Truthout Stories Tue, 25 Oct 2016 20:43:51 -0400 en-gb Water Protectors Erect New Front Line Camp Directly in Path of Dakota Access Pipeline

On Sunday, hundreds of water protectors erected a new frontline camp of several structures and tipis directly on the proposed path of the Dakota Access pipeline. The new frontline camp is just to the east of North Dakota State Highway 1806, across from the site where on September 3, over Labor Day weekend, Dakota Access security guards unleashed pepper spray and dogs against Native Americans trying to protect a sacred tribal burial ground from destruction. The water protectors also erected three road blockades that stopped traffic for hours on Highway 1806 to the north and the south of the main resistance camp and along County Road 134. The group cited an 1851 treaty, which they say makes the entire area unceded sovereign land under the control of the Sioux. The blockades were dismantled late Sunday. We speak with Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth. She is Ojibwe from Couchiching First Nation.


AMY GOODMAN: We continue our coverage of the Standoff at Standing Rock with Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth, Ojibwe, Couchiching First Nation. She has been in North Dakota for quite some time now. It seems this weekend an acceleration of the building of the Dakota Access pipeline, as well, of the protests of the water protectors and also of journalists, where numbers range from 87 to 140 people arrested this weekend.

Tara, what do you know is happening, the numbers? But also, is the Dakota Access pipeline -- and we'd like to put this question to them, but we weren't able to get them on the show -- is it accelerating, the construction right now? Are they trying to race towards deadline to get this pipeline built?

TARA HOUSKA: As soon as the court lifted the 20-mile, you know, so-called buffer zone on either side of Lake Oahe, or the Missouri River, I mean, it was full steam ahead. They've been doing everything they can -- you know, constructing on weekends, constructing long hours with massive crews, to get this pipeline into the ground. Probably, I mean, as another tactic, too, to pressure this final -- the Army Corps permits that are under the water crossings are all under review right now, so I'm sure they're looking to get as much of the pipeline in the ground as they possibly can up to the Army Corps crossings, as another pressure point.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, what happened exactly this weekend? Why this acceleration also of the arrests?

TARA HOUSKA: I think, you know, the sheriff is telling a story of these escalated behaviors and, you know, agitators. I found it very interesting that the Morton County press -- their press contact actually stated instead that, you know, although the protesters peacefully dispersed, what they were doing was still illegal. So they're -- you know, the Sheriff's Office is attempting to characterize it both as a riot, as people praying as a riot, and increasing numbers of arrests, while at the same time acknowledging that people are indeed peacefully dispersing when asked to leave. So, it's kind of like two conflicting stories here. And I think they're looking to scare folks off to get this pipeline into the ground, to do anything it takes to get the pipeline into the ground, including massive arrests and, you know, open violations of, you know -- I mean, using mace on people for absolutely no reason. Some of the videos show that there was no way that the officer was in any threaten of harm, actually grabbing protesters and macing them.

AMY GOODMAN: I was on a North Dakota radio program right after Sheriff Kirchmeier, and he was very clear. He said five people, or more than five people, is a riot. Can you respond to this? Because it seems that the charges have escalated. In the beginning, it was disorderly conduct, then criminal trespass, and now it's riot.

TARA HOUSKA: I think they're looking to -- you know, like I said, I think they're looking to scare folks off. They're also looking to drain resources. There is a legal fund that has been collected off of people's goodwill donations to support the direct action -- the direct actions against Dakota Access to stop the construction. And now, with these escalated charges, they can increase the amount of bail for each individual arrested. You know, claiming that people praying and drumming is somehow a riot is ludicrous. I'm interested to see how a prosecutor could even bring that and prove that in a court of law. I know that at one of the lockdowns that happened in the last week, there was only four people there. That doesn't even meet the statutory requirement of their so-called riot, yet they still were all charged with inciting a riot. Four people doesn't seem like a riot to me, nor does a group of Native Americans peacefully praying and smudging one another.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask about the letter that Honor the Earth, the Indigenous Environmental Network and others sent to the Army Corps of Engineers on October 10th. What does this letter say?

TARA HOUSKA: It goes through, you know, the various violations and issues that are present within the permitting process. In particular, it's very, very important that people know that on September 3rd, which was the day of these dog attacks, folks were out there protecting a sacred site that had been identified the day prior by the tribe. They had gone out with Tim Mentz. They had actually, you know, submitted a supplemental brief and stated, "Here are -- you know, here are the exact sacred places that are not being considered on your pipeline route. Here are several of them." And they submitted that at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday. The following day, Dakota Access skipped over 20 miles ahead to bulldoze those sites. In the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 110(k) states, if they -- if the company intentionally destroys or disrupts sacred places, that the permit cannot be issued, that the Army Corps cannot issue these permits, that, you know, this project cannot be approved. And that's exactly what happened here.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what happens at this point? Today, what is happening, for example? And where does this all go from here?

TARA HOUSKA: Folks are continuing to -- you know, you mentioned the construction of the frontlines encampment growing now, people putting tipis and enacting structures for living directly on the pipeline route. They are -- they are miles away. Dakota Access is moving at an incredible pace to try and get this pipeline into the ground. And so, I think that, you know, the interactions will continue between protectors, water protectors, and the police. There will continue to be resistance of, you know, people putting their actual bodies on the line, because this is such a larger issue. This is the -- you know, we're fighting for future generations. We're fighting for the protection of water for the 17 million people that live along the Missouri River. I think, you know, the court cases are continuing. There is a long process for that. But really, the Army Corps of Engineers needs to answer: You know, what -- where is this review process? Are you going to uphold the National Historic Preservation Act and acknowledge that Dakota Access intentionally destroyed these sites, and cancel these permits, cancel all these water permits? This is not a legal pipeline. It was never an environmental impact statement. Stringent-level review was never conducted. That is not in the public interest. Dakota Access profits do not come over the safety and well-being of the people.

AMY GOODMAN: Tara Houska, I want to thank you for being with us, of Honor the Earth, Ojibwe, Couchiching First Nation.

News Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
One of the Biggest Media Mergers Ever May Be on the Horizon

AT&T is an enormous media, telecom and internet gatekeeper with a horrible track record of overcharging you, limiting your choices and spying on you.

It's still fighting Net Neutrality. It helps the government spy on people by turning over its customer records to the NSA. It tries to stop communities from building their own broadband networks. It's a member of ALEC, the corporate-backed lobbying group that's pushed legislation like pro-fracking, voter-suppression and "stand your ground" bills that disproportionately harm people of color.

And now AT&T wants to get even bigger.

The company wants to buy Time Warner in a deal valued at $85 billion. This would be one of the largest media mergers ever.

Time Warner owns CNN, HBO, TBS and TNT, major movie franchises like Harry Potter and Batman, DC Comics … the list goes on. AT&T just swallowed up DirecTV in another massive merger. This deal would combine one of the nation's largest phone and satellite-TV companies with a media content behemoth.

Deals like this don't benefit ordinary people: They just line the pockets of overpaid media executives (the Time Warner CEO could walk away with as much as $400 million) and lead to job losses for working people. These kinds of mergers hike prices for internet access and put up bigger barriers to entry for content creators -- shutting out independent voices and people of color who have been locked out of the traditional media system.

This merger would create a media powerhouse unlike anything we've ever seen before. AT&T would control mobile and wired internet access, cable channels, movie franchises, a film studio and more.

That means AT&T would control internet access for hundreds of millions of people and the content they view, enabling it to prioritize its own offerings and use sneaky tricks to undermine Net Neutrality.

This merger would give one bad company way too much power.

Massive mergers like this -- and the billions of dollars they waste -- never work out for the rest of us. Urge policymakers to block this deal.

Opinion Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
How Do We Get to a Conversation in This Country About Climate?

Janine Jackson: That a holiday honoring a man responsible for the murder, enslavement and exploitation of indigenous people should be occasion for the arrest of Native Americans acting in defense of water, land and life is not mere symbolism. The celebration of Christopher Columbus in US history books and culture is increasingly denounced, not only because of his devastating cruelty, but because of the way the fable erases the Taino people, legitimizing their oppression with an implicit view of history as the story of the winners.

In a similar way, what is happening at Standing Rock, where thousands have joined to resist the Dakota Access Pipeline, is a struggle not just between Native people and industry, or between industry and the planet, but also, our guest says, a fight about story. Mark Trahant is a journalist and a professor of journalism at the University of North Dakota. He blogs at He joins us now by phone from North Dakota. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Mark Trahant.

Mark Trahant: Thank you. Glad to be here.

You wrote recently about Standing Rock, "This is a fight about story and who gets to tell it." What were you getting at with that?

Well, North Dakota has really tried to frame this as an issue of lawlessness, and they keep saying that the sound engineering of the pipeline -- it will be safe. Although one of those great ironies is that once they moved it from Bismarck to the north of the reservation because of water concerns, it changed their argument, undermined their argument, I think forever.

This gets to a broader issue, though, of how we get to a conversation in this country about climate, and the idea of what it's going to take to have what has been called a managed decline in fossil fuel use, and whether or not we can even have that conversation as a country. As long as we keep building pipelines with minimal regulation, that's going to be impossible.

The state of North Dakota kind of stands in for the broader state in this role. They are just maintaining -- all of what we see as this protest and this activism, they think is going to blow over. At least, that's the story they're telling.

Right. They see it as a temporary thing. And they really view the First Amendment as a limited response, where you can hold a sign, but you can't stop a pipeline. And their failure to understand civil disobedience has really been striking.

Yes, and I think if there had been more video cameras there, if folks had seen the use of the dogs and all of that -- I mean, it really has been quite amazing.

There is this piece of the story that regulation is hobbling the industry here, and that this, with all these tests and going back and going around on the decision, it just represents big government trying to hobble, in this case, the fossil fuel industry. And on that note, you reveal a statement from a US District judge that I think is actually very important. Can you tell listeners what you found in that statement from US District Judge Boasberg?

Sure. He wrote that, unlike any other pipeline such as natural gas pipeline, this entire process does not need federal permitting of any kind. There's no environmental impact statement, there's no real construction in how it affects the Clean Waters Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act, it's just a basic permit -- supposed to be pro forma, and the industry accepted that. They thought it was going to be just a wink and a nod. In fact, I think one of the most amazing things is they actually started construction without an easement under the river. And so even though they say this is all approved and all done, to this date, they still don't have an easement.

I guess that's what they call skating where the puck's going to be. You know, sometimes industry is so sure they're going to get the law in their favor that they just go ahead and start doing what they want to do.

You note in that same piece that the state of North Dakota and the Army Corps of Engineers have a history of rolling over the tribes in the region, including ignoring treaties. And that reminded me of this New York Times article back in August in which the reporter presented, on the one hand, the pipeline builders, Energy Transfer Partners, who called the project "a major step towards the US's weaning itself off of foreign oil," and then on the other hand were tribes who "viewed the project as a wounding intrusion onto lands where generations of their ancestors hunted bison, gathered water and were born and buried long before treaties and fences stamped a different order onto the Plains."

I think that's really slippery, to imply that the tribes want to go back to some misty memory before treaties, when actually they would prefer treaties be honored. But I wonder what, in general, you make of that kind of media frame.

I think perhaps the oil industry's most successful framing has been the idea of it's either/or, that protesters drive cars, therefore they're being disingenuous. And it really isn't either/or. If we're going to meet the Paris Agreement, we've got to start turning things around, and we've got to start reducing consumption rather than increasing, and what steps do we take to make that so?

The other part of that story, that I think is just extraordinary, is that it really is a ruse. This is not just about domestic oil, but it's about being able to sell US oil at shipping points and getting it to those markets effectively. And it's also a stand-in for making it so there's a connection, at some point, with the really dirty tar sands oil. So it has these multiple layers of misconceptions, I think.

Yeah. Well, some people do seem to see it as really the illustration of, are we going to make "keep it in the ground" more than a slogan, which it needs to be. And along that line, there have been many kind of hopeful signs. You know, we did see the AFL-CIO come out in support of pipeline construction, but then there were other unions who might have been assumed to also do the "workers versus environment" binary -- another either/or that we're forced into sometimes. But they've said no, we're not going to be pitted against one another, as workers who, yes, need jobs, but who also need clean air and water. So do you see some coalitions that maybe look new, and maybe look hopeful in this?

I think we're beginning to see that. And especially when you start doing the math, to look at, one, what the real cost of the climate is, and making sure that it's a broad, overall picture. But the second is to look at job creation. The jobs being created in clean energy are actually greater than the oil industry, and that's a potential for workers that I think is just beginning to be tapped.

Dakota Access is a story, and the election is a story, but you don't really see the twain meeting so much. I take it you think that's a missing bridge that we ought to see journalists doing more, showing the connections between voting and what's going on at Standing Rock.

Absolutely. Just the idea of how we're going to get forward on this -- and voting is part of a national conversation -- but just the conversation about what we're going to do next to try to, if anything else, meet our international obligations -- but, more important, save the planet.

All right then. Thank you very much for joining us. We've been speaking with Mark Trahant, professor of journalism at the University of North Dakota. You can find him online at Mark Trahant, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

Great to be with you.

News Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Tom Hayden (1939-2016) on Vietnam War: We Must Challenge the Pentagon on the Battlefield of Memory

Legendary civil rights and antiwar activist Tom Hayden died Sunday in Santa Monica, California, after a lengthy illness. He was 76 years old. Hayden spent decades shaping movements against war and for social justice. In the early 1960s, he was the principal author of the Port Huron Statement, the founding document of Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS. The statement advocated for participatory democracy and helped launch the student movement of the 1960s. In 1968, Tom Hayden became one of the so-called Chicago 8 and was convicted of crossing state lines to start a riot after he helped organize protests against the Vietnam War outside the Democratic National Convention. For more, we air a speech Tom Hayden gave last year at a conference in Washington, D.C., titled "Vietnam: The Power of Protest."


AMY GOODMAN: Legendary antiwar activist Tom Hayden died Sunday in Santa Monica, California, after a lengthy illness. He was 76 years old. Tom Hayden spent decades shaping movements against war and for social justice. In the early '60s, was the principal author of the Port Huron Statement, the founding document of Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS. The statement advocated participatory democracy and helped launch the student movement of the '60s. Tom Hayden was also a Freedom Rider in the Deep South and helped create a national poor people's campaign for jobs and empowerment. He also organized in Newark, New Jersey; among his books, Rebellion in Newark: Official Violence and Ghetto Response. In 1968, Tom Hayden became one of the so-called Chicago 8. He was convicted of crossing state lines to start a riot after he helped organize protests against the Vietnam War outside the Democratic National Convention. In 1982, Hayden entered electoral politics, first winning a seat in the California State Assembly, later in the California Senate.

We turn now to a speech Tom Hayden gave last year at a conference in Washington, D.C., titled "Vietnam: The Power of Protest."

TOM HAYDEN: I want to start off by saying how many of you I love very much and known for such a long time, and I only hope that there's enough minutes and occasions here for us to get to know each other again, because we have really been through a lifetime. Today, we'll have plenty of time for discussion, for panels, for observations. And at 4:00, we'll gather to march to the King Memorial. And I want to just say a word about that. I know that Ron Dellums is going to speak to this.

But why was that -- why was that chosen? It's because, in keeping with trying to make sure our history is told accurately, we have to tell it ourselves. And we have to recognize that Dr. King became a martyr because of his stand on Vietnam, not only because of his stand on race, justice, economic poverty. And there's been a tendency over the many decades to make Dr. King a monument to nonviolence alone, and we need to remember that he was attacked by The New York Times and by The Wall Street Journal and by The Washington Post for being out of place. They wanted to put him back in his place and say nothing about Vietnam, take no stand on Vietnam. There were threats that he would lose funding. There were threats of all sorts. And to distort that, to forget that, to ignore that, his monument would be shaped in a certain way to serve certain interests, but not others, is a disservice to truth. And we have to march there and vigil there and commemorate him as a leader and a martyr for all of us, for peace, justice and civil rights, not only in the United States, but around the world, and persist in making sure that his whole story, including the campaign to end poverty in the United States, is told each and every year and in all of our schools and curriculum. So that's the purpose.

This is a way of saying that the struggle for memory and for history is a living thing. It's ongoing. It does not end. Even today, people are debating and reassessing the history of abolition of slavery, the role of slave resistance, the role of the Underground Railroad, the role of the abolitionist direct action movement, the role of the radical Republican politicians, the role of international politics in what came about, and the role -- how it was derailed by the assassination of President Lincoln, the ending of the possibilities of Reconstruction, which were not taken up again until 1960, and the coming of Jim Crow. Each generation has to wrestle with the history of what came before, and ask: Whose interest does this history serve? How does it advance a legacy of social movements? How does it deny that legacy? We don't know.

But we do know that we are here for the very first time as such a broad gathering of the movement against the Vietnam War. It's been 50 years since Selma, 50 years since the first SDS march. So, it was a time that changed our lives, nearing a second Reconstruction before the murders of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy. Then came the budget cuts, the end of the war on poverty. Then came the Watergate repression. And we became a generation of might-have-beens. Like Sisyphus, our rock lay at the bottom of the hill.

We gather here to remember the power that we had at one point, the power of the peace movement, and to challenge the Pentagon now on the battlefield of memory. We have to resist their military occupation of our minds and the minds of future generations. Memory -- memory is very much like rock climbing, the recovery of memory. Each niche towards the summit is graphed inch by bleeding inch and has to be carefully carved with tools that are precise in order to take the next step. Falling back is always possible. But as Dr. King himself said on his last night, there is something in humans that makes us aspire to climb mountains, to reach that majesty, if only for a moment. We are mountain climbers.

President Obama has reminded us to remember, he said, Selma, Seneca Falls and Stonewall. But not Saigon, not Chicago, not Vietnam. We have to ask ourselves collectively why that omission exists, and realize that only we can restore a place in the proper history of those times. We suspect that there was a reason, that it has to do with the programming of amnesia, that there are very powerful forces in our country who stand for denial, not just climate denial, but generational denial, Vietnam denial. There are forces that stand for ethnic cleansing, but not just ethnic cleansing, but also for historic cleansing. And that is what has happened. It serves their purpose because they have no interest in the true history of a war in which they sent thousands to their deaths and, almost before the blood had dried, were moving up the national security ladder and showing up for television interviews to advertise what they called the next cakewalks. Only the blood was caked.

There came a generation of career politicians who were afraid of association with the peace movement, who were afraid of being seen as soft, who saw that the inside track was the track of war. Our national forgetting is basically pathological. Our systems -- politics, media, culture -- are totally out of balance today because of our collective refusal to admit that the Vietnam War was wrong and that the peace movement was right. In the absence -- in the absence of an established voice for peace in all the institutions, the neoconservatives will fill the foreign policy vacuum. Am I right? Will it not? Will it not advise both parties? I think, though, that American public opinion has shifted to a much more skeptical state of mind than earlier generations, but the spectrum of American politics and media has not.

So we can never forget that, of course, it was the Vietnamese resistance and their sacrifice that led to our awakening, along with the civil rights movement at home. It began with handfuls of young people, black students who led Freedom Rides, sit-ins. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was the first to resist the war. Julian Bond, who's sitting here, was rejected after being elected to the Georgia Legislature. Muhammad Ali was stripped of his boxing titles. It also began with the Vietnam Day Committee in Berkeley, growing out of teach-ins, out of SDS, that called the first march, the draft resistance. There had never been a peace movement like the one in 1965 that arose out of the civil rights movement and came just weeks after Selma. At least 29 would die at the hands of police while demonstrating for peace.

I'd like here to introduce Luis Rodriguez and Rosalio Muñoz and Jorge Mariscal from the Chicano Moratorium, where four died, including Gustav [Montag], Lyn Ward, José Diaz and Rubén Salazar. Rubén Salazar was an early Juan González. Rubén Salazar was a great reporter for the Los Angeles Times who served as a journalist in Vietnam before he started critical reporting on the streets of Los Angeles. And he was shot by the sheriff's deputies. I don't know if he's here, but is Alan Canfora here? Alan, please stand. Alan was wounded at Kent State. Four died at Kent State, two at Jackson State two weeks later. And every year, these two groups of people have observed memorials, have fought for their place in history, are coming up on their 50th anniversary commemorations and are here today to learn from us, as we've learned from them, the importance of organizing, organizing, organizing around the politics of memory. So, thank you for being here, and we will remember. We will not forget.

We will not forget the eight who sacrificed their lives by self-immolation. We will not forget the students who helped end the war by shutting down so many campuses. We will not forget the veterans who took the risk of standing up to their commanding officers and resisted from within the military. We will not forget this because this was something like a Du Bois characterization of the general strike by slaves who, through noncooperation, walked off plantations across the South when they saw the futility of any other alternative and chose to simply walk away and join the Union army. What happened at the end of the Vietnam War is that people walked away. The campuses shut down. Four million students walked away. The military was described by Marine colonels in military histories as being on the verge of collapse. They walked away. The counterculture walked away. We all walked away.

It might have been otherwise, if King and Robert Kennedy had not been assassinated. We might have been united, at least for a moment, at least for a moment. We might have elected a president. We might have ended a war. But instead, we were relegated to wondering what might have been. We lost any basis for our unity, and thus we have not come together since that time. The question for us is whether today we can unify, when we never could unify before. Can we do that for the memory of our movement and for the meaning that it holds for future generations? I hope so. I pray so. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Legendary civil rights and antiwar activist Tom Hayden, speaking last year in Washington, D.C., on the 50th anniversary of the first major anti-Vietnam War protest. It was a conference called "Vietnam: The Power of Protest." Tom Hayden died Sunday at the age of 76 in California. You can go to to watch all of our interviews with Tom, including a discussion about participatory democracy, from Port Huron to Occupy Wall Street. You can also see our interview with him about his last book called Listen, Yankee!: Why Cuba Matters.

Yes, when we come back, though, we go to the man who revolutionized sitcom television: Norman Lear. Stay with us.

News Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Five Terrifying Things From Trump's Blueprint for His First 100 Days if Elected

It is just 14 days until Election Day, and GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump is in a tailspin. His final debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was another disaster, topped off by his declaration that he still wasn't sure if he would abide by the final election results as he believes the contest is rigged.

Since then, his poll numbers have dropped even more. Even his first major newspaper endorsement was a bit of a bust, since the Las Vegas Review Journal is wholly owned by one of his biggest backers. Still, Trump made one more stab at saving his flailing campaign this weekend, when he traveled to Gettysburg to announce his blueprint for the first 100 days of his administration if elected.

And yes, it was as terrifying as you may imagine. His promises to repeal all of President Obama's executive orders, deport 2 million undocumented Americans, open up more drilling and fracking sites and immediately appoint a far right justice to the Supreme Court was just the start. Here are a few highlights:

1) Congressional Term Limits

On the surface, limiting the time a politician spends in Congress may not seem like an awful idea. After all, that's how you get DC insiders who forget about the realities of those back home who elect them, right? But the reality of the impact is far different, and is why most people other than the far right fringe gave up on the proposal decades ago.

"I imagine term-limit proponents mean well, but whether they appreciate the details or not, forcing experienced policymakers out of office, even if their constituents want to re-elect them, has an unintended consequence: inexperienced officials inevitably find themselves more dependent on lobbyists, outside groups, and trade associations, who are only too pleased to lend their expertise developed over the course of decades," explains Steve Benen at "In other words, the policy intended to weaken 'special-interest dealing' has the opposite effect in practice. It also shifts power away from the legislative branch, which would suddenly have no veteran lawmakers, and towards the executive branch -- another dynamic conservatives are supposed to oppose."

2) The End of Sanctuary Cities

Trump promised that once in office, he would end all federal funding to any "sanctuary city" allowing undocumented immigrants to reside safely within its borders without fear of deportation. But as the Marshall Project explains, rather than opposing undocumented immigrants, many law enforcement agencies approve of allowing local control over immigration issues, because they find it makes their communities safer when undocumented populations don't live in fear of the police.

"Other officers have expressed fear that imposing limits on sanctuary cities would breed distrust between police and immigrant communities, making their jobs even harder," the Marshall Project explains. "After North Carolina passed a law requiring officers to fully cooperate with ICE, Jose Lopez, the Durham police chief, told the New York Times, 'It will cause individuals to flee the police, on the belief that some minor incident is going to get them deported.'" Targeting undocumented populations is asking for an increase in danger in these communities.

3) Obamacare's Complete Repeal

Yes, the Affordable Care Act hasn't been the complete panacea that many wanted when it comes to health care reform. Insurance is still too expensive, companies are still determined to make a profit off the health of the American population, and too many states have blocked implementation assistance to make things more affordable. But it is better than anything that existed before the ACA, and it's far better than the GOP plan to simply let people go bankrupt over their health care bills. And that's exactly what Trump wants to return to when he promises to repeal Obamacare as soon as he is sworn in.

4) Suing Everyone

Those dozen women who accused Trump of inappropriate and unwanted sexual contact with them? Trump is going to make sure he files a lawsuit against each and every one of them. "Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign," Trump said according to "Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over."

Why, if this were a legitimate move, he would need to wait until he was in office is unclear, as is why he thinks this needs to be an administrative action. But then again, Trump has shown repeatedly that he sees no separation between his political power and his personal power.

5) Breaking the Media

Trump's plan to limit freedom of the press if elected wasn't actually mentioned in his 100 days speech, but the day after. However, it's one he has consistently discussed and can be expected if he wins in November -- making it easier to sue news outlets that provide unfavorable coverage. "Well in England they have a system where you can actually sue if someone says something wrong. Our press is allowed to say whatever they want and get away with it," he told a radio host, according to Talking Points Memo, adding, "I'm a big believer tremendous believer of the freedom of the press. Nobody believes it stronger than me but if they make terrible, terrible mistakes and those mistakes are made on purpose to injure people. I'm not just talking about me I'm talking anybody else then yes, I think you should have the ability to sue them." Considering Trump's prime example of newspapers "lying" is the New York Times investigating his past, you can bet his agenda will have a chilling and devastating impact on fair news coverage.

Opinion Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Why Is It So Hard to Reduce the Pentagon Budget?

What accounts for the Department of Defense's ability to keep a stranglehold on your tax dollars year after endless year?What accounts for the Department of Defense's ability to keep a stranglehold on your tax dollars year after endless year? (Photo: Asten / Flickr)

Through good times and bad, regardless of what's actually happening in the world, one thing is certain: in the long run, the Pentagon budget won't go down.

It's not that that budget has never been reduced. At pivotal moments, like the end of World War II as well as war's end in Korea and Vietnam, there were indeed temporary downturns, as there was after the Cold War ended. More recently, the Budget Control Act of 2011 threw a monkey wrench into the Pentagon's plans for funding that would go ever onward and upward by putting a cap on the money Congress could pony up for it. The remarkable thing, though, is not that such moments have occurred, but how modest and short-lived they've proved to be.

Take the current budget. It's down slightly from its peak in 2011, when it reached the highest level since World War II, but this year's budget for the Pentagon and related agencies is nothing to sneeze at. It comes in at roughly $600 billion -- more than the peak year of the massive arms build-up initiated by President Ronald Reagan back in the 1980s. To put this figure in perspective: despite troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan dropping sharply over the past eight years, the Obama administration has still managed to spend more on the Pentagon than the Bush administration did during its two terms in office.

What accounts for the Department of Defense's ability to keep a stranglehold on your tax dollars year after endless year?

Pillar one supporting that edifice: ideology.  As long as most Americans accept the notion that it is the God-given mission and right of the United States to go anywhere on the planet and do more or less anything it cares to do with its military, you won't see Pentagon spending brought under real control.  Think of this as the military corollary to American exceptionalism -- or just call it the doctrine of armed exceptionalism, if you will.

The second pillar supporting lavish military budgets (and this will hardly surprise you): the entrenched power of the arms lobby and its allies in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.  The strategic placement of arms production facilities and military bases in key states and Congressional districts has created an economic dependency that has saved many a flawed weapons system from being unceremoniously dumped in the trash bin of history.

Lockheed Martin, for instance, has put together a handy map of how its troubled F-35 fighter jet has created 125,000 jobs in 46 states. The actual figures are, in fact, considerably lower, but the principle holds: having subcontractors in dozens of states makes it harder for members of Congress to consider cutting or slowing down even a failed or failing program. Take as an example the M-1 tank, which the Army actually wanted to stop buying. Its plans were thwarted by the Ohio congressional delegation, which led a fight to add more M-1s to the budget in order to keep the General Dynamics production line in Lima, Ohio, up and running. In a similar fashion, prodded by the Missouri delegation, Congress added two different versions of Boeing's F-18 aircraft to the budget to keep funds flowing to that company's St. Louis area plant.

The one-two punch of an environment in which the military can do no wrong, while being outfitted for every global task imaginable, and what former Pentagon analyst Franklin "Chuck" Spinney has called "political engineering," has been a tough combination to beat.

"Scare the Hell Out of the American People"

The overwhelming consensus in favor of a "cover the globe" military strategy has been broken from time to time by popular resistance to the idea of using war as a central tool of foreign policy.  In such periods, getting Americans behind a program of feeding the military machine massive sums of money has generally required a heavy dose of fear.

For example, the last thing most Americans wanted after the devastation and hardship unleashed by World War II was to immediately put the country back on a war footing. The demobilization of millions of soldiers and a sharp cutback in weapons spending in the immediate postwar years rocked what President Dwight Eisenhower would later dub the "military-industrial complex."

As Wayne Biddle has noted in his seminal book Barons of the Sky, the U.S. aerospace industry produced an astonishing 300,000-plus military aircraft during World War II. Not surprisingly, major weapons producers struggled to survive in a peacetime environment in which government demand for their products threatened to be a tiny fraction of wartime levels.

Lockheed President Robert Gross was terrified by the potential impact of war's end on his company's business, as were many of his industry cohorts. "As long as I live," he said, "I will never forget those short, appalling weeks" of the immediate postwar period.  To be clear, Gross was appalled not by the war itself, but by the drop off in orders occasioned by its end. He elaborated in a 1947 letter to a friend: "We had one underlying element of comfort and reassurance during the war. We knew we'd get paid for anything we built.  Now we are almost entirely on our own."

The postwar doldrums in military spending that worried him so were reversed only after the American public had been fed a steady, fear-filled diet of anti-communism.  NSC-68, a secret memorandum the National Security Council prepared for President Harry Truman in April 1950, created the template for a policy based on the global "containment" of communism and grounded in a plan to encircle the Soviet Union with U.S. military forces, bases, and alliances.  This would, of course, prove to be a strikingly expensive proposition. The concluding paragraphs of that memorandum underscored exactly that point, calling for a "sustained buildup of U.S. political, economic, and military strength... [to] frustrate the Kremlin design of a world dominated by its will."

Senator Arthur Vandenberg put the thrust of this new Cold War policy in far simpler terms when he bluntly advised President Truman to "scare the hell out of the American people" to win support for a $400 million aid plan for Greece and Turkey.  His suggestion would be put into effect not just for those two countries but to generate support for what President Eisenhower would later describe as "a permanent arms establishment of vast proportions."

Industry leaders like Lockheed's Gross were poised to take advantage of such planning.  In a draft of a 1950 speech, he noted, giddily enough, that "for the first time in recorded history, one country has assumed global responsibility." Meeting that responsibility would naturally mean using air transport to deliver "huge quantities of men, food, ammunition, tanks, gasoline, oil and thousands of other articles of war to a number of widely separated places on the face of the earth."  Lockheed, of course, stood ready to heed the call.

The next major challenge to armed exceptionalism and to the further militarization of foreign policy came after the disastrous Vietnam War, which drove many Americans to question the wisdom of a policy of permanent global interventionism.  That phenomenon would be dubbed the "Vietnam syndrome" by interventionists, as if opposition to such a military policy were a disease, not a position.  Still, that "syndrome" carried considerable, if ever-decreasing, weight for a decade and a half, despite the Pentagon's Reagan-inspired arms build-up of the 1980s.

With the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Washington decisively renewed its practice of responding to perceived foreign threats with large-scale military interventions.  That quick victory over Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein's forces in Kuwait was celebrated by many hawks as the end of the Vietnam-induced malaise.  Amid victory parades and celebrations, President George H.W. Bush would enthusiastically exclaim: "And, by God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all."

However, perhaps the biggest threat since World War II to an "arms establishment of vast proportions" came with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, also in 1991.  How to inject fear into the American public and justify Cold War levels of spending when that other superpower, the Soviet Union, the primary threat of the previous nearly half-a-century, had just evaporated and there was next to nothing threatening on the horizon?  General Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, summed up the fears of that moment within the military and the arms complex when he said, "I'm running out of demons. I'm running out of villains. I'm down to Castro and Kim Il-sung."

In reality, he underestimated the Pentagon's ability to conjure up new threats. Military spending did indeed drop at the end of the Cold War, but the Pentagon helped staunch the bleeding relatively quickly before a "peace dividend" could be delivered to the American people. Instead, it put a firm floor under the fall by announcing what came to be known as the "rogue state" doctrine. Resources formerly aimed at the Soviet Union would now be focused on "regional hegemons" like Iraq and North Korea.

Fear, Greed and Hubris Win the Day

After the 9/11 attacks, the rogue state doctrine morphed into the Global War on Terror (GWOT), which neoconservative pundits soon labeled "World War IV." The heightened fear campaign that went with it, in turn, helped sow the seeds for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was promoted by visions of mushroom clouds rising over American cities and a drumbeat of Bush administration claims (all false) that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda.  Some administration officials including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld even suggested that Saddam was like Hitler, as if a modest-sized Middle Eastern state could somehow muster the resources to conquer the globe.

The administration's propaganda campaign would be supplemented by the work of right-wing corporate-funded think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.  And no one should be surprised to learn that the military-industrial complex and its money, its lobbyists, and its interests were in the middle of it all.  Take Lockheed Martin Vice President Bruce Jackson, for example.  In 1997, he became a director of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and so part of a gaggle of hawks including future Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, future Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and future Vice President Dick Cheney. In those years, PNAC would advocate the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as part of its project to turn the planet into an American military protectorate. Many of its members would, of course, enter the Bush administration in crucial roles and become architects of the GWOT and the invasion of Iraq.

The Afghan and Iraq wars would prove an absolute bonanza for contractors as the Pentagon budget soared. Traditional weapons suppliers like Lockheed Martin and Boeing prospered, as did private contractors like Dick Cheney's former employer, Halliburton, which made billions providing logistical support to U.S. troops in the field.  Other major beneficiaries included firms like Blackwater and DynCorp, whose employees guarded U.S. facilities and oil pipelines while training Afghan and Iraqi security forces. As much as $60 billion of the funds funneled to such contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan would be "wasted," but not from the point of view of companies for which waste could generate as much profit as a job well done. So Halliburton and its cohorts weren't complaining.

On entering the Oval Office, President Obama would ditch the term GWOT in favor of "countering violent extremism" -- and then essentially settle for a no-name global war.  He would shift gears from a strategy focused on large numbers of "boots on the ground" to an emphasis on drone strikes, the use of Special Operations forces, and massive transfers of arms to U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia.  In the context of an increasingly militarized foreign policy, one might call Obama's approach "politically sustainable warfare," since it involved fewer (American) casualties and lower costs than Bush-style warfare, which peaked in Iraq at more than 160,000 troops and a comparable number of private contractors.

Recent terror attacks against Western targets from Brussels, Paris, and Nice to San Bernardino and Orlando have offered the national security state and the Obama administration the necessary fear factor that makes the case for higher Pentagon spending so palatable. This has been true despite the fact that more tanks, bombers, aircraft carriers, and nuclear weapons will be useless in preventing such attacks.

The majority of what the Pentagon spends, of course, has nothing to do with fighting terrorism. But whatever it has or hasn't been called, the war against terror has proven to be a cash cow for the Pentagon and contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon.

The "war budget" -- money meant for the Pentagon but not included in its regular budget -- has been used to add on tens of billions of dollars more. It has proven to be an effective "slush fund" for weapons and activities that have nothing to do with immediate war fighting and has been the Pentagon's preferred method for evading the caps on its budget imposed by the Budget Control Act.  A Pentagon spokesman admitted as much recently by acknowledging that more than half of the $58.8 billion war budget is being used to pay for non-war costs.

The abuse of the war budget leaves ample room in the Pentagon's main budget for items like the overpriced, underperforming F-35 combat aircraft, a plane which, at a price tag of $1.4 trillion over its lifetime, is on track to be the most expensive weapons program ever undertaken.  That slush fund is also enabling the Pentagon to spend billions of dollars in seed money as a down payment on the department's proposed $1 trillion plan to buy a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles, and submarines.  Shutting it down could force the Pentagon to do what it likes least: live within an actual budget rather continuing to push its top line ever upward.

Although rarely discussed due to the focus on Donald Trump's abominable behavior and racist rhetoric, both candidates for president are in favor of increasing Pentagon spending.  Trump's "plan" (if one can call it that) hews closely to a blueprint developed by the Heritage Foundation that, if implemented, could increase Pentagon spending by a cumulative $900 billion over the next decade.  The size of a Clinton buildup is less clear, but she has also pledged to work toward lifting the caps on the Pentagon's regular budget.  If that were done and the war fund continued to be stuffed with non-war-related items, one thing is certain: the Pentagon and its contractors will be sitting pretty.

As long as fear, greed, and hubris are the dominant factors driving Pentagon spending, no matter who is in the White House, substantial and enduring budget reductions are essentially inconceivable. A wasteful practice may be eliminated here or an unnecessary weapons system cut there, but more fundamental change would require taking on the fear factor, the doctrine of armed exceptionalism, and the way the military-industrial complex is embedded in Washington.

Only such a culture shift would allow for a clear-eyed assessment of what constitutes "defense" and how much money would be needed to provide it.  Unfortunately, the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned Americans about more than 50 years ago is alive and well, and gobbling up your tax dollars at an alarming rate.

News Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The Better Business Bureau Downgraded Wells Fargo; It's Not Enough

Headquarters for Wells Fargo Bank in the financial district of San Francisco, Sept. 16, 2016. (Photo: Max Whittaker / The New York Times)Headquarters for Wells Fargo Bank in the financial district of San Francisco, September 16, 2016. (Photo: Max Whittaker / The New York Times)

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The Better Business Bureau pulled Wells Fargo's accreditation last week, which is what it's supposed to do when businesses cheat their customers. What took so long? If we judged big banks by the same standards we apply to auto body shops or dry cleaners, they'd have all been discredited a long time ago.

"Nobody can recall a company of this size, this scope, losing their accreditation," a Better Business Bureau official said of Wells Fargo's downgrade. And yet, as CNBC notes, the Better Business Bureau still gives an A+ rating to Bank of America.

That doesn't make sense.

One of the factors leading to the Wells Fargo downgrade, according to the Bureau's website, was "government action(s) against the business." That's consistent with its stated rating process, which says it considers "finalized government actions (which) … raise questions about the business's ethics or its reliability in providing products/services."

That fine, as far as it goes. Wells Fargo was fined $185 million after its employee incentive plan led to the creation of at least two million false customer accounts over a minimum of five years. It's now under criminal investigation by California Attorney General Kamala Harris. A downgrade was certainly in order.

But how could Bank of America win an "A+" rating under the same criteria? Bank of America has paid more than $77 billion in fines and settlements, including a single settlement of $16.65 billion -- at that time the largest such penalty in history -- as punishment for its serial fraud. (Some of that fraud was committed at Countrywide and Merrill Lynch prior to their acquisition, but much of it was perpetrated under Bank of America's management.)

The Better Business Bureau's website says, "Government actions may be rated as major, moderate or minor, and the rating deduction varies accordingly." Wasn't Bank of America's $77 billion in fines and settlements "major" enough?

For that matter, how could an unbiased and independent pro-consumer group give a good rating to any big bank? Here's how much our largest financial institutions had paid to settle fraud charges by late 2015:

2016 1025wf ch

Compared to the fines paid by these banks -- and to past fraud settlements by Wells Fargo itself -- Wells Fargo's $185 million phony-account penalty seems like small change.

Michael Hiltzik asked a pertinent question in the Los Angeles Times: Why did Wells Fargo's CEO lose his job while Jamie Dimon, CEO of fraud-ridden JPMorgan Chase, has managed to keep his?

As Hiltzik (who discussed this issue with me) points out, Dimon usually turns in a smooth performance when he testifies on Capitol Hill. But Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf stumbled badly, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a stunning case for the prosecution. What's more, as Hiltzik writes, "JPMorgan's misdeeds tended to involve complicated transactions that laypersons could not understand."

The same could be said of Bank of America and other major banks.

Another insight into the Better Business Bureau may come from its own past scandals. It's been charged with operating a "pay for play" system that favors corporations who pay its membership fees. A CNN Money investigation in 2015 found that it gave A+ ratings to a number of companies that had received major government sanctions. They included mortgage brokers and financial firms, as well nursing home chains, vitamin manufacturers, and medical testing services.

In 2003 the Better Business Bureau exposed a for-profit company, the "Consumer Protection Agency," for masquerading as a part of the US government. But the Bureau isn't a "bureau," either, at least not in the government sense.

Neither are ratings "agencies" like Standard & Poor and Moody's. They're paid to rate banks and their products by the banks themselves, which is an inherent conflict of interest. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these "agencies" gave "AAA" rating to investments that reached junk status a year later.

Hiltzik is right: Wells Fargo's latest scandal has captured the public's attention because it's easier to understand than other, more esoteric forms of bank crime. Those crimes won't end until banks, and bankers, pay a price for their misdeeds. Banking must be demystified, so that Wall Street institutions and their CEOs can be judged like other business people.

If an auto shop owner says you need a new muffler when you don't, everyone understands that's sleazy and crooked. Well, Wells Fargo's phony-account scandal was something like that.

If a street vendor sells knockoff watches for fifty times their actual value, that's dishonest and criminal. That's pretty much what all the big banks did to investors in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

If a con man misleads someone into signing their most valuable asset over to him and then leaves them homeless, we all know he's doing something reprehensible. In moral terms, that's what the big banks did when they sold people mortgages they knew they couldn't afford and then foreclosed on their homes -- often using illegal methods to do so. (See David Dayen's "Chain of Title" for more information.)

Today's too-big-to-fail banks are morally indistinguishable from any crooked vendor in the strip mall down the street. Americans won't be safe until all fraudulently-inclined institutions are discredited and their leaders are replaced -- with criminal investigations conducted as appropriate.

Until then, it's "buyer beware."

Opinion Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Filmmaker Deia Schlosberg on Her Arrest While Filming an Activist Shutting Down a Tar Sands Pipeline

Documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg faces a potential maximum sentence of 45 years for filming an activist turn off a TransCanada pipeline. (Photo: Aria B. Doe)Documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg faces a potential maximum sentence of 45 years for filming an activist turn off a TransCanada pipeline. (Photo: Aria B. Doe)On October 11, 2016, award-winning documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg was arrested in North Dakota while filming an activist with Climate Direct Action as he turned off a TransCanada oil sands pipeline crossing from Canada into the United States. It was one of five actions that shut down all pipelines carrying tar sands into the U.S. from Canada that day.

In an exclusive interview with DeSmog, Schlosberg shares her experience, including what it's like being a reporter facing felony accounts with a potential maximum sentence of 45 years, her reaction when Edward Snowden tweeted about her, and a message for other journalists covering climate change and the oil and gas industry. 

"I did not ever intend to be the story. It's safe on this side of the camera usually," Schlosberg told DeSmog. 

What follows is our Q&A with Schlosberg, which has been edited slightly for clarity and length.

First, how are you doing these days?

I am doing OK, trying to not get completely overwhelmed. It's a lot to absorb in a short time period. 

You've mentioned receiving an outpouring of support since your arrest. What's that been like?

Activists who shut down tar sands pipelines on October 11, 2016. Filmmaker Deia Schlosberg faces a potential maximum sentence of 45 years for filming an activist turn off a TransCanada pipeline.Activists who shut down tar sands pipelines on October 11, 2016. (Photo: Shut It Down - Climate Direct Action / Facebook)I feel very loved and supported. I'm also not somebody who's a fan of a lot of attention or being on the sharp end of the camera. I'm constantly talking myself up into wanting to use this platform that I now have to talk about what I was originally reporting on. 

This all started October 11 when you were documenting an act of civil disobedience by activists shutting down TransCanada's Keystone pipeline in Walhalla, North Dakota. 

However, you were not participating in the action. You were documenting it as a filmmaker and climate journalist?

Yes, yes, yes.

What was it like being there that day? 

In general, I felt like this was an extremely important action to document because it was unprecedented -- shutting down all of the oil sands coming into the U.S. from Canada. And as a climate reporter and someone who worries about the impacts of climate change and our future, I know that the Canadian oil sands are a pretty scary source of energy to be exploiting at this point. 

What was going through your mind?

What I can say is that, in general, the people putting their own lives on the line to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and to fight for a more humane future for everybody on the planet is inspiring. 

Can you talk about what happened after you were arrested?

The police told me I was under arrest for being an accessory to a crime and they seized all of my camera gear as evidence. Then we drove to the county jail in Cavalier. And I waited for a long time in the visitation room while they booked the two men who were arrested at the same time as me. They got all my info, fingerprinted me, gave me the orange jumpsuit, and put me in a cell. 

I was the only woman in the county jail so I was alone. I ended up spending 53 hours in jail. Toward the end of that, we were arraigned and read our charges. My charges were three counts of conspiracy, which are all felonies. 

The charges were conspiracy to theft of property, conspiracy to theft of services, conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service.

Obviously, there's no way those are going to stick to me because, I mean, the First Amendment. They just can't. 

But even those charges brought against [the climate activist and support person shutting down the pipeline] Michael and Sam don't make sense. Theft is intent to take something and neither of them intended to take anything or steal property or a service. And then the third one, public utility -- it's a TransCanada pipeline, and TransCanada is a company. The pipeline is carrying the dilbit or the syncrude to refineries, after which it's put on the global market, after it's refined and turned into a product. But the pipeline that was going through Walhalla, North Dakota, owned by TransCanada, is not a public utility. 

When are you facing your charges in court?

I'm scheduled November 7 for a preliminary hearing. 

And at that point the judge will decide whether there's enough evidence to proceed with a court case? 

Yeah, exactly. 

I presume you're taking an innocent plea?

Yes, I did not break a single law. I am 100 percent confident in that fact.

Are you feeling apprehensive about the case despite that?

I feel a lot better now after talking to my lawyer. I do feel a lot better about my situation, but it's still not a comfortable place to be, having charges against me, things I didn't do. 

How did you feel when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden tweeted in support of you, pointing out that he only faces 30 years compared to your maximum potential sentence of 45 years? 

I was surprised to see he tweeted about me. He makes a really good point. I mean that's the absolute max that goes along with that felony, but there's no way that that can stick. It just doesn't make any sense. It was certainly scary at the beginning. Looking at charges that add up to 45 years, it's pretty terrifying.

Why do you think North Dakota is pressing such serious charges against you and also against the climate activists you were filming? 

I really don't know why they decided on such heavy charges. For me, I understand the arrest because they didn't know what was going on at the time. They didn't understand the story and the situation. So I can understand them bringing me in initially, but once they found out I was media, I don't understand why they charged me like they did. 

As for Michael and Sam, I don't know if it's because, North Dakota is in a state of emergency right now with militarized police forces from 10 other states present around Standing Rock at the moment. They're certainly on high alert and on guard and probably wanting to give themselves the option to have the charges be as severe as possible. I don't know what their intentions are down the road, but this gives them whatever options they might want to pursue. 

But there are also two filmmakers in Washington state who were also facing preliminary felony charges, which also carry maximum sentences of multiple decades.

Yes, Lindsey Grazel was one of those documentary filmmakers arrested for filming a parallel act in Washington. She reported that after being arrested and having her footage confiscated, she was strip-searched and held in jail for 33 hours before being released on bail. Democracy Now! has reported that Dakota Access pipeline protesters faced similar treatment upon arrest for minor charges in North Dakota. 

What kind of message does this treatment of journalists and nonviolent activists send? 

Whether they're intending to send that message or not, the message they're sending is one of hostility. 

Despite the differences in the charges, does the news about Democracy Now! reporter Amy Goodman's riot charge being dropped offer you any encouragement in your own case? 


Have you been able to continue working through all this?

I would like to but it's been just totally nonstop. There are also potential legal consequences at this point of me reporting. There are certain things that I can't really talk about so I wouldn't be reporting in a way that I'd want to. 

And they [North Dakota law enforcement] still have a lot of my footage. 

Have they turned over any of it?

None of the footage that they've confiscated. They only turned over the gear. I could have gotten the footage back but I would have had to sign a release for them to make digital copies that they could search. So I left the [memory] cards with them.

Are you currently working on any big projects?

I'm still very much working on getting How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change out there and doing screenings and distribution stuff for that film. I'm just starting to research and dive into some ideas for my next big project, but that said, if there are things happening in the world that I feel are important and not being covered that I could report on, that I could make into a short, I am always looking for stories that I think need telling.

Do you have anything to say to journalists covering the oil and gas industry in the face of such extreme charges? 

I'd say make sure you're following the law and keep doing your job. Keep being brave and reporting on the important things that are happening. It's scary, but I think it's more important than ever that anything related to human rights and climate change is reported. 

Thanks for speaking with us today.

I have a lot of respect for DeSmog. You guys do good stuff.

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Opinion Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
We Don't Know Much About Clinton's Proposed "Intelligence Surge," and That's a Problem

Hillary Clinton has repeatedly implied that increased surveillance of Muslim communities is legitimate -- while paying lip service to civil liberties. Her language appeals to liberals horrified by Trump's open bigotry but willing to support the trampling of Muslim Americans' civil rights in a post-9/11 world.

Hillary Clinton speaks during the third and final presidential debate, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo: Damon Winter / The New York Times)Hillary Clinton speaks during the third and final presidential debate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, October 19, 2016. (Photo: Damon Winter / The New York Times)

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In the third and final presidential debate, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump largely reiterated previous positions each has staked out regarding plans to defeat ISIS (also known as Daesh) and how to deal with, or ignore, the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. Trump, for his part, exuded typical bigotry in referring to Muslim immigrants as "the great Trojan horse" who "are definitely in many cases, ISIS-aligned."

Clinton responded in a more nuanced way, though her response is also telling. She repeated her call for "an intelligence surge that protects us here at home," and reiterated her support for using the controversial no-fly list as a basis for denying gun purchases. "If you're too dangerous to fly, you're too dangerous to buy a gun," she said.

Little is publicly known about Clinton's oft-repeated call for an "intelligence surge" to defeat ISIS and prevent terrorism on US soil, but some civil liberties groups and Muslim advocates are wary of Clinton's proposal, given the surveillance abuses that have been carried out in the decade and a half since 9/11. Despite the apparent centrality of this proposal to her larger counterterrorism goals, Clinton hasn't made clear what digital or physical surveillance programs or capabilities she would seek to put in place.

For more original Truthout election coverage, check out our election section, "Beyond the Sound Bites: Election 2016."

One of her few specific proposals -- the so-called No Fly, No Buy policy -- is particularly troubling to critics, who charge that the bloated watchlist is riddled with errors and false positives, is nearly impossible to get off once a person is placed on it, and affects Muslims almost exclusively.

"We've had concerns about a couple of lines from Clinton's campaign. One of those is her support for No Fly, No Buy," Corey Saylor, a spokesperson for the Council on America-Islamic Relations, told me in a phone interview. "People are put on those lists without any due process."

The ACLU sued the government over the secretive process through which people are added to the No Fly List, and opposes using that database as a form of gun control.

The other issue for Saylor is that in Clinton's rhetoric, Muslims "always [come] up in the context of a terrorist attack perpetrated by someone who claims their Islamic faith supports their actions. It boils down to her saying that somehow the Muslim community would be more suspect than others." For him, that means Clinton's lack of specifics is worrisome. "Is she talking about surging more surveillance? Are we talking about more informants? Are we talking about sweeping up more of people's information?" Saylor asked. "I don't need a full plan, but I do need more details."

Clinton began calling for an intelligence surge after the ISIS-linked attacks in Paris in November 2015 and has since repeated the phrase regularly. She first laid out the basics of her proposal in a Democratic Primary debate in November, when she called for "an immediate intelligence surge in the region, including technical assets, Arabic speakers with deep expertise in the Middle East, and even closer partnership with regional intelligence services." Since then she has added more policies to that broad outline, including increased monitoring of social media posts related to Islamic terrorism. She has also called for increased partnership between law enforcement and Muslim community leaders.

Viewed in the most sympathetic light, Clinton is simply pushing for increased cooperation and data-sharing with countries in Europe and the Middle East, and for funding community-based programs in the United States to identify and divert Americans who show signs of a proclivity toward political violence. Often left unstated is that this policy is only ever discussed as one that will be applied to Muslims (although most people who perpetrate political violence in the US are not Muslim).

A more critical reading of Clinton's plan is that as president she will push for increased surveillance of Muslim communities across the United States and Europe, and double down on discredited social science that purports to be able to identify signs of impending violence in individuals. Some Muslim advocates worry that Clinton's plan would make it harder for Muslim Americans to voice criticism of US foreign policy in mosques, and that her approach could breed distrust among communities already wary of law enforcement influence, whether hidden or overt.

For now, most experts agree that the public doesn't have enough information to adequately evaluate Clinton's proposal. Liza Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, stressed that not enough is publicly known to offer a full assessment of Clinton's proposal. "The intelligence we're talking about is primarily surveillance, so when I hear 'intelligence surge' I hear 'surveillance surge,' and I hear 'more surveillance.' That may or may not be accurate," Goitein told me. "If that's what she has in mind, I don't believe we need more surveillance. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are living in a Golden Age of surveillance."

Both Saylor and Goitein stress that in virtually all recent attacks in the United States and Europe, the perpetrators were previously known to law enforcement, so they reject the need for increased levels of spying. "If anything, the volume of information [the government] is gathering now is part of what's making it difficult to find the potential attack," Goitein said.

Speaking in Minneapolis in mid-December, Clinton appeared to be open to providing government agents with tools to break strong encryption. "Law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals warn that impenetrable encryption may make it harder for them to investigate plots and prevent future attacks," Clinton said. Days later, at another primary debate, Clinton called for a "Manhattan Project-like" approach to encryption, baffling many security experts. It turns out her own team knew her approach to encryption -- somehow giving a key to cops but keeping it away from everybody else -- was "impossible," as later revealed in an internal email released by WikiLeaks.

Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and an expert on digital security and encryption, told me that he believes the leaked emails suggest a positive shift in Clinton's camp. "The emails released by WikiLeaks do at least suggest that she has some technically savvy people advising her, and they seem to have nudged her away from the fantasy of a 'golden key' encryption backdoor that only opens for the good guys without compromising everyone's security," Sanchez told me.

Like Goitein, he said too little was known about Clinton's "intelligence surge," but he questioned the need for added surveillance. "She's adopting a military concept -- which does have a reasonably clear meaning: more boots on the ground -- and applying it in a context where it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, at least given the massive amount of spying our intelligence agencies already engage in," he said.

In the wake of the mass shooting at an LGBT club in Orlando, Florida, in June 2016 Clinton again called for an intelligence surge. In criticizing Trump's approach, Clinton said she opposed "special surveillance on our fellow Americans because of their religion," but then added that "none of us can close our eyes to the fact that we do face enemies who use their distorted version of Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people." That rhetorical flourish is standard Clinton triangulation -- that is, signaling respect for civil liberties while implicitly indicating that Muslim communities are legitimate targets for increased surveillance.

That message is designed to appeal to a liberal audience that is horrified by Trump's open bigotry, but is nonetheless willing to put violence perpetrated by Muslims in a special category that must be prevented at all costs. The result is a continuing stigmatization of Muslims in the United States and abroad.

"There is a strong feeling of surveillance that many Muslim feel is ever present," Ibrahim Mohamoud, communications officer at CAGE, a London-based Muslim advocacy group, told me in an email. "From our casework, we have seen reports and allegations of harassment and entrapment from the security services. The most common of which is people from the Muslim community being pressured or even bullied into 'spying' on their community. Unfortunately, what this [has] done, is to create nothing but mistrust between the Muslim community and the authorities."

For Mohamoud, the problem is that politicians continue to ignore the roots of discontent and instead look for external explanations. "The real issue is that Governments are always looking outwards to find the causes of political violence," he wrote. "They fail to introspectively look at their policies at home and abroad."

News Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The Youthful Carnage of US Gun Culture

Every day, on average, seven kids and teens are shot dead in America. Election 2016 will undoubtedly prove consequential in many ways, but lowering that death count won't be one of them. To grapple with fatalities on that scale -- 2,500 dead children annually -- a candidate would need a thoroughgoing plan for dealing with America's gun culture that goes well beyond background checks. In addition, he or she would need to engage with the inequality, segregation, poverty, and lack of mental health resources that add up to the environment in which this level of violence becomes possible.  Think of it as the huge pile of dry tinder for which the easy availability of firearms is the combustible spark. In America in 2016, to advocate for anything like the kind of policies that might engage with such issues would instantly render a candidacy implausible, if not inconceivable -- not least with the wealthy folks who now fund elections.

So the kids keep dying and, in the absence of any serious political or legislative attempt to tackle the causes of their deaths, the media and the political class move on to excuses. From claims of bad parenting to lack of personal responsibility, they regularly shift the blame from the societal to the individual level. Only one organized group at present takes the blame for such deaths.  The problem, it is suggested, isn't American culture, but gang culture.

Researching my new book, Another Day in the Death of America, about all the children and teens shot dead on a single random Saturday in 2013, it became clear how often the presence of gangs in neighborhoods where so many of these kids die is used as a way to dismiss serious thinking about why this is happening. If a shooting can be described as "gang related," then it can also be discounted as part of the "pathology" of urban life, particularly for people of color. In reality, the main cause, pathologically speaking, is a legislative system that refuses to control the distribution of firearms, making America the only country in the world in which such a book would have been possible.

"Gang Related"

The obsession with whether a shooting is "gang related" and the ignorance the term exposes brings to mind an interview I did 10 years ago with septuagenarian Buford Posey in rural Mississippi. He had lived in Philadelphia, Mississippi, around the time that three civil rights activists -- James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner -- were murdered. As I spoke to him about that era and the people living in that town (some of whom, like him, were still alive), I would bring up a name and he would instantly interject, "Well, he was in the Klan," or "Well, his Daddy was in the Klan," or sometimes he would just say "Klan" and leave it at that.

After a while I had to stop him and ask for confirmation. "Hang on," I said, "I can't just let you say that about these people without some proof or corroboration. How do you know they were in the Klan?"

"Hell," he responded matter-of-factly, "I was in the Klan. Near everybody around here was in the Klan around that time. Being in the Klan was no big deal."

Our allegiances and affiliations are, of course, our choice. Neither Posey nor any of the other white men in Philadelphia had to join the Klan, and clearly some were more enthusiastic participants than others. (Posey himself would go on to support the civil rights movement.)

It's no less true that context shapes such choices. If Posey had grown up in Vermont, it's unlikely that he'd ever have joined the Klan. If a white Vermonter had been born and raised in Mississippi in those years, the likelihood is that he'd have had a pressed white sheet in the closet for special occasions.

At the time, for white men in Philadelphia the Klan was the social mixing place du jour. It was what you did if you had any hope of advancing locally, did not want to be left out of things, or simply preferred to swim with the tide. Since pretty much everyone you knew was involved in one way or another, to be white and live in Philadelphia then was to be, in some way, "Klan related." That doesn't mean being in the Klan should give anyone a pass, but it does mean that if you wanted to understand how it operated, why it had the reach it did, and ultimately how to defeat it rather than just condemn it, you first had to understand its appeal in that moment.

The same is true of gangs today in urban America. On the random day I picked for my book, 10 children and teens died by gun. Not all of their assailants have been caught and probably they never will be. Depending on how you define the term, however, it would be possible to argue that eight of those killings were gang related.  Either the assailant or the victim was (or was likely to have been) part of a group that could be called a gang.  Only two were clearly not gang related -- either the victim and the shooter were not in a gang or membership in a gang had nothing to do with the shooting. But all 10 deaths did have one clear thing in common: they were all gun-related.

The emphasis on gang membership has always seemed to me like a way of filtering child deaths into two categories: deserving and undeserving. If a shooting was gang related then it's assumed that the kid had it coming and was, in some way, responsible for his or her own death. Only those not gang related were innocents and so they alone were worthy of our sympathy.

Making a "Blacklist"

The more I spoke to families and people on the ground, the more it became clear how unhelpful the term "gang related" is in understanding who is getting shot and why.  As a term, it's most often used not to describe but to dismiss.

Take Edwin Rajo, 16, who was shot dead in Houston, Texas, at about 8 p.m. on that November 23rd. He lived in Bellaire Gardens, a low-rise apartment complex on a busy road of commercial and residential properties in an area called Gulfton in southwest Houston. It sat between a store selling bridal wear and highly flammable-looking dresses for quinceañera -- the celebration of a girl's 15th birthday -- and the back of a Fiesta supermarket, part of a Texas-based, Hispanic-oriented chain with garish neon lighting that makes you feel as though you're shopping for groceries in Las Vegas. Opposite it was a pawnshop, a beauty salon, a Mexican taqueria, and a Salvadorean restaurant.

The Southwest Cholos ran this neighborhood, complex by complex. There was no avoiding them. "They start them really, really young," one of Edwin's teachers told me. "In elementary. Third grade, fourth grade. And that's just how it is for kids... You join for protection. Even if you're not cliqued in, so long as you're associated with them, you're good. You have to claim a clique to be safe. If you're not, if you're by yourself, you're gonna get jumped."

In other words, if you grow up in Bellaire Gardens you are a gang member in the same way that Soviet citizens were members of the Communist Party and Iraqis under Saddam Hussein, the Baath Party.  There is precious little choice, which means that, in and of itself, gang affiliation doesn't tell you much.

Edwin, a playful and slightly immature teenager, was not, in fact, an active member of the Cholos, though he identified with them.  Indeed, you get the impression that they considered him something of a liability. "They accepted him," said his teacher.  "He hung with them. But he wasn't in yet." His best friend in the complex, Camilla (not her real name), was in the gang, as allegedly was her mother. She sported the Cholo-style dress and had a gang name. After several altercations with someone from a rival gang, who threatened them and took a shot at Camilla's brother, she decided to get a gun.

"We were thinking like little kids," Camilla told me. "I didn't really know anything about guns. I just know you shoot with it and that's it."

Sure enough, Edwin was at Camilla's apartment that night and suggested they play with the gun. In the process, she shot him, not realizing that, even though the clip was out, one bullet was still in the chamber. So was that shooting gang related? After all, the shooter was in a gang. She had been threatened by someone from a rival gang and Edwin may indeed have had aspirations to be in her gang.

Or was it an accidental shooting in which two kids who knew nothing about guns acquired one and one of them got killed while they were messing around?

In an environment in which gangs run everything, most things most people do are in some way going to be "gang related." But defining all affiliation as a kind of complicity in violence not only means writing off children in entire communities for being born in the wrong place at the wrong time, but criminalizing them in the process.

For one thing, the criteria for gang membership couldn't be more subjective and loose. Gang leaders don't exactly hand out membership cards. Sometimes it's just a matter of young people hanging out. Take Stanley Taylor, who was shot dead in the early hours of that November morning in Charlotte, North Carolina. He spent a lot of his time on Beatties Ford Road with his friends. "I ain't gonna say it was a gang," says his buddy Trey. "But it was a neighborhood thing. Beatties Ford. We got our own little clique. We on the West Side. North Side is a whole different neighborhood you don't even fool with. Everybody was together. This my brother, this my brother. We all in the same clique. We got each other's back. I'm not going to let nobody else touch you. If you hit him, I'm gonna hit you. Cos I'm his brother."

Stanley was shot at a gas station in the wake of an altercation with Demontre Rice, who was from the North Side, after Rice allegedly almost ran him over as he pulled in. It's not obvious that either man knew where the other was from and yet if Rice were in a gang (something I can't even confirm), that would, of course, make his killing gang related.

Sometimes gangs do have actual rites of initiation. Since, however, gang affiliation can be a guide to criminal activity, authorities are constantly trying to come up with more definite ways of identifying gang members. Almost inevitably, such attempts quickly fall back on stereotypes. A 1999 article in Colorlines, for instance, typically pointed out that in "at least five states, wearing baggy FUBU jeans and being related to a gang suspect is enough to meet the 'gang member' definition. In Arizona, a tattoo and blue Adidas sneakers are sufficient." In suburban Aurora, Colorado, local police decided that any two of the following constituted gang membership: "slang," "clothing of a particular color," "pagers," "hairstyles," "jewelry."

Black people made up 11% of Aurora's population and 80% of its gang database. The local head of the ACLU was heard to say, "They might as well call it a blacklist."

Under the Gun

Gangs are neither new nor racially specific. From the Irish, Polish, Jewish, and Puerto Rican gangs of New York to the Mafia, various types of informal gatherings of mostly, but not exclusively, young men have long been part of Western life. They often connect the social, violent, entrepreneurial, and criminal.

None of this should in any way diminish the damaging, often lethal effects organized gangs have on the young. One of the boys who died that day, 18-year-old Tyshon Anderson from Chicago, was by all accounts a gang member. His godmother, Regina, had long expected his life to come to an early end. "He did burglary, sold drugs, he killed people. He had power in the street. He really did. Especially for such a young kid. He had power. A lot of people were intimidated by him and they were scared of him. I know he had bodies under his belt. I seen him grow up and I loved him and I know he could be a good kid. But there ain't no point in sugarcoating it. He was a bad kid, too." If I'd chosen another day that year, I could well have been reporting on one of Tyshon's victims.

And although gangs involve a relatively small minority of young people, they still add up to significant numbers. According to the National Youth Gang Survey, in 2012 in the United States there were around 30,000 gangs and more than 800,000 gang members -- roughly the population of Amsterdam.

What's new in all this isn't the gangs themselves, but how much deadlier they've become in recent years. According to the National Youth Gang Survey, between 2007 and 2012, gang membership rose by 8%, but gang-related homicides leapt by 20%. It seems that the principal reason why gang activity has become so much more deadly is the increasingly easy availability of guns -- and of ever deadlier versions of such weaponry as well. Studies of Los Angeles County between 1979 and 1994 revealed that the proportion of gang incidents involving guns that ended in homicide leapt from 71% to 95%. "The contrast with the present is striking," argues sociologist Malcolm Klein, after reaching a similar conclusion in Philadelphia and East Los Angeles. "Firearms are now standard. They are easily purchased or borrowed and are more readily available than in the past."

This raises the stakes immeasurably when it comes to parents and caregivers trying to protect their adolescent children from bad company or poor choices (as parents of all classes and races tend to do). Identifying with a gang and doing something as seemingly harmless as wearing clothing of a certain color or befriending the wrong person can result in an early death.  As a result, Gustin Hinnant's father in Goldsboro, North Carolina, used to burn his red clothes if he saw him wearing them too often.  Gustin died anyway, hit in the head by a stray bullet meant for another boy who was in a gang. Pedro Cortez's grandmother in San Jose, California, used to similarly hide his red shirts -- the color identified with the local Nortenos gang -- just in case. Yet on that same November 23rd, Pedro, who was legally blind, was shot dead while walking in a park. He was dressed in black, but a friend who was with him was indeed wearing red.

Gangs are hardly unique to America, nor do Americans make worse parents than those elsewhere in the world, nor are their kids worse. There is, however, an unavoidable difference between the United States and all other western nations, or the book I wrote would have been inconceivable. This is the only place where, in addition to the tinder of poverty, inequality, and segregation, among other challenges, you have to include the combustible presence of guns -- guns everywhere, guns so available that they are essentially unavoidable.

As long as Americans refuse to engage with that straightforward fact of their social landscape, the kinds of deaths I recorded in my book will keep happening with gruesome predictability.  In fact, I could have chosen almost any Saturday from at least the past two decades and produced the same work.

Dismissing such fatalities as "gang related" -- as, that is, victims to be dumped in some morally inferior category -- is a way of not facing an American reality. It sets the white noise of daily death sufficiently low to allow the country to go about its business undisturbed.  It ensures a confluence of culture, politics, and economics guaranteeing that an average of seven children will wake up but not go to bed every day of the year, while much of the rest of the country sleeps soundly.

News Mon, 24 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400