Archive | December 4th, 2014

From Montgomery to Ferguson: The Fight for Civil Rights Goes On


Showing of “Awakenings” from “Eyes on the Prize”


This Friday, Dec. 5
7:00 p.m.
617 Florida Ave. NW
Shaw/Howard Metro (Yellow/Green lines)

RSVP and share the event on Facebook!

This week marked the 59th anniversary of Rosa Parks’s courageous refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., sparking the bus boycott that pushed the fight for Black civil rights to the forefront of the national consciousness.


Come for a screening of “Awakenings,” the first segment of the award-winning documentary series “Eyes on the Prize” that covers the history of the Civil Rights Movement. This 60-minute documentary covers the years 1954-1956, including the murder of Emmett Till, the arrest of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. “Eyes on the Prize” combines historical footage and contemporary interviews and historical footage, and is a must-see for all activists today.

Following the screening, we will discuss the recent nationwide protests following the decisions not to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., or indict Daniel Pantaleo for the murder of Eric Garner in New York City, and the connection between the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement and our movement today.

The struggle of the 1950s and 60s won important victories for Black people — the legal end of segregation and Jim Crow — but the fight goes on; every 28 hours, a Black person is killed by law enforcement, private security or armed vigilantes. The murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner have brought thousands into the streets to shut down business as usual until justice is done.

Join the Party for Socialism and Liberation for an examination of the struggle for civil rights and the connection between the movement’s past and present.

Sponsored by the Party for Socialism and Liberation
202-234-2828 — —

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Asking Christians about Tolerance of War


Jesus delivering his Sermon on the Mount as depicted in a painting by Nineteenth Century artist Carl Heinrich Bloch.

Jesus delivering his Sermon on the Mount as depicted in a painting by Nineteenth Century artist Carl Heinrich Bloch.

Many Americans are tuning out on politics and international affairs – feeling they have no real say in what the government does – but there is a danger from such passivity, particularly the license given to the powers-that-be to make war and more war, as Gary G. Kohls explains.

By Gary G. Kohls

“What Did You Do During The War, Daddy?” was the title of a wonderful but sobering book written by Sabine Reichel, who was born to Nazi collaborator parents in bombed-out Hamburg, Germany in 1946.

Her parents had been upper-class citizens prior to the war and they managed to maintain their respectability after the war. Her mother and father, like so many other obedient “good” Germans of the Nazi-era, never talked to their child about what they had done during the Hitler years. The unwelcome truth only came out much later, during Reichel’s early adult years.

The book details her experiences in trying to obtain the answers to the book’s title question. But “What did you do during the war, Daddy” has been a dreaded question for many soldier-fathers (as well as for some civilian parents) who collaborated (actively or passively) with warmongers in times of war and who then discovered, too late, that they had been on the ethically wrong side of what turned out to be an unjust war – a war contrary to what they had been told, a war of aggression or corporate resource exploitation and thus a war that was an international war crime, a crime against humanity or a crime against the peace.

And whether or not they had been deceived by their corporate-controlled governments and media outlets about the realities of those wars, any parent will dread being asked probing questions such as these:

–“Did you profit from, or were you on the side of flag-waving, war-mongering politicians, the corporate war profiteers or the gun-runners of your country that beat the drums for war?”

–“Did you swallow whole the repeated nationalistic pro-war messages of the media’s propaganda machine that glorified war and obscured the inconvenient truths about the organized, indiscriminate mass slaughter that is modern war?”

–“Did you remain silent in the face of your nation’s war crimes when innocent, unarmed civilians on the ‘other side’ were being demonized, starved, bombed, poisoned, persecuted, imprisoned, ‘disappeared,’ made homeless, or becoming victims of ‘collateral damage’?”

Yet, some nonviolence-embracing fathers, if they had strong consciences and courage to match, refused to kill and die in an unjust war. Because of that, they could honorably and truthfully answer these questions and even welcome follow-ups:

–“Daddy, when you sensed that the war was an unjust one, did you refuse to sign up and support it? Did you speak out against your era’s war as well as other forms of violence? Did you join the resistance against the war-mongering majorities? Did you march in public anti-war actions and actively try to reverse your nation’s misbegotten involvement in war?”

Obedient Citizens

Multitudes of guilty World War II-era German parents, most of whom were baptized Christians, faced these questions when their children started reading between the lines of their censored school history books and realized that war crimes had been committed by their nation and therefore perhaps also by their patriotic parents.

The same could be said about American Protestant children whose fathers were of draft age during the Vietnam War or about average Catholic Christians whose leaders were in positions of authority and counsel during the Dirty Wars in Central and South America, wars that were often fomented and then aggressively supported by the United States’ military/industrial/congressional complex during the Reagan/Bush years.

In every nation, the history books have been written by the patriots, nationalists, militarists and assorted victors who feel compelled to preserve the myths of the “glory” of war. Since war crimes (at the very least, rape and pillage) have been committed by soldiers on all sides of all wars throughout the history of warfare, there is a tremendous amount of motivation to cover up the shameful deeds that are so easy to commit during the fog of war.

An example that comes to mind is the Catholic Joseph Ratzinger (now emeritus Pope Benedict XVI), who joined the Hitler Youth in his teens. Young, naïve Joseph might be excused for his youthful act of German patriotism and nationalism. But later, as Archbishop of Munich, the historical hotbed of German fascism and a city that nurtured Adolf Hitler and spawned the Nazi Party during the 1920s, one wonders what the archbishop would have said if his parishioners had asked him what he had done during the war, since participation in the killing of friends or enemies was clearly contrary to the teachings and modeling of the pacifist Jesus.

Given the inglorious history of Europe’s church-endorsed Reformation Wars, Counter-Reformation Wars, Thirty Years War and Hundred Year War, many Germans regarded Prussian militarism and universal conscription as somehow normal, even godly. But a future Pope should have had a  reasonable explanation for why he was so willing to cast aside the teachings of Jesus.

In both World Wars I and II, baptized and confirmed Germans enthusiastically marched off to what they thought were justified wars, wars fought “defending” against the threats posed by various minority or outsider groups that were accused of endangering the Fatherland.

Conscription laws had to be progressively relaxed as the wars progressed to include children and older men up to the age of 60 because most of the ideal-age young adult men were dead, disabled or otherwise used up and cast aside. German men were told by their Catholic and Protestant bishops and pastors that it was their Christian duty to fight and kill, and the women were told to support the troops and the war mission. To make sure there would be future soldiers for Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich, the German women were expected to have lots of Aryan babies.

The soldier’s sacred oath of allegiance to Hitler and his killing machine trumped the Golden Rule of the gospels and the Christic ethical principles of love and friendship toward neighbor and enemy alike. Most German Christians saw no contradiction between the demands of Jesus’s gospel ethic of love, mercy and forgiveness and the ruthless and cruel “gods” of war and wealth – and their pastors didn’t either. There wasn’t even a hint of a gospel nonviolence movement in Germany. The pacifist Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an aberration, and he came along way too late.

German Christians couldn’t have been expected to understand the practicality of the ethical teachings of Jesus’ in his Sermon on the Mount because it hadn’t been taught in a meaningful way for 1,700 years. They didn’t make the connections between the stories of the early Christian martyrs (who knew Jesus best) and their total refusal to engage in homicidal violence, even against their enemies.

It’s likely that none of the religious books that Germans had studied in Sunday School or seminary had talked about the demonic nature of war. German Christian soldiers, as is the case of many other Christian soldiers in other nations, may have been fooled into thinking that the presence of Christian chaplains in the military was an endorsement of war and therefore war was somehow compatible with the teachings of Jesus.

“Gott Mit Uns” on Belt Buckles

German soldiers in both World Wars went into battle with the words “Gott Mit Uns” (God With Us) inscribed on their belt buckles. There also was a well-oiled military/industrial/political/media complex that consistently pumped out pro-war propaganda.

Perhaps these patriotic soldiers weren’t aware that the anti-war, anti-fascist and socialist printing presses had been silenced well before either World War started. Indeed the liberal printing presses had been both silenced and smashed well before World War II and the liberal journalists, editors and publishers had been imprisoned.

Whatever the process, Germans were well-prepared to obediently follow their Fuhrer; and just as all soldiers everywhere solemnly take their oaths, pledge their allegiance to and salute the flag, obey orders (even illegal ones) and promise to fulfill their “duty to God and Country,” so did German soldiers pledge their allegiance to Hitler and the swastika and to do their duty to ensure homeland security.

Religious leaders were no different. In Germany, Protestant and Catholic clergy were guilty of not resisting Hitler’s Nazi Party early enough. In Italy, the Vatican must shoulder a lot of responsibility for the successful establishment and growth of Mussolini’s Fascist Party.

But Christians in the Axis Powers were surely not alone in such pro-war behavior. Church leaders of all denominations (in nations that have been granted special tax privileges by their governments) have been dutifully denying the established facts about the murders and other atrocities committed against children and other non-combatants in wars.

After World War II, the Vatican also had a large role to play in the birth and growth of brutal, militaristic, “anti-communist” regimes, including the Dirty Wars in the predominantly Catholic nations of South and Central American during the 1970s and 1980s. The same tolerance of slaughter certainly seems to be true of American churches past, present and very likely future.

So to the Christian clerical or lay leaders of most denominations, the simplistic question should be asked: “What Would Jesus Have Done?” The clear answer that even secular humanists can easily answer: It’s obvious. Jesus would have actively and nonviolently resisted all forms of violence, as he indeed did, even if it meant that he would have to suffer. Jesus taught his followers to refuse to participate in homicidal violence.

In my studies of early Christianity, I have lamented the fact that, in the early 300s, the murderous empire-builder Constantine was able to draw the Church away from its pacifist beginnings. Similarly, I have lamented that now, 20 centuries after the birth of Christianity, the religion of my birth and upbringing has likewise been co-opted away from its first principles, so that apparently one can be a follower of the non-violent Jesus and still be willing to send vulnerable, easily brainwashed, historically- and theologically-illiterate youth off to kill and be killed, directly negating what Jesus said and did.

Sadly but predictably, the military and religious leaders of all militarized nations throughout history do not exercise their duty to warn their prospective soldiers about the high likelihood of becoming victims of the usually permanent, brain-altering, soul-destroying, neurological disease known as “shell shock” (in World War I), “battle fatigue” and “combat stress” (in World War II and the Korean War) or, finally and more accurately, combat-induced posttraumatic stress disorder (in Vietnam and beyond).

Dying Democracy

So, most of us sheeple vote for our representatives without knowing a thing about their susceptibility to intimidation by the Pentagon, the CIA, the FBI, the NRA and the NSA or whether or not they will accept bribes (aka campaign contributions) from antidemocratic billionaires or institutions such as right-wing think tanks and megacorporations (especially weapons manufacturers, Big Banks and Big Oil).

By our inability to directly question candidates for national office, we have already become dumbed-down enough to feel impotent and uncertain about the justifiability of our nation’s current or past wars. We therefore have become, just like average Good Germans in the Hitler era, pre-emptively unified in our willingness to make murder for the state when the next false flag is waved, the next war games are scheduled and the next aggressive war gets started.

Yet, if we want to avoid having to squirm or lie when our disappointed, justifiably angry, soon-to-be-impoverished, education-deprived, malnourished, jobless and debt-ridden children ask us questions about what we did during America’s current wars of economic and military imperialism (“full spectrum domination”), and the on-rushing destruction and depletion of the planet’s resources, we must at least refuse to be complacent about the slaughter of our fellow planetary inhabitants that is being perpetrated in our name.

Members of antiwar, anti-imperialist resistance groups that are supporting or participating in the nonviolent Occupy Wall Street and other justice movements won’t have to be evasive when their children and grandchildren ask them “what did you do during the war?”

Instead, they will be able to proudly tell them about their resistance efforts that might then give them hope and encourage them to follow in the footsteps of their altruistic mothers, fathers, grandmas and grandpas who did what they could do to stop the wealth-extractors, the polluters and the war-mongers before they could start the next war or poison the next river.

If it is not already too late.

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“Race”: a Political Weapon: Capitalism, “Scientific Racism” and Class Solidarity



“The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically.”

— US Census

According to a widely circulated statistic, the police kill a young black man every twenty-eight hours in America. Without doubt, the police have a problem with race. Moreover, the justice system appears to have a problem, too, as proven by the Grand Jury’s failed indictment of Darren Wilson in the killing this summer of young Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The failed indictment does not mean that Wilson is innocent; only that he will not be brought to trial. This is a terrible perversion of the path to justice. It suggests deliberate prevention of trial on the nearly 100% certainty that Wilson would be found guilty if tried. I am disturbed, however, by the well-intentioned flagellants among the white, non-racist community virtually calling for “America’s” white male blood, metaphorically speaking. I am disturbed because this is the wrong response to the judicial outrage in Ferguson. We should be calling for ruling-class blood, not dividing ourselves into blacks and whites. Isn’t this division a benefit that our divide-and-rule oppressors hardly deserve? Let us not play with the cards in their deck.

To begin with, is “America” racist? Real, existing Americans voted for a black candidate for president, one, moreover, who ticked off only the “African American” category on race in the US Census of 2010. In choosing the less privileged racial group than white, Obama adhered to the principle of “hypo descent,” which the US has traditionally used to determine the race of a child born of a mixed-race union. We have a black political class in the Congress; a black Supreme Court justice; two blacks have been secretary of state (one a woman). We have not one institution in which blacks don’t figure more or less prominently. Mixed marriages have been legal since 1967. In 2008, about 14% of all first marriages were mixed race; 9% of whites, 16% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics, and 31% of Asians were interracially married.

Nonetheless, racism persists in the black communities, mainly among the poor. We know that black Americans suffer oppression and injustice at a rate far greater than that of any other group. According to the 2010 US Census, 38.2% of black children lived in poverty, the highest rate of any group. According to the Institute of Medicine in 2002, more than 4 million black Americans died prematurely between 1940 and 1999 because of health-care disparity and, at least in part, physicians’ prejudice. 26% of 34 million black Americans live below the poverty line. There seems to be something definitely racist about American institutions. Let us not even mention the appalling incarceration rates of black men. Thus, pointing to the white man in the street or in your bed as the culprit is a little myopic. Does he run the police, the courts, and the Pentagon? Racism is not an individual psychosis, specific to generic “white man.” Racism is the weapon of the powerful. They invented “race.” The psychotic history of that invention is inextricably tied to that of capitalism and imperialism.

The age of capital gave us “scientific racism.” This pseudo-science twins American racism to its European original. One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, a naturalist, proposed, based on “observation,” that blacks slept more because their minds were empty. Indeed, the 18thcentury into which the US was born developed the discourse of race, mainly as a justification for colonial imperialism. Francois Bernier, French physician to Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan, is considered the first thinker since classical Greece to have classified people by race. Aristotle, of course, classified as “barbarians” those races, which lived outside thepolis—the Greek city-state, organized around written laws. In 1684, Bernier published Nouvelle division de la terre par les différentes espèces ou races qui l’habitent (“New Division of the Earth according to Different Species or Races which Inhabit it”). The 18th century continued the discourse of “race,” as a scientific category. Botanist Carl Linnaeus color-coded people by races—red (H. sapiens americanus) , white (H. sapiens Europeans) , yellow (H. sapiens asiaticus), and black (H. Sapiens afer). According to Linnaeus, the European breed was the superior of the four.

The science expanded to become the propaganda for European and American imperialism. The alleged superiority of the European and the Euro-American was the result of no neutral science. As European imperialism took off in the 18th century and Euro-Americans “pacified” the native nations, science came up with all sorts of studies to prove that the looters of the world were on a “civilizing mission” to lift up the inferior races of the world from their obscurantist primitivism. Resistance was met with genocide in the Americas. Samuel J. Morton (1799-1851), American and Scottish educated physician and natural scientist, may well be the father of “scientific racism.” He founded the discipline of ethnography and advanced the theory of phrenology. According to Morton, size of brain mattered, whites possessing the largest cranium; blacks the smallest (or vice-versa if evidence contested). The abuses of the pseudo-science of “craniometry” was historically researched by paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould in The Mismeasure of Man, just as the theory resurfaced in The Bell Curve, a racist apology for the Reagan administration’s attacks on the welfare state by blaming black poverty on poverty of black intellect.

In keeping with the politicized science of the day, the first American census (1790) categorized people by race, but the categories have changed twenty-four times since then. Today, the US Census defines race as a social construct and provides a dazzling array of choices and permutations, making the category practically null. You can be an African American of European descent with a Hawaian component and a Native American culture. Scientifically, of course race does not exist. Genes cannot identify race. The human Genome Project has proven that biologically we are a single human race (“species” would be more accurate). Go tell it on the mountain because pernicious elements in American society continue to use race as though there is more than one.

The truth is that racism is a powerful tool of social control and an arm of US expansionist propaganda. Racism is political. Superficially reforming existing institutions cannot eradicate it. It must be made clear who the promoters of racism are and for what purpose they promote it. Racism is the legacy of colonialism and slavery, but this does not explain why it persists so fundamentally in American institutions today. Unless one is prepared to call the US imperialist. Imperialism impoverishes people abroad by stealing their resources, under developing their industries, destroying their labor unions, their laws for environmental protection, and flooding their markets with goods they once made themselves. It impoverishes people at home. The wars for expansion cost, and the people pay.

Look at the US: has it not been third- worldized? Is it not, therefore, likely that at a certain point the people will rise up, go on strike, boycott, sabotage, interfere with profits? Very likely. But not if they are racially divided and racially afraid. Enter racism—the imperialist’s trump card. Let’s have two, three Fergusons. Let white racists hit and run. Let non-racists beat their breasts. Let the police put on a horror show. Let black separatism rise; they can be picked off like the Black Panthers were. Let’s have separatism by all means: white non-racists fighting racism on white turf; blacks on black turf. Separate but equal, ha-ha. Let there be race war so the class war can go on.

But we have an alternative: class solidarity in resistance.

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Egypt: Revolution Versus the Counterrevolution in the Age of Social Media


How the Cyber-Offensive Took Shape


On Saturday, November 30, 2014, an Egyptian judge dropped all charges against former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.  Mubarak, with US government military and political support, had presided over nearly three decades of martial law and repression. His overthrow and arrest in 2011 had been considered a major achievements of the “Arab Spring” in Egypt, a mass upsurge that began on January 25, 2011 and led to Mubarak’s overthrow on February 11, 2011. Mubarak, along with others also released on Saturday, had been subsequently tried and convicted of a number of corruption and criminal charges.

One activist told a US reporter that Mubarak’s release is “closing the fate of the January 25, 2011 ‘revolution.’”  Another man, whose son was one of the hundreds of protesters murdered by Mubarak’s police during the uprising,  put it this way: ”Mubarak’s regime is still in place. The January Revolution is over.” (1)

Mubarak’s release came at a time when the US-backed military government has put in place a police regime so draconian that it was confident it could “suppress any backlash.”  That turned out to be true. Even to speak out in the courtroom against this ruling of the judge in the military-controlled court would have meant a year in prison. The few who dared to protest Mubarak’s release faced an overwhelming police presence; at least one protester was killed and 85 were arrested.

What was behind  2001 “January 25 Revolution” in Egypt and what went wrong? To answer these questions, one needs to know about the US government’s international cyberdissident offensive and how it worked in Egypt. An indispensable source of information about all this is a recent study by Linda Herrera called Revolution in the Age of Social Media: The Egyptian Popular Insurrection and the Internet.  (2) An amazing power has been unleashed on the world’s people. And we alone can stop it.

What can “one man” do?

Revolutionary organizations probably exist almost everywhere in some form throughout the world. The problem is that they tend to be small, or small relative to other political parties.  Meanwhile,  the need for revolutionary organizations has never been greater. Every day the need expands, as do opportunities for them to do their work. Masses of people are disillusioned with the capitalist system but don’t see a way to a better, socialist transformation. It has only been recently that the very word “capitalism” has even crept back into the popular vocabulary–to finally replace abstract euphemisms such as “corporate control,” “the free market,” etc. Private ownership of the means of production is the cause of the problem. And workers control over the means of production is the solution. But, how can we move toward that vital socialist transformation when the revolutionary parties are so small and relatively isolated?

Being small and isolated did not bother Wael Ghonim. Ghonim was an Egyptian who had earned degrees in computer engineering and marketing in Egypt. In 2008, he joined Google Egypt to become its Middle East and North African Regional Marketing Manager.  In June, 2010, sitting at his computer in Qatar, he–with two or three collaborators–designed, orchestrated, and initiated the renowned “social media” aspect of “Arab Spring” in Egypt that began January 25, 2011. As a result of it, millions of ordinary Egyptians mobilized in Tahrir Square in Cairo in a month-long occupation that led to the resignation of strongman Mubarak and the lifting of the decades old State of Emergency alonh with some of the repressive, police-state measures that it entailed.

Ghonim, of course, was not really “alone” in this effort. He had behind him a vast apparatus to implement “cyberdissidence” that included the unlimited resources of two key US institutions: The US State Department and Google. Both of these two institutions had been collaborating diligently for several years to pave the way for what Ghonim was able to execute during those few months of 2010 and 2011. Ghonim’s backers included not only the US State Department and Google, but an entire roster of private companies who were more than eager to insure that such a phenomenon as cyberdissidence was crafted and harnessed to guarantee that this powerful internet resource of virtual dissent was channeled in a pro-American, pro-free enterprise” direction.

When “A Revolution” is not a Revolution

These developments are documented in startling detail in this study by Herrera, a social anthropologist who spent seventeen years in Egypt.  The information Herrera has assembled reveals the breathtaking advances toward cyber supremacy that have been achieved by the US ruling class and its government with our tax dollars in cooperation with high-tech, advertising, and marketing companies. The events in Egypt from 2010-2014 are a prime example of what this cyber supremacy can achieve and what it can destroy.  Although Mubarak was overthrown by the mass protests in Tahrir Square in February 2011, the protesters were betrayed. They mistakenly greeted the army as a friend who would defend them against the police, who were reviled for their brutality.

Bourgeois democratic elections did follow Mubarak’s overthrow. However, in July 2013, the army overthrew this elected president and imposed a military government that resembles the notorious criminal regime of Augusto Pinochet who came to power through a US-backed coup d’etat in Chile in 1973. All civil rights have been eliminated except for the right to praise the military government  and its officials. The courts, the media, even the universities have become nothing but tools of the regime. Any critics of the military government or its officials are arrested, imprisoned for months on end with no trial or sentenced to death in hasty mass trials. Torture, police brutality, and harsh prison conditions remain the order of the day, just as they were under Mubarak. For example, some 900 students who were arrested last yearare still being held without trial. (3) The Muslim Brotherhood, a party supported by vast numbers of Egyptians, has been banned and its leadership arrested.

The Egyptian military government has become a staunch ally of the Zionist State of Israel. In November 2014,  the Egyptian regime demolished the entire city of  Rafah, in the Sinai on the border with Gaza and destroyed tunnels that linked Gaza with the outside world. (4) Although this destruction was carried out  in the name of “fighting terrorism,” what it really does is further isolate the Palestinians in Gaza, who are still reeling from the vast destruction inflicted on them by the Zionists’ 50-day military bludgeoning of Gaza in July and August 2014.

Furthermore, virtual dissent via cyberspace in Egypt, which played such a critical role in the “Arab Spring” uprising that overthrew Mubarak,  has not reemerged  to stop any of these horrors.

In the end, this so-called “revolution in Egypt” in early 2011 benefitted not the masses of Egyptians but rather the imperialist regime in Washington and its ally the Zionist State of Israel. (5) What seemed like an incredible victory ended up a vicious trap.

Meanwhile, Ghonim and his US government facilitators–such as Jared Cohen–are off to other project. Ghonim has written a book about his experience and has been raking in hefty speaker fees promoting it.

It was, thus, not a revolution that occurred in 2011 with the overthrow of Mubarak, but a “regime change,” a frequent goal of such elaborate and well-resourced US imperialist operations. The US State Department has unlimited funds as do Google and the other capitalist collaborators, who operate as a well-integrated  engine of the Pentagon and the US State Department–they are, in really, a single entity.

Furthermore, such “popular rebellions” have occurred not only in Egypt. The mechanisms have been put in place toward such high-tech “regime change” operations in many countries across the globe in recent years and have succeeded elsewhere, e.g. in Ukraine in February 2014. These regime changes do nothing to improve the lives of the masses whose mobilizations  made them happen. In fact, they have disastrous results for the overwhelming majority, which is totally unprepared to cope with the dire consequences of their actions as these consequences unfold. However, these dire consequences open new avenues for the US government, capitalist owners, their collaborators, and finance capital to claim a mass following for their puppet regimes imposed on the country to allegedly further democracy.

Whence This Sinister Machine?

Herrera’s book describes the key stages of Washington’s crafting of its cyberdissident (CDD) offensive. It was rooted in the US government’s realization–especially after its 2003 attack on Iraq–that it needed to radically overhaul its outreach to youth, who comprise approximately 75% of the population in the countries of the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA). This potentially powerful political force of the youth, polls showed, tended to oppose United States policies in the region, such as support for Zionism and the State of Israel,  the destruction of Iraq, support for dictatorships throughout the MENA region, etc.  All this had fed widespread hatred for Washington or  “anti-Americanism.”  Although the US  government had nurtured the rise and expansion of Muslim “extremists” during the Cold War as proxy forces against the USSR, by 2003, Washington was turning on this monster it had created: (6) This CDD offensive, aimed at supporting “moderate Muslims” against  these “extremists,”  targeted the millions of youth involved in the tech revolution that had swept across the MENA region, particularly Egypt.

Egypt’s 83 million  people rapidly entered into the cyber/cell phone age from 1997-2007. Video games become the favored pastime of even the poorest children. By 2009, Egypt had 160,000 bloggers. Cable television, social media, the internet, all dramatically transformed the popular consciousness. By 2012, despite poverty rates of 20-43%. 56 million  Egyptians–72% of the population–had cell phones! (7.) All this brought dramatic changes in Egyptian social consciousness.  Egyptians of all ages had gained their own unrestricted access to the outside world, dramatically transforming people’s attitudes, particularly those of the youth.

How the cyber offensive took shape

According to Herrera, in her chapter “Cyberdissident Diplomacy”, in 2003, former CIA, US Foreign Service, and Rand Corporation agent Graham Fuller, in a report entitled “The Youth Factor: The New demographics of the Middle East and Implications for U.S. Policy,”  called for a new campaign “to contain and capture the hearts and minds of Arab and Muslim youth through ‘soft power.’” Washington  should seek to convert the  young people from being overwhelmingly critical of the US government,  into “apostles for a new religion…a form of liberalism with a pro-American and pro-free-market bent.” He–like many colleagues–called this “the single most urgent task” to avert negative effects from this demographic shift  toward a youth-dominated MENA. He asserted “the need for Arab and Muslim societies to liberalize in the image and under the supervision of West, but he was short on specifics.”  The specifics were soon to follow.

Also in 2003, Colin Powell–a war criminal for his role in “Desert Storm” and “Shock and Awe, then US Secretary of State– formed the  “US government Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim World,” which outlined a nine-point strategy to deal with this issue. It centered on employing information and communication technologies (ICT) while regretting the fact that the US government had not maintained its “weapons of advocacy” at  Cold War levels. Washington should again increase its reliance on “soft” diplomacy, aiming propaganda directly at the people of a foreign country rather than relying on diplomatic channels. Moreover, this “soft diplomacy” should replace long-standing educational exchange programs as a way to reach foreign public opinion, especially the youth.

That same year, the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress pushed reliance on “soft diplomacy” still further, advocating  “privatizing US public diplomacy and treating it as a ‘Marshall Plan for the hearts and minds of the world’s youth’….”  [emphasis added]  One Cold Warrior summed up the new goals: “We need eloquent, effective pro-American … spokespeople and organized groups to…win the war of ideas.”

To expedite this offensive, starting in 2003, the US government agencies launched several initiatives. They tried to use phone networks to promote pro-US government messages and to penetrate popular, online “chat rooms.” Both efforts failed because the new technological world– based on “horizontal” connectivity–did not readily lend itself to the State Department’s top-down style of infiltration.

In the meantime, US Agency for International Development (USAID) had been testing some initiatives of its own. In 2002, USAID’s Middle East Partner Initiative (MEPI) has been set up to “help democracy to spread, education to thrive, economies to grow, and women to be empowered.” MEPI had been taken over by the US State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, that was already involved in promoting the similar “‘Freedom Agenda’ of the George W. Bush Administration: voter education, youth leadership training, judicial reform, media monitoring, journalism skills workshops, and training in the newspaper business.”

With blogging and internet connectivity on the rise, MEPI entered into the arena of youth cyberjournalism and cyberactivist training. MEPI earmarked resources to support NGOs to train cyberactivists in how to use communication tools and internet platforms for citizen journalism and democracy-promotion activities.  (8)

From 2002-2005, the State Department had also set up regional media hubs in Brussels, London, and Dubai to promote Washington’s story line, employing “digital outreach teams” to “correct misinformation about US policies.” However, this, approach, encountered problems because it proved difficult for Washington’s teams to remain anonymous. (9)

Alliance of Youth Movements is Born

The qualitative leap in the scope of the US government’s ICT/CDD offensive came in 2008,  when James K. Glassman became Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Glassman had served as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, overseeing the US-government-funded international propaganda media empire. Pursuing  the conclusions of Washington’s “soft power guru” Joseph S. Nye, Jr that that  “In today’s information age, success is the result not merely of whose army wins but also of whose story wins,”  Glassman set out to guarantee that Washington’s “story” won. Glassman expanded the ICT initiatives far beyond Washington’s traditional propaganda machine, e.g. tax-funded overseas television and radio, such as Voice of American, Radio Liberty,  Radio and TV Marti, and the Mid-East Broadcasting Network.

To do this, the policymakers followed the examples of three successful cyberdissident initiatives: 1)  “6th of April Youth Movement,” an Egyptian activist group organized to support a strike by industrial workers in the Nile Delta on April 6, 2008; 2) the “No More Farc” movement, an international campaign initiated in social media against FARC, the revolutionary group in Colombia; and 3) Otpor (Serbo-Coatian for Resistance)-a  public initiative in Serbia against Slobodan Milosevic.  All of these initiatives had proven the capacity of social media to successfully manipulate public opinion toward specific mass actions.

The State Department’s new soft power CDD offensive was called Alliance of Youth Movements (AYM) .(10)

Identifying Youth Activism with Product Branding

Otpo, in its campaigns in Serbia from 1998 – 2003,  received funding from the US Agency for International Development, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the International Republican Institute.Otpor’s orientation was summed up by Ivan Marovic, a key Otpor figure. He identified youth activism with product branding: “Our product is lifestyle…[it is] not about issues but identify, to make politics sexy.”

AYM built on this foundation. It was the brainchild of the chief ideologue of Washington’s CDD offensive, Jared Cohen. Cohen, who worked in 2008 for the US State Department. He had became convinced that the State Department could “combat the enemy” through internet initiatives that “empower youth” and “benefit business.”  Like Otpor, AYM is based on the association of youth social movements with product marketing. The focus was not on issues but on “branding,” as in name brands and logos.

From December 4-5, 2008, AYM held its first international youth conference in New York City at the Columbia University Law School. Present were youth from 15 countries–none apparently from the United States. Also present–some speaking–were representatives from the US State Department and Department of Homeland Security, the Hoover Institute, Freedom House, AT&T, Google, Facebook, Howcast, Pepsi Cola, media people from Obama’s 2008  presidential campaign, and Whoopi Goldberg. The entire event was live-streamed on MTV.

As Herrera put it, “AYM was conceptualized as an internet initiative that would combat youth extremism and empower young people while simultaneously benefiting American business.” (11)

What AYM offers Foreign Activists?

AYM took as its model the activist training wing of Otpor, “an online portal to provide resources in multiple languages to activists around the world who sought to drive out their own dictators.” It had videos such asA Force More Powerful, highlighting non-violent struggles, and translations of Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy–a tract promoting nonviolence- and a manual about how to topple a dictator in 16 languages. AYM  promotes as models Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. Like Otpor, AYM provided internet access to a wide range of instruction manuals and how-to videos to help organize public on non-violent campaigns, such as its handbook, Grassroots Movements for Social Change. (12)

Glassman called these “weapons against extremism,” because the US government had to win the war of ideas in order  to “maintain global hegemony.” He said: “…the fact that the battle is going on within Muslim society…makes our role so complicated and…requires that we ourselves do not do much of the fighting.”  As Herrera points out, in this ideological war, Muslim and other Arab youth were to serve as Washington’s “ideological proxies” or tools of US foreign policy.

As Herrera explains, “AYM goes to great lengths to marry activism with consumerism, a prescription that essentially de-radicalizes, and even de-politicizes, politics.”

AYM is structured as a partnership between the State Department and US corporations working in high tech, advertising, youth media, and food and beverage service. AYM did not look to corporate America merely as sponsors. Rather, AYM’s very model of politics and activism derives from the corporate model of marketing youth lifestyles.(13)

Jared Cohen, then at the State Department and the architect of this entire AYM operation made clear his approach. He enlisted to the AYM project both Roman Tsunder, the founder of Access 360 Media, Inc., the largest US online shopper’s network and Jason Liebman, cofounder and CEO of Howcast Media. 360 Media, Inc. promotes itself as “a one-stop advertising agency that does all of our work in-house. We have marketing specialists, analysts, designers, writers, programmers, photographers, and editors to help.” One motto of 360 Media is “Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other 85 percent would rather die than think,” a point of view  attributed to Thomas Edison that could hardly inspire altruistic youth anywhere! (14)

Howcast Media describes itself as “the best source for fun, free, and useful how-to videos and guides.”  The US government provided Howcast with the funding to develop hundreds of How-To on-line videos for internet activist.  .

“Howcast Media, with the support of the State Department developed a line of  videos for internet activists about human rights blogging, civil disobedience, and social  media campaigning. A sampling of these have titles like “How to Protest Without Violence,” “How to Launch a Human Rights Blog,” and How to Be an Effective Dissident.” These videos, following the house style of Howcast, run a couple of minutes long and exude youthful energy. They are cast with attractive actors in brightly colored, casual, and trendy clothing. AYM, by packing politics in a way that’s fun, cool, and creative, tries to attract youth to adopt a brand of politics that is liberal, pro-business, and that reinforces the[existing] global system of power. (15)

These initiatives, as indicated above,  also rely heavily on a stable of cooperating non-government organizations (NGOs) who receive ample US government funding to compliment the ICT training programs in each country, making available physical assistance to targeted populations in the form of tech hardware,  laptops, tech staffing jobs, office furniture and supplies, etc.

As Herrera points out, for all the “alluring youth-friendly features of CDD, the policy was never altruistic.” The entire CDD project to advance “soft diplomacy” through “soft power,” is nothing more than another means for Washington to advance its “hard,” military and economic power. This has been amply demonstrated by the consequences of this US CDD offensives in Ukraine (2013-14) and in Egypt (2011-14).

A Proliferation of Initiatives

In 2010, Jared Cohen left the State Department to run a Google Ideas “think/do tank” and to work on  issues of “counterterrorism and counterradicalization” at the Council of Foreign Relations. He founded with Lieberman of Howcast and Tsunder, the online marketter, as an extension of AYM to provide a plethora of resources for cyberdissidents, including more Howcast videos (over 100,000!), such as “How to Smart Mob,” with step-by-step instructions to “empower youth activists global citizens to use twenty-first-century tools to stand up against oppression.” (16)

These websites, like–funded by Zionist casino mogul and billionaire Sheldon Adelson and operated by Zionist lobbyist and Washington counter-terrorism specialist Daveed Gartenstein-Ross–present themselves as neutral and “non-partisan,” representing “diverse nationalities, religions,” etc. all united by “an ardent dedication to human liberty.” They are anonymous. As Herrera explains, “…anonymity is used to disguise political actors and political interests. Many online platforms hide behind obscurities like ‘humanity’ and ‘global peace.’” (17)

What Do the Documents Reveal?

To trace the events as they unfolded in Egypt throughout 2010 and 2011, Herrera examined the Facebook pages, texts, and email messages from Ghonim and his collaborators, particularly those connected with the Facebook page that Ghonim set up called “We are All Khaled Said,” launched very carefully at precisely 9:01 pm on June 20, 2010. It was named for a young Egyptian who was publicly beaten to death by Egyptian police. Herrera reveals how Ghonim applied a multitude of marketing tricks he had learned at Google Marketing to successfully launch a model AYM cyber offensive and “sell” this new web product to Egyptian youth. The Facebook page garnered thousands then millions of followers. That is how Ghonim, a full-time employee of Google, the anonymous admin–”The Martyr”– of this site, masterminded from Qatar the January 25 mass mobilization that ultimately toppled Mubarak. By the way, Ghonim was also the admin for the website of Mubarak’s main opponent, Mohamed ElBaradei.

Ghonim’s message was carefully crafted to 1) promote nonviolence, 2) eschew politics,  3) inoculate its followers against political ideas,  4) proclaim the virtues of being leaderless (although the admin was clearly in charge!), and 5) exclude economic discussions that might challenge capitalism and “the free market”–all fundamental aspects of the ideology of  AYM.

Where the AYM Ideology Ultimately Must Fail

However, as the struggle heated toward January 25, 2011,  the limits of the State Department’s CDD offensive became evident. Herrera follows what happened.

Egyptian activists working through the “We Are All Khaled Said” (the KS) page  realized that to carry out an effective mass mobilization they had to broaden the scope of the campaign  beyond the themes of abolishing the Emergency Law and ending torture. “They needed to talk about poverty, high food prices…and unemployment, the scourge of the region. The page attempted to give a crash course on poverty and the economy. On January 16, 2011, the admin reported that 40 percent of Egyptians lived under the poverty line, a figure the admin would repeat several times.”

The KS page muddled along in those final days trying to cope by reiterating the problems but clearly “fumbled.” “As the page tried to incorporate a wider scope of social, economic, and political problems, [the KS page] lost its footing” and became “incoherent and muddled.”The best it could do was refer to the lyrics of a popular protest song by a Tunisian rapper. In the end, it could formulate only two demands: “raising the minimum wage and providing unemployment benefits to university graduates for a limited period.” (18)

As Herrera concluded, the campaigners–under Ghonim’s influence–“proved incapable of formulating ideas about how to achieve an alternative economic order and address the structural causes of poverty and skewed wealth distribution.”  The best they could come up with was “Bread, Freedom, Social Justice,” not unlike the call for “ Land, Bread, and Peace” in Russia following the February 1917 revolution. However, in Egypt in 2011, there was no Bolshevik party to incorporate these slogans into a revolutionary program. As a result, the slogan was no more than abstractions going nowhere, or worse, leading directly into an abyss.

After the fall of Mubarak on February 11, 2011, the Khaled Said page lost its compass. It started to do things like lead calls for people to go out and clean the streets. A young activist commented, “We don’t need the Khaled Said page to recruit us to clean the streets. We need it to lead us to clean our system from corruption from all kinds of problems.” (19)

US imperialism’s AYM and related offensives on the web and in cyberspace –along with related activities- are up and running throughout the world and have been for some years.. Speaking on January 21, 2010, Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State, in a speech advocating “internet freedom,” listed MENA, Asia, and the Pacific as regions of focus. Even then, she reported that the State Department was “actively working in over forty countries with people who are ‘silenced by oppressive governments.’” Among them were Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and China.(20)

Just imagine for a moment, how long the US State Department would allow any of those countries–or, say, Cuba, where the US had long been intervening– to make a similar “soft diplomacy” incursion into the political arena of the United States, organize  mass movements for “regime change, etc. The hubris of Clinton’s announcement and the AYM offensive itself–and the plethora of such US government operations– is stunning.

As Herrera put it, if the US government sincerely wanted to improve its reputation among peoples in the MENA region and elsewhere, it could do it easily by ending its wars and starting to pay reparations for some of the vast damage it inflicted. (21)

A US Cyber Offensive That is World Wide

Since 2010, the number of countries where the US government’s CDD offensive is operating has surely expanded. As stated earlier, the “Maidan” mass protests in Kiev that led to regime change in Ukraine in 2014 was one product of this “soft diplomacy.” Victoria Nuland, Undersecretary of State admitted that the US government had spent more than–probably considerably more than–$5 billion to achieve this goal. Meanwhile, for all the improvements that Ukrainian working class had hoped would come with the regime change, the workers have ended up unprepared to prevent the economic devastation that the new regime–with its imperialist backers–has begun to implement or to stop the bloody fratricidal war that has ensured.  And, as in Egypt, no CDD offensive has emerged to miraculously help them now.

Meanwhile,  “flash mobs” of youth have sprouted up in Hungary (against, a proposed increased tax on internet usage), in Hong Kong (over a proposed change in the election law), and in the Czech Republic ( ”the red card” demonstration to protest a corrupt official) to name a few more recent manifestations of Jared Cohen’s, Google’s, Howcast’s, and the State Department’s youth CDD offensive.(22)  The reliance of “Civic Passion”– the Hong Kong reform group established in 2012 by Wong Yeung-tat–on HowCast and other AYM materials is obvious. As associate of Wong Yung-tat. put it: “People think politics is dirty and boring, but through popular culture and humor we can change that.” (23)

No country in the capitalist world is immune from such imperialist disruption and interference: Entry into the  ICT network is a precondition for any nation to receive aid from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) , the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Thus, to receive assistance from finance capital, countries must become vulnerable to the shenanigans of the ICT masters for finance capital.  Any loans or trade agreements depend on a country’s willingness to synchronize its national economy with the knowledge economy in which the OECD holds “a clear advantage.” (24)

The AYM paradigm is very successful at creating youth movements that can disrupt an existing system, create a nuisance and embarrass a regime, and eventually lead the regime to send armed forces against the protesters, thus creating a cause celebre that will make the regime look bad, This latter is  especially true if protesters are arrested, injured or killed. However, it offers no way forward to really improve the lives of the vast majority of the population.

The most that the AYM paradigm can achieve is “regime change.” The worst is a bloody and destructive civil war when anonymous masked armed men get involved. This latter quite likely happens when another Washington/State Department paradigm kicks in, one that is not based on nonviolence, as has happened in Syria and Ukraine.

Moreover, CDD is a win-win game for the US intelligence community in another way. In addition to facilitating the recruitment of local youth to help achieve a “regime change” that Washington wants, at  the same, the offensive allows the US government to entrap activists who seek to “change” a repressive regime that the US may still favor. All such ICT initiatives operate as a partnership between the US embassies, high-tech companies, US-government-funded NGOs and local activists who become involved in the project because of their illusions in the “pro-American, free-market” storyline. In fact, Herrera reports that during mass mobilizations following the fall of Mubarak, Egyptian cyberdissidents were targeted for arrest, torture and assassination.

“What is to be Done?”

A crucial issue confronts revolutionaries around the world: Can these online cyber tools created by imperialist ideologues and technicians to promote capitalist interests be converted into tools to overthrow capitalism? That  matter (and this book) deserve serious study. If so, the weapons of the enemy can be turned against it at no cost to us (except, of course, that our tax dollars paid for it!). Surely “Occupy” applied (or fell victim to?) some of these AYM tools, such as adopting the “Occupy” brand, rejecting politics, proclaiming the virtues of being leaderless, and insisting on advancing no specific social demands. Except for popularizing the fact that “We are the 99%,” Occupy pretty much went nowhere; but at least did not lead to a defeat, as that line of march did in Egypt, Georgia (“The Rose Revolution” of November 2003), and Ukraine (twice).

If these cyber tools are of no use to us, one thing is certain: the antidote to imperialism’s massive CDD offensive is genuine politics and organized political struggles to advance working-class control. This means building on lessons learned from the full array of past struggles and a knowledge of history.  This means heading toward solutions to the economic problems facing humanity and toward a revolutionary, anti-capitalist  transformation. These are things that the ideology behind AYM can never do. On this, the State Department offensive falls flat.

However, we are in a race against time. Large segments of the world’s working class have been pummeled in recent decades across the planet, afflicted by the ravages and crisis of world capitalism and multiple, murderous imperialist military assaults.

According to a recent data “consumers…now spend close to a quarter of their time on mobile phones–this excludes the time they spend actually talking on them”! (25)  These instruments can be a revolutionary tool or a weapon against us. If populations can be seduced to spend most of our leisure hours playing video games and following routine social media without learning any lessons from the past, there remains a serious danger that the bourgeois “masters of war”– who hire people to spend all their waking hours and our unlimited tax dollars formulating and implementing battle plans–will lead us into defeat.

On the other hand, these cyber tools may be just the ingredient that can turn the whole thing around.

MARILYN VOGT-DOWNEY  was a Russian translator for many years.  She translated the writings of Leon Trotsky for the Pathfinder Press.Writings of Leon Trotsky series.  She also translated Notebooks for the Grandchildren, the memoirs of a Ukrainian Trotskyist who survived the Stalin era. A collection of her writings on the former Soviet Union appeared in a volume the USSR: 1987-1991: Marxists Perspectives.



2. Verso, New York, 2014.




6.Robert Dreyfuss, The Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam,  Metropolitan Books, New York, 2005

7. Herrera, p. 12

8. Herrera, pp. 29-30.

9. Herrera, pp. 25-7.

10.Herrera,  p.32-3

11.Herrera,  p.33-34.


13. Herrera, p. 38


15. Herrera, p. 39. For an example, check out

16. Herrera, p. 44.(

17. Herrera, p,. 41.

18. Herrera, 111-113.

19. Herrera, p. 155.

20. Herrera, p. 43.

21. Herrera, p. 28.



24. Herrera, p.7


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Stop Police Officers from Killing Our Children: Bring the Murderers to Justice



After the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, I couldn’t watch the news. I couldn’t bear to see Lesley McSpadden’s—Michael Brown’s mother’s—face. Her eyes were my eyes. I remember when I looked like that; when I felt like that.

My son, Alan Blueford, was shot by an Oakland police officer on May 6, 2012. He had just turned 18. Officer Miguel Masso and his partner had stopped Alan and two friends as they were walking down 90th St. The boys were racially profiled; the officers never arrested them, but they tossed one of Alan’s friends against a fence, twisting his arm behind his back; they threw the other friend onto the curb. Alan saw this abuse and knew he was not under arrest, so he ran. Officer Masso had on a lapel camera, but he turned it off and chased my Alan for about five city blocks, then took out his gun. Accounts diverge here: either Alan was shot once, stumbled into a driveway, and was shot twice more while lying on his back, or he stumbled into a gate, fell into the driveway and was then shot three times. Either way, the officer stood over him and shot him, center mass. According to multiple witnesses, Alan screamed “I didn’t do anything!” One of the bullets went through his armpit, proving his hands were up at the time. His last words were “Why did you shoot me?”

After Alan died, people said I was strong; they didn’t see how broken I really was. They didn’t see how I couldn’t eat, how I could barely stand. People had to hold me up because my knees would buckle. The only time I could even speak was when I spoke about my son. And I realized how important it was to speak, and to keep speaking.

Members of the community formed the Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition to help us obtain the truth. We shut down the Oakland City Council to demand answers; we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Oakland to seek justice for my boy. We later founded the Alan Blueford Center for Justice in Oakland, a place where people can come together to raise awareness about police brutality and heal as a community. It’s a lively, healthy environment where we share music, art, food and stories, and talk about how to take action. OnDecember 20th, Alan’s birthday, we have a canned food and toy drive to serve our community. We have also started the Alan Blueford Foundation where we will eventually offer scholarships, healthcare outreach, and support groups. Oakland is suffering, and we want to make a difference. We want to give our children hope. Everyone deserves hope.

That’s why we must use this moment, when the nation’s attention is focused on police violence, to make real changes. That’s why I’ll be traveling to Washington, DC December 9 and 10 with a group of mothers to share our stories—our sons’ stories—with legislators and the Department of Justice. Together, we will be loud and forceful. Together, we will tell our lawmakers that the system has to change, that we have to stop protecting these officers who are killing our children without cause.

I’ll never get my son back, but if I raise my voice along with the voices of other mothers who have experienced unbearable loss, perhaps we’ll be able to help save the lives of other mothers’ children, and bring our children’s murderers to justice.

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Why Not Jail for Corporate Criminals? : When Regulation Fails to Restrain Corporate Villainy



Some corporate criminologists, like John Braithwaite, believe that the most effective way to attack corporate crime is with the regulatory pyramid model of enforcement — with compliance programs at the bottom of the pyramid, followed by regulation and then criminal prosecution at the top.

University of Maryland School of Law Professor Rena Steinzor has spent much of her career trying to make regulation work.

But now she sees the bottom of the pyramid crumbling.

And she has written a book arguing that the pyramid ought to be flipped on its head — and we

ought to focus on corporate criminal prosecution.

Get rid of deferred and non prosecution agreements.

Criminally charge corporations and their top executives.

The book is just out and it’s titled — Why Not Jail?: Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction(Cambridge University Press, December 2014).

“The bottom of the pyramid is crumbling away,” Steinzor told Corporate Crime Reporter last week.

Why not reconstruct the regulatory bottom of the pyramid?

“I’ve been making that argument for more years than I can count,” Steinzor said. “I have shifted my focus because I don’t see reconstruction of the bottom happening anytime in the foreseeable future.”

What makes you think that reconstruction at the top is going to be any more fruitful?

“Criminal investigations scare people to death,” Steinzor said. “And when you are able to bring it home to managers who are responsible for creating these conditions, you will really make them pay attention and change the relentless cost cutting, the reward of speed no matter what hazards are encountered, the browbeating of employees to cut corners on safety.”

“I base a lot of this on my own personal experience. When I was in private practice, one of the main things we did was compliance audits. And anyone in private practice will tell you this is true. I was amused this morning to be reading an article by lawyers who represent food companies. And they were saying — tell the client about criminal prosecutions and they want you to come in immediately and check their compliance.”

“We used to write a memo every August — and this was at a time when there were many investigations of publicly owned utilities. And they would hire a team of lawyers and engineers to come in and straighten out their situations. And when we went in, we often found dangerous conditions. Any industry lawyer knows that nothing motivates compliance programs better than the possibility, however remote, of a criminal investigation.”

“It’s a class issue. If you are a white collar executive, the last thing you need is the FBI rolling into your driveway.”

Steinzor completed her book before Booth Goodwin, the U.S. Attorney in West Virginia, announced the indictment of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

Was Steinzor surprised by the indictment?

“I was not surprised,” Steinzor said. “We were delighted. He is a bad guy. But he is not an exception. He’s just the worst example along a continuum of this kind of behavior.”

“Blankenship is a good first case,” Steinzor said. “He was obsessively controlling of what went on in the Upper Big Branch mine. There were such fundamentally bad practices there. They allowed coal dust to accumulate. They did not monitor for methane. Their ventilation system was terrible. Parts of the mine were flooded at the time of the accident. All of these problems had come to the attention of the regulator. They had been cited for these incidents hundreds of times. Then this terrible explosion happened. Twenty nine people were killed in an explosion that moved two miles in all directions throughout the mine. There were grotesque outcomes. People were found blown to bits, impaled on walls and ceilings. It was just horrific for everyone who had to go in there afterwards. And the families were just waiting and watching as the U.S. Attorney climbed the corporate ladder. He made it very clear that is what he was doing.”

“The U.S. Attorney is a son of West Virginia coal country. And so is Blankenship.”

What was it about the Massey case that made the Blankenship indictment possible?

“The grit, determination and courage of the U.S. Attorney, Booth Goodwin,” Steinzor said. “I give him a lot of credit. He also has Steve Ruby working for him — and he is undoubtedly extremely hard working and relentless.”

“Blankenship himself is like a character out of a John Grisham novel. He’s kind of ludicrous. He has been such a loud mouth for so many years. He has pranced about the countryside, advertising himself as a boss who was ready to ignore everything but production. He was profiled in Rolling Stone under the headline — The Dark Lord of Coal Country. He made Goodwin’s job easier.“

“The families have been calling Goodwin’s office repeatedly over the past couple of years, urging him to indict Blankenship. There was a lot of popular support for this indictment.”

“The circumstances were ripe. The prosecutor had grit. And the defendant is a blowhard who has been mocking the value of miners’ lives for a long time. It was a perfect storm.”

The former environmental prosecutor David Uhlmann wrote an article for the New York Times in December 2011 titled – For 29 Dead Miners, No Justice. Uhlmann was upset at the time with a non prosecution agreement with Alpha Natural Resources. Could the U.S. Attorney have been justified in cutting that kind of deal if it meant cooperation from the company to get to Blankenship?

“I don’t think so,” Steinzor said. “He may have gained the cooperation of the company. Although, Blankenship was not working for Alpha. He retired with an $86 million golden parachute. I don’t necessarily see the two things as related. They might have given the Justice Department documents, but surely they would have had to do that anyway. Conceivably, some of the executives that Alpha hired were encouraged to turn on Blankenship. But I am hesitant to endorse this kind of non prosecution or deferred prosecution agreement in almost any context. It is eroding our perceptions of what is appropriate.”

“A deferred prosecution agreement says you are allowed to pay what essentially boils down to a civil penalty. And if you misbehave again, you can be charged criminally. That almost never happens – although the Justice Department now has become sufficiently embarrassed about how it almost never circles back to repeat violators that it is now starting to reinvestigate some of those settlements in the financial area.”

“Of course, it has come under heavy criticism for settlements such as HSBC, which was laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels. Your readers are certainly aware of all of those examples. But this is not a good practice. These deals have skyrocketed under Obama. And it should be ended. I would just point to the work of Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen, and Ralph Nader, who have written extensively on this issue. And I agree with them.”

In death cases, Steinzor says she prefers that local and state prosecutors bring manslaughter charges.

“Manslaughter charges because I don’t believe executives go to work intending to kill other people,” Steinzor says. “Although there is a fine line between intending to kill someone and creating circumstances that are so dangerous that their deaths become inevitable.”

“But yes, I wish state and local prosecutors were far more active. At the Center for Progressive Reform, we have written a manual for state and local activists to advocate changes that would make workers safer. And one of the things we advocate is enhanced criminal authority for local prosecutors. Generally, the federal government cannot prosecute for people killing people. They did it in the BP case, using the Seaman’s Manslaughter Act. But it is unusual.”

“There is a tremendous mismatch of resources between the corporations and the prosecutors. Prosecutors have enormous legal power. It is political in the sense that local prosecutors are motivated by people’s outrage in response to this kind of episode. There is a lot in it for prosecutors to pursue. People are furious about all of this, especially bank wrongdoing, which is much better publicized than these other episodes.”

“Local and state prosecutors could get a lot of benefit by focusing on these cases.”

“The big cases we have been talking about — the Gulf Oil spill, Texas City, Massey Energy — these were investigated very thoroughly afterward,” Steinzor says. “There are hundreds of thousands of pages of reports, which I have spent a lot of time reading — they provide the evidence that I think a prosecutor would need. But I don’t know what the problem is. These reports set forth the evidence that you need, just like the Valukas report should get you started on a criminal investigation of General Motors.”

“There is an argument that says that it is counterproductive to do criminal investigations because you want to make everyone feel comfortable so they can share with you what the root causes were. The minute prosecutors come along, everybody clams up. Therefore, criminal prosecutions are counterproductive if you want to get the problem fixed. And this is a thread that runs throughout the literature and in the public debate.”

“For example, several members of the Chemical Safety Board have taken this position and I strongly disagree with it because I do not see any evidence that if you publish a detailed report on root causes that the corporations respond in any kind of responsible way — see for example, BP. What you end up with is sacrificing your opportunity to create an incentive to motivate people. But there is that argument. That and the argument — don’t mistreat white collar criminal defendants because then street crime defendants will be mistreated. Those are the two arguments made against criminal prosecution that are raised by people in the middle and to the left end of the spectrum.”

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Terror Games: Just Say No



People maiming and killing people for other people’s entertainment is not my idea of fun. I’ve never been high on the theatrics of war or blood sport, but the ultra-violent is everywhere now, on the nightly news, extreme sports, and our 3D big screens with action-toy tie-ins. One wonders how much cruelty we can stomach as we munch our popcorn and eat our twizzlers. Is this modern art meant to imitate life?

In A Clockwork Orange, we had the indiscriminate killing of Alex and his droogs, considered so brutal and susceptible to copycats that its director Stanley Kubrick had it banned in his native Britain. Imagine a producer today turning down box-office because of the possible social consequences. That would only spur them on to more.

But with films today we don’t just kill, we kill with new and improved video-game precision, as if commanding our own personal drone strike. Grunted Rambo knife thrusts, Arnie Uzi sprays, even Helen Mirren machinegun humour, fresh from her Best Actress accolades, are not enough now to shock a desensitized crowd.

I only just saw The Hunger Games at home on free TV, presumably timed to get everyone ready for the newly released third instalment. The gut-wrenching terror is worse, not so much for the gore which eventually comes, but because of the constantly implied violence from the outset. I had a knot in my stomach the whole time and had to tune out before the end. Tarantino bloodletting is emotional fluff by comparison.

If there’s an Academy Award for most original killing, I’m guessing the producers want it. Not that they need it, the sales are through the roof. More than $1.5 billion and counting. Is our culture losing? – Let me count the ways. I have to say I don’t understand why we watch. In this case, there is a better way to stop the madness. A strategy that works.

Harold Bloom noted about another unlikely warrior who struggles with a trusty sidekick to beat impossible odds: “The physical and mental torments suffered by Don Quixote and Sancho Panza had been central to Cervantes’s endless struggle to stay alive and free. … Don Quixote is a mirror held up not to nature, but to the reader. How can this bashed and mocked knight errant be, as he is, a universal paradigm?” He is if we live in a me-first, win-at-all-costs world.

Indeed, I saw myself in The Hunger Games. Not the brave Katniss who offers herself in “tribute” for her sister and then appears not to engage in the cruelty of killing others in their kill-or-be-killed “game.” Not her fellow combatant Peeta, who offers up the only rebellious thinking: “They don’t own me. If I’m gonna die, I wanna still be me” line. He seems to be the only one who understands he will not live, but wants to go out on his own terms. Not the drunken mentor, who has seen the horror too many times. I could be that drunk, like so many others in the face of intolerable pain.

No, sadly I am the bourgeois audience, with all my fluff and frills, looking every bit as ghastly as a puffed-up King Louis or Marie Antoinette. I have it all and yet I do nothing. I’d like to think I’m not bourgeois, but the spectator is the only archetype I can truly identify with in this film. I applaud the choice of female protagonist – we don’t have near enough in our culture – but I can’t identify with her as a killer. I am best as spectator. I have held up a mirror and seen my own apathy.

There is one character missing though in this contrived and manipulating movie, essential to give us hope: the rebel. Katniss is not a rebel. We want to think she is, but she participates in the same killing as all the others. We are tricked into thinking she isn’t violent, when in her first kill she cuts down a branch to let a killer bee’s nest fall on her prey. A passive kill. Death at a distance. It isn’t a knife to the gut or a hatchet to the back – that we couldn’t approve – but the results are the same: a cruel killing and death.

It’s no good to say the killing is in self-defence. It’s not. Kill or be killed in a limited context is permissible to all but the most idealistic, but the “killers” here are prisoner children, some more mature than others with fully formed consciences. Odd that none of them object.

Indeed, the only authentic action is to object, to refuse to play. You will still die, but the game will end and there will be no more entertainment. More importantly, the annual cull will end (and hopefully the sequels!). Any victory means the death of 23 others. A refusal to play by all is the only way to real victory.

Sure, this is easy to say, not so easy to do. One can’t easily stop the machinery of Hitler’s Germany, Franco’s Spain, or the Taliban’s brutal oppression of woman with a word. Though I would prefer the bravery of Sophie Scholl and Malala Yousafzai to the reluctant acquiescence of Katniss. These are the names that should roll off our tongues.

In his groundbreaking book The Evolution of Cooperation, Robert Axelrod asked “Under what conditions will cooperation emerge in a world of egoists without central authority?” – if you will, a mathematical version of a state of nature, as in William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. Golding’s book works through this problem to varying degrees of success, although in his day there were no high-tech video-game sales to spur on the carnage. Nor was the violence seen as entertainment.

Axelrod goes on to show how non-zero-sum games instead of kill-or-be-killed zero-sum competition is a better way when contrary individual actions appear as enticing strategies. One such non-zero-sum game, The Prisoner’s Dilemma, was proposed in 1950 at the RAND Corporation to advise the U.S. government on nuclear defense policy, not least how to rewire and maintain the command structure of a computer network after a nuclear strike. Out of their work on systems of interaction came a concrete example of how cooperation can benefit those whose interests are interdependent – in particular, two thieves who are caught and whose punishments are intricately tied to how they cooperate while separated in police custody. The best result is not to betray the other. You win by not gaming.

Insurance and unions are also good examples of a non-zero-sum sharing, which limits the excessive (or minimal) occurrence to a few of its members to ensure that all receive in good times and in bad. Insurance minimizes individual loss and gain by pooling risk and is a forward-thinking idea to promote or secure balance in uncertain times, e.g., hurricane damage, decreased rainfall that reduces crop yield, market turmoil. Unions or groups protect the individual from excessive abuse. There are many examples from health care to unemployment insurance. That is, if the intent isn’t to purposefully pit citizen against citizen. Life is not a competition where the team with the greatest GNP wins.

Culling the flock appears in many dystopian stories, but if we were to examine our own world with the same lens, wouldn’t we see our own dystopia in how badly our poor are treated and how violent we have become? In Time After Time, a variation of H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine, the Jack the Ripper character gleefully says while watching a panorama of killing as he clicks through the channels of 1980s-era television, “I belong here completely and utterly. I’m home. Ninety years ago, I was a freak. Now, I’m an amateur.” Sadly, the morlocks are everywhere now.

Most of us are amateurs. We watch. We sit on the sidelines and root for one person to kill another. Of course, it is difficult to expect 24 people condemned to death to cooperate, but why not? That’s how revolutions begin. By taking up a common cause. Perhaps “Give me liberty, or give me death!” is too arcane, but refusing to be terrorized is not.

I read (sorry, I couldn’t watch more) that at the end, Katniss and Peeta try to circumvent the entertainment purpose of the game by conspiring to kill themselves, though by that point the damage is done. Had they cooperated at the beginning with all the others, they could all be victorious and the next generation could reap the rewards of their heroic actions. Not unlike all those who have died for a cause, early rebels and heroes of our own society.

It’s hard not to hear about “building a better place for our grandchildren” in a presidential speech these days, as if we can continually postpone our responsibility, our rebellion. The better place is now. Say no to the junk. Use less. Reduce. Enact a more permanent Buy Nothing Day – an internal General Strike against life as a game. These are the weapons of the rebel – saying no to those who terrorize, whether by fear or economic control.

It’s time we all took up the common cause and stopped being spectators. We do have a choice.

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Spaces of Hope: To thrive, Radical Movements Need Radical Spaces



Standing outside the Ché Café, wedged in a hillside on the University of California San Diego campus, David Morales says “the radicals there terrified me” the first time he visited in 1987. Just 18 years old, he was bewildered by the political and music scene alien to his experience growing up in San Diego, a bastion of conservatism that’s a major port for the U.S. Navy and sandwiched between the massive Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton to the north and the militarized border with Mexico to the south.

Morales quickly warmed to the “incredible mix of cultural expression from students and youth,” and fell in love with the Ché Café’s eclectic music shows that spanned reggae to punk rock. He met his future wife at the shed-like café, and years later he says “we buried our eldest son’s placenta in the eucalyptus grove” on the far reaches of the café grounds.

After graduating from UCSD in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, the 45-year-old Morales’ focus shifted to his family, and he would only “show up now and then to an event” at the space. Now he’s a fixture once more at the Ché Café along with other old-timers and a slew of youth because the UCSD administration is on the verge of booting out the collective that’s been running the café for 34 years.

Claiming there are safety concerns about the condition of the buildings, the administration is close to securing a five-day notice to vacate after months of maneuvering to squeeze both funding and student support. Café supporters dispute the claims, pointing out that in April the university’s own facility inspector concluded that that the space “is looking good in terms of safety” other than “one minor item [of concern]” next to the main building.

Monty Kroopkin, who matriculated to UCSD in 1970, is the in-house expert on the collective’s decades-long battles with the administration. He says the three-building facility was established in 1966 and originally known as the Coffee House Express, or C.H.E. for short. In 1979, after the administration tried to turn it into a faculty club, the students gained control and established the Ché Café—changing the meaning of the acronym to “Cheap Healthy Eats.”

Since then the collective has been fending off attempts by the administration to shutter the cafe UCSD officials have invoked health and safety issues repeatedly, going so far as to change the café’s locks in 2000 before supporters occupied it, forcing the administration to back down. That’s why Kroopkin, Morales and others are concerned about the looming eviction order but are not yet hitting the panic button.

The threat of closure has generated an influx of supporters. Ché Café recently delivered a petition with 14,000 signatures asking the administration to halt the eviction and negotiate a new lease. While the administration claims the facility is used by many outsiders (which is also true of the high-profile and independently operated La Jolla Playhouse that’s on campus), students occupied an academic hall on November 24 in support of the Ché Café and to oppose planned tuition increases of 28 percent over the next five years in the entire University of California system.

The Ché collective is growing as well as members meet regularly to formulate responses to the administration’s moves. When I popped by on a warm Sunday afternoon in mid-November they were discussing a university decree that they halt programming, the cultural lifeblood and business model of the café. Before the meeting a handful of us gathered outside as Morales’ youngest daughter and two friends race around the patio, past a stenciled painting of an AK-47 emblazoned with the slogan, “No Gods No Masters.”

To those who’ve found a home in the Ché Café, it represents radical possibilities. In 2003 Trevor Stutzman found in the Ché an all-age venue steeped in San Diego’s “rich music history.” He says at age 15 he was “exposed to a real alternative, a non-hierarchical worker collective. It affects you the rest of your life and how you see the world.”

While Stutzman attended college elsewhere, he’s been a regular at the café that is “a bridge between the community and university.” The others nod in agreement. Kroopkin adds that the café’s existence raises the question, “Is the university’s role to serve its ‘clientele’ or is it to serve the broader community?”

The one-story wood buildings are splashed with radical-history murals by painters like Victor Ochoa and Mario Torero whose works are also found in San Diego’s famed (and contested) Chicano Park. Morales guides me through the eucalyptus grove, where he’s “watched owls make love,” to the organic vegetable garden in back. There I meet Jeanine Webb, who is studying toward a doctorate in poetics at UCSD and has been a collective member for three months.

Webb laments, “There are so few radical spaces left on University of California campuses.” She argues the administration’s plan is to remove “student spaces that provide a place where free thought and culture can exist because they don’t support the neoliberal profit motive and have ‘uncontrollable’ aspects inherent to them.”

Kroopkin says over the years the university has been hostile to the Ché Café and the three other student-run cooperatives on campus: the General Store Co-op, Groundwork Books, and the Food Co-op. He explains that they are the only student-run and cooperatively organized entities at the university with their own revenue streams, bank accounts, payroll and insurance. “They are legally autonomous,” Kroopkin says. “Not even the UCSD student government is autonomous, unlike the UCLA or Berkeley bodies.”

That is the heart of the conflict, says Webb. Spaces like Ché Café don’t fit into the corporate university, which is why she says the administration wants to “sanitize” them. It’s hard to disagree. What’s happening in the University of California system and Ché Café is a microcosm of U.S. society.

Over time, as the market has extended its tendrils into all parts of daily life, radical spaces have disappeared in much of U.S. society. In the late 19th century agrarian grange halls and entire utopian communities were commonplace. Decades later labor temples, radical coffeehouses, theaters, publishers, bars and bookstores had their heyday along with socialist and communist halls and camps. Radical spaces remain in many college campuses as do union halls and cultural spaces but they are all under siege, save perhaps those hosted by progressive religious outfits.

Radical spaces in workplaces, public squares, churches, schools, and neighborhoods are breeding grounds for social movements of every stripe. Factories have been a primary site of struggle since the industrial era began. Karl Marx argued capitalists would be their own undoing: bringing workers together under one roof would enable them to realize their common interests as a working class and overthrown the capitalist system. While that prediction of solely a worker-led revolution seems unlikely to come to pass in an era when production has been outsourced through technology and fragmented around the globe, movements are unmoored without space to incubate, grow and survive.

Occupy Wall Street would not have existed without seizing common space in dozens of cities, enabling everyday life to be reimagined. After Occupy took root in the fall of 2011, I would stand on the steps overlooking Zuccotti Park, just a stone’s throw from the New York Stock Exchange, and watch as hundreds of people clumped in knots exchanged ideas, food, books, technology, art, media, medical care, counseling, clothing, shelter, emotions and more. Not one exchange was mediated by money, which was in sharp contrast to the fevered consumption all around in Manhattan. Different political and social forms were fermenting, especially ones where the market held far less sway than is normal in daily life. However, it never recovered once it lost those spaces no matter how much activists told themselves, “You can’t evict an idea.”

As powerful and widespread as the recent protests have been against the failure to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed Black teen Michael Brown, outbursts in the street can’t replace spaces where community and trust is built, leadership and organization developed, and vision and strategy debated and implemented.

The reason so many radical spaces have closed down is the same reason Ché Café is imperiled: money. Recently one of the most storied alternative spaces in the country, New York City’s Brecht Forum, shut down. A popular education institute and theater, the Brecht cited financial difficulties as the reason for packing it in after nearly 40 years, but some sources within the organization indicated there was a political decision to turn down substantial funding that could have saved it because it would have likely meant shifting its organizational form or vision.

An activist space in Brooklyn known as The Commons is filling some of that role by providing classes in left history and politics. Its funding model is based on the investing savvy of its politically minded owner who purchased the building years ago in a depressed area that has gentrified, like much of the city. There’s nothing wrong with politically minded philanthropy as the radical left needs all the help it can get.

Another space taking shape elsewhere in Brooklyn is aiming to be a comprehensive community resource while adapting to market realities. Ana Nogueira and McNair Scott are the principals behind the Mayday Community Space. I worked with the two for years at the New York City Indymedia Center, which got off to a roaring start in 2000 when a left-leaning hactivist donated a midtown office space to the group of media makers.

Noguiera is a former producer at Democracy Now! and half of the team that made the award-winning film about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Roadmap to Apartheid. She says her inspiration for Mayday comes from “one of my formative experiences as a teenager: seeing a show at the Wetlands Preserve and discovering a whole world of environmental activism.” During its 12-year run, Wetlands was located in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan and fused live concerts with environmental activism, but was steamrollered by gentrification in 2001.

Nogueira says she hopes Mayday Space “plays a similar role, drawing people to music shows and introducing them to movements,” while facilitating “affordable space for people to use in a city where rents are super high.”

To do that they’ve formed two separate entities: a for-profit bar, “where you come in, put down money, and get a drink,” and a separate nonprofit community space. The bar has investors who will receive a share of profits. Nogueira says up to 25 percent of the profits will go “to front-line activist groups who need quick infusions of cash.” She explains it’s meant for groups that don’t have the time to apply for grants. They’ve batted around ideas like helping fund a protest called on short notice or support needed after a nonviolent direct action.

“Our investors support this vision and mission of sustaining a community space in Bushwick and a rapid-response activist fund,” Nogueira says. The bar will also subsidize the community space. It got a test run this summer before the People’s Climate March after Avaaz paid Mayday’s landlord $20,000 for three months use of the space.

Nogeuira says, “It was amazing to see the place come to life. We couldn’t have picked a better inaugural event. People from across the city saw there was a space that could be a resource and it introduced us to the Bushwick community where we’re located. It introduced the space to movements we want to be connected to, and they got to see what the space could be. And it was a dry run on how to manage a dozen volunteers, create a safe space for everyone, and keep it open for 20 hours a day.”

They already have a well-known tenant in the form of Make The Road, an immigrant-focused workers center that has successfully agitated for workplace rights and against wage theft in many cases. Nogueira says, “Make The Road is going to host workshops on adult literacy, English classes, and citizenship education in the Mayday Space. We are going to complement that with Spanish classes, tenants’ rights workshops, and legal workshops such as workplace rights and know your rights workshops.”

The five-member Mayday collective is serious about serving the community, mainly comprised of low-income Puerto Rican and Mexican families. Tenants’ rights is one of the best tools to slow down the maelstrom of gentrification that’s been unleashed on Bushwick by the HBO show, Girls, which is set there. Nogeuira says local groups planning to do workshops in the space include Bushwick Copwatch and Families Against Police Violence. Other projects in the works include starting a rooftop farm with youth in the community and cooking classes

Nogueira says one important role the Mayday space will serve is nurturing movements and linkages they can’t yet envision. “We hope it will facilitate movement building across issues and be a neutral ground to meet where people can cross pollinate. We’ve seen that happen already through the climate organizing where people also ended up discussing police brutality, what’s happening in Ferguson, and NSA spying.”

That’s precisely the kind of role Ché Café has played through its history, says Monty Kroopkin. Its crowning achievement was serving as an organizing hub for the student campaign in the eighties that pressured the University of California to divest more than $3 billion of investments from companies doing business in South Africa. Nelson Mandela singled out the UC students’ role in helping topple apartheid when he visited Berkley, California, in 1990 after gaining freedom.

No one knows what the future holds for spaces like the Ché Café and Mayday, but their mere existence is a beacon of hope for movements and activists whether old or new.

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I$raHell Legal Apartheid and the Global BDS Movement: The Meaning of the “Jewish Nation-State Bill”



The public debate over the introduction of the “Jewish Nation-State bill” in Israel calls the bluff of Israel’s insistence that it can be both a democracy and a Jewish state, laying bare its Apartheid-like laws and policies for the international community to witness and to respond. It is time to act before Israel’s propaganda machine at home and abroad begins a damage-control campaign that would most likely justify the adoption of the new bill as a “national security” matter. After all, Israel has gotten away with using the “national security” excuse to build an Apartheid wall and to convince the world that it is merely a “separation fence,” to operate bypass roads for Jews and tourists only, and to create a network of hundreds of checkpoints across the West Bank, designed to restrict Palestinians’ mobility and livelihood.

In the past when critics would point out that the practices mentioned above are reminiscent of South Africa’s Apartheid laws, Israel’s supporters were quick to come to its defense, using a powerful secret weapon: the Holocaust. Israeli propaganda has managed to convince the world time and again that its military aggression and blatant violations of international law are beyond scrutiny because of its traumatic past.

My father, a Holocaust survivor who witnessed my grandfather’s murder in a concentration camp at the age of 13, could not forgive the international community for failing to act in time. A militant Zionist, my father used the mantra “Never Again” to justify Israel’s aggression against Palestinians. The exclusive interpretation of “Never Again” makes no sense to me. As history demonstrates, Jews have no monopoly on suffering. If anything, the traumatic memory of the Holocaust should inspire compassion for other persecuted groups. It is criminal and inexcusable that the Holocaust has been hijacked to legitimize the colonization of Palestine and systematic attempts to destroy its indigenous population. We cannot look the other way. We must hold Israel accountable!

Because Israel proclaims itself a safe haven for Jews everywhere, we have a responsibility to speak up and to voice strong opposition against the new racist bill. It is time to end our financial and moral support for Israel. Additionally, we must implore the U.S. government, through our elected officials, to end all aid to Israel, even if we think that it is a long shot. On college campuses, we should reach out to students and faculty to broaden and strengthen our coalitions as we link the BDS movement to other struggles for justice and equality in the US and around the globe.

The introduction of the new bill can be a game-changer. Regardless of the future of Israel’s present coalition government, the writing is on the wall: Israel IS an Apartheid state and its leaders seem certain that they will once again get away with cementing their discriminatory practices without serious consequences. We need to prove them wrong. The timing is perfect. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is growing and many Jews in the Diaspora are rethinking their support for Israel after the brutal attack on Gaza this past summer. It is time to hold Israel accountable now by making clear that a Jewish state and a democratic state are irreconcilable. In order to be a democracy, Israel must become a state of ALL Its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike!

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Kerry says any Iran strikes against IS ‘positive’

US Secretary of State John Kerry gives a press conference. — AFP/File

BRUSSELS: US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday welcomed any Iranian military action against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq as “positive” after the Pentagon said Tehran had carried out air strikes against the group.

Kerry, hosting a meeting of an anti-IS coalition in Brussels, said international air strikes were finally stopping the advance of the jihadists across Iraq and Syria, but said it could take years to defeat them.

A top US military officer, General David Rodriquez, also warned that IS had set up training camps in eastern Libya, although he said they were not an immediate target as activity there was “very small”.

Kerry told the Brussels meeting of officials from 60 states in the coalition that a campaign of around 1,000 strikes had made a “significant “impact on the Sunni extremist IS group, which declared a caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq in June.

“Our commitment will most likely be measured in years,” he told the meeting at Nato headquarters, adding that the partners would “engage in this campaign for as long as it takes to prevail”.

But, in a sign of the deepening complexity of the regional conflagration, Syria’s Iranian-backed President Bashar al-Assad criticised the Western and Arab air strikes for having no effect.

‘Understanding’ with Iran’

Kerry denied there was any military coordination with Iran after the Pentagon said that Iranian F-4 Phantom jets — acquired from the United States before the 1979 Islamic revolution — had deployed against IS fighters in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province.

He suggested, however, that there was an understanding between mainly Shia Iran and the US to tackle a common threat.

“If Iran is taking on (IS jihadists) in some particular place… and it has an impact, then it’s going to be net effect (that) is positive,” Kerry told a press conference after the meeting.

In Washington, US defence officials said the Iranian air raids were part of a pattern in which Iranian or American military advisers have carved out separate spheres in Iraq.

“There’s a tacit understanding we’re not going to operate in the same space. And they’re not targeting American forces,” a defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

The coalition issued a statement saying that the militant group’s “advance across Syria and into Iraq is being halted,” and that Iraqi and Kurdish forces were reclaiming territory.

They also agreed to develop a “multifaceted” strategy to combat the IS group, including stopping the flow of foreign fighters, cutting finance and “delegitimisation” of its powerful, social media-driven brand.

Kerry is due Thursday to attend the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s ministerial meeting in Basel, Switzerland, which will focus on international terrorism and the Ukraine crisis.

EU justice ministers will also meet separately in Brussels to discuss ways of improving the legal battle against jihadists.

Shifting alliances

The United States launched its first strikes against IS in Iraq in August.

In late September the strikes were extended to IS targets in Syria, involving the United States as well as a number of allies.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Bahrain are taking part in the air strikes in Syria. Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France and the Netherlands are participating in Iraq.

But Syria’s Assad — whose main backers are Tehran and Moscow — hit out at the Western powers that had until months ago been focused on his removal from power in a civil war that has killed around 200,000 people.

“You can’t end terrorism with aerial strikes. Troops on the ground that know the land and can react are essential,” he said in this week’s edition of French magazine Paris Match.

“That is why there haven’t been any tangible results in the two months of strikes led by the coalition. They would of course have helped had they been serious and efficient.”

The US has carried out the vast majority of the strikes against IS, which is estimated to number around 30,000 jihadists and is accused of atrocities including rape, crucifixion and the beheading of Western hostages.

The Syrian conflict has created a constantly shifting patchwork of regional alliances, the most unlikely being that of Washington and Tehran.

Iranian forces have been active on the ground in Iraq assisting Shiite militia and Baghdad government units, but this was the first time the United States had said the Iranian air force was taking part.

Tehran refused to confirm or deny the air strikes against IS.

“There has been no change to Iran’s policy to provide support and advice to Iraqi officials in the fight against (IS),” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said.

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