Yes! Magazine – Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sun, 22 Dec 2019 06:24:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 On the Verge of a New Kind of Culture: How Youth Changed the Climate Movement Sun, 22 Dec 2019 05:03:24 +0000 By Mike Males | –

( Yes! Magazine) – Frustrated with a lack of process on curbing climate change, young activists are taking matters into their own hands.

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children,” affirms the Oglala-Sioux version of a belief common to several indigenous cultures. To David Brower, the “archdruid” founder of Friends of the Earth, and other environmentalists, “stealing it from our children” better characterizes modern humans’ degradation of the earth. The only hope, Brower declared nearly 50 years ago, is “what young people can do before older people tell them it’s impossible.”

The youth-led climate strikes in September that drew some 4 million marchers worldwide demand a far broader concept of democracy if the environmental goals they advocate are to be won. The climate-strike revolution represents a huge new step for human rights that expands hierarchical oppressions to include the dimension of future time. The young are a distinct class because they, not the old, will face climate change’s worst devastations

“We will be known as the solution to the climate crisis,” 17-year-old Nadia Nazar, co-founder of the youth-led climate activist organization Zero Hour, said this September in Washington, D.C. Later that week, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations General Assembly. “You have stolen my dreams,” she said, relegating older generations to past tense. “All you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.”

Climate-change activism is not new, but the role of youth in it today is. Today’s youth reject the idea that they are junior auxiliaries to adult movements. They challenge the traditional rule of older people over the young, and, most radically of all, uphold the interests of future generations as equal to those of present ones. They find true elder wisdom manifest in hard science and lambaste the old as immature and selfish for rejecting that science. “Why do we have to clean up the mess that past generations, and your generation, has left us?” Nazar interrogated Congress members in February.

We oldsters may insist our developed, executive brains, moral reasoning, maturity, empathy, realism, and access to the wisdom of the past entitle us to decide the best interests of the young. But are elders really equipped to face the new challenges climate change brings?

Climate-change activism is not new, but the role of youth in it today is.

In a fascinating paper reinterpreting past research, professors Tomas Paus and Howard Sercombe find that youthful and aging brains really are different, though not in the us-versus-them way pop-media depicts. The wide-open neural connections in adolescence foster broader, more flexible thinking, while the “pruning” of neural pathways as adulthood progresses renders adult brains more efficient for a narrower range of tasks. Teenagers’ experimentations appear scattered and impetuous to elders while specialized, staid adults whose experience and efficiencies were vital to human survival in past millennia now appear overly rigid to youths.

These differences would seem to suggest that as rapid social and technological changes accumulate, generational power realignments are at hand. Youthful thinking across multiple dimensions is better at imagining innovative policies to adapt to future contingencies; elder thinking is suited to resolving the practicalities. That’s why elder-dominated media and leaders fixate on the short-range dollars-and-cents costs of change, while the climate-strike youth focus on the long-term price of inaction.

Yet, biology is not determinism, age influences but does not dictate mindset, and a generational war distracts us from pursuing crucial opportunities. We know 16-year-olds who would make great 75-year-olds, and vice versa. Ideally, old and young thinking works together.

Unfortunately, intergenerational cooperation hasn’t happened; even Democrats have been slow to the cause. “This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.” That wasn’t an oil-state Republican talking, or someone from 1975. That was former President Barack Obama in 2012—after fossil-fuel’s damage was abundantly clear. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton waffled before cautiously opposing the Keystone Pipeline, a dirty-oil mega-project NASA’s James Hansen warned would spell “game over for the climate.”

Now, the divisions have become more serious. Climate politics reveals that as Democrats become more forceful on the issue, a far-right, nationalist upsurge is waging an all-out war on today’s young and the future. Powerful industry and right-wing forces invoke horror at conveniences and pleasures lost. Curtailed air travel! Tinier cars! No more hamburgers! Rightists seek retreat to enclaves insulated from the social changes they hate. Moderates are squeezed between climate-change activists brandishing science and a reactionary opposition brandishing denials and political threats.

World powers cannot devise a plan to achieve the urgent recommendation from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Secretary-General António Guterres: greenhouse gas reductions of 45 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2050. They can’t even meet the modest greenhouse-gas reductions in 2015’s 195-nation Paris Climate Agreement. Four of the six worst-offending nations are currently controlled by these right-wing anti-democratic movements: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United States.

The potentially effective Green New Deal proposal led in Congress by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Edwin Markey is mired in squabbles over its costs. Meanwhile, Miami Beach is spending $500 million to raise that small city’s streets 2 feet, a temporary fix for rising seas. How much will it cost to permanently raise or move many thousands of low-lying communities?

Younger generations are going to have to step up. Even American teenagers may be ready. Six out of seven youth ages 13 to 17 told a recent Washington Post-Kaiser survey, “human activity is causing climate change,” and four out of five called it a “crisis” or “major problem.” Majorities feel afraid, motivated, and angry. Among high school students, 40% say they have taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint, and one in four say they have participated in direct action.

Young people see future-facing issues such as climate change, gun violence, human rights, proactive government, and globalism more clearly than older leaders.

While the survey reveals disappointing levels of confusion, it’s that activist fraction that will spearhead change. Even in oil-marinated Oklahoma, climate-change protests driven by high school and college students increased tenfold in size from last spring’s to September’s marches (I was at both and counted attendees). In a state whose leaders hold literal “oilfield prayer” days and fracking to extract natural gas releases greenhouse-promoting methane, youthful activists at least can laud their elders for one development: wind turbines now supply 43% of the electricity sold in Oklahoma.

“Adults won’t take climate change seriously,” wrote the lead organizers of US Youth Climate Strike, all of whom are ages 13 to 16. “So we, the youth, are forced to strike.” That’s a sentiment shared by many youth activists. But what does that mean? Even in its current state of fractionalized organization, youth-led activism is a formidable threat. Forty-two percent of the world’s population is 24 or younger. They will have to persuade older government, corporate, and institutional leaders to take dramatic action—or find ways to override them. Coming confrontations are likely to realign power relationships in unheard-of ways.

In the 2018 midterm elections in the United States, the most obstructionist nation under the presidency of Donald Trump, voters under age 25 (including young Whites) voted against anti-environment Republicans by 2-1 margins. And while a large majority of White voters ages 45 and older voted Republican, that still leaves a substantial number of even this conservative cohort to be potential allies of the young.

Young people see future-facing issues such as climate change, gun violence, human rights, proactive government, and globalism more clearly than older leaders but are denied pathways to power on account of their age. Extending voting and office-holding ages to 16 or even younger is crucial to bringing future-focused issues to the forefront. In an America whose leaders increasingly reject even short-term investments to fix bridges and fund schools, winning tough action on long-term threats like climate change demands a revolutionary reimagining of innovative solutions.

“We are on the verge of developing a new kind of culture,” Margaret Mead predicted in 1977 as her long anthropological career ended. “In this culture, it will be the child—and not the parent or grandparent—that represents what is to come.” Without decisive action, environmental degradation “will soon make our planet uninhabitable,” yet “the elderly are no longer the custodians of wisdom or models.” If climate-strike youth and their allies are to save humanity and vital ecosystems, prepare for changes in power dynamics beyond what we’ve ever seen.

Mike Males is a senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, the principal investigator for YouthFacts, and the author of five books on American youth.

Via Yes! Magazine


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The Oregonian: “Youth climate strike rally in Portland”

The Fate of the Nation depends on Dems Turning out the Black Womens’ Vote Sat, 30 Nov 2019 05:03:47 +0000 By Tasha Williams | –

( Yes! Magazine ) – Turnouts demonstrate that when we are effectively engaged, our work can make seemingly impossible victories possible.

A volunteer checks off voters as they arrive at the Beulah Baptist Church polling station in Montgomery, Alabama, on Dec. 12, 2017.

Tasha Williams

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro caused a stir last week when he remarked that it’s time to change the order of the primary states in presidential elections. The current schedule puts first two of the Whitest states in the country, Iowa and New Hampshire. Neither is demographically “reflective of the United States as a whole, certainly not reflective of the Democratic Party,” Castro said.

After that MSNBC interview, Castro furthered those comments to other media outlets. He told Rolling Stone, if Democrats don’t elevate voters of color, “Why the hell are we Democrats in the first place?” To Vogue, he said, “We can’t go around thanking Black women for powering Democrats to victory all over the country, and then at the same time hold our first caucus and our first primary in states that have almost no African Americans.” Castro also compared the outdated practice of the schedule, which began in 1972, to the Republican suppression of Black votes.

Because conversations and results from the first primaries of the season can make or break a candidate’s momentum, the concern the presidential candidate raises about leaving out Black women and thereby silencing their voices are valid. Dems have several reasons to rethink prioritizing rural White voters at the expense of Black women voters, because the outcomes can affect the party and the nation as a whole.

As a voting bloc, Black women are loyal and powerful. Turnouts demonstrate that when we are effectively engaged, our work can make seemingly impossible victories possible, such as the Virginia gubernatorial race and the Alabama senate race in 2017. Our donations and hard work canvassing, fundraising, making phone calls on behalf of candidates have put scores of Democrats in office every election cycle.

Castro and others who may share his point of view are not looking to negate rural White voters as an important part of our democracy. However, prioritizing the early input of this demographic leaves out not only Black women voters and potential voters, but also other potential voters across the country.

Including Black women has the added value of being more inclusive to everyone, especially the most marginalized communities.

At least 62.7% of the U.S. population is squeezed into cities and their close suburbs. Primaries open to large numbers of Black women involve heavily populated states and counties, thereby opening the door to earlier dialogue on nationwide issues relevant to a wide-ranging demographic in those areas. For example, residents in urban centers are more concerned than rural residents about issues such as affordable rental housing, poverty, crime, and the quality of public schools.

Curiously, the decision to make Iowa and New Hampshire the first primary states did not come during the heyday of Jim Crow in the South. The schedule was put in place in the early 1970s, not long after Black communities were beginning to benefit from the Civil Rights Voting Act, and, as Castro pointed out to Rolling Stone, just when “African Americans started voting primarily as Democrats.”

Democrat’s fixation with small town America during and since the early ’70s has given rise to a stream of nominees with limited direct urban legislation experience. The only exception: President Barack Obama whose base—for the state and U.S. Senate offices he held—was in Chicago.

President Bill Clinton, on the other hand, climbed the political ladder to the White House from statewide positions of attorney general and governor of Arkansas. His personality made it easy for him to connect with Black communities across the nation. However, his policies, lacking insight and empathy for the way systemic oppression crushes those communities, wreaked havoc for generations—specifically on Black and other marginalized people who live in urban centers.

Democrats will need Black women voters now more than ever to reclaim the White House.

Black women have been preserving the integrity of the Democratic platform—the movement toward diversity and inclusion—with their votes for decades. As the party scrambles to connect with religious White voters, debates rage over whether the party should be more open to people who oppose reproductive and LGTBQ rights. Despite being labeled as the most religious demographic in the country, Black women have been faithful to a party comparatively more inclusive of abortion rights and LTGBQ equality—a steadfast commitment to separation of church and state.

Black women therefore deserve a chance to experience policymaking done with them rather than at them, as well as the right to be involved earlier in the process of choosing who represents the party they loyally support. No Democratic candidate has received the nomination since 1992 without winning a majority of the Black vote.

What can this actually mean in terms of primary strategy? It means starting with any of 10 politically strategic and more highly populated states that also happen to collectively hold 58% of the nation’s Black residents: Texas, Georgia, Florida, New York, North Carolina, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia, Louisiana. All have a large Black population and five contain at least one of the 20 largest cities in the nation.

Even if starting with the Midwest is a strategic necessity, why not begin the cycle with Illinois? Or with Michigan, where its majority Black cities, Detroit and Flint, can also be a sound option for a diverse early primary. Even Wisconsin is an option, which has a county—including the city of Milwaukee—that contains twice the number of Black people than reside in all of Iowa.

Some analysts claim that Black people only support establishment candidates. If this is true, Democrats may wonder whether there is any real harm in letting the primary season advance before mobilizing Black women. Black women certainly helped Clinton defeat Sanders, despite his progressive ideas for economic equality.

They also helped deliver wins for more liberal candidates such as Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams in their state primaries, and progressive U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley to Congress. What all of these candidates had was not just the perspective of their racial identity, but the ability to build relationships across political identities while taking the time to engage Black women.

As Avis Jones-DeWeever, an adviser to the Black Women’s Roundtable, remarked during a 2017 Congressional Black Caucus conference, the far left and centrists alike have been trying to court “White male voters who have not supported the Democratic Party for 50 years” rather than “watering the garden” in their own backyard.

No matter the outcome of the primaries, Democrats will need Black women voters now more than ever to reclaim the White House.

Via Yes! Magazine

Tasha Williams wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Tasha writes about economics and technology. Follow her on Twitter @riseupwoman.


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Hot 97: “JenFromBK On The Tidal Rock The Vote Black Carpet”

Climate Crisis will Beggar Us: Big Oil needs to Pay for the Damage it Caused Sat, 16 Nov 2019 05:03:17 +0000 By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin and Bill McKibben | –

(Yes! Magazine) – Climate change disproportionately affects poor people and people of color. They should be compensated for their suffering.

This month in a Manhattan courthouse, New York State’s attorney general Letitia James argued that ExxonMobil should be held accountable for layers of lies about climate change. It’s a landmark moment—one of the first times that Big Oil is having to answer for its actions—and James deserves great credit for bringing it to trial. But it comes with a deep irony: Under the relevant New York statutes, the only people that New York can legally identify as victims are investors in the company’s stock.

It is true that Exxon should not have misled its investors—lying is wrong, and that former CEO Rex Tillerson had to invent a fake email persona as part of the scheme (we see you, “Wayne Tracker”) helps drive home the messiness. But let’s be clear: On the spectrum of human beings who are and will be hit by the climate crisis, Exxon investors are not near the top of the list.

In fact, if the “justice system” delivered justice, the payouts for Exxon’s perfidy would go to entirely different people, because the iron law of climate is, the less you did to cause it, the more you’ll suffer.

The right set of priorities might put different groups of people at the front of the line for payouts: dwellers along the edge of the African deserts that are expanding fast as climate warms, Bangladeshi peasant farmers losing their land as the Bay of Bengal spreads inland, and Inuit hunters no longer able to depend on the sea ice. Every one of these groups was directly harmed by the decision of the fossil fuel industry to bury its knowledge of climate change in the 1980s and instead work to deny, deflect, and delay action.

When the CEO of Exxon told Chinese leaders in 1997 that the Earth was cooling and that it didn’t matter when they took action on climate change, the direct and indirect harm fell on South Pacific islanders now having to plan for the evacuation of their nations and South American cities losing their sole source of drinking water as glaciers disappear.

Even in the U.S., the burden falls disproportionately and violently on the most vulnerable communities—poor people and people of color. Wander into any disaster zone, from Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey to the California fires, and you’ll find that the hardest-hit people are the ones set up by the status quo with the least. Hurricane Sandy shut down Wall Street for a few days, but for working class and subway-dependent communities in the Rockaways and throughout Brooklyn and Queens, it changed lives forever.

Put another way, those who made their money peddling fossil fuels—the executives and shareholders holding funds—owe something to those who got hurt. It’s not, in the bigger picture, all that different from the demand for reparations by African American descendants of slaves—claims that in recent months more than a few institutions have begun to pay, among a growing number of faith denominations, universities and politicians, including presidential candidates, have begun to publicly endorse.

That’s not to say that fossil fuel extraction is a crime of the same kind as owning human beings. It isn’t—but the two are not unrelated; the same instinct to abuse and extract, deplete, discard, and disavow holds. And we have always understood the evil of slavery, but until about 40 years ago, as newly developed supercomputers made climate modeling possible, it wasn’t even clear that fossil fuel extraction and use carried with it a systemic danger. And where a wide variety of thinking offers plans for a real possibility of compensation for the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, there’s no practical way to compensate everyone who will be harmed by climate change.

Indeed, the high-end estimate for economic damage from the global warming we’re on track to cause is $551 trillion, which is more money than exists on planet Earth. Even that figure is notional: How do you compensate the generations of people yet unborn who will inherit a badly degraded world? Even if Exxon et al were to disgorge every dirty penny they’d ever made, it wouldn’t pay for relocating Miami, much less Mumbai.

We obviously should expand the circle of obligation. Even as we write, investment banks continue to bet against our survival and lend huge sums to this industry to expand its network of pipelines and wells. And they do this over the calls for a new economy and the end of the age of fossil fuels. At this point, JPMorgan Chase and Citi are the functional arms of Chevron and Shell. They literally make fossil fuel investments possible. But even holding them to the reckoning they deserve—though we will certainly try to do it—can’t bring back sea ice to the Arctic or compensate the fishermen around the world now watching their harvests shrink in a hot and acidic ocean.

Justice demands real money moving from the global North to the global South to compensate for the damage we’ve done.

The staggering cost of inaction here demands that we co-create the solutions with a concentric circle of communities that were made vulnerable to the effects of climate change. And that starts with thinking together about aligning these movements for “climate reparations” as a necessary framework for thinking about how we move forward.

Justice demands real money moving from the global North to the global South to compensate for the damage we’ve done. The United States has poured more carbon into the atmosphere than any other nation historically, and we’re champs when you measure it per capita, too. So it’s particularly painful that the Trump administration has stopped funding even the modest payments envisioned under the Paris accords.

And as we think about our own country and its efforts to deal with the climate crisis, we need to hold onto equity and justice as our guide. The communities that deserve priority in public spending are those that have suffered the most. It is a sadness to lose a second home on the Carolina coast or in California wine country, but it is a life-destroying tragedy when poor communities go underwater. Priority for the good jobs in a new energy economy belong to those whose communities suffered most from in the dirty energy era. The images from the Superdome in New Orleans during Katrina should haunt Americans as long as the climate crisis lasts. At its start, it was clear who the first and worst victims were going to be.

Framing the climate crisis as a matter of equity and another opportunity for justice doesn’t mean we stop thinking about it in other ways, too. In the end, this is a tussle with chemistry and physics, and clearly the most urgent goal is to slow down the planet’s heating. Building solar panels and wind turbines in the end ultimately benefits the most vulnerable. If the Marshall Islands have a chance at surviving, if the rice farmers of the Mekong Delta have any prayer of passing on their land to their sons and daughters, then it depends on a rapid energy transition for the whole planet.

But at this point, even the best-case scenarios are relentlessly grim; lots of damage has been done, and far more is in the offing. We’re going to have to remake much of the world to have a chance at survival. And if we’re going to try, then that repair job shouldn’t repeat the imbalances of power and wealth that mark our current planet. Justice demands a real effort to make the last, first this time around.

Tamara Toles O’Laughlin and Bill McKibben wrote this for YES! Magazine. Tamara is the North America director for the global climate campaign Bill is the founder of the climate movement and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College.

Via Yes! Magazine


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CBC News: Big oil on trial

To Address Climate Change, We Need to Take Back the Supreme Court Sun, 03 Nov 2019 04:03:04 +0000 By Thom Hartmann | –

(Via Yes! Magazine) – There were those among the founders and framers of the Constitution who didn’t mean for the Court to have as much power as it does today—Thomas Jefferson among them. My new book The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America dives into the philosophies that guided the men who drafted the Constitution. It also shows how in 1803, the Supreme Court set itself above Congress and the president with the power to review, strike down, or rewrite laws based on its own lone interpretation of the Constitution.

Importantly, the framers of the Constitution gave no consideration to “the rights of nature” or even of the environment, other than its sheer productive potential to enhance the wealth of the nation. When the Constitution was written in the summer and fall of 1787, the new thing in political circles was the idea of property rights for commoners, which had only clearly been articulated outside of the realm of royal prerogatives during the previous few centuries.

John Locke wrote in his 1689 Two Treatises of Government that the main purpose of government was to make sure that “No-one may take away or damage anything that contributes to the preservation of someone else’s life, liberty, health, limb, or goods.” He was speaking directly to the new ability of some commoners to actually claim title to things, including their own bodies.

After 1,000-plus years of either the monarch or the church (or both) wielding absolute rule and absolute ownership of everything, Locke was pushing a radical and revolutionary idea.

In his chapter titled “Political or Civil Society,” Locke noted that both the laws of nature and the laws of a civilized society would give the right of “life, liberty and possessions” to every man.

If that language seems familiar, it’s because Locke is the man Thomas Jefferson plagiarized, or was inspired by, when he wrote in the Declaration of Independence that the purpose of our newly formed government was to provide for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” because we had the right, simply as humans, to “assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle [us].”

A Suicide Pact

By the time Jefferson was writing, a mere century after Locke, the right of “commoners” (at least white male ones; women and people of color were still excluded) to own private property was well established and well recognized, so Jefferson didn’t see the need to restate it. Instead, he replaced Locke’s repeated and varied mentions of different types of property with “happiness.” It was the first time that word ever appeared in the founding documents of any nation.

Thus, the newest revolution in human rights in 1787, brought to North America by Enlightenment philosophers like Jefferson, was the idea of nonwealthy “commoners” having individual property rights—the right to private ownership of things: from the food a person grew; to the land on which they lived; to exerting agency over their own lives, workplaces, and bodies.

The concept of property rights was becoming a core Western philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries, and one of the core functions of our 18th century Constitution was to protect, regulate, and provide a mechanism to adjudicate those property rights. Without the Stuart monarchies’ losing their absolute power over property rights in the English Civil War of 1642–51 and the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Industrial Revolution may never have happened. This shift of property rights, including land rights, from the Crown to the people (at least the white male people) created the legal and political floor for the thinking that led to the American Revolution.

But in 1787, the framers weren’t concerned about running out of arable land, clean water, and clean air. And they never imagined a time when several versions of that day’s East India Company would rise up on these shores and take over our political system to their own advantage and to the disadvantage of democracy itself. They were far more worried about how to create a republic in which the government would both protect a person’s right to own property and facilitate his (consideration of women was excluded) enjoyment of it (hence, “the pursuit of happiness”).

Today, all of that is at risk.

The world is facing a climate crisis that could very well end civilization as it’s currently known, and perhaps could even lead to the death of every animal on earth larger than a dog (including humans), as has happened five times in our geologic past. Fossil fuel interests are steering the planet toward those very undesirable outcomes at light-warp speed. If something isn’t done about the climate/carbon crisis, people reading this today might be living in the last generation to experience a stable atmosphere, and thus a stable form of governance, for any foreseeable future.

The Supreme Court has seized the power to decide what is “constitutional,” and it uses that power to strike down or rewrite laws that have been passed by Congress and signed by the president. But because our Constitution doesn’t mention the rights of nature (or even the environment), the Earth’s biosphere is getting short shrift in our legal system—no matter how many laws Congress passes to protect the environment.

Thus, the judiciary has turned our Constitution in the direction of, as Thomas Jefferson feared, becoming a suicide pact.

Corporate America Seizes the Court

In many ways, the looming crisis is one created by the Supreme Court itself.

No legislature, governor, or president has ever suggested that corporations should be considered “persons” for the purpose of constitutional protections, particularly under the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection rights.

No federal or state legislature, no president, and no state governor has ever, in more than 240 years, suggested that billionaires and corporations have a First Amendment “right” to unlimited political bribery. Congress has instead criminalized such behavior repeatedly.

Both doctrines, corporate personhood and money as speech, were simply invented by corporate-friendly Supreme Court rulings (in the 1819–86 era for corporate personhood, and in the 1976–2013 era for money as speech). Their combined effect has been to hijack America’s democratic experiment, concentrating power into the boardrooms of faceless corporations and the summer homes of reclusive billionaires.

How did America’s great democratic experiment end in a functional oligarchy?

As President Jimmy Carter told me some years ago, America is no longer a functioning democratic republic; we’ve devolved into an oligarchy. Most of this crisis is the direct result of the Supreme Court’s use of judicial review.

Political power is now defined by wealth. That means that virtually unlimited political power has been concentrated into the hands of the richest industry in the world, the fossil fuel industry—the very same industry that is endangering every aspect of our modern world with its reckless pursuit of ever-increasing profits.

The corruption that brought us to this point started with a 1971 memo, in which Republican activist Lewis Powell suggested to the US Chamber of Commerce (and the corporations and multimillionaires associated with it) that they should actively involve themselves in politics. They did, and were so successful that Republican presidents now look to petro-billionaire-funded organizations to select judicial nominees for the federal bench, including the Supreme Court.

How did America’s great democratic experiment end in a functional oligarchy? And how can we change course in time to address the planetary crisis of climate change?

In The Hidden History of the Supreme Court,
I describe when and how the Court has ruled in favor of the country’s elite, and how presidents and the people themselves have occasionally gone to war with the Court—and won. Then I present constitutionally available solutions for Americans to rein in the Supreme Court and claw back our democracy from the hands of billionaires and corporations— including one particularly startling “emergency” solution suggested by Chief Justice John Roberts when he worked for Reagan.

This edited excerpt from The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America by Thom Hartmann (Berrett-Koehler 2019) appears by permission of the author.

Via Via Yes! Magazine

Dry Impeachment alone won’t Save our Democracy: The Public has to Get Fired Up Thu, 03 Oct 2019 04:04:46 +0000 By Chris Winters | –

(Yes! Magazine) – It’s official: The U.S. House of Representatives, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is moving toward impeaching President Trump. In announcing this, Pelosi finally did what many on the left thought should have been a no-brainer. Her reluctance to move the process along has been frustrating for many eager to try to stop Trump’s trampling on the rule of law.

The actual announcement doesn’t mean much in terms of how Congress operates. It only provides a semantic umbrella under which we can now group the numerous investigations of President Trump’s behavior already underway. (U.S. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in July that his committee was already conducting an impeachment investigation.)

The announcement crystallizes the probable endgame, when the Democrat-controlled House votes on articles of impeachment, and the Republican Senate prevents Trump from being removed from office, just as we head into an election year. If nothing else, Pelosi’s announcement shows that she is now prepared for that outcome.

In a brief announcement Tuesday, Pelosi cited Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office, of national security, and of the integrity of our elections. The kicker was the revelation this past week that Trump was blocking the release, mandated by law, of a whistleblower complaint, which presumably relates to his withholding military aid to Ukraine until the new president of that nation investigated the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump’s malfeasance has been abundantly clear since the day Trump took office, but with momentum building (half the House of Representatives now favors impeachment), the dam broke with this obvious shakedown attempt. Trump’s latest offense removed any remaining political cover the Democrats had for not pursuing impeachment.

But where will this get us?

As Pelosi said, “The president must be held accountable, no one is above the law.” And it is true that the formal impeachment process will allow the House to tap into a wide variety of investigative powers, to obtain more documentation and testimony. But let’s be real here: We already have more than enough in the public record to impeach Trump six times over. Anyone else would be under federal indictment for multiple crimes, and only an internal Justice Department memo—not any law—has prevented that.

But there’s also a good moral argument for impeachment: If this latest conduct isn’t impeachable, what is? Would we wait until Trump literally shot someone on Fifth Avenue? There, in fact, does have to be a line that cannot be crossed, or else we’re no longer living in a nation governed by laws.

The politics of the issue matter, too. For one, launching an impeachment inquiry makes the Democrats stop looking like pussycats in their refusal to stand up to Trump. But more important, impeaching Trump in a Democrat-controlled House ultimately throws the issue to the Republicans in the Senate, where they will be forced to confront it. Several Republican senators facing tough reelection races, or who are retiring and thinking in terms of their legacies, are going to have to weigh what’s likely to be the most important vote of their careers very carefully. And if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does what he did with Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, and simply refuses to let impeachment come to the floor, he’ll own that too.

But this could all go away if the American people don’t rally.

The Resistance (or rather, the #Resistance), for all its early fervor, has been rather disjointed and moribund since shortly after Trump’s inauguration. Some early successes—stopping the early iterations of Trump’s Muslim ban, for example, or the 35-day government shutdown that ended when nearly half the nation’s air traffic controllers called in sick—were followed by months of little more than a few demonstrations, but no meaningful change. Several months ago, there was constant social media organizing with promises to march on Washington if Trump tried to stop Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. But that all petered out when Trump’s obstruction of the probe proved to be a bit more sophisticated than just firing Mueller would have shown.

The only safeguard of a democracy against a lawless president and corrupted government institutions is the people.

Conventional and popular wisdom also suggested that the administration’s cruelty toward migrant children would provide a rallying point for a broad-based action against the administration, but that movement has also lost momentum after it became clear that Trump had no intention of stopping the family separations, or reuniting those families that already had been separated by borders. A court ruling in favor of the administration, forcing migrants to claim asylum in Mexico first, has only ensured that the families are remaining together in a country ill-equipped to provide for them.

If you look at successful mass movements throughout history, they share one central characteristic: Specific goals are clearly articulated. Today, protesters in Hong Kong have already achieved one of their key demands, when the territory’s leadership withdrew a bill that would allow Hong Kongers accused of certain crimes to be extradited to mainland China for trial. Organized protesters in 1989 looking to bring down the Iron Curtain forced their governments to do so and hold new elections.

In today’s United States, the lack of a focused, cohesive opposition has created a situation in which Trump and his supporters have had a free hand to shape the narrative surrounding his actions. Even with an impeachment forthcoming, the Democrats’ approach can best be described as “procedural” and “without fireworks.” Democrats are still playing the game by the rules we’ve had for the past 200 years.

Fireworks are what we need right now. The Trump administration is on the defense. They’re fighting in courts to prevent even more bad behavior from being exposed, they’re using every trick in the book (and making up new ones) to claim freedom from any oversight, and they’re taking a heavy-handed and sometimes illegal approach to get their way, such as this latest attempt to subvert the 2020 election with foreign help.

The people will need to vote Trump out in 2020 to ensure he’s gone, but at this rate, he may well try to cancel the presidential election outright, and he’ll certainly never concede defeat. He’s already demonstrated his utter contempt for the rule of law, and shown he’d rather surround himself with servile toadies and rule by fiat than try to govern within a democratic system.

What’s going to stop him? Certainly not the law or the Department of Justice, which is now led by the man who squelched the investigations into Trump’s secret deals with Russia (and also helped cover up the Iran-Contra scandal in 1992, for the record). And certainly not the Supreme Court, run by a right-wing faction of which at least one member clearly sees his role as a political operative rather than an unbiased arbiter of justice.

The only safeguard of a democracy against a lawless president and corrupted government institutions is the people. But the people need to be willing to step forward and defend it.

When Pelosi announced the commencement of impeachment proceedings, she quoted Benjamin Franklin’s famous line about the form of government the new nation would have: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Pelosi implied it was now Congress’s job to do so. But ultimately, it’s ours.

Chris Winters wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Chris is a senior editor at YES! He covers economics and politics. Follow him on Twitter @TheChrisWinters.

Yes! Magazine


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

MSNBC: “Michael Moore Says Dems Finally Have ‘President Donald Trump On The Run’ With Impeachment”

Why Detroit Could Be the Engine for the Green New Deal Sat, 21 Sep 2019 04:03:58 +0000 By Eleanore Catolico | –

(Yes! Magazine ) – In Detroit, more than 8,000 residents live in what has been called one of the most polluted ZIP codes in the state. Located in the city’s southwest corner, 48217 is known for its persistently poor air quality, where hundreds suffer from asthma, cancer, and other related health issues. The surrounding area has 26 industrial sites whose greenhouse gas emissions are being monitored by Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. And one of the largest polluters, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, whose processing plant is headquartered in 48217, has received several violations from the state’s environmental regulatory agency over the years.

Just last week, two contract workers were hospitalized after an oil vapor leak at Marathon. The leak, which produced a pungent smell, residents said, led to temporary road closures. And during a congressional field hearing this week on air and water quality issues and their adverse effects on communities of color, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), who grew up in Southwest Detroit, rebuked Marathon for its polluting history.

The city exhibits all of the problems the framework is meant to heal.Thousands of people took to the streets of Detroit at the Frontline Detroit March and Rally on July 30, ahead of the Democratic presidential debate. Photo from The Aadizookaan

Calling them “corporate polluters,” Tlaib said the big oil company is unlikely to face any meaningful consequences. “They’ve just written off these leaks as a cost of doing business,” she said, while residents are “still searching for answers. “What was released? Is it safe to breathe the air?”

Other nearby communities also continue to be harmed by air pollution. In the Delray neighborhood, the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge will increase air and noise pollution, experts say. The city’s housing swap program has offered to relocate the residents because of the construction. Also, Fiat Chrysler’s assembly plant expansion on the east side of the city is raising alarms that it will exacerbate the current air pollution.

And still, throughout the city, thousands of residents continue to battle water shutoffs, an ongoing process that five years ago left about 50,000 residents without running water. And this past school year, some schools had to restrict water use because of lead. About 70 miles north, the city of Flint, with a similar demographic of Detroit, has made national headlines over the past several years for the water crisis created when the state switched its water source to the toxic Flint River.

So when it was announced that the second round of the 2020 presidential debates would be held in Detroit, residents from Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities, environmental activists, union workers and lawmakers across the state came together to form Frontline Detroit Coalition. Their goal is to bring radical transformation to how the city functions, pivoting from reliance on fossil fuels, creating jobs rooted in a green, sustainable economy, and advocating for an equitable distribution of resources so that all Detroiters may thrive. The coalition is led by dozens of organizations, including the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, the Sunrise Movement, Sierra Club, the Climate Justice Alliance, Soulardarity, We the People Michigan, and several others.

National media outlets covering the two-night event spotlighted one of the ground zeroes of the climate crisis in the United States, Detroit, whose urban infrastructure and economic development was based on auto-manufacturing and fossil fuel industry jobs. Thousands descended on downtown Detroit in July on the eve of both nights of the debates to bring attention to Detroit’s problems—environmental and otherwise. Frontline Detroit’s call was to Make Detroit the Engine of the Green New Deal, referencing the policy resolution introduced by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), which seeks to address climate change and economic inequality.

During the debates, the candidates spoke platitudes and postured to autoworkers, and there was a brief dialogue about keeping drinking water safe in the aftermath of the Flint water crisis. However, none of the candidates proposed a specific plan to correct the city’s prevailing ills including poverty, crime, lack of affordable housing and jobs, and pollution—in the air and water.

Frontline Detroit’s localized application of Green New Deal principles is informed by combating the historical ills of the city, led by a framework that addresses problems intersectionally: systemic racism, income inequality, and climate crisis are bonded together in how they undergird contemporary policy actions and feed into a nexus of oppression.

National coverage of the city’s resurgence has ignored the current plight of frontline communities—those disproportionately affected along racial and income-based lines. For example, the implementation of state emergency management laws, which have not been repealed, superseded the authority of elected local leaders in Michigan’s mostly Black and Brown cities, which precipitated the Flint water crisis. And while some residents continue the struggle of accessing clean water and others are under the threat of eviction because they’ve refused to pay for poisonous water, thousands of Detroit residents continue to have their water shut off. This lack of access to clean water services has led to health risks, and poses the threat of removing small children from their homes. A state law says that if a home has no running water, a parent can be reported for negligence, and the Department of Health and Human Services can intervene, though no one has reported this. Still, it’s a huge worry for residents who cannot pay water bills. And the ongoing tax foreclosure crisis continues to displace residents.

Community members and protestors at the Frontline Detroit March and Rally on July 30. Photo from The Aadizookaan.

All of these are compounded by the polluting legacy of the industrial sector that has caused lasting poor air quality conditions.

By centering the aforementioned issues and their impact in these frontline communities, Frontline Detroit believes the city is the perfect place—the engine—for implementing the Green New Deal.

Michelle Martinez, the statewide coordinator for the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, and one of the organizers of FDC says the coalition is reviewing the Democratic primary candidates’ climate platforms and working with local and state legislators to advise them in drafting their environmental policies on the needs of frontline communities.

“We are putting pressure on the political system to make change,” Martinez says. “The political system is rewarding those who are behind the crisis.”

Many of Detroit’s frontline communities dwell in a concentration of the city’s industrial centers, or what activists have dubbed “sacrifice zones” because these communities, the majority of whom are low-income people of color, have borne the brunt of environmental pollution.

“You cannot talk about the Green New Deal without understanding the local implications of it.”

“Climate change is real. We are on the frontline. We are one of the communities impacted by climate change because we are a community of color,” Theresa Landrum, a longtime Detroit activist living in the 48217 ZIP code, says.

Landrum, along with Vincent Martin and other residents, have been at the forefront of fighting environmental abuses for decades.

One morning in the early ’80s, residents in 48217 awoke to loud noises and cracks to their homes’ walls, windows and driveways, Landrum recalls.

“Explosions started to happen, and we didn’t know where it was coming from,” she says.

After investigating, they found that the Detroit Salt Company had been blasting dynamite beneath neighborhood homes to extract salt pillars, because Detroit sits atop a massive salt mine 1,200 feet underground. So the residents of 48217 organized and protested. They were 22 block clubs strong.

Today, Detroit Salt Company is still open, but the primary product mined is road-deicing salt.

“It was so bad in here when you were driving on the freeway, as soon as you smell it, you know you were in Southwest Detroit. The odor was so terrible,” Martin says. “We have been poisoned everyday of our lives, forever. We don’t know what it’s doing to our DNA, the fetuses of newborn babies, what it’s doing to kids.”

Justin Onwenu, a community organizer with the Sierra Club, says a Green New Deal framework in Detroit can be a guide toward rectifying these ills, but frontline communities need to lead the conversation.

“The broader point is that whether it’s making sure people can breathe clean air, making sure people can have jobs, and making sure we’re changing and adjusting so we don’t have to deal with the effects of climate change,” Onwenu says. “The Green New Deal framework really addresses all that, but our message has been [that] there should not be a Green New Deal without frontline communities — not just at the table but at the front of the table.”

“There should not be a Green New Deal without frontline communities not just at the table but at the front of the table.”

Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López, who represents constituents of District 6 where 48217 is located, follows an environmental justice and equity framework inspired by GND. Her office is working on a study that would mitigate the impacts of commercial trucks on residential roads, creating buffer zones and requiring industries to produce health assessments before beginning operations.

“So the larger conversation of the Green New Deal and why we need to try to address climate change on a global scale is important but sometimes it’s a different conversation that happens at the local level,” Castañeda-López says. “They talk about issues that impact them the most. My children are sick from — there are so many people dying in my neighborhood from cancer — that’s how we translate some of the broader, lofty policy goals to the local level.”

Led by Castañeda-López, the City Council passed a resolution this summer in support of the Green New Deal. And the council is taking steps to address the city’s climate problems, the councilwoman says, starting with passing a greenhouse gas emissions ordinance that would reduce emissions from municipal buildings, and getting the business sector to adopt sustainable practices. They’ve also created the Office of Sustainability, a department to deal specifically with climate-related and environmental justice issues, which released a plan earlier this summer.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib with protestors at the Frontline Detroit March and Rally on July 30. Photo from The Aadizookaan.

Meanwhile, the stories of the city’s resurgence overlook the struggles of the lifelong and longtime residents, and the local and grassroots efforts to combat them.

“When people talk about resurgence or a comeback, it’s a discredit and a disservice and erases and ignores the history for all the people that were here. For me, it feels like colonialism — this colonial mentality. It’s very racially and economically based,” Castañeda-López says. “Now they see the city as something viable and something worth investing in that discredits people that sustained the cities. Whether or not you thought it was good, they still sustained the city.”

This resilience and continued drive of Detroiters makes the city the prime location to implement Green New Deal reforms. A national dialogue about the Green New Deal cannot ignore its application on the local level, Onwenu says, especially around reframing how outsiders have touted the city’s revitalization. For a serious conversation about the revitalization of Detroit and all of its residents in an equitable way, a Green New Deal-inspired framework is critical.

“You can’t talk about the Green New Deal on the national level without talking about emergency management, home foreclosures, water shutoffs, tax foreclosures,” he says. “You cannot talk about the Green New Deal without understanding the local implications of it. So, yes, we want the Green New Deal. We want to have leaders on the city level, state level, national level actually listening to citizens and know what [our] demands are.”

Eleanore Catolico wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Eleanore is a freelance journalist covering environmental justice and city government in Detroit. Follow her on Twitter @e_catolico.

This article is reprinted from Yes! Magazine by permission.

Resisting the Wall Industry, from Palestine to Mexico Sun, 14 Jul 2019 04:03:51 +0000 By Chung-Wha Hong | –

(Yes! Magazine) – The institutions responsible for harming people operate across borders far more than most people realize, yet many groups are joining forces to gain strength.

Embed from Getty Images
Graffiti art on Seperation wall in West Bank: BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK – NOVEMBER 1 : Graffiti art is seen on Israeli separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on November 01, 2017. (Photo by Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The latest judicial rebuke of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall arrived just in time for July 4, when a federal appeals court again blocked the administration from diverting $2.5 billion in military funds toward the wall. But as history shows, court orders aren’t always effective in halting construction or expansion of walls that “divide neighborhoods, worsen dangerous flooding, [and] destroy lands and wildlife,” as the Sierra Club explained in a statement following the court’s June preliminary injunction.

As part of Grassroots International’s work defending the human right to land, water, and food, my colleagues and I engage in conversations with farmers worldwide. One topic surfaces time and again with those from the U.S.-Mexico border and Palestine: how to resist the walls carving up their communities.

Just a few days before the ruling blocking funds for Trump’s wall, 49 Palestinians—including eight paramedics and one journalist—were wounded protesting the Israeli barrier fencing in the people of Gaza.

Graffiti on the West Bank wall. Photo by Grassroots International

Today marks 15 years since the International Court of Justice offered a glimmer of hope that the situation of Palestinian farmers might change. On July 9, 2004, the ICJ issued an advisory opinion deeming Israel’s West Bank wall illegal, calling on Israel to dismantle it and pay reparations for any damage caused, and reaffirming the duty of all states to ensure Israel ends its violations of international law.

For Palestinians and those of us who have stood by them in their long struggle for freedom, this was a rare victory. Israel, however, has yet to heed a word of the ruling. As the U.S. continues to shield it from international pressure while bankrolling its military occupation, Palestinian families living closest to the wall suffer the most.

According to a 2015 report by the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem, 60% of affected communities reported that the wall had deprived them of water resources. By the time the wall is complete, it’s likely Israel will have taken nearly 15% of Palestinians’ agricultural land there. Including the broader impact of Israel’s military occupation and settlement expansion, the loss goes up to 63% of Palestinians’ agricultural land in the West Bank.

This isn’t the only militarized barrier Israel has built. There’s one along its border with Egypt that’s meant to keep out African refugees. This southern wall has been praised by Trump as a model for the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact, the U.S. is already employing Israeli border technology used to destroy Palestinian communities and enforce racist immigration policies.

Greenhouse in the Kufr Al-Labat village.

A Palestinian farmer in a greenhouse in the village of Kufr Al-Labat. Photo by Grassroots International.

What’s happening to Palestinians is not simply something happening “over there.” Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of an Israeli company, is making millions off militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border. Elta North America, another such subsidiary, was paid between $300,000 and $500,000 to build a prototype of Trump’s wall.

The institutions responsible for harming people operate across borders far more than most people realize, yet many groups are joining forces to gain strength.

Resisting what’s been described as “the wall industry,” organizers around the world like the Stop the Wall Campaign in Palestine, solidarity and human rights groups in Mexico, and others are coordinating advocacy efforts as part of a #WorldWithoutWalls campaign. As a member of La Via Campesina, an organization that includes over 200 million small-scale farmers and Indigenous peoples from 81 countries, Palestine’s Union of Agricultural Work Committees has been organizing with others facing threats to their livelihoods.

Palestinians use the spent shells of tear gas canisters fired at them by Israeli soldiers. Photo by Sam Vinal.

We cannot allow walls and borders to divide, fragment, and isolate us. Those fighting uphill battles miles away need our support and solidarity in order to persevere. Their victories will create a more just and peaceful world for us all. I’m reminded of Angela Davis’ insistence on the “indivisibility of justice.” Ultimately, 15 years after the ICJ ruling, it’s clear that the courts alone will not deliver justice. We need indivisible solidarity among those of us who reject racism, and who value human life and dignity more than profits.

Via Yes! Magazine

Chung-Wha Hong is the executive director of Grassroots International, an organization that partners with social movements to create a just and sustainable world by advancing the human right to land, water, and food through global grantmaking, solidarity, and advocacy.

How can Society deter Rogue Police who Shoot unarmed Black People? Mon, 17 Jun 2019 04:07:58 +0000 By Zenobia Jeffries Warfield | –

(Yes! Magazine) – Since the police killings of Botham Jean in Dallas and Emantic “E.J.” Bradford in Birmingham, Alabama, two months apart last fall, ongoing news coverage of unarmed Black people killed by police has mostly waned.

The street protests ended more than a year ago, but the horrific, traumatic occurrences have not.

I can’t count the number of posts I’ve scrolled past to avoid the image of an officer sitting on top of a Black child, tightly holding a plastic bag over the 12-year-old’s head. Or the number of posts screaming outrage about the officers who irresponsibly shot at a fleeing vehicle, injuring three small children. And the countless other posts of news stories about or videos of police officers harassing, assaulting, abusing, or killing a defenseless Black person.

Depending on the silo in which you exist, you’re either besieged by the terror or protected from it. I exist in the former.

And so when I saw the petition for the Hands Up Act on, I felt a tinge of hope.

Travis Washington, its creator, says that for about two years, he’s had an idea for legislation that would hold police officers accountable for shooting innocent people. The language is pretty straightforward: “If a police officer shoots someone unarmed, they get a mandatory 15-year prison sentence.”

It would be up to legislators, the 24-year-old recent graduate school grad says, to flesh out the details, such as whether it’s the officer’s first shooting, or his or her history of misconduct, etc. He has emailed all 100 U.S. senators and heard back from two. Declining to name them, he says one was off-topic, responding with a non sequitur about crime in urban neighborhoods.

“If you’re not trying to shoot anybody unarmed, then you have nothing to worry about. It’s just that simple,” he says.

Washington, who works as a government intern in Illinois, has long considered a run for political office and had planned to wait until then to work on getting a bill passed.

But there really is no time to wait, he says. Lives are at stake.

So far this year, 390 people have been killed by police, according to a Washington Post database of police shootings. Since the newspaper began tracking that information in 2015, about 1,000 people have been killed each year by police.

Studies have found that Black people are shot by police at disproportionate rates, and unarmed victims are more likely to be Black. According to a 2018 Harvard study, Black men age 15 to 34 are nine to 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other people.

Policies that mandate trainings and body cams have not stopped the brutality. They’ve only reinforced what many already believe: Too many law enforcement officers have no respect for the lives in the Black communities they police.

What’s most troubling is that there has been little to no accountability. Since 2005, 98 police officers have been arrested, and only 35 convicted to date, according to the Police Integrity Research Group at Bowling Green State University.

Washington’s Hands Up Act would change that.

Since January, when his petition first went up, the number of signers seemed to crawl toward 10,000. In less than a week, I watched them jump from 9,892 to over 50,000. Now it’s over 150,000, increasing by the second.

So far this year, 390 people have been killed by police, according to a Washington Post database of police shootings.

Some people who signed the petition also left comments on the site: “No person should have to live in perpetual fear! Not here, not anywhere,” and “…Here’s an amazing approach to getting a handle on trigger happy law enforcement.” The Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP and College Democrats of America put their support behind the petition by encouraging their members to sign it.

Washington says he wants to collect 500,000 to 1 million petition signatures—enough, he believes, to bring awareness and get him an invitation to speak before a Congressional committee.

“My ultimate goal is to make this a federal law,” Washington says. “When I think of Terence Crutcher, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Antwon Rose, and Daniel Shaver, who was on his knees begging for his life in a hotel room, and they just shot him down….”

Simply, non-Black, Brown, and Indigenous people have no idea what it’s like to live in daily fear that an encounter with the police—a mistaken move— could bring an end to their lives, or that of a loved one.

Photo from Travis Washington.

Some argue this is the same level of fear or threat that police officers live under. But there is no equivalency. Unlike the average citizen, police are trained to deal with high-stress encounters; knowing how to act in volatile situations is part of their jobs.

Saying they’re just “doing their jobs” when they shoot unarmed people is equivalent to the tired old “(White) Boys will be boys” trope that has until recently excused toxic masculinity that manifests at best—if there’s such a thing—in stalking and harassment and at worst assault, abuse, rape, and even death, thanks to the #metoo and #timesup movements.

As the mother of a Black son, my anxiety is always heightened. I’m always bracing myself for horrible news. My celebration of his recent college graduation was not just that he made it, but that he survived encounters with campus and local police in a majority White town.

Just because mass protests aren’t erupting across the country, and we’re not seeing the stories in the nightly news, that doesn’t mean innocent people aren’t dying at the hands of callous, insensitive, and often racist police officers—every day.

It’s time the politicians we elect and send to Washington to serve us recognize the seriousness of this problem and take steps to address it. Our very lives depend on it.

Via Yes! Magazine


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

We Must Speak TV: ‘Hands Up ACT’ Proposes A 15 Year Minimum For Officers That Shoot Unarmed Citizens

Why Young Jews are Detouring from Israel to Palestine Tue, 28 May 2019 06:34:06 +0000 By Lornet Turnbull | –

(Yes! Magazine ) – Some are using Birthright trips to draw attention to the Israeli occupation, its policy of oppression, and the call for a two-state solution.

Sarah Brammer-Shlay is a rabbinical student in Philadelphia. She’s also an activist, part of a growing movement of young American Jews working to help ensure that others visiting the Holy Land are prepared to travel there authentically. Photo by Stephanie Holt.

On her first visit to Israel a decade ago, Sarah Brammer-Shlay joined her voice to the prayerful murmurings of the multitude of women, their heads bowed against the ancient stones at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

In the south, she climbed Masada, King Herod’s desert fortress overlooking the Dead Sea and the site of the last Jewish stronghold against Roman invasion. And she strolled the beaches and hung out with trip mates and new Israeli friends in bars and clubs in Tel Aviv, a spirited city that feels more Florida during spring break than ancient holy place.

For Brammer-Shlay, it was as if her entire childhood—Hebrew school, Jewish youth group, and the stories her parents told her growing up in the Midwest—had been preparation for this Israel trip. “I had been talking about Israel my whole life, like I’d been there, so it was very exciting and powerful to finally actually get there,” she says.

She had known little about the Palestinians there, of their decades-long struggle under Israeli rule.

The trip had been arranged and paid for by Birthright Israel, the world’s largest educational tourism program, which serves 18- to 32-year-old Jews from the diaspora. A rite of passage of sorts for 700,000 young people over the last 20 years, Birthright says the goal is to strengthen their Jewish identity by creating and reinforcing a connection to Israel.

Those 10 days in the summer of 2010 had left Brammer-Shlay wanting to know more. So a little over a year later, on a semester abroad in Jerusalem, she visited the West Bank and began to discover just how much her education on Israel had left out.

Sarah Brammer-Shlay during her Birthright trip in 2010 at the ancient fortress Masada in southern Israel’s Judean Desert. It’s a popular destination and national park. Photo from Sarah Brammer-Shlay.

A rabbinical student in Philadelphia, Brammer-Shlay is an activist now, part of a growing movement of young American Jews working to help ensure that others visiting the Holy Land are prepared to travel there authentically.

From walking off Birthright trips in protest to denouncing what they see as the “omission and erasure of Palestinian narratives,” they are a chorus of new voices bringing fresh attention to the Israeli occupation, its policy of oppression, and the call for a two-state solution.

“What you’re seeing right now is definitely a growing movement of young Jews who are thinking and talking about the occupation and demonstrating that fighting for freedom and dignity for all people is deeply connected with what it means to be Jewish for us,” Brammer-Shlay says.

The size of New Jersey, Israel is a historical and religious marvel—from the beaches of Eilat at the tip of the Red Sea in the south to the picturesque mountain ranges in the north. Sacred to the three Abrahamic religions—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—it is a destination for people of faith from across the world.

Yet 70 years after Israel’s declaration of statehood displaced some 700,000 Palestinians there—and a half -century after it seized and occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War—it’s possible for the nearly 4 million visitors each year to overlook much of what decades of conflict have wrought.

So a little over a year later, on a semester abroad in Jerusalem, she visited the West Bank and began to discover just how much her education on Israel had left out.

Israel defends its restrictions on Palestinian movement, the demolition of their homes, the encroaching Jewish settlements and obstructions at every turn by citing a decades-long campaign of cross-border attacks and suicide bombings by Palestinians to drive out Jews.

And that’s what Brammer-Shlay had been told growing up in a conservative Jewish household in Minnesota.

That trip in 2010 was for her what it is for many of the 50,000 Birthright participants each year: the romanticized version of a country they had been hearing about since they were little. On that trip, Brammer-Shlay says, “there was no deep conversation about the impact of the occupation.”

Funded by Israel’s government and global philanthropists, including a substantial contribution by casino mogul and Donald Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson, Birthright in a statement says it was not designed to deal with political issues: “All Birthright Israel participants are required to engage in programming which addresses the complex issues of the Middle East and which does not endorse any specific agendas, opinions, or beliefs.”

For University of Florida doctoral student Madison N. Emas, Birthright wasn’t a search for political answers; it was simply a chance to travel.

She first visited Israel on a mostly religious trip while in high school. On Birthright in 2015, she got to hear from Israeli Arabs with family in the West Bank and East Jerusalem who spoke about their own experiences as well as those of their relatives.

“I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about the other perspective, about how Israeli Arabs get pulled over more often, about how soldiers could simply just show up at their homes. … I never thought about that before,” she says.

The opportunity to talk to secular Jews, many of whom, like her, support a two-nation solution, “made me feel more Jewish, more connected. … And I think that’s what Birthright is trying to do, foster a connection to the land and the people.”

Last year, in a bold statement about what they felt was the program’s one-sided narrative, Birthright participants began walking off the trip—live-­streaming their actions on social media.

Danielle Raskin was among the first.

She had grown up in New York City in a household she describes as culturally, rather than religiously, Jewish. Her agnostic feelings changed, however, in 2016 when she attended a comedy event where some in a Jewish audience cheered for then-candidate Donald Trump. “It was a turning point … Jews who support a fascist,” she says. “It wasn’t an issue thousands of miles away; it was right here.”

She became an organizer for­ IfNotNow, a progressive and anti-­occupation group formed in 2014 to protest Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Its goal is to address American Jewish support for the occupation and balance the message that young American Jews are getting.

Last summer, Raskin went on a Birthright trip to see for herself.

She did Shabbat in Jerusalem. Rafted the River Jordan. Visited Israel’s northern border with Syria and the Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem. “They were tightly packed 12-, 13-, 14-hour days,” she says.

She recalls the uncomfortable silence on the trip north as they drove alongside the separation barriers between the Occupied Territories and Israel proper—a system of fences and concrete walls.

“No one said anything; the tour guide said nothing. It was so discreet, I had to open my map app to make sure. I was like, ‘Oh shit, this doesn’t really bode well for the rest of the trip.’”

In addition to questions about the impact of the occupation, she and others asked about maps they were given that they say failed to delineate Palestinian territories.

“It feels like the equivalent of going to the Jim Crow South during segregation and not talking about segregation.”

The maps would become the source of a different confrontation that went viral on a video on social media.

Elon Glickman was six days into his Birthright trip a few months later, driving along the separation barrier between Haifa and Jerusalem when he began asking about them.

The guide, he said in a recent interview, “started telling us that these are normal Jewish villages and that the West Bank is just like [Israeli cities] Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.”

In the video, Glickman protests, “I mean literally, like, erasing the fact that Palestine even exists, though.”

Again and again, he challenges what he said is a one-sided depiction, pointing out that for many participants it’s the only side they’ll see and hear. “It feels like the equivalent of going to the Jim Crow South during segregation and not talking about segregation,” he says.

Eventually other Birthright participants on the bus also join in, some agreeing with him, others reminding him that it is a free trip.

On a video of Raskin’s encounter, a tour guide can be heard accusing her and the others of coming “to bash Israel on purpose and in public and in front of all your friends. … You have a clear agenda against Israel. You tried to impose your opinion for the last 10 days and that’s not acceptable.”

In total, 15 tour goers have walked off their Birthright tours, according to IfNotNow. Three others, it said, were ejected for violating a clause Birthright added in December against “hijacking” discussions on its trips.

In Israel, IfNotNow connected both Glickman and Raskin with Breaking the Silence, an anti-occupation group that helped them round out their trip. While Glickman and his group traveled to the West Bank and stayed with families in villages there, Raskin’s went to Hebron, one of the world’s oldest cities and where the controversial expansion of Jewish settlements has often played out in violent eruptions.

They visited Shuhada Street, a main road there that leads to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a shrine complex sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Once the scene of a bustling market in Hebron’s historic center, the street is abandoned—its stores shuttered and boarded up. The closure followed the 1994 prayer-time massacre of 29 Palestinians by an Israeli settler. Shuhada, also known as a sterile street, is off limits to Palestinians—whether by car or on foot.

Raskin and her group were shocked by this sight.

“Palestinians whose front doors open out onto the street have to climb out a side window or onto the roof or exit someone else’s house,” she says. “It was really somber, pretty devastating really, to see on the 10th day a side of the country that we had not seen or talked about at all.”

In the months since, other solutions have sprung up. In March, J Street, a progressive group that supports statehood for Palestinians, announced its own free, 10-day trip to Israel and the West Bank for American college students this summer. Participants will visit major heritage sites and meet with Israeli social justice activists and Palestinian community leaders.

Returning home after her own trip to the West Bank in 2011, Brammer-Shlay had searched for ways to address the conflict more meaningfully. She volunteered with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, in 2016 traveling to Hebron, where she worked alongside Palestinians and other Jews to help build a cinema.

She was back the following year to help reestablish the village of Sarura, in the Hebron Hills, whose residents were returning after fleeing occupation decades earlier. It was part of the largest delegation of diaspora Jews ever assembled for such an action.

These days, Brammer-Shlay works with IfNotNow on a range of actions, including the group’s Not Just a Free Trip campaign, which provides resources to Birthright participants, including at airports just before trips take off.

“I still feel it is my duty to defend the Jewish people,” she says, “but I also feel that is deeply connected to the duty I feel to promote justice and freedom in this world.”

Lornet Turnbull wrote this article for the Travel Issue, the summer 2019 edition of YES! Magazine. Lornet is an editor for YES!, a Seattle-based freelance writer, and a regional anchor for the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter @TurnbullL.

Reprinted with permission from Yes! Magazine )