Truthout Stories Sun, 01 Mar 2015 22:29:28 -0500 en-gb In Anti-Discrimination Suit, Haiping Su Took on Big Government and Won

Dr. Haiping Su was a victim of racial profiling and he sued the United States government and NASA for smearing his reputation, invading his privacy, depriving him of realizing his full career potential and causing him emotional stress and mental anguish. He sued to clear his name and asked for $5.2 million in damages.

Six years later, after various delays, legal maneuvers and challenges, the judge heard the arguments and ruled in favor of the plaintiff, namely Dr. Su, and against the defendant, in this rare case the U.S. government. As compensation for damages, Su was awarded $10,000.

The lesson of Su’s experience with American justice has implications for all Chinese Americans working in technical disciplines in the United States and is worthy of more detailed examination.

In June 2008, Su was abruptly escorted off the premises of Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California and his access badge taken from him. The only explanation given to him was that he had somehow become a security risk to NASA.

At the time, he had been working for about three years as a staff member of University Affiliated Research Center, operated by UC Santa Cruz under contract to NASA. He had come to the United States from China in 1986, earned his PhD in agriculture science from Kansas State five years later and became a U.S. citizen. His work for NASA related to his technical expertise. The work was non-classified.

Approximately a month after getting his new identification badge to Ames in January 2008, the FBI asked to interview him for a “background check.” The FBI did not approach any other member of his work group for a similar sort of background interview.

There was a second interview in March at the end of which he was told that he needed to take a lie detector test. Afterwards, the FBI agent told him that he “did not do well” on the polygraph test but did not otherwise explain why Su was being investigated.

Early in April, Su was grilled by four people representing FBI and NASA security to “clarify issues raised by the polygraph.” Then on June 24, Su was handed a letter signed by Robert Dolci, head of security at Ames, stating that his continued presence constituted a security risk and he was escorted off the premises.

Dolci then called a meeting of Su’s coworkers and to their surprise, informed them that Su constituted a security risk. Some of his coworkers later testified that Dolci implied that Su was removed from NASA Ames because he took money from a foreign government.

Early in July, Su’s supervisor at UCSC issued a letter of dismissal because he had allegedly failed the lie detector test. Fortunately for Su, his supervisor compared the flimsy accusations against Su’s exemplary work record and decided to rescind his letter of dismissal. He simply asked Su to telecommute and continue working from his home.

Su was understandably distraught by the treatment he received. He contacted me and his story was still fresh in my mind when I happened to attend a recent Silicon Valley dinner meeting for technical professionals. Jim McManis, partner in charge at McManis Faulkner, a prominent law firm in San Jose, was the speaker and he spoke about fair employment practices.

I was impressed by his forthrightness and his attitude about the importance of being fair, so I related Su’s story to him. McManis was appalled and invited Su to contact him. His willingness to take up Su’s case without fee made the historic lawsuit possible.

McManis’ firm filed the complaint on behalf of Su against NASA and the FBI on the grounds that Su was not involved in classified work, had no criminal history, was never told of the charges against him nor given a chance to defend himself, and lastly was not told of his right to appeal.

The complaint further charged that NASA, in handling this case, did not follow their own internal procedure and policy and thus deprived Su of due process, ruined his reputation and caused undue hardship and mental anguish.

In the court hearing, testimony by Su and his wife indicated that he had suffered greatly from this experience. His wife testified that Su had undergone a personality change from outgoing to reclusive, from engaging to distrustful of people, and suffered from frequent bouts of depression.

The trial judge acknowledged that Dolci invaded Su’s privacy but he was unable to accurately assess damages done to Su, because Su continued to be employed. In the end, the judge found for Su a sum of $10,000 as compensation for damages he suffered.

After the judge rendered his verdict, I asked Su if he felt vindicated and if he had any regrets. He said that even though it became a six-year nightmare and he had to pay a personal price suffering from insomnia and hypertension, he would do it again.

He was convinced that the only way to stop racism was to stand up and object. He didn’t fight just for himself, he said, but also for all Chinese Americans working in the U.S.

The Wen Ho Lee case at the turn of the century was perhaps the most notorious, but racial prejudice since then against professional Chinese Americans working in technical disciplines has not subsided.

Chinese Americans have continued to be accused, harassed, and thrown out of work. Subjected to personal ordeal, including sitting in jail without bail, the victims frequently find the government accusers lose interest and drop all charges—not before, of course, having inflicted financial devastation and character destruction on their hapless victims.

Su’s case is exemplary only in that the culprit – the government in this case – did not get away with discriminatory actions and that Su was willing to take on the legal challenge, despite the personal cost.

Opinion Sun, 01 Mar 2015 11:55:28 -0500
"A Red Letter Day" at the FCC: Net Neutrality Wins

There was snow in Washington, DC, Thursday morning, which always throws the federal capital into tailspins. So the marching band that the media reform group Free Press had hired to throw a parade for Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler canceled, the wimps. Nevertheless, a small, hearty group of activists braved the flurries and slippery streets to gather outside the FCC before the day’s historic meeting. They were there to thank Wheeler and celebrate the imminent passage of new rules to protect Net neutrality and preserve a free and open Internet.

“You did this,” Free Press President Craig Aaron told the gathering, as they held up signs and stamped their feet against the cold. “This is your victory, we did it together. Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we defend this win in Congress, in the courts and in the streets.”

Another speaker exclaimed, “It’s snowing and we’re winning Net neutrality,” as former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, now an adviser to Common Cause, joked, “This is democracy as pure as the driven snow. Who says people power can’t work?” He added, “Don’t be surprised if this isn’t in court by nightfall, but the decision will stand.”

To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

Others anticipated extended saber rattling among members of Congress opposed to Net neutrality, with some worried about a possible conservative attempt to punish the FCC by interfering with its budget. On Thursday, it was announced that Chairman Wheeler and the four other commissioners, Democrats and Republicans, will testify at a March 18 oversight hearing called by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune to “allow me and my colleagues to directly question the chairman about the overreaching broadband order.”

But the official decision hadn’t actually been made yet. The FCC meeting did not begin until 10:30 a.m., delayed by the weather. The room was packed; unusual, if not unprecedented for an open commission meeting. The Democratic commissioners arrived first, and then something even more unusual and unprecedented occurred: a sustained, standing ovation as Wheeler took his seat.

Almost the first hour was spent on another decision, preempting state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee and allowing two community broadband providers to expand service. This move by the FCC, another decisive step toward making the Internet more accessible, teed up what was to come next.

Before each commissioner explained how he or she would vote, one last, brief panel told those assembled why Net neutrality was so important. Speakers included Chad Dickerson, CEO of the handicrafts website Etsy; and Veena Sud, writer and executive producer of the TV series The Killing (she explained how an open Internet had saved her series twice: once when fan demand over the web kept the show going; the second time when its final season was bankrolled and distributed by Netflix). Also appearing — via shaky video from Britain — Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, who declared that the new Net neutrality rules would preserve, “the ethos of permissionless innovation.”

Then came Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn – “We are here to ensure there is only one Internet,” she said. “…We want to enable those with deep pockets as well as those with empty pockets the same opportunities.” She thanked the American people “for your amazing role in framing this historic order… Today, because of your efforts, we are better able to allow millions of Americans to tell their stories.”

Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, “We have … a duty to protect what has made the Internet the most dynamic platform for free speech ever invented. It is our printing press. It is our town square. It is our individual soapbox – and our shared platform for opportunity.”

The two Republican commissioners dissented, at length. Ajit Pai claimed, “If this order manages to survive judicial review, these will be the consequences: higher broadband prices, slower broadband speed, less broadband deployment, less innovation, and fewer options for American consumers.” And Michael O’Rielly said that in the new rules, “every bad idea ever floated in the name of Net neutrality has come home to roost” and decried “substantial factual errors underlying the decision.”

Finally, it was Chairman Wheeler’s turn. Just weeks ago, he had been accused of vacillation and undermining Net neutrality with a plethora of ifs and buts that would diminish its effectiveness. But on Thursday he appeared resolute. “This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate freedom of speech,” he declared, and added, “This is the FCC using every tool in our toolbox to protect innovators and consumers.”

Wheeler declared it a “red letter day” and took the vote. As the clock struck 1 p.m. Thursday, he banged down the gavel and another standing ovation erupted as he announced passage of the new rules. At a press conference just minutes later, Wheeler announced, “This is the proudest day of my public policy life.”

You can read here the official FCC press release and the statements of each of the five commissioners.

News Sun, 01 Mar 2015 11:25:17 -0500
Dying on the Digital Streets: The Tech Addiction of Our Children

“You gave away his Xbox?” With a look of terror, my 11-year-old son’s friend was desperately hoping this news was not true. “Yes, I did, and if he was given another one, I’d give that away too.”  Since my son was born, I have been living in fear of the impending threat of digital games, phones, pads, pods, chats, tweets, tubes and teeth. This hilariously serious conversation came flooding into my mind when I heard the most recent case of Tech Addiction - (my new name for child addicts dying on the digital streets) - the murder of an entire family by 16-year-old Jason Hendrix of Corbin, Kentucky.

Like the fostering of any new addiction, it always begins with the ready supply of the substance to the potential user and the easy access  to the substance dealer. To lock in and broaden the potential reach and success of the substance, it must receive complicit or explicit societal support, such as the coming of age alcohol-induced parties and celebrations practiced across Mama Earth by so many of us colonized peoples, normalizing the man's poison, aka alcohol, for all of our young people.

For the first two years of my son’s life, my family was in deep poverty and struggle. Me, juggling the extensive care for my mama, who was very sick, as well as the always hard care of my then infant child. I was unable to work and therefore unable to afford child care and rent - much less food and diapers. It was at this time in the middle of so much struggle that I launched Mamahouse - a collective home for poor single mamas like myself - so we could support each other with child care and shared resources and support, the one thing so many of us single parents lack. It got me out of homelessness and was beautiful in all the ways of interdependence, sharing and collective work that it should have been, except for one thing. I was now in the position of saying no to my 2-year-old son, who was already being offered a video game to play, a computer to play on, and a phone to “use.”  

I said no many times, even in the face of so many introductions to the digital streets. "You will be forced to come around someday," my co-madres all warned me, shaking their heads. "Just wait and see."

Now, don’t get it twisted. I am not a hippie mama with back to nature privilege and no phones, TVs or computers in the house. I am a concrete jungle survivor who barely made it out of a life of poverty and houselessness. I was raised by a poor single Afro-Puerta Rican mama who had  followed the Bernie Mac school of child raising and was still slapping me upside the head til the day she transitioned if I “did something wrong.” But I knew the terrifying way Facebook had so easily become “face-crak” to my already-formed brain, and therefore knew in my deepest heart that these digital streets were no place for a child, much less a young person’s un-hardened skull open to all the force a satellite transmission ever needs.

From the video game themes, ranging from fetishized gendered characters like movie star planet that helps young girls and boys be rich and famous so they can spend thousands of “fake” dollars buying inappropriate clothes and things, to Grand Theft Auto, that promotes young men and women hurting, stealing, killing or cheating each other in some criminalized image of “pseudo-gangster” (read cool Black, Brown and working-class youth) all created/designed by 20-something mostly white, middle-class tech designers who were raised in the suburbs of Amerikkka. Or military-industrial complex video sponsored killing games like Halo, Dark Souls or Dead Rising, where you can be the shooters, snipers, killers or zombie killers in the omnipresent zombie apocalypse we all have been waiting for.

And then the endless chatting, texting, tweeting, role-playing and tagging. Between all this simulated life who has time for real life?  especially real, boring, hard-working, not-really-that-exciting life.

And although I think it is actually urgent for us to completely move off the killer digital streets, or at least severely limit our use, if for nothing else to stop the never ending hunger for more and more of Mama Earth's finite energy, the reality is that the internet is a powerful research tool and there are thousands of great math, science, art, media and music sites that can be used for learning and teaching, talking and communicating.

And yes, as a poor single mama, I have needed a “break” raising my energetic son multiple times, just like the next in-struggle mama. When we were in our deepest financial stress, I went through elaborate schemes to prop my son up in front of a cartoon show that I thought was age-appropriate so I could get some work done, help my mama, or just rest. I can’t always be there to entertain this goofy child who is endlessly wanting my attention. But books and art and drawing and sports are real too. And so I would limit the TV and cartoons and the movies to a minimum of one night a week. And I begged, borrowed and stole for endless paper and art supplies and went to the library a lot.

And no matter how tired or depressed I was, I would read to him and tell him bedtime stories when I didn’t have to work at night. And most importantly, I began teaching him very early on that if he ever wanted to play a “video” game he would have to learn to make one. I taught him the little I knew about the “code source” - the root, back-end of every website and video game and digital application from Twitter to Face-crak. And perhaps most important of all, I taught him to be conscious. I explained to him in detail who owned most of the games and phones he and his friends desired so much, how the Zuckerbergs of the world made millions of billions of dollars off him and his friends every time he would click, chat, drag, text or tweet, only to flood our no longer affordable city with more 20-something over-paid employees riding in private buses. The same 20- and 30-something people who would rather my son and his poor, working class Black and Brown friends and their families were no longer living in Gentrification City, USA. Yes, I made the connection between video games, tweeting, Face-craking, i-phoning and gentrification and the direct impact it all had on our lives.

The final tragic irony was both Mamahouses were ended by greedy, gentryFUKing landlords, burning us out in MamaHouse 1, and raising our rent by $700.00 in one month in MamaHouse 2, scattering all of us formally houseless mamas into houselessness, again, gentrified out of our working class neighborhoods of color forever by the same forces, industries and tax breaks who were supplying our children with so much digital distraction. 

Then, in the last three months, dozens of different mamas and aunties have come to me with stories of 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16-year-old children screaming, destroying things, and/or becoming dangerously violent against their own families when their technology was taken away, limited or withheld. And then the story of Jason Hendrix, 16, of Corbin, Kentucky, who killed his parents, and his sister Grace Hendrix, execution-style in their home, police believe, after his computer privileges were taken away.

In our own Deecolonize Academy - a revolutionary indigenous -run/poor people-led, arts - based school at POOR Magazine and Homefulness, we have addicted children who don’t sleep all night because they proudly announce, “ I’m a gamer, yo.”  We have a no-technology rule at school, but sometimes they are so tired they can barely get through a school day.  We are hoping to break this addiction next semester when we ask them to lead a WeSearch investigation on the radiation, racist and classist stereotypes and military industrial complex lies funneling into their young heads from the devices. Not to mention their current investigations into gentrification and climate change, both side effects of these extremely wealthy tech dealers who ride private buses and never get arrested for their drug pushing into our children’s minds.

So this is my point fellow mamas and uncles and grammas and dads: You aren’t being mean 'cause you make your child read a paper book, or go outside and play with a ball or have them sit in a car and look out the window without something in their head, hand, ear or eyes, endlessly distracting them, exciting them, stimulating them. This is called Life, and its not always that fun, and there are real tangible ways to interact and get along and learn and be in the world that has NOTHNG to do with digital interaction.

You aren’t being mean if you just say no to a phone at 10 or a computer at 12 or an iPad or tablet at 5. It's not necessary. Your children will live, and guess what: They will thrive and not be in any creeping danger of never spoken of but very real, brain tumors, early cataracts, glaucoma or thyroid cancers caused by phones, pads, wifi signals or computer blue screens. And if they challenge you, "Well you use the phone, ipad and computer," remember who the parent is and say, "That's right, I do, and I'm an adult and you are not, and you have no business comparing yourself to me" (followed up by other issues like who pays the bills, rent, food, clothes, etc if you even entertain their "challenge" this long).

Actually, with this "no," you will be saving your child from the increasing robotization and corporate theft of our bodies, minds, souls and neighborhoods, and your children will be the few among us actually awake and aware enough to help heal this very tortured mama earth, help their lost, evicted and zombified friends and families and as an extra added bonus they will be ready for the real zombie apocalypse when it arrives.

Opinion Sun, 01 Mar 2015 10:58:29 -0500
Bigger Than Science, Bigger Than Religion

Planet Earth(Image: Planet Earth via Shutterstock)We're closer to environmental disaster than ever before. We need a new story for our relationship with the Earth, one that goes beyond science and religion.

The world as we know it is slipping away. At the current rate of destruction, tropical rainforest could be gone within as little as 40 years. The seas are being overfished to the point of exhaustion, and coral reefs are dying from ocean acidification. Biologists say that we are currently at the start of the largest mass extinction event since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. As greenhouse gases increasingly accumulate in the atmosphere, temperatures are likely to rise faster than our current ecological and agricultural systems can adapt.

It is no secret that the Earth is in trouble and that we humans are to blame. Just knowing these grim facts, however, won’t get us very far. We have to transform this knowledge into a deep passion to change course. But passion does not come primarily from the head; it is a product of the heart. And the heart is not aroused by the bare facts alone. It needs stories that weave those facts into a moving and meaningful narrative.

We need a powerful new story that we are a part of nature and not separate from it. We need a story that properly situates humans in the world—neither above it by virtue of our superior intellect, nor dwarfed by the universe into cosmic insignificance. We are equal partners with all that exists, co-creators with trees and galaxies and the microorganisms in our own gut, in a materially and spiritually evolving universe.

This was the breathtaking vision of the late Father Thomas Berry. Berry taught that humanity is presently at a critical decision point. Either we develop a more heart-full relationship with the Earth that sustains us, or we destroy ourselves and life on the planet. I interviewed the white-maned theologian (he preferred the term “geologian,” by which he meant “student of the Earth”) in 1997 at the Riverdale Center of Religious Research on the Hudson River north of New York City. Berry spoke slowly and with the hint of a southern drawl, revealing his North Carolina upbringing.

“I say that my generation has been autistic,” he told me. “An autistic child is locked into themselves, they cannot get out and the outer world cannot get in. They cannot receive affection, cannot give affection. And this is, I think, a very appropriate way of identifying this generation in its relationship to the natural world.

“We have no feeling for the natural world. We’d as soon cut down our most beautiful tree, the most beautiful forest in the world. We cut it down for what? For timber, for board feet. We don’t see the tree, we only see it in terms of its commercial value.”

It is no accident that we have come to our current crisis, according to Berry. Rather, it is the natural consequence of certain core cultural beliefs that comprise what Berry called “the Old Story.” At the heart of the Old Story is the idea that we humans are set apart from nature and here to conquer it. Berry cited the teaching in Genesis that humans should “subdue the Earth … and have dominion over every living thing.”

But if religion provided the outline for the story, science wrote it large—developing a mind-boggling mastery of the natural world. Indeed, science over time became the new religion, said Berry, an idolatrous worship of our own human prowess. Like true believers, many today are convinced that, however bad things might seem, science and technology will eventually solve all of our problems and fulfill all of our needs.

Berry acknowledged that this naive belief in science served a useful purpose during the formative era when we were still building the modern world and becoming aware of our immense power to transform things.

Like adolescents staking out their own place in the world, we asserted our independence from nature and the greater family of life. But over time, this self-assertion became unbalanced, pushing the Earth to the brink of environmental cataclysm. The time has come to leave this adolescent stage behind, said Berry, and develop a new, mature relationship with the Earth and its inhabitants.

We’ll need to approach this crucial transition on many different fronts. Scientific research has too frequently become the willing handmaiden of what Berry called “the extractive economy,” an economic system that treats our fellow creatures as objects to be exploited rather than as living beings with their own awareness and rights. Moreover, technology, in Berry’s view, potentially separates us from intimacy with life. We flee into “cyberspace”— spending more time on smart phones, iPods, and video games than communing with the real world.

Science and technology are not the problem. Our misuse of them is. Berry said that science needs to acknowledge that the universe is not a random assemblage of dead matter and empty space, but is alive, intelligent, and continually evolving. And it needs to recognize that not only is the world alive, it is alive in us. “We bear the universe in our beings,” Berry reflected, “as the universe bears us in its being.” In Berry’s view, our human lives are no accident. We are the eyes, the minds, and the hearts that the cosmos is evolving so that it can come to know itself ever more perfectly through us.

It’s a view that has been winning some surprising adherents. Several years ago, I had dinner with Edgar Mitchell, one of only a dozen humans who have walked upon the lunar surface. Mitchell, the descendant of New Mexico pioneers and an aeronautical engineer by training, spoke precisely and almost clinically—until he related an experience that happened on his way back to Earth during the Apollo 14 mission. At that point, his voice brightened with awe.

“I was gazing out of the window, at the Earth, moon, sun, and star-studded blackness of space in turn as our capsule slowly rotated,” he said. “Gradually, I was flooded with the ecstatic awareness that I was a part of what I was observing. Every molecule in my body was birthed in a star hanging in space. I became aware that everything that exists is part of one intricately interconnected whole.”

The Overview Effect

In a recent phone chat, Mitchell called this realization “the Overview Effect,” and he said that virtually all of the moon astronauts experienced it during their flights. In his case, it changed the direction of his life: “I realized that the story of ourselves as told by our scientific cosmology and our religion was incomplete and likely flawed. I saw that the Newtonian idea of separate, independent, discrete things in the universe wasn’t a fully accurate description.”

In pursuit of a holistic understanding, Mitchell founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) to explore the nature of human consciousness. The question of consciousness might seem remote from issues like climate change. But it is central to the question of how we treat the world. At the core of our abuse of nature is the belief that we humans are essentially islands unto ourselves, alienated from the world beyond our skins. A little god locked within the gated community of his or her own skull won’t feel much responsibility for what goes on outside.

“The classical scientific approach says that observation and consciousness are completely independent of the way the world works,” IONS Chief Scientist Dean Radin told me. But physics has known for decades that mind and matter are not as separable as we once supposed. Radin cites as an example Heisenberg’s discovery that the act of observation changes the phenomenon that is being observed.

Moreover, quantum physics has shown that subatomic particles that are separated in space are nevertheless responsive to one another in ways that are not yet fully understood. We are discovering that there is “some underlying form of connection in which literally everything is connected to everything else all of the time,” asserts Radin. “The universe is less a collection of objects than a web of interrelationships.”

As we come to grasp how inextricably embedded in this vast web of cosmic life we are, Radin hopes that humans will be persuaded to move beyond the idea of ourselves as masters and the world as slave to embrace an equal and mutually beneficial partnership.

Another prophet of a new scientific paradigm is renowned Harvard biologist Edward (E.O.) Wilson. Wilson is best known for his biophilia hypothesis, which says there is an instinctive emotional bond between humans and other life forms. Evolution has fostered in us the drive to love and care for other living beings, Wilson says, as a way to promote the survival not just of our own kind but of life as a whole.

Darwin’s theory of natural selection is invoked to argue that we humans are conditioned by nature to struggle tooth and nail for access to limited resources. But Wilson contends that evolution does not just promote violent competition but also favors the development of compassion and cooperation—traits that serve the interests of the group as a whole.

He calls this radical new idea “group selection.” Groups of altruistically inclined individuals have an evolutionary advantage over groups that are composed of members pursuing only their own survival needs. This collective advantage, he argues, has helped to promote powerful social bonds and cooperative behaviors in species as diverse as ants, geese, elk, and human beings.

In championing the evolutionary importance of love and cooperation in the flourishing of life, Wilson is not just revolutionizing biology. He is also venturing into territory usually occupied by religion. But, like Berry, Wilson argues that we need a story that cuts across traditional boundaries between fields to present a new, integral vision. “Science and religion are two of the most potent forces on Earth,” Wilson asserts, “and they should come together to save the Creation.”

A thousand-year worldview

At its heart, the new story that Wilson and Berry advocate is actually a very old one. Indigenous spiritual traditions taught that all beings are our relatives long before the science of ecology “discovered” the seamless web of life that binds humans to other creatures. “The world is alive, everything has spirit, has standing, has the right to be recognized,” proclaims Anishinaabe activist and former Green Party candidate for vice president Winona LaDuke.

“One of our fundamental teachings is that in all our actions we consider the impact it will have on seven generations,” LaDuke told an audience at the University of Ottawa in 2012. “Think about what it would mean to have a worldview that could last a thousand years, instead of the current corporate mindset that can’t see beyond the next quarterly earnings statement.”

When LaDuke speaks of Native values, people sometimes ask her what relevance these have for us today. She answers that the respect for the sacredness of nature that inspired people to live in harmony with their environment for millennia is not a relic of the past. It is a roadmap for living lightly on the Earth that we desperately need in a time of climate change.

This ethic has spread beyond the reservation into religiously inspired communities, like Genesis Farm, founded by the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, New Jersey. Set on ancestral Lenape lands amidst wooded hills and wetlands and within view of the Delaware Water Gap, Genesis has served for the last quarter century as an environmental learning center and working biodynamic farm grounded in Berry’s vision.

I spoke to the community’s founder Sister Miriam MacGillis, a friend and student of Berry, in a room studded with satellite images of the farm and its bioregion. MacGillis told me that she underwent decades of struggle trying to reconcile Berry’s 13-billion-year vision of an evolutionary cosmos with the ultimately incompatible biblical teachings that “creation is finished: Humans were made, history began, there was the fall, and history will end with the apocalypse.” She says, “The pictures I had of God were too small, too parochial, too much a reflection of the ways humans think. We made God in our image!”

Taking the long view fundamentally transforms the basis for environmental action, says MacGillis: “We need to realize that we are the universe in the form of the human. We are not just on Earth to do good ecological things. That is where the religious perspective takes us with the stewardship model—take care of it; it’s holy because God made it. That hasn’t worked real well … The idea of stewardship is too small, it’s too human-centered, like we can do that. It’s really the opposite. Earth is taking total care of us.”

Genesis Farm has propagated these ideas through its Earth Literacy training, which has now spread to many places throughout the world. Their work is a small part of a larger greening of religion, says Yale religious scholar Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-creator with Brian Swimme of Journey of the Universe, an exhilarating trek through time and space portraying an evolutionary universe.

Tucker expects that the upcoming encyclical on climate change and the environment that Pope Francis will issue in early 2015 will be “a game changer” for Catholics. She adds that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has also been outspoken, labeling crimes against the natural world “a sin.” The Dalai Lama, for his part, has been speaking about the importance of safeguarding the environment based on Buddhism’s sense of the profound interdependence of all life. China has recently enshrined in its constitution the need for a new ecological civilization rooted in Confucian values, which preach the harmony between humans, Earth, and Heaven.

“All civilizations have drawn on the wisdom traditions that have gotten people through death, tragedy, destruction, immense despair,” says Tucker, adding that we are currently in a perilous rite of passage. “We will need all of the world’s religions to help as well as a shared sense of an evolutionary story to get us through this.”

Opinion Sun, 01 Mar 2015 10:34:25 -0500
Jury Awards Guestworkers Over $14 Million in Landmark Human Trafficking, Forced Labor Case

Indian workers demonstrate on June 11, 2008, after being lied to about the status of their visas and forced to work in deplorable conditions by Signal International.Indian workers demonstrate on June 11, 2008, after being lied to about the status of their visas and forced to work in deplorable conditions by Signal International. (Image: barbndc)

New Orleans - Earlier this month, a jury awarded over $14 million in damages to the plaintiffs of David v. Signal International, the first of a series of lawsuits that together constitute one of the largest human trafficking and forced labor cases in U.S. history. After more than four weeks of testimony and several days of deliberations, the jury found that marine construction company Signal International and its agents engaged in human trafficking, forced labor and racketeering, among other violations.

It is “an historic verdict,” said Alan Howard, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, “finding damages against every defendant on every single claim that we brought, and finding punitive damages against every defendant for every claim for which we were entitled to ask for punitive damages.” Signal must pay over $12 million to the five plaintiffs, while the company’s recruiter and its immigration lawyer must pay over $900,000 each.

The original suit, filed on behalf of almost 600 Indian welders and pipefitters, alleged that the workers had been lured to the United States with false promises of green cards, which enable permanent residency. They paid $11,000-25,000 in recruiting fees for the opportunity, the complaint said, selling property, pawning jewelry, and taking out high-interest loans to finance the fees. The suit was brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization, which enlisted the cooperation of several top law firms to litigate multiple cases pro bono after the original was not certified as a class action.

While the workers believed they were paying to immigrate permanently, they actually came to the US on visas for temporary work. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Gulf Coast company Signal International brought in the skilled welders and pipefitters from India through the H-2B federal guestworker program. Under the terms of the program, H-2B visa holders can work only for the company that sponsors them; it is meant to help U.S. companies fill seasonal or temporary labor shortages. Signal said it could not find enough skilled workers domestically after the devastation and displacement of Hurricane Katrina, so in 2006 the company contracted with a network of recruiters and labor brokers to bring the Indian workers on H-2B visas to its worksites in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Orange, Texas.

When the workers arrived, they were unpleasantly surprised to discover their accommodations: “man camps,” as they were referred to throughout the trial, where they were housed in trailers with 24 men and just two toilets each. They complained of unsanitary conditions, lack of privacy, and constant noise from proximity to the worksites, which operated day and night.

A man camp manager wrote in his private journal, “Our Indians have been dropping with sickness like flies. … Water has leaked everywhere and stagnated as a result, which serves as a bacterial breeding ground.” The Pascagoula facility had been built over a lead contamination site that Signal says was safe.

The men paid $35 a day—over $1,000 a month—for room and board. Signal says it did everything it could to make them feel at home, including hiring an Indian caterer to cook them three meals a day, adding a prayer room and a quiet room to the camps, and providing a bus to take them to Walmart and church. The camps were under guard 24 hours a day, which the company says was intended to protect workers’ belongings.

The plaintiffs, however, say they were the ones being monitored and that the guards conducted surprise searches of their belongings. Perhaps more rankling, they were at first not allowed to find their own accommodations—and when Signal did eventually relent on this point, it said the $35-a-day fee would be deducted from their paychecks whether they lived in the man camps or not.

While Signal was clearly responsible for the conditions of the camps, what is less clear is who was responsible for the false promises and deep debt the jury ultimately decided constituted forced labor and human trafficking.

The original suit, which was filed as a class action on behalf of hundreds of workers, named six defendants: Signal, a U.S. recruiter, an Indian recruiter, an immigration lawyer, and two labor brokers. When a judge denied class action certification, the suit was broken up into 12 separate lawsuits; this one, the first to be heard, ended up with only five plaintiffs and three defendants.

Nevertheless, the number of middlemen and the complexity of the connections between them illustrates the opacity of labor recruiting for the H-2B and other guestworker programs—and the diffusion of responsibility that comes from long labor supply chains.

All of the defendants painted themselves as innocent victims of their codefendants’ deception. Signal even filed cross claims against the other defendants. The jury did not find those defendants liable for the only cross claim to make it to the end of the trial, an indemnity claim that would have made them responsible for Signal’s losses.

Signal’s strongest claim to innocence may be that its codefendants advertised green cards and started collecting payments for them long before Signal was looking for foreign workers—as far back as 2003, before Katrina even hit. Much of the case pivoted on whether and when the company knew that the H-2B workers had been told Signal would sponsor them for green cards.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs, however, had clearly identified Signal as their chief target. While they sought compensatory damages against all defendants, they sought punitive damages only against Signal. (The jury awarded punitive damages against all defendants.) In closing arguments, Howard stressed the egregiousness of the false promise of green cards, which he called “the big scam.”

“So at the end of the day, you might actually decide,” he said of the other defendants, “…maybe they’re not responsible for the promises. But no matter what, Signal is. Signal authorized the promises, they benefited from it, they knew what they were doing.”

And while trafficking, forced labor, racketeering and fraud claims were brought against all defendants, Signal alone was sued for discrimination, unlawful retaliation, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Just one of the five plaintiffs, Jacob Joseph Kaddakkarappally (or “Mr. Jacob,” as he was known throughout the trial), brought the last three claims. Those claims pertain to the fateful day of March 9, 2007. An attendee of a nearby church he attended had put Mr. Jacob in touch with local organizers about the problems the Indian workers experienced in the man camps. The organizers contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center, which sent a letter to Signal asking to have a discussion about the workers’ conditions.

An internally circulated email concerning the letter from Signal’s senior vice president read, “The next time some disgruntled employee barks, they’ll think twice about wasting their time again. Before the weekend is over, the Indians will know we’re not afraid to fight and so should their liberal lawyers.”

Indeed, before the weekend was over, in the dawn hours of March 9, Signal seized the men it suspected of organizing, locked them in a trailer under guard, terminated their employment and told them they would be deported. One man was so distraught he attempted suicide and had to be taken to the hospital while Mr. Jacob, who had seen him “bleeding profusely” after the attempt, remained locked in the trailer.

David v. Signal was tried in federal court, where jury verdicts must be unanimous. Nevertheless, after the jury returned the portion of its verdict finding Signal liable for every claim brought against it, lead counsel for Signal requested a poll of the jury: each of the nine jurors was asked by name, “Is this your verdict?” The mic went from juror to juror as each said “yes.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyers see the verdict as a victory not just for guestworkers but for all workers vulnerable to exploitation.

“We asked the jury for an award that would send a message” both to Signal and to other companies, Howard said. “I think the jury has done that.”

News Sun, 01 Mar 2015 10:27:20 -0500
Plague Outbreaks That Ravaged Europe Were Driven by Climate Changes in Asia

2015 0301plag 1(Image: L. Sabetelli / Wellcome, CC BY)

The Black Death struck Europe in 1347, killing 30-50% of the European population in six violent years. It wasn’t a one-off epidemic: it signalled the start of the second plague pandemic in Europe that lasted for hundreds of years and only slowly disappeared from the continent after the Great Plague of London in 1665-1666.

These outbreaks were traditionally thought to be caused by rodent reservoirs of infected rats lurking in Europe’s cities, or potentially by rodent reservoirs in the wilderness. But our research, published in the journal PNAS, suggests otherwise.

If the “reservoir” thesis were correct, we would expect plague outbreaks to be associated with local climate fluctuations, through changes in agricultural yields and primary productions in forests, affecting the number of urban and wildlife rodents, resulting in more plague. We found that Europe’s plague outbreaks were indeed associated with climate fluctuations – but in Asia.

Body collecting in London, 1665.Body collecting in London, 1665.The Black Death came to Europe from Asia. Historical records tentatively map it back to outbreaks in 1345 in Astrakhan and Sarai, two trade centres located on the Volga river near the Caspian Sea.

Where the Black Death came from before it hit those cities is not known, but by recovering fragments of DNA from the teeth of plague victims in Europe, the closest currently known living relatives of this medieval strain of the plague causing bacteria Yersinia pestis are circulating in marmots and long-tailed ground squirrels in north-west China.

The great gerbil also still harbours the plague bacteria in Central Asia today. (Photo: W. Ryan Easterday, CC BY-NC-SA)The great gerbil also still harbours the plague bacteria in Central Asia today. (Photo: W. Ryan Easterday, CC BY-NC-SA)

Some dominant narratives on the plague are poorly substantiated. One being that medieval plague was transmitted by black or brown rats and their infected fleas jumping to humans. This was indeed how the third plague pandemic in the 19th and 20th centuries was transmitted – but there is poor archaeological evidence there were many rats across much of northern Europe in the Middle Ages aside from small populations of black rats in harbour towns, and no historic records that rats played a role in the disease.

“Rodent reservoirs” represent another dominant narrative. The idea is that the disease was introduced in medieval Europe once (the Black Death epidemic) after which it settled into local rats or wildlife rodents, and continued to cause outbreaks in European cities for hundreds of years.

How Asian climate fluctuations led to plague outbreaks in Europe. (Image: Schmid et al / PNAS, CC BY-NC-SA)How Asian climate fluctuations led to plague outbreaks in Europe. (Image: Schmid et al / PNAS, CC BY-NC-SA)

This is the narrative we aimed to substantiate through evidence, but which we ended up challenging. Using tree-ring based climate records from Europe and Asia, we showed that plague reintroductions into European harbours were associated with periods of wet conditions, followed by a drought, across large parts of Central Asia.

These conditions were tough for rodents in the region, traditionally the hosts of the plague bacterium, and their numbers would plummet. Infected fleas would seek new hosts, often latching onto passing human traders or their camels, though we don’t yet know exactly how the plague made the journey westward. What we do know is that, 14-16 years after the rodent-killing drought, we would often find plague reintroduced into Europe.

The chart below shows these climate fluctuations in Central Asia preceded the Black Death in 1347, the Italian plague of 1629, and the Great Plague of Marseille a century later, but notably not the London plague of 1665 or the outbreak in Vienna the following decade.

Plague outbreaks during the second pandemic, mapped to climate events in Asia. (Image: Schmid et al / PNAS, CC BY-NC-SA)Plague outbreaks during the second pandemic, mapped to climate events in Asia. (Image: Schmid et al / PNAS, CC BY-NC-SA)

This followed a pattern that we associate with current-day plague outbreaks. What is the implication of such a finding? In terms of our understanding of the past plague pandemics, it provides a different perspective as to how the disease moved across Eurasia, driven by climate events that were and still are frequently occurring.

It implies that there might never have been permanent reservoirs of plague among European rodents. While alpine marmots might have been affected and transmitted plague in medieval Europe, we found no indications that they can form a long-term reservoir, as their cousins in Asia do.

Furthermore, the observation that plague disappeared from the European mainland, while outbreaks in the Middle East and northern Africa continued to follow upon climate events in Central Asia strongly suggests that the reason why plague disappeared from Europe should be phrased not in terms of why its reservoirs disappeared, but why the disease could no longer spread efficiently across the continent. It gives historians, epidemiologists and biologists new questions to ask in their quest to reconstruct what exactly happened during one of the most devastating pandemics in human history.

News Sun, 01 Mar 2015 09:17:45 -0500
Ukraine War: A Reverse Cuban Missile Crisis

Students drill in preparation for artillery shelling at a public school in Mariupol, Ukraine, Feb. 6, 2015. (Photo: Brendan Hoffman/The New York Times) Students drill in preparation for artillery shelling at a public school in Mariupol, Ukraine, February 6, 2015. (Photo: Brendan Hoffman/The New York Times)

Guided by an aggressive neocon "regime change" strategy, the United States has stumbled into a potential military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, a dangerous predicament that could become a Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse.

In a rather ghastly Nineteenth Century experiment, a biologist by the name of Heinzmann found that if he placed a frog in boiling water, the frog immediately leapt out but that if he placed the frog in tepid water and then gradually heated it, the frog stayed put until he was scalded to death.

Are we like the frog? I see disturbing elements of that process today as we watch events unfold in the Ukraine confrontation. They profoundly frighten me and I believe they should frighten everyone. But they are so gradual that we do not see a specific moment in which we must jump or perish.

So here briefly, let me lay out the process of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and show how the process of that crisis compares with what we face today over the Ukraine.

Three elements stand out in the Cuban Missile Crisis: 1) Relations between the USSR and the U.S. were already “on the edge” before they reached the crisis stage; each of us had huge numbers of weapons of mass destruction aimed at the other. 2) The USSR precipitated the Crisis by advancing into Cuba, a country the U.S. had considered part of its “area of dominance” since the promulgation of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine. 3) Some military and civilian officials and influential private citizens in both countries argued that the other side would “blink” if sufficient pressure was put on it.

Allow me to point out that I had a (very uncomfortable) ringside seat in the Crisis. I was one of three members of the “Crisis Management Committee” that oversaw the unfolding events.

On the Monday of the week of Oct. 22, 1962, I sat with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Under Secretary George Ball, Counselor and Chairman of the Policy Planning Council Walt Rostow and Under Secretary for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson and listened to President John F. Kennedy’s speech to which we all had contributed.

The account Kennedy laid out was literally terrifying to those who understood what a nuclear confrontation meant. Those of us in that room obviously did. We were each “cleared” for everything America then knew. And we each knew what our government was seeking — getting the Russian missiles out of Cuba. Finally, we were poised to do that by force if the Russians did not remove them.

Previous to that day, I had urged that we remove our “Jupiter” missiles from Turkey. This was important, I argued, because they were “offensive” rather than “defensive” weapons. The reason for this distinction was that they were obsolescent, liquid-fired rockets that required a relatively long time to fire; thus, they could only be used for a first strike. Otherwise they would be destroyed before they could be fired.

The Russians rightly regarded them as a threat. Getting them out enabled Chairman Nikita Khrushchev to remove the Russian missiles without suffering an unacceptable degree of humiliation and risking a coup d’état.

Then, following the end of the crisis, I wrote the “talking paper” for a review of the crisis, held at the Council on Foreign Relations, with all the involved senior U.S. officials in which we carefully reviewed the “lessons” of the crisis. What I write below in part derives from our consideration in that meeting. That is, it is essentially the consensus of those who were most deeply involved in the crisis.

War Gaming 

Shortly thereafter, I participated in a Top Secret Department of Defense war game, designed by Professor Thomas Schelling of MIT in which he set out a scenario of a sequence of events — ironically placed near Ukraine — to show that the USSR would accept an American nuclear attack without responding.

It was, as he said, in our “post mortem” discussion of the game, a vindication of an extension of the theory of deterrence. It was to prove that we need not fear a reaction to a limited nuclear attack. Henry Kissinger had popularized this idea in his 1957 book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. [Kissinger  realized his mistake and partially repudiated what he had argued in a later, 1961, book, The Necessity for Choice.]

In the post mortem discussion of the Game, I argued – and my military, intelligence and diplomatic colleagues on our war game team agreed with me – that the idea of limited nuclear war was nonsense. No government could accept a devastating attack and survive. If it did not retaliate with a “victory-denying response,” it would be overthrown and executed by its own military and security forces.

And the original attacker would, in turn, have to avenge the retaliation or it would face a similar fate. Tit for tat would lead inevitably to “general war.”

Twenty years later, in 1983, a second Department of Defense war game (code named “Proud Prophet”) in which I did not participate and which was heavily weighted to the military confirmed what I had argued in 1962: there was no such thing as a “limited” nuclear war if both sides were armed with nuclear weapons. Limited nuclear actions inevitably ended in all-out war.

So, to be realistic, forget “limited” war and consider general war.

Even the great advocate of thermonuclear weapons, Edward Teller, admitted that their use would “endanger the survival of man[kind].” The Russian nuclear scientist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Andrei Sakharov, laid out a view of the consequences in the Summer 1983 issue of Foreign Affairs as “a calamity of indescribable proportions.”

Nuclear Consequences

More detail was assembled by a scientific study group convened by Carl Sagan and reviewed by 100 scientists. A graphic summary of their findings was published in the Winter 1983 issue of Foreign Affairs.

Sagan pointed out that since both major nuclear powers had targeted cities, casualties could reasonably  be estimated at between “several hundred million to 1.1 billion people” with an additional 1.1 billion people seriously injured. Those figures related to the 1980s. Today, the cities have grown so the numbers would be far larger.

Massive fires set off by the bombs would carry soot into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to fall to a level that would freeze ground to a depth of about three feet. Planting crops would be impossible and such food as was stored would probably be contaminated so the few survivors would starve.

The hundreds of millions of bodies of the dead could not be buried and would spread contagion. As the soot settled and the sun again became again visible, the destruction of the ozone layer would remove the protection from ultraviolet rays and so promote the mutation of pyrotoxins.

Diseases against which there were no immunities would spread. These would overwhelm not only the human survivors but, in the opinion of the expert panel of 40 distinguished biologists, would cause “species extinction” among both plants and animals. Indeed, there was a distinct possibility that “there might be no human survivors in the Northern Hemisphere … and the possibility of the extinction of Homo sapiens.”

So to summarize:

–It is almost certain that neither the American nor the Russian government could  accept even a limited attack without responding.

–There is no reason to believe that a Russian government, faced with defeat in conventional weapons, would be able to avoid using nuclear weapons.

–Whatever attempts are made to limit escalation are likely to fail and in failing lead to all out war.

–And, the predictable consequences of a nuclear war are indeed an unimaginable catastrophe.

These dangers, even if today they seem remote, clearly demand that we do everything we possibly can to avoid the fate of the frog. We can see that the “water” is beginning to heat up. We should not sit and wait for it to boil.

We did not do so in the Cuban Missile Crisis. We and the Russians worked out a solution.  So what will we, what should we do now?

Realistic Thinking

The first step is to “appreciate” the situation as it actually is and to see clearly the flow and direction of events. Of course, they are not precisely the same as in the Cuban Missile Crisis. History does not exactly repeat itself, but, as Mark Twain has pithily said, subsequent events sometimes “rhyme” with those that went before.

Consider these key elements:

–Despite the implosion of the Soviet Union and the attempts to cut back on nuclear weapons, Russia and the United States remain parallel nuclear powers with each having the capacity to destroy the other — and probably the whole world. Hundreds if not thousands of our weapons apparently remain on “hair trigger alert.” I assume that theirs are similarly poised.

–Both Russia and the United States are governed by men who are unlikely to be able to accept humiliation – and almost certain murder by “super patriots” in their own entourages – and would be forced to act even at the cost of massive destruction to their countries.

So pressing the leadership of the opponent in this direction is literally playing with fire.  As President Kennedy and the rest of us understood in the 1962 crisis, even if leaders want to avoid conflict, at a certain point in their mutual threats, events replace policy and leaders become bystanders.

–Both the Russian and American people have demonstrated their resilience and determination. Neither is apt to be open to intimidation.

–Both the Russians and the Americans are guided in their foreign policy by what they believe to be “core concerns.” For the Americans, as the Cuban Missile Crisis and many previous events illustrate, this comes down to the assertion of a “zone of exclusion” of outsiders.

America showed in the Cuban Missile Crisis that we would not tolerate, even at almost unimaginable danger, intrusion into our zone. Among the Russians, as their history illustrates, a similar code of action prevails. Having suffered, as fortunately we have not, horrifying costs of invasion throughout history but particularly in the Twentieth Century, the Russians can be expected to block, by any means and up to any cost, intrusions into their zone.

[I have laid out the Russian experience in a previous essay, “Shaping the Deep Memories of Russians and Ukrainians,” which is available on my website,]

–We said we understood this fundamental policy objective of the Russians, and officially on behalf of our government, Secretary of State James Baker Jr. agreed not to push our military activities into their sphere. We have, however, violated this agreement and have added country by constituent country of the former Soviet Union and its satellites to our military alliance, NATO.

–We are now at the final stage, just short of Russia itself in the Ukraine, and, as the Russians know, some influential Americans have suggested that we should push forward to “the gates of Moscow.” Those who advocate what the British once called a “Forward Policy,” now see the necessary first steps to be the arming of Ukraine.

–And finally, there is no way in which we or the European Union could arm Ukraine to a level that it could balance Russia. Thus, the weapons are likely both to give the Ukrainians unrealistic notions of what they can do vis-à-vis Russia and to be seen by the Russians as “offensive” moves to which they might feel compelled to respond. Consequently, they could lead us all into a war we do not want.

Policy Prescriptions

So what to do? In a word: stop. What we are now doing and what we contemplate doing is not in our interest or in the interests of the Ukrainians and is perceived as a threat by the Russians. We cannot deliver on the policy we would encourage the Ukrainians to adopt by arming them without a war. Economic sanctions are a form of that war, but they are unlikely to accomplish what we have been proclaiming.

So, the logic of events could force the Russians and us to the next step and that step also to the next and so on. Our moves in this direction could cause massive death and destruction. We should stop doing what does not work and is not in our interests nor in the interests of either the Ukrainians or the Russians.

But stopping on what terms? Having myself helped to negotiate two complex but successful ceasefires, I have learned two things: first, a ceasefire cannot be obtained unless both parties see it as less bad than the alternative and, second, a ceasefire is merely a necessary precondition to a settlement. So what might a settlement involve?

The elements of a general settlement, I believe, are these:

–Russia will not tolerate Ukraine becoming a hostile member of a rival military pact. We should understand this. Think how we would have reacted had Mexico tried to join the Warsaw Pact. Far-fetched?

Consider that even before the issue of nuclear weapons arose, we tried to overthrow the pro-Russian Cuban government in the Bay of Pigs invasion and tried on several occasions to murder Cuban Head of State Fidel Castro. We failed; so for two generations we have sought to isolate, impoverish and weaken that regime.

We would be foolish to expect that the Russians will not react similarly when challenged by an anti-Russian Ukrainian government. Thus, to press for inclusion of Ukraine into NATO is not only self-defeating; it risks overturning a generation of cautious moves to improve our security and increase our well-being and is pointing us toward at least a cold – if not a hot – war. We need to adopt a different course.

–We must recognize that the Ukraine is not part of our sphere of influence or dominance. It is neither in the Western Hemisphere nor in the North Atlantic. On the Black Sea, the concept of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an oxymoron. The Black Sea area is part of what the Russians call “the near abroad.”

The policy implications are clear: Just as the Russians realized that Cuba was part of our sphere of dominance and so backed down in the Missile Crisis, they will probably set their response to our actions on the belief that we will similarly back down because of our realization that Ukraine is in their neighborhood and not in ours.

The danger, of course, is that, for domestic political reasons – and particularly because of the urging of the neoconservatives and other hawks – we may not accept this geostrategic fact. Then, conflict, with all the horror that could mean, would become virtually inevitable.

–But conflict is not inevitable and can fairly easily be avoided if we wish to avoid it.  This is because the Russians and Ukrainians share an objective which the United States also emotionally shares. The shared objective is that Ukraine become a secure, prosperous and constructive member of the world community.

Becoming such a member can be accomplished only by the Ukrainians themselves. But as all qualified observers have seen, Ukrainian society and political organization have far to go to reach our joint objective.

This is true regardless of the Russian-American dispute. Its government is corrupt, tyrannical and weak. The best we can do is to remove outside deterrents to the growth of a healthy, secure and free society.

The way to do this is two-fold: first we need to stop our military intrusion into Ukrainian-Russian affairs, so diminishing Russian fears of aggression, and, second, wherever possible and in whatever ways are acceptable to both parties to assist the growth of the Ukrainian economy and, indirectly, the stability and sanity of the Ukrainian governing system. A first step in this direction could be for Ukraine to join the European Union.

This, in general terms, should be and for our own sakes must be, our strategy.

Opinion Sun, 01 Mar 2015 09:10:18 -0500
Why the Rise of Fascism Is Again the Issue

Again and again, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine and elsewhere, state lies to the public, with the help of corporate media, have allowed the United States to wage war abroad as a means to control other nations and their natural resources. The responsibility of the rest of us is clear. It is to identify and expose the reckless lies of warmongers and never to collude with them.

Passersby look at the home of Ali Mukhar Al-Gharari, which was struck by one large piece of aircraft-delivered ordnance, in Tripoli, Nov. 13, 2011. In 2011, NATO launched 9,700 strike sorties against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. (Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)Passersby look at the home of Ali Mukhar Al-Gharari, which was struck by one large piece of aircraft-delivered ordnance, in Tripoli, November 13, 2011. In 2011, NATO launched 9,700 "strike sorties" against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. (Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

Again and again, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine and elsewhere, state lies to the public, with the help of corporate media, have allowed the United States to wage war abroad as a means to control other nations and their natural resources.

The recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism. Its Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, with war-making elites urging us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism.
"To initiate a war of aggression," said the Nuremberg Tribunal judges in 1946, "is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

Like the fascism of the 1930s and 1940s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome.

Had the Nazis not invaded Europe, Auschwitz and the Holocaust would not have happened. Had the United States and its satellites not initiated their war of aggression in Iraq in 2003, almost a million people would be alive today, and Islamic State, or ISIS, would not have us in thrall to its savagery. They are the progeny of modern fascism, weaned by the bombs, bloodbaths and lies that are the surreal theatre known as news.
Like the fascism of the 1930s and 1940s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome: thanks to an omnipresent, repetitive media and its virulent censorship by omission. Take the catastrophe in Libya.

In 2011, NATO launched 9,700 "strike sorties" against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. Uranium warheads were used; the cities of Misurata and Sirte were carpet-bombed. The Red Cross identified mass graves, and Unicef reported that "most [of the children killed] were under the age of ten."
The public sodomizing of the Libyan president, Muammar el-Qaddafi, with a "rebel" bayonet was greeted by the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, with the words: "We came, we saw, he died." His murder, like the destruction of his country, was justified with a familiar big lie; he was planning "genocide" against his own people. "We knew ... that if we waited one more day," said President Obama, "Benghazi, a city the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world."
This was the fabrication of Islamist militias facing defeat by Libyan government forces. They told Reuters there would be "a real bloodbath, a massacre like we saw in Rwanda." Reported on March 14, 2011, the lie provided the first spark for NATO's inferno, described by David Cameron as a "humanitarian intervention."

For Obama, Cameron and Hollande, Qaddafi's true crime was Libya's economic independence and his declared intention to stop selling Africa's greatest oil reserves in US dollars.

Secretly supplied and trained by Britain's Special Air Service, many of the "rebels" would become ISIS, whose latest video offering shows the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian workers seized in Sirte, the city destroyed on their behalf by NATO bombers.
For Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande, Qaddafi's true crime was Libya's economic independence and his declared intention to stop selling Africa's greatest oil reserves in US dollars. The petrodollar is a pillar of US imperial power. Qaddafi audaciously planned to underwrite a common African currency backed by gold, establish an all-Africa bank and promote economic union among poor countries with prized resources. Whether or not this would happen, the very notion was intolerable to the United States as it prepared to "enter" Africa and bribe African governments with military "partnerships."

Following NATO's attack under cover of a Security Council resolution, Obama, wrote Garikai Chengu, "confiscated $30 billion from Libya's Central Bank, which Qaddafi had earmarked for the establishment of an African Central Bank and the African gold backed dinar currency."
The "humanitarian war" against Libya drew on a model close to Western liberal hearts, especially in the mainstream media. In 1999, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair sent NATO to bomb Serbia, because, they lied, the Serbs were committing "genocide" against ethnic Albanians in the secessionist province of Kosovo. David Scheffer, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes [sic], claimed that as many as "225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59" might have been murdered. Both Clinton and Blair evoked the Holocaust and "the spirit of the Second World War." The West's heroic ally was the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which had a criminal record Western leaders set aside. The British foreign secretary, Robin Cook, told them to call him any time on his mobile phone.
With the NATO bombing over, and much of Serbia's infrastructure in ruins, along with schools, hospitals, monasteries and the national TV station, international forensic teams descended upon Kosovo to exhume evidence of the "holocaust." The FBI failed to find a single mass grave and went home. The Spanish forensic team did the same, its leader angrily denouncing "a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines." A year later, a United Nations tribunal on Yugoslavia announced the final count of the dead in Kosovo: 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and Roma murdered by the KLA. There was no genocide. The "holocaust" was a lie. The NATO attack had been fraudulent.

Behind the lie, there was serious purpose. Yugoslavia was a uniquely independent, multiethnic federation that had stood as a political and economic bridge in the Cold War. Most of its utilities and major manufacturing was publicly owned. This was not acceptable to the expanding European Community, especially newly united Germany, which had begun a drive east to capture its "natural market" in the Yugoslav provinces of Croatia and Slovenia. By the time the Europeans met at Maastricht in 1991 to lay their plans for the disastrous eurozone, a secret deal had been struck; Germany would recognize Croatia. Yugoslavia was doomed.

Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the UN - 69 countries - have suffered at the hands of the United States' modern fascism.

In Washington, the United States saw that the struggling Yugoslav economy was denied World Bank loans. NATO, then an almost defunct Cold War relic, was reinvented as an imperial enforcer. At a 1999 Kosovo "peace" conference in Rambouillet, France, the Serbs were subjected to the enforcer's duplicitous tactics. The Rambouillet accord included a secret Annex B, which the US delegation inserted on the last day. This demanded the military occupation of the whole of Yugoslavia - a country with bitter memories of the Nazi occupation - and the implementation of a "free-market economy" and the privatization of all government assets. No sovereign state could sign this. Punishment followed swiftly; NATO bombs fell on a defenseless country. It was the precursor to the catastrophes in Afghanistan and Iraq, Syria and Libya, and Ukraine.

Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the UN - 69 countries - have suffered some or all of the following at the hands of the United States' modern fascism. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted, their people bombed, their economies stripped of all protection, and their societies subjected to a crippling siege known as "sanctions." The British historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. In every case, a big lie was deployed.

"Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over." These were the opening words of Obama's 2015 State of the Union address. In fact, some 10,000 troops and 20,000 military contractors (mercenaries) remain in Afghanistan on indefinite assignment. "The longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion," Obama said. In fact, more civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2014 than in any year since the UN took records. The majority have been killed - civilians and soldiers - during Obama's time as president.

The tragedy of Afghanistan rivals the epic crime in Indochina. In his lauded and much quoted book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the godfather of US policies from Afghanistan to the present day, writes that if the United States is to control Eurasia and dominate the world, it cannot sustain a popular democracy, because "the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion ... Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization." He is right. As WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden have revealed, a surveillance and police state is usurping democracy. In 1976, Brzezinski, then President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, demonstrated his point by dealing a deathblow to Afghanistan's first and only democracy. Who knows this vital history?

In the 1960s, a popular revolution swept Afghanistan, the poorest country on earth, eventually overthrowing the vestiges of the aristocratic regime in 1978. The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) formed a government and declared a reform program that included the abolition of feudalism, freedom for all religions, equal rights for women and social justice for ethnic minorities. More than 13,000 political prisoners were freed and police files publicly burned.
The new government introduced free medical care for the poorest; peonage was abolished; a mass literacy program was launched. For women, the gains were unheard of. By the late 1980s, half the university students were women, and women made up almost half of Afghanistan's doctors, a third of civil servants and the majority of teachers. "Every girl," recalled Saira Noorani, a female surgeon, "could go to high school and university. We could go where we wanted and wear what we liked. We used to go to cafes and the cinema to see the latest Indian film on a Friday and listen to the latest music. It all started to go wrong when the mujahideen started winning. They used to kill teachers and burn schools. We were terrified. It was funny and sad to think these were the people the West supported."

The common thread in fascism, past and present, is mass murder.

The PDPA government was backed by the Soviet Union, even though, as former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance later admitted, "There was no evidence of any Soviet complicity [in the revolution]." Alarmed by the growing confidence of liberation movements throughout the world, Brzezinski decided that if Afghanistan was to succeed under the PDPA, its independence and progress would offer the "threat of a promising example."
On July 3, 1979, the White House secretly authorized support for tribal "fundamentalist" groups known as the mujahideen, a program that grew to over $500 million a year in US arms and other assistance. The aim was the overthrow of Afghanistan's first secular, reformist government. In August 1979, the US embassy in Kabul reported that "the United States' larger interests ... would be served by the demise of [the PDPA government], despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan." (author's emphasis)

The mujahideen were the forebears of al-Qaeda and Islamic State. They included Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who received tens of millions of dollars in cash from the CIA. Hekmatyar's specialty was trafficking in opium and throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil. Invited to London, he was lauded by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as a "freedom fighter."

Such fanatics might have remained in their tribal world had Brzezinski not launched an international movement to promote Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia and so undermine secular political liberation and "destabilize" the Soviet Union, creating, as he wrote in his autobiography, "a few stirred up Muslims." His grand plan coincided with the ambitions of the Pakistani dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, to dominate the region. In 1986, the CIA and Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, began to recruit people from around the world to join the Afghan jihad. The Saudi multimillionaire Osama bin Laden was one of them. Operatives who would eventually join the Taliban and al-Qaeda were recruited at an Islamic college in Brooklyn, New York, and given paramilitary training at a CIA camp in Virginia. This was called "Operation Cyclone." Its success was celebrated in 1996 when the last PDPA president of Afghanistan, Mohammed Najibullah - who had gone before the UN General Assembly to plead for help - was hanged from a streetlight by the Taliban.
The "blowback" of Operation Cyclone and its "few stirred up Muslims" was September 11, 2001. Operation Cyclone became the "war on terror," in which countless men, women and children would lose their lives across the Muslim world, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria. The enforcer's message was and remains: "You are with us or against us."
The common thread in fascism, past and present, is mass murder. The US invasion of Vietnam had its "free fire zones," "body counts" and "collateral damage." In the province of Quang Ngai, where I reported from, many thousands of civilians ("gooks") were murdered by the United States; yet only one massacre, at My Lai, is remembered. In Laos and Cambodia, the greatest aerial bombardment in history produced an epoch of terror marked today by the spectacle of joined-up bomb craters that, from the air, resemble monstrous necklaces. The bombing gave Cambodia its own ISIS, led by Pol Pot.

No Western leader has spoken up about the revival of fascism in the heart of Europe, with the exception of Vladimir Putin, whose people lost 22 million to a Nazi invasion that came through the borderland of Ukraine.

Today, the world's greatest single campaign of terror entails the execution of entire families, guests at weddings and mourners at funerals. These are Obama's victims. According to The New York Times, Obama makes his selection from a CIA "kill list" presented to him every Tuesday in the White House Situation Room. He then decides, without a shred of legal justification, who will live and who will die. His execution weapon is the Hellfire missile carried by a pilotless aircraft known as a drone; these roast their victims and festoon the area with their remains. Each "hit" is registered on a faraway console screen as a "bugsplat."
"For goose-steppers," wrote the historian Norman Pollock, "substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarization of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manque, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while."
Uniting fascism old and new is the cult of superiority. "I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being," said Obama, evoking declarations of national fetishism from the 1930s. As the historian Alfred W. McCoy has pointed out, it was the Hitler devotee, Carl Schmitt, who said, "The sovereign is he who decides the exception." This sums up Americanism, the world's dominant ideology. That it remains unrecognized as a predatory ideology is the achievement of an equally unrecognized brainwashing. Insidious, undeclared, presented wittily as enlightenment on the march, its conceit insinuates Western culture. I grew up on a cinematic diet of US glory, almost all of it a distortion. I had no idea that it was the Red Army that had destroyed most of the Nazi war machine, at a cost of as many as 13 million soldiers. By contrast, US losses, including in the Pacific, were 400,000. Hollywood reversed this.

The difference now is that cinema audiences are invited to wring their hands at the "tragedy" of American psychopaths having to kill people in distant places - just as the president himself kills them. The embodiment of Hollywood's violence, the actor and director Clint Eastwood, was nominated for an Oscar this year for his movie, American Sniper, which is about a licensed murderer and nutcase. The New York Times described it as a "patriotic, pro-family picture which broke all attendance records in its opening days."

There are no heroic movies about the United States' embrace of fascism. During World War II, the United States (and Britain) went to war against Greeks who had fought heroically against Nazism and were resisting the rise of Greek fascism. In 1967, the CIA helped bring to power a fascist military junta in Athens - as it did in Brazil and most of Latin America. Germans and East Europeans who had colluded with Nazi aggression and crimes against humanity were given safe haven in the United States; many were pampered and their talents rewarded. Wernher von Braun was the "father" of both the Nazi V-2 terror bomb and the US space program.

In the 1990s, as former Soviet republics, Eastern Europe and the Balkans became military outposts of NATO, and the heirs to a Nazi movement in Ukraine were given their opportunity. Responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews, Poles and Russians during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Ukrainian fascism was rehabilitated and its "new wave" hailed by the enforcer as "nationalist."
This reached its apogee in 2014 when the Obama administration splashed out $5 billion on a coup against the elected government. The shock troops were neo-Nazis known as the Right Sector and Svoboda. Their leaders include Oleh Tyahnybok, who has called for a purge of the "Moscow-Jewish mafia" and "other scum," including gays, feminists and those on the political left.

If Putin can be provoked into coming to their aid, his preordained "pariah" role in the West will justify the lie that Russia is invading Ukraine.

These fascists are now integrated into the Kiev coup government. The first deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Andriy Parubiy, a leader of the governing party, is co-founder of Svoboda. On February 14, Parubiy announced he was flying to Washington to get "the USA to give us highly precise modern weaponry." If he succeeds, it will be seen as an act of war by Russia.
No Western leader has spoken up about the revival of fascism in the heart of Europe, with the exception of Vladimir Putin, whose people lost 22 million to a Nazi invasion that came through the borderland of Ukraine. At the recent Munich Security Conference, Obama's assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, Victoria Nuland, ranted abuse about European leaders for opposing the US arming of the Kiev regime. She referred to the German defense minister as "the minister for defeatism." It was Nuland who masterminded the coup in Kiev. The wife of Robert D. Kagan, a leading "neocon" luminary and co-founder of the extreme right-wing Project for a New American Century, she was a foreign policy adviser to Dick Cheney.

Nuland's coup did not go to plan. NATO was prevented from seizing Russia's historic, legitimate, warm water naval base in Crimea. The mostly Russian population of Crimea - illegally annexed to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 - voted overwhelmingly to return to Russia, as they had done in the 1990s. The referendum was voluntary, popular and internationally observed. There was no invasion.

At the same time, the Kiev regime turned on the ethnic Russian population in the east with the ferocity of ethnic cleaning. Deploying neo-Nazi militias in the manner of the Waffen-SS, they bombed and laid to siege cities and towns. They used mass starvation as a weapon, cutting off electricity, freezing bank accounts and stopping social security and pension payments. More than a million refugees fled across the border into Russia. In the Western media, they became unpeople escaping "the violence" caused by the "Russian invasion." The NATO commander, General Breedlove - whose name and actions might have been inspired by Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove - announced that 40,000 Russian troops were "massing." In the age of forensic satellite evidence, he offered none.

These Russian-speaking and bilingual people of Ukraine - a third of the population - have long sought a federation that reflects the country's ethnic diversity and is both autonomous and independent of Moscow. Most are not "separatists" but citizens who want to live securely in their homeland and oppose the power grab in Kiev. Their revolt and establishment of autonomous "states" are a reaction to Kiev's attacks on them. Little of this has been explained to Western audiences.
On May 2, 2014, in Odessa, 41 ethnic Russians were burned alive in the trade union headquarters with police standing by. The Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh hailed the massacre as "another bright day in our national history." In the US and British media, this was reported as a "murky tragedy" resulting from "clashes" between "nationalists" (neo-Nazis) and "separatists" (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine).
The New York Times buried the story, having dismissed as Russian propaganda warnings about the fascist and anti-Semitic policies of Washington's new clients. The Wall Street Journal damned the victims: "Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says." Obama congratulated the junta for its "restraint."

Once again, there is serious purpose. The rulers of the world want Ukraine not only as a missile base; they want its economy.

If Putin can be provoked into coming to their aid, his preordained "pariah" role in the West will justify the lie that Russia is invading Ukraine. On January 29, Ukraine's top military commander, Gen. Viktor Muzhenko, almost inadvertently dismissed the very basis for US and EU sanctions on Russia when he told a news conference emphatically: "The Ukrainian army is not fighting with the regular units of the Russian Army." There were "individual citizens" who were members of "illegal armed groups," but there was no Russian invasion. This was not news. Vadym Prystaiko, Kiev's deputy foreign minister, has called for "full-scale war" with nuclear-armed Russia.
On February 21, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) introduced a bill that would authorize US arms for the Kiev regime. In his Senate presentation, Inhofe used photographs he claimed were of Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, which have long been exposed as fakes. It was reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's fake pictures of a Soviet installation in Nicaragua, and Colin Powell's fake evidence to the UN of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The intensity of the smear campaign against Russia and the portrayal of its president as a pantomime villain are unlike anything I have known as a reporter. Robert Parry, one of the United States' most distinguished investigative journalists, who revealed the Iran-Contra scandal, wrote recently, "No European government, since Adolf Hitler's Germany, has seen fit to dispatch Nazi storm troopers to wage war on a domestic population, but the Kiev regime has and has done so knowingly. Yet across the West's media/political spectrum, there has been a studious effort to cover up this reality even to the point of ignoring facts that have been well established.... If you wonder how the world could stumble into World War III - much as it did into World War I a century ago - all you need to do is look at the madness over Ukraine that has proved impervious to facts or reason."

In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal prosecutor said of the German media: "The use made by Nazi conspirators of psychological warfare is well known. Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically for the attack.... In the propaganda system of the Hitler State it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons."

In The Guardian on February 2, Timothy Garton Ash called, in effect, for a world war. "Putin must be stopped," the headline read. "And sometimes only guns can stop guns." He conceded that the threat of war might "nourish a Russian paranoia of encirclement"; but that was fine. He name-checked the military equipment needed for the job and advised his readers, "America has the best kit."

In 2003, Garton Ash, an Oxford professor, repeated the propaganda that led to the slaughter in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, he wrote, "has, as [Colin] Powell documented, stockpiled large quantities of horrifying chemical and biological weapons, and is hiding what remains of them. He is still trying to get nuclear ones." He lauded Tony Blair as a "Gladstonian, Christian liberal interventionist." In 2006, he wrote, "Now we face the next big test of the West after Iraq: Iran."

The outbursts - or as Garton Ash prefers, his "tortured liberal ambivalence" - are not untypical of those in the transatlantic liberal elite who have struck a Faustian deal. The war criminal Blair is their lost leader. The Guardian, in which Garton Ash's piece appeared, published a full-page advertisement for a US Stealth bomber. On a menacing image of the Lockheed Martin monster were the words: "The F-35. GREAT For Britain." This US "kit" will cost British taxpayers £1.3 billion, its F-model predecessors having slaughtered across the world. In tune with its advertiser, a Guardian editorial has demanded an increase in military spending.

Once again, there is serious purpose. The rulers of the world want Ukraine not only as a missile base; they want its economy. Kiev's new finance minister, Natalie Jaresko, is a former senior US State Department official in charge of US overseas "investment." She was hurriedly given Ukrainian citizenship.

They want Ukraine for its abundant gas; Vice President Joe Biden's son is on the board of Ukraine's biggest oil, gas and fracking company. The manufacturers of genetically modified seeds, companies such as the infamous Monsanto, want Ukraine's rich farming soil.

Above all, they want Ukraine's mighty neighbor, Russia. They want to Balkanize or dismember Russia and exploit the greatest source of natural gas on earth. As the Arctic ice melts, they want control of the Arctic Ocean and its energy riches, and Russia's long Arctic land border. Their man in Moscow used to be Boris Yeltsin, a drunk, who handed his country's economy to the West. His successor, Putin, has re-established Russia as a sovereign nation - that is his crime.

The responsibility of the rest of us is clear. It is to identify and expose the reckless lies of warmongers and never to collude with them. It is to reawaken the great popular movements that brought a fragile civilization to modern imperial states. Most important, it is to prevent the conquest of ourselves: our minds, our humanity, our self-respect. If we remain silent, victory over us is assured, and a holocaust beckons.

Opinion Sun, 01 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0500
Must Reform the Entire System to Achieve Racial Justice

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder accepted my invitation to visit our city, one of six cities, to listen to our concerns and suggestions.

In the wake of demands for action, the Obama administration has begun making important changes to end racial profiling, emphasize community-oriented policing and de-militarize police forces. However, much more needs to be done.

We are rightly outraged by the killing of unarmed young black men, weapons of war on our streets, and a criminal justice system that routinely fails our community. Parents in communities of color bear a terrible burden.

As the mother of two black men and grandmother of two black boys, I have had many painful but necessary conversations about how to behave and interact with law enforcement. No mother or grandmother should have to have these conversations, but they are necessary because black and brown children do not get the benefit of the doubt.

Over the past year, our country has awakened to the fact that, to some, the lives of our sons and daughters do not matter. The deaths of young African Americans are stinging reminders of our legitimate fears. These sentiments were echoed repeatedly at recent Oakland and Berkeley town halls. Hundreds told their stories of racial profiling, unjust sentencing and unequal treatment. This outrage is well-founded.

The statistics are heartbreakingly clear -- our criminal justice system is broken.

African Americans receive longer sentences for the same crimes and directly and indirectly suffer from racial profiling. An African American is killed every 28 hours by a security officer. Action is overdue to reform this broken system -- the time to act is now.

As we work to enact reforms, we must also recognize that law enforcement has a difficult job to ensure public safety. They too were part of the conversation with Attorney General Holder. It will take everyone to build trust and institute systemic change.

As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus's Ferguson Task Force, I am working to tackle discrimination and injustice. I am proud to co-sponsor the Shield Our Streets Act (HR103) and the Grand Jury Reform Act (HR429) to increase investment in community-orientated policing and to ensure deadly force cases are heard by a judge.

I am also working with my colleagues to re-introduce the End Racial Profiling Act, Police Accountability Act and the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act in the coming weeks.

However, legislation is only one piece. We must make greater investments in police force diversity and racial sensitivity training. We must recognize that the legacy of slavery, manifested today in institutional racism, is part of the unfinished business of America, which must be addressed.

We need to continue investing in systemic reforms to promote education, create good-paying jobs, ensure affordable housing and eliminate poverty.

The time for policy change is today. We will need everyone's help; we need the street heat. Peacefully march, register to vote, join civil rights organizations, call your legislators and demand action.

Fifty years ago in Selma, we saw young people change the course of history. Today, similar change and activism are again needed. We cannot wait; we cannot stand idle; we cannot fail to act because our children need us.

Opinion Sat, 28 Feb 2015 14:05:56 -0500
End the US Blockade of Cuba and Military Occupation of Guantanamo Bay: An Interview With Manolo De Los Santos

This interview conducted in Matanzas, Cuba. Part Two will follow in next week's issue of BAR.

"Cuba is a country that has stuck its neck out for Black liberation struggles around the world."

I met Manolo De Los Santos during a recent trip to Cuba organized by Code Pink, a grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end US funded wars and occupations. The interview took place in the coastal city of Matanzas, one of the sites of the 16th century Euro-American Human Trafficking Trade (termed by European traders and historians as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade) at the Matanzas Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Manolo was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. His family moved to the South Bronx, New York when he was five years old. He first visited Cuba in 2006 with the organization, Pastors for Peace. Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO.) IFCO's mission is to support the disenfranchised to fight human and civil rights injustices and to end US aggressive policies towards Cuba. The organization seeks to promote peace between the peoples of the US and Cuba. Manolo's focus at the Matanzas Evangelical Seminary is the study of liberation theology.

This interview takes place during the historic negotiations between to re-establish diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Americans have heard about the negotiations between the US and Cuba regarding the US Embargo. From your perspective, what are the politics of the embargo and do you think there is a chance for a successful completion?

Manolo De Los Santo: The politics of the embargo or blockage as the people of Cuba refer to it, is perfectly stated in 1961 by the US government; the blockade is a policy to deprive and to starve the Cuban people into submission so that they will overthrow their own government. So, (the US government) has sought through all means to make sure that Cubans do not have complete access to different material goods, everything as basic as medicines, food, technology that would allow Cuba to continue to develop itself in other ways.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: What do you do in Cuba?

Manolo De Los Santo: I'm here in Cuba, first of all studying. I'm a student of theology at the Evangelical Seminary in Matanzas. I am also here as a staff person for IFCO (Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization) Pastors for Peace working as a liaison between IFCO and the US medical students studying at the Latin American School of Medicine, which has been an amazing opportunity for hundreds of young people from the US, from communities of color, poor communities, to actually be able to study medicine for free here in Cuba.

"We have a responsibility, as people of color worldwide to defend all of the advances that Cuba has made."

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Is Cuba, at this point, even more than perhaps Nicaragua, the front line state against US imperialism and, if that's true, what does that mean to you?

Manolo De Los Santo: For a long time, Cuba was the front line. It was the sole country, in many ways, challenging US hegemony in Latin America and around the world. But, I think that times have changed precisely because of Cuba's role. Now we see in Latin America many progressive governments that try to uplift their own people, like what Cuba has done, for the last 55 years. [These governments] are making sure that health care is recognized as a human right, that the right to eat every day is a human right, that education is a human right so times have changed since 1959 (the date of the Cuban revolution) thanks to Cuba's role in the world.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: One of the things that I have been so pleased to see in Cuba is the number of people that I would identify, from a US perspective as Black or African. We have a progressive government about 90 miles from the coast of Florida. How can African-Americans contribute to the promotion and protection of Cuba?

Manolo De Los Santo: Cuba has secured these rights for black people, however... there is still much work to do. We have a responsibility, as people of color worldwide to defend all of the advances that Cuba has made. Cuba is a country that has stuck its neck out for Black liberation struggles around the world, not to mention the liberation struggles in Angola and many of countries and the strong role Cuba played in the liberation of South Africa in freeing Nelson Mandela. One must acknowledge what is currently happening, that Cuba was the first country to step up to fight the Ebola virus. When most countries, only committed money (and we don't know where this money goes), Cuba actually put up the lives of its doctors to stop the virus. It's amazing how Cuba has offered scholarships to young black people from all over the African continent and all across the America's to come study here and become professionals. For example, Cuba has educated more Blacks from Honduras than were educated in their own country. This is an example of the support and strong interest Cuba has in the upliftment of African people across the world.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Can you give us some examples of the impact of the US Embargo against Cuba and its people. Has the US embargo been effective?

Manolo De Los Santo: The typical answer would be that Cuba has lost millions in trade due to the blockage but I like to think about how concretely the blockade has affected the lives of the people. For example, children who suffer from cancer who are receiving chemo-therapy here in Cuba can not always receive the medicines to relieve them of the pain caused by the chemo-therapy because that medicine is made in the US. There is medicine for Alzheimer's patients that can not be bought by Cuba because the medicine is produced in the US. Day to day life is limited because of this prohibition of trade with the United States. Thereby forcing Cuba to seek these products in markets that are farther and more expensive than the United States.

Opinion Sat, 28 Feb 2015 13:52:39 -0500