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January 23, 2020

Channel Zero

Solecast: w/ Dusty Hinz of Experimental Farm Network “Breeding Plant Crops To Survive The 21st Century”

This post was originally published on this site

Dusty Hinz is co-founder of the Experimental Farm Network. The Experimental Farm Network is an open sourced social platform that allows for people to develop & breed crops, anything from perennial grains to improved varieties and hybrids of popular plants. They also distribute rare/unique seeds from experimental growers across North America in their store. In this conversation I talk to Dusty about the formation of the network, and his personal thoughts on civilization and global warming. Dusty speaks of this decade as “the collapsing 20s,” and much of what they are breeding / distributing is based around resiliency in the face of climate change. We discuss how we can think about making “back to the land” practices more accessible, creating an “urban to rural pipeline,” and cooperative land trusts. Dusty also talks about the importance of nut trees / agro forestry and what small scale / localized / bioregional post-civilization food systems could look like.

Music Televangel800 Star Constellation”

by Sole at January 23, 2020 07:07 AM

Solecast: w/ Dusty Hinz of Experimental Farm Network "Breeding Plant Crops To Survive The 21st Century"

Dusty Hinz is co-founder of the Experimental Farm Network. The Experimental Farm Network is an open sourced social platform that allows for people to develop & breed crops, anything from perennial grains to improved varieties and hybrids of popular plants. They also distribute rare/unique seeds from experimental growers across North America in their store. In this conversation I talk to Dusty about the formation of the network, and his personal thoughts on civilization and global warming. Dusty speaks of this decade as “the collapsing 20s,” and much of what they are breeding / distributing is based around resiliency in the face of climate change. We discuss how we can think about making “back to the land” practices more accessible, creating an “urban to rural pipeline,” and cooperative land trusts. Dusty also talks about the importance of nut trees / agro forestry and what small scale / localized / bioregional post-civilization food systems could look like.

Music Televangel800 Star Constellation”

by james holland at January 23, 2020 07:07 AM


(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire AL #301 - Françafrique: The sinking of Operation Barkhane (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

"Dead for France ?The anti-jihadist struggle in the Sahel is also an opportunity for Paris to support vacillating states that are subservient to France, and to secure the extraction of uranium in Niger. ---- Thirteen French soldiers were killed in the crash of their helicopters during a mission on November 25 in Mali. These deaths have been widely commented on by the media and the political class. Macron paid them national tribute on November 30 ; in the Senate Gérard Larcher praised their " courage " and their " abnegation "; at the National Assembly Richard Ferrand estimated that they had " sacrificed their lives for our fatherland " [1]. Finally, François Bayrou, in a public tribute to Pau, has shelled the names of the 13 victims. " Death for France " chanted the personalities present, after each. Are these 13 men really dead for France ? Can we speak of sacrifice for the fatherland ? The accident took place in the context of Operation Barkhane, the largest external operation ("opex") of the French army, deployed in the Sahel since 2014. This operation to fight jihadism in the eastern zone, at best inefficient, at worst counterproductive. French troops were unable to prevent the jihadists from shutting down thousands of abandoned schools in Mali and Burkina Faso [2]. ...

by A-infos ( at January 23, 2020 05:41 AM

(en) Canada, ucl-saguenay, Collectif Emma Goldman -[Poetry]Patrice Lumumba: Cry, O Black Beloved Brother (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

We share a poem written by Patrice Lumumba, a leading figure in the struggle for independence in the Belgian Congo. He was assassinated on January 17, 1961 by the colonial forces. Down with colonialism and imperialism! Cry, O Black Beloved BrotherO Black, human cattle for millennia Your ashes are scattered to all the winds of the sky And you built formerly the funeral temples Where sleep the executioners of an eternal sleep. Pursued and hunted, driven out of your villages, Defeated in battles where the law of the strongest, In these barbaric centuries of abduction and carnage, meant for you slavery or death, You took refuge in these deep forests. Where the other dead was watching under his feverish mask Under the feline's tooth, or in the filthy And cold embrace of the serpent, crushing you little by little. And then came the White, more devious, more cunning and raptor ...

by A-infos ( at January 23, 2020 05:41 AM

(en) cgt catalunya: Together, let's move on to the offensive (ca, it, pt) [machine translation]

For years , female workers have been earning less each day , with shorter and more insecure contracts that make our lives worse. Many of us find it increasingly difficult to reach the end of the month due to rising food, housing, transportation, university fees, the electricity bill, water, etc. Capitalism is becoming more aggressive every day: Wealth is accumulated by the few, while most condemn us to precariousness. ---- In addition, we live under a state which is becoming more authoritarian - gag law, labor reforms, aliens law, 135, 155, repression of political movements ... - that crushes on fines and convictions for those who raise the see in the face of injustice. For all of this, it is very important that we articulate a defensive response to such aggressions from our workplaces, as this is where we suffer directly from exploitation. Because we know that the struggle for democracy cannot be stopped at the door of workplaces, we put on the table the need for combative unionism to come together , to be a useful tool in the defense of working people. ...

by A-infos ( at January 23, 2020 05:41 AM

(en) Britain, ACG meeting - Never Mind the Ballots, Create the Resistance

These are the notes that formed the basis of a talk I gave to the ACG public meeting on Sunday 19 January. The meeting was introduced by Nick Heath from the ACG and there was also a speaker from Angry Workers Of The World. ---- PREAMBLE ---- I'd like to thank the ACG for inviting me to talk about where we go as a movement in the aftermath of the election. What follows is based on our experience of operating as community activists and also as anarchist propagandists in the south of Essex, with particular reference to our core areas of Thurrock and Basildon. ---- WHAT DID THE ELECTION REALLY TELL US ---- One thing we took away from the election was that more people didn't vote than voted for the ‘winning' Tory party. Almost a third of the electorate were so disillusioned by the election they chose to not exercise their right to vote. In the Thurrock constituency, over 40% of the electorate abstained from voting. This is despite a concerted effort from Labour activists to try and get the vote out for their candidate ...

by A-infos ( at January 23, 2020 05:36 AM

(en) Czech, AFED: Voices of Notara 26 (II.) -- The second in a series of interviews with people who are part of the Athens refugee squad Notara 26. [machine translation]

2. Kargar-e-sorgh ---- I was a political and labor activist in Iran. In Ahvaz, southern Iran, I worked in a large metalworking factory and was active in the workers' movement there. ---- So you were a unionist? ---- No, I wasn't in the unions. All trade unions in Iran are controlled by the regime. We organized spontaneous strikes and demonstrations, we were a bottom movement. The workers in our factory and other factories near Ahvaz were very active. The movement was growing for about four years, and two years ago we had a lot of events and demonstrations. In October 2018, 3000 workers took part in the strike. The strike lasted forty days and was one of the biggest and longest since the revolution. I was part of a coordination group for this strike. I was arrested on October 23. They told me, "We'll let you go on condition that you go back among the workers and tell them to end the strike and agree to the bosses' requests." I agreed and they released me. But then I went to the demonstration and said the exact opposite of what they wanted from me. ...

by A-infos ( at January 23, 2020 05:35 AM

FRN odditites

January 22, 2020

Cob Cottage

Latest News:

Laughing House at Cob Cottage Company

Volunteers Answering your Calls:
Monday/Wednesday/Friday - 10am to 2pm
541-396-1825 ~
PO BOX 942, Coquille, OR 97423

NEXT TOUR DATE:   Our next tour date wil be in early February on a SUnday  (TBA - please call if date is not annouced).  Starting at 2pm with potluck following the tour.    Please Join us for a free tour and potluck.  Meet the staff, see what we have been up to.  See over a dozen cob demonstration buildings and garden walls, huge sustainable garden and new kitty cat!  Call 541-396-1825 to RSVP for a free scheduled tour.  Or if those dates do not work for you, call and ask if you can schedule a private tour for a $100 donation.  And if you want a longer stay - come camp and join in the next workparty just call.  
2020 SCHEDULE COMING SOON!!!!  Thank you for your patience, our 2020 schedule will be posted before January 31th, please check back soon.  While you wait you can book your place in our July Bandon Cob and Natural Building Extravaganza!  Registration for that workshop is now OPEN - and filling fast.  BOOK NOW to and prepay to save your 10%.  Or at least book now to reserve your space, you won't want to miss this most popular of workshops! Email your intent or call Tammy directly at 541-Three47-7801.
WISH LIST - WE ARE IN NEED OF THE USE OF A GAS POWERED UTILITY CART WITH DUMP TRAILER and a spare small car that we can borrow for a few months - PLEASE HELP IF YOU HAVE ONE OR HELP US RENT ONE!!!  We are finishng up our solar system install and trenching and need to get the rocks up.  But because the bridge is impassable to large trucks and heavy loads (UPDATE: BRIDGE IS NOW OUT AND UNUSABLE BY VEHICLES) we must hall the rock in by hand and need to store a car on the other side of the bridge to transport Ianto and supplies up to the trailhead.  If you can help, please Call Linda ASAP at 541-396-1825 we can really use the help!
ECO-LODGING: Air B&B Mud and Meals program (open every Friday through Monday - see schedule by clicking on the menu bar to the left), and Weekends in the Garden with Ianto! (see schedule - starting July they will be held every weekend unless otherwise noted, please call to schedule past July). Please keep posted for workings on Timber Framing, Spoon Carving, Living roofs, work parties and more!  There will be many opportunties for you to come be introduced to Cob and sustainable living at our home complex in Coquille this year!  Don't miss that one!!!  Hope to see you this year!  Best wishes always! CCC

Ten Ways Natural Building can Address Climate Change

In 2009 Ianto was a featured speaker at the Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen.  180 nations were present for a week, discussing ways to slow down global warming.  Here’s the paper Ianto read, with minor updates. 

Amid the distraction of everyday life, the urgent banality of pandemic advertising and the media’s creation of daily “crises” it’s hard to remember that climate change is by far the most urgent agenda for all of us.  And it’s sometimes a surprise to realize that Natural Building is one of the few easy solutions.  Natural Building won’t stop global warming, but it stands a good chance of slowing it down.

In the United States, it’s estimated that half of all energy use goes into buildings, the majority of them houses.  In housing, natural construction can probably save 50-80% of this energy, so in terms of low-hanging fruit, these apples are right there at basket level. 

Natural Building offers a number of strategies and principles that, when applied on a large scale, will drastically reduce the amount of carbon emissions associated with construction, heating, cooling and maintaining houses.  Here are some of them in brief:

1. Use of local materials, minimally processed

The local foods movement is in full tilt.  We’re understanding the implication of buying corporate apples from Chile versus pruning our own apple trees.  As for building materials, what’s the sense in hauling away your local trees to a distant sawmill, then buying back inferior standardized products at half the strength and ten times the price?  Do you really need to bring bricks from giant factories hundreds of miles away when we have earth to build with right here in the backyard?

2. Earth, the main material, is abundant world-wide, long lasting, reusable indefinitely

We know how to use earth to make beautiful strong walls, floors and plasters.  Cob houses in England are still lived in after 800 years.  In the Middle East, there are earthen buildings 3,000 years old.  Most of China’s Great Wall is earthen constructions and is doing well after millennia.

3. With durable construction, no need for early replacement

Wood-frame houses with fiberglass insulation and sheetrock walls typically fall apart in a few decades, then there’s the cost, both budgetary and environmental, of rebuilding or replacing.  Earthen buildings can stand for centuries with hardly any repairs.  If the average wood framed house is in good shape for even 50 years and the cob equivalent for 500, over time the ecological cost of sustainable buildings in only one tenth of the alternative, even assuming no other savings.

4. Build gloves, not boxes.  Smaller buildings have less heat loss, less maintenance, less everything

We don’t clothe ourselves in boxes, why try to live in one?  Wrap the buildings around the use, as knitted socks fit your feet.  A tight fitting building can be much smaller, and a curved (not circular) space feels roughly twice the size of one with square corners and straight walls.  If we could do only one thing to cut global warming it would be to live in smaller homes that fit us better.

5. Observation of nature tells us what will work well

Building that accommodate natural principles will last longer, need less maintenance, create less pollution, and use less energy.  Nature has 10 billion years of slow experimentation to arrive at what works well.  We can learn from her.  For instance, she never repeats anything; if every daisy in the field looks identical, we’re not looking closely enough.  She makes almost nothing square or straight.  Could it be that humans discovered a geometry of frailty?  Also, geological materials outlast biological ones. 

6. As a movement it can model non-consumer satisfaction, by making not buying

Building your own shelter effects a paradigm shift for almost anyone.  The awareness and self-confidence it creates overflows into other parts of our lives such as what food we eat how we spend our time.  We’ll now enjoy other home-based activities – playing games with the family, making clothes instead of buying them, perhaps even starting a home business.  No more commuting means one less car.

7. Management by personal skills and observation, not by automation

Living in a natural house implies being engaged in its management, deciding when to open the curtains, let in fresh air, or make more heat by burning wood we cut, split and stacked ourselves.  We get basic satisfaction from these primary atavisms, involving us daily in Nature’s cycles.  Re-focusing our attention at home has many side-benefits, from strengthening family relationships to decreased consumption.

8. Natural Building builds a network of resistance to compulsory consumption

As corporations gain more control of our lives, restrictive laws force us to consume more, over our own reluctance.  Building regulations ensure that legal construction is overbuilt and very expensive.  Well-intentioned consumers get trapped in a maze of insurance, taxes and fear of prosecution.  Almost by definition, consumers are isolated.  Yet because Natural Building is a social activity, it quickly creates networks of like-minded independents who gain self-confidence by being part of the movement.  By sharing stories and strategies, we understand our rights and options better.  Together we can stand up to societal manipulation. 

9. Older industrial societies model the advantages of traditional building

China just gained the distinction of being the world’s biggest polluter, as a fifth of the world’s people fight to own a personal car, to eat meat daily and to buy plastic throw-away junk.  Most of the world now aspires to a big concrete house with a giant TV.  Who taught them?  For decades, though media and international “aid” Americans have projected the American Dream as the only worthwhile goal.  Even if some of them hate us, many of the world’s people still look to the US for models of how to house themselves.  But 8 billion people living in US-sized houses will commit us all to starvation.  It’s time to model high-profile ecological buildings that work better and cost less than the industrial throwaways.  We already have their attention so now let’s project a sustainable, joyful model for the rest of the world to emulate.

10. Natural Building attracts attention because it is a public performance

This field has been shown to grow exponentially, autonomously and democratically.  Almost anybody building with earth attracts helpers.  People just passing by join in because it looks like fun.  From small beginnings only 20 years ago, it has now become a worldwide movement.  Reasons for its success?  The techniques are simple; in a couple of weeks you can learn to build your own home.  Then you can teach that to other people and they can teach others.  Also, natural builders are manifestly having fun.  They’re inspired partly by the cooperative, friendly, humorous approach.  The most unlikely people become aficionados at their first exposure, bubbling with excitement.  But who ever feel in love with concrete blocks?

By 2009, the industrial building industry was at a standstill.  Stories abound of unemployment, bankruptcies and withered hopes.  By contrast, natural builders have been fully employed, the whole time.  There’s a backlog of work for skilled natural builders.  Here’s a window of hope: the construction industry is desperately looking for ways to stay in business.  Maybe we have a key.  Is it time to let the secret out?

by cobcottage at January 22, 2020 11:26 PM

Climate change – Some critical thoughts on common misconceptions in times of destruction and change…

Originally published by Revolte – Anarchistische Zeitung, Vienna, Juli 2019, Nr. 43, Page 1-2 . Translated by Enough 14.

Table of Contents

A concern of ‘each and every one’

Green capitalism

Forecasts and the misery of the political world

Smart cities

In the past weeks we could experience relatively high temperatures again. So one heat record year beats the next. British climate researchers recently presented a model to calculate the temperature rise in the metropolises until 2050. Vienna is one of the cities most affected, with a temperature rise of 7.6 degrees Celsius compared to 1850, the year that is more or less considered the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

The consequences of global warming are melting of sea ice and glaciers, sea level rise, thawing of permafrost soils (which will release even more CO2), growing drought zones and desertification, increasing weather extremes, extinction of species, etc.

In addition, there would be further social, political and economic aggravations. Like famines and water shortages, deaths and illnesses caused by the enormous heat and epidemics, wars over dwindling resources and usable territories and a global migration movement. Just to name a few.

To pick out just one aspect here: If we remember how the political classes and European politicians reacted to the so-called “refugee crisis” in 2015. When we saw how borders were militarized, plans of action developed and powers for the military and police expanded. Not to mention the agitation of the mass media and the general racism, nationalism and panic that has been fostered by politicians, media and other opinion makers. And this was about a more or less still calculable number of people, in relation to what will happen if more and more parts of the earth become uninhabitable. Depending on how fast and drastically these developments will take place, we are talking about the largest migration movement in the history of the human race!

The fascists and conservatives have already spoken of mass migration in 2015/2016 in order to propagate their policy of isolation. Concepts such as the “great exchange” have come up since then and various horror scenarios have been fantasized in order to achieve a racist and nationalist mobilization. Thus it is not foreseeable what reactions a migration movement of several 100 million people would trigger.

A concern of ‘each and every one’

The ‘Point of no Return’ is crossed! Climate change is a reality, the changes are already happening, they can be felt. And these developments cannot be stopped by individual waste separation, energy saving, veganism, etc. Many appeals are directed at consumer behaviour. So the problem is made an individual problem of each of us. You can do something about it yourself’, ’10 things you can do to stop climate change’.

They’re supposed to tell us: We humans are all in the same boat. We are all responsible for this. So change your lifestyle… Repent and become better people!

This equates the responsibility of business, industry and the political sector with the responsibility of all of us. Every question of class and ownership is thus eliminated. But are we really all responsible to the same extent as those who actively earn money from the fact that our whole world is going down the drain? I don’t think so!

But of course, here too it is the privilege of those who have enough money to live a climate-friendly life. So once again, wealth can be used to buy a white or green vest. And those who can’t afford it are the assholes who destroy our environment because they don’t have the money to pay for this green lifestyle.

We practice a substitute behaviour that serves only to put moral justifications for our existence in our hands, so that we are convinced that we are “doing the right thing”. The wrong proposals are booming again. Because they are lurking in every corner! So that we don’t ask for the wrong things and perhaps end up on the wrong track. Ignoring industry and separating the issue of climate change from the issue of capitalism, exploitation and authority is at the heart of this problem. So a large part of these arguments is reduced to the demand for a green/ecological capitalism, best flanked by bans, laws and certain regulations for our lives!

Green capitalism

For most critics of the exploitation of the earth and the waste of resources, it is not about questioning the capitalist system. Although on closer examination it should be clear that since industrialization, which gave the capitalist system a vital boost in the 18th and 19th centuries, there has been a steady increase in the use and exploitation of raw materials.

If we want to do something against the exploitation of the earth, we must attack the capitalist modes of production, the dictatorship of the markets, labor, the state that protects and legalizes this exploitation, the political system and technologization.

The problem is that we are sometimes very alone with this opinion. Most people have realized that something is happening, that the world is going to develop in a dangerous direction. That’s why many people are taking to the streets to convince business and politics that it’s time for an ‘energy transition’. But not for a fundamental change of social conditions and the economy. Of course it would be nice if there was less racism and sexism and if there were fairer working conditions. But basically everything should remain largely the same: Our comforts, consumption, technological gadgets that are supposed to simplify our lives but make us more and more dependent and actually control and re-educate us, the political spectacle, and so on and so forth. This is how green capitalism is being propagated. Because, as many of the so-called ‘Fridays for Future’ protests have already spoken out, but also others who advocate measures against climate change: the fight against climate change is not a fight against capitalism!

Without addressing capitalist misery, the struggle against the exploitation of the earth and in this context the so-called ‘fight against climate change’ makes no sense. Rather, it remains a reformist plea to politicians, ignoring the causes of global warming and the destruction of our habitats in favour of preserving the prevailing conditions of exploitation and profit, in order to bring them closer to ecological standards. Which is an absolute absurdity!

Forecasts and the misery of the political world

So I ask myself whether there is any possibility at all to reduce the climatic changes within the capitalist order to a tolerable level. And another question is: What is this tolerable level?

If we take a closer look at the facts that we have been able to access so far, it quickly becomes clear that this is the most complex problem mankind has ever faced. Countless factors that need to be taken into account and that influence each other and often in the opposite direction.

Opinions differ considerably as to what we will be facing in the year 2100, or whether these developments will occur much earlier! On the one hand, there is the warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, which would save us from serious consequences for the time being. This figure is central to the demands of many climate activists. This would mean that CO² emissions would have to be reduced by 45% in the next 10 years, with the aim of reducing them to zero by 2050. CO² emissions would have to be reduced by 100% within the next 30 years!

In view of the fact that this goal actually cannot be achieved, many expect a much higher temperature increase in the coming decades. They are talking about 2 degrees, 4 degrees, 6 degrees, 8 degrees. Where 8 degrees would mean the destruction of large parts of the Earth and most of the human race. And since very little has happened in the last 40 years, given the fact that climate warming is known since the end of the 1970s (the first research results pointing to it date back to the 19th century, but since 1979 politicians and industry have been confronted with the facts), it is questionable whether there will be a ‘turnaround’ in the next decades and whether industry will voluntarily abandon the use of fossil fuels.

Furthermore, I consider the objective of demanding an ecological change of course from politicians and industry to be a dangerous undertaking. Not only because I do not think that the profiteers of this system would be persuaded to do anything that is not in their interests, but also because how a political implementation in the form of laws and coercion could look like.

Smart cities

Another aspect I would like to address here is the instrumentalisation of climate change for various technological developments. One concept is that of so-called smart cities (SmartCity) and city districts.

In cooperation with others, the City of Vienna recently published a brochure: “Smart Simpel. Our way into the future simply explained.” In this paper, Mayor Ludwig explains: “Climate change is probably the most urgent issue here. If we want our children to live comfortably in Vienna, we have to deal with our resources much more responsibly than we thought just a few years ago. But also economic development, new technologies such as digitalization or living together in the city – these are all issues that interlock and constantly require new solutions. So the motto is: ‘Be smart!'”

So we have to “be smart” to survive climate change. Among other things, the brochure talks about e-cargo bicycles, e-car sharing, creativity in public spaces and alternative energy production. But what is not mentioned is control, data collection and monitoring. It does not say that our whole environment will be equipped with ‘smart devices’. Because this is an important part of the Smart City, that it will be digitally networked and thus more easily monitored and guarded by the ruling classes, the political system, the economy, the energy companies, etc.

At this point I find it interesting that Mr. Ludwig is tearing up his shitty face as a climate protector, while his city government has approved the construction of the Lobau motorway. A mega-project that plans to build a motorway tunnel under the Lobau nature reserve. And thus to create a traffic connection for transit traffic and at the same time to open up new territories for economic purposes. What a fucking mockery!

We think that in the future we will encounter many more projects that are to be implemented in the name of the climate, but are only good for one thing: To be able to govern us all more effectively!

What the future will look like. We do not want to speculate on how climate change will actually affect us all. But the predictions and calculations available to us do not suggest anything good. In any case, we will have to adapt not only to other climatic conditions, but also to other political, economic and social conditions!

In order to withstand the destruction of the earth, the balance of power would have to be fundamentally changed respectively eliminated. The current protests would have to be lifted to a completely different level of confrontation. The economy would have to be painfully slowed down with much more direct attacks and sabotage in order to achieve certain partial objectives. The rulers will always seek dialogue with the protests. It offers some figureheads a stage to voice their concerns. But only as long as everything proceeds peacefully and modest demands are made. But this will not change anything fundamental. The rule cannot be softened by fine words!

For the destruction of industry, work and exploitation! For sabotage and direct attack!

by admin at January 22, 2020 09:17 PM


Contra todas las guerras, contra todos los gobiernos : Comprendiendo la guerra Estados Unidos-Irán

Luego del ataque aéreo de Estados Unidos que mató al general iraní Qasem Soleimani el 3 de enero, y de los ataques con misiles iraníes contra posiciones estadounidenses en Irak el 7 de enero, ha habido considerable ansiedad sobre la escalada de la guerra entre Estados Unidos e Irán. En un ecosistema de medios impulsado principalmente por el miedo y la indignación, las malas noticias viajan rápido, y las peores interpretaciones de las noticias viajan aun más rápido. Por nuestra parte, creemos que la guerra se intensificará, pero adoptando una forma más difusa que el tipo de guerra convencional que la mayoría de la gente espera. Como enemigos declarados de la guerra y la tiranía, creemos que es importante formular estrategias en consecuencia a ello.

Luego de los ataques con misiles, el gobierno iraquí anunció que el ejército iraní había disparado 22 misiles, y que 17 de ellos atacaron la base aérea estadounidense de Al-Asad, 15 de los cuales detonaron (aunque sin víctimas). En una declaración posterior, el gobierno iraquí declaró que los funcionarios iraníes les habían advertido de los ataques por adelantado. De ser aquello cierto, parece probable que el gobierno iraní estuviera evitando intencionalmente matar tropas estadounidenses pero demostrando que es capaz de atacar objetivos estadounidenses. Esta es una manera en que el gobierno iraní puede salvar las apariencias y aplacar a los intransigentes, dejando a Estados Unidos la opción de no escalar la situación.

La respuesta real al asesinato de Soleimani por parte de Estados Unidos probablemente tendrá lugar fuera del teatro oficial de guerra, en la forma de violencia subsidiaria y ataques terroristas. Irán respalda a fuerzas en todo el Medio Oriente, especialmente en Irak y el Líbano, donde su representante Hezbolá podría decirse que es más poderoso que el gobierno oficial. Iraq y Siria ya han sido testigos de muchos años de violencia; ahora parece inevitable que toda la extensión de territorio desde el Mar Caspio hasta el Mediterráneo se vea afectada por la guerra civil en los años venideros. El Estado Islámico, que perdió el último de sus territorios hace menos de un año, será sucedido por otros grupos que han aprendido de su rápido ascenso y caída.

De modo que, independientemente de que la escalada de los EE.UU con  Irán desencadene un conflicto terrestre o propicie una ocupación, representa otro paso hacia una política exterior de los EE.UU. que presupone y apresura un futuro de guerra civil mundial. Como oponentes tanto de la guerra como de la tiranía, tenemos que analizar lo que los autoritarios de todas las tendencias pueden ganar con este enfoque.

Primero, vale la pena repetir que la escalada del conflicto de Estados Unidos con Irán confirma nuestra tesis de que cuando Donald Trump alentó al presidente turco Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a invadir Siria, no fue un paso hacia el retiro de Estados Unidos de la región, sino simplemente una reorganización de las alianzas de Estados Unidos en el Medio Oriente hacia actores más autoritarios. Estados Unidos ya había enviado 14.000 tropas más a la región antes de darle a Erdoğan la luz verde; desde entonces, miles de tropas más los han seguido. Los supuestos “antiimperialistas”, que repitieron la mentira de Trump de que estaba sacando a Estados Unidos de “guerras interminables”, ingenuamente le dieron cobertura a sus esfuerzos por instigar las ambiciones imperiales turca y rusa, mientras sentaban las bases para que él intensificara el conflicto con Irán.

A pesar del temor generalizado de los demócratas de que Trump esté tratando de iniciar una guerra para distraer de los (estancados) procedimientos de impeachment o manipular al público (ya polarizado) de cara a las elecciones, parece claro que Trump no está buscando una guerra convencional con Irán. Quiere lanzar el peso militar a los EE.UU sin verse involucrado en operaciones terrestres. Siguiendo el ejemplo de Israel, espera poder ordenar ataques aéreos quirúrgicos contra adversarios extranjeros de alto rango sin tener que hacer ocupación de otro país; de esa manera, puede obtener crédito de su base islamofóbica por ser duro, mientras perpetúa el engaño fino de que está “sacando a Estados Unidos de guerras interminables”.

La verdad es que la guerra del siglo XXI va a ser diferente de la invasión y ocupación de Irak en 2003. El conflicto en Siria nos da una idea de lo que podemos esperar: una guerra civil que duró años y que involucró a apoderados que representaban a la mayoría de los actores de poder globales, en la que las distinciones entre civiles y militares se difuminaron en todos los lados. Probablemente veremos más casos en los que la violencia oficial del Estado es performativa, como los ataques con misiles iraníes de ayer, mientras que la verdadera lucha y muerte la realizan representantes de poderes, fuerzas paramilitares y civiles.

Las principales víctimas de la escalada de Trump serán civiles, tanto ciudadanos estadounidenses como también iraníes e iraquíes. Sin embargo, parece claro que a Trump no le preocupa la probabilidad de que los civiles estadounidenses sean blanco de ataques como consecuencia de su decisión. Por el contrario, puede que incluso agradezca esos ataques, contando con que conduzcan a los estadounidenses más temerosos e ignorantes hacia su bando.

Desde el 2001, el Partido Republicano de Estados Unidos solo se ha beneficiado de las políticas que han polarizado poblaciones completas, resultando en el surgimiento de ISIS, ataques terroristas, y muertes de civiles por cientes de miles. Ellos cuentan con la amenaza del fundamentalismo islámico para hacer ver a su fundamentalismo autoritario más atractivo. Esto da otra interpretación del tweet de Trump declarando “¡Todo está bien! Y “Hasta aquí todo bien”, inmediatamente luego del ataque de misiles iraní. 

No hay fuerza bruta capaz de mantener unido el orden neoliberal, y Trump no está tratando de mantenerlo unido. Más bien, él y sus compatriotas nacionalistas buscan asegurar que los conflictos que suceden al orden neoliberal se desarrollen según líneas étnicas y nacionales, en lugar de unir a todos contra la clase gobernante que representa. Caso concreto: el gobierno iraní, amenazado por disturbios masivos hace apenas dos meses, ahora puede usar la escalada del conflicto con Estados Unidos para legitimar su autoridad interna.

En respuesta a las maquinaciones de los gobiernos iraní y estadounidense, nuestro objetivo es identificar y resistir todos los esfuerzos por enfrentarnos entre nosotros. Nuestro objetivo es construir solidaridad que cruce las líneas nacionales, étnicas y religiosas, mientras hacemos todo lo que podemos para derrocar gobiernos autoritarios de DC a Teherán. Nuestra esperanza es que los movimientos revolucionarios estallen a ambos lados de cada frontera. Las escaladas en la violencia del estatal se calculan para hacer esto imposible, para sustituir la guerra por la revolución. En un mundo que se dirige a guerras cada vez más difusas, impulsado por caudillos nacionalistas, nuestra mejor oportunidad de supervivencia es construir vínculos entre movimientos sociales combativos como los de Líbano, Egipto e Irán (y no hace mucho incluso en Rusia y Turquía) y, con suerte, pronto en Estados Unidos como también en Hong Kong y Chile. Luchemos contra los que nos harían morir en su nombre, no entre nosotros.

Esto contrasta marcadamente con la estrategia que implica el enfoque de ciertos izquierdistas autoritarios en Estados Unidos, que siempre buscan una autoridad que afirmar, se han decidido a legitimar al gobierno iraní. Seamos claros: hacerlo es escupir las tumbas de las 1500 personas que el gobierno iraní mató para acabar con el reciente levantamiento. Es legitimar todas las prisiones y la policía en Irán y todas las formas de tiranía contra las que el pueblo iraní se levantó. No tenemos que afirmar la legitimidad de las autoridades iraníes para condenar a Trump por intentar convencerlos de que nos ataquen. Si hay aliados naturales para nosotros en esta situación, deberían ser los que resistan la autoridad del gobierno iraní de la misma manera que nos oponemos a la autoridad de Trump.

Por nuestra parte, nuestra red incluye a refugiados que fueron obligados a huir del gobierno autoritario de Irán. No podemos apoyar “el menor de dos males”, ni podemos aceptar el tipo de razonamiento binario que sugiere cualquiera al que el gobierno de Estados Unidos se oponga debe ser, por lo tanto, un gobierno bueno y legítimo. Apoyamos a aquellos en Medio Oriente que han declarado que:

la oposición a los ataques aéreos del imperialismo estadounidense y a las amenazas de guerra contra Irán e Irak sólo pueden ser efectivas cuando están enraizadas en solidaridad con las fuerzas progresistas y revolucionarias en la región de Medio Oriente y el norte de África y en total oposición a todos los gobiernos autoritarios y potencias imperialistas en la región.

Nos gustaría ver a otros en Estados Unidos poner más empeño en aprender sobre los movimientos de resistencia antiautoritaria en Irán y otras partes del Medio Oriente, y menos energía en tratar de rehabilitar a Soleimani como un héroe “antiimperialista”. Los dos bandos que quieren forzar la falsa dicotomía de “Trump o Irán” sobre nosotros son simétricos en el sentido de que cuentan con la amenaza representada por la alternativa para obligarnos a ponernos del lado de ellos. Tenemos que hacer que otra opción sea pensable: un camino compartido hacia la libertad.

Es por ello que estamos en contra de todas las guerras, contra de todos los gobiernos, contra todas las opresiones. Creemos apasionadamente en el potencial de que todos los seres humanos tienen a la autodeterminación, al apoyo mutuo y a la coexistencia pacífica. Las autoridades a ambos lados quieren hacernos temer los unos a los otros, pero sabemos que ellos son nuestro enemigo principal.

“El mundo no está dividido entre países. El mundo no está dividido entre Oriente y Occidente. Tu eres estadounidense, yo soy iraní,  no nos conocemos, pero hablamos juntos y nos entendemos perfectamente. La diferencia entre tú y tu gobierno es mucho más grande que entre tú y yo. Y la diferencia entre yo y mi gobierno es mucho más grande que entre yo y tú. Y nuestros gobiernos son muy parecidos.”

Marjane Satrapi

January 22, 2020 08:35 PM

ضد جميع الحروب، ضد جميع الحكومات : فهم الحرب بين الولايات المتحدة وإيران.

على إثر الغارة الأمريكية التي استهدفت الجنرال الإيراني قاسم سليماني في الثالث من كانون الثاني/يناير، والصواريخ الإيرانية التي استهدفت مواقع عسكرية أمريكية في العراق في السابع من كانون الثاني/يناير، فإن هناك قلق متزايد حول احتمال اندلاع حرب بين الولايات المتحدة وإيران. إن الأخبار السيئة تنتقل بسرعة في خضم هذه البيئة الإعلامية التي يسود فيها الخوف والغضب، وأسوأ تأويلات الأخبار تنتشر بشكل أسرع من البقية. من جهتنا فإننا نتوقع أن الحرب ستندلع ولكنها ستأخذ منحى مختلف عن الحرب التقليدية التي يتوقعها الناس، ونحن بصفتنا أعداء أزليين للحرب والطغيان، فإننا نؤمن بأهمية وضع استراتيجيات تترجم رؤيتنا.

الرجاء توزيع وطباعة هذا البوستر على أوسع نطاق

على إثر الغارات الصاروخية، فإن الحكومة العراقية أعلنت أن الجيش الإيراني أطلق 22 صاروخا، وأن 17 منها أصاب قاعدة عين الأسد انفجر منها 15 دون وقوع أي إصابات، حيث صرحت الحكومة العراقية بأن المسؤولين الإيرانيين قاموا بإبلاغهم عن الهجوم قبل وقوعه. إذا كان هذا صحيحا، فمن المرجح إذن أن الحكومة الإيرانية تعمدت تجنب استهداف عناصر الجيش الأمريكي، وأرادت في ذات الوقت إظهار أنها قادرة على ضرب أهداف أمريكية، وهكذا تتمكن الحكومة الإيرانية من حفظ ماء وجهها وإرضاء التيار المتشدد فيها مع إبقاء خيار عدم التصعيد متاحا أمام الولايات المتحدة.

إن الرد الحقيقي على اغتيال الولايات المتحدة لقاسم سليماني غالبا سوف يكون خارج إطار الحرب التقليدية، وذلك عبر الحرب بالوكالة والهجمات الإرهابية، حيث أن إيران تدعم عدة ميليشيات في المنطقة، وبالأخص في العراق حيث تنشط ميليشيا الحشد الشعبي، ولبنان حيث تنشط ميليشيا حزب الله والتي تعد أكثر قوة ونفوذا من الحكومة اللبنانية الرسمية. لقد شهدت العراق وسوريا بالفعل سنين عديدة من العنف، والآن يبدو أن المنطقة الممتدة من بحر قزوين وحتى البحر المتوسط ستظل ممزقة بفعل الحروب الأهلية لسنوات عديدة مقبلة. إن تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية- والذي خسر آخر معاقله قبل أقل من عام- سيحل محله تنظيمات أخرى مستفيدة من تجربة صعوده وسقوطه.

لذلك وبغض النظر عن كون التصعيد الأمريكي مع إيران سوف يؤدي إلى صراع بري على الأرض أو إلى احتلال، فإنه يمثل خطوة أخرى اتجاه سياسة خارجية أمريكية تفترض وتحضر لمستقبل من الحروب الأهلية العالمية، ونحن كمناهضين للحرب وللطغيان فإن علينا تحليل وفهم ما يريد السلطويون من كافة الأطياف أن يكسبوه من جراء هذا الأسلوب.

من المهم بداية أن نشدد على أن التصعيد الأمريكي للصراع مع إيران يؤكد نظريتنا بأن دونالد ترامب قام بتشجيع الرئيس التركي رجب طيب أردوغان على غزو سوريا، فهذه لم تكن خطوة نحو الانسحاب الأمريكي من المنطقة بل مجرد إعادة خلط لأوراق التحالفات الأمريكية في المنطقة في اتجاه أطراف أكثر سلطوية، حيث قامت للولايات المتحدة بالفعل بإرسال 14000 جنديا إضافيا إلى المنطقة قبل إعطاء الضوء الأخضر لأردوغان، والآلاف من الجنود الإضافيين قد تم إرسالهم كذلك بعيد ذلك. إن “مناهضي الإمبريالية” المزعومين الذين رددوا كالببغوات كذبة ترامب بأنه قام بسحب القوات الأمريكية من دوامة “الحروب التي لا تنتهي”، قاموا بالمداراة بسذاجة على جهود ترامب في دعم الطموحات الإمبريالية الروسية والتركية وذلك لإخلاء الساحة له لتصعيد الصراع مع إيران.

بالرغم من المخاوف المنتشرة عند أعضاء الحزب الديمقراطي الأمريكي بأن ترامب يحاول إشعال فتيل حرب لإشغال الرأي العام عن إجراءات عزله (التي وصلت إلى طريق مسدود)، أو إلى التلاعب بالرأي العام -الذي يعاني من الاستقطاب بالفعل- قبيل الانتخابات، فإنه من الواضح أن ترامب لا يسعى إلى الدخول في حرب تقليدية مع إيران، بل هو يرغب في استخدام القوة العسكرية الأمريكية كأداة دون شن عمليات عسكرية برية مستفيدا من المثال الإسرائيلي في المنطقة ، حيث يأمل ترامب أن يكون قادرا على إصدار الأوامر بشن غارات جوية عالية الدقة تستهدف شخصيات أجنبية معادية ذات مناصب كبيرة بدون الحاجة إلى احتلال بلد آخر، وبهذه الطريقة فإنه يستطيع الاستفادة من قاعدته الجماهيرية المناهضة للإسلام لتبرير ذلك، مع الحفاظ على الكذبة الواهية بأنه يقوم ب”إخراج الولايات المتحدة من دوامة الحروب التي لا تنتهي”. باختصار، فإنه يريد التصعيد دون أن يتورط.

إن حروب القرن الحادي والعشرين ستبدو مختلفة عن غزو واحتلال العراق عام 2003، والصراع الدائر في سوريا يعطينا فكرة عما يمكن أن نتوقعه: حرب أهلية تمتد لسنين تشارك فيها قوى عالمية بالوكالة عبر أذرعها الداخلية، ويغيب فيها التمييز بين المدنيين والعسكريين عند جميع الأطراف المتصارعة. قد نشهد غالبا مزيدا من العمليات العسكرية الرسمية التي تنفذها الدول مثل الضربة الصاروخية الإيرانية، ولكن القتال الفعلي سوف يكون بالوكالة على عاتق الميليشيا غير النظامية والمدنيين. و أبرز مثال على ذلك هو إسقاط الطائرة الأوكرانية مباشرة بعد الضربة الصاروخية، مما تسبب في مقتل العديد من الأوكرانيين والكنديين بالإضافة إلى الإيرانيين، كما يشكل استهداف المنطقة الخضراء في بغداد بصاروخين بعيد تصريحات ترامب بأنه لن يرد على الضربة الإيرانية دليلا إضافيا على ذلك.

إذن فإن الضحايا الرئيسيين لتصعيد ترامب سوف يكونون من المدنيين، غالبا من الأمريكيين والعراقيين والإيرانيين، وبالرغم من ذلك فإن ترامب يبدو غير مكترث باحتمالية أن المواطنين الأمريكيين قد يصبحون مستهدفين كنتيجة لقراره باستهداف سليماني. على العكس من ذلك، فمن المحتمل أن يرحب بترامب بهجمات تستهدف المواطنين الأمريكيين وذلك لأنه يعول على مثل هذه الهجمات لجذب المزيد من المواطنين الأمريكيين لتأييده تحت غطاء الخوف والجهل.

منذ عام 2001 فإن الحزب الجمهوري الأمريكي يقوم باستغلال سياسات الاستقطاب لشعوب بأكملها، مما أدى إلى صعود تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية، والهجمات الإرهابية، بالإضافة إلى مئات الآلاف من الضحايا المدنيين، حيث أن سياسات الجمهوريين تعتمد على الأصولية الإسلامية لجعل أصوليتهم تبدو جذابة ولها شرعية، وهذا يجعلنا نقرأ تغريدة ترامب من زاوية أخرى عندما يقول “ كل شيء على ما يرام !” و” كل شيئ جيد حتى الآن” بعيد الضربة الصاروخية الإيرانية.

لا توجد أي قوة غاشمة بإمكانها الحفاظ على النظام النيوليبرالي العالمي، وترامب لا يسعى في الأساس إلى الحفاظ عليه، بل هو يسعى - رفقة القوميين الذين على شاكلته- إلى ضمان أن الصراعات التي ستحل محل النظام النيوليبرالي سوف تنشب على جبهات قومية ووطنية بدلا من توحيد كل الناس ضد الطبقة الحاكمة والتي هو يمثلها. بالإضافة إلى ذلك، فإن الحكومة الإيرانية تستطيع الآن الاستفادة من التصعيد الأمريكي لإضفاء الشرعية على سلطتها محليا في وجه الاحتجاجات الواسعة التي تشهدها منذ شهرين.

وكرد على المكائد التي تحكيها حكومتا الولايات المتحدة وإيران، فإننا نهدف إلى كشف ومقاومة كل محاولات تحريضنا على بعضنا البعض. إننا نهدف إلى ترسيخ التضامن بين جميع القوميات والأعراق والأديان وعمل مافي وسعنا لإسقاط جميع الحكومات السلطوية من واشنطن وحتى طهران، حيث أننا نأمل أن الحركات الثورية سوف تندلع في جميع البلدان، وفي المقابل فإن الحكومات ستصعد من عنفها لقمع هذه الحركات وجعلها مستحيلة الانتشار عبر تحويل الثورات إلى حروب أهلية. في عالم يتجه نحو المزيد من انتشار الحروب التي يقودها القادة القوميون، فإن أفضل فرصنا للنجاة تكمن في بناء روابط بين الحركات الاجتماعية المكافحة مثل التي تنشط في لبنان، ومصر،، إيران ، و هونغ كونغ، وتشيلي وقبل فترة ليست بالطويلة في روسيا وتركيا، ونأمل قريبا أن يشمل هذا الولايات المتحدة كذلك. فلنقاتل هؤلاء الذين يريدوننا أن نموت من أجلهم بدلا من أن نقاتل بعضنا البعض.

إن هذا يتناقض بشكل صارخ مع الاستراتيجية المتبعة من قبل بعض اليساريين السلطويين في الولايات المتحدة، والذين دائما ما يبحثون عن سلطة معينة ليقوموا بدعمها، فنجدهم يضفون الشرعية على الحكومة الإيرانية. لنكن نحن واضحين: إن إضفاء الشرعية على الحكومة الإيرانية لهو بمثابة توجيه إهانة لدماء 1500 شخص سقطوا بنيران الحكومة الإيرانية أثناء الاحتجاجات الأخيرة. إن هذه الخطوة لبمثابة إضفاء شرعية على كل السجون وقوى الشرطة وكل أشكال الطغيان التي ثار ضدها الشعب الإيراني. لا يتوجب علينا منح الشرعية للحكومة الإيرانية لندين محاولات ترامب لاستدراجهم كي يستهدفوا الولايات المتحدة. إذا كان هناك أي حلفاء طبيعيون لنا في هذا السياق فهم سيكونون المعادين لسلطة الحكومة الإيرانية كما نعادي نحن سلطة ترامب بالضبط.

من جهتنا فإن شبكتنا تضم لاجئين أجبروا على الفرار من قمع الحكومة الإيرانية، فنحن لا نستطيع دعم “الأقل شرا بين خيارين”، ولا يمكننا كذلك القبول بهذا التفكير الثنائي الذي يقول بأن أي طرف تعاديه حكومة الولايات المتحدة لا بد أن يكون طرفا جيدا ويتمتع بالشرعية، ونحن في ذلك ندعم موقف “تحالف الاشتراكيين/ات في الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا” الذين صرحوا بأن

“معارضة الإمبريالية الأمريكية متمثلة بالغارات الجوية والتهديدات بالحرب ضد إيران والعراق يمكن فقط أن تكون فعالة عندما تكون متمثلة بالتضامن مع القوى التقدمية والثورية في منطقة الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا، مع معارضة تامة لكل الحكومات السلطوية والقوى الإمبريالية في المنطقة”.

إننا نرغب في رؤية التقدميين في منطقة الشرق الأوسط وحول العالم يقومون ببذل جهد مضاعف لمعرفة المزيد عن نشاطات الحركة المناهضة للسلطوية في إيران وفي مناطق أخرى في الشرق الأوسط ، بدلا من نعت قاسم سليماني على أنه “بطل معاد للإمبريالية”. إن كلا الطرفين الذين يرغبان في فرض ثنائية “ترامب أو إيران” علينا هما متماثلان من ناحية أنهما يعتمدان على التهديد الذي يمثله الطرف الآخر كي يجبرانا على الانضمام لهما، إلا أنه يتعين علينا التفكير في خيار آخر، ألا وهو طريقنا المشترك نحو الحرية.

لهذا يتعين علينا أن نكون ضد جميع الحروب، وضد جميع الحكومات، وضد جميع أشكال القمع، فنحن نؤمن بقوة بأن جميعنا كبشر نتمتع بالقدرة على تقرير المصير، والمساعدة المتبادلة، والتعايش السلمي. فالحكومات في أوقات الصراع تريدنا أن نخاف من بعضنا البعض لكننا نعرف دائما من هو عدونا الحقيقي.

“إن العالم ليس منقسما إلى دول. إن العالم ليس منقسما إلى شرق وغرب. أنت أمريكي، أنا إيرانية، نحن لا نعرف بعضنا البعض، ولكن عندما نتحدث مع بعضنا فنحن نفهم بعضنا بشكل ممتاز. إن الفرق بين حكومتي وحكومتك هو أكبر بكثير من الفرق بيني وبينك، وحكومتانا متشابهتان كثيرا في الأساس”.

مرجان ساترابي.

January 22, 2020 08:35 PM

Contra Todas as Guerras, Contra Todos os Governos : Compreendendo a Guerra Entre Estados Unidos e Irã

Após o ataque aéreo dos EUA que matou o general iraniano Qasem Soleimani em 3 de janeiro e os ataques com mísseis iranianos às posições dos EUA no Iraque em 7 de janeiro, houve uma considerável tensão sobre a escalada da guerra entre os Estados Unidos e Irã. Em um ecossistema midiático impulsionado principalmente pelo medo e pela indignação, as más notícias viajam rápido e as piores interpretações das notícias viajam ainda mais rápido. De nossa parte, acreditamos que a guerra se intensificará, mas adotando uma forma mais difusa do que o tipo de guerra convencional que a maioria das pessoas espera. Como inimigos declarados da guerra e da tirania, acreditamos que é importante formular estratégias à altura do momento.

Após os ataques com mísseis, o governo iraquiano anunciou que o exército iraniano havia disparado 22 mísseis e 17 deles atacaram a base aérea dos EUA em Al-Asad, 15 dos quais detonaram (ainda que sem vítimas reportadas). Em seguida, em uma declaração, o governo iraquiano afirmou que as autoridades iranianas os haviam avisado dos ataques com antecedência. Se isso for verdade, parece provável que o governo iraniano estivesse evitando intencionalmente matar tropas americanas, mas demonstrando que é capaz de atacar alvos americanos. Essa é uma maneira pela qual o governo iraniano pode salvar as aparências e aplacar os intransigentes, deixando aos Estados Unidos a opção de não escalar a situação.

A resposta real ao assassinato de Soleimani pelos Estados Unidos provavelmente ocorrerá fora do teatro oficial de guerra, na forma de violência promovida por aliados (proxys) e ataques terroristas. O Irã apóia forças em todo o Oriente Médio, especialmente no Iraque e no Líbano, onde seu aliado Hezbollah pode ser considerado mais poderoso que o governo oficial. O Iraque e a Síria já testemunharam muitos anos de violência. Agora parece inevitável que toda a extensão do território do Mar Cáspio ao Mediterrâneo seja afetada pela guerra civil nos próximos anos. O Estado Islâmico, que perdeu o último de seus territórios há menos de um ano, será sucedido por outros grupos que aprenderam com sua rápida ascensão e queda.

Portanto, independentemente de a escalada dos EUA com o Irã desencadear um conflito terrestre ou causar uma ocupação, ela representa mais um passo em direção à política externa dos EUA, que pressupõe e apressa um futuro da guerra civil mundial. Como oponentes da guerra e da tirania, temos que analisar o que os autoritários de todas as tendências podem ganhar com essa abordagem.

Primeiro, vale à pena repetir que a escalada do conflito dos EUA com o Irã confirma nossa tese de que, quando Donald Trump incentivou o presidente turco Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a invadir a Síria, não foi um passo em direção à retirada dos Estados Unidos da região, mas simplesmente uma reorganização das alianças dos EUA no Oriente Médio em relação a atores mais autoritários. Os Estados Unidos já haviam enviado mais 14 mil soldados para a região antes de dar a Erdoğan a luz verde; desde então, milhares de outras tropas os seguiram. Os chamados “anti-imperialistas”, que repetiram a mentira de Trump de que ele estava tirando os Estados Unidos de “guerras sem fim”, ingenuamente deram cobertura a seus esforços para instigar as ambições imperiais turcas e russas, enquanto preparavam as bases para ele intensificar a conflito com o Irã.

Apesar do medo generalizado dos democratas de que Trump esteja tentando iniciar uma guerra para desviar os procedimentos de impeachment ou manipular o público (já polarizado) diante das eleições, parece claro que Trump não está procurando uma guerra convencional com o Irã. Ele quer lançar o peso militar dos EUA sem se envolver em operações terrestres. Seguindo o exemplo de Israel, ele espera ordenar ataques aéreos cirúrgicos contra adversários estrangeiros de alto escalão sem ter que ocupar outro país; dessa forma, você pode obter crédito da sua base islamofóbica por ser duro, enquanto perpetua a mentira de que está “tirando os Estados Unidos de guerras sem fim”. Resumindo, ele quer uma escalada sem complicações.

A verdade é que a guerra do século XXI será diferente da invasão e ocupação do Iraque em 2003. O conflito na Síria nos dá uma ideia do que podemos esperar: uma guerra civil que durou anos e envolveu aliados (os chamados proxies) lutando em nome dos interesses da maioria dos atores globais do poder, nos quais as distinções entre civis e militares foram obscurecidas por todos os lados. Provavelmente veremos mais casos em que a violência oficial do Estado é performativa, como os ataques com mísseis iranianos ontem, enquanto a verdadeira luta e morte são realizadas por representantes de potências, forças paramilitares e civis. A queda do voo 752 da Ukraine International Airlines imediatamente após o ataque com mísseis, no qual um grande número de canadenses, ucranianos e iranianos foram mortos, ilustra isso, assim como os dois ataques de foguetes que atingiram a “Zona Verde” em Bagdá imediatamente após o ataque. Trump anunciou que não responderia aos ataques do Irã.

As principais vítimas da escalada de Trump serão civis, cidadãos dos EUA, além de iranianos e iraquianos. No entanto, parece claro que Trump não está preocupado com a probabilidade de civis americanos serem alvejados como resultado de sua decisão. Pelo contrário, ele pode até apreciar esses ataques, contando com a liderança dos americanos mais medrosos e ignorantes ao seu lado.

Desde 2001, o Partido Republicano dos Estados Unidos apenas se beneficiou de políticas que polarizaram populações inteiras, resultando no surgimento do Estado Islâmico, ataques terroristas e mortes de civis por centenas de milhares. Eles têm a ameaça do fundamentalismo islâmico para fazer seu fundamentalismo autoritário mais atraente. Isso dá outra interpretação do tweet de Trump, afirmando: “Está tudo bem! E “Até então tudo bem”, imediatamente após o ataque com mísseis iranianos.

Não há força bruta capaz de manter a ordem neoliberal unida — e Trump não está tentando mantê-la unida. Em vez disso, ele e seus colegas nacionalistas querem garantir que os conflitos que acontecem dentro da ordem neoliberal se desenvolvam em divisões étnicas e nacionais, em vez de unir todos contra a classe dominante da qual ele é representante. Exemplo concreto: o governo iraniano, ameaçado por tumultos em massa há apenas dois meses, agora pode usar a escalada do conflito com os Estados Unidos para legitimar sua autoridade interna.

Em resposta às maquinações dos governos iraniano e norte-americano, nosso objetivo é identificar e resistir a todos os esforços dos estados em nos jogar umas contra as outras. Nosso objetivo é criar solidariedade que cruze as linhas nacionais, étnicas e religiosas, enquanto fazemos todo o possível para derrubar governos autoritários de Washington a Teerã. Nossa esperança é que movimentos revolucionários explodam em ambos os lados de cada fronteira. A escalada da violência estatal é calculada para tornar impossível substituir a guerra pela revolução. Em um mundo que está caminhando para guerras cada vez mais difusas, conduzidas por líderes nacionalistas, nossa melhor chance de sobrevivência é estabelecer vínculos entre movimentos sociais combativos como os do Líbano, Egito e Irã (e não muito tempo atrás, mesmo na Rússia e na Turquia) e esperamos que em breve nos Estados Unidos, como foi em Hong Kong e Chile. Vamos lutar contra aqueles que nos fazem morrer em guerras, e não perder tempo lutando entre nós.

Isso contrasta fortemente com a estratégia implícita na abordagem de certos esquerdistas autoritários nos Estados Unidos que, sempre me busca de uma autoridade para apoiar, decidiram legitimar o governo iraniano. Sejamos claros: fazer isso é cuspir as sepulturas das 1.500 pessoas que o governo iraniano matou para acabar com o recente levante popular. Isto é legitimar todas as prisões e policiais do Irã e todas as formas de tirania contra as quais o povo iraniano se levantou. Não precisamos afirmar a legitimidade das autoridades iranianas para condenar Trump por tentar convencê-las a nos atacar. Se existem aliados naturais para nós nessa situação, eles devem ser os que resistem à autoridade do governo iraniano da mesma maneira que nos opomos à autoridade de Trump.

De nossa parte, nossa rede inclui pessoas refugiadas que foram forçados a fugir do governo autoritário do Irã. Não podemos apoiar “o menor dos dois males”, nem podemos aceitar o tipo de raciocínio binário de que qualquer pessoa que se oponha ao governo dos EUA deve, portanto, ser um governo bom e legítimo. Apoiamos aqueles no Oriente Médio que declararam que:

A oposição aos ataques aéreos do imperialismo dos EUA e as ameaças de guerra contra o Irã e o Iraque só podem ser eficazes quando enraizadas na solidariedade com as forças progressistas e revolucionárias no Oriente Médio e no norte da África e em total oposição a todos os governos autoritários e potências imperialistas na região.

Gostaríamos de ver outras pessoas nos Estados Unidos empenharem-se mais em aprender sobre os movimentos de resistência anti-autoritários no Irã e em outras partes do Oriente Médio, e menos energia tentando reabilitar Soleimani como um herói “anti-imperialista”. Os dois lados que querem forçar a falsa dicotomia de “Trump ou Irã” são simétricos no sentido de que eles têm a ameaça representada pela alternativa para nos forçar a ficar do lado deles. Temos que pensar em outra opção: um caminho compartilhado para a liberdade.

É por isso que somos contra todas as guerras, contra todos os governos, contra todas as opressões. Acreditamos apaixonadamente no potencial de que todos os seres humanos tenham autodeterminação, apoio mútuo e coexistência pacífica. As autoridades de ambos os lados querem nos fazer temer um ao outro, mas sabemos que eles são nosso principal inimigo.

“O mundo não está dividido entre países. O mundo não está dividido entre o Oriente e o Ocidente. Vocês são americanos, eu sou iraniana, não nos conhecemos, mas conversamos juntos e nos entendemos perfeitamente. A diferença entre você e seu governo é muito maior do que entre você e eu. E a diferença entre mim e meu governo é muito maior do que entre eu e você. E nossos governos são muito parecidos. ”

Marjane Satrapi

January 22, 2020 08:35 PM

Against All Wars, Against All Governments : Understanding the US-Iran War

Following the US airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani on January 3 and the Iranian missile strikes against US positions in Iraq on January 7, there has been considerable anxiety about war escalating between the US and Iran. In a media ecosystem driven chiefly by fear and outrage, bad news travels fast, and the worst interpretations of the news travel fastest of all. For our part, we expect that the war will escalate, but that it will take a more diffuse form than the sort of conventional war that most people expect. As avowed foes of war and tyranny, we believe it is important to strategize accordingly.

Please print and distribute these posters far and wide.

After the missile strikes, the Iraqi government announced that the Iranian military had fired 22 missiles, and that 17 of them hit the Al-Asad airbase, 15 of which detonated—yet without any casualties. In a subsequent statement, the Iraqi government stated that Iranian officials had warned them of the attacks in advance. If this is true, it seems likely that the Iranian government was intentionally avoiding killing US troops while demonstrating that it is capable of hitting US targets. This is a way for the Iranian government to save face and placate hardliners, while leaving the United States the option of not further escalating formal hostilities.

The real response to the US assassination of Soleimani will likely take place outside the official theater of war, in the form of proxy violence and terror attacks. Iran backs forces throughout the Mideast, especially in Iraq and Lebanon, where its proxy Hezbollah is arguably more powerful than the official government. Iraq and Syria have already seen many years of violence; now it seems inevitable that the whole stretch of territory from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean will be torn by civil war for years to come. The Islamic State, which lost the last of its territory less than a year ago, will be succeeded by other groups that have learned from its rapid rise and fall.

So regardless of whether the US escalation with Iran triggers a ground conflict or leads to an occupation, it represents another step towards a US foreign policy that presumes and hastens a future of global civil war. As opponents of both war and tyranny, we have to analyze what authoritarians of all stripes stand to gain from this approach.

First, it’s worth repeating that the US escalation of conflict with Iran confirms our thesis that when Donald Trump encouraged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to invade Syria, it was not a step towards US withdrawal from the region, but simply a reshuffling of US alliances in the Mideast towards more authoritarian players. The US had already sent 14,000 more troops to the region before giving Erdoğan the green light; thousands more troops have followed them there since. Supposed “anti-imperialists” who parroted Trump’s lie that he was pulling the US out of “endless wars” naïvely gave cover to his effort to abet Turkish and Russian imperial ambitions while setting the stage for him to escalate conflict with Iran.

Despite widespread fears from Democrats that Trump is trying to start a war to distract from the (stalemated) impeachment proceedings or to manipulate the (already polarized) public ahead of the election, it seems clear that Trump isn’t seeking a conventional war with Iran. He wants to throw US military weight around without being drawn into ground operations. Taking a cue from Israel, he hopes to be able to order surgical airstrikes against high-ranking foreign adversaries without having to occupy another country; that way, he can get credit from his Islamophobic base for being tough, while perpetuating the paper-thin deception that he is “pulling America out of endless wars.” In short, he wants escalation without entanglement.

The truth is that 21st-century war is going to look different than the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. The conflict in Syria gives us a sense of what we can expect: a years-running civil war involving proxies representing most of the global power players, in which the distinctions between civilian and military blurred on all sides. We will probably see more cases in which official state violence is performative, like yesterday’s Iranian missile strikes, while the real fighting and dying is done by proxies, paramilitary forces, and civilians. The downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 immediately after the missile strike, in which a large number of Canadians and Ukrainians as well as Iranians were killed, illustrates this, as do the two rocket strikes that hit the “Green Zone” in Baghdad immediately after Trump announced that he would not respond to the strikes from Iran.

So the chief victims of Trump’s escalation will be civilians—likely US citizens as well as Iranians and Iraqis. Yet it seems clear that Trump is not concerned about the likelihood that US civilians may be targeted as a consequence of his decision to target Soleimani. On the contrary, he may even welcome such attacks, counting on them to drive more fearful, ignorant Americans into his camp.

Since 2001, Republicans have only benefited from policies that have polarized whole populations, resulting in the rise of ISIS, terror attacks, and civilian deaths by the hundred thousand. They count on the threat of Islamic fundamentalism to make their own fundamentalist authoritarianism look appealing. This gives us another angle on Trump’s tweet declaring “All is well!” and “So far, so good!” immediately after the Iranian missile strike.

No amount of brute force can hold the neoliberal global order together—and Trump is not trying to hold it together. Rather, he and his fellow nationalists aim to ensure that the conflicts that succeed the neoliberal order will play out along ethnic and national lines rather than uniting everyone against the ruling class that he represents. Case in point: the Iranian government, threatened by massive unrest scarcely two months ago, can now use the escalating conflict with the US to legitimize its authority domestically.

In response to the machinations of the Iranian and US governments, we aim to identify and resist every effort to turn us against each other. We aim to build solidarity across national, ethnic, and religious lines while doing everything we can to topple authoritarian governments from DC to Tehran. Our hope is that revolutionary movements will break out on both sides of every border. Escalations in state violence are calculated to make this impossible—to substitute war for revolution. In a world headed towards ever more diffuse wars, goaded on by nationalist strongmen, our best chance of survival is to build ties between combative social movements like those in Lebanon, Egypt, and Iran—and not so long ago even in Russia and Turkey—and hopefully soon in the United States as well as in Hong Kong and Chile. Let us fight those who would make us die on their behalf, not each other.

This stands in stark contrast to the strategy implied by the approach of certain authoritarian leftists in the US, who, always looking for an authority to affirm, have settled on legitimizing the Iranian government. Let’s be clear: to do so is to spit on the graves of the 1500 people the Iranian government killed to put down the recent uprising. It is is to legitimize all the prisons and police in Iran and every form of tyranny that Iranian people rose up against. We don’t have to affirm the legitimacy of the Iranian authorities to condemn Trump for attempting to goad them into targeting us. If there are any natural allies for us in this situation, it should be those who resist the authority of the Iranian government in the same way that we oppose Trump’s authority.

For our part, our network includes refugees who were forced to flee the authoritarian government of Iran. We can’t support “the lesser of two evils,” nor can we accept the sort of binary reasoning that suggests that whomever the US government opposes must therefore be a good and legitimate government. We stand with those in the Mideast who have declared that

opposition to U.S. imperialism’s air strikes and war threats against Iran and Iraq can only be effective when rooted in solidarity with the progressive and revolutionary forces in the Middle East and North African region and full opposition to all the authoritarian governments and imperialist powers in the region.

We’d like to see others in the United States put more energy into learning about anti-authoritarian resistance movements in Iran and elsewhere in the Mideast, and less energy into trying to rehabilitate Soleimani as an “anti-imperialist” hero. Both sides that wish to force the false binary of “Trump or Iran” on us are symmetrical in that they are counting on the threat represented by the alternative to force us to side with them. We have to make another option thinkable: a shared road to freedom.

This is why we are against all wars, against all governments, against all oppression. We believe passionately in the potential that all human beings have for self-determination, mutual aid, and peaceful coexistence. The authorities on both sides would make us fear each other, but we know they are our chief enemy.

“The world is not divided into countries. The world is not divided between East and West. You are American, I am Iranian, we don’t know each other, but we talk together and we understand each other perfectly. The difference between you and your government is much bigger than the difference between you and me. And the difference between me and my government is much bigger than the difference between me and you. And our governments are very much the same.”

-Marjane Satrapi

You can obtain a printable poster version of this image here.

January 22, 2020 08:35 PM

Channel Zero

25. Mad MAXXAM

This post was originally published on this site

In this episode Eamon interviews Scott Parkin about the Earth First! Dirty South campaign that was started ay back in 2003 to target Maxxam, a financial company that had taken over Pacific Lumber and was driving the timber company to clear cut redwoods in northern California.

EF! Dirty South was in Houston, and its participants worked to target Maxxam’s executives at their homes and places in the community in order to publicly shame them for their culpability in the clearcutting of ancient forests.

Show Notes:

This Wikipedia page actually has a pretty good history of Pacific Lumber and the takeover by Maxxam, as well as some brief information about Earth First! resistance to the company:

This article was written by Scott Parkin about his time fighting Maxxam, and how the federal government monitored their activities:

by Eamon at January 22, 2020 08:07 PM

Letter from Anarchist Prisoner Arrested in Revolt in Chile

When analyzing any edge of the prison, one must first establish or rather, make its history and its purpose visible. We are the ones in the dump of this society, another instrument of oppression through the law to perpetuate the privilege of the class society, made by power in its image and likeness, the jail is like all the bad things in the tight system between cement walls.

The very existence of the jail is political, a gear that makes the machinery of death of the State roll, social control, intimidation, isolation, directed against whoever it is is necessary to exalt the triumphant values of the bourgeoisie: competition, submission, exploitation, harassment, bourgeois individualism, violence; all this reflects its worst face in this place.

Here the children of violence, poverty and ignorance are raised, a school of fear that maintains the lucrative prison business, being a product of domination will never have a reforming end, which proclaims with the voice of a prisoner sick with rage. Nothing good can be taken out of confinement and uniformity; therefore, the mere existence of the prison reflects the type of system that governs us, has the color it has, is adorned as it is adorned; the existence of the jail has a political aim; therefore, for whatever reason, all prisoners are political prisoners, because it transcends the filter of the law, which is the preferred son of power.

What to do with social cannibalism if there were no prisons? It is the question to dream…

Build the conditions so that it becomes unthinkable to rot the children of the people in jail. That said, we must also recognize that there are very few (even) of the deprived with a revolutionary consciousness and practice. The political field in which this place moves has changed a bit since the beginning of the revolt; in Santiago 1, a special module has been enabled where we are joined by protesters for using molotovs, fires, looting, assaults against large capitalists or repressive forces; these are the majority of the charges that they impute to us, but this is only the most recent history of the political prison, which in this country has a long history since the beginning of the existence of the Chilean State, which has swallowed and spit out millions of exploited that rebel, with the most diverse intentions. I think that all the prisoners are political prisoners, but not necessarily revolutionary. Even in this module, it is not about better or worse, but about the institutions and ends of its protagonists.

There are those who are anti-police and courageously went out to face the repression; there are kids, who, given the context, went out to loot large companies and capitalists, something absolutely valid if you ask me. Although the participants have had a consciousness of struggle and class, the medium and time spent transform these acts into a seed for further rebellion against the enemies of the exploited so that the violence and its tools stop pointing between us and point up, towards the oppressors.

That said, I believe that the declared political imprisonment is a matter of each prisoner, in the sense of exclaiming loudly that their actions and/or consequences fall within the rebellion against power. Admitting nuances and heterogeneity, each declares why and how he speaks and acts. I assume this confinement as a political prisoner, given my practices and ideas. This is not a whim of the ego but a consequence of where I get up, where there is no possible surrender. Most here assume the prison as a result of their insurgent practices, with a greater or lesser degree of elaboration. We recognize ourselves in a collective struggle, not only since the beautiful date of October 18, but as the continuity of the struggle since there is domination, but I can only speak for myself, because I do not want or possess the desire for any representation or intermediary, admitting that the discussion is still around my thoughts and the analysis about it.

I repeat that the jail is a political and class fact, an absolute reflection of this rotten society and that we cannot forget that those of us who are here are fed by our bodies, one of the largest and sadistic control systems that exist. But I also repeat that it is our intentions and facts that make us recognize ourselves as political prisoners, because outside they try to intimidate with fear of confinement, but they do not know that we carry the torch of will and do not manage to bend; whether outside or inside, there is that rebel seed that crosses the meadows where the revolutionary ivy will be born, that of the assumed and conscious praxis that faces with strategy, strength and projection against power, with the most diverse tools, but with the liveliness of understanding that institutionality is the trap that stops us from organizing ourselves in broad, free, horizontal ways, etc.

Affection and newen [Mapuche for strength] out there,

To continue sharpening ideas

Try to live the anarchy!

P.P. Anarchist

CP Santiago 1

January 8, 2020

From: Publicacion Refractario via AMW.

by admin at January 22, 2020 07:49 PM

Letter from Mauro Rossetti Busa in prison (Italy)

“Open letter from the La Spezia prison

My dear comrades and companions on 10 December 2019 I had the hearing of review in the court of Assisi of Lucca where I filed my reasons on acts committed on February 1, 2018, both against the political seat of “Casa Pound” and the fire at the “ENI” petrol station. On this occasion I also wanted to affirm that violence that took place in Viterbo by group people belonging to the Casa Pound group against a woman to make him understand both the public prosecutor and the court, that these fascists are not as much lambs as they want make believe. I also wanted to specify what were the reasons for the incendiary attack on the fascists. The reason was because in 2016⁄2017 in Piazza S. Michele in Lucca a boy was attacked because he was a militant of the PD and I also wanted to clarify that I have no sympathy for the PD, nor for other parties.

My action was spontaneous / premeditated in that I proclaimed myself a militant of the extreme anti-fascist left. In my trial, besides being present the anti-terrorist cops and the director Dr. Leone Leonardo also came to testify the councilor of the city council, as well as Casa Pound leader, who while taking me away we met in the classroom, where he gave me a look as a challenge and so there was a bit of offense my part, warning him that I am from Lucca and both the cops and the fascists must be careful and above all watch their backs a lot. They don’t have to break or challenge me because I have nothing to lose and I’m able to do even worse. I don’t care if his militant rabbits were inside their meeting that evening. As I claimed in the courtroom, when there is a need for direct action, it must be carried out without many theories. Certainly in some things it is true that it also takes theories, but it is also true that it takes practicality, that is, that certain responses against the beams are immediate.

The prosecutor in my trial is the same as the one who celebrated the trial in Florence against comrades who were sentenced to ten and a half years. It will not frighten me when he issues his sentence, whatever it may be.

Here they have only publicly won a battle, but not the war that is temporarily suspended at the moment and I make this promise to you: years will pass, day by day, month by month, year by year, I will always meditate because nothing will be left hanging. Well here I stop to let you know that the hearing in Lucca will resume definitively on December 17, 2019.

I embrace you all

Mauro Rossetti Busa

La Spezia 16/12/2019

For those interested, contact my lawyer (Enrico Carboni) to find out how my trial went.”

Mauro Rossetti Busa was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment for fire, evasion and manufacture of explosive material, threats and with the aggravating circumstance of recidivism and social danger.

The original attacks took place in the vicinity of the Casa Pound headquarters and to the ENI distributor in Sant’Anna in 2018. The Eni distributor, the multinational is for some time in the sights of anarchists for activities abroad, and a building near the Casa Pound headquarters.

Mauro Rossetti Busa had succeeded in Florence, in March 2004, in an attack on a public prosecutor. During the hearing his convictions were unwavering: “I’ll send you a parcel-bomb, the next one will be for you and these cops,” he said.

From: Round Robin via AMW.

by admin at January 22, 2020 07:38 PM

With Neither Tyrants Nor Fascists

From IGD

The following offers an anarchist an antifascist analysis of the growing movement and rising anger against proposed anti-gun legislation in Virginia.

If you grew up in Virginia, chances are you were never very far from guns. Here, they are as divisive as they are ubiquitous. Guns are pulled out at parties and argued about over dinner. They are bought and sold at pawn shops, advertised on billboards, given away in raffles, traded informally, gifted, stolen, won in poker games, and even sold on Facebook. Anyone over 18 with a valid driver’s license and clean record can rent one at a shooting range or buy one from their neighbor. Hunting season kicks off like a statewide carnival, so ritualized that it takes on an element of holiday. Hunted meat is used for survival, shared between neighbors, or donated to the elderly. Tourists hiking along the Appalachian Trail may cross paths with little convoys of hardbody trucks chasing down a lost hound. In Richmond, guns can be found in riverbeds, in most suburban closets, in cars, and stowed under the bar at restaurants.

Just as ubiquitous as guns are their effects.​ Most people know someone impacted by their violence: someone who gets into fights, a bystander, a victim of domestic violence or depression or the police. Many have family, friends, and acquaintances serving long sentences who have been criminalized for their proximity to guns and guns are everywhere. They are big money, they are defined by grief and celebration, they represent an unbent back in the face of Washington DC​, and have always been uncomfortably close to our politics. They float alongside the ghosts of America’s first industrialized war and of the vicious racism and vigilantism we have endured before and after.

Like lawsuits aimed at militias following Unite the Right in Charlottesville, such proposed legislation of “paramilitary activities” will more than likely be used against anarchist and anti-fascist groups.

It has felt surreal and even laughable to many Virginians that a newly Democrat-dominated state government might push through the criminalization of gun possession with proposed sweeping partial ​bans and ​regulations​. But this is 2019 in Virginia, and these days we are used to things being very absurd and very surreal. The Democrats who are proposing these laws rode in on a wave of massive structural changes, redistricting, and also growing anger at Dominion Energy’s corporate influence. The gateway to the south, the gateway to the north. Virginia exists between a suburban future and the pastoral farming past, at the intersection of old world bigotry and patronage and hyper-modern capitalism. To be young here is to have your teenage years defined​ by several mass shootings, a street battle against the largest gathering of fascists in a century, cynical political experimenting with gentrification and Democratic party politicking. ​Two​ multi-billion dollar energy ​pipelines​ complete with mercenaries and the private surveillance force their way thru the countryside. Local police are funded to test new and more nefarious forms of incarceration and policing. And the very heart of America’s intelligence, military and political network cross over the Potomac each night to sleep. Very little is simple here, certainly not guns.

In order to understand what is happening, look to Culpeper. A small town, just close enough to DC to commute, but just far enough away to remain semi-rural. In response to the proposed bill, the Culpeper sheriff has declared his ​intention​ to offer a deputization and training course to local gun owners. He is, he says, confident that he could deputize 1,000 participants in the near future with this course. Besides flirting strongly with para-militarism, this proposal offers a taste of the type of resistance this bill will face. A cascade of murky and dangerous consequences threaten to pour out in response to a state legislature pressuring police to enforce an unpopular and extreme proposal.

This isn’t helped by the anti-gun lobby’s millionaire celebrities and almost gleeful refusal to engage at local levels. In place of the possibility of making real headway towards confronting the difficult issues of racial and gendered gun violence, police murder, or mental health, they offer poorly written bans that promise to disproportionately be enforced among non-white and poor communities. And this is to be expected, because at the end of the day this bill is primarily about achieving quick political clout and asserting authority over a law enforcement caste that acts almost as a fourth branch of government.

Add to this mix the heavy involvement of right-wing militia movements and explicitly racist social movements in the pro-Second Amendment (2A) lobby. While these groups express a disproportionate voice among gun ownership advocates, their structure is in many ways fragile. They are prone to infighting, lack a coherent message, and base their narrative around constantly shifting conspiracy theories and cults of personality. ​Nevertheless, because there is no alternative, these groups hold the spotlight. When Lavoy Finicum, a militia leader during the Malheur Wildlife Occupation was chased off the road and gunned down by federal officers in Oregon, it was racists and conspiracy theorists who reached out to offer their condolences. In impoverished rural areas and remote suburbs, the right to own guns is seen as a fundamental point of pride and autonomy. In those spaces it is Oath Keeper militias who run fundraisers for soup kitchens and stand up to billionaire backed organizations with close ties to the government. They attempt to become heroes of the small against the big. Until a more sustainable alternative appears, they may succeed​.

Into this, where do we non-traditional gun owners fit in? Who advocates for poor gun owners, and those who happen to not be white, or straight, or conservative? Only ourselves. We cannot align with a Democratic political cadre attempting to pass legislation that will felonize us and endanger us to further violence by the police and the Right. And we cannot stand meekly behind the established 2A leadership, keeping quiet as they bicker and rant and platform white nationalists. We know full well that our presence will be tokenized when it is useful and demonized when it is not. Their goals are rooted in a long legacy of white vigilantism and State terror. We will not find friends there. The​ prospect of joining either side is enough to make us want to bury our guns in the back yard and open up a book while the talking heads tear each other up on Fox and Friends.

On January 20th, a horde of every conceivable wing of the pro and anti-gun movements will meet in Richmond’s capitol. Michael Bloomberg, true to his word and playing the role of the sneaking billionaire bane of gun rights, was recently spotted skulking into a (terrible) local coffee shop to meet with Richmond mayor Levar Stoney. Meanwhile, white nationalists, Proud Boys, wingnuts and every flavor of militia on the eastern seaboard have spent weeks pledging body armor, blood donations and “B00tsOntHaGrouNd” against a dizzying myriad of imagined enemies.

Alarmist warnings of ANTIFA disguised as Confederates, MS-13, Islamic extremists, BLM, and “Demograts” have circulated like wildfire, drawing increasingly more unhinged fringes of the Right towards the capitol like drooling moths around an open flame. Both the Bloomberg army and the crusading Operators are most definitely busing in people from out of town. Rumors of Alex Jones himself attending seem increasingly credible.

Into this madness, why should we add our own bodies? The Democrats expect us to act as their thugs, even as they promise to prosecute us for defending ourselves. To the Right, it is a given that we are funded by Bloomberg himself, or trained by shadowy forces to make them look ridiculous or violent. We just live here, we own guns and don’t want to see any more of our friends attacked by tech bro neo-Nazis or jealous and rejected men. We own guns because we grew up around them, because the threats we face are real and present, and because we encounter them stumbling out of the breweries to stomp out the closest person they see sleeping on the street. And so we feel little love for either of these gangs of bussed-in protesters. This is our home, we’ll live here on the 19th and the 21​st​ too.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League is one of the largest groups to emerge from the growing resistance to the current gun laws. The map represents counties which have pledged to not abide by the proposed gun legislation.

Ultimately we have no option but to make our own strategy, to craft our own community, and to meet those who look to their left and right and see the people they’re standing with for the schmucks they are. We must split away from our per-ordained roles and talk about the things that matter. We must share why we feel we deserve to own such dangerous tools, and about why our own lived experience has taught us that we must never give up that thing under the bed. For most of us, the 2nd amendment was never a protection. It didn’t protect ​Korryn Gaines​ or Philando Castile. It didn’t protect us when our houses were raided for weed or suspicions of sex work, even as the people we sold our drugs and our bodies to sat comfortable in their suburban fortresses, far away from disproportionate policing and profiling.

Throughout this 400 year legacy of genocide, slavery and state exploitation, the perpetrators have always tried to maintain control of the guns. And throughout those same 400 years, the necessity of self-defense has always been apparent. Police evolved from slave patrols (Virginia Capitol Police were the first on this continent), politicians called for lynch mobs, the national guard massacred strikers, and land treaties were broken by the divine justification of the church. Through all of that, it has been solidarity – specifically ​armed ​ solidarity – between the people targeted by this violence that has provided the most tangible resistance. We remember these lessons, they are a part of our lived history.

Elections come and go. But the crisis of exploitation of our bodies and time by those at the top remains constant. We still don’t have healthcare, we still don’t have housing, we still can’t get our relatives out of hopelessly long prison sentences. Billionaire energy companies continue to kick people out of their homes to make way for pipelines, the corrupt and entrenched political forces change face, but little changes for us. Though politicians attempt to dangle glimmers of hope to persuade us, we are still bombarded from all sides. Though they purport to act out our will, like always, it has been a betrayal. Because the government will always betray, it exists to take tally of the most profitable order of betrayals. They are the force that gnaws every bit of autonomy over our own and collective lives in this place. So we want everything, we want the world. We want our freedom in every sense of the word. And since we will fight for it, we want our guns too. To be quite blunt, a gun is the the only check on this that you can hold in your hand. So we’ll continue to hold them, whether they’re legal or not.

by thecollective at January 22, 2020 06:21 PM

Repression, eviction and dispossession in Greece

From Roar

Dimitris Indares was still in his pyjamas when the police knocked on his door in the neighborhood of Koukaki, in Athens, in the early hours of Wednesday, December 18. Not long after that, he was lying down on the floor of his home’s terrace, with a Special Operations policeman’s boot on his head. He and his two adult sons were beaten up, handcuffed, blindfolded and taken under police custody. What was Indares’ crime? He had refused to let the police go through his home without a warrant in its operation to evict the squat that was right next door.

Indares’ profile is not that of a squatter. A 55-year old film director and film school teacher, a homeowner, politically moderate with conservative views, working hard to get his sons through university. One could say he is a typical member of the Greek educated middle class and a typical voter of the governing New Democracy party. This fact didn’t stop the police from pressing fabricated criminal charges against him, accompanied by an operation of false accusations and defamation.

The Minister of Citizens’ Protection himself unashamedly lied that the police had a warrant, that Indares resisted arrest and tried to snatch the gun off a police officer, that his two sons were inside the squat next door and had attacked the police. Despite many testimonies to the contrary and a leaked audio recording of the moment Indares was being detained which disproves the accusations, the minister’s fabrications were repeated at full force by the government’s propaganda machine: the mass media owned by a handful of oligarchs allied with the governing party.

Even when Nikos Alivizatos, the Ombudsman for Police Violence appointed a few months earlier by the minister himself, threatened to resign in light of the evidence of police brutality, the mainstream press was quick to dismiss the Constitutional Law professor as a leftist who sides with squatters.

Indares’ case got a lot of publicity, with many denouncing the fabrications. Meanwhile, the government and its opinion makers refused to back down. What is of concern here is that this massive wave of support came only when an “average family man” had his civil liberties violated.

Since New Democracy was elected with a “law and order” agenda last July, the police have been acting like an occupation army in Greek cities, routinely violating human rights and dignity. Arbitrary detentions, torture, beatings, teargas attacks, raids in cinemas and nightclubs, public humiliation, verbal abuse, have been the order of the day.

Even so, as long as the arbitrary violence of the police was directed towards protesters, youth, students, squatters, homosexuals, immigrants or the marginalized, the reaction of the public opinion to daily gross human rights violations was at best timid. Sadly, such abhorrent practices are made possible by the active or passive support of a part of Greek society who have been convinced that in the battle against the internal enemy all means are legitimate, even the violation of constitutional rights and human dignity.

Indares himself, in press statements after he was released pending trial, appeared confused as to what really hit him. He is obviously appalled by the campaign of defamation against him, but he seems to consider himself the innocent victim of a just war. In the leaked audio recording of the moment of his arrest, he is heard reproaching the police of “acting like anarchists,” even though the possibility that anarchists break into his home, beat him up and kidnap him is non-existent. In his desire to remain equidistant, Indares does not acknowledge the arbitrary nature of police repression nor the reality-distorting function of the mass media, as long as peace-loving, hard-working, everyday people like him remain immune from this violence.

But it is precisely peace-loving everyday citizens like him who have most to lose in this new cycle of dispossession in Greece.


Nowadays in Greece, nothing reminds us anymore of the multitudinous and diverse mobilizations of 2010–15 against the structural adjustment program. However, material conditions have not improved for the majority of the population, nor have the austerity policies been reversed. Rather, austerity has been “naturalized”: it is no longer seen for what it is — a massive operation of wealth transfer from the popular classes to national and international capital — but as a natural disaster, much like a flood that sweeps everything away and leaves one to rebuild from scratch.

Syriza’s tenure in government has contributed greatly to this condition. Notwithstanding its overdue socially progressive reforms in matters of individual rights, Syriza’s inability to challenge austerity and its continuation of dispossessive policies have had a “TINA effect” — convincing the population that there is no alternative to austerity. The only possible course of action, they are led to believe, is to elect the political force that can best manage it; and the mass media, shifting the agenda to the familiar tropes of security, immigration and nationalism, have convinced most voters that the best manager of austerity is the right-wing New Democracy of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which won the July elections by a landslide.

Mitsotakis, stemming from a long line of politicians, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. In 1999, fresh out of his studies at Harvard and Stanford, he got a job as an investment fund manager in Athens using his father’s connections, earning the equivalent of €10,000 a month. In the past decade, he has gained publicity as the heir apparent who comes to invigorate the discredited old regime. What others would call privilege and nepotism, he has marketed as “excellence”: this was the rallying cry of his electoral campaign, along with the promise of enforcing law and order.

The present incarnation of the New Democracy party is an alliance between its neoliberal and extreme right currents, marginalizing the center-right current that was dominant in the 2000s. Mitsotakis and his troupe of entitled aristocratic technocrats have surrounded themselves with ultra-conservative, fear-mongering, moralizing, flag-waving television personalities.

It should be noted that this is not a temporary alliance around power sharing, but one based on a solid joint project. The common ground of the two factions is a kind of social Darwinism, in which appeals to economic rationality are alternated in the government’s discourse with racist and sexist truisms to justify and naturalize its repressive and exclusionary policies. Moreover, both factions agree on the reinforcement of conservative values and the traditional family structure as the institution that will absorb the permanent social shocks of the post-memorandum era.

Besides its technocratic discourse and its promise of economic growth, New Democracy has employed a divisive anti-communist rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold War, along with a historical revisionism that seeks to write popular resistance out of the country’s recent history. Through nationalist, xenophobic and homophobic narratives they have managed to poach voters from neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which, cornered by the actions of the anti-fascist movement, an ongoing trial, internal division and the rise of new political formations in the extreme right, failed to enter the parliament in July, for the first time since 2012.

On that account, the “law and order” doctrine is a vital part of the government’s strategy. Like with previous governments, its capacity to exercise its own policy is extremely limited, as, despite the formal end of the bailout “memoranda,” economic and foreign policies are still dictated by the country’s “partners” and “allies,” and there is constant monitoring and assessment of legislation and fiscal outcomes by foreign externally appointed bodies. “Internal security,” then, is the only field where the government can actually apply its energies and legitimize its power in the eyes of their increasingly conservative electoral clientele.

The deployment of police forces in urban areas has therefore been made into a great spectacle, with the anarchist movement identified as the primary adversary. The notoriously heavy-handed Minister of Citizen’s Protection Michalis Chrisohoidis gave a 15-day ultimatum to all squatters to voluntarily vacate their buildings or face forceful eviction.

The ultimatum was calculated to expire on December 6, the anniversary of the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos by the police in 2008, a date that regularly attracts crowds of protesters in city centers. However, the plan backfired after the Koukaki evictions; faced with increased mobilization and widespread criticism of police violence, the minister had to put the plan on hold to redefine his repressive tactics.


Incidentally, it were the 2008 riots that incubated Greece’s squatters movement; squatting has persisted as a practice of popular self-organization in the years of mobilization that followed. Today there are hundreds of squats in Greece, among them housing for locals and immigrants, social centers, urban farms and factories.

Squats are an important part of the social infrastructure put in place by contestational movements that seek to liberate human activity and sociality from commercialization and consumerism, and try out structures of plural decision making and coexistence. Despite their experimental and incomplete character, squats are a living reminder that there can be social spaces and relations outside the rule of capital, outside the cycle of work-consumption-sleep.

Squats have also been places where locals and immigrants coexist and asylum seekers create their own structures of self-support, as a hands-on response to the inhumane conditions imposed on newcomers in refugee camps. The consensus among all memorandum-era governments is that social alternatives should be repressed. The present campaign of evictions, therefore, is an intensification of the tactics of previous governments, including that of Syriza.

Even though the vast majority of squatted spaces are abandoned and neglected buildings belonging to the state, private foundations, rich heirs or the church, small property owners have come to see squatting as an affront to their own interests. This may be due to the fact that small real estate property is foundational in Greek society. After the Second World War, in contrast to the social housing policies of northern Europe, the Greek state actively promoted self-construction, viewing real estate property as the equalizing factor that would guarantee national reconciliation among a people deeply divided and scarred by the Civil War.

As a result, Greece is characterized by the dispersion of small ownership and one of the highest rates of owner occupancy in Europe, even when one-fourth of the population is propertyless and condemned to a very volatile rental sector with no housing policies in place as a safety net. Although the austerity measures have turned real estate property from an asset into a liability through overtaxation and the decrease of real estate prices, property is still a major signification in the imaginary of progress for a majority of Greeks.

Real estate property, then, signifies much more than a home. It is a family’s measure of success, their means of social mobility, the asset to transfer to the next generation, and, in the absence of adequate state welfare policies, their hedging against an uncertain future. This may go a long way in explaining the principled opposition of most Greeks to the practice of squatting, despite the fact that small family property is never the target of squatters. But it may also help explain the fact that since the beginning of the crisis, a special insolvency law protects the mortgaged primary residence of low-income debtors in arrears from foreclosure and liquidation by banks.

Although in many cases foreclosures still have gone through, this arrangement has helped maintain social peace by preventing mass evictions of working and middle-class families. Since the family has such a prominent position in Greece and has borne the weight of the structural adjustment, all governments so far, regardless of political orientation, have respected this arrangement. Things, however, are about to change.


The preeminence of the family on the Greek socioeconomic plane is not due to a supposedly family-centric Greek “psyche”, but it is the product of a historical “familistic” mode of economic development, in which the extended family unit was made responsible for the protection and welfare of its members and took on reproductive tasks that in northern European countries were carried out by the welfare state.

In the second half of the 20th century, this carefully designed and implemented model of development allowed Greece to achieve high rates of economic growth based on cheap labor with a minimal cost for the state and employers. In this context, clientelism, tax evasion, corruption, laxity in the enforcement of regulations, and other Greek “peculiarities” were not pathological behaviors, as economic manuals would have us believe, but perfectly rational, state-sanctioned adaptive behaviors of the family, which sought to compete and maximize its wealth in order to provide welfare to its members, in the absence of any other mechanism of redistribution.

The unhealthy side effects of such an arrangement came to light in the late 2000s, with a great volume of theoretical and artistic works criticizing the oppressive patriarchal structure of the Greek family. The epitome of such criticism can be found in the filmmaking movement known as “Greek weird wave,” kickstarted by Giorgos Lanthimos’ award-winning film Dogtooth, a parable for the claustrophobic and reality-bending complications of the co-dependent patriarchal family. A will to criticize and overcome the traditional family formation and celebrate new identities and social arrangements was evident in the mobilization and experimentation of the social movements in the following decade.

This criticism, however, was short-lived. For the alliance of neoliberals and extreme right-wingers that is currently ruling the country, the recomposition of the traditional family is a central piece. The extreme right’s reasons for this are clear: the patriarchal family is the basic biopolitical laboratory of the nation, reinforcing the reproductive tasks of women, policing the aspirations and behaviors of its members, enforcing the “correct” gender and sexual orientation, the one language and religion.

For neoliberals, the reasons are slightly more profound: despite neoliberalism’s discursive emphasis on the rational self-made individual, the family is still the structure that is entrusted with facilitating its designs of privatization and eradication of all welfare provisions. On top of the gendered unpaid care work, the family, through investment, indebtedness and internal redistribution, will yet again absorb the shocks of structural adjustment and shield its members in the all-out war that is the privatized economy, thus mitigating the social reproduction crisis that is synonymous with neoliberal expansion. In the society of self-serving isolated individuals envisioned by neoliberalism, the traditional family is the ultimate safety net; thus its authority over its members is actively reinforced.

Austerity has already paved the way for such a revival of conservative family values. Shrinking incomes and high unemployment rates have condemned an entire generation of young people to remain economically dependent on their parents; they are often forced to live with them until well into their thirties. This reinforces the moral authority of the patriarchal family over the dependent family members.

However, the revival of traditional family values has also required external reinforcement: throughout the times of crisis, the mass media have kept the Greek people on a steady diet of nationalism, religion and moral panic. Reactionary homophobic, anti-abortion or misogynistic narratives have made their way into every crevice of mass culture and hordes of extreme-right social media influencers have been promoting the fable that traditional patriarchal culture is the object of political persecution by the left wing.

This was the substrate for a continuous process of constructing the “internal enemy” as anyone who does not contribute to the cultural and physical reproduction of the nation: social movements, immigrants, anarchists, LGBTQ persons, people battling with mental illness, drug addicts and the Roma. Along with the biopolitics of the traditional family cell, run the thanatopolitics — a politics of death — of the state and the neo-Nazis. To the well-publicized murders of antifascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas and queer rights activist Zak/Zackie Kostopoulos, one should add the thousands of locals and immigrants who are deemed undeserving to live and are denied basic rights and assistance, often with fatal consequences.

Like in many other countries, austerity in Greece has not led to forward-looking positive solutions, but to an accelerated conservative retrogression. Despite the appearance of a wide social consensus around conservative values, the ruling class knows that this new equilibrium is very delicate, since the politics of dispossession of the social majority by local and international capital is far from over. And the next round of dispossession in Greece concentrates on what Greeks hold most dear: housing.


The net effect of austerity policies in Greece has been a large-scale upwards redistribution of wealth. According to UN data, between 2007 and 2017, despite mostly negative GDP growth rates, the top 1 percent of the population has seen its income increase by 6 percent, while the bottom 40 percent lost 44 percent.

Owing to shrinking incomes, as well as to the banks’ frivolous lending practices in pre-crisis times, Greeks started missing payments. Non-performing mortgages went through the roof, from 5 percent of all mortgages in 2008 to 45 percent in 2019. Social tragedy was averted by the above mentioned legal framework of protection of the primary residence, which allowed for a moderate haircut, a renegotiation and a subsidy of mortgages for low-income overindebted homeowners. Despite this measure, however, in late 2019, 350.000 mortgages, worth €25 billion, were still in arrears, jeopardizing housing security for a great part of the population.

Protecting homeowners, however, was not the only motivation behind the primary residence protection framework; this arrangement served to also protect the interests of the banking sector. At the height of the debt crisis, real estate prices had plummeted, and therefore liquidation of the mortgaged assets would have come at a great loss. Banks needed to buy time until real estate prices rose again. And this condition was met in 2018, when, despite low domestic demand, prices were pushed up by rising pressures on the real estate market: the deployment of Real Estate Investment Trusts following significant tax breaks, a “Golden Visa” program offering residence to non-EU citizens who invest more than €250,000 in real estate, and, importantly, a sharp rise in short-term rentals, especially through Airbnb.

With prices rapidly rising again, banks have been hard at work accelerating foreclosures and auctions of mortgaged homes, as well as selling “packages” of already foreclosed assets to foreign funds. Under pressure by Greece’s international “partners,” the government is abolishing the first residence protection framework this May. Up to 200,000 homes are threatened with foreclosure over the next year.

This represents an intensification of the trend of housing dispossession that has already changed the face of Greek cities over the past few years. Koukaki, Dimitris Indares’ neighborhood, exemplifies this trend. In the absence of renters’ protection, Koukaki has seen many renters thrown out, their homes bought by foreign or local investors and turned into tourist flats. Exorbitant rents — often higher than the average wage — drive locals out of the neighborhood, thus sucking the life out of a once lively area, now increasingly oriented to servicing tourists seeking out the “authentic Athenian experience.”

At an anti-Airbnb demonstration in July 2019, peaceful neighbors were met with unprovoked police violence. The eviction of three squats in the early morning of December 18 using rubber bullets — the operation that ended up with the raid at Indares’ home — has been integral to the government’s effort to quell all resistance against violent touristification. Other neighborhoods, such as social movement hub Exarchia, have similar stories to tell.


Last December the parliament approved the “Hercules” plan to sell €30 billion worth of non-performing loans to funds, with the state acting as the guarantor. Loans will be sold at a fraction of the nominal price, and the funds will be given free rein to demand repayment in full, which will result in foreclosures and auctions of real estate collateral, including both commercial and residential properties.

The symbolism of the name is clear: as the mythical Hercules diverted two rivers to clean the stable of Augeas of tons of manure, similarly the government is diverting up to €12 billion of its reserves to guarantee these bad loans and clean up the banks’ accounts. This is not simply “taxpayer’s money”: this is blood money extracted from the Greek people through extreme austerity measures.

The paradox is that while banks are prohibited by law to offer generous haircuts and renegotiations to debtors, they are now allowed to sell the bad loans at even 7 or 10 percent of the nominal value to get them off their books, and the state uses its reserves to guarantee this cut-rate transfer of wealth to foreign funds specialized in “distressed assets”. The “Hercules” plan, then, constitutes an indirect recapitalization of Greek banks, the fourth since the beginning of the crisis, again using the taxpayer’s money.

This plan — along with the impending abolition of primary residence protection, the big wave of housing foreclosures that is already underway, and the fire sale of “packages” of already foreclosed real estate by banks to funds — constitutes a well-orchestrated operation of housing dispossession in Greece. Thousands of families are threatened with eviction, with their homes ultimately possessed by foreign corporations for prices well below their market value.

As real estate players are preparing to attack, the Greek housing model — characterized by widespread small property ownership and a high percentage of owner occupancy — will begin to falter. This is certain to generate human suffering, as the context is one of skyrocketing rental prices and a complete absence of effective housing policies to absorb the shock.

Throughout the world, wherever neoliberalism takes hold, social solidarities break down, inequality intensifies and governments deploy a militarized, brutal and unaccountable police force to contain popular discontent. 2019 has been replete with such examples, from Chile and Ecuador to Lebanon and France. In the Greek context, the ongoing attack of the government on the squatting movement has a dual function: on the one hand, they aim to neutralize the “internal enemy” and eliminate one of the few bastions of criticism and resistance to dispossession, gentrification and “urban renewal.” On the other hand, they are rehearsing the repressive tactics they are going to employ in the impending wave of housing foreclosures, testing society’s reflexes to extreme and arbitrary violence, and sending a positive message to potential “investors” that no effort will be spared in protecting their “investment.”

Paradoxically, if the current trend of housing dispossession continues, Dimitris Indares and many peace-loving citizens like him are going to realize that, despite their desires and aspirations, their fates are linked more to those of the squatters next door than to those of the Greek government and the international financial organizations it serves.

by thecollective at January 22, 2020 06:19 PM

Ogres of East Africa

From We Will Remember Freedom

Ogres of East Africa, by Sofia Samatar

Read by Derek Johnson

This story originally appeared in Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. Unfortunately I (the host, Margaret Killjoy) gave the reader the wrong information about where it first appeared and the audio does not reflect that. The fault is mine alone.

Ogres of East Africa

Catalogued by Alibhai M. Moosajee of Mombasa
February 1907

1. Apul Apul
A male ogre of the Great Lakes region. A melancholy character, he eats crickets to sweeten his voice. His house burned down with all of his children inside. His enemy is the Hare.

[My informant, a woman of the highlands
who calls herself only “Mary,” adds that Apul Apul can be heard on windy
nights, crying for his lost progeny. She claims that he has been
sighted far from his native country, even on the coast, and that an Arab
trader once shot and wounded him from the battlements of Fort Jesus. It
happened in a famine year, the “Year of Fever.” A great deal of
research would be required in order to match this year, when, according
to Mary, the cattle perished in droves, to one of the Years of Our Lord
by which my employer reckons the passage of time; I append this note,
therefore, in fine print, and in the margins.

“Always read the fine print, Alibhai!” my
employer reminds me, when I draw up his contracts. He is unable to read
it himself; his eyes are not good. “The African sun has spoilt them,

Apul Apul, Mary says, bears a festering sore where the bullet pierced him. He is allergic to lead.]

2. Ba’ati

A grave–dweller from the environs of the
ancient capital of Kush. The ba’ati possesses a skeletal figure and a
morbid sense of humor. Its great pleasure is to impersonate human
beings: if your dearest friend wears a cloak and claims to suffer from a
cold, he may be a ba’ati in disguise.

[Mary arrives every day precisely at the
second hour after dawn. I am curious about this reserved and
encyclopedic woman. It amuses me to write these reflections concerning
her in the margins of the catalogue I am composing for my employer. He
will think this writing fly–tracks, or smudges from my dirty hands (he
persists in his opinion that I am always dirty). As I write I see Mary
before me as she presents herself each morning, in her calico dress,
seated on an overturned crate.

I believe she is not very old, though she
must be several years older than I (but I am very young—“Too young to
walk like an old man, Alibhai! Show some spirit! Ha!”). As she talks,
she works at a bit of scarlet thread, plaiting something, perhaps a
necklace. The tips of her fingers seem permanently stained with color.

“Where did you learn so much about ogres, Mary?”

“Anyone may learn. You need only listen.”

“What is your full name?”

She stops plaiting and looks up. Her eyes
drop their veil of calm and flash at me—in annoyance, in warning? “I
told you,” she says. “Mary. Only Mary.”]

3. Dhegdheer

A female ogre of Somaliland. Her name means
“Long Ear.” She is described as a large, heavy woman, a very fast
runner. One of her ears is said to be much longer than the other, in
fact so long that it trails upon the ground. With this ear, she can hear
her enemies approaching from a great distance. She lives in a ruined
hovel with her daughter. The daughter is beautiful and would like to be
married. Eventually, she will murder Dhegdheer by filling her ear with
boiling water.

[My employer is so pleased with the
information we have received from Mary that he has decided to camp here
for another week. “Milk her, Alibhai!” he says, leering. “Eh? Squeeze
her! Get as much out of her as you can. Ha! Ha!” My employer always
shouts, as the report of his gun has made him rather deaf. In the
evenings, he invites me into his tent, where, closed in by walls, a
roof, and a floor of Willesden canvas, I am afforded a brief respite
from the mosquitoes.

A lamp hangs from the central pole, and
beneath it my employer sits with his legs stretched out and his red
hands crossed on his stomach. “Very good, Alibhai!” he says.
“Excellent!” Having shot every type of animal in the Protectorate, he is
now determined to try his hand at ogre. I will be required to record
his kills, as I keep track of all his accounts. It would be “damn fine,”
he opines, to acquire the ear of Dhegdheer.

Mary tells me that one day Dhegdheer’s
daughter, wracked with remorse, will walk into the sea and give herself
up to the sharks.]

4. Iimũ

Iimũ transports his victims across a vast
body of water in a ferry–boat. His country, which lies on the other
side, is inaccessible to all creatures save ogres and weaverbirds. If
you are trapped there, your only recourse is to beg the weaverbirds for
sticks. You will need seven sticks in order to get away. The first two
sticks will allow you to turn yourself into a stone, thereby escaping
notice. The remaining five sticks enable the following transformations:
thorns, a pit, darkness, sand, a river.

[“Stand up straight, Alibhai! Look lively, man!”

My employer is of the opinion that I do
not show a young man’s proper spirit. This, he tells me, is a racial
defect, and therefore not my fault, but I may improve myself by
following his example. My employer thrusts out his chest. “Look,
Alibhai!” He says that if I walk about stooped over like a dotard,
people will get the impression that I am shiftless and craven, and this
will quite naturally make them want to kick me. He himself has kicked me
on occasion.

It is true that my back is often stiff,
and I find it difficult to extend my limbs to their full length.
Perhaps, as my employer suspects, I am growing old before my time.

These nights of full moon are so bright, I
can see my shadow on the grass. It writhes like a snake when I make an
effort to straighten my back.]

5. Katandabaliko

While most ogres are large, Katandabaliko is
small, the size of a child. He arrives with a sound of galloping just
as the food is ready. “There is sunshine for you!” he cries. This causes
everyone to faint, and Katandabaliko devours the food at his leisure.
Katandabaliko cannot himself be cooked: cut up and boiled, he knits
himself back together and bounces out of the pot. Those who attempt to
cook and eat him may eat their own wives by mistake. When not tormenting
human beings, he prefers to dwell among cliffs.

[I myself prefer to dwell in Mombasa, at
the back of my uncle’s shop, Moosajee and Co. I cannot pretend to enjoy
nights spent in the open, under what my employer calls the splendor of
the African sky. Mosquitoes whine, and something, probably a dangerous
animal, rustles in the grass. The Somali cook and headman sit up late,
exchanging stories, while the Kavirondo porters sleep in a corral
constructed of baggage. I am uncomfortable, but at least I am not
lonely. My employer is pleased to think that I suffer terribly from
loneliness. “It’s no picnic for you, eh, Alibhai?” He thinks me too
prejudiced to tolerate the society of the porters, and too frightened to
go near the Somalis, who, to his mind, being devout Sunnis, must be
plotting the removal of my Shi’a head.

In fact, we all pray together. We are
tired and far from home. We are here for money, and when we talk, we
talk about money. We can discuss calculations for hours: what we expect
to buy, where we expect to invest. Our languages are different but all
of us count in Swahili.]

6. Kibugi

A male ogre who haunts the foothills of
Mount Kenya. He carries machetes, knives, hoes, and other objects made
of metal. If you can manage to make a cut in his little finger, all the
people he has devoured will come streaming out.

[Mary has had, I suspect, a mission
education. This would explain the name and the calico dress. Such an
education is nothing to be ashamed of—why, then, did she stand up in
such a rage when I inquired about it? Mary’s rage is cold; she kept her
voice low. “I have told you not to ask me these types of questions! I
have only come to tell you about ogres! Give me the money!” She held out
her hand, and I doled out her daily fee in rupees, although she had not
stayed for the agreed amount of time.

She seized the money and secreted it in
her dress. Her contempt burned me; my hands trembled as I wrote her fee
in my record book. “No questions!” she repeated, seething with anger.
“If I went to a mission school, I’d burn it down! I have always been a
free woman!”

I was silent, although I might have
reminded her that we are both my employer’s servants: like me, she has
come here for money. I watched her stride off down the path to the
village. At a certain distance, she began to waver gently in the sun.

My face still burns from the sting of her regard.

Before she left, I felt compelled to
inform her that, although my father was born at Karachi, I was born at
Mombasa. I, too, am an African.

Mary’s mouth twisted. “So is Kibugi,” she said.]

7. Kiptebanguryon

A fearsome yet curiously domestic ogre of
the Rift Valley. He collects human skulls, which he once used to
decorate his spacious dwelling. He made the skulls so clean, it is said,
and arranged them so prettily, that from a distance his house resembled
a palace of salt. His human wife bore him two sons: one which looked
human like its mother, and one, called Kiptegen, which resembled its
father. When the wife was rescued by her human kin, her human–looking
child was also saved, but Kiptegen was burnt alive.

[I am pleased to say that Mary returned this morning, perfectly calm and apparently resolved to forget our quarrel.

She tells me that Kiptegen’s brother will
never be able to forget the screams of his sibling perishing in the
flames. The mother, too, is scarred by the loss. She had to be held
back, or she would have dashed into the fire to rescue her ogre–child.
This information does not seem appropriate for my employer’s catalogue;
still, I find myself adding it in the margins. There is a strange
pleasure in this writing and not–writing, these letters that hang
between revelation and oblivion.

If my employer discovered these notes, he would call them impudence, cunning, a trick.

What would I say in my defense? “Sir, I
was unable to tell you. Sir, I was unable to speak of the weeping mother
of Kiptegen.” He would laugh: he believes that all words are found in
his language.

I ask myself if there are words contained in Mary’s margins: stories of ogres she cannot tell to me.

Kiptebanguryon, she says, is homeless now. A modern creature, he roams the Protectorate clinging to the undersides of trains.]

8. Kisirimu

Kisirimu dwells on the shores of Lake
Albert. Bathed, dressed in barkcloth, carrying his bow and arrows, he
glitters like a bridegroom. His purpose is to trick gullible young
women. He will be betrayed by song. He will die in a pit, pierced by

[In the evenings, under the light of the
lamp, I read the day’s inventory from my record book, informing my
employer of precisely what has been spent and eaten. As a representative
of Moosajee and Co., Superior Traders, Stevedores and Dubashes, I am
responsible for ensuring that nothing has been stolen. My employer
stretches, closes his eyes, and smiles as I inform him of the amount of
sugar, coffee and tea in his possession. Tinned bacon, tinned milk, oat
porridge, salt, ghee. The dates, he reminds me, are strictly for the
Somalis, who grow sullen in the absence of this treat.

My employer is full of opinions. Somalis,
he tells me, are an excitable nation. “Don’t offend them, Alibhai! Ha,
ha!” The Kavirondo, by contrast, are merry and tractable, excellent for
manual work. My own people are cowardly, but clever at figures.

There is nothing, he tells me, more
odious than a German. However, their women are seductive, and they make
the world’s most beautiful music. My employer sings me a German song. He
sounds like a buffalo in distress. Afterward, he makes me read to him
from the Bible.

He believes I will find this painful: “Heresy, Alibhai! Ha, ha! You’ll have to scrub your mouth out, eh? Extra ablutions?”

Fortunately, God does not share his prejudices.

I read: There were giants in the earth in those days.

I read: For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron.]

9. Konyek

Konyek is a hunter. His bulging eyes can
perceive movement far across the plains. Human beings are his prey. He
runs with great loping strides, kills, sleeps underneath the boughs of a
leafy tree. His favorite question is: “Mother, whose footprints are

[Mary tells me that Konyek passed through
her village in the Year of Amber. The whirlwind of his running loosened
the roofs. A wise woman had predicted his arrival, and the young men,
including Mary’s brother, had set up a net between trees to catch him.
But Konyek only laughed and tore down the net and disappeared with a
sound of thunder. He is now, Mary believes, in the region of Eldoret.
She tells me that her brother and the other young men who devised the
trap have not been seen since the disappearance of Konyek.

Mary’s gaze is peculiar. It draws me in. I
find it strange that, just a few days ago, I described her as a cold
person. When she tells me of her brother she winds her scarlet thread so
tightly about her finger I am afraid she will cut it off.]

10. Mbiti

Mbiti hides in the berry bushes. When you
reach in, she says: “Oh, don’t pluck my eye out!” She asks you: “Shall I
eat you, or shall I make you my child?” You agree to become Mbiti’s
child. She pricks you with a needle. She is betrayed by the cowrie shell
at the end of her tail.

[“My brother,” Mary says.

She describes the forest. She says we
will go there to hunt ogres. Her face is filled with a subdued yet
urgent glow. I find myself leaning closer to her. The sounds of the
others, their voices, the smack of an axe into wood, recede until they
are thin as the buzzing of flies. The world is composed of Mary and
myself and the sky about Mary and the trees about Mary. She asks me if I
understand what she is saying. She tells me about her brother in the
forest. I realize that the glow she exudes comes not from some
supernatural power, but from fear.

She speaks to me carefully, as if to a child.

She gives me a bundle of scarlet threads.

She says: “When the child goes into the
forest, it wears a red necklace. And when the ogre sees the necklace, it
spares the child.” She says: “I think you and my brother are exactly
the same age.”

My voice is reduced to a whisper. “What of Mbiti?”

Mary gives me a deep glance, fiercely bright.

She says: “Mbiti is lucky. She has not
been caught. Until she is caught, she will be one of the guardians of
the forest. Mbiti is always an ogre and always the sister of ogres.”]

11. Ntemelua

Ntemelua, a newborn baby, already has teeth.
He sings: “Draw near, little pot, draw near, little spoon!” He replaces
the meat in the pot with balls of dried dung. Filthy and clever, he
crawls into a cow’s anus to hide in its stomach. Ntemelua is weak and he
lives by fear, which is a supernatural power. He rides a hyena. His
back will never be quite straight, but this signifies little to him, for
he can still stretch his limbs with pleasure. The only way to escape
him is to abandon his country.

[Tomorrow we depart.

I am to give the red necklaces only to those I trust. “You know them,” Mary explained, “as I know you.”

“Do you know me?” I asked, moved and surprised.

She smiled. “It is easy to know someone in a week. You need only listen.”

Two paths lie before me now. One leads to the forest; the other leads home.

How easily I might return to Mombasa! I
could steal some food and rupees and begin walking. I have a letter of
contract affirming that I am employed and not a vagrant. How simple to
claim that my employer has dispatched me back to the coast to order
supplies, or to Abyssinia to purchase donkeys! But these scarlet threads
burn in my pocket. I want to draw nearer to the source of their heat. I
want to meet the ogres.

“You were right,” Mary told me before she
left. “I did go to a mission school. And I didn’t burn it down.” She
smiled, a smile of mingled defiance and shame. One of her eyes shone
brighter than the other, kindled by a tear. I wanted to cast myself at
her feet and beg her forgiveness. Yes, to beg her forgiveness for having
pried into her past, for having stirred up the memory of her

Instead I said clumsily: “Even Ntemelua spent some time in a cow’s anus.”

Mary laughed. “Thank you, brother,” she said.

She walked away down the path, sedate and
upright, and I do not know if I will ever see her again. I imagine
meeting a young man in the forest, a man with a necklace of scarlet
thread who stands with Mary’s light bearing and regards me with Mary’s
direct and trenchant glance. I look forward to this meeting as if to the
sight of a long–lost friend. I imagine clasping the hand of this young
man, who is like Mary and like myself. Beneath our joined hands, my
employer lies slain. The ogres tear open the tins and enjoy a prodigious
feast among the darkling trees.]

12. Rakakabe

Rakakabe, how beautiful he is, Rakakabe! A
Malagasy demon, he has been sighted as far north as Kismaayo. He skims
the waves, he eats mosquitoes, his face gleams, his hair gleams, his
favorite question is: “Are you sleeping?”

Rakakabe of the gleaming tail! No, we are wide awake.

[This morning we depart on our
expedition. My employer sings—“Green grow the rushes, o!”—but we, his
servants, are even more cheerful. We are prepared to meet the ogres.

We catch one another’s eyes and smile.
All of us sport necklaces of red thread: signs that we belong to the
party of the ogres, that we are prepared to hide and fight and die with
those who live in the forest, those who are dirty and crooked and
resolute. “Tell my brother his house is waiting for him,” Mary whispered
to me at the end—such an honor, to be the one to deliver her message!
While she continues walking, meeting others, passing into other hands
the blood–red necklaces by which the ogres are known.

There will be no end to this catalogue. The ogres are everywhere. Number thirteen: Alibhai M. Moosajee of Mombasa.

The porters lift their loads with
unaccustomed verve. They set off, singing. “See, Alibhai!” my employer
exclaims in delight. “They’re made for it! Natural workers!”

“O, yes sir! Indeed, sir!”

The sky is tranquil, the dust saturated with light. Everything conspires to make me glad.

Soon, I believe, I shall enter into the mansion of the ogres, and stretch my limbs on the doorstep of Rakakabe.]


About the author: Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories, the short story collection, Tender, and Monster Portraits,
a collaboration with her brother, the artist Del Samatar. Her work has
won several awards, including the World Fantasy Award. She teaches
African literature, Arabic literature, and speculative fiction at James
Madison University.

About the reader: Derek Johnson is a Queer, multi-ethnic POC and
member of the African diaspora. Writer, comic book artist, cartoonist,
documentary filmmaker and co-host of several past and current podcasts:
The Authority Smashing! Hour, TASH: Radical Report, Critical Mass, and
Where’s My Jetpack?! He identifies as a libertarian socialist and
anarcho-syndicalist and does labor organizing through the IWW. He has
been an advocate for children with mental illness, a civil
liberties/human rights and homeless rights activist, and has volunteered
at his local community radio station. He is a Philosophical Taoist and
Spinoza-leaning non-theist/ agnostic/ freethinker under the Unitarian
Universalist umbrella currently working on a series of speculative/
science fiction novels and graphic novels centering on Sci-fi, suspense,
horror, weird fiction, noir, and fantasy, genre styles and
Afrofuturism, Steampunk, anarchistic, humanistic, and Taoist themes.

About the host: Margaret Killjoy is a transfeminine author and editor currently based in the Appalachian mountains. Her most recent book is an anarchist demon hunters novella called The Barrow Will Send What it May, published by She spends her time crafting and complaining about authoritarian power structures and she blogs at

by thecollective at January 22, 2020 06:14 PM

InterPressService (global south)

Mosul, an Epicentre of the ISIS Conflict, is a Devastated Iraqi City

Resident of Hamdaniya district stands before a house destroyed in a Coalition airstrike, February 2017. Credit: Mark Lattimer /Ceasefire

By Mark Lattimer
LONDON, Jan 22 2020 (IPS)

As Iraq this month faces the threat of new conflicts – including a proxy war between the US and Iran – the shadow of the last conflict runs long.

Two years ago the Iraqi prime minister declared victory over ISIS, but parts of Ninewa and Anbar are still in ruins, some 1.5 million people remain displaced and families have only begun to grieve for the tens of thousands killed.

Nowhere is this devastation more apparent than in Mosul, Iraq’s second city and the epicentre of the ISIS conflict. The World Bank has estimated that losses to the Mosul housing sector alone are estimated at US $6 billion.

And as revealed in a new report from the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International, 35,000 claims for reparation for deaths, injury or destruction of property have now been lodged by victims of the ISIS occupation and the ‘liberation’ battle.

Interviews with civilians on the ground uncover a complex picture of loss and abandonment. The population who suffered under the occupation feel they were doubly punished by the devastating conflict waged to end it. Yazidis, Christians and other minorities who were forced to flee still remain largely displaced, despairing at the fact that no-one has been brought to justice for the crimes committed against them.

In such circumstances, individual reparations are essential, not least for reconciliation, a concept much-invoked by international missions in Iraq but rarely specified. Without formal recognition for the loss they have suffered and practical help to rebuild, civilians cannot move on.

As one interviewee explained: ‘The compensation payments will never bring me back the loved ones I lost, nor will they allow me to rebuild my house as if nothing happened. But they will help us all to rebuild the city and bring back life into it.’

But among those claiming reparations, long-standing frustration is turning into growing resentment. The claims have been made under Iraq’s Law 20 which established a system for awarding compensation to ‘the victims of military operations, military mistakes and terrorist actions’.

Over 420 billion Iraqi dinars (US $355 million) has been awarded under the scheme since it was first established ten years ago, but it has been overwhelmed by the scale of claims from the ISIS conflict. Claimants in Mosul complain of cumbersome bureaucratic procedures and pay-outs are agonisingly slow.

Meanwhile, the US-led Coalition against ISIS appears to have washed its hands of responsibility. During the nine-month battle the Coalition supported Iraqi forces mainly from the air, and it was Coalition bombardment which, along with ISIS vehicle-borne IEDs, was responsible for most of the material destruction of the city.

The monitoring group Airwars has conservatively estimated that between 1,066 and 1,579 civilians were killed by Coalition air and artillery strikes during the battle for Mosul. Local estimates are much higher. The Coalition describes all civilian deaths caused by its action as ‘unintentional’ and refuses to accept any liability for violations for which reparations should be paid.

Even the system of making discretionary ‘condolence’ payments in such cases, which the US employed previously in Afghanistan as well as Iraq, appears not to be applicable. In its annual report on civilian casualties, the Department of Defense states: ‘…in cases where a host nation or government requests US military support for local military forces, it may be more appropriate for the host nation or its military to respond to the needs and requests of the local civilian population by offering condolences themselves’.

But questions about the tactics used by the Coalition in Mosul, and in other recent sieges, are becoming hard to ignore. The civilian death toll acknowledged by the Coalition is slowly climbing, as it is pressured to reassess credible local reports, and currently stands at 1,347 deaths caused by Coalition actions in the anti-ISIS conflict across Iraq and Syria.

A claim last year by the UK Ministry of Defence that no civilians had been injured in over 1,300 Royal Air Force strikes in Iraq was met with open disbelief. In November the Dutch Defence Ministry finally admitted that Dutch forces had been involved in two airstrikes in Iraq in which at least 74 people, including civilians, were killed, but it still denied any liability for reparations.

The people of Mosul have nonetheless started to rebuild their homes and their city, albeit with inadequate support. Sponsorship by foreign governments of prestige projects, including the reconstruction of the great mosque of al-Nuri, is important for restoring Moslawis’ pride in their city and their cultural heritage.

Less high profile, but arguably more significant, is the ongoing work of UN and other humanitarian agencies to support basic services, including for IDPs. But, as so often in Iraq, the UN is caught in a bind. UN OCHA warned earlier this week that operations to deliver medicine, food and other assistance to 2.4 million in need were now compromised by the delay in the Iraqi government renewing letters of authorization.

Nor is the ISIS conflict over. In the west of Iraq military operations against ISIS continue, including with the support of the Coalition.

ISIS’ supporters are now gone from Mosul, a city which more than any other in Iraq knows the reality of ISIS rule. But with little official acknowledgement of the suffering of the population, practical help slow in coming for civilians to rebuild their lives, and tens of thousands of young men growing up in displacement, the situation is not sustainable.

As one interviewee for the report said: ‘I haven’t seen such anger in Mosul since 2003. It is a very dangerous situation.’

Iraq has tragically demonstrated in recent decades that the failure to deal with the legacy of past conflicts affects both the speed and the severity of their return. For the cause of both justice and peace, the question of reparations for civilian harm is now urgent.

‘Mosul after the Battle: Reparations for civilian harm and the future of Ninewa’ is published on 22 January and available at

The post Mosul, an Epicentre of the ISIS Conflict, is a Devastated Iraqi City appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Mark Lattimer is Executive Director of CEASEFIRE Centre for Civilian Rights

The post Mosul, an Epicentre of the ISIS Conflict, is a Devastated Iraqi City appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Mark Lattimer at January 22, 2020 05:59 PM


How Austria’s Greens Became the Right’s Best Ally

Austria’s right-wing chancellor Sebastian Kurz promises his coalition with the Greens will “protect both the climate and the borders.” But while the Greens have accepted a right-wing agenda on immigration, the partners’ shared neoliberal assumptions will hobble action on the climate.

alt Election campaign posters of the Austrian Green Party prior to elections to the National Council on September 27, 2019 in Vienna, Austria. Michael Gruber / Getty

If a government uniting Austria’s conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Greens may sound unusual, liberal media internationally have already hailed it as a “modern” and “progressive” project. The German daily Die Welt went so far as to depict the thirty-three-year-old chancellor Sebastian Kurz on its front page alongside Greta Thunberg, heralding the ÖVP leader and the climate activist as two “heroes of our days,” representing a new, young generation of leaders.

Such positive readings would suggest that this government is going to take climate change seriously — and perhaps also turn away from the national-populism of Kurz’s previous government, based on an alliance with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ). Yet a look at the new coalition does little to confirm such hopes. Austria faces the continuation of the authoritarian policies and right-wing realignment we saw over the last two years — this time, with a dash of green paint.

What Happened?

In one sense, Austria’s recent elections can be viewed as a political turning point. After all, since December 2017, the country had been ruled by a coalition of the Right and far right, also eased by Kurz’s reinvention of the traditional center-right party, since he became ÖVP leader the previous July. He pushed racist and anti-immigrant positions, paving the way for a common project with the far-right FPÖ.

Even though the main center-left party, the Social Democrats, had slipped into a major crisis and failed to organize any significant opposition, the coalition ended with a bang. In May 2019, the so-called “Ibiza Scandal” forced FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache to resign, when a video of him offering state contracts in exchange for party donations to an alleged niece of a Russian oligarch was made public. In response, Kurz called for a snap election. Though he himself had to resign as a result of the affair, his ÖVP emerged as the clear victor of the election with 37.5 percent of the vote.

However, results night on September 27 showed that there was also a second, more surprising winner: the Green Party received almost 14 percent of the vote, its highest ever score in a national election. This ended a two-year-crisis the party had been going through, having lost all its seats in the last election in 2017 as a result of the expulsion of its youth organization, the resignation of its party leader, and a split with one of its most popular parliamentarians.

The Greens’ recovery owed more to developments outside of the party rather than any internal reforms. Its success was, in large measure, due to the visibility brought by the global climate movement, which redounded positively on a party seen to embody “green issues.” Yet within the Austrian parliamentary system its result also owed to the intense crisis of social democracy, effectively carrying the Greens into a position where the party’s leading circles as well as liberal media made out that its only viable option was to join Kurz’s government.

Even on results night it was obvious that any coalition with the right-wing ÖVP would require the Greens to accept enormous compromises. Yet party leader Werner Kogler — who had announced only a few months earlier that the chance of his party entering a coalition led by Kurz was “zero percent” — hurried to enter negotiations. The agreement Kogler ultimately signed can accurately described as a continuation of the authoritarian project of the ÖVP-FPÖ government, complemented by some cosmetic measures appealing to the Greens’ own clientele.

Despite a few critical voices, left-wing opposition within the Greens was limited to a small minority. Indeed, the coalition deal was approved by the party congress with an overwhelming 93 percent majority. Most Green voters themselves welcomed the deal joyfully — and recent polls show that the party is now more popular than ever before.

A glimpse at the Greens’ social base shows why this shouldn’t necessarily surprise us. Some Green voters might identify as left-wing. Yet most of the party’s base are highly educated and financially well off. They are not the people who will suffer from continued welfare cuts and the neoliberal policies the new government is pushing forward.

The Program

Kurz quickly moved to reframe the Greens’ issues as his own, proclaiming that the new government’s aim would be to “protect both the climate and the borders.” This didn’t just show that the former ÖVP-FPÖ government’s racist framing of inhumane immigration policy as “protecting the border” will live on in this new coalition. Rather, Kurz also set the agenda for what we can expect the new partners’ common project to be.

Both coalition partners have presented the program as a result of a division of labor, with Kurz describing it as “the best of both worlds.” While the Greens decided to prioritize measures against climate change, the ÖVP could continue its inhumane and racist immigration policy. It also wants to continue the authoritarian remodeling of the state and putting forward economic policies for big capital, along the lines of the reduction in business tax and the massive welfare cuts under the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition.

Those who had hoped that Green participation in government would put an end to this course of action will be sorely disappointed. The “Turquoise-Green” pact, as the coalition has been called according to the parties’ respective colors, is a right-wing, neoliberal project in its core, complemented by some cosmetic green measures, as well as individual progressive policies.

Climate protection does play an important role in the program — and there are some ambitious measures proposed. Plans include price reductions on public transport and a nationwide switch to renewable energies. Yet the climate crisis is addressed in a way that does nothing to tackle the cornerstones of Kurz’s political project, while even the bid to “step in the right direction” is limited by a refusal to challenge capital’s interests.

Firstly, because cheaper train tickets won’t automatically reduce car traffic, absent the other conditions to encourage people to use public transport. Indeed, proposing an “ecological tax reform,” while at the same time lowering business tax, shows how little the new government is willing to attack fossil and automotive industries that play directly into the further escalation of the climate crisis.

The government’s approach instead seems to be to incentivize private capital to invest in “green technologies.” But the climate crisis is only to be fought insofar as this is compatible with the interests of profit. Instead of treating climate change as the inherent product of capitalist accumulation which it is, the Greens’ position suggests that there is a compromise to be found between “protecting the climate” and maintaining the status quo.

While there certainly is a “green touch” to the program, many of the government’s proposals sound like they have been taken straight out of the its predecessor’s plans. Despite mentions of a so-called “anti-poverty package,” the policy actually proposed sounds rather more cynical: instead of reversing the welfare cuts implemented under the ÖVP-FPÖ government, the plan now is to lower income tax, and carry forward actions such as the so-called “family bonus” — a tax break outwardly put into place to fight child poverty, which in reality in only benefits those who earn enough to pay income tax. The poorest third of the in-work Austrian population, as well as the unemployed, are thus left empty-handed.

Here as elsewhere, what the program leaves out is often more telling than what it does address. The highly controversial expansion of the maximum working day to twelve hours, introduced in 2017, is simply not mentioned, and therefore remains unchallenged.

Despite all this, supporters of the new coalition government can be found in both leftist and liberal circles. They argue that even though it will not bring fundamental change, the government would at least mitigate the furthering of racist exclusion and human rights violations. Yet the reality of what the two parties have already agreed tells quite a different story. For the Greens, too, have signed up to further segregation measures directed against ethnic minorities, operating under the guise of integration. This includes a ban on headscarves for schoolchildren under the age of fourteen — to which the Green party has already agreed — and demands by the ÖVP to outlaw Muslim teachers wearing the headscarf as well.

Projects such as the reallocation of mandatory legal counsel for asylum seekers from independent NGOs to a government-run agency — proposed by the former far-right Interior Minister Herbert Kickl and widely criticized for infringing basic rights — will now be implemented. The government pact even includes a clause making it possible for the two coalition partners to vote differently in parliament in case of a “migration crisis.” This will allow the ÖVP to ignore the Green Party’s red lines regarding immigration policy and continue implementing their exclusionary racist fantasies with the votes of their former coalition partner, the FPÖ.

What About the Left?

From the minute the coalition deal was made public, Green Party leaders and supporters heaped attacks on real and potential left-wing critics, asking the rhetorical question which would supposedly preclude discussion: “Would you rather have the far-right FPÖ in government again?” The Green Party presents the deal as the only option — and every critic as unreasonable. According to this logic, any criticism of the government will only serve to weaken the Green Party, and therefore play into the hands of the far right.

However, the argument that a fresh ÖVP-FPÖ government would have been “worse” than the coalition Austria ended up with, misses a crucial point. For the Greens decision to accept the hard right-wing, authoritarian politics of the former government as a benchmark for what “good politics” look like and play along with the logic of the “lesser evil” contributes to shifting public discourse even further to the Right.

The fact that this particular dynamic has spread so quickly following the announcement of the new coalition exemplifies a disillusioning truth about Austrian politics: since there is no relevant left-wing force, convincingly engaging in a struggle against capitalist exploitation and oppression, politics has been reduced to a technocratic endeavor, to do with managing the status quo. In light of the new government, it has become even more obvious that there is no force organizing the fight to improve the material conditions of people’s lives.

With such a Left absent, the Greens’ own ambitions are deeply limited. The fact that the need to make a Kurz-led government “more bearable” has become the main argument for their participation in government shows how little of an actual political vision they have. Indeed, while this coalition needs to be taken seriously — as a new political expression of the neoliberal project — there is little room to be disappointed in the Greens.

It has been clear for a long time that their goal is not a fundamental transformation of society, but rather to be allowed to play along with the established parties. For the Left, the question is to go beyond this, building a serious opposition to the government and convincingly building a political project ready to fight the interests of capital in the defense of working people — and our planet.

by Teresa Petrik at January 22, 2020 03:43 PM

Kerry Hudson & Rachael Jolley – Chasing Silver Darlings (Podcast from the Past)

Joining Tom Jackson to discuss the postcards from their pasts are two award-winners: novelist and memoirist KERRY HUDSON (Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, Thirst, Lowborn) and writer and editor of Index On Censorship, RACHAEL JOLLEY.

Listen to the podcast here.

The post Kerry Hudson & Rachael Jolley – Chasing Silver Darlings (Podcast from the Past) appeared first on Index on Censorship.

by Jonathan Perfect at January 22, 2020 02:22 PM


Glenn Greenwald Is Innocent

The Bolsonaro government’s attack on Glenn Greenwald is an attack on free speech and democracy. We should unequivocally stand by his side.

alt Investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald speaks at a press conference after accepting the George Polk Award alongside Laura Poitras, Ewan MacAskill, and Barton Gellman, on April 11, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton / Getty

Brazil’s far-right government, under the helm of Jair Bolsonaro, has taken a major step to criminalize journalism and silence one of its most effective critics. Yesterday, a federal prosecutor announced that he is seeking criminal charges against Brazil-based journalist Glenn Greenwald for “cyber crimes.”

The charges stem from the Intercept Brazil’s groundbreaking reporting on leaked chat messages giving a firsthand look into the country’s anti-corruption task force. The articles not only exposed a high-profile anti-corruption investigation as politically biased, they helped set the stage for the release of former Brazilian president Lula da Silva from prison.

Authorities insist that Greenwald illegally helped the hackers. But make no mistake: this is a massive assault on press freedom.

The Car Wash Scandal

The leaked archive pertained to what is known as the Operation Car Wash investigation, or Operação Lava Jato. While the investigation was ostensibly a wide-ranging probe into corruption in Brazil, it most infamously ensnared Lula de Silva, the former president and member of the Workers Party.

Lula left office with record-high approval ratings. While he was barred from seeking more than two consecutive terms, and thus could not enter the 2010 presidential race, he was eligible to seek a third nonconsecutive term and was planning to run in 2018. As the country’s most popular politician, Lula was widely expected to win.

It was not to be.

A single witness, who was given a reduced sentence for testifying, claimed Lula received as a bribe an apartment he had never lived in or even held title to. Despite Lula having further appeals pending, the Supreme Federal Court, in a 6–5 ruling, ordered him to report to jail.

Opinion polls still showed Lula was the clear favorite, despite his incarceration. Finally, the Supreme Federal Court barred him from the ballot. With the popular socialist in prison and banned from the election, Bolsonaro, whose views can be described without hyperbole as fascist, won the election. Once in office, Bolsonaro named the judge responsible for Lula’s conviction, Sérgio Moro, as his minister of justice.

From the start, Lula and many on the Left condemned the prosecution as a political frame-up. Noam Chomsky referred to Lula as “the most prominent political prisoner in the world.”

The secret archive obtained by the Intercept Brazil, which contained leaked chat messages, confirmed this. Moro was illegally working with the prosecutors. Just days before filing charges, prosecutors had expressed serious doubts about the strength of their case. And prosecutors actively worked to thwart the Workers’ Party election by blocking a newspaper interview with the imprisoned Lula.

These revelations were explosive. The international case for Lula’s freedom gained steam, with US senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn calling for Lula’s release.

Finally, in November 2019, the Supreme Federal Court freed Lula on procedural grounds. For the time being, Lula remains a free man.

Bolsonaro and Greenwald

Even before Bolsonaro was elected president, press-freedom groups expressed serious concerns about the threat he posed. Bolsonaro, a former army captain, praised Brazil’s military dictatorship, championed violence against the Left, and spewed virulent bigotry, including homophobia.

Unsurprisingly, Bolsonaro and his right-wing supporters soon honed in on Glenn Greenwald and his husband, David Miranda, a Brazilian congressmen with the Socialism and Liberty Party. Both received homophobic vitriol and death threats alongside calls to jail and/or deport Greenwald. In July 2019 the far-right government launched an investigation into Greenwald’s finances. Shortly after, Bolsonaro suggested Greenwald might “do jail time.” In November, Greenwald was assaulted during a live on-air debate by a right-wing, pro-Bolsonaro journalist, after Greenwald confronted him over his earlier comments that Greenwald and Miranda should have their children taken away.

And now, a federal prosecutor has issued a “denunciation” against Greenwald. A judge will decide whether to approve or deny the charges. The prosecution alleges that Greenwald went beyond merely reporting on the leaks and illegally assisted the hackers by advising them on how to cover their tracks and avoid detection by the authorities. However, federal police looked at the exact same evidence and concluded Greenwald exercised extreme caution and committed no crime.

Previously, a member of Brazil’s Supreme Court blocked Bolsonaro and Moro from investigating Greenwald. The judge reasoned that such a probe would constitute censorship and affirmed the “constitutional secrecy of the journalistic source.”

Greenwald’s Journalism

This is not the first time Greenwald’s journalism has put him in the crosshairs of powerful state actors. Greenwald received a Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for his role in exposing the National Security Agency’s illegal bulk surveillance programs. Greenwald’s source, Edward Snowden, still lives in exile, as the United States government charged him with “espionage” for blowing the whistle on illegal government surveillance. US lawmakers called for Greenwald to face similar charges, and his husband was detained in November 2013 for nine hours by British authorities under an anti-terrorism law. In spite of these threats, Greenwald elected to return to the United States in 2014 to receive a Polk Award for his reporting.

Greenwald first rose to prominence during the George W. Bush years. Writing first on his own blog and then for Salon, Greenwald railed against the Bush administration’s authoritarian claims of sweeping executive powers. He attacked them for their warrantless surveillance and military detention. Members of Congress cited his work.

These trenchant critiques earned him the support of the administration’s liberal opponents. But not everyone appreciated that Greenwald held Bush’s Democratic successor to the same standard.

Although he ran on a campaign of hope and change, it became clear very early on that Barack Obama would entrench some of Bush’s War on Terror abuses. While still on the campaign trail, Obama reversed an earlier position and voted to retroactively grant immunity to telecoms corporations who participated in an illegal NSA surveillance program. He called for an escalation of US drone strikes in Pakistan and more troops in Afghanistan.

Despite facing criticism from erstwhile supporters, Greenwald continued to criticize the moral travesty of the US security state, penning pieces condemning Obama’s extrajudicial execution of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and his administration’s persecution of whistleblower Chelsea Manning. And much like during the Bush years, Greenwald did not pull any punches when it came to those in the corporate media who acted not as checks on official power, but as its sycophants.

Greenwald also violated another important taboo — speaking out on behalf of the Palestinian people. In 2010, when Israel attacked in international waters a flotilla with humanitarian aid bound for Gaza, many commentators saw their role not as exposing Israel’s illegal blockade, but doing public relations for an apartheid state. Greenwald was one of the rare voices in the media willing to criticize Israel.

In a famous MSNBC exchange, Greenwald clashed with on-air host Elliott Spitzer. As Spitzer tried to cut off Greenwald, the journalist interjected: “No, let me just finish because you just had on ten minutes of uninterrupted pro-Israeli propaganda filled with falsehoods” before explaining how the blockade of Gaza “is one of the most brutal and inhumane blockades that we’ve seen in the last generation. When Spitzer asked Greenwald if he agreed Hamas was a terrorist organization, Greenwald asked Spitzer: “Has Israel been brutally occupying the Palestinian people for the last forty years?  Have they or haven’t they?”

Why We Should Defend Glenn Greenwald

The work of Glenn Greenwald exemplifies everything journalism should strive to be. It challenges the powerful and condemns without equivocation their crimes. The impact of the Intercept Brazil’s exposés on the political witch-hunt against Lula shows the tangible power of real journalism.

Bolsonaro would most likely not be president if his main opponent had not been shamefully imprisoned. Today, Bolsonaro and Moro are trying to criminalize journalism to silence their critics. Defending Glenn Greenwald is about defending not just the right to a free press, but the right to a democracy.

Bolsonaro’s attacks on Greenwald come at a time when the far-right is on the rise and press freedoms are under assault. Several commentators have noted how the charges against Greenwald mirror one of the charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who the Trump administration is trying to have extradited so he can face trial for publishing documents exposing the horrors of US foreign policy. In the United States, the government is yet again detaining Chelsea Manning and trying to imprison drone whistleblower Daniel Hale. 

Governments fear journalism — real, adversarial journalism — because they fear its consequences. In a world where far-right leaders are seeking to scapegoat the marginalized, wars continue to be pushed based on lies, and governments are secretly expanding the machinery of repression, the stakes could not be higher.

by Chip Gibbons at January 22, 2020 02:20 PM

Joe Biden’s Checkered Ethical History Is Fair Game for Criticism

Joe Biden has a history of shady dealings, from protecting the interests of corporate donors to the business in Ukraine. Running him against our corrupt president would be a catastrophe.

alt Democratic presidential candidate, former vice president Joe Biden arrives during an event at Iowa Central Community College on January 21, 2020 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Al Drago / Getty

In 2008, Democratic nomination contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton tore each other to shreds. Some of it was political and substantive while some of it was personal and slimy. But none of it would be considered “civil” by the standards now being applied to today’s Democratic primary.

It’s not a coincidence that the right flank of the party started finger-wagging about divisiveness, incivility, and disunity precisely when the left flank began to seriously threaten its dominance. As the left wing gains momentum, the party establishment’s tolerance for legitimate criticism wears thinner, and the range of topics considered off-limits or below-the-belt expands. New behavioral norms have appeared out of thin air: suddenly political criticisms of opponents, no matter how legitimate by traditional standards, are a bridge too far, and are even alleged to help Donald Trump. At least, if the criticisms are flying from left to right.

It should be obvious that all the scolding about divisiveness is merely a reflexive defense mechanism, an easier task for centrists than defending their politics on its merits. It deserves little more consideration than that. But if we do decide to subject to closer scrutiny the idea that criticism in a primary imperils the winner’s prospects in the general election, we find that it quickly falls apart.

To make informed decisions about who to nominate for the general election, the electorate should be able to get a good look at the candidates, warts and all. While there’s little value in personal smears and ugly innuendo, vetting candidates’ records and histories is indispensable. General elections are gloves-off affairs: vicious attacks are guaranteed. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you’re asking millions of people to defend a candidate against a charge that everyone knows deep down is indefensible. Therefore, it’s best to air dirty laundry during the primary and let voters decide what they can tolerate in a general election.

That’s why Bernie Sanders had nothing to apologize for this week when his senior campaign adviser David Sirota sent an email to campaign supporters promoting an op-ed written by campaign surrogate Zephyr Teachout. The op-ed was titled, “‘Middle Class’ Joe Biden has a corruption problem — it makes him a weak candidate.”

Law professor Teachout has made her name running for office against self-interested politicians, and is the author of the book Corruption in America. This is her wheelhouse. Biden, she wrote, has

perfected the art of taking big contributions, then representing his corporate donors at the cost of middle- and working-class Americans. Converting campaign contributions into legislative favors and policy positions isn’t being “moderate”. It is the kind of transactional politics Americans have come to loathe.

Biden and his campaign took umbrage at Sirota’s promotion of the op-ed and promptly launched into the unity-and-civility routine. Various liberal pundits piled on, calling it “a bad look” for Sanders. To the dismay of many of his supporters, Sanders apologized to Biden. It turned out the apology may have been a bait and switch — later that evening, the Sanders campaign published an ad eviscerating Biden’s record on Social Security.

But politicking aside, the truth remains that Biden’s political history is checkered with ethical grey areas, even if many pertain to actions that are perfectly legal, and that this will be a massive liability for him in the general election. The points Teachout raised in her op-ed should give everybody who wants to beat Trump pause about the viability of a Biden campaign.

You see, Democratic candidates might be able to browbeat each other into retracting criticisms by histrionically taking offense, but that won’t work on Trump. In fact, if he’s smart, he’s watching right now to see what makes candidates the most squeamish, what they’re most sensitive about, what they’re least equipped to explain. Whatever topic makes a candidate the most uncomfortable is what Trump will likely zero in on in the general election. It’s not airing criticism that gives future opponents ideas for lines of attack; it’s panicking, evading, or otherwise failing to coolly respond to them.

If Biden were to run against Trump, his perceived corruption would surely get top billing. As Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic has written:

The Biden family’s propensity for engaging in money-making ventures that — gee whiz, just somehow seem to constantly overlap with Biden’s political career — will make him a perfect foil to Trump. Whether it’s Biden’s son, Hunter, being hired as a lobbyist for a Delaware credit card company whose favored legislation Biden was voting for; Biden’s brother mysteriously getting hired by a mid-size construction firm shortly before it received a $1.5 billion government contract; or Hunter, again, joining the board of a corruption-tainted Ukrainian gas producer while Biden spearheaded US policy on Ukraine.

We know Trump has been planning to attack Biden on this issue for ages — in fact, that acute interest in the subject is what started the whole chain of events culminating in the current impeachment proceedings. And once impeachment fails and Trump is acquitted, it will be easier than ever for him to press the case that Biden is a shady character.

It doesn’t matter that Trump himself is egregiously corrupt. In fact, that’s precisely why it’s a terrible idea to send Biden up against him. Trump’s corruption needs to be central to the campaign against him, but Biden doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. His son really did receive $600,000 a year from a Ukrainian gas company in exchange for doing nothing when Biden was vice president. He really does have a well-documented tendency to act on behalf of the same corporate interests that have bankrolled his political career — particularly finance, health care, and fossil fuels, as Teachout observes.

These unflattering truths will improve Trump’s chances if Biden’s the nominee. As Teachout wrote, nominating Biden “will allow Trump to muddy the water, to once again pretend he is the one ‘draining the swamp,’ running against Washington culture.” The fact that Trump is worse than Biden will not neutralize the threat. Biden’s ethical record will still dampen enthusiasm for him and increase the likelihood of defeat. This will pose a problem especially with working-class nonvoters, who are already likely to consider politicians uniformly untrustworthy. Without those voters, the path to victory over Trump narrows.

By contrast, Trump’s got nothing good on the other front-runner in the race. What will he say about Bernie: that he’s a crazy socialist? Bernie has always been consistent and honest about his political views, and his short-term program is overwhelmingly popular. He’ll simply respond, “So you think it’s crazy to make sure everyone has health care, housing, education, a living wage, a clean planet, and a secure retirement?”

Whatever Trump says next, at least now we’re having a useful and generative political conversation as a country — an argument that’s a long time coming and one we actually stand a chance at winning, given the intensity of people’s dissatisfaction with the status quo. Plus, it’s amusing to imagine Trump calling Bernie’s proposals unaffordable and unworkable, and losing all the Obama-to-Trump converts that he won by posturing as the change candidate in 2016.

Teachout’s op-ed was spot on. “We don’t have to choose Biden’s way, which would give Trump a perfect foil,” she writes. “The 2020 election should be about a crystal clear contrast between truth and lies, corruption and integrity, compassion and cruelty.” The candidate who allows us to draw the sharpest contrast, of course, is the one perceived as most honest: Bernie Sanders.

by Meagan Day at January 22, 2020 02:20 PM

The Orwellian Assault on Bernie Sanders

Pundits who once decried Joe Biden’s attacks on Social Security are now insisting he never made them, while self-declared “fact-checkers” with an ax to grind are treated like an infallible Ministry of Truth. The anti-Sanders attack machine has taken an Orwellian turn.

alt Former vice president Joe Biden reacts as Sen. Bernie Sanders makes a point during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Scott Olson / Getty

When we look back at this year’s election, the biggest question might well be: Was it deliberate dishonesty, or just incompetence and unconscious bias that explains the media’s treatment of Bernie Sanders’s candidacy?

Let’s review what happened just this last week. First Politico succeeded in drumming up outrage over an anodyne Sanders campaign script that instructed volunteers to tell people they “like Elizabeth Warren” and consider her their “second choice,” but that they had concerns about her more affluent, well-educated voter base, a base that was originally described in another Politico report. This was roundly condemned as a vicious attack by the Sanders camp.

Next, in one of the most finely orchestrated bits of political theater in recent memory, CNN first reported Warren’s allegation that Sanders had told her in 2018 a woman couldn’t win the presidency against Trump, a contested claim her own campaign doesn’t seem to be sure about. Then, during the following night’s debate, a CNN moderator flatly treated Warren’s version of events as fact, all but called Sanders a liar on national TV when he denied it, and teed Warren up for a pre-prepared and factually dubious speech about the candidates’ electoral histories. At a time of extraordinary political division, the incident was notable for uniting everyone from the National Review to NPR to Morning Joe to Hill.TV’s Rising in condemnation of the lack of professionalism involved.

As footage circulated of a post-debate altercation between Warren and Sanders, the surrounding discourse only became more unhinged. The LA Times published a piece attacking Sanders’s rejected outstretched hand as a master class in handling sexism, accusing Sanders of “gaslighting” Warren. Sanders’s liberal enemies began weaponizing the language of sexual assault, insisting that Warren — a politician with a history of incorrect claims about her own past and currently trying to win an election — should be “believed” as we would an assault survivor. Even Bush-era apparatchiks could now leverage their newfound feminist bona fides to join in the pile-on: Matthew Dowd — who once helped run a campaign for a guy accused by several women of sexual harassment — seemed to suggest that the only way Sanders could now prove he wasn’t sexist was to simply step aside and let Warren win the nomination.

Meanwhile, MSNBC’s Joy Reid brought on a “body language expert” who moonlights as an anti-vaccine conspiracist to tell us how Sanders’s hand gestures and posture proved he was definitely lying about the Warren allegation. At this rate, it won’t be long before Brian Williams invites a psychic to tell viewers that Sanders’s parents actually oppose Medicare for All from beyond the grave.

But somehow none of this even qualifies as the low point of the week — a week that has seen a series of newspaper pundits and other interested parties condemn Sanders and his campaign for the crime of criticizing Biden for his very real history of trying to cut entitlements like Social Security.

As with every media-manufactured controversy, this one requires a prohibitively large amount of context. As my colleague Meagan Day has documented, Sanders speechwriter David Sirota has lately been leading the criticism of Biden’s long, well-documented record of trying to cut entitlements like Social Security, a fact that was, mystifyingly, not once broached by anyone during the final debate before voting. Though Sirota listed several examples of Biden’s position on the issue, the offending passage concerned a 2018 speech Biden delivered at the Brookings Institution as he laid the groundwork for his presidential run. According to Sirota, “Biden lauded Paul Ryan for proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare” in the speech.

Because political journalists dislike the combative Sirota; because the establishment media harbors a deep, sometimes absurd emotional ambivalence regarding Sanders’s campaign; and because they suffer from what Politico’s editor in chief has described as “centrist bias,” the fact-checking brigade immediately rushed to rubbish this claim. In keeping with how things have gone this election — where professional “fact-checkers” have started declaring that even admittedly factual statements are untrue simply because they personally disagree with the point being made — Politifact deemed Sirota’s statement “false.” The Sanders campaign, they charged, had omitted the wider context of what Biden was saying and — here they parroted the Biden campaign’s claim that he had actually been “mocking” Ryan in the speech — missed the fact that he was actually being sarcastic.

With Politifact’s imprimatur on the claim that Sirota’s criticism was not a Genuine Fact, the floodgates opened. Biden claimed the Sanders camp was spreading around a “doctored video” that purported to show him “wanting to privatize Social Security,” before claiming “they doctored the photo, they doctored the piece and it’s acknowledged that it’s a fake.” To say none of these statements are true is an understatement; Biden seemed to be talking about something that happened in a completely different reality.

Figures like Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler and (in a now deleted tweet) Obama’s former Russia ambassador Michael McFaul shared the Politifact story. Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — one of those Washington deficit-scold organizations that has long advocated for cuts to Social Security and other critical programs — referred to a “dishonest splice of a video clip where Biden said something in sarcasm.”

But perhaps no one leaned into this crusade harder than award-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Though Krugman has an admirable history of criticizing Biden and Obama’s attempts to cut Social Security, he also has a tendency during election campaigns to modulate his positions to align with whichever ones his favored candidate — or, in Sanders’s case, his disfavored candidate — adopts.

So Krugman now claims that the Sanders campaign “has flat-out lied about things Biden said in 2018 about Social Security, and it has refused to admit the falsehood,” something he labels “bad” and even “almost Trumpian.” Demanding an apology from Sanders, Krugman assured readers there was “nothing in [Biden’s 2018] remarks that should bother progressives,” claimed that Biden never called for cuts to Social Security, and that there is merely “some truth” to the Sanders campaign “going around claiming that Biden has a long record of trying to cut Social Security.” Krugman informs readers these “dishonest smears” are “coming from the top of the Sanders campaign” and that they say “uncomfortable things about his character.” You will be shocked to learn that Krugman’s source for this information is that same Politifact fact-check.

Let’s give Krugman the benefit of the doubt and assume his critical faculties have just been momentarily impaired by his intense antipathy to Sanders. Both Krugman and the Politifact article that he and Biden and so many others are clinging to are wrong. Watch the video for yourself, read the transcript, or read any of the fine journalists who have taken on the tedious task of explaining Biden’s 2018 words for those mysteriously struggling with basic reading comprehension. If Biden was truly being “sarcastic” about agreeing with Paul Ryan, why would his next sentence hint at the desirability of means-testing Social Security (“I don’t know a whole lot of people in the top one-tenth of 1 percent or the top 1 percent relying on Social Security when they retire”)? Why would he repeat, moments later, in a tone that cannot remotely be construed as “mocking” or “sarcastic,” that these major entitlements “still needs [sic] adjustments” to “stay”?

But the fact that it’s Paul Krugman specifically who’s now trying to play down Biden’s history of efforts to cut Social Security suggests that something else is going on here. Far from these charges containing a mere “element of truth” about a politician who supported such policies “in the more distant past,” for Joe Biden, cutting Social Security is inarguably one of the running themes of his political career, as even the Washington Post acknowledges. With barely any effort, I just found Biden advocating in 1996 for raising the retirement age and lopping off one percentage point every year from the program’s cost-of-living adjustments. Speaking as someone who has looked through more of Biden’s history than is probably healthy, I can attest that it is impossible to wade through the man’s record without constantly tripping over calls to sacrifice the Big Three entitlement programs and a host of other vital government programs on the altar of deficit reduction.

Krugman’s column has served its purpose, however. Just yesterday, the Biden campaign released a campaign ad about the controversy, claiming he’s “been fighting to protect — and expand — Social Security for [his] whole career.” Accusing Sanders of launching “dishonest attacks,” the Biden ad cites Krugman’s column to lend itself legitimacy and denies that Biden supported Social Security privatization, a claim that no one has made. This is how misinformation spreads: not from shadowy foreign hackers and sinister overseas governments, but from within the Washington establishment, with politicians, their staff, and the well-placed media figures that support them turning a lie into truth by sheer force of repetition.

In fact, if there is a Trump-like figure in the Democratic field, it’s Biden himself, who together with his campaign has shown a casual willingness to lie through his teeth when confronted with his disastrous record. Biden has alternated between pretending he was a civil rights and antiwar activist in the 1980s — a lie he’s now repeating again, even though it partly led to his embarrassing exit from the 1988 Democratic contest — and repeatedly lying about his role in pushing the Iraq War, to the frustration of contemporary fact-checkers.

It’s been barely a month since Biden insulted a voter by calling him fat, which his campaign vainly tried to spin as the former vice president saying “facts.” And yet the likes of Politifact and Krugman are determined to play the Superintendent Chalmers to Biden’s Principal Skinner, accepting Biden and his campaign’s lame excuses and explanations on what is a matter of life and death for many. And that’s not even to go into Biden’s history of corruption.

Oops — wouldn’t you know it, that too is now off-limits. Because with this last manufactured controversy having run its course, Krugman and other self-appointed arbiters of reasonable campaign discourse are now outraged that Zephyr Teachout, a Sanders endorser and longtime anti-corruption campaigner, penned an op-ed arguing that Biden’s history of corruption makes him a poor choice to face Trump. This isn’t because the piece contained any factual inaccuracies, of course — indeed, Politico just last year published a well-regarded longform piece examining how Biden’s family members have long cashed in on his political career. It’s because it’s “a really bad look” before Trump’s impeachment trial.

Of course, none of this is about Biden; it’s about Sanders. I’ve written before about how establishment Democrats, who used to love Sanders when he seemed just a harmless nonentity in Congress, have in recent years adopted exactly the same kind of rabid, dishonest hatred toward him that the Right harbored toward Hillary Clinton. Just as right-wing hyperventilation about the Clintons and Barack Obama was intended to snuff out any progressive instincts they may have had, anti-Sanders liberals go histrionic about every minor thing his campaign does to cow it into submission, letting his opponents continue taking potshots without any pushback. And it’s worked: Sanders has now needlessly apologized to Biden over both the Social Security and corruption matters — not that it will stop the attacks.

Why is this happening? The simple answer is that these quarters have belatedly realized Sanders has a real shot at winning, and the anti-Sanders attack machine is now revving up into overdrive to stop him. From December onward, it started with bogus antisemitism accusations, dipped back into the well of misogyny accusations, and now the new line — for the moment, at least — is that Sanders is a Trump-like demagogue. Here’s former Republican aide and Breitbart spokesperson and sometime contributor Kurt Bardella — fresh off his own conveniently timed rebranding as a woke Democrat — solemnly warning that Trump’s and Sanders’s supporters share the same aggressive intolerance. Just yesterday, Hillary Clinton amplified these voices for the umpteenth time.

Establishment media may have an unconscious centrist bias, but most of the people involved aren’t actively dishonest. Still, if the last four years or even weeks should tell us anything, it’s that there are some prominent people in political and media circles who will cheerfully say whatever they need to — and even bend their own perception of reality — if that’s what it takes to ensure that another corrupt, corporate-funded Democrat who will play patsy to the far right makes it to the White House. And if there’s one lesson to be learned from the Jeremy Corbyn experiment, it’s that lying down and taking it is a surefire way to lose.

by Branko Marcetic at January 22, 2020 02:14 PM

Letter from the Fire (well Smoke) Front

We still have time to learn the lessons and get this right, but many strongly held beliefs (yes they are beliefs, not science) have to go out of the window, and we need much more science focus on this issue, rather than the ever burgeoning clamour for “saving” threatened species, which takes oxygen and energy for the real questions that need answers at landscape scale.  

by Peter Bridgewater at January 22, 2020 02:13 PM

If Defending Life on Earth is Extremist, We must Own that Label

Police say climate groups such as Extinction Rebellion are a ‘threat’. They’d have done the same for the suffragettes and Martin Luther King

It’s not an “error” or an “accident”, as the police now claim. It’s a pattern.

by George Monbiot at January 22, 2020 02:12 PM

Free speech & the law: Child Protection

Please note: This is part of a series of guides produced by Index on Censorship on the laws related to freedom of expression in England and Wales. They are intended to help understand the protections that exist for free speech and where the law currently permits restrictions.

Cherub statue. Credit: Bridget Coila (CC BY-SA 2.0)

1. Child protection offences explained

Child protection is a sensitive area of law and a deserved focus of public concern.

As there is no clear legal definition of the concept of indecency, and because of the sensitivity of the matter, decisions made by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) can be subjective and inconsistent, and in the wrong context can seriously compromise freedom of expression rights. For that reason, it is important to be aware of the legal framework and, if you are concerned that your artistic work, journalistic work or other projects or behaviour will be scrutinised under child protection laws, to take practical preparatory steps at an early stage.

The offences set out in law cover a broad spectrum of behaviour. If someone makes, displays or possesses images of children that could be considered to be indecent, obscene or pornographic, it could be a serious criminal offence. The circumstances or motivation of a defendant are not relevant to determining whether or not the image is indecent. It is for a jury to decide whether or not images are indecent, by asking whether the images offend based on recognised standards of propriety. Information about an investigation, an arrest and a prosecution can be kept and may be legally disclosed to others by police in certain circumstances. Convicted people may be treated as sex offenders depending on the seriousness of the charges.

2. Overview of UK laws

The UK laws that can be used to prosecute people in relation to images of children include:

  • Protection of Children Act 1978, which prohibits making, taking, permitting to be taken, distributing or showing indecent photographs (including film or computer data such as scans) or “pseudo-photographs” of children. As defined by the act, “children” are people under 18.
  • Criminal Justice Act 1988, which creates an offence of possessing an indecent photograph or “pseudo-photograph” of a child.
  • Coroners and Justice Act 2009, which criminalises the possession of non-photographic images of children (including cartoons, paintings and drawings) which are pornographic and grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character.
  • Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955, which criminalises the printing, publishing, hiring or selling of a book, magazine or similar work, which consists mostly of stories told in pictures and is of a kind likely to fall into the hands of children or young people, and which portrays acts of violence or cruelty, the commission of crimes or repulsive incidents in such a way that it might “tend to corrupt” a child reader. There have been very few prosecutions for this offence.
  • Indecent Displays (Control) Act 1981, which criminalises the public display of “indecent matter”.
  • Obscene Publications Act 1959, which criminalises the publication of an “obscene article”.
  • Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which gives police a range of statutory powers to stop, search, and arrest individuals.
  • Serious Crime Act 2015, which created the offence of being “in possession of any item that contains advice or guidance about abusing children sexually”. The crime is called “possession of paedophile manual”. If a defendant has material containing advice or guidance about how to make indecent photographs (but not pseudo-photographs) of children they will likely be committing an offence under this act.

These laws are intended to protect the rights of children. The police and prosecuting authorities should also consider the free-expression rights of alleged perpetrators under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) when making decisions about whether to investigate or prosecute.

3. Protection of Children Act 1978 – Taking, making, showing and distributing indecent photographs of children

Individuals may commit a criminal offence under the Protection of Children Act 1978 in relation to indecent photographic, film and “pseudo-photographic” images (which are defined as non-photographic images that appear to be photographs – these could be computer-generated). Under the legislation, “photograph” includes negatives, tracings of photographs and data stored on a computer or electronically that is capable of being converted into photographs. For a photograph or film to be considered indecent under the law, it must be found by the jury or court to offend recognised standards of propriety. This is an extremely fluid test that changes along with society’s changing expectations.

The criminal offence set out in Section 1 of the 1978 act prohibits the making, taking, permitting to be taken, distributing, or possessing (with a view to distributing) indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children. “Making” an indecent image is defined as “to cause [it] to exist, to produce by action, to bring about” (R v Bowden 2000). It includes intentionally opening an email attachment knowing that it contains (or is likely to contain) an indecent photograph of a child. 

Equally, accessing a pornographic website and knowing that indecent images of children will automatically be generated as on-screen “pop-ups” amounts to “making” an indecent image of a child (as will knowing the image will be automatically saved to a hard drive, and keeping it there). Downloading an image from a website on to a computer screen and “live-streaming” indecent images also constitute “making” an indecent image (R v Smith and R v Jayson 2002). The making must “be a deliberate and intentional act with knowledge that the image made was, or was likely to be, an indecent photograph of a child (R v Smith and R v Jayson 2002). An unintended copying or storing of an image does not constitute the offence of “making” an indecent image. Consequently, someone who opens a doubtful email attachment that turns out to be an indecent photograph or whose computer automatically saves it in its cache is not guilty of making those photographs (Atkins v DPP and Goodland v DPP 2000).

“Sexting” (the creating, sharing, sending or posting of sexually explicit messages or images via mobile phones or other electronic devices), if it involves someone under the age of 18, may amount to distributing or showing an indecent photograph of a child under Section 1(b) of the Protection of Children Act.

4. Coroners and Justice Act 2009 – Possession of prohibited non-photographic images of children

It is a crime under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to possess non-photographic images that are grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character. Non-photographic images include computer-generated images (CGIs), cartoons, manga images, and drawings. They can be still or moving, and produced by any means. The images must also be pornographic, meaning it can be assumed they were principally or solely produced for the purpose of sexual arousal. The image must also focus solely or principally on the anal or genital region of a child, or show certain specific sexual acts (such as oral sex with, or in the presence of, a child). There is an exclusion from the offence for works classified by the British Board of Film Classification.

The difference between Protection of Children Act 1978 and Coroners and Justice Act 2009 crimes

Photos and films (and images appearing to be photos)

Protection of Children Act 1978

A photograph of a naked child in a room full of clothed people could be considered indecent under the Protection of Children Act if it offends what the jury considers the “recognised standards of propriety”. This will depend on the context and all the circumstances surrounding the image’s creation.

Drawings, paintings and sculptures

Coroners and Justice Act 2009

Under the Coroners and Justice Act there is a higher test for a drawing, painting or sculpture. It needs to be grossly offensive, disgusting, or obscene and pornographic and it needs to depict certain sexual acts featuring children or certain sexual parts of a child’s body. For example, a drawing of a 14-year-old masturbating could be prohibited because it may be considered pornographic (meaning it can be reasonably assumed to have been produced for the purpose of sexual arousal), and obscene, and it involves the sexual act of a child.

Case study: Obscene manga?

In October 2014, Robul Hoque admitted 10 counts of possessing prohibited images of children at Teesside Crown Court. Police seized Hoque’s computer from his home in June 2012 and found 288 still and 99 moving images. The images were in Japanese manga or anime-style and were not of real people. However, they were classified as prohibited images because they depicted young girls, some in school uniforms and some engaging in sexual activity.

Hoque had been convicted some six years prior of making “indecent pseudo-photographs” for having realistic-seeming “Tomb Raider-style” computer-generated pictures of fictional children.

The conviction was criticised in online media. Spiked magazine pointed out that the material Hoque was looking at did not involve any actual children (only drawings) and he had no convictions for child abuse or possession of actual child pornography, and that he was not a threat to children. His consumption of manga magazines could therefore not be said to result in any exploitation of children or create a market for that exploitation (which are the usual arguments for criminalising possession of indecent images of children). In the writer’s words: “The fact that possessing something in private, which gives a window into your thoughts and nothing else, can now be a crime, shows how insidious and deranged the moral panic over paedophilia has become.”

5. Criminal Justice Act 1988 – Possession of an indecent photograph of a child

Under the Criminal Justice Act 1988, it is a crime to simply possess an indecent photograph (or pseudo-photograph) of a child. People “possess” a photograph if they are capable of accessing or retrieving it and they are aware that they possess an image or images. Photos are not retrievable if they are located on a hard drive that requires specialist software to access, which the suspect does not have. To possess the photo, the suspect does not need to have opened or scrutinised it. A person receiving unsolicited indecent images on WhatsApp, which automatically download to the phone’s memory, will likely be found to possess indecent photographs. However, if the suspect has not seen the photos, and has no reason to believe they are indecent, then he or she will have a defence under Section 160(2)(b).

Case study: Possession of digital files

The case of R v Cyprian Okoro 2018 concerned London doctor Cyprian Okoro, who received an unsolicited indecent images of children on WhatsApp. It was downloaded on to his phone and found in a vault application, which is a storage area protected by a password. It was impossible to tell whether the video had been viewed.

Okoro said that when he received the message on WhatsApp he did not view it and intended to delete it, but it went into the vault by mistake. He did not realise it was indecent until he viewed it later with his lawyer and the police. The trial judge initially told the jury that Okoro had admitted that he “possessed” the indecent images, and the only question was whether or not he had a defence.

Okoro’s defence lawyer then raised the question of whether “possessing” an indecent photo required the defendant to know he possessed the images and that the images were indecent. The court said that possession required only that the suspect was aware they had the image, and they had the capacity to access and retrieve it. The suspect did not have to know that the image was indecent.

6. Defences to child-protection crimes

If the CPS decides to prosecute, there are limited defences available. In the case of distributing or showing indecent photographs of children prohibited under the Protection of Children Act 1978, and possessing indecent photographs under the Criminal Justice Act 1988, alleged perpetrators have to demonstrate that:

  • they had not seen the images and had no reason to suspect they were prohibited;
  • or they had a “legitimate reason” for being in possession of them or showing or distributing them.

If the child in the photograph is over 16 and is the spouse or civil partner of the perpetrator, no offence under Section 1 of the Protection of Children Act has been committed. This includes making or taking an indecent photograph. The same is true for the offence of possessing indecent photographs under the Criminal Justice Act.

There is also an additional defence under the Criminal Justice Act that the photo was sent to the defendant without any prior request made by him or her, or on his or her behalf, and that the defendant did not keep it for an unreasonable time. There is very little information available on what amounts to an “unreasonable time”. CPS guidance states that this is a question that will be determined by juries on a case-by-case basis.

The leading case on the concept of “legitimate reason” (Atkins v Director of Public Prosecutions 2000) suggests that the defence applies only in very restricted circumstances, such as when it is necessary to possess the images to conduct forensic tests or for legitimate research. It also suggests that any court should approach such a defence with scepticism. The court in Atkins said that:

“The central question where the defence is legitimate research will be whether the defendant is essentially a person of unhealthy interests in possession of indecent photographs, or by contrast a genuine researcher with no alternative but to have this sort of unpleasant material in his possession. In other cases there will be other categories of legitimate reasons advanced. They will each have to be considered on their own facts.”

As stated above, to a certain extent those who could be considered to have a “legitimate reason” – such as artists and galleries – can rely on their right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the ECHR: the right to receive and impart opinions, information and ideas, including those which shock disturb and offend. That right is qualified by the need to protect the rights and freedoms of others (in this context, children), and a 2001 case (R v Smethurst 2002) found that the Protection of Children Act 1978 offence was compatible with Article 10 rights to free expression under the ECHR.

In the context of child protection, the rights of children not to be exploited and those of a young audience will be set against the right to freedom of expression. That means the police and courts are permitted in some circumstances to act in ways that will compromise the freedom of expression rights of individuals. Any decision they make will require these competing objectives to be balanced.

7. The Lanzarote Convention

In 2018, the UK ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, also known as the “Lanzarote Convention”. It requires the UK to criminalise many offences concerning child pornography, including “knowingly obtaining access, through information and communication technologies, to child pornography”. This may well be covered through the Protection of Children Act 1978 offence of making an indecent image of a child (which can cover downloading such images, or knowingly entering websites where such pop-up images will appear) or the crime of possessing an indecent image under the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Alternatively, the UK may be obliged to create a more specific criminal offence.

8. Online Harms White Paper

The government’s 2019 Online Harms White Paper proposed establishing a statutory duty of care to make companies operating on the internet more responsible for their users’ safety and to “tackle harm caused by content or activity on their services.” An independent regulator would be set up to enforce compliance. The white paper stated that enforcement in respect of activity involving harm to children would be prioritised.

9. The powers of the police and prosecuting authorities

Under Section 4 of the Protection of Children Act 1978, a judge may issue a warrant authorising police to enter and search any premises where they reasonably believe an indecent photograph (or pseudo-photograph) of a child will be found. The warrant can permit the police to seize any articles they reasonably believe are – or include – indecent photographs of children.

Section 67 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 applies these powers to the “possession of prohibited images of children” offence. So if police reasonably believe they will find prohibited images of children other than photographs (such as computer-generated images, cartoons, manga images and drawings), they can request a warrant from a judge to search the place and seize any prohibited material.

If the police seize indecent photographs or prohibited images during a search, they may apply to court to “forfeit” them (that is, destroy or condemn them), or they may automatically do so if no one claims the property after the police inform all possible owners of the property of their intention to forfeit the property.

The Indecent Displays (Control) Act 1981 empowers magistrates to issue a warrant to a police officer who has reasonable grounds for suspecting someone is displaying indecent matter to enter premises and seize any articles used in the commission of the indecent-matter crime. The act also empowers a police officer to “seize any article which he has reasonable grounds for believing to be or to contain indecent matter and to have been used in the commission” of the indecent-matter offence.

Prosecutions under the Protection of Children Act 1978, the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 require the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. As with all criminal cases, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will consider whether it is in the “public interest” to prosecute, taking into consideration the competing rights of the alleged perpetrator and others, including children. A reading of the CPS code, which governs its decisions and its list of public-interest factors, suggests that there will be a lower threshold for prosecutions involving offences against children.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international treaty established in 1989 and signed by 196 countries. It sets out the civil, political, educational, health and other rights of children which countries signing up to the treaty agree to respect. For example, with regard to free expression, the treaty says: “States parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.” It also lists a separate free-expression right for children in Article 13. Under Article 34, the signatories agree to “protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse”, including the “exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.” The UK ratified the treaty in 1991. The USA has signed but not ratified it, meaning it intends to comply with the treaty but is not bound by it.


This guide was produced by Index on Censorship, in partnership with Clifford Chance.

The post Free speech & the law: Child Protection appeared first on Index on Censorship.

by Index on Censorship at January 22, 2020 01:59 PM


Athens, Greece: Solidarity Statement from Imprisoned Members of Revolutionary Struggle to the Koukaki Squatting Community

Athens, Greece: About the New Trial Against Revolutionary Struggle
Received 19/01/2020 Athens, Greece: Solidarity Statement from Imprisoned Members of Revolutionary Struggle to the Koukaki Squatting Community (January 12, 2020) SOLIDARITY TO THE COMRADES OF THE KOUKAKI SQUATTING COMMUNITY Since the end of August 2019, the state has launched a wide-scale crackdown on self-organized structures, occupations of the anti-authoritarian space and against squats, which also […]


by InNero at January 22, 2020 01:25 PM

Weaving Hemp into the Northern California Fibershed

Encouraged by the Federal legalization of hemp in 2018, Fibershed has continued research into the versatile crop this year, deepening understanding of the plant and the fiber, prototyping hemp textile production in Northern California, supporting agroecological trials, and charting a path forward for weaving hemp into the region.

by Nicholas Wenner at January 22, 2020 01:16 PM


Happy Birthday, Antonio Gramsci

Antonio Gramsci is remembered as a great theorist of modern politics and culture. But he didn’t think big ideas were just a matter for intellectuals — and he insisted that workers must become the leaders of their own organizations.

alt Antonio Gramsci in 1933. Wikimedia Commons

It’s late at night on Turin’s Via dell’Arcivescovado. A man with a Southern accent shows up at L’Ordine Nuovo’s office, insisting on speaking with the lead editor. For L’Ordine Nuovo is not only the workers’ daily, but also the paper of Antonio Gramsci.

Yet the political climate here in Turin at the start of the 1920s is tense — every night, factory workers do shifts on guard duty to defend the building’s doors. Everyone expects that sooner or later the fascist squads will turn up to wreck the place.

The building is fortified. The workers are armed, and in between the main entrance and the editors’ offices there is a long corridor, a courtyard, a gate, barbed wire, large metallic obstacles, grenades, and machine guns — or so they claim.

The guard on shift looks the man up and down. He sounds like he’s from Naples. But maybe he’s a FIAT company spy, a fascist, or a policeman (or all three). The guard tells him that if he wants to speak with Gramsci, he’ll have to wear a blindfold, so he doesn’t see the defenses.

The “suspicious” visitor is furious — and he turns to leave. But after a few steps, he turns around again and shouts, “Tell Gramsci that Benedetto Croce came for him!”

Gramsci was disappointed to have missed him. But he also laughed — he could hardly imagine Italy’s then most renowned intellectual stumbling around blindfolded looking for Antonio. And he laughed because he was a man of simple humor: sociable, smiling, who often burst out in childish laughter that put everyone in a good mood.

Obstacles in Life

During my last year’s work at Rome’s Gramsci Foundation, I had the chance to study a vast mass of personal testimony on what Gramsci was really like. Spurred on by Fabio Dei, who first introduced me to Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, and previous research by Maria Luisa Righi and Francesco Giasi, I could really get to grips with the man himself. What I found was a Gramsci used to jokes, to company, and to pranks (whether performed or received) — a man far from the stern, tragic hero we usually imagine.

While Gramsci died as a victim of fascism in 1937, in his life there was no trace of pessimism, if not the famous “pessimism of the intellect.” For Gramsci, it was worth imagining the worst possible situation, from time to time, “in order to be able to marshal all one’s reserves of will and optimism, to be able to overcome the obstacle.”

But Gramsci also suffered from Pott’s disease. This illness often saw him mocked by the mean-spirited — and, indeed, those who didn’t know how to respond to his crushing superiority in argument.

Such was the case in 1925, when he made his only ever speech in the Chamber of Deputies, soon before Benito Mussolini secured full powers. The Fascists in parliament repeatedly interrupted Gramsci’s condemnation of the regime, shouting “Silence, Rigoletto!”

There had been similar insults in his university days, when some of his classmates told his professor Valentino Annibale Pastore: “This Gramsci, you can see he’s nothing but a hunchback.” “Yes, he is a hunchback,” replied the professor, “but what a hunchback!” Just as Paul Cézanne said of Claude Monet: “He is just an eye, but what an eye!”

This illness hounded Gramsci throughout his life — and he died early, as the result of his suffering in a Fascist jail. But it also greatly complicated his everyday life. We could long interrogate what Gramsci would have been if he had not been affected by Pott’s disease. But probably, as Giuseppe Amoretti affectionately put it,

Antonio could not have been otherwise — a different or better Antonio Gramsci is unthinkable. He had to be the flower that nature and society did indeed produce. His physical and human fate had to be great, unique, like those of all geniuses and heroes, for whom there can be neither joy nor pain but only a great, flowered path to be pursued to the end.

But in the Turin of the early 1920s, there was no time to lose — and for Gramsci, his own existential problems often had to play second fiddle. Gramsci was a tireless worker for his sole employer — the working class. But his dealings with the factory workers of Turin were far from simple. For (unlike many intellectuals, then as now) he did not think of the workers as passive subjects.

As Umberto Calosso put it in a session of the Constituent Assembly in 1947, Gramsci thought that the working class was the “aristocracy of the human race” — and that it ought to be treated as such. The relationship between intellectuals and masses had to be “educational,” yes. But the teaching and culture had to go in both directions, from the workers to the intellectuals, and vice versa, constructing a real mass political pedagogy.

For Gramsci, one did not “go out to” the working class, or “head down” to the workers to bring them the good word: in his vocabulary, one “went up to the working class.” The perspective was thus reversed. As one of his “pupils” in prison put it, “around him we did not feel that weight, that distance that a worker almost always feels when speaking with an intellectual. He did not treat or consider us mere material instruments of social upheaval, incapable of becoming conscious, intelligent protagonists of the revolution.”

Becoming Protagonists

It was in order to set that mass political pedagogy in motion that Gramsci created L’Ordine Nuovo in 1919. There were three other editors: Angelo Tasca, a dedicated opponent of World War I; the future Communist Party general secretary Palmiro Togliatti; and Umberto Terracini, who was in 1948 one of the signatories to Italy’s postwar constitution.

All of them were under thirty years old; all went on to be persecuted by Mussolini. Tasca and Togliatti were forced into exile; the other two were condemned to forty-five years’ imprisonment by the Tribunale Fascista. All of them, as Terracini later put it, were united only by a diffuse passion for proletarian culture: “We wanted to do, do, do.”

And there was no lack of work to be done. The great massacre of World War I had ended just months earlier, giving Italy’s popular classes nothing but a million deaths. Turin was a powder keg, the working-class fury was tangible, and the workers no longer believed in the merely “verbal radicalism” of the old Socialist Party, never able to put its “revolutionary” rhetoric into practice.

In the meantime, however, events in Russia had proclaimed that Marx was great and Lenin was his prophet: the common profession of faith was “Peace, Bread, Land.” Red October was the hope of the oppressed, and for the most politicized sectors of the Italian and global working class, the Bolsheviks were the example to follow.

In Italy, the most Bolshevik of all were the editors of L’Ordine Nuovo in Turin. The spark was bound to catch, and within two years, the workers’ movement was ablaze. The Biennio Rosso of 1919–20 saw a pre-insurrectionary climate: strikes followed one after another, the factories were occupied, and the workers armed themselves, becoming Red Guards. Even during the occupations, production kept going without the bosses — showing that the workers could run society.

What had hitherto been known as Italy’s own “Motor City,” a center of auto production, became the City of Factory Councils, the city that journalists from around the world came to visit: the “Mecca of Italian communism,” the “Italian Petrograd.” Workers thus asserted their power not only through “military” force but also, and most important, at the level of the collective intellect — that of a working class capable of substituting for the bosses.

The bosses were — quite rightly — terrorized by all this. For them, this world upside-down was unbearable, scandalous. Only fascism — bludgeoning the workers — could restore the order that supposedly democratic liberal institutions were no longer able to build on the grounds of consent.

But these were still the years before the Fascists’ March on Rome. And L’Ordine Nuovo’s office was a hive of activity. It was the epicenter of the political struggle in the city, and every afternoon it saw a “parade” of people visiting Gramsci. There were comrades from the local Communist fraction; leaders of the youth and women’s movement; union chiefs; intellectuals; Red Guards; former professors of Antonio’s; rank-and-file comrades; and even those without a party.

As we might imagine, this intense engagement made sure that L’Ordine Nuovo never lost touch with the real political movement. But the constant parade of visitors did create problems for Gramsci, who often didn’t manage to finish the articles he had been asked to produce. Sometimes, as another editor, Mario Montagnana, recalled, Gramsci was literally forced to write:

At 9 or 10 at night, when there were no “visitors,” an editor would come to Gramsci and say point-blank: “No one else is coming in until the article’s ready.” The key was turned in the lock, a comrade stood in the corridor to ward off the “pests,” and an hour or so later, Gramsci finally delivered, on two or three little sheets the size of the palm of a hand, an article written in clear, dense handwriting, almost without corrections.

But apart from these small inconveniences, this continual coming and going each afternoon allowed the paper to achieve the objective it had set itself in its first editorial. That is, to become a training ground for the popularization of all the most advanced political-cultural tendencies of the time. This helped concretize what would be one of Gramsci’s “obsessions”: the training of party cadres.

Gramsci was well aware that it was much easier to build a small group of leaders than to form a vast mass of middling leaders. Leaders who had to represent the flower of the working class and go on to constitute the backbone of the Communist Party. And all of Gramsci’s patience and potency for pedagogy were expressed in this formation process, as he continually urged comrades to study, convincing them that there were not to be some revolutionaries on the barricades and others behind a desk — rather, everyone had to master culture, the greatest ally of action.

Critical Pedagogy

In this “Socratic” work, Gramsci was always critical of the mistakes his comrades made. But as Montagnana put it, in his criticisms, “there was never anything negative, anything discouraging, nothing that made the comrades lose confidence in their own strength.” Rather, Gramsci’s was a deeply human frankness, never marked by personal harshness — a pedagogy developed in the course of day-to-day activity

We shouldn’t delude ourselves that Gramsci was just a gentle-hearted Socrates. Rather, he was extremely severe and merciless, not only with adversaries but also with all those comrades whom, once having reached political “maturity,” were held to a high, indeed impeccable standard, so that they might in turn be teachers for others.

Particularly telling is a letter that Gramsci sent to his comrade Vincenzo Bianco in 1924, remembering how he made one of his first pupils on the editorial board, Andrea Viglongo, “rewrite the articles from the beginning, up to three or four times, turning them from eight columns long to one and a half.” He reached his merciless epilogue: “And Viglongo, who had been a bungler, ended up writing rather well, so much that I imagined he would become a great man and distance himself from us. So, I no longer play the pedagogue with young men of his type: if I still could, I would do so only with workers, who have no ambition to become great bourgeois journalists.”

We are used to thinking of Gramsci almost only as an intellectual. It might, then, seem strange to read the judgment of Giovanni Parodi, for whom writing made up a lesser part of Gramsci’s activity, while “his greatest contribution came through oral and practical teaching.”

Yet Parodi himself embodied this pedagogical mission perfectly. Having entered the factory at age fourteen, this worker-leader raised his political culture (and technical knowledge) to the point that he could manage production at FIAT’s Centro plant during the factory occupations. As proof of the “world turned upside-down” that was post-1918 Turin, there is even a famous photo showing the workers sat around the boss Giovanni Agnelli’s desk. Among them, leading the factory council, was Parodi.

Rare Alchemy

Much more could be said in trying to explain the unrepeatable alchemy that developed around L’Ordine Nuovo. What trick was there behind Gramsci? How could a periodical dealing in such complex themes have become “the workers’ paper”? Why were Red Guards willing to die to defend its office from fascists? And most of all: What created that interchange of affects, solidarity, and hard struggles through which a half-blind, disheveled weakling, thirty years old and from a faraway island, could have become an interpreter of working-class interests?

Biographical factors certainly are important here. Though Gramsci came from a petty-bourgeois family, he spent his childhood in extreme destitution on account of the jailing of his father (a clerk), convicted of embezzlement in 1900. True, his exceptional intelligence transformed Gramsci into one of the brightest minds of European culture. But this did not erase the memory of a life of hardships and material deprivation caused by this sudden drop in social class.

Indeed, if we proceed a bit further along in time, we see that he arrived at Turin University with such a miserly student grant that he had to pick between buying wood for the stove or having dinner. Or, as Camilla Ravera put it:

Gramsci never had much money, and what he did have he spent on books. At times, he had so little that he could not even buy socks and came along to the newspaper [office] wearing shoes alone.

Togliatti, also at Turin University, had lost his own father to cancer. But while of modest background, at least he did not have to pay rent (he lived with his family), whereas Gramsci’s mother had to rack up debts to send money to her son. Moreover, Gramsci was Sardinian to his bones, and he retained a vivid memory of the miserable, lonely, and uncertain life of many of his fellow islanders.

In the memories related by Teresa, Gramsci’s favorite sister, we can find one of the most telling images of his Sardinian childhood. Since they could not afford any toys, they instead learned to make them for themselves: “I made straw dolls that I dressed in little pieces of colorful cloth, Nino made boats, sailing ships, or funny little birds with a feather on their head. Then we organized lotteries. Each piece had a number and all the kids from nearby, the children of well-off landowners, came to try their luck. Instead of money, they gave us an apple or a pear.”

Of course, we can’t reduce the greatness and the complexity of Gramsci to purely biographical factors. But there’s a clear link between the harshness of the life he had to endure and his ability to place himself in service of the subaltern classes — even to the point of sacrificing his own life.

Beyond his fundamental capacity to listen and empathize, his uniqueness probably lay in the rare alignment of this prodigious brain, the forma mentis of an intellectual, and this material, lived experience, similar to that of a worker.

Perhaps this was the real secret to Gramsci — the one that brought the world what partisan and future Socialist president Sandro Pertini would call “the most ingenious politician I have met on my path, whose death left a profound void in not only the Communist Party but the whole Italian and international workers’ movement — a void that no one has ever been able to fill.”

We can be sad of that, even today. But on January 22 — the day of Gramsci’s birth — we celebrate his life. So happy birthday, Antonio.

by Lorenzo Alfano at January 22, 2020 01:05 PM


Australia is still on fire: how your searches will help

Australia is still on fire: how your searches will help

On Thursday, January 23, all Ecosia searches will plant trees in Australia. We will use 100% of our profits to reforest the Byron Bay area. With your help, we can plant native, subtropical trees that clean the air, bring down temperatures, support biodiversity, and attract rain in Australia. We've teamed up with ReForest Now, a local tree-planting NGO. In this episode of the Ecosia podcast, we talk to its co-founder and president about his experience of the bushfires, the difference between bushland and rainforests, and the practical steps we're taking together to save the rainforest.

Here's a transcript of our conversation:


You might have heard about the bushfires in Australia. An area the size of South Korea has gone up in smoke since September. That's 50% more than what burned in the Amazon last year. So we decided that this Thursday, all Ecosia's searches will plant trees in Australia. We'll use 100% of our profits from that day to help regenerate to country's ecosystem by planting native subtropical trees in the Byron Bay area, which is a biodiversity hotspot that has been affected by the fires. These trees will help clean the air, sequester carbon, bring down temperatures, support biodiversity, and attract rain in the region. Our tree planting partner is a local NGO called ReForest Now. And for this episode, I talked to its co-founder and president, Maximo Bottaro.


Tell me about your experience of the bushfires. Because, you know, here in Europe, we do hear a lot about them, but the sheer distance between our continents makes the whole thing seem rather abstract. So what has been your own experience?

Maximo Bottaro:

Well, it was abstract here because we had fires that were running into ancient forests where some scientists that I know and myself have hiked before. And there are ancient trees there that are at least at least 300 years old and some of those trees burnt. And that's rainforest. It shouldn't be burning. Or even if it does burn, it should happen very infrequently. So we had by far the lowest rainfall that we've had in all the time I've been working in rainforest restoration and the science of that. We saw some fires in our own regeneration sites here where I had maybe eight or nine men fighting fires and protecting our trees for some kilometers where we were being surrounded by fires. They were controlled here, but the fires were much stronger further south.

One thing you sometimes hear is that you don't need to worry about trees that have burnt in Australia because they'll just regenerate by themselves quite quickly.

Australia is good at regenerating after fire, but we're planting in rainforest areas and those don't regenerate after fire.

What's the scale of the damage to Australian rainforests specifically? Is it different from previous years?

There shouldn't be any damage to rainforest in Australia. This year we've seen fire going into places that should never go and it's deep in in rainforest that has dried out because it's missing a metre of rain for the year of 2019. It means that some very special places have been burned. We're expecting some species to have gone extinct this year across Australia.

That's really sad to hear that species are going extinct in Australia.

Well, Australia has has a few problems, you know, pushing it. Obviously, climate change takes the driest continent in the world and makes things more extreme. But, you know, it's also been logged for a very long time. There's a lot of pressure on the continent now, and we're going to need to change a lot to stop it from turning into a giant desert.

Can you tell me about the next practical steps for the tree planting we're doing in the Byron Bay area?

Well, many of the trees we're going to plant for you are already mature to plant; they're in the nursery waiting. We will measure out the exact area we want to plant and then begin the physical preparation to make sure that the weeds are controlled and we'll have crews go out there to drill the holes and begin organizing a date for the public to come. It's a reasonably simple process once you already have the trees in pots.

You've done research into Byron Bay's landscape fragmentation, genetic diversity and bioprecipitation. Will this all factor into the reforestation work that's about to happen.

By reforesting all rainforests, and putting a moratorium on any rainforest logging is a big priority because I do believe that that bioprecipitation and the other water recycling processes are of benefit to the weather patterns of the whole earth. Essentially, as the earth is distributing weather by the Coriolis effect, as the cloud spin off the equator essentially, I do believe that the existence of rainforests along those precipitation paths is essential to maintain the downstream water supply to the areas that we expect it. And I believe that if we continue to lose our rainforests, that that we're going to see weather travelling to different places than it normally does and rainfall travelling to the wrong place. In terms of the other work, we're active already with several endangered species in increasing the genetic diversity of what's left and to make sure that they are reconnected in the landscape. So it definitely will factor into the work we're doing with you. I would expect several endangered species to be planted directly into the work we do with you. Some of the things that would include would be, for example, small leaf tamarind. There was 104 left in the wild just in 2004. We'd also be planting vines for the incredible Richmond Birdwing butterfly. It's one of the most beautiful and very big butterfly in Australia. And vines for the the pink underwing moth, another endangered creature. But there are so many here in this rainforest that we have to think about.

What do you see as a as a long term effect of this work?

The general idea is that Australia is only getting drier, and on the East Coast here we're fortunate to have more rainfall than almost anywhere else on the entire continent. And it's being washed out to the ocean. It's running off from paddocks. We don't need to allow that anymore. The reason I say it that way is, you know, this this particular region I'm in has had thousands of of dairy operators shut down that were here many, many years ago. And we have enormous open areas of paddock that were formerly rainforests that can be put back the way they were. And they'll have that abundant rainfall to regenerate quickly and then to hold onto that water and help recycle it into the atmosphere and into the nearby regions. I think that's really exciting. And I think that if you look at footage of the earth from space and you look at the distribution of rainfall around the planet where the rain falls, there is meant to be forest and where there's a lot of rain, there needs to be thick forest. So this is this is one such instance where we think we can benefit Australia on a regional level. I might have mentioned to you that, you know, the area where we're planting trees for you was 75,000 contiguous hectares of rainforest, 150-170 years ago, and there's only about 750 hectares of that left. We need to put that back. That's where the earth wants to put the rain. That's where the forest has to be.


And that was it for this episode of the Ecosia podcast. If you want to support this tree planting project in Australia, please use Ecosia. On Thursday, all profits from your searches will go towards this important project. So it's time to take action, and maybe tell your friends that they can help in this easy way as well. Thank you. And thanks for listening.

by Joshi at January 22, 2020 01:01 PM

InterPressService (global south)

GGGI inks Declaration of Intent and MoU with the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Agence Française de Développement to strengthen cooperation

PARIS, Jan 22 2020 (IPS-Partners)

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) signed a Declaration of Intent and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), a French development bank today to promote sustainable development and climate action. The signing was witnessed by Mr. Ban Ki-moon, President and Chair of GGGI.

The MoUs complement the joint declaration of the France-Korea Summit in 2018 where the two countries pledged to support GGGI’s activities and efforts to accelerate the adoption of green growth models in developing and emerging countries.

“This is the first time GGGI has signed MoUs with the Government of France and a French development bank. The cooperation agreements we signed today will be a start of our collaboration, bringing opportunities on a number of fronts. We look forward to strengthening our partnerships with the MEAE and AFD to support countries achieve solid and ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for the Paris Agreement,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, Director-General of GGGI.

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and setting ambitious climate action targets require strong partnerships and collaboration between development partners. The MEAE plans to promote collaboration between AFD and GGGI with regards to joint funding programs.

Remy Rioux, Director-General of AFD said, “We are delighted to work together with GGGI to build innovative green investments mechanisms, especially in Africa as one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change despite contributing the least to global warming. By partnering with GGGI, I am confident that we will create synergies and support countries to deliver on Paris Agreement commitments.”

Under the MoU, GGGI and AFD have agreed to collaborate through undertaking several financing operations to promote sustainable economic development in developing and emerging countries, including the least developed countries. The two organizations seek to deliver economic growth that is both environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive. GGGI and AFD will help countries access climate finance to implement ambitious climate actions with a focus on the development of National Financing Vehicles. In addition, the two organizations will enhance countries’ NDC planning and implementation by providing support for long-term low-carbon and resilient economic development strategies/plans and Monitoring, Review and Verification (MRV) systems.

GGGI will strengthen its commitment to French-speaking developing countries to achieve their climate action goals, including the implementation of their NDCs, the formulation of resilient and low-carbon long-term economic development strategies, and the development of reliable systems for measuring, reporting and verifying greenhouse gas emissions.

“The signing of the Declaration of Intent comes at a time when there is an urgent need to take action in addressing global warming, which is in line with the commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement and 2030 Agenda,” said Philippe Lacoste, Director for Sustainable Development, MEAE.

GGGI will support countries to accelerate access to climate finance, particularly by developing innovative green investment funds and mechanisms, facilitating these countries to access the Green Climate Fund (GCF), as well as working together on the development of portfolio of green bankable projects.

The post GGGI inks Declaration of Intent and MoU with the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Agence Française de Développement to strengthen cooperation appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by GGGI at January 22, 2020 01:00 PM

Will 2020 World Economic Forum Deliver on Combating Climate Change?

The WEF’s annual Global Risks Report raises the alarm on increased extreme weather events, manmade environmental damage – including oil spills and contamination, major biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and failure of governments and businesses to mitigate and adapt to climate change. All resulting in loss of human and animal life, and major damage to infrastructure, with irreversible consequences for the environment.

Credit: Joe Brusky.

By Eco Matser
AMSTERDAM, Jan 22 2020 (IPS)

For the first time, the world’s elites meeting this year at Davos have listed environmental issues as their top concerns about the next decade.

The WEF’s annual Global Risks Report raises the alarm on increased extreme weather events, manmade environmental damage – including oil spills and contamination, major biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and failure of governments and businesses to mitigate and adapt to climate change. All resulting in loss of human and animal life, and major damage to infrastructure, with irreversible consequences for the environment.

“The political landscape is polarized, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks,” said Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum.

“The political landscape is polarized, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks,”

Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum

Does this mean that after Davos 2020 businesses and governments are actually going tackle these realities seriously and with the necessary financial investments? Seeing is believing.


Fundamental change of systems needed

If businesses and governments are serious about combating climate change, they must increase investments in climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as in the larger development agenda (Agenda 2030). However, this alone will not be enough.

If businesses do not start fundamentally changing current financial systems, we risk gaining only short-term benefits instead of addressing the real root causes.

The current world economy still relies on fossil fuels and energy-intensive production systems. And the fossil fuel industry continues to receive large subsidies from governments and investment banks. Although investment in renewable energy is on the rise, as long as fossil fuels are subsidized we will not make a shift towards zero-carbon economies.

Many argue that not investing in fossil fuels hinders the development of low-income countries by denying them access to the same economic opportunities as high-income countries.

However, this just masks a lack of will on the part of the world’s business elites who have the power and finances to pioneer a true transition. They are ignoring the fact that the economics of renewable energy have changed and there are many ways for low-income countries to leapfrog fossil fuels.

To succeed, the governments and companies at Davos should do two things:

  1. Apply an integrated approach to mitigation, adaptation and development.
  2. Ensure an inclusive process and equal access to benefits of climate change measures.


An integrated approach

Mitigation, adaptation and development should not be three separate work streams. As shown in this article, effective climate action requires coherence between measures. Take investing in renewable energy. It directly reduces the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

But when used to provide energy access to the most vulnerable, it also brings communities social and economic benefits that increase their resilience to climate change.

For example, access to energy provides services for small-scale farmers or community enterprises, like solar powered agricultural irrigation systems, or food processing and storage. This in turn increases their general economic and climate resilience.

Another example is access to clean cooking solutions instead of burning wood. This not only reduces air pollution and deforestation, but also improves women and children’s health and frees up time for studying or income-producing activities. This in turn strengthens their position in society.


Inclusive process and equal access

On the one hand, we must invest vast resources to mitigate and adapt to global climate change; on the other, we need to tackle the deep injustices that lie at the heart of the climate crisis. The challenge is therefore to ensure a just transition in which all communities have equal access to the benefits of measures taken to tackle climate change.

Ironically, developing countries bear the brunt of the effects of climate change created by 150 years of unfettered industrial and agricultural development in the West. So we, in the West, have a moral obligation to help finance an inclusive climate transition and achieve the SDG development agenda.


A truly just transition

A truly just transition means including those who are generally left out of the decision-making processes: women, youth, and local or rural (indigenous) communities. So give back power to local communities and offer opportunities for collaborative decision-making.

Access to information, public participation and direct involvement of local communities are key to foster transformative societal change. But failure to act on the climate crisis in an inclusive, participatory manner will certainly fuel even greater distrust of political elites and representative democracy.

So, as governments and businesses gather in Davos, we urge them to listen to the words of Borge Brende when he says world leaders must reinvigorate the system of cooperation and focus on long-term benefits.

Only when they start investing substantially in tackling root causes and transforming systems in an integrated and inclusive way, will putting climate change at the top of the WEF’s agenda really mean something. Hivos will follow the conversations with interest and believe when we see.


This opinion piece was originally published here

The post Will 2020 World Economic Forum Deliver on Combating Climate Change? appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Eco Matser is Hivos global Climate Change / Energy and Development Coordinator

The post Will 2020 World Economic Forum Deliver on Combating Climate Change? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Eco Matser at January 22, 2020 12:42 PM

Climate Politics/Capitol Light (40)

Impeachment continues to dominate the news in Washington. The Senate is in session and is currently debating the rules of engagement in the trial phase of Trump’s impeachment. It will be a while yet before the actual trial begins.

by Joel Stronberg at January 22, 2020 12:41 PM

Bringing the Story Home – Trojan Horse in Birmingham

A scene from Trojan Horse - a play which dramatises the real-life story of a false claim that schools in Birmingham were radicalising children. Credit: The Other Richard
A scene from Trojan Horse - a play which dramatises the real-life story of a false claim that schools in Birmingham were radicalising children. Credit: The Other Richard

The story of the Trojan Horse Affair hit the national press in early 2014. “Hardline” Muslim teachers and governors were accused of plotting to take over the running of a cluster of Birmingham schools. Adapted from the real-life testimonies of those at the heart of the UK government’s inquiry, Lung Theatre investigates what really happened in this case. Originally developed with Leeds Playhouse, Trojan Horse, winner of an Amnesty International Freedom of Expression award, the 75-minute verbatim play was created out of 200 hours of interviews and performed by a cast of five actors playing multiple roles. A simultaneous translation into Urdu was made available via headsets and a bilingual edition of the play is published by Oberon Books.

What made the play controversial?

The play Trojan Horse sets out to give voice to the people at the centre of the so-called Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham, a scandal involving claims of an alleged conspiracy to introduce an Islamist or Salafist ethos into several schools in Birmingham, England, after a letter sent to the local council was leaked to the press. Allegations in the letter triggered an investigation by government inspectors, which found evidence of some of the directors and teachers of the schools holding homophobic and misogynistic views and of pupil segregation. A case was conducted against the school teachers, but eventually collapsed because of a mishandling of evidence by the prosecution.

Political advisor Nick Timothy, writing about the premiere of the play at the Edinburgh Festival in 2018, objected strongly to the play’s characterisation of events. Rather than accepting that Trojan Horse was a plot “by hardline Muslims to convert secular state schools into austere Islamic faith schools” the play puts forward the idea that it was a government campaign, motivated by “institutionalised racism”, that “demonised” Birmingham’s Muslim community”. Timothy calls this interpretation of events a “fiction that has been contradicted by countless investigations” and concludes his article by arguing that “any attempt to rewrite the history of the Trojan Horse, must not be allowed to succeed”.  

In their book Countering Extremism in British Schools? The Truth about the Trojan Horse Affair, academics John Holmwood, who advises Lung Theatre on this production, and Theresa O’Toole argue that the TH affair was a “fabrication” on the part of the government and supported by some factions in the media used to justify the introduction of the Prevent Duty, which many believe has had a significant impact on freedom of expression in schools, especially with sizeable Muslim student population. As journalist Samira Shackle says in an article for The Guardian: “The documents alleging a conspiracy to Islamise Birmingham schools were debunked – but the story remains as divisive as ever.”

Art and censorship

This case study forms part of Index on Censorship’s work on art and censorship and explores in particular the challenges in mounting politically sensitive work, and work that relates to the experiences of traditionally marginalised communities.

The aim of this case study series is not to assess the artistic merits of an artwork — but rather to reflect on lessons learned by writers, venues, audiences — on how best to support the creation and production of challenging work.

Development of the play

Collaborative approach to script writing

Throughout this project the authors had long  debate with the teachers, pupils and governors whose testimonies drive the narrative of the play. It was clear that the play had to be as accessible to detractors — including members of parliament, those in the teaching profession and those engaged in counter-extremism work — as it was to people in Alum Rock, the Birmingham suburb that was at the centre of the scandal. The authors worked with the protagonists and script consultant Aisha Khan from Freedom Studios in Bradford for two years. 

Support at development stage

Gilly Rhodes, the new work producer at Leeds Playhouse supported the play from the outset. Woodhead and Monks said that she was the only person to believe in the show from the very beginning: “No one else wanted to take the risk.” Rhodes told Index she was “convinced by the rigour with which Lung approached the subject” and the theatre’s artistic development programme, Furnace, allowed them to work over an extended period. Rhodes witnessed how Monks, from Birmingham herself and Woodhead, a local artist, at first struggled to get the show into venues, but how, once it won an Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award and an Edinburgh First at the Fringe, venues started to take note.

Building relationships with political figures

Early on in the process, the authors interviewed Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative member of the House of Lords, who was interested in the project as part of her campaign to raise awareness of Islamophobia in the Conservative party. Baroness Warsi agreed to host the play at the Houses of Parliament in March 2020, at the invitation of the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims, which she chairs. Baroness Warsi also wrote the forward to the publication of the play script. The APPG and other Westminster MPs are a key target audience for the play allowing it to fulfil one of its goals: to speak truth directly to power.

Outreach work

A dedicated Engagement Manager, Mediha Ansari Khan, joined the team. Ansari Khan’s role was to build trust with the communities where she encountered suspicion about theatre in general and confusion in particular about what the the play was trying to achieve and why it had not been written by a British Muslim. In spite of these difficulties Ansari Khan was very positive about the engagement in the post-show question and answer sessions, which formed a key component of the outreach strategy for the play. “We have started a discourse with the Muslim community – the conversation has always been there but we are encouraging more people to talk about this,” Ansari Khan said. “A lot of people were very fearful about talking about terrorism and extremism and Prevent Duty – we are trying to remove some of the fear, that is the first step before any government level change – mobilising people to talk about it, to question their councillors and people in authority,” she told Index.

Supportive venue

Midland Arts Centre  – a leading UK arts venue – championed the play and defended the decision to bring the story back to Birmingham despite considerable pressure internally and externally to pull the play. The venue welcomed the writers and key protagonists into the space in the year leading up to the performance, so that by the time the play was performed, the protagonists had a strong sense of ownership in the building.1

Performing in Birmingham – ‘bringing the story home’

The performances in Birmingham were, according to co-author and director Matt Woodhead, “the whole point really. The debate had been so one-sided and the teachers and governors had not had the means to amplify their side of the story. Being able to stand up and say something uninterrupted in front of 220 people at the MAC was important.”

Post-show Q&As

Every show was followed by a question and answer session, giving the audience space and time to engage with the issues the play raised. This was an integral part of the how the tour was conceived.

Inviting protagonists to Q&A

Tahir Alam, the chair of governors of one who the schools involved in the TH scandal who was subsequently banned from involvement in schools, was one of many of those involved directly in the affair to attend the post-show discussions. He attended as many as he could around the country and all the post shows in Birmingham. He emphasised the importance of this: “When you see the real people, you are reminded it is not fictional,” he told Index.

Managing the Q&As

Critics of the play had, according to co-author Helen Monks, raised concerns about the Q&A session in particular because, she said, they argued the “audience would not be able to handle open debate”. The team put in place show-stop procedures — procedures for rapid and controlled interruption of a performance — for the cast and stage manager in case of hostility.  The Q&A host had methods of managing disrespectful or hostile speakers from the floor and the front of house team were all heavily briefed with how to deal with disruptive individuals. All went ahead without incident. Helen Monks said: “The Q&As felt like really safe-spaces even when people weren’t agreeing with each other.” 

Academic advisor to the play

John Holmwood, Professor of Sociology at the University of Nottingham, was an expert witness for the defence in the cases of professional misconduct brought against senior teachers and governors at Park View Educational Trust by the National College of Teaching and Leadership and co-author of Countering Extremism in British Schools? The Truth about the Trojan Horse Affair. He has exhaustive knowledge of the affair and brought gravitas to the young company. He acted as an advisor to the play, reading early versions of the script, and went out on the autumn tour, speaking on all the post show Q&As.  


These were handed out after every show. The feedback is being processed and analysed by the play’s outreach manager at time of writing.

Translation into Urdu

The play was available as a simultaneous translation on headsets at every performance on the tour as an essential offer to target audiences and there was significant audience take up. It was translated by Ayesha Manazir Siddiqui who wrote publicly about her concerns with the script. In their response, published here for the first time, the authors describe how their collaborative methodology ensured that the story was directed throughout by the people at the centre of the story.

1. AD/CEO of MAC, Debbie Kermode, told Index in an interview: “Trojan Horse was an important and meaningful play for us to support as it allowed an alternative perspective and voice to the community, and we took it on proudly and paid considerable attention to work we did around it. We invested our own funds to support the translation of the play into Urdu and the supported outreach work. We worked with residents in Alum Rock, families and ex-pupils who supported the play and the issues raised, which they felt passionate about sharing. We approached the Core Education Trust which in 2015 took over the running of the schools caught up in the Trojan Horse Affair, with a strong desire to build a partnership, however unfortunately for many reasons the school leadership resisted any engagement with us, and voiced serious concerns about MAC taking the play.”↩

What obstacles did the production encounter in Birmingham?

Pressure on venue to cancel the show

Adrian Packer, CEO and co-founder of Core Education Trust which in 2015 took over the running of some of the schools implicated in the Trojan Horse Affairs, contacted the MAC to express concerns about the play coming to Birmingham. According to AD/CEO of MAC, Debbie Kermode, the trust cited the need to keep the children in the schools safe and also raised the threat of protest from the parents. Members of the trust’s board of directors contacted MAC trustees and a trust board member accused Kermode of having an extremist agenda. “So it got quite personal and unpleasant,” she said. This allegation of pursuing an extremist agenda echoed political advisor Nick Timothy’s claim, that people who supported the play “[d]eliberate or not, left-wingers in the arts and media risk playing the extremists’ game.” Adrian Packer was approached for comment and an initial interview was cancelled. A new date for an interview has not been scheduled at time of writing (January 10). 

Partnership with the school

Kermode objected to the pressure she was being put under by the Core Education Trust, so it was suggested that she and Helen Monks meet with the headteacher of Rockwood Academy, formerly Park View — one of the schools at the centre of the TH Affair. Both Monks and Kermode said it was clear that the objective of this meeting was to persuade MAC not to do the play.  Many of the reasons given were to do with the safety of the children currently in the school. “People still talk about the TH Affair; it’s still there and bubbling away,” said Monks. “We took that as a sign that the play should be put on so these issues can be confronted and the school could be seen to be listening. We suggested that we do the play in collaboration with the school and they could frame it as they would like to, an opportunity to acknowledge what had happened. But they were not keen to do that and put it down to not having enough time or resources.”

Accusations of lack of balance

Political adviser Nick Timothy in the article cited above claimed “Senior education figures have told me that, when their accounts did not suit the play’s narrative, their interviews with Monks and Woodhead were terminated early”. This claim was then repeated by critic Dominic Cavendish in his review of the play. When asked to respond to this, Monks and Woodhead said they did not terminate or cancel any interviews. “The only person we can think this claim could have come from was a headteacher from a school that was outside the group of schools we were focusing on who we met very late in the process of writing the play. We made it clear before meeting that we were giving voice to the teachers and governors accused in the plot. After making him aware of this, he chose to cancel the interview on the day. When we were next in Birmingham (for our very final interviews) we re-approached him and he did not respond.” 

Media interest withdrawn

BBC West Midlands Today responded positively to the play coming to Birmingham and planned a TV news feature. Interviews were arranged with cast and creative team, but cancelled at the last minute. They said a more urgent item had come up, even though the team were in Birmingham for several days. 

Lack of alternative perspectives in Q&A

The opportunity to have an open debate in Birmingham about the state of education in the city was not taken up. Invitations extended to Adrian Packer, Nick Timothy and other of the play’s detractors were not taken up. The council requested 10 free tickets to the performance at the MAC but did not show up. 

Community venue double booked

On the Monday before the Saturday performance, the team were told that the hall they had booked in Alum Rock four months previously had been double booked. An alternative venue — the community hall in the grounds of Rockwood Academy, formerly Parkview, one of the schools at the centre of the Trojan Horse Affair — was found at late notice. The change of venue was not announced in advance as it was only three minutes away from the previous venue, so the audience walked from one to the other on arrival. “Going back to Alum Rock for the performance was electrifying. The trauma was there, but having a guerrilla performance on the doorstep of the school was a surreal experience – the energy, the emotion and the unity in an intimate space. It was epic,” said Inam Malik – one of the teachers at the centre of the affair.

Police incident

Birmingham Parent Forum – a group linked to the LGBT protest — printed a leaflet advertising the performance at the community centre, independently of the play’s marketing strategy. Adrian Packer wrote to MAC’s Debbie Kermode, even though the community event was unrelated to the MAC performances, to say flyers had been distributed outside Rockwood Academy. Packer said he had alerted relevant local and national authorities and police were at the school. Four police officers came to the venue on Saturday evening at the start of the show, stayed a few minutes and left.

Audience response in Birmingham

The play attracted capacity crowds for four showings at the MAC, the largest South Asian audience ever recorded at the theatre, and the single performance in Alum Rock, also full to capacity, attracted a 90% South Asian audience. At the end of the show the teachers and governors came on stage and took a bow and invited people to stay for the Q&A.  “The show attracted four capacity audiences, and I think we could have filled it 10 times over, with the majority of the audience from South Asian heritage, who welcomed the opportunity to talk about it even if they didn’t all agree!”2

2. Debbie Kermode interviewed for this case study.↩


The performances of Trojan Horse in Birmingham demonstrate that it is possible to bring even the most highly controversial, politically sensitive subject matter successfully onto the stage. 

The stakes could not have been higher. As Tahir Alam said, the political and educational impact of Trojan Horse “will last for decades”. 

Many people felt that this made it too risky to bring the play to Birmingham. Nevertheless, the play was successfully and safely performed on home territory to capacity audiences. The reasons behind the successful production of challenging material are always complex, however it is possible to identify some clear strands of best practice that helped to contribute to this success:

  • the care taken with the script
  • effective community engagement work
  • the making available of simultaneous translations of the performances;
  • the curation of after-show discussions; 
  • support from established cultural organisations
  • political and academic champions

Turnout surpassed expectations and more performances had to be added in at the MAC. The best testimony to the fact that so-called hard to reach audiences will come out when what is on offer is relevant and important enough, is that another theatre in Birmingham has expressed interest in bringing the play back for a longer run, later in the year to meet the demand for tickets. A return trip to Birmingham also offers another opportunity to engage with alternative voices in the post show Q&A.

The play is a very strong example of free speech in action through theatre: it provides a platform to challenge a mainstream narrative, and through the Q&A, extends an invitation to people with very little access to public debate, to discuss the issues raised. This, and the ultimate goal of calling power to account, illustrate the important role theatre can have within civil society. 

However, there is another free speech angle on this production that is worth considering and that is about authorship and who is free to tell which stories.

From our work on Homegrown, Believers are but Brothers and in our research on the impact of Prevent on artistic freedom of expression more generally, we have heard repeatedly how difficult it is for Muslim artists to critique the state/establishment. The fact that the creative team for Trojan Horse was non-Muslim begs the question, would it have been possible for a Muslim artist to make this play? The play’s translator, Ayesha Manazir Siddiqui, voiced her concern about the white lens in her reflections on translating the play and wondered “what this play would have looked like if it had been made by a Pakistani Muslim from Birmingham”. She also asks the all-important question for the arts sector: “When will room be made in the industry for that play?”

The post Bringing the Story Home – Trojan Horse in Birmingham appeared first on Index on Censorship.

by Julia Farrington at January 22, 2020 12:40 PM

How We Reduced the Environmental Impact of (Almost) Everything We Buy

The stuff we humans buy is a disaster for the planet we love. Livestock intended for human food now make up 60% of the total weight of mammals on Earth, while wild mammals make up only 4% (the rest is humans and pets). The global clothing industry is responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the emissions from entire European Union. Single-use plastics are choking the oceans. Transportation (including the cars we drive, but the semis that cart our products to stores) accounts for almost a third of U.S. emissions.

by Kara Stiff at January 22, 2020 12:22 PM

Our Time Balm

Humanity and the earth is suffering from a worldview disease leading to a voracious self-destruction. It is a set of values or qualities, held with religious conviction that transforms all novelty into itself: economic growth, control over circumstances, progress, individualism, exploitation of nature, domination of strong over weak, and freedom-as-entitlement.

by Vicki Robin at January 22, 2020 12:05 PM

Deep Green Resistance News Service

Lake Erie Bill of Rights: Time for Direct Action

By Will Falk

Featured image: Harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie in 2017. Public domain photo via NASA.

On Tuesday, January 28, at 10 AM, a hearing will be held in the United States District Courthouse in Toledo, OH in the case Drewes Farms Partnership v. City of Toledo. At stake in this case is the constitutionality of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. It is possible – likely, even – that the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR), democratically enacted by the people of Toledo, will be struck down by United States District Judge Jack Zouhary at this hearing.

If Zouhary strikes LEBOR down, he will do so despite a clear expression of the people of Toledo’s political will. LEBOR, after all was enacted with a 61% majority of the 15,000 Toledoans who voted on it. If Zouhary strikes LEBOR down, he will do so despite the ongoing harm current industrial and agricultural processes are causing to Lake Erie and all those who depend on Lake Erie’s water. If Zouhary strikes LEBOR down, he will do so despite the intensifying danger that once again a toxic algae bloom will get so bad that hundreds of thousands of Toledoans will be left without drinking water. And, perhaps the worst if of all, if Zouhary strikes LEBOR down, all those who worked so hard to see LEBOR enacted will be tempted to despair, to give up.

Do not despair. Do not give up. LEBOR represents only one of many tactics that can be used to protect Lake Erie.

To date, we have only employed indirect methods for protecting Lake Erie. We have asked the government and the courts to protect Lake Erie and they have consistently refused to do so. We have asked Zouhary to validate a democratically enacted local law. Hell, we asked Zouhary for permission to simply argue on Lake Erie’s and LEBOR’s behalf in Drewes Farms Partnership v. City of Toledo and he wouldn’t even grant us that. It is time we stop asking. It is time we stop using merely persuasive means for change. It is time we act directly to protect Lake Erie.

What would it mean to “act directly” to protect Lake Erie? The term “direct action” has been used so often in environmental and social movements in so many different contexts that it is in danger of losing its meaning. It is difficult to locate a clear definition of direct action in activist or academic literature rooted in a radical analysis, so I have formed my own. My definition has three parts: First, direct action involves a clearly-defined and obtainable goal. Second, the success of that goal is demonstrable by a quantifiable reduction in the opposition’s physical power. Third, it is primarily the actions of those engaging in the direct action that produce the desired goal.  

It is important that a proposed action begins with a clearly-defined and obtainable goal because an action involving a poorly-defined goal makes it difficult to determine the scope of the action. And, proposed actions with unobtainable goals will be, by definition, ineffective. Planning to change the world through an educational program designed to illustrate the evils of the fossil fuel industry, for example, is neither clearly-defined nor obtainable. What does it mean “to change the world?” And, how will you possibly reach enough people to effect this change? Planning to disable a factory farm producing manure runoff into the Lake Erie watershed, however, is both clearly-defined and obtainable. Direct actionists can, without too much imagination, envision a successful action.

Once a clearly-defined and obtainable goal is established, the direct action must be designed to materially affect the opposition’s physical power. Let’s say activists come up with a plan to drop a banner that says “Rights for Lake Erie!” from the rafters of the Ohio State Capitol Building. The plan is both clearly-defined, and with some clever security dodging, obtainable. This action, however, is not direct action because there is no way to quantify how, or even if, the banner affects Lake Erie’s polluters ability to pollute.

Let’s consider another hypothetical plan: Activists plan to blockade trucks transporting manure through northern Ohio where the manure will be spread on farms. And, they plan to blockade these trucks for 24 hours. This plan has a clearly-defined and obtainable goal. The goal also reflects an understanding of power. Trucks transporting manure is one of the primary methods agricultural corporations use to pollute. Depriving these corporations of their manure for one day may not be a big hit to corporate power, but it is quantifiable.

It is primarily the actions of those engaging in the direct action that produce the desired goal. Another way to say this is: There is a clear causal link between the direct action and the desired goal. If the goal is to restrict the movement of trucks transporting manure, for example, then the planned action must literally restrict the trucks. Yet another way to say this is: direct action does not leave it to external decision-makers (governmental, judicial, or otherwise) to produce the desired goal. Direct action is not an appeal to those in power. It does not rely solely on moral persuasion, shame, or economic cost-benefit analyses.

This chart, excerpted from the book “Deep Green Resistance,” shows a taxonomy of action: a broad classification of different types of resistance actions that can be taken, including various types of direct action.

Viewed through this lens, the efforts to enact LEBOR, while heroic, are not direct action. LEBOR was a response to the toxic algae bloom that occurred in August, 2014 and left 500,000 Toledoans without drinking water during the hottest time of year. Toxic algae blooms, which have become a regular occurrence in Lake Erie, are primarily fed by agricultural runoff and are exacerbated by climate change. To stop the algae blooms requires stopping the agricultural runoff. In order for citizens to use LEBOR to stop agricultural runoff, first requires the federal courts to rule that LEBOR is constitutional and valid. Not only do we need Zouhary to rule in favor of LEBOR, but, if Zouhary rules in favor of LEBOR, it’s likely that Drewes Farms Partnership and the State of Ohio would appeal Zouhary’s decision to the Sixth Circuit. Then, if the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of LEBOR, Drewes Farms Partnership and the State of Ohio, would likely appeal to the Supreme Court.

So, before we could ever use LEBOR to bring actions against agricultural polluters for violating Lake Erie’s rights, we’d have to convince three different courts to uphold LEBOR. Even if we succeeded in convincing each level of the federal courts to rule in favor of LEBOR, we would then, in each case brought against agricultural polluters under LEBOR, need to convince a judge that the actions of agricultural polluters violate Lake Erie’s rights.  In other words, LEBOR is not direct action because it relies on external decision makers – the courts – to produce the desired goal.

I am not in any way suggesting that the tremendous efforts Toledoans have put into LEBOR have been a waste. They have not been. The efforts to enact LEBOR placed the question of rights of nature before the people of Toledo and secured a clear, democratic expression that the people of Toledo do, in fact, support rights of nature. This strengthens the moral superiority of our claims. Not only are we justified in stopping agricultural polluters because they are poisoning Toledo’s drinking water, we are justified because the majority of the community believes Lake Erie should have rights to be free from this pollution.

In many ways, it would be easier if we could convince the courts to uphold Lake Erie’s rights. If the courts recognized LEBOR, we could sue polluters. And, in those lawsuits, after finding that the polluters have violated Lake Erie’s rights, judges could order armed men and women (the police) to force polluters to stop polluting. The important thing to recognize though is that the police do not own a monopoly on power. We have the power to stop polluters from polluting, too. Factory farms can be occupied. Access to manure can be limited. The capacity to distribute manure can be impaired.

It is true that those who effectively engage in direct action to protect Lake Erie will place themselves in danger. It is possible that direct actionists will be arrested, that the police will respond violently, and that the media and members of the public will criticize and ostracize us. But the truth is violence is already being used against us. Poisoning a city’s drinking water is violence. And, if we don’t succeed in stopping this poisoning, more nonhumans will be murdered, more humans (especially the most vulnerable among us such as children and the elderly) will get sick and may even die, too. If we don’t succeed in stopping this poisoning, in other words, the violence will only intensify.

Fear in the face of these dangers is understandable. The question is: How do we overcome the fear? Bravery is a personal thing. It is something each individual must find for her or himself. No one can find it for you.

Personally, I find my courage on Lake Erie’s shore. I find it witnessing the sick, pale bellies of dead perch floating through the thick, green scum that forms on Lake Erie’s surface and suffocates fish every summer. I find it in the scent of the rotting corpses of dogs, deer, foxes, gulls, eagles, herons, and the many other animals who drink and feed from Lake Erie. I find it in the looks on the faces of children who arrive cheerfully on Lake Erie’s beaches in the heat of summer only to find the lake is too dangerous to swim in. I find it in the rashes that form on the skin of children who were unaware of the danger toxic algae blooms pose. I find it in the vomit of those unlucky enough to unknowingly drink toxic Lake Erie water. I find it when I read studies about the cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other illnesses toxic algae blooms cause. I find it when I remember that only a few short centuries ago, indigenous peoples bathed on Lake Erie’s shores, celebrated the deliciousness of Lake Erie’s fish, and drank freely of Lake Erie’s waters with no inkling of the destruction to come.

I find my courage when I realize that all of this is only going to get worse if we don’t act, directly and decisively, to protect Lake Erie’s life-giving water.

Will Falk is a writer, lawyer, and environmental activist. The natural world speaks and Will’s work is how he listens. He believes the ongoing destruction of the natural world is the most pressing issue confronting us today. For Will, writing is a tool to be used in resistance.

Will graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School and practiced as a public defender in Kenosha, WI. He left the public defender office to pursue frontline environmental activism. So far, activism has taken him to the Unist’ot’en Camp – an indigenous cultural center and pipeline blockade on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory in so-called British Columbia, Canada, to a construction blockade on Mauna Kea in Hawai’i, and to endangered pinyon-juniper forests in the Great Basin.

His writing has been published by CounterPunch, Earth Island Journal, CATALYST Magazine, Whole Terrain, Dark Mountain Project, the San Diego Free Press, and Deep Green Resistance News Service among others. His first book How Dams Fall: Stories the Colorado River Told Me was published in August, 2019 by Homebound Publications.

by Deep Green Resistance Great Basin at January 22, 2020 12:00 PM

Bloodsky Sunday

On 22nd January 1905, a seismic social shift occurred that would ultimately end Russia’s seemingly unassailable dynastic-al certainties – setting the stage for the new global force of communism. For nearly four hundred years, a Read more » 

by BlackRat at January 22, 2020 11:47 AM

InterPressService (global south)

UN Chief & Staff Union Predict Another Cash Crisis in 2020—if Member States Don’t Pay Up

By Thalif Deen

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared last week that the United Nations just “managed to survive its deepest financial crisis in a decade.”

But if countries continue to default on their assessed contributions to the world body – as 47 countries did in 2019 — the UN may be heading for another liquidity crisis in 2020, he warned.

“Unless all member states pay their assessed contributions on time and in full”, Guterres declared, “we risk receiving insufficient funds to implement the entire programme of work and the full budget approved for 2020.”

That budget, voted by the 193-member General Assembly last month, was $3.1 billion for 2020: an increase of approximately $8 million on what was initially requested by Guterres.

And it also marks the first time since 1973 that the UN is adopting an annual budget instead of a two-year one.

UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on January 10 the United Nations closed out 2019 with 146 out of 193 member states having paid their dues in full for the last year’s budget.

Asked how another cash crunch was expected to impact on UN staffers in 2020, Patricia Nemeth, President of the United Nations Staff Union (UNSC) told IPS the General Assembly approving the budget– and individual countries paying their dues on time– are two different issues.

If member states don’t pay their contributions on time, then there could indeed be another cash crisis with repercussions for UN staff — both at UN headquarters and in overseas postings, she said.

“It’s not just about salaries; even the prospect of a repeat of last year’s liquidity crisis is disruptive to our daily work as UN staff, as we are unable to plan in advance so as to deliver our mandate in the most efficient and cost-effective manner”, said Nemeth, who is also Vice President for Conditions of Service at the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA).

Currently, the total membership of the UN staff union in New York is approximately 6,400 but overall it is close to 20,000 (representing UNHQs NY staff, locally recruited staff in overseas peacekeeping missions and some of the departments that are governed by the Secretariat but their offices based outside of New York ie.United Nations Information Centres (UNIC)

Credit: United Nations

Addressing the Group of 77 developing countries last week, Guterres said: “I will continue to manage our cash situation carefully, and I count on your continued support to help us avoid a deeper crisis. To this end, I hope that we could find more sustainable solutions to our cash problems.”

Over the years, he pointed out, “we have spent our budgets on the assumption that we should receive sufficient cash at the start of each year to execute the entire budget smoothly during the year.”

“In reality, we receive nearly half in the first three months but almost a quarter comes only at the very end of the year, leaving a very poor liquidity situation especially from July to October.”

“We could manage in the cash-strapped months if we had sufficient liquidity reserves and more flexibility in managing our resources as a pool. But our regular budget liquidity reserves are insufficient and structural impediments prevent us from minimizing the impact across programmes,” Guterres said.

He also said the UN’s programme implementation is now increasingly being driven by the availability of cash, “which is entirely against the way we should be working.”

Asked if the UN is in the process of eliminating short term and consultancy contracts –and whether teleconferencing has replaced overseas assignments– Nemeth said the UN does not eliminate temporary contracts, which are a regular component of the hiring structure.

“While the Staff Union will always advocate for job security, we do understand that the UN sometimes needs to make short-term hires to cover specific needs.”

However, she said, all staff working for the UN should be full-fledged employees, with a contract that guarantees the backing, resources and independence required to perform their tasks exclusively in the interest of the Organization and its mandates.

As for consultancy contracts, she said, “we welcome the General Assembly’s instruction ‘that the Organization should use its in-house capacity to perform core activities or to fulfill functions that are recurrent over the long term’”.

On teleconferencing, she said: “We cannot say that teleconferencing has replaced overseas travel, as UN staff are often posted in a country different from their own to perform specialized assignments”.

However, aside from their permanent assignments, colleagues make every effort to limit travel for meetings and discuss issues whenever possible via virtual technology.

“We are fully aware of the economic and environmental cost of our travel,” said Nemeth.

Asked if regular staffers are assured of permanent stay in New York or was it mandatory for them to serve in overseas posts, Nemeth said regular staff are not assured a permanent position in New York.

All international staff, she said, are encouraged to move geographically during their career.

“A new mobility policy is under development (under the umbrella of the staff-management committee working group) and we will have to see whether or not the proposal contains a mandatory requirement to move”.

She said the Staff Union in New York does not advocate for mandatory mobility, based on the results of a survey that was conducted in 2019 among New York staff.

Staff are very interested in a mobility scheme that is voluntarily in nature and that focuses on intra-departmental moves and/ or inter-agency mobility within the UN system, Nemeth declared.

On the UN’s proposed new locations, including Budapest, Nairobi, Montreal and Shenzen, Nemeth said: “There is no decision by the Member States, as of today, concerning the Global Service Delivery Model or any potential new offices”.

This will be discussed at the first resumed session of the General Assembly in the spring.

“We are following the matter closely, as it could affect the jobs of colleagues who are locally hired in the existing headquarter locations.”

The writer can be contacted at

The post UN Chief & Staff Union Predict Another Cash Crisis in 2020—if Member States Don’t Pay Up appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Thalif Deen at January 22, 2020 11:29 AM


Supreme Court Allows Flint Water Lawsuits To Move Forward, Officials Not ‘Immune’

[Note:  This item comes from friend Ed DeWath.  DLH]

Supreme Court Allows Flint Water Lawsuits To Move Forward, Officials Not ‘Immune’
Jan 21 2020

The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for water crisis victims to sue state and local government officials in Flint, Mich.

For years, Flint city officials and state regulators have argued that they are protected by “qualified immunity” from being sued for their role in the water contamination crisis. But lower courts have ruled to the contrary.

In refusing to take up a pair of cases involving the lead-tainted water, the Supreme Court has upheld those lower court rulings.

Attorney Michael Pitt, co-lead counsel on the class action lawsuit, which includes thousands of Flint residents suing for damages from the 2014 incident, welcomed the decision as a major victory.

He said, “It’s time for the people of Flint to start feeling like they are going to get their day in court,” Michigan Radio reporter Steve Carmody reported. “This just moves the entire process closer to that day.”

Pitt added that his clients have thus far “been denied justice.”

The initial lawsuit turned away by the high court was filed in 2016. It argues that officials, including then-Gov. Rick Snyder, acted indifferently to the risk of bodily harm that residents faced when they were exposed to high levels of lead and other contaminants after the city’s drinking water source was switched to draw from the Flint River in 2014. The move was made without properly treating pipes for corrosion, letting lead and bacteria into the water supply.

In an April 2019 ruling, U.S. District Judge Judith Levy ruled that Snyder “was indifferent because instead of mitigating the risk of harm caused by the contaminated water, he covered it up. In private, he worried about the need to return Flint to [Detroit’s water system] and the political implications of the crisis. But in public, he denied all knowledge, despite being aware of the developing crisis. As a result, plaintiffs were lured into a false sense of security.”

More than a year later, the city switched to using water from Lake Huron. But that came too late to prevent a dozen fatalities.

During the period that Flint’s tap water came from the Flint River, a Legionnaires disease outbreak occurred, killing at least 12 people. Dozens of others were hospitalized.

Although government officials initially claimed the water was safe to drink, 18 months later they admitted it was not.

It wasn’t until late 2016 that the city’s water supply finally met federal safety standards, though some residents remain skeptical of those findings.

Defense attorney Pitt says it could be another year before an actual trial begins.

The events in Flint have triggered scores of Midwest cities to remove aging lead water pipes.


by wa8dzp at January 22, 2020 11:27 AM

If defending life on Earth is extremist, we must own that label

If defending life on Earth is extremist, we must own that label
Police say climate groups such as Extinction Rebellion are a ‘threat’. They’d have done the same for the suffragettes and Martin Luther King
By George Monbiot
Jan 22 2020

It’s not an “error” or an “accident”, as the police now claim. It’s a pattern. First, the Guardian revealed that counter-terrorism police in south-east England have listed Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the youth climate strikes as forms of “ideological extremism”. Then teachers and officials around the country reported that they had been told, in briefings by the anti-radicalisation Prevent programme, to look out for people expressing support for XR and Greenpeace.

Then the Guardian found a Counter Terrorism Policing guide to the signs and symbols used by various groups. Alongside terrorists and violent extremist organisations, the guide listed Greenpeace, XR, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, CND, the Socialist party, Stop the War and other peaceful green and left organisations. Then the newspaper discovered that City of London police had listed XR as a “key threat” in its counter-terrorism assessment.

There’s a long history in the UK of attempts to associate peaceful protest with extremism or terrorism. In 2008, for example, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) produced a list of “domestic extremists”. Among them was Dr Peter Harbour, a retired physicist and university lecturer, who had committed the cardinal sin of marching and petitioning against an attempt by the energy company npower (then RWE npower) to drain a beautiful local lake and fill it with pulverised fly ash. Acpo sought to smear peace campaigners, Greenpeace and Climate Camp with the same charge.

The police have always protected established power against those who challenge it, regardless of the nature of that challenge. And they have long sought to criminalise peaceful dissent. Part of the reason is ideological: illiberal and undemocratic attitudes infest policing in this country. Part of it is empire-building: if police units can convince the government and the media of imminent threats that only they can contain, they can argue for more funding.

But there’s another reason, which is arguably even more dangerous: the nexus of state and corporate power. All over the world, corporate lobbyists seek to brand opponents of their industries as extremists and terrorists, and some governments and police forces are prepared to listen. A recent article in the Intercept seeks to discover why the US Justice Department and the FBI had put much more effort into chasing mythical “ecoterrorists” than pursuing real, far-right terrorism. A former official explained, “You don’t have a bunch of companies coming forward saying ‘I wish you’d do something about these rightwing extremists’.” By contrast, there is constant corporate pressure to “do something” about environmental campaigners and animal rights activists.

We feel this pressure in the UK. In July, the lobby group Policy Exchange published a report claiming that XR is led by dangerous “extremists”. Policy Exchange is an opaque organisation that refuses to disclose its donors. But an investigation by Vice magazine revealed it has received funding from the power company Drax, the trade association Energy UK and the gas companies E.ON and Cadent.

One of the two authors of the Policy Exchange report, Richard Walton, is a former police commander. A report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission said he would have had a misconduct case to answer had he not retired. The case concerned allegations about his role in the spying by undercover police on the family of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. The purpose of the spying operation, according to one of the police officers involved, was to seek “disinformation” and “dirt” on the family, and stop their campaign for justice “in its tracks.”

The home secretary, Priti Patel, has defended the inclusion of XR on the police list of extremist ideologies. But it seems to me that people like Patel and Walton pose much greater threats to the nation, the state and our welfare than any green campaigners. Before she became an MP, Patel worked for the company Weber Shandwick, as a lobbyist for British American Tobacco (BAT). One of her tasks was to campaign against the EU tobacco control directive, whose purpose was to protect public health. A BAT memo complained that the Weber Shandwick team as a whole “does not actually feel comfortable or happy working for BAT”. But it was pleased to note that two of its members “seem quite relaxed working with us”. One of them was Patel.

In her previous government role, as secretary of state for international development, Patel held unauthorised and undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials, after which she broached the possibility of her department channelling British aid money through the Israeli army, in the occupied Golan Heights. After she was not candid with the prime minister, Theresa May, about further undisclosed meetings, she was forced to resign. But she was reinstated, in a far more powerful role, by Boris Johnson.


by wa8dzp at January 22, 2020 11:27 AM

In the name of liberty…

In the winter 2019 issue of Index on Censorship magazine, editor-in-chief Rachael Jolley argues that a new generation of democratic leaders is actively eroding essential freedoms, including free speech

Like brothers in arms, they revel in the same set of characteristics. They share them, and their favourite ways of using them, on social media.

From Orbán to Trump and from Bolsonaro to Johnson, national leaders who want to dismiss analysis with a personalised tweet, and never want to answer a direct question, have come to power – and are using power to silence us. They like to think of themselves as strongmen but what, in fact, they are doing is channelling the worst kind of machismo.

For toughness, read intolerance of disagreement. They are extremely uncomfortable with public criticism. They would rather hold a Facebook “press conference” where they are not pressed than one where reporters get to push them on details they would rather not address. Despite running countries, they try to pretend that those who hold them to account are the elite who the public should not trust.

While every generation has its “tough” leaders, what’s different about today’s is that they are everywhere, and learning, copying and sharing their measures with each other – aided, of course, by the internet, which is their ultimate best friend. And this is not just a phenomenon we are seeing on one continent. Right now these techniques are coming at us from all around the globe, as if one giant algorithm is showing them the way. And it’s not happening just in countries run by unelected dictators; democratically elected leaders are very firmly part of this boys’ club.

Here are some favoured techniques:

If you don’t like some media coverage, you look at ways of closing down or silencing that media outlet, and possibly others. Could a friend buy it? Could you bring in some legislation that shuts it out? How about making sure it loses its advertising? That is happening now. In Hungary, there are very few independent media outlets left, and the media that remain is pretty scared about what might happen to them. Hungarian journalists are moving to other countries to get the chance to write about the issues.

In China, President Xi Jinping has just increased the pressure on journalists who report for official outlets by insisting they take a knowledge test, which is very much like a loyalty test, before being given press cards.

Just today, as I sit here writing, I’ve switched on the radio to hear that the UK’s Conservative Party has made an official complaint to the TV watchdog over Channel 4’s coverage of the general election campaign (there was a debate last night on climate change where party leaders who didn’t turn up were replaced with giant blocks of ice). A party source told the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph newspaper: “If we are re-elected, we will have to review Channel 4’s public service broadcasting obligations. Any review would, of course, look at whether its remit should be better focused so it is serving the public in the best way possible.” In summary, they are saying they will close down the media that disagree with them.

This not very veiled threat is very much in line with the rhetoric from President Donald Trump in the USA and President Viktor Orbán in Hungary about the media knowing its place as more a subservient hat-tipping servant than a watchdog holding power to account. It’s also not so far from attitudes that are prevalent in Russia and China about the role of the media.
For those who might think that media freedom is a luxury, or doesn’t have much importance in their lives, I suggest they take a quick look at any country or point in history where media freedom was taken away, and then ask themselves: “Do I want to live there?”

Dictators know that control of the message underpins their power, and so does this generation of macho leaders. Getting the media “under control” is a high priority. Trump went on the offensive against journalists from the first minute he strode out on to the public stage. Brazil’s newish leader, President Jair Bolsonaro, knows it too. In fact, he got together with Trump on the steps of the White House to agree on a fightback against “fake news”, and we all should know what they mean right there. “Fake news” is news they don’t like and really would rather not hear.

New York Times deputy general counsel David McCraw told Index that this was “a very dark moment for press freedom worldwide”.

When the founders of the USA sat down to write the Constitution – that essential document of freedom, written because many of them had fled from countries where they were not allowed to speak, take certain jobs or practise their religion – they had in mind creating a country where freedom was protected. The First Amendment encapsulates the right to criticise the powerful, but now the country is led by someone who says, basically, he doesn’t support it. No wonder McCraw feels a deep sense of unease.

But when Trump’s team started to try to control media coverage, by not inviting the most critical media to press briefings, what was impressive was that American journalists from across the political spectrum spoke out for media freedom. When then White House press secretary Sean Spicer tried to stop journalists from The New York Times, The Guardian and CNN from attending some briefings, Bret Baier, a senior anchor with Fox News, spoke out. He said on Twitter: “Some at CNN & NYT stood w/FOX News when the Obama admin attacked us & tried 2 exclude us-a WH gaggle should be open to all credentialed orgs.”

The media stood up and criticised the attempt to allow only favoured outlets access, with many (including The Wall Street Journal, AP and Bloomberg) calling it out. What was impressive was that they were standing up for the principle of media freedom. The White House is likely to at least think carefully about similar moves when it realises it risks alienating its friendly media as well as its critics.

And that's the lesson for media everywhere. Don't let them divide and rule you

And that’s the lesson for media everywhere. Don’t let them divide and rule you. If a newspaper that you think of as the opposition is not allowed access to a press briefing because the prime minister or the president doesn’t like it, you should be shouting about it just as hard as if it happened to you, because it is about the principle. If you don’t believe in the principle, in time they will come for you and no one will be there to speak out.

That’s the big point being made by Baier: it happened to us and people spoke up for us, so now I am doing the same. A seasoned Turkish journalist told me that one of the reasons the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was able to get away with restrictions on critical media early on, was because the liberal media hadn’t stood up for the principle in earlier years when conservative press outlets were being excluded or criticised.

Sadly, the UK media did not show many signs of standing united when, during this year’s general election campaign, the Daily Mirror, a Labour-supporting newspaper, was kicked off the Conservative Party’s campaign “battle bus”. The bus carries journalists and Prime Minister Boris Johnson around the country during the campaign. The Mirror, which has about 11 million readers, was the only newspaper not allowed to board the bus. When the Mirror’s political editor called on other media to boycott the bus, the reaction was muted. Conservative Party tacticians will have seen this as a success, given the lack of solidarity to this move by the rest of the media (unlike the US coverage of the White House incident).

The lesson here is to stand up for the principles of freedom and democracy all the time, not just when they affect you. If you don’t, they will be gone before you know it.

Rallying rhetoric is another tried and tested tactic. They use it to divide the public into “them and us”, and try to convert others to thinking they are “people like us”. If we, the public, think they are on our side, we are more likely to put the X in their ballot box. Trump and Orbán practise the “people like us” and “everyone else is our enemy” strategies with abandon. They rail against people they don’t like using words such as “traitor”.

Again in Hungary, people are put into the “outsiders” box if they are gay, women who haven’t had children or don’t conform to the ideas that the Orbán government stands for.

Dividing people into “them and us” has huge implications for our democracies. In separating people, we start to lose our empathy for people who are “other” and we potentially stop standing up for them when something happens. It creates divides that are useful for those in power to manipulate to their advantage.

The University of Birmingham’s Henriette van der Bloom recently co-published research pamphlet Crisis of Rhetoric: Renewing Political Speech and Speechwriting. She said: “I think there is a risk we are all putting ourselves and others into boxes, then we cannot really collaborate about improving our society. Some would say that is what is partly going on at the moment.” Looking forward, she saw one impact could be “a society in crisis, speeches are delivered, and people listen, but it becomes more and more polarising”.

But it’s not just the future, it’s today. We already see societies in crisis, with democratic values being threatened and eroded. This does not point to a rosy future. But there are some signs for optimism. In this issue, we also feature protesters who have campaigned and achieved significant change. In Romania, a mass weekly protest against a new law which would allow political corruption has ended with the government standing down; in Hungary, a new opposition mayor has been elected in Budapest.

Democracies need to remember that criticism and political opposition are an essential part of their success. We must hope they do.

Rachael Jolley is editor-in-chief of Index on Censorship magazine. She tweets @londoninsider. This article is part of the latest edition of Index on Censorship magazine, with its special report on macho male leaders 

Index on Censorship’s winter 2019 issue is entitled The Big Noise: How macho leaders hide their weakness by stifling dissent, debate and democracy 

Look out for the new edition in bookshops, and don’t miss our Index on Censorship podcast, with special guests, on Soundcloud.

How macho leaders hide their weakness by stifling dissent, debate and democracy

The winter 2019 Index on Censorship magazine looks at how male leaders around the world are using masculinity against our freedoms


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by Rachael Jolley at January 22, 2020 10:36 AM

InterPressService (global south)

Bridging Africa’s Great Gender-Financing Divide

Soi Cate Chelang, a self-taught palette seat designer and carpenter, hard at work. She says that even after a decade of running her business she is unable to get bank credit to expand. Her situation is not a unique one in Africa. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jan 22 2020 (IPS)

What stands between Soi Cate Chelang and her dream of turning her small pallet-making business into a major enterprise is capital.

In Kenya, Chelang may well be a pioneer in making seats out of wooden pallets — the flat pieces of wood used to support goods or containers during shipping.

While she has no formal training in carpentry, Chelang tells IPS that she comes from a long line of carpenters, having trained under her grandfather and uncle. And what she doesn’t know, she learns from online lessons on carpentry.

She started the business more than a decade ago — before anyone else was doing it — and her products have been popular with consumers.

“My designs stand out because I combine many different elements. It is not just about turning wood into a seat. I use colourful fabrics and female clients enjoy fabrics that brighten their homes. I also make kids furniture from pallets and use fabric that have popular cartoons on them,” she expounds. Chelang sells her three-seater household pallet sofa for 100 to 300 dollars, depending on the design and material used.

Clients seek her services through her social media pages where she markets her products under the name Soi Pallet Designs.

Not enough credit to grow

But the 35-year-old is worried that the opportunity to cash in on her unique designs is passing her by.

“I do not have the money to set up a proper workshop and showroom. I cannot apply for contracts to make pallet seats for major entertainment clubs in the city because I do not have capital to finance such big orders,” she says, explaining that such clubs are interested in her designs.

“I managed to take one order of 5,000 dollars in 2018 because one of my mentors provided me with the capital to finance the order,” she says.

But that was a once-off. Because without collateral, she says, the banks will grant her a business loan. So for now she has to make seats to order. Even in this instance her clients must first pay 30 to 50 percent of the total cost to enable her to purchase materials and pay for some of her labour costs.

“I work with three carpenters who I pay on a daily basis. We only take one order at a time because I do not have a proper workshop and I cannot afford to hire more carpenters,” Chelang expounds.

The circumstances have served to confine her business to her home in Kisumu City some 350 kilometres away from Kenya’s capital Nairobi.

Traditional credit not available for African women 

But Chelang’s inability to expand her business is not a new story. According to the MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2017, a lack of capital is one of the major challenges facing women doing business in Africa today, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.  

This is despite data by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report of 2017-18 showing that sub-Saharan Africa has taken the lead as the only region where women form the majority of self-employed individuals. 

  • According to the report, globally, Africa has the most positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship as 76 percent of working age adults consider entrepreneurship a good career choice, while another 75 percent believe that entrepreneurs are admired in their societies.
  • Over the last decade, the number of women joining entrepreneurship is on a steady rise, the GEM report states. Women are high-technology developers in Kenya or, like Chelang, are making waves in the informal sector.
  • Female entrepreneurs are also in the steel manufacturing business in South Africa, and in the cocoa agro-processing businesses in Ivory Coast and the larger West African region.
  • Even more impressive, the MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2017 indicates that Uganda and Botswana have the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs globally. Other countries in this league include Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia.

Women in entrepreneurship stand to gain from the African Development Bank’s affirmative action financing. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Setting up lasting financial structures to benefit Africa’s women

Aware of the financial constraints facing women in business, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is making concerted efforts to address the widening financing gap between male and female entrepreneurs in Africa.

The pan-African bank has placed the financing gap between male and female entrepreneurs across Africa, at a whopping 42 billion dollars.

To address this gap, the African Heads of State launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) programme back in 2016. 

  • As a joint pan-African initiative between AfDB and the African Guarantee Fund, AFAWA is a risk-sharing facility that will de-risk lending to women-owned and women-led businesses.
  • During the most recent Global Gender Summit held in Kigali in 2019, AFAWA was officially launched in Rwanda. The affirmative action programme received a one-million-dollar commitment from the Rwandese government. Still in 2019, G7 leaders approved a package totalling 251 million dollars in support of AFAWA.
  • Additionally, Attijariwafa Bank, a Moroccan multinational commercial bank, and the African Guarantee Fund have signed a 50 million dollar Memorandum of Understanding towards risk lending to women through partial guarantees.

By using a holistic approach, this affirmative action programme will address the major factors preventing women in Africa, including the access of financial products and services such as loans. Consequently these financial services will also be accessible and affordable as well.

AFAWA finance will unlock three billion dollars in credit for women in businesses and enterprises in Africa. Towards this goal, this programme will work with existing commercial banks and microfinance institutions to engineer lasting structural changes, to the benefit of women across the continent.

Further, there will be a rating system to evaluate financial institutions based on the extent to which they lend to women, and the consequent socio-economic impact. Top institutions will receive preferential terms from the pan-African bank.

Sustainable, women-owned businesses will contribute to the economy

Financial experts such as Irene Omari say the AFAWA is important for women’s financial inclusion. A banker and leading entrepreneur in the Lakeside City of Kisumu, Omari tells IPS that “banks do not take female entrepreneurs seriously. Banks are still a long way from embracing women doing business. We are still considered very high risk by financial institutions because we lack collateral”.

As the sole proprietor of Top Strategy Achievers Limited, a multi-million-shilling branding and printing company, she is all too familiar with the financial challenges facing women in business today.

“I started working at 23 years old in the hospitality industry. I would also act as a middle person between branding companies and clients. In Kisumu City this services were hard to find. I saved every coin that I made and used it as capital,” she says.

Omari registered her company in 2013. She began operations in the same year while still employed at a local bank. “My salary paid the two staff that I had in the beginning, office rent, and all other overheads until the company could stand on its feet,” she says.

She says that because women, like Chelang, are not considered bankable they are significantly constrained in setting up solid, physical infrastructures to drive the growth and sustainability of their businesses.

“This is the reason why women are in self-employment where they basically work for themselves and not in entrepreneurship where they bring as many employees on board as possible,” Omari expounds.

  • In Omari’s case she is an entrepreneur, and need not be at the place of work at all times because the business can thrive and be sustainable even in their absence. In self-employment, the presence of the business owner must be felt at all times.

Francis Kibe Kiragu, a lecturer in gender and development studies at the University of Nairobi, tells IPS that while women have sufficiently demonstrated a desire to run their own enterprises, they suffer crippling financial exclusion.

“Women in self-employment or entrepreneurship are therefore driven by necessity and not innovation. They just want to meet their basic needs and as a result, they are perceived as contributing very little to the economy,” he observes.

Because of these challenges, he says that women are more likely than men to discontinue running a business. The GEM 2017 report confirms Kiragu’s assertions as it indicates that, while Africa may have the highest number of women running start-ups, the number of women running established businesses is lower.

In fact, in the sub-Saharan Africa region alone, there are two women starting a new business venture for every one woman running an established business, the report indicates.

“I started designing, making and marketing my pallet seats at 25 years old. Ten years later I am still facing the same financial challenges I faced when I started. Many times I have come close to abandoning this dream and finding employment,” says Chelang.

Through the AFAWA it is hoped that women like Chelang will soon be able to leverage financial instruments to their and their businesses’ benefit.

The post Bridging Africa’s Great Gender-Financing Divide appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Miriam Gathigah at January 22, 2020 10:15 AM


Elizabeth Warren’s Electoral Track Record Is Incredibly Worrying

A new look at the 2018 midterms shows that while Bernie Sanders has already won back “Obama-Trump” voters, Elizabeth Warren was decimated in exactly the kinds of places Democrats need to win in 2020.

alt Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks during a town hall event at Weeks Middle School on January 19, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Spencer Platt / Getty

During last week’s debate in Iowa, Democrats drew familiar battle lines on a number of issues, including health care, climate change, trade policy, and America’s endless wars in the Middle East. One question that was not debated was whether a female candidate can win the presidential election — literally everyone on the stage, with the possible exception of Joe Biden, is agreed on that point. Of course a woman can win.

For most Democratic voters, the real question was the same as it has been since the primary began: Who is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump?

With a friendly assist from CNN’s moderators, Elizabeth Warren used the podium to deliver an applause line about her superior prowess as a general election candidate — and take a not-so-veiled shot at Bernie Sanders. “Look at the men on the stage,” she said. “Collectively, they have lost ten elections.” Here Warren was apparently counting Sanders’s four runs for office on the fringe Liberty Union Party ticket in the 1970s, along with his two failed independent bids in the 1980s. She continued:

The only people on this stage who have won every single election they’ve been in, are the women. And the only person who has beaten an incumbent Republican any time in the past thirty years is me . . . The real danger that we face as Democrats is picking a candidate who can’t pull our party together or someone who takes for granted big parts of the Democratic constituency. We need a candidate who will excite all parts of the Democratic Party, bring everyone in, and give everyone a Democrat to believe in. That’s my plan, and that is why I’m going to win.

Warren was touting her supposed status as a unifying figure among Democrats — an ironic gesture for a candidate who, by continuing to allege that Sanders dismissed the idea a woman could win the election, was in the process of burning her last bridges to many of his supporters.

But even leaving aside this recent fracas, the larger problem with Warren’s electability argument is plain. To win in November, Democrats do not need to unite “all parts” of their party: they need to win more votes than Donald Trump, especially in key battleground states.

That means that three groups of voters are especially critical, none of which voted Democrat in the last cycle: Obama voters who defected to Trump, Obama voters who did not vote in 2016, and people who typically do not vote at all. Bernie Sanders, as Meagan Day and I have argued in detail, is the strongest candidate to win all three of these key groups.But since Warren raised the issue of the candidates’ electoral history, it’s worth diving even deeper into the records of the two New England senators vying for the “progressive lane” in the Democratic primary. Who has had more success winning over independents and Republicans, and who has brought more voters to the polls, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren?

Sanders Has Won Big for Decades — But Warren Just Squeaks By

At every level, the evidence is overwhelming: for nearly thirty years, Sanders has consistently run well ahead of the Democratic ticket in Vermont, with special strength in the state’s most conservative areas. In Massachusetts, meanwhile, Warren has consistently underperformed relative to national and state Democrats, with special weakness in the state’s most conservative areas.

A closer look at their 2018 reelection campaigns, in particular, shows that while Sanders continues to perform remarkably well in Trump-voting districts, Warren will struggle even to match Hillary Clinton’s historically poor record in Republican-trending rural and small-town communities.

In this chart, Vermont’s 246 and Massachusetts’s 351 towns and municipalities are arranged according to how they voted in the 2016 Trump vs. Clinton election (horizontal axis) and how they voted two years later in Sanders’ and Warren’s midterm Senate races (vertical axis). (Chart by Seth Ackerman)

For progressive voters who want to back a winner in November, the implications are clear: Bernie Sanders can win back Trump voters, because he already has. Elizabeth Warren, by contrast, has not — and there are real questions about whether she ever can.

Bernie’s First Political Revolution Ended in Victory

For more than a century after the Civil War, Vermont was one of the most reliably Republican states in the country. Its rock-ribbed electorate gave the GOP almost unbroken control over the state legislature, the governor’s office, Senate seats, and electoral votes for president. (Vermont was one of just two states in the country never to vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt..)

By the 1980s, broader economic and cultural changes, along with significant migration from the Northeastern seaboard, had begun to reshape the state’s political geography. Yet even as Democrats like Howard Dean started winning some statewide elections, Vermont remained a swing state, giving its presidential votes to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and electing a Republican state assembly as recently as 2002.

It was in this mixed political environment — rather than a solidly liberal Democratic state like Massachusetts or Maryland — that Bernie Sanders emerged as a national figure. Running as an independent democratic socialist, he won his first election for Vermont’s statewide congressional seat in November 1990, defeating both the Republican incumbent and his Democratic challenger — all while the collapse of state socialism in Eastern Europe was playing out on television day and night.

In the twenty-nine years since, Sanders has compiled a formidable electoral record. Facing the enmity of both Vermont’s major parties, and without the support of a national organization, Sanders has nevertheless won eleven consecutive elections, becoming, along the way, the most popular senator in the country with his constituents.Nor have Sanders’s outspoken and supposedly “radical” political commitments — fighting for workers against the billionaire class, supporting a national health-care system for all — cost him in any measurable way. In fact, Sanders has outperformed the national Democratic ticket in every presidential election year since 1992, often by large margins.

Matthew Yglesias has laid out this general history:

  • In 1992, Sanders got 58 percent to Bill Clinton’s 46 percent (it was a strong state for presidential candidate Ross Perot, but Bernie also faced a “third-party” challenge from a Democrat).
  • In 1996, Sanders got 55 percent to Clinton’s 53 percent.
  • In 2000, Sanders got 69 percent to Al Gore’s 51 percent.
  • In 2004, Sanders got 67 percent to John Kerry’s 59 percent.
  • Sanders was elected to the Senate in 2006, so he wasn’t on the ballot in 2008 or 2016. But in 2012, he won 71 percent to Obama’s 67 percent.

Sanders Doesn’t Just Survive in “Obama-Trump” Counties — He Thrives

You might assume that Sanders outpaced these national Democrats by running up the score in the progressive stronghold of Burlington, where he served as mayor in the 1980s. But the roots of Sanders’s distinctive electoral power are deeper and more interesting than that. Bernie’s greatest strength, compared to Democratic presidential candidates, has actually come in some of Vermont’s poorest, most rural, and most conservative areas.

In the rugged northeastern corner of the state, where household income and education levels lag behind Vermont averages, Essex, Caledonia, Orleans, and Orange counties voted for Reagan and H. W. Bush by landslide margins; they remain areas of relative Republican strength to this day. Yet in every single election from 1992 to 2018, Bernie Sanders has run further ahead of Democrats in these conservative northeastern counties than in the rest of Vermont:

  • In 1992, Sanders got 58 percent in northeastern Vermont to Bill Clinton’s 40 percent (an 18-point difference, compared to 12 points statewide).
  • In 1996, Sanders got 54 percent to Clinton’s 49 percent (5 points, compared to 2 points statewide).
  • In 2000, Sanders got 66 percent to Gore’s 44 percent (22 points, compared to 18 points statewide).
  • In 2004, Sanders got 66 percent to Kerry’s 52 percent (14 points, compared to 8 points statewide).
  • In 2012, Sanders got 69 percent to Obama’s 61 percent (8 points, compared to 4 points statewide).

In Vermont’s last two federal elections, the effect was even more pronounced and spread even farther across the state. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won a blowout victory in Vermont, but her large majority was highly uneven: in five mostly rural counties (Essex, Caledonia, Orleans, Rutland, and Franklin) she won less than 50 percent of the vote, with Trump running a strong second everywhere and actually defeating her in Essex County, the very poorest corner of the state.

Two years later, Sanders won his Senate reelection campaign against Republican Lawrence Zupan with a 67 percent majority statewide. In the richest and bluest parts of Vermont, including greater Burlington, he ran basically even with Clinton in the two-way contest against their respective Republican opponents. But in those same five conservative counties, where Hillary won just 44 percent of the total vote — running neck and neck with Trump — Bernie earned an outright 58 percent majority.

Looking even more closely at the 2018 election results, the pattern grows stronger. Sixty-one Vermont towns voted for Trump, nearly all of them in struggling communities with wealth and education levels far behind the national average. Many of these places, both in their demographic profile and in their experience of economic hardship, resemble the small towns and rural areas in the upper midwestern states of Michigan and Wisconsin.

Two American Towns, One Clear Lesson

Consider, as just one example, a tale of two Troys. In the very small towns of Troy, Orleans County, Vermont, and Troy, Newaygo County, Michigan, the population is overwhelmingly white; the median household income is under $40,000 a year; fewer than 12 percent of residents have college degrees; and blue-collar jobs in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, retail, and services employ the majority of the community’s workers.

In 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama won both towns with ease, but in 2016, Trump captured both Troy, Vermont and Troy, Michigan — carrying the Vermont town by a 6-point margin. Write-in votes for “Bernie Sanders,” however, accounted for 12 percent of the town’s ballots (versus 6 percent statewide). Two years later, Sanders himself reclaimed windswept Troy, winning 55 percent of the vote.

Of these 61 Trump towns in Vermont, many of them resembling the two Troys, Sanders won 47. (By comparison, of 91 Trump towns in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren won back only four.) Taking all these towns collectively, Hillary lost to Trump in 2016 by 8 percent of the two-party vote; Bernie won it back two years later by more than 10 percent — a dramatic 18-point shift from Trump to Sanders.To some extent, these figures reflect a decline in Vermont Republican enthusiasm from the 2016 presidential election to the 2018 race, when Sanders faced off against Zupan’s no-hope campaign. Yet even with lower overall turnout, in an uncompetitive midterm, Sanders still won thousands more votes than Hillary Clinton had managed — and they came, disproportionately, from the most conservative, Trump-leaning parts of the state.

Warren Is One of the Least Popular Senators in America — Bernie Is the Most Popular Senator in America

One could argue that Vermont’s shift from 2016 to 2018 was not so uncommon. Well-known incumbent senators often outperform their party’s presidential candidates on home turf, and 2018 was a blue-wave year: though few did as well as Sanders, nearly every sitting Democratic senator ran well ahead of Hillary Clinton.

But there were three exceptions: Dianne Feinstein in California, who ran against another Democrat; Bob Menendez in New Jersey, who had been indicted three times in federal court — and Elizabeth Warren, who actually ran further behind Clinton than Menendez.

Warren’s electoral struggles in Massachusetts are no secret. While Sanders is the most popular senator in the country in his home state, Warren is among the least popular. Despite her boasts at Tuesday’s debate, at the Massaschusetts ballot box, her record is weaker than every other Democrat who has won a statewide election for national office this century, including Obama, Ed Markey, John Kerry (as senator and president), and Ted Kennedy.

Nor can we simply chalk up Warren’s weak results to a Massachusetts prejudice against female candidates. She not only underperformed Hillary Clinton; in her 2018 election against long-shot Republican Geoff Diehl, Warren ran more than nine points behind state attorney general Maura Healey, seven points behind state treasurer Deborah Goldberg, and two points behind state auditor Suzanne Bump — a major embarrassment for a senator with such a large national profile.Warren’s Massachusetts problems are so glaring that even sympathetic voices in the liberal media, from Vox to the New York Times, have covered them in depth. Election number-crunchers are even more brutally direct about her struggles at the ballot box. As Cook Political Report editor David Wasserman put it last summer:

The fact that Warren underperformed Hillary Clinton in 228 of Massachusetts’s 351 towns, and did so in a blue wave year, speaks to her weakness with working-class white voters on the ballot. Many parts of Massachusetts are culturally more similar to Wisconsin or Michigan than they are to Cambridge or Boston or Amherst. And that has to be a serious concern for next November.

A deeper look at Warren’s performance in 2018 shows that while she was weak almost everywhere, she was especially weak in the most conservative parts of Massachusetts. Among the state’s fifty largest towns that voted for Trump, Warren lost all fifty of them.

In fact, she was pummeled even worse than Hillary Clinton: collectively, in these towns (which account for about a fifth of the state’s population), Clinton lost the two-way vote by 8 percent. Warren lost it by 11 percent. In other words, while Bernie Sanders won back an 18-point net gain in Vermont’s Trump towns, Warren produced a 3-point loss in Massachusetts.

We Know Warren Will Get Clobbered in “Obama-Trump” Counties —Because She Already Did

Some of Warren’s biggest losses came in Massachusetts’s wealthiest conservative suburbs, which voted for Mitt Romney, then swung toward Clinton, and then swung back again to the Republicans. But Warren struggled in less affluent areas, too. Take the ten largest Massachusetts Trump towns with household incomes under the state average — middle-class suburbs like Agawam and Ludlow, outside Springfield. Obama won eight of them in 2012. But Warren lost all ten, by roughly the same margin as Clinton had.

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich has offered the most detailed look at Warren’s town-level performance in 2018. While he carefully documented Warren’s struggles in “elite suburbs,” Rakich also argued that her relative strength in ten specific Western Massachusetts towns showed that “she could win back Obama-Trump voters.” But this is deeply misleading.

The ten Western Massachusetts towns where Warren did better than Clinton are, in fact, mostly tiny vacation communities in the Berkshires, many of them “fairly bohemian” places, as Rakich admits. In scenic villages like Cummington, Wendell, and Sandisfield, where Warren ran ahead of Clinton, around 40 percent of residents have college degrees, and a plurality of workers are employed in management, business, science, and arts jobs.

There’s a reason why the Boston Symphony Orchestra spends the entire summer in this corner of Western Massachusetts: it is neither economically, culturally, nor politically similar to Obama-Trump areas elsewhere in New England or the Midwest.

Most fatally for Rakich’s argument, none of these supposed “Obama-Trump” towns actually voted for Trump: although they swung somewhat toward the Republicans compared to 2012, they all voted heavily for Clinton, who won nearly 70 percent of their collective two-party vote. Warren’s strength in these singular Western Massachusetts enclaves says almost nothing about her ability to win voters in places that actually flocked to Trump four years ago.

A better way to assess Warren’s electoral record with white, working-class communities is to look at the ten least affluent Massachusetts towns that voted for Trump in 2016. It is here, in former mill towns like Ware, Athol, and Webster, that employment patterns, income, and education levels more closely match the kind of districts that Democrats must win in the Midwest.

And here Warren also struggled mightily. In aggregate, while Clinton had lost these ten towns by about 10 percent of the two-party vote, Warren lost them by about 7 percent. She was not beaten quite so badly here as in the wealthier and middle-class Trump towns, but still she was beaten, and it wasn’t close.These were eminently winnable working-class areas: Obama had carried nine of the ten towns in 2012, and in the same 2018 election, Maura Healey reclaimed eight for the Democrats. Warren carried just one.

In this context, Warren’s attempt to identify herself with other female politicians makes sense: plenty of Democratic women, including her primary rival Amy Klobuchar, have genuinely strong track records when it comes to winning votes in Trump country. The most impressive of all is probably Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin, who, far more than Klobuchar, was targeted by the right-wing donor class, but won a blowout reelection victory anyway.

Baldwin, like Sanders, is a long-time champion of Medicare for All. And, like Sanders, she has managed to take her populist message to Trump-voting small towns and rural areas and win them back for the Democrats.

Elizabeth Warren has done none of the above. Her problem is not that she is a woman or a progressive; it is that she is a weak candidate.

Warren Wouldn’t Just Lose to Trump — She Could Doom the Entire Progressive Project for a Generation

In the final weeks before the Iowa caucus, a majority of the Democratic electorate remains more concerned with electability than any other question. Which Democrat can beat Trump? Who can win crucial swing voters, and bring in crucial new voters, to win in November?

On this key question, the mainstream media typically puts Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the same category. Both are “left-wing” candidates who may hope to fire up a “progressive” base, but who risk alienating moderates and swing voters.

In fact, Sanders and Warren are on exact opposite sides of the electability spectrum. Ideology aside, polls show that in a contest with Trump, Sanders wins the most independent voters of the entire Democratic field; Warren wins the least. In the key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Sanders runs far ahead of Warren, too.

And in terms of their electoral history, these two progressives are practically on different planets. When it comes to winning in conservative districts, and reclaiming the voters that Clinton lost to Trump, Sanders surpasses or rivals any Democrat in the country. Warren, meanwhile, has perhaps the weakest electoral record in the Senate — and it is weakest in precisely the areas where Democrats must be strong in order to win in 2020.

The media may treat Sanders and Warren the same way on the electability issue, but progressive voters should not. Winning matters. A general election loss to Trump would not just doom the country to another four years of cruel and fraudulent Republican rule. It could fix the stain of defeat on otherwise popular causes like Medicare for All and universal student debt relief if the losing Democratic candidate is a supposed “progressive.”

Nominating Elizabeth Warren, as I argued in the fall, is a bad bet for the long-term future of the Democratic Party, accelerating its evolution into an organization dominated by the professional classes. But in the short term, it is even more dangerous than that.

Warren’s political judgment and instincts, across the 2020 campaign, have already raised many red flags. But her weak electoral record is not just a red flag — it’s a blaring red siren that we cannot afford to ignore.

If voters are looking for a candidate who supports health care, jobs, and education for all — and who can also beat Donald Trump — there is only one choice, and his name is Bernie Sanders.

by Matt Karp at January 22, 2020 10:09 AM


(en) Thomas Friedman and the misinformation of "stupidity" by BrunoL (pt) [machine translation]

Daily we are surprised by the exaggeration in the arrogance and the ability to misinform, circulate the wrong ideas, in short, "lying with some style". ---- On January 3, 2020, even before the Iranian response to the terrorist act authorized by Empire President Donald Trump, the celebrated New York Times columnist and former editor, Thomas Friedman, produced an opinion piece that ran the westernized world. The English title is "Trump kills Iran's most overrated warrior". And the helpline says. "Soleimani pushed his country to build na empire, but drove it into the ground instead". (on this link: ) January 16, 2020, Bruno Lima Rocha (Bruno Baaklini in Arab-Lebanese descent) We are daily surprised by the exaggeration in the arrogance and the ability to misinform, circulate wrong ideas, in short, "lying with some style". These techniques of manipulating massive audiences - although circular and often temporary - the Empire and its allies have been calling "narrative dispute or dispute over control of the narrative". As in all wars, the first victim is the truth, in the 4th generation ...

by A-infos ( at January 22, 2020 07:32 AM

(en) Greece, liberta salonica: NTU intervention in Jumbo branch against Sunday work [VIDEO] [machine translation]

Until now it does not provide with the modern Jumbo workstation! ---- What are the working conditions in Jumbo: ---- A few days ago, the well-known toy retailer Jumbo SA, which operates 52 stores in Greece and another 27 in the Balkans and Cyprus, announced with great enthusiasm that its stores in Preveza and Katerini are out of stock. from now on they will open every Sunday of the year. As we can see the opening of stores in this particular chain every Sunday of the year, on a steady basis, according to the official announcement of the administration, it is going to start from the two above mentioned cities, but the company's intention is clearly to extend this agreement to all its stores throughout the territory and therefore established as a general employer policy of the group concerned. Jumbo SA is one of the largest working galleys in the retail industry. This is further evidenced by the dozens of complaints by labor unions about the abusive working conditions and over-exploitation of the labor force in the chain. Jumbo employees work until the final fall, as the company 's exhaustive working hours are: 09:00 - 21:00 on weekdays and 09:00 - 20:00 on Saturdays. The group's employers' arbitrariness consists of licenses announced at the last minute, removal of parental leave, endless standing, prohibition of employees to drink water in ...

by A-infos ( at January 22, 2020 07:30 AM

(en) Greece, liberta salonica: NTUA intervention at the Australian Consulate [machine translation]

Today, Thursday 16/1/2020, an intervention was carried out with paints and tricks outside the Australian Consulate in Thessaloniki, on Fragon Street. ---- Australia has been experiencing a colossal environmental disaster for months. 26 people lost their lives, thousands of burnt homes, entire species threatened with extinction, with dead animals seeming to exceed 1.25 billion! The burned area is estimated to be over half that of Greece, while the health and survival problems it will leave to humans and animals are incalculable. This would not come as a surprise, of course, to anyone who had observed the practices of the Australian state in recent decades, with nature looting tolerating the rise of Scott Morrison's Liberal National Party. Australia is the largest exporter of coal and natural gas in the world. On the contrary, it has been ranked last among the 57 countries on climate change action, demonstrating that industry profits are always inversely proportional to environmental protection. It has not imposed any taxes on the environmental burden of industries and last year made $ 12.9 million in cuts to Fire & Rescue NSW, the voluntary rural firefighting group that plays a key role in fighting fires. However, it spends $ 34.3 billion a year on military spending, ranking 11th ...

by A-infos ( at January 22, 2020 07:29 AM

(en) avtonom: Comrades in the Far Land: The Rozhavskaya Odyssey of the Anarchists [machine translation]

The invasion of the Turkish state in Rojava (northern Syria, western Kurdistan) caused anger, anxiety and an aggravation of a sense of solidarity in the left and anarchist circles around the world. I remember well the days when, after the statements of Trump and Erdogan, we sat at the monitors and waited for news: would the attack threat be another political bluff? Airstrikes began, but will there be a ground operation? ---- Will, it began ... ---- The main subject of experience: will revolutionary autonomy withstand aggression? However, for many people from different countries, friends and relatives of the volunteers, the blow of Turkey also became a personal pain and fear: tens or hundreds of participants in the anarchist movement met the danger face to face, being at that moment in Syrian Kurdistan. The news about people who left the comfort of their usual lives and went to Rozhava to take part in the revolution became familiar from 2014, when interest in building a stateless confederation in Kurdistan took over a lot of brains. However, the flow of volunteers into the Kurdish revolutionary movement, though far from being so turbulent, existed before that. ...

by A-infos ( at January 22, 2020 07:18 AM

(en) Internationalist Commune of Rojava Newsletter #16

Dear friends and comrades, ---- Once again more than two months have passed since we published our last newsletter. A lot has happened during this time. For many days, thousands of people have resisted the Turkish occupation in Rojava and thousands worldwide have expressed their solidarity and connection with the revolution and the build-up of a free society. ---- In the following, we want to share with you some of the publications of the Internationalist Commune, of Make Rojava Green Again, and of the campaign RiseUp4Rojava. And we want to commemorate the friends who gave their lives in the resistance against Turkish fascism, especially our friend and comrade Sehid Andok Cotkar and Ceren Günes. In our struggle they live on! They are the heroes of our time. # Current Political Situation In order to take the right steps in our work, we must constantly analyse and evaluate the current political and military situation. This is the only way to keep the big picture in mind. After all, the situation in Rojava and Turkey's intervention can only be understood in the ...

by A-infos ( at January 22, 2020 07:18 AM

Athens,Greece : Call for solidarity support at the courts Κάλεσμα στήριξης για τα δικαστήρια 22-24/01/2020 [ENG/GR]

On Saturday 11/1, the resquatting attempt of the buildings on Panaitoliou and Matrozou streets in Koukaki was violently attacked by the repressive forces of the state. The result was that 12 people in total were arrested from within the squats, people who were badly beaten, and also 9 more solidarians who supported the resquatting attempt in the neighbourhood.
The oppression continued on Sunday 12/1 when the cops attacked the solidarians outside of Evelpidon, arresting 2 more people.The fighting spirit and the decisiveness of the comrades in Koukaki might be answered with slander and attempts to terrorise us, but they inspire us to bigger and stronger struggles, not just in Koukaki but in every effort of resistance.
We support the cases:
– On Wednesday 22/1 at 9am for the arrests of Panaitoliou.
– On Thursday 23/1 at 9am for the arrests of Matrozou, as well as the ones outside Evelpidon.
– On Friday 24/1 at 9am for the arrests of the solidarians outside the squats.
– Nobody left alone in the hands of the state

[GR] Το Σάββατο 11/1 η προσπάθεια ανακατάληψης των κτιρίων στις Παναιτωλίου και Ματρόζου στο Κουκάκι χτυπήθηκε βίαια από τις κατασταλτικές δυνάμεις του κράτους. Το αποτέλεσμα ήταν να συλληφθούν συνολικά 12 άτομα μέσα από τις καταλήψεις, που χτυπήθηκαν άσχημα, καθώς και άλλα 9 αλληλέγγυα που στήριζαν την προσπάθεια της ανακατάληψης στη γειτονιά. Η καταστολή συνεχίστηκε την Κυριακή 12/1 με την επίθεση των μπάτσων στον αλληλέγγυο κόσμο που είχε βρεθεί στην Ευελπίδων, συλλαμβάνοντας άλλα 2 άτομα.Μπορεί η μαχητικότητα και η αποφασιστικότητα των συντρόφων/ισσών στο Κουκάκι να απαντιέται από το κράτος με λασπολογία και προσπάθεια τρομοκράτησης, αλλά εμάς μας εμπνέει για μεγαλύτερους και πιο δυναμικούς αγώνες, όχι μόνο στο Κουκάκι αλλά και σε κάθε προσπάθεια αντίστασης εν γένει.
Στηρίζουμε τα δικαστήρια που γίνονται:
– Τετάρτη 22/1 στις 9πμ για τις συλλήψεις στην Παναιτωλίου.
– Πέμπτη 23/1 στις 9πμ για τις συλλήψεις στη Ματρόζου, καθώς και αυτές έξω από την Ευελπίδων.
– Παρασκευή 24/1 στις 9πμ για τις συλλήψεις των αλληλέγγυων εκτός καταλήψεων.
– Κανένα μόνο του στα χέρια του κράτους
via: athens.indymedia

by actforfreedom at January 22, 2020 07:17 AM

Athens,Greece: Attacks on new democracy office(pettralona area) by Anarchists

On friday, 17/01, during the anniversary march of terror of Shahrzad Loghman, we attacked the local office of new democracy in pettralona with molotovs and stones. However the office, mostly has been cover by metals.
clearly, it is the greek oligarchy regime as our enemy, so targeting the office of new democracy was only part of our counter attacks against the regime. SYRIZA and NEW DEMOCRACY are same as being both puppet of the greek oligarchy regime. We believe that the answer of state violence is returned the violence to the state, in any means that comrades understand it.
We are living in 2020 that cops are armed to tooth with different types of weapons, so it is not 500 years ago that probably we could coping with soldiers of state by fires and stones, so the need of modern struggles should created the new and more armed resistance groups inside the movement with modern weapons, which can returned the state violence to the state in the levels that they used against us, like the murders of Alexis.G, Zak and others.
The social revolution, will happens on the base of workers struggle, in the time that workers will stop working and making riots in the streets. However preparation of social revolution include two general types of struggles that are supplements of each other: armed struggle that should be a part of a resistance movement in the term of closed groups and other is the open struggle that has ability for everyone to join it, like collectives, demonstrations and squats, which openly represent the struggle for society.
Bosses are bosses, no matter left or right.
Power and solidarity to our wanted comrade Dimitris Chatzivasileiadis
via: athens.indymedia

by actforfreedom at January 22, 2020 07:12 AM

January 21, 2020

Channel Zero

Episode 5 – Ogres of East Africa by Sofia Samatar

This post was originally published on this site

Episode Notes

About the author: Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories, the short story collection, Tender, and Monster Portraits, a collaboration with her brother, the artist Del Samatar. Her work has won several awards, including the World Fantasy Award. She teaches African literature, Arabic literature, and speculative fiction at James Madison University.

About the reader: Derek Johnson is a Queer, multi-ethnic POC and member of the African diaspora. Writer, comic book artist, cartoonist, documentary filmmaker and co-host of several past and current podcasts: The Authority Smashing! Hour, TASH: Radical Report, Critical Mass, and Where’s My Jetpack?! He identifies as a libertarian socialist and anarcho-syndicalist and does labor organizing through the IWW. He has been an advocate for children with mental illness, a civil liberties/human rights and homeless rights activist, and has volunteered at his local community radio station. He is a Philosophical Taoist and Spinoza-leaning non-theist/ agnostic/ freethinker under the Unitarian Universalist umbrella currently working on a series of speculative/ science fiction novels and graphic novels centering on Sci-fi, suspense, horror, weird fiction, noir, and fantasy, genre styles and Afrofuturism, Steampunk, anarchistic, humanistic, and Taoist themes.

About the host: Margaret Killjoy is a transfeminine author and editor currently based in the Appalachian mountains. Her most recent book is an anarchist demon hunters novella called The Barrow Will Send What it May, published by She spends her time crafting and complaining about authoritarian power structures and she blogs at

by Margaret Killjoy at January 21, 2020 10:38 PM

InterPressService (global south)

UN Report: Rising Inequality Affects More Than 70% of the Globe

Women ragpickers in Delhi scavenging through a pile of refuse for recyclable material. Credit: Dharmendra Yadav/IPS

By External Source
NEW YORK, Jan 21 2020 (IPS)

Inequality is growing for more than 70 per cent of the global population, exacerbating the risks of divisions and hampering economic and social development. But the rise is far from inevitable and can be tackled at a national and international level, says a flagship study released by the UN on Tuesday.

The World Social Report 2020, published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), shows that income inequality has increased in most developed countries, and some middle-income countries – including China, which has the world’s fastest growing economy.

The challenges are underscored by UN chief António Guterres in the foreword, in which he states that the world is confronting “the harsh realities of a deeply unequal global landscape”, in which economic woes, inequalities and job insecurity have led to mass protests in both developed and developing countries.

Income inequality has increased in most developed countries, and some middle-income countries - including China, which has the world’s fastest growing economy

“Income disparities and a lack of opportunities”, he writes, “are creating a vicious cycle of inequality, frustration and discontent across generations.”


‘The one per cent’ winners take (almost) all

The study shows that the richest one per cent of the population are the big winners in the changing global economy, increasing their share of income between 1990 and 2015, while at the other end of the scale, the bottom 40 per cent earned less than a quarter of income in all countries surveyed.

One of the consequences of inequality within societies, notes the report, is slower economic growth. In unequal societies, with wide disparities in areas such as health care and education, people are more likely to remain trapped in poverty, across several generations.

Between countries, the difference in average incomes is reducing, with China and other Asian nations driving growth in the global economy. Nevertheless, there are still stark differences between the richest and poorest countries and regions: the average income in North America, for example, is 16 times higher than that of people in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Four global forces affecting inequality

The report looks at the impact that four powerful global forces, or megatrends, are having on inequality around the world: technological innovation, climate change, urbanization and international migration.

Whilst technological innovation can support economic growth, offering new possibilities in fields such as health care, education, communication and productivity, there is also evidence to show that it can lead to increased wage inequality, and displace workers.

Rapid advances in areas such as biology and genetics, as well as robotics and artificial intelligence, are transforming societies at pace. New technology has the potential to eliminate entire categories of jobs but, equally, may generate entirely new jobs and innovations.

For now, however, highly skilled workers are reaping the benefits of the so-called “fourth industrial revolution”, whilst low-skilled and middle-skilled workers engaged in routine manual and cognitive tasks, are seeing their opportunities shrink.


Opportunities in a crisis

As the UN’s 2020 report on the global economy showed last Thursday, the climate crisis is having a negative impact on quality of life, and vulnerable populations are bearing the brunt of environmental degradation and extreme weather events. Climate change, according to the World Social Report, is making the world’s poorest countries even poorer, and could reverse progress made in reducing inequality among countries.

If action to tackle the climate crisis progresses as hoped, there will be job losses in carbon-intensive sectors, such as the coal industry, but the “greening” of the global economy could result in overall net employment gains, with the creation of many new jobs worldwide.

For the first time in history, more people live in urban than rural areas, a trend that is expected to continue over the coming years. Although cities drive economic growth, they are more unequal than rural areas, with the extremely wealthy living alongside the very poor.

The scale of inequality varies widely from city to city, even within a single country: as they grow and develop, some cities have become more unequal whilst, in others, inequality has declined.


Migration a ‘powerful symbol of global inequality’

The fourth megatrend, international migration, is described as both a “powerful symbol of global inequality”, and “a force for equality under the right conditions”.

Migration within countries, notes the report, tends to increase once countries begin to develop and industrialize, and more inhabitants of middle-income countries than low-income countries migrate abroad.

International migration is seen, generally, as benefiting both migrants, their countries of origin (as money is sent home) and their host countries.

In some cases, where migrants compete for low-skilled work, wages may be pushed down, increasing inequality but, if they offer skills that are in short supply, or take on work that others are not willing to do, they can have a positive effect on unemployment.


Harness the megatrends for a better world

Despite a clear widening of the gap between the haves and have-nots worldwide, the report points out that this situation can be reversed. Although the megatrends have the potential to continue divisions in society, they can also, as the Secretary-General says in his foreword, “be harnessed for a more equitable and sustainable world”. Both national governments and international organizations have a role to play in levelling the playing field and creating a fairer world for all.

Reducing inequality should, says the report, play a central role in policy-making. This means ensuring that the potential of new technology is used to reduce poverty and create jobs; that vulnerable people grow more resilient to the effects of climate change; cities are more inclusive; and migration takes place in a safe, orderly and regular manner.

Three strategies for making countries more egalitarian are suggested in the report: the promotion of equal access to opportunities (through, for example, universal access to education); fiscal policies that include measures for social policies, such as unemployment and disability benefits; and legislation that tackles prejudice and discrimination, whilst promoting greater participation of disadvantaged groups.

While action at a national level is crucial, the report declares that “concerted, coordinated and multilateral action” is needed to tackle major challenges affecting inequality within and among countries.

The report’s authors conclude that, given the importance of international cooperation, multilateral institutions such as the UN should be strengthened and action to create a fairer world must be urgently accelerated.

The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which provides the blueprint for a better future for people and the planet, recognizes that major challenges require internationally coordinated solutions, and contains concrete and specific targets to reduce inequality, based on income.

This story was originally published by UN News

The post UN Report: Rising Inequality Affects More Than 70% of the Globe appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by External Source at January 21, 2020 10:01 PM

Could Pre-Figurative Politics Provide a Way Forward for the Left?

Prefigurative politics is the contemporary name for revolutionary strategies that take this insight seriously. It’s about shaping our cultures, norms and social relations, as well as our formal rules and policies, in the image of the society we desire.

by Sofa Saio Gradin at January 21, 2020 05:27 PM

10 Critical Water Scarcity Facts We Must Not Ignore

Water scarcity is real. To ignore it, or to assume that it is only a problem of the developing world is to be blind to the errors our egos have cause. We in the Western world waste more water in a day than some families around the world would see in months. Much of what we use water for is to sustain a lifestyle that we largely take for granted.

by Jeremiah Castelo at January 21, 2020 05:03 PM


We Regret to Inform You that Hillary Clinton Is at It Again

In an absurd interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Hillary Clinton — one of the least popular politicians in modern memory — trashes Bernie Sanders, one of the most popular. Yet again, Clinton has showcased the elitism and cluelessness that cost her the 2016 election.

alt Hillary Clinton speaks during the Hulu segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Press Tour at the Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 17, 2020 in Pasadena, California. Amy Sussman / Getty

As she’s periodically done since losing the 2016 election to the former host of TV’s The Apprentice, Hillary Clinton today issued yet another salvo against Bernie Sanders.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter intended to promote a forthcoming (and reportedly fluffy) documentary set to debut on Hulu in March, the former Secretary of State offered up a by-now-familiar series of complaints concerning her unexpected defeat. Much of the conversation is therefore a kind of greatest hits collection showcasing all the top-charting Clinton A-sides, from Bernie Bros to a series of intensely generic observations about Fox News. The exception, if it even deserves to be called that, is a particularly hostile comment about Sanders that arguably exceeds anything Clinton has said before in terms of sheer noxiousness:

He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.

(The comment in question is actually a quote that will appear in the documentary itself, so it may even come with supplementary material when the film debuts in a couple of months. Stay tuned …)

Their bitterness notwithstanding, nothing about Clinton’s remarks adds anything to the mix that hasn’t been swirling around since November 2016, and the rebuttals to the self-serving narrative they’re intended to perpetuate practically write themselves.

Sanders, it hardly needs saying, both endorsed and campaigned for Clinton — holding some seventeen events in eleven states during the last week of the campaign alone. Breaking with much of the US media, he actively discouraged focus on the scandal surrounding her private email server and conducted a campaign far less negative in tone than the one she herself had waged against Obama in 2008 (never once suggesting he intended to remain in the race because his opponent might be assassinated, as Clinton quite literally did eight years earlier). Contrary to the risible story Clinton and her apologists like to tell, women are actually more likely to support Sanders than men — a basic demographic fact demonstrated so regularly by opinion polling that anyone saying otherwise is trading in quite deliberate falsehood.

All this, and much more in the same vein, is old hat at this point.

As many were also quick to note, Sanders continues to rank as America’s most popular Senator while Clinton’s subterranean approval ratings quite literally rival Donald Trump’s. Clinton’s dismissal of Sanders, a longtime political outsider, as a “career politician” is also a bit rich given her own history as Washington’s consummate political insider, and her contention to have known nothing about the activities of close ally Harvey Weinstein (whose behavior was an open secret) deserves to raise some eyebrows.

But in her claim that “nobody likes” or “wants to work with” Sanders, Clinton is inadvertently telling us how little she has seriously reflected on the events of 2016 or the actual causes of her historic defeat. Though absurd on its face — Sanders is hugely popular and innumerable people in different capacities have long sought to cooperate and collaborate with him — Clinton is almost certainly saying something less literal and a lot more contemptible than it might initially appear. In her lexicon, and in this context, “nobody” plainly refers to the likes of elite pundits, establishment politicians, and big donors more than it does to members of the public or rank-and-file supporters of the Democratic Party.

In this sense, she’s actually quite correct: Sanders is widely disliked within the upper echelons of the American political class and throughout the corporate media. Despite securing the endorsement of only a single fellow senator in 2016 he drew huge crowds across the country and secured even more support from young voters than Obama in 2008. Much of his appeal, then as now, was due to a career spent rejecting the politics of triangulation and elite brokerage preferred by Clinton and other elite Democrats in favor of movement-building and mass democracy.

In short, Sanders embraces a broader and more inclusive definition of whose interests and opinions should ultimately matter. Though Clinton’s latest round of comments undoubtedly have a personal and self-serving motivation, it’s this that has always constituted her real beef with Sanders and his supporters — and what lies at the root of the elite contempt he’s inspired since he deigned to challenge Liberalism Inc.’s heir apparent just four years ago.

by Luke Savage at January 21, 2020 04:45 PM