Latest News

Sessions Doubles Down in the War on Weed

Truthout - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 06:03
Far more people read Truthout than will ever donate -- but we rely on donations to keep our publication running strong. Support independent journalism by making a contribution now!

Four days after California rang in the New Year as the sixth state to legalize recreational use of marijuana -- and more than 21 years after it became the first state to legalize medical marijuana use -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared war on the most populous state.

Sessions issued a Marijuana Enforcement Memo providing guidance to US Attorneys on "which marijuana activities to prosecute" by following "well-established principles" to "disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country."

The Trump administration's Pot Memo doesn't immediately affect medical marijuana usage -- now available in 29 states, plus the District of Columbia -- but it does roll back the 2014 Cole Memorandum, which guided federal prosecutors away from targeting marijuana businesses operating legally under state law.

The Cole Memo was a federal response to the growing shift in public opinion given the number of states "that have moved to legalize marijuana for medicinal, agricultural or recreational use."

The Sessions memo sent ripples through a cannabis industry already struggling to fund state legalization under contradictory federal laws, but those who have been on the front lines of the legal battles responded forcefully. As Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said:

Jeff Sessions' obsession with marijuana prohibition defies logic, threatens successful state-level reforms and flies in the face of widespread public support for legalization.

Rescinding the Cole memo is not just an attack on sensible marijuana polices -- it's an attack on civil and human rights. Police have long relied on the suspicion of minor marijuana offenses to profile, harass, arrest and even lock up massive numbers of people, especially in communities of color. We can't stand by and let the drug war be used as a tool to harm vulnerable communities or to deport and destroy families.

***

The "principles" alluded to by Sessions include the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, a product of the "war on drugs" initiated by Richard Nixon. In 1994, Nixon's domestic policy advisor John Ehrlichman candidly admitted the racist roots of Nixon's crusade to Dan Baum of Harper's Magazine:

You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Arrests for small-scale possession and distribution of pot have been the leading edge of drug enforcement ever since, which, in combination with the mandatory minimum sentencing laws created by Bill Clinton's two crime bills, created the system of mass incarceration under which people of color and the poor have been disproportionately pushed into an overpopulated prison system.

The US still has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and 57 percent of those in prison for drug offenses are Black or Latino -- even though white people use and sell drugs at similar rates.

All of this has come at a tremendous cost, not only in lives ruined, but in taking money away from social programs that can help people live stable and healthy lives. The US spends more than $50 billion a year on the drug war -- far more than the entire $38.8 billion budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But the tide has been turning against these policies. 2016 saw a record number of measures to legalize or decriminalize marijuana. Voters across the country rejoiced when Maine, Massachusetts and California legalized recreational marijuana, while five other states -- Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Nevada and North Dakota -- legalized medical marijuana use.

Marijuana legalization is more popular than it has ever been, with a recent Gallup pollfinding it favored by 64 percent of Americans.

***

The "growing drug crisis" Sessions lectured about has nothing to do with marijuana legalization and everything to do with how our society treats addiction and mental health in general and regulates our access to health care, housing and food.

As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, pointed out in a 2014 interview with Frontline,

Drug abuse and drug addiction is not unique to poor communities of color. It is like this everywhere in America, but how we respond to drug abuse and drug addiction in poor communities of color is radically different than how we respond to it in more privileged communities....

People in [poor] communities have little choice but to self-medicate, and when they do, when they decide to turn to marijuana or turn to cocaine or turn to some type of substance we've designed, we've decided is prohibited, is off-limits, then rather than responding to these people with drug treatment and say[ing], "How can we help you cope with your crisis and help you through this period of time and help you deal with your drug addiction?" instead we say: "Oh, the answer for you is a cage."...

That's our answer to drug abuse and drug addiction in these communities. If we really cared about people who lived there, would that be our answer? I think not. I think the way in which we respond to drug abuse and drug addiction in these communities speaks volumes about the extent to which these are people we truly care about.

There are ongoing debates and critiques about whether legalization and regulation have done more to benefit cannabis businesses than individuals who gain new access to marijuana. But there is no credible defense for the racism at the heart of the "war on drugs" and the US criminal justice system.

No matter how you read the pot leaves say about the future of the marijuana market, one thing is certain. It will take large-scale protests to make Sessions and his fellow drug warriors afraid again. And it will require a movement that puts the fight against racism front and center to successfully fight for access to health care and decriminalization to turn the tide on mass incarceration and drug addiction.

The "war on drugs" doesn't work, and it will require strategies based on solidarity and liberation to take up the calls to put an end to it. As the Drug Policy Alliance urges, "It's time for a new approach grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights."

Categories: Latest News

Carrier Workers Are Livid After Facing Layoffs Despite Trump's Promises

Truthout - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 06:02
You'll never see a paywall at Truthout and we'll never artificially restrict your access to the news. Can you pitch in to help keep it that way? We rely on our readers to keep us online, so make a one-time or monthly donation today!

Even before he officially took office, President-elect Donald Trump flew to Indianapolis in December of 2016 to trumpet a deal he had reached with air conditioning and heating furnace manufacturer Carrier. In return for Trump's pledge to reduce the corporate tax rate and reduce regulations, as well as $7 million in economic incentives, the company agreed to keep some jobs in the state rather than move them to a plant in Mexico as it had planned.

While Trump bragged that he had saved 1,100 jobs, the truth was just 730 jobs were preserved at the Indianapolis plant. In reality, 550 from Indianapolis were still being moved to Mexico, and all 700 workers at the company's Huntington plant would still lose their jobs.

The fine print of Trump's deal has now turned into reality for Carrier's Indianapolis employees. Roughly 340 workers lost their jobs in July. The last round of layoffs mean 250 workers will clock in in for their final shifts today despite Trump's pledges.

Duane Oreskovic is one of them. "Tomorrow will be the last time I clock in, at 5:00 p.m.," he told In These Times. "We'll get off at 3:30 in the morning, and that's the last time we'll clock out."

It came as a deep shock when he and his coworkers were told they'd be laid off in February. "We were more than surprised," he said. "We were at awe, we were astonished … It was beyond shock, to tell you the truth."

When Trump came to the plant and gave his speech, Oreskovic said, everyone thought he was going to save all of their jobs, particularly with Vice President Mike Pence -- the former governor of Indiana -- by his side. But, Oreskovic figures, Carrier's plans were already set in stone by the time the politicians got there. "It was avoidable but unavoidable," he said.

"I would have hoped something would have been done, I mean, for example, someone from Congress would maybe speak up, 'Hey this is something we should look at Mr. Trump,'" he said. "We were hoping someone would intervene, but apparently it never happened," he added, scoffing: "Politics."

He has two job prospects lined up, but neither is likely to pay as well as the job at Carrier. "Financially I'm concerned," he said. "If I've got to settle for a job at three dollars less an hour, three dollars doesn't sound like a lot, but that is somewhat of a lifestyle change when it's based on 40 hours or 50 hours a week."

But perhaps even more wrenching is the prospect of disbanding his close-knit group of coworkers. "We work over 10 hours a day, five or six days a week. We know each other better than our family members," he said. But after today, they'll be less likely to regularly ask each other about children or how their weekends went. "I look at this like a divorce. We're getting ripped apart from one another."

When asked how he feels about completing his last day, he responded, "Emptiness."

Frank Staples also feels like a community is being disintegrated by the layoffs. "We spend more time with each other than we do with our own families," he told In These Times.

He started at Carrier in 2005 but knew his job was in danger when the company announced in February of 2016 it was moving the plant to Monterrey, Mexico. The news was a surprise: He knew that the plant was making money from what he was told in quarterly meetings. "Here we are making a profit for them, and they're going to leave us and go somewhere else?" he said. "That was just heartbreaking and devastating to a lot of people."

Even before the election, Staples said, he and the United Steelworkers union had tried reaching out to Pence several times to have him intervene. "He would never meet with us," he said. He doesn't think the Trump administration has done a whole lot to help.

"There's a lot of things that Trump could sign as an executive order, because he has that power, that would keep American workers working. But Trump's sitting on his ass not doing any of it," he said. "I would say to Trump, 'You made a decision and ran on a campaign promise that you were going to help the American worker. Stand up and do it.'"

The news of layoffs in early 2016 fused with personal tragedies to send Staples into an episode of depression. First he got divorced. During the divorce, "I started having issues with wanting to be at work because I was so depressed," he said. "I already knew our jobs were gone, I was like, 'To hell with this shit.'"

Then his brother was murdered, he said. He tried to go on medical leave but ended up getting fired. The union that represents Carrier workers, United Steelworkers Local 1999, fought to have him reinstated, but he's still in limbo -- not having been asked to come back in for work yet.

"It's been scary and nerve-wracking," he said. "Everybody's on edge because we don't know what's going to happen."

"It's been hell," he added.

Categories: Latest News

"When They Call You a Terrorist": The Life of Black Lives Matter Cofounder Patrisse Khan-Cullors

Truthout - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 21:00

We turn now to a powerful new book, released today, that tells the story of one woman as she fights back against the impacts of social and racial injustice in America on her family. That woman is Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter. The book, titled When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, is both an account of survival, strength and resilience, and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable. Patrisse's story follows her childhood in Los Angeles in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as her mother worked three jobs, struggling to earn a living wage. And it puts a human face on the way mass incarceration and the war on drugs hurt young black men, including her relatives and friends. Patrisse's father was a victim of the drug war. He died at the age of 50. Her brother spent years in prison for nonviolent crimes stemming from his battles against mental illness. He was once even charged with terrorism after being involved in a car accident. The police would target Patrisse, too -- raiding her house without just cause. In 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Patrisse co-founded Black Lives Matter along with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. The movement began online but soon spread across the country. We speak to Patrisse and her co-author, asha bandele. asha is author of five books, including the best-seller, The Prisoner's Wife. She is a senior director at the Drug Policy Alliance.

TRANSCRIPT

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to a powerful new book, released today, that tells the story of one woman as she fights back against the impacts of social and racial injustice in America on her family. That woman is Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter. The book, titled When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, is both an account of survival, strength and resilience, and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable. Patrisse's story follows her childhood in Los Angeles in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as her mother worked three jobs, struggling to earn a living wage. And it puts a human face on the way mass incarceration and the war on drugs hurts young black men, including her relatives and friends.

AMY GOODMAN: Patrisse's father was a victim of the drug war. He died at the age of 50. Her brother spent years in prison for nonviolent crimes stemming from his battles against mental illness. He was once even charged with terrorism after being involved in a car accident. The police would target Patrisse, too, raiding her house without just cause.

In 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Patrisse co-founded Black Lives Matter along with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. The movement began online but soon spread across the country. "Black Lives Matter" became the rallying cry at protests decrying the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Eric Garner in Staten Island, and many others, including Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail after a traffic stop.

Patrisse Khan-Cullors joins us in the studio today, on the day of the publication of her new book, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. She wrote the book with the award-winning journalist asha bandele, who also joins us. asha is the author of five books, including the best-seller The Prisoner's Wife. She's a senior director at the Drug Policy Alliance. Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele will join us after this break to talk about Patrisse's remarkable life story. Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a survivor. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Music recorded last spring at Judson Memorial Church at a gathering for Ravi Ragbir ahead of one of his check-ins with ICE. Last week, he was detained, and he is now in deportation proceedings in a jail in Florida. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Our guests are Patrisse Khan-Cullors, talking about her new book, released today, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, written with the award-winning journalist asha bandele.

Patrisse, congratulations. This is an astounding book.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: This weekend, I flew to Colorado and then came back yesterday through Chicago's snowstorm, and everyone on the plane knew I had misplaced my book, because I said, "I must finish reading this book," until asha kindly sent me the manuscript on the plane, right? And then I said, "OK," to the pilot, "we can now take off." And I read aloud on the -- no, not exactly -- on the loudspeaker. But the story you have told of growing up against all the odds --

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us where you were born and place us in Los Angeles, in your community, one -- next to one of the richest and whitest in the United States.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yes. I was born in Van Nuys, California, which is not known, but it's a suburb outside of Los Angeles inner city. And it was literally in between multiple white neighborhoods, including Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Northridge. And I witnessed consistent policing, militarized policing. I witnessed the impact mass incarceration had on my family members. And the most early memories for me were my home being raided by LAPD and LAPD lighting up my siblings and their friends, at 11, 13 years old, stopping and frisking them. And this became our normal in our neighborhood, even though I knew it was not normal.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you know?

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Because I could feel the humiliation in every stop, in every moment LAPD was around. I could feel the impact it had on my mother. I could feel it in our community. And I knew that we shouldn't be living this way. I knew that there was more for us. And then I ended up going to a mostly white school, and I got to see the very real difference between how they were treated, and never actually witnessing police in their neighborhoods, and then how my family and my community was treated.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that. You write so eloquently about the differences. This was in the middle school that you went there. And the -- talk about some of the examples of the difference in treatment between that mostly upper- and middle-class white community, so close to yours, and the way your own neighborhood was being dealt with.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: I mean, it was just in the school itself. It was not policed. There were no cops on campus, compared to the middle school that I went to for summer school, which was the first time I was arrested, at 12 years old.

AMY GOODMAN: You can name your schools.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Millikan Middle School was in Sherman Oaks, which was the upper-middle-class middle school with mostly white folks. And Van Nuys Middle School was mostly working-class, poor, immigrant communities and black folks. And it was just literal. I mean, one looks like a prison, and one looks like a university.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And one had metal detectors. And could you talk about the experience of one time you were arrested in the -- in that summer school?

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yes. I was arrested because I was -- had been smoking weed in the bathroom. And at Millikan, you could do that, and no one was checking for you, worried about you.

AMY GOODMAN: You mean the white school.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: At Millikan, the white school in Sherman Oaks, yes. It just sounds like a white school: Millikan. And at Van Nuys --

AMY GOODMAN: And lots of girls did it.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yeah. I mean, all the white girls did it. I mean, that's actually who introduced weed to me, was the white girls. And Van Nuys Middle School was mostly, like I said, working-class, communities of color. And I was -- a cop came into my classroom. It was my science class. And when I -- as a younger person, when I saw law enforcement, I feared them. There was already sort of that emotional response. The entire classroom got kind of tight. And the science -- you know, the cop whispered in the science teacher's ear, and the science teacher called me up to the class. He handcuffed me in front of my classroom and then walked me down a hallway.

AMY GOODMAN: You were 12 years old.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: I was 12 years old. And all I can think about -- because when you're 12, I wasn't thinking about the political, you know, analysis of the moment. I was thinking about: What is my mother going to say? What am I going to tell my mother? Which I lied through my teeth. But it wasn't until I got older that I realized the impact of that moment and the impact that would have on me for the rest of my life.

AMY GOODMAN: You also describe your brothers and the places you all had to hang out, very limited -- you didn't have the playgrounds of Sherman Oaks, rec centers, arts programs -- and the police moving in on them when they were kids. You were right nearby. You were like what? Nine?

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yeah, 9 years old. I was 9 years old, yeah. And once again, when you're a child, you just pick the places that are most convenient. That was alleyways. That was the front of our building. Sometimes it was in our homes. But it was -- you know, when you're a child, you're playing. You want to play outside.

And because of the war on gangs, because of gang injunctions, the boys, specifically, in my neighborhood, were labeled as gang members. And my brother will tell the story, which is, they never considered themselves a gang, until the police called them a gang, that that's not how they related to themselves. They were a bunch of boys hanging out. And those -- and at 9 years old, bearing witness to that type of humiliation has an impact on you.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, asha bandele, what made you decide that you thought this was an important story to tell, if you could talk about that, as well, and how you first came together?

ASHA BANDELE: So, Patrisse and I had known each other for a good number of years as organizers. And I thought it was monumentally important to go behind the statistics and unpack the real-world story of the impact of the drug war and mass incarceration on people's lives. It's sort of what I've dedicated my life to, as, you know, someone who had family members in prison and as somebody who has seen the human cost of mass incarceration. I wanted Patrisse to tell her story in a full, complete way.

And I was especially enraged that Black Lives Matter and the leaders of Black Lives Matter had been called terrorists, when I knew that these were people dedicated deeply to peace in our communities, peace for our children. I knew the impact Patrisse had on my own daughter, of love and of peace. And I wanted people to see that. I don't think that you get to misname people. And I think that the history of who we are needs to be told and needs to be documented. And that's my dedication as a writer and as an organizer.

AMY GOODMAN: Patrisse, I want people to meet your family the way you introduce them to us, because that's really the point of this book, is people speaking for themselves, your unique experiences and the difference in how you grow up in this country from other communities. Can you introduce us to your mothers, your fathers, your brothers, your sister?

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yes. Cherisse Foley, who is my mother, a brilliant woman who literally raised four children on her own in the middle of the '80s, '90s, she is powerful. I mean, she's literally powerful.

Monte Cullors, who was my first best friend, who was criminalized very early on -- Monte's first time in juvenile hall was 13 years old, and he would spend from 13 'til 36 in and out of juvenile hall, prisons and lockdown facilities, simply because of his mental illness and the war on drugs.

My brother Paul Cullors, who was a parent to us, as my mother worked three, sometimes four, jobs, and also has become my security -- he's a security guard, so he does my security in Los Angeles. He's pretty much my first protector.

My sister Jasmine Cullors, who -- in a lot of ways, we kind of kept her from so much of what we witnessed and experienced. We protected her.

And my two fathers -- my biological father, Gabriel Brignac, who I met when I was 11 years old, that I detail in the story and always kind of knew someone else was out there, always asked questions of my mother, but got to meet his brilliance at 11 and learned so much about myself because of him and my family. And Alton Cullors, the father who raised me, who is -- used to work at the GM Van Nuys plant, and was shut down and was forced into taking jobs that were not so meaningful, and now owns a mechanic shop in Las Vegas.

AMY GOODMAN: If you can talk about Monte and your experience -- well, first, he's -- after he's arrested, before he's diagnosed, what this all means, and then this unbelievable moment where you decide to call in the police, after he's back from jail?

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yeah. Monte -- we didn't know Monte was suffering from mental illness. Unfortunate reality is many communities of color, working-class poor communities, we don't have people coming in and educating us about the crisis of mental health. And so, we just thought some -- we didn't know what was wrong. We didn't. And when Monte was arrested for a robbery and when he was 18 years old, broke someone's window, he said the voices told him to do it, and ended up going to prison for three years. In his stay in prison, he was tortured by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, brutally beaten. And --

AMY GOODMAN: Your mother first seeing him -- she couldn't even find where he was.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: No, no, they disappeared him. And this is actually -- was a common practice of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. It's disappearing prisoners. And when she finally saw him, two months later, he was emaciated. My brother is 6'2", almost 300 pounds. They had completely overmedicated him. And we would learn, later on, years later, just what he endured in that jail cell.

When he was released, when he was 23 years old, it was one of the most exciting days of my life. I get to see my brother. I hadn't seen him in years. We didn't know that we could visit people. You know, they don't give you sort of what are the steps when your loved one is incarcerated. We didn't realize that we could go visit him, so we didn't see him for four years. We just wrote a lot of letters. And the first thing that I noticed when I picked him up from the bus stop is they let him out in flip-flops, an undershirt and boxers. And I just -- I was -- I was so disturbed, like I couldn't --

AMY GOODMAN: He was at the bus station in boxer shorts?

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: He was in boxer shorts and a white T-shirt and flip-flops, which -- shower shoes, essentially. And I ushered him in the car. And he was acting very different. It was not the brother that went inside and that I knew. And the minute he got into the house, my mother said, "This is -- something's wrong with my son." And, you know, as every child, I was like, "Mom, be quiet. He just got out of prison. Like just give him some time."

And over a week, he slowly -- he quickly deteriorated. And I didn't know who to call. And eventually I called the ambulance, and I made the unfortunate choice to tell them that my brother had just been released from jail. They said, "Well, that's not our problem; you have to call the police." And I said, "I can't call the police on my brother. You have no" -- you know, this is before Black Lives Matter, before we've seen, you know, black people be killed at the hands of law enforcement, especially black people with mental illness. But I just knew that that was not the right choice.

But I didn't have anybody else to call, and I did call the police. And I talked them through, and I let them know what was happening. And the first thing they said to me -- I said, "What happens if my brother happens to get violent?" And they said, "We'll just taser him." I mean, just like flat-faced --

AMY GOODMAN: These are two young cops who came.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Two young rookie cops, clearly scared out of their minds. And I said, "You cannot taser him. Like, that's not -- that's unacceptable." They walked into my house, and the minute they walked in, my brother just put his hands up and went on his knees and just started begging them. You know, he just started begging them. And I just knew I made a mistake. I just knew I made a mistake. And I, you know, held my brother. I said, "It's OK." And I told them to leave. And it was in that moment that I realized that we're on our own, that we are literally on our own, and there is no infrastructure for black poor families when dealing with mental illness. There's just none. And we had to piece the infrastructure together.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the -- talk about the time that he was charged with terrorism.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yeah, it was in those years, as he was off and on his medication. He was in a fender bender. And he was in the middle of a manic episode. And he might have cursed at the woman, might have not. We don't know. We weren't there. But the woman claimed that he had cursed at her. And because my brother was a second striker, then because they said that the cursing was threatening, they --

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean by "second striker."

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: He has had two strikes on his record, which is part of the three strikes law, and was --

AMY GOODMAN: In California.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: In California -- and could end up getting -- if he were to receive his third strike, end up in jail for life. And --

AMY GOODMAN: Even if that third strike is stealing a candy bar.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Stealing a candy bar, getting in a fender bender. So, we went to court, when we finally found where my brother was. We went to that first court date, and the lawyer said, "You know, your brother is being charged with terrorist threats, and that is a felony. And they will probably be putting him away for the rest of his life." And he was 24, 24 years old. And I said, "That's not -- not on my watch."

AMY GOODMAN: And you're a kid.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: You're a kid through all of this.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yeah, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: You describe a scene where you're in the white school, and so you're making some white girlfriends, who you really cared about. And you describe going to one of their homes and the lovely, unbelievable scene that unfolds at dinner and the way they respected you. Describe what happened. Describe the dad of the family and how he treated you.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yes, this is -- was one of my closest friends, growing up, in middle school. And you become friends with the people that are in proximity to you. So, it was a significantly white program, significantly white school. Those are my friends. And I went back to this friend's house and what looked like a mansion to me. It's probably not that big of a house, but compared to our neighborhood and tiny apartment, this house looked like a mansion.

And we were all at dinner. And the father is jolly. I mean, honestly, like probably -- he looked like the original Santa Claus, like big, jolly white man with a beard and super sweet and a smile on his face all the time. And we're talking, you know, and I've never been in a scenario like this, where you sit around and have dinner, and people pass things and ask questions of you. And he's, you know -- and we get to a point in the conversation where he -- I don't know how. Maybe he asked me, because oftentimes, you know, middle-class parents ask what your family does. And I'm talking about my mother, and he says -- you know, repeats my mother's name, "Cherisse. Where do you live?" And I tell him my address. He says, "Oh, I own those apartments."

And my heart dropped, because it was the apartment that I lived in that we didn't have a refrigerator for a year, that sometimes appliances didn't work, that we -- I realized very quickly that that was our slumlord. And the contradiction in that moment, it was hard to settle, and a tension in that moment started to develop.

AMY GOODMAN: Because he was the first person who said to you, "Patrisse" -- before you learned he was your slumlord -- "what do you want to do with your life?"

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: "What are your plans?"

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: "How are you going to execute them?"

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Exactly, exactly. And yeah, what do you do with those moments, when the person who clearly has investment in you doesn't actually have investment in your entire family and an infrastructure that your family is living in? It's hard to manage.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You also described, at a point, inviting a friend from that other world to your house, and him coming into your house, and the ambulance in the background --

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ:  -- that you just took for granted.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yes.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And he suddenly remarks, "I didn't know you live like this," or something like that.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk about that?

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: That's exactly what happened. And, you know, I think what's interesting about growing up black and poor is you don't actually realize how bad it is until you see what else someone else has. And my mother was very particular about who we let over. And I begged her. I begged her to let my friend over. He was my best friend. You know, I didn't think there would be any judgment. I didn't assume there would be any judgment. And there definitely was.

And he walked in my home. And I remember that day so vividly, because there was the ambulance in the background. I was like, "Why does the ambulance have to be here today? Why the sirens today?" And I was nervous about him coming in. And he walked into my living room, and I was sitting on the couch. And he said -- kind of looked around. He was like, "I didn't know you live like this."

And I got that -- I got that a lot from other middle-class children, because they only know their world, and they don't have to actually enter the world of communities of color and of poor communities, in particular.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you also describe that Van Nuys was a racially mixed neighborhood, a large Mexican-American community.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yes.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: There were Korean Americans. There were even a few white folks who lived in the neighborhood. Talk about that experience, as well.

PATRISSE KHAN-CULLORS: Yeah, I grew up mostly around Latinos. And my community -- my experience with both law enforcement and witnessing what was then INS, Immigration National Security, was really prominent. And I think it was important, you know, to grow up in such a multiracial environment. Many of us, our family members were getting, you know, social welfare. Many of our family members were getting food stamps, when they actually looked like stamps and they looked colored. And like, we grew up in this environment, and we really raised each other, and we really took care of each other. And it colored -- I think it really colors how I am in this movement. We have to take care of each other. We didn't have local government taking care of us.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break, and when we come back, what it meant to come out in your community, with your family, with your friends; your response to Trayvon Martin's death and George Zimmerman being acquitted; how you came up with that hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter. And we want to talk with asha about how this story shows us the stories about the effects of drug policy and mass incarceration. Today is the day that a remarkable book has just come out, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. It's by our guests today, Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele. This is Democracy Now! Back with them in a moment.

Categories: Latest News

Worse Than Idiocracy

Truthout - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 21:00
Categories: Latest News

"Pressure Is Working": Senate Just One GOP Vote Away From Passing Bill to Save Net Neutrality

Truthout - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 21:00

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) (L) is flanked by Ed Markey (D-MA) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) while speaking about a Congressional Review Act resolution that would undo action by the FCC and restore the 2015 net neutrality rules, on Capitol Hill January 9, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Your support is crucial to keeping ethical journalism alive! Donate now to keep our writers on the streets, covering the most important issues and beats.

Open internet defenders are calling on Americans to continue "melting the phonelines" of their representatives following news on Monday that a bill aimed at overruling the Republican-controlled FCC's order to kill net neutrality is just one Republican vote shy of the 51 needed for passage.

Introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) in December, the legislation looks to make use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows lawmakers to pass a "resolution of disapproval" to nullify new regulations.

As Common Dreams has reported, more than a dozen Senate Democrats were slow to co-sponsor the legislation, but they ultimately signed on in the face of immense public pressure. Organizers are urging constituent voters nationwide to keep up the calls, letters, and emails urging members of Congress to support Markey's bill and take a stand against the FCC's attack on the open internet.

?????#NetNeutrality

We only need ONE MORE VOTE.

LIGHT 'EM UP!
☎️?☎️?☎️
CALL SENATORS
(202) 224-3121

Overturn the FCC Vote. Preserve Net Neutrality.

THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT

☎️?☎️?☎️ https://t.co/Zj7Vh21w6z

— Stone Cold Pillar (@KottiPillar) January 16, 2018

"With full caucus support, it's clear that Democrats are committed to fighting to keep the internet from becoming the Wild West where [internet service providers] are free to offer premium service to only the wealthiest customers while average consumers are left with far inferior options," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the Washington Post on Monday.

Markey's bill has also earned the support of Sen. Susan Collins (R-MN), who announced last week that she will vote for the legislation when it is eventually brought to the Senate floor. Democrats will now need to convince one more Republican to side with more than 80 percent of the American public -- and 75 percent of Republican voters -- over telecom giants and support Markey's bill.

In an interview with Bloomberg last week, Markey expressed confidence that the bill will ultimately reach the necessary 51 votes.

"If we win in the Senate, there's going to be big momentum on this," Markey said. "It's a voting issue for millennials; they care a lot about net neutrality. They want us to be on the side of ordinary people, not with the big special interests."

However, immense challenges will remain even if the bill succeeds in the Senate. In the House, the legislation will need the support of every Democrat and more than 20 Republicans if it is to pass.

The bill will then reach the desk of President Donald Trump, who would have the ability to veto the legislation. Markey suggests that such a move would anger his base, much of which supports net neutrality protections.

"I'm willing to bet two-thirds of his Twitter followers support net neutrality," Markey concluded.

Advocacy groups have warned lawmakers that refusal to support the effort to restore net neutrality protections will have immense electoral consequences. Such pressure appears to be having an effect, concluded Free Press president Craig Aaron in a tweet on Monday.

Your calls are working. Your pressure is working. Keep it up!

Now let’s get more Republicans on this bill. https://t.co/fkiX6jKSmZ

— Craig Aaron (@notaaroncraig) January 16, 2018
Categories: Latest News

Breaking the Cycle of Cynicism: "Stand Up!" Offers Tools for Effective Organizing in the Age of Trump

Truthout - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 21:00

Are recent election results in Alabama, Virginia and New Jersey a sign that resistance to Trump will reshape American politics? In Stand Up! How to Get Involved, Speak Out, and Win in a World on Fire, veteran organizer Gordon Whitman argues that the only way to move from protest to power is through the kind of face-to-face organizing that has powered every successful social movement in US history.

(Image: Berrett-Koehler Publishers)Are recent election results in Alabama, Virginia and New Jersey a sign that resistance to Trump will reshape American politics? In Stand Up! How to Get Involved, Speak Out, and Win in a World on Fire, veteran organizer Gordon Whitman argues that the only way to move from protest to power is through the kind of face-to-face organizing that has powered every successful social movement in US history. As Congressman Keith Ellison says about this new book, "Grassroots organizing is our best hope. If you're serious about making change from the bottom up, read Stand Up! and pass it on."

The following is an excerpt from the introduction of Stand Up! How to Get Involved, Speak Out, and Win in a World on Fire:

Each of us faces a moment of truth when we have a chance to take a risk for something larger than ourselves. Sometimes the knock at our door asking us to stand up, get involved, speak out, take leadership, do something is so faint we miss it. Other times we hear the knock but we aren't sure how to respond. Is it really for me? Am I the right person? Won't someone else step forward?

The knock at Mario Sepulveda's door was unmistakable. It came as a deafening explosion of falling rocks. On August 5, 2010, Mario was operating a front-end loader, deep in a one hundred-year-old copper mine in Northern Chile. After years of neglect -- which had led to scores of workers losing limbs and lives -- the mine finally collapsed, trapping Mario and thirty-two other miners two thousand feet underground.

In the minutes that followed the collapse, some men ran to a small reinforced shelter near the bottom of the mine. Without thinking ahead, they broke into an emergency food supply cabinet and began eating the meager supply of food meant to keep two dozen miners fed for just two days. Other miners went searching for their comrades. Once the mine settled, a small group, including Mario, explored narrow passageways looking fruitlessly for a way out. The shift supervisor took off his white hard hat and told the others that he was no longer their boss. Now they were all in charge.

Amid the fear and confusion, Mario began organizing the other miners. He'd seen the massive slab of rock blocking their escape. Later, he told Héctor Tobar, author of Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free, "At that moment I put death in my head and decided I would live with it." Mario told the men (women weren't allowed to work in the mine) that they might be underground for weeks. They needed to ration their cookies and condensed milk. Once they accounted for all thirty-three miners, he reminded them that that number was the age at which Jesus was crucified, a sign that they were meant to live. He encouraged them to organize daily prayer meetings, which brought the men closer and helped them overcome the frictions of being buried alive with little hope of rescue.

Mario was not alone in taking leadership. One of the most important actions that he and the shift supervisor took was to give every man a role -- from setting up lighting to mimic day and night, to carting water and caring for the sick. The men organized daily meetings where they debated and voted on life-and-death decisions about rationing their food and organizing their living space. Above ground, their mothers, sisters, and wives organized to put pressure on the Chilean government, which dragged its feet before mounting a full-scale rescue. The miners' survival was a team effort.

Yet Mario's decision to stand up on the first day likely saved his own and the other men's lives. By carefully rationing their meager supply of food, they were able to survive for weeks on daily crumbs. As important, by organizing themselves, they preserved their humanity. They sustained the belief that they would ultimately escape their underground tomb. When some men gave up hope, others pushed them to keep fighting to stay alive.

Few of us will experience the extreme deprivation faced by the Chilean miners during their sixty-nine days underground. Yet the challenges they overcame -- finding a way to share scarce resources, keeping hope alive despite repeated setbacks, not lashing out at the people around them -- are similar to those we grapple with in our own lives. And, like the miners, we all ultimately depend on one another for our survival.

Today, in one way or another, almost all our lives are being made less secure by three inter-connected crises -- growing economic inequality, hardening racism, and accelerating climate change. These are the equivalent of the falling rocks and darkness that put the Chilean miners to the test. Like the mine collapse, the changes that are pulling our society and planet apart are not simply the result of unfortunate accidents. They flow from decades of disinvestment from people and communities. They are the result of intentional political decisions that have used racism to pit us against each other and concentrated wealth and power in the hands of a small number of people at the expense of everyone's safety and wellbeing.

Just as the miners had to face the reality that there was no simple way out of the mine (one of the many safety violations found was the lack of escape ladders), we need to recognize that conditions are not going to get better by themselves. No one is coming to save us. There'll be no hero on a white horse. There is no app, no high-tech solution. All we have to fall back on is one another, our human capacity to organize ourselves to create a better society.

Once we decide to stand up and speak out, we're entering a world of wolves, of powerful forces that want us to keep quiet or disappear. They will not give up their privilege without a fight. We need to bring all the wisdom we have about how to make change. We cannot rely on good intentions or use Band-Aids to treat the symptoms but not the sickness. We need to bring people who are on the sidelines into public life so we have enough people power to win. We need organizations and movements with leverage to negotiate changes in the laws and policies that shape our lives. We need to be able to govern our communities, states, and countries. That political work can be aided by technology. But it succeeds only through the kind of face-to-face relationships that have sustained every social movement in history.

We have the power we need to create a just and fair society. People who profit off misery tell us to suck it up. "This is just the way it is. You can't fight city hall. Your voice is irrelevant." This is a lie, no truer than the idea that some people are worth more than others. There is almost nothing we cannot change -- if we choose to get involved, if we open our hearts to others, if we see that this isn't about helping another person, but about our own liberation, if we don't try to do it alone, if we learn from those who've risked their lives to fight oppression, if we have the courage to confront people in power even when we're uncertain or scared.

To shift the balance of power in our society, many more people need to let go of the idea that nothing can be done or that they have nothing to offer. When we hesitate to engage in politics as more than dissatisfied voters, we hand our power to those who are already powerful. We live in a society that tells us that we're on our own, even as a small number of corporate executives exercise outsized control over our lives. Over the past forty years, the people who run the largest companies in the world have succeeded in depressing wages for most workers, increasing profits, and shrinking government as a safety net in hard times. These changes have caused great suffering and shorter life spans. They've also cut us adrift from each other. We distrust not only big institutions but also one another and ourselves. We seek community but doubt it exists. We want our voices to be heard but question if anything can change.

I wrote Stand Up! as a tool to help interrupt this cycle of cynicism. When we organize, we experience being an agent of change rather than an object of someone else's imagination. This is about more than just being good people. It's about our survival. In a society where wealth is ever more concentrated and the planet is at risk, opting out is not an option. If we don't act now, our lives and those of our children and their children will be immeasurably diminished. It will become increasingly hard to afford higher education, find stable work, and walk the streets without fear of violence.

Ella Baker -- the organizing conscience of the civil rights movement -- said about her work, "My basic sense of it has always been to get people to understand that in the long run they themselves are the only protection they have against violence and injustice." That means nurturing people's capacity to lead their own organizations. As she said, "Strong people do not need strong leaders."

Stand Up! offers a step-by-step framework for becoming an effective social-change leader and building better organizations. It's designed to motivate more people to dive in and take greater risks for racial and economic justice. If you are already involved in social change, the book is meant to help deepen your commitment -- to answer the question, How do I make a life out of this justice work and bring others with me?

Five Conversations That Can Change the World -- and Our Lives

Stand Up! is structured around five conversations that can help people build and lead powerful organizations. Our capacity to talk with one another is the most reliable tool we have for changing the world. We all know the difference between a lecture and a conversation. When we talk at people rather than with them, most people will take a pass. Some may show up again or respond to the action we asked them to take, but their commitment is unlikely to grow. Any results will probably be short-lived. We need to engage in dialogue with people if we want to see them develop into leaders or to build organizations that can persist against powerful foes.

Conversations take time and can be difficult. They're powerful because they create a "pool of shared meaning" that makes it possible for people to think together. The choices we make about strategy and tactics are better when they stem from dialogue. People feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for them. Social change boils down to building durable human relationships that make it possible for large numbers of people to act with power and purpose -- which is why Stand Up! is structured around conversations.

Each of the five conversations in the book is meant to make us better leaders, more aware of our emotions (purpose), clearer about the experiences and values that drive our choices (story), able to build closer relationships across difference (team), more powerful in the world (base) and more courageous and effective in confronting oppression (power). These are habits of the heart. They help us become better people, with greater awareness and consciousness in the world. The conversations and the practices that flow from them are not magic solutions though; they're things we already know instinctively, but don't always do under stress. That's why they need to be practiced and repeated (wash, rinse, repeat) so they become who we are and what other people expect from us.

Note: Footnotes for this excerpt can be found in the book .

Copyright (2017) by Gordon Whitman. Not to be reposted without the permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Categories: Latest News

After More Than a Century of "Horrific Conditions," Some Youth Prisons Are Shutting Down

Truthout - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 21:00

Under pressure from former youth prisoners, their families and the public, the governors of New Jersey and Wisconsin shut down a couple of notorious youth prisons in their states. However, youth prisons continue to operate in most states and advocates want to see them all shut down immediately -- before more child prisoners die in custody or are sexually assaulted.

(Image: Pixabay; Edited: JR / TO)

Stories like this are more important than ever! To make sure Truthout can keep publishing them, please give a tax-deductible donation today.

Content warning: This article includes reports of child abuse and sexual assault.

Last June, several hundred protesters observed the 150-year anniversary of a New Jersey prison for boys known as Jamesburg by gathering at its gates and calling for the facility to finally be shut down. Six months later, outgoing Gov. Chris Christie announced that Jamesburg and another prison for girls would be closing this year.

New Jersey has the nation's largest racial disparity in youth sentencing: Black youth are 30 times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts.

Retha Onitiri, a juvenile justice campaign manager with the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice, said it was a "miracle" that 300 to 400 people showed up to the protest at Jamesburg last summer. The youth prison is located in a remote area of the state with no public transportation.

"So, people were really able to see what it was like for families who are low-income," Onitiri said. "They were not able to get out there [and see their children] for years."  

The vast majority of children held at Jamesburg are Black and Brown. New Jersey has the nation's largest racial disparity in youth sentencing: Black youth are 30 times more likely to be taken from their families and incarcerated than their white counterparts, according to the Sentencing Project.

Jamesburg opened its doors in 1867. Liz Ryan, director of the juvenile justice reform group Youth First, told Truthout that institutions like Jamesburg are the result of juvenile justice models developed at a time when slavery was still legal in this country. Like human bondage, she said, the idea that we can fix social problems by locking children and teenagers up in prison is blatantly outdated.

"That's how people have to think about this stuff," she said in an interview.

Christie's decision to close Jamesburg follows youth prison closings in three other states, including Wisconsin, where fellow Republican Gov. Scott Walker recently closed a notorious youth prison plagued by a steady stream of allegations of abuse, sexual assault and unlawful use of solitary confinement. In 2015, one boy had his foot slammed in a door by a guard, but supervisors waited two hours before taking him to the hospital to have two toes amputated.

Ryan said the decisions to shut down the prisons are the result of public outcry and grassroots campaigns led by formerly incarcerated youth and their families that have mobilized to reform the juvenile legal system.

Just because governors are shutting down large youth prisons doesn't mean youth incarceration is coming to an end in their states.

"The demands that communities are making are having an effect," Ryan said.

Walker was first warned about conditions at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake prison complex four years ago, when a judge alerted his office that a prisoner had been sexually assaulted and prison guards failed to provide proper medical care and services, according to local reports. Reports of violence, mismanagement, child neglect and abuse continued to come in. Several lawsuits were filed and the FBI launched a criminal probe before Walker finally decided to shut down the facility last month.

The vast majority of incarcerated youth have not even taken actions that have seriously endangered other people, Ryan explains. Some have educational or mental health needs that are not being met, and others are simply victims of a racist justice system.

"Engaging in delinquent behavior is actually normal adolescent behavior," Ryan said. "Almost every kid does it and almost every kid ages out ... [but] the justice system is much more punitive and harsh to youth of color."

Reams of research have shown that imprisoning young people is harmful, traumatizing and only increases the chances that they will be incarcerated again later in life. For example, 80 percent of young people released from detention in New Jersey during 2012 have been arrested since, and nearly a third were incarcerated again within three years of release, according to the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

Just because governors are shutting down large youth prisons doesn't mean youth incarceration is coming to an end in their states. In both Wisconsin and New Jersey, smaller, regional "detention centers" and "rehabilitation centers" will replace the large youth prisons.

Some advocates say this is a welcome change because it will be easier for families to stay connected and for staff to focus services on individual children and teenagers -- although others point out that "rehabilitation center" is often simply a nicer-sounding word for "prison."

Many advocates say states must move away from locking kids up, period. Ryan said closing large youth prisons should free up resources to fund community programs that help kids stay out of trouble, as well as alternatives to incarceration that would allow youth to stay at home with their families.

To promote these alternatives and eventually end youth incarceration, Ryan said it's crucial that incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youth and their families have "a seat at the table" as policy makers shape the institutions that will replace youth prisons. Jeff Roman, campaign director for Youth Justice Milwaukee, said that's exactly what is happening in the communities that sent youth to Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake.

"While we think that the discussion to move to smaller facilities is good, we want to make sure the governor is not making smaller versions of Lincoln Hills and Cooper Lake," Roman told Truthout in an interview.

Gov. Christie's press release announcing the closure of Jamesburg focuses almost entirely on how much money the move will save the state and fails to acknowledge the pain the prison has caused so many families -- most of them Black and Brown -- over the years.

Ryan said policy makers must also prevent kids from being incarcerated in the first place by improving access to mental health care, addressing sentencing disparities and supporting efforts to keep police officers out of schools and classrooms.

Unfortunately, Ryan said most policy makers pay little attention to the "horrific conditions" in youth jails and prisons until a child dies behind bars, or a press report or lawsuit reveals that young prisoners have been abused or sexually assaulted. Youth prisons, detention centers and other "secure facilities" continue to operate in most states, and Ryan said politicians must be put under constant pressure to make sure the rest are shut down for good.

"Research alone showing that these places are really horrible isn't enough to close these places down," Ryan said. "People have to demand that these places close."

Indeed, Gov. Christie's press release announcing the closure of Jamesburg focuses almost entirely on how much money the move will save the state and fails to acknowledge the pain the prison has caused so many families -- most of them Black and Brown -- over the years. 

Categories: Latest News

Administration of Denial: Trump's Shock and Awe Attack on the Environment

Truthout - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 21:00

President Donald Trump signs a Presidential Proclamation shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017. (Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

The administration of Donald J. Trump, starting with the president himself, is populated by deniers of human-caused climate disruption in all the key positions. For those of us concerned about runaway climate disruption, this regime, with its denial of the greatest existential threat to humanity (alongside nuclear war), has become our worst enemy.

President Donald Trump signs a Presidential Proclamation shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017. (Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

Support your favorite writers by making sure we can keep publishing them! Make a donation to Truthout to ensure independent journalism survives.

It's no secret that Donald Trump, someone who would never be mistaken for an intellectual, does not believe in anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).

We're all familiar with his tweet from 2012 that stated: "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

Fast forward to early 2018. Trump is now president of the United States, and a climate-disruption-driven Arctic cold front recently engulfed vast swaths of the US. Taking a page out of the fossil fuel industry propaganda playbook, Trump tweeted in late December: "In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year's Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!"

During the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump and his fossil-fuel backers have filled key positions in his administration with ACD deniers, and their war against scientists and government administrations tasked with dealing with ACD impacts has been one of shock and awe.

Fossil-Fueled Cronies

Rex Tillerson had been CEO of ExxonMobil for a decade when he accepted the post of secretary of state. Tillerson, who famously dodged questions about Exxon's role in sowing doubt about ACD during his confirmation hearings, has stated that our ability to predict the impact CO2 is having on the atmosphere is "very limited."

Mike Pence, Trump's vice president, has called ACD a "myth." He also voted twice against limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Scott Pruitt, Trump's EPA administrator, refuses to link ACD to CO2 emissions. He was, of course, rabidly opposed to the Environmental Protection Agency itself during his tenure as Oklahoma's attorney general. Pruitt even said he intended to form a team of "independent experts" to challenge well-established climate science because, he claimed, the subject has not yet undergone "a robust, meaningful debate." Thousands of emails released in the early months of the Trump administration revealed the longstanding and very close relationship Pruitt has maintained with the oil and gas industry. Moreover, it has been known for a long time that Pruitt has maintained a secretive alliance with said industry.

Then there is Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who denies humans are the cause of ACD. Meanwhile, another more recent addition to this junta of ACD deniers is Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine, who has blamed ACD on the sun -- and is now a nominee to head NASA, an agency that spends nearly 10 percent of its budget on monitoring the Earth and its climate. It's worth noting that, echoing Trump's position, Bridenstine has even implied that one day of snow disproved decades-long ACD trends.

Along those lines, we have also Trump's nominee for the Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett White, who has been a long-time outspoken ACD denier. She has called climate science a "kind of paganism" for  "secular elites," and claims that excess carbon emissions are "beneficial" and good for plant growth. She has even claimed that UN efforts to reduce global CO2 emissions are actually a secret attempt to create what she has called a "one-world state ruled by planetary managers."

These are simply a few of the "highlights" of those who have been tasked with entrenching ACD denial across the spectrum of the US government under this administration.

Climate Change Vanishes Before Our Very Eyes

Within moments of Trump's inauguration as president, references to "climate change" were erased from the official White House website.

Since then, a generalized scrubbing of all things "climate change" and "global warming" has become the norm across various federal agency websites, from the National Institutes of Health to the EPA. The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a watchdog group that monitors such things, commented to Mother Jones on these actions: "What has happened is a significant and systematic shift in ways that certain types of information and messages are presented on federal websites."

This "significant and systematic shift" is clearly aimed at ignoring, or at best obfuscating, the facts and reality of ACD. This is indicative of the aforementioned fossil-fuel cronies doing the bidding of their backers.

While there have been far too many changes to websites to include all of them, there are several highlights worth noting.

The position of director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has in the past functioned as the president's top science advisor, has remained unfilled. Less than two months into Trump's term, that office's website removed a line from a description of its mission that said it "ensures that the policies of the Executive Branch are informed by science."

Tillerson's State Department removed the term "greenhouse gas" from its Office of Global Change's website, in addition to deleting links to the Climate Action Report.

The National Institutes of Health's environmental unit changed mentions of "climate change" to "climate," and the agency has erased links to a fact sheet about ACD's threats to human health.

To see more stories like this, visit "Planet or Profit?"

The National Park Service has seen nearly 100 documents that describe its action plans regarding ACD scrubbed from its Climate Friendly Parks website.

EPA websites have been the hardest hit. Dozens of links to information aimed at assisting local officials prepare for ACD impacts have been deleted. More than a dozen mentions of the words "climate change" have been removed from the site's main page, and other website pages that had detailed the risks of ACD, goals to curb emissions, and state plans to adapt to more extreme weather fueled by ACD are long gone.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) website has also seen dramatic changes. The Bureau of Land Management's statement about the purpose of a 2015 Fracking Rule that entailed greater regulations for onshore energy production has been removed. Prior to Trump, the DOI website featured an extensive overview of its ACD priorities, which have now been reduced to just a few sentences that focus on the kinds of land the agency protects. Recently, just before this Christmas, the Interior Department rescinded a variety of ACD policies, along with mitigation policies, because they were "potential burdens" to energy development.

The Department of Energy, which runs the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has made vast changes to its web pages that include the Bioenergy Technologies Office and the Wind Energy Technologies Office, including the reduction of emphasis on renewable energies as replacements for fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation (DOT) changed the language it uses across multiple web pages, exchanging "climate change" and "greenhouse gases" for terms such as "sustainability" and "emissions." Furthermore, the DOT's summary was changed from working to "reduce greenhouse gas pollution and improve resilience to climate change impacts" to helping to "enhance sustainability, improve resilience, and reduce energy use and emissions on our highway system."

Attacking the Planet

Another nefarious way in which the Trump administration has been pushing its denialist approach to ACD is by disallowing government scientists from participating in conferences to discuss their work on the subject.

There are numerous instances of this, but one example occurred last October when the EPA canceled speaking appearances of three of its scientists who were to discuss ACD at a conference in Rhode Island.

Actions like this one -- the suppression of the work of government climate scientists -- have been widespread and common enough that several scientists exiled by the Trump administration recently formed a panel in order to continue their work. The scientists, who were members of a federal advisory committee on ACD that was disbanded by the administration, took their research to Columbia University's Earth Institute which went on to hire one of the committee's researchers who will reconvene the panel members to produce the report they were previously working on.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues its near-daily attacks on the environment itself, one of the more recent being its announcement to open most US coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. This came on the heels of another announcement that the administration aims to dramatically shrink several ocean monuments in order to allow for more commercial fishing, after announcing plans to shrink several land-based national monuments as well.

The planet's warming, of course, is not pausing to wait out this administration. The last four years have been the four hottest years ever recorded. Signs of runaway ACD abound, and it is only intensifying.

The Trump administration's attack on science and the environment, along with its denial of the largest existential threat to humanity (alongside nuclear war), will continue, and almost assuredly, intensify.

Categories: Latest News

Green Party Marks Dr. King's Birthday, 50th Anniversary of Poor People's Campaign

Commondreams - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 11:43
Green Party of the US

The Green Party of the United States celebrates Dr. King's birthday on January 15, 2018 and the 50th anniversary of the Poor People's Campaign, launched by Dr. King, which culminated with the Solidarity Day Rally for Jobs, Peace, and Freedom on June 19, 1968.

Categories: Latest News

Boris Johnson Must Act to Halt Bahrain Repression

Commondreams - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 11:31
Reprieve

Human rights organization Reprieve has urged the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to intervene to halt repression in Bahrain, including the planned execution of political protesters. The call comes one year on from the Gulf Kingdom's resumption of executions. 

Categories: Latest News

60 years of CND - Our Anniversary - Dates For Your Diaries

Commondreams - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 10:42
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

2018 is the 60th anniversary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which was founded on the 17th February 1958 at the height of the cold war.

CND is planning a number of events - as well as publishing a new book - to mark the 60th year of one of the world's most powerful collective voices against the dangers of nuclear weapons. Preliminary details of these are shared below.

CND at 60

Categories: Latest News

Insulated by GOP Sycophants, Overtly Racist Trump Claims He's "Least Racist Person"

Truthout - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 06:50

Donald Trump speaks beside House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach on January 14, 2018. (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / Getty Images)

President Donald Trump -- who has openly called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, reportedly claimed that Haitians "all have AIDS," and characterized African nations as "shitholes" -- told a reporter during a photo-op at his Florida golf club Sunday night that he is "the least racist person you have ever interviewed."

Watch:

JUST NOW from @realDonaldTrump:
"I'm not a racist. I'm the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you." pic.twitter.com/NPIr1tFR7f

— Kasie DC (@KasieDC) January 15, 2018

Trump's comments come amid nationwide and global backlash against his reported remarks during an Oval Office meeting on immigration last Thursday, which was attended by several lawmakers and White House officials.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the lone Democrat in attendance, confirmed during a press gaggle on Capitol Hill Friday that Trump used the "hate-filled" word "shithole" to describe Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations "repeatedly."

"You've seen the comments in the press. I've not read one of them that's inaccurate," Durbin said.

Following the initial reporting on Trump's remarks, many commentators observed that the comments fit with a pattern that stretches back decades. That the president of the United States is a racist, analysts argue, is "not up for debate."

Still, Republicans have not been willing to go on the record regarding what was said during the gathering, which was convened to discuss the status of young immigrants who could face deportation, thanks to Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) insisted in a statement on Friday that he "said his piece" directly to Trump during the meeting, but didn't confirm or deny that the president made the remarks attributed to him by the Washington Post. (Earlier on Friday, Graham reportedly told his fellow South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott that media coverage of what was said during the meeting is "basically accurate.")

Backpedaling from their previous claim that they did "not recall" Trump making the comments that have been denounced by the international community as "reprehensible and racist," Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) shifted over the weekend to outright denial.

"I'm telling you he did not use that word," Perdue told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in an interview on Sunday.

Cotton added that "did not hear derogatory comments about individuals or persons."

The three other GOP lawmakers who attended the meeting -- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Reps. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) -- have yet to publicly address Trump's reported comments.

The New York Times has compiled an interactive catalog of each member of the Republican Party's reaction to Trump's remarks.

Support from readers allows Truthout to produce the authority-challenging journalism that's going to be imperative in the years to come. Click here now to support this work!
Categories: Latest News

Giving Up Patriotism and Integration Myths for MLK Day

Truthout - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 06:05

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

While Martin Luther King Jr. is claimed by both the right and the left as a civil rights icon, both sides regularly distort his legacy to push a mythology of integration and patriotism, as if being able to participate in white life were the real goal of Black struggle. This MLK Day, let's honor Dr. King's true legacy -- the struggle against a capitalist, white supremacist system.

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

"The trouble is that we live in a failed system. Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. ... That's the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we're going to have to change the system." —Martin Luther King Jr., March 27, 1968

"Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?" —James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, popular misunderstandings of the civil rights movement proliferate and are broadcast around the country. As the holiday celebrating Dr. King is commemorated, we should be especially reflective about the truth of civil rights history. One especially prominent misunderstanding is the idea that this historical battle for human rights can be reduced to a Black desire to be included in white society. This modified version of history makes war, pollution, consumption and several capitalistic excesses (among other terrible things) into norms that Black people all simply wanted to be a part of. For the racial status quo's sake, the many Black people who didn't want this then and those who don't want it now get erased (or added as historical footnotes), tailoring the picture to fit the narrative.

Black people are martyrs, willingly or not, for the nation's betterment.

Today, at reality's expense, these doctored versions of history mischaracterize the push for Black liberation. The true spirit of everything real is sacrificed for nationalism's sake. The nation, in all of its self-aggrandizing exceptionalism, is positioned as a perfect project we should feel grateful to have been (and still be) included in -- or, more accurately, abused by.

Schools, museums and other institutions that should be extraordinarily intentional about education routinely position the dynamic Black freedom struggle as something homogenous. The ultimate goal becomes a story of progress that ends with the US as we know it today, of which Black Americans are a uniquely oppressed part. Popular versions of civil rights history portray harm, death and hardship as necessary growing pains that helped develop the character of the US empire. Therefore, the egregious suffering that Black people endured and still face today is made into a medallion representing this country's supposed collective freedom. According to this reasoning, we have to be brutalized to have a shot at being recognized as human; this particular victimization qualifies us to be a part of this country which also regularly criticizes Black people for being victims. Black people are martyrs, willingly or not, for the nation's betterment.

On this day, working-class and poor people are supposed to go out and do volunteer service in the spirit of patriotism and loyalty to a country that is still doing a disservice to us.

This is why the narrative surrounding civil rights history is manipulated and used by the state for its own purposes. The oppression experienced by Black people gets swept up into the mythologies of patriotism. Through this realization, we can see what we're taught to believe as historical accuracy is actually propagandistic when we take into consideration some of the possible outcomes. White America, on all sides, commonly takes selective ownership of Black history narratives that are produced by the state itself, and uses them against Black people who it deems troublesome. Martin Luther King Day was transformed into a day of service by the King Holiday and Service Act of 1994, and people are encouraged to go out and volunteer in their communities. It should be noted that currently the only other "national day of service" is 9/11. It's worth asking the question: In service to whom, and of what, and why? Surely, service is often a good thing and it should be encouraged, though the US government is not quite the best source to ask it of us, especially Black people.

Among the many human rights violations Black people disproportionately face in the US are extreme poverty, deteriorating schools and even problems as basic as access to clean water. In the midst of this, we've seen monstrous attacks on policy (such as the Voting Rights Act) that happened as a result of the civil rights movement. This should be seen as a blatant contradiction to the Martin Luther King Day call to service. On this day, working-class and poor people are supposed to go out and do volunteer service in the spirit of patriotism and loyalty to a country that is still doing a disservice to us.

The determination to be integrated into white society positions white people and whiteness as the human ideal.

King did the work that he did in an effort to bring about an end to the very problems we're still facing today. The problems of segregation, which are misleadingly recalled by revisionist histories, are problems that have not been completely eradicated in our communities. Despite the taxes we pay and the patriotism we may show, we still find ourselves having to fundraise for our own schools' basic needsdisaster reliefclean water and much more. The consistent unacceptable violation of our human rights contradicts any decision on our behalf to dedicate ourselves to national pride or patriotic sentiments.

Integration is the focal point of the mainstream civil rights narratives because it was supposed to solve the problem of inequality. However, the true integration that has taken place is the integration of Black spending ability, and not equal treatment because of recognized civil rights. This is why problems that are utterly unacceptable -- like access to clean water and working sewage systems -- still exist in Black communities today. While Black dollars and capital have made great strides to be integrated into the mix of multicultural US excess, Black people have not yet achieved the equality we're told we have. As the gap between the wealthiest and poorest grows larger than it ever has, Black people are supposed to be appeased by the hope that we might be able to one day be powerful capitalists ourselves. And though we've seen select Black faces in positions of political and corporate prominence, the directive is for us to take pride in our Black representation within these awful power structures, and to live vicariously through these Black elites. While Black poverty and oppression are still overwhelming realities, far too many are quelled by the recognition of a Black face in a traditionally white oppressive place. It should be our hope to see inequality ended and wealth redistributed instead of hoping for more Black representatives in the current unacceptable systems of oppression.

Even if integration itself were the great successful equalizer it's said to be in the mainstream accounts of civil rights history, there would still be a problem. The determination to be integrated into white society positions white people and whiteness as the human ideal. However, what the US is, and what ideological whiteness represents, are nothing to aspire to. Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael) described this perfectly in his 1966 speech at Berkeley:

Several people have been upset because we've said that integration was irrelevant when initiated by blacks, and that in fact it was a subterfuge, an insidious subterfuge, for the maintenance of white supremacy. Now we maintain that in the past six years or so, this country has been feeding us a "thalidomide drug of integration," and that some negroes have been walking down a dream street talking about sitting next to white people; and that that does not begin to solve the problem; that when we went to Mississippi we did not go to sit next to Ross Barnett; we did not go to sit next to Jim Clark; we went to get them out of our way; and that people ought to understand that; that we were never fighting for the right to integrate, we were fighting against white supremacy.

The US, as it is today, still obliges us to question integration mistruths. We must reject the misconception that the company of white people and ability to spend where white people spend liberated anyone. The evidence against this inaccuracy lies in the repetitive cyclical nature of racist government. What has been gained is always under threat, because the forces of white supremacy dominate both ruling US political parties. The US government is still, as Martin Luther King Jr. called it in 1967, the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." The currents of white supremacy that are intrinsic to the US political system should lead us to question the system's purpose and reason for existence. Rather than simply seeking to integrate into and bring diversity to the political system, we should be encouraging the development of ways to act against it, amplifying criticisms of a capitalist, white supremacist system within the public consciousness.

The idea that racial integration solved racism is completely untrue. The activists who advocated for it deserve better.

False civil rights narratives will not help combat the political bigotry, right-wing authoritarianism and increasingly hostile society prevailing today. It's arguable that this style of misinformation is actually aiding the far right. When advocating for the extermination of non-white people is called "free speech" and the right of people to self-defend against bigoted attackers is denounced as "violence," it makes total sense for the state to embrace a selective remembrance of the civil rights movement, in which beneficial protest was entirely "peaceful" and integration was the primary goal.

The point is not that racial coexistence and harmony are not good; it is that how we discuss integration matters. The idea that racial integration solved racism is completely untrue. The activists who advocated for it deserve better.

The fight against tyranny and oppression is also a fight against the subtle forces at play that seek to restrain our justified anger at human rights violations. We do not have to be patient, passive or polite about ending our oppression. So, when we honor Dr. King and the countless others who came before and after him, known or unknown, it's good to be true to history. It's good to be reluctant to engage in empty patriotism while the country continues to violate the dignity of its Black citizens -- not to mention that of many other oppressed people. We do not owe this country the respect it regularly fails to provide us whilst being the wealthiest nation on Earth. The realization that we are being steered into submissiveness in the midst of an empowered right wing should be more than enough encouragement to completely reject, not reform, the oppressive systems we bear the brunt of daily. If we hope to achieve our liberation, let the plain truth be a beacon to guide us there.

This story was published because of support from readers like you. If you care about maintaining a free and independent media, make a donation to Truthout!
Categories: Latest News

Viral Video of Hospital Dumping Woman Into Freezing Cold Stirs Demand for "Medicare for All"

Truthout - Sat, 01/13/2018 - 21:00

A member of the audience holds up a placard as US Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont, discusses Medicare for All legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on September 13, 2017. (Photo: Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images)

Described as a horrifying depiction of "the reality of US for-profit healthcare," a Baltimore-based psychotherapist this week caught on video University of Maryland Medical Center staff "dumping" a clearly incapacitated young woman into the freezing Maryland weather wearing only a thin hospital gown and socks.

"Is this what healthcare in Baltimore City has come to?" asked Imamu Baraka, who captured the "disturbing" scene on his cell phone. The video has since garnered more than two million views.

Watch:

Baraka's video soon sparked national headlines and widespread outrage, with many noting that "patient dumping" is a pervasive and under-discussed product of a system that does not guarantee healthcare as a right to all.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, concluded that the only solution is to "implement single-payer, Medicare for All or Americans continue to suffer/die."

Others echoed DeMoro's call, arguing that the medical center's behavior is essentially "attempted murder."

Single. Payer. Now.https://t.co/jvXsvfMJ4P

— jordan (@JordanUhl) January 11, 2018

The hospital issued an apology following the flood of outrage, taking "full responsibility for this failure" to provide "basic humanity and compassion."

"We are taking this matter very seriously, conducting a thorough review, and are evaluating the appropriate response, including the possibility of personnel action," hospital spokeswoman Lisa Clough said in a statement.

With your support, Truthout can continue exposing inequality, analyzing policy and reporting on the struggle for a better world. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation.
Categories: Latest News

Florida Prisoners Are Preparing to Strike Against Unpaid Labor

Truthout - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 21:00

(Photo: Sven)

Ready to challenge injustice and spark real change? So are we. Support Truthout's mission today by making a tax-deductible donation.

People incarcerated throughout the state of Florida are planning a January 15 work stoppage to protest their conditions, and they say they are prepared to continue the protest for more than a month.

Prisoners in eight prisons are expected to participate in the effort, which they refer to as Operation PUSH. The strike, which was purposely scheduled to coincide with Martin Luther King Day, is designed to advance three major changes: a reduction of canteen prices, payment for labor and parole incentives for prisoners serving life sentences. It is not immediately clear how many incarcerated people intend to participate.

News of the action spread after a statement was posted on SPARC (Supporting Prisoners and Real Change), a Facebook page used by Florida prisoners and their families. The statement was compiled from a series of messages sent by prisoners to the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee's Gainesville chapter and the national Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons.

"Every institution must prepare to lay down for at least one month or longer," the statement reads. "Our goal is to make the governor realize that it will cost the state of Florida millions of dollars daily to contract outside companies to come and cook, clean, and handle the maintenance. This will cause a total breakdown. In order to become very effective, we must use everything we have to show that we mean business."

The prisoners' statement claims that cases of soup purchased in the prisons cost $17 -- well above their cost outside of the prison. "This is highway robbery without a gun," says the post. They're also asking for payment for their labor, "rather than the current slave arrangement." Despite a few exceptions, Florida is one of only six states where prison jobs remain unpaid.

As prison activists consistently point out, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, "except as a punishment for crime."

Panagioti Tsolkas, an organizer with the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, told In These Times that the state imposes numerous other restrictions, including a ban on Prison Legal News, a magazine dedicated to the subject of prison-related civil litigation and a crucial resource for many prisoners. "We are hoping that this strike sparks conversation about these kinds of issues," he said.

Last August, all of Florida's 97,000 prisoners were placed on lockdown after unspecified reports of potential rioting. Initially, the Florida Department of Corrections claimed that authorities had only canceled weekend visitation in response to the rumors, but the Miami Herald discovered that the prisons were on a system-wide lockdown, with all activities suspended.

The paper has also conducted numerous investigations on prison abuse in the state, including a story on an incarcerated man who was locked in a scalding hot shower until he collapsed and died. In December, a group of Florida correctional officers poked fun at a prisoner who had been gassed to death on a private Facebook page, calling him a "bitch" and an "asshole." Tsolkas said he believes that these incidents have educated some people about the realities of Florida's prisons. However, he noted, many abuses go unreported.

Tsolkas believes that prison activism received a jolt after the 2016 nation-wide prison strike, which was launched on the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising and ended up being the largest prison strike in the history of the United States.

Shortly after the Facebook post, a group of Haitian prisoners put out a statement in support of Operation PUSH. "Prisons in America are nothing but a different form of slavery plantations and the citizens of the country are walking zombie banks," reads the statement, which was published December 28. "There are so many Haitians, Jamaican, and Latinos in the FDOC [Florida Department of Corrections] serving sentences that exceeds life expectancy and or life sentences who are not being deported. They use all immigrants, for free Labor and then deport them."

In These Times reached out to the Florida Department of Corrections for a comment on the proposed work stoppage. "The Department will continue to ensure the safe operation of our correctional institutions," the department replied.

Categories: Latest News

Walmart Pulls Devious Two-Step by Pairing Wage Hikes With Mass Layoffs

Truthout - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 21:00

Walmart, the US's largest private employer, announced to much fanfare on Thursday that it is raising the company-wide minimum wage from $10 to $11 -- a move eagerly touted by President Donald Trump. However, Walmart didn't loudly announce that it was, at the same time, moving to shut down more than 60 Sam's Club stores nationwide and lay off thousands of workers, which the Trump administration did not comment on.

Protesters hold signs during an anti Wal-Mart rally on City Hall steps on June 21, 2011 in New York City. (Photo: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Walmart, the US's largest private employer, announced to much fanfare on Thursday that it is raising the company-wide minimum wage from $10 to $11 -- a move eagerly touted by President Donald Trump. However, Walmart didn't loudly announce that it was, at the same time, moving to shut down more than 60 Sam's Club stores nationwide and lay off thousands of workers.

Sam's Club is a wholly owned subsidiary of Walmart, and it is named after Walmart founder Sam Walton. According to Business Insider, many of the company's employees didn't know they had lost their jobs until they showed up for work Thursday morning.

Following news of the mass layoffs and store closures, ThinkProgress' Judd Legum argued the timing of Walmart's wage announcement "was almost certainly not an accident."

In addition to inflating the generosity of the new bonuses, Walmart appears to have launched its wage hike press blitz "to cover for thousands of unannounced layoffs," Legum writes.

"It would look very bad to announce dozens of store closures and thousands of layoffs right after receiving a massive corporate tax cut," he notes, referencing the $1.5 trillion tax plan Trump signed into law last month. "So instead, Walmart gave out what amounts to about two percent of the value of their tax cut over 10 years in bonuses. Made a big deal about it. Got praise from the president. Meanwhile, it was abruptly shutting stores across the country. It's diabolical."

"Walmart is pulling off an extremely devious two-step," concluded George Zornick, Washington editor of The Nation.

During a press briefing on Thursday, both Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders were asked to comment on the mass layoffs -- and on the administration's attempt to take credit for the wage increases, but not the dozens of store closures.

"I don't have any comment on that specific component," Sanders said of the thousands of Sam's Club workers who are losing their jobs.

Asked to explain why Trump's policies are responsible for the wage hikes but not the shuttering stores, Mnuchin explained that "different companies will do different things. Some companies will invest capital, some companies will return money to workers. Lots of things are going on in the economy and we appreciate what Walmart's doing."

Mnuchin quickly moved on to the next question.

Watch:

Here's Mnuchin saying Trump deserves credit for Walmart wage-increase/bonuses, but not for today's announcement that it's shuttering hundreds of stores and laying-off thousands of workers: pic.twitter.com/zemAODumBt

-- Melanie Schmitz (@MelsLien) January 11, 2018

Walmart is just the latest major corporation to carry out a massive PR campaign claiming that the GOP tax law is the driving force behind new wage increases and investments -- while also firing thousands of workers.

In a statement on Thursday, Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, concluded that Walmart's portrayal of its wage increase as a product of the Republican tax plan is "politics at its most cynical."

"Companies were already raising wages even before the tax cut passed in response to a tight labor market, grassroots pressure from groups like the Fight for $15, and the rush of minimum wage hikes from California to New York," Pearl said. "Take it from those of us on the inside: these companies aren't raising pay because they want to. They're doing it because working people stood up and demanded more."

At Truthout, we never shy away from holding corporate and political forces to account -- but this kind of journalism is only made possible by readers like you. If you like what you're reading, make a donation!
Categories: Latest News

NIAC Statement on Trump’s Iran Deal Ultimatum

Commondreams - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 13:59
National Iranian-American Council

NIAC President Trita Parsi released the following statement after President Trump coupled a reissuance of sanctions waivers with new sanctions on Iran:

Categories: Latest News

The Iran Deal Still Works, Trump Still Works Against It

Commondreams - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 11:28
Peace Action

In response to reports that President Trump will continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions on Iran while also imposing new non-nuclear sanctions, Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Director for Policy and Political Affairs at Peace Action, released the following statement:

Categories: Latest News

Donald Trump is a Racist and Hurting Women

Commondreams - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 10:36
National Organization for Women (NOW)

Donald Trump’s repellent complaint about too many immigrants from “s-hole” countries is more than a window into his racist soul. His hate speech must be heard as a call to action to the public to defend the must fundamental pillars of our democracy.

Categories: Latest News

ICAN Statement on US Nuclear Posture Review

Commondreams - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 10:32
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

Statement from Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN:

"The US already has the nuclear ability to destroy the world many times over. The idea that they need more and not less nuclear weapons would be laughable if it wasn't so dangerous. The rest of the world is moving towards a total ban of nuclear weapons, while the US is planning to develop weapons they admit they are more likely to use. There are only two possible endings to this story: either the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us all."

Categories: Latest News

Pages

Subscribe to Peace Action of San Mateo County aggregator - Latest News