Truthout Stories http://www.truth-out.org Wed, 27 May 2015 08:07:27 -0400 en-gb Capitalism Could Kill All Life on Earth http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31000-capitalism-could-kill-all-life-on-earth http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31000-capitalism-could-kill-all-life-on-earth

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Are we going to let capitalism destroy life on Earth?

According to 99 percent of climate scientists – we'll know by the end of the century.

Scientists have agreed for three decades about what is causing atmospheric temperatures to rise – humans are burning Earth's carbon resources to fuel economic activity.

But even before we knew what was causing the temperature to rise – scientists warned about the dire global impacts of a two degree increase in atmospheric temperatures.

Earth's climate has been basically stable for hundreds of thousands of years.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

But that changed during the industrial revolution - when Great Britain realized the potential of coal-powered steam engines.

Soon continental Europe and the US followed suit.

And more than 150 years later – coal, oil and natural gas dominate the global politics and economics: wars are fought over oil; communities are destroyed for coal; and increasingly scarce water supplies are poisoned by natural gas extraction.

The Earth has already warmed about one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels - which means we have to change our energy system completely before the Earth warms another degree in order to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Is it possible?

Scientists say "Yes!" - BUT it will require us to take bold and immediate steps towards a completely renewable energy system.

The technology exists – the shortfall is in investment.

According to the IMF – oil companies get $5.3 trillion in subsidies worldwide per year.

And the oil companies pay only a portion – if any – of the environmental costs of ripping fossil fuels from the ground and burning the CO2 into the atmosphere.

In other words, every living human being and government are paying for coal, oil, and gas companies to profit from the destruction our planet.

And that's not a market failure – that's how the market was set up.

Capitalism as we know it isn't the solution – it's the problem.

In a report in "Nature Climate Change" – scientists point out that we can keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius – if every country takes bold and immediate action to deploy current clean energy and limit the use of fossil fuels.

The biggest failure in our system is that there is no price on carbon.

Burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon into our atmosphere has very real costs that corporations aren't paying for – costs that are being kicked down the road for future generations.

In America, we've let the fossil fuel industry become so profitable that it relentlessly funds campaigns and lobbies to keep oil subsidies in place and weaken environmental regulations - all at the expense of our communities and our planet.

Our current oligarchs claim that renewable power isn't efficient or cheap enough to be competitive or to reliably replace fossil fuels – but that's just not true.

Solar, wind, and wave technology are all ready to be deployed at large scales – and Denmark, Germany, the UK and China, among others, are doing it right now.

Our transportation system is ready for renewables – solar roadways in the Netherlands are proving more effective than expected – and over two dozen models of electric cars are now out on the market.

Our households are ready for renewables: LED lightbulbs and high efficiency appliances mean that households use less energy – and affordable rooftop solar means that households can meet a lot their own energy needs.

We can make renewables competitive if we just cut subsidies to oil and coal companies and enforce our clean air and clean water regulations – but that means getting money out of politics so that legislation is written in the interest of communities and the planet - instead of corporations.

Capitalism is great at creating profits and products – but it doesn't care about environmental justice.

Capitalism doesn't care whether we restore our forests and soils so that the planet can begin to reabsorb the carbon we've dumped into the atmosphere.

Capitalism doesn't care whether streams are poisoned or if the air is noxious – it doesn't care if a river burns because of pollution – and it doesn't care if another technology is 'cleaner' - unless the 'dirty' option becomes unprofitable.

That's why we need both more regulation of the fossil fuel industry - and public investments into clean energy like solar and wind.

Capitalism is to make money - but a government like our republic is put into place to protect the people from those whose quest for money harms society. We cannot replace democratic government with capitalism – and climate change proves this.

In fact - climate change challenges capitalism at its very root – is an economy really growing when all the costs are dumped on society while a handful of corporations and billionaires take all the profits?

Science says that we can keep global temperatures from rising another half degree – but it can't be left to a private sector that makes its profits from leaving the costs to everybody else.

It's time for a New Green Deal – we need to stop directly and indirectly subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and we need to invest in a large-scale deployment of current clean energy technologies – one that will create permanent, sustainable jobs, and protect the Earth for future generations.

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Opinion Tue, 26 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
137 Shots, No Convictions: Cleveland Cop Acquitted in Killing of Two Unarmed Black People http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30996-137-shots-no-convictions-cleveland-cop-acquitted-in-killing-of-unarmed-african-american-pair http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30996-137-shots-no-convictions-cleveland-cop-acquitted-in-killing-of-unarmed-african-american-pair

The national conversation on policing African-American communities is focused on Cleveland today after a major federal settlement and a controversial verdict. The Justice Department has reached an agreement with Cleveland over a pattern of what it calls "unreasonable and unnecessary" force by police. A probe last year found "chaotic and dangerous" abuse across hundreds of incidents. This comes just days after an acquittal in a case that helped launch the probe. On Saturday, Officer Michael Brelo was found not guilty of manslaughter for the fatal shootings of two unarmed African Americans in their car. In November 2012, Brelo was one of 13 officers who fired 137 rounds at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams after a chase which began when officers mistook a backfiring car for gunshots. Officer Brelo personally fired 49 shots, at least 15 of them at point-blank range through the windshield after he climbed onto the hood of the car. In a verdict on Saturday, Judge John O’Donnell said he can’t prove Belo shot the fatal bullets, since 12 other officers also opened fire. O’Donnell also said Brelo had grounds to fear for his safety. We are joined by two guests: the Reverend Waltrina Middleton, a community organizer close to the families of Russell and Williams; and Alice Ragland, an activist with the Ohio Student Association, which has been organizing around the issue of police violence in Ohio.

TRANSCRIPT:

AARON MATÉ: The national conversation on policing African-American communities is focused on Cleveland today after a major federal settlement and a controversial verdict. The Justice Department has reached an agreement with Cleveland over a pattern of what it calls "unreasonable and unnecessary" force by police. A probe last year found unlawful abuses across hundreds of cases. The federal settlement could lead to independent oversight and revised policies.

This comes just days after an acquittal in a case that helped launch the probe. On Saturday, Officer Michael Brelo was found not guilty of manslaughter for the fatal shootings of two unarmed African Americans in their car. In November 2012, Brelo was one of 13 officers who fired 137 rounds at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams after a 22-mile-long, high-speed chase. The incident began after police tried to stop Russell for a wrong turn. After Russell sped away, more officers then reported gunfire from his car. But there were no guns. Instead, prosecutors say the car was making noises from backfiring.

AMY GOODMAN: The chase involved speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. More than 60 police cruisers took part, even though the rules for chases allow only two. After the other officers had stopped shooting at the victims’ car, Officer Brelo mounted the hood of the car and fired at least 15 shots through the windshield. Timothy Russell was shot 23 times; Malissa Williams, 24 times. But in a verdict on Saturday, Judge John O’Donnell said he cannot prove Belo shot the fatal bullets, since 12 other officers also opened fire. O’Donnell also said Brelo had grounds to fear for his safety.

JUDGE JOHN O’DONNELL: I find, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Brelo’s decision to use deadly force against Russell and Williams was based on probable cause to believe that they threatened imminent serious bodily harm to him and the other officers, not to mention the public. I therefore find that his initial decision to use force was constitutionally reasonable.

AARON MATÉ: A report from the Ohio attorney general called the chase and shooting the result of, quote, "a systemic failure in the Cleveland Police Department." More than 60 officers were suspended over their roles. But Brelo was the only officer to be criminally charged.

The families of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams have voiced anger at Brelo’s acquittal. This is Renee Robinson, a cousin of Malissa Williams; and Paul Cristallo, attorney for Timothy Russell’s family.

RENEE ROBINSON: That was my cousin! That was my baby cousin. I’m going to tell you all something right now. We have no justice. They’re killing kids. They’re killing women now. They’re just—they’re doing whatever they want to do, and nobody is not even doing nothing about it.

PAUL CRISTALLO: Not guilty is not the same as innocent. Jumping up on the hood of a car and firing 49 bullets down into two unarmed people can hardly be said to be innocent. And while the law and the court—and we respect the decision—found him not guilty, we want it to be known that, obviously, we feel that he has—he’s culpable and that he is far from innocent, as was the city of Cleveland in their role in this situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul Cristallo is attorney for Timothy Russell’s family. The not guilty verdict by the judge sparked a day of protests in Cleveland. Hundreds of people rallied outside Cleveland Justice Center and near the home of the county prosecutor.

RALLY SPEAKER: After 4,000 cases of injustice, we’re just adding another one to it.

PROTESTER: That’s right, brother. That’s right.

RALLY SPEAKER: And make no mistake about it: We are calm, but we’re mad as hell.

AMY GOODMAN: The protests later merged at the park where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by a police officer last November. After a night of protests, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said 71 people were arrested.

MAYOR FRANK JACKSON: The majority of the protesters, yes, they were peaceful, although aggressive at the end of the day, but still peaceful. In the evening, however, there were some who crossed the line. And as a result, they were arrested. And they crossed the line, in some cases, by assaulting bystanders.

AMY GOODMAN: The Justice Department could unveil details of its settlement around Cleveland’s policing today. The city is also awaiting decisions on whether officers will be charged in the killings of two other unarmed African Americans: 12-year-old Tamir Rice, shot dead while playing with a toy gun in a park, and Tanisha Anderson, a mentally ill woman whose death has been ruled a homicide.

For more, we go right to Cleveland, where we’re joined by two guests. Alice Ragland is an activist with the Ohio Student Association, which has been organizing around the issue of police violence in Ohio. And the Reverend Waltrina Middleton is with us, a community organizer and minister with the group Cleveland Action, close to the families of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, the unarmed pair killed in their vehicle by Cleveland police in 2012.

Let’s begin with you, Reverend. If you could start by talking about the families’ reaction to the judge’s acquittal—this was a judge jury, not a jury of—not a jury, but the judge made the decision. Reverend Waltrina Middleton?

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: Hi, thank you. The family was not surprised, but certainly disappointed. I think that they felt as if Officer Brelo would have at least been charged on a lesser charge. But to have no accountability is obviously grievous for the family, quite disappointing that there’s no accountability at all for the behavior of a police officer who likened himself to Arnold Schwarzenegger or Rambo, jumping on the hood of a car and shooting down into a car where people were surrendering. Autopsy reports showed that there were bullets in the palm of Timothy and Malissa’s hands, and that suggests a posture of surrendering. And even the judge himself, even as the judge attempted to present Brelo as a hero, acknowledged that his behavior endangered himself and his fellow officers. And I don’t see anything reasonable or rational about his behavior. And the family is quite disappointed that justice failed and that, while Timothy finally had his day in court, justice failed to bring him justice.

AARON MATÉ: Well, Waltrina, I think, for many people across the country, this verdict and the ensuing protests marked the first time they’ve heard about this case, so take us back to this night in November 2012. What happened? They’re driving in their vehicle. An officer tries to stop them for a wrong turn. They speed away. And then, what happens next?

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: Well, there is a, what the police has reported, a 25-mile pursuit of Timothy and Malissa. They were accused, falsely, of shooting at the officers, which was later determined to potentially be a backfire of the car. But even as they fleed the scene, that’s not grounds for murder. That’s not grounds for execution. And they were executed with over a hundred shots sprayed into their vehicle. Eventually, the car came to a stop at what is called Heritage Middle School. The police accused the couple of trying to use their vehicle as a weapon. The family, obviously, aware of the character of their loved ones, highly dispute that, especially after the autopsy reports showed that there were bullets in the palm of their hands. And while the judge stated that Officer Brelo had every right to be afraid for his life because of the calls over the radio system that said they have a gun, they’re shooting, he didn’t point out that there were also recordings where there were persons saying it’s not a gun, it’s a soda can in their hands. And so, I feel as if the judge pretty much presented a case to fill the holes to protect the officer and to ensure that others would not be convicted. I think that this is this unity or unified front to protect officers, even when they’ve certainly violated their own code to service and protect.

The family tells the story of Timothy Russell being an evangelist who shared his faith with others and who always had an infectious smile on his face and that he would not hurt a fly. And so, this portrayal of these two people, in spite of whatever personal challenges they may have, that most human beings suffer from, is not fair. And also, the case itself was one-sided, presenting the story of the police officers, and a mischaracterization of person, criminalizing the victim simply because of their past, which had nothing to do with the shooting and the execution that they experienced.

AMY GOODMAN: Alice Ragland, you’re with the Ohio Student Association. You’ve been deeply involved in these protests. Why is Brelo the only one on trial? I mean, 137 rounds were shot at the car. He, himself, shot—what was it? Forty-nine shots at Malissa and Timothy. But why is he alone being charged with their killing?

ALICE RAGLAND: That’s something that I’m still trying to figure out, and that’s something that people in the activist community are still trying to figure out. There’s been a lot of confusion around that, the fact that there were 13 officers who fired shots and 64 officers were found to have violated their orders, but none of them were suspended for more than 10 days. So that’s a question that I still have.

AARON MATÉ: And, you know, part of Brelo’s defense was that he thought that the couple, the pair, was firing at him because of the gunfire that was actually coming from the officers. A defense expert testified, "Officers are actually firing and hitting the police vehicles, especially (police car) 238." Brelo believed the shots were coming from inside the suspects’ car, when in fact the shots were just coming from his fellow officers.

ALICE RAGLAND: Right, they were coming from his fellow officers. So, that, I guess, supposedly made him feel like he was fearing for his life. But I think that that’s completely ridiculous. I think that that is an excuse that was used to find him innocent.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to the attorney for Office Brelo, Patrick D’Angelo. Praising the not guilty verdict, D’Angelo said his client had defeated an "oppressive government."

PATRICK D’ANGELO: We stood toe to toe with an oppressive government trying to coerce and put away a law-abiding citizen who did his job in this case, even though there were tragic circumstances and outcomes. And we fought, the four of us, against all odds. And I am so happy that we can walk out of this courtroom with our heads held high.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Reverend Waltrina Middleton, your response to what Brelo’s attorney says? Now, there were supervisors charged with minor issues, but the fact that a hundred police officers were involved with this, what are you calling for? I mean, there were mass protests over the weekend, over 71 people arrested. Today, the Justice Department is expected to announce an agreement with the police of Cleveland. What do you expect to come out of it? What do you want to see happen?

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: May I first just address this idea of an oppressive system? When you have a system that protects abusive officers that hide behind a code of blue, that hide behind badges; where a 12-year-old cannot play in a recreation center without the threat of being murdered, in an open-carry state to say, "Oh, well, he looked like he was 21 or older"—it shouldn’t matter; it’s an open-carry state, so the child does not have the freedom to play in his own community without the fear of being murdered—his sister coming to his aid—and I’m speaking of Tamir Rice—and being handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car for trying to revive her brother; let’s talk about Tanisha Anderson, whose family contacted the police for support because of their sister’s mental health condition, and she was body-slammed and killed in the hands of officers; and the disproportionate—the countless, disproportionate deaths against black and brown bodies in this nation—I would question who is oppressed. So I want to speak to that.

I know that the family wants more than just the Department of Justice report that came out in December 2014. And so, it’s encouraging to know that the Department of Justice has come to some type of agreement with the city of Cleveland, but I hope it is more than symbolic. I pray that it’s actually taking those recommendations and putting it into action, so that people can go out without being criminalized, profiled and dying. I, myself, have been racially profiled by the police and stopped, just from trying to go from home to work. So I pray that it’s more than symbolic and that it will be fruitful so that people can live without being in fear.

AARON MATÉ: And, Alice Ragland, as this Justice Department settlement is announced today and as Cleveland awaits charges in the killings of Tanisha Anderson and Tamir Rice, what are you planning for next, and what do you hope for?

ALICE RAGLAND: I hope that all of the officers involved with the killings of Tanisha Anderson and Tamir Rice are charged and that they actually serve time. I mean, being charged is one thing, but we have so many cases where officers are indicted and charged, but they don’t—they don’t get found guilty. So, I hope that a judge and the justice system and a jury and whoever is involved with these cases will come to their senses.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to end with Vanita Gupta, the nation’s top civil rights prosecutor. In December, she unveiled the findings of the Justice Department probe. It detailed the history of abuse across hundreds of cases, characterizing police behavior in Cleveland as "chaotic and dangerous."

VANITA GUPTA: The investigation concluded that there is a reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland police engage in a pattern and practice of unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. That pattern has manifested in a range of ways, including the unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons; the unnecessary, excessive or retaliatory use of less lethal force, including Tasers, chemical spray and fists; excessive force against persons who are mentally ill and in crisis, including in cases where officers were called exclusively for a welfare check; and the employment of poor and dangerous tactics that placed officers in situations where avoidable force became inevitable. Supervisors throughout the chain of command have endorsed questionable and sometimes unlawful conduct by officers. Officers are not provided with sufficient and adequate training, policy guidance and supervision to do their jobs safely and effectively.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Vanita Gupta, the nation’s top civil rights prosecutor. I also want to thank our guests, Reverend Waltrina Middleton, minister with Cleveland Action, and Alice Ragland of the Ohio Student Association. Again, in the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was killed last November, there have still not been any charges brought against the officers involved with his killing. We will continue to follow this story. This is Democracy Now! But we will go after break to Belfast, to Ireland, for an historic vote. Stay with us.

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News Tue, 26 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Of Course Jeb Bush Would Have Invaded Iraq http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/30993-of-course-jeb-bush-would-have-invaded-iraq http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/30993-of-course-jeb-bush-would-have-invaded-iraq

Jeb Bush must have set some kind of record for political flip-flopping this month.

“Knowing what we know now,” he was asked — that Saddam Hussein didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction, for example — “would you have authorized the invasion” of Iraq?

“I would’ve,” he said.

Almost immediately, the oatmeal hit the fan. Supporters and critics alike jumped up out of the weeds protesting his embrace of what many consider the greatest foreign policy blunder since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.

Before nightfall that day, he was backing crab-like away from that position. He had “misinterpreted” the question, he said. In any case, it was futile to take up “hypotheticals” like that.

But back he tracked until it seemed as though the former Florida governor would’ve been marching in front of the White House, occupied at the time by his own brother, with a “Hell No! I won’t go” placard.

The kindest interpretation friendly critics offered was that Jeb Bush was reluctant to take issue with George W., who, after all, ordered the Iraq invasion. It was filial affection, not foreign policy naiveté, that informed his first response.

Are you kidding me?

Of course Jeb Bush would have done the same thing as George W. Bush. There’s hardly the thickness of a sheet of paper between them on Middle East policy.

Don’t believe me? The man who would like to lead the third Bush administration in three decades named Paul Wolfowitz, the Iraq invasion’s architect, to his team of advisers. That’s like taking navigation lessons from the captain of the Titanic.

Wolfowitz, you’ll remember, is the guy who promised a speedy end to the Iraq War and predicted it would pay for itself with rising oil revenue. That was a trillion dollars — and many thousands of lives — ago. And we’re still waiting for our first payment.

I’ve always thought Jeb got too much credit for being smarter than his brother. That was largely a function of the fact that even though he smoked a lot of pot in high school, he didn’t spend his youthful years drunk, unlike George W.

In reality, neither of them has shown much in the way of smarts. They’ve gone a long way on family money and friends in high places.

The best of the Bush bunch, to my thinking, is the old man, George H. W. Bush. Not a brilliant intellectual, perhaps, but he was smart enough to know that Iraq’s not a place where you want to hang out very long. As bad a guy as Saddam Hussein was, the elder Bush had the sense not to dabble in regime change when he went to war with Iraq.

Perhaps the most astonishing piece of information to come out of this latest Bush flap was a Quinnipiac University poll that showed George W. Bush’s favorability rating with likely voters in the Iowa caucus stands at 81 percent.

Eighty-one percent! Chocolate ice cream doesn’t have an 81 percent favorability rating among Iowa Republicans.

What can they be thinking of? Certainly they can’t be thinking very seriously about the Iraq invasion. Did I mention that it’s cost us a trillion dollars and counting?

Perhaps I failed to inform you that our conduct of that war and the other conflicts that seem to have unstoppably flowed from it, with our waterboarding and our drone attacks, have squandered any moral advantage that we claimed over our enemies.

Jeb Bush was the great hope of rational Republicans in the upcoming race. He was the sensible one.

Now we find he hopes to ride his brother’s tattered coat tails to victory.

Who’s his model for economic policy, Herbert Hoover?

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Opinion Tue, 26 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Lies, Not Mistakes, Led to Invasion of Iraq http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/30992-lies-not-mistakes-led-to-invasion-of-iraq http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/30992-lies-not-mistakes-led-to-invasion-of-iraq

United States Marines stand guard outside a bakery in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2005, two years after the American-led invasion of the country. (Photo: Joao Silva for the New York Times)United States Marines stand guard outside a bakery in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2005, two years after the US-led invasion of the country. (Photo: Joao Silva for the New York Times)

Jeb Bush definitely did us a favor: In attempting not to talk about the past, he ended up bringing back the discussion of the Iraq war, which many political and media figures have been trying to avoid. And of course they're still trying to avoid it - they want to make sure this just about the horse race, or about the hypothetical question of "if you knew what we know now."

But that formulation is itself an evasion, as Josh Marshall, Greg Sargent and Duncan Black have pointed out - each making a slightly different but crucial point.

First, as Mr. Marshall, the editor of Talking Points Memo, recently wrote, the Iraq invasion was not a good faith mistake. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney didn't sit down with the intelligence community, ask for its best assessment of the situation and then reluctantly conclude that war was the only option. They decided right at the beginning - even before the dust of 9/11 had settled - to use a terrorist attack by religious extremists as an excuse to go after a secular regime that, evil as it was, had nothing to do with that attack.

To make the case for the splendid little war that they wanted to fight, they deliberately misled the public, making an essentially fake case about weapons of mass destruction - because chemical weapons, which many believed Saddam Hussein had, are nothing like the nukes they implied he was working on - and insinuating the false claim that Saddam was behind 9/11.

Second, as Mr. Sargent at The Washington Post says, even this isn't hindsight. It was quite clear at the time that the case for war was fake (God knows I thought it was glaringly obvious, and I tried to tell people) and fairly obvious as well that the attempt to create a pro-American Iraq after the invasion was likely to be an expensive failure. So the question for war supporters shouldn't be: "Would you have been a supporter knowing what you know now?" It should be: "Why didn't you see the obvious back then?"

Finally, and this is where the blogger Mr. Black comes in, part of the answer is that a lot of Very Serious People were effectively in on the con. They, too, were looking forward to a splendid little war; or they were eager to burnish their nonhippie credentials by saying, "Hey, look, I'm a warmonger too!" Or they shied away from acknowledging the obvious lies because that would have been partisan, and Very Serious People pride themselves on being centrists. And now, of course, they are very anxious not to revisit their actions back then.

Can we think about the economic debate the same way? Yes, although it's arguably not quite as stark. Consider the long period when Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, was held up as the very model of a serious, honest conservative. If you were willing to do even a little bit of homework, it was obvious from the beginning that he was a fraud, and that his alleged concern about the deficit was just a cover for the real goal of dismantling the welfare state. Even the inflation craziness may be best explained in terms of the political agenda: People on the right were furious at the Federal Reserve for, as they saw it, heading off the fiscal crisis that they wanted to use to justify their anti-social-insurance crusade. So they put pressure on the Fed to stop doing its job.

And the Very Serious People enabled all of this, just as they enabled the Iraq lies.

But back to Iraq: The crucial thing to understand is that the invasion wasn't a mistake, it was a crime. We were lied into war.

And we shouldn't let that ugly truth be forgotten.

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Opinion Tue, 26 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
"The Art of the Gouge": NYU as a Model for Predatory Higher Education http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30989-the-art-of-the-gouge-nyu-as-a-model-for-predatory-higher-education http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30989-the-art-of-the-gouge-nyu-as-a-model-for-predatory-higher-education

New York UniversityNew York University. (Photo: Billie Ward/Flickr)Want to challenge injustice and make real change happen? That's Truthout's goal - support our work with a donation today!

Under Chairman of the Board Martin Lipton and President John Sexton, New York University has been operating as a real estate development/management business with a predatory higher-education side venture. A group of 400 faculty members at NYU, Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (FASP), have been working for years against what Pam Martens has called “running NYU as a tyrannical slush fund for privileged interests.” FASP just published a devastating document, The Art of the Gouge, which describes how NYU engages in a mind-numbing range of tricks and traps to extract as much in fees as possible from students, while at the same time failing to invest in and often degrading the educational “product”.

The first part of the report goes through a mind-numbing and degrading set of scams perpetrated on students, including the bait and switch of hitting them with extra charges they can’t possibly find out about before they have committed to the school, to the tune of an estimated $10,000 per year; providing mediocre education in programs that require “study abroad” while also requiring them to stay in grossly overpriced university housing; admitting a high proportion of foreign students, precisely because they pay higher fees (and predictably, NYU’s premiums are even higher than that of other schools), and offering shamelessly overpriced, narrow, and not very good health services.

Mind you, that list only scratches the surface.

The second part, which describes how the funds are used, describes in gory detail how the school throws money at real estate empire-building, disproportionately for administrative space and housing when teaching facilities are in short supply. The third document describes how NYU is an even more extreme practitioner of squeezing the incomes of faculty while gold-plating administrator pay and perks. Consider one famous example that we discussed in 2013, Jacob Lew, who was then the presumed incoming Treasury Secretary:

Remember, Lew came from a job at NYU where he already looks to have been considerably overpaid. He received over $840,000 for the academic year 2002-2003, which had him earning more than most university presidents, including NYU’s president. And on top of that, as Pam Martens ferreted out, he was apparently given a $1.3 million house. I’m not making that up, go read her piece. The mechanism was that NYU lent the $1.3 million to buy the house to Lew and then forgave it over five years. Oh, and they paid him the money to pay the interest too. We will assume that the forgiveness of debt was reported properly to the IRS.

Pam Martens has long been bird-dogging the grifting at NYU. As she wrote later in 2013:

In September 2009, the New York Times published a remarkable exercise in inanity, profiling John Sexton, President of NYU..

We don’t, for example, learn from the interview that his home on Fire Island has been financed since 1994 by several million dollars in loans from the NYU School of Law Foundation and NYU itself…

This is not the only residence that NYU has made possible for its President. He has the use of two well appointed apartments owned by NYU in Manhattan. Sexton, who turned 70 in September, is also set to receive a length of service bonus of $2.5 million in 2015 and an annual pension of $800,000 when he retires. That pension is the equivalent of NYU taking $10 million of its assets and placing them in an immediate annuity for Sexton.

Sexton has plenty of company when it comes to getting out of the city in the summer through the generosity of NYU. Richard Tsien, Director of the NYU Neuroscience Institute, bought a house in East Fishkill, New York, 76 miles from the university, for $1,125,000 in February 2012 with $500,000 in financing from NYU. According to an online description, it’s a stone house on 7 park-like acres with a flowing stream and a functioning 12-foot water wheel.

Numerous other NYU professors have country homes financed by the NYU School of Law Foundation or NYU. Between primary residences and vacation homes, NYU and its affiliated nonprofits have an estimated $72 million to $96 million outstanding in loans to faculty and administrators. The university has acknowledged 168 loans.

So the sort of conduct documented in these three reports is no surprise if you’ve been following this story, but having them documented in so much detail is devastating. I hope you’ll read them and circulate them widely, above all to parents whose children might be considering applying to NYU.

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News Tue, 26 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
An Open Letter to Obama: If You Want Money for the Climate, Tax Wall Street http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/30987-an-open-letter-to-obama-if-you-want-money-for-the-climate-tax-wall-street http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/30987-an-open-letter-to-obama-if-you-want-money-for-the-climate-tax-wall-street

An innovative new tax could fund climate transition and help rebuild the social safety net. So why is the White House knocking it?

When John Hurley, the U.S. Treasury Department’s director of international debt and development, said in April that the U.S. wouldn’t support taxation as a way to raise money to help communities working to claw their way out of poverty and cope with climate change, he raised the hackles of anti-poverty and climate justice advocates.

The context for Hurley’s controversial comments was a Financing for Development discussion at the United Nations headquarters. As the name implies, this process is meant to help make sense of the different streams of money flowing from national budgets, public financial institutions, development banks, and private companies to sustainable development efforts.

Developed countries have made promises, and in some cases signed legal treaties, to deliver development and climate finance to poorer states. But some countries, like the United States, are reluctant to identify specifically how they plan to generate new revenue to meet outstanding aid and climate funding commitments.

All the more alarming was Hurley’s singling out and trashing of one of the most promising forms of innovative finance — a small tax on trades of stock, derivatives, and other financial instruments called a financial transaction tax, or FTT. “Financial transactions taxes in particular are an inefficient way to raise revenues,” he said, “and have a distortionary effect on financial markets.”

The thing is, numerous countries — including many with robust financial markets, such as the UK, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, and India — already have FTTs. In addition, 11 European governments have committed to implement the world’s first regional FTT next year, and are expecting to raise tens of billions of dollars in new revenue annually.

That could spell real relief for people facing austerity cuts in those countries and go a long way toward meeting international funding obligations. And FTTs enjoy huge global public support. Over a million people from around the planet have signed a petition calling for a financial transactions tax to fund job creation, public health, clean energy, community resilience, and much more.

An FTT could be a big deal here in the United States too, where our bloated and politically powerful financial sector remains largely untaxed.

That’s why on the on the opening day of the May round of informal negotiations over the Financing for Development outcome, 20 environmental, development, health, and public interest groups and small businesses sent an open letter to President Obama urging his administration to support a financial transaction tax.

The least the White House and its representatives could do, they demanded, is to keep their mouths shut during these critical conversations and not undermine the bold action of more visionary countries. We’ll see if the U.S. can resist the temptation.

The letter is available here.

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Opinion Tue, 26 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
On the News With Thom Hartmann: New York Will Use Bank Settlements to Give Homeless Families Housing, and More http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30985-on-the-news-with-thom-hartmann-new-york-will-use-bank-settlements-to-give-homeless-families-housing-and-more http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30985-on-the-news-with-thom-hartmann-new-york-will-use-bank-settlements-to-give-homeless-families-housing-and-more

Do you want to see more stories like this published? Click here to help Truthout continue doing this work!

In today's On the News segment: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that his office will use $1.2 million from bank settlements to help get homeless families off the street; conservatives only want to privatize the profitable sections of our rail system; Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's tax cuts are causing two-year budget deficit of more than $1 billion in the state; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...

You need to know this. Ever since the tragic Amtrak accident earlier this month, many on the right have claimed that privatizing parts of our national rail system will solve all of our problems. Not only is this claim ridiculous, but we have plenty of evidence to prove that it's completely wrong. First of all, conservatives only want to privatize the profitable sections of our rail system. The rest of our nation's railways will still be owned and operated by the government – free market be damned. And, we didn't hear a single one of these Republicans talk about lifting the liability cap that limits how much compensation victims could ever receive in a future accident. Currently, that cap is set at $200 million – the maximum that Amtrak may have to pay out – despite the fact that the victims' medical bills alone could exceed that limit. Just like we've seen after oil spills and chemical leaks, Republicans are just fine with private companies pocketing all the profits, and sticking taxpayers with the cost of their disasters. From our high-cost, inefficient healthcare system, to our private, insanely-expensive universities, we have plenty of examples to show a profit motive doesn't make every industry function better. In fact, the need to make a profit often directly conflicts with needs like caring for the sick or providing a quality eduction. And, just like those industries, our national railways serve needs that should not come second to profit. Our infrastructure allows businesses to operate and allows us to shop, travel, and get to work. There is value in our roads, bridges, and railways that can't be measured by profit margin, but Republicans don't give a damn about anything that isn't measured in dollars and cents. It's up to us to stand up for our nation, and demand that our infrastructure is about more than making a profit. Our national commons belong to all of us, and the value we get from modernizing and protecting our roads, bridges and railways should never be marginalized.

What do you do with the settlement money from the banksters that fraudulently foreclosed on peoples' homes? Well, if you're New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, you use it to get people back in to affordable housing. Last week, Schneiderman announced that his office will use $1.2 million from bank settlements to help get homeless families off the street. In conjunction with the anti-poverty group Robin Hood Foundation and Enterprise Community Partners, an affordable housing developer, this new project will help hundreds of families move from New York City's shelter system into permanent apartments. The new program is known as "Come Home NYC," and it is just one of many programs that the city's leadership is taking to deal with their growing homelessness problem. It is pretty much impossible to undo the damage caused by banksters illegally kicking people out of their homes, but using the resulting fines to fight homelessness is one of the best outcomes we could hope for after that disaster. And, we can keep hoping that some of these banksters find new homes behind bars.

Every day that Kansas lawmakers can't agree on whether to repeal Gov. Sam Brownback's budget-destroying tax cuts, it costs the voters the equivalent of a brand-new luxury vehicle. Thanks to Brownback's tax cuts and his elimination of small business income taxes, that state is facing a two-year budget deficit of more than one billion dollars. While that amount may seem small compared to our national budget, it represents a substantial portion of the total $6 billion that Kansas spends every year. The governor's policy is so unpopular that even Republicans have turned on him and admitted that his tax plan is "unworkable." In order to finance his tax breaks, which mostly benefited the wealthy, Brownback has slashed education, moved funds from other services, and stopped funding other programs, but he is still about $400 million short of covering his deficit for this year alone. It's clear to everyone but Sam Brownback that his tax breaks are unsustainable, and it's time for him to recognize his trickle-down nonsense is destroying the state of Kansas.

Another city has joined the list of places that workers will soon earn a living wage. Last week, Los Angeles, California, voted to increase their minimum wage to $15 an hour. Although that amount won't go into effect right away, it will eventually lift the wages of about half of that city's entire workforce. And, the entire county is considering a wage increase, which would help thousands more workers in unincorporated parts of the city. Of course, opponents of the pay increase say that it will lead to job losses, but that has not been the case in city-after-city that has already increased pay. The pay hike will go in to effect gradually, and if history is any guide, it will likely increase demand and strengthen the workforce in Los Angeles. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has been pushing for a higher wage since last fall, said, "We're leading the country; we're not going to wait for Washington to lift Americans out of poverty." Congress continues to block an increase to minimum wage – despite some lawmakers asking for their own pay hike – but thankfully, cities all around this country recognize that workers can't wait on the dysfunction in Washington, DC.

And finally... Right now, there are seven countries around the world where Americans can get a free, quality college eduction. Sadly, the United States isn't one of them. Thankfully, Sen. Bernie Sanders is working to change that. Last week, the 2016-Presidential candidate announced new legislation to make four-year public universities free for all students. With outstanding student loan debt exceeding one trillion dollars and more students falling in to default everyday, it is absolutely vital that we do more to address this problem. During a speech at Johnson State College in Vermont, Senator Sanders said, "Countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and many more are providing free or inexpensive higher education for their young people. They understand how important it is to be investing in their youth. We should be doing the same."

And that's the way it is - for the week of May 25, 2015 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.

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News Tue, 26 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Former Congressman Ron Dellums: Organizing for Peace Forces Us to Challenge All Forms of Injustice http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30983-former-congressman-ron-dellums-organizing-for-peace-forces-us-to-challenge-all-forms-of-injustice http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30983-former-congressman-ron-dellums-organizing-for-peace-forces-us-to-challenge-all-forms-of-injustice

Ron Dellums was elected to Congress in 1970 during the height of the Vietnam War. In one of his first acts in office, he took a small annex room to his office in the House and mounted an exhibition of the atrocities committed by the United States in Vietnam. Dellums would rise to serve as chair of the Armed Services Committee. Later he became mayor of Oakland. "Peace is the superior idea, that the umbrella movement for—of all movements, the peace movement, because to come together under the banner of peace forces us to challenge all forms of injustice," Dellums said at the recent conference, "Vietnam: The Power of Protest."

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. This is Memorial Day, "Vietnam: The Power of Protest." We go back to the conference recently held in Washington, D.C., at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Democracy Now! co-host Juan González moderated the panel.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ron Dellums is a legend in this country in the progressive movement. I just want to remind you of one thing you may have forgotten. One of his first acts when he was sworn in as a U.S. representative was to take a small annex room to his office in the House of—in his office in the House of Representatives and mount an exhibition of the atrocities committed by the United States in Vietnam, as a freshman congressman. And he has continued to stand for social justice, labor rights, environmental rights. He is a true champion of our movement. Ron Dellums.

RON DELLUMS: Sisters and brothers, I come from the Bay Area—Oakland, Berkeley. Unlike many other places in the country, virtually every movement of the '60s emerged in close proximity and great simultaneity. So, unlike many other places, we were forced to sense each other's anger, to feel each other’s rage, to listen to each other’s analysis, to feel each other’s passion, to listen to each other’s music. And I maintain that out of that incredible cauldron of activism, a unique group of people emerged. So we heard—we had to hear each other—the civil rights movement, the nationalist movement, the Brown Berets, the Black Panthers, the Gray Panthers—all of the various movements. I remember in 1966 a young guy by the name of Bob Scheer, a journalist, who ran against the person that I ultimately defeated four years later. I remember we used to come back from meetings where we would hear this young guy lay out an extraordinary analysis of why we should oppose the Vietnam War. We used to come back and say, "Man, that’s a bad dude!" White guy, too, you know, wow!

But in 1967, something magical happened. This brilliant, prophetic, articulate, eloquent minister mounted the podium, 1967, Riverside Church in New York, and laid out his reason for opposing the Vietnam War. It was courageous and historic. He laid out his moral opposition. He saw it as unjust, illegal and immoral. When he stepped away from the pulpit, he was attacked by people in the civil rights movement by saying, "Martin, stay in your lane, brother. You’re a civil rights activist. Don’t water down the movement. You’re going to invite new enemies. You’re going to detract from what we’re doing. Stay in your lane." Whites attacked him essentially the same way, by saying, "Reverend Martin Luther King, stay in your lane. You’re a civil rights leader. What do you know about foreign policy and national security and war and peace? Stay in your lane."

So Martin Luther King begins to criss-cross the country to answer his critics. He comes to Berkeley, California, Sproul Hall steps, University of California at Berkeley, crowded literally with thousands of people. A young black guy, Ron Dellums, standing way in the back of the several thousand people, hanging on every word, didn’t realize at that moment that my life would be changed forever.

And I would comment on four points that he made in that speech and speeches going forward challenging the war in Vietnam. First, he said, "Why did I stand up?" His response was, "I cannot segregate my moral concerns." That said to me that we must challenge all forms of injustice, because Martin Luther King said we cannot segregate our moral concerns.

Secondly, he said there are two kinds of leaders, one who waits until the consensus is formed and then run swiftly to the front of the group and declare leadership, but then he said there’s a second kind of leader, who has the audacity and the courage to risk attempting to shape a new consensus. I interpreted that to mean we had carried the burden of racial, cultural and economic oppression, but we did not have to carry the burden of ignorance, that we had the obligation, the right and the responsibility to enter the arena and be educative, to educate our people, to help them to understand the interrelatedness, the interconnectedness, the relationships between and among all issues of oppression and injustice.

One of his lessons of education was a statement that was so vivid, so powerful: "We are dropping bombs in North Vietnam that are exploding in the ghettos and the barrios of America." How incredibly poetic! How incredibly powerful, the vision! He was saying to people, understand the relationship between the billions of dollars that are being spent to wage war and the inability to address the injustice that is taking place in the ghettos and the barrios of America, the issue of priorities. Very powerful.

But, to me, the most powerful statement, that shaped my life forever, was this comment: "Peace is more than simply the absence of war; it is the presence of justice." I interpreted that to mean, wow, the peace movement is the ultimate movement. Peace is the superior idea, that the umbrella movement for—of all movements, the peace movement, because to come together under the banner of peace forces us to challenge all forms of injustice.

I want you to consider this point. I don’t make it in criticism; I make it simply as a matter that we must reflect upon, because I have come to this moment many times. Suppose everyone—because I believe that the movement to end the war in Vietnam ultimately became the largest and most powerful movement in the country. But when the war in Vietnam ended, many of the people went home and left us to fight racism, poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, helplessness—went home. And my great lament in my life has been: What would have happened in this country and in this world if people had heard Martin Luther King and said, "Now that we’ve ended the war in Vietnam, let’s get on with dealing with other forms of injustice"? What would the world look like?

Pat Schroeder will recall, I tried to, on the floor of Congress, to tweak that comment just a little so my colleagues could understand it. I didn’t mean it quite that way; I’m sorry about that. Peace is more than simply the absence of war; it is the absence of conditions that give rise to war. OK? So that if we stayed together, what would the international community look like? What would the world look like globally? What would America look like? Would we still be seeing the Baltimores, if we had challenged on these issues? But it’s not too late.

In my final remarks—I have one minute; I may go slightly a few seconds over—but young people have asked me, "What is the difference between your generation, when you were our age, and our generation?" I won’t give you my total answer, because I think it’s a good question. But I’ll deal with two. Martin Luther King told us to raise our voices in the name of peace and justice and equality and peace, because it was the right thing, the moral thing, the ethical thing, the principled thing to do. This generation must do it because it’s now the only thing to do. It has now become the imperative. So what was principle for our generation now is the imperative for this generation, because we know that the price of war is too high. We know that the price of neglect of the issues that affect the human condition, we do it at our peril, so that we have a responsibility now to address the imperative.

A second difference is, Martin Luther King never told us we couldn’t do it. He said go out and change the world. Remember, he said, "I may not be with you at the end, but I have reached the mountaintop, and I can tell you this: We will achieve." So we felt that we could change the world, and we went out to change the world. But this generation is being told 24 hours a day the system is broken, you can’t fix it; the system is bought and paid for, you can’t get it back. So how can people move to change the world when they are constantly being fed a diet of cynicism, of superficial political analysis rooted solely in partisan politics or the shaping of personalities as if this individual or that individual can change the world all by themselves, without dealing with the substance of the problems of policies that have to be addressed, but we narrow it down to very parochial, shallow analysis?

So what we have to say to this generation of young people, out of a sense of urgency, out of a sense of the imperative: You now must emerge. I’ve been doing some lecturing at Howard University with young people, and I’ll tell you what I found out—last point—is not that this generation does not get it; it’s that they don’t always hear it. But when they do hear it, they get it, because they listen carefully. And if I had to bet my last dollar, I would bet it on this generation of young people, because they’re not carrying the same baggage we carry, and if they ever stand up, they will change America and change the world for their children and their children’s children.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Oakland congressmember and chair of the Armed Services Committee, Ron Dellums, speaking at a conference recently in Washington, D.C. It was called "Vietnam: The Power of Protest."

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News Tue, 26 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Advocates Say Black Women Left Out of Freddie Gray Conversation http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30981-advocates-say-black-women-left-out-of-freddie-gray-conversation http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30981-advocates-say-black-women-left-out-of-freddie-gray-conversation

See The Real News Network's website for both earlier in-depth reporting and current coverage of events in Baltimore, where The Real News Network studios are located.

More attention is needed to Black women in the policing debate.

TRANSCRIPT:

TAYA GRAHAM, TRNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the scene where Baltimore's penchant for violence against women and the reality of the little attention it receives can be told in the starkest terms. On this deserted patch of road near Baltimore's Leakin Park, two women were brutally assaulted on the exact same spot nearly five years apart. One woman raped and disfigured in 2003 survived. The other, Yolanda Brown, died in 2008 shortly after she too was raped and discarded on the side of this road.

But in between the two cases of extreme violence, something occurred that speaks to the special plight of women in Baltimore, caught between an onslaught of crime and a seemingly indifferent police department. DNA from the same man was found on the victim of 2003 and two other women killed that same year. It was evidence that sat untouched until Yolanda Brown and four other women were strangled in 2008. Then the police decided to test and found this man, William Brown.

Brown plead guilty to two murders and one rape in 2003. But of the five women who died in 2008, four of their cases remain unsolved.

HANI BELLOW, ORGANIZER, BALTIMORE BLOC: All the names, all the lost souls, we want to give them light. We want them to have a voice today.

GRAHAM: Which is just one of the reasons advocates gathered beneath the Billie Holiday statue on Pennsylvania Avenue, to call attention to a topic that has been overlooked in the continued debate over violence and policing in Baltimore.

COREY JOHNSON, ORGANIZER, BALTIMORE BLOC: And the more that we allow for this national narrative to structure how our community is run, the more that we're able to gloss over the violence that happens to black women. It's sad. I literally want to cry.

GRAHAM: Here they held a discussion about how the daily onslaught of violence and proactive policing affects women in unique and often untold ways.

CARMEN SHORTER, WOMEN'S HEALTH ADVOCATE, POWERINSIDE: And watching our city explode, and watching black women spill out into the streets and be traumatized by that just as much as men were, but being ignored in the public dialog--having worked with women as long as I have, I knew we needed to be here to speak for the women who couldn't be here tonight.

GRAHAM: They say too often the concerns of women are left out of the discussion, or ignored altogether.

MYLA GORHAM, CONCERNED COMMUNITY MEMBER: I think it is a reflection of how black women are treated. I think different injustices that happen against black women, they're not paid as much attention to. They're not given the same amount of press as black men.

GRAHAM: The events of the last month since the death of Freddie Gray in police custody show the real outcomes of our policing. But women are also victims of a neglectful, even aggressive, criminal justice system.

Case in point was a Baltimore Sun investigation that found the Baltimore City Police Department dismissed rape reports at one of the highest rates in the country. Four in ten phone calls to 911 about rape resulted in no report at all. In fact, Baltimore City classified the reports of almost 40 percent of women who said they were raped as unfounded, a baseless accusation without facts.

It's an issue advocates say still exists today, and it is one of many reasons that women's voices need to be heard in the discussion about violence, policing, and making Baltimore a safer and healthier place for women to live.

SHORTER: We only have a certain role for black women. As a nurturer or as a lover, but not as a colleague, not as someone that we care about and love unless they are personally known to us. Until we start taking care of women in our conversations, we're going to lose this struggle.

GRAHAM: Taya Graham reporting with Megan Sherman in Baltimore, for The Real News Network.

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News Tue, 26 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
SDS Leader Tom Hayden on Vietnam: We Must Challenge the Pentagon on the Battlefield of Memory http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30980-sds-leader-tom-hayden-on-vietnam-we-must-challenge-the-pentagon-on-the-battlefield-of-memory http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30980-sds-leader-tom-hayden-on-vietnam-we-must-challenge-the-pentagon-on-the-battlefield-of-memory

As the nation celebrates Memorial Day, we look back at the Vietnam War. Fifty years ago, on March 7, 1965, 3,500 U.S. marines landed in South Vietnam, marking the start of the U.S. ground war in Vietnam. That same day, in Alabama, state troopers beat back civil rights protesters in Selma trying to walk over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Weeks later, the first teach-in against the Vietnam War was held at the University of Michigan. By 1968, the U.S. had half a million troops in Vietnam. The war continued until April 1975. Some scholars estimate as many as 3.8 million Vietnamese died during the war, up to 800,000 perished in Cambodia, another one million in Laos. The U.S. death toll was 58,000. Today we spend the hour airing highlights from a recent conference titled "Vietnam: The Power of Protest." We begin with Tom Hayden, who helped to found SDS, Students for a Democratic Society.

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: As the nation celebrates Memorial Day, we look back at the Vietnam War. Fifty years ago, on March 7, 1965, 3,500 U.S. marines landed in South Vietnam, marking the start of the U.S. ground war in Vietnam. That same day, in Alabama, state troopers beat back civil rights protesters in Selma trying to walk over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Weeks later, the first teach-in against the Vietnam War was held at the University of Michigan. By 1968, the U.S. had half a million troops in Vietnam. The war continued until April 1975. Some scholars estimate as many as 3.8 million Vietnamese died during the war, up to 800,000 perished in Cambodia, another one million in Laos. The U.S. death toll was 58,000.

Today we spend the hour airing highlights from a recent conference titled "Vietnam: The Power of Protest." It was held at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. Speakers included former Oakland Congressmember Ron Dellums, who chaired the Armed Services Committee; Colorado’s Pat Schroeder, one of the youngest women ever elected to Congress; Tom Hayden, who helped to found SDS, Students for a Democratic Society; and Wayne Smith, who served as a combat medic during Vietnam. Democracy Now! co-host Juan González moderated the event.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Good morning. I was here last night, as I know many of you were. It was really an inspiring evening to see so many of these elders, who really paved the way to build one of the great mass movements in American history. But a mass movement is not simply built by leaders. It is built by tens of thousands of people who make individual decisions at a certain point in their lives to risk the disapproval of their family, the possibility of derailing their education, the possibility of losing jobs, some even of losing their lives. They make individual decisions that something has to change. So the rest of this conference will be dedicated to looking at those individual decisions that were made by so many people, and the repercussions not only in the Vietnam—in the movement against the Vietnam War, but also in the movement—in the social movements and justice movements that emerged subsequent to the war.

I was a young college student at Columbia University, privileged to be a member of the Strike Coordinating Committee of the Columbia student strike of 1968, where I met many people—a strike against the Vietnam War and racism of Columbia University—and met many of the people who became so influential in my own life, and then, subsequently, after leaving SDS and Columbia, went on to participate in another great movement, the movement for the liberation of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican communities in this country, and where we were one of the first organizations to stand up to the—and oppose the Vietnam War in the Latino community. So many of our members ended up being arrested for Selective Service violations. Pablo "Yoruba" Guzmán, the CBS reporter, spent two years in Tallahassee federal prison. I was arrested in 1972 by 13 FBI agents, who surrounded our offices with shotguns and hauled me out for Selective Service violation, and eventually was convicted. And so many others of our members ended up sacrificing their careers at that point to be able to stand up.

So—and we’re going to discuss now, with an incredibly tremendous panel, what they were doing, how they got involved in the movement against the Vietnam War and the impact it had on their lives. Tom Hayden, co-author of the Port Huron Statement, one of the founding leaders of the Students for a Democratic Society, part of the Chicago 8 after the demonstrations in Chicago, state senator and just a general voice of conscience for the American progressive movement for so long.

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: Tom Hayden was a leader of Students for a Democratic Society, SDS, speaking at "Vietnam: The Power of Protest," a conference that was recently held in Washington, D.C. When we come back, we’ll hear from a combat medic, Wayne Smith, who served in Vietnam, and former Congressmembers Pat Schroeder and Ron Dellums, who chaired the House Armed Services Committee. Stay with us.

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News Tue, 26 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400