News for progressives

The Sweet Smell of Madeleine

Counterpunch - Wed, 2019-03-20 15:44

I usually don’t go to concerts but this time the piano player was the wife of a friend, so I decided to attend her concert at the Italian House in New York, a beautiful mansion on the West side of 12th street in Manhattan. This is an area where several famous writers and artists lived, and some of them live even now.

We were waiting for the concert to start when we were informed that there would be a delay because the master of ceremonies hadn’t yet arrived. I was sitting next to a middle-aged woman called Irina. She was in her middle sixties and was busy exchanging text messages with a friend. While we waited, we exchanged a few words. She told me that she was from Ukraine, and had been living in New York for several decades.

I told her that I recently had cooked a well-known stew from Ukraine called Zharkoe from a recipe given by a friend. The stew is made with meat and vegetables as the main ingredients. She asked me how I had prepared it and when I finished telling her she said laughing, “Perhaps I should marry you since you know how to cook.” I didn’t tell her that my wife, who had arrived earlier than me, was seated a few rows behind us and was watching our exchange with some curiosity.

She told me that her husband Oleg, who was also from Ukraine, had died recently, and that one of his favorite dishes was Zharkoe. They had met at a party and quickly found many interests in common, the main one being good food. Later on, Oleg invited her to sleep at his house.

Next morning she was awakened by a wonderful smell that she associated with Madeleines coming from the kitchen. She was overjoyed, because Madeleines brought her many happy memories, being her favorite Sunday breakfast food. Her mother, who was a Francophile, had lived many years in France as an au pair and was an expert in preparing these cakes, made with flour, eggs, butter, almonds, and sugar. Irina’s mother usually cooked them for her children as a special Sunday treat.

Irina recalled how, when remembering those times, she thought about the most famous remembrance of Madeleines, that of Marcel Proust. In his book, In Search of Lost Time, Proust wrote: “No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of Madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little Madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.”

Irina approached the kitchen with a great sense of anticipation, was hoping that the wonderful smell would meet her expectation. In a way it did. When she opened the door to the kitchen she saw Oleg taking a pan out of the oven. It was full of Madeleines. But she also saw Oleg, wonderful Oleg, carefully scrapping them because they were all burnt.

“I should have taken that as an omen,” she told me, “and never married him. But, you see, some women prefer to meet not a perfect, but an imperfect man, and I am one of the latter. Two weeks later we were married and had 27 marvelous years of life together. And I don’t regret any second of it.” As the concert was going to start, Irina whispered to me, “After we got married, every time my dear Oleg made Madeleines, they came out perfect.”

Categories: News for progressives

Global Kids Strike

Counterpunch - Wed, 2019-03-20 15:44

Children’s crusades do not necessarily end well. During the years of armed missions to the Holy Land, when Jerusalem meant something to the sacredly inclined in Europe, children were encouraged to take to the rough and dangerous road as it wound its way towards Palestine.  In 1212, a boy of 12 is said to have begun preaching at Saint-Denis in France.  God had supposedly taken some time to communicate a pressing wish: Christian children were to head to the Holy Land and liberate it from the Infidel.  How they would do so was not clear.

They subsequently starved, suffered deprivation, were killed and enslaved on route to their destination.  The modern student movement against climate change stresses another Jerusalem, that there will be nothing to salvage if nothing is done now. We are all, in short, for the chop if climate change is not arrested.  As an Oakland high-schooler by the name of Bruke told Wired, “My GPA isn’t going to matter if I’m dead.”  And much else besides.

To such movements can also be added other acts of striking in peaceful protest. Tens of thousands of US students did so in 2018 swathed in the grief and despair of gun shootings, the most immediate being the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.  The National School Walkout of March 14 and the March for Our Lives ten days later had a biting clarity of purpose: students and staff were entitled to feel secure in the teaching and learning environment. The movement was characterised by much eloquence wreathed in anger and tears, not least of all Emma Gonzalez, who chidedthose political representatives “who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been ever done to prevent this”.

Criticism of such movements emphasises helplessness and delusion; they are children and so are vulnerable, idiotic and irrelevant. They are to be taught and have nothing to teach the adult world.  Leave it to the big boys and girls to stuff up matters.  The critics, often estranged from the very political processes they have been complicit in corrupting, see embryos in need of a constructive voice, expressed constructively without inconvenience, not coherent agents keen to affect change.  There is, as Kari Marie Norgaard observed in 2012, a lag between the accumulating evidence of doom on the one hand, and the absence of public urgency, even interest, in response.  “Although not inherently unproblematic,” surmised Norgaard, “local efforts may provide a key for breaking through climate avoidance from the ground up.”

The global climate change strike movement by children, blown and swept along by the efforts of Swedish student Greta Thunberg, have suggested the possible short-circuiting of this dilemma: to combat the global by being stridently engaged in the local.  (Such statements can become feeble mantras but do operate to galvanise interest.)

For Thunberg, the issue of change is unavoidable. In her COP24 Climate Change Conference speech in December, the plucky youth did not believe that begging world leaders “to care for our future” would make much of a difference.  “They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again.”  What mattered was letting “them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.”

Protests were registered on March 15 across 2,052 venues in 123 countries.  There were 50 in Australia; and protests in every state in the United States.  Often forgotten in these movements is the role played by children themselves in the organisational side of things, often clear, fathomable and inherently coherent.  In the United States were such figures as 12-year-old Haven Coleman of Denver, Colorado, Alexandria Villasenor of New York City, and 16-year-old Israr Hirsi of Minnesota.

Squirrel scholars suggest that these actions represented a “transformation” at play.  Associate lecturer Blanche Verlie claimed that her research revealed how “young people’s sense of self, identity, and existence is being fundamentally altered by climate change.”  It can be tempting to read too much into matters, to see flowers grow in fields initially thought barren.  But there is little doubting climate change as a catalyst of active and noisy encouragement amongst youth, one akin to the anti-war movements of the Vietnam War period.

There has been much finger wagging against the children from, for instance, politicians who just cannot understand how a striking student could ever get employment.  How dare they take time off learning in a classroom while taking to the classroom of the streets?  The spokesman for UK Prime Minister Theresa May, for instance, argued that such protests increased “teachers’ workloads” and wasted lesson time.  Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, in contrast, signalled his preference for the marchers and strikers: “Climate change is the greatest threat that we all face but it is the school kids of today whose futures are most on the line.”

In Australia, New South Wales Education Minister Rob Stokes preferred to brandish the rod of punitive action: both students and teachers would be punished for participating in the March 15 rally.  By all means, find your “voice”, suggested the threatening minister, but avoid doing so during school hours.  For such scolding types, climate change and injustice have strict timetables and schedules, to be dealt with in good, extra-curricular time.

Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan’s views on the youth climate action movement are childishly simple and representative, suggesting that Thunberg is correct in her harsh assessment.  Recorded in November last year, the minister sees education as an instrumental affair.  “The best thing you’ll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue.  Because that’s what your future life will look like […] not actually taking charge of your life and getting a real job.”  Forget the environment’s durability; drill it, excavate it, mine it, drain it and burn it to a cinder.  Australia, and the world, do not need environmentally conscious citizens, merely automata consuming and feeding the commodity markets.  For the likes of Canavan, it is too late.  For the children, the battle to change the beastly status quo is urgent, pressing and inevitable.

Categories: News for progressives

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: Requiem for a Fictional Party

Counterpunch - Wed, 2019-03-20 15:43

Do you remember the Democrats, dearest motherfuckers? Not the neoliberal, gutter capitalist, Clintonista kind or even Bernie’s brand of drone-strike socialists, but the peace loving hippie kind. The doves who tried to end the Cold War and marched against the draft and stuck flowers in the barrels of National Guard rifles. The liberal lions who took on the war machine, who made love not war, who couldn’t hug their children with nuclear arms, and braved the perils of grassy knolls and brainwashed Arabs to bring just one ounce of sanity to Capitol Hill. Sure they were corny and preachy and a little grabby in cocktail party coatrooms but they had character and cojones and conviction. What ever happened to those liberals, before their bleeding hearts were eaten whole by those nasty neos? Where have all the flowers gone? Tell me, dearest motherfuckers, do you remember the Democrats?

Yeah, me neither, and here comes another one of my famously merciless reality checks. With the exception of few fantastic McGovern hiccups, they never actually fucking existed. The Democrats have always been a war party, even back when the Republicans were still Lindbergh worshiping isolationists. Don’t get me wrong, the Dems were always big on that Feed the World-style, Kumbaya charity shit, but there chief staple was usually more white phosphorous than whole grain granola. Both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam; all started by Democrats. Even the Republican crusades in the Persian Gulf initially passed with broad Democratic support and lingered into holocausts with broad Democratic indifference. Much like the Republicans relationship with putting America first, the Democrats only get in touch with their hippie-dippie side when it serves their partisan needs, with Yemen as your latest rule-proving exception.

Lately, though, it seems to be getting worse. Since the Sixties, the Dems have at least generally payed lip service to ideas like detente and diplomacy, particularly atop their ivory soap boxes of the legacy media. But if you turn on NPR or CNN these days, you would be forgiven for believing you were interrupting a less than clandestine meeting of the John Birch Society. According to such bleeding brains as Rachel Maddow and Wolf Blitzer, Vladimir Putin is responsible for everything from Hillary’s biological unelectability to the ravages of climate change. Donald Trump makes the rare intelligent decision to simply meet up with Kim Jong-un for pho and playful banter and he’s appeasing the Axis of Evil. John Bolton throws a monkey-wrench into the goddamn thing and suddenly he’s the latest neocon “adult” to be proclaimed a progressive folk saint. The Donald firebombs an orphanage in Crimea and he finally becomes a “real” president. OK, I made the last one up, but these are some sick sick fucks.

Certainly, some of this hysteria is the result of Trumpsanity, a kind of geopolitical lupus that causes opponents of Trump’s oh so special brand of slap-dash fascism to attempt to try to out-fasc their nemesis. We certainly see this with the frighteningly broad progressive support for the epic purge of free expression on social media. I personally suspect that the only reason they haven’t gotten me yet is because gagging a confirmed tranny is technically still a hate crime in the SJW handbook.

But much of this Orwellian aping is actually a return home for most Dems, like chickens to the roost. As I said above, this kind of guns and butter uber-statism is an integral part of the DNC’s DNA. Only now they’ve resorted to hijacking the good name of socialism in a perverted attempt to lure today’s debt besodden youth into Chuck and Nancy’s windowless van with promises of puppies and free tuition. With the brilliant exception of that glorious hijab-clad boss-bitch, Ilhan the Great (my second favorite bitch after Miss Chelsea Manning), most of the new “revolutionaries” of the Lower House don’t seem to see world peace as a priority for their lukewarm insurrection. This creates a serious dilemma that goes well beyond the question ideological purity.

Not to sound like my asshole 12th grade econ teacher, but there really is no such thing as a free lunch. People like Bernie and AOC want to hand the government the keys to every major industry from Facebook to Big Pharma but don’t propose anything in the way of the kind of major government cuts that would make this morally questionable endeavor economically doable. They bandy about the reputation of Scandinavia’s social democracies without acknowledging the fact that the only reason these nations can afford their level of cradle to grave welfare is that they don’t fight any goddamn wars. Many of them barely have standing armies.

Sweden prospered during the heat of the Cold War because their maverick PM, Olof Palme, rejected this imperial pissing match entirely and embraced neutrality and detente. This is how he fed and clothed his nation. As an anarchist, I find that level of even altruistic government intrusion to be suspect, but I’ve always admired the late Prime Minister for his consistent conviction. This was a man so devoted to the concept of pacifism that he had his citizens trained in non-violent resistance in case of a Soviet Invasion. Olof Palme was a socialist. The embattled Jeremy Corbyn is a socialist. I don’t know what the hell Bernie and his pets are but they dishonor the title of socialism greatly by using it to demand that America gets more stuff while we carpet bomb the rest of the globe in the name of diplomacy.

America doesn’t have a major modern peace party, at least not a consistent one, and we never really have. All we really have are myths that paint warmongers like FDR and JFK in the heroic colors of comic book superheroes. But these are simply lies we tell ourselves so we can sleep at night, safe from the long forgotten screams of Dresden and Da Nang. The point has been made that you cant lead a revolution in a counter-revolutionary party. Good point, but I would take that observation a step further and suggest that you can’t lead a revolution in a counter-revolutionary government. This is why true socialists like Ilhan Omar and Jeremy Corbyn will always get crushed by there own while wolves in doves clothing like Bernie get sainted by the system they pretend to reject. Even a real life saint like dear Olof couldn’t save his top-down government from sinking back into the malaise of crony-capitalist austerity once some mystery bastard put a NATO bullet in his back on the way home from the cinema.

You don’t vote for a revolution, dearest motherfuckers, and it can’t be given to you by some politician or party. You have to fight for it. You have to take it. You have to reject partisan mythology and plant those flowers with your own two hands, even if it means getting those hands dirty. Better dirty hands in the garden of peace than a dirty conscience in a lesser war party. And so I invite you to say farewell to those fictional Democrats, but don’t mourn them. Sometimes dreams burn down. It’s good for the soil.

Categories: News for progressives

Empedocles and You and Me 

Counterpunch - Wed, 2019-03-20 14:23

Perhaps you’re not ecstatic
About any pre-Socratic.
I, though, obtain comfort from
The theories of Empedocles,
Even if they aren’t true

Though, maybe they are —
Not the fourfold roots,
But that which animates these,
Permutating that which is:
Eros and hatred.

Well, of course it’s Manichaean
Which is démodé — but who’s to say
It just may be the way things work:
The endless, birthless universe
Expanding and contracting
In an infinite succession;
Hatred pushing things apart
And love the opposite —
Both ever-present, blending
Into every entity you see —
Yet one force always dominates —
This alternates — there’s love, then hate,
Dispersion, concentration, ad infinitum.

And if he’s right,
And this is the advance of strife,
All elements will move apart
And join with all their own
Until the cosmos is composed
Of only abiotic unities
Until love brings them back to life
And, in its vanquishment of strife,
Agglomerates the elements
In one great cosmic harmony
Which has some implications,
Worth considering, for history —
Reversals, among other things —
And what if, since
(As we now know
That matter’s only energy),
Love and strife is all there is,
We might remove ourselves from this
Advance and reign of strife,
And put an end to it.

Categories: News for progressives

Champs-Élysées war zone reporting & the coming Yellow Vest crackdown

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog What war zone? Because if Saturday March 16 was a “war zone”, then France has been at war since 2010 – I didn’t
Categories: News for progressives

Police and political protests: a different look

by A. Michael for The Saker Blog The Saker was kind enough to offer me an opportunity to write a rebuttal to Mr. Mazaheri’s article about the French police and
Categories: News for progressives

Welcome to the hemp economy

Rabble News - Wed, 2019-03-20 10:41
Penney Kome

With Alberta already plunged into an election and the federal government poised to enter one, economic issues are sure to be up for discussion. The federal government can point to a new $1.6 billion in revenue from cannabis from October 17 to December 31, not bad for two and a half months, and pretty close to the black market tally that Statistics Canada puts at $5.7 billion a year.

Alberta can point to a rapidly expanding hemp market, carrying on a century-long tradition that was suspended, after the end of U.S. Prohibition, for another 80 years. When alcohol became legal again, legislative and enforcement attention turned to other drugs. A group that included FBI leader Harry Anslinger and press baron William Randolph Hearst persuaded Congress that "marihuana" was dangerous.

So the U.S. outlawed hemp's psychoactive cousins, cannabis sativa and cannabis indica -- and threw hemp in, too -- a decision that steered the U.S. medical/recreation market towards the highly profitable liquor and pharmaceutical industries. The U.S. rope and textile industries had to seek out other source materials, such as cotton.

The thing is, cannabis sativa and indica are as different from industrial hemp as dachshunds are from dalmatians. Consumable cannabis plants branch out and sprout spiky flower stalks sticky with THC. Cannabis sativa L is a tall lanky plant, bred for its long fibres that are useful in making rope, canvas and other textiles. By law, industrial hemp contains less than 0.3 per cent THC. Flowers are referred to as "chaff."

On the other hand, anything bamboo can do, hemp can do better. "The global market for hemp consists of more than 25,000 products in nine submarkets: agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food and beverages, paper, construction materials, and personal care," says a June 2018 special U.S. Congressional Research Report on "Hemp as an Agricultural Product." Thirty-eight U.S. states have applied for exemption from the federal ban on growing hemp. And they can think of 25,000 reasons to do so.

Let's start with paper. Before trees, most paper was made from hemp. That was the standard product. "The Gutenberg Bible, Thomas Paine's pamphlets, and the novels of Mark Twain were all printed on hemp paper," says The Ministry of Hemp website, based in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We know because, "Hemp paper does not yellow, crack, or deteriorate like tree paper." The Ministry calculates that annual harvests mean that one acre of hemp can produce as much paper as four to 10 acres of trees over a 20-year cycle.

Wood pulp and paper products accounted for about 36 per cent of Canada's $19-billion forestry industry in 2013. That is, more than one-third of Canada's cut lumber was pulped for paper. Growing renewable hemp for paper would relieve pressure on Canada's forests and protect wildlife habitat. With a little softening, hemp could make good toilet paper too.

One step up from paper, cloth made from hemp can be as tough as the sails that took early peoples around the world ("canvas" comes from the "cannabis" fabric) or as fine and soft as linen. Beyond that, the Western Producer reported, "An Alberta government hemp fibre facility in Vegreville ... has helped develop various uses for fibre, among them biocomposites for car parts, modular building blocks, hempcrete, paper, packaging and livestock bedding." Such efforts remind some Albertans of the Alberta government's involvement in developing canola oil from rapeseed, now a billion-dollar crop.

Hempcrete is made by mixing chopped-up woody hemp stalks with lime, and pounding the mash into moulds, to make upgraded concrete blocks. "Hempcrete is ten times stronger than concrete, mould resistant, rot resistant, pest resistant, fire resistant, and carbon negative," says Cliff Thomason of Oregon Hemp Company in the National Geographic video below. 

New uses for hemp pop up all the time. This stylish carbon-neutral sports car uses hemp fibres for its shiny red shell. We haven't even talked about fermenting hemp for biomass energy, or the amount of hemp seed already included in regular restaurant and fast food. Every part of the plant is usable.  

Potentially most valuable, and finally legal for Canadian farmers to market since last October 17, are the hemp seeds, which are high in protein and in cannabidiol, CBD oil. Anecdotally, CBD oil has been credited with curing or ameliorating everything from epilepsy to shingles sores to seizures. Europe already has 14 varieties of CBD oil in the natural health market. Adding CBD to the fibre and seeds that hemp producers already sell, predicts the Canada Hemp Trade Alliance, will push industrial hemp through four years of "transformational growth" until it's a $1-billion crop by 2023.

Hemp growing actually has a long tradition in Canada. "Hemp was grown throughout the western and central provinces of Canada well before confederation," says The Thistle People's History of Hemp, from MIT. "It is known that hemp was grown under the French regime, and was the first crop to be subsidized by government. In 1801, the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada distributed hemp seeds to farmers."  

After the U.S. banned hemp in the 1930s, along with the other cannabises, Canada followed suit. Since hemp grows even in poor soil and scant rain, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba had huge hemp fields, which were gradually discouraged through slumping markets and special taxes. However, by 1994, the government was issuing experimental licenses to grow it again.  

These days, "Canada ... is among the global leaders in hemp production and one of the main sources of imported hemp products for American markets," says a recent article arguing the U.S. could do better. "Though total hemp acreage there has fluctuated year to year.... annual retail sales for Canadian-derived hemp products have consistently netted between $20 million and $40 million...." Much of the market is in the States, where farmers haven't been allowed to grow hemp.

Hemp provides the raw material to replace some of humankind's most damaging habits, such as clearcutting forests, or diverting water to cotton crops instead of food crops. Quite possibly, it's also the crop with the greatest potential to disrupt the corporate grip on agriculture, nutrition, and the world economy, because it is naturally pest-free, drought-resistant, actually improves the soil, and is 100 per cent renewable, year after year.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has shown the world our limits to growth. Hemp proved itself endlessly useful to humans for millennia before politics intervened. We have hardly begun to explore the potential of the hemp plant's 25,000 marketable products. Seems to me that if I was running for re-election and a vibrant renewable industry sprang into production under my watch, this would be worth bragging about. 

Award-winning author and journalist Penney Kome has published six non-fiction books and hundreds of periodical articles, as well as writing a national column for 12 years and a local (Calgary) column for four years. She was Editor of Straightgoods.com from 2004 - 2013.

Image: Nabokov/Wikimedia Commons

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Building a house with hempcrete
Categories: News for progressives

Disrupted Land Documentary

Disrupted Land is a documentary film about the history and future of land ownership in South Africa. The film deals with the controversial history of land in South Africa and
Categories: News for progressives

Help please!

Progressive economics forum - Wed, 2019-03-20 03:40

Can anyone out there help me? Just saw a headline on CNN saying that, in spite of Brexit chaos, unemployment was at an historic low. Likewise in US where in spite of Trump — could it really be because of? — unemployment is also at an historic low. Reminds me that back in the late 1970s there was a G-7 summit in London England. There were pictures in the press of the leaders, beginning with Thatcher. For Italy the joke was that politics was so volatile that no one could remember who was its leader. But guess which country had the best performing economy? Answer: Italy.

All of which raises the question: does it really not matter to the economy what is the state of the polity?

Categories: News for progressives

Venezuela - Journalists Doubt Guaidó's Legitimacy - Regime Change Plans Continue

On February 23 the U.S. created a 'humanitarian aid' stunt at the border between Colombia and Venezuela. The stunt ended in a riot during which the supporters of the self declared 'president' Guaidó burned the trucks that where supposed to...
Categories: News for progressives

The water justice movement's fight against commodification and extractivism

Rabble News - Wed, 2019-03-20 00:38
Emma Lui

Last month, I gave a keynote presentation called "Come Hell or High Water: The Water Justice Movement's Fight Against Commodificaton and Extractivism." The presentation was part of  the Institute of Political Economy's 20th Annual Grad Conference at Carleton University.

The conference theme was "Perspectives of Power," and speakers where asked to grapple with questions like: how is power manufactured and deployed? How is power contested, transformed and embodied?Panel topics included labour, (de)colonization, inequality and food. 

This blog is part one of a three-part blog series based on my presentation at this conference. This part includes an overview of the water justice movement in Canada and the ways in which power is manufactured and deployed in water governance.

Water is a cross-cutting issue among many social movements in Canada and in Indigenous nations. The water justicement movement here is diverse and includes grassroots groups, individual activists, Indigenous nations and groups, environmental and labour organizations, scientists, workers and many others.

They work on broad range of issues including calling for justice in the face of drinking water advisories in First Nations communities, Nestlé and other bottled water takings, oil and gas drilling, pipelines, mining, fracking and liquefied natural gas (LNG), public-private partnerships, nuclear waste and other threats. There are also localized movements fighting mega quarries, logging and so much more.  

The various struggles within the water justice movement overlap at times. The underlying messages and principles throughout all of these fights are often "water is life," "water is sacred," "water is not for sale" and "water is a human right."

The Water Is Life Alliance is an alliance across the Great Lakes Basin and includes groups and activists in Ontario and Michigan. The group initially came together to fight Nestlé's water grabs in Ontario and Michigan and then began connecting the dots to the water cutoffs in Detroit, the lead poisoning of water in Flint, the lack of clean drinking water in First Nations communities and other water issues like fracking and water privatization.

There are a number of ways corporations and governments reinforce and advance neoliberal policies that promote extractivism and the commodification of water. These policies create injustices and violate the human right to water and Indigenous water rights.

Power is manufactured and deployed through:

  • The creation of laws or policies: For example, Bill C-69 which includes the Canadian Navigable Waters Act, has significant impacts on water, yet fails to obtain free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous nations, cutting many out from decision-making processes.
  • Policing and criminalization of dissent: There are a lot of examples where governments and police criminalize Indigenous peoples and settler activists for defending lands and waters such as the Line 9 pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline, fracking in Elsipogtog First Nation and the raid on Wet'suwet'en territory earlier this year, and protect corporate interests instead.
  • Land or property: Whether land is designated Crown land, private property or recognized as Indigenous territory gives some people power and leaves others out of decision making.
  • Messaging, language and framing particularly in the media: Messaging can be based on false assumptions. For example, messages like "the fossil fuel industry is the only way to create jobs" or "pipelines, fracking and bottling water are good for the economy" are based on the false assumption that the current capitalist economy is good for everyone.
  • Knowledge and access to information: Public-private partnerships are often kept secret -- like in the case of Winnipeg -- and that inhibits a community's ability to engage in genuine democratic debate.  

Stay tuned for part two of this blog series which will give a summary of key water issues in Canada and how communities are contesting the power of corporations, governments and economic elites. To watch a recording of my presentation at the Perspectives of Power conference in February 2019, click here

Emma Lui is an activist, a writer and a contributor to the book, Corporatizing Canada: Making Business out of Public Service.

Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Rachel Notley calls an election for April 16

Rabble News - Wed, 2019-03-20 00:10
David J. Climenhaga

The medium is the message. And in March and April 2019, the medium and the message will be Rachel Notley.

Rachel Notley, premier of Alberta, personally popular but leading a New Democratic Party that has trailed its conservative rival in recent polls, called an election this morning. Albertans will go to the polls on April 16, in accordance with the province's fixed-election-period law bequeathed by the now departed Progressive Conservative Party.

A day after her government's throne speech in the legislature, Premier Notley chose to make her election announcement in Calgary, which most political observers agree will be the key battleground in the election contest to come.

Premier Notley's message was one of hope and optimism, but also of stark contrast with the United Conservative Party and its leader, former Harper government cabinet minister Jason Kenney, at this moment mired in a string of controversies including the way he secured his 2017 victory as the leader of the UCP, his living expenses as a federal MP, and the kinds of candidates his party attracts, one of whom quit the race last night after being exposed as holding white supremacist views.

Standing before a cheering crowd, diverse in every way, in the National Music Centre in Calgary, streamed on social media throughout the province, Notley was at her best -- charismatic, warm and yet coolly focused.

She asked the crowd, and the province: "Are you ready to fight for an Alberta where we bring people together, not keep them apart?"

She is the story now, the medium through which the hopes of progressive, honest government in Alberta flow.

I don't know if anyone still quotes Marshall McLuhan, the Edmonton-born philosopher of media who coined the phrase at the top of this story, but to me this was a truly McLuhanesque moment in Canadian politics. If Alberta's progressive moment survives and prospers, and all of us with it, it will be because the medium is the message.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Screenshot of Facebook livestream

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Categories: News for progressives

Christchurch happens every day in the war of terror

Rabble News - Tue, 2019-03-19 23:21
March 19, 2019Christchurch happens every day in the war of terrorWhat happened at Christchurch -- mass murder produced as the logical result of a long-running political epoch defined by the dehumanization and demonization of Muslims -- happens every day.
Categories: News for progressives

Mexican ambassador promises 'increased scrutiny' of Canadian mining in Mexico

Rabble News - Tue, 2019-03-19 22:55
Brent Patterson

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has appointed Juan Jose Gomez Camacho as the new Mexican ambassador to Canada.

Gomez Camacho's first comments, even before he arrives in Ottawa, were reported by The Globe and Mail's Latin America Bureau Chief Stephanie Nolen.

"Canadian mining companies operating in Mexico should be on notice that the sector is going to face increased scrutiny on its environmental practices and treatment of Indigenous people, according to the country's new ambassador to Ottawa," writes Nolen.

Nolen's article also quotes Gomez Camacho stating, "We really want a strong, profitable mining sector -- and Canadian mining companies are large investors in Mexico -- but we expect them to operate in this country with exactly the same standards as they do in Canada."

That sounds less than promising given the "standards" for industrial projects in Canada do not respect the Indigenous right to free, prior and informed consent -- witness the Trans Mountain pipeline on Secwepemc territory and the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet'suwet'en territory.

The Mexican government is also facing its own controversies over its support for two mega-projects that lack the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous people, namely the Proyecto Integral Morelos gas pipeline and thermoelectric plant and the Tren Maya tourist and commerical freight railroad that would result in deforestation and water contamination.

As Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project has commented, "The organizations that we accompany continue to be concerned for AMLO's position on the rights of Indigenous populations, given that his public discourse seems to respect their autonomy, but he continues to propose initiatives of megaprojects such as the Mayan Train or new mining investments."

Canadian capital is massively invested in mining in Mexico.

"Of the 293 mining companies operating in Mexico, 205 are backed by Canadian capital," reports NOW Magazine.

And that capital has resulted in damage done and lives lost.

Vancouver-based Fortuna Silver operates the mine in the community of San José del Progreso where two of its outspoken opponents -- local resident Bernardo Méndez Vásquez and Indigenous Zapotec land defender Bernardo Vasquez Sánchez -- have been killed.

One can also look at how the water supply of the community of Cerro San Pedro has been impacted by the cyanide used by the Vancouver-based mining company New Gold.

It may sound promising that the new Mexican ambassador to Canada talks about "increasing the role of the state in making sure that the standards of operation in Mexico from foreign companies in this or any other sector are sustainable."

But he also alludes to the concept of corporate social responsibility when he adds, "It's also a self-discipline, it's a question of companies' values on how they operate."

The Globe and Mail's Report on Business editor Duncan Hood has written, "Most of us don't associate Canadian businesses with assault and murder. But between 2000 and 2015, 44 people died as a result of violence surrounding Canadian-owned mines in Latin America."

This fact does not suggest that there's a lot of the needed "values" or "self-discipline" in how the Canadian extractavist sector mines for profit.

Important first steps from the new Mexican government could include a definitive cancellation of La Parota dam and a reversal of the granting of large parts of territory in Oaxaca to Fortuna Silver that was done without the consent of local Indigenous and farming communities.

Likewise, after sitting on the appointment of a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, we'll see how much longer the Trudeau government waits to move forward on this and whether that position will have the power to compel documents and testimony.

Indigenous peoples in both Canada and Mexico are experiencing more rhetoric, rather than genuine recognition and reconciliation. It's well past time for that to change.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo by Peace Brigades International.

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Categories: News for progressives

How the violence of white supremacy becomes white noise

Rabble News - Tue, 2019-03-19 22:38
Azeezah Kanji

In the Christchurch mosque massacre and its aftermath, two forms of racism have been put on display: a far-right Islamophobia that kills Muslims and a mainstream Islamophobia that normalizes the deaths.

Initially, the mass killings barely made the front page of The Globe and Mail: the news was relegated to page four the first day after the atrocity, and the day following confined to a small black box at the top of the front page (which was dominated by a picture of Finance Minister Bill Morneau, not connected to any pressing news story). Even the car advertisement at the bottom was given more space on the front page than the planned and targeted gunning down of Muslims in prayer (the death toll at the time was 49 and has since risen to 50).

While the shootings were allocated greater prominence in the paper following widespread criticism of The Globe's coverage, they have primarily been framed as a problem of gun control -- not the white supremacist ideology of the man wielding the weapon.

On the CBC's website, the top story the morning after the massacre was about corruption in American college admissions, and two days later about "three Montrealers who choose to wash dishes for a living."

What a marked and devastating contrast to the wall-to-wall coverage dedicated to far less fatal acts of violence committed by Muslims abroad. By three days after the mosque attacks, they had already virtually disappeared from the online homepages of Canada's two national mainstream newspapers, The Globe and Mail and National Post. While the Boston Marathon bombing (which killed three people) was memorialized in Canadian media on its one-year anniversary, will anyone in Canada remember the carnage at Christchurch one year from now?

As the eminent American historian Howard Zinn observed in A People's History of the United States:

"Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer. To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm: yes, mass murder took place, but it's not that important."

Media devaluations have no power to diminish Muslims' inherent humanity -- but they unquestionably imperil our safety.     

The marginalization of the anti-Muslim killings in New Zealand is part of a Canadian public discourse that consistently serves to minimize the presence and extent of racism and white supremacy.

In its Christchurch coverage, for instance, The Globe and Mail included a piece about threats made against an Alberta mosque in a Yellow Vests Canada Facebook group, but conveyed the impression that this was a one-off incident. It completely neglected to mention that racist diatribes, conspiracy theories, and death threats are pervasive in Yellow Vests Canada's social media platforms and protests -- and that the group itself is not simply an "advocate for free speech and Canadian sovereignty," as it was described, but a vehicle for extreme-right organizations like the Three Percenters militia, Soldiers of Odin, and World Coalition Against Islam.

Such erasures have enabled Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to be elevated as Canada's potential "moral leader" by opinion commentators, and to outstrip Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh as the "most ethical federal party leader" in recent opinion polls -- even as Scheer continues to brazenly pander to the far-right by tweeting support for the yellow vests' United We Roll convoy, and then speaking at their Ottawa rally alongside white supremacist Faith Goldy.

The obscuring of racist ideology sustains the popular fiction that acts of white supremacist violence, like those at Christchurch, are "senseless." In fact, they are a manifestation of a prevailing common sense depicting Muslims and other racialized communities as inherently dangerous and therefore disposable.

This deeply entrenched and highly toxic common sense is propagated by state agencies like Public Safety Canada, which insists that "the principal terrorist threat to Canada continues to stem from … violent Sunni Islamist ideology" and that far-right "racism, bigotry, and misogyny … ultimately do not usually result in criminal behaviour or threats to national security" -- even though far-right and white-supremacist ideologues have been responsible for more than nine times as many deaths as Muslim extremists have in Canada since 2001 (at least 19, as compared to two).    

While Muslims are stigmatized as a source of regular violence by terroristic freaks, acts of racist violence are explained away as freak occurrences by regular Canadians.

Alexandre Bissonnette's 2017 Quebec mosque mass shooting, for example, was deemed "strictly personal and non-ideological," and so not "terrorism," by the Quebec Superior Court last month.

And Toronto lawyer Mark Phillips was spared criminal punishment last April for his baseball bat attack on a Latino family he accused of being "ISIS"; although Phillips cracked the ribs of one of his victims, his behaviour was dismissed by the judge as "marijuana-induced psychosis."

Contrast this with the treatment of Syrian immigrant Rehab Dughmosh, who swung a golf club and a knife at Canadian Tire employees while suffering psychotic delusions. She caused no significant injury, but was charged with 14 terrorism offences and sentenced to seven years' imprisonment in February.

Through such disparities, the racist violence of white men comes to be treated like white noise: a random, meaningless nuisance that blends into the background; a fact of life not to be eradicated but endured, perhaps by blocking our ears to the disturbance.

The persistent, willful refusal to hear it is itself a form of complicity.

Azeezah Kanji is a legal researcher and writer based in Toronto.

Photo: Mark McGuire/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Christchurch happens every day in the war of terror

Rabble News - Tue, 2019-03-19 22:11
Anti-RacismCivil Liberties WatchWorld

As we mourn the victims of the terrorist atrocity in New Zealand -- where at least 50 Muslim worshippers were mowed down by a white supremacist partially "inspired" by Donald Trump -- many are looking for answers to the inevitable questions of why and how.

To answer those questions, and explore how we might prevent such terrorist acts, it may be helpful to recognize that what happened at Christchurch -- mass murder produced as the logical result of a long-running political epoch that is almost singularly defined by the dehumanization and demonization of Muslims, Arabs, and anyone perceived as such -- happens every day.

As in any war, atrocities are the norm, not the aberration. In the war of terror that has been waged by so-called Western democracies for decades -- long before 9/11 -- governments and militaries, their compliant media partners, the so-called entertainment industry, and a host of others have played the role of initiators, accomplices, and accelerants to a fiery hatred of all things perceived as Muslim.

Occasionally, there is official shock and grief at large-scale massacres like Christchurch, the images of tortured bodies at Abu Ghraib, or the front-page picture of a drowned Syrian refugee child washed up on a beach. But our attention too often turns elsewhere because our status quo is defined by indifference to the daily suffering inflicted on large groups of people without white skin privilege who are targeted directly -- or who are too easily dismissed as indirect "collateral damage" -- because they are perceived to have no human value whatsoever.

Normalizing hatred

Most of the time, Christchurch-style atrocities in which the victims' humanity is reduced to a mere statistic barely make the news or draw condemnation. When such atrocities do generate headlines, sanctimonious leaders in charge of countries built on racism and genocide try to calm the rage in our hearts by claiming "this is not who we are," even as their regimes' policies contribute to such unspeakable acts.

Others, like Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the point where they are forced to acknowledge the terrorist targeting of Muslims that Christchurch represented. And then there are those like People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, who do not feel such atrocities warrant his condemnation. Notably, both Bernier and Scheer are unapologetic for speaking at an Ottawa rally that hosted white supremacist Faith Goldy and racist yellow-vest members in February. As Bernie Farber of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network explained, that rally's organizers and backers -- the climax of a truck convoy from Alberta -- were infused with overt racism, and "had engaged in online death threats including calls for the arrest and death of the prime minister, [and] supported anti-Muslim hate groups including Canadian Combat Coalition, Soldiers of Odin, and Worldwide Coalition Against Islam."

Canada's national public broadcaster, the CBC, devoted an incredible amount of free publicity to the extremely problematic truck convoy and its two days of tiny rallies, which drew tens of people to Parliament Hill. The CBC's blanket coverage helped normalize the people behind a very dangerous discourse that blames immigrants, and, specifically, Muslims, for everything that's wrong in the world. (This almost fawning coverage was in stark contrast to CBC's utter refusal to provide any substantive space to some of the largest student-led mobilizations ever seen in this country during the global climate strike on March 15, including the 150,000 marchers in Montreal that most would not have heard of had it not been for Facebook and other social media.)

And while some so-called progressives cheered the formation of Bernier's white supremacist party as a perfect "divide the right" moment, they neglected to remember that the very communities who will be hurt by the existence and media normalization of this very dangerous xenophobic grouping are the ones in line for the next Christchurch. Indeed, Bernier sings from the same songbook as the Christchurch terrorist, right down to Bernier's 2018 tweet that "More diversity will not be our strength, it will destroy what has made us such a great country…. Why should we promote ever more diversity? If anything and everything is Canadian, does being Canadian mean something?"

While leaders like Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump did tweet about Christchurch, their government's policies nevertheless contribute to Christchurch-style massacres everyday, whether by aerial bombardment, through economic sanctions, or the approval of their state security services continuing to racially profile and scaremonger about the threat allegedly posed by Muslims, even though study after study shows that white supremacist violence is the leading cause of extremist killings in both leaders' countries.

Notably, neither Trump nor Trudeau found it in themselves to tweet last summer when the same number of those killed in Christchurch were murdered in a Saudi air strike against a Yemeni school bus, killing 40 children and 11 adults and injuring 79. The laser-guided bomb used in the attack was sold to the Saudis by Lockheed Martin, the military contractor Canada has chosen to lead its $105-billion warship contract. That is the same Saudi coalition that is still being supplied with $15 billion of Canadian weaponry with the full approval of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Trudeau, further bolstering a slaughter and sanctions regime that kills a Yemeni child every 10 minutes and threatens up to 20 million with death by starvation and disease.

Dismissing Muslim lives as state policy

In Afghanistan, NATO air strikes -- in which Canadian intelligence and logistical support no doubt always played a role -- have notoriously and callously hit wedding parties, markets, and other clearly civilian sites with a sickening consistency that blatantly disregards human life in the same hateful manner as the Christchurch terrorist. Among far too many to recount is the bombing of the Haska Meyna wedding party in Nangarhar province in July 2008, that murdered 47 civilians, largely children and women. In November 2008, another wedding party at Wech Baghtu resulted in 63 killed by NATO air strike. In May 2009, a U.S. B1 bomber massacred at least 140 civilians in the heart of the village of Granai.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Libya, and far too many other countries are viewed as "target-rich" environments by the Pentagon and its allied military forces in which the illegal killing by drone or other means is the assumed right of those who wage this 21st-century white supremacist crusade (recalling, of course, George W. Bush's statement that "this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile.") It is no accident that the Christchurch terrorist used the exact same language -- "target rich" -- to describe the New Zealand worshippers he intended to obliterate.

Similarly "target rich" were the peaceful protests last year against the apartheid wall that became an Israeli military-sponsored bloodbath, found by the United Nations to possibly constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.

"More than 6,000 unarmed demonstrators were shot by military snipers, week after week at the protest sites by the separation fence," the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Gaza protests concluded in its February 28 report, which drew not a single banner headline in this country. The commission went on to report that:

"189 Palestinians were killed during the demonstrations inside this period. The Commission found that Israeli Security Forces killed 183 of these protesters with live ammunition. Thirty-five of these fatalities were children, while three were clearly marked paramedics, and two were clearly marked journalists. According to the Commission's data analysis, the Israeli Security Forces injured 6,106 Palestinians with live ammunition at the protest sites during this period. Another 3,098 Palestinians were injured by bullet fragmentation, rubber-coated metal bullets or by hits from tear gas canisters."

While it is important that world leaders condemn the Christchurch massacre, their thoughts and prayers are meaningless unless they get to the root cause of Christchurch, a root cause most of them contribute to, by, among other things, their silence on Palestine. As UN Commissions chair Sara Hossain said, "There can be no justification for killing and injuring journalists, medics, and persons who pose no imminent threat of death or serious injury to those around them. Particularly alarming is the targeting of children and persons with disabilities. Many young persons' lives have been altered forever. 122 people have had a limb amputated since 30 March last year. Twenty of these amputees are children."

Daily disappearing

The daily disappearing of the suffering endured by those who are targets of white supremacy will likely resume its normal pattern this week as our attention turns away from Christchurch. What will take its place is the daily background white noise -- if it makes any sound at all -- of the ongoing war against the majority of the world's population on behalf of a small, privileged group of countries whose leadership acts as proxies for corporations looking to exploit what's left of the world's treasure. Those who call out and resist the daily violence of corporate rule by companies heavily invested in tarsands, overseas mines, and engineering megaprojects -- often Indigenous women on the front lines of land and water defence struggles -- are criminalized, demonized, cast aside, and detained, tortured, and murdered.

It's that normalcy of daily war that will soon make names like Christchurch mere asterisks in our historical memory. Indeed, the casual and careless enforced disappearance of these horrible moments was no better represented than in last week's National Public Radio Morning Edition interview with Jonathan Greenblatt, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League, which in January released a report finding that every single act of extremist violence committed in the U.S. during 2018 was undertaken by far-right, white supremacist groups and individuals.

Asked how common such incidents as Christchurch are, Greenblatt remarkably replied: "Well, I think this act of violence really doesn't have a precedent as far as we know, murdering people in a mosque like this, and the social media dimension is something new." That the head of an organization which documents such horrific crimes could so readily disappear the January 2017 mosque massacre in Quebec City -- one that most media actually did report was cited by the Christchurch terrorist as an inspiration -- speaks to the potent racism and Islamophobia that underlies both white supremacist violence and a liberal culture that refuses to face its own complicity in and tacit acceptance of this racism.

Indeed, there is an extensive history of attacks against Muslims at prayer. As the group Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR) reminded readers last week, Israeli army reservist Baruch Goldstein entered the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994 and slaughtered 29 praying Muslims, and the Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently reported that, "The killer's grave has become over the years a pilgrimage site for extremist Jews who support him, and a shrine to his memory was set up next to his tomb." FAIR also points to other anti-Muslim attacks "that include the 25 worshipers killed on October 11, 2017, at a mosque in Kembe, Central African Republic; the 20 people slaughtered at the Han Tha mosque in Taungoo, Myanmar, in May 2001; and the 147 victims of the Kattankudy mosque massacre in Sri Lanka on August 3, 1990," as well as the 1974 massacre of some 1,500 Moro people killed in a mosque by the Philippine army in the village of Malisbong.

As the editors of FAIR concluded: "That none of this was recalled, either by the host of Morning Edition or the director of a group that presents itself as a 'global leader in exposing extremism' with a mission 'to secure justice and fair treatment for all,' is a testament to the failure of our information systems to give due weight to violence against Muslims -- and the consequent dangerous impoverishment of our collective memory."

A thousand-year crusade

Of course, this is nothing new. One can go as far back as Pope Urban II's call for a crusade in 1095 that resulted in the indiscriminate slaughter of Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem four years later. Launching this bloody era, Urban railed against those he labeled "infidels," "pagans," and "barbarians," and in the same manner that the U.S., Canada, U.K., and other imperial powers provide a shield of impunity for those who take part in modern-day state-sponsored crimes, Urban cried, "All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins."

According to Fulcher of Chartres, a priest who took part in and wrote an account of that first crusade, "In this temple almost ten thousand were killed. Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet coloured to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared." The Crusaders also set fire to a full synagogue and then encircled "the screaming, flame-tortured humanity singing 'Christ We Adore Thee!'"

The fear and hatred of Muslims and Arabs is of course but one subset of a worldwide white supremacy whose vile rationalizations have been used to enact genocides against Indigenous peoples; drop chemical weapons on human beings (Winston Churchill famously declared in one secret memo his disgust at the "squeamishness" of those opposed to its use, noting in bulldog fashion that "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes"); and drop nuclear weapons on the people of Japan (prime minister Mackenzie King crowned a career based on promoting Canada as "white man's country" when he wrote approvingly in his diary of the nuclear incineration of 100,000 people at Hiroshima: "It is fortunate that the use of the bomb should have been upon the Japanese rather than upon the white races of Europe.")

While the luxury of having communism as an "enemy" provided state security agencies with a 20th-century raison d'etre until the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is no coincidence that they had old-fashioned and time-tested hatred of Arabs and Muslims to fall back on to save the military-industrial complex from the dread peace dividend that many demanded at the end of the Cold War. Thus, Saddam Hussein, who went from being a close U.S. ally who received tons of American weaponry, including chemical weapons, suddenly became the butcher of Baghdad and a global threat. As Canadian troops went overseas for Desert Storm, Canadian Arabs and Muslims saw a sharp uptick in visits to their homes by CSIS and the RCMP.

Racist tropes

The ease with which so many people got into the genocidal spirit of Desert Storm in 1991 was attributable to many facets of white supremacy, not least of which was a century of racist tropes courtesy of Hollywood. The late historian Jack Shaheen documented this in Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, an analysis of over 900 films in which moviegoers were told that "all Arabs are Muslims and all Muslims are Arabs…The moviemakers' distorted lenses have shown Arabs as heartless, brutal, uncivilized, religious fanatics through common depictions of Arabs kidnapping or raping a fair maiden; expressing hatred against the Jews and Christians; and demonstrating a wealth for love and power."

After the slaughter unleashed during Desert Storm, there was the daily, 12-year-long bombing campaign over Iraq and the most brutal sanctions ever enacted in human history, enforced with a $1-billion investment by the Canadian navy. In concert with other military forces, Canada was complicit in the killing of over 1.5 million Iraqi civilians who desperately needed the medical supplies, water purification systems, and other necessities that were daily turned away.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright -- a shero to Chrystia Freeland -- was famously asked about the effects of U.S. sanctions: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" Albright's reply was perfectly in line with the sickening manifesto left behind by the terrorist in New Zealand: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."

On what moral plane was Albright's justification for such cruelty any different than the distorted thinking that went into the Christchurch terrorist's manifesto? How were either of these different from that moment when the U.S., Canada, and a few other nations launched their illegal invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and U.S. general Tommy Franks, asked about the numbers of dead, replied: "'You know, we don't do body counts.'' The British approach was similar, with Group Captain Al Lockwood telling reporters: ''We don't do head counts, and we certainly don't publicize them.''

Meanwhile, our own indifference and silence erases the fact that the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp is still in operation, with plans to build wheelchair accessible cells because Muslim men who have never been charged with or tried for any offence will likely grow old and die there, forgotten by the world. That same indifference means we fail to protest every time the word "Islamic terrorism" is irresponsibly used by the CBC, yet no other religion is thusly described when attacks are carried out in these faiths' names (indeed, Buddhists have committed large-scale atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, yet Buddhist terrorism is a word yet to be heard on the national airwaves). Media representatives either fail to grasp or simply don't seem to care that each use of that vile term conflates 1.3 billon practitioners of Islam with the acts of a few who certainly have no understanding of the religion, and also feeds the fire and fury of those who would act "pre-emptively" to make their white supremacist world "safer" by eliminating whatever Muslims they can, as at Christchurch.

Presidential enjoyment of killing

While former U.S. president Barack Obama rightly condemned the Christchurch massacre, he has yet to apologize for his role in the enthusiastic development and execution of his notorious kill lists and the Christchurch-like bloodlust they inspired. As the New York Times famously reported, Obama refused to believe that anyone living in Muslim-majority countries could be viewed as a potential civilian casualty of his hellfire missiles. In setting hugely dangerous precedents that have since been gladly followed by his successor, Obama developed his own racist calculus that "counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants… unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent."

Obama's 542 drone strikes killed over 4,000 people, and, like the terrorist of Christchurch, he reportedly confided to his aides: "Turns out I'm really good at killing people. Didn't know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine."

In Canada, the acceptance of white supremacy is a given in all of this country's state institutions. We see that everywhere from the global campaign by Chrystia Freeland to release two white Canadians in China (ignoring the case of Canadian Uighur Huseyin Celil) to the ongoing creation of national sacrifice zones where Indigenous people will suffer in the name of "green" energy (Site C, Muskrat Falls, Coastal Gas Link) and the refusal to end racist discrimination against 165,000 Indigenous children despite seven compliance orders to do so from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

When Ottawa's Abdullah Almalki was wrongfully targeted for torture in Syria by agents of the RCMP, CSIS, Justice Department, and Foreign Affairs Canada (DFAIT), internal Mountie documents complained that they had nothing on him "other than the fact he is an arab running around." The racism at the heart of desperate attempts to pin something on Almalki led them to nonetheless conclude that he was an "imminent threat" to national security. Almalki's right to be viewed as a full human being was tossed aside, in the same manner lives at Christchurch were, by those same Canadian agencies when the question arose of what would happen to him should they send questions to Almalki's Syrian torturers.

An infamous memo from Foreign Affairs concluded, "if such questioning is carried out by the Syrian security services, there is a credible risk that it would involve torture." Nonetheless, the RCMP sent those questions. As the O'Connor Inquiry into the torture of Canadian Maher Arar found (here also referencing the torture of Canadian Ahmad Abou Elmaati), "On January 10, Staff Sergeant Callaghan advised Staff Sergeant Fiorido that in an interview held in Egypt, Mr. El Maati had stated that the Syrians had tortured him. These allegations did not raise a red flag for Staff Sergeant Fiorido with respect to the questions being sent for Mr. Almalki. '[I]t was never a concern because it was never considered.'"

The inquiry into the torture of Almalki, Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin also found that:

"Some of the RCMP members involved in the decision to send questions for Mr. Almalki displayed a dismissive attitude towards the issue of human rights and the possibility of torture. When torture was raised at the September 10, 2002 meeting, some of the RCMP members present disregarded it as merely a one-off comment from a junior DFAIT official. Another RCMP member, who did not attend the September 10 meeting, but played a critical role in facilitating the preparation and sending of questions, told the inquiry that the issue of mistreatment was not on his radar screen."

Notably, no one has been held legally accountable for their role in the torture of Almalki, Arar, Elmaati, and Nureddin, and most went on to promotions, including Michel Cabana, who became an RCMP Assistant Commissioner. When the victims are Muslims, there is always an aggravating factor to explain away and water down the white people's crimes; in these cases, former Supreme Court Judge Frank Iacobucci (who does the same dirty work for SNC-Lavalin) called what happened to these men a "mistake" and added that we must be "grateful" to the people who do the ugly work of state security and employ "their best judgment," even though the record clearly tells a different story.

When it comes to people who are not direct beneficiaries of white supremacy, they never get on the proverbial radar screen of human concern because, as in Christchurch, their lives simply do not matter to the powers that be. In fact, the only time they are on anybody's radar screen is when they are trying to board planes or live otherwise normal lives. The insistence on continuing to racially profile such large groups of people based on their faith or heritage helps explain why so many white terrorists are able to get away with their massacres, even ones that are advertised well in advance on social media. When all the resources are directed against false bogeymen, it's easy for the real terrorists to express themselves and act in plain sight.

What Trudeau could do

As the reverberations from Christchurch continued to evolve over the weekend, Justin Trudeau issued a declaration that "we must all confront Islamophobia and work to create a world in which all people -- no matter their faith, where they live, or where they were born -- can feel safe and secure." Heartfelt as that sentiment must have been, it needs to be matched by actions that show his government does value Muslim lives and that words like "safe and secure" are not mere rhetorical flourish.

For starters, he could cancel the deportation order that has hung over the head of Ottawa refugee Mohamed Harkat for years. If sent back to Algeria, Harkat faces torture; the very existence of that threat is a torturous limbo itself. You can sign this petition to support Harkat. A similar pending order against Toronto's Mohammad Mahjoub should also be cancelled, and all those who spent years detained under Islamophobic "security certificates" should be compensated for lives and reputations destroyed.  

Similarly, the Trudeau government must stop fighting Montreal's Abousfian Abdelrazik and provide him with an apology and compensation for the torture he endured in Sudan with very clear CSIS complicity.

Trudeau could also order a public inquiry into the role of his War Minister Harjit Sajjan -- as well as other Canadian military officials -- into their commission of or participation in activities that could be construed as war crimes. While the U.S. has refused entry to investigators of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Trudeau and Sajjan have spent their whole term in office sweeping under the rug Canada's bloody legacy in Afghanistan, where hundreds were knowingly transferred to torture. Former MP Craig Scott has sent a voluminous petition to the ICC, and awaits word on whether they will follow up. Trudeau could hasten that process by demanding transparency and full disclosure.

Trudeau and Freeland could make good on their word that they respect rule of law and an international rules-based order by calling for the immediate closure of the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp and also provide compensation to those who wound up there as a result of Canadian "intelligence," such as Mohamedou Slahi and Djamel Ameziane.

Trudeau could play a stronger role in condemning the ongoing Islamophobic attacks in Quebec, where as usual attempts to legislate what Muslim women wear by the "Ministry of Diversity" are ongoing.

Trudeau must repeal C-51 (the Harper anti-terrorism act that he supported while in opposition) as well as C-59, the extension of C-51 currently in the Senate that continues to further unleash the state security agencies whose racist mandates are used as an excuse to harass Muslims simply because of their faith while ignoring the real threat posed by white supremacists.

Trudeau should intervene in the case of Canadian Muslim Huseyin Celil, still detained 13 years after his arrest and illegal extradition to China. Similarly, Trudeau and Freeland could speak up on behalf of the over 1 million Muslims (a.k.a. Uyghurs) illegally detained in Chinese concentration camps. When called upon to do so, Trudeau refused, declaring: "We recognize nobody is perfect." Freeland spouted similar rhetoric, claiming, "We who live in freedom do have an obligation to stand up for people who don't," but she would not extend that obligation to over 1 million Muslims under lock and key in China.

Trudeau should speak out against the brutal human rights violations of the Egyptian regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which has jailed upwards of 100,000 political prisoners, and also demand the immediate release of recently detained Canadian Yasser Ahmed Albaz.

Trudeau could follow up on Parliament's Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommendation that January 29 be designated as a "National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia and other forms of religious discrimination."

Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale could issue very strict guidelines to end racial profiling at mosques and airports alike, stop the dangerous CSIS practice of paying office, mosque, and home visits to those of Muslim faith, end the role of RCMP and CSIS informants creating sinister plots designed to entrap vulnerable Muslims, and also pull the Harper-era torture memos that greenlight state security agencies in this country from trading information with overseas torturers (a policy that disproportionately affects Muslims as well).

What we could do

These are just a few of the things Trudeau and his crew could be doing. While he chooses to do the photogenic thing -- visiting a mosque -- his fine words must be matched with actions if he is serious about preventing the next Christchurch. The same goes for the rest of us who, once the shock dies down, tend to move on to "other things" while forgetting that the structures of white supremacy that enable and promote Christchurch are functioning at full speed. Ultimately, we need to throw many a monkey wrench into the operations of white supremacy and dismantle it as part of our daily work, and not only think about it when one of the system's true believers goes on a rampage.

The late, much-missed peace activist and priest Daniel Berrigan once wrote about a different kind of war, in words that are as sharp and concise as they are challenging. They provide us something to think about and act upon as we resist the white supremacist crusades of our time:

"We have assumed the name of peacemakers, but we have been, by and large, unwilling to pay any significant price. And because we want the peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war, of course, continues, because the waging of war, by its nature, is total -- but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial. So a whole will and a whole heart and a whole national life bent toward war prevail over the velleities of peace. 'Of course, let us have the peace,' we cry, 'but at the same time let us have normalcy, let us lose nothing, let our lives stand intact, let us know neither prison nor ill repute nor disruption of ties.' And because we must encompass this and protect that, and because at all costs -- at all costs -- our hopes must march on schedule, and because it is unheard of that in the name of peace a sword should fall, disjoining that fine and cunning web that our lives have woven, because it is unheard of that good men and women should suffer injustice or families be sundered or good repute be lost -- because of this we cry peace, peace, and there is no peace. There is no peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war -- at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison and death in its wake."

Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. 'national security' profiling for many years.

Photo: julian meehan/Flickr

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new zealandislamophobiaJustin Trudeauterrorismforeign policyMatthew BehrensMarch 19, 2019Canada's Saudi weapons sales a moral race to the bottomWith each new reported Saudi atrocity, Canadian leaders dig in their heels and issue earnest statements about "troubling" revelations, and respect for human rights and the rule of law.Kingston arrest shows terrorism charges are exclusively for MuslimsThere is a double standard in the application of terrorism legislation in cases of Muslims versus non-Muslims in Canada.Trudeau following Harper's lead in denying justice to illegally imprisoned Muslim menf the Liberal government is serious about combating Islamophobia, they should award long-denied justice to those in Canada's Muslim communities whose freedoms were sacrificed for the "war on terror."
Categories: News for progressives

Massive democracy movement challenges a dictator in Algeria

Rabble News - Tue, 2019-03-19 20:08
Political ActionWorld

A political uprising in Algeria has caught the attention of much of the world. Massive street demonstrations have succeeded in forcing ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to withdraw his candidacy for re-election. What has not been settled is when he will step down, and what will happen next.

The 82-year-old president suffered a stroke in 2013 and has not spoken in public since 2014. While his campaign for a fifth term was underway, Bouteflika was getting medical treatment in Switzerland. Though he is back in Algeria, there is much speculation about the current state of his health.

Elections are scheduled for April 18. Demonstrators want assurances that Bouteflika will leave office when his current term ends on that date.

In his March 11 statement withdrawing his candidacy, Bouteflika indicated a national conference was needed before setting a date for new presidential elections. This was widely interpreted as a ruse by the president to hold onto power for at least the rest of the year.

It remains to be seen if elections will be as scheduled but it appears unlikely. Having a committee of "sages" set up an interim government and form a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution is a viable option -- so long as it does not have the imprint of Bouteflika.

The oligarchy around the president and "the process" it has used to govern Algeria have been discredited by the democratic protests. The army has distanced itself from the regime but remains a powerful political force.

For some 130 years Algeria was ruled by France. Post-Napoleonic ambitions for territory on the other side of the Mediterranean led France to annex the country in 1842, carve up the land, and send colonizers to occupy it.

Of the 20th-century anti-colonial movements, the eight-year (1954-62) armed struggle in Algeria was one of the most violent and troubled.

Franz Fanon, drawing on the Algerian revolution (which he witnessed as a psychiatrist treating French soldiers involved as torturers), wrote The Wretched of the Earth, giving the world one of the most powerful accounts of the impact of colonization on the human spirit.

The Fourth French Republic ended in 1958, when Charles de Gaulle took power, promising to restore order after military force deployed under the French Socialists had failed to quell the uprising for Algerian independence.

A de Gaulle-led Fifth Republic government negotiated the 1962 Evian Accords with the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic established by the National Liberation Front (FLN) revolutionaries. De Gaulle then initiated a referendum vote that formally ended French rule and provoked a revolt within the French army by the Secret Army Organization (OAS).

The anti-imperialist forces in Algeria coalesced around the FLN, which established one-party rule after independence.

Subsequent FLN-inspired governments built the Algerian secular nationalist model: socialization of resources, redistribution of revenues, import substitution industrialization, and urbanization through housing construction.

Algerians witnessed the gathering of power in fewer and fewer hands, but the population also experienced a widening of education -- from 15 per cent literacy at independence from the French to 65 per cent (female) and 75 per cent (male) by 2000 -- a rising standard of living and a population explosion.

Today the population of Algeria is over 42 million and one-half are under the age of 30. It is the youth of Algeria who have provided the energy and determination to carry the democracy movement into the streets, widening to include up to 4 million demonstrators on the last successive four Fridays.

Teachers, journalists, judges, lawyers, and the police have joined the demonstrators singing to one, two, three, Viva Algeria.

The demonstrations have been peaceful, with virtually no incidents of violence other than in the capital city of Algiers, and this in a country that throughout the 1990s was undergoing a vicious civil war.

The army entered politics to deny Islamist fundamentalists -- winners of 1991 legislative elections -- the right to govern, fearing they would turn Algeria into a theocracy.

It was in 1999 that Bouteflika, a former foreign minister who had been forced into exile, came back to take power with the backing of the army.

Regime stress in Algeria goes up when the price of oil goes down, as it did in 1998. There is no other source of external revenue other than oil and other resource revenue.

In response to difficulties providing employment for the growing population, Bouteflika modified the constitution by decree, taking more power.

Seeing him become virtually president-for-life prompted a group of women in central Algeria to mount a campaign to stop Bouteflika from seeking a fifth term in another rigged election. The demonstrations now take place in all the cities along the coast and throughout central Algeria.

Will the Algerian democracy movement, which invokes memories of the Arab Spring, its hopes, but also its failures to produce meaningful change, complete its task of replacing a dictatorship with an electoral regime?

Watching the crowds mass every Friday and seeing the support generated by the action in the streets, there is good reason to think Algerians will finish the job and overthrow the current regime.

Duncan Cameron is president emeritus of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Photo: Becker1999/Flickr

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algeriasocial movementDuncan CameronMarch 19, 2019Questions and answers about the yellow vest uprising in FranceWhy are tens of thousands of regular people, citizens of the French Republic, staging a democratic revolt against tax increases?Has the Arab Spring given way to a Dark Fall?A year after the uprising that toppled Ben Ali, Tunisia's government is controlled by forces that are not only neo-liberal but quite conservative and even reactionary.The Arab Spring, a Canadian perspectiveAdam Bemma speaks to Canadian journalist Ali Mustafa in Cairo, Egypt about the situation post-Arab Spring in the Middle East.
Categories: News for progressives

Socialism Curiously Trumps Fascism in U.S. Political Threat Reporting

Counterpunch - Tue, 2019-03-19 16:10

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

“I Have the Tough People”

Recently Donald Trump, the orange mother of all assholes, said this in an interview with the proto-fascistic alt-right Website Breitbart News:

“You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump–I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough—until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

Don Veto Trumpleone was saying in not-so veiled ways that efforts to impeach or un-elect him will be met with white police- and military-state violence and carnage from right wing-thugs.  If “the Left” (as FOX News and the Republicans absurdly describe everyone to the portside of Mitch McConnell) tries to remove him from office through constitutional means, Trump was boasting, then forces of repression and right-wing aggression will rightly come to his defense

This warning was consistent with Trump’s toxic history of promoting violence against his political enemies.  It matches his creepy embrace of authoritarian rulers around the world and his longstanding suggestion that any effort to bring an end his presence in the White House would be illegitimate. From the beginning of his presidency, Trump has been using the hoax of immigrant voter fraud to set up a cancellation of the 2020 election or a refusal to recognize its results.

His ugly Ameikaner base will back any such moves..  More than half (52%) of Americans who identify as or lean Republican would support postponing the 2020 election “to ensure that only eligible citizens could vote if it was proposed by President Trump.”  (The mendacious neoliberal warmonger Hillary Clinton wasn’t all wrong when she called the president’s backers “a basket of deplorables.”)

Trump’s “tough people” comment reflected the authoritarian mindset of a wannabe fascist strongman. Trump was only half-joking when he said the United States should consider making the presidency an appointment “for life” — and when he said this about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un: “He is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head … He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

“Believe the autocrat,” the Russian-American journalist and dissident Masha Gessen has warned: “He means what he says.”

In some cases, at least, the pathological liar Trump should be believed.

Left Threat Inflation

Who are all the badass lefties who “play it tough,” in Trump’s words? Outside of some dicey Antifa and radical skinhead types, it’s a tiny group – certainly nothing compared to the assault weapon-wielding right-wing militias and other armed and brutish white-nationalists who thrill to Trump’s call to Make America White Again.

Fascism, however, requires the notion that the virtuous and betrayed white Nation is besieged by a big dangerous Left that must be put down by steely-eyed patriots ready to defend the “homeland” by any means necessary. Inflation of the “radical left” threat is a key part of the fascist playbook. It’s why nobody should laugh when they hear Republicans and right-wing media personalities habitually refer to the corporate-neoliberal Democratic Party as “socialist,” “radical,” and “leftist.”

Avoiding the F-Word, Running with the S-Word

I watched a panel of experts discuss Trump’s “play it tough” statement on CNN. A dark-haired female commentator suggested that Trump’s comments were the unhinged ramblings of a big dummy drunk on power. A sharp fellow with a stylish white beard called the president’s remarks authoritarian and dangerous.  A clean-shaven Republican hack found Trump’s comments mild and reasonable.

Neither CNN host Don Lemon nor any of his guests could bring themselves to say the F-word, fascism, in relation to Trump’s latest arch-authoritarian outrage.  Too bad. As I have shown across at least twelve commentaries published in the last three years [1], numerous dreadful strands have intertwined to knit Trumpism into a noxious cloth of creeping 21stcentury-style and  neoliberal-era fascism.  One such strand is Trump’s totalitarian’s recurrent encouragement of extra-legal political violence against his opponents and critics.

Curiously enough, talking heads who can’t properly mouth the F-word when it comes to Trump and his backers love to say the S-word (socialism) when it comes to the Democrats. They are happy to inaccurately call Bernie Sanders’ neo-New Deal progressive populism “socialism” – and to promote the false and perhaps unwittingly fascism-fueling notion that socialism is taking over the Democratic Party.

These narratives are misleading. Yes, Sanders occasionally dons the socialist label. He’s also the Democratic presidential contender to have enjoyed the most impressive 2020 rollout so far.

Another high-profile self-declared socialist, the Republican and FOX News obsession Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), now holds a seat in the U.S. House.

Most remarkably of all, perhaps, 57 percent of the Democratic Party’s voters now say they prefer socialism to capitalism.

But the fact that Sanders calls himself a socialist doesn’t mean he really is one any more than the fact that Trump doesn’t call himself a fascist means the president isn’t a fascist [2]. While Trump wraps his stealth fascism in the flag of American Freedom, Bernie (a social democrat at leftmost) bends over backwards to label his proposals “not radical.”  He doesn’t call for workers to seize control of the means of production, distribution, communication, and investment. He doesn’t advocate the dismantlement of the Pentagon System or the nationalization of the leading financial institutions.

As in 2015 and 2016, Bernie is promising in advance to support the corporate-Democratic candidate, whoever it may be, against the Republican Party. He channels popular energies into the bourgeois masters’ narrow and strictly time-staggered election cycle, focusing on who’s sitting in the White House instead of the more meaningful and radical politics of who’s sitting in the streets, factories, offices, schools, and town halls. He’s no Eugene Debs or Bill Haywood.

At the same time, the Sanders tendency is nowhere close to taking over the Democratic Party. AOC is the only one of the House’s 435 members to identify as a socialist. Sanders is the only one of 100 U.S. Senators to sometimes do the same. The Blue Wave that brought a Democratic majority to the House of Representatives this year was mainly a corporate-Democratic centrist wave, not a lefty-progressive one. That tends to get lost in the flurry of wildly disproportionate attention the media has given to AOC and other “controversial” female and nonwhite progressive House newcomers like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Thalib.

Along with their many friends at CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post,  N”P”R, “P”BS, PoliticoThe Hill, and the Daily Beast,  the “pragmatic” (corporate-neoliberal) wing of the Democratic Party smears progressive Democrats’ calls for decent policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal as “half-baked,” “fantastic,” “unrealistic,” and “pie-in-the-sky” – and as guaranteed to help Trump win a second term.

Never mind that these “radical socialist” proposals have majority popular support and that a Green New Deal is now an existential necessity for the species.  Never mind that Sanders would have defeated Trump running on these proposals in 2016.  Or that Sanders is the candidate most capable of mobilizing enough contested state voters to defeat the Great God Trump in 2020.

And never mind that socialism would be the embodiment of democracy, not a threat to popular self-rule – or that “capitalist democracy” means no real democracy at all.

The Democratic Party isn’t about social and economic justice, democracy, popular self-governance, or ecological survival.  It isn’t even mainly about winning elections.  It’s about serving and colluding with corporate sponsors and climbing the neoliberal global-capitalist oligarchy (think Bill Clinton and Barack Obama). Like Sinclair Lewis’ imagined American fascists in his 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here (see Endnote 2 below), it is no less dedicated than its Republican counterpart to “government of the profits, by the profits, for the profits.”

Dollar Democrats Prefer Fascism to Socialism

Meanwhile, by contrast with the “threat” posed by “socialism,” the U.S. presidency is now held by a white-nationalist, arch-authoritarian gangster who is at the very least an aspiring fascist leader atop a significantly fascist mass base. Trump’s supporters comprise roughly a third of the U.S. electorate but enjoy wildly outsized political voice thanks to the over-representation of red/Republican districts in the absurdly archaic and undemocratic U.S. system of Congressional apportionment indirect presidential (s)election.

Fascists often get into power peacefully, via the fake-democratic bourgeois electoral process.  They do so thanks to that process’s cringing captivity to concentrated wealth and to the transparent inauthenticity of corporate-bought liberal politicians’ claims to represent ordinary working people and the common good (e.g. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer, and Joe Biden).

Fascists stay in power with the help of bourgeois (neo-) “liberals” who inflate the supposedly terrible danger allegedly posed by purported socialism. Listen to the fevered fears of advertising executive and MSNBC commentator Donny Deutsch (net worth $200 million). “I find Donald Trump reprehensible as a human being,” Deutsch recently told MSDNC morning host Joe Scarborough, “but a socialist candidate [Bernie Sanders] is more dangerous to this company, country, as far as the strength and well-being of the country, than Donald Trump.  I would vote for Donald Trump, a despicable human being…I will be so distraught to the point that that could even come out of my mouth, if we have a socialist [presidential candidate or president] because that will take our country so down, and we are not Denmark.  I love Denmark, but that’s not who we are. And if you love who we are and all the great things that still have to have binders put on the side. Please step away from the socialism.” The “liberal” Deutsch, who has likened Trump voters (with no small justice) to Nazis, voiced his readiness to vote for the fascist bigot Trump over anyone who tries to make America more like the happy, social-democratic nation Denmark.

But, of course.  As I’ve been saying for years, the dismal dollar-drenched corporate Democrats prefer losing to the right, even a creeping fascist white-nationalist right, over losing to the left, even the explicitly non-radical social-democratic left in their own party.

That’s why MSDNC and CNN’s liberal chatterboxes go on and on about how “the Democrats have a socialism problem” but continue to step lightly (more than two years into a creeping fascist presidency) around the Republicans’ much more real and genuinely threatening fascism problem.

By falsely inflating the supposed radical menace of “socialism,” corporate neo-“liberal” media personalities help feed the fascist peril they claim to abhor and can’t name.

Gird Your Loins

Trump isn’t just a wacky, thuggish, and “reprehensible human being” (Deutsch).  He’s all of those, but he’s also the aspiring Superpower-heading leader of a global fascist movement whose most recent example is the white-nationalist who recently murdered dozens of Muslims in New Zealand after releasing a manifesto that hailed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” Trump is precisely that for an angry mass of “blood and soil” male Caucasians at home and abroad.

We can be sure that Trump secretly delights in that role. Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and fixer, concluded that Trump is not unlike the Nazis who murdered Cohen’s Jewish ancestors in Europe.  Twenty-nine years ago, we learned from the lawyer of Trump’s first wife Ivana that the future president enjoyed reading from a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which Trump kept close to his bed.

A few weeks ago, Cohen tried to tell Congress and the nation that his former boss probably won’t leave the White House without bloodshed. He’s right about that.  Fascists don’t generally leave head-of-state positions peaceably

Gird your loins and give to your local blood bank, America: getting rid of Orange DumpsterFire&Fury, the nation’s first fascist president, is not going to be pretty.

Endnotes

[1]See: this (“The Donald Can Happen Here,” Counterpunch, March 11, 2016); this (“Trump’s Shock and Awe Campaign,” Truthdig, 2-3-2017); this (“Orange Thing,” Counterpunch, 10-13-2017); this (“An Insubordinate President,” Truthdig, 11-14-2017); this (“American-Style Totalitarianism in the Age of Trump,” Truthdig, 12-22-2017); this (“Trump’s Durable Base,” Counterpunch, 2-2-2018); this (“The Madness of King Don,” Counterpunch, 2-16-2018); this (“Creeping Fascism No Problem for Trump’s Durable Base,” Truthdig, 9-5-2018, including an in-depth examination of the leading social science data on the fascist Trump base); this (“‘Male Energy,’ Authoritarian Whiteness, and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump,” Counterpunch, 10-19-2018); this (“Trump’s Endless Mendacity and the Dawn of American Fascism,” Truthdig,10-31-2018, with special emphasis on the assault on truth); this (“Signs of Creeping Fascism are All Around Us,” Truthdig,11-14-2018); this (“Barack von Obamenburg and How Fascism Happens,” Counterpunch, 11-16-2018,); this (“Bordering on Fascism,” Counterpunch,1-11-2019); and this (“Cohen’s Overlooked Warning,” Counterpunch, 3-1-2019).

[2]Consistent with Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 warning, contemporary fascists often don’t openly announce their fascist nature. “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross,” an anonymous mid-20th century American (often but incorrectly said to be Lewis) observed.  No Swastikas, brownshirts in the streets, and “New Man” cults would be required. Lewis wrote in his 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here that American fascism’s most dangerous promoters were those “who disowned the word ‘fascism’ and preached enslavement to capitalism under the style of constitutional and traditional native American liberty.” American fascism, Lewis warned, would be cloaked in the Star- Spangled Banner and all about “government of the profits, by the profits, for the profits.” It Can’t Happen Here merits reading 84 years after its publication. It is a biting satirical screed against the comforting notion that “American exceptionalism” inoculated the United States against the disease of fascism.  “The Hell it can’t,” Lewis told us, a bit early in the game, as the United States actually reached its leftmost democratic moment with the rise of the Second New Deal.

 

 

 

Categories: News for progressives

Guy Standing on Anxiety, Anger and Alienation: an Interview About “The Pecariat”

Counterpunch - Tue, 2019-03-19 15:58

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

“The primary antagonist of the traditional proletarian was the boss. The primary antagonistic of the precariat is the state. A precariat revolt (hopefully peaceful) will lead to a new distinctive distribution system,”

– Guy Standing, March 2019

In the U. S., Guy Standing, 71-years-old, and a professor at the University of London, has never received the recognition he deserves as a scholar and a writer. In part, that’s because he hasn’t expressed himself in terms of sound bytes. Moreover, in the U.S. he hasn’t effectively publicized himself, his books, and his trenchant ideas about what he calls “the precariat,” which he defines as a new, global social class that he views as the political and economic key to a future that would beneficially all humanity.  The mass media hasn’t wanted to give Standing and his work their due lest they stir up the populace; some traditional Marxists have also scoffed at his words and concepts.

The term “precariat” is so new and so little used, at least in the U.S., that every time it shows up on my screen, my computer underlines it in red as though to say it’s not a real word and that I’ve misspelled it. I have not done so.

In fact, Standing’s breakthrough book, The Precariat, which was first published in English in 2011, has been translated into 23 languages around the world and has jumpstarted conversations about work, wages, rents and global economic insecurity.  I first heard the word precariat and its cousin, ”precarity” from two men who live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area, where women, children and men live lives that are increasingly precarious economically, socially and psychologically.

Keith Hennessy is a dancer; Stephen Clarke is a schoolteacher. They both used the word “precariat” on the same day, though not at the same time. I was interviewing them for an exhibit about punk, protest and performance art in the 1980s when their lives were a lot from precarious than they are now. Clarke belonged to a rock band. Hennessey performed in the streets. Both figured out how to survive in a stressful time and place, though they are still members of the precariat, which is growing by leaps and bounds in the San Francisco Bay Area where the tech industry and a new generation of millionaires, along with corporate greed and an avaricious class of landlords has pushed rents higher and higher and forced working class families to leave the city.

Once I read the word “precariat” on the lips of Clarke and Hennessey I went online and found Professor Guy Standing the author of several books including Work After Globalization (2009), The Precariat (2011) and Plunder the Commons, out later this year.  I emailed him a series of questions. He provided candid, comprehensive and lengthy answers, which I have edited in the interests of compression. Welcome to the world of the precariat, which has begun to flex its muscle and to clamor for reform if not revolution.

Q: Has the term “precariat” tipped?

A: Undoubtedly it has. Every day I receive emails from people around the world who say that they belong to the precariat. I have talked about the subject in 40 different countries. I have just returned from India where I gave two lectures about the precariat. In January I spoke before an audience of 3,000 people in The Hague, in the Netherlands and 6,000 people in Leipzig in Germany. I have delivered my talk at Davos for the past three years. In June I’ll be in Winnipeg, Canada to spread the word.

Q: In what places is there a deep understanding of the concept?

A: In Scotland they really get it, also in Italy, Spain, Japan and Korea. In the U.S., where the precariat is growing, leftist voices are still stuck with the term “working class,” which I think obscures what is happening. The U.S. media has been mute.

Q: Do you mean to overturn traditional Marxist terms or embellish them and bring them up to date?

A: When The Precariat was first published I was attacked rather viciously by old style Marxists who accused me of “dividing the working class.”

I believe that concepts, which might be suitable for one era—Marx was writing at a time of rising capitalism—may cease to be suitable for later eras. The old proletariat, male dominated, laboring full time in factories and mines is profoundly different from the emerging precariat, conceptually and politically.

But please note that I have drawn on Marxian concepts in defining the precariat: distinctive relations of production, distribution as well as relations to the state. I also add consciousness, which makes today’s precariat the new dangerous class.  The Italian translation of The Precariat was Precari: La Nuova Clase Explosiva, which made me angry.

Q: Where and when did your study of the precariat begin?

A: In the 1980s I wrote and co-wrote a series of monographs about the growth of labor market flexibility in eight European countries, including Sweden and Finland—then extolled by Social Democrats as close to Nirvana—and concluded that their models were unsustainable. I was convinced that the neo-liberal economic policies, pursued by Thatcher and Reagan, would produce class fragmentation and more intensified inequalities.

With funding from the International Labor Organization (ILO) under the umbrella of the UN, I gathered data from 80,000 firms, and 68,000 workers in 20 counties. I personally interviewed hundreds of factory managers, along with thousands of workers. My colleagues and I produced a comprehensive 500-page report, Economic Security for a Better World (2004), for the ILO. Representatives of the U.S. on the ILO governing board immediately attacked it. The ILO director withdrew the report. Shortly thereafter I resigned and got to work on the precariat.

Q: You write about the four related As: anger, anomie, anxiety and alienation, which are shared widely across class lines in the U.S. and France: hence Trump and his supporters here and les gilles jeunes there. The concepts are not new are they?

A: True, there has always been anger, anxiety, alienation and anomie. What’s distinctive now is that members of the precariat tend to suffer acutely from all four at the same time. Anomie stems from a low probability of upward mobility. Alienation stems from having to do a lot of activities that one doesn’t want to do, but is capable of doing. Anxiety stems from chronic economic uncertainty, and insecurity, and anger stems largely from a feeling that no political party or politicians in the mainstream articulate an agenda geared to the precariat.

Q: Is the precariat a homogenous group.

A: No, it’s divided into three factions: atavists who look back and want to revive a lost past and who tend to vote neo-fascist and populist; nostalgics are mainly immigrants and non-citizens who feel they have no home anywhere in the world and keep their heads down politically, except on rare days when they express their rage; and the progressives who go to college and university and graduate with debts and a bits-and-pieces existence.

As the numbers of progressives grow so too does their political re-engagement. They are not just victims. They have been infiltrating moribund social democrat parties and are setting up new parties and movements of their own. Many of them are campaigning for a basic income, a policy I have advocated for 30 years.

Q: What’s your book The Corruption of Capitalism (2017) about?

A: I argue that we’re in an era of rentier capitalism and do not have a free market economy. In the conclusion of that book, I write that only a precariat revolt (hopefully peaceful) will lead to a new distinctive distribution system. I also say that the primary antagonist of the traditional proletarian was the boss, the capitalist and that the primary antagonistic of the precariat is the state itself.

Q; I have known and still know people who are in precarious economic and social circumstances. Do you?

A: They are everywhere and they’re all wondering where, if anywhere, they’re going.

Categories: News for progressives

The Brutal Legacy of Bloody Sunday is a Powerful Warning to Those Hoping to Save Brexit

Counterpunch - Tue, 2019-03-19 15:57

Photo Source SeanMack – Wikimedia Commons

The prosecution of a single paratrooper for allegedly murdering two out of the 13 innocent civil rights marchers in Derry in 1972 has provoked inevitable criticism from knee-jerk defenders of the British army.

They stubbornly refuse to admit that the greatest recruiting sergeant for the Provisional IRA during the Troubles were the killings carried out by British army troops on Bloody Sunday. The wounds in the nationalist community in Northern Ireland opened on that day have never closed and, thanks to the meagreness of the judicial response to the massacre, they never will do.

“Massacre” is certainly the right word to use since the 12-year-long Saville Inquiry, published in 2010, concluded that none of the 28 people shot dead or wounded by the soldiers as they took part in a protest march against internment without trial posed any threat to those troops or “was armed with a firearm”.

All this happened 47 years ago, but the delay was the result of a whitewash by the Widgery tribunal followed by decades of stone-walling by the government. The passage of time has not mitigated what happened or diminished its continuing effect on the present.

The same is true of the other “legacy” issues that are becoming more, rather than less, significant as Northern Ireland becomes more polarised and divided in the wake of the Brexit referendum. The problem might have been solved by a general amnesty, which the British government and Sinn Fein would have found to their advantage – but already in calmer times this was too politically sensitive to be implemented because all parties in Northern Ireland would like to see a partial amnesty which would protect their own partisans, but force their enemies to answer for their crimes. In reality, an amnesty for one means an amnesty for all, but this is not politically saleable.

If compromise was difficult before, it is impossible now: as the prosecution of a single soldier for Bloody Sunday was being announced, Theresa May’s half-capsized government was trying to seduce the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to back its Brexit deal. This is the moment when May, if her government is to survive, must give concessions to the DUP and do nothing to antagonise them. If the party realises that it will never be so influential again and, if it wants concessions on the Irish border or the Good Friday Agreement, this is the moment to strike.

The seriousness of the situation is being underestimated. What we are seeing is the two most divisive issues in modern British history coming together in a toxic blend: these are Brexit and the Irish question.

People have searched for past examples of the deep fractures that have developed within British political life since the Brexit referendum. The crises identified as similar include everything from the reformation to the Great Reform Bill and the Suez crisis. But the closest analogy is probably the divisions generated by Irish home rule – which became known as the Irish question – in the years after prime minister Gladstone introduced the First Home Rule Bill in 1886. “The next three decades saw the Irish question polarise British political parties as it had not done before,” wrote Ronan Fanning in his compelling book Fatal Path, British Government and Irish Revolution 1912-1922.

Differences over Ireland generated the same poisonous rancour as the Brexit debate, divisions varying in intensity over 36 years but never entirely cooling down. They only ended, and then only temporarily, when Ireland was partitioned into two states, the largely Catholic Irish Free State (later the Irish Republic) and a Protestant dominated Northern Ireland.

The highly sectarian unionist state did not last, losing its grip on power in the years after 1968. Despite the pronged violence, the Troubles never became a political party issue at Westminster as Home Rule had once been. A reason why Tony Blair and a Labour government were able to negotiate an end to the violence was that the foundations for compromise had been laid by the previous Conservative government under John Major, which had declared itself strictly neutral between unionists and nationalists.

All this has already been going into reverse. British government neutrality, a central feature of the Good Friday Agreement, was discarded in 2017 when Theresa May reached her agreement with the DUP to keep her government in office. Under David Cameron the role of the Irish government in stabilising Northern Ireland was minimised or ignored.

The Irish question and the Brexit question are now coming together in a destructive way. The British government and, above all, the Brexiteers have embraced the DUP as if it was the sole representative of Northern Ireland.

Two leading advocates of Brexit and former secretaries of state for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson and Theresa Villiers, stated during the referendum that the border would not become an issue. “That was either delusional or mendacious,” Lord Patten was quoted as saying in an interview earlier this week.

Paterson and Villiers are not alone: other Conservative politicians have carelessly whipped up feelings in a place which only recently endured the bloodiest guerrilla war in Western Europe since the Second World War.

Randolph Churchill wrote in 1886 that if Gladstone “went for Home Rule, the Orange card would be the one to play. Please God it may turn out to be the ace of trumps and not the two.”

Boris Johnson played a very similar card when he denounced May’s Brexit deal in a speech to an ecstatic DUP annual conference in Belfast at the end of last year. “We would have to leave Northern Ireland behind as an economic semi-colony of the EU and we would be damaging the fabric of the union,” he told them. “Unless we junk this backstop, we will find that Brussels has got us exactly where they want us – a satellite state.”

Bombastic stuff like this may be harmless enough in Woking or Orpington, but in Belfast people have been killing each other because of what they deemed to be threats to the union. Johnson may know or care nothing about the future of the Northern Irish unionists, but he had no hesitation – for his own political advantage – in fanning the fears of people who already see existential threats all around them. The ingredients for the Bloody Sundays of the future are slowly accumulating.

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