In London, in the nineteen-thirties, the émigré Hungarian intellectual Karl Polanyi was known among his friends as “the apocalyptic chap.” His gloom was understandable. Nearly fifty, he’d had to leave his wife, daughter, and mother behind in Vienna shortly after Austria lurched toward fascism, in 1933. Although he had long edited and contributed to the prestigious Viennese weekly The Austrian Economist, which published such celebrated figures as Friedrich Hayek and Joseph Schumpeter, he had come to discount his career as a thing of “theoretical and practical barrenness,” and blamed himself for failing to diagnose his era’s crucial political conflict. As so often for refugees, money was tight. Despite letters of reference from eminent historians, Polanyi failed to land a professorship or a fellowship, though he did manage to earn thirty-seven pounds co-editing an anti-fascist anthology, which featured essays by W. H. Auden and Reinhold Niebuhr. In his own contribution to the book, he argued that fascism strips democratic politics away from human society so that “only economic life remains,” a skeleton without flesh.
In 1937, he taught in adult-education programs in Kent and Sussex, commuting by bus or train and spending the night at a student’s house if it got too late to return home. The subject was British economic history, which he hadn’t much studied before. As he learned how capitalism had challenged the political system of Great Britain, the first nation in the world to industrialize, he decided that it was no accident that fascism was infecting countries as disparate as Japan, Croatia, and Portugal. Fascism shouldn’t be “ascribed to local causes, national mentalities, or historical backgrounds,” he came to believe. It shouldn’t even be thought of as a political movement. It was, rather, an “ever-given political possibility”—a reflex that could occur in any polity experiencing a certain kind of pain. In Polanyi’s opinion, whenever the profit-making impulse becomes deadlocked with the need to shield people from its harmful side effects, voters are tempted by the “fascist solution”: reconcile profit and security by forfeiting civic freedom. The insight became the keystone of his masterpiece, “The Great Transformation,” which was published in 1944, as the world was coming to terms with the destruction that fascism had wrought.
Today, as in the nineteen-thirties, strongmen are ascendant worldwide, purging civil servants, subverting the judiciary, and bullying the press. In a sweeping, angry new book, “Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?” (Norton), the journalist, editor, and Brandeis professor Robert Kuttner champions Polanyi as a neglected prophet. Like Polanyi, he believes that free markets can be crueller than citizens will tolerate, inflicting a distress that he thinks is making us newly vulnerable to the fascist solution. In Kuttner’s description, however, today’s political impasse is different from that of the nineteen-thirties. It is being caused not by a stalemate between leftist governments and a reactionary business sector but by leftists in government who have reneged on their principles. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, Kuttner contends, America’s Democrats, Britain’s Labour Party, and many of Europe’s social democrats have consistently tacked rightward, relinquishing concern for ordinary workers and embracing the power of markets; they have sided with corporations and investors so many times that, by now, workers no longer feel represented by them. When strongmen arrived promising jobs and a shared sense of purpose, working-class voters were ready for the message.
Born in 1886 in Vienna, Karl Polanyi grew up in Budapest, in an assimilated, highly cultured Jewish family. Polanyi’s father, an engineer who became a railroad contractor, was so conscientious that when his business failed, around 1900, he repaid the shareholders, plunging the family into genteel poverty. Polanyi’s mother founded a women’s college, hosted a salon, and had a somewhat chaotic personality that a daughter-in-law once likened to “a book not yet written.” At home, as Gareth Dale recounts in a thoughtful 2016 biography, the family spoke German, French, and a little Hungarian; Karl also learned English, Latin, and Greek as a child. “I was taught tolerance not only by Goethe,” he later recalled, “but also, with seemingly mutually exclusive accents, by Dostoyevsky and John Stuart Mill.”
After university, Polanyi helped to found Hungary’s Radical Citizens’ Party, which called for land redistribution, free trade, and extended suffrage. But he remained enough of a traditionalist to enlist as a cavalry officer shortly after the First World War broke out. At the front, where, he said, “the Russian winter and the blackish steppe made me feel sick at heart,” he read “Hamlet” obsessively, and wrote letters home asking his family to send volumes of Marx, Flaubert, and Locke. After the war, the Radical Citizens took power, but they fumbled it. In the short-lived Communist government that followed, Polanyi was offered a position in the culture ministry by his friend György Lukács, later a celebrated Marxist literary critic.
When the Communists fell, pogroms broke out, and Polanyi fled to Vienna. “He looked like one who looks back on life, not forward to it,” Ilona Duczynska, who became his wife, remembered. Duczynska was a Communist engineer, ten years younger than he was. She had smuggled tsarist diamonds out of Russia in a tube of toothpaste and once borrowed a pistol to assassinate Hungary’s Prime Minister, though he resigned before she could shoot him. She and Polanyi married in 1923 and soon had a daughter.
These were the days of so-called Red Vienna, when the city’s socialist government was providing apartments for the working class and opening new libraries and kindergartens. Polanyi held informal seminars on socialist economics at home. He started writing for The Austrian Economist in 1924, and he was promoted to editor-in-chief a few months before the right-wing takeover sent him into exile. Duczynska remained in Vienna, going underground with a militia, but, in 1936, she, too, emigrated, taking a job as a cook in a London boarding house. In 1940, Bennington College offered Polanyi a lectureship, and he left for Vermont, where his family soon joined him and he began to turn his lecture notes into a book. “Not since 1920 did I have a time so rich in study and development,” he wrote.
Polanyi starts “The Great Transformation” by giving capitalism its due. For all but eighteen months of the century prior to the First World War, he writes, a web of international trade and investment kept peace among Europe’s great powers. Money crossed borders easily, thanks to the gold standard, a promise by each nation’s central bank to sell gold at a fixed price in its own currency. This both harmonized trade between countries and stabilized relative currency values. If a nation started to sell more goods than it bought, gold streamed in, expanding the money supply, heating up the economy, and raising prices high enough to discourage foreign buyers—at which point, in a correction so smooth it almost seemed natural, exports sank back down to pre-boom levels. The trouble was that the system could be gratuitously cruel. If a country went into a recession or its currency weakened, the only remedy was to attract foreign money by forcing prices down, cutting government spending, or raising interest rates—which, in effect, meant throwing people out of work. “No private suffering, no restriction of sovereignty, was deemed too great a sacrifice for the recovery of monetary integrity,” Polanyi wrote.
The system was sustainable politically only as long as those whose lives it ruined didn’t have a say. But, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the right to vote spread. In the twenties and thirties, governments began trying to protect citizens’ jobs from shifts in international prices by raising tariffs, so that, in the system’s final years, it hardened national borders instead of opening them, and engendered what Polanyi called a “new crustacean type of nation,” which turned away from international trade, making first one world war, and then another, inevitable.
In Vienna, Polanyi had heard socialism dismissed as utopian, on the ground that no central authority could efficiently manage millions of different wishes, resources, and capabilities. In “The Great Transformation,” he swivelled this popgun around. What was utopian, he declared, was “the concept of a self-regulating market.” Human life wasn’t as orderly as mathematics, and only a goggle-eyed idealist would think it wise to lash people to a mechanism like the gold standard and then turn the crank. For most of human history, he observed, money and the exchange of goods had been embedded within culture, religion, and politics. The experiment of subordinating a nation to a self-adjusting market hadn’t even been attempted until Britain tried it, in the mid-eighteen-thirties, and that effort had required a great deal of coördination and behind-the-scenes management. “Laissez-faire,” Polanyi earnestly joked, “was planned.”
On the other hand, Polanyi believed that resistance to market forces, which he dubbed “the countermovement,” truly was spontaneous and ad hoc. He pointed to the motley of late-nineteenth-century measures—inspecting food and drink, subsidizing irrigation, regulating coal-mine ventilation, requiring vaccinations, protecting juvenile chimney sweeps, and so on—that were instituted to housebreak capitalism. Because such restraints went against the laws of supply and demand, they were despised by defenders of laissez-faire, who, Polanyi noticed, usually argued “that the incomplete application of its principles was the reason for every and any difficulty laid to its charge.” But what was the alternative? Once the laissez-faire machine started running, it cheerfully annihilated the people and the natural environment that it made use of, unless it was restrained.
Polanyi offered the example of the enclosure movement in sixteenth-century England, when landowners tore down villages and turned common lands into private pastures. The changes brought efficiencies that raised the land’s food yield as well as its value, in the long term improving life for everyone. Enclosure was a good thing, in other words; the numbers said so. In the short term, however, it dispossessed peasants who couldn’t immediately improvise a new living, and it was only because of a countermovement—led in piecemeal fashion by the monarchy, in a long, losing battle with Parliament—that more people didn’t die of exposure and starvation. If you argued that resistance did not compute, you would be right, but the countermovement, though it couldn’t stop progress, shielded people by slowing it down. It made enclosure so gradual that, even three centuries later, the poet John Clare was lamenting its advance in his sonnets.
In the nineteen-thirties, when Polanyi was first formulating his critique, the British economist John Maynard Keynes was likewise arguing that capitalist economies aren’t self-adjusting. The markets for labor, goods, and money, he showed, don’t find equilibriums independently but through interactions with one another that can have unfortunate, counterintuitive side effects. In hard times, economies tend to retrench, just when stimulus is most needed; the richer they get, the less likely they are to invest enough to sustain their wealth. During the Depression, Keynes made the case that governments should deficit-spend their way out of recessions. By the time Polanyi’s book was published, the Keynesian view had become orthodoxy. For the next few decades, the world’s leading economies were tightly managed by their governments. America’s top marginal tax rate stayed at ninety-one per cent until 1964, and anti-usury laws kept a ceiling on interest rates until the late seventies. The memory of the financial chaos of the thirties, and of the fascism that it gave rise to, was still vivid, and the Soviet Union loomed as an alternative, should the Western democracies fail to treat their workers well.
In terms of international monetary systems, too, Keynesianism held sway. In 1944, at the Bretton Woods Conference, Keynes helped to negotiate a way of harmonizing exchange rates that gave national governments enough elbow room to boost their domestic economies when necessary. Only America continued to redeem its currency with gold. Other nations pegged their currencies to the dollar (making it their reserve currency), but they were free to adjust their currencies’ values within limits when the need arose. Countries were allowed, and sometimes even required, to impose capital controls, measures that limited the cross-border flow of investment capital. With investors unable to yank money suddenly from one country to another, governments were free to spur growth with low interest rates and to spend on social programs without fear that inflation-averse capitalists would sell off their nations’ bonds. So weak was the political power of investors that France, Britain, and America let inflation shrink the value of their war debts considerably. In France, the economist Thomas Piketty has quipped, the period amounted to “capitalism without capitalists.”
The result—highly inconvenient for free-market fundamentalists—was prosperity. In the three decades following the Second World War, per-capita output grew faster in Western Europe and North America than ever before or since. There were no significant banking or financial crises. The real income of Europeans rose as much as it had in the previous hundred and fifty years, and American unemployment, which had ranged between fourteen and twenty-five per cent in the thirties, dropped to an average of 4.6 per cent in the fifties. The new wealth was widely shared, too; income inequality plummeted across the developed world. And with the plenty came calm. The economic historian Barry Eichengreen, in his new book, “The Populist Temptation” (Oxford), reports that in twenty advanced nations no populist leader—which he defines as a politician who is “anti-elite, authoritarian, and nativist”—took office during this golden era, and that a far narrower share of votes went to extremist parties than before or after.
“This was the road once taken,” Kuttner writes. “There was no economic need for a different one.” Nevertheless, we strayed—or, rather, in Kuttner’s telling, we were driven off the road after capitalists grabbed the steering wheel away from the Keynesians. The year 1973, in his opinion, marked “the end of the postwar social contract.” Politicians began snipping away restraints on investors and financiers, and the economy returned to spasming and sputtering. Between 1973 and 1992, per-capita income growth in the developed world fell to half of what it had been between 1950 and 1973. Income inequality rebounded. By 2010, the real median earnings of prime-age American workingmen were four per cent lower than they had been in 1970. American women’s earnings rose for a bit longer, as more women made their way into the workforce, but declined after 2000. And, as Polanyi would have predicted, faith in democracy slipped. Kuttner warns that support for right-wing extremists in Western Europe is even higher today than it was in the nineteen-thirties.
But was Keynesianism pushed, or did it stumble? Kuttner’s indignation about its fall from grace is more straightforward than the course of events that led to it. In the years following the Second World War, Europe was swimming with dollars, thanks to the Marshall Plan and American military aid to Europe. Beyond America’s jurisdiction, those dollars slipped free of its capital controls, and in the nineteen-sixties investors began to sling them from country to country as impetuously as in the days before Bretton Woods, punitively dumping the bonds of any government that tried to run an interest rate lower than those of its peers. The cost of the Vietnam War sparked inflation in America, and the dollar’s second life as the world’s reserve currency risked pushing the inflation even higher. When America fell into recession in 1970, the Federal Reserve tried to boost the country out of it by dropping interest rates, and America became a target of opportunity for speculators: capital fled the country, taking gold with it. By May, 1971, the United States was facing its first merchandise trade deficit since 1893, an indication that the high dollar was discouraging foreign buyers. Unwilling to pacify investors by inflicting austerity on voters, President Richard Nixon uncoupled the dollar from gold, ending the Bretton Woods agreement. Then, in October, 1973, Arab nations, upset about America’s solidarity with Israel during the Yom Kippur War, embargoed oil sales to the United States, and the price of crude nearly quadrupled in the space of three months. Food prices skyrocketed, and, as wallets were pinched, the country tumbled into another recession.
At this juncture, a new economic monster appeared: stagflation, a chimera of inflation, recession, and unemployment. Keynesian economists, who didn’t think that high unemployment and inflation could coëxist, were at a loss for how to handle it. The predicament provided an opening for their critics, most notably Milton Friedman, who argued that incessant government stimulation of the economy risked promoting not only inflation but the expectation of inflation, which could then spiral out of control. Friedman declared Keynesianism discredited and demanded that the government refrain from tampering with the economy, other than to manage the money supply.
In 1974, Alan Greenspan, President Gerald Ford’s economic adviser and an acolyte of Ayn Rand, likewise urged resisting political pressure to help the economy grow. “Inflation is our domestic public enemy No. 1,” Ford declared, and the Federal Reserve raised interest rates. Five years later, when a revolution in Iran set off a second spike in oil prices, a new round of inflation, and yet another recession, President Jimmy Carter’s Federal Reserve chair, Paul Volcker, raised interest rates again and again, to as high as twenty per cent. By 1982, America’s G.D.P. was shrinking 2.2 per cent a year, and unemployment was higher than it had been since the Great Depression. The nation had gone back to stabilizing its currency the old-fashioned way—by throwing people out of work—and utopian faith in self-regulating free markets had made a comeback. Kuttner thinks that this was a terrible mistake, arguing that the inflation of the seventies was limited to particular sectors of the economy such as food and oil. That sounds a little like special pleading. It’s not clear how Ford and Carter could have resisted the pressure they were under to find a new policy solution once it was clear that the old one wasn’t working.
In time, Keynesians adapted their models—one adjustment took into account Friedman’s discovery of the dangers posed by the expectation of inflation—and the resulting synthesis, New Keynesianism, is now canonical. Both the Bush and the Obama Administrations adopted Keynesian policies in response to the financial crisis of 2008. But when stagflation flummoxed the Keynesians it cost them their near-monopoly on political advice-giving, and laissez-faire was rereleased into the political sphere. In January, 1974, the United States removed constraints on sending capital abroad. A 1978 Supreme Court decision overturned most state laws against usury. By the early twenty-first century, Kuttner charges, every New Deal regulation on finance was either “repealed or weakened by non-enforcement.” Starting in the eighties, developing nations found free-market doctrine written into their loan agreements: bankers refused to extend credit unless the nations promised to lift capital controls, balance their budgets, limit taxes and social spending, and aim to sell more goods abroad—an uncanny replica of the austerity terms enforced under the gold standard. The set of policies became known as the Washington Consensus. The idea was pain in the short term for the sake of progress in the long term, but a 2011 meta-analysis was unable to find statistically significant evidence that the trade-off is worth it. Even if it is worth it, Polanyi would have recommended tempering the short-term pain. From 2010, when austerity measures were first imposed on Greece, to 2016, its G.D.P. declined 35.6 per cent, according to the World Bank. A federally appointed panel is now pushing for a similar approach in Puerto Rico.
There is no shortage of villains in Kuttner’s narrative: financial deregulation; supply-side tax cuts; the decline of trade unions; the Democratic Party, which, by zigging left on identity politics and zagging right on economics, left conservative white working-class voters amenable to Donald Trump. Perhaps the most vexed issue Kuttner discusses, however, is trade policy—whether American workers should be protected against cheap foreign goods and labor.
The contours of the problem call to mind Polanyi’s account of enclosures in early-modern England. Half an hour with a supply-and-demand graph shows that free trade is better for every nation, developed or developing, no matter how much an individual businessperson might wish for a special tariff to protect her line of work. In a 2012 survey, eighty-five per cent of economists agreed that, in the long run, the boons of free trade “are much larger than any effects on employment.” But although free trade benefits a country over all, it almost always benefits some citizens more than—and even at the expense of—others. The proportion of low-skilled labor in America is smaller than in most countries that trade with America; economic theory therefore predicts that international trade will, on aggregate, make low-skilled workers in the United States worse off. The U.S. government has, since 1962, compensated workers laid off because of free trade, but the benefit has never been adequate; only fourpeople were certified to receive it during its first decade. In a 2016 paper, “The China Shock,” the economists David H. Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon H. Hanson wrote that, for every additional hundred dollars of Chinese goods imported to an area, a manufacturing worker is likely to lose fifty-five dollars of income, while gaining only six dollars in government help.
In a laissez-faire utopia, dislodged workers would relocate or take jobs in other industries, but workers hurt by rivalry with China are doing neither. Maybe they don’t have the resources to move; maybe the flood of Chinese-made goods is so extensive that there are no unaffected manufacturing sectors for them to switch into. The authors of “The China Shock” calculate that, between 1999 and 2011, trade with China destroyed between two million and 2.4 million American jobs; Kuttner quotes even higher estimates. nafta, meanwhile, lowered the wage growth of American high-school dropouts in affected industries by sixteen percentage points. In “Why Liberalism Failed” (Yale), the political scientist Patrick J. Deneen denounces the assumption that “increased purchasing power of cheap goods will compensate for the absence of economic security.”
Kuttner follows Polanyi in attacking free-market claims of mathematic purity. “Literally no nation has industrialized by relying on free markets,” he writes. In 1791, Alexander Hamilton recommended that America encourage new branches of manufacturing by taxing imports and subsidizing domestic production. Even Britain, the world’s first great champion of free trade, started off protectionist. Kuttner believes that America stopped supporting its manufacturing sector partly because it got into the habit, during the Cold War, of rewarding foreign allies with access to American consumers, and eventually decided that exports of financial services, rather than of manufactured goods, would be the country’s future. Toward the end of the century, as American manufacturers saw the writing on the wall, they shifted production abroad.
Kuttner doesn’t give a full hearing to the usual reply by defenders of laissez-faire, which is that a transition from goods to services is inevitable in a maturing economy—that the efficiency of American manufacturing means that it would likely be shedding workers no matter what the government did. Even Eichengreen, a critic of globalization, notes, in “The Populist Temptation,” that, if you graph the share of the German workforce employed in manufacturing from 1970 to 2012, you see a steady, grim decline very similar to that of its American counterpart, despite the fact that Germany has long spent heavily on apprenticeship and vocational training. The industrial revolution created widely shared wealth almost magically at its dawn: when an unemployed farmworker took a job in a factory, his power to make things multiplied, along with his earning power, without his having to learn much. But, as factories grew more efficient, fewer workers were needed to run them. One study has attributed eighty-seven per cent of lost manufacturing jobs to improved productivity.
When a worker leaves a factory, her power to create wealth stops being multiplied. The only way to increase it again is through education—by teaching her to become a sommelier, say, or an anesthesiologist. But efficiency gains are notoriously harder to come by in service industries than in manufacturing ones. There are only so many leashes a dog walker can hold at one time. As a result, if an economy deindustrializes without securing a stable manufacturing core, its productivity may erode. The dynamic has caused stagnation in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, and there are signs of a comparable weakening of America’s earning power.
Meanwhile, in the factories that remain, machines have grown more complex; the few workers they employ need to be better educated, further widening the gap between educated and uneducated workers. Kuttner dismisses this labor-skills explanation for job loss as an “alibi” with “an insulting subtext”: “If your economic life has gone to hell, it’s your fault.” This is intemperate but, in Kuttner’s defense, he has been warning American politicians to protect manufacturing jobs since 1991, and has been enlisting Polanyi in the cause for at least as long. Moreover, he has a point: to talk about productivity-induced job loss when challenged to explain trade-induced job loss is to change the subject. Economists estimate that advances in automation explain only thirty to forty per cent of the premium that a college degree now adds to wages. And though Eichengreen is right about manufacturing’s declining share of the German workforce, it still stood at twenty per cent in 2012, which is roughly where the American share stood three decades earlier, and the German decline has been less steep. Somehow, Germany’s concern for its manufacturing workforce made a difference.
In any case, if one’s concern is populism, it may not matter whether jobs have been lost to trade competition or to automation. In areas where more industrial robots have been introduced, one analysis shows, voters were more likely to choose Trump in 2016. According to another analysis, if competition with Chinese imports had been somehow halved, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania would likely have chosen Hillary Clinton that year. Economic explanations like these have been challenged. In April, the political scientist Diana C. Mutz published a paper finding that Trump voters were no more likely than Clinton ones to have suffered a personal financial setback; she concluded that Trump’s victory was more likely caused by white anxiety about loss of status and social dominance. But it’s not surprising that Trump voters weren’t basing their decisions on their personal circumstances, because voters almost never do. And Mutz’s own results showed that the factors most likely to lead to a Trump vote included pessimism about the economy and preferring Trump’s position on China to Clinton’s. It may not be possible to untangle economic anxiety and a more tribal mind-set.
Casting about for a Polanyi-style countermovement to temper the ruthlessness of laissez-faire, Kuttner doesn’t rule out tariffs. They’re economically inefficient, but so are unions, and, for a follower of Polanyi, efficiency isn’t the only consideration. A decision about a nation’s economic life, the Harvard economist Dani Rodrik writes, in “Straight Talk on Trade” (Princeton), “may entail trading off competing social objectives—such as stability versus innovation—or making distributional choices”; that is, deciding who gains at whose expense. Such a decision should therefore be made by elected politicians rather than by economists. America imposed export quotas on Japan in the seventies and eighties, to the alarm of headline writers at the time: “protectionist threat,” the Times warned. But Rodrik, looking back, judges the measures to have been reasonable ad-hoc defenses—“necessary responses to the distributional and adjustment challenges posed by the emergence of new trade relationships.”
Trump’s chief trade negotiator served on the Reagan team that administered quotas against Japan. A similar approach today, however, seems unlikely to work on China, whose economy is much more messily enmeshed with America’s. You probably can’t name as many Chinese brands as Japanese ones, even though you probably buy more Chinese-made products, because they are sold to Americans by American companies. American workers may wish they had been shielded from the effects of trade with China, but American businesses, by and large, don’t. Perhaps that’s why Trump has escalated from a tariff on steel and aluminum to erratic threats of a trade war. To achieve his campaign goal of bringing manufacturing jobs home from China, he will have to not only impose tariffs but also convince multinationals that the tariffs will stay in place beyond the end of his Administration. Only then will executives calculate that they can’t just wait it out—that they have no choice but to incur the enormous costs and capital losses of abandoning investments in China and making new ones here. It’s hard to imagine such a scheme working, unless Trump establishes a political command over the private sector not seen in America since the forties. That can’t be ruled out, given the state of affairs in Russia, China, Hungary, and Turkey, but it seems more likely that Trump’s bluster will merely motivate businesses to be deferential to him, in pursuit of favorable treatment.
“Basically there are two solutions,” Polanyi wrote in 1935. “The extension of the democratic principle from politics to economics, or the abolition of the democratic ‘political sphere’ altogether.” In other words, socialism or fascism. The choice may not be so stark, however. During America’s golden age of full employment, the economy came, in structural terms, as close as it ever has to socialism, but it remained capitalist at its core, despite the government’s restraining hand. The result was that workers shared directly in the country’s growing wealth, whereas today proposals for fostering greater financial equality hinge on taxing winners in order to fund programs that compensate losers. Such redistributive measures, Kuttner observes, are only “second bests.” They don’t do much for social cohesion: winners resent the loss of earnings; losers, the loss of dignity.
Can we return to an equality in workers’ primary incomes rather than to one brought about by secondary redistribution? In a recent essay for the journal Democracy, the Roosevelt Institute fellow Jennifer Harris recommends reimagining international trade as an engine for this rather than as an obstacle to it. When negotiating trade deals, for instance, governments could make going to bat for multinationals conditional on their agreeing to, say, pay their workers a higher fraction of what they pay executives.
Failing that, we’d be better off with redistributive programs that are universal—parental leave, national health care—rather than targeted. Benefits available to everyone help people without making them feel like charity cases. Kuttner reports great things from Scandinavia, where governments support workers directly—through wage subsidies, retraining sabbaticals, and temporary public jobs—rather than by constraining employers’ power to fire people. “We won’t protect jobs,” Sweden’s labor minister recently told the Times. “But we will protect workers.” Income inequality in Scandinavia is lower than here, and a larger proportion of citizens work. Maybe a government can insure higher pay for its workers by treating them as if they were, in and of themselves, valuable. True, Denmark’s spending on its labor policies has at times risen to as high as 4.5 per cent of its G.D.P., more than the share America spends on defense, and studies show that diverse countries such as ours find it harder to muster social altruism than more racially and culturally homogenous ones do. Nonetheless, programs like Social Security and Medicare, instituted when a communitarian ethic was still strong in American politics, remain popular. Why not try for more? It might make sense even if the numbers don’t add up. ♦
It’s no secret that the criminal justice system in America needs fixing—everyone from Jared Kushner to Cory Booker agrees. And while the Koch brothers might not go so far as Elizabeth Warren to outright label it “racist … front to back,” politically speaking, this is one rare issue that seems increasingly bipartisan. Just last week, President Donald Trump held a roundtable with governors, state attorneys general and other officials on the topic of prison reform, and the administration is reportedly working behind the scenes with congressional leaders to pass sweeping legislation that could touch everything from sentencing reform to helping former inmates get jobs.
It’s an admirable effort to bring together a traditionally tough-on-crime Republican Party with a Democratic Party whose criminal justice platform has in recent years, according to the Marshall Project, grown to more and more reflect the “fingerprints of the Black Lives Matter movement and Bernie Sanders.”
But for some leftist activists, prison reform is not enough and, in some cases, may even be counterproductive. For these activists, the word “abolish” that has been trending lately with reference to immigration enforcement and the death penalty is a nod to a more ambitious movement that has been building for decades and for which getting rid of ICE would be only the beginning of a far more radical set of changes.
That is the movement to abolish prisons—and more broadly, the entire penal and policing system—in America. Proponents envision a future society in which, rather than having better carceral conditions than we have today, there exist literally no prisons at all.
At first blush, the idea might seem fringe and unreasonable; where, for instance, would all the criminals go? What happens to rapists and murderers? But the movement’s backers counter that it is the only truly humane direction we can head in as a society—that is, if we really aspire to live in a world rid of interpersonal harm and racial inequality. And they might actually be making headway.
I spoke with several advocates for prison abolition—or “abolitionists,” as most simply refer to themselves—and they’re not just old Marxist philosophers or Norwegian criminologists but rather a group of young, mostly black lawyers, academics, artists, authors and community organizers. Some have had, or still have, close family members incarcerated; others were incarcerated themselves. They certainly don’t all have the same backgrounds or life experiences, but they’re each resolute about one thing: The criminal justice system as we know it is inherently cruel, perpetuates systemic racism, and must be overhauled completely.
“It’s not necessarily about tearing down the prison walls tomorrow,” says Maya Schenwar, who wrote Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better. “Maybe we’d be better off than we are right now if we did that,” she adds, “but it’s not going to happen.”
Rather, Schenwar argues, “abolition is the acceptance of an understanding that prison does not work to any good ends.” “It works to uphold white supremacy; it works to uphold capitalism; it works to uphold oppression; but it doesn’t actually work to keep us safe or to protect society in any way that is productive.”
Many involved in this modern-day abolition movement, Georgetown law professor Allegra McLeod tells me, understand their work as a continuation of the earlier movement to abolish slavery.
“There is overwhelming evidence that mass incarceration evolved as an outgrowth of Jim Crow laws, which itself was a system rooted in the subjugation of former slaves,” Democratic phenom Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote in an online essay embracing the abolish-prisons cause. “According to legal scholar Michelle Alexander, there are more African-Americans under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850—that is, before the Civil War.”
In fact, McLeod notes, the connection is a surprisingly direct one: Although slavery was abolished in 1865, the 13th Amendment notably includes an exception to allow it as a punishment for convicted criminals. Think prison labor—from chain gangs toiling along the highway to inmates doing simple manufacturing jobs for private companies. As the Economist reported last year, “Most convicted inmates either work for nothing or for pennies at menial tasks that seem unlikely to boost their job prospects.” Last week, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation even boasted on Twitter about using inmates, including “youth offenders,” to fight the wildfires.
But if that’s not enough, the racial disparities in policing and imprisonment are well documented, especially in recent popular media such as Michelle Alexander’s bestselling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness or Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary “13th.” This concept of a racialized mass incarceration has become so ubiquitous that when Republican Senator Rand Paul acknowledged it in a 2016 presidential primary debate, his comments made hardly a stir on the right.
“The idea with those earlier movements for abolition was both that slavery would be eliminated and that a new, democratic and more egalitarian order would take shape in its wake,” says McLeod. “Although there have been many complicated twists and turns,” she says, “there’s been an incomplete reckoning.”
Every abolitionist I spoke with agrees that the movement was pioneered predominantly by black feminists of the late 20th century, particularly Angela Davis, the academic, activist and author who published a book in 2003 titled Are Prisons Obsolete? A bible of sorts for the abolitionist movement, the book outlines with surprising depth in a short 128 pages the historical and sociological arguments for eliminating rather than reforming prisons.
Thirty-three years earlier, Davis herself was incarcerated, prompting James Baldwin to write in an open letter to her in the New York Review of Books: “One might have hoped that, by this hour, the very sight of chains on black flesh, or the very sight of chains, would be so intolerable a sight for the American people, and so unbearable a memory, that they would themselves spontaneously rise up and strike off the manacles. But, no, they appear to glory in their chains; now, more than ever, they appear to measure their safety in chains and corpses.”
At that time, the U.S. prison population was just over 200,000. By 1998, when Davis and a few others would organize an abolitionist conference called Critical Resistance, that number had grown to over 1,200,000. The intervening years had seen the “War on Crime” and a “War on Drugs,” both of which disproportionately targeted African-Americans, take hold. In 2018, the U.S. prison population is over 2,200,000, far and away the most people behind bars of any country in the world.
As for abolitionism, however, Mohamed Shehk, the communications director of Critical Resistance, the organization that grew out of the conference 20 years ago, tells me that he is absolutely sure the movement has become more popular in academic spheres, activist arenas and elsewhere and is continuing to resonate with more and more people. In 2015, the National Lawyers Guild adopted a resolution in support of prison abolition, and today, the abolition of police and prisons is one of the platform tenets of the Democratic Socialists of America—the growing leftist group that fiercely backed Ocasio-Cortez.
There’s also money behind the movement. Like most criminal justice advocacy organizations, Shehk says, the explicitly abolitionist Critical Resistance gets most of its funding from small grass-roots donations, but it also receives significant financial backing—he wouldn’t say how much—from several bigger philanthropic institutions such as the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program, Craigslist Charitable Fund and the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation.
But Baldwin was right about the politics, according to Schenwar: “A really big obstacle to people even being open to the idea of abolition is this persistent idea that we need prisons to keep us safe.” Schenwar believes that a safe society can be achieved without locking anybody up.
Well-meaning conservatives and liberals, several abolitionists lamented to me, are often much more comfortable with advocating for “prison reform.” The House passed such a bill—supported and opposed on both sides of the aisle—earlier this year. But many reforms, abolitionists say, are often counterproductive to their movement.
“There are certain reforms that seek to fix or improve or tweak the way that the prison industrial complex functions,” Shehk says, “and then there are reforms that actually seek to chip away at its power.” It’s the latter that abolitionists seek, he says.
Regarding the prison industrial complex—a term many abolitionists use to refer to the collective of prisons, jails and detention centers, and the structures that support them, like bail, police and more—Schenwar says, “Once we understand that basically its roots are rotten, then we understand that we can’t just replace certain aspects of it or improve it or make prison kinder and gentler; we actually have to uproot it.”
The Rev. Jason Lydon, the formerly incarcerated founder of the LGBT-oriented abolitionist organization Black and Pink, tells me that so much of prison reform is about making distinctions between “good prisoners” and “bad prisoners.” “We are not looking to free some while demonizing others,” he declares. Rather, he explains, “Abolitionists say: ‘Actually, let’s not use punishment as a method of addressing harm.’”
Challenging the entire concept of punishment is, according to some abolitionists, the biggest hurdle they must overcome when trying to gain new supporters.
“It’s really, really hard for people to imagine a world without prisons, but we had that world before,” Kim Wilson—an artist with a Ph.D. in public policy and co-host of “Beyond Prisons,” a podcast on incarceration and prison abolition—tells me. “‘Reform’ is what got us to what we have today.”
There’s some truth to this: Historian Harry Elmer Barnes estimated in 1921 that the advent of prisons as the conventional response to crime in the United States happened sometime during the 18th century as a result of reformists campaigning against corporal punishment.
“The system that we currently have is supposed to be more humane than if we just tortured someone,” Wilson says, “but we’re just torturing people in a different way.”
The most fundamental issue with retributive justice, pretty much every abolitionist I spoke with tells me, is that it dehumanizes people who have committed crimes. Rather, they believe, as DSA’s Bianca Cunningham puts it, “that we should be implementing policies that are treating people like human beings that make mistakes and not like animals.”
“We have come to think of murderers, rapists, child molesters,” Shehk says, “as deviants that are just kind of running wild, as though these people are not our brothers, our sisters, our uncles, our neighbors, etc. And this kind of demonization and flattening of people works to reproduce the narrative that there are people that are deserving to be locked in a cage even for life.”
“I think we can live in a society that is based on mutual support and love instead of punishment and prison. That is not a radical thing,” Carlton Williams, an abolitionist lawyer in Boston, tells me, adding, “but that’s the most radical thing you can ever say in the world.”
It’s not surprising, Williams says, that people instinctively feel an inclination to punish: The “we’re going to hurt you because you hurt someone else” mentality is understandable, he offers.
One of the most difficult conversations to have, Williams admits, is a critique of retributive justice with victims. “It’s hard to tell someone who experienced sexual violence that their rapist shouldn’t be punished.”
Similarly, Page May, a community organizer in Chicago, says, “I’ve worked with families who have lost loved ones by police violence, and they want the cops to go to jail.”
Lydon tells me that as a preacher and an abolitionist, he has dedicated his life to challenging the idea “that people who have been wronged in some way should feel transformed by the punishment of the person who has wronged them.”
“People want a simple solution for sure, and right now all we offer is prison or nothing,” May says. “And for a long, long time, if you experienced domestic violence or sexual violence, you couldn’t even get that. That was what people had to fight for.”
But May also says she stands firm in the belief that “there’s more to justice than putting someone in a cage.”
“Abolition,” she says, “is not just the absence of prisons. It’s the presence of alternatives. Right now, we have a justice system that, when something goes wrong, asks two questions: Who did it? And how do we punish them? That’s not working.”
“Instead we need a justice system that, when harm happens, asks new questions,” she adds. “Who was harmed? How do we help them? And how do we make sure this never happens again?”
Many who balk at the idea of abolition believe that prisons are, in fact, the answer for crime prevention and deterrence, Williams says. Those people, he and many others are convinced, are wrong.
“The logic behind deterrence,” writes criminologist David Scott in Why Prison?, “is firmly rooted in the utilitarian calculus that to deter the rational offender requires the pain of imprisonment to outweigh the pleasure derived from ‘crime.’”
Yet a 2013 report by the National Institute of Justice found that it doesn’t actually work that way. “Sending an individual convicted of a crime to prison isn’t a very effective way to deter crime,” the report concludes. And with 3 out of 4 released prisoners rearrested within five years, incarceration doesn’t even seem able to prevent recidivism.
Williams tells me that his go-to tactic for discussing abolition with those who think prisons are meant for deterrence is to get them to realize that they share a common goal: making prisons obsolete. “If you were fully successful in this prison idea and the prison idea actually worked, you would start to move toward a place where you no longer need [prisons], wouldn’t you? Unless you just think some people are evil at the core.”
It is indisputable, however, that there are some people—“the dangerous few,” McLeod calls them—who pose a risk to society.
When people predictably ask Wilson, “What about the murderers and rapists?”, she says she understands why they might feel a concern about letting certain people free, but she responds in two ways. First, she says, “It’s an oversimplification of humanity to dichotomize good people and bad people.” And second, she asks back, rhetorically, “You realize that not all murderers and rapists are locked up?”
“We’re not going to incarcerate our way out of social problems. We’re not going to incarcerate our way out of domestic violence or any other kind of physical harm,” Wilson says, “so we need other ways to address it.”
If we truly cared about preventing crime, Wilson says, our quest would not be to cage as many murderers and rapists as we can, but rather to figure out “what conditions exist in people’s interpersonal relationships, in their homes, in their communities that lead someone to commit harm.”
Furthermore, Williams adds, “If people look at the numbers and say, ‘I want to stop rapes from happening in this country,’ they would pretty much only work on the conditions in prisons, because that’s where rapes happen.”
Other abolitionists argue that prisons keep Americans from addressing our real challenges. As Schenwar wrote in her book: “Incarceration serves as the default answer to many of the worst social problems plaguing this country—not because it solves them, but because it buries them. By isolating and disappearing millions of Americans (more than 2.3 million, making us the most incarcerated nation on the planet), prison conveniently disappears deeply rooted issues that society—or rather, those with power in society—would rather not attend to.”
So, if not prisons, then what? What would an abolitionist world actually look like? And how do we get there?
“People always ask me: What can we do to replace prisons? And they’re hoping for a kind of monolithic institution that comes in to replace the institution of prison,” says Schenwar, “and that’s actually antithetical to abolition.”
Abolitionists tell me that their approach instead, while ambitious in its overarching goal, is measured and multi-pronged. “Stop/Shrink/Build” is how feminist scholar Julia C. Oparah describes the work of abolitionists in a chapter of Why Prison?
“Abolition is both an effort to gradually decarcerate and gradually reduce reliance on policing and imprisonment to manage social, economic, and political problems,” McLeod says, “and at one and the same time, it is an effort to build the sort of world we want to live in, one where the problems that the prison and policing now address—problems like mental illness, addiction, poverty, interpersonal violence—are addressed, rather than through one size-fits-all solutions like the prison, through constellations of alternatives that communities devise in order to address those sorts of problems.”
Decarceration efforts—the stopping and shrinking—I’m told, include efforts to reduce the expansion or increased funding of jails, detention centers, prisons and police forces as well as campaigns for reduced sentences and the release of inmates. They also include the decriminalization of certain things like drug use and homelessness as well as the end of the cash bail system and more. On some—but not all—of these fronts, progress is being made.
“A lot of the work is not super sexy. It’s not going to make the news,” May says.
The oft-held assumption that abolitionists are naïve at best, anarchical at worst, seems a misconception. The third—and probably most crucial—component of the abolitionist vision is the positive, not negative, changes they advocate, like investment in education and health care. And with new and old members of the Democratic Party starting to embrace more leftist policy ideas, they’ve got a not-unrealistic shot at making political gains in this realm.
“Abolition is just as much about building up what we want to see as it is about tearing down the institutions and structures that we want to get rid of,” Shehk says.
“We’re saying we need money for schools, not police. We need money for housing, not prisons,” May says.
“We need to build up actual generative institutions, supportive institutions, like health care, mental health care, education, the arts. All of these things are important for a good society. Those things are our abolitionist goals,” says Schenwar.
As for what to do with criminals, Shehk pointed me to efforts at what is known as “restorative justice”—an alternative to punishment that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders and restitution to victims—such as those being tried out in some schools in Denver and courts in Chicago. He also mentioned efforts at another non-retributiveretribution approach known as “transformative justice,” which focuses on creating conditions for healing for victims and safety through preventative measures for communities. This latter model is being tested by a number of nonprofits across the country for addressing things even as serious as child sexual abuse.
There are still a number of political obstacles to achieving meaningful, abolition-oriented prison reform: powerful interests such as private corporations and police and prison guard unions stand to profit from the maintenance and expansion of the prison industrial complex, not to mention politicians who fear being tagged as soft on crime.
But public opinion might be swaying toward the side of the abolitionists, at least in part. According to a recent poll, 60 percent of Americans believe rehabilitation is more appropriate than punishment for nonviolent offenses, which seems to be part of a broader trend away from favoring punitive approaches to dealing with crime. Abolitionists simply want to take that kind of empathy a step further to eventually include violent offenders as well.
“Trying to convince people that the problem is not so big that we should just accept these things as norms but rather that we actually have power as people to change the system and change it to be more equitable, change it to be more just, change it to be more compassionate, change it to be more humane. I think that’s the hill that we have to climb,” says Cunningham.
Although they frequently find themselves dismissed as dreamers, several of the abolitionists I spoke with pointed to something Angela Davis wrote 15 years ago: “Slavery, lynching, and segregation are certainly compelling examples of social institutions that, like the prison, were once considered to be as everlasting as the sun. Yet, in the case of all three examples, we can point to movements that assumed the radical stance of announcing the obsolescence of these institutions.”
If every major country on earth can guarantee healthcare to all and achieve better health outcomes, while spending substantially less per capita than we do, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that the United States of America cannot do the same.
“The ongoing failure of our healthcare system is directly attributable to the fact that—unique among major nations—it is primarily designed not to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way.”
Today, the United States has the most expensive, inefficient, and bureaucratic healthcare system in the world. Despite the fact that we are the only major country on earth not to guarantee healthcare for all—and have 30 million uninsured and even more who are underinsured—we now spend more than twice as much per capita on healthcare as the average developed country.
According to a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development analysis, we spend more than $10,300 per capita on healthcare. Meanwhile, Canada spends just $4,826, France spends $4,902, Germany spends $5,728, and the United Kingdom spends $4,264.
Further, despite this huge expenditure, which now constitutes almost 18% of our GDP, our healthcare outcomes are worse than most of these other countries. For example, our life expectancy is 2.5 years lower than Germany’s and our mortality rate for children under the age of 19 is at the top of the list compared to other developed countries.
The ongoing failure of our healthcare system is directly attributable to the fact that—unique among major nations—it is primarily designed not to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way. Instead, the system makes maximum profits for health insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry and medical equipment suppliers.
The Medicare-for-all legislation that I wrote, which now has 16 co-sponsors in the Senate, would provide comprehensive healthcare to every man, woman and child in our country—without out-of-pocket expenses. No more insurance premiums, deductibles or co-payments. Further, it would expand Medicare coverage to include dental and vision care. In other words, this plan would do exactly what should be done in a civilized and democratic society. It would allow all Americans, regardless of their income, to get the healthcare they need when they need it.
Under the current system, while thousands of Americans die each year because they lack access to the healthcare they desperately need, the top five health insurance companies last year made $21 billion in profits, led by the UnitedHealth Group, which made $10.56 billion.
As tens of thousands of American families face bankruptcy and financial ruin because of the outrageously high cost of healthcare, the CEOs of major insurance companies receive disgustingly high levels of compensation. According to Axios, in 2017, the CEO of UnitedHealth Group, Dave Wichmann, received $83.2 million; the CEO of Aetna, Mark Bertolini, received $58.7 million, and the CEO of Cigna, David Cordani, received $43.9 million.
Today, as an indication of how dysfunctional our current system is, about one out of every five Americans cannot afford to fill the prescriptions given to them by their doctors because we pay, by far, the highest price in the world for prescription drugs. A 2013 study showed that in 2010, the United States paid, on average, about double what was paid in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Switzerland for prescription drugs. Since 2014, the cost of 60 drugs commonly taken has more than doubled, and 20 of them have at least quadrupled in price.
While millions of Americans are unable to afford the medicine they desperately need, or are forced to cut their pills in half in order to save money, five top drug companies made over $50 billion in profits last year and, in 2015, 10 prescription drug CEOs made a combined $327 million in total compensation.
“The insurance companies, the drug companies, Wall Street and the Koch brothers will undoubtedly spend billions on lobbying, campaign contributions and television ads to defeat Medicare for all. But they are on the wrong side of history.”
Would a Medicare-for-all healthcare system be expensive? Yes. But, while providing comprehensive healthcare for all, it would be significantly less costly than our current dysfunctional system because it would eliminate an enormous amount of the bureaucracy, administrative costs and misplaced priorities inherent in our current for-profit system.
Instead of doctors and nurses spending a significant part of their day filling out forms and arguing with insurance companies, they could be using their time to provide care to their patients. We’d be able to save up to $500 billion annually in billing and administrative costs. That money could be used to greatly expand primary care in this country and make certain that all Americans got the healthcare they needed when they needed it—saving billions on expensive emergency room care and hospital visits. Instead of paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, we could save hundreds of billions over a 10 year period through tough negotiations with the drug companies.
The benefits of a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system are so obvious that even a recent study done by the right-wing Mercatus Center estimated that it would save Americans more than $2 trillion over a decade, reducing the projected cost of healthcare between 2022 and 2031 from $59.7 trillion to $57.6 trillion. Needless to say, that wasn’t the point the study attempted to emphasize. Rather, the author of the study was hoping the headline—”Medicare for All costs the federal government $32.6 trillion” —would frighten the American people and get them to oppose it.
While opponents of Medicare for all focus their criticism on the increased taxes the American people will have to pay, they conveniently ignore the fact that ordinary people and businesses will no longer have to pay sky-high premiums, co-payments and deductibles for private health insurance.
At a time when healthcare in 2018 for a typical family of four with an employer-sponsored PPO plan now costs more than $28,000, according to the Milliman Medical Index, the reality is that a Medicare-for-all system would save the average family significant sums of money.
A recent study by RAND found that moving to a Medicare-for-all system in New York would save a family with an income of $185,000 or less about $3,000 a year, on average. Even the projections from the Mercatus Center suggest that the average American could save about $6,000 under Medicare for all over a 10-year period.
A Medicare-for-all system not only benefits individuals and families, it would benefitthe business community. Small- and medium-sized businesses would be free to focus on their core business goals instead of wasting precious energy and resources navigating an incredibly complex system to provide health insurance to their employees.
Needless to say, there is huge opposition to this legislation from the powerful special interests that profit from the current wasteful system. The insurance companies, the drug companies, Wall Street and the Koch brothers will undoubtedly spend billions on lobbying, campaign contributions and television ads to defeat Medicare for all. But they are on the wrong side of history.
Here is the bottom line: If every major country on earth can guarantee healthcare to all and achieve better health outcomes, while spending substantially less per capita than we do, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that the United States of America cannot do the same.
August 16, 2018 (theonion.com)
‘Please Let Me In,’ Whimpers President
WASHINGTON—Growing increasingly flustered while impotently pounding on the front door and pleading to come inside, President Trump was reportedly locked out of the White House Thursday after accidentally revoking his own security clearance. “C’mon, just open the door, guys! I didn’t mean to strip myself of access to classified information and restricted areas,” said Trump, who was forbidden from entering the premises after unwittingly writing his name on the list of individuals having their clearances revoked, thinking it was where he was supposed to place his signature. “Please, I’m sorry! I really wanna come back inside. It was an honest mistake. Oh, no, it’s starting to rain.” At press time, Trump pressed his face up and tapped on the window of the Oval Office, prompting John Kelly to pull down the blinds.
August 16, 2018
November’s Public Banking ballot initiative will allow the citizens of Los Angeles to vote on the first step to creating a city-owned bank. Public Bank LA, along with an overflowing room of community groups and advocates, launched their action campaign July 28 for creating public support for the ballot measure. Chair Ellen Brown and Suzanne O’Keeffe from Public Banking Institute were there in support. …
Advocates were presented with a detailed plan that includes community outreach, political outreach, street art, field strategy into neighborhoods, and media. The campaign is designed to communicate the benefits of public banking, answer questions, and generate excitement around freeing the City from Wall Street and using the power of a bank to benefit the people of Los Angeles.
“How is the Wall Street system working for you now?” asked David Jette, policy director of Public Bank LA. “The current system is under no obligation to improve your living standards. That’s why we should start a bank and start lending to ourselves! Let’s build a bank that we actually want.”
“We’re sick and tired of Wall Street dictating our lives,” said Trinity Tran, co-founder of Public Bank LA. “We’re building alliances since Public Banking can be the cornerstone issue — something everybody is fighting for.”
This ballot measure won’t create a bank but will remove a legal hurdle to creating one. It doesn’t require the City to spend any money.
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A. Trump cancels military parade, blames local politicians as estimated cost balloons to $92 million– August 17, 2018
B. Bayer Shares Plunge By 12.5 Billion After Monsanto Court Case – August 14, 2018
C. 40 Yemeni Children Dead by U.S.-Made Bomb? Outrage Mounts Over U.S. Role in Airstrike on School Bus – August 14, 2018
D. DECISION TO BRING WHITE HELMETS TO CANADA DANGEROUS AND CRIMINAL – August 10, 2018
3 – ACTION ALERTS
1. Break the Silence on the U.S. Gulf Alliance
Washington has been providing unquestioned and unending support of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for far too long. This makes the United States complicit in the atrocities carried out in Yemen and beyond.
2. Become a citizen co-sponsor of H.R. 4391
Add your name to endorse H.R. 4391 and demand your taxes are not used to support the detention of Palestinian children by Israeli forces in violation of international law.
3. Tell the Water Board to Stop Letting Nestle Suck California Dry
The drought-stricken state has had the worst start to the fire season in a decade. Yet Nestlé continues to draws millions of gallons of water illegally from the San Bernardino National Forest — and sells it for millions in profits
The California Water Board has directed Nestlé to limit its water-taking to what it is legally permitted to draw. Instead, Nestlé is taking almost 10 times that amount – often over 60 million gallons a year.
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Rest in PEACE and POWER
Thank you for your gift of voice and all that you have done for humanity!
Arethra Franklin – A Change is Gonna Come
2 New announcements for Friday
Saturday, August 18 – Tuesday, August 21
Friday, August 17
1. Friday, 6:30pm – 8:30pm, Sensible Cinema: Union Time: Fighting For Workers Rights (New)
Unitarian Universalist Center
1187 Franklin St.
Sensible Cinema will screen the film Union Time:Fighting For Worker’s Right by director /producer Matthew Barr and narrated by Danny Glover the film is a class example of what
patience,endurance and struggle can produce.The film follows the story of the workers at the Smithfield Pork Processing Plant in Tar Heel North Carolina sixteen year
fight for a union.
After the screening Dr. Steve Pitts Assistant Chair of the UCB Labor Research Center will speak .
2. Friday, 9:00pm – 2:00am, Left of the Dial-Prison Strike Fundraiser (New)
The Golden Bull
412 14th Street
Join the Left of the Dial crew for another night of left-leaning vinyl
Funk, Soul, Reggae, Hip Hop, Punk, and anything in between that grooves with an antiracist, antifascist lean.
This month will benefit the Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee’s mobilization at san quentin state prison on August 25th
Saturday, August 18
3. Saturday, 11:00am, Resolution to KPFA To Support The Defense Of Whistleblower & Journalist Julian Assange (KPFA Board Meeting)
North Berkeley Senior Center
1901 Hearst Ave.
11:00am – Local KPFA Board Meeting
12Noon – Reports
1:00pm – Town Hall for Public Comments (ALL are encouraged to support this resolution during public comment)
RESOLUTION: For KPFA Support To The Defense Of Whistleblower & Journalist Julian Assange
Whereas, Julian Assange has helped expose the role of the US and other governments war crimes and violations of international law and,
Whereas, Assange and WikiLeaks have helped expose the Panama papers and the Podesta emails which have shown the collusion between government officials, politicians and corrupt billionaires and corporate owners and,
Whereas, the US government along with the UK government are seeking to push Julian Assange out of the London Ecuadoran consulate and for his arrest by the May UK government and his deportation in the United States for criminal prosecution and,
Whereas, the US government along with the UK government refuse to prosecute any of the war criminals that have been exposed by the whistleblowing of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and,
Whereas, there is a systemic effort by the US government to harass, repress and jail reporters and whistleblowers who exposed corruption and criminal activities by government officials and,
Whereas, US politicians have called for the murder and torture of Julian Assange to silence him and,
Whereas, KPFA and Pacific network is also under attack and threat of journalists and whistleblowers by the US government and corporations that the US government represents and,
Whereas, the Australia The Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA) union made Julian Assange an honorary member for life, waived his fees and called for the defense of his rights,
Therefore be it resolved the KPFA Local Station Board calls for the defense of Julian Assange and an end to the harassment including the halting of internet and media access at the Consulate, an end to efforts to jail Assange by either the UK government or US government and calls for KPFA and Pacifica to launch a campaign on our website and our programming to defend Julian Assange and all journalists and whistleblowers who are coming under increasing attacks by the US government and the corporations who control the government.
Lastly we call on our KPFA LSB delegates to the Pacific Board to make a similar resolution and call for national publicity and programming by all Pacifica affiliated stations for the defense of Julian Assange and all journalists and whistleblowers who face threats to their democratic rights.
KPFA LSB Staff Representative
Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation
Randy Credico, WBAI Radio Host
Tom Vorhees, KPFA LSB and PNB Board Member
Ann Garrison, Journalist Black Agenda, KPFA News
Mary Ratcliff, Editor SF Bay View
Richard Stone, APWU San Francisco, SFLC Delegate, Member KPFA CAB
Dr. George Wright, UPWA.info
4. Saturday, 1:30pm – 4:30pm, Non-Violent Direct Action Training; Oakland, CA
4799 Shattuck Ave.
This training will take participants through the
strategies and tools used in non-violent direct action. It will include a know your rights training.This training will be an important place to get plugged into for upcoming street actions around the Global Climate Action Summit in September.
Diablo Rising Tide calendar of events for summer and fall 2018: http://diablorisingtide.org/take-action-diablo-rising-tide-calendar-of-direct-action-events-and-trainings/
For more information, email email@example.com
5. Saturday, 5:00pm – 7:00pm, Film: ‘Killing Gaza’ with filmmakers Max Blumenthal and Don Cohen
2969 Mission St. (nr. 24th Street BART)
Suggested donation: $10 – $20 (portion of the proceeds support the film production costs)
Killing Gaza documents the 2014 Israeli assault of Gaza and captures the resilience of the Palestinian people in the face of the horrific assault. It is a chilling document of the war crimes committed by the Israeli military, featuring direct testimony by survivors, just days after the indiscriminate shelling, bombings and summary executions carried out by the IDF.
The film is a call to action to end the annual $3.8 billion in U.S. aid to the apartheid state of Israel and to demand the Right of Return for all Palestinians.
Today, the people in Gaza continue to protest despite mounting Israeli brutality. Gaza is an open-air concentration camp where over 95% of all water is poisonous and electricity is limited to only 3 hours per day. The Palestinians protesting near the apartheid fence for the simple right to exist and a return to their homes just miles across the border are met with Israeli sniper fire. More than 100 Palestinians protesters have been murdered by IDF sharpshooters, including children, with more than 13,000 wounded in just the last few months.
The film makes clear how the continuation of the state of Israel is predicated on violence against the indigenous Palestinian people and how crucial international awareness and support for their struggle is crucial to the liberation of Palestine. (2018, 84 min)
Watch the trailer: https://killinggaza.com/trailer/
6. Saturday, 5:00pm – 7:00pm, Report from Texas Border Delegation by John Parker
Workers World Party – Bay Area
1305 Franklin St., Suite 411
Hear John Parker report about his participation in a delegation to the U.S./Mexican border in McAllen,Texas in late June as part of the new group FIRE – Fight for Im/migrants and Refugees Everywhere a multi-national, multi-generational and multi-gender organization born from one of the most pressing political challenges of our time: the war against migrants. Based in the United States, this group seeks to bring together all sectors of society to concentrate our energies on abolishing ICE, immediately putting an end to all deportations and closing all migrant detention centers.
Shocking things are coming to light, things that happened in previous U.S. administrations. Folks are not going to be willing to have the same old solutions. There’s a lot of talk about “we need to go vote” and sometimes organizers steer things in that direction. But a lot of people, including at this demonstration, won’t accept that. People are calling for the abolition of ICE, but the Democrats are saying they are just going to “reform immigration.” People aren’t going to accept that.
7. Saturday, 6:00pm – 8:30pm, Listening Session- Black History Before Slavery
Joyce Gordon Gallery
406 14th St.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU.
OUR SOLIDARITY MUST BE ROOTED IN THE PEOPLES PERSPECTIVE.
Join us for our first listening session as we prepare for @BlackSolidarityWeek
Sponsors: Community READY Corps & Joyce Gordon Gallery
8. Saturday, 8:00pm, & Sunday, Aug. 19 – 7:00pm, My Name is Rachel Corrie
American Conservatory Theater SF Costume Shop: Fittings
1117 Market St.
Ashley Malloy revives her award winning national tour of the one person show, My Name is Rachel Corrie, on Friday August 17th and Saturday August 18th at 8 pm, and on Sunday August 19th at 7pm in ACT’S costume Shop theater.
My Name is Rachel Corrie, edited from Rachel’s emails and journal entries by the late Alan Rickman and editor in chief of The Guardian, Katherine Viner, chronicles the life of 23 year old American peace activist, Rachel Corrie, who in January 2003 traveled from her home in Olympia, WA to the Gaza strip with the International Solidarity Movement, where she defended Palestinian homes and water resources from being destroyed. On March 16th, 2003, just weeks after her arrival, she was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while protecting a host family’s home from being destroyed by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Sunday, August 1
9. Sunday, 12Noon – 6:00pm, Rise for Climate, Jobs & Justice Propaganda Party
350 Alabama St.
The Climate & Environmental Justice Working Group invites you to make signs and banners for the upcoming Rise for Climate Jobs & Justice march.
Sponsor: Democratic Socialist of America San Francisco
Questions contact firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Sunday, 9:00pm – 10:30pm, No Candlelight Vigil & Walk for Jessica St. Louis
Santa Rita Jail
We will have a number of cars shuttling people from Dublin BART to Santa Rita. Those with disabilities will join our walk via caravan.
(Walk will end at Dublin BART)
On July 28, 2018, Jessica St. Louis was released from Santa Rita Jail in the middle of the night at 1:25a. Like so many other people released from Santa Rita, she had to walk the 1.9 miles to Dublin BART. She would be found outside, unresponsive and declared dead before the station opened at 5:30a.
We are demanding an end to late night releases.
Please join us as we take the long, dark and desolate walk Jessica and so many other women and men take to get home after incarceration.
Along the way, we will hear the stories of other women who encountered traffickers, were sexually harassed, and braved the cold after release from Santa Rita Jail.
Sponsors: Young Women’s Freedom Center, APTP, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice
Monday, August 20
11. Monday, 11:30am – 2:30am, Brown’s Last Chance: Sit-In To End Climate Cowardice
California State Capitol
>>> To participate & Info SIGN UP here: http://brownslastchance.org/sitin/
>>> For anyone risking arrest, you MUST attend a nonviolent direct action training in Sacramento either on Sunday, August 19th at 6pm (location TBA) or Monday, August 20th 9am (location TBA). Sign up to receive more information.
JOIN US at the California state capitol in Sacramento as we take NONVIOLENT DIRECT ACTION to send a powerful message to Governor Brown: it is time to stand up to Big Oil and protect our climate & communities from toxic oil & gas drilling.
Throughout his most recent term, Governor Brown has ignored taxpayer-funded studies which show that oil drilling is toxic, and has refused to walk his own climate talk. During this time, we delivered over 500 hundred thousand petitions, rallied regularly at the capitol – and around the state, held numerous press conferences, hosted several health forums showing toxicity from drilling, and consistently reminded the governor that the majority of Californians and the science DO NOT favor fracking and dangerous drilling. Still, instead of standing with the people and the science, and taking on California’s powerful oil and gas industry to curb its expansion and most dangerous practices, Governor Brown has cultivated close ties to big oil and has taken its money, and cut industry-friendly deals around critical policy and regulatory issues.
1. Stop issuing new permits for oil drilling in California, and begin a just and equitable transition to 100% renewable energy.
2. Commit California to a managed decline of fossil fuel production, starting with 2,500 foot setback limits to protect frontlines communities from toxic oil and gas drilling.
Sponsors: Sunrise Movement, Rootskeeper, Californians Against Fracking, Oil Money Out, Presente. Org and Stand
12. Monday, 12Noon – 6:00pm, Stop The State Water Grab
California State Capitol
At. North steps facing ‘L’ Street
RALLY TO STOP THE STATE WATER GRAB
The State Water Board’s proposal is devastating to the entire state of California, including farmers, farm workers, and business owners. In order to make your voice heard, a rally to stop the state water grab will be held
13. Monday, 12Noon – 5:00pm, MARCHING FOR FAMILIES VICTIMIZED BY CPS
California State Capitol
1315 10th Street
Meet at 700 H Street at the board of supervisors office in downtown Sacramento.
Rally – South Lawn of State Capitol on N Street
We will wait for others to arrive and at 2pm we will start our 11 minute march through downtown to the state capitol.
A march for families and to raise awareness of the corruption in California’s Child Protective Services and Family Court Systems
BBQ after march. People are more than welcome to bring something this is a potluck style BBQ / protest / March / rally at the Capitol.
14. Monday, 6:00pm – 8:00pm, August LGBTQ Prisoner Letterwriting and Mail Processing
33 Grand Ave. (nr. 19th Street BART)
Wheelchair accessible, – outlets for laptops are on the 2nd floor only.
Join us for this important way to show solidarity with our incarcerated LGBTQ+ and HIV+ community members! Every month on the 3rd Monday, we’ll have mail processing/data entry, birthday cards to our LGBTQ members in nearby Norcal prisons AND penpal info
join with or without a laptop – there is work for everyone! If you’d like, we’ll train you to respond to letters or to enter and update penpal request forms in our database.
Food and beverages are available for purchase from the cafe. And please bring some dollars and change toward postage, if you can
Sponsor: Flying Over Walls SF Bay Area B&P
15. Monday, 6:00pm – 9:00pm, Direct Action Training Aug 20 and 27
Bethany United Methodist Church
1270 Sanchez St.
A two part series designed to address issues of allyship in direct action. We’ll be talking about white privilege in the context of showing up to protests, relationships to police and authority, as well as the nuts and bolts of how direct action works. In particular we will be exploring how we might play a supportive role for the SF Climate Rise actions on Sept. 8.https://ca.riseforclimate.org/a-global-call-to-action-from-california/
We encourage people to come with friends so that you can form an affinity group that will last beyond the training. We are capping the trainings at 40, so please sign up as soon as you know you can make it. See you there!
We are not asking for donations in advance, but will pass the hat during the trainings.
Part 1: Showing Up As Allies
Monday, August 20th 6-9pm
We will discuss different ways of showing up to direct actions that could help or hurt the situation, as well as providing a framework for thinking critically about interactions with police and other authority figures.
Part 2: Direct Action
Monday, August 27th 6-9pm
We’ll discuss different roles within a direct action, go over some tactical concepts, and run through some helpful roleplays.
Sponsor: SURJ – SF Showing Up for Racial Justice
16. Monday, 7:00pm – 8:30pm, A Rebel’s Guide to the History of the Russian Revolution (sec 1)
New Valencia Hall
747 Polk St. (nr. Ellis)
The first socialist revolt that established a workers’ state in Russia in 1917 was a roadmap for anyone determined to end corporate rule and income inequality today.
Leon Trotsky, a co-leader with Lenin, wrote a definitive account as participant and leader: The History of the Russian Revolution.
Explore this inspiring story where the 99% rose up and won! Be part of a small group discussion and reading circle led by socialist feminists.
Sponsor: Freedom Socialist Party Bay Area
17. Monday, 7:00pm – 9:00pm, Poets
Bird & Beckett Books
653 Chenery St.
Tongo Eisen-Martin and Leroy Moore, activist poets, will feature at this regular poetry event.
Tuesday, August 21
18. Tuesday, 9:00am – 5:00pm, Water is Life: Stand Up for California’s Rivers and Salmon
California Environmental Protection Agency
1001 I St.
California is working on plans to begin to preserve some water for rivers and salmon, a step that can help restore salmon and drinking water quality. This step has been heavily opposed by the Trump administration whom is siding with industrial farmers and big oil against California.
Trump even showed his disdain for state’s rights along with Tribal, commercial and recreational fishermen, by tweeting that California is “diverting water to the ocean” and making fires worst recently.
The “unimpeded flows process” is lead by California’s Water Resources Control Board. The first step, or Phase 1, of this process will it set goals of between 30%-50% of natural flows for the San Joaquin River and Bay Delta through updates to a water quality control plan. This is not nearly enough water.
The Sacramento River is next in the process, and many of California’s coastal rivers will soon undergo a similar process under the California Water Action Plan.
These decisions not only impact our economy, salmon, recreation, Tribal rights and jobs, but also the drinking water supply for 25 million Californians, the San Francisco Bay and the health of our oceans. We need California to stand up to the Trump administration and industry.
California’s salmon are nearing extinction and experts predict the Central Valley’s water will be unusable due to pollution and low flows within 50 years. Big Ag and Oil’s, and their advocates in DC, are threatening California’s water supply and aquatic life. It is time to fight for our water.
Sponsor: Save California’s Salmon
19. Tuesday, , 6:00pm – 7:00pm, Stand with Refugio and Elvira Nieto – Monthly gathering at Alex Nieto’s altar
Public transportation # 67 MUNI. Catch it on 24th St. at Mission across from McDonalds
On March 21, 2014, Alejandro “Alex” Nieto, 28 years old, was killed when he was struck by 14 to 15 bullets (of a total of 59 shots) fired by four San Francisco Police Department officers, on Bernal Hill Park, without justification. The officers who killed Alex Nieto are: Sgt. Jason Sawyer (then lieutenant. He is also the killer of John Smart in 1998!), Officer Roger Morse, Officer Richard Schiff, and Officer Nathan Chew.
On the monthly anniversary the Nieto’s gather at the altar site on Bernal Hill. All are welcomed !
20. Tuesday, 6:30pm – 8:45pm, Refuse Fascism Meeting #TrumpPenceMustGo!
1590 Bryant St.
We urge both new and experienced volunteers to join us in strategizing together and planning our next steps forward in the struggle to drive out the Trump and Pence regime.
We, the people, NOT the powers-that-be, are the ones who can end this nightmare. You are needed now. Come and find out the many ways you can be involved in this movement.
21. Tuesday, 7:00pm – 9:00pm, Discussion: Reform or Revolution
Revolution Books – Berkeley
2444 Durant Ave.
“There is nothing more unrealistic than the idea of reforming this system into something that would come anywhere near being in the interests of the great majority of people and ultimately of humanity as a whole.”
—BAsics 3:2 by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
SAVE the DATES
Saturday, August 25
22. Saturday, 11:00am – 3:30pm, Bay Area National Prison Strike Call to Action / Mobilization
San Quentin State Prison
11:00am – Rally / Mobilization at West Oakland BART
Carpool & Bus to San Quentin
Support Bus to San Quentin: https://www.gofundme.com/prison-strike-bus-to-san-quentin?member=551444
The Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee, stands in solidarity with the people who have declared a Nationwide Prison Strike beginning on August 21st (This date commemorates the assassination of Black Panther Party, Field Marshall, and prison activist, George Jackson, by San Quentin prison guards) and extending to September 9th, 2018.
The National Prison Strike is in response to the “riot” in the Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in South Carolina on April 15, 2018. . Seven prisoners lost their lives during an instigated melee that could have been avoided had the prison not been overcrowded from the greed wrought by mass incarceration and a lack of respect for human life that is embedded in this country’s penal ideology
The Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee, is organizing a Mobilization and Call to Action, on August 25, 2018, at San Quentin State Prison, with the objective of raising awareness of the inhumane conditions, treatment and policies that afflict those held in these gulags throughout amerikkka.
National Demands of the men and women in federal, immigration, and state prisons:
1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.
Sunday, August 26
Note: The action on Monday, 8/13 of “No to a Handmaids World! No fascist USA!” organized by Refuse Fascism attracted lots of attention.
Plans are being made to do a demo with “Handmaids” on the 26th. Info when available will be provided. Your participation is welcomed. Contact email@example.com if you are interested in being a ‘Handmaid’. Please invite young women!
23. Sunday, 1:00pm – 3:00pm, Unite for Justice: Bay Area to #StopKavanaugh (National Demos)
wheelchair accessible and will have wheelchair accessible porta potties.
On August 26, all across the country, Americans will stand united in commitment to our freedom and our future to demand that the U.S. Senate stop Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for a lifelong appointment to the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh would rule against reproductive freedom, health care, the environment, voting rights, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, and immigrant rights for generations.
This is not simply about a woman’s right to choose, or upholding the freedom to love whomever you choose to love, or protecting our planet. It’s about all of it. Everything could be overturned and overruled. Economic justice, gender justice, racial justice. Everything is on the line. We must stop it.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation is not a given; together we can make sure he never sits on the bench. Join us to make our voices heard all the way in Washington.
RSVP on the official event page here: http://bit.ly/UFCBay
This event will be in Civic Center Plaza, is wheelchair accessible and will have wheelchair accessible porta potties. Learn more about the Civic Center here: https://sfciviccenter.org/
Learn more about Unite for Justice 2018: https://uniteforjustice2018.com
Questions? Contact Allie Lahey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sponsors: Indivisible SF + 14 Other groups
Commentary from the Sierra Club’s Executive Director
August 7, 2018 (sierraclub.org)
If Donald Trump could take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as efficiently as he sucks oxygen out of the news cycle, the climate crisis would be solved faster than you can say “Mexico will pay for that wall.” Unfortunately, even as we deal with the Trump administration’s daily cascade of corruption, crudeness, and cruelty, the clock keeps ticking and climate pollution keeps rising. But the math is merciless: If we don’t accelerate a phaseout of fossil fuels today, then the wildfires, droughts, and extreme weather events currently plaguing the planet will seem mild compared with what’s coming.
We can’t count on the federal government to tackle this problem while Trump is in office, but neither can we afford to wait until Trump is out of office. The solution? Take the challenge to a state in which Donald Trump’s leadership is so unpopular that he’s spent less than 24 hours there since he became president. A state with a booming economy that is not only the largest in the U.S. but also the fifth largest in the world. A high-tech state that has embraced clean energy and energy efficiency. And, paradoxically, a state that happens to be the nation’s fourth-largest producer of crude oil.
I mean California, of course. Nowhere else in the U.S. do we have a better opportunity to show how it’s possible to transition from fossil fuels in a way that’s smart, pragmatic, and equitable. What’s been missing, surprisingly, is the leadership to get started.
That’s ironic, because California is still led by one of the most vocal and visible resisters to Trump’s retreat from climate action: Governor Jerry Brown. And when it comes to the demand side of climate action (energy efficiency, renewable energy, cutting pollution at the tailpipe) Governor Brown has been a true champion. But when it comes to fighting climate change at the source — curbing the production of fossil fuels — it’s been a different story.
Normally a pragmatic visionary, Governor Brown has failed to reconcile two key climate facts: California is a major oil and gas producer, and the basic physics of climate science demand that we phase out oil and gas. Although no one expects oil and gas drilling to end overnight, California doesn’t even have a plan for how to begin phasing it out. In fact, under Governor Brown’s leadership, California has approved more than 20,000 new oil and gas wells. That’s leadership — in precisely the wrong direction.
Here’s what Governor Brown said to German policymakers about climate change less than a year ago: “Let’s lead the whole world to realize this is not your normal political challenge. This is much bigger. This is life itself. It requires courage and imagination.”
Exactly. The governor has an opportunity before leaving office to not just talk about how courage is needed in others but to show some himself by initiating a thoughtful and reasonable drawdown of fossil fuel production in the Golden State.
Here are three important steps Jerry Brown can take. First, stop approving new wells! You can’t begin to solve a problem until you stop making it worse. Second, lay the groundwork for a just transition for oil-producing regions. Commission an analysis of how the state could help communities in Kern County, the San Joaquin Valley, and elsewhere to not just survive but thrive during a transition to clean energy. Finally, start shutting down the existing oil and gas drill sites that are causing the most harm — those within 2,500 feet of schools, homes, parks, and businesses.
Los Angeles County alone, which is home to 10 million people, has 68 active oil fields, and thousands of drill sites are within that 2,500-foot boundary. Across California, millions of people are constantly exposed to toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and other compounds that are known to cause respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, leukemia, lymphoma, lung cancer, nervous system damage, reproductive and endocrine disruption, and premature death. Even if climate change weren’t an issue, this should be stopped.
In September, Governor Brown will co-chair a Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The stated goal is to “Take Ambition to the Next Level.” Simply supporting renewable energy and defending fuel-efficiency standards is not the next level in 2018 — it’s where we already are. That’s why 26 climate scientists recently sent Governor Brown a letter telling him he needs to commit to phasing out oil and gas production in the state. In June, 109 elected officials from 24 counties in California told him the same thing, as did five Nobel Laureates last week. At this point, anything less can only be considered a failure of leadership when the governor should instead be securing his true legacy as a climate visionary.
Noting that he served on active duty as a Judge Advocate General officer in the U.S. Air Force, Lieu wrote that “a number of the coalition’s airstrikes look like war crimes.”
In the wake of the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition’s horrific bombing of a school buslast week that killed 40 Yemeni children and amid reports on Tuesday of dozens more civilian deaths after a new wave of Saudi bombings, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) has sent a detailed letter (pdf) to the Department of Defense Inspector General demanding an investigation into whether Trump administration officials violated U.S. or international law by assisting the Saudis in their assault on Yemen.
“It is indisputable that the DoD-supported coalition has killed large numbers of children, women, and men who are civilians.”
—Rep. Ted Lieu
The Saudi-led coalition, which receives essential military support and intelligence from the U.S., “has repeatedly hit civilian targets—including schools, hospitals, funerals, and weddings—nowhere near military targets,” Lieu writes, pointing to an analysis by the Yemen Data Project showing that a third of Saudi bombings in Yemen have hit civilian targets. “I previously served on active duty as a JAG [Judge Advocate General] and a number of the coalition’s airstrikes look like war crimes.”
“If the coalition’s targeting of farms, food storage sites, and water sites was deliberate, these airstrikes would constitute a violation of Article 14 of Additional Protocol II and customary international law in non-international armed conflict,” Lieu adds. “I am deeply concerned that continued U.S. refueling, operational support functions, and weapons transfers could qualify as aiding and abetting these potential war crimes.”
The California congressman goes on to note that the U.S.-backed Saudi attacks on civilian targets cannot be attributed to mere faulty intelligence or incompetence.
“The coalition, which has air superiority, has in a number of cases very precisely struck civilian targets,” Lieu notes. “For example, coalition jets precisely struck a funeralattended by a large number of people and then came around and struck the same civilian target again. It is indisputable that the DoD-supported coalition has killed large numbers of children, women, and men who are civilians.”
In a letter (pdf) of her own on Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Gen. Joseph Votel—the top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East—to explain the U.S. military’s role in the Saudi-led coalition’s bombings of Yemeni civilians.
“According to public reports and non-governmental organizations operating on the ground in Yemen, coalition airstrikes, including some that are likely to have been supported by U.S. refueling and supplied with U.S. munitions, have resulted in the deaths of thousands of Yemeni civilians since the beginning of the military campaign in 2015, including most recently a school bus carrying dozens of children,” Warren noted.
Lieu and Warren’s letters come as Yemen-based journalists reported that yet another Saudi-led bombing campaign in the port city of Hodeidah on Tuesday killed more than 30 people, including women and children.
Since the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition’s bombing of a school bus last week, journalists and human rights advocates have denounced the attack as a clear war crime and demanded to know precisely what role the U.S. played in the massacre.
“For the Saudi-led coalition to bomb a bus full of children is a war crime.”
As Democracy Now! noted in a segment Tuesday morning, images posted to social media suggest that the bomb used in the attack was a Mark-82, which is manufactured by the massive American defense contractor Raytheon.
While U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has dispatched an American general to assist the Saudis with its “investigation” into the school bus bombing, Shireen Al-Adeimi—a human rights activist and professor at Michigan State University—told Democracy Now! that it is “preposterous to think” that the Saudis can properly investigate their own crimes, particularly given that one Saudi official has already described the school bus as a “legitimate target.”
“Every single day, there are airstrikes and casualties and civilians who have been killed by Saudi-led airstrikes. They have essentially absolved themselves of all wrongdoing every time they have investigated themselves,” Al-Adeimi concluded. “What Yemenis need is really an independent investigation, which has been put forward in the U.N. twice already and has been rejected by the Saudi-led coalition and the U.S. unfortunately has provided cover for the Saudi-led coalition at the U.N.”
Watch Al-Adeimi’s full interview on Democracy Now!:
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- UPDATES ~ 3 ACTION ALERTS ~ ANNOUNCEMENTS (2 new for Fri) Sat. Aug. 18 – Tue. Aug. 21 + 2 SAVE the DATES (from Adrienne Fong)
- Jerry Brown’s Last Challenge
- ‘Potential War Crimes’: Lawmakers Demand Answers About US Role in Saudi Slaughter of Yemeni Civilians
Upcoming EventsAug21Tue12:00 pm “Resist Trump Tuesdays” @ Diane Feinstein's office“Resist Trump Tuesdays” @ Diane Feinstein's officeAug 21 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pmResist Trump Tuesdays every Tuesday from noon-1pm at 1 Post Street in front of Senator Feinstein’s office. Program differs weekly.Aug22Wed11:30 am Outreach Working Group hands out... @ In front of the Federal Reserve BankOutreach Working Group hands out... @ In front of the Federal Reserve BankAug 22 @ 11:30 am – 1:30 pmOutreach Working Group hands out Occupy literature every Wednesday from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, weather permitting.4:00 pm STOP DEPORTATION DEMONSTRATIONS ... @ ICE immigration holding centerSTOP DEPORTATION DEMONSTRATIONS ... @ ICE immigration holding centerAug 22 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pmSTOP DEPORTATION DEMONSTRATIONS at ICE immigration holding center (deportations) Mondays and Wednesdays 4 – 6 pm at 630 Sansome Street San Francisco, California Let’s build a permanent presence at I.C.E. to stop the deportations. Bring signs, Spread widely. Stop Deportations Block I.C.E. Melt I.C.E. with LOVE LOVE not HATE JOIN US NO BAN, NO WALL INSIST ON LOVE We are all immigrants Say it loud, say it clear, // immigrants are welcome here (two sides of a sign) Never Again *non-violence* Chants: No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here refugees are welcome here, No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all… Continue reading →5:30 pm San Francisco Peace Vigil @ One Post Street, on the steps facing Market Street, below Feinstein’s office, directly above the Montgomery BART/Muni station)San Francisco Peace Vigil @ One Post Street, on the steps facing Market Street, below Feinstein’s office, directly above the Montgomery BART/Muni station)Aug 22 @ 5:30 pm – 6:30 pmSan Francisco Peace Vigil Join CODEPINK, World Can’t Wait, Occupy SF and others for our weekly (most Wednesdays) Peace Vigil. This week we will rise for Yemeni people. WHEN: Wednesday, April 12th @ 5:30-6:30pm WHERE: find us with a huge PEACE banner at One Post Street in San Francisco (on the steps facing Market Street, below Feinstein’s office, directly above the Montgomery BART/Muni station) Contact us here6:30 pm SF Democratic County Central Com... @ Tenderloin Community Elementary SchoolSF Democratic County Central Com... @ Tenderloin Community Elementary SchoolAug 22 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pmSF Democratic County Central Committee Meeting Wednesday, August 22nd 6:30pm Tenderloin Community Elementary School 627 Turk Street San Francisco, CA View the agenda here >> Join fellow San Francisco Democrats at the Party’s monthly committee meeting. The committee will be voting on endorsements for candidates and ballot measures for the November 6, 2018 election. All members of the public will have the opportunity to provide public comment on any item on the agenda.Aug23Thu12:00 pm Non-Violent Vigil for Peace and ... @ Corner of Larkin and Golden GateNon-Violent Vigil for Peace and ... @ Corner of Larkin and Golden GateAug 23 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pmAmerican Friends Service Committee, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, and San Francisco Friends Meeting and suppporters observed the occasion with their weekly 12-1pm vigil rain or shine every Thursday at 450 Golden Gate, the Federal Building. Why We Vigil For five years we have stood on this corner every Thursday from noon to 1:00. We come because we believe that what our government is doing is wrong. The so-called war on terror is a disaster, doing more to stimulate the growth of terrorism around the world than to keep our country safe. We believe justice is the way to… Continue reading →6:00 pm Berniecrats Healthcare Group Mee... @ Western Addition LibraryBerniecrats Healthcare Group Mee... @ Western Addition LibraryAug 23 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pmBerniecrats Healthcare Group Meeting (pending confirmation) Thursday August 23, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM Western Addition Library, 1550 Scott St, SF 94115 Join us for our regular meeting! We’ll discuss updates on healthcare organizing around the Bayview Hunter’s Point Shipyard, SB 562, and holding our representatives accountable. Main contact: Jeanne at (415) 334-2530 and Barbara at (415) 341-3096.Aug24Fri3:00 pm Diamond Dave on Mutiny Radio @ Mutiny RadioDiamond Dave on Mutiny Radio @ Mutiny RadioAug 24 @ 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm3-6pm: The Common Thread Collective Open Mic: Join Diamond Dave and Global Val for the mother of all open mics. Bring your poetry, fiction, politics, music, and good vibes! Listen online: http://pcrcollective.org/ Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Common-Thread-Collective/142109675840591Aug25Sat12:00 pm Join the Real Climate Leaders! @ Intertribal Friendship HouseJoin the Real Climate Leaders! @ Intertribal Friendship HouseAug 25 @ 12:00 pm – 4:00 pmJoin the Real Climate Leaders! Saturday, August 25th | Noon to 4pm Solutions and Issues with Climate, Intertribal Friendship House, 523 International Blvd, Oakland Join Idle No More SF Bay and guests for a presentation on Climate Change, Cap & Trade, Rise for Climate march and more! A nonviolent direct action training will occur after the presentation, along with an art party for the largest march for climate on the West Coast! Special guests to be announced! Feel free to bring a dish to share.2:00 pm Black And Brown SF For Justice P... @ 474 Valencia StreetBlack And Brown SF For Justice P... @ 474 Valencia StreetAug 25 @ 2:00 pm – 6:00 pmIn the spirit of Black August, the Black and Brown United will be commemorating with an open discussion, food, music, and poetry. During this event, we will be focusing on the following topics, immigration/occupation/war, homelessness, and police brutality. We hope to see you, and leave feeling empowered. “Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are dying who could be saved, that generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love of Revolution.… Continue reading →
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