Category Archives: Activism

Extinction Rebellion Sweeps the World

Extinction Rebellion, XR est. October 31, 2018, has become a powerful force across the globe, almost overnight!!!

It is the fastest-growing environmental movement ever. As such, it is only too obvious that “people get it” when it comes to climate change/global warming because they’re jumping aboard like swarms of locusts. In fact, XR’s truthful exposure of the climate crisis/global warming is single-handedly turning average citizens of the world into fighting mad radicalized eco warriors. People who ordinarily do not get involved in politics or advocacy of any kind are suddenly eco warriors.

XR’s swagger is similar to the San-Culottes of 18th century France. At the time, the French common people (Sans-Culottes) were radicalized by their poor quality of life under the Ancien Régime. They rebelled; they changed history in the face of the most powerful monarchy in all of Europe, as their revolutionary motto Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, introduced via Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract (1762), remains to this day.

XR has 485 groups in 72 countries. Its demands are simple and straightforward; however, the challenge of meeting their targets requires a WWII Marshall Plan worldwide coordinated effort:

  • Tell the Truth- Governments must start leveling with the public about the scale of the ecological crisis by declaring a climate emergency.
  • Net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025
  • Citizens’ Assembly- Governments must create citizens’ assemblies to hear the evidence and help devise policy.

Their demand of net zero emissions means a complete overhaul of how the world is organized as a society. Everything changes from transport, to domestic and industrial energy systems, to food production, to overall levels of consumption. It’s revolutionary in every respect, but in that regard, climate change itself sets one horrendous record after another as the biosphere itself experiences revolutionary changes, in some instances 10x faster than the paleoclimate record.

XR has pledged to shut down 60 cities, including London, NY, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Cape Town, and Mumbai, government buildings, airports, and financial districts during this month of their genesis. They teach maximum disruption to provoke political action, gluing themselves to airplanes and the gates of Buckingham Palace and obstructing major highways and governmental offices. They peacefully disrupt society at its central core and consider arrests and jail time as merit badges.

According to the Financial Times, XR has seen a surge of donations, including celebrities and big names in finance like Sir Christopher Hohn, head of TCI hedge fund who donated £500,000, commenting: “I made the donation because humanity is aggressively destroying the world through climate change and there is an urgent need for us all to wake up to this fact.”1

Total fundraising during XR’s first 12 months amounts to  £2.5m. Supporters include the band Radiohead, actress Emma Thompson, and punk artist Joseph Corre. Its biggest institutional donor is the Climate Emergency Fund, which is a US charity with donors like Rory Kennedy (daughter of Robert K) and Aileen Getty, heiress to the Getty Oil fortune.

XR distinguishes itself from other environmental groups because it advocates civil disobedience, going so far as breaking the law to make its point. The global emergency required to stem our radically changing climate does not allow for gradualism. They need results now.

After all, following years of hollow promises and empty commitments by governments of the world, XR recognizes the only way to get the job done is by breaking laws via civil disobedience. Nothing else seems to work, and so far, XR has been successful beyond initial dreams.

XR’s April 2019 protests were powerful and fruitful, creating a massive surge of public concern as the climate crisis has subsequently been categorized in the UK as one of the top five most important issues facing the country. The government has actually legislated net-zero emissions by 2050, and Labour is headed for a much more ambitious target of 2030.  Nobody thought a two-week blockade of central London would be met with so much public support. In all, XR has moved 90 towns and cities in the UK to adopt net-zero plans.

XR is doing something quite remarkable. Without firing a shot and without financing to start its campaign, it has impacted average citizens around the world. It appeals to society’s elemental sense of right versus wrong. “The truth” is their mantra. It resonates with people that have turned cynical, as world leaders, especially in English-speaking countries, have abused the long-standing privilege of honoring the truth. Rather, the world hangs by a thread of lies and deception, which is tenuous leadership.

“The truth” gives Extinction Rebellion a powerful edge. People respect it. As it happens, a world order filled with leadership of thuggish liars and overt deception has set the stage for XR to succeed.  It’s why average people are willing to sacrifice by prostrating their bodies on city streets. They’re smitten by the allure of truthfulness for a change!

Similar to the circumstances surrounding the French Revolution that beheaded its king, today the public is cynical and crass and motivated to fight because of massive failures by the status quo, lying, deceiving, thuggish personalities in positions of power. The eyes of the world watch America’s carnival barkers and their sideshows strut. It sickens people to the point that, when XR comes along, it’s a breath of fresh air.

XR should do very well in America.

  1. Leslie Hook in London, Financial Times, October 11, 2019.

Pink Tide Against US Domination Rising Again In Latin America

(Photo from Dissent Magazine)

Once again, the left is rising in Latin America as people revolt against authoritarian regimes, many of whom were put in place by US-supported coups. These regimes have taken International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans and are under the thumb of international finance, which is against the interests of people.After the embattled President of Ecuador claimed that President Nicolas Maduro was the cause of the massive protests against him, Maduro made clear what was occurring in Latin America, saying:

We have two models: the IMF model which privatizes everything and takes away the people’s rights to health, education and work; and the humanist-progressive model which is emerging in Latin America and has the Bolivarian Revolution at the forefront.

Maduro’s clear understanding of the conflict is why it has been so important for the US to remove him. His success in defeating ongoing US coup attempts is a model guiding Latin America to a future independent of US domination.

Ecuadorians celebrate the repeal of Decree 883 (From Twitter)

Ecuador in Rebellion Against IMF and the US Puppet Moreno

On October 4, Moreno proclaimed the end of a 40-year policy of fuel and petrol subsidies, which had traditionally benefited his country’s working-class population. He also announced a 20 percent decrease in the salary of public employees and initiated plans to privatize pensions. He removed workplace and job security safeguards. Decree 883, known as ‘The Package’, was a series of neoliberal policies demanded by the IMF in return for a $4.2 billion dollar loan. It was preceded by policies for the wealthy including reducing their taxes.

The IMF loan was part of Moreno serving as a puppet and bowing to multiple US demands. Ecuador promised to settle a long dispute with Chevron whose oil drilling and pipelines have polluted the country. Tens of billions of dollars in restitution from Chevron are at stake but Moreno said he is willing to give them up. In fact, the IMF loan is strange in that it was dependent on Ecuador paying external debt obligations; i.e., it was not new funds for Ecuador but new debt to subsidize paying back Wall Street.

In making the announcement, Moreno called the people “Zánganos,” or Drone Bees leading to the uprising of the Drone Bees. The mass protests were called by the Popular Front, a group of unions, and the Unified Workers Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). Students and social movements joined protests throughout the nation in Loja, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Ambato, and Riobamba, among other cites as well as Quito, the capital. Moreno claimed without any evidence that the uprising was financed by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Correa.

Protests in Ecuador were relentless with no end in sight. They grew when 20,000 indigenous people marched into Quito. Police responded with violence, tear gas, and mass arrests. An October 4 video circulated on social media showed nonviolent protesters killed in the street by the police as well as other police violence. On October 5, Moreno declared a 60-day state of Emergency. Sometimes police had to retreat in the face of mass protests. On October 7, Moreno fled the capital to hide in the Navy base 260 miles away in the conservative stronghold of Guayaquil.

As we wrote this newsletter, unrest in Ecuador was escalating. On Saturday, the nation was put on military lockdown. Law enforcement attacked protesters with pellets and tear gas in the immediate vicinity of the  National Assembly. By Sunday, Moreno decreed a 3:00 pm curfew, which people defied. Then, facing an emergency session in the National Assembly, Moreno backed down. Protesters celebrated when Moreno’s government announced that Decree 883 had been repealed after eleven days of popular mobilizations.

Peter Koenig describes a root cause of the problems:

Since January 2000, Ecuador’s economy is 100% dollarized, compliments of the IMF (entirely controlled by the US Treasury, by force of an absolute veto). The other two fully dollarized Latin American countries are El Salvador and Panama.

The US and IMF used the economic crises of the 1990s to dollarize Ecuador’s economy and gain full control over the nation’s riches as Ecuador is the second-largest oil economy in South America. This led to unaffordable goods for Ecuadorians, social unrest and a series of unstable governments until President Correa, who served from 2007 to 17, was elected.

A Center for Economic and Policy Research 2017 report found under Correa Ecuador did well with an average annual GDP growth of 1.5%  compared to 0.6% average for the previous 26 years; a decline of 38% in poverty with extreme poverty reduced by 47%; and a decline in inequality with the Gini coefficient falling substantially. Correa doubled social spending from 4.3% in 2006 to 8.6% in 2016; tripling education spending from 0.7% to 2.1%; and, increasing public investments from 4% of GDP in 2006 to 10% in 2016.

Correa served two terms. A third term would have required a constitutional amendment. Rather than running, Correa endorsed Lenin Moreno who had served as his vice president from 2007-13. He was expected to continue Correa’s policies but instead reversed them.

Moreno was unpopular before announcing ‘The Package’ due to structural poverty increasing from 23.1 percent in June 2017 to 25.5 percent in June 2019 with projections of 30 percent by the end of the year. Injustices like the imprisonment of the popular former Vice President Jorge Glas on dubious charges and his continuous political witch hunt against Rafael Correa and other leaders of the Citizens’ Revolution Party added to his unpopularity. In addition, he has been engulfed in a personal corruption crisis involving an offshore Shell corporation INA, which cast Moreno’s presidency in doubt.

Moreno’s forcible and illegal ejection of Julian Assange from the London embassy in return for payoffs from the US and UK resulted in a national strike in Ecuador in July. This, along with the arrest of Ola Bini, who is being prosecuted falsely as a conspirator with Wikileaks, was unpopular with Ecuadorians.

Will repeal of ‘The Package’ end the protests and the threat to Moreno’s presidency? As we write, the answer to these questions are unclear. The people won a major victory, but the Moreno/IMF infection remains.

Rally in Argentina (By Enfoque Rojo)

Latin Americans Rising Against the Right and US Domination

Latin American countries are rejecting neoliberalism and US domination using multiple strategies to achieve change.

This month the deepening anti-capitalist movement in Bolivia is set to strengthen with the probable re-election of Evo Morales on October 20. Argentina is expected to remove right-wing President Mauricio Macri on October 27 and replace him with Alberto Fernandez. And, Mexico put in place its first progressive, left-of-center government with the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on July 1, 2018. Elections are also upcoming in Uruguay on October 27 and in Peru in January. Venezuela may have National Assembly elections in January as well.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales has a 13-point lead in polls as his governing party Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) looks to re-election for a third Morales term that will last until 2025. Morales has 38.8 percent, just 1.2 percent short of the 40 percent required for a first-round victory in the upcoming elections. The survey also indicated majority support for the nationalization of gas and strategic industries, 51 percent say that public ownership is positive for the economy. On social programs, 61.7 percent say they are essential for providing dignity to those of low incomes.

Morales has launched a large reforestation plan and put in place a model healthcare program. He is under attack from the United States and segments of Bolivia. Morales leads an independent, sovereign Bolivia that has rejected US dominance, decolonized and displaced neoliberalism. A recent color revolution attempt by the wealthy, with the support of the US and western powers, failed.

Argentina’s first round of voting on August 11 resulted in Fernandez, running with former president Cristina Kirchner, finishing 15 percent ahead of Macri. The surprising landslide brought into question Macri’s ability to govern between now and the election. As a result, the IMF put a $5.4 billion dollar loan on hold part of the $56.3 billion stand-by agreement signed in mid-2018. Fernandez opposed the loan, which required sharp budget cuts affecting public services at a time of increasing poverty.

Under Macri, the economy has gone into crisis with poverty increasing to a record 36.4 percent, a recession accompanied by a 47 percent inflation rate in 2018 and an inflation rate of 25.1 percent during the first seven months of this year. Argentina’s unemployment is at the highest level in 14 years. Poverty was at 19.7 percent when Kirchner left office in 2015. Fernandez has put forward an anti-hunger plan, not dependent on the IMF. Three weeks before the election, thousands of people rallied in Buenos Aires as the Workers Left Front sent a message of opposition to neoliberalism and austerity to the two major political parties.

In Mexico, AMLO won a landslide 53 percent of the vote on July 31 ending decades of right-wing rule. People were fed up with the corruption, impunity, and violence — decades of loss of rights, pillaging and destruction of the nation’s wealth and public enterprises. At his inauguration, AMLO decried 36 years of neoliberalism and public and private corruption, promised a “peaceful and radical” transition with “indigenous people as its priority,” in a government “for the good of all, first the poor.” His fight against neoliberalism is challenged by NAFTA II (or the USMCA), as AMLO is careful not to confront Trump on this. On border policy, AMLO offered migrants home in Mexico and urged investment in Central America.

The Zapatistas have conflicted with AMLO over the exploitation of resources and the use of the military in policing, demanding its autonomy based on indigenous principles but he has sought diplomacy with them. AMLO has also faced massive strikes of tens of thousands of autoworkers, workers at US companies in Mexico and wildcat strikes at the border. AMLO has been a counterweight to US aggression in Latin America standing with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba.

Peru is in the midst of a crisis. President Martin Vizcarra who came into office after a corruption scandal removed his predecessor, dissolved the Congress, a move supported by the left, because it is controlled by far-right politician Keiko Fujimori and was preventing Vizcarra’s anti-corruption campaign. Congress ignored the president’s order and voted to remove him from office instead. The vice president resigned rather than take over and Vizcarra remains in office with the support of the military. He has now called for new congressional elections to be held on January 26. Vizcarra is a conservative battling the oligarchic right. The left, which has been divided, is coalescing around the Popular National Assembly and allying with social movements. The movements want an end to neoliberal policies, a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution and to break with Washington’s domination.

In Central America, Honduras has been in revolt against the coup government of Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH), which for ten years has put in place neoliberalism, repression, and violence. Protests have been ongoing since his coup and fraudulent re-election. This summer, protests intensified with a national strike over austerity and privatization measures required by an IMF loan, leading to a 66-day uprising.  The US has trained Honduran police to use repressive measures in an attempt to stop the protests, but their actions feed more protests.

Many have fled Honduras in caravans to escape the corruption and violence. Now, a coalition of civil groups is urging the president’s departure over a scandal ignited by accusations of large-scale drug trafficking to the United States being litigated against the president’s brother Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez. In the trial, several witnesses have declared JOH’s campaign was financed with drug money, and that he took millions in bribes from various Mexican drug lords, including the infamous Joaquin “El-Chapo” Guzman. The Liberal Party joined in calling for his resignation and protests have intensified. The trial may be the end of this cocaine-fueled presidency.

Brazil’s election of Bolsonaro has been marred by scandal now that the corruption of Operation Car Wash has been exposed. Private conversations between the prosecutors and then-judge Sergio Moro, now Super Minister of Justice, show that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was the “victim of a conspiracy” to prevent him from running against Bolsonaro.  In the secret exchanges, Moro admitted that the corruption case was designed to frame him. Lula has said the US is behind the conspiracy.

Calls to free Lula are increasing and the Supreme Court will be reviewing the case. Lula is demanding his record be cleared and refused a panicked offer from prosecutors that he be freed from jail and put under house arrest. Bolsonaro is also under attack for the Amazon fires, for an increase in police killings, for genocide against the Indigenous and for attacks on public education. Former President Michel Temer acknowledged that the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, the Worker’s Party leader, was a coup d’etat.

Nicaragua survived a 2018 US coup attempt and the revolution continues to thrive after 40 years of independence from US domination after US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza fled. People were very confused about what happened in the 2018 coup attempt as media misinformation was prevalent. A group of us joined and produced a reader to help people understand the reality of Nicaragua. Peace is coming back to Nicaragua, even though continued pressure from the US is expected in the form of new illegal sanctions.

Venezuela, which we have reported on intensively for years, has also survived ongoing coup attempts that continue to escalate in the post-John Bolton era of the Trump administration most recently with a threat of war through the Organization of American States (OAS). They are prepared for a military attack and have created new alliances to overcome the US economic war. This week, Russia announced it was investing $16.5 billion in Venezuela by the end of 2019.

Russia has provided anti-missile defense systems, is keeping Navy ships in Venezuela to deter a US blockade and has helped gather intelligence on US actions. With their help, Venezuela has uncovered terrorist plots coming from Colombia and involving US-puppet Juan Guiado’s team. Guaido has faltered and failed time and again, and now is being investigated for ties to Colombian drug traffickers and corruption.

The non-aligned movement of 120 nations met in Caracas this summer and expressed support for Venezuelan sovereignty.  Venezuela has been a lynchpin for left movements in Latin America. When oil prices were high, it shared its wealth not only with poorest Venezuelans but with other countries seeking to challenge US and oligarch domination. Even in the midst of an escalating economic war with the United States, they continue to provide housing, food, and essentials to their people.

Protesters in Haiti (Twitter)

Caribbean Resistance

In the Caribbean, Cuba is challenged by the US economic war but continues its revolution. Mass protests in Haiti threaten the survival of the government and Puerto Rico’s revolt removed a governor.

Cuba, despite the increasing US economic war, continues to be a bulwark against US imperialism, standing with governments like Venezuela and Nicaragua when they are under attack. Cuba completed a successful transition to a new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and voted on a new constitution developed using a participatory process involving 9 million people through 133,000 citizen meetings. The constitution includes “universal and free health, education, sports and recreation, culture and respect for human dignity.” Cuba is currently facing major economic challenges as the US is blocking their access to oil. Russia and Venezuela are helping Cuba overcome this oil blockade.

Haiti has been in protest since April calling for an end to neoliberal US domination and the resignation of Jovenel Moise. The president has not spoken in public since the beginning of this latest round of protests and this week he named a commission of seven politicians to lead discussions for a solution to end the crisis.

In Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States, massive protests led to Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló resigning on July 22, 2019. People also want the corrupt legislature cleaned out, the Fiscal Control Board, created by Obama, ended and the debt to be audited. Former political prisoner, Luis Rosa, said three things are needed: “decolonization, an end to our colonial status through a constitutional assembly; health care, free for all Puerto Rican citizens; and free public education up through the university level.”

Stephen Sefton wrote a country-by-country review of Latin America and the Caribbean in June describing the decline of the United States in the region and how changes were coming to many nations. He predicted that we are seeing “the last throw of the dice for the US to retain its accustomed power and influence against the relentless fundamental drive for emancipation by the region’s impoverished majority.”

Rafael Correa said: “Neoliberalism is what failed, not socialism of the 21st century, on the contrary, socialism of the 21st century is what has us firmly on our feet, withstanding all of these difficulties.” This hemisphere is a key battleground in the conflict between neoliberalism v Socialism and US dominance v. independence. People are demanding democracy from the bottom up and a fair economy that meets their needs.

Human Violence: Pervasive, Multi-dimensional and Extinction-threatening

Violence is pervasive throughout human society and it has a vast range of manifestations. Moreover, some of these manifestations – particularly the threat of nuclear war (which might start regionally), the climate catastrophe and the ongoing ecological devastation, as well as geoengineering and the deployment of 5G – threaten imminent human extinction if not contained. Separately from these extinction-threatening manifestations, however, violence occurs in a huge range of other contexts denying many people the freedom, human rights and opportunities necessary for a meaningful life. Moreover, human violence is now driving 200 species of life on Earth to extinction daily with another 1,000,000 species under threat.1

Given the expanding range of threats to human survival that require a strategic response if they are to be contained, is that possible?

Well, any candid assessment of the relevant scientific literature coupled with an understanding of the psychological, sociological, political, economic and military factors driving the violence, clearly indicates that the answer is ‘highly unlikely’. Particularly because so many people are so (unconsciously) terrified and incapable of responding powerfully.

However, this does not mean that many people are not trying and some of these people perceive the interrelated and synergistic nature of these threats and know that we must be addressing each of them strategically if humanity and an enormous number of other species are to have any meaningful chance of survival in a viable biosphere. These people range from ‘ordinary’ activists, who work passionately to end violence in one context or another, to globally prominent individuals doing the same. Let me tell you about some of them.

Ramesh Agrawal is a prominent social and environmental activist in India who has devoted many years to educating and organizing local village people, including adivasi communities, to defend their homes and lands from those corporations and governments that would deprive them of their rights, livelihoods, health and a clean environment for the sake of mining the abundant coal in the state of Chhattisgarh. However, because his ongoing efforts to access and share key information and his organization of Gandhian-inspired grassroots satyagrahas (nonviolent campaigns) have been so effective, he has also paid a high price for his activism, having been attacked on many occasions. In 2011, for example, he was arrested despite ill-health at the time and chained to a hospital bed. A year later he was shot in the leg, which required multiple operations. He still has difficulty walking with six metal rods inserted through his thigh.

The Jan Chetna (‘peoples’ awareness’) movement started by Ramesh has spread to several parts of Chhattisgarh as well as other states of India.2 For his nonviolent activism, Ramesh was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2014.

In Ghana, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) continues its work under the leadership of President Dr. Ayo Ayoola-Amale, a certified mediator and peacebuilder. One recent activity was a two weeks training course on negotiation and mediation as a tool for conflict resolution for women in the Upper West region of Ghana, particularly three districts: Lawra, Nadowli and Lambussie. The training was aimed at providing local NGOs, community elders, administrators and others with the skills and knowledge to further improve their capacity in the work they do. In such courses, Ayo emphasizes the importance of trust, identity and relationship building issues, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘Life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.’

But Ayo has also conducted other courses, such as a three day workshop on peacemaking and mediation skills for the teachers and students at Okyereko Methodist Junior High School which taught skills such as communication (listening, speaking, silence), cooperation, trusting, empathy, responsibility, reconciliation and problem solving. Ayo also used her storytelling skills to convey an understanding of what it means to be a responsible person and how that puts us in charge of our lives. Through the storytelling she reveals some of the personal benefits that come from being honest, reliable, trustworthy and principled and how treating people with respect helps us get along with each other, avoid and resolve conflicts, and create a positive social climate. She told workshop participants that every choice they make helps define the kind of person they are choosing to be and their character is defined by what they do, not what they say or believe.

Professor René Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens headquartered in France, has been involved for decades in efforts to engage people in world events rather than leave these events to be mismanaged by elites with a vested interest in a particular outcome. In this article, for example, he reflects thoughtfully on the ‘Iran Crisis: Dangers and Opportunities‘ by drawing attention to opportunities for citizen engagement through NGOs to influence how the conflict plays out. As he notes: ‘The dangers are real. We must make the most of the opportunities.’ René also continues to examine issues and throw light on subjects well outside the spotlight of the corporate media, such as conflicts in Africa.

Since 2017, Dr. Marthie Momberg in South Africa has been working with international colleagues to address Zionism amongst Christians. Along with a colleague from Kairos USA, Marthie offered, for example, a seminar entitled ‘Christianity and the Shifting of Perceptions on Zionism’ at Stellenbosch University’s Beyers Naudé Centre. ‘With some other colleagues we are also in the midst of a research project at this Centre to understand how to sensitise Christians on the nature of Zionism and how it serves as an important lens on so many other struggles in our world. I am also in the process of writing a number of scholarly articles on ethics and religion in the context of Israel and the Palestinian struggle.’

And while on Palestine, US activist journalist Abby Martin recently completed her debut feature film Gaza Fights for Freedom. Directed, written and narrated by Abby, the film had its origins while Abby was reporting in Palestine, where she was denied entry into Gaza by the Israeli government on the accusation she was a ‘propagandist’. Connecting with a team of journalists in Gaza to produce the film through the blockaded border, this collaboration shows you Gaza’s protest movement ‘like you’ve never seen it before.’ Filmed during the height of the Great March Of Return protests, it features riveting footage of demonstrations ‘where 200 unarmed civilians have been killed by Israeli snipers since March 30, 2018’ and is a thorough indictment of the Israeli military for war crimes, and a stunning cinematic portrayal of the heroic resistance by Palestinians. If you would like to buy or rent the film (and support Abby’s work) you can do so here: Gaza Fights For Freedom.

In Guatemala, Daniel Dalai continues his visionary work providing opportunities for girls to develop their leadership capacities at “Earthgardens.” If you haven’t previously been aware of their work, including in Bolivia and Nicaragua, you will find it fascinating to read how girls – including Carmen, Angelica, Reyna, Katiela, Yapanepet, Zenobia, Deysi, Rosalba, Charro, Katarina and Marleni – in this community each changed their society, often by forming ‘Eco-Teams’, with a remarkable variety of initiatives.

The Asia Institute ‘is the first truly pan-Asian think tank. A research institution that addresses global issues with a focus on Asia, The Asia Institute is committed to presenting a balanced perspective that takes into account the concerns of the entire region. The Asia Institute provides an objective space wherein a significant discussion on current trends in technology, international relations, the economy and the environment can be carried out.’ Focused on research, analysis and dialogue, and headed by president Emanuel Yi Pastreich, the Institute was originally founded in 2007 while Emanuel was working in Daejeon, Republic of (South) Korea. Emanuel writes extensively on culture, technology, the environment and international relations with a focus on Northeast Asia. He also serves as president of the Earth Management Institute, a global think tank dedicated to developing original approaches to global governance in this dangerous age. But for more on The Asia Institute, see the website above.

While the individuals and organizations mentioned above are just a sample of those directly involved, they are part of an expanding worldwide network in 105 countries committed to working to end human violence in all of its manifestations. Whatever the odds against it, they refuse to accept that violence cannot be ended, and each has chosen to focus on working to end one or more manifestations of violence, according to their particular circumstances and interests. If you would like to join these people, you are welcome to sign the online pledge of “The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.”

If your own interest is campaigning on a peace, climate, environment or social justice issue, consider doing it strategically.

If your focus is a defense or liberation struggle being undertaken by a national group, consider enhancing its strategic impact.

If your preference is addressing the climate and environmental catastrophes systematically while working locally, consider participating in (and inviting others to participate in) The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth.

If you would like to tackle violence at its source, consider revising your parenting in accordance with My Promise to Children.3

If you are self aware enough to know that you are not dealing effectively with our deepening, multifaceted crisis, consider doing the personal healing necessary to do so.

Perhaps ending human violence is impossible. If that is true, then human extinction is inevitable and it will occur as a result of one cause or another. Moreover, it will happen in the near term. But every person who believes that human violence can be ended, and then takes strategic action to end it, is participating in the most important undertaking in human history: a last ditch strategy to fight for human survival.

  1. For just a sample of the evidence in relation to the threats noted above see, for example, “Rapidly expanding nuclear arsenals in Pakistan and India portend regional and global catastrophe,” “Plan A,” “City on Fire,” “Human Extinction by 2026? A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival,” “Geoengineering Watch,” “International Appeal: Stop 5G on Earth and in Space,” and “5G and the Wireless Revolution: When Progress Becomes a Death Sentence.”
  2. For the latest account of his efforts including the recent ‘coal satyagrapha’ focused on coal blocks owned by state power companies but being developed and operated by Adani Enterprises, see “Thousands Hold ‘Coal Satyagraha,’ Allege Manufacturing of Consent at Public Hearing.”
  3. If you want the evidence to understand why this is so crucial, see “Why Violence?” and “Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.”

An Aperspectival View of the Culture War

Each stage in the history of the civil rights movement has had a specific theme and focus. In the 19th century it was race and gender, in the 20th it was race, gender, gay, bi, trans, queer, in the 21st it is all of them +.

One could say that these are ideas whose time has come, but what kind of society lets members of its own species become slaves, servants and second-class citizens in the first place? How does a society become more civilized when it just waits for solutions to come about in their own time?

If it has taken this long for these smaller, minor civil issues to be resolved, does that mean that the larger ones, that affect us all, will take even longer?

A revolution is only revolutionary if its supporters are enterprising enough to provide an alternative to the system they are rebelling against. It doesn’t matter whether it’s gay rights, affirmative action, or gender parity when it’s the exact same system with the same problems.

I grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s and for a long time I believed that racism and sexism had been abolished during the civil rights era of the previous decades. That once we had made it through we could not or would not go back. But it seems that knowing history isn’t enough to prevent it from repeating, as if humanity is realizing a perverse desire to go a few more rounds before the pyrrhic victory is declared. Because if humans can’t disagree about something, they have nothing to do.

Up until now we have been in conflict with each other, but we are beginning to realize that our little identity groups are insignificant compared with the bigger picture issues (global socio-economics, climate change, black budgets, criminal enterprises) that make our little factions seem a lot more harmonious than they did before.

It is concerning, but also cathartic, that we are referring to the free exchange of ideas as a war. Concerning because there are people, large numbers of them on both sides, who are very passionate about their ideas and are ready to defend them, violently if necessary, but cathartic because these ideas have always been there, in potentia, and are finally now being expressed.

Historically they have found form as arguments, protests, movements and demonstrations and for a while it looked like we were making some progress, but now it seems that we are fighting for them all over again and not one at a time, but all at once. Fortunately, it is unlikely to ever become a fighting war because of its basis in culture and the intellect.

In culture, people live their ideology, whereas in politics they merely pay tribute to it once in a while. We’ve had political wars, they involve the logistics of people and materiel, while culture wars are fought primarily with words, the casualties are ideas and beliefs, that depending on the outcome, may never be rehabilitated.

That’s not to say that the culture war is not political, identity politics has infiltrated many areas of policy, science and the humanities, but at root these are still social and cultural ideas that are being bandied about. Only laws and policies make them political, which is what has focused the discussion on freedom of speech. Both sides accusing the other of putting limits on this most fundamental requirement of successful communication. But both of these assertions cannot be true. They cannot be true because the whole thing is illogical. It’s not just a freedom of speech issue, a civil, sexist, racist or even a classist one, it’s a human rights issue and human rights transcends logic and rationality to occupy the broader category of integral-aperspectival or ‘vision-logic’.

As its name implies, vision-logic sees the bigger picture rather than looking over here, (Right) or over there, (Left). It is a higher-order, holistic, almost holographic system of ideas. Therefore, from an integral-aperspectival point of view there is no culture war. It’s not racism or sexism that are the problem, they’re not even real because they have no basis in logic. They are ideas that can only be held by equally illogical people.

But many of us have not made it this far yet. We’re still trapped in the old dualist paradigm and the only reason the culture war has lasted this long is because no one can stop watching. It is new territory, equivalent to finding a tunnel to the unconscious outside of the psychologist’s office. Every new development is a new discovery and the ‘so-called’ authorities, our self-appointed guides through this treacherous terrain, have no idea how to deal with it either. But instead of meeting the challenge and following the tunnel where it leads, they have applied policies that restrict the outcome of events rather than letting them unfold naturally.

Just as things were starting to get really real, the frontier was moved, and in order to stave off conflict and possible violence, these policies have limited access into the shadowy world of the unconscious preventing us from giving it a name. Or perhaps this is part of the plan; to make the unconscious, where no one is necessarily safe from criticism, a no-person’s land guarded by taboo terms and arbitrary rules. While this may be possible for a little while, the archetypes and psychological contents are sure to find their way out one way or another like a repressed emotion, which goes on to make an even bigger scene.

Despite all the shadows and shades that have been cast over that particular part of the psycho-sociological terrain, the sounds can still be heard. There is no silencing it, and apart from all the laws that are imposed, the law of the shadow land, or Intellectual Dark Web, is free speech and freedom of expression.

It’s a well-known fact that people become more conservative as they age, that is if they have anything to lose, and many of those people who call themselves revolutionaries now, may end up resenting their teachers, politicians and acquaintances for indulging their utopian ideas about the way the world should be, rather than the way it is. They’re wonderful ideas, of course, but if one is not prepared to dedicate their lives to them, what good is a liberal education?

Whether consciously or not, people are beginning to realize that far from fair, life is in fact arbitrary and what gives it meaning is us. It’s not rich people’s fault, or men’s fault or white people’s fault, but rich, white, men. We could all consider ourselves oppressed and under-privileged in some way, even a few of us white males, which is exactly what we are saying. We were promised something that we cannot have—just like everybody else. What we must do is work together to change the power structure that has enslaved us all.

Race, gender, class and sexuality are not all we’re made of, just as our bodies are not all we’re made of. We must find ways to integrate these aspects and move on to what we do after the fighting is over, what life is really about. If it’s equality and human rights we want, we can work towards that, if it’s fairness, that’s another matter and we are just going to end up disappointed, while feeding everyone else the red pill in the process.

The Takeover of WBAI in New York

A few days ago (October 7), several people from KPFA went to New York and took part in a shut down of WBAI 99.5 FM, the Pacifica sister station in that city. This action was done in the name of Pacifica, which owns WBAI as well as KPFA and three other stations, but it was in complete violation of the Pacifica bylaws, and was planned in secret and kept from other board members. The takeover was temporarily halted by a TRO, but the studios were vandalized, computers and other equipment removed. At a court hearing on October 10th a judge reversed most of the TRO. KPFA retains control of WBAI’s airwaves, and is reportedly using them to hold a fund drive in New York — a fund drive for KPFA. (It will be interesting to see if they harvest anything more than a lot of ill will.)

The idea behind that ham-handed action was supposedly to save the Pacifica network from financial disaster. The financial problems are real, nobody disputes that. None of the five Pacifica stations are doing really well. KPFA has lost over half of its membership during the past two decades, and it continues to lose listeners; its cash flow shows a $433,000 short fall. Ironically, the only Pacifica station showing signs of improvement is WBAI; its listenership has increased. But whatever WBAI’s potential for recovery may have been, it seems pretty well nipped in the bud. No matter how this turns out, it’s going to cost money that Pacifica cannot afford, further dragging the network deeper into the hole.

Even if WBAI could somehow be magically disappeared from the network, a complex host of other problems would remain. Some of these are unique to Pacifica, and some are not. Most non-commercial stations are in trouble these days.

The various reasons seem to be complex. I will talk about just one particular aspect which I’ve seen during my 15 years as an observer of KPFA and now a board member. Namely, that KPFA has for many years been living beyond its means. There’s a huge amount of denial about that; it’s kind of like trying to tell the CEO of a petroleum company that oil and natural gas need to stay in the ground.

I might call this “Denial in Action.” At times it has often looked to me as though this whole insane spending spree were driven by some deliberate force. Can some people really be that incompetent? I often wonder. Well, these are some of my observations going back to 2005. Hopefully this can serve as background to what we’re seeing today. I am of course relating my experiences at KPFA, the Pacifica station where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Warnings were sounded at least as far back as in 2005 when several board members expressed concern that there were “too many FTEs.” It came up during one of the first board meetings I attended, and I remember asking the person next to me what an FTE was. “A full-time equivalent,” I was told, and it was afterwards explained that the station was acquiring more paid staff than it could afford in the long run. That was detailed in the Local Station Board’s Minority Report of September 17, 2005.

In those days the station was actually doing well financially. But according to several board members, LaVarn Williams, Max Blanchet and Marnie Tattersall (all with solid backgrounds in finance), the cost of so much paid staff was not sustainable. KPFA needed to slow down on the hiring, look ahead, and plan accordingly.

Nevertheless, year after year, the warnings were ignored, dismissed, disregarded. Persons expressing them were disparaged, even yelled at. The unsustainable budgets were promoted by “Save KPFA,” the slate of board members who represented the station’s power clique.

That group has used several names over the years, first it was “KPFA Forward,” later “Concerned Listeners,” then “SaveKPFA.” (They currently use the name UIR, “United for Independent Radio.”)

Although SaveKPFA refused to acknowledge publicly that their hiring policy was not sustainable, they seem to have been anticipating a crisis and were prepared to put the blame on others. An intriguing email from that same month of September 2005 turned up as sort of a one-email Wikileak. It’s the email which infamously suggested “dismantling the LSB.” An even more foreboding line in that same email read: “How do we make our enemies own the problems that are to come?” The author was Brian Edwards-Tiekert, who appeared to be SaveKPFA’s chief strategist.

It wasn’t just the bloated budgets at KPFA that caused the eventual crisis. There was also SaveKPFA’s unholy alliance with JUC, the New York group which was then running WBAI into the ground, generating another financial drain on the Pacifica network. Interestingly, these two groups, SaveKPFA and JUC, seemed to thoroughly dislike each other. Their alliance appears to have been one of convenience, a mutual non-aggression pact, one of shielding each other from oversight. Mismanagement at both stations bled the network.

Several years passed in this irresponsible fashion until the recession of 2008. It hit Pacifica hard, and the inevitable financial crisis was no longer deniable. Even SaveKPFA’s Brian Edwards-Tiekert expressed concern and called for layoffs throughout the network. These very necessary cutbacks were carried out at the rest of Pacifica’s five stations, but not at KPFA.

It was always difficult, often impossible, to get accurate, detailed information from the SaveKPFA-dominated management. In 2005, board members LaVarn Williams and Richard Phelps spent over a year fighting SaveKPFA to get access to financial records of the foundation. They won that battle, but the war went on. In 2008 SaveKPFA’s Dan Siegel illegally stopped an inspection. The power clique did not willingly allow access to information; board members outside the inner circle continued to be denied it.

For most of the decade up until 2009, the Pacifica National Board (PNB) was dominated by SaveKPFA and its allies, but in that year they were voted out and the new Executive Director and CFO were chosen from the opposition. SaveKPFA then launched a disinformation campaign against the Pacifica Foundation. On August 6, 2009, there was a front page article in the Berkeley Daily Planet accusing Pacifica of improperly taking $100K from KPFA. That news leak came from Brian Edwards-Tiekert, the treasurer. But on investigation it was found that no such “raid” on KPFA’s money had occurred. The newspaper printed a retraction, but SaveKPFA continued to spread the story, despite its having been exposed as false. Then LSB chair Conn Hallinan, who certainly must have known better, wrote an email accusing Pacifica of “an old fashioned smash and grab” on KPFA’s funds.

That was the beginning of a swiftboating campaign against Pacifica in which the SaveKPFA group worked to conjure up images of 1999, portraying Pacifica as the bad guy, the beast, the oppressor and exploiter of KPFA. It was at that time that the group took the name “SaveKPFA,” stealing it from an opposition group of the early 1990s. Members of the original 1993 Save KPFA group were outraged and objected strenuously. But the new “SaveKPFA” continued to use its ill-gotten name.

At the end of 2009 it was discovered that a $375,000 check had been left in a drawer until after it expired. KPFA’s then General Manager, Lemlem Rijio, took the fall for that and was fired. But it seems highly unlikely that she was the only one who knew about that “forgotten” check.

“How could anyone forget a six-figure check!” KPFA activists asked. Some suspected the “oversight” was intentional and that SaveKPFA folks were deliberately working to bankrupt Pacifica in order to acquire KPFA. Until then, few had openly expressed such suspicions. But after that “forgotten” check-in-the-drawer incident, many of us concluded that if SaveKPFA were not actually planning some such scenario, then it could only be surmised that they were destroying both KPFA and Pacifica out of sheer stupidity.

That was in 2010. Disaster was averted that year, though not without a huge fight. For now, let’s fast-forward to 2015: SaveKPFA and its allies were back in charge of KPFA/Pacifica, again pushing the network towards financial extinction. We discovered that Dan Siegel and another prominent SaveKPFA member, Margy Wilkinson, had secretly created, filed and registered a corporation, complete with articles of incorporation, which they named the “KPFA Foundation.” It appears that Siegel and Wilkinson created this clandestine “KPFA Foundation” for the purpose of privately taking over KPFA’s radio license and real estate assets upon the dissolution of the Pacifica Foundation. In short, it was a plan to steal KPFA/Pacifica.

Strange things continued. In 2015 General Manager Quincy McCoy canceled the summer’s fund drive when KPFA had received two large bequests, enabling the station to skip the drive. It seemed as though the station were suddenly awash in money. However, it turned out that $400,000 of the bequest money was specifically intended for the Pacifica National Office, and was improperly diverted to KPFA by members of SaveKPFA. That wrongful diversion of funds intensified the chaos in a system that was far from robust.

Meanwhile, there’s the matter of the station’s programming, which traditionally had been staunchly antiwar. However, the station has been moving towards the Right, increasingly echoing neoliberal/neocon narratives of “humanitarian” intervention. Several programs have been taken off the air, most famously “Guns and Butter,” which was disappeared along with its 17-year archive. “Counterspin,” “Discrete Music,” and “Twit Wit Radio” have also been taken down and replaced by greatly watered-down fare.

We’ve been waiting fearfully to see which radical KPFA program would be next on the chopping block. It turns out they were aiming for bigger game — they went clear across the continent, all the way to New York, and shut down Pacifica sister station WBAI 99.5 FM.

Tech’s Labor Activism

Gig workers in California are celebrating the passage of Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) making sure that gig economy workers are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits due to go into effect 1 January, 2020. Meanwhile, Google’s “shadow work force,” the masses of temporary workers and contractors (approximately 54 percent of Google’s work force), is challenging Google’s seemingly unmitigated power by unionizing. In fact, two weeks ago, the two-thirds of Google’s temp workers in Pittsburgh voted to unionize despite the firm outsourcing Google’s contractors, HCL America Inc., urging its temp workers to vote against unionizing.

What does this push by Google temporary and contract workers say about the future of tech workers who have been caught outside the elite contracts offered to the more educated and specialized workers that Google depends upon? In fact, given that these contractors hold white-collar positions yet live in a constant precarious economic state, it is more than high time that we examine the rights of workers today.

This past April, over 929 Google employees signed a petition in support of contractors who worked on Google Assistant and were let go. The contractors (TVCs) Google uses make up approximately 54% of Google’s workforce calling into question why some get contracts (meaning workers’ rights and benefits) while many more do not. It also calls into question contemporary hiring practices where in August 2018 over 3,000 security guards, contracted to work for tech giants like Google and Facebook, ratified their first union contract after raising similar problems. In fact, SEIU United Service Workers West in its press release noted that before the union contract agreement, many of the security officers were making between $12 and $14 an hour.  This is approximately between $25,000 to $30,000 a year, barely a hair above California’s state minimum wage. And when you take into account that much of the work to be undertaken by these guards is in Silicon Valley, one of the most expensive places on the planet to live, what these guards take home is poverty level income.

While labor laws differ often from state to state just as do certain conditions of minimum wage and other rights, there is the basic fact of employment law which, according to Hutchison & Stoy, allows workers to appeal policies they deem to discriminate against them. The bigger problem is who can afford the time, effort and risk of lost labor due to employer retaliation?  And even though Google’s shadow labor force works alongside full-time Google employees, these temporary workers are employed by third-party contractors who guarantee them none of the rights of other full-time Google workers: they earn less money and have no paid vacation time. And until this Spring when Google changed course in its policy, many in the tech sector doing contract work also have no healthcare coverage.

There are organizations battling these issues head-on such as the Tech Workers Coalition and others pushing to make existing unions fit tech workers into their agenda. And there are many pushing for the creation of a tech worker union specific to the problems unique to tech specialists that simply don’t fit into the steel worker union model, nor are these unions equipped to deal with the kinds of issues that tech workers face.

Sure, there are myriad issues of abuses of power that are common to all types of labor today as the recent Amazon victory in Sacramento demonstrates.  Yet there is an increase of consciousness among temporary and gig economy workers who are viewing their role in the workplace as compared to their contemporaries who have full-time contracts replete with perks. Certainly, they are not immune to the logical fallacies that permeate the job market today where certain individuals are allowed secure work contracts while others live in severe precarity.

While Wired declared 2018 to be the year that tech workers realized that they were workers, 2019 is the year that this nail is driven into the coffin. If anything, this is the year that people of all pay grades and levels of education are banding together to ask why one type of person should deserve access to housing, education and healthcare, while another does not.

It’s time that we all ask this question and close ranks with our brothers and sisters who are living in precarity for big tech and beyond.

Israeli police “turning a blind eye to killing spree”

Palestinian citizens of Israel escalated their protests against the police and government on Thursday by bringing sections of the country’s busiest highway to a crawl as they drove in a slow convoy towards Jerusalem for a major demonstration.

It was the latest in a series of high-stakes confrontations by Israel’s large Palestinian minority with the authorities to express their anger at police inaction over a tide of violence that has swept their communities. More than 70 lives have been claimed so far this year.

Over the weekend, Palestinians in Israel took over numerous road junctions to block traffic, causing long tailbacks, as they sought to bring their campaign to the attention of a seemingly indifferent Israeli Jewish public.

Israel’s 1.8 million Palestinian citizens – descended from those who avoided expulsion during Israel’s creation in 1948 – comprise a fifth of the country’s population. However, this year, they account for as much as 80 percent of the country’s murders – up from 5 percent 20 years ago.

According to figures from the Aman Centre, which campaigns against violence in Palestinian society in Israel, September was the deadliest month ever: 13 Palestinian citizens were killed in criminal activity.

An investigation by the Haaretz newspaper this week found that the police had solved less than a third of murders in Palestinian communities in Israel this year – half its clear-up rate in Jewish communities.

Towns turn lawless

Palestinian citizens of Israel also held a one-day general strike last week, shutting down schools, local authority offices and shops, to protest the police’s long-running failure to crack down on well-known crime families, collect their arsenal of weapons, and properly investigate the killing spree.

Leaders of the Palestinian minority say their towns and villages have been largely abandoned by the police, creating a vacuum filled by criminals. Many of the killings are the result of vendettas, criminal gangs’ turf wars and domestic violence. In several incidents bystanders have been shot too, including children. Tens of thousands attended the largest protest in Majd al-Krum, a Palestinian town in the central Galilee, where three men died in a shoot-out last week.

But there are also widespread suspicions that the police are actively complicit in the bloodshed. Historically, the police have recruited Palestinian crime families as informers, as a way to gather inside information on the minority.

The impression, say community leaders, is that the police are more interested in maintaining relations with these criminals than tackling the crime wave.

Ties to criminals

The Higher Follow-Up Committee, effectively the collective political leadership of the Palestinian minority, issued a statement over the weekend noting “a conspiracy between the police and the criminal organisations. The authorities know very well where the weapons are coming from into the Arab towns”.

Police estimates suggest that there may be as many as half a million weapons in Palestinian communities in Israel. Most are believed to have originated from Israeli army bases.

Ahmed Tibi, a senior Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, observed: “It is delusional to think that police intelligence is unaware of who is bringing them in and where from. If it were weapons smuggled in to be used by terrorists, the weapons would’ve been confiscated, and the responsible individuals put in jail at a moment’s notice.”

The committee’s statement complained that Israeli officials were exploiting the tide of violence as a way to “attack the social fabric of the Arab public”.

Aida Touma-Suleiman, a member of the Israeli parliament for the Joint List faction, which comprises four Palestinian parties, said police had the tools to prevent the violence but lacked the will.

“People are wondering, how is it possible the police suddenly become incompetent only when the problem is curbing crime in Arab communities?” she told Middle East Eye.

Like many, Touma-Suleiman suspects foul play. She believes Israeli officials hope to replace the existing Palestinian national leadership in Israel with compromised local leaders tied to the criminal underworld.

“There is a rotten circle of interests between the police, the politicians and the criminal class to maintain a situation where Palestinian communities are left weak, divided and fearful,” she said.

‘Very violent society’

The police, on the other hand, argue that their efforts have been stymied by a lack of cooperation. Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, told MEE the crime wave was largely the result of a “failure by the Arab leadership to help the police”.

The Palestinian minority’s leaders, however, complain that they have found few allies in a years-long campaign to end the bloodshed.

That was highlighted this week by comments from the public security minister, Gilad Erdan, an ultra-nationalist ally of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He attributed the wave of killings to a violent “Arab culture”.

He told Jerusalem Radio on Monday: “It’s a very, very – and another thousand times – very violent society. … A lot of disputes that end here [among Israeli Jews] with a lawsuit, there they pull out a knife and gun.”

Accusing the government of “blaming the victim”, Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, observed that crime figures gave the lie to Erdan’s claim.

In an article for Haaretz this week, he pointed out that, despite the large number of weapons in the occupied territories, the rate of murders among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza was little different from that in Israeli Jewish society.

Some 20 years ago, he added, the number of murders among Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel was identical. But in recent years, the rate had rocketed in Israel’s Palestinian communities, to six times that of Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank.

Perfect storm

Thabet Abu Ras, co-director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, which promotes coexistence between Jewish and Palestinian citizens, told MEE that Israel’s Palestinian communities had been hit by a perfect storm of problems created by officials.

A lack of public institutions, from police stations to governmental offices, meant they were effectively cut off from the rest of Israeli society. Poverty and neglect had created conditions ripe for exploitation by criminals, he said.

The state’s confiscation of land from Palestinian communities and a policy of denying them new building permits had created serious overcrowding and housing shortages that readily triggered disputes between families that turned violent.

The absence of banking services in many Palestinian towns, and the difficulties Palestinian citizens faced gaining loans and mortgages, had strengthened the role of criminal groups. They lent money at extortionate rates that borrowers could often not afford to repay.

Weak local institutions in Palestinian communities and the state’s cultivation of extended families as an alternative leadership had paved the way for criminal groups to intimidate local officials to gain control over communal resources.

And a major police crackdown in Jewish communities like Nahariya and Netanyahu in recent years had forced Jewish crime gangs to make alliances with organised criminal groups in Palestinian communities in Israel to continue their activities.

“Crime is the one place in Israel where there is some kind of meaningful integration between Jews and Arabs,” he said.

Brutal policing

In his Haaretz article, Odeh blamed “government racism” that “sees us as enemies instead of citizens”. He called on ordinary Israeli Jews “who believe in democracy to join us in a battle for a society without guns. Eliminating violence is in the civic interest of us all”.

The move to the streets is seen as a way to bypass the seeming indifference of Israeli officials by appealing directly to ordinary Israeli Jews.

The national police command is almost exclusively Jewish, and was led until recently by a former secret police officer, Roni Alsheikh, known for being an avid supporter of the illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

Few police stations are operational in Palestinian communities in Israel, and the force is widely distrusted. Police officers typically enter the country’s Palestinian towns and villages in military-style operations to enforce house demolitions or to forcibly quell demonstrations.

Trust has been further eroded by the fact that the paramilitary Border Police, a major component of Israel’s security services, operate in Palestinian communities both inside Israel and in the occupied West Bank, using similar methods of violent repression.

Dozens of Palestinian citizens have died at the hands of the police over the past two decades, often in unexplained circumstances. Such deaths are rarely investigated.

And a judicial-led commission of inquiry nearly two decades ago concluded that there was a culture in the police of treating Palestinian citizens as “an enemy”. Little seems to have changed since.

Government incitement

There are similar problems at the political level. Palestinian parties have always been excluded from governmental roles, and the Palestinian minority’s legislators have no influence in the parliament.

Both Erdan and Netanyahu regularly incite against the Palestinian minority. During last month’s election campaign, Netanyahu sought to mobilise Jewish voters by warning: “Arabs want to annihilate us all – women, children and men.”

Erdan was also recently exposed as having actively help cover up evidence that police unlawfully shot a Palestinian citizen dead during house demolitions in the Negev village of Umm al-Hiran in 2017. In the same incident, Odeh of the Joint List is believed to have been shot with a sponge-tipped bullet by police.

This hostility has forced the community’s leadership to take drastic action to make their concerns visible to the wider Israeli public.

In addition to the go-slow on Road 6 highway this week, there are plans for large protests outside the regional police headquarters in Nazareth later this month and for a protest tent next to government offices in Jerusalem.

The blocking of roads is a form of direct action familiar in Israel – but mainly from the Jewish public. Settlers have repeatedly obstructed roads, as well as throwing stones at the security services, as part of their demonstrations.

But whereas Jewish protests, however violent they become, are usually handled delicately by Israeli security forces, Palestinian citizens are used to very different responses to their own demonstrations, especially when they take place in areas visible to the Jewish public.

Live ammunition

Palestinian demonstrators in Israel have often found themselves beaten, doused in tear gas and arrested.

Last year a leading Palestinian community activist, Jafar Farah, was arrested along with 20 others during a peaceful protest in the city of Haifa against the army’s lethal shooting of demonstrators in Gaza. While in custody, a police officer broke his leg and is reported to have assaulted several other demonstrators.

But etched even more deeply into the Palestinian minority’s collective memory are the so-called October 2000 events, when Palestinian citizens demonstrated on main roads in solidarity with Palestinians being killed by the Israeli army in large numbers at the start of the second intifada.

In a matter of days, the police had killed 13 Palestinian citizens and wounded many hundreds more using live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets. Investigations were cursory and not one policeman was charged over those deaths.

Demand for equal treatment

This time Palestinian leaders in Israel trust the police will have to tread more carefully.

At a protest outside Nazareth last Friday, hundreds of protesters blocked a road junction leading to the neighbouring Jewish city of Nof Hagalil. Furious motorists, caught in lengthy tailbacks, honked their horns in frustration.

A single policeman watched from inside an unmarked car at the side of the intersection. When spotted, he emerged to warn the demonstrators that they would be allowed an hour to cause disruption before his colleagues would arrive to make arrests.

Unusually, given the large number of such protests last weekend, not a single arrest or injury was reported.

The police caution is a reflection of their difficulties. The demonstrations are not overtly “political” – or not in the ordinary sense understood by the Jewish public – because they do not relate to issues in the occupied territories.

The chief demand is for a right to personal security – and the police themselves are the focus of the protests.

For years, Palestinian leaders in Israel have been calling for a new approach by the authorities to help end the violence, including enforcement campaigns, the collection of guns, and education programmes to change attitudes to crime.

“Our demands fell on deaf ears,” Odeh, head of the Joint List, wrote in his Haaretz article. He and other community leaders hope to prick the consciences of liberal Israeli Jews.

The question is whether the protests, which have been causing major disruption, rebound on the government for appearing intransigent or the Palestinian minority for inconveniencing the Jewish public.

More police stations

There are initial signs that the police and government are starting to feel the heat.

Erdan called for a meeting with the minority’s leaders this week to try to ease tensions. Netanyahu also pledged to allocate extra resources, including manpower, to tackle the crime wave.

But there are complex obstacles for both sides to resolve the stand-off.

Some of the placards at the Nazareth protest called not for more engagement by the police but less. There are genuine fears that Netanyahu’s idea of “greater enforcement” will simply mean more heavy-handed and provocative police invasions of Palestinian communities in Israel to create an impression that something is being done.

Rosenfeld, the police spokesman, said seven new police stations had been opened in Palestinian communities in the past few years and that there were plans for another eight to open in the next year.

‘Destroyed from within’

But one of the protest organisers in Nazareth, where there are already two big police stations, said the problem was not just a lack of policing, it also involved the wrong kind of policing.

Kamar Khutaba, a 27-year-old sports teacher, told MEE: “Palestinian blood doesn’t matter to the police. They know how to tackle crime in our communities but they choose not to.

“We are telling the police either do your job properly or get out. Our society is being destroyed from within and the police are allowing it to happen.”

In Jisr al-Zarqa, a poor Palestinian village on Israel’s Mediterranean coast where gun crime is now rampant, the local council leader told Haaretz last month that he had been wrong to support the opening of a police station in his community.

“We made absolutely no progress,” Amash Morad Fathi said, stating that gun crime and the drugs trade were worse than ever. “The police have no leads,” he added, noting that the police had not located a single gun.

He regretted ignoring warnings from fellow council members that the police would use their presence as a pretext to “suffocate” the village by setting up roadblocks and issuing traffic fines.

Abu Ras observed that the police station was only operational during daylight hours. “That’s useless when 90 percent of the crime takes place at night,” he said.

‘Fight against terror’

What is urgently needed, Palestinian leaders in Israel agree, is a dramatic change in police culture.

In his response to the protests, Erdan equated the fight against criminal violence in Israel’s Palestinian communities to the “fight against terrorism”. A Haaretz editorial warned that it was a sign that Erdan and the government continue to view Palestinian citizens as “an internal enemy”.

Even if Palestinian leaders in Israel cannot influence regional issues, such as the peace process, they want to advance the basic civic rights of their community. The question is whether it can be done inside a self-declared Jewish state.

Odeh broke with a long-standing political tradition of the Palestinian community in Israel when he chose sides last month in the ongoing coalition negotiations over forming a Zionist government. He recommended Benny Gantz, a former army chief of staff and head of the Blue and White party, over Netanyahu for prime minister.

Gantz has indicated he may be prepared to make concessions on civic, if not the national, rights of Palestinians in Israel. Nonetheless, improving policing in Israel’s Palestinian communities may prove a tall order.

Abu Ras and others note that the police still see their role chiefly in ethnic terms – as protecting the Jewish public from a supposed Palestinian menace, both in Israel and in the occupied territories.

“The difficulty is that policing towards the Arab community in Israel is not seen primarily in civic terms, as preventing crime, but in security terms, as dealing with a national threat,” he said.

“That whole approach has to change, otherwise the criminal gangs in Arab communities will continue to grow stronger.”

• First published in Middle East Eye

Git Up, Git Out, Cut the Bullshit Arrests Out

Hundreds of people from across the Southeast converged on Atlanta on Friday September 27th for the Southeast Climate Strike & Rebellion. Organized by a coalition including Earth Strike and Extinction Rebellion, it came at the end of a global strike week called for by the school strike movement in which millions railed against the systems that are failing humanity.  At least 19 were nicked for offences ranging from carrying PVC pipe for a trampoline prop to standing briefly on a piece of land designed exclusively for fast-moving metal death machines.

The plan was to occupy an intersection in the swanky commercial centre and planet-eating business district of Buckhead, and hold a family friendly festival with speakers, music and colourful banner waving fun.  But business as usual means big pots of dosh for some people, so police made sure to squash that vision of community on behalf of their employers at every turn.  Not quite grasping the way a low carbon transport system is intended to work, cops used a line of bicycles like riot shields to aggressively push activists back onto the sidewalk and prevent the occupation.  Photos of riot police in the media, avoided; unquestionable dominance of car culture, sustained.

As several hundred relocated to Midtown via Atlanta’s MARTA train (“almost like being in an actual city,” cooed Florida visitors), snatch squads continued to pick people up with flimsy excuses and instill fear along the way.  A man from Extinction Rebellion Winston-Salem (NC) was minding his business far away from the road when two cops meandered through a crowd and tackled him to the ground without warning for the crime of wearing a mask.  Police also arrested a 17-year-old from the same chapter, then told local media that they didn’t arrest any minors (a claim that was later deleted from the article when the journalist realised it was false) (chapter legal fund).

Having outmaneuvered the eco-friendly bike fuzz, a second intersection was then held for around 20 minutes.  Unfortunately a lack of material blockades and numbers allowed police cars to find a gap and harass protesters out.  After regrouping and eating together in a park, the crowd used a semi-consensus model to decide their next move.  A march down a trail ended with a raucous noise being made in a shopping market.  Coppers on bikes gave way to Fire & Rescue on bikes for no clear reason.  The only group preventing safety were the APD (despite their absurd claims to be providing it) and self immolation was never on the official agenda.  But if the cops keep blocking nonviolent dissent there’s no telling how desperate people will get as famines, extreme heat and societal collapse bear down on us.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, supposedly a progressive climate leader, has a standard plan to bring the city to 100% renewables by 2035.  Naturally, half of that will be achieved by paying someone else to make the cuts (through Renewable Energy Credits, aka offsets), and the pledge has the useful benefit of making many people believe that it is a commitment to carbon-neutrality when it refers only to electricity generation.  Anybody that truly understood the latest science would know that carbon offsets are pointless when the entire global economy now needs to be decarbonised, would know that 2035 is too late for anything, and frankly, would have ordered police to step aside and allow the mass action to go ahead, because this is a fucking emergency that threatens the safety of everyone on this planet.  Instead, violent suppression, spurious arrests, helicopters and a tonne of cops were deployed to send the message that an actual adequate response to the armageddon that faces us is unacceptable.  Token targets that fail to address the problem are all that will be tolerated in a city with a notorious sprawl problem and the world’s busiest airport (21 years running!)

On that same Friday Boston rebels held a bridge for three hours with no arrests.  Earlier in the week a coalition of 2000 blocked the streets of DC leading to 32 arrests, while in San Francisco the financial district was occupied and a massive mural was painted on the roads covering two blocks.  Five were arrested in a roadblock in Denver.  Despite the Southeast Climate Strike & Rebellion not going as originally planned, people still sacrificed for the cause, compelling the public to ask why they would do so unless we faced an emergency, and many lessons were learned.  For one thing, when the Earth becomes unable to sustain human life, be sure to thank a cop.

Next Phase Of The Battle For Net Neutrality and People’s Control Of The Internet

Protesters outside building where Ajit Pai was giving a speech in Washington, DC, December 2017 (From Free Press)

Last week, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals finally issued a decision on a challenge to the Trump administration’s “Open Internet” rule, which ended Net Neutrality protections in 2017. While the court reversed and remanded important parts of the rule, it upheld the reversal of Net Neutrality regulations.

This decision opens the next phase of the struggle in the battle for the Internet — a battle between control of the Internet by a handful of big corporations versus an Internet that serves the people. The Internet freedom movement enters this conflict in a strong position as there is a public consensus that the Internet should be open and neutral, i.e. people should be able to go to websites without Internet Service Providers (ISPs) restricting their access. Millions of people have shown they will take action on behalf of a people’s Internet.

The movement won Net Neutrality in 2015 during the Obama administration even though the Obama-FCC, chaired by Tom Wheeler, initially opposed it. Net Neutrality supporters occupied the FCC, protested for months in DC and around the country, disrupted FCC hearings and even blocked the FCC Chair’s driveway to win strong Internet rules that included Net Neutrality. In 2017, the movement also protested Trump-Chair Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, including at his house, at public events and at the FCC. In both cases, record numbers of public comments were filed supporting Net Neutrality. Following the 2017 FCC decision to repeal Net Neutrality, the movement continued to mobilize millions in the streets and at the House of RepresentativesSenate, state legislatures and in the courts. This is a movement that will not give up and that politicians do not want opposing them.

Net Neutrality protest in Baltimore. One of more than 700 held on December 7, 2017 the Internet day of action.

Court Decision Opens the Door to Building a National Movement

On October 1, 2019, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its decision in Mozilla Corporation vs Federal Communications Commission. It was a mixed result for the movement. The court begrudgingly upheld the central part of the FCC rule, which ended Net Neutrality.  The judges wrote they are “deeply concerned that the result is unhinged from the realities of modern broadband service.” This occurred because the reality of administrative law is that courts defer to the administrative agency as the experts.

In Mozilla, the court said the Commission “barely survives arbitrary and capricious review,” and the FCC “failed to provide any meaningful analysis” regarding how existing law will protect consumers without the agency’s Net Neutrality protections. A future FCC can reconsider the Trump FCC’s decision, but the reality is new laws are needed to develop a twenty-first-century internet. It is the movement’s job to build national consensus for the Internet we want to see.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn (L), Chairman Tom Wheeler (2L), Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (2R) and Commissioner Michael ORielly (R) watch as protesters are removed from the dais during a hearing at the Federal Communication Commission(FCC) on December 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. The protesters were advocating for net neutrality (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

States Can Become Engines of Change for the Internet

The most important positive part of the court decision was the ruling that the FCC could not stop states from putting in place Net Neutrality rules. This opens up tremendous opportunities for the movement. Nine states have already put in place rules to protect Net Neutrality. Four states passed laws – California, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington – and 27 states have considered legislation. In six states, governors have signed executive orders requiring Net Neutrality – Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The potential for rapidly expanding Net Neutrality at the state level is demonstrated by 125 city mayors signing a Net Neutrality pledge promising not to do business with any ISP that violates the open-internet standard.

The Net Neutrality movement has the opportunity to build its national base as states pursue Net Neutrality legislation. If over the next few years a dozen or more states pass Net Neutrality laws, the movement will be in a strong position to insist that the FCC re-institute Net Neutrality. It is unsustainable to have a ‘patchwork’ of different state laws to regulate the Internet because that will require ISPs to change their practices depending on the state. The FCC will need to develop a national policy.

Other positive aspects of the decision are that the court directed the FCC to reconsider the impact of its order on public safety, the ISPs’ use of public rights of way (such as for installing infrastructure) and the federal Lifeline broadband-discount program. The Lifeline program makes the Internet available to low-income communities. The court showed that the FCC decision had serious negative impacts in the real world and must be reconsidered.

The Federal Communications Commission reports that 21.3 million Americans don’t have access to high-speed broadband. This is because the Internet is not affordable for many people in underserved rural and low-income urban communities. Access to the Internet has become essential for functioning in today’s world. Internet access must become a public good.

The next FCC will be able to investigate and report on the outright fraud by corporate lobbyists during the Trump-FCC rule-making proceeding. A few days after the court decision, Buzz Feed News reported right-wing groups supporting the corporate interests of Internet Service Providers filed millions of fraudulent public comments. This undermined the public comment process and ensured the FCC did not get a true representation of public views. This will provide further justification for reconsidering the Trump rule and the next FCC can put in place safeguards to ensure a reliable public comment period, which is essential to democratic rule-making.

This is the fourth time in just the last few months that Trump-FCC decisions have been reversed in court. This series of decisions show an FCC that makes judgments based on predetermined outcomes rather than reasoned consideration of the facts and the law.

Occupation of the FCC in May 2014 kicked off a successful Net Neutrality Campaign (DC Media Group)

Creating an Internet for the 21st Century that Serves the People

Support for Net Neutrality comes from across the political spectrum. poll conducted by the University of Maryland in April 2018 found 86 percent of voters opposed the FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality, including huge majorities of Republicans (82 percent), Independents (85 percent) and Democrats (90 percent).  We must build on these extremely high levels of support.

Net Neutrality is a winning issue for elected representatives to support and a risky one for politicians to oppose.  As a result of the popularity of Net Neutrality, there is already strong political support in Congress. Before the last election, the House passed the Save the Internet Act, which would have put the open-internet rules back in place. A bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate approved a Congressional Review Act resolution to reinstate the FCC’s 2015 Net Neutrality protections.  Neither of these efforts has made it to the President’s desk yet.

During the 2020 election season, the movement has an opportunity to demand that the next president commits to supporting strong Net Neutrality rules and broadband protections. Already, some presidential candidates are calling for Net Neutrality and putting forward their vision of the future of the Internet. The most thorough plan comes from Howie Hawkins, a Green Party candidate, who published the statement “Time for the Internet to be Controlled by the Public, Not Corporate Interests,” which not only called for Net Neutrality but also for a series of laws and policies including replacing corporate control of the Internet with a democratically-controlled Internet.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been a long-time proponent of net neutrality, quickly blasted the court’s decision, saying it gave more “power” to “unaccountable” internet service providers. Sanders wrote, “We must fight to keep the internet free and open—not dominated by corporations. This struggle is essential to free speech and democracy.” Senator Warren, also a long-time supporter of Net Neutrality, was an early critic of the Trump FCC rule. She added we need to”fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anti-competitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights, and repeatedly fumble their responsibility to protect our democracy.”

Senator Ed Markey has been the senate leader on Net Neutrality. Markey immediately said the Mozilla decision “increases the urgency of Congress to pass the Save the Internet Act and make net neutrality the law of the land once and for all.” Markey noted the power of the Internet movement saying, “Democrats and Republicans agree that we need Net Neutrality laws on the books and after today’s decision, we will undoubtedly see activists and organizers across the country push their states to enact strong Net Neutrality rules.”

It is time to insist that future FCC Commissioners represent the people’s interests and not corporate interests and to end an FCC that is corporate-occupied territory. We must urge all candidates for president and Congress to call for the restoration of the 2015 Open Internet Order in their first 100 days in office as a first step to creating an internet for the 21st Century.

The movement for Net Neutrality and a free and open Internet includes millions of people, public interest groups, civil rights organizations, and many others who have shown the Internet is an important issue for them. Successful battles against bills like SOPA and PIPA demonstrate the power of this movement.

It is time for the public to take control of the Internet. Internet technology was created with public dollars. It should serve the people’s interests and be under public control. Popular Resistance calls for the Internet to be controlled democratically by the people and not by for-profit corporations. The Internet would serve people better if it were a public utility.

To get involved in this vibrant movement, visit the Popular Resistance Internet campaign site, Protect Our Internet, and the movement’s coalition site Battle for the Net. For more information, listen to our interview with Craig Aaron of Free Press this week on Clearing the FOG.

Canadian Imperialism in Haiti in the Spotlight

Sustained committed activism is unraveling the dominant media’s shameful blackout of Canadian imperialism in Haiti. But, the bias against putting Canadian policy in a negative light is such that small breakthroughs require tremendous effort.

On Monday 15 Haitian community members and allies occupied Justin Trudeau’s election office for a little over three hours. The Solidarité Québec-Haiti #Petrochallenge 2019 activists called on the PM to withdraw Canada’s backing of a repressive, corrupt and illegitimate president of Haiti. Trudeau’s government has provided financial, policing and diplomatic support to Jovenel Moïse whose presidency is dependent on Washington, Ottawa and other members of the Core Group.

The office occupation took place in solidarity with mobilizations in Haiti and elsewhere against Moïse and an apartheid-like class/race system enforced by Washington, Paris and Ottawa. In recent days massive protests in Haiti have demanded Moïse go. Last week protesters shuttered the Port-au-Prince airport, stopping Moïse from speaking at the UN and forming a new government. Over the past year, there have been multiple general strikes and massive protests demanding the corrupt president leave.

To convince us to end the sit in, the Liberals dispatched a backroom operator of Haitian descent. Chief of staff to Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, Marjorie Michel offered to have the government make a declaration on the subject within 24 hours if we left the office (the Montréal police and RCMP came to Trudeau’s office just after Michel to highlight what would happen if we didn’t leave). Midday Tuesday Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted a vague statement about the situation in Haiti, which at least didn’t endorse Moïse (unlike some previous statements).

Michel was clearly disturbed that Trudeau was asked “are you aware that your campaign office in Montreal is now occupied by Haiti solidarity activists and what would you say to those who ask why you back the undemocratic regime of Jovenel Moïse” at a concurrent press conference in Toronto. Global TV broadcast a somewhat perplexed PM responding to activist/journalist Barry Weisleder’s question about the hypocritical nature of Canadian policy in the Americas. Trudeau ignored the Haiti part of the question and criticized the Venezuelan government.

As a follow-up to the occupation of his office, we organized a last-minute 10-person rally on Wednesday outside a community boxing ring where Trudeau put on his gloves for a photo-op. We chanted loudly “Jovenel repressif, Trudeau complice”. The PM’s large RCMP detail called the Montréal police, which dispatched a dozen officers who arrested organizer Marie Dimanche. In one of the weirder rally/media situations I’ve seen, the police organized a protected pathway for the media inside the gym following Trudeau to get back on the election campaign bus. It was as if we were a threat to members of the media and it effectively blocked them from interviewing us.

Unlike previous Solidarité Québec-Haiti actions, the dominant media didn’t (almost completely) ignore our office occupation and follow-up rally. The Montréal Gazette published a good article on the sit in, which was picked up by a half dozen outlets. Part of it was translated into French and published by La Presse. Journal Métro, Ricochet and Telesur all ran their own articles on the office occupation. A few days later Le Devoir published a good article promoting our demand titled “Le Canada appelé à lâcher le président haïtien Jovenel Moïse.” A slew of Haitian news sites and community radio programs covered the occupation. As with previous Solidarité Québec-Haiti actions, they both received substantial attention on social media.

On August 18 a member of Solidarité Québec-Haiti interrupted Trudeau at a press conference to ask why Canada supported a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate president in Haiti. Since July 15 members of the Haiti solidarity group have interrupted two press conferences (and a barbecue) by Minister of La Francophonie and Tourism Mélanie Joly to call on the Liberals to stop propping up Moïse. Solidarité Québec-Haiti has also directly questioned Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg, Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and former International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau over the government’s policy in Haiti. But, even when media outlets were at these events, they mostly ignored our interventions.

From the Liberal’s perspective media silence is vital. Unlike the 2004 Liberal backed coup, which included significant demonization of Jean Bertrand-Aristide by the Haitian and Haitian-Canadian intellectual elite, few among Montréal’s Haitian establishment seem keen on defending Moïse. So, the Liberals have to justify their support for Moïse.

Through bold activism Solidarité Québec-Haiti has forced the dominant media to cover Canadian imperialism in Haiti. But, a great deal more work will be needed to force a shift in government policy.