, and what do you have to say about it?</p><p><strong>DAHLIA LITHWICK:</strong> This has been a whisper campaign, Amy, that’s been going on for months now. It’s worth saying Anthony Kennedy is 80. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 84. Steve Breyer is 78. So, while it’s certainly very likely that Trump will have another justice, or even two or three, to replace, I think that there was this feverish claim that Kennedy had a foot out the door. And no lesser a person than Chuck Grassley, than Ted Cruz, than President Trump himself hinted this spring, in the last few weeks, that there would be a vacancy, effective yesterday. And that didn’t happen.</p><p>Now, as to the question of why all the speculation was being, you know, sent around, I think it’s because there is clearly a feeling, I think, in the conservative circles and the conservative legal movement, that Trump’s one and only big win since he took office was the Neil Gorsuch nomination and confirmation, that he clearly had a spectacular success. And what better way to keep highlighting the fact that he could do it again than saying he’s going to do it again as early as this summer, he’s going to have another slot to fill? I think it’s a little bit of an effort to say to those Republicans who held their noses and voted for Trump even though they didn’t like him, because there was a Supreme Court vacancy after Scalia died—it’s a way of keeping them onside and saying, "We’re going to do it again." And it’s probably worth saying that by about a 2-to-1 margin, folks who said to exit pollers, "I voted because of the Supreme Court," those folks went for Trump. This is a strong constituency, and it’s good to keep promising them that they’re going to get a second effort from the president to do it again.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So how did Neil Gorsuch make his mark in the cases that he’s ruled on? What’s your assessment, Dahlia?</p><p><strong>DAHLIA LITHWICK:</strong> He has been in lockstep with none other than Clarence Thomas. I think for the folks who thought he was going to be another Scalia, he is far to the right of Scalia. There was some question about maybe, in some cases, he’d actually be a centrist. We’ve seen no evidence of that. Thus far, he has really staked out the most extreme conservative positions, both on the church-state case we just talked about—he would have gone much farther than even the majority went—but also he dissented from a decision not to hear a major case out of Arkansas about putting same-sex parents, both of their names, on birth certificates, and wrote a scorching dissent suggesting almost that the <em>Obergefell</em> same-sex decision didn’t control in this instance. So, time after time after time, in almost every context, we’ve seen him emerge as quite a bit further to the right than even we expected.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I mean, on the issue of gay rights, Anthony Kennedy—you say there’s this whispering campaign that he might step down—came down forcefully in 2013 in favor of marriage equality, was the swing vote in the court’s landmark decision striking down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act. So, the significance of the rise of Gorsuch, who was a law clerk—is that right?—of Justice Kennedy?</p><p><strong>DAHLIA LITHWICK:</strong> That’s right. And it cannot be said often enough. In issue after issue, not just gay rights, as you suggest, but also affirmative action, last year’s major reproductive rights victory in <em>Whole Woman’s Health</em>, time after time after time, even conservatives really feel that Kennedy has defected and voted with the left wing of the court. In a deep way, he is a Supreme Court of one. And I think that it is clear to me that if Trump has the opportunity to replace him, we are going to see landmark losses in areas where we’ve made progress, ranging from everything I’ve just talked about to some of these other religious freedoms, possibly the gerrymander cases that are coming up this fall at the court, possibly the travel ban. Kennedy is really the bulwark, the lone bulwark, against an enormous amount of progressive losses, going forward. And I think that the fact that Gorsuch, a former clerk, was picked to fill Scalia’s seat was an effort to signal to Kennedy, "Nothing to worry about here. We’re going to fill your spot with someone just like you." And as you said, Gorsuch is not turning out to be of the Kennedy mold at all.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And overall, what is your assessment of this Supreme Court term?</p><p><strong>DAHLIA LITHWICK:</strong> It was actually—yesterday was a bunch of bitter losses. I think that, with a handful of exceptions, you’re going to start to see a 5-4 bloc for fairly conservative outcomes, including staying the travel ban. I think the thing to watch is, the chief justice, John Roberts, who is very conservative, and Anthony Kennedy, who I suggested is a moderate conservative, are starting to sort of shift toward the middle. And what we’re really seeing that I think is intriguing is Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas tacking very hard to the right. So, in a deep way, I think the thing to look for is this battle at the center of the court to try to figure out if there still is a center of the court and what this really hard-right threesome is going to sort of hold for us, going forward.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And finally, Vince Warren?</p><p><strong>VINCENT WARREN:</strong> Yeah, I mean, I couldn’t agree with Dahlia more. It really spells bad news for justice and folks that work in this field, probably for the next couple of decades. There’s really no getting around that. And our strategies now have to be designed around trying to keep some of these cases out of the Supreme Court, if humanly possible. And that’s—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What does that mean?</p><p><strong>VINCENT WARREN:</strong> Well, it means that, at some level, that you will either take losses at the lower level rather than moving them up to the Supreme Court level. It also means that wins in the lower court level and the court of appeals level means that the government or whoever you’re challenging or a corporation will be more inclined to appeal it to the Supreme Court. So then you have to change your strategies about litigating your cases in lower courts, probably taking less than what you might ultimately want, in order to avoid it from getting up into the higher courts and becoming just a disaster for the entire country.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, I want to thank you both for being with us, Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate.com, senior legal correspondent and Supreme Court reporter.</p><p>That does it for the show. Very happy birthday to Jon Randolph!</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/6/27/dahlia_lithwick_justice_neil_gorsuch_proving" width="400"></iframe></p> Thu, 29 Jun 2017 12:51:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1078982 at https://www.alternet.org The Right Wing The Right Wing supreme court Neil Gorsuch antonin scalia dahlia lithwick Jackson, Miss. Mayor-Elect Chokwe Lumumba: I Plan to Build the 'Most Radical City on the Planet' https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/jackson-miss-mayor-elect-chokwe-lumumba-i-plan-build-most-radical-city-planet <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;Jackson is going to be a city which protects human rights for human beings.&quot;</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2017-06-26_at_1.59.09_pm.png?itok=xFyjZu0i" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div><div><p>We end the show today in Jackson, Mississippi, where just one week from today social justice activist and attorney Chokwe Lumumba will be sworn is as the city’s next mayor. He has vowed to make Jackson the "most radical city on the planet." He is the son of the city’s former mayor, the late Chokwe Lumumba, who was once dubbed "America’s most revolutionary mayor." We air the mayor-elect’s speech at the People’s Summit and speak to him in Jackson about his plans for the city and his father’s legacy.</p><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p></div></div><div id="transcript"><div>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</div><div><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We end the show today in Jackson, Mississippi, where just one week from today social justice activist and attorney Chokwe Antar Lumumba will be sworn in as Jackson’s next mayor. Earlier this month, Lumumba won the general election in a landslide, after handily winning a primary election in May. This is Chokwe Antar Lumumba celebrating his general election victory with supporters.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> Free the land!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>SUPPORTERS:</strong> Free the land!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> Free the land!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>SUPPORTERS:</strong> Free the land!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> Free the land!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>SUPPORTERS:</strong> Free the land!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> By any means necessary. I need you to stand strong as we go forward. There are people who doubt your resolve, doubt that this city can be everything that it will be. And so, you can’t give up now. I say, when I become mayor, you become mayor. So that means y’all got some work to do.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Chokwe Lumumba is the son of the late Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, a longtime black nationalist organizer and attorney, dubbed "America’s most revolutionary mayor" before his death in 2014. The 34-year-old Chokwe Antar Lumumba supports economic democracy, has proposed a civic incubator fund to support cooperative, member-owned businesses in Jackson. Shortly after his election, Lumumba was a featured speaker, just a few weeks ago, at the People’s Summit in Chicago.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> I bring greetings from Jackson, Mississippi, where I have recently been named mayor-elect of Jackson, Mississippi. In this process, we defeated a field of 16 people. We were able to secure the general election with 94 percent of the vote. And more important than that, we did so on a people’s platform, on a people’s platform where, from the moment we announced, we did so saying that we were running on an agenda of social justice, of economic democracy and—and working with people, making certain that people had a voice. And that’s our story, and we’re sticking to it.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>As we look at the condition of our country, as we consider the fact that we’re in Trump times, we have all kinds of questions of what that means. And when I’ve been confronted with the question of "How do you feel in Jackson, Mississippi, after the Trump election?" what I had to share with people is, after—the Wednesday after the election, I woke up in Jackson, Mississippi. And what that means is, no matter whether our country has experienced great booms or busts, in Mississippi we’ve always been at the bottom. And so what that means is that we have to decide that we are going to rescue ourselves, that in places like Jackson, Mississippi, we won’t allow it to become havens of oppression which endanger all of us.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>So what happens in Jackson, Mississippi, impacts each and every one of us. And so we have to make the decision that we’re going to start controlling the way electoral politics proceeds. And so we’ve made the decision that we’re going to be the most radical city on the planet, that we’re going to make certain—that we’re going to make certain that we change the whole scope of electoral politics. No longer will we allow an individual to step before us and tell us all of the great things that they’re going to accomplish on our behalf, only to find that nothing in their past demonstrates a sincerity, a willingness or an ability to do so. What we must do—what we must do in Jackson, Mississippi, in D.C., in Maryland, in Gary, Indiana, in Chicago, Illinois, is we have to start drafting an agenda for ourselves, creating an agenda, creating what we want to see, and then we draft the leadership which represents our agenda.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And so, we’re excited about this energy which is surfacing, but it is time that we concretize it, that we take it from the mystical, from the mysterious, and put it into action and see what we can demonstrate when progressive people come together and have a plan and decide how we’re going to change the very scope of this world.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And so, we have to come to the same understanding that Martin Luther King came to in his last days. Martin had a conversation with Harry Belafonte not long before he died. And what Martin told Harry, he said, "Listen, Harry, we’re going to win this integration struggle. But I’m beginning to wonder. I’m beginning to wonder if we’re not integrating into a burning house." He said, "I see a system which is abusing labor and abusing working people." And he said, "I’m worried about integrating into a house that looks like that." He said, "If people can’t be fed, if people can’t take care of their families, then it is useless to walk Mississippi roads together."</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And so, ultimately, it becomes greater than a question of color and more a question of ideas and what are the best ideas and what are the worst ideas. And what the worst ideas are, is that you can be oppressive to anyone. And so, we now demand—we now demand that our leadership looks at how we include the people’s voice in the process, and that we have a—we have two choices. We have a choice of economics by the people and for the people or economics by a few people for themselves. And so, we’re demanding, right now, right now, that we begin to rescue ourselves. Right now, as my comrade said, we have nothing to lose but our chains. Thank you so much.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That was Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor-elect Chokwe Antar Lumumba speaking earlier this month at the People’s Summit in Chicago. Well, he joins us now live from Jackson, Mississippi.</p><p>Mayor-elect Lumumba, welcome to <em>Democracy Now!</em></p><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> Thank you so much, Amy. I’m happy to be on your program with you today.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, one week from today, you’re going to be sworn in as the next mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. Talk about your plans, what are your—going to be your first actions in office.</p><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> Well, Amy, we’re putting together—we have a transition team that’s in place right now and looking at the issues which Jackson is facing, making certain that we don’t make plans just off conjecture, but a fact-based analysis of where we find our city, and bringing together not only people who have the acumen and ability and skill to do the job, but people who have a passion, a passion which goes beyond just the way we see electoral politics, but a passion to change people’s lives. And part of that process is putting together a budget. Shortly after we take office, we have to pass a budget. And so, it’s important that we have the right people in place.</p><p>One of the symbolic measures that we’re going to take immediately as we take office is a citywide cleanup. It’s more than just, you know, taking care of the aesthetic appeal of our city. It’s about unifying the city. It’s about bringing people from all areas of the city together and taking a collective interest in how our city looks. You know, I hearken back to the words of my mother: "If you don’t care for your house, no one else will." And so, we’re going to take those easy first steps, that is symbolic of where we’re going and the direction we’re headed in collectively.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> You referred your mother. Can you talk about the origins of your name, Chokwe, Chokwe Antar Lumumba?</p><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> Amy, I couldn’t hear you. My earpiece slipped out for a moment.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Oh. Can you talk about the—</p><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> Can you please repeat that question?</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —the origins of your name, Chokwe Antar Lumumba?</p><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> So, my father changed his name when he was in law school, and accepted a name that he believed to be more culturally identifiable. Chokwe is the name of a tribe in the Angola region, a tribe that was resistant to the slave trade. The name Chokwe means "hunter." Antar is the name of a historic poet and warrior who died while saving a woman from drowning. And Antar means "poet" and "warrior." Lumumba, given that name from our namesake, Patrice Lumumba, the former prime minister of the Congo. And Lumumba means "gifted."</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And can you talk about—I mean, your rise to the—to becoming mayor of Jackson is very interesting, because the incumbent mayor, Tony Yarber, won the special election against you in 2014, the race that determined who would finish your father’s term after he died in office. Your thoughts about losing to him then but defeating him in this race? What changed?</p><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> Well, you know, as I’ve shared with many people, hindsight is 20/20. And I’m actually grateful that we lost the election in 2014, not because the sincerity was not there, not because we don’t believe we could have done a good job, but we’ve been able to, you know, appreciate far more that’s going on with the city of Jackson, and I’ve been able to appreciate more within myself. You know, people have to remember, in 2014, not only did I bury my father in a two-month time span and then enter into an election, my wife was pregnant with our first child. And so there was a world of change. You had a first-time candidate, who had not run for junior class president, much less mayor of a city. And so, we’ve been able to, you know, gather more information and position ourselves better. And so everything happens in a perfect timing. And so, we’re happy where we find ourselves at this time, to move forward the agenda that my father embarked on, an agenda of a people’s platform, one that was not only, you know, symbolic of his work in his short term as mayor, but symbolic of his work, a lifetime of work, that he subscribed to and also ultimately dedicated his family toward.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I wanted to go back to your father, Chokwe Lumumba. In June 2013, I <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2013/6/6/civil_rights_veteran_chokwe_lumumba_elected">interviewed</a> him just after he was elected mayor.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE LUMUMBA:</strong> There are some people historically who have always tried to separate the populations and to have a certain portion of the population oppress the rest of the population. We’re not going to tolerate that. We’re going to move ahead. We’re going to let everyone participate in this movement forward. We’re going to invite everyone to participate in this movement forward. And we have formed like a people’s assembly, that’s key to what we’ve done here, where we have—every three months, the population can come out and participate in an open forum to say what’s on their mind.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That was Chokwe Lumumba in 2013, when he was mayor-elect, in the very same studio that you, Mayor-elect Lumumba, are sitting in right now. In that speech we just played that you gave at the People’s Summit, where I first met you just a few weeks ago, in Chicago, you said, "We’re going to be the most radical city on the planet." What does that look like?</p><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> It looks like a plan where we, you know, change the way we view electoral politics. You know, in that speech, I spoke about not accepting someone’s agenda for our lives, but creating one ourselves. So, giving people more control of their governance is what that looks like. It’s an inclusive process. Sometimes when we use the word "radical," people find themselves in fear and question whether they’re a part of that radical agenda. And that’s exactly our plan, is to incorporate more people, giving people voice who have not had it. That is a shift from what we’ve seen in traditional politics. It’s usually the lay of the land is given to those who are most privileged. And so, we’re trying to incorporate more people in the process, give voice to the voiceless.</p><p>And it starts with identifying, you know, the areas of greatest need. We need to show our workers, our city workers, and, you know, even the unionized work that we need—we need to show people dignity and respect in their jobs and also see the economic benefit of it. You know, Jackson is like many cities: It does not have a problem producing wealth; it has a problem maintaining wealth. And so, if you put more money in the people’s hands that live and work here, you stand a greater chance of receiving it back. And so we’re also going to look at practical solutions to our problems. It is about forming relationships. It is about operational unity and making certain that you can work with people who may historically find themselves on the opposite end of a struggle that you may be engaged in, such as the state, such as, you know, a Trump administration. And so you want to identify your common ends and see how you exploit those common goals in order to arrive at the solutions that benefit us all. But it’s also about how you take—make better use of the resources you have. What we look at as—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Mayor-elect, I’m going to interrupt just because we only have a minute—</p><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> Yes.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —and I want to ask, Jackson drew a lot of attention earlier this year, when Daniela Vargas, who is a 22-year-old undocumented immigrant, was arrested by ICE after she had just held a news conference. Her pending application for renewal of DACA status, it was pending. Is Jackson going to be a sanctuary city?</p><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> Jackson is going to be a city which protects human rights for human beings. I don’t care whether your ancestors arrived on the Mayflower or whether you joined us more recently, you deserve the same protections and respect in this city. And so, I find—we find ourselves in interesting times, where the word "sanctuary" becomes a negative phrase. I’m proud of the work my father did in order to secure an anti-racial-profiling ordinance in the city, and we will continue to protect everyone who lives within our city, and make sure that they’re not harassed.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And the issue of police accountability? In the last weeks, we have seen two police officers acquitted or cases with mistrials around the killing of African-American motorists. Your thoughts?</p><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> I think we have a criminal justice system in our country which is entirely out of hand. You know, it’s the largest business going. And the fact that we’ve made the criminal justice system into more of an industry, it provides or creates a culture that allows for people to be harassed, killed and shuffled in like cattle.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We have 10 seconds.</p><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> And so, that encourages an environment of police brutality. And so, what we want to do is be ahead of the curve in the city of Jackson. We want to see programs which—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’re going to have to leave it there.</p><p><strong>MAYOR-ELECT CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA:</strong> —which deal with community sensitivity.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I thank you so much, and we’ll cover your—the day you become mayor.</p></div></div><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/6/26/jackson_miss_mayor_elect_chokwe_lumumba" width="400"></iframe></p> Wed, 28 Jun 2017 10:54:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1078847 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Chokwe Lumumba jackson ms progressive mayors democracy now Web Exclusive: Naomi Klein on How to Resist Trump's Shock Politics https://www.alternet.org/activism/web-exclusive-naomi-klein-how-resist-trumps-shock-politics <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Naomi Klein&#039;s new book is No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2017-06-17_at_11.53.05_am.png?itok=d3JZS-kG" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Part 2 of our interview with Naomi Klein about her book, "No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need."</p><p>Watch Part 1: <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2017/6/13/full_interview_naomi_klein_on_no">Full Interview: Naomi Klein on 'No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics’</a></p><p> </p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/6/14/part_2_of_naomi_klein_interview" width="640"></iframe><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman. And we’re joined by Naomi Klein, who’s just written the book <em>No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need</em>. Accompanying the book, <em>Intercept</em> just made a video, which we’re going to play an excerpt for you now.</p><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Shock.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>MEGYN KELLY:</strong> Shocking.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>STEPHEN COLBERT:</strong> I don’t think I could sit down right now.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ALISYN CAMEROTA:</strong> You mean—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>WILLIE GEIST:</strong> Historic, astounding, shocking.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> It’s a word that’s come up a lot since November, for obvious reasons.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>KELLYANNE CONWAY:</strong> He’s going to inject a shock to the system.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Now, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about shock. Ten years ago, I published <em>The Shock Doctrine</em>, an investigation that spanned four decades, from Pinochet’s U.S.-backed coup in 1970s Chile to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I noticed a brutal and recurring tactic by right-wing governments. After a shocking event—a war, a coup, a terrorist attack, market crash or natural disaster—exploit the public’s disorientation, suspend democracy, push through radical policies that enrich the 1 percent at the expense of the poor and middle class.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> This is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>GARY COHN:</strong> We’re going to cut taxes and simplify the tax code.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Now, some people have said that’s exactly what Trump has been trying to do. Is it true? Well, sort of. But in all likelihood, the worst is yet to come, and we better be ready. The administration is creating chaos, daily.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>JUJU CHANG:</strong> Breaking news: Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has resigned tonight.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ANDERSON COOPER:</strong> All of a sudden, the White House is concerned about James Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s email?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>CBS NEWS ANCHOR:</strong> A Senate committee will question President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner about his meeting with officials from a Russian bank.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Now, of course many of the scandals are the result of the president’s ignorance and blunders, not some nefarious strategy. But there’s also no doubt that some savvy people around Trump are using the daily shocks as cover to advance wildly pro-corporate policies that bear little resemblance to what Trump pledged on the campaign trail.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>DONALD TRUMP:</strong> Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>MSNBC ANCHOR:</strong> The White House released its budget for 2018, and among the $4 trillion in cuts it proposes are billions upon billions of dollars slashed from both Medicaid and Social Security.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> And the worst part, this is likely just the warm-up. We need to focus on what this administration will do when it has a major external shock to exploit. Maybe it will be an economic crash like 2008, maybe a natural disaster like Sandy, or maybe it will be a horrific terrorist event like Manchester or Paris in 2015. Any one such crisis could redraw the political map overnight. And it could give Trump and his crew free rein to ram through their most extreme ideas.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>But here is one thing I’ve learned over two decades of reporting from dozens of crises around the world: These tactics can be resisted. And, for your convenience, I’ve tried to boil it down to a five-step plan.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Step one: Know what’s coming. What would happen if a horror like the one in Manchester took place on U.S. soil? Based on Trump’s obvious fondness for authoritarianism, we can expect him to impose some sort of state of exception or emergency where the usual rules of democracy no longer apply. Protests and strikes that block roads and airports, like the ones that sprung up to resist the Muslim travel ban, would likely be declared a threat to national security. Protest organizers would be targeted under anti-terror legislation, with surveillance, arrests and imprisonment. With public signs of dissent suppressed, the truly toxic to-do list would quickly bubble up: bring in the feds to pacify the streets, muzzle investigative journalism—you know he’s itching to.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> You weren’t called. Sit down!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> The courts, who Trump would inevitably blame for the attacks, might well lose their courage. And the most lethal shock we need to prepare for: a push for a full-blown foreign war. And, no, it won’t matter if the target has no connection to the attacks used to justify it.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:</strong> What did Iraq have to do with what?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>REPORTER:</strong> The attack on the World Trade Center.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:</strong> Nothing.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Preparing for all this is crucial. If we know what to expect, we won’t be that shocked. We’ll just be pissed.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And that’s important for step two: Get out of your home and defy the bans. When governments tell people to stay in their homes or show their patriotism by going shopping, they inevitably claim it’s for public safety, that protests and rallies could become targets for more attacks. What we know from other countries is that there is only one way to respond.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>EURONEWS ANCHOR:</strong> Hundreds of Tunisians have been defying the curfew in the capital, Tunis.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Disobey en masse. That’s what happened in Argentina in 2001. With the country in economic free fall, the president at the time declared a state of siege, giving himself the power to suspend the constitution.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>FERNANDO DE LA RÚA:</strong> [translated] I declared a state of siege across the entire country.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> He told the public to stay in their houses. Here’s what they did instead.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PROTESTER:</strong> Argentina!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> The president resigned that night. And eventually new elections were held.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Three years later, in Madrid, a horrifying series of coordinated attacks on trains killed more than 200 people. The prime minister, José María Aznar, falsely pointed the finger at Basque separatists and also used the attacks to justify his decision to send troops to Iraq. His rhetoric was classic shock doctrine: division, war, fear—Daddy will protect you. This is how Spaniards responded.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PROTESTERS:</strong> [translated] Resignation! Resignation!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> They voted out Aznar a few days later. Many people said they did it because he reminded them of Franco, Spain’s former dictator.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Which brings us to step three: Know your history. Throughout U.S. history, national crises have been used to suspend constitutional protections and attack basic rights. After the Civil War, with the nation in crisis, the promise of 40 acres and a mule to freed slaves was promptly betrayed. In the midst of the pain and panic of the Great Depression, as many as 2 million people of Mexican descent were expelled from the United States. After the Pearl Harbor attacks, around 120,000 Japanese Americans were jailed in internment camps. If an attack on U.S. soil were perpetrated by people who were not white and Christian, we can be pretty damn sure that racists would have a field day. And the good folks of Manchester recently showed us how to respond to that.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PROTESTER:</strong> The people of Manchester don’t stand with your xenophobia and racism!</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Something else we know from history, step four: Always follow the money. While everyone is focused on security and civil liberties, Trump’s Cabinet of billionaires will try to quietly push through even more extreme measures to enrich themselves and their class, like dismantling Social Security or auctioning off major pieces of government for profit.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> Today we’re proposing to take American air travel into the future.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> It’s in those moments when fear and chaos are sucking up all the oxygen when we most have to ask: Whose interests are being served by the chaos? What is being slipped through while we’re distracted? Who’s getting richer, and who’s getting even poorer?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>WENDELL PIERCE:</strong> When the floodwaters were still rising in New Orleans, one of the first official acts that the governor did was to fire all the teachers. What’s happening is a raid of the money set aside for public education to be given to private companies. It wasn’t by happenstance. It was by design. You saw the political manipulations and taking advantage of the crisis.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> But if we learn from this history, we could actually make history, with step five: Advance a bold counterplan. At their best, all the previous steps can only slow down attempts to exploit crisis. If we actually want to defeat this tactic, opponents of the shock doctrine need to move quickly to put forward a credible alternate plan. It needs to get at the root of why these sorts of crises are hitting us with ever greater frequency. And that means we have to talk about militarism, climate change and deregulated markets. More than that, we need to advance and fight for different models, ones grounded in racial, economic and gender justice, ones that hold out the credible promise of a tangibly better and fairer life in the here and now and a safer planet for all of us in the long term.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That video, produced by <em>The Intercept</em>. Their senior correspondent, Naomi Klein, author of the new book, released this week, <em>No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need</em>. Yes, a shock. You’re a specialist in analyzing what happens next, Naomi.</p><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Right. And, you know, the reason why I wrote this book very quickly, for me—you know, it usually takes me five years to write a book; I did this in less than five months—is because I really wanted it to come out before any kind of major crisis hits the United States. I mean, lots of people out there see Trump himself as a crisis, and, you know, I would tend to agree, but what really has me scared is what this configuration of characters in the Trump administration—Pence, Bannon, Betsy DeVos, Steve Mnuchin, all these Goldman Sachs alum who are in the Cabinet—how they would respond to a large-scale crisis that they themselves are not creating. I mean, the chaos is chaos they’re generating themselves, either deliberately or out of incompetence and avarice, but what happens if there’s a 2008-like financial crisis? What happens, you know, heaven forbid, if there is a Manchester-like attack in the United States?</p><p>The actions of this administration make these types of shocks more likely, not less, right? They’re deregulating the banks, creating the conditions for another crash. They are antagonizing the world, particularly the Muslim world. You know, ISIS apparently called Trump’s Muslim travel ban a "blessed ban," because it was so good for recruitment. They are—you know, they are making climate disasters more likely with everything they’re doing to deregulate industry, deregulate for polluters. You know, there’s a lag time between that and when the climate shocks hit, but the truth is, we’ve already warmed the planet enough that no U.S. president can get through a year, let alone a term, without some sort of major climate-related disaster.</p><p>So, how does this group of—this Cabinet of disaster capitalists, is what I call them, Amy, because there is such a track record of taking advantage of crisis, whether we’re looking at the Goldman Sachs—former Goldman Sachs executives and the way they profited from the subprime mortgage crisis to increase their own personal wealth, whether it’s Mike Pence and the central role he played when New Orleans was still underwater to come up with a corporate wish list to push through. So, you know, as disastrous as Trump’s policies have been so far, there’s actually long, toxic to-do lists, things that people around Trump and Trump himself have been—have very openly said they would like to do, but they have actually not been able either to get through without a crisis or they haven’t even tried, right? Think about Trump’s threats to bring back torture. Think about his threats to bring the feds into Chicago. Think about his threats not just to have a Muslim travel ban from specific countries, but not to let Muslims into the country, period.</p><p>So I think we do need to prepare for this. And what I tried to do with this video is create a little toolkit of, you know, what I have seen work in other countries, because I have been reporting on shocks and large-scale disasters and how societies respond now for a couple of decades, and I’ve seen some amazing acts of resistance, you know?</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And talk about those. We saw some images of them here.</p><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Yeah. So, one of the things I think we could really count on Trump to do, particularly if there is any kind of terrorism-related shock—and let’s be clear: There have been terrorism events, white supremacist terrorism, in the United States during the Trump era, but of course he doesn’t treat those as a crisis. So, an event that they decided was a large-scale crisis, we already know from the way Trump responded to the London Bridge attacks—he immediately said, "This is why we need to bring back my travel ban." After the Manchester attacks, he immediately said, "This is about immigrants flooding across our borders." In fact, the person responsible for those attacks was born in the U.K. It doesn’t matter. You know, we know this from 9/11, that the way—these crises are used as opportunities to push through policies that actually have very little to do with getting at root causes, and, in many cases, exacerbate—most notably, the invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11, but it was just that sheer opportunism.</p><p>So, you know, what I’ve seen is, I think, in all likelihood, they would declare a state of emergency, some sort of state of exception, where they’re able to ban protests, like the protests we saw, the very inspiring protests in the face of the Muslim travel ban. They would say, "No, you can’t block a road. You can’t block an airport. This is—you could be a target of terrorism yourself. Stay in your homes."</p><p>So, you know, I give a few examples, like Argentina in 2001, when, as the president was declaring a state of siege and telling people to stay in their homes, people described not being able to hear him because the sound from the streets was so loud, the roar of pots and pans, and neighbors flooding out of their homes and going to the Plaza de Mayo and refusing this state of siege, was—that they drowned him out. They literally couldn’t hear him. So other people left their houses. And, you know, in that moment, that’s the moment to resist. You know, that is the moment to just not accept it. And it’s really a question of strength in numbers, because if it is only the kind of hardcore activists that are out on the streets, it’s really easy to crush small protests. It’s harder to do it when it is hundreds of thousands of people. So I wanted to share some of these stories of societies that have just said, "We will not let you do it." Right?</p><p>I was in France, as were you, Amy, a week after the horrific terrorist attacks in 2015. We were there for the Paris climate summit. A week before, 200 people had been killed in Paris in coordinated attacks. The French government, under François Hollande, a Socialist government—Socialist in name only, but, you know, a left government—declared a state of emergency and banned political gatherings of more than five people. You know, if that can happen in France under a Socialist government, in a country with a very deep history of disruptive strikes, what do we expect Trump and Bannon and Pence to do at the earliest opportunity? So, I think it’s important to strategize.</p><p>It’s important to know the history in the United States. You know, in all these countries, the examples I give—Argentina, why did they flood out of their houses? You ask people. They said, "It reminded us of the beginning of the dictatorship in 1976. That’s how it started. They told us that we weren’t safe and that it was going to be a temporary state of emergency. And it ended up turning into a dictatorship." So they saw the early signs, and they said, "No, not again. <em>Nunca más</em>." Right? You know, we talked to Americans about this. They say, "Well, we don’t have that history." Really? What about the Japanese internment, you know? What about, as you’ve written, Amy, what about what happened to Mexican—Mexican Americans in the United States during the Great Depression and during that crisis and the mass deportations? There is this history in many communities, and those communities keep that history alive. You know, during Hurricane Katrina, so many African Americans talked about the history of how crises had been used to further oppress black people in this country. But these stories are offloaded into those communities, who hold them and keep that history alive. It isn’t nationally metabolized, right? And so we have to share these stories. And I do think there is a memory now of what happened after September 11th and the rights that were lost and the ways in which people’s grief was exploited by men in power who said, "Trust me." Don’t make that mistake again.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What about the connection to war? I mean, you have what happened in Manchester, the horror there. You have the continued deaths in Yemen, the U.S.-backed Saudi bombing. Now the U.S. has expanded both in Somalia and in the Philippines with U.S. forces.</p><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Mm-hmm, yeah.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> You have this horrific attack that took place in Kabul, where over 150 Afghans died. It hardly got any attention. But the rage that must be brewing at the grassroots when they don’t get any media attention from the West?</p><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Yeah, right, right. You know, people are being erased, you know, and this is a very, very old story. No, they’re already expanding the battlefields, escalating on multiple, multiple fronts. And, you know, this is the most dangerous, most lethal way that shocking events are exploited, people’s fear exploited.</p><p>And, you know, let’s remember that this administration will have various motivations for changing the subject away from their domestic scandals. And Trump has never gotten better media coverage than in the wake of the—his Syrian missile strike, you know, called "beautiful" by Brian Williams. And it’s—you know, suddenly, he was presidential—right?—ordering cruise missiles over delicious chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago. So, you know, we have to be very, very vigilant about this.</p><p>And, you know, the U.S. has had a strong antiwar movement in the past, but that antiwar movement hasn’t been in the streets in the same way. And, you know, I think that this—these resistance movements are going to have to get ready for that kind of a shock, because once the wars begin, you know, it’s very hard to stop them.</p><p>Another example, I think, of shock resistance, we just saw in the U.K. during Jeremy Corbyn’s—during Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, where Theresa May was exploiting the Manchester attacks, the London Bridge attacks, to say, "We are going to, you know, have to get rid of your online privacy. You know, we need backdoors into all of your communication apps. We may need to suspend human rights law." And Jeremy Corbyn was talking about root causes, the failure of the war-on-terror paradigm and how this is leading to an increase in these types of attacks. And, you know, I think that a lot of people decided that that made more sense after these many years, like not to double down and give up rights in these moments, but to try to understand why this is happening and to do something about it.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And so, Theresa May lost her Conservative majority in the Parliament. On Saudi Arabia, the first country President Trump went to, the first foreign country, was Saudi Arabia. He does the orb with the Saudi Arabians. He does the sword dances, or tries, with the Saudi Arabians.</p><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> The sword stumble.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> He seals these deals, well over $110 billion, leaves there extolling the Saudi leadership and attacks the European leaders, and then comes home, and, despite the almost begging of the European leaders on the issue of the climate accord, he not only attacks them, but then comes home to the United States and announces he’s withdrawing from the very accord they’re pleading with him to remain in. What about this primacy of Saudi Arabia right now, both its connection to war, with the U.S.-backed Saudi bombing of Yemen, which is leading to a horrific cholera epidemic, not to mention just the number of deaths, and climate change?</p><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. You know, one of the things that really worries me is how motivated these petrostates are to have more instability, because that sends the price of oil up, and, you know, their profits flow even more. It’s something that the Saudis have in common with the Russians, have in common with Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon. You know, the way I think we should see that foreign trip of Trump’s is basically as traveling weapons salesman, right? And he’s sending this message: You buy enough American weapons, you’re our friend. You know? Like this is the price. So he heaps praise on Saudi Arabia for, you know, having done that, having made that deal, and he goes to Europe, and he screams at them, you know, NATO members, for not pulling their weight, right? Which means not buying enough weapons. You know, I’m Canadian. I’m Canadian-American, dual citizen. But my government shamefully came home and announced a massive—sorry, a massive increase in weapons spending. So, you know, this is—this is Trump’s foreign policy, is traveling weapons salesman.</p><p> </p> Sat, 17 Jun 2017 11:48:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1078486 at https://www.alternet.org Activism Activism Books The Right Wing amy goodman naomi klein Naomi Klein: Climate Movement Is Growing Even More Ambitious as U.S. Goes Rogue and Exits Paris Accord (Video) https://www.alternet.org/environment/naomi-klein-climate-movement-growing-even-more-ambitious-us-goes-rogue-and-exits-paris <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The journalist and author says that Trump&#039;s Paris withdrawal is &quot;proving to be more of a catalyst&quot; for the global climate movement.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/naomi_klein_1.jpg?itok=oDLT75MN" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The United States has refused to sign on to a G7 pledge saying the 2015 landmark Paris climate accord is "irreversible."</p><p>On Monday, the U.S. said it would not join the six other member nations in signing on to the pledge. This comes after President Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the historic accord.</p><p>For more on Paris, the climate and the Trump administration, we speak with best-selling author and journalist Naomi Klein, whose new book is "No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need."</p><p>Watch:</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/6/13/naomi_klein_climate_movement_is_growing" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Well, earlier this month, President Trump announced he will withdraw from the United—the United States from the landmark Paris climate accord that was signed by nearly 200 nations in 2015.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.</p></blockquote><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> In his speech, Trump said he wants to negotiate a better climate deal.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> So we’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine. ... I’m willing to immediately work with Democratic leaders to either negotiate our way back into Paris, under the terms that are fair to the United States and its workers, or to negotiate a new deal that protects our country and its taxpayers.</p></blockquote><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Naomi Klein, a better deal?</p><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> I just can’t wait, Juan. I mean, it’s been—took 25 years to get this deal, but I’m just looking for to another 25 years—right?—to get an even better deal, because when it comes to climate change, we’ve got nothing but time, you know? Sorry. That was unfair sarcasm for <em>Democracy Now!</em></p><p>But no, I—I mean, everything about what he said is just so extraordinary, and in particular this idea that the deal is unfair to the United States, that it’s this draconian, top-down. I mean, the deal is so weak, right? And the reason it is weak is because it doesn’t impose anything on anyone. And the people who made sure of that were the U.S. negotiators, who fought tooth and nail—and this is not under Trump, this is under Obama—but, you know, in large part because they had to bring the deal back to the U.S., and if it was a binding treaty, they would have had to get it ratified by a Republican-controlled House, and they knew that they couldn’t, right? So the U.S. fought the world, which wanted a legally binding treaty, and said, "Well, then you won’t have us involved."</p><p>So, what the deal actually is is really just a kind of patchwork of the best that every country could bring to the table. The U.S. brought Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a plan to accelerate the decommissioning of coal-fired power plants, new restrictions on new coal-fired power plants that would require that they sequester more carbon. It was a fraction of what the U.S. needed to do to do its share of the goal of the Paris accord, which is to keep warming below 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius. You know, then that deal was announced, I joked that the governments of the world came together and said, "We know it what we need to do, and we’re willing to do roughly half that." Right? Because if you add it up, what all the governments brought to the table, it didn’t lead to a trajectory that would keep warming below what they said they wanted to do, but it would lead to warming of double that.</p><p>But under Trump, they had already announced that weren’t even going to do that. So this whole debate about Paris was whether or not the U.S. was going to stay in the accord but treat it as if it wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, which would have had, you know, a very insidious moral hazard for other governments, because then if you have a volunteer, kind of good-faith agreement and the largest economy in the world is treating it like a joke, which is what would have happened if Trump had stayed—they made that clear as soon as they said that they were rolling back the Clean Power Plan—then that would have encouraged other governments that were already starting to slip, like the government of Canada, under Trudeau—you know, went to Paris, made all kinds of wonderful speeches and then went home and approved two new tar sands pipelines and cheered when President Trump approved the Keystone XL pipeline. So that’s three new tar sands pipelines. You know—</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Well, that’s—I wanted to ask you about that, just the impact on the climate change movement within the last three months, all of these reversals of Trump—</p><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Yeah.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> —Keystone, Dakota Access.</p><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> What’s your sense now of how the movement will be able to function?</p><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> And also, the importance of the local resistance, of cities and states, to the federal government?</p><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Well, to be honest, I mean, I think that this—just the shock of just seeing Trump in the Rose Garden just lifting that middle finger to the world, I think that is proving to be more of a catalyst for other countries and for states here in the U.S. and cities here in the U.S. to understand that this is the moment to step up, to increase ambitions, whereas I think if it had been more ambiguous and they had stayed in and sort of pretended like there was something happening—and, well, is Ivanka having a good influence on him? Are things about to get better?—I mean, I don’t think we would have seen this kind of very bold response of having hundreds of mayors step forward and say, "No, we’re committed to Paris," the mayor of Pittsburgh coming forward and saying—you know, after Trump said, "I was elected by the people of Pittsburgh, not the people of Paris," the mayor of Pittsburgh stepping up and going, "Actually, you were not elected in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh voted for Hillary. And I’m going to get the city of Pittsburgh to 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2035," which is exactly the level of ambition we need across the board if we’re going to hit that ambitious temperature target in the Paris accord, if we’re going to keep temperatures below 1.5. So, you know, that—I think this is—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And then you have the—</p><p><strong>NAOMI KLEIN:</strong> Obviously, we would like this not to be happening. We would like Donald Trump not to be president. We would like not to have such an array of bad options on the table. But given what we have, I would say that people are stepping up. And that is what the climate movement needs to be doing, is sending this very clear message that because of the recklessness, because the U.S. at the federal level has gone rogue, at every level that Trump does not control, whether it is universities and their fossil fuel holdings, you know, whether it is states and their ability to get to 100 percent renewable very, very quickly—because we don’t get our energy at the federal level; we get it at the state level, we get it at the provincial level, we get it at the city level—at all those places where Trump doesn’t control things, there has to be an increase of ambition. And thankfully, the climate justice movement is, you know, I think, really focused on that and understands that that’s the mission now. And I think we’re seeing more ambition, including universities being likelier to divest their holdings, putting financial pressure on the industry.</p><p> </p> Tue, 13 Jun 2017 15:00:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Juan González, Democracy Now! 1078293 at https://www.alternet.org Environment Activism Environment News & Politics Video World Paris agreement climate change naomi klein China's Arrest of Activists Investigating Ivanka Trump-Linked Factory Unprecedented https://www.alternet.org/labor/china-watchdog-chinas-arrest-activists-investigating-ivanka-trump-linked-factory-unprecedented <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">China is refusing to release three activists who were arrested while they were investigating labor conditions.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/china_factory.jpg?itok=BOvLnlXF" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>China is refusing to release three activists who were arrested while they were investigating labor conditions at a factory manufacturing Ivanka Trump brand shoes. The three men were working with the New York-based nonprofit China Labor Watch. The arrests came just weeks after Ivanka Trump secured three new exclusive trademarks in China. China accuses the investigators of interfering with the operation of the factory. China Labor Watch denies the allegations and says this is the first time in nearly two decades of its existence that any of its investigators have been detained. Amnesty International has joined in demanding the release of the trio. To talk more about what this means, we are joined in Washington, D.C., by Kevin Slaten, who was program coordinator for China Labor Watch until last year.</p><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We begin today’s show in China, which is refusing to release three activists who were arrested while they were investigating labor conditions at a factory manufacturing Ivanka Trump brand shoes. The three men were working with the New York-based nonprofit China Labor Watch. The group was reportedly planning to release a report next month revealing factory workers at the supplier, Huajian International, were forced to work excessive overtime, verbally abused and paid wages below China’s legal minimum.</p><p>China accuses the three investigators with using illegal surveillance equipment and interfering with the operation of the factory. China Labor Watch denies the allegations and says this is the first time in nearly two decades of its existence that any of its investigators have been detained and faced criminal charges. Amnesty International has joined in demanding the release of the trio. On Monday, China rejected a State Department request to free the men, its statement that also marked the first time the government has confirmed their detention. This is China’s Foreign Office spokesperson.</p><blockquote><p><strong>HUA CHUNYING:</strong> [translated] The people you mentioned were summoned and investigated on suspicion of interfering with the company’s normal operations and production activities. Public security officials also found they were in illegal possession of and under suspicion of using wiretapping or other professional surveillance equipment. Those people were detained in accordance with the law, and the case remains under investigation.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> The Ivanka Trump company has declined to comment on the case. The arrests came just weeks after Ivanka Trump secured three new exclusive trademarks in China—the very same day she and her father, President Trump, had dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s private resort in Florida. Ivanka has also recently filed numerous additional Chinese trademark applications. According to <em>The Wall Street Journal</em>, 14 applications were filed by her business on March 28th, a day before she was named White House adviser. Her company has said the applications were filed to prevent others from profiting from her name rather than as an attempt to boost sales in China. Ivanka Trump no longer manages her $50 million company, but she retains an ownership stake, so she can still benefit from the company’s profits. It was not Ivanka Trump herself that filed for the trademarks in China, but it was the company.</p><p>To talk more about what this means, we’re joined in Washington, D.C., by Kevin Slaten, who was program coordinator for China Labor Watch until last year. He knew the three investigators currently detained in China, and has researched Chinese labor conditions for over seven years, continuing to monitor closely human rights and foreign policy developments in China.</p><p>Kevin, welcome to <em>Democracy Now!</em> Where are these three investigators? These three human rights activists investigating labor conditions at the Ivanka Trump brand factory, where are they being held?</p><p><strong>KEVIN SLATEN:</strong> Hi, Amy. Currently, the three, according to information we have from one of the investigators’ lawyers, who spoke to the media a couple days ago, as well as according to other news media, they’re being held in Ganzhou, which is in Jiangxi province, which is in southern part of China. And that’s where the investigation, one of the factories that they were investigating, is located.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And under what conditions are they being held?</p><p><strong>KEVIN SLATEN:</strong> I mean, a lot of that information isn’t really known. We know, from what the lawyers said, that they were being held in—that one of the people was being held in a group cell of 20 people, that he had to sleep just a couple feet away from a urinal—they said a bucket that people would use as a urinal, and he had to sleep like that. And it was very—said it was very uncomfortable. I mean, one of the overarching problems here is that a lot of access is being denied, and China doesn’t really have a—it has a terrible record of guaranteeing prisoners’ rights and of torture, especially for people who could be political prisoners, like these three.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, can you explain, Kevin Slaten, where this factory is, what it does, how you know, then how these researchers knew, that it was making Ivanka Trump brand shoes?</p><p><strong>KEVIN SLATEN:</strong> Well, just to be clear, I left China Labor Watch early last year, in February 2016, so I wasn’t part of the investigation. However, I know, from what I’ve read and some communication recently with China Labor Watch, that they sent people undercover. These three investigators, I don’t know if all of them were undercover, but at least one of them was undercover. They were doing worker interviews outside of the factory and gathering other information around two factories that they, through worker interviews and—I haven’t seen video or pictures, but typically you would get video and pictures to prove it. The report hasn’t come out yet, so I don’t—I don’t know from the report if they got that information. But typically that’s how you would show that the products that you were—that you were—like Ivanka Trump’s products and other brands were actually being produced there. However, Marc Fisher, the company Marc Fisher, which is the intermediary for Ivanka Trump’s production, did not deny that their products are being made there. Ivanka Trump’s company didn’t deny they’re being made there. So, I think that’s not really a question of whether or not they’re being made in those factories.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> The Chinese government said, in the SOT that we—in the quote that we just played, that these men are being held under suspicion of using wiretapping or professional surveillance equipment.</p><p><strong>KEVIN SLATEN:</strong> Mm-hmm, yeah, this is the—what’s been said by the Foreign Ministry. It’s also what the actual—the official charges, at least for one person. Only one person, we know about their actual charge. It’s extremely unusual that in the context of labor investigations in China—as somebody who’s been involved in this for many years and also knows many people who had actually done these investigations in China, it’s extremely unusual to actually bring this charge against somebody. In fact, it’s unprecedented.</p><p>These sorts of investigations are not unusual in China, the undercover—whether it’s undercover investigations or just asking workers into the labor conditions connected to global supply chains. As China Labor Watch has said to media, and I think you mentioned this, for almost two decades, they’ve done hundreds of these investigations. And this sort of national-level reaction by the government is unprecedented. And it suggests something beyond just the investigations that they say they’ve arrested these individuals for. And it’s—there’s something unusual about this. You know, we can surmise that it might have something to do with Ivanka Trump’s products, but we don’t have direct evidence of that currently.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And so, what does the State Department—interestingly, the State Department, under President Trump—what is it doing to have these men released?</p><p><strong>KEVIN SLATEN:</strong> Well, I only know, I think, what you may know from what the State Department has said, that it made a statement calling for the release and calling for the guarantee of their legal rights, or the protection of their legal rights. And that was quickly dismissed by China’s government. Other than that, behind the scenes, I’m unclear about what they may be doing.</p><p>I do think that the statement might have had an effect, because the lawyer who was denied access repeatedly to Hua Haifeng, one of the investigators, was given access shortly after it was reported, and was given a good amount of time to talk to him. So, it does matter when the U.S. government says something. And even more, it matters when the buyers of these companies say something.</p><p>In the past, it’s not unusual for local governments—now, I talked about all these investigations that have occurred in the past. It’s not unusual for local governments to have some—to retaliate in some way towards investigators, but that retaliation is usually a slap on the wrist, kicking them out of the city, you know, firing—making sure they’re out of the factories so they’re not revealing more information. But some of the reaction that’s been taken—denying access to lawyers, denying access to family, not notifying family, blocking them from leaving the country days before they were even arrested, apparently—this is—this shows that this is a national-level, coordinated political case.</p><p>And the State Department comments, the U.S. government commenting on this, and the companies that may be at the center of this, particularly Ivanka Trump’s company and Ivanka Trump herself, commenting on this, in a way to call for the protection of the rights of these investigators, is extremely important and could really have a dramatic effect on their treatment.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I’d like to go back to Ivanka Trump speaking in April. She was interviewed about potential conflicts of interest by Gayle King on CBS’s <em>This Morning</em>.</p><blockquote><p><strong>GAYLE KING:</strong> When we talk about the Ivanka Trump brand, you are no longer running the day-to-day.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>IVANKA TRUMP:</strong> No, I’m no longer—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>GAYLE KING:</strong> What have you done with your business?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>IVANKA TRUMP:</strong> I have no involvement with any of it. And I felt like proximity to my father and to the White House and with my husband taking such an influential role in the administration, I didn’t want to also be running a business. So, I put it into trust. I have independent trustees. I have no involvement in its management, in its oversight, in its strategic decision-making.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>GAYLE KING:</strong> But the trustees are family members, right? Your brother-in-law and your sister-in-law?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>IVANKA TRUMP:</strong> They are.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>GAYLE KING:</strong> So, from a—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>IVANKA TRUMP:</strong> But they’re completely independent, and I’m transparent about that.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>GAYLE KING:</strong> Can you see, from the public point of view—yes, you put it in trust, but it’s family members—they’re thinking, "Well, is she really not involved?" Do you really not get on the phone and say, "What’s going on?" Do you have no involvement whatsoever?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>IVANKA TRUMP:</strong> I take—I take a legal document very seriously, and I wouldn’t go through the pains of setting this up, if I intended to violate it.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, that is Ivanka Trump. Your response, Kevin Slaten, talking about her company that’s now run by her brother-in-law and sister-in-law?</p><p><strong>KEVIN SLATEN:</strong> Right. I think that it’s extremely—well, at the time, she wasn’t responding to this. It would be extremely disingenuous if she uses that as protection, personal protection here, to disassociate herself with the human rights—the serious human rights violation and labor rights violations going on in her supply chain. Whether or not she’s directly involved with the management, she is benefiting from the profits of this company. This company is using her name. And she’ll benefit even more after she leaves office, whenever that happens.</p><p>Let’s talk about the facts that we do know. Huajian, this company that is at the center of this, the factory that’s at the center of this in China, according to reports, produces something like 100,000 to 200,000 Ivanka Trump shoes per year. It’s the third largest—a third of Ivanka Trump’s orders come from this company every year. They’ve been working with them, reportedly, for 10 years, which means, based on my experience in this field, that makes them a strategic supplier. They are not a new supplier. This isn’t a one-off. This is a long-term partner, which means that they’re at the center of their business and supply chain in China. And according to reports, they were producing up to this year, including in May, when these investigations—at least the preliminary investigation ended.</p><p>So, there is a direct association with Ivanka Trump’s company, and therefore Ivanka Trump, especially because she’s still profiting off of these, with the three investigators and their arrests and the labor violations that they were investigating, the widespread labor violations, that we now are starting to get information about. So, I think that if she did respond in that, whatever legal protection—or legal separation she has from the management of her company, if she were to use that response, it would be extremely disingenuous and unethical.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I wanted to ask about—well, according to <em>The Wall Street Journal</em>, 14 applications were filed by her business on March 28th, the day before she was named White House adviser. Ivanka Trump’s company has said the applications were filed to prevent others from profiting from her name, rather than as an attempt to boost sales in China. And <em>The Wall Street Journal</em> points out Ivanka no longer manages the $50 million company but retains an ownership stake, so she can benefit from the company’s profits. You have—</p><p><strong>KEVIN SLATEN:</strong> Well, talk about disingenuous.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So you have both those trademarks. And then talk about the dinner, where her daughter sang in Chinese to the first Chinese family. She had dinner with the Chinese president and her father, President Trump, at Mar-a-Lago. And talk about what happened that day with the exclusive trademarks she was awarded.</p><p><strong>KEVIN SLATEN:</strong> Well, I mean, I don’t know a tremendous amount of detail about the profits. I know about the timing of it. I know that before she became White House staff, as you just reported, she had applied for multiple—her company had applied for multiple trademarks. And this is the same thing that—it was the case with Donald Trump himself. Dozens, I think it was something like 30, trademarks were approved shortly after he became president, in China—the trademarks were approved in China. And I think it just highlights this tremendous number of conflicts of interest that Trump has more generally, but specifically as it involves China and Chinese companies and Chinese state-owned companies, or banks, I should say. There’s news that Trump’s organization has a lot of debt with Chinese banks. Trump—we mentioned the trademarks.</p><p>Trump himself has products—or his company has products that are mostly produced in China. So there’s lots of different intersections between China, Chinese companies, and really, even if they’re private companies, they’re—it can be influenced by the government, as we can see in this case. So I think there’s a lot of leverage that they could use on the Trumps or even curry favor through this sort of act. It may not be direct, but, you know, this is a—it could be an indirect signal that, "Look, we’re protecting your interests, Ivanka Trump and the Trump family, in China," and it could be an unspoken favor. So, I think that there’s a tremendous number of conflicts of interest involved here.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, you say this is highly unusual. Amnesty has joined in the call for these men to be released. What do you think President Trump can do, as we wrap up, Kevin?</p><p><strong>KEVIN SLATEN:</strong> If President Trump were—forgetting for a second the conflict of interest, just as president of the United States, at least for now, until he completely degrades the office of the presidency, he still has influence, and he still has the ability, when he speaks about specific people, to bring their—to raise the status of their case. And if he were to name these three, and if he were to talk specifically about this case and call for their release, I do believe that, at the very least, it will protect them within prison, as we’ve seen in many, many cases over the years of political prisoners in China. It could get them protection from torture. But it could even secure their release or a quicker release and a faster legal process. So, I do think that prioritizing this and mentioning them would benefit the three investigators. And if we add on top of that the personal connections, I think that there’s a personal responsibility on the part of the Trump family to do something about this.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Kevin Slaten, former program coordinator for China Labor Watch, knows the three investigators currently being detained in China. Thanks so much for being with us.</p><p><strong>KEVIN SLATEN:</strong> Thank you, Amy.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’ll continue to follow this story. When we come back, we’ll go to Iran to learn what has happened in the attack in Tehran. Stay with us.</p><p> </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/6/7/china_watchdog_chinas_arrest_of_activists" width="640"></iframe></p> Sat, 10 Jun 2017 10:11:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1078178 at https://www.alternet.org Labor Human Rights Labor World China ivanka trump Did Trump's Toxic Message of Hate Incite the White Extremist Who Killed Two Bystanders in Portland? https://www.alternet.org/right-wing/trump-campaign-emboldens-white-supremacists <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The attacker was always racist, but the current political climate makes it easier for extremists to act on their beliefs.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2017-05-30_at_4.12.45_pm.png?itok=Jh-D_HTz" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>For the second time in a week, a military man was killed by a white extremist. On Friday, 53-year-old Ricky Best, a retired Army veteran, and 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche were fatally stabbed, with a third man critically injured, as they tried to defend two teenage girls against an attack by a man going on an anti-Muslim rant. The two young women, one of whom wore a Muslim hijab, were riding a commuter train when, according to witnesses, Jeremy Joseph Christian started shouting ethnic and religious slurs. Police arrested Christian, a convicted felon, soon after the attack. "In many ways, I think his rhetoric has more to do with the campaign and the ideas unleashed in the campaign over the last 16, 18 months by the Trump folks than it does with hardcore neo-Nazism. Or at least it’s a mix of the two sets of ideas," says our guest Heidi Beirich, Intelligence Project director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/5/30/did_trump_campaign_rhetoric_empower_the" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p><em>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</em></p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> We begin the show on this day after Memorial Day in Portland, where for the second time in a week a military man was killed by a white extremist. On Friday, 53-year-old Ricky Best, a retired Army veteran, and 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche were fatally stabbed, with a third man critically injured, as they tried to defend two teenage girls against an attack by a man going on an anti-Muslim rant. The two young women, one of whom wore a Muslim hijab, were riding a commuter train when, according to witnesses, Jeremy Joseph Christian started shouting ethnic and religious slurs. Best and Meche, along with a third man who intervened, were stabbed. Best died at the scene. Meche died at a hospital. Portland Police Department spokesperson Pete Simpson described the scene.</p><blockquote><p><strong>SGT. PETE SIMPSON:</strong> Officers at the platform went down onto the train. They found one male victim suffering from traumatic injuries. They attempted lifesaving measures there on the train, but they were unsuccessful. That victim died here at the scene. Two additional stabbing victims were located and immediately transported by medical personnel. One of those victims, when they arrived at the hospital, also passed away. The third victim is at the hospital being treated. He is suffering from what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.</p></blockquote><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> In an emotional interview with CNN, 16-year-old Destinee Mangum, one of the targets of Christian’s hate speech, described what happened. Mangum, who is not Muslim, thanked the three strangers who saved their lives.</p><blockquote><p><strong>DESTINEE MANGUM:</strong> He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia, and he told us that we shouldn’t be here and to get out of his country. He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should just kill ourselves. ... This white male, from the back of us, came, and he was like, "He’s talking to you guys." And he was like, "You guys—you can’t disrespect these young ladies like that." And then they just all started arguing. ... Me and my friend, we were going to get off the MAX. And then we turned around while they were fighting, and he just started stabbing people. And it was just blood everywhere, and we just started running for our lives. ... I just want to say thank you to the people who put their life on the line for me, because they didn’t even know me. And they lost their lives because of me and my friend and the way we looked. And I just want to say thank you to them and their family, and that I appreciate them, because without them, we probably would be dead right now.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> The attack unfolded hours before the start of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month, when most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims observe a daily religious fast. Police arrested Christian, a convicted felon, soon after the attack. He was booked on two counts of aggravated murder and charges of attempted murder, intimidation and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon. Christian was ordered held without bail, is scheduled to be arraigned today. Following the attack, the Portland mayor, Ted Wheeler, announced the city will not issue permits to alt-right groups for planned supremacist rallies in June.</p><p>The attack comes just six days after 23-year-old Richard Collins III, an African-American student at Bowie State University and Army second lieutenant in Maryland, was fatally stabbed by an alleged member of a white supremacist Facebook group called "Alt-Reich: Nation."</p><p>Well, for more, we’re joined by Heidi Beirich. She’s Intelligence Project director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.</p><p>Heidi, welcome to <em>Democracy Now!</em>, joining us from Montgomery, Alabama. Can you tell us what you know about this attack and about this man who will be arraigned today?</p><p><strong>HEIDI BEIRICH:</strong> Yes, well, Jeremy Christian, based on extensive Facebook postings, was motivated by pro-Hitler ideas, a love of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, other extremist ideas, in particular related to the Islamic faith. And it looks like, for some reason, he decided to act out on those anti-Muslim ideas. He was also a Trump supporter who had shown up at Trump rallies, sieg-heiling at one of these events. So he’s a true radical in terms of his ideas.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Well, some people have suggested that the incident fits into the broader pattern or the history of neo-Nazi violence in the Northwest. Could you comment on that?</p><p><strong>HEIDI BEIRICH:</strong> Yeah, I mean, look, the Northwest has been victimized by neo-Nazis and skinheads for a very, very long time. And this also has involved murders of people of color and antiracist activists. There’s no question. Neo-Nazis have tried to move into that region for years to create a homeland, thinking that because it has a white population, that would be a good place to be. But what I find interesting about Jeremy Christian is, although some of those ideas are there in his writings, in many ways, I think his rhetoric has more to do with the campaign and the ideas unleashed in the campaign over the last 16, 18 months by the Trump folks than it does with hardcore neo-Nazism. Or at least it’s a mix of the two, two sets of ideas.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Jeremy Christian’s Facebook page includes several posts in which he espouses extremist views. On April 19, the anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Christian praised Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, writing, "May all the Gods Bless Timothy McVeigh a TRUE PATRIOT!!!" In a post dated May 9th, Christian wrote, "I just Challenged Ben Ferencz (Last Living Nuremberg Persecutor) to a Debate in the Hague with Putin as our judge. I will defend the Nazis and he will defend the AshkeNAZIs"—a reference to European Jews. Heidi, can you talk about this?</p><p><strong>HEIDI BEIRICH:</strong> Yeah, well, look, the praise of McVeigh is particularly troubling. You know, people sometimes forget that McVeigh, who was directly inspired to commit that bombing in 1995 by reading a neo-Nazi novel called <em>The Turner Diaries</em>, that that was the largest domestic terrorist attack prior to 9/11. And there have been many, many people who have praised McVeigh over the years. We had an incident actually just in the past week in Tampa in which four neo-Nazis, one of whom converted to Islam and then killed two of his roommates, had bomb-making material—a very serious incident. There was a picture of McVeigh in their room. And so, when you’re praising McVeigh, what you’re talking about is killing people, and you’re talking about being inspired by white supremacy. And, you know, we also had the incident in Maryland where this black man was killed by someone who was involved in a neo-Nazi, you know, so-called alt-right group. So we’re seeing a lot of this right now. It’s actually quite scary.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> I want to turn to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. Speaking Monday, Wheeler urged white supremacist groups to cancel their plans for upcoming demonstrations in Portland.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MAYOR TED WHEELER:</strong> Our city is in mourning. Our community’s anger is very real. And the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate what is already a very difficult situation. I’m appealing to the organizers of the alt-right events to cancel the events that they’ve scheduled on both June 4th and June 10th. I urge them to ask their supporters to stay away from Portland at this difficult time. There is never a place for bigotry or hatred in our community, and especially not right now.</p></blockquote><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> This comes as the top Republican in Portland said he’s considering using militia groups as security for public events. Meanwhile, Multnomah County GOP Chair James Buchal told <em>The Guardian</em> that Republicans could make their own security arrangements rather than relying on city or state police, including groups like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. This comes as a video recently surfaced of Buchal lamenting what he called "open borders."</p><blockquote><p><strong>JAMES BUCHAL:</strong> His enemies are my enemies, and his enemies are all our enemies. Our enemies want a lot of things that are bad for us. Above all else, they want open borders, because they know if they keep—keep the borders open, bring in all sorts of people from Third World countries who have no conception of liberty, they have no experience with liberty, many of them may not even be interested in it—if they keep doing that, it will change this country forever, and it will destroy everything that is special about America. And this election was very important, because our enemies were on the verge of winning essentially permanently. Eight more years of this, and that may well have been the end. And then Trump got elected. So now our enemies are more dangerous than ever. They’re more ruthless than ever. They’re more determined than ever. We are really in a life-and-death battle for the future of our society.</p></blockquote><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> That was Multnomah County GOP Chair James Buchal. I wanted—Heidi Beirich, your response?</p><p><strong>HEIDI BEIRICH:</strong> Yeah, well, I mean, those are outrageous claims related to bringing in militias and whatnot. You have to wonder if these folks don’t realize that it just wasn’t that long ago that militia groups took over a wildlife refugee in a very, very dangerous, you know, situation in eastern Oregon. And, you know, to hear, on the one hand, the mayor calling for calm and honoring the victims and so on, then have somebody else from the GOP side calling to have militias brought out is just, frankly, frightening.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I wanted to get your response to the ACLU of Oregon saying that Mayor Ted Wheeler’s efforts to keep far-right protesters from holding more rallies in Portland is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment, Heidi.</p><p><strong>HEIDI BEIRICH:</strong> Yeah, I think the ACLU is actually right in that case. We have to protect people’s First Amendment rights regardless of how heinous they are. I can understand the mayor being upset, not wanting to see more hate in his town, but this is probably the wrong tactic to take. A better one would be to continue with the positive events, like the vigils that took place over this past weekend, which draw attention to the better parts of our nature, and allow these other folks to have their events. Unfortunately, their hate will be on parade during them.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Yeah, I wanted to ask you also about how long it took President Trump to respond to these attacks. It was only on Monday that he <a href="https://twitter.com/potus/status/869204433418280961">tweeted</a>, quote, "The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them."</p><p><strong>HEIDI BEIRICH:</strong> You know, President Trump, whose words in the campaign against immigrants, against Muslims, against others, unleashed a wave of hate crimes and bias incidents, especially right after the election. The SPLC had documented about 900 of them in the first 10 days. He has been incredibly reluctant to denounce the hate violence that in many cases has been perpetrated in his name. And this is another example where he waits several days, and then this tweet only went out on the official president of the United States account, not from the Twitter account that he usually fiddles with. You know, he didn’t mention the Jewish population during his Holocaust Remembrance Day speech. It’s outrageous that he won’t stand up and denounce these hate crimes, given the role that he’s played in stoking the anger out there.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What about the Trump administration’s proposal to cut all funding for the Department of Homeland Security program known as Countering Violent Extremism? Can you explain more what that program is and why the Trump administration is trying to get rid of it?</p><p><strong>HEIDI BEIRICH:</strong> Sure. So, under the Obama years, the Countering Violent Extremism set of programs gave money basically to Muslim groups that were fighting extremism in their community and then, in the latter years of the Obama administration, to organizations battling against white supremacy. Of course, the understanding was extremism comes in both those forms, so both need to be fought.</p><p>Now, Trump kind of in the way that he doesn’t seem to realize that there’s a wave of hate crimes breaking out across this country based on racist and white supremacist ideas, it appears that he wants to cut the part of the Countering Violent Extremism program devoted to battling white supremacy. It’s as though domestic terrorism doesn’t come from white supremacist ideas, when in fact in the United States the bulk in recent years of domestic terrorist incidents have not been inspired by radical interpretations of Islam, but by white supremacy, which is, frankly, an indigenous thought process that goes back deep into our history. And like I said, we’ve just had three incidents—Maryland, Tampa and now Portland—that show how dangerous and violent these ideas can become.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Heidi Beirich, we want to thank you very much for being with us, Intelligence Project director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, speaking to us from Montgomery, Alabama.</p><p>This is <em>Democracy Now!</em> When we come back, Yale University professor Tim Snyder, <em>On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century</em>. Stay with us.</p> Tue, 30 May 2017 13:05:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1077646 at https://www.alternet.org The Right Wing The Right Wing Heidi Beirich white supremacists protland attacks islamophobia ricky best taliesin myrddin namkai-meche Why the Manchester Bombing Is Likely Tied to West's Endless Mideast Wars https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-manchester-bombing-likely-tied-wests-endless-mideast-wars <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">And Trump&#039;s cozying up to Saudi Arabia is only making it worse.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_645244645.jpg?itok=qNBpxCkp" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In Britain, nearly 4,000 soldiers have been deployed to support local police departments in the wake of a suicide bombing that killed 22 people and injured dozens at a concert on Monday night. The victims were mostly young girls and parents who had taken their daughters to the concert by American pop star Ariana Grande. Authorities have identified the bombing suspect as Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old British man whose parents emigrated from Libya. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. We speak to British political commentator Tariq Ali.</p><p></p><div class="media-image"><div class="mediaelement-video"><video src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/dn2017-0524.mp4" class="mediaelement-formatter-identifier-1506279018-0" controls="controls" height="222" width="312"></video></div></div><p><strong>Transcript</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong></p><p> This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn to Britain, where nearly 4,000 soldiers have been deployed to support local police departments in the wake of the suicide bombing that killed 22 people and injured dozens at a concert in Manchester Monday night. The victims were mostly young girls and parents who had taken their daughters to the concert by the American pop star Ariana Grande.</p><p>Authorities have identified the bombing suspect as Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old British man whose parents emigrated from Libya. He lived just miles from the stadium that hosted Monday’s concert. Abedi’s name first appeared in the press after it was leaked by U.S. officials to journalists, even though the investigation was still unfolding. British authorities say they don’t believe Abedi acted alone in carrying out the bombing. Police have reportedly detained four people in Manchester as part of the investigation. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.</p><p>Prime Minister Theresa May has announced the threat level in the U.K. will be raised from severe to critical, indicating another attack may be imminent.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY:</strong> This morning, I said that the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the independent organization responsible for setting the threat level on the basis of the intelligence available, was keeping the threat level under constant review. It is now concluded, on the basis of today’s investigations, that the threat level should be increased, for the time being, from severe to critical. This means that their assessment is not only that an attack remains highly likely, but that a further attack may be imminent.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Monday’s suicide bombing marked the deadliest terror attack on British soil since the 2005 London bombings. It came just weeks before Britain’s general election.</p><p>We go no to London to speak with Tariq Ali, political commentator, historian, activist, filmmaker, author, editor of the <em>New Left Review</em>. His latest book has just been published; it’s called <em>The Dilemmas of Lenin: Terrorism, War, Empire, Love, Revolution</em>.</p><p>Tariq, welcome back to <em>Democracy Now!</em></p><p><strong>TARIQ ALI:</strong> Hi, Amy.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Talk about the Manchester bombing, the significance, the reverberations right now, and the investigation that’s going on.</p><p><strong>TARIQ ALI:</strong> Well, so far we know very little, Amy, apart from what you’ve already reported on screen. We don’t know whether this 22-year-old suicide bomber was part of a larger group. We do know that the weapons he carried to blow himself up were of a cruder sort. And many people, most serious and seasoned observers of terrorism, are denying that he was linked to ISIS. ISIS, now itself in deep crisis in the Middle East, is claiming any attack, or wherever it happens in the world, as carried out by one of its own. Basically, very little has been revealed by the British intelligence services so far.</p><p>There was an initial report saying that they knew his identity and knew who he was, but nothing more has been said. The fact that he is of Libyan descent, was born in this country, and his parents were Libyan exiles, can’t be kept unlinked to the war that was waged on Libya, the six-month bombing carried out by NATO, the fact that that country now is totally wrecked. I mean, we have a pattern: This atrocity happens, we all denounce it, everyone says 95, 96 percent of the Muslim community is opposed to all this—which is all true. Then people like myself and a few others from the antiwar movement say this is not unrelated to the war on terror that has been going on now since 2001. Every Arab country that’s occupied, wrecked, has a consequence in Europe.</p><p>So it’s—we’re part of a sort of really vicious, now, cycle, where the wars go on, and terror attacks, carried out usually by tiny jihadi groups or by individuals, as appears to be in this case, goes on. Very little attention now is paid to the foreign policy link with these things, Amy. And that is a bit worrying, because these things started happening in Europe, the United States, after the involvement of the West, in quite a brutal way, in what is going on in the Arab world.</p><p>And the other point to be made is that these terrorist attacks are not confined to Europe. They take place every single day in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and Yemen, Bahrain. So when you have President Trump visiting Saudi Arabia, backing their war in Yemen, backing their war in Bahrain, people feel that the West is colluding with these people. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with freedom and democracy.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Speaking Tuesday in Bethlehem, President Trump responded to the attack in Manchester.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> This is what I’ve spent these last few days talking about during my trip overseas. Our society can have no tolerance for this continuation of bloodshed. We cannot stand a moment longer for the slaughter of innocent people. And in today’s attack, it was mostly innocent children. The terrorists and extremists, and those who give them aid and comfort, must be driven out from our society forever.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That’s President Trump. Tariq Ali, your response?</p><p><strong>TARIQ ALI:</strong> Well, the response is fairly straightforward, Amy, that innocents are being killed by United States policies in different parts of the world. There are seven wars going on at the moment. Trump had promised to change course, as we all know, and everyone was a bit surprised, but he’s now returned to the normal behavior of an American president. He bombed Syria. He has made friends with Saudi Arabia. It was very entertaining to see Steve Bannon, one of his advisers, you know, trapped in a collection of Arab princes and Arab diplomats in Saudi Arabia. So, it’s business as usual.</p><p>We all deplore the loss of lives of innocent people. We do. Everyone does. But we can’t have double standards, in which we say that someone killed in Europe, they’re lives are more valuable than the lives being taken in large parts of the Muslim world. And unless the West understands that these double standards provoke and anger more people, it will carry on.</p><p>How do you stop it? I mean, they’re doing all sorts of things in Britain. They’ve got a prevent campaign to preempt all this. What does it say? It tells schoolteachers to spy on students. It tells children in schools, "If you hear one of your fellow students"—obviously Muslim—"saying something that is unacceptable, do report him." I mean, asking children and teachers to spy on school students, it’s not going to work.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Tariq, couldn’t the Manchester model be used? You show the parents, you talk about the children who have died, and use that model for children killed in Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan. Name the names.</p><p><strong>TARIQ ALI:</strong> Absolutely. This model should be used, you know, but the media is not under our control or under the control of most people who want to look at the world seriously and not in a cartoonish way. So, you know, there’s already been exterminist talk: "Wipe them all out. Drive them out of the"—I mean—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Tariq, we have to leave it here, but <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2017/5/24/tariq_ali_on_raising_the_threat">we’re going to continue the conversation after the show and we’ll post it online at democracynow.org.</a> Tariq Ali, political commentator.</p><p> </p><p> </p> Wed, 24 May 2017 10:45:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1077401 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Video ISIL terrorism Salman Abedi manchester attack Activists Sue to Block Plans to Bury 3.6 Million Pounds of Nuclear Waste Near California Beach (Video) https://www.alternet.org/environment/activists-sue-block-plans-bury-36-million-pounds-nuclear-waste-near-california-beach <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;This is a ridiculous move by a for-profit corporation to avoid public scrutiny.&quot;</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/san_onofre_nuclear_power_plant_t800.jpg?itok=fMC81pDY" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Environmental activists in California are fighting plans to store 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive nuclear waste on a popular beach in San Diego County. In 2012, a radioactive leak at the San Onofre nuclear power plant forced an emergency shutdown.</p><p>The plant was fully closed by June 2013. Now residents are fighting the permit issued by the California Coastal Commission to store the millions of pounds of nuclear waste in thin, stainless steel canisters, within 100 feet of the ocean.</p><p>We speak to Ray Lutz, founder of Citizens’ Oversight, which has filed a lawsuit challenging the expansion of the nuclear waste storage facility.</p><p>Watch:</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/5/17/activists_sue_to_block_plans_to" width="640"></iframe></p><p> </p> Thu, 18 May 2017 12:00:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1077063 at https://www.alternet.org Environment Activism Environment Video nuclear nuclear waste california activist nuclear energy nuclear power san diego Neuroscientist Carl Hart and Activist Tony Papa: We Need to Stop Jeff Sessions from Escalating the Racist War on Drugs https://www.alternet.org/drugs/neuroscientist-carl-hart-and-activist-tony-papa-we-need-stop-jeff-sessions-escalating-racist <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Even Rand Paul noted, &quot;Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated too many minorities for too long.&quot;</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2017-05-10_at_1.55.35_pm.png?itok=zv1lsLlK" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In an escalation of the war on drugs, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded two Obama-era memos that encouraged prosecutors to avoid seeking inordinately harsh sentences for low-level drug offenses. He also instructed Justice Department prosecutors to pursue "the most serious" charges for all drug offenses. Former Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the move, saying, "The policy announced today is not tough on crime. It is dumb on crime." Under the Obama administration guidelines, the number of drug offenders given mandatory minimum sentences plummeted, contributing to a 14 percent decline in the total federal prison population. We speak to Carl Hart, chair of the Department of Psychology and a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, and former anti-drug-war activist Anthony Papa, who was sentenced to two 15-years-to-life sentences for a single, nonviolent drug offense.</p><p><em>Watch Part I:</em></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/5/15/neuroscientist_carl_hart_we_need_to" width="640"></iframe></p><p>TRANSCRIPT</p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’re broadcasting from San Francisco, as we continue to travel the country covering the movements changing America. We turn right now to the Trump administration’s escalation of the war on drugs. On Friday, Attorney General Sessions spoke at the Department of Justice headquarters as he rescinded two Obama-era memos that encourage prosecutors to avoid seeking inordinately harsh sentences for low-level drug offenses.</p><blockquote><p><strong>ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS:</strong> Going forward, I have empowered our prosecutors to charge and pursue the most serious offense, as I believe the law requires, most serious, readily provable offense. It means that we’re going to meet our responsibility to enforce the law with judgment and fairness. It is simply the right and moral thing to do. ... And we know that drugs and crime go hand in hand. They just do. The facts prove that so. Drug trafficking is an inherently dangerous and violent business. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t file a lawsuit in court. You collect it with the barrel of a gun.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Jeff Sessions has long backed lengthy prison sentences and mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, including for marijuana use, which is now legal for either medical or recreational purposes in many states.</p><p>Sessions’ escalation of the so-called war on drugs was met with widespread outcry. Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served under President Obama, told MSNBC in a statement, "The policy announced today is not tough on crime. It is dumb on crime." Under the Obama administration guidelines, the number of drug offenders given mandatory minimum sentences plummeted, contributing to a 14 percent decline in the total federal prison population. Sessions’ announcement comes at a time of growing bipartisan support for sentencing reform. In recent years, the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress and the right-leaning FreedomWorks have partnered with groups as varied as the Koch Industries and the NAACP to bridge ideological divides and push for reduced mandatory minimums for low-level nonviolent drug offenses.</p><p>Well, for more, we’re joined by two guests in New York. Anthony Papa is author of <em>This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency</em>. He’s an anti-drug-war activist, painter and author. In 1985, Anthony Papa agreed to deliver an envelope of cocaine in a police sting operation in return for $500. His first—his first and only criminal offense cost him a 15-year-to-life sentence. In 1996, Papa won a sentence commutation from then-New York Governor George Pataki. In 2016, Papa received a pardon from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He’s believed to be the first person in New York state history to receive both a sentence commutation and a pardon. And we’re joined by Carl Hart, chair of the Department of Psychology and a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. He’s the author of <em>High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society</em>. Professor Hart just returned from the Philippines, where he participated in a 2-day drug policy forum conference.</p><p>Tony Papa, Carl Hart, welcome to <em>Democracy Now!</em> Carl Hart, first respond to what Jeff Sessions is doing, this escalation of the war on drugs in the United States.</p><p><strong>CARL HART:</strong> Well, let’s just be clear. I mean, one of the things that—we’ve heard some outrage about what Jeff Sessions is doing. But let’s be clear: Everybody knows that the war on drugs, as has been fought since the 1980s, has had a disproportionate negative impact on specific community: black communities, Latino communities. Everyone knows that. So, what Jeff Sessions is doing is engaged in—or he’s advocating being engaged in racial discrimination. So let’s call Jeff Sessions what he is. Jeff Sessions is a racist, if he takes on this action. It’s clear. We know it. So let’s stop playing around with it.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, Anthony Papa, what is your understanding of what the attorney general is calling for right now?</p><p><strong>ANTHONY PAPA:</strong> Well, you know, Amy, I agree with Eric Holder: This is totally dumb on crime. To go back to a failed—a proven failed policy and to enact—you know, to tell prosecutors to convict people at the harshest possible sentence is totally wrong. I’ll use myself as an example, you know, first-time, nonviolent offender. I was actually sentenced to two 15-to-life sentences under the Rockefeller drug laws in New York state, which was mandated by mandatory minimum sentencing, the same mandatory minimum sentencing laws that became in the federal system, that now Sessions wants the prosecutors to use to sentence even low-level, nonviolent drug offenders or even people who are addicted to drugs to many, many years in prison. It’s a proven fact that this policy wasted billions of dollars, and, more importantly, many human lives were wasted in this action in the past.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I want to go back to Carl Hart. So, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has released this memo that tells Justice Department prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges for drug offenses. So, explain exactly how this changes policy and what it will mean.</p><p><strong>CARL HART:</strong> Well, what it means is that he—well, as you know, under Eric Holder, Eric Holder has suggested—or his memo said that we shouldn’t engage in those mandatory minimums. So he gave judges flexibility, whereas Jeff Sessions is encouraging the judges to go back to mandatory minimum. What that means is that people will get harsher sentences for drug-related violations now. And what that means ultimately—as Papa has said, we all know the drug war didn’t work. That’s not entirely true, because the drug war did work for certain segments of our population. And that’s where the crux of this policy really needs to be interrogated. It allows—Jeff Sessions is allowing us or is using drug policy to separate the people who we like from the people who we don’t like. And it provides a way to go after those people we don’t like, usually poor minority folks, without explicitly saying we don’t like those people. And that’s how drug law—that’s how drug law or drug policy has been enforced in this country. And so, if we allow Sessions to turn back the hands of time, then shame on all of us. The blood is on all of our hands, because we know the consequences of his proposed actions.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> You know, Jeff Sessions’ view on drugs have a long history. He famously was quoted as joking in the 1980s about the white terrorist organization the KKK that he thought they were "OK, until," he said, "I found out they smoke pot." Your response to this, Carl?</p><p><strong>CARL HART:</strong> Well, that’s an interesting thing, because one of the things that has happened in the country since that time, we now have eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana use. And those states were concerned that Jeff Sessions would come after them, on the one hand. Jeff Sessions has not come after them, because there’s a lot of money involved, and there are a lot of wealthy white people involved in this. Now, I don’t want to pit white people against other groups in the country, but let’s just be honest about this. And he won’t go after them. I know people have some anxieties about that, but Jeff Sessions is ignorant, but he’s not stupid. And so he won’t go after those folks.</p><p>So, even though he made his comment about marijuana, we should see actually what his actions are. I mean, he can make these comments to kind of give a wink and nod to the people who are supporting him, so he lets them know that "I’m against drugs," but he’s not going after marijuana. He’s going after all the other sort of drug offenses. And I hope the people who are engaged in the marijuana industry and this business make the connection about how their substance was once vilified—it’s no longer vilified in the United States, particularly as these states liberalize their marijuana policy. I wish they make the connection, so they can see the hypocrisy. Like before 2012, we were arresting people for marijuana in Colorado, in Washington and those other states. We’re no longer doing that. Now we’re saying it’s OK. It was always OK. It’s just that our laws were not in line. Now we’re doing—now we’re arresting people for things like cocaine, heroin and those sorts of things, sending people to jail for extended periods of time. Now, this is not to say that we should legalize drugs. That’s not the argument here. We certainly should not be sending people to jail for those extended periods that Jeff Sessions is advocating for. And he’s doing so because he’s going after people who we don’t care for in the United States.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> In a statement, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul criticized Sessions’ change in drug policy. Paul, who’s a doctor, said, quote, "Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated too many minorities for too long. Attorney General Sessions’ new policy will accentuate that injustice." Rand added, "Instead, we should treat our nation’s drug epidemic as a health crisis and less as a 'lock ’em up and throw away the key' problem." That’s the Republican senator, Rand Paul. Dr. Hart?</p><p><strong>CARL HART:</strong> I agree with Rand Paul on that point. But, you know, we have to be careful about our language in terms of epidemic, because all of those sorts of things kind of provide cover for folks to behave like Jeff Sessions. If we’re really concerned, for example, like the opioids and heroin, we need to tell people how to stay safe, if we’re worried about overdose there. About 13,000 people die every year from heroin-related overdoses, whereas 35,000 people die from automobile accidents. We don’t ban automobiles. Instead, we have regulations, and we try to make sure that people stay safe. We have speed limits. We have seat belts. We have all of these sorts of things. But with the opioids, we’re talking about arresting people. And by the way, for the opioids, at the federal level, 80 percent of the people who are arrested are Latino and black. And we know this. And so, if we want to be smart or if we want to save our people or help people, we would not take the approach of someone like Jeff Sessions, who is—who wants to take us back to the 1980s and experience all the bad things of the ’80s.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Anthony Papa, before we go, can you briefly tell us what happened to you, the amount of time you served in prison, and what this change could mean now?</p><p><strong>ANTHONY PAPA:</strong> Well, I spent 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense. And, you know, I brought an envelope with four ounces of cocaine from the Bronx to Mount Vernon, was roped into a police sting operation—20 cops came out of nowhere—placed under arrest, did everything I could do wrong, and I wound up getting sentenced to two 15-to-life sentences for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense, under the mandatory provisions of the Rockefeller drug laws.</p><p>The mandatory minimum sentencing is a poison that has broken the criminal justice system. This is a fact. Under President Obama, he tried to fix this broken system by incorporating changes. And Eric Holder, in his memo in 2013, said to prosecutors, "Don’t use mandatory minimum sentencing laws." Now, Sessions is reversing this policy. And we’re in for a hard, hard, long road to hoe, because people are going to be put in prison, nonviolent offenders. The prisons are going to be flooded. They’re going to break the banks of many states in the federal system, incarcerating low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. And many of those offenders have substance abuse problems, and they needed to be treated medically, not punitively. And to have Sessions come out with this law is a travesty of justice. And I hope that they realize this mistake and they don’t follow through on this memo that he wrote, telling prosecutors to use mandatory minimum sentencing laws and to throw the book at low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, no matter, you know, how small the crime is.</p><p>President Trump recently invited Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House, despite criticism from human rights groups over Duterte’s so-called war on drugs, during which thousands of people have been extrajudicially killed by police and vigilantes. Our guest, neuroscientist Carl Hart, recently attended a drug conference in Manila. He had to leave the Philippines after his life was threatened.</p><p><em>Watch Part II:</em></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/5/15/columbia_neuroscientist_receives_death_threats_for" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And finally, Dr. Carl Hart, I want to ask you about the Philippines, where you just came back from. President Trump recently visited—invited Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House, despite massive criticism from human rights groups over Duterte’s so-called war on drugs, during which thousands of people have been extrajudicially killed by police and vigilantes. Can you tell us what you found there?</p><p><strong>CARL HART:</strong> When I was in the Philippines, the thing that I discovered is that it’s a lot worse than I originally thought it was. Duterte operates in intimidation. And so, not only is he the problem, but there are other political officials who are afraid to speak out. They are the problem. And Duterte has taken a page out of the 1980s U.S. drug war, in that he’s using drugs to separate people, the issue of drugs to separate the poor people from the people who have means. And he is allowing or providing the environment so people could kill, as you pointed out, kill people who are engaged in drug use and in drug trafficking. And people are afraid to speak out against this wrong, because Duterte has no qualms about having people’s lives be threatened. In fact, I discovered that people are being killed for as little as $100. It ranges from about $100 to $500 to have someone killed. And so, actually, I left the Philippines early because my life was threatened, because of me speaking out against what Duterte was saying about drugs and what he’s doing. And so, we have it bad in the United States, but the Philippines, I have never seen anything like the Philippines.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Professor Hart, explain more what happened to you and then your response to President Trump, to the shock of many, inviting the Philippines president, Duterte, to the White House.</p><p><strong>CARL HART:</strong> So I gave a talk basically saying that what Duterte had said—he said that methamphetamine shrinks your brain, and this provided justification for people to kill people who use methamphetamine. And I said that was ludicrous. There’s no science to support that. He was upset about it. He responded. His people online, they responded with threats and that sort of thing. I didn’t think my statement was controversial, but turns out it was, because this is justification for killing people.</p><p>Now, for Trump to invite Duterte to the United States, given that this sort of thing is happening, it’s just consistent with what Trump has been doing. Trump has been—has shown himself to be the most ignorant president that we’ve ever had. He has shown himself to be the one that disregards law more so than any other president we’ve had. So it’s just consistent. It would be nice if Democrats and people who are in power, particularly people who know something about the law, to figure out a legal way to restrain him or get rid of him. It’s just inappropriate for him to behave like that at that level.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Professor Carl Hart, I want to thank you for being with us, chair of the Department of Psychology, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, author of <em>High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society</em>. Professor Hart just returned from the Philippines, where he was threatened with his life. And Anthony Papa, thanks so much for being with us, author of <em>This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency</em>, anti-drug-war activist, painter and author. Thanks so much for joining us.</p><p>This is <em>Democracy Now!</em> When we come back, the massive Palestinian hunger strike. We’ll speak with the son of the leader of that strike, the son of Marwan Barghouti, who’s been imprisoned by Israel for more than 15 years. Stay with us.</p><p> </p><p> </p> Mon, 15 May 2017 12:38:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1076965 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs The Right Wing carl hart jeff sessions war on drugs rodrigo duterte philippines Historian of Fascism: Why Trump Firing FBI Director Comey Amid Russia Probe is So Worrisome https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/firing-fbi-director-comey-amid-russia-probe-so-worrisome <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Top Republicans are on Trump&#039;s side, and once elites are coopted to an authoritarian, it can be very difficult to jump ship. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/16389996032_be531d5722_z_2.jpg?itok=CRrPVhEd" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As more details come to light about President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, which reportedly came just days after he asked the Justice Department for more resources to expand the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, we speak with Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of history and Italian studies at New York University. Her recent piece for CNN is headlined "Trump at his most dangerous," and she is currently working on a book entitled "Strongmen: From Mussolini to Trump."</p><p>TRANSCRIPT</p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’re broadcasting from Seattle, Washington. More details are coming to light about President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. <em>The New York Times</em> is reporting Comey’s dismissal came just days after he asked the Justice Department for more resources to expand the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election. Comey made the appeal to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who wrote the memo President Trump later used to justify Comey’s firing.</p><p>Meanwhile, <em>The Washington Post</em> reports Rosenstein has threatened to quit after the White House cast him as the main instigator in the firing of Comey. The White House has given conflicting explanations as to why Comey was dismissed. During a press briefing Wednesday, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Comey committed "atrocities" when investigating former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails, and cited the letter from Rosenstein as having contributed to Trump’s decision to fire Comey now.</p><blockquote><p><strong>SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS:</strong> I think also having a letter like the one that he received and having that conversation that outlined the basic just atrocities in circumventing the chain of command in the Department of Justice.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> When Huckabee was asked when President Trump lost confidence in Comey, this was her response.</p><blockquote><p><strong>SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS:</strong> I think that Director Comey has shown over the last several months, and, frankly, the last year, a lot of missteps and mistakes. And certainly, I think that, as you’ve seen from many of the comments from Democrat members, including Senator Schumer, they didn’t think he should be there. They thought he should be gone. Frankly, I think it’s startling that Democrats aren’t celebrating this, since they’ve been calling for it for so long.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Meanwhile, on Wednesday, President Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office. Among those participating in the meeting were Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, whose contacts with Trump advisers are under investigation by the FBI, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. After Trump’s opening remarks, a reporter asked him why he fired FBI Director Comey.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> Everybody knows Dr. Kissinger. And we’re right now talking about Russia and various other matters. But it’s an honor to have Henry Kissinger with us. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time. And thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>REPORTER:</strong> Mr. President, why did you fire Director Comey? Why did you fire Director Comey?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> Because he wasn’t doing a good job, very simply. He was not doing a good job.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> As a candidate, Donald Trump cheered Comey’s tough stance on Clinton’s use of a personal email and private internet server while she was secretary of state.</p><p>Trump is the first president since Richard Nixon to fire a law enforcement official who was overseeing an investigation tied to the White House. President Bill Clinton dismissed William Sessions amidst allegations of ethical lapses in 1993. As the developments fuel concerns Trump is trying to undermine a probe that could threaten his presidency, Capitol Hill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected calls for a special prosecutor into the Russia investigation that came from outraged Democrats, like Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy.</p><blockquote><p><strong>SEN. PATRICK LEAHY:</strong> This is not just a scandal. The president’s actions are neither Republican nor Democratic. They’re authoritarian. This is an effort to undo the ties that bind our democratic form of government. All of us, both sides of the aisle, must now put country over party.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> In his first public comment on his firing, former FBI Director James Comey wrote a letter to agents at the FBI urging them to remain, quote, "a rock of competence, honesty, and independence," noting, quote, "I have long believed that a president can fire an FBI director for any reason, or for no reason at all. I’m not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed. I hope you won’t either," he wrote.</p><p>All this comes as the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday subpoenaed former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for documents related to its investigation into Russia’s election meddling. Former FBI Director Comey was supposed to be a star witness for the committee, but acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe will now testify instead.</p><p>For more, we go to New York. We’re joined by Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of history and Italian studies at New York University. She wrote a recent <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/01/opinions/trump-as-strongman-democracy-ben-ghiat-opinion/">piece</a> for CNN headlined "Trump at his most dangerous." She’s currently working on a book entitled <em>Strongmen: From Mussolini to Trump</em>.</p><p>Professor, welcome to <em>Democracy Now!</em> Can you talk about, first, the firing and your thoughts as you see this go down, President Trump firing the FBI director, James Comey, who was investigating the Trump campaign?</p><p><strong>RUTH BEN-GHIAT:</strong> Sure. You know, some people, including Republicans, are now trying to spin this as Trump being Trump, an impulsive action that was just out of grievance. I see it differently. Trump is an authoritarian, as I’ve been arguing for some time. And when he says that Comey wasn’t doing his job, he means Comey was obstructing him from using the office of the presidency to further his personal goals, because authoritarians believe that the institutions should serve them and not the other way around. So I see this as completely consistent with his temperament and his agenda of colonizing the country to make it serve his personal interest.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Can you talk about the ways you see this trend of authoritarianism being expressed by Trump? I mean, he’s only been in office now for a few months.</p><p><strong>RUTH BEN-GHIAT:</strong> Sure. Well, you know, during the campaign, he started with a very important point, which was forging these bonds with the public that were based on loyalty to him. And it’s come up repeatedly that he felt Comey wasn’t loyal to him. And loyalty is the most important thing, because authoritarians forge bonds that are based on their person and not allegiance to a party or a principle. Trump doesn’t care too much about the GOP. It got him to power, it gave him the nomination, but it’s just a vehicle for him. So, that’s part of it.</p><p>The other thing is, a senior—a former senior intelligence official said that the Comey—the way that he fired Comey was "like an execution," in quotes. And, you know, the method, and he did it—Trump is a—he’s a proponent of the doctrine of surprise. And this was a kind of threat to the FBI, to the American public, which is consistent with the kind of dangerous persona he has had. And I want to remind everyone that in January 2016, when he was on the campaign trail, he said, "I could stand on 5th Avenue and shoot someone and wouldn’t lose any followers." This was, for me, a turning point. It meant that he was giving us a message that he considered himself to be above the law. And he was testing the GOP, which is what authoritarians do. They test, on their way up and once they’re in power, to see how much they can get away with. And the GOP rewarded him with the nomination. So he feels emboldened, now he’s in power, to do exactly this kind of thing.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I want to go to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Democrat of New York.</p><blockquote><p><strong>SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:</strong> This is part of a deeply troubling pattern from the Trump administration. They fired Sally Yates. They fired Preet Bharara. And now they’ve fired Director Comey, the very man leading the investigation. This does not seem to be a coincidence.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And speaking on CNN Wednesday, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut called the Trump decision to fire Comey a "looming constitutional crisis."</p><blockquote><p><strong>SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:</strong> I disagree with James Comey in some of his decisions, but I never advocated that he be fired, particularly before an inspector general within the Department of Justice was looking at those actions. Rod Rosenstein, in effect, preempted that ongoing internal investigation, fired him, using a pretense that is laughable—the decisions on the Clinton email some 10 months ago. And what we have now is really a looming constitutional crisis that is deadly serious.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> President Trump lashed out at Senator Blumenthal. Instead of addressing the comments, Trump attacked Blumenthal’s military record. In a series of tweets, Trump wrote, quote, "Watching Senator Richard Blumenthal speak of Comey is a joke. 'Richie' devised one of the greatest military frauds in U.S. history. For years, as a pol in Connecticut, Blumenthal would talk of his great bravery and conquests in Vietnam–except he [was never] there. When caught, he cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness...and now he is judge &amp; jury. He should be the one who is investigated for his acts." Well, Senator Blumenthal returned to CNN later on Wednesday and was asked by Anderson Cooper how serious this could get.</p><blockquote><p><strong>SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:</strong> It may well produce another <em>United States v. Nixon</em> on a subpoena that went to the United States Supreme Court. It may well produce impeachment proceedings, although we’re very far from that possibility.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, can you talk about what these senators are saying and what you see might be, though you would be quite prescient if you could say, what’s about to unfold?</p><p><strong>RUTH BEN-GHIAT:</strong> Yes, no one can tell what’s going to happen. In the past, once elites are coopted to an authoritarian, it can be very difficult, for pragmatic reasons, for them to jump ship. This is not, strictly speaking, a constitutional crisis, in that it was perfectly legal for Trump to fire the FBI director. What’s at issue is the politicization of the judiciary and intelligence, which he’s been doing all along, and the method. And so, this depends on what the GOP is going to do, and I’m a bit pessimistic about their having the political will, the unified political will, to see this through to get rid of Trump.</p><p>I also want to highlight, though, that the comparison with Watergate leaves out the very, very important foreign dimension. This is a Russia—Trump-Russia probe. And firing Comey in the way he did was a very important message that Trump sent to the world, number one, to all of his fellow authoritarians. And we’ve seen how he calls the president of Turkey. He invites Duterte of the Philippines to the White House. And he has gone out of his way to forge ties and show allegiance to this kind of leadership, and, above all, to his Russian client. And I felt it was such a tragedy for our democracy to see Trump in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister the day after this happened. This is a very strong signal to his Russian client and to authoritarians all over the world that he means business, and the business is their business.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I mean, it’s very interesting, the headline I just read at the top of the show, yes, on the same day President Trump hosted the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, at the White House. <em>Politico</em> reports Trump invited Lavrov after requests from Russian President Putin. A White House spokesman said, "He chose to receive him because Putin asked him to. Putin did specifically ask on the call when they last talked." The White House faced some criticism for allowing the Russian state media agency TASS inside the White House to take photographs while barring all U.S. media. Your thoughts?</p><p><strong>RUTH BEN-GHIAT:</strong> I felt terribly sad for our democracy when I saw that. Being also a historian of propaganda, you cannot overestimate the impact of acquiescing to a request to have the foreign minister in there. And apparently, you know, news reports are that he was—Trump was duped a bit, because he was told the photographer was the personal photographer of the foreign minister, when in fact the person was also taking pictures for TASS, the state agency. And think of the impact that has within Russia and the world, and the U.S. media was not allowed in. And besides the security concerns, which have been raised with having Russians in the Oval Office with a photographer for—into the most sensitive space of America, it sends a message that Russia has won and that Trump is indeed willing to do what they say. So I felt this was a great tragedy and a kind of culmination of all the things that have been said and alleged during this Russia-Trump investigation so far.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Professor Ben-Ghiat, you are a professor of history and Italian studies at NYU, New York University, and you’re writing a book comparing Trump to Mussolini. Can you explain?</p><p><strong>RUTH BEN-GHIAT:</strong> Yes. So, I’m pushed many times in the media to label Trump a fascist. And I’ve never done that, because Trump is not aiming to establish a one-party state. It’s too much work, I imagine, and he doesn’t need to. The thing about authoritarians today—and we can look at what’s happening in Turkey and elsewhere, and even in Russia—you don’t need to have a dictatorship in the classic sense to accomplish your goals. You can intimidate people. You can try and control the press. You can attack the judiciary, the media, the institutions, hollowing them out, without having to ban parties in the traditional fascist manner.</p><p>That said, there are many similarities. One of them I mentioned before. There’s this testing period constantly that the authoritarian is doing to see how much he can get away with. What is the appetite of the political elites and the public for violence? And this goes back to Trump’s comment—right?—that he could shoot someone. This is quite extraordinary. And Mussolini did the same thing, as did Hitler. And the other element is that people don’t take these people seriously until it’s too late. So, I’ve been trying to warn the public, along with many other people, about the dangers, including this article you mentioned most recently, the dangers that these men bring with them. And by the time people realize, it’s too late.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, I want to thank you very much for joining us, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of history and Italian studies at New York University. We’ll link to your <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/01/opinions/trump-as-strongman-democracy-ben-ghiat-opinion/">piece</a> over at CNN headlined "Trump at his most dangerous." Professor Ben-Ghiat is working on a book called <em>Strongmen: From Mussolini to Trump</em>.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="250" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/5/11/historian_of_fascism_why_trump_firing" width="400"></iframe></p> Thu, 11 May 2017 09:05:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1076787 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics james comey donald trump russia Trump-Russia Ties There Has Been a Nuclear Accident in America, and Experts Say the Exposure Risk Is Real https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/nuclear-blast-washington-state <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Department of Energy declared a state of emergency at the Hanford nuclear site.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_202050058_0.jpg?itok=0UJgNq9I" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>We are broadcasting from Washington state, where the Department of Energy declared a state of emergency at the Hanford nuclear site after a tunnel storing contaminated radioactive materials collapsed. The collapse, which was discovered Tuesday, forced hundreds of workers to take cover to avoid potential exposure. Hanford is the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site. The site has been leaking radioactive waste on and off for years. The Energy Department claims no radioactive contamination has been reported so far from Tuesday’s tunnel collapse. But Edwin Lyman from the Union of Concerned Scientists said, "Collapse of the earth covering the tunnels could lead to a considerable radiological release." Now the Washington state Department of Ecology’s Nuclear Waste Program has announced on Twitter that it has taken legal action against Hanford. We speak with Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge, which advocates for workers at the Hanford nuclear site.</p><p> </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="250" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/5/11/workers_fear_radiation_exposure_after_nuclear" width="400"></iframe></p> Thu, 11 May 2017 08:57:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1076786 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics Environment News & Politics Hanford nuclear site nuclear energy washington state energy environment French Voters Face Presidential Election Between Xenophobic Candidate & Centrist Investment Banker https://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/french-voters-face-presidential-election-between-xenophobic-candidate-centrist <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Barack Obama supports Macron, urging French voters to reject the politics of fear.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/france_0.jpg?itok=Pr720i_-" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Voters in France head to the polls Sunday for a presidential election that pits former investment banker Emmanuel Macron against far-right politician Marine Le Pen. On Thursday, Macron won the support of former U.S. President Barack Obama, who urged French voters to reject the politics of fear. Le Pen has campaigned on an openly xenophobic and racist platform, and faced protests Thursday as she campaigned at a trucking company in Brittany. "They have to choose between an openly racist candidate like Marine Le Pen, who promises the supremacy of whites and Christians, regardless of our constitution, of our tradition of separation between church and the state, and, on the other hand, you have Emmanuel Macron, who appears to be this young guy who sends a signal of, yes, it’s going to be about empowering people through entrepreneurship," says our guest in Paris, Yasser Louati, a French human rights and civil liberties activist and researcher. "The problem is that his version of society is that you run a country like you run a company. And the problem is that nothing in his program actually goes alongside the working class."</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman. In France, voters head to the polls Sunday in a presidential election that pits former investment banker Emmanuel Macron against far-right politician Marine Le Pen. Macron on Thursday won the support of former U.S. President Barack Obama, who urged French voters to reject the politics of fear. Le Pen, who has campaigned on an openly xenophobic and racist platform, faced protests Thursday as she campaigned at a trucking company in Brittany. Protesters shouted "Out you fascists!" and threw eggs at Le Pen, hitting her once in the head. Le Pen has called for France to crack down on immigration and leave the European Union.</p><p>For more, we go to Paris, where we’re joined by Yasser Louati, French human rights and civil liberties activist and researcher.</p><p>It’s good to have you with us, Yasser. Can you talk about the significance of this runoff election this weekend?</p><p><strong>YASSER LOUATI:</strong> Well, hi, Amy. Hi, everybody.</p><p>The situation actually illustrates the normalization of racist rhetoric in France for the past 35 years. You know, in 2002, there was huge demonstrations against the arrival of Marine Le Pen’s father in a second round of the election. But today, public opinion has been prepared to see her arrive in the second round, and that’s why you don’t see that many mass movements against her very presence.</p><p>But that is not happening out of, you know, a coincidence. Racism, especially Islamophobia, in France is a point of convergence from the far left to the far right. So, they can disagree on anything, but when it comes to stigmatizing, singling out the Muslim population of France, everybody agrees. So, another example is that the three openly racist candidates—Marine Le Pen, François Fillon and Dupont-Aignan—altogether won 46 percent of the vote during the first round. So, regardless of whether Marine Le Pen makes it to the Élysée presidential palace, her ideas already won.</p><p>And a signal was sent to us last summer during the burkini hysteria, which actually rooted the campaign on identity politics. And if you look at the last presidential debate that happened two days ago, they spoke about identity politics, but socioeconomic policies were very vague. Marine Le Pen spoke about shutting borders and protecting France from Europe, without saying how she will prevent a recession. And Emmanuel Macron said, you know, he wants to launch a nation of startup companies. And in my humble opinion, that will definitely decimate the working class behind the cool attitude of startup companies. Why? Because they will be dependent on what I call—or they will be stuck in what I call a digital proletariat. You will huge corporations online making, you know, thousands and millions or people sell their labor without much benefits.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> You wrote a <a href="https://medium.com/@yasserlouati/watch-french-elections-marine-le-pen-or-emmanuel-macron-hitler-or-uber-756104726d1f">piece</a>, Yasser Louati, "French Elections: Marine Le Pen or Emmanuel Macron? Hitler or UBER?" Explain.</p><p><strong>YASSER LOUATI:</strong> Well, it’s, again, the choice of the lesser of two evils. You saw that in America between Donald Trump and the highly unpopular Hillary Clinton. And today that’s what is being imposed upon the French. They have to choose between an openly racist candidate like Marine Le Pen, who promises the supremacy of whites and Christians, regardless of our constitution, of our tradition of separation between church and the state, and, on the other hand, you have Emmanuel Macron, who appears to be this young guy who sends a signal of, yes, it’s going to be about empowering people through entrepreneurship. The problem is that his version of society is that you run a country like you run a company. And the problem is that nothing in his program actually goes alongside the working class.</p><p>Another point—and that’s a huge trap being set up by neoliberals all around the world. They come and tap you on the shoulder and say, "Well, racism is evil." In our case, in France, "Islamophobia is evil." The problem is that, what’s the point of saying Islamophobia is evil, if it is to implement a neoliberal agenda that will actually feed into racist rhetoric by putting people into more competition? So, right now, the French are being asked to choose between the lesser of two evils, but either choice won’t make the situation better. And that’s why my—the analysis that I see is that the immediate urgency is to block Marine Le Pen from becoming president, but the very next one is actually to make the country ungovernable for Emmanuel Macron, because we have the upcoming parliamentarian elections. And given his status and his lack of alliances, he will depend on the existing MPs in Parliament. And that’s a signal for independent candidates to rush to the ballot, register as candidates and carry forward with a more progressive agenda.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Activists with Greenpeace unfurled a giant banner on the Eiffel Tower in Paris Friday emblazoned with France’s national motto and the hashtag #RESIST. This is Jean-François Julliard.</p><blockquote><p><strong>JEAN-FRANÇOIS JULLIARD:</strong> [translated] Today’s action is this banner deployed behind me under the Eiffel Tower with the values of our national motto, "Liberty, equality, fraternity." The idea was to remind people the importance of these values two days before the presidential election and to say that today the biggest threat to these values is the potential election of Marine Le Pen and the National Front.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That was Jean-François Julliard. Finally, among the issues that Marine Le Pen has raised, the far-right xenophobic candidate, was that the French did not round up Jews in Paris and put them in the stadium. Yasser Louati, you’re an Arab-French human rights activist. The response to this, the denial of a well-known fact about the Holocaust?</p><p><strong>YASSER LOUATI:</strong> When I first heard that, I was—you know, it was beyond words, and it caused deep revulsion. The French police that we have today was born under the Maréchal Pétain, who collaborated with the Nazis and who sent the kids of France to the death camps. That same government is the government that allowed high state officials to carry these policies. And after the collaborationist government of Maréchal Pétain, who rounded up the Jews, after that government fell, they were not sent to jail. Actually, they continued with their careers within the French apparatus.</p><p>What Marine Le Pen is trying to do is to always whitewash the crimes of France. As a matter of fact, while white Christian France was collaborating with the Nazis and selling out to Hitler, blacks and Arabs and Muslim soldiers were chasing Nazis around and freeing the country, starting from the island of Corsica all the way up to Paris. But that was also a strong signal to the Zionist organizations in France, who also made clear that Marine Le Pen was now approachable by turning away from anti-Semitism and heavily investing into Islamophobia. But she had to make that declaration in order to reassure her ideological bases by saying that France was not guilty.</p><p>France was guilty of collaborating with the Nazis and for sending its own Jewish kids to the death camps. There is no question about it. Historians agree on that. And now Marine Le Pen just tries to minimize the implications. It’s like the same people who tell you, "Well, colonization brought some goods into Africa." No, it did not. As long as you have a domination of one group over another and you legitimize the killings of innocents because they happen to be from a different ethnic background or religion, that makes you a criminal. And one last point is that Marine Le Pen herself’s party is actually the direct inheritance or the direct legacy from the people who rounded up Jews in the 1940s.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Yasser Louati, I want to thank you for being with us. We’ll continue to follow what happens over the weekend.</p><p><strong>YASSER LOUATI:</strong> Thank you for having me.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> French human rights and civil liberties activist and researcher, speaking to us from Paris.</p><p>This is <em>Democracy Now!</em> When we come back, we’ll be speaking with the head of the NAACP about what has happened in Louisiana with the killing of Alton Sterling and the Justice Department closing the case without indicting the police officers. Also, a teenager killed in Dallas, we’ll get the latest. And we’ll speak with Carol Anderson, who just won a major literary award. She’s a professor at Emory University. Her book is called <em>White Rage</em>. Stay with us.</p><p> </p> Sat, 06 May 2017 09:26:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1076548 at https://www.alternet.org Grayzone Project Grayzone Project GZ democracy now france french vote The South's Political Clout Is Rising Under Trump https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/souths-political-clout-rising-under-trump <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Trump Cabinet has many Southern Conservatives exercising a lot of power.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2017-05-02_at_11.28.57_am.png?itok=mRqJTcYt" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>We look at the increasing power of states in the South to shape national politics. Our guest, Chris Kromm, writes in his latest piece that Southern states gave 160 Electoral College votes to Trump, more than half of the 306 total he won. "Southern Republicans have emerged as key figures in the new administration and the GOP-controlled Congress, giving Southern states growing influence in shaping the nation’s political agenda," Kromm writes. Many Republicans from the South have been confirmed in senior Cabinet positions, including South Carolina’s Mick Mulvaney as director of the Office of Management and Budget, Rick Perry from Texas as energy secretary, Alabama’s Jeff Sessions as attorney general and former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson of Texas as secretary of state.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/5/2/chris_kromm_the_souths_political_clout" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>TRANSCRIPT</strong></p><p><em>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</em></p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from the capital of North Carolina, in Raleigh. We’re turning now to look at the increasing power of states in the South to shape national politics. Our guest, Chris Kromm, writes in his latest <a href="https://www.facingsouth.org/2017/04/souths-political-clout-rising-under-trump">piece</a> that Southern states gave 160 Electoral College votes to Trump, more than half of the 306 total he needed to become president. With this victory, Kromm gees on to write, quote, "Southern Republicans have emerged as key figures in the new administration and the GOP-controlled Congress, giving Southern states growing influence in shaping the nation’s political agenda," he writes. Many Republicans from the South have been confirmed in senior Cabinet positions, including South Carolina’s Mick Mulvaney as director of the Office of Management and Budget, Rick Perry from Texas as energy secretary, Alabama’s Jeff Sessions as attorney general and the former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson of Texas confirmed as secretary of state.</p><p>Yes, Chris Kromm is still with us, executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and publisher of <em>Facing South</em>.</p><p>So, talk about the leadership being drawn from the South and the significance.</p><p><strong>CHRIS KROMM:</strong> Well, this is part of a larger trend. The South is rising again, for sure, in national politics. One-third of the Electoral College votes that it takes to be elected president in this country are in 13 Southern states. And that’s only going to grow. After the 2020 census, there’s going to be another five Electoral College votes or so. They’re going to come from Southern states. So, what it is is a shifting of the gravity of political power in this country going to the South.</p><p>And I think the Trump administration knows that. They know that the South—for all the attention we’ve put on Michigan and those battleground states, which was certainly important, it was really the fact that Southern states accounted for half of his Electoral College votes that he’s in the White House today. And he understands the power of Southern conservatism behind the wind in the sails of his presidency. And you see that in these key positions, especially in the Trump Cabinet. You also see it in the delegations from Southern states that are having a lot of influence in Congress.</p><p>And I think what it adds up to is that we understand that really the South has to become contested territory, that it can’t be ceded to conservative Republicans, or they’re just going to be able to really up their game in using the South as a platform to drive a conservative agenda.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Are you seeing that change here in North Carolina, as you said, when you look at this latest election?</p><p><strong>CHRIS KROMM:</strong> Oh, absolutely. And I think North Carolina is an example—right?—of these conflicting trends, where, on one hand, for sure, the demographics are changing. It’s becoming an increasingly diverse state, of growing populations, new immigrant communities, Asian-American communities, one of the fastest-growing Asian-American communities in the country, a return migration of African Americans to cities like Charlotte and Raleigh. This is really changing the makeup, this so-called new American majority. We saw the evidence of that in the last election with like in the governor’s race and other key races. But on the other hand, we have to be reminded about this deep white conservative trend that exists in many Southern states. And that’s exactly what Trump was able to activate in winning the state in 2016.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So I want to turn your recent <a href="https://www.facingsouth.org/2017/04/souths-political-clout-rising-under-trump">piece</a>, in which you profile several Trump Cabinet ministers from Southern states, including, oh, the head of the OMB, the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. Let’s turn to Mulvaney talking about the budget last month in an interview on MSNBC’s <em>Morning Joe</em>. He was questioned by Willie Geist.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MICK MULVANEY:</strong> Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs? The answer was no. We can’t ask them to continue to pay for defense, and we will. But we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. ... Make no mistake about it: This is a hard-power budget, not a soft-power budget. That is what the president wanted, and that’s what we gave him.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>WILLIE GEIST:</strong> So, Director Mulvaney, there’s, in this budget, a $3.7 billion cut in grants for teacher training and after-school summer programs and aid to low-income students.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>MICK MULVANEY:</strong> Mm-hmm.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>WILLIE GEIST:</strong> What do you say to a family right now who is a low-income family and depends on this kind of money? What do you say to a teacher who’s busting his or her butt every day and relies on this money? What happens to them?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>MICK MULVANEY:</strong> A lot of those programs that we targeted out, they sound great, don’t they? They always do. We don’t—we don’t put a bad name on a program. Programs are always wonderful. It’s always small business or whatever. They don’t work. A lot of them simply don’t work. I can’t justify them to the folks who are paying the taxes. I can’t go to the auto worker in Ohio and say, "Please give me some of your money so that I can do this program over here someplace else that really isn’t helping anybody." I can ask them to help pay for defense.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That was Mick Mulvaney on MSNBC. Chris Kromm?</p><p><strong>CHRIS KROMM:</strong> Well, I think it’s just a great example. Here you have someone who’s in charge of devising the budget, that will fund government, who’s deeply antigovernment. All he can do is come up with a list of programs that he thinks are antithetical to free enterprise and the American way. He went so far as to say he couldn’t justify the Meals on Wheels program, and then he had to walk that one back later. But it’s just a great example of—you know, he is deeply hostile to government programs. He was actually viewed, because he had been a member of the Freedom Caucus, that he was supposed to be a bridge to some of the other Republicans to help push through the repeal of Obamacare. That didn’t work out. He wasn’t able to make that coalition happen.</p><p>One interesting thing is that when he was a representative from South Carolina, this anti-spending impetus he had even extended to military spending. And he sided with Democrats in opposing some weapons programs. But now that he’s in the Office of Management and Budget, it’s interesting that the budget that he unveiled for the Trump administration had a $50 billion increase in military spending. So I guess he’s made peace with the war budget now that he’s in the Trump Cabinet.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And talk about Tillerson from Texas, Sessions from Alabama.</p><p><strong>CHRIS KROMM:</strong> Well, it’s a real cast of characters. Sessions, I think, has gotten a lot of national attention just given his checkered history on voting rights, civil rights, coming out of Alabama. One of his top aides was also a top aide to Trump—that’s [Stephen] Miller—who went to school just down the road here at Duke University. But clearly, you know, he’s being rewarded for his early support of the Trump candidacy. I don’t think anybody would have picked him to be the top candidate for the attorney general position, especially given his history of targeting African-American voting leaders in Alabama, for which Coretta Scott King famously authored that letter that Elizabeth Warren, Senator Warren, tried to read in the Senate when that confirmation hearing was happening. Then you think about people like Tom Price—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And she was censured for reading—</p><p><strong>CHRIS KROMM:</strong> Was blocked from being able to actually read this letter, which so eloquently laid out about why the civil rights community was so concerned about Sessions back in the 1980s.</p><p>You look at characters like Tom Price, coming out of Georgia, who was interesting as a doctor. He was part of this group that called Medicare and Medicaid, you know, aspects of socialized medicine that should be vehemently opposed. And he really had a checkered record because—was known for going to bat for pharmaceutical companies, a lot of conflicts of interest where he tried to pull reports that were critical of different drugs from companies that he had gotten money from the CEO of that company that created that heart drug—just kind of down the line, questions about stocks in pharmaceuticals that he was—being discussed in his committees. So, he really had a checkered record. I think those—some of those issues are going to come back to dog him as he continues in his position at Department of Health and Human Services.</p><p>And then, Tillerson, I think you’re absolutely right. I think the most interesting one there, as just given his history of conflicts, where in his position as a CEO at Exxon, Exxon having interests that are really antithetical to the interest of the State Department and wanting to operate in countries where there were sanctions or other limitations, where the government was really trying to put—turn the screws a little bit on human rights violations, but Exxon wanting to come in and be able to do business. And it’s interesting that he’s going to still have that conflict as secretary of state.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Of the 13 Southern states, only Virginia voted for Hillary Clinton.</p><p><strong>CHRIS KROMM:</strong> That’s right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Can you talk about what accounts for this?</p><p><strong>CHRIS KROMM:</strong> Yeah. Well, I think Trump was really remarkable in being able to activate—you know, we know that the demography of these Southern states is rapidly changing. We know that they’re becoming more diverse, more—a lot of majority people of color communities across the South. But we also were reminded, I think, in this last election that there’s a deep well of Southern conservatism, that Trump was able to effectively mobilize. And so, you really saw turnout jump in a lot of states. And it was both some of the newer voters, who are the future of a lot of these Southern states, but also he was able to mobilize a white conservative electorate, which in many cases carried the day and allowed him to win those states.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> There’s a recent <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/04/north_carolina_republicans_are_attacking_the_courts_the_environment_and.html">piece</a> in <i>Slate</i> headlined "America Could Look Like North Carolina [by] 2020. Yikes." Do you agree with this?</p><p><strong>CHRIS KROMM:</strong> I think it’s definitely, as I said earlier, a cautionary tale. It shows what, when there’s unfettered conservative control, like we saw in North Carolina starting in 2012, just the scale of the agenda that was able to really dig into voting rights, LGBTQ rights, workers’ rights, the environment—just this full-scale attack—immigrant rights—just to see how much could happen in a very short period of time with that degree of conservative control. And then, on the other side, though, about the resistance and the ability to beat some of those back.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Chris, I’d like to talk about Art Pope. We just covered the People’s Climate March in Washington. There was a lot of discussion about the Koch brothers and their power and the power of dark money, the influence on everything from Congress to the U.S. Supreme Court. Can you talk about Art Pope in North Carolina? When we last spoke in—here in Charlotte at the Democratic convention that took place, you were talking about his power. Who is this figure?</p><p><strong>CHRIS KROMM:</strong> Yeah, Art Pope is a multimillionaire who over the last decade has invested about $50 million in trying to shift the agenda of the state in a more rightward direction. He’s a close ally of the Koch brothers. He was actually for many years the chair of Americans for Prosperity, the national tea party group. He founded a retail—inherited a retail business empire, that really is the basis that fuels his money and his political machine.</p><p>And what’s really interesting was his ability to not only fund politicians and inject money into the political process after <em>Citizens United</em>, so he was funding a lot of the so-called dark money groups and injecting money that really helped fuel the takeover of conservatives in the state Legislature in 2010 and 2012, but then also he had a network of groups, like Americans for Prosperity, think tanks, advocacy groups. And these really were the masterminds behind the attacks, for example, on voting rights. It was these places that wrote up the bills that were taking out all the protections for clean elections, that were drawing up the bills to slash early voting, and drumming up concern about voter fraud. And so, it was this really sophisticated network, very well funded.</p><p>And when Governor McCrory, the Republican, took power in 2012, lo and behold, he appointed as his budget director, perched there in the office of the governor, as budget director, Art Pope. And that really was, I think, the apex of his power and influence in the state. And one of the first things he did is defund a clean elections program that tried to drive money out of judicial races in the state, so was really able to exert his influence. So, right now, with McCrory out of power, you don’t see his influence as directly as you saw before. But certainly, he’s one of the most important state-level big money players you’re going to see anywhere in the country in his ability to shape state politics.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I’d like to turn to civil rights icon, the Democratic Congressman John Lewis, from the South, from Georgia, testifying during Sessions’ confirmation hearings earlier this year.</p><blockquote><p><strong>REP. JOHN LEWIS:</strong> It doesn’t matter how Senator Sessions may smile, how friendly he may be, how he may speak to you. But we need someone who’s going to stand up, speak up and speak out for the people that need help, for people who have been discriminated against. And it doesn’t matter whether they are black or white, Latino, Asian American or Native American, whether you’re straight or gay, Muslim, Christian or Jews. We all live in the same house: the American house. We need someone as attorney general who’s going to look out for all of us, and not just for some of us.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, that was John Lewis, speaking against the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Of course, he was confirmed. Your final comments?</p><p><strong>CHRIS KROMM:</strong> Well, I think that’s just a powerful reminder that despite how dark things look and that when you think about the strong agenda, the right-wing agenda that we see right now, this unbroken tradition of resistance in the South that people like Representative Lewis embody. At the Institute for Southern Studies, we were founded by civil rights veterans. And you just think about that unbroken history that you really see today, that’s able to really continue to push the South forward.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, Chris Kromm, I want to thank you for being with us, executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies, publisher of <em>Facing South</em>. We’ll link to your <a href="https://www.facingsouth.org/2017/04/souths-political-clout-rising-under-trump">piece</a>, "South’s political clout rising under Trump."</p><p>That does it for our show. We’ll be covering the story of hog farming and liquid hog manure being sprayed on largely African-American communities later on our journey. This does it for our show, as we continue our <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events">tour</a> around the country. I’ll be speaking in <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman_at_books__books_1375">Miami</a> tonight, 6:30, at the Coral Gables Congregational Church. Then, on Wednesday, I’m on to <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman_at_inkwood_books_1376">Tampa</a> at 7:30 p.m. at the Seminal Heights United Methodist Church. Thursday, it’s <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/5/amy_goodman_at_first_iconium_baptist_church_1377">Atlanta</a>, 7:00 p.m. at the First Iconium Baptist Church; and on Friday at 2:00 at <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/5/amy_goodman_at_carleton_college_1378">Carleton College in Minnesota</a>, at 6:30 p.m. at Augsburg College in <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/5/amy_goodman_in_minneapolis_1379">Minneapolis</a>. On Saturday, we’re on to <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/5/amy_goodman_at_madison_area_technical_college__1403">Madison, Wisconsin</a>, in the afternoon, then <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/5/amy_goodman_at_unity_lutheran_church_1380">Chicago</a> in the evening. Sunday, I’m speaking in Michigan in <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/5/amy_goodman_book_signing_at_bookbug_1381">Kalamazoo</a> at 11:00, <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/5/amy_goodman_book_signing_at_schuler_books_1382">Lansing</a> at 2:00 and <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/5/amy_goodman_at_wealthy_theater_1383">Grand Rapids</a> at 5:30. Monday night, I’ll be speaking in <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/5/amy_goodman_at_free_library_of_philadelphia_1384">Philadelphia</a> at the Philly Free Library. Check our website for all the details.</p><p> </p><p> </p> Wed, 03 May 2017 08:16:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1076328 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics the south republicans Mick Mulvaney jeff sessions 'A Land Grab by the Ruling Elites': Trump's Tax Plan Derided for Benefiting the Rich https://www.alternet.org/economy/trumps-tax-plan-derided-benefiting-rich <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In addition to providing handouts to the ruling class, the plan will blow up the deficit by an estimated $3-7 trillion.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_536498464.jpg?itok=2DH0dj5b" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div><div><p>The White House has outlined a plan to give the nation’s millionaires and billionaires a massive tax break while adding trillions of dollars to the U.S. deficit. The plan would lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, end the estate tax and end the alternative minimum tax—a move that would solely benefit the richest Americans, including President Trump. A leaked 2005 tax return shows Trump paid out $36.6 million in federal income taxes that year—most of it due to the alternative minimum tax. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich described Trump’s tax plan as a form of class warfare. The tax plan was unveiled on Wednesday by two former executives at Goldman Sachs—Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin—who hailed the tax cuts. We speak to economist James Henry of the Tax Justice Network.</p><p>TRANSCRIPT</p></div></div><div><div>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</div><div><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’re broadcasting from Vermont PBS. The White House has outlined a plan to give the nation’s millionaires and billionaires a massive tax break while adding trillions of dollars to the U.S. deficit. The plan would lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, end the estate tax and end the alternative minimum tax—a move that would solely benefit the richest Americans, including President Trump. A leaked 2005 tax return shows Trump paid out $36.6 million in federal income taxes that year—most of it due to the alternative minimum tax. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich described Trump’s tax plan as a form of class warfare. The tax plan was unveiled Wednesday by two former executives at Goldman Sachs—Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin—who hailed the tax cuts.</p><blockquote><p><strong>TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN:</strong> Under the Trump plan, we will have a massive tax cut for businesses and massive tax reform and simplification. As the president said during the campaign, we will lower the business rate to 15 percent. We will make it a territorial system. We will have a one-time tax on overseas profits, which will bring back trillions of dollars that are offshore to be invested here in the United States to purchase capital and to create jobs. The president is determined to unleash economic growth for businesses. This is not just about large corporations. Small and medium-size businesses will be eligible for the business rate, as well.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> To talk more about Trump’s tax plan, we’re joined by the economist James Henry of the Tax Justice Network.</p><p>Well, let’s start off, James, if you could just lay out your reaction to the tax plan as it’s been unveiled.</p><p><strong>JAMES HENRY:</strong> Well, this is nothing less than the largest wealth transfer that has ever occurred, if it were passed. I doubt that it will pass. But it amounts to a tax heist by the ruling class, by Trump and the richest administration we have ever had. It would not only effectively gut the progressive corporate income tax and initiate a race to the bottom among all countries that have corporate taxation around the world, because they would be competing with each other, it would also effectively gut the estate tax, eliminate that, so we’re basically heading toward a kind of oligarchy. And it would reduce the top rate for personal income tax to—from 39.6 percent to 35, so it’s an immediate paycheck.</p><p>This is also going to blow up the federal deficit by an estimated $3 [trillion] to $7 trillion over the next 10 years, so that’s going to not make deficit hawks happy. And I know—you know, the Republicans have time and again insisted on budget balances in this—under the Obama administration. The Congress was deadlocked many times. Well, this just throws that completely out the window.</p><p>It’s, I think, especially interesting to see what’s going on with the corporate income tax, because, basically, most of the benefits of this tax plan will actually go to the Googles and Microsofts and Apples of the world, which have—now are going to get an enormous tax rate on the $2 trillion of offshore assets that they have accumulated, many times using bogus schemes like transferring intellectual property to places like Ireland. Now they’re going to be able to bring all that back and only pay, at most, 8 percent on it. We tried that in 2004; we saw Bush do something similar. It did not create jobs. Multinationals took the money back. They used it to do shareholder buybacks that enriched their senior executives. But in this case, we’re going beyond that, beyond the margin. They’re going to have a global territorial tax. So, U.S. companies like General Electric, that realize more than 60 percent of their income from offshore, are no longer going to have to pay any tax on that at all, and, you know, whereas domestic companies are going to be stuck with the 15 percent rate.</p><p>This is going to be a tremendous boon to Trump’s own personal pocket, because the only reason he paid any taxes at all—we only have one tax year for him. That was from 2005. The only reason he paid any tax that year was really because of what’s called the alternative minimum tax. And he’s abolishing that under this plan. And all of his rich friends are actually also subject to that same alternative minimum tax.</p><p>So the list goes on and on. But basically this amounts to transferring the costs of essential services of government, the federal government, to middle class and the poor, that are not going to be able to benefit this. They’re going to be paying the debts that this plan will increase. And they’re going to also be watching as other countries around the world engage in this tax competition war that Trump has just initiated.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> James Henry, I wanted to turn to the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, who obtained the first two pages of Trump’s 2005 tax returns. He <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2017/3/15/david_cay_johnston_how_trump_pays">appeared</a> on <i>Democracy Now!</i> and talked about what they show.</p><blockquote><p><strong>DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:</strong> Donald Trump, in writing, in his campaign documents, has said, "We’re going to get rid of the alternative minimum tax." Well, of the $36.6 million in tax that he paid, more than $31 million was because of the alternative minimum tax. And the reason for that is that that $103 million that was disallowed under the alternative minimum tax—it’s allowed under the regular tax, disallowed under the alternative—even with it being disallowed, Donald Trump still got a 20 percent tax discount on his taxes. And here’s why. At that level of income in 2005, your tax rate is 35 percent of your income. But if you’re on the alternative minimum tax, your tax rate is only 28 percent. That’s 20 percent less. So he was only paying 80 cents on the dollar to begin with.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, that’s the journalist David Cay Johnston. In the <em>New York</em> magazine, the headline is "Trump Proposes Giant, Unfunded Tax Cut for Himself." James Henry, elaborate on this.</p><p><strong>JAMES HENRY:</strong> Well, I mean, that alternative minimum tax, as we just said, is one of the key elements of this. But I would also emphasize many other provisions here. The drop of the top rate to 35 percent for personal income taxpayers at the same time that they’re cutting the corporate rate to 15 percent is going to create this enormous incentive for rich people to park all their income in companies. And then, you know, they won’t pay any tax on it until it’s distributed. So, that’s just another—and they’ve also eliminated the pass-through tax, where income goes from corporate to personal use. So there are a lot of games that are going to be played by the very wealthy. But 90 percent of the benefits of this plan go to the top 1 percent of the population—that’s the clear—the shareholders of major companies, many of which are—most of which are multinationals, that are going to be actually given an incentive to offshore their businesses by this. This is actually going to increase the use of offshore havens by companies like Apple and Google, because there’s now a territorial tax. So, you know, on the whole—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I wanted—</p><p><strong>JAMES HENRY:</strong> Yeah.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I want to to turn to candidate Donald Trump speaking last year on the <em>Today</em> show about taxes.</p><blockquote><p><strong>VOICE OVER:</strong> A year ago, candidate Trump told <em>Today</em> he’d ask the wealthy to pay more.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:</strong> Do you believe in raising taxes on the wealthy?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>DONALD TRUMP:</strong> I do. I do, including myself. I do.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> James Henry?</p><p><strong>JAMES HENRY:</strong> The president doesn’t keep his word on this or many other issues. I think his supporters should really be distressed about the fact that, going forward, they’re going to live in a country that is essentially much more unequal, where the costs of government are basically on their backs. We’ve tried this experiment before. We’ve had 30, 40 years of Arthur Laffer-type tax cuts, where they were supposed to pay for themselves. They never have. At most, this will pay for maybe one—you know, add a 0.2 percent of growth to the economy. But, overall, tax revenue will drop by up to $7 trillion over this next decade. And so we’re going to be saddled with increased debt, multinational companies that are now citizens of nowhere for tax purposes, and a much more unequal society.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, what happens now? I mean, you have a $3 trillion deficit that this would cause. We’re talking about a Republican-controlled House and Senate, who are supposedly deficit hawks. You say you don’t think this will pass, but how do you see this playing out? And where can people weigh in?</p><p><strong>JAMES HENRY:</strong> Well, I think there are a, you know, substantial number of Democrats who will oppose this just on principle and because of the track record we’ve had that this is going to cause huge deficits. This is really going to be a litmus test for the Republicans to, you know—I mean, they’re going to be put to a choice here. They are supposed to be interested in fighting deficits. But here we have—you know, I think, ultimately, this was what the election was all about. This is a land grab, essentially, by the ruling elites in this country. And I think, you know, the Republicans are—who said all along they were deficit hawks, are really going to be flushed out here. It may produce some of the same divisions we saw on the Obamacare matter. But, you know, ultimately, I’m pessimistic. I mean, I think, put to the test, many Republicans will just give up on their anti-debt principles.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, James Henry, I want to thank you for being with us. This is something we will continue to talk about. Tomorrow, we’ll be joined by Congressmember Welch, one of the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also the single congressmember representing Vermont. James Henry, economist, lawyer, senior adviser with the Tax Justice network, former chief economist at McKinsey &amp; Company.</p><p>This is <em>Democracy Now!</em> When we come back, we turn to Vermont’s only woman governor to get a comment on this hundred days of the Trump administration. This is <em>Democracy Now!</em> We’ll be back with Governor Kunin in a moment.</p></div></div><p> </p><p> </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="250" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/4/27/a_land_grab_by_the_ruling" width="400"></iframe></p> Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:55:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1076143 at https://www.alternet.org Economy Economy News & Politics tax cuts tax cuts for the rich donald trump economy Shocking Exposé Reveals Trump Associates & ISIS-Linked Vigilantes Are Attempting Coup in Indonesia https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/shocking-expose-reveals-trump-associates-isis-linked-vigilantes-are-attempting <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Investigative reporter Allan Nairn links Trump associates to terrorist plots in Indonesia.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/c98strvxkaaek5w.jpg?itok=a3IQlk-1" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As Vice President Mike Pence railed against ISIS-linked terrorism Thursday, we speak with longtime investigative journalist Allan Nairn about his shocking new exposé that reveals backers of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers and a vigilante street movement linked to ISIS in an attempt to oust Indonesia’s president. Writing in The Intercept, Nairn reveals that Indonesians involved in the coup attempt include a corporate lawyer working for the mining company Freeport-McMoRan, which is controlled by Trump adviser Carl Icahn. Video has even emerged showing the lawyer at a ceremony where men are swearing allegiance to ISIS. According to Nairn, two of the other most prominent supporters of the coup are close associates of Donald Trump—Fadli Zon, vice speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives, and Hary Tanoe, Trump’s primary Indonesian business partner, who is building two Trump resorts, one in Bali and one outside Jakarta. Nairn’s article is making waves in Indonesia.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/4/21/shocking_expose_reveals_trump_associates_isis" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>TRANSCRIPT</strong></p><div>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</div><div><p><strong><strong><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong></strong></strong> This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman. Vice President Mike Pence visited the largest mosque in Southeast Asia Thursday during a trip to Indonesia. A day earlier, he addressed reporters at a press conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Jakarta.</p><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:</strong> </strong></strong>The United States is also proud to be one of Indonesia’s oldest and most engaged defense partners. And under President Trump, we are firmly committed to continuing to collaborate on the security of both of our peoples. A stronger defense partnership will serve us well as we confront the various security threats and challenges that we now face. And, of course, one of the greatest threats we face is the rise and spread of terrorism. Sadly, Indonesia is no stranger to this evil, nor is the United States of America, as the president and I discussed. The world watched with heartbreak in January of last year when ISIS-linked terrorists struck in central Jakarta in a barbaric suicide bombing. Our hearts broke for your people. This vile attack claimed the lives of five innocents, injured more than two dozen others. What I can assure you and the people of Indonesia is that you had the condolences and the prayers of the American people as you confronted this tragedy.</p></blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> </strong></strong>While Vice President Mike Pence railed against ISIS-linked terrorism, a shocking new <a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/04/18/trumps-indonesian-allies-in-bed-with-isis-backed-militia-seeking-to-oust-elected-president/">exposé</a> by longtime investigative journalist Allan Nairn has revealed backers of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers and a vigilante street movement linked to ISIS in an attempt to oust Indonesia’s democratically elected president. Writing in <em>The Intercept</em>, Nairn reveals Indonesians involved in the coup attempt include a corporate lawyer working for the mining company Freeport-McMoRan, which is controlled by Trump adviser Carl Icahn. Video has even emerged showing the lawyer at a ceremony where men are swearing allegiance to ISIS. According to Allan Nairn, two of the other most prominent supporters of the coup are close associates of Donald Trump: Fadli Zon, the vice speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives, and Hary Tanoe, Trump’s primary Indonesian business partner, who’s building two Trump resorts, one in Bali and one outside Jakarta. Nairn’s article is making waves in Indonesia. The Indonesian military is threatening legal action against the news portal tirto.id, after it published a partial translation of the article and ran a profile about Allan Nairn. In response, Nairn tweeted a message to the Indonesian military, saying, quote, "Dear TNI: If you want to threaten brave Indonesian reporters and publishers, please threaten me too," unquote.</p><p>Well, I recently sat down with Allan Nairn in our <em>Democracy Now!</em> studio and asked him to outline what he’s uncovered.</p><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> </strong></strong>Indonesia is in the midst of a political crisis, in that there is an attempt to stage what people on both sides of the conflict call the coup. And this is a <em>de facto</em>, or even direct, coup against the elected president, the elected government of Indonesia, which is headed by President Joko Widodo, Jokowi. Jokowi was the first person from outside the political elite who ever was elected president. He’s—on certain issues, in certain respects, he’s a bit of a reformist. He got elected, in an important part because he speaks the language of the poor, and people relate to him. He has been pushing social programs on health and education. But, especially in recent months, his government has been fighting for survival. Those backing this coup project include the top generals in the country, who are seeking to escape any whisper of accountability for their past mass murders—mass murders that have been supported by the U.S.—and for their ongoing atrocities in West Papua, also the friends and business partners and political associates of Donald Trump. The local Trump people in Indonesia, including his top political backer, the politician Fadli Zon, including his local business partner, Hary Tanoe, and others, have been funding and backing this coup movement.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>The instrument they have been using is a—what purports to be a radical Islamist street movement, which has been staging massive demonstrations on the streets of Jakarta, demonstrations drawing out hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people. And their hook is what they claimed to be a religious issue, where they are attacking and demanding the death by hanging of the incumbent governor of Jakarta, who happens to be an ethnic Chinese Christian who is currently standing trial for insulting religion, for insulting Islam. And he could actually be sent to prison. And he’s also currently standing for re-election. But this Islamist street movement is, in a sense, a front for the real powers, the real interests, which are trying to use the demonstrations and the attacks on Governor Ahok—that’s his name, Ahok—to bring down the government of President Jokowi. I know this because for much of the past year I’ve been talking to people within the Jokowi government and also people within the coup movement, and they’ve been describing what’s happening as it—as it goes along. The group that they are using to front the street demonstrations is called the FPI. The FPI is what are known in Indonesia as <em>preman</em>, street thugs. They were created by the Indonesian army and police shortly after the fall of Suharto, in order to do killings—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> </strong></strong>U.S.-backed dictator.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> </strong></strong>Yes—in order to do repression and, when needed, killings on behalf of the army, without the army having to take responsibility for it. And they would do it under the banner of radical Islam, kind of diverting attention from the fact of army and police sponsorship behind it. This group, the FPI, has been implicated in attacks on mosques—they frequently attack Islamic religious denominations that they do not agree with—attacks on churches and murders, one of which, in spectacular fashion, was videotaped, and their mob is seen beating and kicking to death a man who’s lying face down in the mud. They openly call for the hanging and murder of various politicians who displease them. They live day to day by—in addition to the funds they get from the army and the police, by extortion. They claim to be religiously compliant, but one of their key tactics over the years has been to go into strip clubs, go into bars; if the owners haven’t been giving their weekly payoff to the FPI in a timely fashion, breaking the place up with heavy sticks, then taking the liquor and drinking it or reselling it. I mean, this is famous on the streets of Jakarta. Everybody knows about this. Another of their big activities has been evicting the poor. They would be rented out to army, police, rich developers, landlords, in order to violently evict poor people so that their homes could be demolished and used for other purposes.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>The group also happens to be listed by Western intelligence, including ASIO, the Australian intelligence service, as a violent extremist organization—a term they use for "terrorist." And this happens to be one of the cases where their characterization of a movement as violent and extremist is accurate. This group FPI also has numerous connections to ISIS. The leader of the FPI militia is a lawyer who is a corporate lawyer for Freeport-McMoRan, the giant U.S. mining corporation that is controlled by Carl Icahn, Donald Trump’s good friend and White House deregulation adviser. This lawyer—his name is Munarman—he represents a local corporate front for Freeport. And he is there presiding over the militia, as—the FPI militia, as they commit violence, and standing next to the FPI leaders as they call for the death by hanging of Jakarta’s governors. This lawyer for Carl Icahn’s Freeport was videotaped not long ago at an ISIS swear-in ceremony, where he was one of two people presiding as a group full of young men pledged allegiance to—swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. The program of massive street demonstrations, aimed at ultimately bringing down the Jokowi elected government, has been endorsed by Indonesians who have gone to Syria and joined up as ISIS fighters, as they describe themselves, etc.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>This is the group which is being used by the U.S.-trained Indonesian generals and being backed by Donald Trump’s key Indonesian business partner, Donald Trump’s key Indonesian political backer and the lawyer for Carl Icahn’s Freeport-McMoRan. Maybe it was about a year ago, we did a short <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2015/9/8/allan_nairn_donald_trump_meets_praises">segment</a> on <i>Democracy Now!</i> regarding the fact that one of these figures, Fadli Zon, the politician who was involved in this coup movement, he appeared at Trump Tower along with Donald Trump. This was shortly after Trump launched his presidential campaign. He launched his campaign by attacking Mexicans as rapists, and he got some heat for that. And one of the things Trump did, apparently, was to say to his people, "Get me some foreigners." One of the foreigners they got him was this Indonesian politician, Fadli Zon. He appeared at the press conference with Donald Trump. For doing so, he was fiercely attacked by the grand imam of the Indonesian mosque here in New York City—a very courageous act, by the way, by that imam, given the fact that Fadli Zon is not just a politician but is also the right-hand man of General Prabowo. Prabowo is the most notorious mass-killing general in Indonesia. He was also the general who was the closest protégé of the U.S. Pentagon and intelligence during his military career. So, Fadli Zon was attacked by—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> </strong></strong>And Prabowo was instrumental in East Timor.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong></strong></strong> Yes. He did massacres in Timor and many other places. But now, it is his right-hand man, Fadli Zon, who was appearing with Trump at Trump Tower, helping in the—the initial stages of launching the campaign, and who is now one of the main supporters of this movement, which has as its final goal the toppling of Indonesia’s democratically elected president. And among the generals—and this is in a piece that I’ve been working on, and maybe by the time this airs the piece will have already been released—that have been complicit, in one degree or another, in this movement, include General Prabowo; General Wiranto, who is currently still under indictment for war crimes in Timor; General Gatot, who is currently the commander of the Indonesian armed forces.</p></blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> </strong></strong>We’ll be back with investigative journalist Allan Nairn in 30 seconds.</p><p><strong><strong>[break]</strong></strong></p><p><strong><strong><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> </strong></strong>This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our conversation with investigative journalist Allan Nairn, who has just published a shocking <a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/04/18/trumps-indonesian-allies-in-bed-with-isis-backed-militia-seeking-to-oust-elected-president/">exposé</a> at <em>The Intercept</em>revealing backers of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers and a vigilante street movement linked to ISIS in an attempt to oust Indonesia’s president. I asked Allan Nairn to talk more about Trump’s connection to Fadli Zon, the Indonesian politician who was seen with Trump at Trump Tower during the presidential campaign.</p><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> </strong></strong>Well, after Fadli Zon returned to Indonesia, as I mentioned, he was fiercely and very courageously attacked by the grand imam of the Indonesian mosque here in New York City. And then he was also attacked by his colleagues in the Indonesian congress. Fadli was and is the number two person in the Indonesian congress. And they tried to censure him for appearing with Donald Trump, on the grounds that it was unethical. And as the imam had pointed out, the thing that Trump is famous for in New York—in U.S. politics is being a racist and being anti-Islam. And this was especially sharp and ironic, because Prabowo and Fadli Zon have used as their main political tactic attacking any of their opponents on the grounds that their opponents are, one, anti-Islam, not as Islamic as they are, and, two, tools of foreigners. Prabowo, of course, as he had told me in our extensive discussion, himself was the most—the closest partner of U.S. intelligence in Indonesia when he was helping to run the mass-murdering Suharto military. He worked for the DIA, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. But in the campaign, he was running as a phony nationalist.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>So, after he returned to Indonesia, Fadli Zon was under pressure from the congress. He, in the end, escaped any serious censure. But he did not repudiate Donald Trump. He became Donald Trump’s most vocal defender within Indonesian politics. And indeed, after the point in the campaign when Trump said that he was going to ban all Muslims from the United States, including in its first version, in its first iteration, ban even Muslims who were citizens of the U.S., even members of the U.S. military who happened to be overseas at that moment—he was going to ban them from returning home; he later had to modify and back off from that—after Trump made his first outrageous call for the Muslim ban, Fadli Zon defended him in Indonesia. And he said, "Trump is not anti-Islam. Donald Trump is not anti-Islam. And just you wait and see. As soon as he becomes president, he’s going to drop all that stuff, because that’s only campaign rhetoric." So, in essence, Fadli Zon has been Donald Trump’s political spokesman in Indonesia.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> </strong></strong>And, Allan Nairn, who is Hary Tanoe.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> </strong></strong>Hary Tanoe is one of Trump’s two business partners in Indonesia. They’re working on a resort and some other projects. And there was recently a report within BIN, the Indonesian intelligence agency, which asserted that Hary Tanoe was covertly donating funds to the anti—the coup involving the FPI and the generals. Hary Tanoe is a media magnate like Trump. They actually have a similar profile in business. He’s in media, and he also sponsors beauty pageants. Tanoe’s media stations have been, in a sense, propaganda wings of the—of the coup, the street coup movement, to the extent to which they were actually admonished, officially admonished, by the Indonesian state broadcasting board, which is a very—usually a very weak, quiescent body. So these stations have been serving as kind of the propagandists for Trump. And the internal intelligence—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> </strong></strong>For Trump?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> </strong></strong>As propagandists for the coup movement. And the internal intelligence report, which I had access to, asserts that Tanoe was also going beyond that and directly contributing funds to the movement.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Now, the background to this is very important. The Indonesian military came to power in 1965 in a coup, where they ousted the country’s founding father, Sukarno. They consolidated power with a massacre of anywhere from 400,000 to a million civilians. The massacre was enthusiastically backed by the U.S. The CIA gave them a list of 5,000 communists to start with. The U.S. press hailed it as, in the words of one <em>New York Times</em> column, "a gleam of light in Asia." The army installed General Suharto as the country’s dictator. The Clinton White House, years later, described Suharto as "our kind of guy." President Ford and Henry Kissinger gave—personally gave Suharto the green light to invade East Timor, which produced the most extensive proportional slaughter since the Nazis. The army implemented a regime which involved kind of a semi-religious glorification of the army and stigmatization of any kind of reformist element, which they would characterize as communist. And, when needed, or when they felt like it, over the years, they would stage additional massacres.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Then, in ’98, partly as a result of the Asian financial crisis, triggered by banks, partly as a result of the amazing courage of activists who came out on the streets of Jakarta to demand the ouster of Suharto, partly as a result of the fact that the grassroots movement here in the U.S. had succeeded in cutting off most of the arms pipeline from the U.S. to Indonesia, which then constrained them, in the extent to which they were willing to open fire on those demonstrators, Suharto fell.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>After Suharto came what is referred to as Reformasi, reform, which is still underway. The army is still the dominant number one power in Indonesia, but their power is much less than it used to be. The fact that Jakowi, the civilian who related to the poor, was able to defeat the mass-murdering U.S. protégé, General Prabowo, in the presidential election was a real watershed in Indonesian politics. A very courageous movement of survivors of army massacres and human rights activists in Indonesia has persisted for year after year after year, putting their own lives at risk and sometimes dying in the process, like in the case of Munir, the brilliant and heroic human rights activist and my friend, who was assassinated by arsenic poisoning in 2004. They have persisted with this movement to bring the generals to justice. And in past few years, they’ve succeeded in upping the pressure. They’ve made gains, to the point that some generals have started to worry about whether they might be brought to justice, or at least might be publicly humiliated by their crimes being acknowledged publicly and the survivors gaining some degree of public legitimacy. So, the generals, to a degree much more than I realized before I started talking to people about this coup movement, have become obsessed with the idea of staving off justice.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>And what has happened with their sponsorship, the sponsorship of many generals of this coup movement, is that they’ve created a very elegant win-win strategy. If they succeed in toppling President Jokowi, then no worry about accountability. On the other hand, if they don’t succeed, Jokowi will owe the generals who are supporting him, because although the bulk of the mass-murdering generals are affiliated in one way or another with the coup movement, there’s another fraction who are backing Jokowi and helping him to fend off the coup movement, and are getting—exacting a <em>de facto</em> guarantee. "Hey, we’re keeping you alive here. No prosecution, right? No public exposure of our crimes. No humiliation for the atrocities that we have committed." So, whichever way it turns out, in their mind—and there’s certainly reason to think that it’s a not unreasonable expectation— justice and accountability lose—loses, and the army wins.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> </strong></strong>Is Jokowi aware of the Trump connections to the supporters of the coup movement?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> </strong></strong>That’s a good question. I don’t know. I don’t know when this will air, but as we are speaking, as this is being recorded, next week, on Wednesday, the Jakarta gubernatorial election is due to happen. That’s when it will be decided whether the governor, who is the kind of pretext for this street movement, will be voted in or voted out as—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> </strong></strong>This is April 19th.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> </strong></strong>—as governor. Yes. And the day after the scheduled gubernatorial election, Vice President Mike Pence is due to arrive in Indonesia for two days and to meet with President Jokowi. Now, one interesting aspect of this is: Where does the U.S. stand on all of this? Because, on the one hand, the U.S. has a longtime policy, in countries around the world, of backing the repressive armies and security forces, but, on the other hand, also backing elected presidents—as long as those elected presidents do not have a program that threatens U.S. corporate interests or the interests of the local rich or the fact that the U.S. is allowed to back the local army and security forces. Barring that, the U.S. is all for local elected presidents. So, in accord with that historic worldwide policy, the U.S. has, up to this moment—as far as I know, up until at least recently, been backing Jokowi against the coup movement.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>But it’s Trump’s local people who have been helping to push the coup movement. Now, I don’t know whether this question has come to the attention of President Trump himself. It could come to his attention through his business partner, Hary Tanoe, through his main Indonesian political partner, Fadli Zon, through his other business partner, Setya Novanto, who is a famously corrupt politician, or it could come to his attention through Carl Icahn, who is close to Trump, is his deregulation adviser from the White House and who is the controlling shareholder of Freeport-McMoRan, the oil and—the mining giant of copper and gold which has been ravaging West Papua, taking their gold and copper, but which—and this is quite significant—recently has been under challenge from the Jokowi government. For years, Freeport-McMoRan has had a free ride in Indonesia. As long as they paid off General Suharto and his cronies, as long as they paid off the army, various bureaucrats, they were able to do whatever they want. They were able to just strip the mountains of West Papua, turn the rivers indescribable primary colors from their pollution, knock off their dissident workers when necessary. They were able to do anything. But now, just in the past year and a half or so, they have been under challenge from the Jokowi government, which is demanding a renegotiation of the contract between the Indonesian government and Freeport-McMoRan, and which has been restricting Freeport’s copper exports. So this is creating a problem for Icahn, a serious economic problem for Carl Icahn. As this conflict between the Jokowi government and Icahn’s Freeport has been going on, the local lawyer for Icahn’s Freeport has been helping to lead the coup movement to oust—to oust Jokowi.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Now, I don’t know how much Trump knows about this, but I know there’s some question among some officials in Indonesia as to, in the end, which side will the U.S. come down—come down on. Will it continue the traditional U.S. policy of wanting to keep an elected president in for kind of stability purposes and front purposes, or might it align with Trump’s personal and business connections on the other side, who are backing the coup?</p></blockquote><p><strong><strong><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong></strong></strong> Investigative journalist Allan Nairn. We’ll link to his <a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/04/18/trumps-indonesian-allies-in-bed-with-isis-backed-militia-seeking-to-oust-elected-president/">piece</a> at <em>The Intercept</em>.</p><p>Tune in tomorrow for our coverage of the march on—of the <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/live/coming_up_on_april_22nd_democracy">March for Science</a> in Washington. And on Sunday, I’ll be speaking at <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman_at_labyrinth_books_in_princeton_nj_1362">Princeton University</a>. Special thanks to Sam Alcoff and Mike Burke.</p></div><p><strong><strong> </strong></strong></p> Fri, 21 Apr 2017 10:02:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1075869 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics World Isis donald trump indonesia Terrorism in Indonesia mike pence How Ivanka Trump & Jared Kushner Personally Profit from Their Roles in the White House https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/ivanka-trump-jared-kushner-profit-white-house <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">So much for being a moderating influence. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_408626056.jpg?itok=iSWEY9S9" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Are Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner personally profiting from their official roles in the White House? According to the Associated Press, Ivanka Trump secured three new exclusive trademarks in China the very same day she and her father, President Trump, had dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The China trademarks give her company the exclusive rights to sell Ivanka-branded jewelry, bags and spa services in China. The New York Times reports Japan also approved new trademarks for Ivanka for branded shoes, handbags and clothing in February, and she has trademark applications pending in at least 10 other countries. Ivanka no longer manages her $50 million company, but she continues to own it. Ivanka also serves in the Trump administration as an adviser to the president. So does her husband, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. For more, we speak with </p><p>Vicky Ward, New York Times best-selling author, investigative journalist and contributor to Esquire and Huffington Post Highline magazine.</p><p>TRANSCRIPT</p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>NERMEEN SHAIKH:</strong> The Associated Press is reporting Ivanka Trump secured three new exclusive trademarks in China the very same day she and her father, President Trump, had dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The China trademarks give her company the exclusive rights to sell Ivanka-branded jewelry, bags and spa services in China. <em>The New York Times</em> reports Japan also approved new trademarks for Ivanka for branded shoes, handbags and clothing in February, and she has trademark applications pending in at least 10 other countries. Ivanka no longer manages her $50 million company, but she continues to own it. Ivanka also serves in the Trump administration as an adviser to the president. So does her husband, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Earlier this month in an interview with <em>CBS This Morning</em>’s Gayle King, Ivanka Trump talked about potential conflicts of interest.</p><blockquote><p><strong>GAYLE KING:</strong> When we talk about the Ivanka Trump brand, you are no longer running the day-to-day.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>IVANKA TRUMP:</strong> No, I’m no longer—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>GAYLE KING:</strong> What have you done with your business?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>IVANKA TRUMP:</strong> I have no involvement with any of it. And I felt like proximity to my father and to the White House and with my husband taking such an influential role in the administration, I didn’t want to also be running a business. So, I put it into trust. I have independent trustees. I have no involvement in its management, in its oversight, in its strategic decision-making.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>GAYLE KING:</strong> But the trustees are family members, right? Your brother-in-law and your sister-in-law?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>IVANKA TRUMP:</strong> They are.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>GAYLE KING:</strong> So, from a—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>IVANKA TRUMP:</strong> But they’re completely independent, and I’m transparent about that.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>GAYLE KING:</strong> Can you see, from the public point of view—yes, you put it in trust, but it’s family members—they’re thinking, "Well, is she really not involved?" Do you really not get on the phone and say, "What’s going on?" Do you have no involvement whatsoever?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>IVANKA TRUMP:</strong> I take—I take a legal document very seriously, and I wouldn’t go through the pains of setting this up, if I intended to violate it.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> The AP says sales of Ivanka Trump’s merchandise have surged since her father was elected president.</p><p>To talk more about this, we’re joined by Vicky Ward, <em>New York Times</em> best-selling author, investigative journalist, contributor to <em>Esquire</em> and the <em>Huffington Post Highline</em> magazine.</p><p>Vicky Ward, welcome to <em>Democracy Now!</em></p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Thank you.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> OK, let’s go back to this moment, that became very famous, of course, the president of China, Xi Jinping, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, seated at the dinner at Mar-a-Lago.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Next to them, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That same day, she got three exclusive trademarks from China to sell her merchandise?</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Right. Well, I mean, it—you know, it speaks for itself. I mean, I wish I could tell you I was surprised, but I’m really not. I’m doing a lot of reporting—I’m spending half my time in D.C. these days—actually looking at this subject of the commercialization of the White House in real time, which I think is a narrative that has been slightly drowned out because of the theater and chaos of the last 80 days. And, you know, we’ve all been so consumed with the fight between the Kushner camp and the Bannon camp that this very real kind of story of horrifying kleptocracy, you know, that’s never happened to this country before—and, you know, the White House is turning into the Kushner piggy bank and the Trump piggy bank. I mean, and it’s outrageous.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, explain what she’s saying. She’s saying, "Oh, no. It’s in a trust." But—</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Oh, please. So, it’s in a—right, first of all, the Trumps and the Kushners are real estate—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Tycoons.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> —families and business. You know, these real estate developers are—and I wrote a book about the New York real estate world, so it’s something I’m very familiar with—they are family businesses. So, it is in a trust run by Jared Kushner’s brother, Josh. OK, so just to show you how closely everything is entwined, not only is Jared an investor in Josh, Josh is an investor in Jared. Josh’s healthcare business, Oscar, is in Jared’s building, the Puck Building. So, you know, they—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Wait, wait. You have to explain it.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> OK.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This is a self insurance company here in New York that people buy.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Right. So, he, Josh Kushner, is a very successful venture capitalist, who also started a healthcare business, Oscar, predicated on Obamacare. And its current valuation is $2.7 billion. Now, interestingly, Peter Thiel, who’s part of the sort of, you know, Kushner new businessmen, you know, the new brigade, you know, the sort of—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Billionaire supporter of President Trump.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> The sort of—yeah, the businessman, exactly.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Spoke at the RNC.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Exactly, the crony capitalism going on inside of there. He, I think, put in—bought out the—went in and took out the entire second round of Oscar, so he’s right in there. But there is no question. I mean, the Kushners are even more of a tight-knit family than—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Is that the reason why Jared Kushner was not there for the week of the negotiations around "repeal and replace," that he was in Aspen?</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Well, I think you have to ask that question. In fact, it’s sort of—no one pointed it out. And, by the way, nor was Gary Cohn and Dina Powell, who are both part of the Kushner army, you know. And a lot of people were raising eyebrows. Most people, when they go to work for a White House, don’t decide to swan off on holiday during the president’s first hundred days.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Or the most—the most pivotal week he has had so far.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Right, his first—so, you know, Jared Kushner’s self-interest, I think, is a huge—and Ivanka’s self-interest has sort of been ignored. I mean, it’s been covered, but it’s been overcome by the noise of the other stories. But I think, increasingly now, we’re going to see it really, really matter, because it is just a story of plain, outright corruption, and it’s not legal.</p><p><strong>NERMEEN SHAIKH:</strong> Well, in addition to the three trademarks that Ivanka Trump was granted with China, last year China granted preliminary approval for 38 trademarks protecting Trump’s name. So explain why this issue of trademarks is relevant and what kinds of regulations apply to Ivanka and Kushner relative to compared to what apply to Trump, President Trump.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Well, so, you know, he is protected by a conflicts clause, isn’t he? There’s some clause that he can hide behind. They are not supposed to do—if they’re working in the White House, to do anything that might leverage their position there for their own commercial gain. So, I would ask you—I have sources covering this every day, who say, "Well, let’s look at Ivanka." What is she doing policy-wise? Nothing. But what she is doing is wearing clothes. She’s in a—she’s in a business that sells clothes, shoes. That’s what she does. So, what she’s doing every day is using—you know, they’re very good at public relations, Jared and Ivanka. They’ve just hired a Hollywood public relations person. I know from personal experience, having reported on them, having reported on Jared, all the leaks I—you know, every time you see a person close to Jared, that is Jared talking.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I mean, I can hear the headlines here.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Yeah.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> You know, you accused her of wearing clothes. But, I mean, I think—</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> No.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —what you’re talking about is in the—for example—</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> That’s right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —on the Sunday night show on—when she went on and—on <i>60 Minutes</i>—</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Yes.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —wearing a bracelet, and the next day showing that in her <em>60 Minutes</em> interview—</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Yes.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —and saying, "You can buy this for $10,000."</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> But also, she owns her company, even if it’s in a trust, right?</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> She will profit from its—</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> So, to your part about the trademarks, so you have—I mean, there she is charming the Chinese premier, and suddenly, oh, great, you know, great for business for Ivanka Trump in China. I think it was also reported, the Philippines, you know, she’s got trademarks there. I’ve met Robbie Antonio, the real estate developer who facilitated that. And the first time I met Robbie Antonio, all he could talk to me about—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Explain who he is.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> He’s this—they call him the Trump—his family, the Trumps of the Philippines. And all he could talk to me about—this was before Trump ran for president—was, you know, he’d just come off the golf course with Donald Trump. And, I mean, they’re all in awe of this family.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And then you have—</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> And lo and behold, you know—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And then you have the scandal this week, but this goes to Donald Trump, where he calls Erdogan—</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —the president of Turkey, to congratulate him on winning this referendum that leads to—</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —a dictatorship of Erdogan—</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —at the same time that you have him last year being interviewed by Steve Bannon on Breitbart radio, saying he has a conflict of interest because he has two towers in Istanbul.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Correct. I mean, it goes on and on and on. The question is, you know, why is—sort of why are we all sitting here talking about it, and nothing being done? And perhaps, you know, time—time will tell. I mean, one thing that I’ve thought about is, for example, Jared Kushner has talked about, you know, bringing in this council of innovators. Now, it’s just not possible, in a council of innovators—it may not be a bad idea, by the way, but it’s not possible that a venture capitalist brother is going to not benefit from that. And—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So what are the laws? You said this is illegal.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Well, he’s not the—Jared Kushner is not supposed to benefit from his position in the White House. So, but for something to be done about it, I would suspect, in the same way with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, if you go back and sort of study that, it takes time, and it takes a smoking gun to—it takes a real smoking gun. Quite interesting—</p><p><strong>NERMEEN SHAIKH:</strong> What would constitute a smoking gun?</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Well, so, quite interesting—well, who knows, for example, during the transition—and this is pure speculation—who knows what Jared was talking—we know he was talking to the Russians. We know he was talking to the Russia—Russian bank, you know, that’s backed by the government. He very quickly volunteered to testify—which means, by the way, he doesn’t have to testify under oath—and explain what those conversations were about. He was certainly, during that time, according to all my sources in the real estate world, talking to the Chinese, because he has got a real problem with his building 666 Fifth Avenue. And Anbang, this Chinese insurance company, which has very close ties to the Chinese government, until a few weeks ago, were rumored to be paying a price that, I can tell you, every—people I know who are very close to that deal were saying, was at least a billion dollars too high. Why does a Chinese company close to the government want to pay over a billion dollars too much for a building that’s got—that’s got real—you know, it has got real problems, actually, due to Jared’s plans for it? You know, he wants to—and right now the market is not in his favor. And I think even the Kushners saw the conflicts. And kind of that story has disappeared, but not for long, because the only people who are going to come in, most likely, and invest in that building are foreign buyers.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And then you have <em>The New York Times</em> reporting Japan also approved new trademarks for Ivanka for branded shoes, handbags, clothing in February. She has trademark applications pending in over the 10 other countries. But Japan very significant with Shinzo Abe here, and she was with him—</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —almost as much, it looked like, at least, the public views, as President Trump.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Right. But I think what we have—I mean, one of the things—obviously, you can hear I wasn’t born here. Believe it or not, German is my second language. And I actually know people very close to Angela Merkel. So, my takeaway from what they’ve told me is that Ivanka did not contribute very much to—I mean, the photo looked nice, her sitting next to Angela Merkel, but I don’t think that the chancellor came away thinking she contributed much on policy. And, you know, I hear the same—you know, I’m also working on a magazine story about foreign policy. You know, when people sit in—people who actually know what they’re talking about, who spent years studying the Middle East, spent—they then listen to what Jared has to say on foreign policy, they all just sort of want to cry.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Because?</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> Because he knows nothing.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And that’s now his portfolio.</p><p><strong>VICKY WARD:</strong> He knows absolutely nothing. But, so, what I would say is that—so I think the self—what are these two people actually in there to do? Their only experience is working for their parents. That’s it. So, what, if it’s not—it seems to me it’s all about self-interest. They’re not—they’re not qualified to do anything else.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’re going to leave it there, Vicky Ward, <em>New York Times</em> best-selling author, investigative journalist, contributor to <em>Esquire</em> and <em>The Huffington Post</em>.</p><p>This is <em>Democracy Now!</em> When we come back, Anand Gopal joins us. He’s recently back from Iraq. We’ll talk about Iraq and Syria. Stay with us.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/4/20/kleptocracy_how_ivanka_trump_jared_kushner" width="400"></iframe></p> Thu, 20 Apr 2017 13:37:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1075856 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics kleptocracy Jared Kushner Ivanka Trump donald trump Was a Police Report Altered to Convict a Man for Murder? Inside a Woman's Quest to Free Her Brother https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/was-police-report-altered-convict-man-murder <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Prosecutors should be committed to justice, not convictions at all costs. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2017-04-19_at_12.29.49_pm.png?itok=QTPm_A42" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In 2013, Steven Odiase was convicted for the shooting death of 15-year-old Juan Perez in the Bronx. At the time, the only evidence against the 31-year-old Odiase were the words of a lone eyewitness, who admitted to being intoxicated at the time of the murder. Odiase was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Then, Odiase’s younger sister, Kalimah Truesdale, set out to prove her brother’s innocence. She scoured the scene of the crime and eventually found a woman who said that she saw the shooting. Most shockingly, the woman said she had already spoken to a detective at the time of the murder and described the shooter as a man not matching Odiase’s description. However, there was no mention of the woman’s testimony in the version of the police report that was presented to Steven Odiase’s defense attorney. For more on the mystery of this altered police report, we speak with Jonathan Edelstein, one of the lawyers who represented Steven Odiase, and with Jennifer Gonnerman, a staff writer for The New Yorker. Her most recent piece is titled "A Woman’s Quest to Prove Her Brother’s Innocence Leads to a Discovery."</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/4/19/was_a_police_report_altered_to" width="640"></iframe></p><p>TRANSCRIPT</p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We turn now to the remarkable case of Steven Odiase, a wrongfully convicted man who was released Monday after a judge ruled he may not have received a fair trial because prosecutors withheld crucial evidence from his defense lawyer. The case has raised increased scrutiny of New York City’s criminal justice system and concerns about prosecutorial misconduct.</p><p>In 2013, Odiase was convicted for the shooting death of 15-year-old Juan Perez in the Bronx. At the time, the only evidence against the 31-year-old man were the words of a lone eyewitness, who admitted to being intoxicated at the time of the murder. Odiase was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.</p><p>Then, his younger sister, Kalimah Truesdale, set out to prove her brother’s innocence. She scoured the scene of the crime and eventually found a woman who said she saw the shooting. Most shockingly, the woman said she had already spoken to a detective at the time of the murder and described the shooter as a man not matching Odiase’s description. However, there was no mention of the woman’s testimony in the version of the police report that was presented to the defense attorney. The original police report contained the witness’s description but had been surreptitiously redacted in the doctored version.</p><p>On Monday, Justice Steven Barrett quickly vacated the verdict, ordering Odiase released, and called for a new trial. Shortly afterwards, one of his defense attorneys, Pierre Sussman, spoke to NY1.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PIERRE SUSSMAN:</strong> We knew that there was a lot reinvestigation to be done in this case. We had done most of it. The District Attorney’s Office joined us in doing that and came to the right conclusion in releasing him. ... He is still charged with the underlying murder. We are hopeful that the district attorney will see fit to dismiss his indictment for the grounds that they vacated the conviction today.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Judge Barrett did not reverse Odiase’s murder conviction, and the District Attorney’s Office says that its investigation is ongoing. However, it is unlikely prosecutors will decide to retry Odiase, in light of the previously withheld witness statement. Kalimah Truesdale welcomed her brother’s release and briefly spoke to reporters.</p><blockquote><p><strong>KALIMAH TRUESDALE:</strong> I’m very happy.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>REPORTER:</strong> Is this something that you thought needed to be done to help this criminal justice system?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>KALIMAH TRUESDALE:</strong> Yeah, yeah, definitely, definitely.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Kalimah Truesdale told <em>The New Yorker</em> magazine she wants to keep investigating the mystery of the altered police report and find out why crucial information was redacted from her brother’s case, landing him in jail more than three years ago, for over six years. Prosecutors are required by law to share with defense attorneys any evidence pertaining to a defendant’s innocence claim before the trial.</p><p>For more, we’re joined by two guests. Jonathan Edelstein is an attorney focusing on criminal appeals and post-conviction remedies. He’s one of the lawyers who represented Steven Odiase. And we’re also joined by Jennifer Gonnerman, the staff writer for <em>The New Yorker</em> magazine, her most recent <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/a-womans-quest-to-prove-her-brothers-innocence-leads-to-a-discovery">piece</a> headlined "A Woman’s Quest to Prove Her Brother’s Innocence Leads to a Discovery."</p><p>We welcome you both to <em>Democracy Now!</em> Jen, let’s begin with you. Talk about this piece that you wrote so eloquently about in <em>The New Yorker</em>.</p><p><strong>JENNIFER GONNERMAN:</strong> Well, you covered it very well up top. I mean, this is a story of what appears to be a police report that was whited out. As you saw on the screen, the yellow part that was shown up on the screen was the part that was whited out, that was not shown to the trial attorney before trial. So, essentially, that part pertains to a witness that essentially vanished. So the trial attorney didn’t know about that witness. And because of that redaction, it appears that this young man spent six years in prison, and would have spent many more years in prison if not for the intervention of his family, his sister, his attorneys. He would have done, you know, at least 25 years. He had a 25-to-life sentence.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, I mean, this is amazing. And with our radio audience, as well, you can actually describe what happens. There’s just a few lines that are completely whited out, so it just looks like it’s another paragraph. But what was said in those three lines?</p><p><strong>JENNIFER GONNERMAN:</strong> Was that the police had done a canvas of an apartment building in the Bronx near the crime scene, going apartment by apartment. And so each person’s door they knocked on, they recorded what they said. People said, "I heard gunshots," or "I just got home, I heard nothing," or "I heard five shots, six shots, it sounded like firecrackers." And there was one woman who told them that she had seen the crime, she had seen the shooter, and she gave a description. It was three lines in the middle of the police report. Yet, when that police report was handed over to the trial attorney, those three lines were missing. They were erased. And so, consequently, they didn’t know about this witness before they went to trial. And now, this week, the District Attorney’s Office, six years later, admitted that this young man did not get a fair trial, and they set him free this past Monday.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> How long was he in jail for?</p><p><strong>JENNIFER GONNERMAN:</strong> He was in for nearly six years, but he could have done at least 25, if this mistake had not been caught.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I mean, this is an astounding story, Jonathan Edelstein. Talk about, from a lawyer’s perspective, what this means. I mean, is now someone going to be—is the prosecutor going to be tried? I mean, this is whited-out information that led to a man’s jailing for years.</p><p><strong>JONATHAN EDELSTEIN:</strong> Well, whether the prosecutor or anyone else responsible for this is indicted or tried would be up to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. There were certainly be difficulties bringing criminal charges after this long of time. Depending on when the redactions were made, they might even be barred by the statute of limitations. And historically, it’s very rare for prosecutors to face criminal charges as a result of withholding evidence or mishandling evidence. The cases where charges have been brought and where convictions have been obtained against prosecutors are very much the exception.</p><p>I would—I mean, obviously, we don’t know what the Bronx DA’s investigation is going to reveal. It’s ongoing at this time. We don’t know, in fact, whether the redaction was made by a district attorney or by a police officer or where along the process this might have occurred. So, I would expect that, you know, as their investigation unfolds, we may find out more about what’s going to happen to the people responsible for this.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Jennifer Gonnerman, you write about the prosecutor in the case and what—how he has explained the whiting out of the statement that the eyewitness identified someone else.</p><p><strong>JENNIFER GONNERMAN:</strong> Right. I spoke to him. I called him up, you know, right after the release of this—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> His name?</p><p><strong>JENNIFER GONNERMAN:</strong> The name of the prosecutor? Adam Oustatcher. And he’s now in private practice. He left the office last year, after many years. He had tried many felony cases, many high-profile felony cases, for the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. The way he explained it to me was that the whiting out was something that, as he referred to it, was sort of a normal practice in the office, whiting out of witnesses that they had concerns might have—their safety might be in jeopardy. But when I called the Bronx District Attorney’s Office to ask if that was true, is that really kind of a normal practice in the office, they said sometimes they do white out the names, like a single name of an individual, to protect their identity, but certainly not the fact that the witness existed, certainly not the whole three lines of information in the police report. So that’s, you know, one point of contention between the office and its—the former employee. And as Mr. Edelstein said, the investigation is ongoing, and we don’t know exactly sort of what went on or who did the whiting out or what they were thinking at the time.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I mean, how could there possibly be an explanation that they’re protecting the eyewitness? Obviously, as you said, they can take out the eyewitness’s name. That’s two words or three words.</p><p><strong>JENNIFER GONNERMAN:</strong> Right, right, right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> But the sentence that says she explicitly identified someone else? Now, you go on to write in your piece that the former prosecutor said he eventually did tell the defense attorney.</p><p><strong>JENNIFER GONNERMAN:</strong> Right. That’s what he says. That’s what he told me. And he subsequently told that to <em>The New York Times</em>. But the Bronx DA’s Office, which interviewed the trial attorney, found that he had no idea about this witness before trial. And so, that’s the dispute between the two of them.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Can you talk about the larger context here, the issue of a prosecutor torn between two missions?</p><p><strong>JENNIFER GONNERMAN:</strong> Well, you know, I feel like there’s a sort of a tension baked into the job of prosecutors: Are they there to do justice, or are they there to win convictions at all costs at trial? And I think each person interprets their job a little bit differently. But, you know, oftentimes we’ve seen prosecutors in the past, in other cases, who are so determined to win, to win a conviction at trial, that they’ve overlooked—you know, overlooked evidence or overlooked witnesses or have just been so sort of zealous in their pursuit of that mission that they’ve sort of overlooked justice in the process. And I think, you know, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on police brutality, on terrible conditions in jails, like Rikers Island, but I think, you know, prosecutors are, in some ways, the most powerful players in this whole system, and yet prosecutors’ offices have long been a sort of black box with no transparency or accountability. And I think that’s slowly starting to change.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Talk about the heroine of this story, Mr. Odiase’s younger sister, Kalimah Truesdale. The day she’s in court, and she hears the conviction, the verdict for her brother, she crumbles to the floor?</p><p><strong>JENNIFER GONNERMAN:</strong> Right, right, right. Well, the whole family, as it was described to me, is in such a state of shock, expecting that their loved one was going to be acquitted, that when he was actually convicted, just started—is this correct?—he just started screaming and getting very emotional in the courtroom. And I was fortunate enough to meet the sister before her brother was released. And she was describing to me the extraordinary efforts that she went through to try to investigate his case. So, after the trial, after the conviction, after they realized he’s going to have to go to prison, she did her own street work around the crime scene, talking to folks and ultimately uncovering this witness who had been redacted from the police reports.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And she went through the streets? She did her own police investigation?</p><p><strong>JENNIFER GONNERMAN:</strong> Right, right. She did her own detective work and repeatedly went to this neighborhood, where they had lived many years earlier but is fairly dangerous. And with her cellphone and without any sort of training or experience, she tried to conduct her own interviews and record interviews with witnesses or people who knew of witnesses, to try to prove her brother’s innocence.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Jonathan Edelstein, what happens now? Does Mr. Odiase—does he sue to get the—how many years of his—to somehow compensate him?</p><p><strong>JONATHAN EDELSTEIN:</strong> Well, right now, Mr. Odiase is still under indictment. His conviction has been vacated, and he’s been released, but the charges are still pending. And the next step is to work with the District Attorney’s Office to complete their—to help complete their investigation. And we’re hoping for a quick resolution of the charges. After that, there are a number of options open, which we’re discussing with the Odiase family. And it’s not something that we really are going to start on or are able to start on until a final resolution of the charges.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> How unusual is this? And what do you mean by resolution of the charges? Because they have not vacated the conviction.</p><p><strong>JONATHAN EDELSTEIN:</strong> Yes. Well, there are several ways the charges could be resolved. The district attorney could agree to dismiss them, in which case it’s done, or the district attorney could seek to retry Mr. Odiase, in which case we would fight in the courtroom to defend his innocence. We are certainly hoping that the District Attorney’s Office, after completing its investigation, will see their way clear to dismiss the charges. And we are working with them on that.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Mr. Odiase’s response? Have you spoken to him?</p><p><strong>JONATHAN EDELSTEIN:</strong> Yes, of course. I was there in the courtroom with him when he was released, and I walked down to the—to the street with him.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Was he shocked?</p><p><strong>JONATHAN EDELSTEIN:</strong> He didn’t know until that day that his conviction was going to be vacated. He did learn before, you know, shortly before we appeared in court, so he wasn’t shocked. There was no scene of shock in the courtroom. But he was pretty happy, as you might guess.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So what’s he doing now? He is living with his sister?</p><p><strong>JONATHAN EDELSTEIN:</strong> He’s living with his family, you know, with his sister and his mother, and trying to—you know, starting to put his life back together.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Final comments, Jennifer Gonnerman, as you have investigated so many different cases? I mean, how many times have we spoken to you about Kalief Browder?</p><p><strong>JONATHAN EDELSTEIN:</strong> Right.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Who was the young man wrongfully accused, goes to jail, the teenager, for three years, Rikers, is horribly abused in prison, comes out, ultimately commits suicide. Now there’s even discussion of—even by the mayor, Bill de Blasio, of closing Rikers Island altogether. How this fits into the picture of criminal justice?</p><p><strong>JENNIFER GONNERMAN:</strong> Well, you know, this is the same District Attorney’s Office—this is the Bronx District Attorney’s Office—that allowed Kalief to spend three years in jail without a conviction, the same office that allowed a defense attorney to receive a redacted document without a witness being known. They’ve got a new district attorney in the Bronx now named Darcel Clark. One of the first things she did was start to set up a conviction integrity unit. And I think they’re going to really have their hands full with a tremendous amount of work. And we don’t know if this is a one-off situation or if this is a pattern, part of a pattern of behavior, in terms redacting documents in the Bronx. But I think we’re going to find out in the months and years to come.</p><p><strong>JONATHAN EDELSTEIN:</strong> And if I may, Ms. Gonnerman said earlier that a prosecutor can be torn between two missions. Under the rules of ethics, prosecutors only have one mission, which is to do justice. They represent the people of the state of New York. The people of the state of New York win when the right man is convicted, and they win when the wrong man is released or acquitted. And the defense bar, for many years, you know, has sought to encourage prosecutors’ offices to open conviction integrity units, like the ones in Brooklyn and the Bronx.</p><p>And I, you know, am very thankful to Darcel Clark, the Bronx district attorney, for opening this unit and for taking the reinvestigation of this case so seriously once we brought our evidence to her. And this is about—you know, there’s more than just a redacted police report here. There was actually quite a bit more. But they took this reinvestigation very seriously, and they were not afraid at all to come to the right result. And I hope that in the future more prosecutors’ offices across the country can approach wrongful convictions with the same seriousness.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Is she the first female Bronx DA?</p><p><strong>JONATHAN EDELSTEIN:</strong> I believe so. I don’t know that for a fact.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, we will leave it there, and I thank you so much for being with us. We will continue to follow the case. Jonathan Edelstein, attorney focusing on criminal appeals and post-conviction remedies, one of the lawyers who represented Steven Odiase, who is now free, after almost six years in jail. And Jennifer Gonnerman, staff writer for <em>The New Yorker</em> magazine. We’ll link to her <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/a-womans-quest-to-prove-her-brothers-innocence-leads-to-a-discovery">piece</a> on the Odiase case.</p><p>This is <em>Democracy Now!</em> When we come back, we’re going to be talking about an astounding reversal of 21,000 convictions in Boston, Massachusetts. But first, we’re going to talk about what happened on the streets of Berkeley, California. Stay with us.</p><p> </p> Wed, 19 Apr 2017 09:25:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1075768 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Steven Odiase Juan Perez Only Mass Disruption From Below Can Stop Right-Wing Revolution and Trump's Absolute Power https://www.alternet.org/activism/allan-nairn-only-mass-disruption-below-can-stop-right-wing-revolution <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Don&#039;t count on the FBI; it&#039;s up to the grassroots to engage in long-term direct action. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2017-04-12_at_1.22.35_pm.png?itok=QiSBMel4" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As President Trump’s administration continues to be rocked by investigations and scandals, we continue our conversation with award-winning investigative journalist Allan Nairn. We asked him to talk more about his assessment of the opening months of the Trump presidency.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/4/12/allan_nairn_only_mass_disruption_from" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>TRANSCRIPT</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our conversation with award-winning investigative journalist Allan Nairn. I asked him to talk more about his assessment of the opening months of the Trump presidency.</p><blockquote><p><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> It’s not just the Trump presidency. It’s a right-wing revolution, which has captured control, up to this moment, of the presidency, the House, part of the Senate and now the Supreme Court. And if they abolish the legislative filibuster in the Senate, which they may, then they will have total, absolute control of all branches of government and will enter a radically new phase beyond anything that’s happened so far, because there will be absolutely no constraints on what they can do. The only constraints could be if they trip over themselves, as they have on some occasions up to now.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Trump brought in a collection, a coalition, of broadly rightist elements—racists, neofascists, the Republican establishment, the Koch brothers, oligarchs, all sorts of elements with their own very well-defined agendas for radical change in the U.S. Now, some points of those agendas clash, so that’s caused some of the problems—for example, on the repeal of Obamacare. But on 80 percent of things they agree, and they’re moving forward. They’ve already systematically started repealing constraints on pollution, constraints on police forces, that have been—had previously been placed under federal supervision because their involvement in killing of civilians, often with racist motivations. They are moving to give Wall Street and corporations complete license to commit crimes. Under the Obama-Clinton establishment, these corporate figures, when they committed crimes, would often end up having to pay a big settlement. They’d have to pay some billions of dollars to the Justice Department. Under Trump, not only will they not be criminally prosecuted, they won’t have to pay civil settlements, and they’ll be encouraged to do their worst. A very effective part of Trump’s campaign was saying—linking Clinton to Goldman Sachs. The Trump White House and government is stocked with Goldman Sachs people as no government ever before, even exceeding the Clinton team, which is—which is saying a lot.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>On the international front, it’s not as if Trump is being digested by the security establishment. It’s that Trump is pushing the security establishment to become even more violent, to use cruder, less subtle tactics. Already, he has moved away from one key element of U.S. policy overseas, which is hypocrisy. The U.S. has always supported—the basic U.S. policy for decades has been, in country after country, to support the military and security forces as the primary U.S. interlocutors, but then, on top of that, to also support, when it’s convenient, when there’s no dangerous candidate, an elected government that can give some veneer and also some local social stability, and also, while on the one hand handing arms and training and political cover and intelligence to the armies and the security forces and the death squads, using the other hand to admonish them, saying, "Oh, that massacre you just did, using our weapons, using our training, you shouldn’t have done that massacre. That was a little—little bit excessive." This is one reason why you often find resentment from U.S. clients regarding this hypocritical approach of the U.S., which is, after all, fundamentally supporting them. Trump strips away the hypocrisy. He continues to give the arms and the training and the intelligence and the political cover. But he does away with the aspect that the Obama administration, in particular, specialized in, was the hypocrisy, the criticism.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>For example, when el-Sisi and the army seized power in Egypt, after two massive massacres of opponents, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, roughly a thousand people in each massacre, John Kerry said that they had moved to implement democracy. After the army and el-Sisi seized power in Egypt and did two massacres of roughly a thousand people each, of opponents and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, John Kerry said they had moved to implement democracy. The Obama administration continued military and intelligence aid to the el-Sisi government, but they cut some of it back, in protest of these massacres, and they made some human rights criticisms of the government.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Trump comes in, and he changes the approach. He revokes the criticisms. He fully restores and says he intends to increase the military aid, and he welcomes el-Sisi to the White House, embraces him, says they agree. And he does this, by the way, three days before he criticizes Assad, who for years worked with the CIA. The CIA would send abductees to Assad for interrogation and torture. Trump criticizes Assad and said he’s going after him, and then later he does bomb Syria. But Trump welcomes el-Sisi to the White House, and giving him the message, "Go for it. The U.S. is totally behind you. We are not going to criticize you."</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>It’s the same approach to Israel. One reason why Israel and the Netanyahu administration is so delighted with Kerry—with Trump. Obama pushed through a massive, largest-ever weapons and aid and training package for the Israeli military, as the Israeli military was in the midst of tightening the repression in the West Bank, after they had, not too long before, done a massive slaughter with their air attack on Gaza. Obama did that. But at the same time he wagged his finger at Israel on certain issues, like settlements. Trump comes in and says no more finger wagging, and, to boot, we’re going to try to increase the military aid that props up the Israeli state even more, and we’re going to align politically with the elements in Israel, the settler elements, who are constantly attacking and berating Netanyahu for being too soft on the Palestinians. That’s who Trump’s new ambassador to Israel represents. And in country—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I mean, David Friedman was approved. He was his bankruptcy lawyer. He now is the new U.S. ambassador to Israel. And he raised money for the settlements.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> And he openly aligns with the political elements in Israel who want expulsion and even more killing of the Palestinians. And this is the new Trump policy in country after country after country around the world.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, can you talk specifically about the environment? I mean, talk about the Trump Cabinet, from Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, being secretary of state, to the Oklahoma attorney general—Oklahoma, which is now rocked by earthquakes—</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> Yeah.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —which it never had in its past. It’s this—now has become the state of fracking. But the Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt, who sued the EPA 14 times, now head of the EPA, to Governor Perry, head of the Energy Department, who sat on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, that owns the Dakota Access pipeline.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> Right. Well, Trump has essentially sent subversives into the Cabinet, atop the agencies, to dismantle, destroy the agencies. In the words of Steve Bannon, to—how did he put it? To deconstruct the administrative state. Gorsuch, the new Supreme Court justice put in by Trump, his mother, Anne Gorsuch, was Reagan’s EPA administrator. She was one of two such Cabinet appointees sent in by Reagan to dismantle their respective departments. The other was the head of Interior. When I say "dismantle," I mean dismantle all aspects of their work and regulations that run counter to the interests of corporations and polluters and may be favorable to the interests of what are seen as liberal or Democratic interest groups. Reagan only did that with two agencies: EPA and Interior. During the—when Rick Perry ran for president, he got in trouble, because, although he was openly touting similar dismantling of various government departments, including education, unfortunately for him, he couldn’t remember the whole list, so everybody laughed at him.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>Now, with Trump in—and not just Trump, but Trump and the whole radical Republican rightist establishment—they’re trying to do it with every department, every department that has within its mission any kind of service to the poor, service protecting the rights of working people, protecting the rights of protesters, protecting the rights of women, or that has within its work any kinds of projects or regulations that inconvenience corporations and rich oligarchs. This administration is trying to dismantle those functions of government across the board. It is systematic. It is sweeping. And Bannon is entirely right when he makes the claim that it’s revolutionary. You know, he compared himself to Lenin, kind of a Lenin from the other direction, from the radical right. And it’s true. They are engaged in a truly revolutionary project. And it has to be stopped.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>What you might say is the good news is that history is moving in a much faster pace now. Events have speeded up. Bigger change is possible faster than it was before. So it is conceivable that if there’s enough resistance from the streets, if there’s enough activism within the many corners of the system where concessions can be won, especially at the state and local level, especially within the Democratic Party, that’s backed up by mass disruption from below, it might be possible to reverse some of these revolutionary steps from the right, perhaps sooner than would have been the case in the slower historical conditions that prevailed before Trump.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>But we’re in the midst of this massive crisis. And, you know, the damage assessment is months from coming in. We have just seen a tiny fraction now of the people in this country and overseas who are going to die preventable deaths as a result. For example, they’re going after programs run by the Agriculture Department and others that feed hungry kids in the United States. They want to kill them. They’re also going after programs in the U.S. foreign aid budget that feed starving people overseas. Now, the U.S. government does lots of bad things, but it’s also the case that the U.S. still is, to a certain extent, a democracy. And over years and years of struggle, activists have won certain concessions. And there are thousands upon thousands of passages in laws and programs within government that are the result not of corporate dictates, but of pressure from below, pressure from racial justice and labor and human rights and women’s rights activists, consumer rights, environmental justice. There have been victories won over the years, very hard-fought. And lots of these are put into legislation. They’re put into the functions of departments. And what Trump and the Republican coalition are trying to do is rip them out systematically, dismantle them systematically. And that’s what’s underway now. And many, many thousands of extra people will die in the U.S. and overseas as a result.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> You have an enormous irony, where here you have President Trump accusing the Obama administration, President Obama himself, of surveilling him, of wiretapping him, yet, at the same time, in Congress, they roll back privacy protections, the whole internet privacy act that has now been written into law. Can you talk about the significance of this, which would seem to join right and left?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> Yeah. I’m actually a little surprised that the—what I guess is the—maybe the majority of the population, or at least the majority of younger people in the United States, who essentially live their lives online, are not completely up in arms about this, are not storming Washington about this, because what they’ve done is they’ve made it easier for online private, profit-making corporations to sell the most intimate details of your life. You’d think people would object to that.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>But what it also shows is that much of this new government’s agenda is strictly corporate. Strictly corporate. Now, the Democratic Party is, of course, also dominated, at its elite level, by corporations and the rich, but the Democratic Party also has as its base all sorts of working and poor and activist constituencies that are against those corporate interests and the rich. And they fight it out. And the outcome of those fights is Democratic policy. In the new order, with this Trump Republican administration, it is straight corporate. And the only resistance that those corporations get is if some aspect of their agenda happens to clash with, impinge on the program of, say, the racists or the neofascists or a rival corporate faction. For example, the Kochs have disagreements with other oligarchs on various issues. But those are the only constraints on corporations. There is absolutely no constraint within this new Republican governing coalition from working people or poor people, even though Trump is making a big play to working people by addressing, in a way that the Democrats should have, but they never did, the realities that the U.S. working class has been gutted by the decades upon decades of bipartisan neoliberalism that was embraced by Obama and Clinton.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Finally, can you talk about Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, their position in the White House, what they represent, the talk of the infighting between them and Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>ALLAN NAIRN:</strong> Well, Bannon comes from Goldman Sachs. Miller comes from the most openly racist part of the anti-immigrant movement, and after that, from the office of then senator, now attorney general, Jeff Sessions, one of the most openly racist—racist politicians in Washington. I was actually a little—I’ve actually been a little surprised that Bannon has lasted this long, not for any political reason, but just because a few weeks back they put him on the cover of <em>Time</em> magazine, and they started talking about him as the real president, and you wouldn’t think Trump would tolerate that kind of thing. Whether he stays or goes matters in a certain sense, because he’s obviously a very powerful adviser, but all it really matters for is the balance of the competing radical-rightist interests within the administration. So, for example, if the Bannon and the neofascist, racist people are edged aside a bit, maybe that means more power for the Koch brothers’ philosophy. Or maybe that means more power for the mainstream Goldman Sachs philosophy. Or maybe that means more power for the radical, intolerant religious right faction. Or maybe that means more powerful for whichever company or foreign interest made the biggest indirect payoff to Trump and his family that particular week. Whatever.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>But the point is—the larger point is that that’s what this administration, and this Republican group that now controls Congress, consists of. All of these radical factions that mean increased suffering and increased death for the majority of people in this country and overseas, they are now in there. They are now inhabiting the state. And they sometimes clash among themselves. But whoever wins those internal clashes, the loser is poor people, working people, people who are targets of discrimination. And also, another loser is the chance to reverse these radical changes they’re making, because they’re—they’re very strategic. They’re trying to set it in stone. And now with a majority on the Supreme Court and perhaps the impending lifting of the legislative filibuster in the Senate, they will have the power to set it in stone, and a near absolute power within the federal establishment system.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Longtime, award-winning investigative journalist Allan Nairn has won many of the top honors in journalism, including the George Polk Award for his coverage of Haiti, as well as the Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting for his coverage of East Timor, as well as the duPont-Columbia Award. He’s written for numerous publications, including <em>The New Yorker</em>, <em>The Nation</em>, the <em>New Republic</em>, <em>The Progressive</em>. To see his <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2017/4/10/julian_assange_vs_allan_nairn_did">conversation with Julian Assange</a> on <em>Democracy Now!</em>, go to our website, democracynow.org.</p><p>And that does it for our show. We begin the <em>Democracy Now!</em> "Covering the Movements Changing America" tour Sunday, April 23rd, when I’ll be speaking in <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman_at_labyrinth_books_in_princeton_nj_1362">Princeton, New Jersey</a>, then on Monday, April 24th, at Wesleyan College in <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/join_amy_goodman_for_talk_at_wesleyan_university__1365">Middletown, Connecticut</a>. That evening, I’ll be conducting a public interview with Noam Chomsky in <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman_in_conversation_with_noam_chomsky_1363">Cambridge, Massachusetts</a>. Then we’re on to <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman_at_yale_university_1364">New Haven, Connecticut</a>; <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman_at_mount_holyoke_college_1367">South Hadley, Massachusetts</a>; then to Vermont from April 26th to 29th. We’ll stop in <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman_at_middlebury_college_1368">Middlebury</a>, <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman_at_vermont_college_of_fine_arts_1369">Montpelier</a>, <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/join_amy_goodman_at_bennington_college_1370">Bennington</a>, <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman__1371">Burlington</a>. And then we’ll be going on to <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman_in_washington_dc_1372">Washington, D.C.</a>; <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/5/amy_goodman_in_raleighdurham_nc_1374">Raleigh, North Carolina</a>; <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman_at_books__books_1375">Miami, Florida</a>; <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/events/2017/4/amy_goodman_at_inkwood_books_1376">Tampa, Florida</a>; and beyond. Go to <em>Democracy Now!</em> to see our 60-cities-in-30-days tour at democracynow.org.</p><p>A very happy birthday to Anna Özbek!</p><p> </p> Wed, 12 Apr 2017 10:07:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1075396 at https://www.alternet.org Activism Activism right wing revolution mass disruption direct action Noam Chomsky: Trump Might Be a Disaster, but His Team Is Ready to Loot America https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/noam-chomsky-trumps-first-75-days <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The people behind Trump have a systematic and consistent plan to enrich the wealthy and hurt the poor. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_125767211_0.jpg?itok=4MN3m1yw" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>See below for the full 70-minute interview with Noam Chomsky on Democracy Now! talking about Donald Trump’s first 75 days in the White House</em>.</p><p>Watch:</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/4/4/full_interview_noam_chomsky_on_democracy" width="640"></iframe></p><p>TRANSCRIPT</p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> This is <em>Democracy Now!</em>, democracynow.org, <em>The War and Peace Report</em>. I’m Amy Goodman.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> And I’m Juan González. Welcome to all of our listeners and viewers around the country and around the world.</p><p>Seventy-five days ago today, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. On the international front, Trump has expanded U.S. military operations in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Somalia, while resuming arms sales to Bahrain. On Monday, he welcomed Egyptian leader General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the White House as thousands of activists remain locked up in Egypt. At the United Nations, the Trump administration led a boycott of U.N. talks to ban nuclear weapons, while pushing for the United States to expand its own nuclear arsenal. Trump has also threatened to unilaterally act against North Korea.</p><p>On the environmental front, Trump picked climate deniers to head the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department, while slashing the EPA’s programs to combat climate change. Trump’s budget calls for an unprecedented $54 billion increase in military spending, while ending dozens of environmental, housing, diplomatic and educational programs. Trump is also requesting a nearly $3 billion increase in funding for the Department of Homeland Security, largely to pay for expanding the border wall and hiring 1,500 new Border Patrol and ICE agents.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> However, the Trump agenda has faced some judicial and legislative setbacks. Federal courts have blocked the implementation of two travel bans targeting residents from six majority-Muslim nations. And in Congress, Trump failed in his attempt to repeal Obamacare, which would have stripped up to 24 million people of health insurance while giving the rich a massive tax break. Meanwhile, his administration is facing an FBI probe over its dealings with Russia before the election. This all comes as a resistance movement is growing throughout the country.</p><p>To help make sense of where the country stands 75 days into the Trump administration, we’re joined by one of the world’s best-known dissidents, the linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught for more than 50 years. He is the author of more than a hundred books. His latest book comes out today. It’s titled <em>Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth &amp; Power</em>.</p><p>Noam Chomsky, welcome back to <em>Democracy Now!</em> It’s great to have you with us.</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Glad to be with you again.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, why don’t we start, on this 75th day, by your assessment of what has happened in these first few months?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Well, I think it was captured pretty well by a <em>Los Angeles Times</em> editorial, which simply called it a "train wreck." But it’s very consistent, very systematic. Anything that can be of assistance to ordinary people, working people, middle-class people, people on the street—any such program has to be decimated. Anything that adds to wealth and power or that increases the use of force, that we carry forward.</p><p>And it’s done with—there’s kind of a two-tiered system working—I presume, consciously, so systematic it’s hard to question. The Bannon-Trump team wants to make sure that they dominate the headlines. So, whatever they do, that’s what people look at, and one crazy thing after another, the assumption apparently being you’ll forget the old ones by the time the new ones come in. So, no one talks anymore about the 3 million illegal immigrants who voted for Clinton. That one, we’ve forgotten. We’re on to the next one, and we’ll go on to the next one. While this is going on in front, the Paul Ryan-style budgetary and planning operations are going on quietly in the back, ripping to shreds any element of government that can help people either today or tomorrow. That’s the point of the destruction of the environmental system. It’s not just the EPA which was slashed. Most of the environmental programs were actually in the Energy Department. Their research and activist programs were slashed very seriously.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> And what do you make in terms of—when you’re talking about decimation, clearly, one of the big failures was their inability to end Obamacare. Could you talk about the—what you’re seeing now as the potential in terms of the healthcare system in the country, what they will try to do and what the potential is there?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Actually, there was a pretty interesting poll about it that came out a couple of days ago, simply asking people what they preferred. The Republican proposal was the lowest of the choices available. I think about 15 percent of the population were willing to accept it. Somewhat higher was the existing system, so-called Obamacare. And on that, it’s worth bearing in mind that a lot of people don’t know that Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act. So you have negative attitudes towards Obamacare, thanks to lots of propaganda, but more positive attitudes towards the Affordable Care Act, because of what people see.</p><p>Most popular of all—over half—was the so-called public option, a government-guaranteed healthcare program, which is pretty remarkable because no one publicly advocates that. But it’s been a consistent polling result for decades, that when people are asked what they want, they say that’s their choice. And, in fact, that’s about the only proposal that makes any sense. The U.S. healthcare system is an international scandal. It’s roughly twice the per capita costs of comparable countries, and some of the worst outcomes, mainly because it’s privatized, extremely inefficient, bureaucratized, lots of bill paying, lots of officials, tons of money wasted, healthcare in the hands of profit-seeking institutions, which are not health institutions, of course. And for decades people have preferred what every other country has, in some fashion: either straight national healthcare or heavily government-regulated healthcare like, say, Switzerland. Sometimes the support is astonishingly high. So, in the late Reagan years, for example, about 70 percent of the population thought that guaranteed healthcare should be a constitutional guarantee, because it’s such an obvious desideratum. And about 40 percent thought it already was in the Constitution. The Constitution is just this holy collection of anything reasonable, so it must be there.</p><p>But it just doesn’t matter what people think. When Obama put through his own program, I think support for the public option was almost two-thirds, but it was simply dismantled. When this is—occasionally, this is discussed in the press, <em>New York Times</em>, others. And they mention it. They say it’s a possibility, but it’s called politically impossible, which is correct, which means you can’t pass it through the pharmaceutical corporations and financial institutions. That’s politically possible in what’s called democracy. Sometimes they say "lacking political support," meaning from the institutions that really matter. There’s kind of this population on the side, but we can dismiss them, yeah.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Do you think there could be a kind of "Nixon in China" moment with Trump? He has, in the past, expressed support for single payer. He’s extremely angry right now at the Freedom Caucus. He can’t decide which more—which are the villains in this more, the Freedom Caucus or the Democrats. He goes back and forth. Do you think he could sort of throw it all out? Or is it going to just go as we’re seeing in these past few days, where it looks like they’re going to revive it to what the Freedom—so-called Freedom Caucus wants?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> I think they’ll probably revise it. Trump is all over the place. You don’t know what he believes. He says almost anything that comes to his mind at 3:00 a.m. But the people who are really setting the policy in the background—essentially, the Ryan ultra-right Republicans—they understand what they’re doing. And they want to destroy the—any—the aspects of the healthcare system that are beneficial to the general public, that’s systematic policies. Probably what will happen is the kind of compromise that’s already being discussed, with states having the right to opt out of whatever the federal program is, which might satisfy the ultra-right Freedom Caucus, make it even worse than the current Republican proposal.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> I wanted to turn to—</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Just today, incidentally, one—I think Kansas—turned down expansion of Medicaid. I mean, anything that’s going to help people in need has got to be wiped out.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Noam Chomsky, I’d like to ask you about something that’s been in the news a lot lately. Obviously, all the cable channels, that’s all they talk about these days, is the whole situation of Russia’s supposed intervention in American elections. For a country that’s intervened in so many governments and so many elections around the world, that’s kind of a strange topic. But I know you’ve referred to this as a joke. Could you give us your view on what’s happening and why there’s so much emphasis on this particular issue?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> It’s a pretty remarkable fact that—first of all, it is a joke. Half the world is cracking up in laughter. The United States doesn’t just interfere in elections. It overthrows governments it doesn’t like, institutes military dictatorships. Simply in the case of Russia alone—it’s the least of it—the U.S. government, under Clinton, intervened quite blatantly and openly, then tried to conceal it, to get their man Yeltsin in, in all sorts of ways. So, this, as I say, it’s considered—it’s turning the United States, again, into a laughingstock in the world.</p><p>So why are the Democrats focusing on this? In fact, why are they focusing so much attention on the one element of Trump’s programs which is fairly reasonable, the one ray of light in this gloom: trying to reduce tensions with Russia? That’s—the tensions on the Russian border are extremely serious. They could escalate to a major terminal war. Efforts to try to reduce them should be welcomed. Just a couple of days ago, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jack Matlock, came out and said he just can’t believe that so much attention is being paid to apparent efforts by the incoming administration to establish connections with Russia. He said, "Sure, that’s just what they ought to be doing."</p><p>So, meanwhile, this one topic is the primary locus of concern and critique, while, meanwhile, the policies are proceeding step by step, which are extremely destructive and harmful. So, you know, yeah, maybe the Russians tried to interfere in the election. That’s not a major issue. Maybe the people in the Trump campaign were talking to the Russians. Well, OK, not a major point, certainly less than is being done constantly. And it is a kind of a paradox, I think, that the one issue that seems to inflame the Democratic opposition is the one thing that has some justification and reasonable aspects to it.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, of course, because the Democrats feel that that’s the reason, somehow, that they lost the election. Interesting that James Comey this week said he is investigating Trump campaign collusion with Russia, when it was Comey himself who could have—might well have been partly responsible for Hillary Clinton’s defeat, when he said that he was investigating her, while, we now have learned, at the same time he was investigating Donald Trump, but never actually said that.</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Well, you can understand why the Democratic Party managers want to try to find some blame for the fact—for the way they utterly mishandled the election and blew a perfect opportunity to win, handed it over to the opposition. But that’s hardly a justification for allowing the Trump policies to slide by quietly, many of them not only harmful to the population, but extremely destructive, like the climate change policies, and meanwhile focus on one thing that could become a step forward, if it was adjusted to move towards serious efforts to reduce growing and dangerous tensions right on the Russian border, where they could blow up. NATO maneuvers are taking place hundreds of yards from the Russian border. The Russian jet planes are buzzing American planes. This—something could get out of hand very easily. Both sides, meanwhile, are building up their military forces, adding—the U.S. is—one thing that the Russians are very much concerned about is the so-called anti-ballistic missile installation that the U.S. is establishing near the Russian border, allegedly to protect Europe from nonexistent Iranian missiles. Nobody seriously believes that. This is understood to be a first strike threat. These are serious issues. People like William Perry, who has a distinguished career and is a nuclear strategist and is no alarmist at all, is saying that we’re back to the—this is one of the worst moments of the Cold War, if not worse. That’s really serious. And efforts to try to calm that down would be very welcome. And we should bear in mind it’s the Russian border. It’s not the Mexican border. There’s no Warsaw Pact maneuvers going on in Mexico. And that’s a border that the Russians are quite reasonably sensitive about. They’ve practically been destroyed several times the last century right through that region.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> In line with your concern about the growing threat in terms of nuclear weapons, there are also maneuvers going on off the coast of Korea, and the words that we’ve heard from President Trump in the last few days, that if China doesn’t deal with North Korea, the U.S. will. Can you talk about his policies already, his developing policies toward Korea and toward China?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Well, it’s kind of interesting to look at the record. The claim is "Well, we’ve tried everything. Nothing works. Therefore, we have to use force." Is it true that nothing’s worked? I mean, there is a record, after all. And if you look at the record, it’s interesting.</p><p>1994, Clinton made—established what was called the Framework Agreement with North Korea. North Korea would terminate its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The U.S. would reduce hostile acts. It more or less worked, and neither side lived up to it totally, but, by 2000, North Korea had not proceeded with its nuclear weapons programs. George W. Bush came in and immediately launched an assault on North Korea—you know, "axis of evil," sanctions and so on. North Korea turned to producing nuclear weapons. In 2005, there was an agreement between North Korea and the United States, a pretty sensible agreement. North Korea agreed to terminate its development of nuclear weapons. In return, it called for a nonaggression pact. So, stop making hostile threats, relief from harsh sanctions, and provision of a system to provide North Korea with low-enriched uranium for medical and other purposes—that was the proposal. George Bush instantly tore it to shreds. Within days, the U.S. was imposing—trying to disrupt North Korean financial transactions with other countries through Macau and elsewhere. North Korea backed off, started building nuclear weapons again. I mean, maybe you can say it’s the worst regime in history, whatever you like, but they have been following a pretty rational tit-for-tat policy.</p><p>And why are they developing nuclear weapons altogether? I mean, the economy is in bad shape. They could certainly use the resources. Everyone understands that it’s a deterrent. And they have a proposal, actually. There’s a proposal on the table. China and North Korea proposed that North Korea should terminate its further development of nuclear weapons. In return, the United States should stop carrying out threatening military maneuvers with South Korea right on its border. Not an unreasonable proposal. It’s simply dismissed. Actually, Obama dismissed it, too. There are possible steps that could be taken to alleviate which could be an extremely serious crisis. I mean, if the U.S. did decide to use force against North Korea, one immediate reaction, according to the military sources available to us, is that Seoul, the city of Seoul, would simply be wiped out by mass North Korean artillery aimed at it. And who knows where we’d go from there? But the opportunity to produce—to move towards a negotiated diplomatic settlement does not seem outlandish. I mean, this Chinese-North Korean proposal is certainly worth serious consideration, I would think.</p><p>And it’s worth bearing in mind that North Korea has some memories. They were practically destroyed by some of the most intensive bombing in history. The bombing—you should—it’s worth reading. Maybe you should read, people, the official Air Force history of the bombing of North Korea. It’s shattering. I mean, they had flattened the country. There were no targets left. So, therefore, they decided, well, we’ll attack the dams—which is a war crime, of course. And the description of the attack on the dams is—without the exact wording, I hate to paraphrase it. You should really read the—they were simply exalting, in the official histories, <em>Air Force Quarterly</em> and others, about the—how magnificent it will be to see this massive flood of water coursing through North Korea, wiping out crops. For Asians, the rice crops is their life. This will destroy them. It will be magnificent. The North Koreans lived through that. And having nuclear-capable B-52s flying on their border is not a joke.</p><p>But, most significantly, there’s a record of partial success in diplomatic initiatives, total failure with sanctions and harsh moves, and options that are on the table which could be pursued. Now, instead of concern about whether somebody talked to the Russians, this is the kind of thing that should be—that should be pursued very seriously. That’s what the Democrats or anyone hoping for some form of peace and justice should be working for.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Which brings us to China. President Trump said, "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will." Are you concerned that with Trump at an all-time low for presidents, when it comes to popularity, with suffering defeat after defeat, lashing out and trying to focus on a foreign enemy? But at the same time, you have China coming to the United States, this meeting that he’s going to have with the Chinese leader, Xi, in Mar-a-Lago—also very interesting, considering it’s a golf course, right? He hates golf and forbade Communist Party members to play golf. Is it more about Trump feeling he has more access to shut down press coverage or any information about who’s meeting with him, when it’s in his private resort? But more importantly, what the agenda is there and what our relationship is with China?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Well, as you recall, one of the interesting incidents was a public discussion of significant security issues in the resort with people sitting around drinking coffee and having drinks. Maybe they keep the press out, but they didn’t seem to keep the guests out.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, not if you pay $200,000 a year and you’re a member of Mar-a-Lago.</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Right. Then you pass the filter.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And then you get to take photos, selfies, with the man carrying the nuclear codes.</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> The "football."</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> The "football."</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> He’s extremely unpredictable. But this—the relations with China are an extremely serious issue. China is not going to back down on its fundamental demands, concerning Taiwan, for example. And if Trump—a lot of what China is demanding, I think, is—it shouldn’t be—is not acceptable. It shouldn’t—it’s not internationally acceptable. But the reaction through use of force is just extraordinarily dangerous. I mean, you cannot play that game in international affairs. We are too close to destroying ourselves. You take a look at the record of—through the nuclear age, of near—of accidental—sometimes accidental, sometimes kind of irrational actions. It’s almost miraculous that we’ve survived.</p><p>And anything that—to get a good estimate of this, of the danger, take a look at the best monitor of the global security situation that we have as a simple measure—namely, the <em>Bulletin of Atomic Scientists</em>’ Doomsday Clock. This is set every year, since the beginning of the nuclear age, 1947, by a group of serious specialists, scientists, political analysts and others, who try to give a measure of the danger that the human species faces. Midnight means we’re finished. In 1947, the clock was set at seven minutes to midnight. In 1953, right after the U.S. and Russia tested hydrogen bombs, thermonuclear weapons, it went to two minutes to midnight. That’s the closest it’s been to total disaster. Right now, as soon as Trump came in, it was moved to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight, both because of the nuclear threat, recognized to be serious, and the threat of environmental catastrophe, which was not considered in the earlier years, now is.</p><p>Now, those are, overwhelmingly, the most crucial issues that face us. Everything else fades into insignificance in comparison to them. Those are literally questions of survival. And two-and-a-half minutes to midnight means extraordinary danger. These should be the major focus of attention. And it’s kind of astonishing to see the way they’re ignored. Throughout the whole electoral campaign, practically no mention of them. Every Republican candidate, every single one, either—with regard to the climate, either denied what is happening or else said—the moderates, like Jeb Bush, Kasich, said, "Well, maybe it’s happening, but doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t do anything about it."</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, the U.S. just led the boycott at the U.N. of the nuclear ban talks.</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Of the nuclear ban. It joined with the other nuclear powers, unfortunately. There are—there’s also the question of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. There are now three nuclear powers which have refused to ratify it: China, the United States and Israel. And if tests begin again, it’s an extremely serious danger. As I mentioned, it was when the first tests were carried out that the Doomsday Clock went to two minutes to midnight.</p><p>There’s the problem of the New START Treaty, a treaty—there has been inadequate, but significant, reduction in nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War. The New START Treaty is supposed to carry it forward. Russia and the United States have the overwhelming mass of the nuclear weapons. And this would cut down the number, but also the more threatening ones, would reduce it. Trump has indicated—I don’t know—nobody knows what he means, but he’s indicated that is what he calls a bad deal for the United States, suggesting maybe we should pull out of it, which would be a disaster. I mean, these are major issues. And the fact that they’re barely being discussed is a shattering commentary on the level of contemporary civilization.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Noam Chomsky, I wanted to ask you—those on the left are accustomed to looking at the American government basically as in the service of the capitalist class, the politicians. Occasionally, you had a Rockefeller or an actual member of the capitalist class who went into government. But now, with this Trump administration, it’s an extraordinary number of extremely wealthy people have actually moved directly into government. And yet you’re seeing this narrative that they are attracting support from the white working class of the country. Could you talk about this, the capitalists directly taking over the running of government?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Well, as you say, they’ve run it all the time. The simple measures, like campaign funding alone, simple measure like that, is a very close predictor, not only of electoral victory, but even of policies. That’s been true for a century. And if you take a look at the analysis of public attitude—a major topic in academic political science is comparing popular attitudes with public policy. It’s pretty straightforward. Public policy, you can see. Popular attitudes, we know a lot about from extensive polling. And the results are pretty startling. Turns out that about 70 percent of voters, which is maybe half the electorate—about 70 percent of voters are literally disenfranchised, the lower 70 percent on the income scale, meaning that their own representatives pay no attention to their—to their attitudes and preferences. If you move up the income scale, you get a little more correlation, more—a little more influence. The very top, which is probably a fraction of 1 percent, if you could get the data, it’s where policy is set. Now, the Trump administration is kind of a caricature of this. It’s always pretty much true. But here they’re—it’s as if they’re kind of purposely trying to flaunt the fact that this country is run by Goldman Sachs and billionaires, and nobody else counts.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Wilbur Ross, Betsy DeVos.</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Right, all of them. I mean, it’s almost like a shocking parody, as if they’re trying to show, "Yeah, what we all know is true is dramatically true, and we’re going to show it to you."</p><p>The interesting—an interesting question, the one you raise, is: How are they maintaining support among the people they’re kicking in the face? That’s not uninteresting. And if you look into it, there’s a number of factors. One—first of all, many of the Trump voters, white working-class voters, quite a few of them voted for Obama in 2008. You go back to the Obama campaign, the exciting words were "hope" and "change." I don’t usually agree with Sarah Palin, but when she asked, "Where’s this hopey-changey stuff?" she wasn’t talking nonsense. It quickly became clear there’s no hope and there’s no change. And the working people were significantly disillusioned. You could see it right in Massachusetts, where—when Kennedy died, you know, the "liberal lion." There was going to be a vote for—to replace him, 2010. Amazingly, a Republican won, in Democratic Massachusetts, Kennedy’s seat. And union voters didn’t vote for the Democrats. They were very upset by the fact that they had been cheated, they felt, rightly, by the Obama campaign of promises. And they turned to their bitter class enemy, who at least talks the words. The Republicans have mastered the technique of talking words as if you’re sort of an ordinary guy, you know, kind of guy you’d meet in a bar, that sort of thing. It goes back to Reagan and his jellybeans, and Bush, you know, mispronouncing words, and so on and so forth. It’s a game that’s played. And it’s a con game. But in the absence of any opposition, it works.</p><p>And what happens when there is an opposition? That’s very striking. The most astonishing fact about the last election, which is the Sanders achievements, that’s a break from a century of American political history. As I said, you can pretty well predict electoral outcomes simply by campaign funding alone. There’s other factors that intensify it. Here comes Sanders, somebody nobody ever heard of. No support from the wealthy, no support from corporations. The media ignored or disparaged him. He even used a scare word, "socialist." Came from nowhere. He would have won the Democratic Party nomination if it hadn’t been for the shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers who kept him out. Might have been president. From nothing. That’s an incredible break. It shows what can happen when policies are proposed that do meet the general, just concerns of much of the population.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Do you think he could still win if he ran again?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Well, there was a Fox News poll, couple of days ago—Fox News—asking who’s the—trying to ask who’s your favorite political figure. Sanders was way ahead, far ahead of anybody else, with no vocal, articulate support among the concentrations of power—media, corporations, elsewhere. In fact, if you look at policy preferences, you see something similar. We already mentioned the health issue. That’s—and on issue after issue, much of the public that is actually voting for their bitter class enemy, if you look at the policies, actually favor social democratic policies, even environmental policies.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> We’ve had hundreds of questions come in from every means to ask you. One of them is Ty Williams, who asks via Twitter about Trump exploiting fear. Ty asked, when you—"[Can] you please expand on your comments in AlterNet that Trump admin could stage attack? What historical parallel do you have in mind?"</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Well, actually, the statement I made was pretty muted. It wasn’t quite as strong as the headlines indicated. What I pointed out—and what everyone, I think, is aware of—is that sooner or later this con game is not going to work. People will understand he’s not bringing back jobs. He’s not going to recreate the partly illusory, partly real picture of what life was like in the past, with manufacturing jobs and a functioning society, and you could get ahead, and so on and so forth. He’s not going to create that.</p><p>What happens at that point? Something has to be done to maintain control. The obvious technique is scapegoating. So blame it on immigrants, on Muslims, on somebody. But that can only go so far. The next step would be, as I said, an alleged terrorist attack, which is quite easy. It’s, in fact, almost normal to—like Condoleezza Rice’s mushroom clouds. That’s easy to construct, alleged attacks. The other possibility is a staged attack of a minor kind. And how hard would that be? Take the FBI technique, which they’re using constantly, of creating situations of entrapment. Well, suppose one of them goes a little too far, that you don’t stop it right in time. That wouldn’t be hard to work out. I don’t particularly anticipate it, but it’s a possibility. And this is a very frightened country. For years, this has been probably the most frightened country in the world. It’s also the safest country in the world. It’s very easy to terrify people.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Noam—</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> I wanted to ask you another question that came in, from Melbourne, Australia, Aaron Bryla. He said, "Defense Secretary James Mattis this week described Iran as the greatest threat to the United States. My question: Why does the U.S. insist on setting the potential grounds for war with Iran?"</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> That’s been going on for years. Right through the Obama years, Iran was regarded as the greatest threat to world peace. And that’s repeated over and over. "All options are open," Obama’s phrase, meaning, if we want to use nuclear weapons, we can, because of this terrible danger to peace.</p><p>Actually, we have—there’s a few interesting comments that should be made about this. One is, there also is something called world opinion. What does the world think is the greatest threat to world peace? Well, we know that, from U.S.-run polls, Gallup polls: United States. Nobody even close, far ahead of any other threat. Pakistan, second, much lower. Iran, hardly mentioned.</p><p>Why is Iran regarded here as the greatest threat to world peace? Well, we have an authoritative answer to that from the intelligence community, which provides regular assessments to Congress on the global strategic situation. And a couple of years ago, their report—of course, they always discuss Iran. And the reports are pretty consistent. They say Iran has very low military spending, even by the standards of the region, much lower than Saudi Arabia, Israel, others. Its strategy is defensive. They want to deter attacks long enough for diplomacy to be entertained. The conclusion, intelligence conclusion—this is a couple years ago—is: If they are developing nuclear weapons, which we don’t know, but if they are, it would be part of their deterrent strategy. Now, why is the United States and Israel even more so concerned about a deterrent? Who’s concerned about a deterrent? Those who want to use force. Those who want to be free to use force are deeply concerned about a potential deterrent. So, yes, Iran is the greatest threat to world peace, might deter our use of force.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King giving his "Beyond Vietnam" speech at Riverside Church, where he said the United States is "the greatest purveyor of violence on Earth." Your thoughts today, as we wrap up, and if—in the last 30 seconds?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Well, that speech by King was very important, also other speeches he gave at the same time, which have, at the time, seriously harmed his reputation among liberal Northerners. He sharply condemned the war in Vietnam, which was the worst crime since the Second World War.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Five seconds.</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> The other thing he was doing was trying to create a poor people’s movement, a non-racially separated poor people’s movement.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> You were talking about Martin Luther King and the Poor People’s Campaign. I wanted to take a—ask you to talk about a section of your book, <em>Requiem for the American Dream</em>, where you talk about this famous Powell Memorandum that Justice Powell sent to the Chamber of Commerce and to others, major business groups, in 1971, where he said that business is losing control over the society and that something has to be done to counter these forces. Now, this is a Supreme Court justice issuing something like this. Could you talk about this effort by the business community basically to beat back the movement of the ’60s?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Actually, he was appointed Supreme Court justice a little bit after that. He was then a corporate lawyer, I think, working for tobacco firms or something. And he wrote an interesting memorandum. It went to the American Chamber of Commerce. It was supposed to be an internal memorandum, basically, to the business community. It leaked, and—as things usually do, and it’s quite interesting.</p><p>He didn’t actually say that business is losing control. What he said is, business is the—is being beaten down by the massive forces of the left, which have taken over everything, the—even mentioned the devils who are leading the campaign: Ralph Nader, with his consumer safety efforts, Herbert Marcuse, who’s mobilizing the students to carry out a revolution. And he says they’ve taken over the media, they’ve taken over the universities, they’re practically in control of the whole country. And meanwhile, the poor, embattled business community can barely survive under this incredible assault. It’s a very interesting picture. The rhetoric should be paid—you should pay attention to the rhetoric. It’s kind of like a spoiled 3-year-old who expects to have everything, and somebody takes a piece of candy away from him, and they have a tantrum. The world’s ending. That’s pretty much the picture. Of course, business was essentially running everything, but not totally. There was—there were democratizing tendencies in the '60s. The public became more engaged in public affairs and was considered a serious threat. So he calls on the business community to defend theirselves from this monstrous attack. And he says, "Look, after all, we're the ones who have the resources. We have the funds. You know, we’re the trustees of the universities. We should be able to protect ourselves from this assault that’s wiping out the American way, business and so on." That’s the Powell Memorandum. And indeed, it—the lesson was understood, not just listening to him. There was a reaction to the activism of the '60s. The ’60s are often called "the time of troubles." They were civilizing the country. That's extremely dangerous.</p><p>But no less interesting than the Powell Memorandum is another publication that came out from the opposite side of the mainstream political spectrum, the book called <em>The Crisis of Democracy</em>, published around the same time by the Trilateral Commission. That’s liberal internationalists from the three major capitalist centers—Europe, the United States and Japan. The political complexion of this group is illustrated by the fact that they almost entirely staffed the Carter administration. That’s where they’re coming from. The American rapporteur Samuel Huntington, professor at Harvard, the well-known liberal intellectual. What’s the crisis of democracy? Pretty much the same as the Powell Memorandum. They said there’s too much democracy. People who are usually passive and apathetic, the way they’re supposed to be, are pressing their demands in the public arena, and it’s too much for the state to accommodate. They didn’t mention one group: corporate interests. That’s the national interest. These are the special interests, and they called for more moderation and democracy. Now, they were particularly concerned with what they called—this is their phrase—"the institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young"—universities, schools, churches. They’re supposed to be indoctrinating the young, and they’re not doing their job, as you can see from all these kids running around calling for women’s rights and ending the war and so on and so forth. So we have to have better indoctrination of the young. They were also concerned about the media. They said the media are becoming too adversarial. If you look at what was happening, that’s about as much of a joke as Powell. They said, if the media don’t control themselves and discipline themselves, maybe the state will have to move in and do something about it. This was the liberals. This is the liberal end of the spectrum.</p><p>You take these two publications side by side. They differ rhetorically. The Powell Memorandum is literally a tantrum. <em>The Crisis of Democracy</em> is big words, moderate, you know, intellectuals and so on. But the message is not that very different. It’s saying we—that democracy is simply a threat. The population has to be restored to passivity, then everything will be fine. In fact, Huntington, the American rapporteur, says, kind of nostalgically, that Truman had been able to run the country with the cooperation of a few corporate executives and Wall Street lawyers. That was the good old days, when democracy was functioning. You didn’t have all these demands and so on. And remember, this is the liberal end of the spectrum. Then you get the Powell Memorandum, which is the harsher end and rhetorically, literally, kind of like a tantrum.</p><p>It’s within that framework of thinking—which they didn’t initiate, they articulated—that you get the neoliberal reaction of the past generation, which, on every front, including education, economy, undermining of the functioning of political democracy—all the factors that have led to the disillusionment and anger of the people who end up being Trump voters, voting for their class enemy. It’s worth remembering that these people have just concerns, very serious concerns. It’s revealed by some pretty remarkable recent revelations. You’ve seen them, probably reported on the quite remarkable fact that mortality is increasing among middle-class, lower-middle-class, working-class white Americans, middle-aged white Americans. That’s something unknown in developed societies. Mortality keeps declining. Here it’s increasing. And the roots of it are what are called diseases of despair. People don’t have hope for the future—and for pretty good reasons, if you look at the facts of the matter. Real male wages today are pretty much at the level of the '60s. In 2007, at the time when there was a good deal of euphoria about the economy, how wonderful it's doing, great moderation and so on, economists praising Alan Greenspan as the greatest figure since Moses or something—"Saint Alan," he was called—right at the peak of euphoria, right before the crash, real wages for American workers were lower than they were in 1979, when the neoliberal experiments were just beginning. These affect people’s lives seriously. They’re not starving. These are not the poorest people. You know, they’re kind of surviving, but without the hope for—without a sense of dignity, of worth, of hope for the future, of some meaning in your life, and so on. So they’re reacting in often very self-destructive ways.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Noam, I wanted to ask you about the Middle East, this latest news we have out of Idlib, a rebel-held area, that, according to reports, has been hit by some kind of gas attack, chemical attack, 11 children under the age of eight killed, scores of other people, hundreds wounded. This is in northwest Syria. Can you comment on what has taken place? The U.S., the—Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, the U.N.—the U.S. secretary—the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, saying on Friday the U.S. is changing its position: While it thinks the people don’t want Assad, it’s not going to try to get Assad out. And then you have this attack. What are your thoughts on Syria, Russia, the United States?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Syria is a horrible catastrophe. The Assad regime is a moral disgrace. They’re carrying out horrendous acts, the Russians with them.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Why the Russians with them?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Well, pretty simple reason: Syria is their one ally in the whole region. Not a close ally, but they do have—their one Mediterranean base is in Syria. It’s the one country that’s more or less cooperated with them. And they don’t want to lose their one ally. It’s very ugly, but that’s what’s happening.</p><p>Meanwhile, there have been—it’s kind of like the North Korean case we were discussing. There have been possible opportunities to terminate the horrors. In 2012, there was an initiative from the Russians, which was not pursued, so we don’t know how serious it was, but it was a proposal to—for a negotiated settlement, in which Assad would be phased out, not immediately. You know, you can’t tell them, "We’re going to murder you. Please negotiate." That’s not going to work. But some system in which, in the course of negotiations, he would be removed, and some kind of settlement would be made. The West would not accept it, not just the United States. France, England, the United States simply refused to even consider it. At the time, they believed they could overthrow Assad, so they didn’t want to do this, so the war went on. Could it have worked? You never know for sure. But it could have been pursued. Meanwhile, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are supporting jihadi groups, which are not all that different from ISIS. So you have a horror story on all sides. The Syrian people are being decimated.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And the U.S. now sending 400 more troops to Syria. But if the U.S. has a better relationship with Russia, could that change everything?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> It could lead to some kind of accommodation in which a negotiated diplomatic settlement would be implemented, which would by no means be lovely, but it would at least cut down the level of violence, which is critical, because the country is simply being destroyed. It’s descending to suicide.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> President Trump met with Sisi on Monday, meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan on Wednesday at the White House, saying they’re not raising the issue of human rights anymore. Your thoughts on this, and then also, of course, Israel-Palestine?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Well, raising the issue of human rights is—it means something, but not very much, because—take, say, Saudi Arabia, one of the worst human rights violators in the world. It’s our darling. You know, they pour weapons in. Obama sold them more weapons than, I think, any predecessor. Sisi is particularly disgraceful. His dictatorship has driven Egypt into some of its worst days. The United States kind of supported him, but not openly and vigorously the way Trump is doing. Trump is—it’s a little bit like what you said about the Cabinet. It’s kind of like a parody of what goes on all the time. Usual thing is to support brutal dictators, but not with enthusiasm, and with some tapping on the wrist, saying, "Look, what you’re doing is not very nice," and so on. Here, it’s saying, "You’re great. We love you. You know, go ahead and torture and murder people." That’s—it’s a terrible blow to the people of Egypt. But Jordan is sort of a mixed story. But these steps are very regressive.</p><p>With regard to Israel-Palestine, actually, Trump has pulled back from his original position. But his original position that—he and his administration—was that there’s nothing wrong with the settlements. They’re not an obstacle to peace. If you look at the way the settlements have been treated over the years—of course, they’re totally illegal. They’re destroying any hope for Palestinian rights. There’s a systematic Israeli program, very systematic. It’s been going on since 1967. It’s to try to quietly take over every part of the West Bank that is of any value to them, while excluding the areas of Palestinian population concentration. So they’re not going to take over Nablus or Tulkarm, but take over everything that’s of significance and value, leave dozens, maybe even hundreds, of isolated enclaves and Palestinian population concentrations, which can kind of rot on the vine. Maybe the people will leave. Whatever happens, we don’t care. That’s been going on consistently. Now, if you go back to about 1980, the U.S. joined the world not only in calling them illegal, but in demanding that they be dismantled. Go back to the U.N. Security Council resolutions, I think 465, approximately. So, you have to dismantle the illegal settlements. That has been weakened over the years. So, under Reagan, they stop—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Now you have David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, who’s been approved—right?—who raised money for the settlements. And you have Jared Kushner in charge of the policy.</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Yeah, it’s been step by step. Reagan weakened it. Clinton weakened it. Obama cut it back to not help—obstacles to peace. Trump, it’s not helpful to peace. Meanwhile, we fund—Jared—the Kushner Foundation and, of course, this new ambassador are strong supporters of the ultra-right far right, way to the right of Netanyahu. The Beit El, the community that they’re pouring their money into, is run by an Orthodox rabbi whose position is that the army shouldn’t follow orders, has to follow the rabbi’s orders. This is way at the right end of the Israeli spectrum. Originally, they said they were going to move the embassy to Jerusalem. They’re kind of backing off on that. At first, their position was there’s nothing wrong with settlements. Now there’s a mild "they’re not helpful to peace." But, meanwhile, the U.S. continues to pour money and support into fulfilling this project of constructing a Greater Israel.</p><p>I should say that the general discussions about this, I think, are extremely misleading. What’s said on all sides, actually—Israel, Palestinians, international commentary—is that there are two options: either a two-state settlement, in accord with the long-standing international consensus, or else one state, which would be an apartheid state, in which Palestinians wouldn’t have rights, and you could have an anti-apartheid struggle, and Israel would face what’s called the demographic problem—too many non-Jews in a Jewish state. But those are not the two options.</p><p>There’s a third option, the one that is actually being implemented—namely, construction of a Greater Israel, which will not have a demographic problem, because they’re excluding the areas of dense Palestinian population, and they’re removing Palestinians slowly from the areas they expect to take over. So you’ll get a—what’s called Jerusalem as maybe five times as big as it ever has been, goes all the way into the West Bank. There are corridors going to the east, which break up the remaining territory, one to Ma’ale Adumim, a town which was built mostly during the Clinton years, which pretty much bifurcates the West Bank. There’s others to the north. The so-called Area C, where Israel has total control, about 60 percent of the West Bank, is slowly being incorporated into Israel with big infrastructure programs and so on. And this program is just taking place right before our eyes. The United States is providing diplomatic, economic and military support for it. It will leave the Palestinians with essentially nothing. There will be a Greater Israel, which will have—which will not face the dread demographic problem.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> I’d like to, if we can, shift focus to another part of the world. I wanted to ask you about Latin America. We had a period, for about 10 years, of enormous social progress in Latin America—all these socially minded governments, reduction of income inequality, the only part of the world where there are no nuclear weapons. And yet, now we’ve seen, in the last few years, real steps backwards. Quite a few of the popular governments, with the exception of Ecuador, recently have been thrown out of office, and a deepening crisis in Venezuela. Your sense of what has happened, in that, after so much promise, all of a sudden it seems that the region is going backward?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Well, there were—there were real achievements. But the left governments failed to use the opportunity available to them to try to create sustainable, viable economies. Almost every one—Venezuela, Brazil, others, Argentina—relied on the rise in commodity prices, which is a temporary phenomenon. Commodity prices did rise, mainly because of the growth of China. So there was a rise in the oil price, of soy, and so on and so forth. And instead of trying to develop a sustainable economy with manufacturing, agriculture and so on—like Venezuela is potentially a rich agricultural country, but they didn’t develop it—they simply relied on the commodity—raw materials commodities they could export. That’s a very harmful—it’s not only not a successful, it’s a harmful development model, because when you export grain to China, let’s say, they export manufacturing goods to you, and that undermines your manufacturing industries. And that’s pretty much what’s been happening.</p><p>On top of that, there was just enormous corruption. It’s just—it’s painful to see the Workers’ Party in Brazil, which did carry out significant measures, just—they just couldn’t keep their hands out of the till. They joined the extremely corrupt elite, which is robbing all the time, and took part in it, as well, and discredited themselves. And there’s a reaction. I don’t think the game is over by any means. There were real successes achieved, and I think a lot of those will be sustained. But there is a regression. They’ll have to pick up again with, one hopes, more honest forces that won’t be—that will, first of all, recognize the need to develop the economy in a way which has a solid foundation, not just based on raw material exports, and, secondly, honest enough to carry out decent programs without robbing the public at the same time.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What about Venezuela?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Venezuela is really a disaster situation. The economy relies on oil as to a great—probably a greater extent than ever in the past, certainly very high. And the corruption, the robbery and so on, has been extreme, under the—especially after Chávez’s death. So, it’s a—I mean, if you look at it, it still has—if you look at, say, the U.N. Human Development Index, Venezuela still ranks, say, above Brazil. So it’s the—there are hopes and possibilities for reconstruction and development. But the promise of the earlier years has been significantly lost.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> I wanted to ask you, your first article, you wrote when? In February of 19—was it 39? How old were you?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Ten.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Ten years old. So I want to go back to this first article. It was on the fall of—</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> First one I remember. There maybe have been others.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> The fall of Barcelona to Franco.</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Yeah.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So you were talking about fascism and fascist forces.</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> [inaudible] fascism. I remember—I’m sure it was not a very memorable article. I hope it’s been destroyed. But—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Do you see—</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> But if I remember, the part of it—it began by concern about the apparently inexorable spread of fascism—Austria, Czechoslovakia, Toledo in Spain, Barcelona, which was quite significant. That’s the end of the Spanish Revolution. That took place in February 1939. And it looked like it was just going to go on. It was very frightening at the time.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Do you think it’s accurate to use the word "fascism" or talk about the rise of fascism in the United States?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> Well, you know, "fascism" has become a kind of a scare word. But many of the aspects of fascism are not far below the surface. You go back to, say, the 1940s. Robert Brady, great political economist, Veblenite political economist, wrote a book called <em>Business as a System of Power</em>, in which he argued that in all of the state capitalist economies—so-called capitalist economies, really state capitalist—there were developments towards some of the institutional structures of fascism. He was not thinking of concentration camps and crematoria, just the nature of the institutional structures. And that was not entirely false. Could you move towards what Bertram Gross, around 1980, called "friendly fascism"? So, fascist-type structures without the crematoria, which is not a core, necessary part of fascism. It could happen.</p><p>We should recall that through the 1930s the fascist regimes had pretty favorable attitudes towards them in the West. Mussolini was called, by Roosevelt, "that admirable Italian gentleman," and who was maybe misled by Hitler. In 1932, one of the main business magazines—I think <i>Forbes</i>—had an article with the headline—front-page story where the headline was "The wops are unwopping themselves." Finally the Italians are getting their act together under Mussolini. The trains were running on time, that sort of thing. The business community was quite supportive. As late as the late 1930s, the U.S. State Department was—can’t actually say "supporting" Hitler, but saying we ought to tolerate Hitler, because he’s a moderate standing between the extremes of right and left. We’ve heard that before. He’s destroying the labor movement, which is a good thing; getting rid of the communists, the socialists, fine. There’s right-wing elements, ultranationalist elements at the other extreme. He’s kind of controlling them. So we should have a kind of a tolerant attitude toward him. Actually, the most interesting case is George Kennan, great, revered diplomat. He was the American consul in Berlin. And as late as 1941, he was still writing pretty favorable comments about Hitler, saying you shouldn’t be too severe, there are some good things there. We associate fascism now with the real horror stories of the Holocaust and so on. But that’s not the way fascism was regarded. It was even more strongly supported by the British business community. They could do business with them. There was a—largely business-run regimes, which were—there was a lot of support in Germany, because of the—it did create something like full employment through indebtedness and military spending, and it was winning victories.</p><p>Could we move in that direction? It’s been recognized. You can read it right now in mainstream journals, asking, "Will the—will the elements of Gross’s friendly fascism be instituted in a country like the United States?" And it’s not new. Maybe 10 years ago, there was an interesting article in <em>Foreign Affairs</em>, main establishment journal, by Fritz Stern, one of the major German historians of Germany. It was called "Descent into Barbarism." And he was discussing the way Germany deteriorated from what was, in fact, maybe the peak of Western civilization in the 1920s into the utter depths of history 10 years later. And his article was written with an eye on the United States. This was the Bush administration, not today. He was saying—he didn’t say we’re—Bush is Hitler, wasn’t saying that. But he was saying there were signs that we should pay attention to. He said, "I sometimes have concern for the country that rescued me from fascism, when I see what’s happening."</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And do you see the—Donald Trump’s attack on the press as part of that trend toward fascism, his calling the press the enemy of the people?</p><p><strong>NOAM CHOMSKY:</strong> It’s dangerous, but Nixon did the same thing. You remember the—Agnew and so on. Yes, it’s dangerous, but I think it’s well short of what we regard as fascism. But it’s not to be dismissed. And I think we can easily see how a—if there had been a charismatic figure in the United States who could mobilize fears, anger, racism, a sense of loss of the future that belongs to us, this country could be in real danger. We’re lucky that there never has been an honest, charismatic figure. McCarthy was too much of a thug, you know? Nixon was too crooked. Trump, I think, is too much of a clown. So, we’ve been lucky. But we’re not going to be lucky forever necessarily.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, Noam Chomsky, we want to thank you so much for being with us. We’re going to let you fly out now, as you head off to the airport. I’ll see you on April 24th at the First Parish church in Cambridge. Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years. His latest book—he’s written over a hundred—comes out today, <em>Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth &amp; Power</em>.</p> Wed, 05 Apr 2017 12:09:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1074982 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Trump's first 100 days donald trump noam chomsky Steve Bannon Medicare for All? Sen. Bernie Sanders Poised to Push for Single Payer After GOP Plan Falls Apart https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/medicare-all-sen-bernie-sanders-poised-push-single-payer-after-gop-plan-falls <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Like Medicare, only it would have no copayments, no deductibles for covered services, no participation by the private health insurance industry.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_511064194.jpg?itok=eGmDRd3J" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>On Friday, House Republicans failed to muster enough support to pass the GOP healthcare plan, which some call Trumpcare. In response, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has announced he will soon introduce a bill to create a single-payer healthcare system. Several progressive groups are backing a single-payer system, including the Working Families Party, the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, CREDO, Social Security Works and National Nurses United. For more, we speak with Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program. She is a professor at CUNY-Hunter College and a primary care physician. She is also a lecturer at Harvard Medical School.</p><p><strong>TRANSCRIPT</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER:</strong> Well, the Republican plan, which was defeated, was just a meaner version of the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, both of those acts have left the private insurance industry in the center of the healthcare system. And we actually need to get the private health insurance industry out. Their overhead and profits and the overhead that they impose on doctors and hospitals are costing us $500 billion annually that we do not need to be spending, $500 billion annually that we could save through a single-payer program, use that money to cover the 26 million Americans who now have no coverage, and then to improve the coverage of insured Americans, who often have insurance they can’t afford to use because of the high copayments, the high deductibles. Now, the deductibles and copayments, that’s a problem that predated Obamacare, but Obamacare failed to fix. And a single payer could eliminate that problem, as it has done in other countries.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> But how would you propose to get from here to there, given the reality that the Republicans have an even larger now base of support in Congress? They control all the houses, and now they’ll soon have a much more conservative Supreme Court. How would you propose to get from where we are there to single payer?</p><p><strong>DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER:</strong> OK. Well, we have another election in 21 months. We have another presidential election in less than four years. Things can change. And so, we need to be thinking ahead. We’ve already seen a tremendous amount of change just from people getting out to town hall meetings, getting out on the streets, calling their congressmen. Who would have known a, you know, few months ago that the Republicans would not be able to repeal Obamacare? You know, they’re not—they haven’t been able to do it, largely because there’s been pressure from the electorate on the purple state senators and congressmen. So, people need to be out there in the streets. They need to be contacting their congressmen. They need to be demonstrating, educating and preparing for the day when we really can get single payer, which may be sooner than you think.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So we keep throwing around that word, "single-payer." Explain exactly what you mean. And is the Sanders plan—it’s just been discussed this weekend. To go right to this, what would be this system in the United States?</p><p><strong>DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER:</strong> Well, we haven’t seen the Sanders bill yet, but the sort of things that Sanders and congressmen have been putting forward, like Congressman John Conyers, HR 676, would be, you know, everyone just pays their taxes, and everyone is automatically eligible for a program like Medicare, only it would have no copayments, no deductibles for covered services, no participation by the private health insurance industry, so an expanded and improved Medicare, expanded to everyone, improved so it doesn’t have the kind of gaps in uncovered services that do—you know, do exist in the current Medicare program. We’ve been advocating that plan for decades. Frankly, Congressman Conyers and Senator Sanders have, as well. And I’m not sure what piece of legislation—what the legislation is going to look like that gets introduced in the next few days by Welch and Sanders. But certainly, over the long term, we need to be thinking—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> What would happen to the insurance companies?</p><p><strong>DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER:</strong> Well, the insurance companies would have no role in an efficient Medicare-for-all program. Some of these insurance companies have overhead of 20 percent, meaning that you give them a dollar in premiums, and only 80 cents ever goes to a doctor or hospital or a drug company. Twenty cents stays right there with the insurance company for their overhead and profit. You have to compare that to traditional Medicare, where the overhead is 2 to 3 percent. So, when you add up all of the administrative costs that insurance companies have, the administrative costs they impose on doctors, like me, and hospitals to try to send bills to multiple payers, we’re talking about potential savings of $400 [billion] to $500 billion annually. That’s the money we need to give universal healthcare to everyone.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> And where do the various stakeholders in the industry—for instance, I know that the hospitals were very much opposed to the current legislation—</p><p><strong>DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER:</strong> Yeah.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> —that the Republicans were pushing for. But where would the doctors and the hospitals and the pharmaceuticals and all these others stand in a battle over Medicare for all?</p><p><strong>DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER:</strong> OK. Well, in the last battle around the Republican bill, there were no doctors’ groups, no real doctors’ groups, supporting the bill. Everyone opposed it. Certainly, nursing groups and hospitals were opposing it, too. In a battle for single payer, things might line up a little different, in that the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry will be totally and completely opposed to single payer. For the insurance—health insurance industry, it’s a life-or-death battle. And we can expect them to use all of their lobbying clout to try to prevent it. Big Pharma hasn’t been very happy in single-payer systems, because in single-payer systems, they—they’re forced to lower their prices, in fact, to about half of what people in the United States pay. And indeed, a single-payer system, by lowering those pharmaceutical prices, would save another $100 billion that we could use to cover people. So, pharma is going to be opposed. Insurance industry, the most opposed, because it’s life and death for them.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, former head of the RNC, said this weekend, "Democrats, bring your proposals to us now." We’re seeing a kind of civil war in the Republican Party. Will we see the same in the Democratic Party?</p><p><strong>DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER:</strong> I’m doubtful about that. Certainly, at this moment, the Democrats, as an opposition party, tend to be much—tend to unify. When they’re actually running things, the divisions come out much more.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, Bernie Sanders is part of the leadership.</p><p><strong>DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER:</strong> Mm-hmm, yeah.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So, are you saying that the leadership might actually endorse a Medicare-for-all proposal? And what does a public option proposal mean, a pre-Medicare-for-all proposal?</p><p><strong>DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER:</strong> Well, the way the leadership can be brought to endorse single payer is by us, the constituents, out there on the streets, calling them up, pressuring them in all the ways we have, saying, "We want single payer." That’s what will bring the full Democratic leadership around on this.</p><p>Public option? You know, public option would be a small step that would ease some of the pain. It would mean that when you are on the exchange buying things, one of your options would be to pay money and buy into Medicare. But, you know, most Americans do not get their care through the exchange. And the public option really doesn’t generate those massive administrative savings that we need in order to be able to afford healthcare for everyone.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, we want to thank you so much for being with us, professor at CUNY-Hunter College, primary care physician, lecturer at Harvard Medical School, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/3/27/medicare_for_all_sen_bernie_sanders" width="400"></iframe></p> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 10:06:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1074513 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics single payer healthcare health insurance medicare for all bernie sanders john conyers Dark Data: Trump Backers Bankroll Firm Developing Psychological Profiles of Every U.S. Voter https://www.alternet.org/right-wing/robert-mercer-bankrolls-trump-and-cambridge-analytica <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica, and how billionaires are profiling voters. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_342696611.jpg?itok=LlutZkZa" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>One of the more mysterious parts of the Mercer family’s political orbit is Cambridge Analytica. The data firm claims it has psychological profiles of over 200 million American voters. The firm was hired by the Trump campaign to help it target its message to potential voters. The Mercers have bankrolled the company and placed Steve Bannon on its board. We speak to The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/3/23/dark_data_trump_backers_bankroll_firm" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>TRANSCRIPT</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>NERMEEN SHAIKH:</strong> We continue our conversation with Jane Mayer, staff writer at <em>The New Yorker</em>. Her latest <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency">piece</a> is headlined "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency." The piece looks at how the secretive billionaire reshaped the political landscape.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> One of the companies heavily funded by Robert Mercer is Cambridge Analytica, which claims it has psychological profiles of over 200 million American voters. The firm was hired by the Trump campaign to help it target its message to potential voters. Steve Bannon even served on the company’s board. This is Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix, speaking earlier this year.</p><blockquote><p><strong>ALEXANDER NIX:</strong> We started to look at issue models, predicting which issues, social and political, appeal to which members of the target audience, which voters. We actually assigned different issues to every adult in the entire United States. We could then take these models and put them into a matrix, a little bit like the dental health example, where we can categorize people or segment them according to how they’re likely to behave. Core Trump supporters, top right, may be more susceptible to a donation solicitation. Get out the vote: people who are going to vote Republican, but they need persuading to do so. Persuasion audiences: people who need shifting a little bit from the center towards the right. Once we’ve identified a segment, we can then subsegment them by the issues that are most relevant to them, and then start to target them with specific messages.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix. So, Cambridge Analytica has—claims to have psychological profiles of over 200 million American voters. Jane Mayer, tell us its significance. Steve Bannon was on its board, funded by the Mercers.</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> Well, again, this is part of—if you look at the history, what happened was, after 2012, when Obama was re-elected, despite the fact that the Mercers had put millions of dollars into trying to defeat him, they were upset, and they wanted to try to get better political tools with more traction. So they put money into Breitbart. They put money into the Government Accountability Institute. And the third prong was Cambridge Analytica.</p><p>It was—at that point, they concluded, and so did many others, that the Republican Party’s data analytics for running campaigns were lagging behind those that the Democrats had. The Democrats—Obama had a famously good sort of computer operation and data team. And so, they tried to—they decided, "We’ll run our own." They bought a company. They basically invested heavily in building an—it’s an offshoot of an existing English company called Strategic Communication Laboratories. And the British company had been involved in psychological warfare operations for militaries and international elections and kind of some pretty interesting and sneaky-seeming things, which raised a lot of eyebrows when its offshoot was purchased, basically, created by this one hedge-fund family.</p><p>You know, when I looked into this, it seemed that there was less than meets the eye, in many ways, so far. Alexander Nix, who is running Cambridge Analytica, is a great salesman, and he’s got this pitch that makes it sound like something from, you know, the movie <em>The Matrix</em> or something, that they’re going to be conducting psychological warfare with this propaganda machine in this country. The truth is, during the Trump campaign, they never used any of their so-called secret psychometric methods. They simply performed like any other kind of data analytics company. And the stuff they did was no different from what the Democrats do and other campaigns do. You know, maybe at some point they’ll have some superpowers that have yet to be revealed, but they aren’t there yet.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Jane, before we wrap up, we want to go to the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Neil Gorsuch, really interesting dialogue between Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse questioning Gorsuch on the $10 million dark money campaign supporting his nomination.</p><blockquote><p><strong>SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE:</strong> If a question were to come up regarding recusal on the court, how would we know that the partiality question in a recusal matter had been adequately addressed if we did not know who was spending all of this money to get you confirmed? Hypothetically, it could be one individual. Hypothetically, it could be your friend, Mr. Anschutz. We don’t know, because it’s dark money. Is it any cause of concern to you that your nomination is the focus of a $10 million political spending effort and we don’t know who’s behind it?</p></blockquote><blockquote><p><strong>JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH:</strong> Senator, there’s a lot about the confirmation process today that I regret.</p></blockquote><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> That’s Judge Neil Gorsuch being questioned by Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Jane Mayer, in this last 30 seconds that we have, can you comment on this?</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> Well, yeah. I mean, the thing about dark money is, often the person who it’s benefiting knows; it’s just the public that’s not allowed to know. And there’s tons of money behind the Gorsuch nomination, and he probably knows who he owes the favor to.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Explain a little further the term "dark money."</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> Well, there are these organizations, 501(c)(4) groups, that are set up, where the donors’ hands are not seen. They can spend money on advertising, and the public doesn’t know who they are. They’re nonprofit groups such as the Judicial Crisis Network. And I’ve looked at that one. And, you know, you, as a reporter, and me, as standing in for the public, cannot trace the money. Yet it’s playing an active role in American politics.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Well, Jane Mayer, I want to thank you so much for spending the hour with us, staff writer for <em>The New Yorker</em>. We’ll link to your <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency">piece</a>, "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency." Her book is out in paperback, <em>Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right</em>.</p><p> </p><p> </p> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 11:35:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1074334 at https://www.alternet.org The Right Wing The Right Wing Cambridge Analytica dark money jane mayer Robert Mercer Jane Mayer on Robert Mercer & the Dark Money Behind Trump and Bannon https://www.alternet.org/right-wing/jane-mayer-robert-mercer <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Mercer out-Koched the Koch brothers in 2016.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2017-03-23_at_2.22.26_pm_0.png?itok=R2d4Cl8m" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>We look at Robert Mercer, the man who is said to have out-Koched the Koch brothers in the 2016 election. The secretive billionaire hedge-fund tycoon, along with his daughter Rebekah, is credited by many with playing an instrumental role in Donald Trump’s election. "The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution," Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon said. "Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs." Before Bannon and Kellyanne Conway joined the Trump campaign, both worked closely with the Mercers. The Mercers bankrolled Bannon’s Breitbart News, as well as some of Bannon’s film projects. Conway ran a super PAC created by the Mercers to initially back the candidacy of Ted Cruz. While the Mercers have helped reshape the American political landscape, their work has all been done from the shadows. To talk more about the Mercers, we speak with Jane Mayer, staff writer at The New Yorker. Her latest piece is headlined "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency." She is also author of "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right," which just came out in paperback.</p><p><strong>TRANSCRIPT</strong></p><p>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</p><p><strong>NERMEEN SHAIKH:</strong> We turn now to look at the man who is said to have out-Koched the Koch brothers in the 2016 election. His name is Robert Mercer, a secretive billionaire hedge-fund tycoon who, along with his daughter Rebekah, is credited by many with playing an instrumental role in Donald Trump’s election.</p><p>Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said, quote, "The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution. Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs." Before Bannon and Kellyanne Conway joined the Trump campaign, both worked closely with the Mercers. The Mercers bankrolled Bannon’s Breitbart News, as well as some of Bannon’s film projects. Conway ran a super PAC created by the Mercers to initially back the candidacy of Ted Cruz.</p><p>The Mercers also invested in a data mining firm called Cambridge Analytica, which claims it has psychological profiles of over 200 million American voters. The firm was hired by the Trump campaign to help target its message to potential voters.</p><p>While the Mercers have helped reshape the American political landscape, their work has all been done from the shadows. They don’t speak to the media and rarely even speak in public.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> During the entire presidential campaign, they released just two statements. One was a defense of Donald Trump shortly after the leak of the 2005 <em>Access Hollywood</em> tape that showed Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women. The Mercers wrote, quote, "We are completely indifferent to Mr. Trump’s locker room braggadocio." They went on to write, "America is finally fed up and disgusted with its political elite. Trump is channeling this disgust and those among the political elite who quake before the boombox of media blather do not appreciate the apocalyptic choice America faces on November 8th. We have a country to save and there is only one person who can save it. We, and Americans across the country and around the world, stand steadfastly behind Donald J Trump." Those were the words of Robert and Rebekah Mercer one month before Trump won the election.</p><p>Since the election, Rebekah Mercer joined the Trump transition team, and Robert Mercer threw a victory party of sorts at his Long Island estate. It was a hero and villain’s costume party. Kellyanne Conway showed up as Superwoman. Donald Trump showed up as himself.</p><p>To talk more about the Mercers, we’re joined now by Jane Mayer, staff writer at <em>The New Yorker</em>, her latest <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency">piece</a> headlined "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency." Jane is also author of <em>Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right</em>, which just came out in paperback.</p><p>Jane Mayer, welcome back to <em>Democracy Now!</em> The beginning of the piece talks about a former colleague of Mercer’s saying, "In my view, Trump wouldn’t be president if not for Bob." Explain who Robert Mercer is.</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> Well, he’s a, as you’ve mentioned, a New York hedge-fund tycoon. He’s a computer scientist, a kind of a math genius and uber-nerd, who figured out how to game the stocks and bonds and commodities markets by using math. He runs something that’s kind of like a quant fund in Long Island, and it’s called Renaissance Technologies. He’s the co-CEO. And it just mints money. So he’s enormously wealthy. He earns at least $135 million a year, according to <em>Institutional Investor</em>, probably more.</p><p>And what he’s done is he has tried to take this fortune and reshape, first, the Republican Party and, then, America, along his own lines. His ideology is extreme. He’s way far on the right. He hates government. Kind of—according to another colleague, David Magerman, at Renaissance Technologies, Bob Mercer wants to shrink the government down to the size of a pinhead. He has contempt for social services and for the people who need social services.</p><p>And so, he has been a power behind the scenes in Trump’s campaign. He kind of rescued Trump’s campaign in the end, he and his daughter. And, you know, most people think Trump was the candidate who did it on his own, had his own fortune, and he often boasted that he needed no help and had no strings attached, and he was going to sort of throw out corruption. And, in fact, there was somebody behind the scenes who helped enormously with him.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Talk about that moment, when you talk about them saving Donald Trump, which has become particularly relevant today. This was the time that Manafort was forced out as the campaign manager for Donald Trump. The campaign was in disarray. He was being forced out because of his ties to Ukraine and Russia and the money that was being revealed that he might or might not have taken. So, take it from there.</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> Well, right. And this was—really, Trump’s campaign was—it was floundering. It was in August, and there was headline after headline that was suggesting that Paul Manafort, who had been the campaign manager, had really nefarious ties to the Ukrainian oligarchs and pro-Putin forces. And it was embarrassing. And eventually, after a couple days of these headlines, he was forced to step down.</p><p>And the campaign was, you know, spinning in a kind of a downward spiral, when, at a fundraiser out in Long Island, at Woody Johnson’s house—he’s the man who owns the Jets—Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of this hedge-fund tycoon, Bob Mercer, sort of cornered Trump and said, "You know, we’d like to give money to your campaign. We’ll back you, but you’ve got to try to, you know, stabilize it." And basically, she said, "And I’ve got just the people for you to do the job."</p><p>And they were political operatives who the Mercer family had been funding for a couple of years, the main one being Steve Bannon, who is now playing the role to Trump—he’s the political strategist for Trump—that’s the role he played for the Mercer family prior to doing it for Trump. So, these are operatives who are very close to this one mega-donor. The other was Kellyanne Conway, who had been running this superfund, as you mentioned in your introduction, for the Cruz campaign, that was filled with the money from the Mercers. And so she became the campaign manager. Bannon became the campaign chairman. And a third person, David Bossie, whose organization Citizens United was also very heavily backed by the Mercer family, he became the deputy campaign manager. So, basically, as Trump’s campaign is rescued by this gang, they encircle Trump. And since then, they’ve also encircled Trump’s White House and become very key to him. And they are the Mercers’ people.</p><p><strong>NERMEEN SHAIKH:</strong> Well, Jane Mayer, Rebekah Mercer, whom you mentioned, is known—described as "the first lady of the alt-right." Now, you tried to get Rebekah and Robert Mercer to speak to you for this piece. What response did you get?</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> Oh, I mean, it was hopeless, clearly, from the start. They have nothing but disdain for, you know, the mainstream media. Robert Mercer barely speaks even to people who he works with and who know him. I mean, he’s so silent that he has said often that he—or to a colleague, he said once—I should correct that—that he much prefers the company of cats to humans. He goes through whole meetings, whole dinners, without uttering a word. He never speaks to the media. He’s given, I think, one interview I know of, to a book author, and who described him as having the demeanor of an icy cold poker player.</p><p>His daughter, Rebekah Mercer, who’s 43 and has also worked at the family’s hedge fund a little bit and is a graduate of Stanford, she’s a little more outspoken. She has been in fundraising meetings on the right. She has spoken up—and very loudly and irately, actually. But she doesn’t speak to the press. And so, I had very little hope that they would.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Can you talk about when they first met, the Mercers, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, first met Andrew Breitbart, and what that progression was and how they came to be linked up with Bannon?</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> Well, sure. The Mercer family, Robert and his daughter Rebekah, met Andrew Breitbart back—I think it was late 2011 or early 2012, speaking at a conference of the Club for Growth, another right-wing group. And they were completely taken with Andrew Breitbart. He was pretty much the opposite kind of character from Bob Mercer. Breitbart was outspoken and gleefully provocative and loved to offend people and use vulgar language just to catch their attention. And you’ve got this kind of tight-lipped hedge-fund man from the far right who just fell for Breitbart big time.</p><p>And he—mostly what he was captivated by, I think, was Breitbart’s vision, which was, "We’re going to"—he said, "Conservatives can never win until we basically take on the mainstream media and build up our own source of information." He was talking about declaring information warfare in this country on fact-based reporting and substituting it with their own vision. And what he needed, Breitbart, at that point, was money. He needed money to set up Breitbart News, which was only just sort of a couple of bloggers at that point.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> And talk about Breitbart News, about what the alt-right represented, whether we’re talking about anti-Semitism or white supremacy, and why they were attracted to this.</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> Well, I mean, you know, it changed. What happened was—I mean, it started as a—Andrew Breitbart had helped <em>The Huffington Post</em> get set up. And his idea was that he was going to launch <em>The Huffington Post</em> of the right. And so, he was setting it up, and his very close friend was Steve Bannon. And Bannon had been in investment banking. So Bannon got the Mercers to put $10 million into turning this venture into something that was really going to pack a punch. And they were just about to launch it in a big day—big way. They were a few days away from it, when Andrew Breitbart died. That was in March of 2012. He was only 43, and he had a sudden massive heart attack. And so, this operation was just about to go big. It was leaderless. And that’s when Steve Bannon stepped in and became the head of Breitbart News.</p><p>And in Bannon’s hands, it became a force of economic nationalism and, in some people’s view, white supremacism. It ran, you know, a regular feature on black crime. It hosted and pretty much launched the career of Milo Yiannopoulos, who’s sort of infamous for his kind of juvenile attacks on women and immigrants and God knows what. You know, just it became, as Bannon had said, a platform for the alt-right, meaning the alternative to the old right, a new right that was far more angry and aggressive about others, people who were not just kind of the white sort of conservatives like themselves.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> So they made a $10 million investment in Breitbart. They owned it—</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> A 10 million.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> —co-owned it.</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> They became the sponsors, really, behind it. And it’s interesting to me that—one of the things I learned was that Rebekah Mercer, this heiress, who’s had no experience in politics, is so immersed in running Breitbart News at this point. I mean, she—her family is the money, big money, behind it. That she reads every story, I’m told, and flyspecks, you know, typos and grammar and all that kind of thing. I mean, there is a force behind Breitbart News that people don’t realize, and it’s the Mercer family. So, anyway, it became very important, increasingly, on the fringe of conservative politics, because it pushed the conservatives in this country towards this economic nationalism, nativism, anti-immigration, pro-harsh borders, anti-free trade, protectionist. And it spoke the language of populism, but right-wing populism.</p><p><strong>NERMEEN SHAIKH:</strong> And, Jane Mayer, I mean, as you’ve said, one of the things that has made the Mercers so successful in their political interventions is precisely this, the way in which they’ve invested in an alternative media and information network, of which Breitbart is, of course, a very significant part. But can you also talk about the Government Accountability Institute, which you discuss in your piece?</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> Sure. I mean, and this was, you know, very much a design. You’ve got this family with all the money in the world, wanting to change American politics. And they hadn’t been very effective in their earlier efforts at this, until they joined forces with Steve Bannon, who’s a very sort of farsighted strategist who kind of sees the big picture and understands politics. And so, he very much focused their efforts on this information warfare, first with Breitbart, $10 million into that. And then, after 2012, when the Mercers were very disappointed that Obama got re-elected, at Bannon’s direction, they started to fund a brand-new organization called the Government Accountability Institute. It’s based in Tallahassee. It’s small. It’s really a platform for one major figure, Peter Schweizer, who is a conservative kind of investigative reporter.</p><p>And what they did with this organization, which the Mercers poured millions of dollars into, was they aimed to kind of create the—drive the political narrative in the 2016 campaign. They created a book called <em>Clinton Cash</em>, which was a compendium of all the kinds of corruption allegations against the Clintons. And they aimed to get it into the mainstream media, where it would pretty much frame the picture of Hillary Clinton as a corrupt person who couldn’t be trusted. And their hope was that they would mainstream this information that they dug up. It was like an opposition research organization, sort of masked as a charity and nonprofit. And they took this book, <em>Clinton Cash</em>, gave it to <em>The New York Times</em> exclusively, early, and the <em>Times</em> then ran with a story out of it, that they said they corroborated. But they ran with it, nonetheless, on their front page, which just launched this whole narrative of Hillary Clinton as corrupt. And it just kept echoing and echoing through the media after that. So, it was a real home run for them. A year later, they made a movie version of it also, which they launched in Cannes.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> You’re talking about Peter Schweizer and, as well, the Mercers. What about Cambridge Analytica, in addition to the Government Accountability Institute? And also, the Mercers’ obsession with the Clintons, the whole issue that you write about.</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> Well, this is something that—</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> They’re talking about they’re murderers.</p><p><strong>JANE MAYER:</strong> I mean, really—I mean, one of the—one of the challenges of writing about the Mercers, for me, was to figure out—OK, so they’re big players. There are players in the Democratic Party who put in tons of money, too. They’re not the only people who put money into politics. But they’re maybe the most mysterious people who put money into politics. Like nobody really knew what do they believe, what’s driving them. And so, I was trying to figure that out.</p><p>And what I finally was able to do what was talk to partners and people they work with in business and people who’ve known them a long time, who paint this picture of them as having these really peculiar beliefs, and based on kind of strange far-right media. Among their beliefs are that—Bob Mercer has spoken to at least three people who I interviewed, about how he is convinced that the Clintons are murderers, literally, have murdered people. Now, you hear that on the fringes sometimes when you interview people who are ignorant, but these are people who are powerful, well educated and huge influences in the country. And Bob Mercer was convinced that the Clintons are murderers. OK, so he’s driven by this just hatred of the Clintons and, coming into 2016, is determined to try to stop Hillary Clinton, and looking for a vehicle who would do that, who eventually becomes Trump.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN:</strong> Jane Mayer, we’re going to come back to this conversation. Jane Mayer is staff writer at <em>The New Yorker</em>. Her <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency">piece</a> is "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency." And her book is out in paperback, <em>Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right</em>. There is so much to talk about. Stay with us.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/3/23/jane_mayer_on_robert_mercer_the" width="400"></iframe></p> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 11:10:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1074330 at https://www.alternet.org The Right Wing The Right Wing jane mayer Robert Mercer rebecca mercer right wing billionaires Zephyr Teachout: Supreme Court Pick Neil Gorsuch 'Sides with Big Business, Big Donors and Big Bosses' https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/zephyr-teachout-supreme-court-pick-neil-gorsuch-sides-big-business-big-donors-and <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Teachout predicts Gorsuch would be &quot;at least as bad as Scalia—and we can’t forget how bad Scalia was.&quot;</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/0tspyuqm.jpg?itok=Nc_dDl4n" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Confirmation hearings begin Monday for Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. If confirmed by the Senate, Gorsuch would give conservatives a narrow 5-4 majority on the court. When he was first nominated, Gorsuch praised Antonin Scalia. As a judge on the Tenth Circuit, Neil Gorsuch ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in the case deciding whether the company could refuse to provide birth control coverage to employees as required by Obamacare. Judge Gorsuch also has a long history of ruling against employees in cases involving federal race, sex, age, disability and political discrimination and retaliation claims. For more, we speak with Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout. She recently ran for a congressional seat in upstate New York. Her recent piece for The Washington Post is headlined "Neil Gorsuch sides with big business, big donors and big bosses."</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/3/20/zephyr_teachout_supreme_court_pick_neil" width="630"></iframe></p><p><strong>TRANSCRIPT</strong></p><p><em>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</em></p><p>AMY GOODMAN: As a judge on the Tenth Circuit, Judge Gorsuch ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in the case deciding whether the company should refuse—could refuse to provide birth control coverage to employees as required by Obamacare. Judge Gorsuch also has a long history of ruling against employees in cases involving federal race, sex, age, disability and political discrimination and retaliation claims. Gorsuch is a member of the Federalist Society and has close ties to conservative Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, who owns The Weekly Standard and the Washington Examiner. Gorsuch also comes from a deeply conservative family. His mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, briefly served as President Reagan’s EPA administrator, where she slashed staff and eviscerated anti-pollution regulations before resigning amidst scandal. We begin our coverage of Judge Gorsuch with Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, who recently ran for a congressional state, upstate New York—a congressional seat. Her recent piece for The Washington Post is headlined "Neil Gorsuch sides with big business, big donors and big bosses." Zephyr Teachout, explain. </p><p>ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Look, in the—all of us are going to be part of sort of unearthing all of Neil Gorsuch’s opinions, but the important parts to look at are where he expresses his philosophy. And what he has done in antitrust cases and then also in one money-in-politics case is show that he’s going to be at least as bad as Scalia—and we can’t forget how bad Scalia was—and possibly worse, in favoring elites, favoring corporate power and favoring the power of big donors. So there’s two antitrust cases that are really important to look at. And I know antitrust can seem like this kind of arcane area. But if you look around the world right now and look around America, you see this incredible concentration of power in office supplies, in—with Amazon, with Comcast, with Monsanto, with—in oil and gas. You see this incredible concentration. A lot of that comes from Justice Scalia and other people in the Chicago school, the law and economics school, believing that we should gut antitrust and basically allow monopolists to gather power. And in these two antitrust opinions, Judge Gorsuch shows that he is really with the—with that Chicago school, and, in fact, suggested he might go even farther saying, "Well, one of the reasons people go into business is the capacity to get monopoly rent, so we don’t want to discourage people for going into business," instead of understanding, as Justice Brandeis and the true lions of our democratic past understood, that antitrust law was really critical for challenging excessive concentrations of power.</p><p>JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Zephyr Teachout, if you could talk also about Judge Gorsuch’s interest in natural law and what that might mean about his position on marriage equality?</p><p>ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Yeah, this is a really interesting and important area for the senators to ask about this week. In his dissertation, not that long ago, 2004, Judge Gorsuch shows that he is interested in natural law and very skeptical of the idea that the Constitution protects the intimate decisions that people make in the privacy of their own home. There’s a long, long line of cases that respect and understand that there’s constitutional protections for, for instance, the ability of people to use birth control, the rights of people to make their own sexual choices. And in his 2004 dissertation, Gorsuch was really skeptical of those decisions. And what that could mean is that Gorsuch might be a vote against marriage equality, because those decisions underpinned the decision a few years ago recognizing the right of all people to marry who they wanted to.</p><p>AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Judge Gorsuch addressing the conservative Federalist Society in 2013.</p><p>JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: "What about our criminal justice system?" you might ask. It surely bears its share of ironies, too. Consider this one. Without question, the discipline of writing the law down, of codifying it, advances the law’s interest in fair notice. But today we have about 5,000 federal criminal statutes on the books, most of them added in the last few decades. And the spigot keeps pouring, with literally hundreds of new statutory crimes inked every single year. Neither does that begin to count the thousands of additional regulatory crimes buried in the Federal Register. There are so many crimes cowled in the numbing fine print of those pages that scholars have given up counting and are now debating their number.</p><p>AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Judge Gorsuch. If you could respond to that, Zephyr Teachout, and also talk about Citizens United?</p><p>ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Oh, OK. Well, you know, look, we’re going to see a lot of particular quotes pulled out. And I think what we have to do now, this week, is ask him about, first of all, what that means for his judicial philosophy. And then, second, more broadly, we’re not going to get him on a gotcha, I mean, unless—he seems well polished to a fault. I mean, he really is the sort of dream elite candidate in that way. But we are going to be able to, I think, reveal, like, what’s underpinning him, who does he think should govern in society. And this relates to Citizens United. In a concurrence—and so this is a case where Judge Gorsuch decided to go out of his way and explain, "Here’s what I think"—in Riddle v. Hickenlooper, a case involving limits on campaign contributions, Judge Gorsuch said that campaign contributions are—went out of his way to say that they are one of the most fundamentally protected parts of our freedom, and suggested that we might want to apply strict scrutiny to campaign contributions. Now, let me translate. That means that Judge Gorsuch might be open to not only upholding Citizens United, which has been a wreck for our democracy, but actually striking down laws that limit how much an individual or a corporation can directly donate to candidates, which is actually a really terrifying idea. But what that suggests is that Gorsuch thinks that public decisions, where we all come together and pass laws together, the idea of the public coming together, that’s not the right way to make decisions. It should be more in the billionaires and in the marketplace as opposed to in our democratic sphere.</p> Mon, 20 Mar 2017 08:57:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1074134 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Video gorsuch trump teachout A Look at How Trump Is Pushing Wholesale Corporate Takeover of the Government https://www.alternet.org/economy/trump-corporate-takeover-government <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Welcome to the United States of America, Inc.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/8566717881_58f36f5a37_z_1.jpg?itok=gN-fP0mm" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div><p>There has been a wholesale corporate takeover of the government. That’s the conclusion of a new report that came out on February 20 by the watchdog group Public Citizen. The report looks at how corporate America has benefited from Trump’s first month in office. Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon, is now secretary of state. Goldman Sachs alum now serve several top posts: Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary, Stephen Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist and Gary Cohn as director of the United States National Economic Council. Trump has also signed executive orders to help undo the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law and repeal rules requiring financial advisers to give advice based on their customers’ best interests. We speak to Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.</p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/2/20/for_profit_president_a_look_at" width="640"></iframe><p>TRANSCRIPT</p><p><em>This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.</em></p></div><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> There’s been a wholesale corporate takeover of the government. That’s the conclusion of a new <a href="http://www.citizen.org/documents/for-profit-president-trump-first-month-report.pdf">report</a> coming out today by the watchdog group Public Citizen. The report looks at how corporate America has benefited from Trump’s first month in office. Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon, is now secretary of state. Goldman Sachs alum now serve several top posts: Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary, Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist and Gary Cohn as director of the United States National Economic Council. Trump has also signed executive orders to help undo the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law and repeal rules requiring financial advisers to give advice based on their customers’ best interests. Last week, President Trump bragged about his plans to cut regulations across all industries.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> We’re cutting regulations big league. We are really cutting them by massive amounts. The auto industry just left a week ago. They were here in the same room. And they are very happy with what—what we’re doing. And everyone is. I think just about everyone. The financial industry—we’re having a lot of the different industries in. And we’re cutting regulations in just about every industry. In fact, I can’t think of any that we’re not.</p></blockquote><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Joining us now is Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.</p><p>Welcome to <em>Democracy Now!</em></p><p><strong>ROBERT WEISSMAN:</strong> Hey, Juan. Good to be with you.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Well, talk to us about this month that’s transpired here in terms of what’s happened with corporate America.</p><p><strong>ROBERT WEISSMAN:</strong> It’s really been astounding. And I think, to some extent, it’s been overlooked, as people are rightfully outraged about the Muslim ban, threats to the First Amendment, whatever kooky thing Trump has said today, the mix over Russia. But the real straight theme through the administration—this is through the first month, and we should expect it for the entirety of this administration—is bestowing gift after gift after gift on corporate America.</p><p>We have by far the most corporate Cabinet in the history of the United States. And, of course, you only mentioned a few of the many people coming from the corporate class into the administration. We have the president consorting with chief executives and corporate leaders nonstop. First thing he did on his first working day was meet with corporate executives. He sat down with the CEOs of the auto industry, Big Pharma, the airline industry.</p><p>Each time he leaves and says, "We’re going to cut regulations on you," which means "We’re going to free you of the restraints on health and safety and worker rights, and let you profiteer without restraint." He has signed a series of executive orders designed to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, to undo Dodd-Frank and to make it virtually impossible to issue new regulatory protections for Americans, meaning we’re going to see more unsafe food, more dirty air, more dangerous autos, more dangerous drugs on the market, reduced protections for workers on the job, whether it’s health and safety or overtime rules or prevention against wage theft, and on and on. When he says he’s deregulating every industry in America, he means it. And it’s been a remarkable gift from the administration to corporate America. We’ve seen an amazing amount—he can take credit for that, I suppose—in the first 30 days, and there’s a lot more to come.</p><p>And then you add onto that, of course, all of the corruption around his personal businesses, and we see a kind of kleptocracy coming together with a corporatization of the government that is absolutely unprecedented in our history.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Well, I wanted to ask you about the reducing regulations, what I call, I guess, his two-for-one executive order. Getting for every one executive order you produce, you’ve got—for every one regulation you produce, you’ve got to get rid of two more. Could you talk about that and how that’s going to affect rulemaking?</p><p><strong>ROBERT WEISSMAN:</strong> Yeah, it’s sort of laughably stupid, except it’s actually in place, and it’s going to seize up all rulemaking to protect health and safety, consumer interests and workers. The executive order says that for every new rule adopted, an agency has to do two things: They have to look at the cost of the new rule and offset it by costs they’re going to eliminate from existing regulations, and for every new rule they adopt, they must eliminate at least two existing rules. So, for example, if the car safety agency wants to adopt a new rule on brake safety, they’re going to have to get rid of rules on headlights and steering columns. Absolutely utter lunacy, unless your only goal is to make it impossible to do any new regulation, which is in fact the objective of the executive order.</p><p>Now, we think this executive order conflicts with a whole range of existing statutes, because, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency’s job, under the Clean Air Act, is to advance clean air. It’s not—and when they do rulemaking, they’re supposed to look at a particular issue, not try to offset it against other existing costs. And that’s true across the government. So we have sued. Along with Natural Resources Defense Council and the Communication Workers of America, we’ve sued the administration, saying this executive order violates a number of statutes and violates separation of powers, so it’s both illegal and unconstitutional. And we hope we can get this thing struck from the books, because it will mean no new protections for Americans during the course of the next four years, assuming he’s in office that long.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Well, Robert, <em>Politico</em> has obtained leaked audio of Trump speaking in November to members of his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. He welcomed club members to stop by while he interviewed potential Cabinet picks.</p><blockquote><p><strong>PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP:</strong> Tomorrow we’re here, and Sunday we’re here. We’re going to be interviewing everybody. We’re—Treasury. We’re going to be interviewing secretary of state. We’re going to have everybody coming in. And we’re going to have—and I don’t know if you want to come around, but if you want to, it’s going to be unbelievable. It’s going to be an unbelievable day. So you might want to come along.</p></blockquote><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> This whole idea, whether that’s his golf—at his club there or Mar-a-Lago, the ability of his members to be close to him while he’s making these so-called decisions, have access to him?</p><p><strong>ROBERT WEISSMAN:</strong> Right. So, it’s another piece of this astounding corruption. That tape and then new reports from <em>The New York Times</em> about Mar-a-Lago make very clear that he’s at his clubs, where people pay to be members—in the case of Mar-a-Lago, now $200,000 a head for an initiation fee—at his clubs, he mingles with the members. Well, they’re not regular people. And he asks them for their advice, or they offer advice on their own. So you have this direct access to the president, based on ability to pay and prior relationships with him, that is absolutely unprecedented.</p><p>There is one example, though, that stands out above all the others, which is Carl Icahn, who’s an old friend of the president, who has been named his special regulatory adviser. He’s not an actual government employee, but he has this special—at least according to the administration. He’s got this special advisory role. And he’s reportedly had a decisive impact over choosing who would lead the Environmental Protection Agency and the Securities and Exchange Commission—the two parts of the government that most directly relate to his business empire and his investment empire. And, of course, we’ve got a guy running the EPA who is as hostile to the agency as is possible, who sued it 14 times and aims to destroy it. And we’ve got a guy nominated to run the Securities and Exchange Commission—</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> We’ve got about 10 seconds more. Go ahead.</p><p><strong>ROBERT WEISSMAN:</strong> —who is very likely to adopt rules that will benefit the giant investor Carl Icahn himself.</p><p><strong>JUAN GONZÁLEZ:</strong> Well, Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, thanks for joining us. That does it for today’s show. I’m Juan González. Thanks for joining us for another edition of <em>Democracy Now!</em></p> Tue, 14 Mar 2017 08:21:00 -0700 Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! 1072553 at https://www.alternet.org Economy Economy The Right Wing rex tillerson corporate takeover Robert Weissman steven mnuchin