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Sanders’ Criminal Justice Plan Would Radically Cut Prison Population

Sun, 2019-08-18 22:24

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is proposing a criminal justice overhaul that aims to cut the nation’s prison population in half, end mandatory minimum sentencing, ban private prisons and legalize marijuana. He says the current system does not fairly treat people of color, addicts or the mentally ill.

“We have a system that imprisons and destroys the lives of millions of people,” Sanders told The Associated Press before the planned released of his proposal Sunday. “It’s racist in disproportionately affecting the African American and Latino communities, and it’s a system that needs fundamental change.”

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Sanders was promoting the plan during a weekend of campaigning in South Carolina, where the majority of the Democratic electorate is African American. The Vermont senator, who won the support of some younger black Democrats during the 2016 primary, has stepped up his references to racial disparities, particularly during stops in the South and urban areas.

As president, Sanders said he would abolish mandatory minimum sentencing and reinstate a federal parole system, end the “three strikes law” and expand the use of alternative sentencing, including community supervision and halfway houses. The goal is to reduce the prison population by one-half.

“A very significant number of people who are behind bars today are dealing with one form or another of illness,” Sanders said. “These should be treated as health issues, not from a criminal perspective.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness , 2 million people with mental illness are booked into jails annually.

Taking aim at what his proposal calls “for-profit prison profiteering,” Sanders would ban private prisons, make prison phone calls and other inmate communications free, and audit prison commissaries for price gouging and fees.

The plan would legalize marijuana and expunge previous marijuana convictions, and end a cash bail system that Sanders says keeps hundreds of thousands who have not been convicted of a crime languishing in jail because they cannot afford bail.

“Can you believe that, in the year 2019, 400,000 people are in jail awaiting a trial because they are poor?” Sanders said. “That is a moral outrage, it is a legal outrage.”

According to the Prison Policy Initiative , more than 460,000 people are being held in local jails around the country while they await trial, with a median bail amount of $10,000 for felony offenses.

Sanders wants to improve relations between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. To do that, he proposes to end federal programs that provide military equipment to local police forces, establish federal standards for the use of body cameras, provide bias training and require that the Justice Department review all officer-involved shootings.

“You have a lot of resentment in minority communities all over this country, who see police forces not as an asset but as an invading force,” Sanders said.

On capital punishment, Sanders’ plan formalizes his call to end the federal death penalty and urges states to eliminate the punishment as well.

“When we talk about violence in society and trying to lower the levels of violence, it is not appropriate that the state itself is part of capital punishment,” Sanders said.

Sanders said that over the long term, his plan will save the public money because of reductions to overall incarceration costs.

“It will cost money but it will pay for itself many, many times over,” Sanders said. “Locking people up is very, very expensive.”


Kinnard can be reached at

Why Lula Thinks the U.S. Is Behind ‘Operation Car Wash’

Sun, 2019-08-18 21:20

For former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, events in Brazil since the 2016 coup that deposed President Dilma Rousseff were orchestrated by the US government. “Everything that is happening has the hand of the United States on it…. The US created the Lava Jato investigation to take our oil,” he said, speaking for the first time after Supreme Court (STF) prevented his transfer to a São Paulo prison. Lula’s interview, with veteran journalist Bob Fernandes, aired oln TVE, a public television station from Bahia, on Friday, August 16th.

It was the former President’s first interview for a public television station since his arrest on April 7, 2018. In the interview, the former president said he does not know how the information revealed by the Intercept website in recent weeks arrives to the Supreme Court, but that, after hearing the messages between former judge Sergio Moro and prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, it should make corrections to his conviction.

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When asked about Lava Jato task force leader, Federal Prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, Lula said that, “since the day he gave a press conference saying he had no evidence against me and was only acting on his convictions, the National Prosecutors Council should have removed him.”

Regarding economic policy, Lula stated that Minister Paulo Guedes is trying to “destroy the Brazilian economy”, and asked “where are the nationalist military officers?”.

Regarding the reliance on coerced plea bargain testimonies in the Lava Jato operation, he said that “what happened is that was witnesses were awarded [with sentence reduction and illicit asset retention] without having to prove anything they said.”

On the recent Intercept revelations that former judge Sérgio Moro allegedly ordered the Lava Jato prosecutors not to seize impeachment architect and Congressional Leader Eduardo Cunha’s cellphones, he asked, “do you think it is normal for the Federal Police tot go to my house and seize everything, but then not have the courage to confiscate Eduardo Cunha’s phone?”

On the issue of TV Globo and journalistic bias, Lula said, “ “Bolsonaro was the monster that emerged, but it was not what Rede Globo had planned for. They didn’t have the courage to launch [TV variety show producer] Luciano Huck as their candidate. And so far, as of today [August 14th] astonishingly Globohasn’t published any of the messages revealed by Intercept.”

The full two hour interview with the Lula can now be seen below: 

This article, from Rede Brasil Atual, was translated and edited by Brian Mier and can be seen in its original Portuguese here.

Trump Is Betraying America’s Ranchers With NAFTA 2.0

Sun, 2019-08-18 20:20

“MAGA,” blusters Donald Trump — Make America Great Again!

America’s ranching families, however, would like Trump to come off his high horse and get serious about a more modest goal, namely: Make America COOL Again.

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COOL stands for Country-of-Origin-Labeling, a straightforward law simply requiring that agribusiness giants put labels on packages of steak, pork chops, and other products to tell us whether the meat came from the United States, China, Brazil, or wherever else in the world.

This useful information empowers consumers to decide where their families’ food dollars go. But multinational powerhouses like Tyson Foods and Cargill don’t want you and me making such decisions.

In 2012, the meat monopolists got the World Trade Organization to decree that our nation’s COOL law violated global trade rules — and our corporate-submissive congress critters meekly repealed the law.

Then came Donald Trump and his Made-in-America campaign, promising struggling ranchers that he’d restore the COOL label as a centerpiece of his new NAFTA deal. Ranching families cheered because getting that “American Made” brand on their products would mean more sales and better prices.

But wait — Trump has now issued his new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and — where’s the beef? In the grandiose, 1,809-page document, COOL is not even mentioned once.

Worse, it slaps America’s hard-hit ranching families in the face, because it allows multinational meatpackers to keep shipping foreign beef into the U.S. market that doesn’t meet our own food safety standards. Aside from the “yuck” factor and health issues, this gives Tyson and other giants an incentive to abandon U.S. ranchers entirely.

Gas-Fueled Cars Will Soon Be a Thing of the Past

Sun, 2019-08-18 19:29

The days of oil as a fuel for cars, whether petrol or diesel, are numbered − because the economies offered by wind and solar energy and other cheap renewables, combined with electric vehicles, are irresistible, a French bank says.

BNP Paribas Asset Management calculates that oil majors like Exxon, BP and Shell will have to produce petrol from oil at $10 a barrel (the current price is $58) to compete with electricity on price, while for diesel, it says, oil can cost no more than $19 a barrel.

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“The oil industry has never before in its history faced the kind of threat that renewable electricity in tandem with electric vehicles poses to its business model,” the bank says. Electric vehicles (EVs) could easily replace 40% of the current market for crude oil.

The far lower cost of driving electric vehicles, plus the environmental benefits of cleaner air and the reduction in carbon emissions, will make it overwhelmingly attractive to governments to switch from fossil fuels to renewables for powering the world’s light vehicles.

“The economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind- and solar-powered EVs are now in relentless and irreversible decline”

Warnings that Big Oil’s position is precarious have been sounding for several years. Some see the global industry reaching its peak within the next decade. In several countries car plants are being converted to all-electric production, a move perhaps prompted by a wish to regain market share after a less than happy episode in consumer relations.

But the bank’s report for professional investors, Wells, Wires, and Wheels, will certainly make bleak reading for the oil industry. Its conclusions are based on the bank’s calculations of how much it costs to get energy to the car wheels.

Its analysis concludes that “after adjusting for all of the costs and all of the energy losses of delivering oil from the well to the wheels on the one hand, and renewable electricity to the wheels of EVs on the other, new wind and solar projects combined with EVs would deliver 6.2 to 7 times more useful energy than petrol”.

This is with oil at its current market price of $60 a barrel. Renewables would also provide 3.2 to 3.6 times more power than diesel for the same cost.

Rising efficiency

The report says: “Moreover, this is on the basis of the costs and efficiency rates of the renewable electricity technologies as they exist today. Yet, over time, the costs of renewables will only continue to fall, while their efficiency rates will continue to rise.”

The report concedes that at the moment the oil industry has huge advantages of scale, because it is already servicing the world’s vehicle fleet. To take its business away, renewables have to scale up and provide the quantity of electricity and the number of charging points required for a mass electric vehicle market.

It argues, however, that oil has a major disadvantage. For every dollar spent at the pump on petrol, nearly half that cost has already gone on refining the oil, transporting it to the pump, marketing and tax. Electricity on the other hand is delivered to cars along wires at only a tiny fraction of the cost of oil-based fuels.

The bank concludes that the oil industry also has another huge disadvantage. It has to decide on future investments in new oil fields without knowing in advance the occasional wild fluctuations in oil price.

Declining oil yield

Each year the oil majors have to make such decisions about fields which need to be added to production to replace the 10% annual decline in the yield from old fields, leaving them working 10 years in advance.

By the bank’s calculations, unless the new oil can be brought on stream at $10 a barrel or less, the oil companies will have to sell petrol and diesel at a loss to compete on price with electric cars running on renewables.

Investment decisions made now on the basis of an oil price of $60 a barrel risk creating assets that cannot be sold profitably and would have to be left in the ground.

The report says: “We conclude that the economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind- and solar-powered EVs are now in relentless and irreversible decline, with far-reaching implications for both policymakers and the oil majors.”

Corporate Media Are Downplaying Resistance to Brazil’s Far-Right Leader

Sun, 2019-08-18 16:03

August 13 protest against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Belo Horizonte, one of 211 cities where demonstrations took place  (Dowglas Silva).

Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets of 211 cities on August 13 to protest far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s austerity cuts and privatization plans for the public university system. It was the third in series of national education strikes, dubbed “the Education Tsunamis,” organized by national students unions together with teachers unions affiliated with the Central Ùnica de Trabalhadores (Unified Workers Central/CUT)—the second-largest labor union confederation in the Americas.

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Organized from the bottom up by teachers, high school and university students, through thousands of democratic assemblies across the country, communication between activists in the different towns and cities insured that the August 13 street protests were staggered throughout the day to achieve maximum impact. Starting in smaller cities during the morning rush hour, with protests numbering in the low thousands, they increased in size as the day progressed, with crowds of 30,000–50,000 in larger cities like Recife, culminating during the evening rush hour in Brazil’s three largest cities, with an estimated crowd of 100,000 shutting down Avenida Paulista in the heart of São Paulo’s financial district.

There, instead of the usual honking cars, groups of teenagers danced and sang things like, “I want education, to be intelligent, because for stupid we already have our president.” Thousands of older people came out in solidarity with the teachers and students, and the atmosphere was one of hope against Bolsonaro’s sub-fascist project, and its attempt to purge the education system of critical thinking through a revival of the old Nazi trope of “Cultural Marxism.”

In short, it seemed like the perfect feel-good event for newspapers like the Guardian and the New York Times to share with their liberal readers. After all, after the US, Brazil is the most populous, largest in area and wealthiest nation in the Americas. After all, both newspapers have taken editorial positions against Bolsonaro, and regularly criticize his environmental and human rights abuses. After all, both papers have run numerous articles celebrating the spirit of the young protesters in Hong Kong and Venezuela in recent months, complete with inspiring quotes and photographs from the ground.

The Guardian‘s photograph (5/26/19) of a pro-Bolsonaro rally is photographed from below—concealing the small size of the crowd and giving the demonstrators a heroic pose.

Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out to be the case. The Guardian, which ran two articles about smaller pro-Bolsonaro protests in May, with photos of protesters shot from below to make them appear heroic, did not even mention it. The New York Times ran a 129-word stub from the AP that low-balled the number of cities where protests took place, and says they were smaller than the Education Tsunami protests in May (factually correct, but contextually misleading, since they were still huge).

The issue of under-reporting and ignoring protests by Brazil’s so-called “organized left”—the labor unions and popular social movements that make up the traditional support base for the Workers Party—is a historic problem. One of the main causes for this is that the organizations responsible for generating official crowd numbers in Brazil are its historically neofascist state military police forces.

Brazil’s military police, which run organized crime militias and death squadssell weapons to the drug-trafficking gangs, and commit torture and summary executions at the rate of 5 per day in Rio de Janeiro alone, are responsible for providing crowd numbers. Brazil’s traditional media outlets, like Globo TV, which was created by the 1965–85 military dictatorship as a means of social control and are nearly as conservative, follow their lead. This explains why, for example, similar sized protests for and against the illegal impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in March, 2015, could be reported in the media, respectively, as 1 million and 9,000.

Everyone in the foreign correspondent community knows that the Brazilian military police are not impartial judges of crowd size. When Anglo newspapers do report on progressive protests in Brazil, however, they tend to play along with the game.

During the lead up to the 2018 presidential election, hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets in cities around the world in the #NotHim protests against Bolsonaro. In São Paulo City, an estimated 150,000 came out to Largo da Batata, and protests took place in some 30 other cities across the state, which is home to around 20% of Brazil’s total population. The São Paulo State Military Police decided to simply not release crowd numbers. Others states followed suit, and zero was added for each of them into the total estimate.

The foreign correspondents knew this—it was clearly explained in all the Brazilian papers. Nevertheless, the New York Times spoke of “crowds in the tens of thousands” and the Guardian called it “thousands.” These artificially deflated numbers gave the false impression that women’s resistance to Bolsonaro was weaker than it really was.

Photo of anti-Bolsonaro protest in Alagoas from theConfederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Educação website (8/13/19).

Underreporting of left protests is such an ongoing problem in the Brazilian media that for the last five years, activist/media collectives like Midia Ninja and Jornalistas Livres, which have millions of social media followers, have sent volunteers to all of the major protests around the country to film and photograph crowd sizes. Labor unions now do the same, and everyone shares the information online.

When, for example, the National Education Workers Confederation announced, as it did on August 14, that protests took place in 211 cities, anyone could easily go onto their site and see photos and video evidence from each city backing their claim. So why don’t gringo journalists ever question the official numbers? Even more importantly, why would they decide not to report on events like the August 13 Education Tsunami at all?

Is it just sloppy reporting? Freelance journalist pay has dropped significantly in the last ten years, and many correspondents don’t have a full grasp of Portuguese. Could it just be that they are too inexperienced to question what is reported in Brazil’s ideologically compromisedcommercial media? Could their pay be so low that they just paraphrase articles from Brazilian newspapers?

The problem is bigger than individual flaws with foreign correspondents. Like Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Jair Bolsonaro represents what George Monbiot refers to as a “killer clown” (Guardian7/26/19). According to Monbiot, clowns like Bolsonaro provide distraction and deflection for elites. “While the kleptocrats fleece us,” he says, “we are urged to look elsewhere.”

While the commercial media distracts us with horror stories about Jair Bolsonaro the killer clown, their corporate advertisers are making billions from the deregulation of pesticides and mining, petroleum and pension fund privatization in Brazil. You have to ask yourself if these newspapers really want Bolsonaro to leave office. Could wanting him to stick around be why they prioritize feel-bad click bait about Bolsonaro’s clownish behavior over showing solidarity with the people fighting against his government?

Regardless of the motives, one thing is for sure: Downplaying and ignoring organized resistance supports Bolsonaro’s sub-fascist project for Brazil, and the US corporations that benefit from it.

Dozens Dead or Hurt in Wedding Party Blast in Afghan Capital

Sun, 2019-08-18 10:21

KABUL, Afghanistan—A suicide-bomb blast ripped through a wedding party on a busy Saturday night in Afghanistan’s capital and dozens of people were killed or wounded, a government official said. More than 1,000 people had been invited, one witness said, as fears grew that it could be the deadliest attack in Kabul this year.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi told The Associated Press the attacker set off explosives among the wedding participants. Both the Taliban and a local affiliate of the Islamic State group carry out bloody attacks in the capital.

The blast occurred near the stage where musicians were and “all the youths, children and all the people who were there were killed,” witness Gul Mohammad said. One of the wounded, Mohammad Toofan, said that “a lot of guests were martyred.”

Officials were not expected to release a toll until daytime Sunday.

“There are so many dead and wounded,” said Ahmad Omid, a survivor who said about 1,200 guests had been invited to the wedding for his father’s cousin. “I was with the groom in the other room when we heard the blast and then I couldn’t find anyone. Everyone was lying all around the hall.”

Outside a local hospital, families wailed. Others were covered in blood.

The blast at the Dubai City wedding hall in western Kabul, a part of the city that many in the minority Shiite Hazara community call home, shattered a period of relative calm. On Aug. 7, a Taliban car bomb aimed at Afghan security forces detonated on the same road, killing 14 people and wounding 145 — most of them women, children and other civilians.

Kabul’s huge, brightly lit wedding halls are centers of community life in a city weary of decades of war, with thousands of dollars spent on a single evening.

“Devastated by the news of a suicide attack inside a wedding hall in Kabul. A heinous crime against our people; how is it possible to train a human and ask him to go and blow himself (up) inside a wedding?!!” Sediq Seddiqi, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said in a Twitter post.

The wedding halls also serve as meeting places, and in November at least 55 people were killed when a suicide bomber sneaked into a Kabul wedding hall where hundreds of Muslim religious scholars and clerics had gathered to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The Taliban denied involvement in an attack that bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State affiliate.

Saturday night’s explosion came a few days after the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, with Kabul residents visiting family and friends, and just before Afghanistan marks its 100th independence day on Monday under heavier security in a city long familiar with checkpoints and razor wire.

The blast comes at a greatly uncertain time in Afghanistan as the United States and the Taliban near a deal to end a nearly 18-year war, America’s longest conflict.

The Afghan government has been sidelined from those discussions, and presidential spokesman Seddiqi said earlier Saturday that his government was waiting to hear results of President Donald Trump’s meeting Friday with his national security team about the negotiations. Top issues include a U.S. troop withdrawal and Taliban guarantees not to let Afghanistan become a launching pad for global terror attacks.

While the Taliban earlier this year pledged to do more to protect civilians, it continues to stage deadly attacks against Afghan security forces and others in what is seen by many as an attempt to strengthen its position at the negotiating table.

The conflict continues to take a horrific toll on civilians. Last year more than 3,800, including more than 900 children, were killed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, U.S. and allied forces, the Islamic State affiliate and other actors, the United Nations said.

At Least 13 People Arrested at Portland, Oregon, Protests

Sun, 2019-08-18 02:14

PORTLAND, Ore.—Police arrested at least 13 people and seized metal poles, bear spray and other weapons Saturday as hundreds of far-right protesters and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators swarmed downtown Portland, Oregon.

Authorities closed bridges and streets to try to keep the rival groups apart. The city’s mayor said the situation was “potentially dangerous and volatile,” and President Donald Trump tweeted “Portland is being watched very closely.”

As of early afternoon, most of the right-wing groups had left the area via a downtown bridge. Police used officers on bikes and in riot gear to keep black-clad, helmet- and mask-wearing anti-fascist protesters — known as antifa — from following them.

But hundreds of people remained downtown and on nearby streets, and there were skirmishes throughout the day. Police declared a gathering of mostly left-wing protesters near Pioneer Courthouse Square a “civil disturbance” and told people to leave.

One person was injured and transported via ambulance, and three other people were evaluated by medics, Portland Police spokeswoman Lt. Tina Jones said. The injuries were minor, she said.

Jones said at one point there were about 1,200 on the streets, but that number had fallen to about 400 late in the afternoon.

The events began late Saturday morning. Flag-waving members of the Proud Boys, Three Percenters militia group and others gathered downtown, some also wearing body armor and helmets. Police said they had seized the weapons, including shields, from multiple groups as they assembled along the Willamette River, which runs through the city.

More than two dozen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, were in the city for the right-wing rally that was expected to draw people from across the country. Portland Police said all of the city’s 1,000 officers would be on duty for the gathering that was hyped on social media and elsewhere for weeks.

In the days leading up to the event, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said people who espoused hate or engaged in violence were “not welcome.”

In a Saturday morning tweet, Trump wrote: “Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job.”

He also wrote that “major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an ‘ORGANIZATION of TERROR.'”

But it wasn’t immediately clear what he meant by that as there’s no mechanism for the United States government to declare a domestic organization a terror group. The State Department maintains a list of designated foreign terrorist organizations, such as al Qaida, but there’s no comparable designation or list for American groups.

Wheeler responded to the president’s tweet in an interview with CNN, saying, “frankly, it’s not helpful.”

Wheeler added: “This is a potentially dangerous and volatile situation, and adding to that noise doesn’t do anything to support or help the efforts that are going on here in Portland.”

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa. Also on hand were people dressed in colorful outfits and those who attended a nearby prayer service, holding signs that said slogans such as “No Trump, No NRA.”

Self-described anti-fascists had vowed to confront the rally, while leaders from the far right urged their followers to turn out in large numbers to protest the arrests of six members of right-wing groups in the run-up to the event.

Patriot Prayer’s Joey Gibson, who organized similar rallies in 2017 and 2018 that erupted in clashes, surrendered Friday on an arrest warrant for felony rioting. He was at a confrontation that broke out on May 1 outside a bar where antifa members had gathered after a May Day demonstration.

In a video he livestreamed on Facebook, Gibson accused the police of playing politics by arresting him but not the masked demonstrators who beat up conservative blogger Andy Ngo at a June 29 rally that drew national attention.

A video of that attack went viral and led the Proud Boys, who have been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to organize Saturday’s event.

Police continue to investigate several incidents from clashes on May 1 and June 29 and are politically neutral, Jones said.

In addition to the Proud Boys and Three Percenters, the white nationalist American Guard also said it would have members in Portland.

The Oath Keepers, another far-right militia group, said in a statement they were pulling out of the rally because organizers have not done enough to keep white supremacist groups away.

Authorities asked residents not to call 911 unless it’s a life-threatening emergency and to stay away from the heart of downtown.

‘Easy Rider’ Star and Writer Peter Fonda Has Died at 79

Sat, 2019-08-17 07:01

LOS ANGELES — Actor Peter Fonda, the son of a Hollywood legend who became a movie star in his own right after both writing and starring in the counter-culture classic “Easy Rider,” has died. His family said in a statement that Fonda died Friday morning at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79.

The official cause of death was respiratory failure due to lung cancer.

“In one of the saddest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our hearts,” the family said in a statement. “As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy.”

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Born into Hollywood royalty as Henry Fonda’s only son, Peter Fonda carved his own path with his non-conformist tendencies and earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing the psychedelic road trip movie “Easy Rider.” He would never win that golden statuette, but would later be nominated for his leading performance as a Vietnam veteran and widowed beekeeper in “Ulee’s Gold.”

Fonda was born in New York in 1940 to parents whose personas were the very opposite of the rebellious images their kids would cultivate. Father Henry Fonda was already a Hollywood giant, known for playing straight-shooting cowboys and soldiers. Mother Frances Ford Seymour was a Canadian-born U.S. socialite.

He was only 10 years old when his mother died. She had a nervous breakdown after learning of her husband’s affair and was confined to a hospital. In 1950 she killed herself, slashing her throat with a razor. It would be about five years before Peter Fonda learned the truth behind her death.

Fonda accidentally shot himself and nearly died on his 11th birthday. It was a story he told often, including during an acid trip with members of The Beatles and The Byrds during which Fonda reportedly said, “I know what it’s like to be dead.”

John Lennon would use the line in the Beatles song “She Said She Said.”

Fonda went to private schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut as a child, moving on to the University of Nebraska in his father’s home state, joining the same acting group — the Omaha Community Playhouse — where Henry Fonda got his start.

He then returned to New York and joined the Cecilwood Theatre, getting small roles on Broadway and guest parts on television shows including “Naked City” and “Wagon Train.”

Fonda had an estranged relationship with his father throughout most of his life, but said that they grew closer over the years before Henry Fonda died in 1982.

“Peter is all deep sweetness, kind and sensitive to his core. He would never intentionally harm anything or anyone. In fact, he once argued with me that vegetables had souls (it was the ’60s),” his sister Jane Fonda said in her 2005 memoir. “He has a strange, complex mind that grasps and hangs on to details ranging from the minutiae of his childhood to cosmic matters, with a staggering amount in between. Dad couldn’t appreciate and nurture Peter’s sensitivity, couldn’t see him as he was. Instead he tried to shame Peter into his own image of stoic independence.”

Although Peter never achieved the status of his father or even his older sister, the impact of “Easy Rider,” which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, was enough to cement his place in popular culture.

Fonda collaborated with another struggling young actor, Dennis Hopper, on the script about two weed-smoking, drug-slinging bikers on a trip through the Southwest as they made their way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

On the way, Fonda and Hopper befriend a drunken young lawyer — Jack Nicholson in a breakout role — but raise the dander of Southern rednecks and are murdered before they can return home.

Fonda’s character Wyatt wore a stars-and-stripes helmet and rode a motorcycle called “Captain America,” re-purposing traditional images for the counter-culture.

Actress Illeana Douglas tweeted her condolences Friday with the hashtag “RIPCaptainAmerica.”

“‘Easy Rider’ depicted the rise of hippie culture, condemned the establishment, and celebrated freedom,” Douglas wrote. “Peter Fonda embodied those values and instilled them in a generation.”

Fonda had played bikers before “Easy Rider.” In the 1966 Roger Corman-directed “Wild Angels,” in which he plays Heavenly Blues, leader of a band of Hells Angels, Fonda delivers a speech that could’ve served as both a personal mantra and a manifesto for the youth of the ’60s.

“We wanna be free!” Fonda tells a preacher in the film. “We wanna be free to do what we wanna do. We wanna be free to ride. We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man! And we wanna get loaded!”

Fonda produced “Easy Rider” and Hopper directed it for a meager $380,000. It went on to gross $40 million worldwide, a substantial sum for its time.

The film was a hit at Cannes, netted a best-screenplay Oscar nomination for Fonda, Hopper and Terry Southern, and has since been listed on the American Film Institute’s ranking of the top 100 American films. The establishment gave its official blessing in 1998 when “Easy Rider” was included in the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

In 1969, he told The Associated Press that, “As for my generation, it was time they started doing their own speaking. There has been too much of the ‘silent majority’ — at both ends of the generation gap.”

Although he did reflect later in a 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter that it may have impacted his career prospects: “It certainly put a nail in the coffin of ‘the next Dean Jones at Disney.'”

Fonda’s output may have been prolific, but was not always well-regarded which he was acutely aware of. But he said that “Ulee’s Gold,” which came out in 1997, was the “most fun” he’d ever had making a movie. He wore the same wire-rimmed glasses his father wore in “On Golden Pond” in the role, although he said beyond that he was not channeling Henry Fonda in the performance. He lost out on the Oscar to Nicholson, who won for “As Good as It Gets.”

Customs and Border Protection Outage Snarls Major Airports

Sat, 2019-08-17 06:44

DALLAS — Travelers flying into the United States on Friday ran into long lines at major airports nationwide because of a temporary computer outage that affected the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

Airports warned travelers — both Americans returning home and foreign visitors — of delays, and some travelers tweeted photos and videos of huge lines.

A CBP spokeswoman said the systems were running again by early evening on the East Coast.

The agency didn’t precisely describe the breakdown, but the spokeswoman said there was “no indication of any nefarious activity.” She said officers were able to access security-related databases and maintain security standards while screening people manually.

Rebekah Tromble, an associate professor at George Washington University, tweeted a video clip in which she panned over the arrival hall at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia. She estimated there were at least 5,000 people packed into the hall.

Tromble was asked if she could see whether customs agents were screening people manually.

“It’s not clear from my vantage point. I’m still too far back in line,” she answered.

Airports in Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, New York and elsewhere notified travelers of potential delays at the beginning of one of the last weekends of the summer vacation season.

The port authority that operates New York’s JFK Airport and the airport in Newark, New Jersey, said additional staff and police officers monitored situation and helped where needed. Los Angeles International Airport said it sent staffers to CBP areas to help direct travelers.


Verena Dobnik in New York contributed to this report.

Medical Examiner Confirms Epstein Death a Suicide by Hanging

Sat, 2019-08-17 04:37

NEW YORK — Jeffrey Epstein’s prison death has been confirmed a suicide by hanging, the medical examiner’s office said Friday.

Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City on Aug. 10, touching off outrage and disbelief over how such a high-profile prisoner, known for socializing with powerful people including presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, could have gone unwatched.

The Bureau of Prisons said Epstein had apparently killed himself, but that didn’t squelch conspiracy theories about his death.

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Messages seeking comment were left for Epstein’s lawyers. An office telephone number for Dr. Michael Baden, the pathologist hired by Epstein’s representatives to observe the autopsy, rang unanswered.

Epstein, who was charged with sexually abusing numerous underage girls over several years, had been placed on suicide watch last month after he was found on his cell floor on July 23 with bruising on his neck.

But multiple people familiar with operations at the jail say he was taken off the watch after about a week and put back in a high-security housing unit where he was less closely monitored, but still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes.

Attorney General William Barr says officials have uncovered “serious irregularities” at the jail. The FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general are both investigating Epstein’s death.

Jail guards on duty the night of Epstein’s death are suspected of falsifying log entries to show they were checking on inmates every half-hour as required, according to several people familiar with the matter.

A guard in Epstein’s unit was working a fifth straight day of overtime and another guard was working mandatory overtime, the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the lacked authorization to publicly discuss the investigation.

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who is in charge of the criminal case against Epstein, asked the jail’s warden this week for answers about the earlier episode, writing in a letter Monday that it had “never been definitively explained.”

The warden replied that an internal investigation was completed but that he couldn’t provide information because the findings were being incorporated into investigations into Epstein’s death.

The Associated Press often does not report details of suicide methods, but has made an exception because Epstein’s cause of death is pertinent to the ongoing investigations.

The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Thursday that the autopsy revealed that several bones in Epstein’s neck had been broken, leading to speculation his death was a homicide.

Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson issued a statement Thursday in response to those articles, saying: “In all forensic investigations, all information must be synthesized to determine the cause and manner of death. Everything must be consistent; no single finding can be evaluated in a vacuum.”

Epstein, 66, was a hedge fund manager who hobnobbed with the rich, famous and influential, including presidents and a prince.

He owned a private island in the Caribbean, homes in Paris and New York City, a New Mexico ranch, and a fleet of high-price cars. His friends had once included Britain’s Prince Andrew, Clinton and Trump. Clinton and Trump both said they hadn’t seen Epstein in years and knew nothing of his alleged misconduct when new charges were brought against him last month.

The medical examiner’s ruling came a day after two more women sued Jeffrey Epstein’s estate, saying he sexually abused them.

The suit, filed Thursday in a federal court in New York, claims the women were working as hostesses at a popular Manhattan restaurant in 2004 when they were recruited to give Epstein massages.

One was 18 at the time. The other was 20.

The lawsuit says an unidentified female recruiter offered the hostesses hundreds of dollars to provide massages to Epstein, saying he “liked young, pretty girls to massage him,” and wouldn’t engage in any unwanted touching. The women say Epstein groped them anyway.

One plaintiff now lives in Japan, the other in Baltimore. They seek $100 million in damages, citing depression, anxiety, anger and flashbacks.

Other lawsuits, filed over many years by other women, accused him of hiring girls as young as 14 or 15 to give him massages, then subjecting them to sex acts.


Balsamo reported from Washington.

A Career of Hate in Border Patrol

Sat, 2019-08-17 04:25

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published.

It was late November 2017, and Matthew Bowen, a veteran Border Patrol agent, was seething. A fellow Border Patrol agent in Texas had just been found dead in the field, and Bowen was certain someone who’d been crossing the border illegally was responsible for murdering him.

“Snuffed out by some dirtbag,” Bowen, stationed in Nogales, Arizona, said in a text later obtained by federal authorities.

Bowen, if lacking in evidence, wasn’t alone in his anger and suspicion. President Donald Trump, nearing the end of his first year in office and already frustrated in his bid to construct a wall on the southern border, had promised to “seek out and bring to justice those responsible” for the Texas agent’s death. Brandon Judd, the head of the union that represents Border Patrol agents, declared to Fox News and other media outlets that the Texas agent had been “ambushed.”

Bowen’s work record suggested his distaste for the mix of migrants and drug traffickers crossing the border illegally could be dangerous. He’d been the subject of multiple internal investigations over excessive force during his 10-year career, court records show. In one, he’d been accused of giving a handcuffed suspect what agents called a “rough ride,” slamming the brakes on his all-terrain vehicle in a way that flung the suspect into the ground.

Bowen, though, had stayed on the job. And with the news of the Texas agent’s death, his disgust for illegal border-crossers seemed only to have deepened.

“Mindless murdering savages,” he texted to another agent that November.

Two weeks later, Bowen climbed behind the wheel of a Border Patrol pickup truck and used it to strike a Guatemalan migrant in a dusty parking lot in southern Arizona. Bowen eventually was arrested by federal authorities in May 2018 and charged with using his Ford F-150 pickup, a 4,000-pound vehicle, to menace the man as he tried to flee Bowen and other agents on foot. The truck, according to an affidavit filed by prosecutors in court, hit the man twice and came within inches of running him over. Prosecutors accused Bowen of using “deadly force against a person who was running away from him and posed no threat.”

On Monday, after months of legal wrangling and on the eve of trial, Bowen pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor civil rights charge, an offense that carries a potential term of up to a year in jail. In his plea deal, Bowen admitted to hitting the man with his truck and promised to resign from the Border Patrol. Sentencing has been set for October.

Bowen’s arrest and a variety of his ugly texts concerning migrants and others crossing the border illegally have been widely reported in recent months. But court documents and interviews suggest that his checkered career speaks to a much broader problem in the Border Patrol: its inability or unwillingness to identify and discipline problem agents.

The case against Bowen comes amid increasing scrutiny of an agency that critics and insiders say is permeated by a culture of contempt for migrants. This year, ProPublica exposed the existence of a secret Facebook group in which agents engaged in cruel and dehumanizing discussions about people coming into the U.S. unlawfully. ProPublica has also detailed the failures by the agency to fully reform what critics inside and outside the Border Patrol have deemed a failed system of discipline for troubled agents.

Bowen’s attack on the Guatemalan migrant was at least the sixth time he had been accused of using excessive force during his decade with the agency.

None of the previous episodes resulted in any discipline beyond an “oral admonishment.” Unlike many police departments, the Border Patrol has no early intervention program for troubled agents, measures that would have triggered additional training or a deeper inquiry into Bowen’s behavior and mindset even if his conduct did not warrant formal discipline. At least two supervisors with direct knowledge of Bowen’s work history said they regarded him as a danger but were resigned to the fact that the agency was unlikely to ever punish or even fire him.

“Other law enforcement agencies would’ve weeded him out,” said one of those who supervised Bowen. “Other law enforcement agencies have much higher standards than we do.”

Bowen’s attorney, Sean Chapman, had sought to keep his record of complaints from being introduced at trial. The lawyer had also asked a judge to bar all or most of his text messages from being made known to any eventual jury. Faced with having to explain the texts, Chapman had said in court filings that the conversations were not unusual, but instead “commonplace” in the part of Arizona where Bowen worked. The texts, the lawyer argued in one filing last spring, are “part of the agency’s culture.”

If true, it’s a remarkable claim, for the messages Bowen traded over the years with colleagues are openly hateful. In one, he said the men, women and children attempting to cross into the U.S. were “disgusting subhuman shit unworthy of being kindling in a fire.” In another, he joked about how tasty Guatemalan migrants can be if they are properly “fried” through the use of Tasers. In yet another, Bowen trained his anger on his own agency, calling it a “fucking failed agency” where he and other agents “are treated like shit, prosecuted for doing what it takes to arrest these savages, and not given appropriate resources to fully do our job.”

In texts Bowen sent after he assaulted the migrant, he referred to the victim as a “guat” and dismissed the incident as all but a nonevent, suggesting the only reason it had resulted in any action was because it was caught on a camera belonging to the patrol’s parent organization, Customs and Border Protection.

With Bowen still awaiting sentencing, Chapman declined to speak in detail about the case or his client. However, the attorney insisted that the offensive messages “were in reference to specific events where Border Patrol agents were assaulted or killed. The texts therefore were not intended to be a general comment about illegal immigrants — only about individuals that attacked or injured agents.”)

Officials with the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection would not respond to questions about Bowen’s case and what it might say about wider problems with the patrol.

In November 2017, enraged about the death of the agent in Texas, Bowen lamented that the border-crossers he suspected of killing the agent might spend years eluding the authorities.

“It will probably take them eight years to find the fucking beaners responsible,” he wrote in a text.

Months later, the FBI completed an exhaustive investigation into the Texas agent’s death. There was no evidence he’d been murdered. The local Texas sheriff said it appeared the agent, 36-year-old Rogelio Martinez, had fallen into a deep concrete culvert and suffered fatal head trauma.

“To date none of the more than 650 interviews completed, locations searched, or evidence collected and analyzed have produced evidence that would support the existence of a scuffle, altercation, or attack,” the bureau’s El Paso office said in a statement.

By then, Bowen had already committed the crime for which he’d pay with his career.

“I’ve Seen Egregious Incidents Get Swept Under the Rug”

Bowen — 6-foot-2, 185 pounds — joined the Border Patrol in 2008 just as it was undergoing the most substantial transformation in its history. With Congress boosting the Border Patrol’s funding, the agency underwent a massive hiring push, a surge that roughly doubled the number of agents in the span of just six years. Former officials now say the speed of the Border Patrol’s expansion made it likely there would be bad hires, perhaps a significant number of them.

Bowen, who had lived in South Carolina before joining the agency, was assigned to the Border Patrol station in Nogales, an outpost in the hill country of southern Arizona, where scrubby mesquite and paloverde trees stud the rugged landscape. The station, a fortresslike compound, stands about 2 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, which is marked here by a rusty, 20-foot-tall steel fence encrusted with coils of razor wire. On one side of the barrier is the small town of Nogales, Arizona. On the other is the larger city of Nogales, in the state of Sonora, a major Mexican manufacturing hub that is home to more than 200,000 people.

The world of the Border Patrol is broken up into 20 geographic regions called sectorsThe Nogales station is located in the Tucson sector, which covers about two-thirds of Arizona. While migration patterns and contraband routes are always evolving, the Tucson sector tends to be one of the busiest areas for Border Patrol agents. Agents in the sector made more than 52,000 arrests during the last fiscal year. Only the Rio Grande Valley sector in Texas had more apprehensions.

Over the years, the Tucson sector has also been known as a trouble spot within the patrol. In 2017, there were 701 disciplinary cases involving sector agents, more than anywhere else in the country.

In interviews, several people who worked with or supervised Bowen said he grew to have a reputation as a bully, a man with a bilious disdain for those seeking asylum or illegal entry into the U.S. In texts, Bowen referred to migrants and other border-crossers as “beaners” or “tonks,” a pejorative term referring to the sound made when agents banged their flashlights on the heads of those being taken into custody.

In later texts, he discussed his frustrations with the job and pondered quitting the patrol. A co-worker sent back a message reminding Bowen of the fun aspects of the job, like “running down shitbags who thought they had you fooled.”

From 2012 to 2015, five different people detained by Bowen accused him of needless violence, according to court records.

In January 2012, according to prosecutors, Bowen searched a young man’s car at a security checkpoint without probable cause. Bowen pulled the man from the car, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him. In March 2015, a fellow agent expressed concern after Bowen tackled a migrant and busted the man’s lip. A month later, an undocumented man said that Bowen had dragged him around by his handcuffs, causing painful abrasions to his wrists. In September 2015, Bowen was again reported by a colleague, this time for taking down a juvenile in a particularly violent fashion.

Later that fall, Bowen was accused of the “rough ride” incident. After apprehending an undocumented migrant in the desert, Bowen handcuffed him and threw him on the front of his ATV, according to court records and interviews. Then Bowen made the ride as unpleasant as possible, said a Border Patrol employee with direct knowledge of the incident. At one point, the employee said, Bowen purposely stomped on the brakes, causing the man, still handcuffed, to fly off the vehicle and slam into the dirt.

In these cases, Bowen was investigated by either Customs and Border Protection’s internal affairs bureau or by the Office of Inspector General with the Department of Homeland Security. Neither the internal affairs unit nor the Inspector General’s office responded to requests for comment.

Prosecutors sought permission to bring evidence of Bowen’s allegedly abusive behavior into the expected trial, arguing that the complaints helped to provide broader context for the truck attack. The defense attorney, Chapman, countered, saying in court briefs that the only relevant incident was the ATV episode, since it involved the use of a vehicle as a weapon.

Chapman, in court papers, maintained that Bowen had only been censured for two of the incidents, saying he’d received an “oral admonishment” after the episodes in March and April 2015. According to the attorney, Bowen was cleared of misconduct in the other three cases.

A current Border Patrol manager who worked with Bowen for many years said “oral admonishments are a joke” that do little to deter bad behavior.

The Border Patrol’s system for investigating and disciplining its agents has long been suspect, and in 2016, a blue-ribbon panel of experts named by then-President Barack Obama declared it nothing short of “broken.” Investigations dragged on for years, in part because there were too few investigators. Victims who accused agents of misconduct were largely kept in the dark, barred from knowing whether the accused agents had been found culpable and disciplined in any way. Scores of agents were arrested every year and charged with a wide variety of crimes, but many managed to hang onto their jobs.

One former Customs and Border Protection manager with extensive knowledge of the Border Patrol’s disciplinary process said the quality of casework was lacking and the end results of investigations inconsistent. The former official said the authority to discipline agents for on-the-job misconduct and policy violations generally rests with commanders in each of the agency’s 20 geographic sectors. Of the more than 700 discipline cases in the Tucson sector in 2017, more than 500 led to “informal discipline” or no punishment at all.

“I’ve seen egregious incidents get swept under the rug,” said the former Customs and Border Protection official, citing cases involving domestic violence and assault, embezzlement and lying to superiors.

Bowen’s lack of regard for any oversight at the agency comes through in the texts obtained by prosecutors. The discipline process, he suggested, is little more than a system for supervising officials to cover their rear ends. Customs and Border Protection employees who reported their co-workers for excessive force or other wrongs were “fags.”

“BP is just meant to destroy guys that want to catch people,” Bowen wrote in one text about his frustration with the agency.

One of the supervisors who managed Bowen said the Border Patrol’s disciplinary system is largely punitive and only responds, when it does at all, to one incident at a time. Many big city police departments, noted the supervisor, have created early intervention systems, which can track everything from uses of force to tardiness to public complaints in order to identify troubled officers and help them change course before something tragic occurs. Under such a system, the supervisor said, the pattern of complaints against Bowen could have prompted mandatory retraining or some kind of counseling. Either he would have improved or been squarely on the agency’s radar as a potential menace.

“It absolutely works,” the supervisor said of such early intervention systems.

“He Did Not Deserve to Be Executed”

At some point, records and interviews show, Bowen found another agent in Nogales with whom he felt a sense of kinship, Lonnie Swartz. They would come in the years ahead to share their perspectives on migrants and their dim view of their agency’s stomach for the hard work of ending illegal immigration. While joking darkly about their jobs, the two, records show, once had shared a three-minute video of a Border Patrol agent pummeling an undocumented man, repeatedly smashing his skull against the steel beams of a border fence.

“Please let us take the gloves off trump,” Bowen once wrote to Swartz in a text.

Bowen’s Border Patrol buddy, it turns out, probably never should have been hired. In 1995, he had enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky. But, within weeks, he had gone AWOL and fled the base. Facing criminal charges under military law, Swartz lived on the lam for nearly two years before he was captured in Las Vegas by a joint task force of local police officers and FBI agents, federal court records indicate. He was eventually ousted from the Army with an “other than honorable” discharge.

Somehow, however, he made it through the agency’s background check process and was hired by the Border Patrol in 2009, a year after Bowen. Court records indicate that Swartz misled the background investigators about his violations of military law during the hiring process in 2009 and again during a second background check in 2014. The former Customs and Border Protection official said that the Army discharge issue should have kept Swartz out of the patrol.

“That’s just shoddy,” the person said. “That should be an automatic disqualification. Whoever did the background investigation didn’t do their job properly.”

Chapman, who specializes in cases involving Border Patrol agents, represented Swartz during his trials. In an email, the attorney said Swartz “didn’t attempt to mislead anyone” about his history with the Army.

A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Swartz’s hiring.

In 2012, about two years after graduating from the Border Patrol academy, Swartz was the one facing federal criminal charges. Swartz had shot and killed a 16-year-old boy, José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, during what he and other agents said was a dangerous encounter with rock-throwing Mexican nationals along the border fence. Charging Swartz with murder, federal prosecutors told a very different story. They said that in reality Swartz was in no danger of being struck by a stone when he opened fire and shot the teen 10 times — two bullets hit the youth in the head, the others in the back. Rather, the prosecutors argued, Swartz killed the boy because he was “fed up” after a series of clashes with migrants and other border-crossers.

Whether or not the boy was throwing rocks that night, prosecutors said, “it wasn’t a capital offense. He did not deserve to be executed.”

The shooting prompted a long and unusual series of events. For three years, the Border Patrol would not make public the name of the agent who had shot the boy, including to the boy’s family. It was only after the family filed suit against the agency that the federal authorities brought criminal charges against Swartz. His first trial ended with a jury acquitting him of murder charges but deadlocking on the lesser offense of manslaughter. The second, coming near the end of 2018, resulted in Swartz’s acquittal on all charges. The second jury had repeatedly told the judge it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, and it only wound up acquitting when the judge ordered the jurors to keep trying.

Swartz’s lawyer argued at the trials that Swartz had followed proper procedure in firing his weapon.

“You can employ deadly force against a rock thrower if he poses a risk of serious bodily harm. That’s the law,” said Chapman during the second trial. “And that’s what he did. He followed his training and he followed the law.”

But a high-ranking Border Patrol agent who served in Nogales said that Swartz was a management challenge from the start of his tenure with the patrol. “He was too aggressive” and was constantly looking to escalate encounters with smugglers or migrants at the border fence, the agent said. Supervisors, said the agent, tried unsuccessfully “to reel him in.”

Disturbed by the teen’s killing — and a raft of other cross-border shootings — Customs and Border Protection leaders in 2013 brought in a team of outside law enforcement experts to examine the Border Patrol’s guidelines regarding the use of firearms. “Frustration is a factor motivating agents to shoot at rock throwers,” found the analysts, who studied 67 shooting incidents and 10 key policy directives. “While rock throwing can result in injuries or death, there must be clear justification to warrant the use of deadly force.”

The report, produced by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based consultancy, was followed by a four-page update to the use-of-force policies. Under the new rules, agents who were attacked with rocks or other projectiles were supposed to seek cover and “distance themselves from the immediate area of danger.”

The change left many agents grumbling that the Border Patrol had gone soft.

The Border Patrol would not say if Swartz still works for the agency in any capacity.

“It Just Seems to Keep Getting Worse”

Around 7:30 one morning in December 2017, a 23-year-old Guatemalan national named Antolín López-Aguilar slipped over the border fence in Nogales and tried to hide underneath a parked semi-trailer.

Bowen, who was driving a green-and-white patrol-issued truck, was sent to apprehend the migrant. He was accompanied by two other agents who had been dispatched in separate vehicles.

When López-Aguilar tried to run, Bowen, still in his truck, gave chase. According to prosecutors, Bowen then made the conscious decision to drive his F-150 pickup into the migrant, striking the man twice from behind and pushing him to the ground. The attack, which prosecutors said left López-Aguilar mildly injured and traumatized, was captured by video cameras at a nearby port of entry.

In the days and weeks after the assault, texts obtained by the government show, Bowen appeared both proud of his conduct and confident that little would come of it. In a text to Swartz, Bowen boasted of having performed what he called “a human pit maneuver.” PIT stands for pursuit intervention tactic. In simple terms it involves a police officer or law enforcement agent driving his or her car into the rear of a fleeing vehicle. There is no such thing in American policing as a “human pit maneuver.”

“The tonk was totally fine,” Bowen wrote, using the crude term again. “Just a little bump with a ford bumper.”

“If I had to tackle the tonk,” he said in another message, “I would still be doing memos and shit.”

In his text conversations, Bowen complained that he was only being investigated because the incident had been captured by the video cameras. He acknowledged that he’s been on the “radar” of the internal affairs bureau and seemed to have wearied of the agency’s efforts, however modest, to police its own.

“I’ve decided after this is cleared up, I’m resigning,” he wrote.

It did not get cleared up, and Bowen’s texts reveal his growing anxiety. He noted that he could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. He feared being sent away from his family. For comfort, he reached out to Swartz, who at the time was still in the midst of his prosecution for the boy’s shooting.

“Guys are being made to think any use of force results in you being investigated,” Bowen wrote to Swartz. “And so they are letting tonks get away with way too much.”

The array of texts obtained by the government, whatever significance they have for Bowen’s crime or the Border Patrol’s oversight of him, do offer a very personal and specific window into the mindset and apparent morale problems that current and former agents say plague the agency.

Bowen derided the “liberal” media and Obama appointees, and he thought in the current political environment, prosecutors were determined to make criminal prosecutions out of virtually any use-of-force case that gets referred to them. He was bitter, he said, about how the system was “rigged” just as Trump claimed, although it’s unclear what system he was talking about. Swartz seemed sympathetic. In one text to Bowen, he complained about how the agency was under-funded, and its equipment was unreliable, even its weapons.

Bowen made clear in his texts that he no longer believed in his own agency, and that he had been contemplating bailing from the Border Patrol for a long time. He’d explored taking classes that might help him get into the real estate business — his wife was a real estate agent — or starting a trucking company. He’s done with his “mindless” job.

“I just have to transition away from BP,” wrote Bowen. “I think it will be like coming out of a 10-year depression.”

He continued, “There were lots of good days. But the past few years the bad has far outweighed the good and it just seems to keep getting worse.”

In a text from Dec. 8, 2017, just days after the incident with the truck, Bowen wrote without irony: “This shit is the kicker I needed to make the decision,” he said of resigning. “I feel like one day I would have to make a decision that would cost me my life or my freedom.”

What’s Really Behind Trump’s Israel Tweets

Sat, 2019-08-17 03:37

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s encouragement and support of Israel’s decision to ban two Democratic lawmakers may play well to his political base, but it could endanger the foundations of the U.S.-Israel relationship in the longer term.

The move on Thursday to bar Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from Israel fueled a partisan fire over the Jewish state that has been raging in the United States, with Trump eagerly fanning the flames.

On Friday, though, Israel’s interior minister, Aryeh Deri, said he had received and granted a request by Tlaib to enter the Israeli-occupied West Bank on humanitarian grounds, to visit her 90-year-old grandmother. Tlaib’s letter said she would respect any restrictions and would “not promote boycotts” during her visit, according to Deri’s office. But Tlaib announced later Friday she would not make the trip, saying “oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother’s heart.”

Trump had celebrated Israel’s Thursday decision on Twitter and framed the issue in decidedly political terms: “Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!”

President Donald Trump is defending Israel’s decision to bar two Democratic members of Congress from visiting the country, even as he claims he didn’t “encourage or discourage” the move. (August 15)

Shortly before that decision was announced, Trump offered a not-so-subtle nudge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeting that “it would show great weakness” if Israel allowed the women to visit.

Bipartisan support from Congress has been a bedrock of the U.S.-Israel relationship since Israel’s founding, and critics of Thursday’s decision said they worried that Trump and Netanyahu were exploiting the situation for short-term political gain.

Netanyahu faces an election next month, and Trump faces the voters next year.

Tlaib and Omar, two newly elected Muslim members of Congress, are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. They had planned to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian organization aimed at highlighting the plight of the Palestinians.

Israel on Thursday cited their support for the so-called “boycott, divestment, sanctions” movement, or BDS, in support of the Palestinians. Israel, and many pro-Israel U.S. politicians, believe BDS is anti-Semitic and seeks the destruction of the Jewish state, something its proponents deny.

But even some of Israel’s strongest supporters denounced Thursday’s move, saying it would deepen existing divides in the U.S. over support for Israel.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, the highest-ranking elected Jew in the country and one of Israel’s staunchest defenders, said the move would “only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America.”

“Denying entry to members of the United States Congress is a sign of weakness, not strength,” he added.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has sought to stay above the partisan fray over Israel, weighed in against Thursday’s decision.

“We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution,” AIPAC said in a tweeted statement. “We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”

Although there has been partisan friction between the U.S. and Israel in the past, Trump has sought to exploit it unlike any of his predecessors. The seeds were planted during the contentious debate and negotiations over President Barack Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Netanyahu vociferously opposed.

Netanyahu spoke at length against the deal at every opportunity he had, including on numerous occasions in the United States while at the White House, before a joint session of Congress and at the United Nations.

Republican lawmakers overwhelmingly opposed the deal, agreeing with Netanyahu’s argument that it opened, rather than closed, Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon because many of its most onerous restrictions expired over time. Then-candidate Trump seized on the issue, campaigning on an unabashedly pro-Israel platform that had withdrawing from the nuclear deal as a top goal.

As president, Trump decided against the advice of former top aides and over the objections of Democrats to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, move the embassy there from Tel Aviv, recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and slash assistance to the Palestinians.

Trump has tried to silence his critics and opponents of his decisions by accusing them of anti-Semitism and of being insufficiently pro-Israel.

In recent months, Trump has tried to elevate the two Democratic women of color to the fore of the nation’s political debate, believing they will repel Democratic voters, according to Trump allies.

It is part of a Trump strategy that has placed racial animus at the forefront of his reelection campaign in an effort that his aides say is designed to activate his base of conservative voters and those who fear cultural changes across America. The aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss campaign strategy, also say Trump is banking that his loud support for Israel will attract more Jewish and evangelical Christian supporters.

His latest exhortation to Netanyahu to bar Omar and Tlaib from Israel may play well with his base, including the evangelical community he will need to win reelection, but it complicates matters for other parts of the administration, notably the State Department.

Although the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, tweeted support for the ban, his embassy’s primary responsibility is ensuring the safety and security of Americans overseas.

For Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, that has long meant, and still does, a call for all Americans, including those of Palestinian descent or with pro-Palestinian views, to be treated fairly and equally by Israeli authorities.

“The U.S. government seeks equal treatment and freedom to travel for all U.S. citizens regardless of national origin or ethnicity,” the department says in its latest travel advisory for Israel.

The advisory notes that some Arab Americans, including Palestinian Americans, “have experienced significant difficulties and unequal and hostile treatment at Israel’s borders and checkpoints.”

The department urges those who have faced such treatment to immediately report it to the American Citizen Services unit at the embassy in Jerusalem.

To Defeat Fascism, We Must Dismantle Capitalism

Sat, 2019-08-17 03:22

“The Terror of the Unforeseen”

A book by Henry A. Giroux

Henry A. Giroux’s book “The Terror of the Unforeseen” analyzes the conditions that have enabled and led to Donald Trump’s rule and the consequences of that rule, which have ushered in an authoritarian version of capitalism. Giroux provides a realistic analysis that holds out the hope that, through collective efforts, change is possible and democracy can be saved.

There is an intellectual debate on whether or not the power wielded by the likes of Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orbán, Matteo Salvini, Geert Wilders, Heinz-Christian Strache, or Jörg Meuthen and Alexander Gauland constitutes fascism. Some analysts — such as Noam Chomsky, Neil Faulkner, John Bellamy Foster, Robert Kagan, Gáspar Miklós Tamás, and Enzo Traverso — speak of creeping fascism, new fascism, or post-fascism. They find both continuities and discontinuities between the classical forms of fascism in Italy and Germany and these contemporary right-wing politicians. Representatives of this position hold that Trump is not Hitler, but stress certain similarities between the two.

Others — including Wendy Brown, Nancy Fraser, Roger Griffin, Chantal Mouffe, Cas Mudde, Robert Paxton, David Renton, and Slavoj Žižek — argue that it is an exaggeration to characterize Trump and other contemporary demagogues as fascists. They prefer terms such as the new authoritarianism, libertarian authoritarianism, reactionary neoliberalism, right-wing populism, the populist radical right, or demagoguery on behalf of oligarchy. They see Trump as dangerous, but stress that his authoritarianism is quite different from classical fascism and Hitler.

Giroux takes the first position. He speaks of “the new form of fascism updated under the Trump administration” and “an updated American version of fascism of which Trump is both symptom and endpoint.” He argues that Trump does not use storm troopers and gas chambers, but divisive language, language that is itself a form of violent action. Fascism is not uniform, but dynamic and therefore takes on variegated forms in different historical and societal contexts. For Giroux, Trump constitutes the rise of neoliberal fascism and the culmination of a long history of authoritarianism that includes historical moments such as the oppression of Native Americans, slavery, US imperialism, torture, and extrajudicial detention and imprisonment (Guantánamo). One of the backgrounds to Trump’s rise is the culture of fear since 9/11, but another is neoliberalism’s dismantling of public education, critical reason, and radical imagination that represents a “full-scale attack on thoughtful reasoning.”

Fascism can exist at the level of individual character, ideology, institutions, or society as a whole, but fascism on one of these levels is a necessary foundation but not a sufficient condition for fascism on the next. Erich Fromm and Theodor W. Adorno argued that the authoritarian, sadomasochistic, necrophilic personality was the psychological foundation of fascism. But the existence of political leaders with fascist characters, even if they communicate fascist ideology, does not automatically imply the existence of a fascist society. For a fascist society to come into existence, these leaders need to call forth collective political practices that result in the full institutionalization of authoritarianism.

In his essay “Anxiety and Politics,” Frankfurt School critical theorist Franz Neumann specifies conditions necessary for the emergence of a fascist society. They include political crises, the alienation of labor, destructive competition, social alienation that threatens certain social groups, political alienation, and the institutionalization of fascist practices, such as collective political anxiety, propaganda and terror, persecutory nationalism, political scapegoating, and xenophobia. A condition that needs to be added to Neumann’s list is the weakness of the political left, beset by rivalries, internal trench wars, factions, splintering, isolation, and orthodoxy, and its frequent miscalculation of the actual dangers of the political situation it is facing — in the Weimar Republic, the Communist Party of Germany did not consider the Nazis, but the Social Democrats as their main enemy. Stalinist Communists characterized the Social Democratic Party of Germany as “social fascism” and believed German capitalism would automatically collapse after Hitler’s rise to power.

Many observers agree that today we find leaders with an authoritarian personality and ideology in a significant number of countries and that there are conditions in these places that can lead to fascist regimes. But the claim that countries such as the United States have become fascist societies goes too far. In a fully fascist society, there is no rule of law and the political opposition and other identified enemies are imprisoned or killed by the exercise of terror. A fascist society is a political Behemoth. Trumpism poses a very negative development, and perhaps has the potential to fully develop into a fascist political economic system — especially if the opposition cannot establish an alternative — but there is still a difference between Trump’s character structure and policies and the total character of US society.

A key contribution of Giroux’s book is the creation of the notion of neoliberal fascism for characterizing the contemporary negativity of politics. But he also uses terms such as populist authoritarianism, American authoritarianism, authoritarian populism, right-wing populism, and inverted totalitarianism. These terms are vague and create more confusion than elucidation. Both totalitarianism and populism can be used for arguing against both socialism and the far right; both, some argue, are threats to democratic societies. For example, Jan-Werner Müller writes in his book “What Is Populism?” that populism is “a danger to democracy” and that Trump and Sanders are “both populists, with one on the right and the other on the left.” Such theorizations often end up in the legitimation of what Tariq Ali calls the “extreme center” of neoliberal ideology, which in action has the material effect of managing the state solely for the benefit of the wealthy.


In “The Road to Serfdom,” the leading neoliberal theorist and ideologue Friedrich A. Hayek claims that socialism and fascism are “inseparable manifestations of what in theory we call collectivism.” He claims that both do not “recognize autonomous spheres in which the ends of the individuals are supreme.” As a consequence, Hayek rejects the notions of the “common good” and the “general interest.” He argues that only a neoliberal society, where society and its institutions are organized as markets and are based on the commodity form and capital accumulation, can secure democracy and freedom. Augusto Pinochet’s neoliberal, military, fascist regime in Chile already showed in the 1970s how mistaken it was to assume that capitalism spontaneously brings about and provides the foundation for democracy. And in the more than 45 years since Pinochet’s coup d’état in 1973, the rise of new authoritarian forms of capitalism have shown repeatedly that Hayek was wrong.

Trump’s plan to build a wall at the US-Mexican border and the resulting government shutdowns aimed at forcing through this project, the travel ban for citizens from majority-Muslim countries, the separation of children from families at the border, his racist attacks on socialist congresswomen, his attempt to dismantle the legal protection of Dreamers from deportation — these are all examples of the ideologically motivated cruelties of the Trump regime and what Giroux (following Rob Nixon) terms slow violence. Over time, an accumulation of such cruelties can reach a tipping point where the current system is devastated and democracy abolished.

Neoliberal fascism, Giroux writes, is a formation “in which the principles and practices of a fascist past and neoliberal present have merged,” and which connects “the worst dimensions and excesses of gangster capitalism with the fascist ideals of white nationalism and racial supremacy associated with the horrors of the [fascist] past.” Giroux reminds us of Horkheimer and Adorno’s insights that liberalism and capitalism have inherent fascist potential, that fascism is a terroristic version of capitalism, that fascist potential has not ceased to exist after the end of World War II, and that “whoever is not willing to talk about capitalism should also keep quiet about fascism” (Horkheimer).

Trumpist policies favor the rich and US corporations, advance an economic version of Social Darwinism, with all-out competition ensuring that only the most powerful survive and the rest face precarity, debt, and ruin. Trumpism tries to compensate for the social void created by this neoliberal individualism by fostering what we can call repressive collectivism, and which, as the present author suggests, can be analyzed at three levels — economic, political, and ideological.

On the level of political economy, repressive collectivism is organized as an antagonism between austerity and precarity, which is used to advance protectionist policies that favor the interests of US capital.

At the level of politics and the state, deregulation, privatization, and commodification give wide freedoms to corporations while policing the poor, promoting law-and-order politics, and instituting progressively more draconian racist immigration policies.

At the level of ideology and culture, we find a combination of hyper-consumerist, narcissistic individualism, the cult of leadership, and nationalism. Under repressive collectivism, nationalism promotes the idea of the unity of US capital and US labor and advances the racist and xenophobic scapegoating of immigrants, refugees, people of color, Muslims, and foreigners.


The conjuncture of neoliberalism and right-wing authoritarianism has brought to the fore an emotional, ideological anti-intellectualism, which impedes any discussion of socialist ideas and ideologically justifies and cements capitalism. Thus, the billionaire capitalist Donald Trump can successfully pretend to be a working-class hero. Right-wing authoritarians often appeal to the working class by displaying crude manners, showing a proletarian habitus, and using simple, dichotomous language. But in reality, of course, these ideologues oppose the interests of the working class. When in power, they often implement laws that give tax breaks to corporations and the rich and harm the working class by dismantling the redistributive effects of the welfare state and public services. Trump signifies the rise of the one percent’s direct rule of the state.

Giroux writes that “fascism begins not with violence, police assaults, or mass killings, but with language.” One of Trump’s infamous, but typical tweets reads: “The FAKE NEWS Media […] is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” Dismissing all criticism as “fake news,” he identifies his person with the American people, and labels any criticism of him as anti-American. Trump’s political anger and authoritarian character replace reason by ideology, facts by fiction, rationality by emotionality, truth by lies, complexity by simplicity, objectivity by prejudice and hate. His combination of anti-socialism, nationalism, and racism were evident recently when he tweeted that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib are “a bunch of communists” who “are Anti-America” and should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Such political communication is not best characterized as post-truth politics, but as propaganda that tries to create false consciousness by simplification, dissimulation, manipulation, diversion, and outright lies. In this context, Giroux argues that we do not live in a post-truth world but in a “pre-truth world where the truth has yet to arrive.”

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has shown how the far right uses data breaches, online data collection, and targeted ads for trying to manipulate elections. “Alt-right” platforms such as Breitbart, InfoWars, Daily Caller, Philosophia Perennis, Unzensuriert, Westmonster, and the rest are projects that spread distortion, false news, and far-right conspiracies. Bots have partly automated the creation of political online attention, and it has become difficult to discern whether humans or machines are creating online content and attention. The culture of false news is one of the factors of Trump’s political success.

As I argued in “Digital Demagogue: Authoritarian Capitalism in the Age of Trump and Twitter,” Twitter and Trump are a match made in heaven. Trump uses first-person singular pronouns much more frequently than first-person plural pronouns, which is an indication of the narcissistic character structure that Erich Fromm argues is prone to engage in destruction for the sake of destruction. Twitter’s me-centered, narcissistic medium invites the authoritarian political communication Giroux characterizes as a show of evil banality: “Trump’s infantile production of Twitter storms transforms politics into spectacularized theater” — Twitter spectacles that are part of a culture of spectacle deeply ingrained in the capitalist tabloid culture that has turned political debate into superficial, personalized, high-speed events that lack the time and depth needed for exploring the complexities of antagonistic societies. In political television debates, candidates are asked to give answers in less than 30 seconds. The capitalist culture of speed, superficiality, tabloidization, and personalization is part of the apparatus that has enabled Trump the spectacle.

The liberal media and Trump have a love/hate relationship. Although these media are some of Trump’s fiercest critics, they helped create him. The Tyndall Report found that in 2015, Donald Trump received 23.4 times as much coverage in evening television newscasts as Bernie Sanders. The capitalist mainstream media are in a symbiotic and symmetrical relation to the political spectacle Trump. The capitalist media require Trump just like Trump requires the capitalist media.

When Trump took to Twitter to call Kim Darroch “a very stupid guy” and the “wacky Ambassador that the UK foisted upon the United States,” The New York Times immediately ran a story titled “UK Envoy’s Leaked Views Inspire More Insults in Trump Tweets.” No matter how silly or insulting, Trump’s tweets are what the mainstream media talk about. The liberal media thereby do not deconstruct Trump but help construct him, giving him the constant public attention that he instrumentalizes for his own political aims.


Henry Giroux’s book takes inspiration from teachers who strike against terrible working conditions and young people who protest against racism, police violence, student debt, and sexual violence and stand up for gun control, peace, environmental protection, social security, equality, and prison abolition. He argues for a broad protest movement that forms a “united front” against neoliberal fascism, brings together the multiple interrelated issues, interests, and struggles, and “connects the dots among diverse forms of oppression.”

Giroux also stresses the importance of critical pedagogy as a central intellectual weapon in the struggle against neoliberal fascism. Developing “critical consciousness” helps form “knowledgeable citizens who have a passion for public affairs”:

Revitalizing a progressive agenda should be addressed as part of broader social movement capable of reimagining a radical democracy in which public values matter, the ethical imagination flourishes, and justice is viewed as an ongoing struggle. In a time of dystopian nightmares, an alternative future is only possible if we can imagine the unimaginable and think otherwise in order to act otherwise.

Giroux argues that driving back authoritarianism requires informed citizens, critical thinking, deliberative inquiry, a culture of questioning, dialogue, debate, and thoughtful action, cultural production, and at a minimum requires that we provide secure jobs for teachers.

A revival of the public sphere depends on the creation of new debate and news formats run on public service internet platforms and platform cooperatives, new formats that challenge the dominance of Fox News, CNN, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook in the organization of political communication. In order to save democracy, we need to reinvent communication so that digital tabloids and digital capitalism are replaced by digital public exchange and the digital commons. Challenging authoritarianism today requires the remaking of political culture and a radical reconstruction of the political economy of the media and the internet. Arguing for such change in this decisive moment for the future of US democracy, Henry Giroux’s book is an important contribution to the development of the intellectual tools needed in the anti-fascist struggle for 21st-century democratic socialism.

This review was originally published by the Los Angeles Review of Books.

The Washington Post’s Anti-Sanders Bias Is Irrefutable

Sat, 2019-08-17 02:44

Bernie Sanders has taken to calling out corporate media for their anti-progressive bias, and their feathers have gotten quite ruffled.

In a campaign event Monday in New Hampshire, Sanders told the crowd:

We have pointed out over and over again that Amazon made $10 billion in profits last year. You know how much they paid in taxes? You got it, zero! Any wonder why the Washington Post is not one of my great supporters, I wonder why? New York Times not much better.

The next day, he returned to the same point:

And then I wonder why the Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon, doesn’t write particularly good articles about me. I don’t know why.

The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, immediately retorted (CNN, 8/12/19) that Sanders was spouting a “conspiracy theory,” insisting that “Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence, as our reporters and editors can attest.”

Many others in corporate media were incensed as well. NPR’s All Things Considered (8/13/19) accused Sanders of “echoing the president’s language,” and CNN (8/13/19) ran a segment that likewise accused him of using Trump’s “playbook”; CNN’s Poppy Harlow warned ominously, “This seems like a dangerous line, continuous accusations against the media with no basis in fact or evidence provided.”

FAIR has been following this issue for quite some time, so we’re happy to offer the evidence CNN and the Post protest is lacking.

We could start with the 16 negative stories the Post ran in 16 hours (, 3/8/16), and follow that up with the four different Sanders-bashing pieces the paper put out in seven hours based on a single think tank study (FAIR.org5/11/16).

Or you could take the many occasions on which the Post’s factchecking team performed impressive contortions to interpret Sander’s fact-based statements as meriting multiple “Pinocchios” (e.g., FAIR.org1/25/173/20/17). In particular, we might observe the time the Post “factchecked” Sanders’ claim that the world’s six wealthiest people are worth as much as half the global population (FAIR.org10/3/17). It just so happens that one of those six multi-billionaires is Bezos, which would make an ethical journalist extra careful not to show favoritism.

Instead, after acknowledging that Sanders was, in fact, correct, the paper’s Nicole Lewis awarded him “three Pinocchios”—a rating that indicates “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.” This is because, the paper explained, even though the number comes from a reputable nonpartisan source, Oxfam, which got its data from Credit Suisse, “It’s hard to make heads or tails of what wealth actually means, with respect to people’s daily lives around the globe.”

Post factcheckers returned to defend their owner against the charge that he is extremely wealthy after Sanders pointed out in a Democratic debate (6/27/19) that “three people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of America.” “The numbers add up,” the Post fact squad (6/28/19) acknowledged, but it’s “apples to oranges”:

People in the bottom half have essentially no wealth, as debts cancel out whatever assets they might have. So the comparison is not especially meaningful.

But even in the occasional straight news reporting that manages to acknowledge Sanders’ success, the paper’s reporters still slip in digs at the candidate, such as a news report by Karen Tumulty charting Sanders’ strong caucus showing in Iowa in 2016 that told readers that his showing indicated “Republicans are not the only voters looking for qualities beyond experience and electability.” (With eight years as Burlington mayor, 16 years in the House and a Senate tenure that began in 2007, Sanders has more political experience than most presidential candidates, whether in 2016 or 2020, and electability, rather obviously, ought to be determined by voters, not journalists—FAIR.org2/2/16.)The Post editorial page makes no secret of its anti-Sanders position (, 1/28/165/11/16), nor do some of its prominent opinion columnists, like Dana Milbank (, 2/11/16) and Fareed Zakaria (FAIR.org9/6/16).

And sometimes the digs are clearly deliberate, as when a Post political correspondent essentially admitted to trolling the Sanders camp by intentionally choosing a “provocative” headline—”Bernie Sanders Keeps Saying His Average Donation Is $27, but His Own Numbers Contradict That”—over a piece that revealed the scandalous deception that the actual number was $27.89 (FAIR.org4/24/16).

There’s an underlying dismissal of Sanders as a serious candidate, in both the Post’s editorializing and its nominally straight reporting, that results in pieces like the ones saying the large crowds Sanders drew to his 2016 campaign rallies “don’t matter much” (FAIR.org8/20/15), or the ones accusing him of lacking political “realism” (, 1/30/16). And there’s a clear antipathy at the paper to many of Sanders’ signature policy plans, like Medicare for All (FAIR.org3/20/196/25/19).

In her CNN segment about Sanders’ critique, Harlow insisted to one of her guests, Britney Shepard of Yahoo News, “It’s important to note, the Washington Post has done really critical reporting of Amazon, too.” Shepard’s response:

Absolutely, and I really want to underscore something that Kristen said, something you said, too, Poppy, is that Bernie Sanders and his campaign have not really put forth any facts or evidence when they’re pressed about what the Washington Post is doing, and I do think that there’s a concern, and especially a concern as we’re gearing up in this primary, that Bernie Sanders is going to be compared to Donald Trump again and again and again and again.

Curiously, the same journalists so incensed about Sanders’ lack of evidence about the Post’s bias failed to offer any of their own about the paper’s “critical reporting” of Amazon. They’d be hard-pressed to find any. In 2017 FAIR’s Adam Johnson reviewed a year’s coverage of Amazon in the Post, the Times and the Wall Street Journal, and found that across 190 stories, only 6% leaned negative, and none were investigative exposes (FAIR.org7/28/17).

Nearly half (48%) of the Post’s coverage was uncritical—meaning it didn’t even adopt the standard journalistic practice of seeking out critical or contrary third-party voices, instead reading like an Amazon press release. (My favorite: “An Exclusive Look at Jeff Bezos’ Plan to Set Up an Amazon-Like Delivery for ‘Future Human Settlement’ of the Moon,” with a picture looking up at a Bezos in shades gazing off proudly into the distance.)

But note the Post wasn’t alone in its fawning coverage. That’s why Sanders called out the Times as well, and why NPRCNN and their ilk are so upset. It’s not a conspiracy theory, because Bezos doesn’t have to tell the Post how to report to get the kind of coverage he wants. It’s baked into a system in which journalists with a working-class perspective or critical of the corporate status quo get weeded out.

As Hill TV (and former MSNBC) journalist Krystal Ball (8/14/19) trenchantly responded to the media pushback against Sanders’ critique, reporters know which stories will endanger their access to the establishment sources  so valued by their employer, and which will earn them praise and access. Those inclined to pursue those establishment-friendly stories rise up in the ranks, while most of those with more critical perspectives eventually move on. So, no, they don’t need Bezos to tell them what to do—their worldview is neatly aligned with his already.

Court: U.S. Can Reject Asylum Along Parts of Mexico Border

Sat, 2019-08-17 01:53

HOUSTON — A federal appeals court’s ruling Friday will allow the Trump administration to begin rejecting asylum at some parts of the U.S.-Mexico border for migrants who arrive after passing through a third country.

The ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows President Donald Trump to enforce the policy in New Mexico and Texas, rejecting asylum seekers who cross from Mexico into either state. Under Friday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar’s July 24 order stopping the policy would only apply in California and Arizona, which are covered by the 9th Circuit.

The two busiest areas for unauthorized border crossings are in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and the region around El Paso, Texas, which includes New Mexico. Nearly 50,000 people in July crossed the U.S. border without permission in those two regions, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Related Articles by ProPublica by by FAIR

The policy would deny asylum to anyone who passes through another country on the way to the U.S. without seeking protection there. Most crossing the southern border are Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty, who would largely be ineligible. The policy would also apply to people from Africa, Asia, and South America who come to the southern border to request asylum.

If the policy is implemented, ineligible migrants who cross in New Mexico and Texas could be detained and more quickly deported. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Under American law, people can request asylum when they arrive in the U.S. regardless of how they enter. The law makes an exception for those who have come through a country considered to be “safe” pursuant to an agreement between the U.S. and that country.

Canada and the U.S. have a “safe third country” agreement. But the U.S. doesn’t have one with Mexico or countries in Central America. The Trump administration has tried to sign one with Guatemala, but the country’s incoming president said this week that Guatemala would not be able to uphold a tentative deal reached by his predecessor.

The U.S. government is already turning away many asylum seekers at the southern border.

About 30,000 people have been returned to Mexico to await asylum hearings under the government’s Migrant Protection Protocols program. Tens of thousands of others are waiting in shelters and camps to present themselves to U.S. border agents at official ports of entry that have strict daily limits on asylum seekers.

Mexico’s asylum system is itself overwhelmed, and there are widespread reports of migrants being attacked and extorted . Border cities across from New Mexico and Texas include Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, and Reynosa, all of which are well-known for their violence and gang presence.

Tigar had ruled the policy could expose migrants to violence and abuse, deny their rights under international law, and return them to countries they were fleeing.

The appeals court ruled that Tigar’s order hadn’t considered whether a nationwide order was necessary and that there wasn’t enough evidence presented yet to conclude that it was. The court instructed Tigar to “further develop the record in support of a preliminary injunction” extending nationwide.

Judges Mark Bennett and Milan Smith voted to limit Tigar’s order. Judge A. Wallace Tashima dissented.

Tigar is a nominee of former President Barack Obama. Trump previously derided Tigar as an “Obama judge” after Tigar ruled against another set of asylum restrictions last year. That comment led to an unusual rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts, who said the judiciary did not have “Obama judges or Clinton judges.”

Trump nominated Bennett, while Smith was nominated by former President George W. Bush. Tashima was nominated by former President Bill Clinton.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other legal groups had sued the Trump administration after it announced the restrictions last month.

“We will continue fighting to end the ban entirely and permanently,” said Lee Gelernt, a lawyer for the ACLU.

The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

Just How Secure Are the 2020 Elections?

Sat, 2019-08-17 01:39

The Las Vegas strip may be the foremost place in America to escape from everyday life. But this past weekend’s Def Con 27 conference—for hackers, programmers, technologists, security experts, and anyone else on the frontlines of cyberspace—was a sobering reckoning with America’s fraught voting systems.

In virtually every corner—in presentations, a “Voting Village” where college students took apart and reprogrammed currently used voting machines, hallway discussions with top government officials and cybersecurity experts—what emerged was a stark, layered sense that the efforts to make America’s election results more trustworthy for 2020 were, at best, barely playing offense against a spectrum of vulnerabilities and threats.

Focusing on the current state of voting systems at Def Con is like visiting a futuristic museum and finding oneself in a gallery of mechanical dinosaurs. When one hears about the latest trends in using and abusing data that flow online or over cell phone signal paths, one realizes that the best efforts to prevent disrupting the 2020 voting process or corrupting its reported results are akin to a cat-and-mouse game, where the best that defenders are doing is putting up spyware and walls to protect porous ancient systems.

Here are five takeaways that illustrate the landscape surrounding voting systems as 2020’s elections approach.

  1. Voting machine hardware and software are vulnerable.

The Voting Village exhibition room was filled with college computer science students who had little difficulty taking apart a half-dozen precinct-level voting machines and reprogramming the electronics, such as making cute videos appear on the screens. They could do that, not surprisingly, because the parts of many voting systems are commercially available, off-the-shelf elements. But scrutiny by the more seasoned computer programmers and voting system experts in the room came up with a list of security or programming flaws that was posted a few hours after Def Con closed.

What does this mean? The bottom line with today’s digital devices and data landscape, whether or not the tools in one’s hands are new or built from old parts—as many voting systems are—is that there is nothing that can fully safeguard against bad actors targeting any electronic machine. The best that can be done is redesigning the voting around hand-marked paper ballots, and then creating the processes that can independently double-check results.

  1. The 2020 offense for 2020 is a porous defense.

There were many high-ranking state and federal employees, cybersecurity experts and members of Congress present, who, in open and in closed sessions, discussed what’s being done to try to prevent meddling in 2020 with the various election computer systems. The most widely discussed federal effort was a new scanning system used by many states where any online attack targeting hardware or data processing in their elections system would be detected in real time—and then alerts would be sent out.

When top state election and Department of Homeland Security officials were asked if hackers—whether domestic or foreign—could get around these detection systems, they replied possibly. That’s because the internet and cell phone-based data systems have evolved to the point where basically everything—text, voice, even encrypted data—can be tracked, captured and manipulated without the person staring at the screen even knowing that is going on. Thus, digital defenses have become like a game of cat and mouse in cyberspace. This technological landscape has big implications for political disinformation, not just voting systems where many local officials report their election night results by cellular modems—so the media has fast results to report.

  1. Finish-line protections are not well-positioned.

The finish line in elections is counting votes and verifying the results in a way the public can trust. But as the country heads into 2020, there are very few new developments that will be in place to double-check the results in the closest high-stakes contests. States, of course, have post-election night procedures and recount laws. But these were mostly written in an era when ballots were shorter and simpler—meaning there might not be enough time for verifying votes (and that’s before political lawyers come in to impede the process, if that helps their clients win). Last November’s three simultaneous statewide recounts in Florida were an example where some big counties couldn’t finish recounting in time.

At Def Con, there was a remedy that was pushed by some of the computer scientists and election advocates who don’t trust any use of electronics in vote counts. That process, called a risk-limiting audit (RLA), which some states have begun to require, uses drawings of random ballots to estimate whether the vote counting is likely to be 95 percent accurate. In close elections, the sample size blows up and becomes a full manual hand recount. RLAs have many pluses, but one big downside is they won’t lead to quickly resolving close disputed results—and will conflict with pre-existing legal recount laws (which are already deficient). The bottom line is they will not expeditiously help resolve who won, should they be in the middle of 2020’s post-Election Day battles.

  1. The newest voting systems aren’t that much better.

In one of the most high-profile Voting Village speeches, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, made an impassioned plea for the audience to pressure Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass legislation providing multimillions to states to upgrade their voting machinery. Wyden said this must occur in the next few weeks, while there is time left to acquire and install new systems this fall, as 2020’s nominating contests begin next February. The problem, however, is that the newest voting systems pushed by the few vendors dominating the industry have some of the same flaws as the systems they are to replace. Of course, their software and hardware look more modern. But the industry, responding to many local election officials who don’t want to spend time after election night interpreting sloppy ink marks on paper ballots, are pushing voting systems that mark all ballots electronically. The problem with that approach, as anyone roaming the halls at Def Con will soon realize, is that anything that is electronic can be preyed upon from behind the screens of the clients or the users (and very few people will know this has happened).

Moreover, the best new voting systems that are being designed now to get around these vulnerabilities are years away, at best, from being piloted, let alone deployed on a larger scale. That means, yet again, American elections are not well-positioned heading into 2020. That assessment has nothing to do with the dedicated efforts by many people and government agencies to harden computers and protect the vote. It’s just that the basic technical architecture of legacy and new voting remains porous, especially as the nation’s leading vendors are pushing computer-marked paper ballots (as opposed to hand-marked paper).

  1. Voting will be targeted amid 2020’s disinformation wars.

Many Def Con presentations discussed the evolution of electronic communications—online and cell phones. Private electronic data and transmissions mostly have vanished today, even though most consumers don’t know it. What this means for 2020’s elections is not very encouraging for public confidence.

Just as the Department of Homeland Security will be helping states and counties to scan for any live attacks on their election computer systems, the most sophisticated political campaigners will be using much the same scanning tools to send countermeasure content to anyone who is targeted by dubious political ads and posts. Voters, who may not realize that they have been targeted from behind the screens of their devices, will end up in a partisan crossfire. Many voters will be left not knowing what’s true—a dynamic that will likely further erode public trust of election outcomes if the biggest 2020 races are not dominated by landslide turnout and wins.

What was missing from many of the voting-centered discussions at Def Con’s forums were assessments of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the varying analog and digital technologies used in different stages of the voting process, and how to combine their virtues. Instead, there’s narrower thinking in different silos:

  • The electronics cannot be trusted;
  • The most aggressive new defenses are far from perfect;
  • The finish-line voter verification tools will likely falter under existing state recount law;
  • Even if Congress appropriates millions for new machinery, the vendors and many local election officials are pushing systems to make their lives easier—not the process more secure;
  • And today’s data and disinformation landscape is poised to prey on the public, undermining the political process writ large.

Las Vegas, where Def Con 27 was held, is usually a place where people escape from the harsher realities of their lives. But when it comes to the current state of America’s election infrastructure, it was hard to be optimistic about 2020 when considering what was showcased at Def Con.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.

Bernie Sanders Fires Back at Netanyahu and Israel

Sat, 2019-08-17 01:15

Sen. Bernie Sanders told MSNBC Thursday night that perhaps Israel should not be receiving billions of dollars in U.S. military aid after the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu barred Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country.

“I wish I could tell you…that I am shocked. I am not,” Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said of President Donald Trump’s support for Israel’s decision. “We have a president who, tragically, is a racist, is a xenophobe, and who is a religious bigot.”

On Friday morning, the New York Times reported that Israel will allow Tlaib to visit her 90-year-old grandmother who lives in the occupied West Bank. Israel did not change its position on Omar.

Sanders said Thursday that “the idea that a member of the United States Congress cannot visit a nation which, by the way, we support to the tune of billions and billions of dollars is clearly an outrage.”

“And if Israel doesn’t want members of the United States Congress to visit their country to get a firsthand look at what’s going on—and I’ve been there many, many times—but if he doesn’t want members to visit, maybe [Netanyahu] can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel,” Sanders added.


WATCH: Bernie Sanders on Israel’s decision to deny entrance to two elected U.S. officials: “If Israel doesn’t want members of the United States Congress to visit their country…maybe they can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel.” #inners

— All In w/Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) August 16, 2019

Progressives applauded Sanders’ remarks, noting that the senator’s willingness to challenge U.S. military aid to Israel makes him unique in the 2020 Democratic presidential field.

“People have been asking how Bernie can distinguish himself from rivals who at least profess agreement on domestic issues,” tweeted HuffPost reporter Daniel Marans. “This is one area where the distinction is clear.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called the Vermont senator’s statement “a big deal.”

“One thing that is completely undeniable about Bernie Sanders is the enormous political courage he consistently wields on behalf of others,” tweeted Ocasio-Cortez. “He’s not just standing up for two members—he’s standing for the integrity of the entire U.S. Congress.”

In addition to his comments on MSNBC, Sanders, who is Jewish, released an online video to push back against the specific claim made by President Trump and many others that to criticize the policies of the Israeli government is to be anti-Semitic—a charge he said is “disgusting.”

Anti-Semitism is not some abstract idea to me. It is very personal. It destroyed a good part of my family. I absolutely reject Trump’s disgusting efforts to exploit fear of anti-Semitism to attack my colleagues.

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 15, 2019

Sanders’ appearance on MSNBC Thursday night was not the first time the senator has called out U.S. military aid to Israel as the Netanyahu government enacts racist policies and commits atrocities against Palestinians.

Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations last month, Sanders said, if elected president in 2020, he would “be willing to bring real pressure to bear on both sides, including conditioning military aid, to create consequences for moves that undermine the chances for peace.”

Pakistan Says Trump to Talk to India on Kashmir

Sat, 2019-08-17 00:56

NEW DELHI — The Latest on India revoking status of Indian-administered Kashmir (all times local):

10:40 p.m.

Pakistan’s foreign minister says U.S. President Donald Trump has told Islamabad that he will talk to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue of Kashmir.

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Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Trump gave this assurance to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan during a telephone conversation Friday.

He also described the meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Kashmir a diplomatic win for his country, saying the meeting was convened to discuss the issue of Kashmir despite India’s opposition.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, in televised comments at the end of the meeting of U.N. Security Council said “the voice of the Kashmiri people, the voice of the people of occupied Kashmir has been heard today in the highest diplomatic forum of the world.


9:30 p.m.

The U.N. Security Council met behind closed doors for the first time in decades on Jammu and Kashmir, and Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador says the session showed that people in the region “may be locked up … but their voices were heard today at the United Nations.”

Maleeha Lodhi told reporters after Friday’s council consultations, which focused on India’s recent downgrading of Kashmir’s autonomy, that “this is the first and not the last step” and “It will only end when justice is done to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

“This is the first time in over 50 years that this issue has been deliberated upon by the Security Council,” Lodhi said. “I think this meeting nullifies India’s claim that Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter for India.”

The Security Council took no action during the closed meeting, which was called for by China and Pakistan.

Chinese U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun said council members expressed “serious concern” at the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir including “about the human rights situation there.”

“It’s the general view of members that parties concerned should refrain from taking any unilateral action which might further aggravate the tension there, since the tension is already very tense and very dangerous,” he said.

He said the international community’s consensus is that the status of Kashmir is undecided, it is “an internationally recognized dispute” and should be resolved peacefully in accordance with the U.N. Charter, U.N. Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.


8:20 p.m.

Pakistan’s prime minister has discussed the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir in a telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran Khan shared his concern with Trump that the situation in Kashmir posed a danger to the region.

He said Khan’s conversation with Trump on Friday was part of his outreach to world leaders about developments in disputed Kashmir, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Khan did not describe Trump’s response.

Last week, India revoked Indian-administered Kashmir’s special constitutional status and downgraded its statehood.

Khan’s conversation with Trump came ahead of a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Kashmir.


8:15 p.m.

Hundreds of people have held a street protest in Indian-controlled Kashmir as India’s government assured the Supreme Court that the situation in the disputed region is being reviewed daily and unprecedented security restrictions will be removed over the next few days.

Carrying green Islamic flags and placards reading “Stop Genocide in Kashmir, Wake Up World,” young and old people took to the streets in Srinagar, the region’s main city, after Friday prayers.

Some hurled stones and clashed with security forces, who responded with tear gas.

Earlier Friday, a senior Indian official in Kashmir, B.V.R. Subrahmanyam, confirmed there would some loosening of restrictions on the region’s residents, saying that landline phone services would be restored gradually beginning Friday night and schools reopened from Monday.


8 p.m.

The U.N. Security Council is meeting behind closed doors to discuss the situation in Kashmir for the first time in decades at the request of China and Pakistan following India’s revocation of the region’s special constitutional status and downgrading of its statehood.

The U.N.’s most powerful body was being briefed Friday morning by Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco and Gen. Carlos Humberto Loitey, the U.N. military adviser.

U.N. officials said the council session may be its first on Kashmir since the late 1990s, or possibly since the 1971 India-Pakistan war.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, told reporters as he headed into the meeting that Moscow is concerned about the latest developments, but he said it is “a bilateral issue.”

Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo said in a statement that council members “need to remember that their mandate is to protect international peace and security — and they should seek to resolve the situation in a way that puts the human rights of the people in this troubled region at its center.”


12:15 p.m.

A lawyer for a Kashmiri newspaper editor says India’s top court has heard petitions challenging the revoked status and lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The court gave no immediate ruling after hearing the petitions Friday. The petitions were filed by advocate M.L. Sharma and by Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin.

Vrinda Grover, the attorney for Bhasin, said the government assured the court that the ground situation in Kashmir was being reviewed daily and that the restrictions will be removed over the next few days. Grover said the judges decided to give the government more time.

The lockdown now in its 12th day includes a near-constant curfew and a news blackout in the disputed Himalayan region. Some analysts have said the revoked status was illegal because it was done without Kashmiri representation.



The family of a Kashmiri journalist working with a regional English daily says he has been detained by Indian armed forces.

Irfan Amin Malik is 26 and works for Greater Kashmir, one of the largest circulating newspapers in the region.

Malik’s father Mohammed Amin Malik told The Associated Press that Malik was taken into custody late Wednesday night at his house in Tral in Pulwama, a southern district in Kashmir. He said, “We are worried about our son.”

Jammu and Kashmir Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal said he was looking into the case. Jammu and Kashmir police chief Dilbagh Singh declined to comment on the issue.

Malik’s is the first detention of a journalist in the region since India decided to revoke Kashmir’s special constitutional status on Aug. 5.

Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan and divided between them.


9:30 a.m.

Pakistan’s military says Indian troops have fired across the Line of Control in the disputed Kashmir region, killing another soldier and bringing the death toll to six in less than 24 hours.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor in a tweet Friday said “another brave son of soil lost his life in the line of duty” in Buttal town.

Pakistan’s military and police said Thursday that Indian firing killed two civilians and three soldiers in Pakistan’s part of Kashmir, which is split between the nuclear-armed rivals and claimed by both in its entirety.

New Delhi downgraded the autonomy of the part of Kashmir it controls last week and imposed a lockdown now in place for a 12th day.

India’s top court on Friday will hear petitions challenging the revoked status.

Democracy Dies Without Alternative Media

Sat, 2019-08-17 00:02

The story of American journalism cannot be written without highlighting the significance of alternative journals that have filled in the gaps mainstream media has failed to account for. Two such progressive journals are The Nation, which has been published since 1965, and Ramparts Magazine, which had a short but significant run from 1962 to 1975.

Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer, who is a contributing editor to The Nation and was once at the helm of Ramparts, sits down to discuss the importance of these publications with Peter Richardson, the author of what Scheer calls “the two best books on alternative journalism in the good old days”: “A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America” and “American Prophet: The Life and Work of Carey McWilliams,” a biography about the editor of The Nation from 1955 to 1977.

“If you think about that mid-20th-century model scene,” Richardson tells the Truthdig editor in chief in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” “you had a lot of news organizations, mostly newspapers. More and more television news organizations were coming along and playing an important role. But mostly they were not doing a lot of investigative reporting, or muckraking. And that kind of work was usually done by smaller outlets, like The Nation, and also then Ramparts magazine.”

Some of the muckraking the author mentions includes stories on the Vietnam War and later the Iraq War, stories that disrupted the common narrative that many large newspapers accepted as fact. One such example is the photojournalistic series Ramparts published during the Vietnam War that revealed the horrors of napalm and inspired Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legendary anti-war speech.

“[After Ramparts] published Martin Luther King’s criticism of the Vietnam War,” Scheer recalls, “The New York Times not only did not fairly report on what he said, [the paper] editorially attacked him for hurting the civil rights movement by connecting it with somehow the peace movement, the anti-war movement. [This story is an example of how] yesterday’s villain in the eyes of the establishment [can become] today’s hero.”

The paper of record’s failure to treat the civil rights hero’s piece fairly illustrates why a varied media, one which includes alternative journalism that pushes beyond the boundaries large media outlets are subject to, is so important to a healthy democracy.

“What I would argue for,” Richardson adds, “is that you need a kind of media ecology where you have a lot of the big, well-funded news organizations kind of covering off on important stories and making sure there’s some political accountability. But you also need smaller, scrappier players who can break stories that elude the big places, or that the big places ignore for one reason or another. And then the smaller players force the bigger players to pick up those stories that carry them.”

Listen to the full discussion between Richardson and Scheer as they talk about American journalism’s past, present and future at a time in which it is as critical as ever that freedom of the press be preserved. You can also read a transcript of the interview below the media player and find past episodes of “Scheer Intelligence” here.

—Introduction by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of “Scheer Intelligence,” where I hasten to add that the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, it’s Peter Richardson. And I have observed his work, he’s a great historian, a specialist on California history. He teaches at the University of San Francisco, where he’s also the coordinator of American studies, there. But I know him because I pop up in one of his books. He’s actually written two very important books about American journalism, about alternative journalism. And the reason I wanted to talk to him today is because fake news, and what is news, and what are we going to do to get news, is very much in the air. And yet Peter has written maybe the two best books on alternative journalism in the good old days. And I’m going to begin with that question. The first involved a profile of Carey McWilliams, who was the editor of The Nation magazine between 1955 and ’70. And I don’t know how old The Nation is now; I think 130 years or something.

Peter Richardson: Mmm, yeah, they turned 100 years in 1965, so we could do the math from there.

RS: Oh, OK, well. And The Nation is the oldest independent political journal of any kind in this country. And then there was an upstart during the sixties that I happened to–well, I was the managing editor, the Vietnam correspondent, and finally the editor in chief–Ramparts magazine. We had a much shorter life. And so in addition to having written a book on what was probably the most important editor of The Nation, Carey McWilliams, who was an important intellectual in his own right, and so forth, you then did the definitive book on Ramparts. And it was particularly pleasing to me because we haven’t always been in favor over at the New York Times, although they put our stories on the front page and so forth.

But your book was favorably reviewed, not once, but twice in the New York Times, in the daily and in Sunday. And yeah, I even got my picture in the paper. So I found it–and obviously, I found it to be a really important insight into a project I had to do with. And so let me begin with that, in this great concern of what’s going to happen, print is in trouble, you know, newspapers are kind of–many of my students at USC haven’t seen one lately, even though they get a lot of news from print sources and so forth. And so why did we need an alternative press in the good old days when we had this wonderful free press that everybody now celebrates? Why did you need The Nation? Why did you need Ramparts?

PR: That’s a great question. I think it sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. But if you think about that mid-20th century model scene, you had a lot of news organizations, mostly newspapers. More and more television news organizations were coming along and playing an important role. But mostly they were not doing a lot of investigative reporting, or muckraking. And that kind of work was usually done by smaller outlets, like The Nation, and also then Ramparts magazine. But even for the smaller organizations, there’s a very strong temptation to avoid expensive investigative reporting. Usually you get a lot of opinion and analysis because that’s cheap. It’s cheap to do, and it’s also very popular; I mean, look at Fox News today. They very rarely break a big story, but a lot of people tune in to listen to the opinion and analysis.

So the challenge has always been, how do you get everyday, daily reporting that’s capable, and also get these deeper dives that sometimes even the best-funded, largest news organizations tend to miss? I mean even now, don’t forget, just in the last 20 years arguably the best, biggest news organizations that we have in this country missed the two biggest important stories of that period, arguably. One is the collapse of the global economy. Nobody, really, at the big places was reporting on that. And also the invasion of Iraq, you know, which the big organizations almost completely missed. So what I would argue for is that you need a kind of media ecology where you have a lot of the big, well-funded news organizations kind of covering off on important stories and making sure there’s some political accountability. But you also need smaller, scrappier players who can break stories that elude the big places, or that the big places ignore for one reason or another. And then the smaller players force the bigger players to pick up those stories that carry them. And that was one of the things, for example, that Ramparts magazine was very good at.

RS: Before we get into that, you know, it’s interesting. Because this whole thing comes down to a quote from A.J. Liebling, the–I hope I’m getting this right. The legendary–I don’t have my fact-checkers with me, which is what you have at a good publication–but as I recall, was the legendary media critic for The New Yorker. A.J. Liebling, who said, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” And that ownership becomes a big deal, because big newspapers, big television stations, big media organizations–I mean, MSNBC now is owned by Comcast, right? They were owned by General Electric–General Electric, a major defense contractor. Amazon now, the biggest stockholder in Amazon, Jeff Bezos, owns the Washington Post with pocket change that he had, so he could buy it. So this question of ownership is one thing. And also, the people who own these properties want to have sales of a certain kind, want to have an influence, have a political outlook, and so forth. So in the case of Carey McWilliams–and probably very few people listening to this have ever heard of [him]–which is terrible; we have no sense of history. But there was a lot going on in this country that the mass media didn’t want to cover, that Carey McWilliams and The Nation insisted on covering. Ranging from farmworkers’ treatment to war and peace; you know, farmworkers in California and so forth.

With Ramparts, I think in your book the thing that–you know, sometimes you forget your own publication’s achievements. But in your book, I mean, it brought it back. And we’re actually doing this recording in San Francisco on Broadway–a little bit of history–corner of Sansome and Broadway, at Sports Byline. Terrific operation here, and they let us use the studios. And across the street was the Ramparts office. That’s where Betty Shabazz, the widow of Malcolm X, was there, and the police closed down half the town. That’s where a lot of the good work was done. But that’s also where, at Ramparts, we published Martin Luther King’s criticism of the Vietnam War. And The New York Times editorially–not only did they not fairly report on what he said, editorially they attacked him for hurting the Civil Rights Movement by connecting it with somehow the peace movement, the anti-war movement. So maybe that would be a good point to begin this discussion, a good example, the Vietnam War. And here was, you know, the papers in this country and the big television, until very late in the day, basically were justifying what is now everybody sees, most people see as an absurd exercise in power.

And The New York Times, you know, which advertised itself as the source of truth–now in some kind of desperation–nonetheless, they denounced Martin Luther King. Why don’t we just begin with that story? Because it’s a very good case story. And then for people who don’t know, Martin Luther King–even though he’s got big statues and streets named after him–he’s also somebody that the U.S. government tried to drive to suicide through the FBI and everything else. So yesterday’s villain in the eyes of the establishment is now safely today’s hero, Martin Luther King.

PR: Sure. Well, I mean, there’s a bunch of questions bound up in there, but that is a good, that story is a good way to get at a lot of different things that were happening then and are still happening today. I mean, it has to do with ownership, it has to do with business models for political journalism, it has to do with the national security state–not just the Vietnam War, but also the FBI and the CIA. And maybe we can start to get at some of those things just through this one anecdote that I discovered while researching the history of Ramparts magazine. At the time, Dr. King was working very hard on the Civil Rights Movement, and he needed a vacation. So he booked a trip to Jamaica, I believe, went to the airport, picked up a few magazines and was flipping through a stack of them. And he came across an issue of Ramparts magazine, which ran a photo essay called “The Children of Vietnam.” And it showed the ravages of the bombing campaign against Vietnam, and especially against its children and the child population there. And the pictures were quite gruesome. I know that the Ramparts editors and art director were really struggling with whether or not to run these pictures. They certainly had never appeared before in any kind of mainstream publication.

RS: Well, just to be precise, because it’s just come back to me, because it was across the street–and I’m not saying I was for running them or not running them. It was an important topic. Susie Griffin, who was working there, the great writer, has pointed out it was–they were shocking, and you didn’t want to be sensationalist. On the other hand, we were using napalm, which was designed to adhere to skin and burn people, mostly vulnerable, children, people stuck in villages. And we did carpet bombing, we did–you know, just leveled everything to the ground. And this was like the drone attacks now, the sort of lifeless things–oh, it’s a video game, who knows, you know? William Pepper, Bill Pepper was the one who collected this and did the terrific journalism.

You know, hey–that’s what we’re doing. We are tearing the skin of 4-year-olds. We are killing, you know, farmers in their field and so forth. And yes, you’re right, it was an issue of taste, or so forth. But on the other hand, isn’t the really bad display of taste that you’re burning children, rather than taking pictures of the burnt children?

PR: Yes. And that was–I mean, even so it was a tough decision, right? And people were doing this work in tears. I know Dugald Stermer told me that. He was the creative director, art director for the magazine. It was not an easy story to put, even to put together. So–and run in the magazine. So there was a lot of, a lot of angst about that. But what was important about it, maybe, was its reception. So it’s not very often that you get a story where a magazine’s decision to run a story actually affects world historical figures and changes their minds on the spot. That’s exactly what happened with Dr. King. He was eating lunch in the airport with a friend, and he was flipping through Ramparts, and suddenly he pushed his plate away. And his friend said, what’s the matter, doesn’t the food taste any good? And he said, I don’t think anything’s going to taste very good until we stop this war.

He had been flipping through the “Children of Vietnam” photo essay. Now, of course, a lot of people said, you know, we’re starting to make progress on civil rights; the last thing we should do is get involved with an anti-war movement during this time. It’s going to dilute the power of the Civil Rights Movement and your message. But Dr. King never had any misgivings about it. He decided immediately that he needed to go out publicly and oppose the war, which he did. And he did get criticized for it, you know. He was told, as you very well know, to stay in his lane: Don’t protest the war. It’s OK, it’s reasonable or tolerable for you to fight for civil rights, but you’re crossing the line if you come out against the war. That’s the reception that his speech got. It’s a thrilling speech. I mean, it’s a very pointed argument that he makes that America at that time was one of the biggest threats to the world’s safety.

RS: He said at Riverside Church in Manhattan, he said how do I tell young people in the ghetto to abhor violence, and be nonviolent, when my government, the U.S. government, is the major purveyor of violence in the world today. Now, you have to consider that statement when you think about this argument between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the last election. Donald Trump said he’s going to make America great again, meaning it was great in the past but not now. And Hillary Clinton saying it was always great, America was always great–was it great when we were napalming children of Vietnam? Was it great when we had slavery and segregation?

You know, you could go down the list. And the key to greatness is to recognize your fallibility as a human being and as a nation. That’s the key, that’s why we believe in limited government, that’s why we have a Constitution, right? That was the whole assumption, presumably, of this great creation of the Bill of Rights and so forth. And yet these politicians of both parties–and major news organizations–continuously celebrate a mythology about this country; it’s almost like as if it was born perfect. Right? It was born because people said, no–all existing institutions and organizations throughout the world have failed. The Roman Empire failed, the British Empire failed–they failed us. We have to design something fundamentally different. That’s why it was called a revolution.

PR: Yeah. I mean, really, and another way of thinking about it was that we had a chance at that moment to grow up a little bit as a country, and face up to some of the things that we were doing in real time. And I would go further. It wasn’t just that people were criticized for opposing the war. It was also that they were being investigated by the national security apparatus, and not only for opposing the war, but for the hubris of actually investigating the FBI and the CIA.

So this is what I think of–and I think Carey McWilliams is a kind of case in point, as well as the people at Ramparts–is by saying these things, by publishing these things, you become a kind of target. You know, you end up sort of launching a big, fat FBI file for doing that. And you know, so we also have to acknowledge what I call the wages of dissent. That by coming out and saying something like that, Dr. King also becomes the target for political harassment, essentially, which you mentioned at the top of the program. So did the people at Ramparts magazine.

RS: I want to dig in a little bit more deeply into this question of why you need an alternative media. But let’s hold that thought, take a quick break here, and I’ll be right back with Peter Richardson, who has written definitive books, really, on–I would say on two very important examples of independent journalism, which should be considered when we’re considering where is real news and where is fake news. And that was The Nation magazine, the nation’s oldest political journal; and Ramparts, which had a brief but–what did you call it, wild history? I forget the subtitle of your book–unruly history. [omission for station break]

We’re back with Peter Richardson, who teaches at the University of San Francisco, is in charge of the–coordinator of American studies there. And is best known for the two definitive books on alternative media in America. I can say that, having participated in one of those activities, Ramparts magazine, but knowing I’m still a senior editor, I think, at The Nation, full disclosure. [Laughs] And Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor and publisher, has been on this program, and she’s fabulous. But your book was about a previous editor, Carey McWilliams, and I want to go back to him. And just talking about the good old days of journalism, 1955 to ‘70.

And we’ve talked a lot about Ramparts; let’s talk about The Nation during that period. We came out of the Great–well now everybody says the Great War, and the good war, was World War II. People forget, in World War II our own forces were segregated. We were fighting for freedom around the world, but we did not let black and white soldiers fight side by side. We also had rounded up a good part of the Japanese [population], and even though we took some Japanese-American–all these people were citizens, Americans and so forth, that we rounded up–we wouldn’t let them fight in Asia, but they could fight in Germany. And so the thing–and the treatment of women was horrendous, and you know, my own late mother-in-law was a Marine, but they called her “broad-ass Marine,” and made fun of them and so forth, and the Women’s Army Corps and so forth. So even though that period–and so here’s Carey McWilliams, now we’re in the post-war euphoria, and we’re in 1955.

And he’s the editor of The Nation, he’s already written a lot–what remained to be exposed and analyzed that was left out of the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Herald-Tribune and so forth? A lot. A lot about–first of all, America was deeply segregated. The Democratic Party, which now presents itself as this wonderfully enlightened institution, was largely directed by Southern racist Dixiecrats, right?

PR: I mean, there are a couple things that happened to McWilliams along the way, that put him in this very unique position. One was that he had been radicalize by the 1930s. He was an attorney; he was a litigator in Los Angeles. And you know, his earlier goal had been to become a kind of modern H.L. Mencken, to be a kind of literary guy and a tastemaker. So he pursued these two tracks; on the one hand, downtown litigator, where he learned a lot about Los Angeles down at the courthouse. And then this other thing where he was writing for literary journals and analyzing poems and novels and stuff like that, interviewing important people like Upton Sinclair, Mary Austin, and others.

So those two threads merged in the 1930s, when he started writing about politics for publications like The Nation and The New Republic, and some more radical ones as well. So his first big bestseller was a history of California farm labor. It came out the same year as The Grapes of Wrath; it was sort of the nonfiction version of The Grapes of Wrath. He made a lot of enemies with that book. The Associated Farmers, which was the California agribusiness kind of political action group, called him agricultural pest No. 1, worse than pear blight or boll weevil. Another enemy was the Los Angeles Times, where he had worked while he was going through college at USC. They didn’t like his position.

RS: I had no idea Carey McWilliams was a Trojan!

PR: Mm-hmm, yes.

RS: Well, that’s a good plug to get in here.

PR: Yes, it is. Oh, and just so we’re not creating any fake news today, I teach at San Francisco State University, not the University of San Francisco, so.

RS: Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

PR: Just, I gotta, I gotta represent my Gators on this one.

RS: San Francisco State is part of the great California secular education system, the state college system, right up there–yeah, OK.

PR: Right, right. It’s a great place to teach and work, and that’s where I teach all these courses on California culture. But anyway, returning to McWilliams at the end of the Second World War. So he had written a history of farm labor. He had written a book called Prejudice, which destroyed every argument for the internment, evacuation and internment of Japanese and Japanese Americans. That book was cited four times in a Supreme Court dissenting opinion the year it came out. So this is really consequential writing.

RS: We should point out, by the way, unfortunately, the Supreme Court said it was constitutional to round up these innocent farmers, primarily, and throw them in a concentration camp. That’s part of the great American mythology.

PR: And he had, you know, to be honest, he had sort of gone along with it, because he was serving in state government at the time. But the governor was a democrat, the first democratic governor of the 20th century in California. And the president was a democrat, FDR. So you know, he had to kind of toe the party line. But as soon as he was fired–which he was done immediately after Earl Warren became governor, to please agribusiness–he began this book on the Japanese internment. And so that book came along in 1944. And then at the end of the war, he began–

RS: OK, I just want to stop you there. Because these are really achievements of the independent mind, OK? 1944–it was thought, in the top scientific circles where they were developing the bomb, that it would be many–and the University of California at Berkeley was running the bomb program on the Oppenheimer. They thought it would be perfectly–not all of them; some dissented, General Eisenhower actually even dissented.

But it was thought, OK, we can destroy basically a civilian population of fishermen in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, just to make a point. And we can develop the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. But the idea was that the Japanese were so heinous that it extended down to ordinary Japanese, who certainly didn’t vote for their emperor–no one ever consulted them about whether they should be in war or not. You know, they were cannon fodder. And yet here’s Carey McWilliams writing a book, right? About the rounding up of these people. With no due process. And by the way, my father was from Germany, and Germans weren’t rounded up.

PR: Right. Or Italians.

RS: Yeah. And I was a kid then. I was a kid then, and I knew, many of my relatives had German accents, you know, heavy. And they weren’t–my half-brother, he bombed the–he was trusted to be in an airplane, bombing our hometown in Germany, right? No one questioned his loyalty. Now, they shouldn’t have; he was a, you know, great fellow, and didn’t want to do anything terrible to anybody. He ended up being a pacifist as a result. But the fact of the matter is, if you want to talk about the racism built into the whole fabric of American society, these Japanese were held accountable for the emperor even though many of the people rounded up had been born here. And on the other hand, my half-brother wasn’t rounded up, nor should he have been, but he could be trusted to be in that airplane dropping bombs over his home village.

PR: The Japanese weren’t rounded up in Hawaii, which wasn’t a state yet. And which had been bombed by the Japanese in 1941. So, and it’s not just the Japanese; I mean, McWilliams was also a really staunch advocate for the Latino population in and around Los Angeles, much of that during the war. Again, not a super popular cause at that time. But some of the things he was able to accomplish were regarded as the first political victories of the Latino population in Los Angeles, I mean, in the Anglo era. So–

RS: When was–I mean, this–I stop you because so much of this history, which you have tried to preserve and understand, has largely been lost to us. Now, we did have the production of the Zoot Suit Riots and so forth, but we forget the systematic racism towards brown people in Southern California. You know, where now the balance has shifted. But everybody forgets, they forget that we had the Chinese Exclusion Act, Right? California, right? That you could not get married, you could not–you know, these guys who were building the railroad couldn’t marry a non-Chinese, they couldn’t get citizenship. Right? This was–and it didn’t end until 1943, because China was suddenly our ally–oh, well, this doesn’t look good that Chinese people in California have no rights at all.

PR: The Exclusion Act ended, but interracial marriage didn’t end in California until 1948. In fact, McWilliams was called into executive session of the committee on un-American activities in California, and grilled on that exact point. Because he had written a book called Brothers Under the Skin, which was a history of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. And the person grilling him said, I’m just going to ask you one question. Do you believe in interracial marriage? And McWilliams said, I don’t think there should be a law against it. And they didn’t publish any of that transcript, even though they had published all the other ones, and instead the chairman of the committee said that McWilliams’ position on interracial marriage was identical to that of communist ideology. So that’s what we’re talking about. That was in the forties, yeah. That was when interracial–I mean, interracial marriage is illegal in California until 1948.

RS: That’s a showstopper, OK. Let’s take that sentence, OK? We’re not talking about Alabama, we’re not talking about the time of slavery, we’re not talking about the time of deep segregation. Talking about California, which is celebrated–oh, now it’s deep blue, but you know, basically even when republicans ran it, kind of moderate republicans and so forth. I think our history is more effectively whitewashed and distorted than it would be in a more obvious totalitarian society because people here feel–no! We’ve always been great, we’ve always been free, we’ve always had a free press.

You know–we didn’t always have a free press. The LA Times–you know, come on, I spent 29 years there one way or another, and I love the–the last Chandler, Otis Chandler, I thought was a great guy and everything. But the fact of the matter is, his father and grandfather and everything went along with lies. Fake news. They didn’t talk very much about the Exclusion Act, or–right? And let’s take the one case you have of the farmworkers. The people growing the food to feed this nation were treated as indentured servants.

PR: I would just add two things that McWilliams worked on after the farm labor book came out. One was the Zoot Suit Riots, which you mentioned. I mean, the very fact that we call them the Zoot Suit Riots is interesting. It was really a military riot. Soldiers and sailors, or sailors and marines, in downtown Los Angeles were openly attacking Latino youths with no consequence whatsoever. And that didn’t end until the admiral brought shore leave to a close. And that’s how it ended. McWilliams observed all that, wrote about it, was actively engaged in real time trying to analyze this. And then worked on a commission report that followed it about the causes.

RS: This is not a way of running down the culture. It’s a way of celebrating the people who made the culture better. That’s what the significance of Carey McWilliams is–and of The Nation magazine, for god’s sake. Why did it remain for this lawyer in L.A., and for The Nation magazine later, to tell us that we had farmworkers who had no rights, that were raising your food? Or that we excluded the Chinese, or that we could just kill and beat up Mexican Americans in L.A. with impunity, and so forth? Because a free press is never guaranteed. And the fact is, if you don’t have an alternative press, you don’t have a free press. That’s the real lesson of the two books that you’ve written, and that’s what they’re denying these days. It’s all, oh, we got this oaf–you know, and you can go worse; you can say he’s a neofascist, you can say lots of things about Donald Trump. But Donald Trump did not invent racism in America and exploitation and crudeness and boorishness and everything else. That has been part of our culture.

PR: Yeah, I don’t–it’s nothing new, that’s for sure. I mean, there’s a really nasty streak of white supremacy that goes all the way back to the beginning of our nation’s history.

RS: Which was started with genocide against the Native Americans. If you bring it up, you’re kind of ruining the dinner party, you know? Yet, we’ve had some very good recent books that it was even accepted and reported in the common press that they killed Native American children, threw infants into the fire, even. That’s all been documented in Benjamin Madley’s book–he’s been on the show, for example; he’s head of Native American studies at UCLA. Everything in his book, which is devastating, was found in a newspaper and reported as if, hey, this is OK. It’s OK to throw Native American–I still can’t get over that part of his book–it’s OK. They didn’t use the word “OK,” they just routinely reported that this savagery against the Native Americans was commonplace in the 19th century, the end of the 19th century.

PR: Yeah. Well, there’s a–I mean, we all know there’s a ton of Good Friday in this country. There’s also some Easter Sunday. And I think the kind of work that Carey McWilliams did, that Ramparts did, the fact that my–the junior high school that I went to over in the East Bay is now called the Fred Korematsu school–there’s some awareness that, you know, some of these struggles have been victorious. You know, it’s not all gloom and doom all the time. But I don’t think we get anywhere by whitewashing the history and pretending that it didn’t happen, or that it’s too gloomy to think carefully and thoughtfully about the nation’s real history. I think it puts us in a better position to achieve the goals that we share.

RS: I want to push this a little bit. We have just a tiny little bit more time. Because it really goes to the great secret of American greatness, which comes not from, ever, from the establishment. It never comes from the best and the brightest. Unless they betray their class; unless they betray their teaching. There’s always a rebellion from below, whether it’s Upton Sinclair, you know; whether–any of them. I could go through Tom Paine, who was a disreputable character, right? And he was the preeminent writer of the American revolution. He was a guy they wanted to deport, had come over from England, who is this scurrilous guy, makes corsets and everything? And so when you look at the history of ideas in America, it’s really mostly from the people who challenged the prevailing ideology, which was apologizing for bad stuff, including obviously slavery. We had a lot of really bad stuff–we have really bad stuff now, we blow up people all over the world with impunity.

A lot of people think, oh, this is the worst time because Donald Trump has got children in cages, OK, on the Mexican border. OK, who put those cages there? It was Barack Obama. This is not to excuse Donald Trump, but Barack Obama’s government, good liberal folks that I hang out with, they built those cages, OK. And they also separated families and deported people, trying to get away from poverty and from violence and so forth. So you know, the real–I want to tie this up, but I don’t want to make it too tight a knot and oversimplify. But the fact is, if we don’t learn from history, we don’t learn anything; we don’t understand ourselves. Then the question is, who owns history? Right now, it’s the people chattering away on Fox News, or MSNBC, or billionaires who can buy newspapers. Including–and OK, it’s a good thing that they buy the LA Times or the Washington Post. But the fact of the matter is, they own the narrative. And what you’ve chronicled in your two books is people who challenge the prevailing narrative.

PR: I’d go further. I mean–they did do that. There’s no doubt about it. And they did it very well, I think, both Carey McWilliams at The Nation, and before The Nation, and Ramparts magazine.

RS: Yeah, to be fair to The Nation, before Carey McWilliams and after, it has been an incredibly important publication.

PR: Yeah, it’s a very long run. And it was started by abolitionists; you mentioned slavery, I mean, that magazine was started in the middle of the 19th century by abolitionists. So it comes out of that spirit of challenge to the orthodoxy. And so–and they’ve been able to maintain it ever since, and it’s not easy. And we haven’t talked much about business models and all that stuff. You mentioned Rolling Stone, it’s done a certain amount of work in that direction; Mother Jones is another one. There has to be a kind of culture that supports it at the end of the day. But what I would also mention is that when it comes to that challenge from the alternative media, a very, very important aspect of it is that you can’t just talk to each other.

You have to try to get that message amplified. And one of the things about Ramparts magazine that I really learned was that the key to its success was not just to find these stories, not just to report on these stories, not just to publish these stories, but to force the mainstream media to pick up on those stories. That is so important. And I’m not sure everybody in the alternative media understands the importance of that. And that kind of–a certain amount of it was showmanship. You know, much of it provided by Warren Hinckle. But you cannot just, you cannot hide your candle under a bushel. You have to figure out a way to get other media outlets to pick up your story.

RS: So let me put my little editorial in. Everything you said is true. And it was particularly true through most of the history of media in this country, because you had concentration of capital. That’s something the founders did not anticipate. They thought the press was going to be the penny press, the town crier, some small–anybody could have one. You know, didn’t require great capital accumulation and so forth. And then increasingly, it required more capital. And then you were William Randolph Hearst, and give me the photos, I’ll give you the war. And fake news became built into the very model in the sense of what sells, what’s sensational. When I grew up, my god, the New York Daily News was far more powerful in New York than the New York Times. And they had the pictures, and they had the wild headlines, and if they didn’t do it the Daily Mirror did it, and the Journal-American did it, and so forth.

So I was raised in an environment where, yeah, we had a lot of newspapers, but most people that I knew were reading and looking at these papers that were flaming intolerance, and warlike attitudes, and you know, everything. And demonizing the other, and really a lot of bad, bad stuff. And yes, on the fringe you had The Nation, you had PM, or you had little publications. So we shouldn’t glorify the old days. And the point that you’re making is absolutely essential: If Ramparts–which I did end up editing, full disclosure, at the end–if we couldn’t get into the New York Times or some mainstream, if we didn’t get CBS to pick us up, the message didn’t exist, because we were a small publication.

The positive news–I want to end positive here, and that’s why I’m doing this show. You know, now we can do podcasting, and hopefully we can reach a lot of people. And with Truthdig, where this will appear, along with KCRW and others. You know, you find–Leonard Cohen in his great London concert, the great thinker–I would put Leonard Cohen as a great thinker, great poet–said there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets through. And the crack in the internet is that, yes, there’s a lot of noise, and there’s a lot of fake news, and there’s a lot of garbage, and there’s a lot of exploitation of privacy, and blah blah blah. But as long as we have some variant of net neutrality–I mean a significant variant of it–you can have Truthdig.

And we’re not the only ones. I’m not going to go list all the other publications. But I’ve been editing this publication now for 15 years, and I can tell you in addition to winning a lot of prizes and everything, we’ve been able to break through. We were able to break through the story of Pat Tillman being killed by the American, you know, American forces while he’s in Afghanistan, the great football hero. And it was done by his brother, who was with him there. And you could do it on a small publication, and you could get attention everywhere to that. And it’s one of the stories I’m proudest of. I’m proud that we have Chris Hedges–and this is not a commercial, trust me. But I’m proud.

Chris Hedges was fired by the New York Times, one of their great correspondents, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, who covered war in the Mideast for 20 years, and in Kosovo and everywhere. And yet they fired him–why? Because at a commencement address, he dared to suggest that these wars were not warranted. You know–well, he publishes, every week, every Monday morning I got him up there on Truthdig. So the internet–and that’s why, you know, people can go read your books right now. I don’t like the fact that bookstores have disappeared, or Kindle or anything–but you know, hey, read Peter Richardson. OK? We’ve been talking about Carey McWilliams. Again, this is not a commercial. Do yourself a favor. Just go online right now and order his books. I don’t care where you get ‘em, hopefully you can buy them from some brick and mortar bookstore that’s trying to stay in business, right? Give us the titles, the full titles and the publisher, Peter.

PR: The Ramparts book is called A Bomb in Every Issue, came out in 2009, available in paperback. And the Carey McWilliams book just came out in paperback, it’s called American Prophet. 

RS: OK. So the proof is in the pudding. Read those books, and you’ll understand what the pursuit of real news is all about. Or to borrow from Al Gore, it’s inconvenient truths, you know, that bother other people. And the reality is, that’s how we’ve gotten the more honest narrative throughout our history, you know. There’s a line in that. And so sitting around bemoaning fake news is really deceptive. Because it implies that fake news is something new, or that it only happens in the form of a buffoon like Donald Trump. But fake news has been a feature of life in every society. It was true in Athens; it was true in France before, during, and after the revolution; and it’s true in the United States before, during, and after our institutions developed. And so people should be mindful of that. And sometimes you just have to work a bit harder to get at it. And so people listening to this, if you’ve never heard of Carey McWilliams, you should go back and ask some of your mentors, people who influenced you, why you never heard of him.

Because if you had heard about Carey McWilliams, you would have known about the farmworkers who for all of this century, last century, have been feeding you under miserable circumstances. That’s important. Or you could learn about the internment of the Japanese. So my hat’s off to Peter Richardson for writing two of the best books we have on American history. And see you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence. But I want to thank our producer Joshua Scheer for putting this together. I want to thank the people at KCRW for helping with the production and promoting it. And Darren Peck, just at the last minute, made his studio available to us, and I love the fact that it’s across the street from the old Ramparts headquarters. So you know what? Independent thought, questioning, critical thinking, survives. And after this I’ll go have a drink with Peter across the street and remember the good old Ramparts days. But you know, the good old days were not so good, and there’s a lot of room now to do the kind of work that Peter Richardson has been doing. And read the work of authors like Peter Richardson.

So begin with his own book, check it out, and then write me an angry letter if you think I overinflated it, but I think he’s written two really–among other, many other things he’s written, and he does write for Truthdig also, I should have mentioned that. But these two books are really classics. So let’s end on that note. See you next week with another edition of “Scheer Intelligence.”

Tlaib Declines to Visit West Bank, Citing Israeli Conditions

Fri, 2019-08-16 23:08

JERUSALEM — Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib said Friday she would not visit her grandmother in the occupied West Bank, despite being granted an Israeli permit on humanitarian grounds, saying Israel’s “oppressive” conditions aimed to humiliate her.

Israel barred Tlaib and another Democrat, Rep. Ilhan Omar, from visiting Jerusalem and the West Bank over their support for the international boycott movement following an unprecedented appeal from President Donald Trump to deny them entry.

Israel had said Tlaib could visit relatives in the West Bank on humanitarian grounds. The Interior Ministry released a letter purportedly signed by Tlaib in which she promised not to advocate boycotts during her visit.

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“Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother’s heart,” she said in a statement. “Silencing me with treatment to make me feel less-than is not what she wants for me — it would kill a piece of me that always stands up against racism and injustice.”

It was not immediately clear if she had initially agreed to the Israeli conditions, and if so what caused her to change her mind.

Tlaib and Omar had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank next week on a tour organized by a Palestinian group. The two are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and support the Palestinian-led international movement boycotting Israel.

The two newly elected Muslim members of Congress have sparred with Trump, who tweeted before the decision that it would be a “show of weakness” to allow them in. Israel controls entry and exit to the West Bank, which it seized in the 1967 Mideast war along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — territories the Palestinians want for a future state.

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced that Tlaib had requested and been granted permission to enter the West Bank to see relatives. The U.S.-born Tlaib’s family immigrated from the West Bank.

Deri’s office released what it said was Tlaib’s written request, on congressional stationery dated Thursday, in which she said she wanted to visit her grandmother, who is in her 90s.

“This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit,” she said. Tlaib’s office could not immediately be reached for comment on the letter’s authenticity.

Shortly after the announcement, however, Tlaib tweeted that she wouldn’t allow Israel to use her love for her grandmother to force her to “bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.”

“When I won (in 2018), it gave the Palestinian people hope that someone will finally speak the truth about the inhumane conditions. I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me,” she wrote.

Bassam Tlaib, an uncle who lives in the West Bank, expressed support for her decision.

“If Rashida’s visit to her homeland is under conditions, we reject that,” he said. “It’s Rashida’s right as a Palestinian to come and visit her family and country.”

Deri, the interior minister, meanwhile fired back on Twitter, saying: “I approved her request as a gesture of goodwill on a humanitarian basis, but it was just a provocative request, aimed at bashing the State of Israel. Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother.”

Trump’s request to a foreign country to bar the entry of elected U.S. officials — and Israel’s decision to do so — were unprecedented and drew widespread criticism, including from many Israelis as well as staunch supporters of Israel in Congress. Critics said it risked turning Israel into a partisan issue and threatened to undermine ties between the close allies.

Tlaib and Omar are known as supporters of “boycott, divestment and sanctions,” or BDS, a Palestinian-led global movement. Supporters say the movement is a nonviolent way of protesting Israel’s military rule over the occupied territories, but Israel says it aims to delegitimize the state and eventually wipe it off the map.

Tlaib and Omar are also part of the “squad” of liberal newcomers — all women of color — whom Trump has labeled as the face of the Democratic Party as he runs for re-election. He subjected them to a series of racist tweets last month in which he called on them to “go back” to their “broken” countries. They are U.S. citizens.

Trump’s latest move brought a longtime U.S. ally into a domestic dispute, essentially relying on Israel to retaliate against Tlaib and Omar after they had criticized him. It marked a glaring departure from the tradition of American politicians leaving such disputes at the water’s edge.

For Israel, the willingness to side so pointedly with Trump marks a deeper foray into America’s bitterly polarized politics and risks its relationship with Congress.

Israel announced the ban Thursday after Trump tweeted that “it would show great weakness” if the two were allowed to visit. Asked later if he had spoken to Netanyahu, he said, “I did talk to people over there,” without elaborating.

Omar, who became the first Somali American elected to Congress, denounced the ban on her and Tlaib’s tour as “an affront” and “an insult to democratic values.”

Netanyahu said Thursday his country remains “open to critics and criticism,” except for those who advocate boycotts against it.


Associated Press cameraman Eyad Moghrabi in Beit Ur al-Foqa, West Bank, contributed.