Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Patriarchs Are Falling. The Patriarchy Is Stronger Than Ever.

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/opinion/sunday/patriarchy-feminism-metoo.html

It would be easy to end 2017 with the impression that, whatever its afflictions, it was at least a game-changing year for feminism.

“The Female Revolution Is Here” and could “Smash Patriarchy at Its Core,” social and mainstream media headlines declared. “We are blowing the whistle on the prime directive of the master/slave relationship between women and men.” “This is the end of patriarchy” — this from Forbes! — “the male domination of humanity.” Twitter, the newsstand and the street concur: This year witnessed a transformational moment in American sexual politics.

Surely the results of the #MeToo phenomenon are worthy. It’s a seriously good thing Harvey Weinstein is gone and that the potential Harvey Weinsteins will think twice or thrice or a thousand times before harassing women whose fortunes they control. But “the end of patriarchy”? Look around.

This month, President Trump signed into law a tax bill that throws a bomb at women. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act systematically guts benefits that support women who need support the most: It means an end to personal and dependent exemptions (a disaster for minimum-wage workers, nearly two-thirds of whom are women). An expiration date for child-care tax credits and a denial of such credits for immigrant children without Social Security cards. An end to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. And, barely avoided, thanks to Democrats’ objections: an enshrinement of “fetal personhood” in the form of college savings accounts for unborn children, a sly grenade lobbed at legal abortion.

Not to mention that Republican congressmen plan to pay down the enormous federal deficit the bill will incur by slashing entitlements that, again, are critical to women: Medicaid (covering nearly half the births in the nation and 75 percent of family planning), Medicare (more than half of beneficiaries 65 and older — and two-thirds of those 85 and older — are women) and so on.

And that’s on top of all the other Trump administration insults: reviving the global gag rule on abortion, suspending tracking of the gender wage gap, deep-sixing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order and much more.

Which leads me to wonder, if we get rid of a handful of Harveys while losing essential rights and protections for millions of women, are we really winning this thing? How is this female calamity happening in the midst of the Female Revolution? An answer may lie in a schism that has haunted women’s protest for 150 years.

American women’s activism has historically taken two forms. One is an expression of direct anger at the ways individual men use and abuse us. It’s righteous outrage against the unambiguous enemy with a visible face, the male predator who feeds on our vulnerability and relishes our humiliation. Mr. Weinstein’s face is the devil’s face du jour, and the #MeToo campaign fits squarely in this camp. The other form is less spectacular but as essential: It’s fighting the ways the world is structurally engineered against women. Tied to that fight is the difficult and ambiguous labor of building an equitable system within which women have the wherewithal and power to lead full lives.

The clarion cry against individual male predation and the push for broader gender equality may seem part and parcel, especially now. When Donald Trump is the titular head of the machine, it’s tempting to imagine that the machine itself has orange hair — and that to defeat Harvey Weinstein is to win. But the patriarchy is bigger than the patriarch.

Guns and the left

From The Outline:  https://theoutline.com/post/2399/guns-and-the-left?zd=

Some leftists are rejecting the Democratic Party’s stance on firearm regulation.

Gaby Del Valle Oct.16, 2017

When anti-racist protesters held a demonstration against the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August, their protest was protected by an informal militia of 20 rifle-toting leftists who surrounded the perimeter of Justice Park. “It’s a deterrent,” Kevin Smith, a member of a leftist gun club who was part of the informal security detail, told the Colorado Springs Independent. “There were people there who wanted to come over and start [fights] with people, but they saw us and stayed across the street.”
As Democrats and Republicans debate gun control in the wake of last week’s shooting in Las Vegas, which left 59 dead and more than 500 injured, some socialists and other leftists are rejecting the Democratic Party’s call for stricter regulation of firearms. The result has been a fraught intra-leftist gun debate that raises questions about the efficacy of gun control, as well as the roles racial and economic justice should play in curbing gun violence.

“I would describe myself as a pro-gun socialist,” Courtney Caldwell, told The Outline. Caldwell, an active member of the Denton, Texas chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, doesn’t quite fit the profile of the average gun owner: white, male, high-income, and over the age of 55, according to a 2015 Columbia University study published in the journal Injury Prevention. For her, gun ownership is a fundamental part of her leftist identity. “Guns are a necessary form of self-defense so long as there is an oppressive, racist state that exists to uphold white supremacy,” Caldwell said. This doesn’t just mean self-defense in the traditional sense — defending one’s body from harm — but also the collective defense of marginalized communities.

Several leftist pro-gun organizations are committed to doing just that. There’s Redneck Revolt, a self-described anti-racist, anti-capitalist grassroots organization that seeks to build solidarity between the white working class and people of color. Founded in 2016, the organization has more than 40 chapters across the country. In addition to providing security at protests, Redneck Revolt relies on counter-recruitment — reclaiming gun culture from white conservatives as a way of reaching out to working-class gun owners who feel alienated from mainstream liberal politics. The Dallas-based Huey P. Newton Gun Club, established in 2013 and named after the founder of the Black Panther Party, was formed in response to right-wing gun advocacy groups in the region. In 2015, the group’s founder Charles Goodson told Vice magazine he wanted his organization to become the “black alternative to the NRA.” But Goodson’s gun club focuses on more than just individual gun ownership. That same year, the club staged its first openly-armed patrol in a predominately black Dallas neighborhood where police killed a young black man in 2012. “No longer will we let the pigs slaughter our brothers and sisters and not say a damn thing about it! Black power! Black power! Black power!” the rally’s leader shouted.

Joe Prince, a law student and black leftist living in Washington D.C., defined his community’s relationship connection to guns as “complex.”

“The relationship is not a loving one, to say the least,” Prince told The Outline. He isn’t a gun-owner himself — “I think guns are terrible. I never want to own a gun,” he said — but understands the appeal gun-ownership has for people of color, and for leftists of color in particular. “Martin Luther King, Jr. owned guns,” Prince said. “He spoke frequently about how much he didn’t like guns, about how nonviolence is the way forward for civil rights, but at the same time he had people with shotguns protecting him so he would be able to live to make those speeches.”

Continue reading at:  https://theoutline.com/post/2399/guns-and-the-left?zd=

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Uncanny, Frightening Ways That Trump's America Mirrors Hitler's Germany

From Alternet:  https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/how-democracy-dies

Even the usually restrained Barack Obama warns Americans we're slipping dangerously close to authoritarianism.

By Thom Hartmann
December 11, 2017


President Obama has come right out and said it: "You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we've seen societies where that happens.”

Yes, he invoked Nazi Germany, adding, “Now, presumably, there was a ballroom in Vienna in the late 1920s or ’30s that looked and seemed as if it ― filled with the music and art and literature and the science that was emerging ― would continue into perpetuity. And then 60 million people died. And the entire world was plunged into chaos.”

It was a shocking reminder of Milton Mayer and his seminal work, They Thought They Were Free, first published back in 1955 by the University of Chicago Press.

Shortly after World War II, Mayer, an American journalist and college instructor, went to Germany and befriended a small group of 10 “ordinary Germans” who had lived and worked through the war, and interviewed them in depth.  

Mayer’s burning question was, “How does something like Nazi Germany happen?”  

What he learned was every bit as shocking as President Obama drawing the same parallels. He wrote, presciently, “Now I see a little better how Nazism overcame Germany - not by attack from without or by subversion from within, but with a whoop and a holler. It was what most Germans wanted - or, under pressure of combined reality and illusion, came to want. They wanted it; they got it; and they liked it.

“I came home a little bit afraid for my country, afraid of what it might want, and get, and like, under combined pressure of reality and illusion. I felt – and feel – that it was not German Man that I met, but Man. He happened to be in Germany under certain conditions. He might be here under certain conditions. He might, under certain conditions, be I.

“If I - and my countrymen - ever succumbed to that concatenation of conditions, no Constitution, no laws, no police, and certainly no army would be able to protect us from harm.”

Mayer tells the story largely through the words of the Germans he got to know during his year in Germany after the war.  One, a college professor, told him:

“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security....

“This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

Creation Festival Founder Arrested for Alleged Child Molestation

From Christianity Today:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/december/creation-festival-founder-arrested-for-child-molestation.html

Pastor Harry Thomas, leader of America’s largest Christian music fest, suspended by church over eight criminal charges.

Kate Shellnutt December 08, 2017

The man who launched America’s largest and longest-running Christian music festival has been “indefinitely suspended” from the ministry and his church following his arrest Wednesday on charges of child molestation.

Harry L. Thomas, founder of the Creation Festival and senior pastor of Come Alive New Testament Church in Medford, New Jersey, has been accused of sexually assaulting four children over a 16-year period between 1999 and 2015.

The church stated that the alleged misconduct was “unrelated” to his leadership.

Thomas, 74, has been charged with one count of aggravated sexual assault, three counts of sexual assault, and four counts of endangering the welfare of children, according to the prosecutor’s office in Burlington County, New Jersey, where Thomas lives and where his church is located.

Authorities have refrained from releasing further details in order to protect the identity of the victims.
“All persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” stated the prosecutor’s office. It noted that Thomas was “being treated at a medical facility” while a case was prepared for “possible indictment” by a grand jury.

“It is with deep regret and saddened hearts that the Elders and Trustees of Come Alive New Testament Church have indefinitely suspended Pastor Harry Thomas from all leadership positions with the church, festival, and all associated ministries,” the ministry said in a statement to media Thursday.

“While the allegations are unrelated to his roles in these ministries, leadership has determined this to be the proper course of action at this time until there can be a full investigation,” stated church leaders. “It is requested that all pray for the parties involved and refrain from speculation regarding the circumstances.”

Following the arrest, the staff and history pages of Come Alive’s website, which chronicled Thomas’s involvement in the church since its founding in 1983, were no longer accesssible.

Continue reading at:   http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/december/creation-festival-founder-arrested-for-child-molestation.html

Evangelical Christianity Is Facing a Political Crisis: It Will Need More Than a Makeover

From Alternet:  https://www.alternet.org/belief/evangelical-christianity-facing-political-crisis-it-will-need-more-makeover

The Christian faith was the real loser in the Roy Moore campaign.

By Valerie Tarico
December 29, 2017


Ok, evangelicals do have a brand problem—but they also have a major product problem.
Bible-believing born-again Christians, aka evangelicals, have had a brand problem since Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority sold the born-again movement to the Republican party in exchange for political power a generation ago, forging the religious right.

The Republican party has been using Christianity’s good name to cover bad deeds ever since, all the while tapping evangelical media empires and churches as communications and organizing platforms to bring ordinary believers along with the merger. Having become true-believers themselves, Evangelical leaders have offered themselves up as trusted messengers for this New-and-Improved political gospel project.

And it has worked.

Born-again Christians haven’t given up their core beliefs: that the Bible is the literally perfect word of God, Jesus died for their sins, and folks who don’t accept this gift will burn forever in Hell. Rather, most white evangelicals (and a number of blacks and Hispanics) have appended parts of the Republican policy agenda and the underlying conceptual framework to this list. Religious beliefs and political beliefs have become, for many evangelicals, indistinguishable objects of devotion, beyond question. Political tribe and religious tribe now have the same boundaries.

When I outlined evangelicalism’s brand problem in early 2016, few of us had any idea how bad it could get. Now the world associates the term Evangelical with the Trump election—over 80 percent of evangelicals gave him their vote—and with the candidacy of theocrat, Roy Moore, who despite credible allegations that he pursued and pawed young teens while an assistant district attorney, received comparable support from white Alabama evangelicals.

In the aftermath of Moore’s campaign and (merciful) defeat, the minority of Evangelical Christians who found him horrifying are doing some public soul searching—well, except not really. Many recognize only the brand problem and are, more than anything, simply scrambling to get away from the term evangelical itself. “After Trump and Moore, some evangelicals are finding their own label too toxic to use,” reports the Washington Post.  “The term feels irreversibly tainted,” agrees evangelical author Jen Hatmaker.

Jemar Tisby is president of a faith-based media company catering to black evangelicals, but he says that “It’s counterproductive to identify as evangelical. . . . What’s happened with evangelicalism is, it has become so conflated with Republican politics, that you can’t tell where Christianity ends and partisanship begins.”

At Wheaton College, my old alma mater, the executive director of the Billy Graham Center, Ed Stetzer, said, “I don’t want ‘evangelical’ to mean people who supported candidates with significant and credible accusations against them. If evangelical means that, it has serious ramifications for the work of Christians and churches.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.alternet.org/belief/evangelical-christianity-facing-political-crisis-it-will-need-more-makeover

No Wonder Millennials Hate Capitalism

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/04/opinion/millennials-hate-capitalism.html


Dec. 4, 2017


On a Friday night last month, I moderated a debate in Manhattan about whether we should scrap capitalism. It was organized by the socialist magazine Jacobin; defending capitalism were editors from the libertarian publication Reason. Tickets for all available 450 seats sold out in a day. So Jacobin moved it to a venue that holds around twice as many. The extra tickets sold out in eight hours.

When I arrived, people were lined up for blocks; walking to the door, I felt like I was on the guest list at an underground nightclub. Most attendees appeared to be in their 20s and 30s, part of a generation that is uniquely suspicious of capitalism, a system most of their elders take for granted.

The anti-Communist Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation was alarmed to find in a recent survey that 44 percent of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist country, compared with 42 percent who want to live under capitalism. For older Americans, the collapse of Communism made it seem as though there was no possible alternative to capitalism. But given the increasingly oligarchic nature of our economy, it’s not surprising that for many young people, capitalism looks like the god that failed.

Nowhere is that clearer than in the wretched tax bill passed by the Senate in the early hours of Saturday morning, which would make the rich richer and the poor poorer. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the bill directs the largest tax cuts as a share of income to the top 5 percent of taxpayers. By 2027, taxes on the lowest earners would go up.

Millennials, a generation maligned as entitled whiners, would be particularly hard hit. As Ronald Brownstein argued in The Atlantic, the rich people who would benefit from the measures passed by the House and the Senate tend to be older (and whiter) than the population at large. Younger people would foot the bill, either through higher taxes, diminished public services or both. They stand to inherit an even more stratified society than the one they were born into.

Here’s one example. The Senate bill offers a tax break for parents whose children attend private school. But it cuts deductions for state and local taxes, which could make it harder to fund the public schools where the vast majority of millennials will send their kids.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/04/opinion/millennials-hate-capitalism.html
From Salon: https://www.salon.com/2017/12/11/chamath-palihapitiya-facebook/

Chamath Palihapitiya warned that the social-media platform is “ripping apart the social fabric”

Matthew Rozsad
12.11.2017

A second former Facebook executive is claiming that the social-media platform presents a threat to its users and society.

Chamath Palihapitiya, who served as the vice president for user growth at the company, described feeling "tremendous guilt" for his legacy at the company during a talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business according to CNBC.

"The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we've created are destroying how society works," Palihapitiya commented, identifying the problem as online interactions being fueled by shallow instant gratifications suchs receiving likes, hearts and thumbs-up icons.

Palihapitiya added, "No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it's not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem." He noted that he has minimized his use of Facebook and his children "aren't allowed to use that s**t."

Drawing a line under what he feels are the potential threats presented by Facebook and social media in general, he drew focus to an incident in India where false reports spread over WhatsApp led to the lynching death of seven people. "That's what we're dealing with," he said. "And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It's just a really, really bad state of affairs."

After Facebook, Palihapitiya launched into a successful career as a venture capitalist in the tech sector. As well as funding multiple companies, he has commissioned studies about and led initiatives against various problems within and caused by Silicon Valley's startup community including the resulting shortage of affordable housing in the Bay Area and the industry's general moral failings and "anarchist cheerleading."

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Crisis Ahead: The U.S. Is No Country for Older Men and Women

From Alternet:  https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/us-no-country-older-men-and-women

Millions can no longer afford to retire, and may never be able when the GOP passes its tax bill.

By Alex Henderson< December 12, 2017

The news is not good for millions of aging Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in the United States who are moving closer to retirement age. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual report on retirement preparedness for 2017, only 18 percent of U.S.-based workers feel “very confident” about their ability to retire comfortably; Craig Copeland, senior research associate for EBRI and the report’s co-author, cited “debt, lack of a retirement plan at work, and low savings” as “key factors” in workers’ retirement-related anxiety. The Insured Retirement Institute finds a mere 23 percent of Baby Boomers and 24 percent of Gen Xers are confident that their savings will last in retirement. To make matters worse, more than 40 percent of Boomers and over 30 percent of Gen Xers report having no retirement savings whatsoever.

The U.S. has a retirement crisis on its hands, and with the far right controlling the executive branch and both houses of Congress, as well as dozens of state governments, things promise to grow immeasurably worse.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Past progressive presidents, notably Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, took important steps to make life more comfortable for aging Americans. FDR signed the Social Security Act of 1935 into law as part of his New Deal, and when LBJ passed Medicare in 1965, he established a universal health care program for those 65 and older. But the country has embraced a neoliberal economic model since the election of Ronald Reagan, and all too often, older Americans have been quick to vote for far-right Republicans antagonistic to the social safety net.

In the 2016 presidential election, 55 percent of voters 50 and older cast their ballots for Donald Trump against just 44 percent for Hillary Clinton. (This was especially true of older white voters; 90 percent of black voters 45 and older, as well as 67 percent of Latino voters in the same age range voted Democratic.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) economic proposals may have been wildly popular with millennials, but no demographic has a greater incentive to vote progressive than Americans facing retirement. According to research conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons, the three greatest concerns of Americans 50 and older are Social Security, health care costs and caregiving for loved ones—all areas that have been targeted by Republicans.

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a devotee of social Darwinist Ayn Rand, has made no secret of his desire to privatize Social Security and replace traditional Medicare with a voucher program. Had George W. Bush had his way and turned Social Security over to Wall Street, the economic crash of September 2008 might have left millions of senior citizens homeless.

Since then, Ryan has doubled down on his delusion that the banking sector can manage Social Security and Medicare more effectively than the federal government. Republican attacks on Medicare have become a growing concern: according to EBRI, only 38 percent of workers are confident the program will continue to provide the level of benefits it currently does.

Continue reading at: https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/us-no-country-older-men-and-women

Christiania: an experiment in building 'a society from scratch'

From The Sydney Morning Herald:  http://www.smh.com.au/world/christiania-an-experiment-in-building-a-society-from-scratch-20170927-gypvwq

Garry Maddox October 22 2017

At first glance, utopia is working well in Denmark.

In a cafe in the Copenhagen community of Christiania​, aka Freetown, dogs wander freely among relaxed diners eating home-made organic food as Bob Marley sings No Woman, No Cry over a speaker.

Signs declare that this environmentally-friendly, car-free suburb not far from Prince Frederik​ and Princess Mary's palace is opposed to racism and hard drugs. But the community tolerates other drugs to the point where stalls illegally sell marijuana and hash on one street as openly as if they were selling trinkets or second-hand crockery at an Australian flea market.

Christiania is a fascinating social experiment, home to roughly 1000 artists, students, welfare recipients, squatters, misfits, anarchists, freethinkers and hippies. It is also one of the city's biggest tourist attractions, with more than a million visitors a year.

The Danish waitress who recommended a visit loved the relaxed counterculture lifestyle. The sense of freedom even in an environmentally-friendly city regularly considered one of the world's most liveable.

And arriving beneath a gate with "Christiania" on one side – the other side tells leavers "you are now entering the EU" – the first-time visitor is struck by a vibrantly colourful scene.

Old buildings have been adapted for modern use, including a museum, music venues, bike workshop, shops, galleries and cafes. Many newer houses set amid greenery have a quirky home-made, recycled quality.

There is colourful street art just about everywhere, bar a gypsy caravan on which the owner has posted a sign saying "no tags please".

Locals drink Christiania brand beer, cheerfully sell Christiania T-shirts to tourists and ride Christiania cargo bikes, carrying their children to school and their shopping in a box out front.

There is an ingenious indoor skateboard ramp, a soccer field with an anarchically placed tree that must interfere with matches, an amphitheatre for concerts and a "women's blacksmith".
Hippie Disneyland, Danish style, dates back to 1971.

Anarchist newspaper editor Jacob Ludvigsen​, who died six months ago, came up with the idea of turning an abandoned military base into an alternative suburb in response to a shortage of affordable housing. He called it an "opportunity to build up a society from scratch" – a self-governing, economically self-sustaining community that would be home to both "seekers of peace" and "stoners who are too paranoid and weak to participate in the race".

After the Social Democratic government gave Christiania the temporary status of "social experiment", it grew into a lively riverside enclave on 34 hectares.

Rather than voting, residents have been encouraged over the years to make decisions based on consensus after discussing an issue.

Christiania operates on a self-administered system that allocates funds every year to maintain common property, kindergartens, sewers, recycling and waste collection. It has its own court that deals with police matters, negotiations with the rest of Denmark and community disputes.

But if the community was founded on idealism, a series of controversies have tested the Danish affection for its progressive ways over its 46-year history. Most have centred on the drug market known aptly enough as Pusher Street."The gangs are controlling that part and not the real people of Christiania," says Hasse, a student who lives elsewhere in Copenhagen. He believes the city is divided 50-50 on support for the area.

"There have been big fights out there with the police and last year Pusher Street was torn down," he says. "But everything is back to normal now."

In the early 1980s, a bikie gang took control of the drugs trade and, after a number of violent incidents, Christiania banned bikie colours.

Continue reading at:  http://www.smh.com.au/world/christiania-an-experiment-in-building-a-society-from-scratch-20170927-gypvwq

African Americans Are Disproportionately Arrested for Low-Level Marijuana Violations—and the Disparity Is Growing

From Alternet:  https://www.alternet.org/drugs/african-americans-are-disproportionately-arrested-low-level-marijuana-violations

Blacks are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for minor pot possession violations.

By Paul Armentano November 21, 2017

According to a groundbreaking 2013 report authored by the American Civil Liberties Union, African Americans in the United States are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for minor marijuana possession violations. "[O]n average, a black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates,” it concluded. “Such racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests exist in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, and with large and small black populations. Indeed, in over 96 percent of counties with more than 30,000 people in which at least 2 percent of the residents are black, blacks are arrested at higher rates than whites for marijuana possession."

In the four years since the publication of that report, public opinion (and to a lesser extent, political opinion) in favor of amending America’s marijuana penalties has shifted dramatically. Yet, according to several recent analyses of marijuana arrest data, the racial disparity among those criminally charged with violating the nation’s pot laws has become more pronounced.

Some examples:

In Virginia, African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession crimes at more than three times the rate of whites, according to a 2017 analysis by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Capital News Service.  Since 2010, this disparity has risen an estimated ten percent.

In New Jersey, blacks are arrested for pot possession crimes at three times the rates of whites, according to an ACLU New Jersey analysis published earlier this year. Since 2000, this disparity increased nearly 25 percent.

In Pennsylvania, African Americans are arrested for cannabis crimes at six times the rates of whites in 66 out of 67 counties (excluding Philadelphia, which decriminalized adult use possession offenses in 2014), according to an ACLU Pennsylvania analysis released in October. This disparity has largely held steady since 2010.

In Western New York, blacks in Erie County (which includes the city of Buffalo) are 13.5 percent of the population, but comprise over 71 percent of all low-level marijuana arrestees, according to a report released this month by the group Partnership for the Public Good. “[T]he disparities in the number of marijuana possession arrests cannot be explained by a higher use among black or Hispanic people,” authors concluded. “Legalizing marijuana would reduce low-level drug arrests by 10 percent, and help reduce racial disparities in overall arrests.

Guns and the left

From The Outline:  https://theoutline.com/post/2399/guns-and-the-left

Some leftists are rejecting the Democratic Party’s stance on firearm regulation.

Gaby Del Valle
Oct—16—2017


When anti-racist protesters held a demonstration against the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August, their protest was protected by an informal militia of 20 rifle-toting leftists who surrounded the perimeter of Justice Park. “It’s a deterrent,” Kevin Smith, a member of a leftist gun club who was part of the informal security detail, told the Colorado Springs Independent. “There were people there who wanted to come over and start [fights] with people, but they saw us and stayed across the street.”
As Democrats and Republicans debate gun control in the wake of last week’s shooting in Las Vegas, which left 59 dead and more than 500 injured, some socialists and other leftists are rejecting the Democratic Party’s call for stricter regulation of firearms. The result has been a fraught intra-leftist gun debate that raises questions about the efficacy of gun control, as well as the roles racial and economic justice should play in curbing gun violence.

“I would describe myself as a pro-gun socialist,” Courtney Caldwell, told The Outline. Caldwell, an active member of the Denton, Texas chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, doesn’t quite fit the profile of the average gun owner: white, male, high-income, and over the age of 55, according to a 2015 Columbia University study published in the journal Injury Prevention. For her, gun ownership is a fundamental part of her leftist identity. “Guns are a necessary form of self-defense so long as there is an oppressive, racist state that exists to uphold white supremacy,” Caldwell said. This doesn’t just mean self-defense in the traditional sense — defending one’s body from harm — but also the collective defense of marginalized communities.

Several leftist pro-gun organizations are committed to doing just that. There’s Redneck Revolt, a self-described anti-racist, anti-capitalist grassroots organization that seeks to build solidarity between the white working class and people of color. Founded in 2016, the organization has more than 40 chapters across the country. In addition to providing security at protests, Redneck Revolt relies on counter-recruitment — reclaiming gun culture from white conservatives as a way of reaching out to working-class gun owners who feel alienated from mainstream liberal politics. The Dallas-based Huey P. Newton Gun Club, established in 2013 and named after the founder of the Black Panther Party, was formed in response to right-wing gun advocacy groups in the region. In 2015, the group’s founder Charles Goodson told Vice magazine he wanted his organization to become the “black alternative to the NRA.” But Goodson’s gun club focuses on more than just individual gun ownership. That same year, the club staged its first openly-armed patrol in a predominately black Dallas neighborhood where police killed a young black man in 2012. “No longer will we let the pigs slaughter our brothers and sisters and not say a damn thing about it! Black power! Black power! Black power!” the rally’s leader shouted.

Joe Prince, a law student and black leftist living in Washington D.C., defined his community’s relationship connection to guns as “complex.”

Continue reading at:  https://theoutline.com/post/2399/guns-and-the-left

We’re Shifting from Protest to Resistance – Just Like People Did in the 60s.

From History News Network:  http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166903

by Holly Scott 10-15-17

It’s been a year of fiftieth anniversary celebrations: photos of the summer of love and re-plays of the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But 1967 marks another anniversary: the year the anti-war movement turned from protest to resistance. Resistance is back in 2017, bringing old dilemmas and a new level of acceptance.

By 1967 major anti-war protest was common. But the war grew, and protestors wanted to move beyond teach-ins and legal rallies. Resistance, a slippery term, could do this. For some it meant draft resistance, accepting prison rather than entering the armed forces. For many the slogan was still nonviolent; taking over a building may be disruptive but can be done without violence. Others saw resistance as creating chaos in the streets. It could mean evading arrest, building a barricade, or committing vandalism or sabotage. Resistance to the war took cues from the black freedom struggle; the interconnectivity of movements fueled the sense protest had gone unheard for too long. Radicals understood the war in Vietnam as US imperialism abroad and oppression of people of color as a related form of imperialism at home.

The anti-war movement accommodated diverse visions about resistance by creating a tiered approach to protest. At the March on the Pentagon in October 1967, demonstrators could choose to: attend a legal rally, engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, break into the Pentagon, or try to levitate it. Multi-option protest persists today and was on display in Charlottesville on August 12. With it come familiar questions: when does resistance, especially if it is not strictly nonviolent, do more harm than good?

Ironically, in the late 1960s, both the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement became increasingly unpopular. From protest to resistance did not sit well with the average American. Even less popular was the idea of going from resistance to revolution. Check any textbook and you’ll find this interpretation: the movements of the 1960s started out noble but grew increasingly radical, alienating most Americans and burning out in a fit of rage.

Historians have long noted the problems with this narrative. It ignores that most demonstrators remained peaceful throughout the 1960s and that organizing did not collapse in 1970 but transformed. The narrative also glosses over the resistance the “good” early 1960s protests encountered. Critics faulted Martin Luther King for breaking laws and inciting hatred and violence. Many Americans endorsed King’s cause but not his tactics. The civil rights movement, too, experienced a dynamic tension between nonviolence and self-defense. What did it mean for nonviolent demonstrators to be protected by groups like the Deacons for Defense? For SNCC workers to live in homes where host families were willing to shoot back when attacked? Social movements are always messier than they look in memory.

Traditionally, Americans have been skeptical of protests that blur the line between violence and nonviolence and are quick to write off movements (particularly on the left or by people of color) that come across “too angry.” A strong narrative about what went wrong in the late 1960s, and an overly simplistic idea of what the early part of the decade looked like, adds to this. And so it is not surprising that there would be critics of Antifa a few weeks ago in Charlottesville. The antifascist group is not nonviolent, and critics have argued they are more likely to alienate rather than draw people in to a movement.

Continue reading at:  http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166903

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The fall of Harvey Weinstein should be a moment to challenge extreme masculinity

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/12/challenge-extreme-masculinity-harvey-weinstein-degrading-women

Too many men seem aroused by their ability to inflict pain and humiliation on women. But now their victims are being listened to

Thursday 12 October 2017

This past week was not a good week for women. In the United States, it was reported that a man who allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl was granted joint custody of the resultant eight-year-old boy being raised by his young mother.

Earlier in the week, the severed head and legs of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who disappeared after entering inventor Peter Madsen’s submarine, were discovered near Copenhagen. A hard drive belonging to Madsen, Danish police said, was loaded with videos showing women being decapitated alive.

A Swedish model received rape threats for posing in an Adidas advertisement with unshaven legs. The University of Southern California’s dean of medicine was dumped after reports resurfaced that he had sexually harrassed a young medical researcher in 2003. A number of men at liberal publications were revealed to have contacted Milo Yiannopoulos, urging him to attack women – “Please mock this fat feminist,” wrote a senior male staff writer at Vice’s women’s channel, since fired. And, of course, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was described by the New York Times as a serial sexual harasser; his alleged offences, according to a TV journalist, including trapping her in a hallway, where he masturbated until he ejaculated into a potted plant.

This week, the New Yorker ran a follow-up story by Ronan Farrow (the biological son of Woody Allen, who has repudiated his father for his treatment of his sisters), expanding the charges women have made against Weinstein to include sexual assault. He quotes one young woman who said “he forced me to perform oral sex on him” after she showed up for a meeting. She added, “I have nightmares about him to this day.” Weinstein denies any non-consensual sex.

Saturday 7 October was the first anniversary of the release of the tape in which the United States president boasted about sexually assaulting women; 11 women then came forward to accuse Donald Trump. And last week began with the biggest mass shooting in modern US history, carried out by a man reported to have routinely verbally abused his girlfriend: domestic violence is common in the past of mass shooters.

Underlying all these attacks is a lack of empathy, a will to dominate, and an entitlement to control, harm and even take the lives of others. Though there is a good argument that mental illness is not a sufficient explanation – and most mentally ill people are nonviolent – mass shooters and rapists seem to have a lack of empathy so extreme it constitutes a psychological disorder. At this point in history, it seems to be not just a defect from birth, but a characteristic many men are instilled with by the culture around them. It seems to be the precondition for causing horrific suffering and taking pleasure in it as a sign of one’s own power and superiority, in regarding others as worthless, as yours to harm or eliminate.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/12/challenge-extreme-masculinity-harvey-weinstein-degrading-women

Jeff Sessions wants to crack down on legal weed — will Congress let him?

From Salon:  https://www.salon.com/2017/12/08/jeff-sessions-wants-to-crack-down-on-legal-weed-will-congress-let-him/

Limits on federal pot prosecution just got a brief extension, but medical marijuana may still be at risk

Amanda Marcotte 12.08.2017

UPDATE: Congress gave the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment a temporary reprieve after this piece was originally published, extending protections until Dec. 22. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., responded by saying, "[T]wo weeks is not enough certainty," and adding, "Congress must act to put an end to the cycle of uncertainty and permanently protect state medical marijuana programs — and adult use — from federal interference."
In all the budget and tax negotiations frantically being hammered out on Capitol Hill, one small amendment that might get lost in the shuffle could have huge ramifications. The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment was originally set to expire on Friday (see update above), which would open the door for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do what he's been hinting he wants to: Launch a federal war on states that have partly or completely legalized marijuana use.
The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, originally passed as the the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment in 2014, bars the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute people buying or selling medical marijuana in states that have legalized it. It's a popular bipartisan amendment that protects 46 states, but there have been concerns about whether it will be renewed after Sessions exerted pressure in May on Congress to let the amendment die.
Sessions argued that the DOJ's hands need to be untied when it comes to prosecuting marijuana dispensaries, "particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime." There is, of course, no evidence that marijuana use is contributing to the opioid crisis and, in fact, there's a significant link between legalized medical marijuana and a decrease in opioid overdoses.

The amendment survived, despite Sessions' pressure, through a couple rounds of budget debate in Congress this year, but as Ames Grawert of the Brennan Center for Justice told Salon, "Every time, there’s sort of a dance around whether it will actually get cut this time or not." It’s reasonable to be at least "a little concerned," Grawert said, that Sessions' pressure will eventually convince congressional Republicans to dump the amendment. 
This will-they-or-won't-they game is why Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, and a bipartisan group of 24 other lawmakers have introduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017, which would prevent the federal government from prosecuting any marijuana users, growers or distributors who are in compliance with state laws.
“You have booming economies in several states, some of whom allow the recreational use of marijuana but many also just for medical purposes, and no real data linking that to a public safety problem," Grawert said, noting that the Brennan Center objects to using federal resources to prosecute people or break up thriving economies without any data to show that doing so would improve public safety.
In March, Sessions argued that marijuana use is "only slightly less awful" than heroin addiction, making it clear that his priority was to aggressively prosecute marijuana users and distributors. He's been stymied by both the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment and a memo issued by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole that discouraged the Justice Department from prosecuting people who were following state-level marijuana laws. The obvious concern here, however, is that Sessions would seize upon the first political opening available to reinvigorate the federal war on pot.

Continue reading at:  https://www.salon.com/2017/12/08/jeff-sessions-wants-to-crack-down-on-legal-weed-will-congress-let-him/

Capitalism Is Not the Only Choice

From Yes Magazine:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/solidarity/capitalism-is-not-the-only-choice-20171114

We have opportunities every day to build economies that lift each other up and spread joy.

Nov 14, 2017

Since the breakup of the Soviet bloc and China’s turn toward free markets, many economists have pronounced an “end of history,” where capitalism reigns supreme as the ultimate form of economy. Perhaps “there is no alternative” to a globalized neoliberal economy, as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher often said. Indeed, free markets in which individuals compete to get what they can while they can are glorified in popular culture through reality shows such as Shark Tank.

But many of us in the 99 percent are not feeling so happy or secure about this economy’s results. Many are working harder and longer just to maintain housing and keep food on the table. Even the college-educated are mired in student debt, keeping the American Dream beyond their grasp. And then there are those who have never been served well by this economy. African Americans were liberated from enslavement only to be largely shut out of “free” market opportunities. Immigrants continue to work in the shadows. Women still earn only about three-quarters of what men make for the same work.

So, are we trapped in capitalism? While many of us may want a new economy where people and planet are prioritized over profit, we remain skeptical that another world is really possible. We make some progress locally but then feel powerless to affect national and global forces. Too often “the economy” is equated with markets where corporations compete to make profits for the wealthiest 1 percent and the rest work for a wage or salary (or don’t make money at all). Work itself is seen as legitimate only if it legally generates income. Value is measured only in money terms, based on what people are willing to pay in the market. The capitalist mindset also separates economy from society and nature, as if it exists apart from people, communities, government, and our planet. Economy is its own machine, fueled by profit and competition.

When everything that we label “economic” is assumed to be capitalist—transactional and market-driven—then it is no wonder that we run short on imagination.

Redefining economy beyond capitalism

To escape this “capitalocentrism,” we need to broaden the definition of economy beyond capitalism. What if, instead, economy is all the ways that we meet our material needs and care for each other? And what if it’s not a singular thing? Then we would see that beneath the official capitalist economy are all sorts of thriving non-capitalist economies, where there may not be a profit motive or market exchange. They include tasks that we do every day. We care for our children and elderly; we cook and clean for ourselves and each other; we grow food; we provide emotional support to friends. These are all ways of meeting our material needs and caring for each other.

Continue reading at:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/solidarity/capitalism-is-not-the-only-choice-20171114