Archive | August 28th, 2020

Never Surrender in Portland, Oregon

by MIKE HASTIE

I took these photographs on the night of August 13, 2020.

It was the night that I and a few others got trampled by the charging cops. I took these 4 pictures before my body hit the pavement. I wanted to send these out because they are all story telling images that have come out of the non-stop  resistance against police aggression and brutality that have  plagued America since the beginning of corporate power  against regular everyday people. And, if you happen to be  a person of color in America, you have a spotlight on your  very existence. When George Floyd was executed by a white police officer on May 25, 2020, all hell broke loose.

There is a whole new generation of Americans who have decided  that non-stop resistance is the only way to confront the lethal power structure that is bound and determined to tattoo obedience on their  very souls. That relentless longevity of energy is being acted out in  Portland, Oregon like no other city across this nation. This has really  become a profound awakening of historical precedence. The Black  community only represents 6% of the population in Portland. Most of the demonstrators have been predominately young white people who   are strong supporters of Black Lives Matter. There has been some very effective Black leadership that has guided many of the demonstrations.

I am also seeing a strong white leadership coming to the surface. Not  only are they supporting BLM, but they are also identifying with their  struggle for survival. Many of them are seeing themselves as victims  of a tragic system of violent capitalism that is draining hope in their stressful lives. They are young anti-fascists and anarchists who are sick of the world they have inherited. They have very little respect for the  so-called ” Boomer ” generation, with the likes of Clinton, Bush and Trump.

They see blithering narcissistic monsters who have destroyed their future  with terminal unbridled greed. These young people are going head-on with the police and the power structure they protect. I am going to say this  very slowly: These young people have their entire lives ahead of them, and  they see a grim future, and that is why they are so fucking angry. They are  yelling at the cops to go fuck themselves and the lethal drug injection rules they enforce. These kids are serious, and they stand their ground with great courage. It is amazing how many of them have come up to me and thanked me   for what I said when I confronted the Feds in that video that went viral. They simply identify with me, and that gave them validation. These young people take great  risks every night when they confront the police with their lies. They have such a  mistrust for a political system that suffocates them on a daily bases. They look at the horrifying effects of climate change, war after war, extreme income inequality, and a president who is gutting the EPA, and at the same time is so dangerous that he is killing countless Americans across this country with his lack of leadership involving  the Coronavirus Pandemic.

So, there they are on the front lines every night with their armor on, lined up on the street with their shields side by side. Many of them have been injured by the police, who throw flash-bang grenades, fire so-called non-lethal projectiles that have the potential to kill you, fire tear gas canisters with choking consequences, use pepper spray up close that completely debilitates you, throw people to the ground, often hitting them with batons, and arresting people at random. You got to teach these kids a lesson, let them know who is in charge. And, while this is all going on, the  American Empire of Elders is using our military to kill and steal all over the world.

Corporations can’t make a killing off of peace. And to think, President Donald Trump called these Portland protesters a beehive of terrorism. Keep in mind these kids may not have their whole lives ahead of them. Maybe that’s why they are on the front lines every night.

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Kamala Harris Represents Everything Wrong with Empty Identity Politics

by PETER BOLTON

Photograph Source: Office of the Attorney General of California – Public Domain

Joe Biden’s pick of Kamala Harris as his running mate will surely satisfy Democratic Party insiders who were hoping for him to balance the ticket. As a woman of color, Harris kills two birds with one stone by ticking both the gender and race boxes. But the prospect of her becoming vice president is nothing to look forward to. She’s overwhelmingly spent her career, both before and after entering politics, fighting for reactionary policies that completely obliterate the credibility of her claim to be any kind of progressive.

But there’s something deeper going on here. Because Harris represents not just the center-right policy positions of the Democratic establishment. She is also an illustrative example of the kind of empty, tokenistic brand of identity politics that this establishment uses to give its major figures political cover.

‘Balancing the ticket’

On 11 August, Biden ended months of media speculation that had been intensified by his advanced age and clear signs of cognitive decline. Of course, Harris might end up serving out the remainder of his term should he die or otherwise become unable to fulfil his functions as president. Biden has even himself spoken of being “a transition candidate”, which implies he doesn’t expect or perhaps even intend to serve a full four years should he win.

Biden had indicated during a previous televised debate with then-fellow Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders that he would choose a woman. Harris, who is of mixed ethnic background and identifies as both African-American and Asian-American, is the first woman of color to be on the ticket of either major US political party.

A clear case of tokenism

To be sure, having a woman of color is something that in other circumstances ought to be celebrated. The US does indeed lag behind comparably developed nations when it comes to gender equality. But this is a clear case of tokenism when taken in a broader context. Though neither Biden nor Harris have spelled it out, it appears that race and gender were the major factor behind this choice.

After all, Harris performed poorly in the 2020 Democratic primary, failing to win a single state before pulling out in early December 2019. So she bucks the trend of a presidential contender picking a running mate who came up runner-up, or at least was a serious contender, in the party’s primary contest. Harris even attacked Biden during the primary for his close partnership in the senate with southern segregationists (which was, in fact, close friendship in at least one case). In short, she hasn’t done anything to endear herself to Biden nor demonstrated that she has significant broad support based on her own merits as a candidate.

Shameless misuse of identity politics

Clearly this another case of establishment Democrats shamelessly using identity politics to provide a political smokescreen for their reactionary policies. Devoid of any real political content, its peddlers present the fact that a person is a member of historically persecuted group as something that in itself somehow provides progressive credentials. In the process, the person’s political record gets lost behind the self-congratulatory back-patting.

The classic example of this is none other than Biden’s former senior running mate Barack Obama. Obama waxed lyrical on the campaign trail with lofty talk of ‘hope and change’. But we all remember how empty these promises turned out to be. Once in office, he largely continued the policies of his predecessor George W. Bush. The list is far too long to exhaustively enumerate here but includes failing to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention center, continuing Bush’s bank bailout program, and escalating the drone assassination program by a factor of ten.

A sordid record in political life and before

And like Obama and Biden, Harris’ progressive credentials are paper thin. Her record both before entering politics and since represents everything that is wrong with the center-right establishment wing of the Democratic Party.

Before standing for elected office, Harris was a public prosecutor and then attorney-general for the state of California. In these roles, she gained notoriety for her ruthless pursuit of so-called law-and-order policies. She supported a law that would lead to the prosecution of parents of truant children, leading to some even facing jail time. She later falsely claimed that this was an “unintended consequence” of the law.

A pillar of mass incarceration

Harris was also instrumental in putting non-violent drug offenders behind bars. She oversaw over 1,900 cannabis-related convictions while San Francisco’s district attorney. Of course, such convictions, which disproportionately impact people of color, are one of the major driving forces behind the phenomenon of mass incarceration. As the Black Agenda Report’s Margaret Kimberley put it: “She did everything in her power to support the mass incarceration system and all of its foundations.”

Astonishingly, Harris admitted during a radio interview that she herself has used cannabis. She now claims to be in favor of cannabis decriminalization. On both counts, this, of course, paints a picture of someone of profoundly poor character who has little sense of fairness and who furthermore demonstrates a willingness to engage in brazenly self-interested double standards.

Enabling Israel’s crimes

Since her election as a US senator for California in 2016, she has overwhelmingly sided with the Democratic Party’s center-right establishment wing, especially when it comes to foreign policy. On 3 June, 2019, she said in a pre-recorded statement to the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum: “I am deeply involved in insuring the American Israeli relationship remains strong. And I am proud to stand strongly with America’s most important allies. Israel is a critical friend and ally to the United States.”

In July of that year, the president and CEO of a major Washington polling and consulting firm said to The Jerusalem Post: “In terms of her Israel positions, she’s been in the Senate a relatively brief time, so she doesn’t necessarily have the longest record in dealing with Israel, but she has been strongly pro-Israel throughout her career. And certainly, in the statements, she’s made and the votes she’s cast so far.”

Harris even supported a congressional resolution condemning a UN resolution that criticized Israel’s settlement activity, which is widely accepted as illegal under international law. None of this should come as a surprise, however, as Biden himself is firmly on the establishment wing of the Democratic Party and was the favored pick of major party insiders.

Time to reject the empty promises of identity politics

Just as Obama’s supporters used triumphalist talk of him being the first Black president to deflect criticism of any of his reactionary policies, history is now repeating itself with Harris. We’re supposed to celebrate her nomination because of her status as a minority when in reality her political record is little better than that of her Republican rivals. And this provides yet another example of how the US is essentially a one-party state with two rival factions of the same sordid status quo that alternate power with one another every so often.

Luckily, there is someone on the ballot who is both a woman of color and an actual progressive. Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins picked longtime grassroots activist Angela Walker as his running mate. Of course, establishment Democrats and their minions will surely tell us that we’d be “throwing away our vote” by casting our ballot for the Hawkins/Walker ticket. But now that two major US parties compete with each other on a tiny speck of space on the far right of the political spectrum, it’s time that we give up on the Democratic Party en masse and prove them wrong.Join the debate on Facebook

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The Decline in Power of the Oil States

by PATRICK COCKBURN

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

President Donald Trump is cock-a-hoop over the United Arab Emirates becoming the first Arab Gulf state to normalise its relations with Israel. He needs all the good news he can get in the months before the US presidential election.

“HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!” Trump tweeted. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed a triumph in establishing full diplomatic relations with an Arab state that had once been a vocal supporter of the Palestinians. The UAE, for its part, said it had averted Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, while the Palestinians denounced yet one more betrayal by their fellow Arabs.

Much of this is overblown. Trump and Netanyahu will exaggerate their achievement to strengthen their domestic political status. The UAE had long ago established security and commercial links with Israel and Netanyahu’s annexation of the West Bank had been postponed previously. Pious talk by the US and its western allies in pre-Trump days about fostering a non-existent peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, at the heart of which was an imaginary “two-state solution,” was always a device for ignoring the Palestinians while pretending that something was going on.

Yet there is a real historic change going on in the Middle East and north Africa, though it has nothing to do with the relationship between Israel and the Arabs. It is a transformation that has been speeded up by the coronavirus cataclysm and will radically change the politics of the Middle East.

The era characterised by the power of the oil states is ending. When the price of oil soared in the aftermath of the 1973 war, countries from Iran to Algeria, mostly though not exclusively Arab, enjoyed an extraordinary accretion of wealth. Their elites could buy everything from Leonardo da Vinci paintings to Park Lane hotels. Their rulers had the money to keep less well-funded governments in power or to put them out of business by funding their opponent.

It is this historic period that is now terminating and the change is likely to be permanent. Saudi Arabia and UAE still have big financial reserves, though these are not inexhaustible. Elsewhere the money is running out. The determining factor is that between 2012 and 2020 the oil revenues of the Arab producers fell from $1 trillion to $300bn, down by over two-thirds. Too much oil was being produced and too little was consumed pre-coronavirus and, on top of this, there is a shift away from fossil fuels. Cuts in output by Opec might go some way to raising the oil price, but it will not be enough to preserve a crumbling status quo.

Ironically, a petrostate like the UAE just is flexing its political muscles by normalising relations with Israel just as the economic world of which it was part is breaking up. Nor is the UAE alone: the oil states have always had a problem turning money into political power. Saudi Arabia, UAE and their arch rival Qatar took a more aggressive role during the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain in 2011. Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto rulers of Saudi Arabia and UAE, became even more interventionist in 2015 and were overjoyed the following year when Trump, over-impressed by their riches and apparent influence, entered the White House.

The successes of the alliance of Trump and the Gulf monarchies have been skimpy. Their prime target Iran is battered but surviving. Saudi Arabia and UAE began a quick war in Yemen five years ago which is still going on. Bashar al-Assad remains in power in Damascus and Libya is engulfed in an endless civil war of extreme ferocity.

The super-rich oil producers are feeling the draft, but states like Iraq are close to capsizing because they can no longer pay the bills. Last October, hundreds of thousands of young Iraqis took to the streets to protest against lack of jobs, corruption and the failure of the government to provide water and electricity. Ferocious repression killed at least 600 protesters and injured 20,000, but they kept coming back to the streets.

Similar protest swept through Lebanon as its economy imploded. It is not only oil producers that are suffering, but countries like Lebanon and Egypt which looked to the petrostates for business and jobs. Lebanon used to be kept going by remittances. More than 2.5 million Egyptians work in the oil states. If there are not enough Egyptian doctors to treat Covid-19 patients at home, it is because they are earning better money in the oil states.

Strains were already showing before the pandemic. The whole system looked increasingly rickety. Oil states at the height of their prosperity had operated similarly, regardless of whether they were monarchies or republics. The ruling elite, be it Saudi, Iraqi, Libyan or Algerian, exploited governments that were what one expert described as “looting machines”, whereby those with political power turned this into easy money.

They were not alone. They could cream off great fortunes without provoking a revolt by the rest of society because they ran vast patronage machines. Ordinary Saudis, Libyans, Emiratis, Kuwaitis, Iraqis were guaranteed jobs as their small cut of the oil revenue cake.

It is this fifty-year-old system that is now faltering. As populations rise and young people flood into the labour market, more and more money is required to keep society running as before, but such resources are no longer there. This change has revolutionary implications as the unspoken social contract between rulers and ruled breaks down. Nothing much can be done to preserve it because the oil industry blights all other forms of economic activity. Little is produced locally and then only with massive state subsidies.

The rulers of oil states tend to be in a state of denial about the lack of alternatives to oil. Soon after taking over as de facto ruler in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promoted “Vision 2030” that was supposedly intended to wean Saudi Arabia off oil. Nobody with any experience of the country took this seriously, though western consultants were happy to fan such fantasies so profitable to themselves.

The world understands all too well the impact of the pandemic on health. It is beginning to foresee the economic devastation that follows. But it has yet to take on board the political turmoil inevitably caused by pandemic-hit economies, though Lebanon has given a foretaste of this. Beset by wars and dysfunctional social and economic systems, the Middle East is too fragile to cope with the coming earthquake.

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Mining the Deep Sea

by JULIA BARNES

They want to mine the deep sea.

We shouldn’t be surprised. This culture has stolen 90% of the large fish, created 450 deoxygenated areas, and murdered 50% of the coral reefs. It has wiped out 40% of the plankton. It has warmed and acidified the water to a level not seen since the Permian mass extinction. And indeed, there is another mass extinction underway. Given the ongoing assault on the ocean by this culture, there is serious question as to whether the upper ocean will be inhabitable by the end of this century.

For some people, a best-case scenario for the future is that some bacteria will survive around volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean. Deep sea mining is about to make that an unlikely possibility.

It’s being touted as history’s largest mining operation.

They have plans to extract metals from deposits concentrated around hydrothermal vents and nodules – potato sized rocks – which are scattered across the sea floor.

Sediment will be vacuumed up from the deep sea, processed onboard mining vessels, then the remaining slurry will be dumped back into the ocean. Estimates of the amount of slurry that will be processed by a single mining vessel range from 2 to 6 million cubic feet per day.

I’ve seen water go from clear to opaque when an inexperienced diver gives a few kicks to the sea floor.

Now imagine 6 million cubic feet of sediment being dumped into the ocean. To put that in perspective, that’s about 22,000 dump trucks full of sediment – and that’s just one mining vessel operating for one day. Imagine what happens when there are hundreds of them. Thousands of them.

Plumes at the mining site are expected to smother and bury organisms on the sea floor. Light pollution from the mining equipment would disrupt species that depend on bioluminescence. Sediment plumes released at the surface or in the water column would increase turbidity and reduce light, disrupting the photosynthesis of plankton.

A few environmental groups are calling for a moratorium on deep sea mining. Meanwhile, exploratory mining is already underway. An obscure organization known as the International Seabed Authority has been given the responsibility of drafting an underwater mining code, selecting locations for extraction, and issuing licenses to mining companies.

Some companies claim that the damage from deep sea mining could be mitigated with proper regulations. For example, instead of dumping slurry at the surface, they would pump it back down and release it somewhere deeper. Obviously, regulations will not stop the direct harm to the area being mined. But even if the most stringent regulations were put in place, there still exists the near-certainty of human error, pipe breakage, sediment spills, and outright disregard for the rules. As we’ve seen with fisheries, regulations are essentially meaningless when there is no enforcement. 40% of the total catch comes from illegal fishing. Quotas are routinely ignored and vastly exceeded. On land, we know that corporations will gladly pay a fine when it is cheaper to do so than it is to follow the rules.

But all this misses the point which is that some activities are so immoral, they should not be permitted under any circumstances. Permits and regulations only serve to legalize and legitimize the act of deep sea mining, when a moratorium is the only acceptable response.

Canadian legislation effectively prohibits deep sea mining in Canada’s territorial waters. Ironically, Canadian corporations are leading the effort to mine the oceans elsewhere.

A spokesperson from the Vancouver-based company Deep Green Metals attempted to defend deep sea mining from an environmental perspective, “Mining on land now takes place in some of the most biodiverse places on the planet. The ocean floor, on the other hand, is a food-poor environment with no plant life and an order of magnitude less biomass living in a larger area. We can’t avoid disturbing wildlife, to be clear, but we will be putting fewer organisms at risk than land-based operations mining the same metals.” (as cited in Mining Watch https://miningwatch.ca/news/2020/6/16/deep-sea-mining-environmental-solution-or-impending-catastrophe).

This argument centers on a false choice. It presumes that mining must occur, which is absurd. Then, it paints a picture that the only area affected will be the area that is mined. In reality, the toxic slurry from deep sea mining will poison the surrounding ocean for hundreds of miles, with heavy metals like mercury and lead expected to bio-accumulate in everyone from plankton, to tuna, to sharks, to cetaceans.

A study from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated that “A very large area will be blanketed by sediment to such an extent that many animals will not be able to cope with the impact and whole communities will be severely affected by the loss of individuals and species.”

The idea that fewer organisms are at risk from deep sea mining is an egregious lie. Scientists have known since 1977 that photosynthesis is not the basis of every natural community. There are entire food webs that begin with organic chemicals floating from hydrothermal vents. These communities include giant clams, octopuses, crabs, and 10-foot tube worms, to name a few. Conducting mining in these habitats is bad enough, but the effects go far beyond the mined area.

Deep sea mining literally threatens every level of the ocean from surface to seabed. In doing so, it puts all life on the planet at risk. From smothering the deep sea, to toxifying the food web, to disrupting plankton, the tiny organisms who produce two thirds of the earth’s oxygen, it’s just one environmental disaster after another.

The most common justification for deep sea mining is that it will be necessary to create a bright green future. A report by the World Bank found that production of minerals such as graphite, lithium, and cobalt would need to increase by nearly 500% by 2050 to meet the growing demand for so-called renewable energy.

There is an article from the BBC titled “Electric Car future May Depend on Deep Sea Mining”. What if we switched the variables, and instead said “the future of the ocean depends on stopping car culture” or “the future of the ocean depends on opposing so-called renewable energy”. If we take into account all of the industries that are eviscerating the ocean, it must also be said that “the future of the ocean depends on stopping industrial civilization”.

Evidently this culture does not care whether the ocean has a future. It’s more interested in justifying continued exploitation under the banner of green consumerism.

I do not detail the horrors of deep sea mining to make a moral appeal to those who are destroying the ocean. They will not stop voluntarily. Instead, I am appealing to you, the reader, to do whatever is necessary to make it so this industry cannot destroy the ocean.

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Teaching Torture: The Death and Legacy of Dan Mitrione

by BRETT WILKINS


In the pre-dawn darkness of Monday, August 10, 1970, Dan Mitrione’s bullet-ridden body was discovered in the back seat of a stolen Buick convertible in a quiet residential neighborhood of Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital. He had just turned 50, and he had recently started a new dream job, although it was thousands of miles from his home in Richmond, Indiana. Who was Dan Mitrione, and what work was he doing in Uruguay that led him to such an early and violent end?

As the Cold War heated up, one of the ways in which the United States government fought communism abroad was through foreign assistance programs. These were favorite vehicles for Central Intelligence Agency and other US meddling. Dan Mitrione, a Navy veteran and former small-town police chief from Indiana, joined one such agency, the International Cooperation Administration, in 1960. The following year, ICA was absorbed by the United States Agency for International Development, which in addition to its stated mission of administering assistance to developing nations, gained global notoriety for its role in helping brutal dictatorships repress, torture and murder innocent men, women and children around the world.

Brazil Brutality

Mitrione’s first posting was in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where he worked on the police aid program for USAID’s Office of Public Safety. OPS trained and armed friendly — read anti-communist — Latin American police and security officers. Ostensibly, it was meant to teach police how to be less corrupt and more professional. In practice, it operated as a CIA proxy. As for its parent organization, one former USAID director, John Gilligan, later admitted it was “infiltrated from top to bottom with CIA people.” Gilligan explained that “the idea was to plant operatives in every kind of activity we had overseas; government, volunteer, religious, every kind.”

Before Mitrione’s arrival, standard operating procedure for Brazilian police was to beat a suspect nearly to death; if he talked he lived, if not, well… Under Mitrione’s tutelage, officers introduced refined torture techniques drawn from the pages of KUBARK, a CIA instruction manual describing various physical and psychological methods of breaking a prisoner’s will to resist interrogation. Many of the abuses in KUBARK would later become familiar to the world as the “enhanced interrogation” techniques used during the US war against terrorism: prolonged constraint or exertion, ‘no-touch’ torture (stress positions), extremes of heat, cold or moisture and deprivation or drastic reduction of food or sleep. KUBARK also covers the use of electric shock torture, a favorite tool of both the Brazilian and Uruguayan police under Mitrione’s instruction.

One of the most notorious Brazilian torture devices during Mitrione’s tenure was known as the refrigerator, a small square box barely big enough to hold a hunched-up human being. The “fridge” was equipped with a heating and cooling unit, speakers and strobe lights; its use drove many men mad. Under Mitrione, Brazilian police devised a new torture technique they called the “Statue of Liberty,” in which hooded prisoners were forced to stand on a sharp-edged sardine tin and hold heavy objects above their heads until they began collapsing from exhaustion, at which point powerful electric shocks would force them upright.

Mitrione was transferred to Rio de Janeiro in 1962, where he trained the dreaded shock troops of the Department of Political and Social Order in suppressing dissent and democracy. He was working in this role during the 1964 US-backed military coup that ousted the democratically-elected, anti-communist president João Goulart, who had committed the fatal sin of advocating moderately redistributive economic policies. The coup ushered in two decades of brutal military dictatorship. By the end of the decade, USAID had trained more than 100,000 Brazilian police. During this period, the military dictatorship murdered hundreds of dissidents and tortured thousands more, among them a Marxist student named Dilma Rousseff, who half a century later would later be elected Brazil’s first woman president.

Move to Montevideo

In 1969, Mitrione was named the OPS’ chief public safety adviser in Montevideo, Uruguay, replacing Adolph Saenz, a quintessential Cold Warrior who previously led the operation that hunted and murdered Che Guevara in Bolivia. Mitrione arrived amid a collapsing economy, labor strikes and student protests in a country once known as the Switzerland of South America for its high level of economic development, freedom and stability. Mitrione’s tenure in Montevideo saw the militarization of Uruguayan police, ever-worsening state repression and an increase in the power and brutality of the dreaded National Directorate of Information and Intelligence, the national security agency responsible for the death squads that soon operated with impunity.

On the far left, National Liberation Movement rebels, more commonly known as Tupamaros, were increasing in power and popularity and embarrassing the government with their bold urban kidnapping and other attacks. Named after the Inca revolutionary Túpac Amaru II — who led a major 18th century uprising against the genocidal Spanish empire in Peru — and inspired by the Cuban revolution, the Tupamaros were led by farm labor organizer Raúl Sendic. Unlike other Latin American guerrilla groups, they avoided bloodshed whenever possible and until August 1970 had never killed any of their prisoners.

The Tupamaros’ relatively restrained rebellion initially engendered widespread popular support. But as the government’s hand grew heavier, so too did the rebels’ attacks. Just a few years earlier, the US ambassador lamented the “relaxed attitude” of the Uruguayan government toward communists. That would change under Mitrione. OPS imported surveillance technology and machine guns while sending “penetration agents” to infiltrate the Tupamaros and gather information on their leaders, members and sympathizers, including José Mujica, who like Rousseff in Brazil endured imprisonment and torture before ultimately being elected president of his country decades later.

Teaching Torture

The late US journalist and author A.J. Langguth credited US advisers led by Mitrione with introducing “scientific methods of torture” to Uruguay. These included psychological tortures like playing recordings of screaming women and children and telling prisoners it was their relatives being tortured, to more traditional torture techniques like electric shocks applied under the fingernails and to the genitals. According to Manuel Hevia Cosculluela, a Cuban double agent who infiltrated the CIA and spent years in the agency’s Montevideo station, Mitrione said that the key to successful interrogation was to apply “the precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount to achieve the desired effect.”

“A premature death means failure by the technician,” Mitrione told Hevia. “You have to act with the efficiency and cleanliness of a surgeon and with the perfection of an artist.” Mitrione walked a very fine line between surgical and sadistic when he added: “When you get what you want, and I always, do, it may be good to prolong the session a little to apply another softening up, not to extract information now, but only as a political measure, to create a healthy fear.”

In order to build the perfect underground classroom in which to teach his Uruguayan students the tools and techniques of their torturous trade, Mitrione soundproofed the basement of his Montevideo home. He tested its integrity by blasting Hawaiian music or having an assistant fire a pistol from the room while he listened from different points outside the home. Hevia claimed it was there that Mitrione trained Uruguayan police to torture using “beggars from the outskirts of Montevideo,” a practice he honed to perfection while stationed in Brazil. “There was no interrogation, only a demonstration of the different voltages on the different parts of the human body,” said Hevia.

The Cuban claimed that Mitrione personally tortured four beggars to death in his bespoke dungeon. This fits a historical pattern: At the notorious US Army School of the Americas (SOA), then located in Panama, US doctors supervised torture classes in which homeless people were kidnapped from the streets of Panama City and used as human guinea pigs. According to one former SOA instructor interviewed in the award-winning documentary film Inside the School of the Assassins, “they would bring people in from the streets to the base, and the experts would train us on how to obtain information through torture… They had a US physician… who would teach the students… [about] the nerve endings of the body. He would show them where to torture, where and where not, where you wouldn’t kill the individual.”

“The special horror of the course was its academic, almost clinical atmosphere,” said Hevia, who described Mitrione as “a perfectionist” and “coldly efficient.” To better electrocute victims, Mitrione experimented with fine wires that could be slipped between their teeth and into their gums. While some of the tortures he supervised were indeed innovative, others were anything but clinical, like the time he deprived a trade unionist of water for three days before giving him a pot of water mixed with urine to drink.

Hevia told the New York Times that Mitrione was no rogue agent. Rather, he “represented the program of the American mission” in Uruguay. “Mitrione was only carrying out policy,” the Cuban insisted. For the United States during the Cold War, torture was not a departure from the norm, it was the norm, from the villages of South Vietnam where tens of thousands of civilians were “neutralized” during the Phoenix Program to the some of the most prestigious hospitals and research facilities in North America, where perhaps thousands of men, women and children, many of them unwitting victims, were subjected to torturous experimentation during Project MK-ULTRA and other mind and behavior control programs.

For Uruguay, savage torture was a departure from the norm in a nation once regarded as a model democracy. But such outrages occurred that the Uruguayan Senate was compelled to investigate. It concluded that torture had become “normal, frequent and habitual,” and that common techniques used to torture prisoners, including pregnant women, included electric shocks to the genitals, slow compression of testicles, electric needles under fingernails and burning with cigarettes. Filmmaker Eduardo Terra described being subjected daily to the “submarine,” in which a prisoner is nearly drowned in a tank of electrified water often full of urine, vomit or feces. Victor Paulo Laborde Baffico, a former Uruguayan naval intelligence officer, later revealed that the “submarine,” electroshock torture and what would later be called waterboarding were all taught to Uruguayan military officers from the pages of US torture manuals.

Kidnapped, Killed

Years later, Raúl Sendic told the New York Times that Mitrione was targeted due to his direct role in training police in torture and in retaliation for the killing of student protesters. The corpulent Midwesterner was kidnapped as he left his home in suburban Carrasco on July 31, 1970. Sometime during or shortly after his abduction, Mitrione was shot in the shoulder. His captors treated — and apologized for — the wound. The Tupamaros demanded the release of 150 of their jailed comrades in exchange for Mitrione’s safe release. Although the Richard Nixon administration’s public position was that it did not negotiate with terrorists, the US president urged Uruguayan President Jorge Pacheco Areco to “spare no effort” to secure the safe return of both Mitrione and Dr. Claude Fly, an American agricultural adviser abducted by the Tupamaros on August 7. Fly suffered a heart attack while still in captivity in March 1971 and was rushed first to a heart surgeon and then to the local British Hospital, and freedom.

“Sparing no effort” included a threat by the Pacheco regime to execute the 150 prisoners and their relatives. Still, 10 days passed, among them Mitrione’s 50th birthday on August 4, without progress. A recorded conversation between Mitrione and his captors shows that both were uncertain, yet apparently hopeful, about the former’s fate. When Mitrione asks how long it will take until he is freed, one of his captors says the government will apply pressure. “We think you are very important,” he says on the tape. “I hope somebody thinks so,” replies Mitrione.

The Tupamaros issued seven communiques before executing Mitrione. His body was discovered on August 10 at 4:15 in the back of that Buick. He’d been shot twice in the head and once in the heart and back. Sendic, the former Tupamaro leader, always insisted that the rebels did not want to kill Mitrione and that his death was the unfortunate result of a communication breakdown after authorities captured Tupamaro leaders who were unable to tell his captors what to do with him. On the other hand, Eladio Moll, a former Uruguayan rear admiral and intelligence chief during the dictatorship, later revealed that US officials told state security forces to execute Tupamaro prisoners after interrogation because “they didn’t deserve to live.”

Back in the US, Dan Mitrione was hailed as a hero. White House spokesman Ron Ziegler lauded his “devoted service to the cause of peaceful progress” as “an example for free men everywhere,” calling him a man who “exemplified the highest principles of the police profession.” To his wife, he was the “perfect man.” His daughter called him “a great humanitarian.” Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis even staged a benefit concert for his grieving family — Mitrione had nine children — in his home town of Richmond, Indiana on August 29.

Deadly Decade

In the days and weeks following Mitrione’s murder, US officials denied that he tortured Uruguayan prisoners. Alejandro Otero, the ambitious head of police intelligence, vehemently refuted the US claim. Otero resigned after learning that Mitrione tortured his friend, a woman who allegedly sympathized with the rebels. Days after Mitrione’s death, Otero blamed the American and his violent methods for fueling the flames of the Tupamaros’ insurgency. “Before then, they would only use violence as a last resort,” he said.

The new decade was one of increasingly violent state suppression of dissent in Uruguay. In 1972 a new president, Juan María Bordaberry, declared a state of “internal war,” and the Tupamaros were soon destroyed as the government escalated its repression and torture. Congress was dissolved, total censorship was enforced and political parties, labor unions and student groups were banned. During this period, the right-wing military dictatorships of numerous South American countries expanded Operation Condor, a US-backed campaign of coordinated “dirty war” state terrorism and repression in which tens of thousands of people were killed and hundreds of thousands more were imprisoned for their real or suspected political beliefs.

According to Amnesty International, in the mid-1970s at least 6,000 people were being held as political prisoners in Uruguay, a country with less than 3 million people. That’s the equivalent of 728,000 people in the United States today. “Every Uruguayan was a prisoner except for jailers and exiles,” said Eduardo Galeano, the internationally renowned Uruguayan author who fled his homeland during the worst of the oppression. It would be another decade before democracy was restored, political prisoners like Mujica were freed and exiles like Galeano returned home. Most human rights violators from the dictatorship years enjoy codified immunity today, although Bordaberry died in 2011 while serving a 30-year sentence for the murder and forced disappearance of dissidents during Operation Condor.

Mitrione’s Tortured Legacy

While Congress canceled the OPS program in 1974, its various missions were merely transferred to other agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI. USAID, which helped fund opium traffickers in Laos, the forced sterilization of some 300,000 indigenous Peruvian women, Salvadoran death squads and Guatemala’s genocidal army, continues to operate — and subvert — to this day.

Although Dan Mitrione has been dead for half a century, his legacy lives on in the words and deeds of a new generation of US torturers. Many of the psychological and “no-touch” tortures he pioneered and practiced led to the “enhanced interrogation techniques” of the US war on terrorism, Guantánamo Bay and CIA “black sites.” Mitrione’s methodical approach to torture — “a premature death means failure by the technician” — echoes in the words of unrepentant Bush-era torturers and their apologists like John Yoo, Bruce Jessen, James Mitchell, Gina Haspel and CIA counterterrorism lawyer Jonathan Fredman, who with Mitrionesque coldness instructed the military that “if the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.”

Plenty of detainees have died in US custody, with dozens of their deaths considered or ruled as criminal homicides by American military officials. Dan Mitrione would not have approved. The sheer sloppiness of their deaths would surely have offended his clinical sensibilities.

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Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential Pick is … ZZZZZ

by TED RALL

Most years, the Super Bowl is a dud. Yet the hype machine keeps pulling in new suckers.

The quadrennial announcement of the Democratic nomination for vice president features an identical Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football dynamic: lots of hype followed by deadly disappointment. And there’s never been more hype than this year.

Not that Joe Biden’s pick isn’t important. If he wins, he will be the oldest person to take both of office by a full eight years. (He’ll be 78. Trump, the second oldest, was 70 in 2017.) Even by the standards that the 70s are the new 60s, Joe Biden’s 70s look more like 80s or 90s. His choice has to satisfy several competing constituencies: women, Blacks, and the progressive voters he desperately needs to show up November 3rd instead of sitting on their hands as they did last time.

But past performance almost always being a reliable indicator of near-future returns, Democrats should prepare for a Super Bowl-like fiesta of deep disappointment.

Last cycle’s brutal primaries prompted speculation that Hillary Clinton might unify the party by giving Bernie Sanders the VP nod. She chose Tim Kaine. (Political pundits jammed phone and text messaging with: “who?”) She told Charlie Rose she loved that Kaine described himself as “too boring.”

Clinton thought Kaine’s dullness would provide balance. Voters considered it redundant. “‘Safe,’” observed Politico, “seems to be Kaine’s middle name.” In the year of Trump, safe was anything but.

That’s often the case.

I was traveling through Central Asia when a hotel employee informed me that Al Gore had announced that Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman would be his running mate to go up against Bush-Cheney in 2000. I assumed my Uzbek host was part of some weird post-Soviet gaslighting campaign. How could Gore do anything so stupid?

The mists of time and the Florida recount fiasco have blurred the fact that, like Clinton 16 years later, Gore needed a progressive to balance his record as a Third Way centrist. Inexplicably, both at the time and today, clueless Democratic pollsters somehow convinced themselves that what he really needed to do was distance himself from Bill Clinton—the president under whom he’d served for eight years and who was enjoying improving poll numbers. They also thought the conservative Lieberman’s “moral rectitude” in being the first Democrat to condemn Bill Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky scandal would appeal to left-leaning Ralph Nader voters.

Lieberman opposed affirmative action and gay marriage. He supported every major military intervention, including, at first, Vietnam.

Nader kept his progressive votes.

The first rule of picking a veep is do no harm. The second is to remember the lesson of Bill Clinton/Al Gore 1992, when Democrats won with a pair of centrists of similar age and temperament from neighboring states: geographical ticket balancing as an art peaked out when JFK tapped LBJ.

As tensions mount between voters dominated by the populist progressive left and party leaders who manipulate the Democrats’ primary process to favor corporate centrists like Obama, Clinton and Biden, however, the case for ideological balance seems stronger than ever. Surely Hillary Clinton must wake up in the middle of the night wondering if relegating Bernie Sanders to number 39 on her list of running mates was the best decision she ever made.

By that standard Elizabeth Warren ought to be keeping her phone by the window in her house with the best reception. She would be an interesting choice: both more intelligent and intellectual than her boss, white (OK, white and Native American) in the year of Black Lives Matter, someone disgruntled progressives would have a hard time justifying as the target of a voter boycott.

Of the women floating around on Biden’s supposed short list, Warren would surprise. She would exceed expectations. She might unify the party.

I don’t think she stands much of a chance.

Boring usually gets the nod.

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Why Capitalism is in Constant Conflict With Democracy

by RICHARD D. WOLFF

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

The capitalist economic system has always had a big problem with politics in societies with universal suffrage. Anticipating that, most capitalists opposed and long resisted extending suffrage beyond the rich who possessed capital. Only mass pressures from below forced repeated extensions of voting rights until universal suffrage was achieved—at least legally. To this day, capitalists develop and apply all sorts of legal and illegal mechanisms to limit and constrain suffrage. Among those committed to conserving capitalism, fear of universal suffrage runs deep. Trump and his Republicans exemplify and act on that fear as the 2020 election looms.

The problem arises from capitalism’s basic nature. The capitalists who own and operate business enterprises—employers as a group—comprise a small social minority. In contrast, employees and their families are the social majority. The employer minority clearly dominates the micro-economy inside each enterprise. In capitalist corporations, the major shareholders and the board of directors they select make all the key decisions including distribution of the enterprise’s net revenues.

Their decisions allocate large portions of those net revenues to themselves as shareholders’ dividends and top managers’ executive pay packages. Their incomes and wealth thus accumulate faster than the social averages. In privately held capitalist enterprises their owners and top managers behave similarly and enjoy a similar set of privileges. Unequally distributed income and wealth in modern societies flow chiefly from the internal organization of capitalist enterprises. The owners and their top managers then use their disproportionate wealth to shape and control the macro-economy and the politics interwoven with it.

However, universal suffrage makes it possible for employees to undo capitalism’s underlying economic inequalities by political means when, for example, majorities win elections. Employees can elect politicians whose legislative, executive, and judicial decisions effectively reverse capitalism’s economic results. Tax, minimum wage, and government spending laws can redistribute income and wealth in many different ways. If redistribution is not how majorities choose to end unacceptable levels of inequality, they can take other steps. Majorities might, for example, vote to transition enterprises’ internal organizations from capitalist hierarchies to democratic cooperatives. Enterprises’ net revenues would then be distributed not by the minorities atop capitalist hierarchies but instead by democratic decisions of all employees, each with one vote. The multiple levels of inequality typical of capitalism would disappear.

Capitalism’s ongoing political problem has been how best to prevent employees from forming just such political majorities. During its recurring times of special difficulty (periodic crashes, wars, conflicts between monopolized and competitive industries, pandemics), capitalism’s political problem intensifies and broadens. It becomes how best to prevent employees’ political majorities from ending capitalism altogether and moving society to an alternative economic system.

To solve capitalism’s political problem, capitalists as a small social minority must craft alliances with other social groups. Those alliances must be strong enough to defuse, deter, or destroy any and all emerging employee majorities that might threaten capitalists’ interests or their systems’ survival. The smaller or weaker the capitalist minorities are, the more the key alliance they form and rely upon is with the military. In many parts of the world, capitalism is secured by a military dictatorship that targets and destroys emerging movements for anti-capitalist change among employees or among non-capitalist sectors. Even where capitalists are a relatively large, well-established minority, if their social dominance is threatened, say by a large anti-capitalist movement from below, alliance with a military dictatorship may be a last resort survival mechanism. When such alliances culminate in mergers of capitalists and the state apparatus, fascism has arrived.

During capitalism’s non-extreme moments, when not threatened by imminent social explosions, its basic political problem remains. Capitalists must block employee majorities from undoing the workings and results of the capitalist economic system and especially its characteristic distributions of income, wealth, power, and culture. To that end capitalists seek portions of the employee class to ally with, to disconnect from other, fellow employees. They usually work with and use political parties to form and sustain such alliances.

In the words of the great Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, the capitalists use their allied political party to form a “political bloc” with portions of the employee class and possible others outside the capitalist economy. That bloc must be strong enough to thwart the anti-capitalist goals of movements among the employee class. Ideally, for capitalists, their bloc should rule the society—be the hegemonic power—by controlling mass media, winning elections, producing parliamentary majorities, and disseminating an ideology in schools and beyond that justifies capitalism. Capitalist hegemony would then keep anti-capitalist impulses disorganized or unable to build a social movement into a counter-hegemonic bloc strong enough to challenge capitalism’s hegemony.

Trump illustrates the current conditions for capitalist hegemony. First and foremost, his government lavishly funds and celebrates the military. Secondly, he delivered to corporations and the rich a huge 2017 tax cut despite their having enjoyed several prior decades of wealth redistribution upward to them. Thirdly, he keeps deregulating capitalist enterprises and markets. To sustain his government’s largesse to its capitalist patrons, he notoriously cultivates traditional alliances with portions of the employee class. The Republican Party that Trump inherited and took over had let those lapse. They had weakened and led to dangerous political losses. They had to be rebuilt and strengthened or else the Republican Party could no longer be the means for capitalists to craft and organizationally sustain a hegemonic bloc. The GOP would then likely fade away, leaving the Democratic Party for the capitalists to ally with and use for such a hegemonic bloc.

Capitalists have switched hegemonic allies and agents between the two major parties repeatedly in U.S. history. Just as the Republican Party let its alliances with sections of the employee class lapse, opening the space for Trump, so too did the Democratic Party with its traditional allies. That opened space for Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the progressives. To revive and rebuild the Republican Party as a hegemonic ally with U.S. capitalists, Trump had to give a good bit more to Christian fundamentalists, white supremacists, anti-immigration forces, chauvinists (and anti-foreigners), law-and-order enthusiasts, and gun lovers than the old GOP establishment did. That is why and how he defeated that establishment. For historical reasons, Clinton, Obama, and the old Democratic Party establishment survived yet again despite giving little to their employee class allies (workers, unions, African Americans, Latinx, women, students, academics, and the unemployed). They kept control of the party, blocked Sanders and the growing progressive challenge, and won the popular vote in 2016. They lost the election.

Capitalists prefer to use the Republicans as their hegemonic partner because the Republicans more reliably and regularly deliver what capitalists want than the Democrats do. But if and when the Republican bloc of alliances weakens or otherwise functions inadequately as a hegemonic partner, U.S. capitalists will shift to the Democrats. They will accept less favorable policies, at least for a while, if they gain a solid hegemonic partner in return. Were Trump’s alliances with portions of the employee class to weaken or dissolve, U.S. capitalists will go with the Biden-Clinton-Obama Democrats instead. If needed, they would also go with the progressives, as they did in the 1930s with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Trump repeatedly aims to strengthen his alliances with the more than a third of American employees who seem to approve of his regime, no matter the offense given to others. He counts on that being enough for most capitalists to stay with the Republicans. After all, most capitalists prefer Republicans; his regime strongly supported the military and corporate profiteering. Only Trump’s and the Republicans’ colossal failures to prepare for or contain both the pandemic and the capitalism-caused economic crash could shift voter sentiment to elect Democrats. So Trump and the Republicans concentrate on denying those failures and distracting public attention from them. The Democratic Party establishment aims to persuade capitalists that a Biden regime will better manage the pandemic and crash, deliver a larger mass base to support capitalism, and only marginally reform its inequalities.

For the progressives inside and outside the Democratic Party, a major choice looms. Many have felt it. On the one hand, progressives may access power as the most attractive hegemonic allies for capitalists. By sharpening rather than soft-pedaling social criticisms, progressives may give capitalist employers stronger hegemonic alliances with employees than the traditional Democratic establishment can or dares to offer. That is roughly what Trump did in displacing the traditional establishment of the Republican Party. On the other hand, progressives will be tempted by their own growth to break from the two-party alternation that keeps capitalism hegemonic. Instead, progressives could then open up U.S. politics so that the public would have greater free choice: an anti-capitalist and pro-socialist party competing against the two traditional pro-capitalist parties.

Capitalism’s political problem arose from its intrinsically undemocratic juxtaposition of an employer minority and an employee majority. The contradictions of that structure clashed with universal suffrage. Endless political maneuvers around hegemonic blocs with alternative sections of the employees allowed capitalism to survive. However, eventually those contradictions would exceed the capacity of hegemonic maneuvers to contain and control them. A pandemic combined with a major economic crash may provoke and enable progressives to make the break, change U.S. politics, and realize the long-overdue social changes.

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Why a Growing Force in Brazil Is Charging That President Jair Bolsonaro Has Committed Crimes Against Humanity

by VIJAY PRASHAD

Photograph Source: Prefeitura de Olinda – CC BY 2.0

Jhuliana Rodrigues works as a nurse technician at the Hospital São Vicente in Jundiaí, Brazil. “It is very difficult,” she says of her job these days. Brazil has just passed 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, with 3 million Brazilians infected with the virus. “We meet colleagues and feel a heavy energy, a lot of pressure, a block,” Rodrigues says. She is the vice president of Sinsaúde Campinas, a trade union of health workers.

“We work with fear of each other,” Rodrigues says, which is why her union is part of a lawsuit filed at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on July 27. Sixty-five unions and organizations, which represent millions of Brazilians including Afro-Brazilians and the Indigenous communities, decided that their president Jair Bolsonaro’s callous attitude toward the global pandemic could not be managed within the country. Previous complaints made in the National Congress and the Supreme Court have run aground; Brazil’s prosecutor general, Augusto Aras, has not moved on any of these serious complaints. This is why the unions have gone to the ICC to charge Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity.

Brazil’s leading newspaper—Folha de S. Paulo—writes of the chaos in the country: “the main reason for the tragedy is Jair Bolsonaro.” The unions want him in the dock.

Health Workers, Afro-Brazilians, Indigenous

Bolsonaro, says the lawsuit, displayed an “attitude of contempt, neglect, and denial” toward the coronavirus; this attitude “has brought disastrous consequences.” The disrespect that Bolsonaro showed toward science and toward the World Health Organization’s advice led to the removal of two health ministers (Luiz Henrique Mandetta on April 16; Nelson Teich on May 15). Bolsonaro brought in General Eduardo Pazuello, with no medical background, to be the acting health minister; the health ministry is now peppered with officials with a military rather than a medical background.

Brazil’s Unified Health System (SUS) has been underfunded over the past five years. As a consequence of this, and of Bolsonaro’s expulsion of Cuban doctors who had come to help Brazil, there is a serious crisis, said Hugo Bethsaida Leme, who works with the Basic Health Unit in Londrina in Paraná, Brazil, and is in the National Network of Popular Doctors. “Many communities are without access to the More Doctors for Brazil Program (PMMB), which generates an overload in urgent care and emergency units with cases that could have been attended in the Basic Health Units (UBS).”

Not only has Bolsonaro not produced a sensible plan to tackle the infection, he has scuttled any attempt by the National Congress to move an agenda. Twice the National Congress sent the president laws—once to make mask use mandatory (Law no. 14.019, July 2, 2020) and then to make special provisions to break the chain of infection in Indigenous territories and among Afro-Brazilians in quilombos (Law no. 14.021, July 7, 2020); Bolsonaro vetoed both laws. “Vetoes take away access to dignified health treatment, at this time of pandemic, take away access to drinking water, access to emergency aid, basic food baskets,” the unions write in their lawsuit.

The government has spent only a fraction of the money allocated to fight the disease; it looks the crisis in the eye and laughs.

Jose Marques, one of the lawyers who helped with the lawsuit, pointed out to me that the government policy particularly discriminates against health workers, the Afro-Brazilian population in the quilombos, and the Indigenous communities. The infection and mortality rates for these three groups are higher than the Brazilian average, with the rate of death for the Indigenous twice that of other Brazilians. One of the laws Bolsonaro vetoed, Marques tells me, would have required the Brazilian state to provide potable water to the Indigenous areas; “without water,” he said, “how can the people keep themselves free of the infection? How can they wash their hands?”

Disrespect

In early June, Chief Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapó people said, “President Bolsonaro wants to take advantage of the virus; he is saying that the Indian has to die.” Both the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Organization of American States urged the Brazilian government to protect the Yanomami and the Iecuan Indians from the ravages of the virus.

Marcio Monzane, the regional secretary of UNI Américas, recounted for me the terrible treatment of the Indigenous communities. The Supreme Court told the government to put in place a commission to discuss the situation of the virus in the Indigenous territories. At the meeting, Monzane said, the representatives of the Indigenous communities were “mistreated by the government.” No recording has been released of the meeting, which would have graphically illustrated the disrespect and cavalier behavior of the government officials. Because of such reports, the Supreme Court has called upon the government to hold another meeting.

After Bolsonaro vetoed the bill to ensure potable water in Indigenous areas, Bolsonaro’s vice president and former general Hamilton Mourão said that they have no need for drinking water since “they are supplied with water from the rivers that are in their region.” This is the level of callousness of the Bolsonaro administration.

Brussels Not Brasilia

Supreme Court Judge Gilmar Mendes accused the Bolsonaro government of genocide. This is a serious accusation. The 1988 Constitution, Mendes wrote on May 21, “does not authorize the president… to implement a genocidal policy in the management of health care.” Then, on July 11, Mendes criticized the number of military men in the Ministry of Health; the army, he said, “is associating itself with genocide.”

Several lawyers and lawmakers sent complaints to Prosecutor General Augusto Aras, but he refused to open an investigation. “The complaint will stay on his desk until the end of the Bolsonaro period,” Monzane told me. What Aras has done is perfectly legal, but it goes against the general spirit of the legal fraternity, Marques informed me.

“There is no space in Brazil to present a case against Bolsonaro’s policies,” Monzane told me. Marques agrees: “It is clear to us that it is not possible to have these actions prosecuted inside the country.” Therefore, the unions have taken their complaint to the International Criminal Court in Brussels. When I asked the ICC if they are going to pursue this case, they said only that they have received the complaint.

At the Abyss

The lawsuit says that Bolsonaro’s disregard for the danger of the pandemic has put “the Brazilian people at the edge of the abyss.”

Jhuliana Rodrigues has spent the past four months without seeing her 11-year-old daughter; as a nurse with poor resources from the government for sufficient personal protective equipment, Jhuliana does not want to endanger her child. She knows that Bolsonaro has let down the health care workers, who are on the frontlines of fighting the epidemic. But her duty is her duty.

“If I don’t continue working now,” Jhuliana told me, “what would I do? Health professionals are chosen and do their jobs with love, dedication, care of human beings. Just as we already live with multi-resistant bacteria, COVID-19 will be with us for a long time.” Health workers, such as Jhuliana, must be at work. They get no support from their government, which is why they have now approached the International Criminal Court. They hope that someone will listen to them.

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Zionist puppet Alan Dershowitz

When old and new anti-Semitism come together

Zionist puppet Alan Dershowitz is an ally of Trump and Naziyahu who LOVES to blame Palestinians for the violence and oppression they experience under Nazi occupation. He says things like: “The suffering of Palestinians, which does not compare to the suffering of many other groups, has been largely inflicted by themselves.” And he’s about to celebrate another birthday. 

What a year it’s been! Zionist Dershowitz ramped up his vile rhetoric last month by comparing well-known Jewish journalist Peter Beinart, an editor at Jewish Currents, to a Nazi – simply for writing an op-ed that affirmed the humanity of Palestinians and argued for an equal, just state for both Israelis and Palestinians. On top of his full schedule of anti-Palestinian hate, he found time to join Trump’s legal defense team during his impeachment trial, and to write an op-ed in defense of accused sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell. It’s clear which side he’s on.

We can’t think of a better way to mark Zionist Dershowitz’s birthday than to raise money to fight for justice, dignity and equality for the Palestinians.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, PoliticsComments Off on Zionist puppet Alan Dershowitz

White Gunman Kills Two Protesters in Kenosha Amid BLM Demonstration

BYAmy Goodman & Juan GonzálezDemocracy Now!

Protests continue in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where police shot an unarmed Black man in the back seven times as he was getting into his car, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Jacob Blake was reportedly breaking up a fight before police shot him, and the shooting was witnessed by his three young children. On Tuesday, the situation escalated further when at least one white gunman opened fire on a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters. Two people were killed, and a third was injured, as police continued a violent crackdown on protesters demanding justice for Blake. We speak with Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, who says the police response to Blake was completely unjustified. “There’s no way that any officer could look at that video and say that that’s the way policing should happen,” he says. “We need police departments, sheriff’s departments to acknowledge that there is a real problem in the culture of policing.”

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to begin with a warning to our audience: The following story contains graphic footage of violence. A white gunman opened fire Tuesday night on people protesting the police shooting of unarmed Black man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Two people were killed, a third was injured, in the gunfire.

PROTESTER 1: Oh my god! Oh my god!

PROTESTER 2: Medic! Medic! Medic! Medic!

AMY GOODMAN: Bystander video shows the man, a white man, falling to the ground and shooting into a crowd as protesters attempt to disarm him. Kenosha police say armed vigilantes had been in the streets, and they were looking for a man with a long gun. As we broadcast, no arrests have been made yet, and those killed have not been identified.

Earlier Tuesday night, police in riot gear shot tear gas and rubber bullets at Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Kenosha County Courthouse. This marks the third night of unrest in Kenosha since Sunday, when police shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed 29-year-old Black man, seven times in the back as he was getting into a car. His three children, ages 3, 5 and 8, witnessed the shooting from the car. Blake was reportedly trying to break up a fight between two women before the shooting. Jacob Blake’s family and lawyers said Tuesday he’s conscious but still in critical condition, that he’s paralyzed from the waist down. Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson; sister, Letetra Widman; and father, Jacob Blake Sr., spoke at a news conference outside the courthouse.

JACOB BLAKE SR.: They shot my son seven times — seven times — like he didn’t matter. But my son matters. … How would you feel if your white son walked up to you, as a mother, and said, “Mommy, why did the police shoot my daddy in the back?” You have no clue.

JULIA JACKSON: My son has been fighting for his life. … So, I’m really asking and encouraging everyone, in Wisconsin and abroad, to take a moment and examine your hearts. Citizens, police officers, firemen, clergy, politicians, do Jacob justice on this level and examine your hearts.

LETETRA WIDMAN: I am my brother’s keeper. And when you say the name Jacob Blake, make sure you say “father,” make sure you say “cousin,” make sure you say “son,” make sure you say “uncle,” but, most importantly, make sure you say “human.”

AMY GOODMAN: And this is civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who’s representing Jacob Blake.

BENJAMIN CRUMP: We don’t have to give you a lot of legal treatises to let you know that what they did to Jacob Sr. and Julia’s son was done with deliberate indifference. … But the medical diagnosis right now is that he is paralyzed. And because those bullets severed his spinal cord and shattered some of his vertebrae, that attorney Salvi will get to in more detail, it is going to take a miracle — it is going to take a miracle — for Jacob Blake Jr. to ever walk again.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined in Madison, Wisconsin, by Mandela Barnes, the lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, the first African American to be elected to this position.

Lieutenant Governor, thanks so much for joining us on Democracy Now! If you can start off by giving us the latest on what is understood? The sheriff, although they haven’t explained why the police shot Jacob Blake, has said that in this latest incidents of violence, which looks like white shooters — called them militia or vigilantes in the streets. Two are dead now, and one critically wounded. Can you explain what you understand is happening in Kenosha? And then we’ll go back to the original police shooting.

LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES: Yeah. Thank you so much, Amy.

Yeah, the most recent report I still have, that I saw, as of 10 minutes ago, said that two people were dead. And Sheriff David Beth was able to talk about what happened there. And this is the Kenosha County sheriff. It was the city of Kenosha Police Department, if I’m not mistaken, that carried out the shooting on Jacob Blake.

But while we still don’t have answers, what we know is, last night, with the fans of hate being flamed, you see these militia groups decide to take up arms and try to handle a situation on their own. And these sorts of instances, you know, you can look back at President Donald Trump when he threatened gun violence. He even threatened to sic dogs on protesters outside of the White House. If this is the message coming from the top about how to handle people who are, you know, standing up against racial injustice in this country, I mean, those — the protesters are the people who are, like I said before, the people who are trying to bring this country together, the people who are standing up and demanding an America that is truly representative and responsive to all people.

And so, to see the video first thing in the morning, and I’ve — recently, it’s just been so difficult to go to sleep, one, because of everything going on; two, because you don’t know what you’re going to wake up to see next. And to see this is — it’s heartbreaking to know that people who want a safer country, who want a safer state, who want a safer world to live in for themselves, for children, have been subject to being shot at by vigilantes and a gunman.

And I don’t know this person’s political affiliation. I don’t know what group specifically this person came from who opened fire. But what we do know is that it happened. What we do know is that activity wasn’t discouraged by some of our leaders.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Lieutenant Governor Barnes, that’s what I wanted to ask you about. From your understanding, what are the instructions? Because there are now National Guard that have been mobilized. What are the instructions to the guard and to local police about how to deal with, one, the protesters, and then with any potential vigilantes? Because the initial reports I read were that there were these armed men outside a gas station for a while, and then the shooting happened much later on.

LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES: So, and I’ll start from the back, because you said that the armed men were outside the gas station for a while. I mean, how many times across this country do you see armed gunmen, you know, protesting, walking into state capitols, and everybody just thinks it’s OK? People treat that like it’s some kind of normal activity that people are walking around with assault rifles. You know, in many instances, these people have been led on by various conspiracy theories that have ruminated on the internet, and these people are demanding to have their country back. And to assume that nothing bad is going to happen, to assume that these people are up to — or, have the most fine intentions, is completely ridiculous.

And so, for folks that — you know, we can’t even act surprised that this happened, because this is what they’ve been saying that they are going to do, whatever armed militia group. You know, they don’t do those quasi-military tactical trainings for nothing. They are preparing for an event, and it’s something like this, where people are standing up, demanding racial justice in this country — is a perfect opportunity for them to strike. And that is what you saw in that video.

Armed guard — or, excuse me, the National Guard was mobilized. The instructions for the National Guard were to protect critical assets and help with fires. And I don’t know what the police response would have been. I don’t know if they were expecting — I mean, I’m pretty sure they weren’t expecting a gunman to open fire, but I don’t know why people wouldn’t expect for it to happen, because if you see somebody with a gun who is living in constant fear of whatever, you should expect them to want to use that weapon.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you to go back to the incident that touched all of this off: the shooting of Jacob Blake. Could you tell us what you understand is what the police have reported on what touched off the altercation between police and Blake? Because the police have been relatively — they haven’t said much at all, even for a normal shooting event.

LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES: They haven’t said much at all. They have not said much at all. And with them not having said much at all, you have to — it’s easy to assume that what the report finds out will not be good. I don’t have any additional information. I wish I did, but at the same time I wish I didn’t have additional information. We see the video. We saw what happened. And we know that it should not have, when the way that that was carried out, the way that the shooting happened — I mean, I don’t know — if they wanted to prevent him from getting into the car, there are multiple means to prevent him from getting into the car: You could tackle the guy; you could use a baton to stop him from getting into a car; you could, at worst, tase him. But the amount of officers there, that were there on site, that were present, it’s not justified, how this situation ended up and for him to be shot in his back as many times. You know, you hear the grueling accounts of the internal damage that was done to him.

And there’s no way that any officer could look at that video and say that that’s the way policing should happen. And, you know, I’ve said before, still, like, as tough as things are, as dire as things are, especially in America, in terms of relations with law enforcement, I’m still not going to sit here and say that it’s every officer, because it’s not. And it’s more than just a single police. It is policing. Policing in America has got to change, because if policing in America allowed for that scene to take place, then the problem is deeper than anybody could imagine. After months of folks stepping up, after months of people protesting in every corner of this state, every corner of this country to demand justice, if an officer still thought that that was OK behavior or an all right response or a proper response to the situation, then they are totally out of touch, out of step, with where we should be in America in terms of justice being applied equally in any way.

AMY GOODMAN: In case there’s anyone who hasn’t seen this video, just a description, now a second cellphone video has come out. The man who took the first video from across the street, he is suffering post-traumatic stress. I mean, he said it was horrifying as he was filming. But the idea that the policeman, as he was getting into his car, is holding the back of his T-shirt and shoots him at point-blank range seven times in the back as his little children are in the car that he’s getting into — 3, 5 and 8 years old.

Now, the second cellphone video, that has come out today, you see family coming out on the property. It’s the other side of the car. And they’re shouting at the police. They already know what’s going to happen. I mean, they already know because they’ve seen these videos so many times. You have little tiny children on the grass. You have parents. You have parents telling their kids to come back. You have Jacob Blake walking around the car, and then you hear — bang, bang, bang — these seven shots.

So, I wanted to ask you about attorney Ben Crump, who’s representing Jacob Blake and has represented the families of, oh, George Floyd, as well as so many others, Breonna Taylor — tweeted, “Kenosha city council passed an ordinance in 2017 requiring all officers wear body cams. But they never bought them. They’re in the budget.. in 2022. If it weren’t for a neighbor’s video, the police shooting of Jacob Blake would’ve vanished & no officers would be held accountable.” That’s the tweet of Ben Crump.

So, that’s the only video we’re seeing right now, because there isn’t bodycam video. If you can talk about how this legislation, that passed, was gotten around? And then talk, at the state level — you are the lieutenant governor — about what is being done at the state level for police reform.

LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES: Yeah. Like we said before, that video, it was brazen. The officer’s actions were brazen. And I’ve said before also, in my own statement, that “What if there wasn’t video footage of what happened?”

Now, I can’t speak to specifically what happened with the city of Kenosha’s budget and why the bodycams were not made a priority. But, obviously, this is something we’ve been talking about for years and years and years, even back when I was in the Legislature, about the need to have bodycams for added accountability. And when you don’t have that bodycam footage, it is your word versus the officer’s word. And people, the law, people who decide the fate in these situations, district attorneys, typically are going to side with law enforcement, if it’s the words of a police officer versus someone else.

And I’ll say, at the state level, even in the wake of George Floyd, we introduced — or, the governor introduced a legislative package. Now, we know that a legislative package is not going to solve the deep problems, but it takes a coordinated effort. We need action at every level of government. We need local government to act. We need police departments, sheriff’s departments to acknowledge that there is a real problem in the culture of policing. We need our city councils to demand justice. And we need also that accountability, like you said, with the bodycam footage, about them being funded, allocated, having an appropriation in the budget, but never being purchased. That is a real problem. And then, at the state level, we need to make sure that all of our departments, all of our law enforcement departments within our state, are doing the right thing. You know, these are basic steps that people can take, but if there’s a basic step taken at every level, we can have a true response.

But deeper than that, it goes to the culture. It goes to reimagining what keeping people safe looks like. It goes to making sure that there is funding on the front end to prevent violence from happening in the first place, like violence interrupters, but also having support for community organizations, having support for job training programs, you know, whatever the case may be, to create communities, to create societies, where people have an opportunity to thrive, where less or fewer police are actually needed to respond to anything in the first place.

You know, I just feel like, just all across the board, there is the larger injustice. Of course, there’s the injustice of unarmed Black men being shot, but there’s a deeper injustice that spreads far beyond that. It’s what leads to these situations. It’s what leads to the prejudice. It’s what prevents people from having an opportunity to grow and reach their full potential. You know, the number of police calls in a certain community, it’s easy to say, “Well, that’s a bad neighborhood.” But it takes more thought to say, “Oh, well, that is a community that has been starved of resources. That’s a community that doesn’t have what another neighborhood five miles down the road has that prevents them from having as many interactions with law enforcement.”

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Lieutenant Governor Barnes, I wanted to ask you — you mentioned that the governor has called a special session to take up some police brutality legislation. But I wanted to ask you, because this — the Jacob Blake case is being investigated by the local district attorney. District attorneys are notoriously very close to and cozy with their local police departments. Do you support an independent investigation? And have you had discussions with the governor about this? And also, what is precisely some of the key reforms that you’re hoping to take up in the Legislature?

LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES: Yeah, so, it’s not the district attorney. The state is actually investigating. We do have independent investigations for police shootings. I think we passed that bill in either 2014 or 2015. I was in the Legislature at the time. So, it is the state. It is the Office of Criminal Investigation who’s leading the investigation, independent from the district attorney. So, there is that independent aspect that’s there, recognizing that local law enforcement shouldn’t investigate themselves. The results truly yield the actual justice that people are looking for.

But whether it’s excessive use of force, whether it’s mandatory reporting for a person — or, mandatory intervention for a partner when things start to go south and they don’t deescalate the situation, the mandatory deescalation training, again, the violence interrupters piece, which I’ve talked about, which is one of the most critical ones, because you have these police officers who, unfortunately — I could speak to Milwaukee — who don’t live in the neighborhoods that they serve. And, you know, that’s one of the major parts about this, too, that doesn’t get talked about enough.

Any police officer should live in the city that they serve. If you’re going to have to — if you’re going to uphold the law in a specific jurisdiction, you should live under that law also, under the laws of that jurisdiction, as well. And the fact that police officers were able to move out created an even deeper disconnect. It created a policing in communities where you have very little relativity, where you don’t understand necessarily how people live, how people function. You don’t understand the language. And by understanding the language, I mean just norms of existing in a society within — you know, within the people that you are to serve and protect. You know, that’s been a big problem. And it says something if you don’t want to live in the city that you’re supposed to — that you’re sworn to serve and protect. It says that you want to come in as some sort of guardian and then leave. And without that connection, you make decisions that aren’t always going to be in the interest of improving that community.

AMY GOODMAN: Lieutenant Governor Barnes, we just have a minute, but I wanted to get your response to a local Fox affiliate that says, “According to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ aide, local law enforcement in Wisconsin told the White House they need at least 750 National Guard Tuesday night. Gov. Evers is … sending 250, up from 150 … On Tuesday, Meadows’ aide said Meadows called the governor and offered 500 additional National Guard members to meet the police needs, … Evers declined.” Can you talk about the — what is the mandate of the 250 you’ve already sent? And what about this possibility of the feds sending in, like we saw in Portland?

LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES: Yeah, so, those numbers that were reported, those were not accurate numbers. I was actually going over those this morning.

And Mark Meadows, they wanted to send Department of Homeland Security. Now, we can go back to our request to the White House, because we wanted to have our COVID-19 relief effort, that is administered by the National Guard, fully funded, and were soundly rejected by the White House. And so, if Mark Meadows wants to talk facts, then let’s talk facts, because that’s the real deal when it comes to numbers. They can’t send people in there to provide coronavirus testing; how can we trust them to appropriately come in and manage a situation that is as volatile as this one?

And when it comes to the number of National Guard troops that were requested by Kenosha County, that 750 number is inflated, as well. Governor Evers responded to the request of local officials.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Mandela Barnes, we want to thank you so much for being with us, lieutenant governor of Wisconsin. Of course, we’ll continue to follow what’s happening in Kenosha.

Up next, as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 nears 180,000, we go to night two of the Republican convention. Stay with us.

Posted in USA, Human Rights, PoliticsComments Off on White Gunman Kills Two Protesters in Kenosha Amid BLM Demonstration

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