Arun Gupta en The West Coast Is the World's Fifth Largest Economy — Can It Unite to Stop Big Oil? <!-- 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">From First Nations activism to innovative city initiatives, the West Coast is leading the fight against global warming even as many countries lag behind.</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="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_223323229-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Rex Parris, the three-term Republican mayor of Lancaster, California, is no squishy liberal. “I believe when you walk out the door of your home, you should be safe. I think capitalism is the best economic system we have available, and the United States should have the strongest military in the world.”</p><p>But when it comes to climate change, Parris calls it “the greatest threat facing the human race since the beginning of time.” He’s a rarity in a party in which nearly all presidential candidates in the 2016 race denied the existence of man-made climate change or the need to halt fossil-fuel production.</p><p>Parris has broken ranks with the denialists by signing a “no new fossil fuels infrastructure” pledge. Prior to the Paris climate summit in December, a dozen mayors from Santa Barbara, California, to Vancouver, British Columbia, and more than 20 other elected officials endorsed a prohibition on exporting oil, coal, and natural gas through the region. The pledge is inspired by a resolution passed by the city of Portland, Oregon, in November that relies on local powers over public safety, health, and land zoning to obstruct the siting of fossil fuel export terminals.</p><p>A coalition of environmental, labor, faith-based, and indigenous communities backed that resolution and a second one aimed at preventing oil trains from passing through Portland. Daphne Wysham, a coordinator with the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, says that after the resolutions passed, she initiated the pledge to help spread the anti-fossil-fuel movement along the West Coast.</p><p>Portland Mayor Charlie Hales championed the resolutions alongside City Commissioner Amanda Fritz. The measures are designed not to encroach on the federal power to regulate interstate commerce, which prevents states and cities from banning the transport of fossil fuels outright. Hales says once they are translated into land use code, “if a company wants to open a new terminal for exporting oil or compressed natural gas or propane or, even worse, coal, the answer is going to be, ‘No, that’s not a permitted use in industrial and commercial zones in Portland.’”</p><p>It’s one sign of how the West Coast is leading the fight against global warming even as many countries lag behind. The governors of California, Oregon, and Washington and the premier of British Columbia launched the Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC) toward that end in 2008. Recently the PCC released its “Action Plan on Climate and Energy” to green the region’s economy by prioritizing solar and wind power, low-carbon transportation, and energy efficiency. With 54 million people and $3 trillion in gross domestic product, effectively the fifth-largest economy in the world, the Pacific Coast has the might to reshape the U.S. economy.</p><p>The anti-fossil-fuel movement comes at a crucial time. Despite the historic Paris accord on climate change signed by 196 nations, some nations are still on a hydrocarbon binge. Canada is allowing a 43 percent rise in tar sands production, India said it would double coal production, and the U.S. Congress lifted a 40-year-old ban on the export of domestic fossil fuels, which is expected to boost mining and fracking over time.</p><p>Oil and gas companies have been eyeing the West Coast as the gateway to Asia, with plans to lace the region with more than two dozen natural-gas pipelines, oil terminals, and coal depots. Cities reliant on heavy industry or desperate for jobs, like Washington’s Tacoma and Kalama, are green-lighting projects like methanol plants, and Coos Bay, Oregon, is banking on employment from a natural-gas pipeline snaking 230 miles through the Cascade Mountains.</p><p>Joseph Lowndes, an associate professor of political science at the University of Oregon, who studies U.S. politics and social movements, says, “The fossil fuel industry has enormous resources. They have staying power.” He says energy companies promise struggling cities that “[they’ll] make money quickly. People are willing to buy it because they feel vulnerable.”</p><p>If all else fails, many predict, the oil industry will try to bulldoze opponents. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), funded by oil giants like ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers, is notorious for rejecting climate change science while pushing pro-oil policies at the state level. Now that Asian markets are open to U.S. energy production, Hales says he is “very concerned about ALEC throwing money around to influence cities” as well. In California, a tidal wave of oil lobbying and money—$10.7 million in three months alone—sank Governor Jerry Brown’s bill to halve oil consumption in vehicles by 2030. Around the same time, Washington state’s plan for a carbon tax was likewise shredded by a buzzsaw of oil-funded opposition.</p><p>But First Nations and environmental activists in the Pacific Northwest have spun a web of resistance by delaying oil refining equipment headed to Alberta tar sands, occupying lands slated for pipelines, locking down rail lines carrying coal trains, and skirmishing on the water with drill rigs headed for the Arctic.</p><p>Patient organizing can thwart the energy industry at the local level. Richmond, California, is home to a Chevron refinery that exploded in 2012, sending more than 15,000 people to hospitals for respiratory ailments. The current mayor, Tom Butt, and three allies swept to victory in 2014 despite being outspent 20-to-1 by Chevron. Mayor Butt, who signed the “no new fossil fuels infrastructure” pledge along with predecessor Gayle McLaughlin, says Chevron has “a long history of controlling the city council.”</p><p>Because the energy industry can successfully pit jobs against climate justice, Hales says, the West Coast must go beyond the “thou shalt not” pledge.</p><p>Cities and states are taking action, sometimes reluctantly. Under threat of lawsuits from environmentalists, San Diego passed a plan for 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and a 50 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. Parris claims Lancaster will be the first “net-zero city in the world.” Butt says Richmond is shifting consumers to electricity that is 56 percent renewable, and less than 20 percent of residences are opting out. Hales says cities could combine purchasing power to convince manufacturers to develop electric trucks for municipal services, transforming the overall car market.</p><p>PCC partners envision turning Interstate 5, which connects Baja California to British Columbia, into a “West Coast Green Highway” through alternative fuels and 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on California’s roadways by 2025. Utilities serving PCC states and Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho are studying how to integrate their power grids so sun-powered electrons from California or wind-powered ones from Wyoming can zip to states dependent on coal-fired electricity. The PCC is also pushing for a high-speed rail network, with work underway on the $68 billion section between Los Angeles and San Francisco.</p><p>Although important, these plans are first steps. Physics does not care about our promises and pledges. Many scientists say the world must reach net-zero emissions by 2050 to avoid disaster, but elected officials say they have little power to directly affect the private sector. Plans rely on market mechanisms involving taxation or zoning to encourage low-carbon solutions. Proposals include cap and trade for carbon pollution, backed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, and a fee on carbon in Oregon that would be returned to households and businesses. California’s cap-and-trade program went into effect in 2012, but critics slam it for rewarding polluters by providing free emission allowances to utilities that they can sell. Distributing carbon taxes is a mixed bag as well because it deprives local governments of funding for new jobs, aid to hard-hit communities, and adaptation of industry needed in a post-carbon future.</p><p>Wysham advocates measures such as requiring energy companies to purchase “climate-risk bonds,” which would factor in all the social costs of greenhouse gases. Making polluters pay upfront for the damage they create would render fossil fuels uneconomical.</p><p>It’s the type of bold move the West Coast needs on the road to a low-carbon future. Governors, legislators, and mayors will have to wrest the steering wheel from energy companies to prevent heading into the worst-case climate change scenarios.</p><p>Lowndes says the crucial missing element is “a broad campaign and direct action that can draw reformists and radicals into a coalition that can win the public to its side.” One model, he says, is the anti-nuclear-power campaign of the 1970s, which “stopped 150 plants that were set to go online.” If people power can be combined with elected power, then it could finally be lights out for the fossil-fuel era.</p><p> </p> Thu, 17 Mar 2016 10:55:00 -0700 Arun Gupta, YES! Magazine 1052752 at Environment Activism Economy Environment Local Peace Economy west coast activism technology innovation oil big oil Oregon Ranchers Who Sparked Standoff Threatened to Wrap Official’s Son in Barbed Wire and Drown Him <!-- 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">There are new revelations on the conflict between two local ranchers who have clashed with federal government agencies for decades. </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="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2016-01-22_at_1.47.10_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>With the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge almost three weeks old and tempers fraying at a community meeting in the nearby town of Burns, Oregon, one voice has been absent from the drama: the Fish and Wildlife Service employees whose work has been disrupted and offices turned into an armed camp by anti-government militants.</p><p>In a Raw Story exclusive, former and current employees of the Malheur Refuge have provided new revelations on the conflict between Dwight and Steve Hammond, two local ranchers who have clashed with federal government agencies for decades. The employees claim the Hammonds illegal grazing was damaging the refuge that’s home to 320 bird and 58 mammal species. They allege the Hammonds lawbreaking ranged from aerial hunting of animals in the refuge to death threats against employees and their families to cattle grazing that was altering the entire species composition of critical ecosystems.</p><p>The Fish and Wildlife Service did not return a request for comment. Sources say there is a gag order on employees now that the FBI is in charge of monitoring the occupation by Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and his supporters. </p><p>The beef the Hammonds currently have with the feds is over access to land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. More than 20 years ago the Hammonds also had a permit for grazing on the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. That was canceled in the mid-90s because of what officials say was the Hammonds’ constant violation of the permit’s terms. Today, the FWS is still caught in the middle because the Hammonds need to cross the 187,700 acres of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge to access the BLM land on which their cattle are allowed to graze.</p><p>Marvin Plenert, 80, who served as Northwest regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service from 1986 to 1994, says the agency tried to accommodate the Hammonds. “We gave them a day to cross through the refuge and they took two or three weeks to do it. They were in your face about everything. They kept pushing the envelope, cut fences, cattle wound up in the refuge illegally.” </p><p>Plenert’s tenure overlapped with that of Forrest Cameron, 67, who served as the Fish and Wildlife Service manager of the Malheur Refuge from 1989 to 1999. Cameron, who now lives in Portland and is retired like Plenert, had numerous run-ins with the Hammonds. </p><p>In his first in-depth interview since the occupation began, Cameron says the conflict between the Hammonds and the Fish and Wildlife Service goes back to the 1980s when they leveled death threats against the previous refuge manager. Cameron says during his time “one way or another the Hammonds were violating their permit” for grazing cattle on refuge lands. He says it was an ongoing issue and, “They’ve done so many illegal activities that never got to a courtroom.” </p><p>“Some violations were not significant,” says Cameron, “and we figured we could correct it by talking to them.”</p><p>Once, however, a biologist employed at the refuge reported, “The Hammonds were aerial gunning coyotes on the Malheur Refuge, which is illegal.” Cameron claims the Hammonds had an airplane at the time. “They were flying to shoot coyotes on their (own) land, and we didn’t have a problem with that.” The biologist allegedly witnessed the Hammonds’ plane “flying low, turning tight corners, and shooting, and it was over refuge property.” The issue was raised with the Hammonds “and they claimed they were not over the refuge.” Cameron says, “There were so many other contentious things going on that was one incident we didn’t push.”</p><p>In the 1990s the conflict with the Hammonds stemmed from the Fish and Wildlife view that their cattle were damaging the Malheur refuge. It was the following decade that the Hammonds illegally torched BLM lands, landing them in the clink for five years each and sparking the takeover. </p><p>It’s now well-known that Malheur, an oasis in the arid Great Basin that spans six states, is called “one of the crown jewels of the National Wildlife Refuge System.” It’s a “crucial stop along the Pacific Flyway and offers resting, breeding and nesting habitat for hundreds of migratory birds and other wildlife.” But the little-known story is how years of uncontrolled grazing by Hammonds and other ranchers were sending shockwaves through the refuge.</p><p>Cameron says when he arrived at Malheur in 1989, relations were “fairly good” with local ranchers, and about 30 of them had permits for grazing and haying on refuge land. Prior to his arrival changes had been made to match grazing policies with enforcement. He says National Wildlife Refuges allow public recreation in any way feasible. “That can be hunting, fishing, birdwatching, hiking — as long as it’s compatible with the wildlife on the refuge.” Cattle had been grazing year-round on Malheur, but the policy has a higher threshold for economic uses like grazing. “It has to be beneficial to wildlife or otherwise we don’t allow it.”</p><p>Implementing the prescribed grazing practices led the Hammonds and Fish and Wildlife Service to butt heads in the early 1990s over the Bridge and Mud creeks and a watering hole for birds. Cameron says Hammonds’ cattle would get into Bridge Creek, a deep canyon, “until someone drove them out.” The cattle would devour woody plant species crucial to the ecosystem.</p><p>With the loss of the anchoring trees, the banks started eroding. Cameron says the creek would “become like a drainage ditch and the water table in the meadows around the creek would start dropping.” The effects rippled through the meadow, altering the entire species composition. Unable to reach water, grass would die off, sagebrush and other undesirable species would take root, and ground-nesting birds would lose breeding sites. He says, “Studies show 80 percent of the wildlife that lives in the Great Basin depends on a healthy riparian habitat, and that’s what was along Bridge Creek.”</p><p>Cameron oversaw the rebuilding of fences around the refuge that had been wiped out by floods in the 1980s, removing some corrals for cattle that were of little use under the new grazing guidelines, and restoring habitat. He claims corrals in areas where cattle grazed “enticed the Hammonds to leave them there and they would get into the riparian areas, rather than moving them through the refuge.” Both Cameron and Plenert, the former regional director, say the Hammonds would leave their cattle on the refuge for weeks at a time, damaging the land despite the clear rules. </p><p>Cameron says, “The cattle like to eat the young plants, willows, elderberries we were trying to introduce in the creek banks, it’s like candy for them.” An entire replanting was wiped out by the Hammonds’ cattle and “a year or two later we would go back and try to restore the habitat to stabilize the creek banks.”</p><p>The Fish and Wildlife Service built new corrals for ranchers. Cameron says, “It was on dry land, had a water supply, and trucks could get in and out to haul cattle if needed.” As for the 30 other permittees, “We were able to work with them very well. It was really mainly Dwight Hammond. We tried to work with Hammonds but they didn’t want to lose the free grazing they had for a long time. But the grazing was illegal to begin with because it’s wasn’t their property.”</p><p>In August 1994, the Fish and Wildlife Service tried to fence a waterhole used by the Hammonds cattle as well as by waterfowl. The family disabled a Caterpillar vehicle, blocking construction of the fence, and Dwight and Steve Hammond were arrested and charged with felonies for impeding, intimidating and interfering with federal officers.</p><p>The charges were lessened and eventually dropped after the Hammonds entered into an agreement with provisions including a halt to interfering with fence construction and moving their cattle through the refuge in one day, which Cameron says is doable.</p><p>Leading up to the 1994 incident were the death threats. Cameron says, “My wife would take these phone calls, it was terribly vulgar language. They said they were going to wrap my son in barbed wire and throw him down a well. They said they knew exactly which rooms my kids slept in, in Burns. There were death threats to my wife and two other staff members and their wives. My family went to Bend rather than be in the community because it was so volatile at the time. The families of my biologist and my deputy manager family had to relocate as well for a short time.”</p><p>“At the refuge headquarters, one of the Hammonds said they would tear my head off and shit down the hole. One of the Hammonds told my Deputy Manager, Dan Walsworth, they were going to ‘put a chain around his neck and drag him behind a pickup.’” Cameron says it became practice “never to meet with the Hammonds alone and usually to have a law enforcement officer present.” </p><p>Despite the mediated settlement the Hammonds continually violated the permit for the Malheur refuge, says Cameron, so he cancelled their permit. The Hammonds went through an appeals process with Plenert upholding the decision to revoke the permit. </p><p>By the time he left Malheur Refuge in 1999, Cameron says the “Bridge Creek canyon was slowly healing. But if the cattle got in there for a week, all the restoration would be lost.”</p><p>Cameron says he does not know the conditions of the habitat now, but the atmosphere in Burns and Malheur seems to have deteriorated.</p><p>One current employee at Malheur refuge, who asked to be identified as “Steven,” says, “It is a really frightening time for workers on the refuge. They are demoralized and afraid. Workers have asked to be transferred out of Harney County.” </p><p>Steven claims Malheur Refuge employees were told last year, “Pull Fish and Wildlife Service insignia off trucks. We were warned to keep our heads down and not get near the Hammonds property.” </p><p>The occupation by the Bundys and their armed supporters are also affecting wildlife. Steven says, “There are a pair of great horned owls that are nesting in the watchtower that the militia is occupying as a sniper tower. Last year the owls had five fledglings, which is outstanding, and they are supposed to be coming back in January to nest. This is about the habitat, not the Bundys.”</p><p>An open letter from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge staff that appeared on its Facebook page on January 19, stated, “We believe many in the media (as well as those sympathetic to the illegal occupiers) were surprised to hear that the community—while frustrated with the Hammond situation—did not leap to the support of the militants. We are not surprised.” The unnamed writers said refuge employees had been part of Harney County for over 100 years, and “nearly 40% of working adults” were employed by the government. They concluded with the hope that “ this difficult situation will lead to even stronger bonds between the Refuge and the community that has supported us. We feel for you, because we are you.”</p><p>No one knows how it will end, particularly now that a militia spokesperson says they have “no plans to leave.” </p><p>Marvin Plenert says that worries him as it “sets a precedent for other wildlife refuges. There are about 500 refuges, and a lot are isolated refuges in rural areas. A group could take over any refuge, any BLM headquarters, like they did at Malheur. It’s a scary situation, I hope we can end this in a peaceful way.”</p> Fri, 22 Jan 2016 10:46:00 -0800 Arun Gupta, Raw Story 1049403 at The Right Wing The Right Wing oregon How the People’s Climate March Became a Corporate PR Campaign <!-- 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">When the overriding demand is for numbers, it&#039;s about visuals, which is about marketing, everything becomes lowest common denominator.</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="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/350_climate_change.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><strong>AlterNet Editor's Note: In our recent interview with Naomi Klein, she talked about her optimistic take on the march. You can read that interview <a href="">here</a>. </strong></p><p>I’ve never been to a protest march that advertised in the New York City subway. That spent $220,000 on posters inviting Wall Street bankers to join a march to save the planet, according to one source. That claims you can change world history in an afternoon after walking the dog and eating brunch.</p><p>Welcome to the “People’s Climate March” set for [today], Sept. 21 in New York City. It’s timed to take place before world leaders hold a Climate Summit at the United Nations two days later. Organizers are <a href="" target="_blank">billing it</a> as the “biggest climate change demonstration ever” with similar marches around the world. <a href="" target="_blank">The Nation</a> describes the pre-organizing as following “a participatory, open-source model that recalls the Occupy Wall Street protests.” A leader of <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, one of the main organizing groups, explained, “Anyone can contribute, and many of our online organizing ‘hubs’ are led by volunteers who are often coordinating hundreds of other volunteers.”</p><p>I will join the march, as well as the Climate Convergence starting Friday, and most important the “<a href="" target="_blank">Flood Wall Street</a>” direct action on Monday, Sept. 22. I’ve had conversations with more than a dozen organizers including senior staff at the organizing groups. Many people are genuinely excited about the Sunday demonstration. The movement is radicalizing thousands of youth. Endorsers include some labor unions and many people-of-color community organizations that normally sit out environmental activism because the mainstream green movement has often done a poor job of talking about the impact on or solutions for workers and the Global South.</p><p>Nonetheless, to quote Han Solo, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”</p><p>Environmental activist <a href="" target="_blank">Anne Petermann </a>and writer <a href="" target="_blank">Quincy Saul</a> describe how the People’s Climate March has no demands, no targets,and no enemy. Organizers admitted encouraging bankers to march was like saying Blackwater mercenaries should join an antiwar protest. There is no unity other than money. One veteran activist who was involved in Occupy Wall Street said it was made known there was plenty of money to hire her and others. There is no sense of history: decades of climate-justice activism are being erased by the incessant invocation of the “biggest climate change demonstration ever.” Investigative reporter <a href="" target="_blank">Cory Morningstar</a> has connected the dots between the organizing groups, <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and Avaaz, the global online activist outfit modeled on MoveOn, and institutions like the World Bank and Clinton Global Initiative. Morningstar claims the secret of Avaaz’s success is its “expertise in behavioral change.”</p><p>That is what I find most troubling. Having worked on Madison Avenue for nearly a decade, I can smell a P.R. and marketing campaign a mile away. That’s what the People’s Climate March looks to be. According to inside sources a push early on for a Seattle-style event—organizing thousands of people to nonviolently shut down the area around the United Nations—was thwarted by paid staff with the organizing groups.</p><p>One participant in the organizing meetings said, “In the beginning people were saying, ‘This is our Seattle,’” referring to the 1999 World Trade Organization ministerial that was derailed by direct action. But the paid staff got the politics-free Climate March. Another source said, “You wouldn’t see Avaaz promoting an occupy-style action. The strategic decision was made to have a big march and get as many mainstream groups on board as possible.”</p><p>Nothing wrong with that. Not every tactic should be based on Occupy. But in an email about climate change that Avaaz sent out last December, which apparently raked in <a href="" target="_blank">millions of dollars</a>, it wrote, “It’s time for powerful, direct, non-violent action, to capture imagination, convey moral urgency, and inspire people to act. Think Occupy.”</p><p>Here’s what seems to be going on. Avaaz found a lucrative revenue stream by warning about climate catastrophe that can be solved with the click of a donate button. To convince people to donate it says we need Occupy-style actions. When the moment comes for such a protest, Avaaz and <a href="" target="_blank"></a> blocked it and then when it did get organized, they pushed it out of sight. If you go to <a href="" target="_blank">People’s Climate March</a>, you won’t find any mention of the Flood Wall Street action, which I fully support, but fear is being organized with too little time and resources. Nor have I seen it in an Avaaz email, nor has anyone else I’ve talked to. Bill McKibben of <a href="" target="_blank"></a> began promoting it this week, but that may be because there is discontent in the activist ranks about the march, which includes lots of Occupy Wall Street activists. One inside source said, “It’s a branding decision not to promote the Flood Wall Street action. These are not radical organizations.”</p><p>Branding. That’s how the climate crisis is going to be solved. We are in an era or postmodern social movements.</p><p>The image (not ideology) comes first and shapes the reality. The P.R. and marketing determines the tactics, the messaging, the organizing, and the strategy. Whether this can have a positive effect is a different question, and it’s why I encourage everyone to participate. The future is unknowable. But left to their own devices the organizers will lead the movement into the graveyard of the Democratic Party, just as happened with the movement against the Iraq War a decade ago. You remember that historic worldwide movement, right? It was so profound the New York Times dubbed global public opinion, “the second superpower.” Now Obama has launched an eighth war and there is no antiwar movement to speak of.</p><p>Sources say Avaaz and <a href="" target="_blank"></a> is footing most of the bill for the People’s Climate March with millions of dollars spent. Avaaz is said to have committed a dozen full-time staff, and hired dozens of other canvassers to collect petition signatures and hand out flyers. Nearly all of <a href="" target="_blank"></a>’s staff is working on climate marches around the country and there is an office in New York with thirty full-time workers organizing the march. That takes a lot of cheddar. While the grassroots are being mobilized, this is not a grassroots movement. That’s why it’s a mistake to condemn it. People are joining out of genuine concern and passion and hope for an equitable, sustainable world, but the control is top down and behind closed doors. Everyone I talked to described an undemocratic process. Even staffers were not sure who was making the decisions other than to tell me to follow the money. It’s also facile to say all groups are alike. Avaaz is more cautious than <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, and apparently the New York chapter of <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, which is more radical, is at odds with the national.</p><p>But when the overriding demand is for numbers, which is about visuals, which is about P.R. and marketing, everything becomes lowest common denominator. The lack of politics is a political decision. One insider admitted despite all the overheated rhetoric about the future is on the line, “I don’t expect much out of this U.N. process.” The source added this is “a media moment, a mobilizing moment.” The goal is to have visuals of a diverse crowd, hence the old saw about a “family-friendly” march. Family friendly comes at a high cost, however. Everything is decided by the need for visuals, which means organizers will capitulate to anything the NYPD demands for fear of violence. The march is on a Sunday morning when the city is in hangover mode. The world leaders will not even be at the United Nations, and they are just the hired guns of the real climate criminals on Wall Street. The closest the march comes to the United Nations is almost a mile away. The march winds up on Eleventh Avenue, a no-man’s land far from subways. There is no closing rally or speakers.</p><p>An insider says the real goal was to create space for politicians: “If you can frame it as grandma and kids and immigrants and labor you could make it safer for politicians to come out and support. It’s all very liberal. I don’t have much faith in it.”</p><p>When I asked what the metrics for success for, the insider told me media coverage and long-term polling about public opinion. I was dumbfounded. That’s the exact same tools we would use in huge marketing campaigns. First we would estimate and tally media “impressions” across all digital, print, outdoor, and so on. Then a few months down the road we would conduct surveys to see if we changed the consumer’s opinion of the brand, their favorability, the qualities they associated with it, the likelihood they would try. That’s the same tools Avaaz is allegedly using.</p><p>Avaaz has pioneered clickbait activism. It gets people to sign petitions about dramatic but ultimately minor issues like, “Prevent the flogging of 15 year old rape victim in Maldives.” The operating method of Avaaz, which was established in 2007, is to create “actions” like these that generate emails for its fundraising operation. In other words, it’s a corporation with a business model to create products (the actions), that help it increase market share (emails), and ultimately revenue. The actions that get the most attention are ones that get the most petition signers, the most media coverage, and which help generate revenue.</p><p>Avaaz has turned social justice into a product to enhance the liberal do-gooding lifestyle, and it’s set its sights on the climate justice movement.</p><p>The more dramatic the emails the better the response. It’s like the supermarket. The bags and boxes don’t say, “Not bad,” or “kinda tasty.” They say “the cheesiest,” “the most delicious,” “an avalanche of flavor,” “utterly irresistible.” That’s why climate change polls so well for Avaaz. It’s really fucking dramatic. But it’s still not dramatic enough for marketing purposes.</p><p>One source said the December 2013 email from Avaaz Executive Director Ricken Patel about climate change was a goldmine. It was headlined, “24 Months to Save the World.” It begins, “This may be the most important email I’ve ever written to you,” and then says the climate crisis is “beyond our worst expectations” with storms and temperatures “off the charts.” Then comes the hook from Patel, “We CAN stop this, if we act very fast, and all together. And out of this extinction nightmare, we can pull one of the most inspiring futures for our children and grandchildren. A clean, green future in balance with the earth that gave birth to us.”</p><p>Telling people there is 24 months to save the world is odious, as is implying an online donation to Avaaz can save the planet.</p><p>The same overblown rhetoric is being used for the People’s Climate March: It’s the biggest ever. There is “<a href="" target="_blank">unprecedented collaboration</a>” with more than 1,400 “partner” groups in New York City. Everything comes down to this one day with the “future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the course of history.”</p><p>Presumably the orderly marchers behind NYPD barricades will convince the governments of the world that will meet for the Climate Summit that won’t even meet for another two days that they need to pass UN Secretary­ General Ban Ki-­moon’s “ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution.”</p><p>Moon is now joining the march. But it’s hard to find details, including on the <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Summit</a> website, as to what will actually be discussed there. The best <a href="" target="_blank">account</a> I could find is by Canadian journalist Nick Fillmore. He claims the main point will be a carbon pricing scheme. This is one of those corporate-designed scams that in the past has rewarded the worst polluters with the most credits to sell and creates perverse incentives to pollute, because then they can earn money to cut those emissions.</p><p>So we have a corporate-designed protest march to support a corporate-dominated world body to implement a corporate policy to counter climate change caused by the corporations of the world, which are located just a few miles away but which will never feel the wrath of the People’s Climate March.</p><p>Rather than moaning on the sidelines and venting on Facebook, radicals need to be in the streets. Join the marches and more important the direct actions. Radicals need to ask the difficult questions as to why for the second time in fifteen years has a militant uprising, first Seattle and then Occupy, given way to liberal cooptation. What good is your radical analysis if the NGO sector and Democratic Party fronts kept out-organizing you?</p><p>Naomi Klein says we need to end business as usual because climate change is going to change everything. She’s right. Unfortunately the organizers of the People’s Climate March didn’t get the memo. Because they are continuing on with business as usual that won’t change anything.</p><p>One prominent environmental organizer says that after the march ends, “The U.N. leaders are going to be in there Monday and Tuesday and do whatever the fuck they want. And everyone will go back to their lives, walking the dog and eating brunch.”</p><p>The future is unwritten. It’s not about what happens [today]. It’s what happens after that.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 1em; padding: 0px;"> </p> Sat, 20 Sep 2014 12:14:00 -0700 Arun Gupta, CounterPunch 1020122 at Activism Activism Environment Global Climate Convergence PEOPLE'S CLIMATE MARCH flood wall street Why the Infatuation with Bullies Like Chris Christie? <!-- 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">Christie reveals a dark side of our society -- a public enchanted by his tough guy antics and the press who encourages his sadism.</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="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/04fb0f6367d83e57b7f0c96f0c226655527dc1cc.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div><div>If the media had even a trace of independence, the instant Chris Christie declared like a dainty blossom trampled roughly, “I am not a bully,” the throng of reporters would have screamed, “Liar” in a single voice and hurled their cameras, pens, notepads, recorders, iPhones and shoes at him, burying his political career.</div><div> </div><div>Then they would have exited the farce and switched to the tape for those at home, showing not the <a href=";sm=3" target="_blank">highlight reel</a> of bullying moments compiled by his own staff to promote the Governor Smackdown <a href="" target="_blank">brand</a>, but the warm-up at a Jersey town-hall meeting in 2010 where he <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a> to the audience, with the salivating glee of a hound dog cornering a lame rabbit, that a bullying moment “could happen right here, ladies and gentlemen! … Get ready! If you have your own cameras, start rolling!”</div><div> </div><div>No, Christie would vanish without the <a href="" target="_blank">browbeating</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">thuggery</a> that are as indelibly linked to his tenure as the Shore is to Jersey. The real question is not why the press is so sycophantic. It’s why does the public revere a bully as savior? Why do we no longer pine for the knight-in-shining-armor, itself a fairytale version of democracy, but the leather-masked Quasimodo executing justice with cracking bones and spurting blood, or in Christie’s case, cracking insults and spurting bile at those swept up in his spectacle of torment?</div><div> </div><div>It’s because these days Americans have as much familiarity with democracy as they do with homesteading on the frontier. We like to imagine ourselves as pioneering statesmen, hewing a sturdy nation from the simple tools democracy has bequeathed us – messaging, voting, debates, elections, law-making – but we are lost in the wilderness when it comes to discovering the essence of democracy.</div><div> </div><div>Democracy is not the same as the perpetual-motion electoral machine. It’s both a means and end built on dialogue, respect, relationships and reason, and it’s everything Christie pummels into submission. But don’t blame the public for this sorry state of affairs. Our lives are bereft of democracy. Virtually all schools are authoritarian, as are churches. Families teeter between parental authority and youthful insubordination. Few believe consumerism is democratic (but our democracy is consumeristic). Say “workplace democracy” to anyone at the office and blank stares is the best reaction you can hope for.</div><div> </div><div>Few people know how to engage in democratic discussion and dialogue. I’ve heard the same story from food-justice organizers in Brooklyn, anti-fracking activists in Ohio, warehouse workers in Chicago, and home-foreclosure defenders in Oakland. It’s back to basics. Organizing now means first building community through socializing such as potlucks, block parties and softball games, and teaching people how to collectively listen to and discuss ideas with mutual respect.</div><div> </div><div>We’re at ground zero when it comes to democracy. We feel powerless to stop oil companies from frying the planet, nuke plants radiating countries, stripping oceans of life and dumping them full of garbage, and are unable to help the homeless lying beside foreclosed housing, the sick dying in the shadow of world-class hospitals, and unemployed millions desperate for jobs, even shit ones. With government hijacked by the wealthy, it’s easier to hope an iron-fisted leader can wipe the slate clean. One who <a href="" target="_blank">scapegoats teachers</a> as the cause of high taxes and low-achieving children, and enjoys humiliating them publicly.</div><div> </div><div>The harsh reality of Christie is not his vile political persona, but the public enchanted by his bullying and the press who encourages his sadism by <a href="" target="_blank">casting</a> him as “a tough-talking, problem-solving pragmatist.” Christie may have muscled Democratic politicians into supporting his re-election bid last fall, but he won <a href="" target="_blank">strong backing</a> from Democratic voters, allowing him to pursue policies attacking the poor and public education, and coddling the wealthy and corporations.</div><div> </div><div>Christie taps into something dark in the American political soul – a desire not just for order or efficiency, but pleasure in humiliating the weak. Is it surprising women are a frequent target of his abuse, who are pathologized in our society as weak?</div><div> </div><div>Like every bully, Christie crossed the line, or a bridge in his instance. The silver lining is his presidential ambitions may drown in the <a href="" target="_blank">brewing scandal</a> so the whole nation doesn’t have to suffer him degrading women with <a href="" target="_blank">blow-job jokes</a>. But others like Christie will follow in his wake until we realize our society does not suffer from a lack of authoritarian bullies but a deficit of grassroots democracy.</div></div><p> </p> Sat, 11 Jan 2014 12:20:00 -0800 Arun Gupta, AlterNet 946067 at Media Media The Right Wing chris christie bully Welcome to Little Baghdad, California <!-- 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">El Cajon is a top destination for Iraqis fleeing their country. But all is not well there.</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="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2013-04-11_at_5.37.13_pm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Nabeel used to work for the Americans in Iraq. He was a security team leader for the Research Triangle Institute, a U.S. contractor that was paid more than half-a-billion dollars to run “local governance programs” throughout the country. He survived three car-bombing attempts. “I was lucky,” he says nonchalantly.</p><p>But as GIs began to exit Iraq in 2011, he knew that his luck would not last. Nabeel says that some guys threatened him: “We will kill your son. We will get revenge when the Americans leave Iraq.” Nabeel didn’t need much more encouragement, given the collapse of public services that had made life arduous, so he applied for a special immigration visa for Iraqis employed on behalf of the U.S. government. With his family, he immigrated to El Cajon, California, in July 2011.</p><p>He expected a warm welcome and a decent standard of living for helping the war effort.</p><p>“When I came to the United States, I thought I would be better than the prime minister in Iraq,” recalls Nabeel. “Now, I am jealous of the street cleaner.”</p><p>Six friends of his nod in agreement. They are sitting in a sparsely furnished office in El Cajon, a city of 101,000 residents east of San Diego. The door says Babylon Design and Printing, but they jokingly call it the “Babylon coffee shop.” Outside, palm trees stand still in the damp night air. Inside hang oil paintings of Middle Eastern marketplaces and rural life.</p><p>All seven knew each other in Babil province, south of Baghdad. All worked for U.S. contractors. All escaped Iraq because of threats and the collapse of public services. Now, however, all are unhappy, most are jobless, and some wish they had never left Iraq despite the violence and chaos.</p><p>Also in the office are Ahmad Talib and Huda Al-Jabiri. They fled Iraq in the late ’90s, and spent five days walking without food to the Iranian border while Huda was eight months pregnant. The couple is employed as social workers resettling refugees. Ahmad says he is aware of five families who came to El Cajon recently and returned to Iraq.</p><p>“Many of the older generation want to go back,” Ahmad says. “This is not their culture. They have friends, families, memories in Iraq. One said, ‘If I am killed by a suicide bomber, I die once. Here in America, I die every day. I struggle with rent, I struggle with language, I struggle with work.’ ”</p><p>By one measure, the seven friends are fortunate. Out of a sea of four million Iraqis displaced since 2003, a relative trickle of 85,000 has been admitted to the United States. From 2003 to 2006, the United States accepted a mere 735 Iraqi refugees. Only after the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act became law in January 2008 did the United States start letting in a significant number of Iraqis.</p><p>While Michigan has a larger population of Iraqi descent, El Cajon is the top destination for this round of refugees partly because the State Department has discouraged refugees from settling in the economically depressed Detroit area. Professor John Weeks, a demographer at San Diego State University, estimates that the Iraqi population in San Diego County has swelled by an average of 400 a month since 2008, and El Cajon is now almost one-third Iraqi American.</p><p>But new refugees often encounter a rude awakening. The city’s poverty rate is 23 percent, and the unemployment rate at the end of 2012 was 11 percent. Moreover, El Cajon is still trying to live down its tag as the “meth capital of the world,” and it retains a hard-bitten feel evidenced by a robbery rate 50 percent above the national average.</p><p>Nonetheless, refugees say the warm, sunny weather is a welcome reminder of home, and for decades El Cajon has become a magnet for many of Iraq’s persecuted. Thousands of Kurds started arriving following a failed revolt in 1976. After the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein crushed a Shi’a uprising encouraged by the senior Bush Administration, and some 1,500 Shi’a who escaped found their way to El Cajon. There are also Mandaeans, whose 2,000-year-old Gnostic culture is in danger of extinction, and Yezidis, practitioners of an ancient syncretic religion. But far and away, it’s the estimated 30,000 Chaldean Catholics in El Cajon who have enlivened the city with Iraqi culture, many having first settled there in the 1950s. Main Street is nicknamed “Little Baghdad” for the proliferation of Arab-language signs and Iraqi-owned restaurants, markets, jewelry stores, auto shops, and cultural centers.</p><p>Everyone who has contact with the community says the number one problem is the lack of jobs. Khattab Aljubori talks proudly of the $4,000 a month he earned in Iraq as an IT specialist. He fled in November 2010 because of threats to his family and now gets by on welfare and whatever computer work he can scrounge.</p><p>According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on the health of Iraqi refugees who settled in the United States after 2009, 67 percent of adults are unemployed, including 85 percent of those over 45 years old.</p><p>Suhail Putras is one of those who has found a job in El Cajon. He works as a cook at Ali Baba restaurant, which is decorated like an Arabian tent, with plush blue and white fabric covering the walls and ceiling, and beaded entrances shaped like arches. As Suhail talks, waiters hustle silver platters heaped with yellow rice, chopped vegetables, pickled radishes, glistening kebabs, and fresh-baked flatbreads the size of hubcaps. He left in 2008, and makes no bones that he’s glad to be gone. “Iraq was the paradise, now it’s the hell,” he says. The Mahdi Army, a Shi’a militia, bombed his family’s liquor store in Baghdad. “I was shocked that people I’ve been living with thirty years came with a knife for my back,” he says. He says his future, and more important, that of his children, is in the United States. But he tears up when asked if he misses Baghdad. “I was born there, I was married there, I have happy and sad memories there,” he says.</p><p>Every refugee confronts these contradictory forces. Nabeel says he’s landed work as a security guard, but it’s not enough.</p><p>“This is not a better life for me, but for my family, yes,” he says. “We sacrifice for our family. I want a better future and education for my kids.”</p><p>Mohammed chimes in. A civil engineer who bolted from Iraq in October 2011 after two of his co-workers at the Cooperative Housing Foundation, a U.S.-based NGO, were gunned down in the street, he is frustrated at being unable to support his family.</p><p>“I worked with Americans in my country, but I have no experience to work in America,” he says. He has a simple solution: “So give us a job,” he says, referring to the government. “If they keep Saddam Hussein, we will never be here.”</p><p>Ahmad says some Iraqis in El Cajon believe they deserve welfare. They think, “This is our money, they took our oil.”</p><p>“These refugees are a direct consequence of our decision of having invaded Iraq,” adds Professor Weeks. “Some of these refugees, not all of them, come with the attitude that you ruined our country, you owe us.”</p><p>It’s not hard to understand why. Farah Muhsin, who came to San Rafael, California, in 2008 to study political science, says her family decamped to Syria in May 2003 after her mother, a journalist in Iraq, appeared on “death lists issued by the Badr Brigade and the Da’wa Party.”</p><p>“If you go to Iraq today, they say America has destroyed our country and allowed criminals and warlords to become politicians, take control of our government and imprison and torture thousands of people,” Muhsin says. “As harsh and cruel was life under Saddam Hussein, it was much better than today.”</p><p>Estimates of the number of Iraqis killed during the last decade range from 150,000 to one million. Trauma among Iraqi refugees in Syria, with 90 percent suffering from depression and 68 percent from post-traumatic stress disorder, far outstrips that suffered by civilians in Kosovo and Afghanistan.</p><p>The moment Iraqis land in the United States they face new struggles. First, Ahmad explains, they are usually in debt to the International Organization for Migration, which provides an interest-free loan for the airline fare to bring them over. “A family of five might owe $6,000, and they have to start making payments in three months,” he says.</p><p>Social workers say each refugee receives a “reception and placement” grant of $1,100 for rent, security deposit, furnishing, bedding, food, and other essentials. But for a childless couple that may not be enough to secure an apartment. “When you come here,” says Ahmad, “you get the worst apartment, the cheapest one they can find, and donated furniture.”</p><p>Salam Hassan, a thirty-seven-old-year computer engineer living in Berkeley, who served as a fixer in Baghdad for journalists like Naomi Klein, Dahr Jamail, and Christian Parenti before escaping mortal danger in 2005, says single male refugees in the Bay Area wind up in West Oakland, “famous for its violent history, because it’s poor, and the rent is cheaper.” A number of refugees in Oakland have been robbed and assaulted, and Farah Muhsin says, “One Iraqi man was mugged and was shot five times, and is now permanently disabled.”</p><p>Hassan, who has taken so many refugees under his wing that his apartment was dubbed “the Iraqi Embassy,” says they are packed “three to four people per one-bedroom apartment. They get four months assistance, then are switched to a program that just covers their rent and $200 a month for food stamps.”</p><p>It’s an expensive and difficult process to make it to the United States—one refugee, a nuclear engineer, said it cost him $40,000—so adults tend to be professionals with advanced degrees in fields like medicine, engineering, and accounting. But the pressure to find jobs is relentless, and getting recertified is a laborious process. In the meantime, Ahmad says, “We find them jobs that no one else takes—fast food, housecleaning, parking-lot attendants.” Huda notices the change in their demeanor after they arrive: “You look at their faces. They are so proud of their degrees and their experience, and then they are told to clean sixteen hotel rooms a day.”</p><p>Ahmad is cynical as to why the United States lets in refugees: “They’re cheap labor.” But he’s quick to add, “They are survivors.” They confront obstacles at every corner—navigating a byzantine health care system, living in substandard conditions, learning how to use credit, taking crowded ESL classes with overwhelmed instructors. “But they will get up at 5 a.m., commute two hours, work a full day, get home at 7 or 8 p.m., and do it again the next day.”</p><p>Mark Lewis is mayor of El Cajon. Now sixty-four, he’s been in office since 1998 and grew up here. If he is any indication, cultural misunderstandings are abundant. He says single women have complained to him about not being served in Chaldean-owned establishments, and he’s warned them they must serve women. He says, “In our society the female is the same as the male. They haven’t got that through their heads yet.”</p><p>Lewis says some Chaldean schoolchildren who receive free lunches are “being picked up by Mercedes Benzes.” He adds: “First time, they come over here, it doesn’t take them too long to learn where all the freebies are at.” This, he says, causes “a lot of resentment in regard to veterans,” who ask, “Why can’t [the federal government] support veterans like they support minorities coming over here?” Lewis says this is creating “white flight.”</p><p>Advocates say that not enough is being done for Iraqi immigrants. “They need more educational programs,” Huda says, dismissing as laughable the four hours of cultural orientation some receive as their entire introduction to American society. Ahmad adds that adults need more activities “so they’re not just wandering the streets,” which is a common sight in El Cajon. Then there’s the issue of transportation, with many relying on a bus system that’s costly and inadequate. Most important, says Huda, “They need time for recovery and to learn the language and culture. Don’t put them to work right away.”</p><p>For many Iraqi immigrants in El Cajon, the adjustment to the United States is just too much. “I’m a nation to myself,” Salam Hassan says, explaining that he doesn’t feel at ease in either America or Iraq.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><i style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Garamond, Georgia, 'Times New Roman', serif; font-size: 16px; line-height: 21px;"><b>Arun Gupta</b> is co-founder of The Indypendent newspaper and The Occupied Wall Street Journal and is a regular contributor to The Guardian, Truthout, and In These Times.</i></p> </div></div></div> Thu, 11 Apr 2013 17:13:00 -0700 Arun Gupta, The Progressive 823562 at Immigration Immigration World el cajon iraqi immigration CORRECTION: "Gun Owners to Shoot 'Illegal' Voters" Hoax <!-- 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 might be performance art or a political prank -- or just the latest extremist wingnuttery from the Right. </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="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_61504117.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>Editor's note: It's been revealed that the two men profiled below were actually engaged in a hoax. An update has been added by the author to the original article. </em></p><p>The two men I encountered claiming to be Republicans advocating for shooting voters suspected of fraud at the poll were conducting a hoax.</p><p>They pulled a similar stunt in New York around Occupy Wall Street, as seen in this video here:</p><p><a href=";v=QrfnxxZEj4M" target="_blank">;v=QrfnxxZEj4M</a></p><p> </p><p>Having worked with the Yes Men, I was suspicious. But I did also think it was likely they were the real deal because the right is that unhinged from its global warming and evolution denialism to its fantasies about Obama and female sexuality.</p><p> </p><p>I should have been more skeptical, but as I wrote, I thought no one could be this sick.</p><p> </p><p>They came to a rally against voter suppression and conducted a prank about shooting voters when there are tens of millions of people still alive in this country who lived through the time when people fought and died to secure the right to vote for all citizens of this country.</p><p> </p><p>At the rally, speakers poured their hearts out about having their right to vote stripped as part of a concerted campaign by a party whose sole appeal is the poison of nativism and racism. The right is reviving all the ugliness and horrors of our 100 years of apartheid. </p><p> </p><p>Unlike groups like the Yes Men, who creatively expose the workings of the powerful, there was no purpose to their stunt. All they did was torment people who are tormented by a degenerate vicious right every day of their lives.</p><p> </p><p>Even more important than this, is the media’s focus on piddling controversies like the two convention attendees throwing nuts at a Black camerawoman. While ugly, it allows everyone from the right to liberals to dismiss racism as an individual aberration that can be surgically excised by cutting off the offending parts.</p><p> </p><p>If the media called the right’s voter fraud and poll fraud for it is – Jim Crow 2.0 – then incidents such as these would be seen for what they truly are: symptoms of a racist social system that is consciously implemented by both parties, but blood-thirstily advocated by the right.</p><p> </p><p> </p><p>TAMPA, Florida – They were classic buttoned-up conservatives, but I couldn’t believe my ears. “Are you guys performance artists?” "No," Stevens snorted.</p><p>Just a few minutes earlier, two men who identified themselves as Robert Stevens and John Nelson had handed me a flyer. It explained that they wanted the state of Florida to pass a “Protect the Polls law” under which “anyone suspected of committing voter fraud can be fired upon – provided the weapon is registered and operated by its licensed owner.”</p><p>The two 28-year-olds, who said they were from West Palm Beach, were straight out of central casting for Young Republicans. I was trying to figure out if they were as crazy as they sounded or were just trying to punk everyone.</p><p>Stevens claimed that “illegals and other people without government IDs” were committing voter fraud. I outlined a scenario, “I’m a gun owner. I go to the polls. I have my gun. So, how does it work? There’s this guy who looks like an illegal alien, and he looks pretty shifty ...”</p><p>“And you shoot him,” Stevens said, cutting me off. After some more questioning, and deciding that I would need to see identification, Stevens added, “I think a gun owner should be able to ask for ID and help us police the poll, protect the polls.”</p><p>I continued: “So if I think this looks like a fake ID and he tries to go in....”</p><p>Stevens: “Use your gun. Use your gun.”</p><p>Me: “I can cap him?”</p><p>Stevens: “Yep, yep.”</p><p>Now, when I first saw Robert Stevens and John Nelson at the rally against voter suppression in Tampa’s Centennial Park I didn’t pay them much attention. I thought they were ballsy, showing up with Romney buttons and wading into a lion’s den of protesters fired up about the Republican strategy to roll back hard-won voting rights.</p><p>I was more interested in talking to Krown Deon. A St. Petersburg native, Deon said he served 10 years in a state penitentiary for selling an ounce of cocaine to an undercover cop. He was released from prison a decade ago, got custody of his three boys – “Their mamas weren’t doing too well,” he explained – and supported them by working as a baker and a traveling musician. One is studying medical science in college, and a second just started college.</p><p>Then in 2008, Deon said, “When the hype came with the whole Obama thing, I had been out long enough to get my rights restored.” Four years later, on the eve of the 2012 election, he discovered his ability to vote had been stripped away.</p><p>When I circled back, Stevens and Nelson had attracted a crowd and were handing out flyers. A Fox News reporter was dribbling out weak questions, so I dove in. “You’re saying … if someone is at the polls and they think someone else is committing voter fraud…”</p><p>“They should be sure, hopefully they should be sure,” Stevens clarified.</p><p>Me: “And they’re like pretty sure, they should be able to shoot the person?”</p><p>Stevens: “Yes, yeah.”</p><p>Nelson: “Or present their weapon…”</p><p>Stevens: “Well, if this law is passed that would be within their rights.”</p><p>Nelson: “But this is not law and we don’t want to encourage anyone to do anything illegal because that’s the last thing we want to do. We don’t want people to be hurt.”</p><p>Me: “You just want to make it legal to shoot suspected…”</p><p>Nelson: “It’s legal to stand your ground right now if you feel threatened.”</p><p>Stevens: “We don’t want people shot but we want to keep the wrong people away from the polls.”</p><p>Me: “You want the option.”</p><p>Stevens: “Yes.”</p><p>A cyclone of anger was swirling around us. Chants of “Fox News lies” and “Show us your tax returns” lashed our ears. At one point I stepped back from the knot of reporters and tried to calm the crowd down, counseling that these guys would hang themselves with their own words. But the inflamed passions erupted again and a rally organizer politely asked them to leave because they were disrupting the event.</p><p>I was muttering that Stevens and Nelson were performance artists or it was a ploy by some liberal group. No one could be that extreme. But I quickly ruled out those possibilities. A political prankster would not be so sick as to torment people who bore the historical scars of voter intimidation. And the Democrats would not risk such a bizarre stunt.</p><p>I caught up with them as they walked away from the fracas. Stevens said they were “supporters” of the Republican Party and platform, adding “we try not to affiliate” with the party. “We don’t want to bring on, you know …”</p><p>They wouldn’t tell me who was behind their <a href="" target="_blank">Web site</a>. The domain was registered on Aug. 20 through Domains by Proxy, a private registration service. They have a Twitter account with three followers and are peddling $35 T-shirts that say in small type “NO ID?” above “VOTE AND DIE!” in huge type (mocking the “Vote or Die” campaign).</p><p>As we parted ways I mentioned to one of the remaining reporters that I thought it was a prank. He shook his head no, and spat out, “Fucking crazy.” He turned to his cameraman and said, “We finally got something.” I heard another journalist say the same thing, and I thought the same thing as well.</p><p>We lap up the wingnuttery because it sells. Just like every product is new and improved, the Right becomes ever more extreme because yesterday's outrage has become part of the discourse.  </p><p>When Republicans first started screeching about <a href="" target="_blank">virtually non-existent voter fraud</a>, I thought it would fall on deaf ears. Who could take a party seriously whose main selling point is Jim Crow 2.0? Unfortunately, the Right knows from decades of experience that by spreading a crooked lie with a straight face it can game a media that dutifully reports every outrageous fiction as a legitimate perspective.</p><p>Krown Deon’s experience is a snapshot in the Right’s organized campaign to deny voting rights to the poor and African Americans. The mainstream media is incapable of uttering the underlying truth: The Tea Party, the odious heart of the GOP, is racist. It’s an ideologically gated community of old conservative whites who barely veil their racist bile. They hate blacks (“welfare recipients”), Latinos (“illegals”) and Muslims (they don’t even bother using code words for them).</p><p>The Republican-Tea Party wants to cut social welfare that’s puny compared to corporate welfare, the war machine and road building, which subsidizes the Right’s base in suburbs and small towns. The annual bill for the homeowner interest tax deduction alone – <a href="" target="_blank">more than $200 billion</a> – is more than every social program minus Medicaid combined, and 70 percent of the benefit goes to households that earn more than $104,000 a year. The Tea Party never seems concerned about kicking those welfare queens off the dole.</p><p>I won’t say the mainstream media is entirely to blame, but it is a crackhead so fixated on the latest rush of scandal that it is too addled to explain how voter suppression is part of an undeniable history of vicious racism. And the media is the media of the 1%, so it denies that we live in the best democracy money can buy, where policy and politicians are sold off to the highest bidder.</p><p>It’s why, despite my skepticism, I think Protect the Polls is the real deal. Robert Stevens and John Nelson had the natural patter of demented logic that infects the Right – Obama is a Kenyan-born Nazi Muslim socialist; global warming is a liberal plot; the earth is 6,000 years old; rape is a form of conception.</p><p>Perhaps Protect the Polls and the vision of righteous suburban warriors gunning down illegal Mexicans and criminal blacks sneaking into the polls will remain in the noxious backwater from which it sprang. But with a militarized border that shames the Berlin Wall, a prison system that turns the torture of black and brown bodies into a profitable commodity, “stand your ground” laws that encourage open season on minority youth, and reporting from a city under martial law as the media pretty-up our democratic corpse for primetime, I wouldn’t bet against it. </p> Wed, 29 Aug 2012 12:57:00 -0700 Arun Gupta, AlterNet 701471 at Election 2016 Civil Liberties Election 2016 News & Politics The Right Wing rnc gop The 99% Take on the Republican National Convention <!-- 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">Despite mixed feelings about Obama, protesters fight Mitt Romney, the &#039;King of the 1%&#039; </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="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/rnc_occupy1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Politics is an elaborate chess match, and in St, Petersburg one small strike was staged against the Republican National convention on Aug. 26 that revealed the thrust of President Obama’s 2012 re-election strategy.</p><p>As panicky Republicans cancelled the first day of the convention on Monday because of Tropical Storm Isaac, the focus on Sunday was the “RNC Welcome Event” at Tropicana Field. These days no major convention event is complete without a counter-protest, and in downtown St. Petersburg nearly 500 people gathered Sunday to march to the sports stadium and voice their displeasure at what they derided as “the world’s largest <a href="" target="_blank">cocktail party</a>.”</p><p>Given the spitting rain and gusts, the turnout was better than expected. And given the months of <a href="" target="_blank">police</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">press</a> <a href="" target="_blank">hype</a> that a mob of mayhem-wreaking anarchists would crash the RNC, the protest rally around Mirror Lake seemed more like a festive Sunday in the park.</p><p>A couple of hundred people milled about as Dave Rovics belted out crowd pleasers like “<a href="" target="_blank">I’m a Better Anarchist than You</a>.” A handful of buses pulled up and disgorged more protesters who came from far away as Miami, New York city and Wisconsin. The rally and protest was organized by the <a href="" target="_blank">Florida Consumer Action Network</a>, a local grassroots organization focused on public policy issues.</p><p>Few anarchists were in evidence, apart from a scrum of fidgety black-clad youth who melted into the rally after drawing stares. It felt like an Occupy-related event with a giant puppet of Romney tagged with a “King of the 1%,” and chants of “We are the 99%.”</p><p>Grabbing attention with his preacher’s cadence, Rev. Manuel Sykes, president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, announced, “I’m here to stop the corporate takeover of America.” Sykes castigated “our leaders [who] want to privatize Social Security, Healthcare, Education and Prisons.” He blasted Mitt Romney for wanting “to enrich the 1%.” And he described the November presidential ballot in epic terms: “We’re not just fighting for the 2012 election. We’re fighting for the future of America as we know it.”</p><p>On the fringes off the rally, next to a pack of camouflage-clad sheriff’s deputies, a pungent, hippie-looking gentleman with a Ron Paul 2012 sign dangling around his neck and a video camera taped to his helmeted head, taunted the crowd. “Do any of these hippies here supporting Obama know that Obama has dropped two times as many bombs as Bush?”</p><p>His words stung one observer who yelled back that “Obama has to do the bidding of Washington.”</p><p>The exchange captured the conflicting mindset of the Democratic base. Romney, Ryan and the right are painted, not unfairly, as extremists who will hurtle America back to the dark ages. But Obama, despite sitting in the Oval Office, is seen as powerless.</p><p>The weather and fear mongering no doubt cut down on the turnout, but one community organizer clued me in to another factor. The organizer, who wished to remain anonymous, said “A lot of people I work with don’t have hope in national politics. There was an element of fear about the RNC, ‘Can I even go outside with all the street closures and restrictions?’ There is definitely animosity toward Republicans, a lot of ‘Fuck these guys,” but my members also questioned what was going to be accomplished by going out in front of the barricades. I heard a lot of ‘It’s not going to change nothing.’”</p><p>The anti-RNC event was labeled a “community vigil,” and it was strikingly diverse. There were anarchists, socialists, libertarians and unaffiliated radicals. Mostly it was white middle-class liberals, working-class African-Americans and a collage of poor people. There were numerous tee shirts and signs indicating support for Obama. What united the crowd was the 99% rhetoric.</p><p>That was by design. The community organizer said, “The word from on high was, ‘Don’t say working class, don’t say poor. Say middle class or 99%.’” Why 99%, I asked. “Because it polls well” the organizer explained.</p><p>The Occupy Wall Street movement lives on from student-debt campaigning and labor solidarity to home foreclosure defense and anti-fracking organizing. But as a national force Occupy has been reduced to a bogeyman police and politicians dangle in front of a lapdog media that dutifully report every outlandish allegation as stone-cold truth, and it exists as a mobilizing force for the Democratic Party.</p><p>You see, Obama is running a re-election campaign using Occupy Wall Street’s language. He won’t say the 99% or 1% outright. That would be too divisive, or so the media owned by the 1% say. But the attacks on Bain capital outsourcing and Romney’s secret tax returns are tapping into the volcano of anger that Occupy gave life to. Late last year an official in the AFL-CIO’s national office told me that Romney was their “dream candidate,” and in April Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn told me that Mitt Romney was “Mr. 1%.” Unions like SEIU and liberal groups such as MoveOn and Rebuild the Dream carry the water in flogging the message that Romney will be the president of the 1% who will turn the screws even harder on the rest of us.</p><p>That assessment is not untrue. The right would unleash a world of pain on most Americans. But the nature of our endless electoral process, which sucks all the oxygen out of the brain, blinds most Obama supporters to how the Democratic Party is complicit in pushing our politics to the right.</p><p>With close to one third of the population in or on the cusp of poverty, <a href=";title=10_South_Carolina" target="_blank">46 million on food stamps</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">51 million uninsured</a>, a "real" unemployment rate <a href="" target="_blank">stuck at 15 percent</a>, millions of families doubled up and millions of homes still entering foreclosure, Obama can’t run on his economic record. Sure, much of the fault is the guy before him, but that excuse wears thin after four years. Particularly because Obama rode into office with a congressional super majority and a road paved with political capital.</p><p>But just as Clinton turned Reagan-era extremism into a bipartisan consensus, Obama doubled-down on the “war on terror,” and endorsed cutting Social Security and Medicare and enacting austerity policies within a year of taking office. Obama thus helped enable the next stage of right-wing extremism that he is now running against.</p><p>So it’s not really ironic that Obama has swiped the language of Occupy, even as his FBI and Homeland Security have made Occupy’s anarchists into Public Enemy #1. That’s how politics work.</p><p>Local organizers in Tampa know the deal. When I mentioned that liberal groups have co-opted Occupy by creating the 99% movement and are using the fury against the whole political system for partisan ends, two different activists agreed and went further. They said there was an astroturf element to the anti-RNC rally in St. Petersburg. One said of liberal groups and unions, “You see a lot of their tactics that amount to astroturfing. They see the Super PACs employ this strategy and they think they have to do the same thing. That’s what I find most troubling.”</p><p>The 99% are truly suffering. And it’s a no brainer that they will suffer even more under Romney than under Obama. But under darkened skies sprinkling rain, no one at the rally spoke of brighter days ahead for the 99% if Obama does win.</p> Tue, 28 Aug 2012 00:00:00 -0700 Arun Gupta, AlterNet 700077 at Election 2016 Activism Civil Liberties Election 2016 News & Politics Occupy Wall Street election 2012 GOPcon Occupy ows Why Are We Lying to Ourselves About Our Catastrophic Economic Meltdown? <!-- 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">Sorry, it&#039;s not over yet. This downturn will be severe and long-lasting, and profoundly re-shape our lives, culture, society and the world.</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="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Over the last year, the world has received a crash course in real-world capitalism as the follies of Wall Street nearly torpedoed the global economy, which had to be rescued by a trillion-dollar government handout.</p> <p>Economics, the study of systems of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, touches virtually facet of our lives from work, recreation and home life to <a href="">entertainment, culture and social relations.</a><br /><br /> While there is a wealth of information and some excellent reporters in the business press, the mainstream media has botched virtually every major economic story over the last decade. It helped inflate the Internet bubble. It worshiped at the shrine of the free market and Alan Greenspan. It ignored the evidence of the housing bubble. It was missing in action on the commodities bubble. It celebrated billionaires and speculators even as they manufactured financial weapons of mass destruction. It only sporadically reports on the myriad ways Wall Street games the <a href="">financial system</a>. <br /><br /> Even now, the corporate media downplay the scope of the disastrous U.S. economy. The current economic downturn, the longest since the Great Depression more than 70 years ago, has been <a href="">dubbed by many the</a> “Great Recession.” <br /><br /> It's a useful way for journalists to acknowledge the pain of tens of millions of Americans who have lost homes, livelihoods, health care and more, while distinguishing the current misfortune from the Great Depression. But the term also makes the situation seem rosier than it is. <br /><br /> Despite the financial industry’s self-induced catastrophe in 2008, <a href="">most corporate media reporting</a> still assumes “What’s good for Wall Street is good for America.”</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Arun Gupta is an editor of the <a href=""><i>Indypendent</i></a>. He's writing a book about the decline of American Empire to be published by Haymarket Books. </div></div></div> Tue, 29 Sep 2009 11:00:01 -0700 Arun Gupta, AlterNet 658387 at PEEK PEEK Old_Blog Type Content economy wall street global meltdown Satire: Bush Calls on Palestinians to 'Just Die Already' <!-- 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 U.S. response to Israel&#039;s military massacre is ripe for satire.</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="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Responding to the dramatic escalation of violence in the Middle East, President Bush said that the Palestinians' refusal to "just die already" was "the root cause of the crisis."</p><p>Talking to reporters at the White House, Bush said: "See, the Israelis are just retaliating against the Palestinians' continued existence, but it's very inefficient. I mean, the Israelis have killed less than 300 Palestinians in two days of bombing Gaza. All those bombs and missiles cost a lot of money, and it's barely making a dent in the population."</p><p>The president added, "It would help the peace process significantly if Palestinians throughout the region were to all quit living, such as by stopping eating and drinking completely. We think the conflict could be ended in mere weeks."</p><p>Israeli government spokesmen endorsed the White House's new peace initiative in principle, but questioned whether it was the most effective method.</p><p>Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel was prepared to "provide durable plastic bags to every Palestinian with instructions in Arabic how to seal it tightly over their heads so they would suffocate in mere minutes, rather than the much slower process of starvation."</p><p>Barak cautioned that the Israeli government could not pay for such an ambitious program on its own and was preparing to submit an emergency request to the U.S. Congress for more than a billion dollars to fund the plan.</p><p>According to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, Bush was "studying the Israeli proposal seriously."</p><p>When asked about the Palestinian reaction, Perino said the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority had responded "enthusiastically" to the idea, and forwarded its own proposal of Palestinians marching "en masse into the Dead Sea to drown immediately."</p><p>Perino said, "We are pleased that our friends in the Palestinian Authority are ready to stand with the West and Israel against terrorism and act in the best interests of peace by committing mass suicide, but now is not the time to bog down the process with competing proposals.</p><p>"Having millions of decomposing corpses floating in the Dead Sea, while poetic, would require a lengthy environmental review that would mean an unacceptable delay in the plan. The president emphasizes that he is committed to a quick resolution of the conflict, but one that minimizes the costs for all parties involved. President Bush feels starvation is the best solution because it would allow maggots, dogs, vultures and other scavengers of carrion to consume the dead in a timely and thorough manner."</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Arun Gupta is an editor of the <a href=""><i>Indypendent</i></a>. He's writing a book about the decline of American empire to be published by Haymarket Books. </div></div></div> Mon, 29 Dec 2008 02:00:01 -0800 Arun Gupta, AlterNet 652523 at News & Politics Civil Liberties PEEK Old_Blog Type Content israel palestine barack obama george w. bush gaza united nations hamas dana perino jeffrey sachs