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Let’s Get ‘Creaturely’: a New Worldview Can Help Us Face Ecological Crises

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-04-08 15:54

Keith Weller, U.S. Department of Agriculture • Public domain

No farmer has ever gone out to the barn to start the day and discovered that a baby tractor had been born overnight. For farmers who work with horses, the birth of a foal would not be surprising.

That observation may seem silly, but it highlights an important contrast: Machines cannot reproduce or maintain themselves. Creatures can.

The tractor comes out of the industrial mind, while the horse is creaturely. The tractor is the product of an energy-intensive human-designed system, while the horse is the product of an information-intensive biological process that emerges from earth and sun.

The implications of this difference are rarely acknowledged in the dominant culture, but we believe they are crucial to explore, especially with new political space opened up by the Green New Deal for discussing ecological sustainability and economic justice.

In the short term, humanity needs to devise policies that respond in meaningful ways to today’s multiple, cascading ecological crises (including, but not limited to, rapid climate disruption), which present risks now greatly accelerated and intensified well beyond previous predictions. If that seems alarmist, we recommend “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice” for details.

To put uncomfortable realities bluntly: In ecological terms, things are bad, getting worse faster than anticipated, leaving humanity with increasingly limited options. Everyone agrees that there are no quick and easy fixes, but we want to push further: Do not expect any truly sustainable fixes to emerge from the industrial mind.

That’s why we believe it’s crucial to discuss not only policy but the need for a new worldview, one that can expand our imaginations. The distressing realities of our moment in history need not be the end of our story, if humanity can transcend the industrial and get creaturely.

Creatures—humans, other animals, plants, and microbes—are all products of a rich, integrated evolutionary history. Unfortunately, something in our big brains has too often led us to see ourselves as set apart from the rest of the larger living world—to think of “human” as so different from “nature” that we believe ourselves to be separable from the ecosystems on which our lives depend. The Industrial Worldview, deeply rooted in this delusion, defines much of our day-to-day existence and suffocates our imaginations.

What if we embraced a Creaturely Worldview as a corrective? This would challenge not only the dominant culture but also some in the environmental movement who are committed to industrial thinking and its accompanying technological fundamentalism. The current debates about the Green New Deal might be more productive if everyone started by considering this question: Which provides a better standard for our choices, the Creaturely World or the Industrial World?

(Before proceeding, a footnote: We are not the first to ask this question, of course. In some sense, indigenous and traditional people who resisted the Industrial World have long advocated for a Creaturely Worldview. The Amish rejection of some of the products of the Industrial World reflects a faith in the Creaturely. The agrarian writer Wendell Berry, one of our touchstones in this enterprise, has spoken of the costs to people and land in the countryside with the “change from a creaturely life to a mechanical life” that accelerated after World War II. With that acknowledgement of our roots, back to the argument.)

First, remember that the Creaturely World had a considerable head start. Creatures have been here some 3½ billion years. The Industrial World has existed for only 250 years, about 14 million times shorter. By linear comparison, that’s roughly the difference between an inch and 220 miles.

We argue for the Creaturely based not just on time but more importantly on the greater creativity and efficiency of nature’s ecosystems, compared with the limited vision and mixed record of human cleverness. The Creaturely World features self-organizing renewability (remember the horse and foal) emerging from the integrated structure of ecosystems—what we might call the “natural integrities.”  A tall-grass prairie ecosystem, for example, is not a random collection of species but the result of natural selection that produces species interacting with each other and with the abiotic world in ways that efficiently utilize the available resources. The Industrial World erodes those integrities, requires human attention to maintain, and is non-renewable. For the Industrial World to work, dismemberment of integrated nature is required.

The Creaturely World is information-rich; the genetic code of organisms stores enormous amounts of information. People routinely speak of living today in an information age made possible by digital technologies, but this human-generated breed of information is only a tiny fraction of what is found in the DNA of the Creaturely World. The fact that human inventions are relatively information-poor is typically obscured by our use of highly dense energy to compensate.

A perfect example is anhydrous ammonia as a source of nitrogen fertilizer for modern agriculture, the product of what energy scholar Vaclav Smil has called the most important invention of the 20thCentury, the Haber-Bosch process. Natural gas is the feedstock most often used to turn tight-bonded atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia. This industrial process “solved” the problem of soil nitrogen fertility and declining supplies of natural fertilizers such as guano. Unfortunately, after being spread over millions of acres of grain-producing fields, the surplus industrial nitrogen finds its way down the slopes and into the waterways until it meets the ocean waters, where it creates huge dead zones. On the way downriver, cities spend millions of dollars to get it out of drinking water, in some places failing so dramatically that people have to drink bottled water.

Haber-Bosch does its assigned job of increasing crop yields, but with a climate-changing cost: It uses fossil energy to generate the 200 to 400 atmospheres of pressure and temperatures of 750 to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit required to produce ammonia from the natural gas feedstock. In contrast, the biological process of nitrogen fixation in various plants operates at four-fifths of one atmosphere of pressure and at ambient temperature, relying on 21 enzymes that are the product of the DNA code—drawing on the natural integrities of the Creaturely World. Thus the Industrial World’s nitrogen productionsubstitutes fossil-energy for information, disrupting ecosystems’ integrities with a non-renewable process that contributes to ecological degradation, from the mining of the fuel to the acceleration of global warming.

This is an example of a larger rule: Ecosystems are far more creative than human systems. Consider a modern city, the product of the human-generated information used to build the housing, businesses, infrastructure, and transportation networks that allow millions to live in close quarters, often with exciting results (both constructive and destructive). All that excitement leads us to ignore the fact that these cities of the industrial age are made possible only through massive expenditures of fossil energy and other resources, some of which come from the other side of the planet. Meanwhile, natural ecosystems are home to a much more expansive variety of creatures living in far more complex relationships, requiring none of that fossil energy to maintain. Natural ecosystems can maintain themselves for countless millennia using only solar flows, while cities draw down millions of years of concentrated energy in a relative blink of an eye. Which model provides a standard for our future?

Here is an idea that is counterintuitive in the modern world: Highly dense energy limits the human imagination. Yes, all that fossil energy has subsidized a tremendous amount of science and art, expanding dramatically what we know about the world and building an expansive trove of stories about it. But rather than imagining how we might use that energy to build a sustainable future, we have rushed to use it in ways that enriched some quickly, impoverished others slowly, and left us facing a future that is speculative, not guaranteed. As we come to the end of the fossil-fuel epoch, as a species we seem to lack the collective imagination to break free.

Another challenge to the conventional wisdom: The Industrial World acts as if public policy is made by humans and those policies determine how we use energy, but in fact that highly dense carbon, once unleashed, sets policy and drags us along. We did not build the contemporary world by making choices about how to use energy; highly dense energy dictated the shape of the contemporary world, in which we make choices that have been constrained by the industrial mind. The choices we do make within the Industrial Worldview matter very much—we can opt for more or less destructive paths—but in the long run, it is the worldview that has to change.

Let’s pause to answer a reasonable concern: Are the two of us zealots? Do we want to give up on everything humans have ever built? Are we calling for a mystical return to the Paleolithic tomorrow? No to all those questions. Are we proposing to “let nature take its course,” and stand by while billions of people die in such a transition? Certainly not. Advocating for a shift in worldview is a plea for new ways of thinking, not a celebration of misanthropy. Rather than throwing up our hands in despair because imaginations have been so limited in the Industrial Era, we suggest that the dominant culture start identifying and attempting to follow the patterns of the Creaturely World—not an atavistic return to any particular moment in the past but rather attention to the lessons of evolutionary history.

An example is The Land Institute (TLI) in Salina, Kansas, where both of us have worked since 2015 with the Ecosphere Studies program. The term “creaturely” doesn’t appear in the organization’s mission statement, but the Creaturely Worldview informs its work.

For more than 40 years, TLI researchers and teachers have advocated for nature as the standard for grain farming, as they work to develop an information-rich agriculture that mimics the vegetative structure of an information-rich native prairie (known as Natural Systems Agriculture). As part of a larger agro-ecological movement, this project is developing perennial grain polycultures (grain crops that need not be planted every yeargrown in diverse mixtures), a more creaturely approach to agriculture than the annual monocultures in industrial fields. In addition to reducing soil erosion, those perennial grains would sequester more carbon, and adding legumes to the mix sponsors biological nitrogen fixation, removing the need for the Haber-Bosch process and its accompanying emissions.

In this work, TLI staffers recognize that every day they use the products of human cleverness and industrial society—booting up computers, carrying tools to the research fields in pickup trucks, transferring pollen in three natural gas-heated greenhouses, and burning fossil fuel to warm labs and offices—all in the hopes of developing crops that can endure without all the trappings of the Industrial World and make possible a transition to truly sustainable agriculture.

The big test that’s coming: Once we have these new species and varieties, will growing them at the scale necessary to feed people require maintaining the industrial infrastructure that brought them into existence? We believe the answer is No, that their creatureliness will persist without a need for human intervention. These species could be grown by people who never touched a computer, and could be maintained without the artifacts of the Bronze and Iron ages. The Industrial World can’t say that of many, if any, of its achievements.

We realize that we cannot get to perennial polyculture agriculture without some of the tools of the Industrial World. We continue to use fossil fuels, though over time we hope we can supply more of the power for this transition period with solar and wind technology. But we cannot be naïve about “renewable” energy, and the Creaturely Worldview can help us understand why.

First, the easy part: No combination of renewable energy sources can power the existing Industrial World. Rational planning must include not only replacing fossil fuels with renewables but also dramatically reducing our consumption. If we are using renewable energy to try to produce enough electric cars to continue our current transportation system, for example, we are only digging the hole deeper, not finding ways out. An enforceable cap on carbon at the mines, the wellheads, ports of entry, and forests seems necessary, which means we’ll also need a fair rationing system.

Second, the hard part: There are limits to renewable energy technologies’ ability to replicate themselves. At the risk of unnecessary repetition: The Industrial World is not self-renewing. Working against instead of with the efficiencies inherent in natural integrities, means that a considerable amount of energy that so-called renewable technologies produce must go into mining and manufacturing the non-renewable materials required for that infrastructure. That’s a losing game. Wind turbines and solar collectors built with fossil-fuel infrastructure will not be easy to maintain or reproduce when that fossil energy is gone.

What does that Creaturely Worldview have to offer here? We can begin by scrutinizing proposals under the Green New Deal umbrella, most of which embrace “green-energy cornucopia” thinking that keeps us entranced by the industrial mind’s illusion that we can sustain unsustainable living arrangements. As even many of its supporters understand, the problem is not that the Green New Deal is too ambitious but that it is not ambitious enough. Virtually all politicians, and even many who identify as environmental activists, embrace a growth economy and techno-optimism. As difficult as it is in mainstream political circles, we must challenge those dogmas and imagine a transition to a more Creaturely Economy.

A Creaturely Worldview requires dramatic changes in social and political arrangements. One obvious shift would be reducing the size of farms and increasing the farm population, recognizing that we can better feed ourselves by relying on a sufficiency of people rather than on capital and dense energy. Repopulating the countryside would require something like a new Homestead Act, creating an opportunity to correct the extermination and exploitation of both peoples and ecosystems that was woven into the first version in 1862.

Of course there’s a clear need for short-term industrial productivity as the transition unfolds, and that there may be a place for the Industrial World in our future—but only if it is clearly subordinated to the Creaturely World. Wind and solar energy are a good example of that: We’ll need them in the transition period, but our reliance on them should shrink (unless, by magic, wind turbines and solar collectors start having babies) as we get closer to the Creaturely goals.

Obviously, a Creaturely Worldview doesn’t have all the answers to all problems. A worldview doesn’t solve problems but rather shapes the way we understand questions, and guides our search for answers. While articulating a vision for the future we draw upon our imaginations, which cannot be divorced from our evolutionary history. The way we describe the future is always partly new and partly rooted in that history. With that in mind, we might think of the Creaturely World as a kind of New Paleolithic, the next step forward after the ephemeral fossil-fuel epoch has run its course.

In such a Creaturely World, there will be less of many material things that many of us (including the authors of this article) have grown accustomed to, but potentially more of the one thing the Industrial World could never produce: a sense of being at home and cherishing our origins in a universe that is not just a place but also a story.

We are but one part of that story, and our place in it should feature earth as our creator, our defender, and—with proper restoration of the Creaturely—our redeemer.

Wes Jackson is one of the foremost figures in the international sustainable agriculture movement. Co-founder and president emeritus of The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, he has pioneered research in Natural Systems Agriculture — including perennial grains, perennial polycultures, and intercropping — for over 40 years. He was a professor of biology at Kansas Wesleyan and later established the Environmental Studies program at California State University, Sacramento, where he became a tenured full professor. He is the author of several books including Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture (2011), Becoming Native to This Place (1994), Altars of Unhewn Stone (1987), and New Roots for Agriculture (1980). Wes is a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.

Robert Jensen, an emeritus professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, is the author of The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men and Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully.

This column originally appeared on Resilience.


The Burning of Highlander Center: a Fascist-like Attack

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-04-08 15:52

Photo Source Highlander Center Twitter Cover

The deadly racist spree in Charlottesville in 2017 and the killing of 11 congregants at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg in 2018 were fire bells in the night. Another rang out in New Market, Tennessee on March 29 as the main building at the Highlander Research and Education Center burned to the ground, along with archives.

In the nearby parking lot, someone spray-painted a symbol associated with Romania’s fascist Iron Guard movement of the 1930s. That symbol appeared on a gun used by the shooter in the recent Christchurch, New Zealand massacre.  The Highlander Center issued a statement April 2 declaring its awareness that the white power movement has been increasing and consolidating power across the South, across this nation, and globally.”

The Highlander Center, operating since 1962, is the successor to the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, founded by Myles Horton in 1932, together with educator Don West. Fire, presumably arson, destroyed the buildings of the Folk School in 1961. State authorities, acting out of racism and anti-communism, had just closed it. Until his death in 1990, Horton led both the Folk School and the Center.

The Highlander Center, according to its website, “serves as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the South. We work with people fighting for justice, equality and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny.” Based in Knoxville until 1971 and thereafter in New Market, the Center has addressed strip mining and immigrant rights

Right-wing elements had targeted the Highlander Research and Education Center before, especially during its stay in Knoxville in the 1960s. Historian John Glen describes “a KKK parade past the center, repeated vandalism, firebombs, burglaries, gunshots.” Harassment apparently diminished afterwards.

Attacks against the Highlander Folk School, predecessor of the Highlander Center, dwarfed what would follow. They were verbal and visual more than physical. The Folk School experienced virulent racist and anti-communist assaults put forth in the press and by southern politicians.  Myles Horton faced inquisitions in appearances before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and the Tennessee state legislature. Later on, the state’s Supreme Court used a flimsy pretext in ordering the Folk School to be closed.

Animosity at the upper levels of southern society was on display in the pamphlet “Highlander Folk School: Communist Training School,” published by the Georgia Commission on Education. It featured one picture of Martin Luther King Jr. and another of a black man dancing with a white woman. King was attending the Folk School’s 25thanniversary in 1957 as the main speaker. Both images went up on roadside billboards throughout the region.

Question: did the hatred of that earlier period have momentum enough to incite the arson attack in New Market? And: what did the Highlander Folk School and the Highlander Center do in their respective periods to provoke extremist reactions?

In its time and in the southeastern United States, the Highlander Folk School epitomized determined advocacy for racial and labor justice. Beginning in the 1930s Myles Horton and colleagues intervened in coal and textile strikes near and far throughout the region and did so carrying the message of black and white unity. The Folk School enabled Septima Clark and others to spread “citizenship schools” throughout the South. That project contributed mightily to civil rights agitation gaining steam at the time. The Folk School convened sessions on organizing for key leaders in that struggle, notably Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Braden, and members of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee.

As regards its work and coping with opposition, the Highlander Research and Educational Center has maintained a relatively low public profile. But two items do crop up as possibly of interest to extremists, especially ones who don’t forget. One is the Center’s program of “Living Legacy” that takes young people on summer tours in order to “connect with” the “fights, struggles, and victories of people working in the 1950s-60s … to the work of young people fighting against the same injustices, in the South, today.”

And the Center’s recruitment of “Greensboro Justice Fund Fellows” evokes vivid recall of deadly violence.  The Center periodically trains five young people as organizers to honor and carry on the work” of five “community organizers” murdered in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1979 by the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis – while the police looked on. Four of the five were members of the Communist Workers Party.  The perpetrators gained acquittals in two criminal trials. A judgment in a civil suit required damages to be paid. The Center uses such funds to maintain the fellowship program.

National and regional politicians seem not to have commented on the destruction of the Highlander Center. Finding and punishing perpetrators would be a step toward preventing future attacks. In that regard, the Trump administration may not be helpful. The Department of Homeland Security has reassigned domestic terrorism analysts, according to the Daily Beast. DHS reports on homegrown terrorism received by at least one police department, that of Los Angeles, “have dried up in recent months.”

Most significantly, those behind the attack look to be aligned with a dangerously extremist international movement. Causes of that phenomenon may relate to serious instability afflicting governments and the world economy. Short of that, William Faulkner is heard: The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Reflections of a MEChista by a Chicano Scholar Activist

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-04-08 15:50

MECha’s emblem

I first learned about MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán) during UCLA’s Freshman Summer Program (FSP) in 1985, as a 17-year-old freshman. Many moons later, when I became a member, I still stand by MEChA’s mantra: “Once a MEChista, always a MEChista.” (To pretend to be younger, I usually joke that I was “actually” a 7-year-old math prodigy at UCLA in 1985!)

When I shockingly learned of the proposed name change of MEChA at the MEChA National Conference 2019 at UCLA (March 29 – 31, 2019), I didn’t know whether to cry or yell. Given that I was raised in one of the most dangerous/toughest public housing projects/neighborhoods in the country, the notorious Ramona Gardens housing project or Big Hazard projects in Boyle Heights, where I don’t want to lose my “street cred,” I resorted to the latter. As a result,  the cops paid a visit to me at my home. After assuring them that all was well,  and that I had “accidently hit my foot” on the corner of my metal bed frame, I decided to write down some short reflections about the state of MEChA (or lack thereof in terms of its future?) to express what this important organization means to me and its significance for students (current and future) and alumni from our high schools, colleges and universities.

While there are many racist lies, state-sponsored misinformation actions and reactionary views towards MEChA, for someone like myself—a former Chicano kid from the projects—MEChA represented a haven in a white-dominated space. At my undergraduate years, there were few Chicanas/os at UCLA, including other elite universities and colleges in the country. In my case, given that I grew up in the project and on welfare, food stamps, Medical, etc., there were even fewer of us. In fact, many of the Chicana/o students at UCLA that I met hailed from the middle-class with parents who spoke English, graduated from college and owned property (e.g., home). This created a greater sense of alienation for me, which is very common among first generation university/college students from America’s barrios. In this context, MEChA became a “safe space,” where I belonged, despite being a brown street kid from the “wrong side of the tracks.”

Apart from being a haven or “safe space,” I learned about my people’s history and to be proud of my identity. I became so involved in MEChA that I changed majors from mathematics to history, where I “minored” in “Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones Studies.” By taking courses from Dr. Gómez-Quiñones—one of the greatest intellectuals of our time—for the first time in my life, I learned about my people. I learned that the Mexican people in el nortealso had a history—that we mattered and were worthy of studying at elite universities, like UCLA and UC Berkeley. Prior to learning about the Mexican people and their/our contributions to this country, growing up, my heroes consisted of Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali and Dr. J (legendary basketball pro from the 76ers). To paraphrase from one of Dr. Rodolfo F. Acuña’s book titles, as a kid, I wanted to be “anything but Mexican.” Once I joined MEChA, I didn’t want to be anything else but a Mexican or Chicano! I still don’t!

As a MEChista, I also gained political consciousness. While I didn’t normally read or write during my poor/inadequate K-12 education, apart from my assigned Chicana/o studies books, I began to read the great works of Marx, Che, Chomsky, Gramsci, Fanon and others, allowing me to acquire a better understanding of the world in general and, particularly the inherent contradictions of capitalism. In MEChA, we debated these great thinkers—unfortunately, mostly male—and how their ideas and theories applied to us as Chicanas/os in a land that once belonged to us or, as the saying goes, as “strangers in our own land.” Essentially, as MEChistas, while we were taking our own courses and studying different subject matters, simultaneously, we were teaching ourselves about these influential thinkers, and others, under the premise that it’s not enough to understand the world, but to transform it (Marx).

Moreover, I learned to become a highly successful community activist/organizer. While West Point trains young cadets/minds to become leaders for the empire, MEChA’s mission has historically been to train young organizers/minds to become leaders for los de abajo. This is not to imply that MEChA (or individual MEChA chapters) has (or have) always been successful, where, based on its leadership at any given time, it can be a place to party and “hook up” or a place to liberate and educate or other options. For me, MEChA represented the foundation to become a leader for my people and other oppressed peoples—domestically and internationally. In doing so, it taught me to be self-confident and outspoken. For example, as MEChistas, during the mid-1980s, we organized and spoke out against apartheid in South Africa, U.S. intervention in Central America, police abuse in Los Angeles and many other causes at the cost of our own education (e.g., lack of focus on courses, grades, etc.). Essentially, our activism betrayed or jeopardized many of our immigrant parents’ dreams or sueños for us to become abogados, doctores y ingenieros!

On campus, we organized conferences and events to recruit more Chicanas/os and Latinas/os to higher education. We also defended the most vulnerable among us. For example, when then-UCLA Chancellor Charles Young decided to cut financial aid to undocumented immigrants, we organized an 8-day hunger strike (November 11-19, 1987). Led by then-student leader Adrian Alvarez, a total of five hunger strikes went on a liquid-only fast in defense of our undocumented brothers and sisters. This historic hunger strike, as I’ve previously written about, “… provided an organizing model for other Chicana/o student activists to stage similar hunger strikes at UCLA (May 24-June 7, 1993), UCSB (April 27-May 5, 1994) and other colleges/universities.” The 1993 hunger eventual led to the creation of the UCLACésar E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies.

Once I left UCLA to organize at the community (and national) level, I successfully co-founded the Association of Latin American Gardeners of Los Angeles (ALAGLA) to challenge the City of Los Angeles’ 1996 draconian leaf blower ban. If convicted, under this ban, Latino immigrant gardeners would be subject to outrageous penalties: misdemeanor charge, $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. The other co-founders included MEChistas from UCLA, along with Mexican gardeners like Jaime Aleman, whom we met at UCLA. I’ve written about ALAGLA in periodicals, online outlets and journal articles. I’ve also held talks and symposia about this historic campaign, along with being profiled in magazines.

In addition to ALAGLA, as a then-lead organizer with Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), I led the efforts to defeat a proposed power plant in South Gate, California. As I noted in my Z Magazine article (2001),  “… Sunlaw Energy Partners’ proposal to build a 550-megawatt powerplant in South Gate, (one of seven cities in SELA), as a demonstration of environmental racism. If built, this plant would have emitted over 150 tons of pollution per year, including particulate matter (PM10). PM10 (fine particlesof soot) has been linked to premature death, including heart failure andrespiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis. The plant (the size ofDodger Stadium) would have impacted hundreds of thousands of residents,including over 100 schools, 13 hospitals, numerous convalescent homes, daycare centers, and parks.” I’ve also written about this historic campaign in periodicals and journal articles, where it has also been documented in books and short documentaries.

All of the aforementioned student-led and community-based campaigns couldn’t be possible without MEChA. Period!

On a more personal note, I met my then-girlfriend and now-wife, Antonia Montes, through MEChA. As a wise Chicana, an educator and a fellow activist, Antonia has been instrumental in all of my organizational/activist struggles since the mid-1980s. It’s because of her that I returned to the university to pursue my master’s degree in urban planning from UCLA and doctorate in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley. As I state in my forthcoming book, Defending Latina/o Immigrant Communities: The Xenophobic Era of Trump and Beyond, for me, everything starts and ends with la familia. During the past three decades, Antonia and I have not only dedicated our lives to the well-being of our extended families, but also to the Mexican people of el norte.

I end with a load and clear statement: ¡Viva MEChA!


‘The Cheeky Proletariat’ Is for the People (in Culture)

Tyee, The (BC, Canada) - Mon, 2019-04-08 14:10

Eight-by-five-foot gallery is a small window into how to make a big impact.

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Russia Is Consolidating Its Position in Arab World

New Eastern Outlook - Mon, 2019-04-08 13:00

The Middle East is a region that generates the most interest among key players on the world stage, such as Russia, the United States and China. The region’s importance stems from economic factors (as it is home to vast hydrocarbon deposits and a large pool of human resources) and security issues, since the nations in the Middle East are often embroiled in military conflicts, whose ramifications (in the form of terrorism) can spread throughout the world. Hence, world powers continuously monitor the situation in this region and try to increase their influence there.

The Middle East is not a homogeneous zone, as there are quite a few differences and disagreements among certain states and allied countries in the region. Therefore, each nation or organization requires a unique approach. For instance, some countries in the Middle East are part of the Arab world, which connects the nations of Asia and Africa with the Arab population. It is a place where most people practice Sunni Islam and the Arabic language is widely spoken. Almost all of the Arab world nations are members of the Arab League, with the exception of Western Sahara (a disputed territory whose political future remains undecided), Syria and Libya. The Arab League suspended membership of the two latter nations in 2011, and accused their governments of exhibiting cruelty while suppressing mass protests and using violence against peaceful demonstrators.

Russia collaborates with the nations of the Arab world on a bilateral basis, and within the framework of the Arab League, which is why the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum was established in December 2009.

In February 2013, Moscow hosted the First Session of the Forum, where Ministers of Foreign Affairs of member-states met. They discussed key problems plaguing the Middle East and North Africa, including those linked to security issues. The participants from the Russian Federation and the Arab nations affirmed their shared views on these issues, and adopted a joint Plan of Action, which describes means of political and economic cooperation between Russia and the Arab League.

The next Forum took place in the capital of Sudan, Khartoum, in December 2014. At that time, participants discussed peaceful and lawful ways of resolving military conflicts in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and other countries, where wars were being waged. In addition, they expressed hope that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict would end quickly and a truly sovereign State of Palestine would be established.

The Third Session of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum at the foreign ministerial level was held in Moscow, in February 2016. At the time, the parties once again adopted a Plan of Action (for 2016 – 2018) on establishing peace and ensuring security in the Middle East in compliance with international laws. The participants supported an initiative, proposed by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, to create a broad anti-terrorist coalition under the auspices of the United Nations. Special emphasis was made at the Session on restoring peace and the rule of law in Syria. Shortly before the Forum, in September 2015, Russian forces arrived in Syria to provide military aid to the regime of the elected President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. Not all of the Arab nations back the Syrian government, and, for instance, Qatar, the UAE and several other Arab nations, which support the Syrian opposition armed forces, spoke in favor of toppling this regime. However, owing to Russia’s diplomatic efforts and military successes enjoyed by the Russian armed forces in Syria, these countries have now softened their critical rhetoric.

The Forum’s Fourth Session took place in February 2017. Yet again the focus was on security issues and peaceful resolutions of conflicts. The participants agreed to coordinate their efforts on the sidelines of the United Nations, as they attempt to resolve military conflicts by peaceful means, and demand that the international community join forces to combat terrorism and condemn Israeli actions towards the partially recognized State of Palestine. In addition, the attendees agreed to facilitate Vladimir Putin’s initiative and arrange negotiations between the leaders of Israel and Palestine.

The next Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum is scheduled to take place in the middle of April 2019, in Moscow. At the beginning of March 2019, in anticipation of this event, the Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, visited Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (the UAE), as these are some of the most influential nations in the Arab world.

On 4 March 2019, Sergey Lavrov arrived in the capital of Qatar, Doha, and met with the head of state, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. While discussing the Syrian issues, the leader of Qatar expressed his appreciation of the efforts made by the Russian Federation towards resolving the military conflict in Syria by peaceful means. However, Qatar is far from ready to support reinstatement of Syria’s membership in the Arab League. In addition, Sergey Lavrov met with the Minister of State for Defense, Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, and they discussed the possible purchase of Russia’s anti-aircraft weapon systems, S-400, by Qatar.

On the same day, the head of Russia’s Foreign Ministry left Qatar and arrived in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. There, he met with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Adel al-Jubeir. The diplomats discussed topics ranging from cooperation between Russia and Saudi Arabia to peaceful resolutions of the Syrian and Palestinian issues. It is common knowledge that Saudi Arabia is capable of exerting influence on the Syrian opposition armed forces, and may make its contribution towards restoring peace in that region. The next day, Sergey Lavrov met with the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. They engaged in discussions about military conflicts in the region and issues facing the global crude oil market, in which both Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation are very significant players. In Saudi Arabia the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister also met with representatives of the Syrian opposition armed forces, who he urged to assist in the efforts to establish a committee tasked with drafting a new constitution for post-war Syria.

Then Sergey Lavrov traveled to Kuwait and met with its leader, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and Sabah Al Khaled Al Ahmad Al Sabah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. As before, Kuwait expressed its support towards Russian Federation’s stance on Syria. In addition, they talked about enhancing the level of cooperation in the economic sphere and in the global hydrocarbon market, and about increasing trade turnover between the two nations. At the end of the meeting, Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia and Kuwait were working on dozens of investments projects together, which are, in total, worth nearly $200 million. He also said that the Russian Federation and Kuwait affirmed their shared intention to strengthen ties of friendship between the two nations.

The last destination of the Russian diplomat’s foreign tour was the United Arab Emirates. Sergey Lavrov engaged in negotiations with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the National Security Advisor, Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The main topic of discussions was once again the situation in Syria. The parties also talked about the state of affairs in Yemen, Libya and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict zone. In all the discussions, emphasis was made on the need to comply with international laws, and respect every nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

It is worth noting that among the nations of the Persian Gulf that Sergey Lavrov visited, just as in the rest of the Arab world, there is no unity. For instance, the relationship between Qatar, a country the Russian diplomat went to first, and other Arab nations is strained because of Qatar’s ambitious policies, its cooperation with Shiite Iran, and its support of several armed groups, labeled as extremist by other countries. In 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and attempted to initiate a trade boycott against it. At the time, Russia immediately urged these nations to start negotiations and reconcile their differences. When conflicts arise between or within the nations of the Arab world, the Russian Federation aims to take on the role of a peace keeper and a moderator between conflicting sides, and to ensure compliance with international laws and the UN charter. Undoubtedly, this has helped Russia consolidate its power and influence in the Arab world.

As a result, in June 2018, Mahdi al-Mashat approached the leadership of the Russian Federation for assistance. He is the head of the Houthi movement (the Yemeni Shia opposition) that the Yemeni government military and Arab coalition forces (which include Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other nations) are engaged in armed conflict against. The Houthi leader urged Russia to exert its influence on the international community in order to at least temporarily put a stop to the fighting and end the trade embargo, imposed by Saudi Arabia and its allies, that has resulted in mass starvation and threatened the lives of millions of civilians. In October 2018, a delegation comprising Houthis arrived in Russia and requested that it take on the role of a moderator between the opposing sides. According to Malik Al Ajri, a high-ranking member of the Houthi organization Ansar Allah, the stance taken by the Russian Federation is well-balanced and congenial to all the sides. Hence, Russia could take on the role of a mediator in the Yemeni conflict and act as an aid to the UN.

This unexpected request may be a sign that the Russian Federation has earned respect and influence in the Arab world with its actions. Russia appreciates the faith placed in its hands, and intends to continue its work by supporting unity in the Arab world and stability in this far from tranquil region.

Dmitry Bokarev, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

On the Pavement with Wikileaks

Murray, Craig - Mon, 2019-04-08 05:23

Entirely unexpectedly, I have been down in London this last three days outside and around the Ecuadorean Embassy, following WikiLeaks’ announcement that their sources indicate Julian might be expelled within hours or days. Plainly Julian’s position within the Embassy has deteriorated fundamentally, to the extent he is now treated openly as a closely guarded prisoner. I still have not myself been granted permission to visit him and he is now very isolated.

Nothing has happened so far this weekend, though I stated from the start that if the police were going to move in. the most likely time would be 4am on Monday morning. There is a thought that the massive media presence occasioned by Wikileaks’ announcement may have succeeded in deterring President Moreno from the expulsion. Let us hope that will prove the case.

I am very exhausted, having been more or less on 24 hour watch for three days. It was also somewhat difficult to tell Nadira her birthday celebration had shifted without notice from a restaurant in Edinburgh to a wet pavement in London. But I was very pleased to have a very fruitful in depth conversation with Kristin Hrafnsson, editor in chief of Wikileaks. Our thoughts ran along these lines, and as this does not involve secrets but rather media handling, I see no harm in sharing these thoughts with you.

When Julian does leave the Embassy, whatever the circumstances in which he does that, it will be for a day or two the largest media story in the world and undoubtedly will lead all the news bulletins across every major country. The odds are that he will be leaving and facing a fight against extradition to the United States, on charges arising from the Chelsea Manning releases which revealed a huge amount about US war crimes and other illegal acts.

It will be very important to try to focus a hostile media on why it is Julian is actually wanted for extradition. Not for the non-existent collusion with Russia to assist Trump, which is an entirely fake narrative. Not for meetings with Manafort which never happened. Not for the allegations in Sweden which fell apart immediately they were subject to rational scrutiny. And not for any nonsense about whether he hacked the communications in the Embassy or cleaned up the cat litter.

This is not going to be an easy task because pretty well all of the Western media is going to want to focus on these false anti-Assange narratives, and they will be determined to give as little attention as possible to the fact he is a publisher facing trial for publishing leaked state documents which revealed state wrongdoing. It is a classic and fundamental issue of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Drawing together a team that can get this message across in such MSM windows as are afforded, as well as through social media, is an important task. The team needs to be in readiness and to be backed by a suitable support infrastructure that can be dusted off and sprung into action. The public framing of Julian’s position will undoubtedly impact on the final outcome; that is why the MSM have put in such a consistent effort to demonise one of the most interesting figures and original thinkers of our time.

If the balloon really had gone up this weekend, we would have been woefully unprepared to deal with the task of explaining the true story. If nothing else, this weekend’s alarm has been very helpful in concentrating minds on the size of the task.

The post On the Pavement with Wikileaks appeared first on Craig Murray.

Will Junta-Mastermind, John Brennan, Ever Face the Music?, by Mike Whitney

Whitney, Mike - Mon, 2019-04-08 04:00
The Great Russia Deception all began with John Brennan. It was Brennan who reported "contacts... between Russian officials and persons in the Trump campaign", just as it was Brennan who first referred the case to former FBI Director James Comey. It was also Brennan who “hand-picked” the analysts who stitched together the dodgy Intelligence Community...


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