Archive | November 5th, 2020

Politicians Should Stop Assuming Immigration Is the Only “Latino Issue”

A man in a Biden/Harris mask gazes handsomely forward while holding a u.s. flag
Latinx supporters attend a Biden/Harris Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus and supporters on horseback rally at the Walnut Community Center’s early voting location in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 24, 2020.

BYRafael LogroñoTruthout

We’ve heard countless experts argue that Latinos “will decide the 2020 election,” but can either Donald Trump or Joe Biden win big with Latinx voters?

There are 32 million Latinos eligible to vote in the November elections — the second-largest ethno-racial voting bloc in the country. The “sleeping giant” is awake, but it’s not what political strategists thought it would be. In the 2016 presidential election, 28 percent of Latinx voters supported Trump despite his campaign full of racist and anti-immigration rhetoric. A recent poll by NALEO Education Fund finds that one in four Latinx voters plan to vote for Trump this year. Even after calling Mexicans “rapists” and separating and misplacing 545 migrant children from their parents, the president still garners support from some Latinx voters, showing how complex and misleading the concept of the “Latino vote” truly is.

The idea of a “Latino voter” promotes the myth of a homogenous culture among Latinos, when in reality, it’s far from it. Because of this, politicians should stop describing a singular “Latino community,” furthering a narrative that politically and culturally accepts Latinos as a unified front to one that encompasses the complexities within the label. Instead, Latinx culture should be recognized as heterogeneous — multicultural and racially diverse, with a wide variety of political interests.

Latinx support for Republican candidates is not new. There’s a long history of Latinx political allegiance to the Republican Party, but it’s assumed that Latinos vote for the Democratic Party because of the anti-immigrant sentiment that’s often promoted by the right. Recent presidential elections tell a different story. The 2004 presidential election saw 40 percent of Latinx voters support the reelection of George W. Bush. In 2008, 31 percent of Latinx voters supported John McCain over Barack Obama. Latinx voters have historically supported both parties, thus candidates spend millions of dollars and strategize tirelessly to win their support.

Courting the “Latino vote” is complicated, but many campaigns simplify it by mentioning their intents to address the decades-long issues surrounding immigration. Without a doubt, it’s about time a president delivers comprehensive solutions to immigration issues — where support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients becomes support for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. However, not all Latinos have a connection to the immigrant experience.

A majority of Latinos in the United States are U.S. citizens, despite Latinos being represented as the sole face of immigration debates. Politicians should recognize that Latinos are not one-issue voters and they have an important stake in the economy, education and health care, as well.Latinx culture should be recognized as heterogeneous — multicultural and racially diverse, with a wide variety of political interests.

Latinos experience significant income inequality in the United States. In 2017, the median income of Latinx households was $50,486, compared to non-Latinx white households earning a median income of $68,145. However, certain Latinos earn more than others. Latinos of South American origin have a higher median household income than Latinos from Central America and the Caribbean. For example, there’s a $27,000 difference between the median household income of Argentines and Hondurans living in the U.S. Furthermore, while a record number of Latinos are attending college, student debt continues to be largely insurmountable and Latinos continue to be formally educated at lower rates than non-Latinos.

When it comes to health care and the economy, Latinx voices are more important than ever. The age-adjusted mortality rate among COVID-19 patients is higher among Latinos than other groups. In economic terms, the growth of Latinx-owned small businesses is significantly outpacing that of the overall U.S. average. However, that growth has been severely impacted, as a recent survey shows that 65 percent of Latinx small business owners say they will not be able to operate their business past six months, if current conditions don’t significantly shift.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Latinx communities and this must be of top priority for presidential candidates and politicians in Congress. Unfortunately, there’s limited Latinx representation in Congress.

Latinos are 18 percent of the United States population, but their congressional representation is severely lacking. While a record number of Latinos are running for office, Congress would need an additional 14 senators and 40 representatives who identify as Latino/a/x to align with current demographics. This is even more significant considering the U.S. Census projects that 27 percent of the country’s population will be Latinx by 2060.Congress would need an additional 14 senators and 40 representatives who identify as Latino/a/x to align with current demographics.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 — which ceded parts of the modern-day Southwest to the United States from Mexico after the Mexican-American War — and decades of Latin American migration have created diverse generations of Latinos with different relationships to their Latin American roots. In the United States, there are some Latinos who escaped oppressive dictatorships; some sought to leave countries with widespread poverty and gang violence; some who have never left the United States and don’t speak any language besides English; some who benefit from white privilege; and some who are Black and experience intensified racial injustice. What unifies such diverse groups of people?

The 1960s were a decade of significant civil rights struggle and progress in the United States. Alongside the Black civil rights movement, many Mexicans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans sought political representation and the advancement of their respective causes. The U.S. government, alongside media organizations and activist groups, looked to organize these communities with Latin American and Spanish-speaking roots. By the 1980s, there was a designated checkbox for “Hispanic or Latino” self-identification in the decennial census, a celebratory month — National Hispanic Heritage Month — to commemorate the contributions of Latinos in the United States, an array of established advocacy groups promoting the advancement of Latinos, and the first Spanish-language television network, Univision. The creation of a pan-ethnic “Hispanic or Latino” identity also extended to politics, promoting the idea of a “Latino vote.”

Presidential candidates must know there’s not a “one shoe fits all” approach to Latinx voters. Earning the support of Latinx voters is not only about appearing on Univision for a lengthy interview (which, to date, neither 2020 candidate has done), murmuring a phrase in Spanish while debating opponents in Miami, referring to yourself as “Elena” in front of Latinx culinary workers or pandering to Cuban voters while deporting undocumented Mexican immigrants during National Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s about recognizing that the approach used to garner support from upper-middle-class Venezuelan Americans in Florida is not the same as the tactics used toward Salvadoran voters in California. It’s about addressing and delivering on the issues all Latinx communities face without being reductive.

Without a doubt, the year 2020 has been full of surprises. Who knows if this is the year “Latinos decide the election results”? — as many optimistic writers predict every four years. One thing is clear, though: Town halls and debates are essential to the democratic process, but when diverse Latinx voices and perspectives are missing, it does a disservice to the millions of unique Latinx voters who feel alienated from the system.

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The Winner of the 2020 Election Won’t Be Inheriting a Genuine Democracy

The U.S. Capitol as seen on October 31, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Capitol as seen on October 31, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

BYAlexandra BoutriTruthout

With just a few days until what is widely regarded as the most important national election in recent U.S. history, voters remain divided and polarized over what should be essentially the future of the country. Issues over racism, immigration, guns, women’s rights, police brutality and climate change are what essentially divide Republican voters from Democrats. The former, galvanized by the extreme and divisive rhetoric of a racist and reactionary president, wish to preserve the values of “traditional America” (white supremacy and patriarchy, militarism, rugged individualism and religiosity), while Democrats worry that another four years of Donald Trump in office will spell the end of democracy.

Is destroying or saving U.S. democracy what the upcoming election is all about? In this interview, political scientist C.J. Polychroniou says it is high time that we did away with the political rhetoric when it comes to U.S. democracy and look at the facts: The U.S. has a highly flawed system of democratic governance and doesn’t even rank among the top 20 democracies in the Western world, and thus is in dire need of major repair. In fact, Polychroniou argues, it is far more accurate to describe the United States as an oligarchy, a regime where an economic elite and powerful organized interests are in virtual control of the policy agenda on most issues of critical importance to public interest while average people are mainly political bystanders.

Alexandra Boutri: The general consensus among a significant percentage of voters opposed to Donald Trump is that the upcoming election represents a pivotal moment in U.S. politics, for what is at stake is nothing else than the future of democracy itself. True, or an exaggeration?

C.J. Polychroniou: Trump’s presidency has been marked from the beginning by lies, strong authoritarian impulses, contempt for the media and disdain for science, big gifts for the rich and big cuts for the poor, and complete disregard for the environment. His political posturing is outright neo-fascist, and, as such, this president surely has little concern about the subtleties of democratic governance. Of course, U.S. democracy was in a crisis long before Trump came to power. In fact, one could easily make the argument that the U.S. is not a true democracy at all (it qualifies as a mere procedural democracy), and was never meant to be when you get to understand the architecture of the Constitution, who the framers were, and why they opted to ditch, in the manner of a coup, the Articles of Confederation, during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. In fact, the drafting of the Constitution itself was not a democratic process: The delegates were sent there by state legislatures with a mandate to revise the Articles of Confederation, but, instead, they worked in total secrecy in producing an entirely new legal document for the future government of the United States.

The Constitution that the framers produced, with its system of checks and balances, was as a legal document way ahead of its time, since back then, monarchy was the prevailing form of political rule throughout the world. But in addition to designing a system of governance that would prevent the rise of an absolute ruler, the framers also wanted to make sure that the masses themselves would not be in a position to determine political outcomes. Indeed, the framers were seeking a form of government that would keep the elites safe both from the caprice of absolute rulers and from the whims of the rabble. They were indeed in complete agreement with the view of John Jay, one of the so-called Founding Fathers and the first Chief Justice, when he said, “Those who own the country ought to govern it.” Hence the purpose behind the introduction of the Electoral College, which blatantly violates the very basic principle of democracy, i.e., one person, one vote; hence also the anti-democratic nature of the Senate, where states with very small populations get the same number of senators as states with huge populations.

The U.S. is also the only democracy in the world where politicians are actively involved in manipulating the boundaries of electoral districts. Political gerrymandering has a long history in the U.S., but as Common Cause National Redistricting Director Kathay Feng pointedly put it, “In a democracy, voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around.”

In addition, federal election campaigns funded entirely by private money makes a mockery of the democratic process for electing public officials, while the “winner-take-all” system, which is not in the Constitution and therefore can be changed without a constitutional amendment, can easily be regarded as undemocratic under modern election law jurisprudence, as has correctly been pointed out by former Republican governor of Massachusetts, William Weld, and law professor Sanford Levinson.

In sum, there is no other democracy in the advanced industrialized world with the “undemocratic” features of the system of democracy found in the U.S., including its two-party system which severely limits public dialogue and debate among competing political views. Little surprise, therefore, why even the conservative weekly magazine The Economist has labeled the U.S. a “flawed democracy.” As a matter of fact, U.S. democracy does not even rank among the top 20 democracies in the Western world, according to the Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The U.S. form of governance fits far more perfectly with that of classical oligarchy, although in the last four years, the country also had a leader who behaved more in tune with the traits of the tyrannical man outlined in Plato’s Republic.

Why then is the U.S. Constitution treated as some sort of a sacred document? Why aren’t there calls for a constitutional amendment, or even for an entirely new constitution?

It’s amazing what propaganda and lack of knowledge can do to a citizenry and therefore to the prospects of a democratic polity. All sorts of myths have been built around the so-called Founding Fathers, while the idea of the United States as the “world’s greatest democracy” is echoed by every politician either running for or while in office. Only a handful of political analysts and legal scholars are raising the question of the undemocratic nature of the U.S. Constitution. I suppose it’s the similar mentality behind the pathetic habit of U.S. politicians ending every speech with “God Bless America.” Here, the hypocrisy is quite striking since the framers of the Constitution were very specific about the separation of state and church. The word “God” does not even appear in the Constitution. But no one seems to be raising these issues in today’s U.S. political culture. For the unfortunate fact is that it has always been something of a taboo in the U.S. to point out the flaws of the political system and its political culture. This is why the use of the term of “anti-Americanism” was invented in the first place: to frighten open-minded citizens from exposing the flaws in the workings of the U.S. political system and criticizing U.S. policies.

The U.S. Constitution is extremely difficult to amend: It requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers, then ratification by three-quarters of the states. Of course, scores of constitutional amendments have been introduced over the years, but not one has become part of the Constitution. But here is an interesting fact about what the man who drafted the Declaration of Independence thought of constitutions: Thomas Jefferson was of the view that any constitution has to lapse after every generation. The laws and constitutions drawn by previous generations, according to Jefferson, in a letter written to James Madison from Paris, should not be binding on future generations. Yet, the U.S. is stuck with the same Constitution for the last 231 years, with a Constitution drafted by men whose language and mode of thinking bear no resemblance whatsoever to the mindset of most 21st century Americans and to the dictates of contemporary democracy. On the other hand, an overwhelming majority of Chileans just voted to rewrite the country’s constitution, which dates to the era of General Augusto Pinochet. This is how democracies ought to work.

How comparable are capitalism and democracy?

Capitalism can function under different forms of government, including brutal dictatorships. There is nothing inherent in the dynamics of a capitalist economy that allows democracy to flourish. Calls for the recognition of social rights and demands for freedom, political participation and democratic governance have always come in fact from those who were exposed to the cruelties and injustices which are naturally built into a capitalist system of economic and social life. Democratic rights were gained, advanced and secured under capitalism, almost everywhere in the world, through prolonged social and political struggles from below. They were not granted to the masses by the masters of capital themselves. The right of workers to unionize, for instance, has a long and bloody history behind it. The U.S., in fact, has had the bloodiest and most violent labor history of any industrialized capitalist country in the world. By the same token, there are limits to how far democracy can advance under capitalism. Direct participatory democracy and economic democracy are anathema to a capitalist organization of socio-economic life. And under neoliberal capitalism — which is essentially a politico-economic project that aims to return society to the age of predatory capitalism when labor power was completely “free” — nature is totally at the mercy of unrestrained capital exploitation, and state policies cater exclusively to the interests and needs of the plutocrats, and thus democracy is a sham. Competition is seen as the defining characteristic of what it means to be human, citizens are turned into consumers, and society is dog-eat-dog.

How exactly would one go about proving that the U.S. is actually an oligarchy?

This is not very hard to prove if you approach the question with a critical eye instead of engaging in breast-beating about how great U.S. democracy is by virtue of the simple fact that we enjoy basic civil liberties and civil rights, which are the very basic elements of even the most rudimentary form of democracy. You can start by looking at the distribution of economic and political power. That is the most direct and obvious way to figure out whether a society functions democratically or is controlled by a power elite. The U.S. is one of the richest countries in the world, but also one with extreme levels of inequality. The richest 1 percent own 40 percent of the country’s wealth, according to a study produced a few years ago by economist Edward N. Wolff. By the same token, the top 1 percent incomes have grown in recent years to be five times as much as the bottom 90 percent incomes. Economic power, of course, translates almost automatically into political power. This does not mean that the capitalist state is by extension a mere tool in the hands of the capitalist class, as crude Marxism used to contend back in the era of the Comintern, but the government agenda is heavily influenced, if not outright shaped, by economic elite domination.

A few years ago, two mainstream political scientists, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, tested the different theories of U.S. politics (majoritarian democracy, pluralism and elite theory) by looking at a huge set of policy cases for a period covering more than 20 years (from 1981-2002). What they found is shocking even to those of us who are fully cognizant of the undemocratic nature of the U.S. political system: Economic elites and business interests had overwhelming impact on U.S. government policies, while average citizens had little or no independent influence. Another mainstream political scientist, Larry Bartels, also published recently a book, mainly an empirical study, titled Unequal Democracy, exposing the myths of U.S. democracy by showing how the political system favors overwhelmingly the wealthy.

In sum, there is no doubt about it: What drives U.S. politics and the framing of government policy is economic-elite domination. Moreover, average people seem somehow to be cognizant of this realization, which probably explains why such an overwhelming percentage of U.S. citizens do not bother to vote: “democracy” isn’t working for them.

If U.S. democracy is so highly flawed, what then is really at stake in the November elections?

There can be no denying that even procedural democracy has been facing a historic crisis under the reign of Donald Trump. When it comes to transparency and accountability, Trump has broken new grounds with his disregard for such democratic niceties. He has blatantly challenged the authority and independence of agency watchdogs overseeing his administration and has retaliated against officials who have exposed wrongdoings of his administration. He has encouraged actions to silence certain broadcast news outlets and individuals and even threatened to shut down social media industries. He has dispatched federal agents to cities to crush protests, and has even refused to accept that there would be a peaceful transition to power in the event he loses the November 2020 election. As I noted before, he has been acting as Plato’s tyrannical man in the Republic, which probably explains why he fancies so much dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and strongmen like Turkey’s Erdoğan and Russia’s Putin. No doubt, he is jealous of their authoritarian powers. But it should be pointed out that the Republican Party as a whole has moved so far to the right that it has become part of the illiberal political universe, as a major study just published by a Swedish university confirms.

Be that as it may, much more is at stake in the upcoming election than democratic formalities. Aside from his catastrophic handling of the coronavirus pandemic — which has resulted in the death of more than 225,000 Americans, the highest total in the world — and the death figures continue to rise on an almost daily basis, Trump’s white supremacy vision will tear completely apart U.S. society, his economic policies will exacerbate even further the huge inequalities present in U.S. society and his nuclear posture will move us closer to Armageddon. Finally, and far more important, there are his anti-environmental policies and refusal to even acknowledge humanity’s greatest existential crisis, namely global warming. During his reign in power, he has initiated an unprecedented number of regulatory rollbacks, with complete indifference to their impact on the environment and people’s lives. In that sense, he doesn’t pose just a threat to democracy. As Noam Chomsky never tires of repeating, Trump is a real menace to civilization, to organized human life, like no other leader has ever been in recent history anywhere in the world.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

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Climate Change and Hurricanes

BY JOHN DAVIS

Photograph Source: Roosevelt Skerrit – CC BY-SA 3.0

Do you remember last summer’s gang-of-five? Known individually as Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia and Maria, a strangely mellifluous invocation of the deluge (or a diluvian mantra), the climatological spawn of cyclogenesis (the spin cycle in the South Atlantic) they collectively represented the most powerful group of hurricanes in over a hundred years. They were part of a train of such events in 2017, which totaled, at the time of writing, eight Atlantic hurricanes – the-hateful-eight – an unprecedented cyclogenetic sequence. Their combined death toll is conservatively estimated at over five hundred people with property and infrastructure damage low-balled at 200 billion dollars.

Bruno Latour, the French sociologist and anthropologist writes, in Facing Gaia – Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime, 2017, “In the Anthropocene, how can the state maintain that it has a monopoly on legitimate physical violence in the face of the geo-historical violence of the climate?” These weather events now terrorize the state and as we become increasingly subject to anthropogenic phenomena – those characteristics of climate that we believe are acting out of humankind’s historic and present burning of fossil fuels –we anthropomorphize their impact. Wild fires rage, threaten and ravage; hurricanes bear down, hit and devastate. Their actions deriving, we understand from the frantic reporting of them, not from a set of climatological beginnings but devoted to the terrorizing of the human beings in their path – fire, flood and wind marked by a teleological stripe as wide as the swathe they purposefully cut through civilization. Either way, it’s all about us. We have created these vaporous monsters, these flowers of evil – their whirling florescence stunningly captured in satellite imagery – that can only survive in the hot-house of an anthropocentric world. Their evil is the evil that men do, their monstrousness mirrors ours. It is we who have turned the page of geologic epochs to the one named the Anthropocene.

The fight to reduce CO2 levels to diminish global warming remains the central field of operations in the global climate war that was enjoined some decades ago. Capitalism and its enabling political environment of neoliberalism are locked in battle with a growing army of opinion (scarcely yet reified as action) that suggests that planetary health would be better served by a dramatic re-visioning of our hegemonic anthropocentrism towards an enlightened co-existence with other life-forms. As the world warms, this new Cold War is fated to get increasingly hot. It is a war between the Moderns – those living out the scientific rationalities of the seventeenth century and who still formally exist within the Holocene, a geological epoch characterized by the geomorphic changes signaled by the end of the last ice age and the subsequent advent of agriculture – and those whom Latour calls the “Earthbound of the Anthropocene”, populations alive to the geologic epoch which takes account of humankind’s impact on geo-history and which embrace a world suffused with animism.

Timothy Morton, proclaimed by The Guardian as “the philosopher-prophet of the Anthropocene”, and most recently author of Humankind – Solidarity with Nonhuman People, 2017, sees a similar divide between modern humans who cleave to the modes of production established by those early fertile-crescent civilizations with their tendencies towards “the overkill intensity of the logistics of post-Neolithic agriculture” – and those who continue the traditions of the foragers, the people of the Paleolithic for whom the world is fully animate. He writes, “Everywhere in post-agricultural psychic, social and philosophical space, is evidence of a traumatic Severing of human and non-human relations”. ‘Severing’ is capitalized because of his conceit that our current dilemmas can be usefully framed in a Game of Thrones-like world. He continues, “traditional ecological models rely on the ruling class mandala structure…Nature gets to mean something pristine and pure, an endlessly exploitable resource or majestic backdrop to the doings of (human) folk”. Latour posits that “one of the great enigmas of Western history is not that there are still people naive enough to believe in animism, but that many people still hold the rather naive belief in a supposedly de-animated material world”. Like Morton, Latour is driven by the inherent drama of our predicament to make theatrical analogies: he sees the natural world as the scenery jumping up on the stage and demanding a part in the human play – a speaking part, no less!

We casually crossed the CO2 threshold of first, 350-ppm, sometime in the 1980’s and, as of a year ago, have driven over the 400-ppm line. Latour writes, “we went through total war and hardly noticed a thing”. We have arrived at what he calls “a profound mutation in our relation to the world”. We have quietly folded our tents and ceded our accustomed atmosphere to one that is now accelerating the sixth extinction towards its almost inevitable denouement: that of our own contingency in a profoundly changed world. Fire, winds and epic rains signal our loss in a war in which we barely engaged, while the scorekeepers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa Earth System Research Laboratory daily records our crushing and ever deepening defeat. The geologic aggregations of plastics, the drilling of oil and gas reserves and their ignition, the resultant changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, and the chemical residues of industrial production are now frequently stirred, wind driven, and rain pelted into spongey anthropogenic chimeras that, like the trenches of Northern France and Belgium in World War One, are the record of a war, but one in which we have stubbornly refused to fight. The latest United Nations projections point to a global temperature increase of 3.2 C (5.75F) by the end of the century. By then, sea level rise is expected to flood Alexandria, The Hague, Miami and Rio de Janeiro amongst countless other communities. Hurricanes and typhoons and their attendant storm surges now bring seasonal death and destruction but they are but precursors to this permanent submergence of coastal conurbations across the world.

Hurricanes are profoundly non-human. Like us, they are ecological beings but the temptation to render them as evil intruders is almost irresistible since they act in what we think of as our exclusive terrain. Yet we have begun, hesitatingly, to accept the rights of other predatory nonhumans to live in ‘our’ world. Growing numbers of people are beginning to accept the idea of co-existence with large carnivores such as wolves, grizzly bears and mountain lions. We are beginning to discuss the acceptance of forest fires (which struck California this summer with apparently deadly intent) as naturally regenerative – the threat to human life and property that they pose seen as a problem of human settlement patterns rather than that of their inherent maliciousness. How long will it be before we bring weather phenomena into this fold of accommodation?

The globe has been impacted by an asteroid-like extinction syndrome driven by the New Climatic Regime – in the Western hemisphere, the Caribbean is at the epicenter of the materially destructive forces this regime has unleashed. Florida and the Gulf Coast reap similar levels of weather chaos. If the-evil-that-men-do has been transmuted into the temper tantrums of our atmospheric swaddling – and which (who?) is now an actor on the no longer exclusively human stage (an erstwhile fantasy of the modern age) – the actions of our anthropocentric states (none more so than Trumpistan) appear to be increasingly marginalized.

The most destructive hurricanes of the season, Maria, Harvey and Irma, manifested in three of this nation’s most extreme political environments – at the frayed edges of our Republic where the potential for its unravelling is perhaps the greatest. One, the poster child of late-modern imperialism, mired in debt and under the thumb of Wall Street; the other a global hypercity – a metastasized oil metropolis surrounded by kudzu-like suburban and industrial malignancies that entrap and stifle it; and the third, a state existentially vulnerable to climate change and global warming but where the reality of those phrases is effectively denied by their Governor – using the tired ‘I am not a scientist’ defense. Each was viscerally impacted by a climatological body blow, the state powerless to control the violence and largely ineffectual in dealing with the resultant societal and infrastructural hemorrhaging. Hurricane Jose threatened outer areas of the Caribbean but in the end brushed by the northern Leeward Islands already battered by Irma. A weakened Katia made landfall at Tecolutla in Eastern Mexico where torrential rains caused deadly mudslides and added to the chaos in the earthquake shaken state of Veracruz.

The human tragedy following Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, Dominica and Haiti is heart-breaking. The Island of Puerto Rico (or Borinquén) harbors a much diminished patch of Edenic tropical rain forest in the El Yunque National Park but elsewhere functions as a low-wage haven for pharmaceutical, pesticide and bio-tech production and as a provider of minimum wage service sector jobs. It represents half a millennium of colonial rule now fully incarnated as the late-capitalist exploitation of a vulnerable and politically powerless work force. Given its debt status, it faces decades of austerity tactics from its Wall Street overlords who will doubtlessly ensure that its post hurricane reconstruction is repaid with an enhanced immiseration of the local population. Areas of the island may be in the process of becoming the world’s newest wet slums.

The hurricane claimed over fifty lives in Puerto Rico (a very conservative estimate recently amended by the journalist Vijay Prashad to a number almost ten times as large based on his travels in the highland villages) and left thousands more injured, sick, homeless and hungry. This was extreme climate violence enacted on a territory with a notably impoverished governmental structure. What promises to be a decades long Maria hang-over will serve both as reminder of the supreme power of cyclogenesis and as a continuing demonstration of the puny authority of a marginalized government. The territory’s outlook is grim, unless you are willing to count its people as heroic counter-revolutionaries trying to minimize the impacts of what Latour identifies “as a revolution that has taken place without us, against us, and, at the same time, through us”.

By chance, or the vagaries of academic tenure, Timothy Morton lives in Houston. The English-born, Oxford educated, and Bjork’s favorite philosopher teaches at Rice. He experienced Hurricane Harvey but was not rendered homeless, because, as he explains in his blog, he lives ”at high altitude for Houston, aka 1 meter above sea level (joke estimate)!” Many were not as fortunate. Houston has assumed the mantle of Los Angeles as the ultimate late-twentieth-century American City: of sprawl, freeways, smog; and with it, its vulnerability to disaster and its ecological racism. It is a pre-cursor city of Latour’s New Climatic Regime – an old-world oil, gas and petro-chemical metropolis sited on marginal lands; its cancerous growth feeding on the city’s surrounding wetlands and prairies. It is, as Morton suggests, an emblematic spatio-temporal piece of the hyperobject (that consists of humankind and their works) that has initiated a mass extinction of life-forms in the Anthropocene. Now deprived of buffer landscapes, lacking zoning regulation and in an era of weakened environmental standards it will be increasingly vulnerable to weather terrorism; its inhabitants in low lying suburbs more frequently at risk of flooding, toxic spills and chemical fires and ever more likely to become climate refugees.

It is academics who have been at the forefront of both promoting the modernity project and of the attempt to expose it as an anthropocentric conspiracy to side-line the sentience of other beings. In the proto-modern world, Copernicus drove humans out of the center of the cosmos; then Descartes established human consciousness at the center of our Universe surrounded by a de-animated and inert nature – anaesthetized and ready to dissect. Now, the cost to the world of this segmentation is amply apparent: human history seems cold and natural history frenzied: this summer, a frenzy called Irma was Florida’s Nemesis.

Chantel Acevedo, the Floridian novelist and academic of Cuban heritage, imagines sharks in the deep water of Miami’s flooded intersections and actually sees octopi stranded in her parking garage. Her five-year-old asks her, “Mom, will my room blow away?” “Irma was biblical”, she writes, in Vogue, November, 2017, “the warm waters of the Atlantic provided fuel, and Irma gulped and gulped. The swirling, giant storm, with its menacing eye, spoke of desolation to come.” Fully personified in the pages of a fashion magazine, one is left only to wonder what Irma will wear. In the event, she arrived in the Keys dressed as the grim-reaper, killing seventy-four before departing the state as a tropical depression. Property damage is in the sixty billion range.

Long ago, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans killing a total of 1,836 people along the Gulf coast and causing over $100 billion in property damage. Just five years ago, it was Hurricane Sandy that left New York with a death toll of 106 and property damage of almost a billion dollars. Unless we learn to co-exist with these heightened weather events, we will continue to be terrorized by them. From hurricanes alone, there have been well over 500 deaths in the U.S. since 2010. Never mind the death toll from other weather events such as floods, tornadoes, droughts and wild fires. The cost of this year’s hurricanes and wild fires in the U.S. is estimated by the General Accounting Office at $300 billion. Since 9-11, there have been 148 deaths in the U.S attributable to foreign terrorist attacks while the bill for the U.S. War on Terrorism has ballooned, from 2010 through 2018, to $1.774 Trillion. The 2017 budget for civil works by the Army Corps of Engineers, much of it ear-marked for storm remediation, is a puny $4.62 billion.

If keeping the American people safe and their property protected are the criteria, the inevitable conclusion is that our Federal spending priorities are grotesquely out of whack. The state has indeed retained its monopoly on violence rendered by guns, missiles, drones, chemical agents, capital punishment, torture and incarceration, and spends trillions exercising that right; it has however, through at least six presidencies since Carter (the first World Climate Conference was held in Geneva in 1979), been entirely remiss in making any sort of reasonable attempt to control weather terrorism. As such, it has likely confirmed its fate as an irrelevancy in the New Climatic Regime, in this, the first century of the Anthropocene.

Timothy Morton notes, “Since the UN’s Earth Summit in Rio, 1992, what has underpinned the fascist right in the USA has been opposition to solidarity with nonhumans”. In other words, our government’s refusal to engage with geo-history has made it complicit in the sixth extinction. Culpability can be spread across the decades, but perhaps it reaches it apogee with the incumbency of Al Gore as vice president, 1993 – 2001, who, he wants us to believe, understood what was going on. Given that he presumably understood the Earth to be imminent danger, his signal failure to act aggressively on his putative presidential victory in 2000 (and thus be in a position to ‘save the Earth’) suggests both a towering cowardice and a profound narcissism. Morton writes that when he hears the word sustainability, he reaches for his sunscreen, echoing the Nazi propagandist Hanns Johst, 1890 – 1978, who wrote, in 1933, “when I hear the word culture, I release the safety catch from my Browning”. When I hear the name Al Gore I think to check the appalling list of nonhuman extinctions catalogued by The Center for Biological Diversity. Morton has doubts about Gore’s avowed mission – the saving of the Earth – if that only means “preserving a reasonably human-friendly environment”. What this preserves, he suggests, “is the cinema in which human desire projection can play on the blank screen of everything else”. Like Latour, he counsels a solidarity with the nonhuman.

Since Latour correctly suggests that we have already lost the war against limiting the ppm of carbon in the atmosphere and the resultant weather extremes, we have been reduced to creating secondary lines of defense consisting of hard and soft infrastructures that attempt the containment of these new, globally warmed geo-storms in the attempt, worthy or not, of preserving a human-friendly environment. The money to create these defenses comes from a combination of State and Federal budgets, institutions and private enterprise: most of that money is devoted to hard infrastructures which are mostly made of concrete – which has a huge energy footprint. Concrete production currently contributes about 1% of the greenhouse gases emitted in the U.S. exacerbating the very reasons for its extravagant use in storm barriers and sea walls.

In Manhattan where the surrounding sea level is projected to rise six feet within the century, an ambitious scheme originally conceived of as a big “U” of concrete and steel fortifications, water parks and dunes around Lower Manhattan promises protection from future storm surges and is currently undergoing community review. In Bridgeport Connecticut, hard and soft infrastructures are planned for this community hard hit by super storm Irene in 2011 and the following year by Sandy. An existing seaside park, originally designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, is being re-engineered by Dutch flood control consultants to act as a storm surge buffer.

Manipulation of the landscape to enhance human and nonhuman existence (making a friendlier human environment in ways complementary to other life and land forms) has a long tradition reaching far back into the paleolithic era. The hard edges of our continent that support the logistics of energy, food and raw material import and export as well as the incoming container loads of finished Chinese goods, will inevitably soften: our choice is whether to encourage this process by design or resist it and thus prolong the recalcitrance of weather terrorism.

In Miami, key roads are being elevated to serve as escape routes for flood refugees; an extensive system of pumping stations is being augmented; sea walls proliferate, and flood gates have been installed to protect strategic highway tunnels. New commercial buildings are designed to sit on concrete plinths that rise sixteen feet or more above grade. The high-style Perez Art Museum designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, sits on a plinth while its expansive glazed areas have undergone ballistics testing to verify their ability to repel a weather terrorism weapon-of-choice: a 2 x 4 wood stud, wind driven at a speed of 50 feet per second.

The newly relocated Whitney Art Museum in New York, now sandwiched between the Hudson River and the Highline park, was re-designed, mid-construction, after Sandy, to withstand storm surges through a system of sea gates and barricades. Our finest cultural storehouses are thus being elaborately protected against impending weather terrorism while they serve as symbols of the privileging of human consciousness that characterizes modernity and which, in turn, has now been geo-historically reified as the ‘asteroid’ of the sixth extinction.

In New Orleans, twelve years after Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is up grading the city’s levees and finally removing or replacing the temporary floodgates and pumps it installed after the emergency – which was exacerbated by their earlier engineering miscalculations. New schools, hospitals and housing are being built under a city-wide water plan which requires that individual developments contribute to the storage and ground-infiltration of storm water flows. New waterways and parks are being designed as storm water management elements as well as recreational resources. Marshes and grasslands are being revived as natural retention and infiltration areas, yet the coastal wetlands, the city’s best and softest defense against storm surges, continue to erode.

The wisdom of defiant urban renewal in the face of the overwhelming vulnerabilities of the Mississippi estuary and its coast line is rarely questioned; solutions are more usually framed in terms of the hard re-engineering of miles of the great river below New Orleans; while plans to save the coast to protect the city and its industrial infrastructures will likely destroy the rural communities who have developed ecologically viable settlements in the littoral. Alternatively, a program that restores indigenous plant, animal and bird communities at the water’s edge would provide soft-landings for violent tropical storms and push urban and industrial development into the hinterland away from the continent’s most vulnerable ecotones.

It is useful to heed Morton’s advice: “It’s very important that we keep our imagination, which is our capacity to open the future, awake, at a time at which the urge to collapse into the fetal position is high.” There are practical things one can do to mitigate the impacts of weather terrorism, and developing community solidarity in preparedness for such events (as widely practiced in Cuba and elsewhere in the Caribbean) may be the most valuable; but as important, perhaps, is to understand that the various parts of our lives that support the hyperobject – that historic, socio-economic and political ‘asteroid’ that warms the waters of the Atlantic and causes daily nonhuman extinction – are quite small and can be easily subverted: your credit card cut in half, for instance.

Solutions to our predicament will likely be similarly small in scale. Latour shares Morton’s notion that seeking ‘wholes’ is necessarily dismissive of what they subtend: our connectedness to each other and to the nonhuman depends on diverse symbioses not on holism. We need to attend to these connections not their ideological containers. Latour writes, “Each time we talk about Nature, Earth, the Global, Capitalism or God, we are presupposing the existence of a superior organism. The passage through connections is immediately replaced by a relation between parts and the Whole”.

The gang-of-five has quietly retired, and the hateful-eight has drifted into history; but these heavily anthropomorphized ecological beings have played their part. They did indeed enact our (and perhaps their) fantasy of getting up on the stage and speaking. Did we hear them amidst the howling of their winds, amidst their apparently willful destruction as they demonstrated the awful majesty of their climatic power?

Can we now welcome them, and those that will follow in annual alphabetized procession, into the family of human and nonhuman beings in a newly non-anthropocentric, re-animated world as both intensely scary ecological objects morphed into gigantism by our exploitation of fossil-fuels but also as regenerative beings – like their elemental ally, forest fires – of great beauty and spiritual power? To do so would signal a re-connecting to the nonhuman by humankind mitigating both the contingency of our own existence and that of all nonhuman beings.

The alternative is to continue in our extreme Cartesian anthropocentrism: to continue to resist the impacts of weather terrorism with concrete, steel and bullet-proof glass; to continue to rebuild in place and attempt to deny the terrestrial morphological modifications that climate change makes inevitable.

In 2017, as in past years, there were many heroic examples of human solidarity in the face of the marauding hurricanes. It is tempting to believe that in the Caribbean, where the people deal with these regular emergencies stoically and with sensible preparedness rather than under the influence of media shock and awe and of hasty evacuation plans, there is also an underlying solidarity with the nonhuman. Is it entirely too romantic to believe that the death grip of modernity on the Caribbean is less tenacious than on the U.S. mainland; to believe that the disease that is America (another hyperobject) is less fully entrenched in these islands that bear the initial brunt of so many South Atlantic hurricanes? That in Puerto Rico, this vestigial solidarity is evidenced in what Vijay Prashad calls the ‘Campsites of the Forgotten’ – epitomized by a mountain town called Utuado, 104 kilometers south-west of San Juan – where the 33,000 inhabitants have banded together to sustain themselves in the face of great infrastructural damage; where there is a re-discovery of old ways of ‘making-do’ (like using mountain spring water) he so movingly described in his essay, The Devastation Of Puerto Rico? As a part of this reawakened solidarity, can we doubt that the Island’s people have also re-animated their nonhuman surroundings?

Are we ready to understand the lessons of weather terrorism and follow Morton and Latour, outliers of the environmental movement, purveyors of what Morton and others characterize as ‘Dark Ecology’, into the realm of non-anthropocentric ecognosis (the logic of future co-existence) where humankind subtends from the whole in an interconnectedness with the nonhuman?

Posted in USA, Human Rights, PoliticsComments Off on Climate Change and Hurricanes

Policing the Pandemic: How the City of Albuquerque Criminalizes People Living on the Streets

BY KEEGAN JAMES SARMIENTO KLOER – DAVID CORREIA

Photograph Source: Office of Public Affairs – CC BY2.0

Instead of helping unsheltered people find support and housing, the City of Albuquerque’s Family and Community Services Department has been working closely with Albuquerque police to break up tent encampments, to check for warrants, and to identify people for police to arrest or issue criminal citations.

This pattern of enforcement predates the pandemic but has intensified in recent months. It violates COVID-19 guidance published by the Centers for Disease Control, which in March advised cities against “clearing encampments [of unsheltered people]” because the practice risks increasing “the potential for infectious disease spread.” Albuquerque advocates for the unsheltered agreed and advocated that the City stop evicting unsheltered people living in tents on public property. But the City’s deputy director of Family and Community Services, Lisa Huval, who oversees housing and homelessness and supervises outreach workers, refused to stop the practice of clearing camps, telling reporters that “it starts with one tent and over a few days increases to three tents, within a few weeks, if the city were simply to allow that encampment to establish, could grow quite large, [and] that presents other public health risks to that community.” Huval points to the City’s 450-bed shelter on the Westside with its COVID-19 protocols, as a safer option. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller agreed, saying at a press conference that “We’re fortunate that in Albuquerque we have lots of good alternatives.”

But many unsheltered people do not feel safe at the shelter. Local advocates surveyed folks on the street in April of this year and most said they felt safer on the streets. “I have tried to tell the city that going to the [shelter] is dangerous for me,” reported one woman in an April 2020 survey of unsheltered people performed by local advocates. She showed a large scar on her body and explained, “I was assaulted there and do not wish to go back because there are social structures there that are abusive to others.”

After a sharp spike in COVID-19 infections at the Westside shelter in September and October, the city closed the facility and quarantined the 127 residents and staff who tested positive for the virus. Advocates for unsheltered people asked Huval to stop breaking up encampments now that unsheltered people have no other place to go. In an October 19, 2020 meeting of the City’s Mental Health Response Advisory Committee (MHRAC), she refused.

Even with the shelter closed, Huval said the city was “focused more on building a more complex and sophisticated system of care for people experiencing homelessness to help protect them from COVID-19.” The chair of the committee, Danny Whatley, agreed, explaining that police aren’t criminalizing people anyway. City outreach workers perform “more of a wellness check,” he said, “not a lot of [warrant] checks.”

According to advocates who work with unsheltered people in Albuquerque, a review of criminal complaints filed by Albuquerque police, and interviews that we conducted with dozens of unsheltered people, city of Albuquerque outreach workers rarely conduct wellness checks or connect people to services. Instead they assist the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) check for arrest warrants, evict people from public parks with little or no warning, identify people for arrest or criminal citations, and destroy people’s belongings, including government-issued IDs, prescription medications, tents, sleeping bags, irreplaceable sentimental items, and more.

Albuquerque’s Mental Health Response Advisory Committee was created as part of the U.S. Department of Justice court-ordered settlement with the city of Albuquerque over what the DOJ called a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing by APD. It provides policy recommendations and oversight for APD’s engagement with people experiencing mental or behavioral health crises. MHRAC’s purview includes how APD interacts with unsheltered people. But it operates instead as a rubber stamp for police and the city’s criminalization of people living on the streets.

This is a pattern that predates the pandemic. At a May 2019 MHRAC meeting, Gilbert Ramirez of the Department of Family and Community Services said the city only clears people from parks after a warning. “[Outreach worker Sebastian Adamczyk] goes out and posts an eviction notice and then goes out again 72 hours later and ensures that [the people camping have] moved.” None of the people we interviewed reported that Adamczyk posts warnings or provides 72 hours’ notice. A woman who had received a criminal trespass citation previously from an APD officer told us that “Sebastian kept changing the amount of time we had to leave. Sebastian called my husband a ‘dumbass.’ He was really strongly asserting his authority. Things escalated. [An] APD officer came and told a property manager that ‘these people are like cockroaches, if you don’t get rid of them, more will come.”

Sebastian Adamczyk is the Public Outreach Program Manager for Albuquerque’s Department of Family and Community Services. Huval claims Adamczyk does not engage in enforcement activities. In June 2019, Huval told MHRAC, “we still have Sebastian doing his job going out to encampments, providing resources to them. He posts a notice. He contacts Solid Waste for removal. He doesn’t normally need police involvement.” We interviewed dozens of people, most said they received little or no warning. Some told us that the city confiscated and disposed of their belongings. “I have had my tent and bedding taken dozens of times from some city official or law enforcement,” one person said.

In late September, we watched as Adamczyk cleared people from Coronado Park, just north of downtown, without warning. When we asked him what his job as outreach worker entailed, he said he helps people get on “housing lists,” and that he works on “getting people signed up for section 8, getting them connected with, you know, like Hopeworks, Healthcare for the Homeless.” When we asked if he works with police to clear parks and encampments, he refused to answer. “It sounds an awful lot like you’re trying to get a public statement,” he told us. When we pressed him for an answer, he said only, “I’m going to direct you to the Public Information Officer.” He then radioed Albuquerque police for assistance.

When the city refused to give us a copy of his job description, we filed a public records request for it. According to the Public Outreach Program Manager job description, the city requires that Adamczyk, who started with the city in March 2019 and is paid almost $75,000 annually, “coordinate with Albuquerque Police Department and other City Departments to ensure occupants leave the encampment after Eviction Notice is posted.” Despite claims by Mayor Keller and Huval that the City’s “focus on encampments [has] really been around providing really good outreach,” Adamczyk’s job description describes enforcement activities such as removing encampments and coordinating with police. Few of the people we spoke to described receiving any services at all. One man told us the only services he’s seen Adamczyk distribute are the bus passes he offers to people to help tear down someone else’s tent. Many people we spoke to received criminal trespass citations from police working with Adamczyk.

We reviewed six weeks of criminal trespass citations issued by Albuquerque police between January 2020 and mid-February. Over that time, four different police officers wrote that Adamczyk helped them check warrants and identified individuals for them to arrest. In mid-February, Valentine’s Day, APD officer G. Gomez drove to “check on” Adamczyk, who “was making contact with 4 transients… [who] were camping and trespassing” on private property. Adamczyk, according to Gomez’s criminal complaint, “had collected” the names of the people and provided them to Gomez for a warrant check. Adamczyk watched the “transients” as Gomez called them, while Gomez ran the records search. One man explained to Adamczyk that he needed to use the bathroom and rode away on his bike. Shortly after Gomez found a misdemeanor warrant for the man’s arrest. While Gomez chased the man in his police cruiser, two additional officers joined in pursuit along with two customers from a local roofing business. The customers caught the man, assaulted him, threw him against a chain link fence, and placed him in a neckmold while police officers handcuffed him. According to records, the court had issued an arrest warrant for the man the previous year for failing to appear in court after being cited for making an illegal lane change and riding the wrong way down a street on a bicycle.

In January, APD officer David Montaño issued a criminal trespass citation to a woman, writing in the complaint that “Public Outreach Employee Sebastian Adamczyk had advised [her] the day prior that she could not camp on property or be on property. Myself and Sebastian located [the woman] again sleeping in a tent on the property. [She] was issued a citation.” There was no mention of a posted eviction notice or any services provided to the woman.

APD officer Adam Theroux cited multiple people for criminal trespass in early January, writing in one complaint that he: “responded as backup for Sebastian Adamcyk [sic] who is a supervisor with Albuquerque Family Community Services. I was briefed that in the past week multiple homeless subjects have been contacted at the Tom Bolack urban forest park located on Zimmerman Ave NE. Several of the subjects have repeatedly been told to take down their tent structures but have continued to setup their structures and live in the park. Sebastian advised me of the individuals he recognized as we drove from tent to tent to contact the subjects who refuse to cease setting up their tents in the park.” Adamczyk and Theroux went tent-by-tent, checking warrants and issuing citations.

Nearly everyone we spoke to received citations for criminal trespass. Albuquerque police rarely arrest people on this charge, preferring to issue a summons instead. This reflects a recent policy change that APD claims reduces the jail population. The people we spoke to, however, say the policy has the opposite effect. We spoke to one man who received a criminal trespass for parking his scooter on a sidewalk. “I’ve tried calling the number on the [summons] but no one ever answers.” A woman sitting with him agreed, saying “they don’t answer, so I don’t know when my court hearing is.” When we asked what she’ll do about it she said, “they’ll eventually arrest me, and I’ll serve two days in jail.” Court documents show that summonses for criminal trespass overwhelmingly escalate into warrants for the arrest of unsheltered people, effectively criminalizing their status as houseless.

City officials have denied or ignored this problem for more than a year. In January 2019, MHRAC chairperson Danny Whatley claimed that APD no longer engaged in enforcement activities for people who have set up encampments. Criminal trespass citations are not “being issued anymore for those living on the streets,” he said. “So many were not showing up for court, so another citation was then being issued for failing to appear. Many were failing to appear because they have no means of transportation. Now they had two citations: trespassing and failing to appear.”

But more than a year later, the practice continues. In February 2020, APD officer Charles Chavez filed a criminal complaint saying he was “in the area to assist the city Public Outreach Coordinator Sebastian Adamczyk [who] had located several people who were camping on NM DOT property. The camp was east of the Heart Hospital right next to the 125 frontage road. Upon arrival he provided me with [one of the people’s] information. [This person] had been told to pack his camp and leave. I checked his information through [the FBI database] and learned that he had two misdemeanor warrants.” One warrant was issued for missing a court date on a charge of shoplifting one bag of rock candy. The other for missing a court date from more than two years ago for shoplifting three boxes of ammunition. When the officers attempted to arrest the man, he ran. APD sent officers in pursuit on foot, bicycle, cruiser, and helicopter. They were unable to locate the man. Adamczyk provided APD with identifying information, which they used to give the man a summons for criminal trespass and resisting arrest.

In an April 2019 MHRAC meeting, a debate about enforcing encampment sweeps came to a head. George Mercer, an MHRAC board member, expressed concern that breaking up camps “will cause [people] to move to unsafe locations. We are taking away those safe places for them [and] causing more problems.” Huval agreed, but said, “we aren’t changing what we are currently doing.” Indeed, the focus of the outreach team led by Adamczyk has been to support police enforcement, not the unsheltered community. In the same meeting, Huval elaborated: “This is about the friction of those living outside with those who are businesses or those who live nearby.” All of the complaints regarding unsheltered people come from local business owners and property owners, a constituency that shapes Huval’s Family and Community Services Department outreach program. Adamczyk has continued to clear encampments and evict unsheltered people from public parks and other lands despite the temporary closure of the Westside shelter in direct response to the economic concerns—the “friction”—of businesses and neighborhood associations.

When we witnessed Adamczyk clear Coronado park in September, he wore no badge and carried no visible gun, but arrived in a city car with flashing police lights that he left flashing while clearing the park. He wore a bullet-proof vest and maintained constant radio contact with Albuquerque police during the time we watched him clear people from the park. We arrived prior to Adamczyk’s arrival and spoke to people who had slept in the park the previous night and were preparing to leave. “Sebastian’s coming,” explained one, when we asked why they were leaving so early in the morning. When we asked one if they knew what Adamczyk’s job entailed, he said only, “he’s a cop, or something. He’ll evict us if we don’t leave.” While Adamczyk is not a police officer with the Albuquerque Police Department, he provides surveillance, personal demographic information, and assistance in enforcement to the Albuquerque Police Department. Adamczyk and other city outreach workers assist the City and APD in the criminalization and harassment of unsheltered people. Though Mayor Keller and Deputy Director Huval deny it, Albuquerque police and city outreach workers make life more difficult for unsheltered people by issuing criminal citations, making arrests, and confiscating possessions, day after day, pandemic or not.

Posted in USA, Human Rights, PoliticsComments Off on Policing the Pandemic: How the City of Albuquerque Criminalizes People Living on the Streets

On Trump’s Megalomania

BY EVAGGELOS VALLIANATOS

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

I have been observing Trump since 2016. He is a despot in a business suit. He is undermining the government and the health of Americans and the natural world. He says he’s a billionaire and proud of it. And to prove how far he stands from the wishes and aspiration of Americans, he filled his cabinet mostly with billionaires.

It’s as if, with Trump competing for the presidency, the country went into a frenzy: turning down Hillary Clinton, the first woman seeking the country’s highest office, and electing Trump the billionaire.

Naturally, Trump lived up to his money reputation and opened the national treasury to fellow oligarchs. Americans naively thought nothing of it. Economists rushed to excuse tax cuts and subsidies to the super rich and polluting petroleum and chemical corporations. Their gospel says that is necessary for a more “efficient” economy and government.

Trump’s government, however, has nothing to do with efficiency, but everything with widening the chasm between rich and poor and precipitating a climate and environment catastrophe.

Trump has been taking advantage of the deep schisms in America, which elevated him to the presidential throne. The moment I heard him talk in 2016, I knew he would bring to the White House his dangerous qualities of hubris, greed, cheating and lies, and contempt for democracy.

The government of Trump

He revealed his immorality with his deregulation, by far his most dangerous effect and legacy.

I remember Ronald Reagan, who remains Trump’s role model. Reagan made deregulation a high priority. But I don’t think he understood the significance of saying that the government was the enemy. Trump does.

Reagan’s confused vision of America was molded by Hollywood, business, and the military. Trump imagines he’s above the law and society. His America resembles the British TV soap opera: Upstairs-Downstairs, lords and slaves.

He has been exploiting his position as a businessman-president to the outmost. Private and government interests merge in his mind. He is certain he is the state.

His administration and, especially, the crippled and politicized EPA, weakened and eliminated in some instances even very poor federal protections of the environment and public health.

Imagine, if you can, a government allowing nerve poisons in the food infants, young children, and adults eat. With the exception of those manufacturing pesticides who are thoroughly amoral, I cannot conceive of a human being with even minimal standards of morality and decency who would willfully approve of this reality, that is, toxic food and agriculture under the Trump administration.

So, unless you eat food, which is certified organic (meaning it’s free of pesticides and genetic engineering), you eat food laced with neurotoxins and carcinogens.

It boggles the mind why this thoroughly  undemocratic, immoral, anti-science, unacceptable, and dangerous state of food  fails to bring to the streets the thousands upon thousands of doctors, public health experts, scientists, and environmentalists who probably know or, at least, suspect that something is wrong with dosing food with poisons.

Some of the scientists and experts see the numerous spray aircraft buzzing over farms. And the farmers complement the spraying agricultural air force with their own spray machines. Scientific observers of the poisons that hit crops from the sky and the land must be speculating what is in the sprays washing the crops they eat.

Moreover, bad food and agriculture hurt more than those eating food. The entire ecosystem of land and air, insects, including beneficial insects like honeybees and Monarch butterflies, birds, wildlife, streams, rivers, lakes and mountains are harmed by the farmers’ incessant rains of synthetic chemicals over food crops.

Why Republicans like Trump

And, yet, almost nothing seems to matter. Millions of Americans, perhaps as much as 40 percent of the population, like Trump, and will probably vote for his reelection.

In fact, Trump’s accomplishments, he tells his mystified followers, is to deny climate change and push for more petroleum, coal, and natural gas – the very products causing and fueling global warming. He tells his followers additional lies that his deregulation creates jobs. He speaks to destitute coal miners, promising them to resurrect their moribund industry.

What Trump fails to tell his followers is that climate change is already in their backyards: in the form of massive forest fires, hurricanes, flooding and drought. These anthropogenic phenomena are devastating East and West, North and South.

Trump keeps lying about his negligence to warn Americans about the horrific coronavirus plague paralyzing the country and killing hundreds of thousands of people.

So, why a substantial number of Americans are putting their trust and probably faith on Trump? His own niece, Mary Trump, calls him the world’s most dangerous man. His potential reelection, the New York Times warns, will be catastrophic for American democracy.

I already mentioned the billionaire class, and the countless minions working hard for them, see Trump as one of them. Their growing wealth and power comes from Wall Street banking, petroleum extraction, logging, the manufacturing of warplanes and munitions, including the “modernization” of nuclear bombs, and the ceaseless production of computers, cars, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other products for industry and agriculture.

White power

These bankers and industrialists are overwhelmingly white Americans who inherited most of their wealth, or enough to spark more wealth. They see the federal government and country as their own.

They  don’t know, however, what to do with black Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities. Their history books tell them their ancestors slaughtered the indigenous inhabitants of America. But now in 2020, that option of slaughtering no longer exists, so they are confused. They don’t consider non-whites worthy of American citizenship, much less of being equal to themselves under the law.

Trump’s racism and xenophobia fit nicely in the “conservative” agenda of corporate billionaires. It’s a first step in their redefining America as an oligarchy, an empire strictly of their own making. The world they envision is a rapidly changing international system of one superpower against all.

The other non-billionaire Americans who side with the madness of Trump, the environmental destroyer, includes hunters, looters of public wealth, and those in love with their guns and football. To these aspiring militia men one needs to add those who love the model and violence of the Hollywood hero John Wayne.

Moreover, I can only guess that the gigantic gap between rich and poor, the lavish life of the few, and the day to day struggle and hard life of the vast majority, is another underlying cause that Americans, mostly Republicans, are supporting Trump. Add to this wealth-poverty volcano, the decades-old “conservative” propaganda of billionaire-funded talk radio and commercial television like Fox News, and you have the ingredients for the politics of the Republican Party, which gave birth to Trump as a popular hero or potential tyrant.

Spreading political superstitions

In fact, the conspiracy-superstition QAnon raging among Republicans shows the depths of desperation and depravity afflicting members of the Republican Party.

The secret leader of QAnon and the faithful are spreading the dangerous nonsense that elites, especially of the Democratic variety, are indulging in child trafficking, devil worship, and  pedophilia.

In addition, QAnon faithful are turning to Trump, hoping beyond hope he would drain the swamp, as he promised to do. What they don’t know or refuse to acknowledge or understand is that Trump built his own swamp: that is, as a businessman and president, he “transplanted favor-seeking in Washington to his family’s hotels and resorts — and earned millions as a gatekeeper to his own administration.”

QAnon Republicans are a small fragment of a large white power movement like that of Proud Boys. This white movement is “supremacist,” in a sense, believing and fighting for the perpetuation of white power monopoly in America.

White supremacists give Trump virtues he does not have. The supposed inventor of QAnon, for example, said in 2017 that the “deep state” is threatening Trump.

This extraordinary story reminds me of equal abhorrent myths circulating for centuries in dark age Europe. These myths usually were offsprings  of the prevailing religion or heresies of that religion.

The task for Biden

One hopes that Joe Biden is our next president. He should do his utmost to bring the country together and, equally important, mobilize America and the countries of the world to eliminate the human causes of climate change.

Posted in USA, PoliticsComments Off on On Trump’s Megalomania

Nuclear Weapons Will Soon Be Illegal Under International Law

BY DAVE LINDORFF

Photograph Source: MAPW Australia – CC BY 2.0

Flash!  Nuclear bombs and warheads have just joined landmines, germ and chemical bombs and fragmentation bombs as illegal weapons under international law, as on Oct. 24  a 50th nation, the Central American country of Honduras, ratified and signed a UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Of course, the reality is that despite this outlawing of landmines and fragmentation bombs by the UN, the US still uses them routinely and sells them to other countries, has not destroyed its stockpile of chemical weapons, and continues with controversial research on weaponized germs which critics say has a potential dual defensive/offensive utility and purpose (the US is known to have used illegal germ warfare against both North Korea and Cuba during the ‘50s and ‘60s).

That said, the new treaty outlawing nuclear weapons, which the US State Department and Trump administration strenuously opposed and which it has been pressuring countries not to sign or to withdraw their endorsement of, is a big step forward towards the goal of abolishing of these horrific weapons.

AsFrancis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, who helped author the international law against germ and chemical weapons, tells ThisCantBeHappening!, “Nuclear weapons have been with us since they were criminally  used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. We are only going to be able to get rid of them when  people realize that they are not just illegal and immoral but also  criminal. So for that reason alone this Treaty is important in terms of criminalizing nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence.”

David Swanson, author of several books arguing for a ban not just on nuclear weapons but to war itself, and a US director of the global organization World Beyond War, explains how the new UN treaty against nuclear weapons, by making the weapons illegal under international law under a UN Charter that the US is both an author of and an early signatory to, will help the popular global movement to eliminate these ultimate weapons of mass destruction.

Says Swanson, “The treaty does several things. It stigmatizes defenders of nuclear weapons and countries that have them. It aids the divestment movement against companies involved in nuclear weapons, since nobody wants to invest in things of dubious legality. It aids in pressuring nations that align with the US military to join in signing the treaty and abandoning the ‘nuclear umbrella’ fantasy. And it aids in pressuring the five nations in Europe that currently illegally allow the stockpiling of US nukes pithing their borders to get them out.”

Swanson adds, “It may also aid in encouraging nations around the globe with US bases to start putting in place more restrictions on what weapons the US can deploy at those bases.”

The list of 50 nations that have thus far ratified the UN Treaty, as well as the other 34 that have signed it but have yet to have their governments ratify it, is available for inspection here.  Under UN the Charter’s terms ratification of an international UN treaty requires ratification by 50 nations in order for it to go into effect. There was considerable motivation to get the final required ratification by 2021, which will mark the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the first and thankfully the only two nuclear weapons in war — the US bombs dropped in August 1945 on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  With the Honduras ratification, the Treaty will now go into effect on January 1, 2021.

In announcing the ratification of the treaty, which was drawn up and approved by the UN General Assembly in 2017, UN Secretary General António Guterres praised the work of civil society groups around the world that pushed for ratification. He singled out among them the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its work.

ICANW’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn declared the treaty’s ratification, “a new chapter for nuclear disarmament.”  She added, “Decades of activism have achieved what many said was impossible: Nuclear weapons are banned.”

Indeed, effective Jan. 1, the nine nations with nuclear weapons (the US, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), are all outlaw states until they eliminate those weapons.

When the US was racing to develop the atomic bomb during World War II, initially out of concern that Hitler’s Germany might be attempting to do the same thing, but later, with the object of obtaining a monopoly on the super weapon to gain control over adversaries like the then Soviet Union and Communist China, a number of the Manhattan Project’s senior scientists, including Nils Bohr, Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard, opposed its use after the war and attempted to get the US to share the bomb’s secrets with the Soviet Union, America’s ally during WWII. They called for openness and for an effort to negotiate a ban on the weapon. Others, like Robert Oppenheimer himself, the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, strenuously but unsuccessfully opposed the subsequent development of the vastly more destructive hydrogen bomb.

Opposition to the US intention of maintaining a monopoly on the bomb, and fears that it would be used preemptively against the Soviet Union after the end of WWII (as the Pentagon and Truman administration were secretly planning to do once they produced enough bombs and B-29 Stratofortress planes to carry them), motivated several Manhattan Project scientists, including German refugee Klaus Fuchs and American Ted Hall, to become spies delivering key secrets of the uranium and plutonium bombs’ design to Soviet Intelligence, helping the USSR to obtain its own nuclear weapon by 1949 and preventing that potential holocaust, but launching the nuclear arms race that has continued down to the present day.

Luckily, the balance of terror produced by multiple nations developing enough nuclear weapons and delivery systems to deter any one nation from using a nuclear weapon, has improbably but fortunately managed to keep any nuclear bomb from being used in war since August 1945. But as the US, Russia and China continue to modernize and expand their arsenals, including into space, and continue to race to develop unstoppable delivery systems like the new hypersonic maneuverable rockets and super stealthy missile-carrying subs, the risk only grows of a nuclear conflict, making this new treaty urgently needed.

The task, going forward, is to use the new UN treaty banning these weapons to pressure the nations of the world to eliminate them for good.

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Trump and Biden: Cold-War Dinosaurs

BY JULIA KASSEM

Photograph Source: Phillip Pessar – CC BY 2.0

The first time foreign policy was mentioned in the entire 2020 election campaign began with a question premised upon allegations that Russia, Iran, and China were interfering in US elections.

Thus far, the presidential and vice presidential debates have steered clear of foreign policy, despite the US’s age-long meddling representing a major problem globally and the source of growing opposition domestically.

The claim was sourced from a report that alleged that Iranian hackers had sent out threatening emails to Floridian voters to vote for Trump, posing as the Proud Boys.

The report, published in a Tweet by the Twitter account of the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday, October 21st, originated from an statement by National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe in an announcement that same evening that Iran had sent out the mysterious emails. The accusations were originally reported by the New York Times as coming from an Estonian server.

The House-Democrats that back the account have since removed the tweet while sticking by the messaging, not due a retraction of the statement, but to maintain its appearance of partisan differences with the Republican FBI director, who has “TOO OFTEN politicized the Intelligence Community to carry water for Trump.”

A screencap of the since-deleted tweet

If Americans have a modicum of memory, it is clear that baseless, warmongering accusations have time and time again been the precursor for winning consent over upcoming imperialist hostility. Accusing Iraq of harboring “weapons of mass destruction” in 2003, those that care to remember the administration of former President George W. Bush recalled the widespread condemnation from the left over how a lie cost over 1 million lives.

The architects of the Iraq war, who have become the leading faces of the Democratic Party in recent years especially, would go on to construct the greatest and most debilitating quagmires in Syria and Libya.

Democratic Candidate Joe Biden, during the debates reaffirmed, in the interests of “US sovereignty,” his ability and willingness towards undermining the sovereignty of other targeted nations, boasting about increasing US military presence off the South China Sea and calling DPRK President Kim Jong Un a “thug” (to Trump’s equally farcical claims of detente and peace with North Korea).

Whose Fault?

It is more than just a bit out of place for both US candidates to use the front of hawkish aggression against the CIA’s latest geopolitical targets as a serious policy point. Not only were the latest accusations baseless (and not to mention dangerous), but laughable when one understands which nation really is the instigator of attacks on democracy and national sovereignty.

China’s sovereignty, rather, is jeopardized by constant running of US military drills south of their border in the South China Sea, maintaining bases in Taiwan (The US Ching Chuan Kang Air Base) and other stationings recently offered up in allied Pacific Island nations such as Palau.

When China moved to pull up retaliatory defense forces in the seas it borders, the US slapped sanctions on a number of Chinese officials and 24 companies involved in constructing Chinese military bases along its adjacent sea.

Meanwhile, Trump, bragging about his showy meetings with North Korean president Kim Jong Un, is anything but “against war” on the matter. His continued engagement in inciting trade war with China, North Korea’s close ally, and the US-military’s blocking of a proposed rail line that ran through North and South Korea two years ago during talks of reunification in 2018 proves that his practice may not live up to his lip service of “good relations.”

Trump also has a habit of taking credit for other nations’ progressions, forgetting that the ease in tensions and relations between North and South Korea and absence of hostilities between North Korea and the US are the result of ongoing diplomatic reunification efforts, aimed to be actualized by 2045.

Accusing Iran

In 2012, Mitt Romney then the Republican candidate for the elections, stressed that the United States needed to get tougher on Russia during the presidential debates that year. He was laughed off by Democratic candidate Barack Obama, though his party would later launch accusations of Russian interference allegedly supporting Trump during the 2016 elections. At the time, Obama mockingly responded that the “80s called, and they want their policy back,” before his party capitulated towards the same line just years later.

Throughout 2019 and the earlier part of this year, Facebook and YouTube mass-removed what it called “Russian and Iranian accounts” accused of spreading misinformation and staging as fake personas. Any accusation of fake Iranian accounts is ironic, given that the most prolific example is the US-backed MEK (Mujahadin el-Khalq) organizations Twitter troll farm in Albania that has cranked out artificial personalities such as Heshmat Alavi that espouse anti-Iran, pro-Pompeo content.

By censoring these accounts, social media platforms are ultimately testing out the algorithmic-fuelled censorship of any account or platform that displays content critical of the policies of the United States, is pro-Palestine and/or anti-Saudi. In 2018, intelligence analytics firm FireEye claimed that both Russian and Iranian outlets had been hosting websites posing as both liberals and conservatives, critical of US foreign and domestic policies. Of these targeted groups and sites included Liberty Front Press and the American Herald Tribune, purged in 2018 not so much due to their alleged affiliations with Iranian-based web hosters, but because of their unapologetically anti-war, anti-imperialist content and as a step towards the censoring of alternative media.

The House Homeland Security Committee as Chairman, is led by Mississippi Democrat Benni G. Thompson. In 2018, Thompson and the rest of the House Homeland Security Committee chaired a meeting on “Understanding the Cybersecurity of America’s Aviation Sector,” where the Chief Intelligence Strategist for FireEye, Christopher Porter, a CIA veteran and also a senior fellow of the Gulf, NATO, and Western-defense industry-funded Atlantic Council, gave a statement. In FireEye’s address, “China, Russia, and more recently Iran” were accused of targeting “the United States or its close allies for theft of aviation secrets via computer network operations.” It is clear that the false flag accusation given by the CIA and Homeland Security has conveniently provided an adequate template as of late to be waged against alternative media.

If these baseless accusations are to be taken at face value, and even given the benefit of the doubt, the reality of election interference with regards to Russia, China, Iran, or any nation in the US’s crosshairs should put blame on no other than the United States itself.

The US during the cold-war meddled with at least 72 governments, including the violent coup that overthrew democratically elected President of Iran Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, installing a US-backed dictator in its place. The US meddled in the elections of Russia in 1996 to assist Boris Yeltsin, who crushed a popular Communist-led, Parliament-backed popular revolt against Yeltsin’s pro-capitalist, austerity-policy laden rule. Clinton reassured Yeltsin “of a one hundred percent win” and that there would be “only positive stories for you right before the election runoff” in the aftermath of the elections. And China, no stranger to invasion attempts by the West, battled US relentless interference from the 1949 revolution into 1969, dealing with increasing military build-up by the US’s Asian allies, placing embargoes on China, and urging China’s US-allied neighbors to refrain from negotiations with its neighbor.

The US struggled with its own supposed democratic process, having sabotaged the elections against former Democratic Party Candidate Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020. Accusations of election fraud have already taken place this year by Trump and his base, despite instances of voter-suppression tactics practiced and documented in a number of states. Ultimately, resurrecting cold-war fears of outsider interference in national elections is the latest tactic in concealing the nation’s establishment’s failure in letting its own supposed democratic process naturally offer up a selection better than the two latest incompetent neoliberal picks.

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Trump Baselessly Claims Victory Despite Over a Million Uncounted Votes

President Trump speaks on election night in the East Room of the White House in the early morning hours of November 4, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
President Trump speaks on election night in the East Room of the White House in the early morning hours of November 4, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

BYSharon ZhangTruthout

Early in the morning on Wednesday, President Donald Trump declared victory from within the White House, despite the fact that there are still over a million votes yet to be counted in key states he claimed to have won.

“We will win this,” Trump said, without evidence, at 2:21 a.m. “As far as I am concerned we already have won it.” And, even though battleground states like Pennsylvania and Michigan still have over a million ballots still to be counted, Trump says that his campaign is “winning” both states.

But the ballots tell a different story. Though Michigan was a tight race Tuesday night, there are hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots yet to be counted, and in Pennsylvania, 1.4 million remain to be counted. In both states, which are key to victory for either candidate, the as-yet uncounted ballots are expected to favor Biden, possibly enough to push both states blue.

Though Trump’s remarks were not entirely surprising, they were still dangerous during an election that was inevitably going to have delayed results. He has spent months saying that the results of the election would be invalid, and Wednesday morning, he doubled down on that message, incorrectly calling the election fraudulent.

“This is a major fraud in our nation,” he said. “We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.” At the time, the numbers were tentatively in his favor — so for Trump, vote counting stops whenever the numbers favor him, however unofficial, not when all the votes are counted.

As many have pointed out, his remarks are dangerous. The Washington Post called his speech “an extraordinary assault on the integrity of the U.S. election system.”


Parker Molloy@ParkerMolloy
If you’re wondering how this plays out in Trump’s favor, it’s because his team is really hoping media outlets cover this ordeal like Zeke here.

Zeke Miller@ZekeJMillerWASHINGTON (AP) — Trump touts wins in key states, says he will fight election in Supreme Court.

Some of Trump’s remarks were pointedly aimed toward Democrats and the Joe Biden campaign: “A very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise” his voter base, Trump claimed baselessly. And, an hour and a half before his speech, he tweeted, “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election,” while about half a dozen states had yet to be called.

In response, the Biden campaign pushed back, calling Trump’s remarks “outrageous”: “Donald Trump does not decide the outcome of this election. Joe Biden does not decide the outcome of this election” said Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon in a statement. “The American people decide the outcome of this election. And the democratic process must and will continue until its conclusion.”

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Donald Trump, the Cannibal King, Has Eaten the Republican Party

President Trump arrives with Vice President Pence for a rally at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, Michigan, on November 2, 2020.
President Trump arrives with Vice President Pence for a rally at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, Michigan, on November 2, 2020.

BYWilliam Rivers PittTruthout

Dirge /derjnoun: A lament for the dead; music accompanying a funeral rite

Whatever the outcome of this election, no matter what happens from right now unto the final breaking of the world, one thing is certain: The Republican Party is dead, and Donald Trump done did the killin’.

Oh, they will shamble about for a while like extras on The Walking Dead, of course. Trump has made it clear that he’s not going anywhere if he loses this election, and has been talking about running for president again in 2024 “to see media, Democrats, and RINO heads explode,” according to The Daily Beast.

The only good thing about that report is the fact that Trump is actually making plans for life after defeat, which means he accepts at least the possibility of losing, which makes it less likely the Capitol Police will have to drag him bodily out of the West Wing to the street on January 20 if he does, in fact, spit the bit tonight/tomorrow/whenever.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’d pay long green to actually see that happen, to watch his stubby fingers leave long grooves in the plush Oval Office carpeting as he howls in thwarted despair, but it would be a bad look for a country that has been mass-producing bad looks for far too long now. Still, it’s a pleasant visual. We take comfort in strange places these days.

There’s an old joke: What was the last thing that went through the bug’s mind when it hit the windshield? Answer: Its ass.

That’s the GOP: a smear of ass on the windshield of Trump’s limousine. Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy made a Faustian bargain with this gobbledygook president: judges. More than 200 right-wing federal judges, and three conservative Supreme Court Justices, all for the price of kneeling in undying silence before the permanent tantrum tornado that is and will ever be Trump’s hollow, spiteful, endlessly needy selfishness.

None can deny they got quite a bit for their investment. Those judges are going to be with us for decades, tilting a center-left country to the right with as many racist, homophobic, anti-choice, anti-voter, pro-polluter thumbs they can slap down on the scale. This is no small thing, and for Mitch and Kevin, getting that done perhaps seemed worth the plundering of whatever shreds of dignity each man had left.

In hindsight, one wonders if that dynamic duo really thought this through.The Republican Party is dead, and Donald Trump done did the killin’.

Mitch and Kevin probably believed they had a handle on Trump as late as January of 2018, after they got their grotesque tax cut passed, but they were as wrong as wrong can get. The monster they made left a Trump-shaped hole in the laboratory wall and went roaring into the night. Every day, day by day, his deportment, demeanor and despicable behavior tore a chunk of flesh from the body of the GOP. Every day the Republicans Trump was mauling by proxy chose to remain silent was another pint of blood on the floor.

The midterm election wipeout endured by the GOP in 2018 was a great big “STOP, GO BACK” sign for Republicans, but it was far too late by then. Inertia is physics, and physics says a body in motion tends to stay in motion. I was an English Lit major, and even I know that. Trump, in motion, stayed in motion and razed the china shop to flinders and dust.

Tonight, we will bear witness to the long handiwork of Donald Trump, Cannibal King, Eater of His Own. He may win this thing by fair or foul, but the party he represents is nothing but bone and gristle now, and those Republicans like Mitch and Kevin who have spent four years buttering him up with their jaws wired shut deserve nothing less. Sure, they got the judges. What else did they get?

No future.

“The secret of Republican success in the 2010s was not votes, but maps and rules,” writes permanently guilty Republican expatriate David Frum for The Atlantic. “Republicans scored their big comeback election in 2010, a census year. That allowed state-level Republicans to redraw maps in 2011 to favor their own party. That redrawing occurred at a time when a conservative federal judiciary was stepping back from oversight of voting processes.”

This is a census year. This is a redistricting year. If the numbers hold true and even if Trump wins, the House and Senate both look like they will be under new Democratic management in a couple of months. The Republicans are a minority within the population, but utilized the levers of power in 2010 to astonishing effect to effectively control the last decade in politics. If everything falls into place, Democrats and left-leaning Independents — already a majority within the population — will have those levers in hand come January.

I am Ozymandias, Mitch. Look upon my works and despair… and in case you don’t recall, the rest of that poem is about dust and desolate dissolution. Millennials and Gen Z are about to become the largest voting bloc in the country, and they mostly, massively don’t truck with right-wing bullshit.

Black Lives Matter will be a significant force in politics from now until justice. Young climate activists are demanding environmental transformation. Bernie Sanders and AOC are only the beginning, and while that rising tide begins to wash away the filthy residue of the last ten (40!) years, the GOP will collapse back onto itself and become the Old White Angry Man Gun Party. Their best and only tools: voter suppression and intimidation, everything we are seeing now, the furious wail of diminished returns served upon a bed of lavishly broken promises.Trump isn’t going anywhere, and the Republican Party is stapled to his thick orange hide for all time.

As the years go by they’ll kick up the dickens in places like North Dakota and Idaho, reliably sending wreckers and traitors to Congress for the edification of the masses, but that’s about all they’ll manage. The party’s power is at ebb tide now, and will remain there until the moon decides to forgive them for supporting and defending an existential menace like Donald J. Trump. I am not holding my breath.

Nor am I weeping any tears as I sing this dirge. I was born under Richard Nixon, came to horrified political awareness under Ronald Reagan, watched in nauseated awe as Newt Gingrich reshaped the GOP into the twisted artifice it is today, pledged my life to resist the serial horrors of George W. Bush, watched the post-Bush GOP incite the racism of the Tea Party to thwart a Black president, and have lived long enough to see the so-called “party of Lincoln” become the party of Louie Gohmert. When I hear “Republican,” that is what I think of, and it is always a dreadful thought.

“Sometimes,” said Jud in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, “dead is better.”

Yet even with all this rightly said, it is worthwhile to note that, once upon a time and not so very damn long ago, Republican “radicals” pledged their lives and sacred honor to the obliteration of slavery in North America — in a fight that was, of course, driven by Black abolitionists, including enslaved people themselves. While some Democrats envisioned a slave-owning empire stretching from Canada to Tierra del Fuego, “radicals” like Salmon Chase and Thaddeus Stevens laid their bodies upon the odious gears and, after an ocean of blood was spilled, prevailed in seeing that gruesome edifice toppled.

Abraham Lincoln gets the credit because he was there to sign the papers and make the speeches when the wheel came round, but it was those “radical” Republicans who for years and years stood stoutly against slavery in the long, just and moral quest for emancipation, and did not yield. It was a different party with the same name back then, but Trump loves to reach back to the legacy of Lincoln these days while he’s lying on the stump, even as he and his party fail utterly to live up to the name.

One hundred and nine years later, when another rogue Republican president threatened to topple the nation out of pure furious spite, it was a clutch of Republicans who went to him one night and said, “Mr. Nixon, it is time for you to go.” And go he did, because those members of his party had the courage to tell a president the truth to his face, so that he knew he had lost all meaningful support even among his own people. What do you call a leader with no followers? Just a guy taking a walk. It’s really that simple.

How so very far that party has fallen, and now, it is nothing but a corpse on the ground, gnawed bones gleaming white, the space where once was a heart of sorts filled with the dry rattle of fallen autumn leaves. It almost sounds like a heartbeat, but it isn’t, and never will be again.

You see, win or lose, Trump isn’t going anywhere, and the Republican Party is stapled to his thick orange hide for all time. Where he goes, they go, forever and ever, unto the final breaking of the world. Like Mary Shelley’s original Frankenstein’s monster, Donald J. Trump is on the loose, Milton’s Paradise Lost clutched unread in one orange hand as he shrieks, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven!”

Be careful who you bargain with, Mitch and Kevin. Your reign in Hell has only just begun.

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Seven Lessons the US Left Can Learn From Egypt to Resist Post-Election Fascism

One of the last big protests in Egypt after the 2013 military coup is pictured on October 26, 2013.
One of the last big protests in Egypt after the 2013 military coup is pictured on October 26, 2013. Soon after the military coup on July 3, 2013, the military regime enacted a draconian anti-protest law, implicitly justifying the coup. Egyptian revolutionaries continued to protest military rule and the draconian anti-protest law for a brief period of time until the military regime fully banned any and all protest.

BYNadine Naber & Atef SaidTruthout

Leftists across the nation are terrified about the aftermath of the U.S. election. Whether Donald Trump wins or loses, many are deeply anxious about the possibility of far right white supremacist violence. If Joe Biden wins, many worry he will betray the demands of the Movement for Black Lives and return us to a status quo that disregards the lives of Black people, people of color, immigrants, Indigenous people, working-class people, women, queer and transgender people, and people with disabilities.

As people with roots in the Arab region, including Egypt, we believe that what has happened in Egypt since the revolution of 2011 is useful for thinking about the scenario the left is currently facing here in the U.S.

To be sure, the U.S. and Egypt are distinct places with unique historical and political realities. Yet they both have authoritarian and fascist tendencies. In Egypt, this tendency was consolidated during the militarized counterrevolution after 2013, and in the U.S., around the White House’s endorsement and unleashing of white supremacist violence. Indeed, some of the political factors at play in the U.S. resemble those that led many Egyptians into a state of total despair, including grave political repression, unprecedented poverty and unemployment, sexualized state violence, and the incarceration and torture of dissenters.

Since the revolution of 2011, when 15 million people took to the streets to overthrow their U.S.-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians witnessed a transitionary government that betrayed the revolution after promising to see it through; the election of President Mohamad Morsi; and a coup, followed by the election of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in 2014 (renewed in 2018). Al-Sisi has consolidated an exceptionally violent, highly militarized fascist counterrevolution par excellence.

Here are seven lessons from Egypt that may be useful for the U.S. in the wake of the presidential election.

  1. Don’t act as though politics are only about elections.

In Egypt, seemingly progressive strands of the regime and conservatives used electoral politics to suppress the revolutionary momentum in the streets. To be sure, elections matter. Yet popular mobilizations in the streets, alongside elections, are both essential to resisting and stopping fascism.

2. Grassroots activists must watch and document electoral violations through a movement infrastructure that is not based in state or nonprofit structures.Fueling sectarianism was a counterrevolutionary tactic par excellence.

Prepare to take legal or other actions in response. In Egypt, before and after the revolution, many activists formed grassroots networks to document electoral violations through the revolution’s various stages. Independent monitoring proved to be critical to processes such as lawsuits or contestations regarding electoral violations. In response, the Egypt government began restricting the monitoring of elections and limiting it only to governmental or government-friendly NGOs.

3. Do not expect the middle class to carry a revolution forward, but do not give up on the middle class.

In Egypt, the middle class played an important role in the revolution for social justice and democracy in 2011. Yet many members of the middle class abandoned the revolution when their interests were no longer threatened. They cared about freedom of speech but not about justice for workers or youth, and they tolerated the regime’s persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the U.S., within liberal middle-class communities, there seems to be a pattern that assumes a victory over Trump through elections is the end of the story of the U.S.’s engagement with neo-fascism. The concern is whether or not these communities would be willing to continue the struggle against Biden and the establishment to fight for racial, economic, gendered, and other interconnected forms of justice.

4. Don’t be fooled by neoliberalism’s seemingly progressive face — like the liberal multicultural appropriations of the slogan “Black Lives Matter” — and keep your eyes on the prize.Make plans for surviving the endless series of rapid-fire attacks.

Egyptians learned the hard way not to trust an army that made false promises of protecting protesters against the violence of an authoritarian regime. If Biden wins, for instance, will people in the U.S. whose main objective is to defeat Trump care about the Movement for Black Lives? If Trump wins, will progressives trust the military and intelligence apparatuses in the U.S. to save us from Trump-backed white supremacist violence? Are we going to trust that state forces will protect people against white supremacists? If Trump refuses to concede, will we allow for a rise in excessive state power at the cost of people power? Any response to the current state of affairs must rely on movement-building for the long haul by opposing U.S. settler-colonialism, racial capitalism and Trumpism, not merely Trump, while defeating Trump-backed fascism along the way.

5. Work diligently against divisions within progressive movement organizing.

This does not mean complying with the liberal notion of “unity” that obscures racial, socio-economic, colonial, gendered and ableist structural violence. It means a principled united vision committed to dismantling and building alternatives to all forms of structural violence. Dividing the movement was the primary counterrevolutionary tactic in Egypt: Polarization after the revolution was inevitable, especially since revolutionary partners generally tend to see implementing revolutions differently afterward. But in Egypt’s case, the military regime’s support of groups such as the Muslim brotherhood and liberals helped fueled sectarian polarization. Thus, instead of a healthy polarization to implement the revolution’s goals or debating about how best to implement the goals of the revolution, revolutionaries and many parts of the society were entrapped in unnecessary, highly divisive and dangerous sectarian conflicts. Fueling sectarianism was a counterrevolutionary tactic par excellence. In short, the military regime dictated its counterrevolutionary divisive logic onto the trajectory of the revolution. While divisions among U.S. social movements are inevitable, we need to notice and address them early on before the counterrevolution beats us to it.

6. Make plans for surviving the endless series of rapid-fire attacks.Those of us living in the U.S. should approach our Egyptian comrades, like survivors of fascism across the globe, as allies in a conjoined struggle.

In Egypt, activists and nonactivists alike were taken by surprise when the authoritarian power structure revealed its vicious determination to save corporations from the demands of poor and working-class people by any means necessary. What would it take to prepare us for the violence of a potential counterrevolution in the U.S.? In Egypt, the scale of attacks was new, if not immobilizing, to many. If we agree that we cannot risk being underprepared in the face of what’s to come, how will we balance emotionally and physically surviving the violence while we continue organizing, protesting and resisting for the long haul? In light of the possibility of mass hopelessness, despair, defeat and self-blame, what is our political strategy — especially when helplessness among us is precisely what the Trump administration wants?

7. Commit to abolition, decolonization and anti-imperialism.

A corrupt military apparatus backed by the U.S. is the backbone of Egypt’s authoritarian regime. Yet some strands of the Egyptian left shortsightedly focused only on domestic conditions like fighting against corruption or fighting for democracy within Egypt, producing an agenda that left the U.S. backing of Egyptian militarism intact. If U.S. leftists truly believe that racial capitalism is the problem, then we need to take seriously how global militarism and imperialism — from U.S. settler-colonialism to the “war on terror” and far beyond — enable and sustain racial capitalism.

Defunding and abolishing prisons and policing necessitates abolishing U.S. colonial and imperial war. The U.S. has been backing Egyptian dictators for over 30 years, and Trump and Trumpism have helped consolidate fascist tendencies and dictatorships across the globe. In this sense, perhaps beyond merely heeding these lessons from Egypt, those of us living in the U.S. should approach our Egyptian comrades, like survivors of fascism across the globe, as allies in a conjoined struggle with exceptionally high stakes rather than through mere gestures of solidarity.

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