This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: The Biden administration announced plans to send 25 million COVID vaccine doses to dozens of countries in...
Environment & Health Right-Wing Disinformation Campaigns Are Targeting State Climate Initiatives Environment & Health COVID Isn’t Over — the US Must Do More to Combat It Worldwide War & Peace Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Help Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange Economy & Labor Report Shows Stimulus Checks Significantly Reduced Hardship for Families Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US I was asked to take my mask off for the first time yesterday. Well, that’s not quite accurate. Better to say I was invited to remove my mask when I popped into my local bodega (yes, we have bodegas in New Hampshire). The counterman was all smiles when he said it, maskless himself. The store was empty and I didn’t want to seem rude, so off it came… and it felt for all the world like I was standing there without pants. I’ve been fully vaxxed for a while now, but I still wear a mask when I’m going to be around people. Part of it is habit at this point, part of it is an act of solidarity with those who have to wear them, and part of it is the fact that I haven’t had so much as a case of the sniffles since I started wearing one. Come winter and no matter the current COVID circumstances, a mask will continue to be part of my accessorizing for that reason alone, and I’ll bet you a buck I won’t be the only one. The tissue companies are going to take a hit. God, the masks. Our symbol for the age. If I live another 50 years, I will still never escape a feeling of melancholic anger whenever I see one. Every one of them should have “It Did Not Have To Be This Way” stamped on the front. They represent death, injury, failure and fear to me, and one thing more: They are a reminder that a stunningly large portion of this country won’t do a damn thing to help anyone else if it involves being mildly inconvenienced, even if it makes the difference between life and death. That’s the glass-half-empty-and-cracked perspective, which probably isn’t entirely fair. Millions and millions of people took mask-wearing to heart, to help themselves and their neighbors, and our stratospheric infection numbers have sharply declined. More than half the country over the age of 12 has gotten at least one shot, which is also serving to put a lid on new cases. Those cases are still emerging every day by the thousands, but the difference between now and last winter is both staggering and heartening. After an unendurably protracted run of months stuffed to bursting with death and sorrow, we are finally heading in the right direction. The people, by and large, deserve credit for this, including the many who poured themselves into mutual aid efforts when the situation was most dire. The scientists who conjured these vaccines like pulling a dove from a top hat deserve a parade, as do the medical professionals who turned themselves into hamburger fighting this virus. President Biden also deserves a slice of the credit for this turnaround. The man may be about as inspirational as a bag of oyster crackers, and there have been stumbles regarding communication, but the change since January is nothing short of an astonishment. Given the sack of mayhem Biden was handed when he got the keys to the joint, his administration’s ability to pull us out of the tailspin we were in will stand as one of the more impressive acts of leadership we’ve seen around here in a long time. It is time to stop talking about leadership. It is time to lead. That being rightly said, I still believe the drive to fully reopen — and to forget — is happening too soon. The green grass and warm springtime breezes can’t alter the fact that, while things are improving here, the COVID situation around the world is worse than ever. If something is not done about it expediently, we are likely to face… what? Would it be a fifth wave, or are we still riding the first one? In any event, it behooves us to remember that the murderous Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 did a good deal of its killing in a third wave that came in 1919. The rest of the world is sick as hell right now, and in this regard, borders are meaningless. On Wednesday, a report emerged claiming that a vicious new virus variant had emerged in Vietnam. This one was actually a hybrid of the U.K. and India variants. I was an English Lit major, and the idea that two variants could meet up and make a super-variant had never crossed my screen. Yet another terrifying COVID fact none of us can un-know. Fortunately, the World Health Organization announced today that the virus rampaging through Vietnam “does not meet the global health body’s definition of a new variant, though it is still very transmissible and dangerous,” according to The Washington Post. While this is welcome news, it is also a stark reminder that the longer COVID is allowed to burn, new and deadly variants will continue to appear, and one of them might figure out how to pick the lock on our precious vaccines. Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, India, South America and now parts of Africa are setting the bar very high for the number of new infections per day, and their health care infrastructure is beginning to wobble badly. Malaysia is heading into a mass lockdown that will last two weeks, and Peru currently has the highest COVID mortality rate per capita in the world. “In Africa, concerns are growing over the possible arrival of a new wave powered by a more transmissible variant of the virus, with the health systems in many countries at risk of being quickly subsumed by a surge of infections,” reports the Post. “A recent study found that the continent has the world’s highest death rate of patients critically ill with covid-19, thanks to limited intensive care facilities and reserves of vital medical supplies like oxygen.” The Biden administration is moving to help these international hotspots, but there is concern these actions are not nearly enough. Over the next two weeks, the administration will announce its plans to distribute 80 million vaccine doses around the world. That sounds like a nice beefy number, until you remember the global number of infections to date is more than twice that amount, and two weeks is a damn long time when your house is on fire. The president has also signaled that he is in favor of waiving international patent protections for the vaccines, so countries can manufacture the shots themselves. This proposal, naturally, is facing strong pushback from the pharmaceutical industry and its battalion of lobbyists. “The battle mirrors the one during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1990s,” reports NPR, “when drug companies warred with global health officials who sought to produce generic treatments. Drugmakers eventually retreated after former South African President Nelson Mandela accused the companies of using patents to profit from his country’s health crisis.” In this window of time when we seem to have a handle on the pandemic here at home, nothing less than a massive, global Berlin Airlift-style rescue mission is warranted. If Biden dickers around the edges of this and COVID makes another run on our shores, all the goodwill the president has accumulated will fall to dust, and my guy at the bodega won’t be inviting me to remove my mask anymore. It’s pretty nice out now, but as any Stark will tell you, winter is coming. It is time to stop talking about leadership. It is time to lead. The world needs our help, and we have the capacity to give it. Let’s roll. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Environment & Health Right-Wing Disinformation Campaigns Are Targeting State Climate Initiatives Environment & Health COVID Isn’t Over — the US Must Do More to Combat It Worldwide War & Peace Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Help Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange Economy & Labor Report Shows Stimulus Checks Significantly Reduced Hardship for Families Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US Following the global wave of demonstrations after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, Republican state legislatures mounted a counterattack, introducing a deluge of “anti-riot” bills designed to make it easier for law enforcement to clamp down on demonstrations perceived as disorderly. According to a PEN America report from late April, Republicans have proposed at least 100 “anti-riot” bills in 33 states from last June to this March. These measures aim to address protest-related activities by greatly expanding the definition of “riot,” granting criminal immunity to drivers who hit “rioters” with their cars, suspending state benefits for those who participate in a “riot” and increasing penalties for demonstrators who block traffic. Over the past several months, the bills have sparked progressive pushback over the perception that they grant the police unchecked power to crack down on nonviolent protests and chill free speech rights. Indeed, reports now make clear that police organizations and their allies have played an outsized role in introducing and supporting these measures, often by advocating and lobbying for them behind the scenes. According to new research released this month, police officers, police unions and law enforcement lobbyists have supported one or more “anti-riot” bills in at least 14 states since last June. “Anti-riot” bills in 19 states have been sponsored by legislators with backgrounds in law enforcement. Because lobbying records are inconsistent from state to state, these figures may be underestimates. “Almost nobody knows right now that police are pushing for these bills,” Connor Gibson, an opposition researcher who compiled the data, told Salon in an interview. “People are not surprised that police are lobbying for bills that let police off the hook and push the blame to protesters. But I don’t think that should be the measure of why this trend is important.” Consider H.B. 445 in Alabama, which broadens the definition of “riot” and heightens the legal penalties against protesters who block traffic. The bill, which has been indefinitely postponed, was sponsored by at least nine state lawmakers who are or were affiliated with various police departments and/or organizations. The bill’s primary sponsor, GOP Rep. Allen Treadway, is a retired Birmingham assistant police chief. Two co-sponsors, Reps. Allen Farley and Phillip Pettus, respectively served as police chief in Satsuma Police Chief and an Alabama state trooper. In North Carolina, a similar bill is being considered that was sponsored by a total of seven police-affiliated lawmakers. The bill’s two primary sponsors, Reps. Charles Miller and Allen McNeill, respectively served as deputy chief of the Brunswick County sheriff’s office and chief deputy of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office. “Police culture is deeply embedded in our state legislatures,” Gibson said, observing that “many legislators have conflicts of interest when it comes to holding the police accountable.” These bills are also heavily influenced by police organizations like Fraternal Order of Police and the Sheriffs Association, whose state chapters have lobbied for several different “anti-riot” bills throughout the country since June. Consider Florida’s H.B. 1, which became law in April. The comprehensive measure – which makes “aggravated rioting” a felony, denies bail to those charged of a misdemeanor during a protest and grants civil legal immunity to motorists who drive through demonstrators blocking a road — was supported by the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Police Chiefs Association and Florida Smart Justice Alliance, a broad coalition of organizations focused on the state’s criminal justice and corrections system. Barney T. Bishop III, the CEO of Florida Smart Justice Alliance, explained his organization’s stance in an interview with Salon, disputing the notion the H.B. 1 would embolden those on the far right to retaliate against social justice protesters. “It’s not about emboldening anybody,” he said. “Florida is as opposed to the Proud Boys and the far-right groups as we are to the far-left groups.” His explanation of the bill’s aims, however, suggest otherwise. “Protesters today feel that they can go anywhere they want, do anything they want — beat on cars, cuss and try to incite violence from police by screaming in their face,” Bishop added. “There are people that will incite violence. Most of the time it will be the people in the protests themselves or the people behind the protests, like George Soros and antifa and BLM.” There is little evidence, however, that last year’s wave of social justice demonstrations after the Floyd murder was plagued by violence. According to a report last September by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), about 95% of all demonstrations from last May to last August were peaceful. By comparison the report notes that “authorities have used force — such as firing less-lethal weapons like tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray or beating demonstrators with batons — in over 54% of the demonstrations in which they have engaged.” Nora Benavidez, director of PEN America’s U.S. Free Expression Programs, affirmed ACLED’s findings, telling Salon that the Republican-backed “anti-riot” bills “are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Legislators are predicating their bills on a circumstance that characterizes protests as somehow inherently criminal.” As in the Florida case, a newly-enacted “anti-riot” bill in Iowa, S.F. 342, was backed by various police-affiliated organizations, including the Iowa Peace Officers Association, the Iowa State Police Association, the Iowa Fraternal Order of Police, the Iowa State Patrol Supervisors Association and the Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association, according to state lobbying records. Interestingly, the Iowa Peace Officers Association and the Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association were initially “undecided” on the bill after it was introduced in February. At the time, the bill simply sought to prevent police officers “from being discharged, disciplined, or threatened with discharge” if their names appeared on the “Brady list,” which tracks officers who might lack credibility in certain legal cases involving the police. Since then the bill has morphed into full-fledged “anti-riot” legislation, which won the support of the two law enforcement associations. Adam Mason, state policy organizing director for the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund, told Salon that the Iowa bill reflects the overrepresentation of police interests in the state’s legislature. “We absolutely believe in having a citizen legislature,” Mason said, “but that also means we need to have a diversity of opinions. That would mean having legislators from all walks of life. It seems these legislators feel like they don’t have to listen to community members because they’re coming from concentrated backgrounds in law enforcement.” Bishop disagreed. “There’s no more conflict of interest than a doctor selected to the legislature proposing medical legislation,” he told Salon. A major reason why “anti-riot” bills are controversial are their provisions which specifically grant civil and criminal immunity to drivers attempting to flee “riots” — especially given the violent counterattacks social justice protesters have seen in recent years. In 2017, during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, an alleged white supremacist rammed his car into a throng of counter-protesters, killing a woman named Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. The driver was later convicted of first-degree murder. More recently, in February of this year, an admitted Klansmen drove his truck into a group of peaceful protesters near Richmond, Virginia, though nobody was seriously injured. Last year, NPR reported that there had been “at least 50 vehicle-ramming incidents since protests against police violence erupted nationwide in late May,” a marked increase from prior years. Gibson told Salon that the uptick in vehicle-related violence against protesters is precisely what makes the recent surge in “anti-riot” bills so concerning. “You can’t be a politician and not be aware that there is an undercurrent of informal vigilante justice,” he explained, “where the police are emboldening white supremacists to take things into their own hands.” Most of the driver immunity provisions are predicated on two conditions: that the driver was fleeing a “riot” in order to protect themselves and that they exercised “due care” in the course of colliding with demonstrators. But the reality in court might not be so straightforward. Sgt. Fred Lepley, senior director of the Iowa State Police Association, which supported S.F. 342, told Salon that incidents in which protesters threaten drivers are often “difficult to comprehend” without proper context. Lepley said that the provisions are designed to “assist citizens that are attempting to remove themselves from a dangerous situation but find that protesters are purposely forcing their hand by standing in front of the vehicle refusing to let them leave and possibly attempting to get at the driver to do harm. In many of these cases the driver is driving very slow and the protesters intentionally get in front of the vehicle, placing themselves in harm’s way.” Oklahoma Rep. Justin Humprey, a Republican who sponsored H.B. 1674 — which also contains a driver immunity provision — echoed Leple, saying by email that “this bill is about protecting the public” and that it “enables a person to protect their family and themselves from criminals who demonstrate intent to commit harm.” Salon could not find evidence that recent demonstrators have deliberately impeded traffic in an effort to provoke or harm drivers. Other states where police organizations have actively supported “anti-riot” bills include Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Idaho, Connecticut, Arkansas and Arizona. Though most of these bills have surfaced within the last couple of years, Gibson told Salon that the Republican sense of urgency for their implementation has no logical or historical basis. “Rioting was already a dangerous, illegal type of behavior,” he said, “but people still did it. These politicians are deluding themselves if they think that making rioting extra-illegal is going to change anything. They’re trying to throw peaceful protesters in jail because that is more of a thorn in their side than the riots are.” This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Environment & Health Right-Wing Disinformation Campaigns Are Targeting State Climate Initiatives Environment & Health COVID Isn’t Over — the US Must Do More to Combat It Worldwide War & Peace Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Help Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange Economy & Labor Report Shows Stimulus Checks Significantly Reduced Hardship for Families Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US The Vietnam War ended in 1975, but Vietnamese people today continue to suffer the effects of Agent Orange, the deadly dioxin-containing chemical weapon that the U.S. sprayed over 12 percent of South Vietnam from 1961-1971, poisoning both the people and the land. Descendants of the approximately 2 to 4 million Vietnamese people, hundreds of thousands of U.S. Vietnam veterans, and Vietnamese-Americans who were exposed to the toxin continue to record disproportionate rates of congenital disabilities and higher rates of many diseases. U.S. veterans receive some compensation from the U.S. government, but very little assistance has been given to the Vietnamese people, the intended victims of the defoliant Agent Orange. Thus, on May 25, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) introduced H.R. 3518, the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2021, in the House of Representatives. The Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign, for which I serve as co-coordinator, assisted Lee in drafting the bill. “The United States has a moral responsibility to compensate the victims of the Agent Orange campaign,” Lee told Truthout. “In the same way we are focused on beginning to repair the damage of systemic racism in the form of reparations, and the war on drugs with restorative justice, it is also our responsibility to try and atone for this disgraceful campaign during the Vietnam War.” Lee noted, “The United States has contributed more than $125 million over the last 30 years in assistance through USAID for persons with significant disabilities, regardless of cause, in areas heavily sprayed with Agent Orange. This project is part of the U.S. government’s efforts to address legacies from U.S.-Vietnam War.” The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) recognizes 15 diseases and illnesses as associated with the spraying and use of Agent Orange by the U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam era. These maladies are AL amyloidosis, chronic B-cell leukemias, chloracne, diabetes mellitus type 2, Hodgkin’s disease, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy, porphyria cutanea tarda, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers and soft-tissue sarcomas. Although the DVA provides some (albeit insufficient) compensation for 20 severe congenital disabilities in children of female U.S. veterans who served in Vietnam, the only congenital condition recognized for children of male U.S. veterans is spina bifida. But no assistance has been provided to the children of Vietnamese or Vietnamese Americans associated with their exposure, or their parents’ or grandparents’ exposure, to Agent Orange. “I saw a plane pass with a cloud behind it. And then my whole body was drenched in a sticky powder, and I started coughing and coughing. I didn’t know that this powder that had just covered me was a poison.” Lee said H.R. 3518 “would expand benefits to children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange; expand research on Agent Orange and its effects on the health of exposed individuals; and provide medical, housing and poverty reduction assistance to Vietnamese individuals affected by exposure as well as their children,” adding, “It would also provide environmental remediation for areas in Vietnam exposed to Agent Orange and conduct a needs assessment on the Vietnamese American community.” In addition, Lee observed, the bill would “provide grants that fund a broad health assessment for Vietnamese Americans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange as well as their children and descendants.” H.R. 3518 requires the establishment of “centers that provide ‘assessment, counseling, and treatment for conditions related to exposure to Agent Orange’ in areas with large Vietnamese-American populations,” Lee said. In the current moment, advocates for Lee’s bill are urging those who support it to contact their congressional representatives and ask them to sign on to H.R. 3518 as a co-sponsor. French Court Dismisses Agent Orange Lawsuit Two weeks before the introduction of Lee’s bill, a French court dismissed a lawsuit that Tran To Nga, a French-Vietnamese victim of Agent Orange, filed in 2015 against 14 chemical companies, including Dow and Monsanto, that produced and sold Agent Orange. The court in Evry, France, ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case because the companies acted “on the orders” of the U.S. government which was involved in a “sovereign act.” Working in Vietnam as a war correspondent in 1966, Tran and others with her were enveloped by the U.S. government’s spraying of the chemicals. “I saw a plane pass with a cloud behind it. And then my whole body was drenched in a sticky powder, and I started coughing and coughing. I didn’t know that this powder that had just covered me was a poison,” Tran says in the new documentary, The People vs. Agent Orange, directed by Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna and scheduled to air on PBS on June 28. Tran’s first daughter weighed 6.6 pounds at the age of three months. Shortly after birth, her daughter’s skin began shedding. The baby could not bear to have any skin contact or simple demonstrations of affection, Tran testified in 2009 before the International People’s Tribunal of Conscience in Support of the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange. The child still weighed 6.6 pounds when she died at 17 months. Tran’s second daughter still suffers from alpha thalassima, a genetic blood disease rarely found in Asia. Tran herself has type 2 diabetes, tuberculosis and cancer. “For forty years, I carried within me this guilt of being a bad mother who did not know how to protect her children, or worse, who sowed misfortune to her offspring,” Tran told Truthout in an email. It wasn’t until 2008 when Tran visited Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange that she made the connection between her toxic exposure and the illnesses she and her daughters have endured. Tran decided to sue the U.S. companies “because all the other victims no longer have the opportunity to do so. If I don’t,” she added, “the [Agent Orange] drama would be unknown for a long time to come and the crime of the greatest chemical war against humanity still goes unpunished. Above all, millions of dioxin victims would never have any assistance to be able to live with dignity during their already too miserable and painful lives.” Tran’s lawyer, William Bourdon, who is appealing the judge’s ruling, said the court applied an obsolete definition of sovereign immunity that did not comply with international and French law. “I am disappointed, I am angry, but I am not sad,” Tran said at a news conference. “We are going to carry on because our cause is just. Truth is on our side.” U.S. Chemical Companies Committed “Ecocide” Tran’s lawsuit alleges that the U.S. chemical companies committed “ecocide” because Agent Orange destroyed the environment of Vietnam. The 2009 Paris tribunal, which heard testimony from 27 victims, witnesses and scientific experts, made a finding of “ecocide.” The seven judges from three continents, including me, concluded, “The damages caused to the land and forests, water supply, and communities and the ecosystems can be legitimately be called an ecocide, as the forests and jungles in large parts of southern Vietnam have been devastated and denuded, and may either never grow back or take 50 to 200 years to regenerate.” Today, dozens of environmental hotspots continue to contaminate the soil, food, sediment, wildlife and livestock in Vietnam with dioxin. In 2017, the United States assisted in cleaning up the Agent Orange contamination at the largest hotspot at the Da Nang Airport. In addition, the United States has pledged $30 million a year for 10 years toward the cleanup of the hotspot at Bien Hoa, but the total cost may exceed $1 billion. And there are several other smaller hotspots throughout Vietnam that must also be cleaned up as they continue to expose the people there to dioxin and arsenic. Lee told Truthout she is “proud that, at the request of the Vietnam government, the U.S. cleaned up Danang Airport and reduced the risk of dioxin exposure to the surrounding community. Now, we are working together on dioxin remediation at Bien Hoa Airbase, which is the largest remaining dioxin hotspot in Vietnam.” Lee noted, “USAID has agreed to provide an initial five-year, $183 million contribution to this project. The bill provides for additional cleanup in areas that were heavily sprayed, such as areas that served as military bases and sites of aircraft crashes, and I will continue to ensure that U.S. assistance is provided for the Bien Hoa Airbase clean up.” But the Chemical Companies Get Off Scot-Free In 1979, U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War sued the U.S. government and the chemical companies, including Dow and Monsanto, for compensation resulting from their exposure to Agent Orange. The case settled out of court in 1984 for $180 million which gave a few of the plaintiffs a few thousand dollars each. Later, U.S. veterans won a legislative victory for compensation and they receive several billion dollars per year in benefits. Vietnamese victims filed a lawsuit in 2004 against the chemical companies that manufactured Agent Orange. In 2008, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein, who had also presided over the U.S. veterans’ lawsuit, dismissed the case brought by the Vietnamese people, concluding that Agent Orange did not constitute a poison weapon prohibited by the Hague Convention of 1907. Weinstein had reportedly told the chemical companies when they settled the U.S. veterans’ suit that their liability was over and he apparently made good on his promise. His 2008 dismissal was affirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. In the film The People vs. Agent Orange, Weinstein says that the veterans’ case “was not settled on any scientific basis. It was settled on a political basis … The moment it was settled, [the chemical companies’] stock went up.” U.S. veterans who continue to suffer Agent Orange related diseases were exposed to, but were not the intended victims of, the deadly chemicals. Nonetheless, the U.S. government is paying for their compensation when private companies that manufactured the chemicals, which they knew to contain deadly dioxin, have not paid the price for allowing the United States to use those chemicals in the first place. Moreover, those companies profited from their sales of Agent Orange to the government. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Environment & Health Right-Wing Disinformation Campaigns Are Targeting State Climate Initiatives Environment & Health COVID Isn’t Over — the US Must Do More to Combat It Worldwide War & Peace Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Help Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange Economy & Labor Report Shows Stimulus Checks Significantly Reduced Hardship for Families Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US As Republicans in Washington propose to further strip an already pared-down jobs and infrastructure package that activists warn is not bold enough to deliver Biden’s promises of “real change,” lawmakers with ties to oil and gas interests are obstructing action at the state level by misrepresenting regional climate bills as gas taxes. In April, GOP lawmakers in Connecticut launched a “Stop the Gas and Food Tax” campaign, which characterizes an effort by 13 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a plan to “punish” the middle class. The effort their ire was directed at, the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P), contains provisions to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. “I think one sign of the desperation of the [GOP] opposition is that they’re really resorting now to things that are factually untrue,” Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney at Save the Sound, told Connecticut Mirror, referring to how the TCI-P categorically does not levy a tax on consumers at the pump. Progressive groups including the Climate Justice Alliance have also opposed the program, but on the grounds that it distracts from reforms that center the needs of communities on the frontlines of pollution and climate crises, such as overhauling the mass transit system. Right-wing groups have relied on disinformation and economic alarmism to promote the fossil fuel industry’s agenda for decades, advocates say. For example, in 2015, a multimillion-dollar PR campaign by a front group for the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) surfaced in California when lawmakers were getting close to passing the state’s Clean Energy and Pollution Act. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Adrienne Alvord described the WSPA radio spots and glossy mailers calling on Californians to “stop the hidden gas tax” as “one of the most extreme examples of fossil fuel-interest misinformation I’ve ever seen.” Now, efforts have arisen in New York state to quash what would be the most progressive state-level climate jobs bill in the U.S. The Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA) is a novel proposal that provides a roadmap for funding the state’s 2019 commitment to 100 percent zero-emission electricity by 2040, by establishing a new state authority that proponents estimate would generate between $11 billion and $15 billion annually by calling on polluters to pay a $55 fee on each ton of climate pollution emitted, which would rise to $74 by 2030. The bill also calls for additional fees on co-pollutants that are harmful to human health, like ozone and the microscopic particulate pollution known as PM2.5, which is highly correlated with asthma and other respiratory problems. Unlike TCI-P or cap-and-trade schemes, the CCIA is designed by and for the almost 300 community organizations that worked with state lawmakers to introduce it, under a multiracial, multi-sector coalition called NY Renews. According to a report by the coalition, the legislation would support more than 160,000 ongoing jobs, including 4,560 jobs manufacturing electric buses, 11,700 jobs retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency and 11,404 jobs in the care economy. The fund would also provide tax rebates to low- and middle-income New Yorkers to cover fluctuating energy costs amid the transition away from fossil fuels. The CCIA would direct 33 percent of revenue, or an estimated $4 billion annually to a community-led just transition fund, and 7 percent, or an estimated $1 billion annually, to a fund to support workers and communities that will need to transition away from livelihoods in the fossil fuel sector. Lawmakers with ties to oil and gas interests are obstructing action at the state level by misrepresenting regional climate bills as gas taxes. Organizers began facing a barrage of pushback beginning in April, after vice president of the corporate lobbying group Business Council of New York State Ken Pokalsky testified against the bill, estimating a 55 cent per gallon fee on gasoline and a 26 percent rise in the cost of natural gas for home heating. According to watchdog group the Public Accountability Initiative and database LittleSis, the Business Council is heavily backed by fossil fuel interests, with members including pipeline conglomerate Kinder Morgan, Exxon subsidiary XTO Energy and the American Petroleum Institute. Vocal opposition from Republican lawmakers followed days later, including from New York state senators Daphne Jordan and Thomas F. O’Mara, whose top campaign contributors during the 2020 election cycle included the Business Council. Local papers across the state, such as The Island Now and the Saratogian amplified the framing of the bill as a “gas tax” by linking concern over rising prices at the pump to a recent cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline. A similar message has continued to be broadcast on TV stations and an NPR affiliate station. Stephan Edel, coalition coordinator with NY Renews, told Truthout the gas tax rhetoric is disingenuous and distracts from what the bill actually offers communities across the state. “We put the fee upstream on importers and major fossil fuel companies. Some of those companies will choose to pass those costs onto consumers even though they don’t have to,” he explained. NY Renews has conducted multiple analyses of the legislation’s impact on New Yorkers, which have all concluded that tax rebates of $700-$1,200 per household to help with energy costs would cover or exceed the potential impact of rising fuel costs passed to consumers, leaving 60 percent of New Yorkers with more money. “Those things are completely lost when the conversation focuses on ‘will the price at the pump go up?’” Edel added. The Climate and Community Investment Act … is designed by and for the almost 300 community organizations … under a multiracial, multi-sector coalition called NY Renews. The bill’s potential passage comes at a critical time given the federal gridlock. Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, a national climate strategist, told Truthout the CCIA and efforts to stamp it out could set a precedent for what will play out elsewhere. “New York is always a trendsetter and as a state laboratory is often a good place to learn about the nuance from financing to accountability in the State Attorney General, the regulatory space and in the streets,” she said. Sacoby Wilson, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland, says the CCIA would serve as a model for other regions in the U.S. that have yet to develop such a dense environmental justice network and presence in the halls of power. “That bill has the opportunity to bring justice forward and really target communities with the most needs,” he said, noting that without legislation like the CCIA, aggressive action on climate issues at the state and federal levels could result in just another “massive transfer of wealth” that further harms low-income and communities of color, which Wilson says “have been dumped on for years and excluded from economic opportunity.” The executive director of the Brooklyn-based community development organization UPROSE, Elizabeth Yeampierre, took part in preventing just this kind of wealth transfer in 2019, when her organization helped fight off an attempt by real estate developers to rezone an industrial waterfront area in Brooklyn for high-rise apartments and hotels. The proposed development was slated for the Sunset Park neighborhood, where 29 percent of residents, the majority of whom are Latinx or Asian, live below the poverty level. Now, instead of hosting luxury apartments that organizers say would have gentrified the neighborhood, Sunset Park is slated to serve as a manufacturing hub for offshore wind turbines, where the Norwegian company Equinor has committed $50 million to workforce development. As Inside Climate News reports, residents have expressed excitement about the possibility of over 1,000 high-paying jobs as an alternative to retail or service gigs or working in dirtier industries. “New York is really the belly of the beast when it comes to capitalism,” Yeampierre told Truthout, noting how the CCIA is designed to help organizers tap into funding for clean energy and climate resilience projects that build neighborhood wealth, like what’s now happening in Sunset Park. The climate bill faces some opposition on Long Island and upstate, yet almost two-thirds of New Yorkers acknowledge that climate change is already hurting people in the U.S., and 75 percent of residents think corporations should do more to address global warming. Yeampierre said she believes necessary constituents and lawmakers might back the bill — if they weren’t facing the oil and gas industry’s alternative facts. “I would think that people would be excited to hear about communities leading with solutions that are viable, operational and that address the disparities of fossil fuel extraction and racism,” she said. “If you address the needs of the most vulnerable, everyone will benefit.” The proposed legislation currently has 28 co-sponsors in the Senate and 49 co-sponsors in the State Assembly. In the remaining days of the legislative session, which ends on June 10, Clarke Gocker, an organizer with PUSH Buffalo, said activists will continue reaching deeper into communities to educate policy makers, residents and small businesses on what’s actually in the bill. For example, the bill includes billions annually in funding for projects like Buffalo’s School 77: a formerly abandoned building on the city’s west side that is now home to affordable apartments, a Black theater collective, a community gym, and a space that served as a COVID-19 mutual aid hub last summer, all powered by a 65-kilowatt solar array installed and maintained by local workers. “There’s a lot of popular education that needs to happen to dispel this disinformation and misinformation,” Gocker said. “The CCIA is a novel legislative intervention and I don’t think there’s a lot of precedent, which is why it’s so exciting.” Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Environment & Health Right-Wing Disinformation Campaigns Are Targeting State Climate Initiatives Environment & Health COVID Isn’t Over — the US Must Do More to Combat It Worldwide War & Peace Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Help Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange Economy & Labor Report Shows Stimulus Checks Significantly Reduced Hardship for Families Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US A new report finds that the direct relief checks that were sent out as part of the stimulus packages passed by the federal government significantly reduced hardship for families, particularly low-income families. The University of Michigan report, first reported on by The New York Times, used Census Bureau data to analyze hardships faced by families over the course of the pandemic. The report authors found that hardships like financial instability fell sharply from December 2020 to April 2021, during which time the federal government sent two stimulus checks to most Americans, totalling $2,000. The analysis found that food insecurity fell over 40 percent in that time, financial instability fell 45 percent and common symptoms of depression dropped by 20 percent. The sharpest declines happened right after the checks were passed in December and March. “Our analyses thus far have yielded a fairly simple story: throughout the crisis, the level of hardship faced by U.S. households can be directly linked to the federal government’s response,” writes the report authors. They find that, while the economy’s recovery may have helped ease hardships, the stimulus checks were likely a larger contributing factor. Levels of hardship remained relatively steady from spring into fall last year. “This was suggestive of the efficacy of CARES Act income support provisions in stabilizing U.S. households in the midst of a global pandemic and economic crisis,” reads the report. The CARES Act was passed in March of 2020, and in April of last year the Census Bureau began conducting the surveys that the study pulls data from. Part of the reason that hardships remained stable through that time was the $600 supplemental unemployment checks in the CARES Act that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) had lobbied for. Those checks helped the nearly 1 in 5 American workers who were receiving unemployment benefits by July of last year. The report states that the supplements helped millions of Americans hold back financial and mental challenges. “We see an immediate decline among multiple lines of hardship concentrated among the most disadvantaged families,” H. Luke Shaefer, study co-author and professor at the University of Michigan, told The New York Times. Declines in hardships were especially pronounced for adults with children and adults in households with annual incomes less than $25,000. Both groups were facing more food insufficiency, difficulty paying bills and financial instability than other groups, for instance, and both groups saw the sharpest declines in the same areas following the stimulus checks from last December and earlier this year. Shaefer also argues that direct aid like the stimulus checks are an efficient form of government aid because struggling families know the most about where to spend their money. “Cash aid offers families great flexibility to address their most pressing problems, and getting it out quickly is something the government knows how to do,” Shaefer told The New York Times. The report’s findings line up with previous studies that have found that household income rose by a record 21.1 percent after this March’s stimulus checks — checks that didn’t get a single Republican vote in Congress. Reminder: Every single Republican in Congress voted against substantially reducing hardship for the American people. https://t.co/ELJNPaTANl — Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) June 2, 2021 Congressional Republicans have been against the stimulus checks since the first stimulus was passed, saying that the aid is too broad. But, as the University of Michigan report shows, the stimulus checks reduced hardships for not only the low-income earners but also the people who received checks at the higher end of the income scale. That is likely why Republicans were touting some of the benefits of the stimulus bill despite none of them having voted for it. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Environment & Health Right-Wing Disinformation Campaigns Are Targeting State Climate Initiatives Environment & Health COVID Isn’t Over — the US Must Do More to Combat It Worldwide War & Peace Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Help Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange Economy & Labor Report Shows Stimulus Checks Significantly Reduced Hardship for Families Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US Do African Americans have Second Amendment rights? That’s the question Emory University professor Carol Anderson set out to answer in her new book, The Second, which looks at the constitutional right to bear arms and its uneven application throughout U.S. history. She says she was prompted to write the book after the 2016 police killing of Philando Castile, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop after he told the officer he had a legal firearm. Anderson says the Second Amendment was always intended to be a means of arming white people to control the Black population. “There was this massive fear about these slave revolts, Black people demanding their freedom, being willing to have an uprising to gain their freedom,” says Anderson. “What I saw was that it wasn’t about guns. It was about the fear of Black people.” TRANSCRIPT This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form. AMY GOODMAN: Gun control advocates are pushing lawmakers to do more to stop a surge in gun violence. A recent study by Everytown for Gun Safety found gun violence took over 19,000 lives in the United States last year — a 25% increase from 2019. Gun sales are also soaring to record levels. Despite this, Republican lawmakers are pushing measures to loosen gun control regulations. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott is expected to soon sign a recently passed bill which would allow Texans to carry handguns openly in public without a permit. It also allows people without a felony criminal conviction to carry a handgun without a background check. Abbott has praised the bill as the, quote, “strongest Second Amendment legislation in Texas history.” Well, today we’re going to take a deep look at the Second Amendment and its racist roots. We’re joined by Carol Anderson, author of the new book The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. Professor Anderson details how the Second Amendment was written to empower local militia groups to put down slave revolts and protect plantation owners. She writes the Second Amendment is, quote, “rooted in fear of Black people, to deny them their rights, to keep them from tasting liberty.” Carol Anderson joins us from Atlanta, where she’s professor at Emory University. She’s also the author of One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy and White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. Professor Anderson, it’s great to have you back on Democracy Now! Congratulations on the publication of your book. And one warning: no soundbites. So, this book is really an epic work. It is a retelling, a reframing of an amendment that we have rarely heard talked about in this way. Can you go back in time to the Founding Fathers, as they say, and talk about where the Second Amendment came from? Teach. CAROL ANDERSON: Thank you. This emerged out of the fear of Black people, from slavery, that there was this massive fear about the slave revolt, Black people demanding their freedom, being willing to have an uprising to gain their freedom. And what that meant then was that you had this language of “We’ve got to keep this ferocious monster in chains.” And you saw, with each revolt, with each uprising, a series of statutes being put in place to say that African — that the enslaved, that Black people could not own weapons, that they could not have access to weapons. And you also saw the rise in the structure of slave patrols and militias, that were there and designed to contain that Black population. As the nation began to develop, as you had this war of independence, there was this fear of arming Black people, the fear that even freed Blacks who were armed would get — would provide a kind of sense of what freedom looked like to the enslaved. But the exigencies of war required that arming, required having Black folks in the Continental Army. But as the nation developed after that war, one of the things that you had happening was with the Constitution, with the drafting of the Constitution. Because the militias themselves had proven so untrustworthy, unreliable as a force to fight against the British invasion, that James Madison, in drafting the Constitution, had language in there that you would have federal control of the militias. Well, when the Constitution went up for ratification to the states, by the time it got to Virginia, the Anti-Federalists in Virginia were in an uproar. George Mason and Patrick Henry were thinking about this militia being under the control of the federal government. They were like, “We will be left defenseless. We cannot trust the federal government, that has these folks from Pennsylvania and these folks from Massachusetts, to be willing to engage the militia when the slaves revolt. We cannot trust the federal government to protect us. We will be left defenseless.” And they began to demand a Bill of Rights that would provide protection, that would curtail federal power. And they began to demand, as well, a new constitutional convention. That threat of what that meant sent James Madison into the 1st Congress determined to write a Bill of Rights that would quell that dissent, that would short-circuit that movement for a new constitutional convention. And we’ve already seen what the power of the South has meant, in terms of the — when the Constitution was being drafted itself, how the South said that “We will not sign on to become part of this United States of America if we don’t get the three-fifths clause, if we don’t get 20 additional years on the Atlantic slave trade, if we don’t get a Fugitive Slave Clause.” And so the South had already wielded its power in terms of being willing to scuttle the United States of America. And Madison believed strongly that this threat coming out of the Anti-Federalists in the South, out of Virginia, would do the same thing. And that becomes the basis for the Second Amendment. AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about all of the players — I mean, you just mentioned James Madison, Patrick Henry, the slave states — and how this country came together based on this terror of slaves rebelling? CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. I mean, so — AMY GOODMAN: Enslaved people rebelling? CAROL ANDERSON: Yeah, enslaved people rebelling. And that fear that — you know, so you have George Washington, who is a slave owner, who brings, in fact, some of his enslaved people to Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention. You have Thomas Jefferson, who is not there, but he is writing in to Madison, and Madison is writing to him. And one of the things that Jefferson is concerned about is slavery, is the way that it will be depicted. And so you have this silence. There is a silence in the Constitution. It’s hovering over the formation of the Constitution, like Banquo’s ghost, haunting it, in shaping it, but not being explicitly said. But it is the power that is creating this sophistry, this really weird “We believe in freedom and equality, but we want 20 additional years on the Atlantic slave trade.” What they said in South Carolina was that “South Carolina would be just a backward place. Our wealth comes from the Negroes. That is our natural resource. And we must protect it at all cost.” So, this is what is part of the tectonic plates moving at this time in this founding of this nation. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Professor Anderson, could you also explain the significance of the Uniform Militia Act of 1792 and its role in ensuring that weapons and guns remained in the hands of white people? CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And so, one of the first laws passed by Congress was the Uniform Militia Act of 1792. What it said was that all able-bodied white men between the ages of 18 and 45 would have to be part of the militia. And so, here in the law, it is specifying white men. And it said that they must own a gun. This is part of — the militia is part of citizenship. It is how you give your service to the nation, how you provide your bona fides, as it were, as an American citizen. And so, white men are the definition of American citizen in this framing, and that they must own a gun. And so, what you see here is that the militia is given this high status in terms of what it means to be able to control a unruly population, what is seen as a dangerous population. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Professor Anderson, could — CAROL ANDERSON: And interestingly enough — I’m sorry. NERMEEN SHAIKH: No, please go ahead. CAROL ANDERSON: Interestingly enough for me is that we have had Shays’ Rebellion, that happened right before the Constitutional Convention, where white men gathered together to attack the government because they didn’t like a taxation policy, and that the militia would not put down these white men. In fact, you had members of the militia joining this rebellion. And you had to have Boston merchants basically finance a mercenary army to put down Shays’ Rebellion. But what you didn’t see coming out of that was a law saying, you know, “White men with arms are dangerous. White men with arms attack the government. So we need to ban white men from having access to weapons.” You don’t see that happening. But you do see that happening with slave revolts. You see the language, the laws coming in place, saying they shall not have access, Black people shall not have access to weapons, and that the militia and the slave patrol are there to ensure that Black people do not have access to weapons. NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Professor Anderson, it seems — I mean, you begin your book by talking about the police murders of Philando Castile, as well as Alton Sterling, and you point out that the NRA did not come to their defense, despite the fact that they were also killed for having guns in their possession, whereas in a comparable violence perpetrated by white mass violence, the NRA immediately leapt to the defense of the people responsible for that violence, who were white men. CAROL ANDERSON: Absolutely. And so, there was a basic silence on Philando Castile. There was nothing said about Alton Sterling. And what was said about Philando Castile from the NRA was — and this was only after being pushed by their African American members — was that “We believe that everyone, regardless of race, sexual orientation, should have access to guns, to arms,” but nothing really substantive. What happened after Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas, with the Branch Davidians, was that Wayne LaPierre called out federal officers as being jackbooted government thugs who believe they have the right to storm into people’s homes and take their guns and kill law-abiding citizens. Several officers had been killed in those events. And so, to then label the response as jackbooted thugs, when you get silence with Philando Castile, it really led me to — you know, as journalists were asking, “Don’t African Americans have Second Amendment rights?” And that’s what sent me down this path, all the way to the 17th century, to be able to answer that question. AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s go back to 2016. And this, you write in your book, Carol Anderson, about how this inspired you to write this whole book. The immediate aftermath of the police shooting of Philando Castile was broadcast live on Facebook by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who’s speaking in the car next to her dying boyfriend as a police officer continues to point the gun into the car. Her little child is in the backseat. A warning to our viewers: The content is deeply disturbing. DIAMOND REYNOLDS: They killed my boyfriend. He’s licensed. He’s carried to — he’s licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his ID in his wallet out his pocket, and he let the officer know that he was — he had a firearm, and he was reaching for his wallet. And the officer just shot him in his arm. AMY GOODMAN: So, dashcam video released nearly a year later shows the 4-year-old daughter of Diamond Reynolds consoling her heartbroken mother, who’s handcuffed in the back of a police squad car minutes after the St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed Philando. DAE’ANNE REYNOLDS: Mom, please stop saying cusses and screaming, ’cause I don’t want you to get shooted. DIAMOND REYNOLDS: OK. Give me a kiss. My phone just died. That’s all. DAE’ANNE REYNOLDS: I can keep you safe. DIAMOND REYNOLDS: It’s OK. I got it, OK? Come here. I can’t believe they just did that. AMY GOODMAN: There we hear the crying of Diamond’s daughter. The video was released just days after the police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted of manslaughter. I wanted to ask you, Carol Anderson, to take us on that journey that you took, experiencing all of this, taking it in, telling us who Philando was, talking about the fact that he had a gun — legally had a gun — and told the police officer about it — in fact, had told his mother before, “I’m thinking of not carrying the gun, though it’s legal,” because of — well, I mean, just the day before, another African American man, Alton Sterling, had been killed by police in Louisiana. But you take us on this journey that led to this book. CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And so, it was the killing of Philando Castile. You know, I start off the book going, you know, it was like a snuff film, because we all saw that video image. And it was horrific. It was jarring. And to then get the back story, that this was a man who followed NRA guidelines, saying — letting the officer know that “I have a licensed-carry weapon with me. You have asked for my ID. I am reaching for my ID.” And the officer begins to shoot. So he is killed because he has a weapon, not that he is brandishing the weapon, not that he is threatening anyone. He simply has a weapon. And that really led me to begin on this journey — as I saw the NRA’s virtual silence on this — on this journey to figure out: Do African Americans have Second Amendment rights? You know, we’re in this moment where the Second Amendment is like hallowed ground. It is sacred. It is one of those things that has been defined as the bedrock of citizenship. And so I started looking. And as I went on this journey, what I saw was that it wasn’t about guns. It was about the fear of Black people. It was about the fear of Blackness. It was about the societal labeling of Black people as dangerous, as a threat to whites, and that this architecture comes in place in order to contain this Black population, in order to provide security and safety to the white community from this fear of Black people. And you get this really weird matrix happening where Black people are feared but needed. And so, it is the “How do we contain them? How do we snuff out their quest for freedom? How do we snuff out their quest for their basic human rights, while also keeping them as labor without rights? How do we do that? How do we make that subjugation happen? How do we talk about — in this land of the United States of America, how do we talk about freedom but try to keep it contained from this Black population? We don’t want them getting the ether that we’re talking about in this revolutionary moment about freedom and democracy and justice. We don’t want them hearing the words about equality. How do we do that?” And when there was a revolt in Virginia in 1800 with Gabriel, and Gabriel had fed on the language, the revolutionary language from the United States, from the French Revolution and from the Haitian Revolution, that sent shock waves — shock waves — throughout the United States. And Virginia was trembling at the expansiveness of Gabriel’s revolt. And the response was, you know, the wrong people are getting the word about freedom and democracy. The wrong people are hearing this revolutionary language and thinking that it applies to them. So, this was the journey that I was on to hear and to get into this milieu of how frightening, how dangerous Black people were seen as, and then to follow it all the way through to the 21st century by looking at: Do Black people have the right to bear arms? Do they have the right to a well-regulated militia? Do they have the right to self-defense? And seeing how in each of those, it has been used against Black people, and that the status, the legal status of Black folk, has not altered that significantly. So, whether enslaved, whether free Black, whether denizen — which was that halfway limbo land between enslaved and citizen — whether newly emancipated freed people, whether Jim Crow Black or whether post-civil rights African American, the right to bear arms, the right to a well-regulated militia and the right to self-defense are in fact fractured. That citizenship is fractured. It is hobbled by this intense anti-Blackness, this fear of Black people, this sense of Black people as a danger to white American society. NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Professor Anderson, could you talk about that, in particular, the role of Black militias, which you talk about in the book, their role in the early 19th century, to what use they were deployed, and then how it is that whites stripped Black militias of their official standing? CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And so, in Louisiana, when it was still the Louisiana Territory — it was before the U.S. had purchased it, but it was on its way, it was on its way — you had a well-heeled, well-trained Black militia that had been very effective. Well, as the U.S. came in, one of the first cries coming out of white New Orleans was to strip the Black militia, disband the Black militia. Well, the governor, William Claiborne at the time, you know, at first he’s like, “Yes, you know, asking for more arms, because we have all of these free Blacks, and we’ve got these Black folks with arms,” and so he’s asking for more arms from the federal government. But then he starts noticing how effective this Black militia is, and so he tries to square the circle — white fear and the sense that the Black militia is the only real effective fighting force there, given all of the challenges that are happening in that territory at the time. And so, what he comes up with is to remove the Black officer class from this Black militia and put in white officers, thinking that that will be enough for whites in New Orleans who want the Black militia disbanded. But then there is a massive, massive slave revolt coming from Charles Deslondes. And this massive slave revolt, that included somewhere between 150 to 500 people, headed to New Orleans, headed to what they believed was freedom, just sent terror through what is called the German Coast of Louisiana. And so, William Claiborne, seeing this massive movement, this massive slave revolt, in fact, begins to enlist the Black militia as part of the forces to take on this slave revolt. And the slave revolt is crushed. I mean, the U.S. Army comes in. The U.S. Navy comes in. You have the white militia that is there, but the Black militia is very effective. And so you have a Black militia fighting against Black folk who are enslaved and trying to be free. The reward that the Black militia received for this was a further push to be disbanded, further push to not have access to be able to purchase arms. They put a law in place that folks of color, Black people, could not buy arms. Then came the War of 1812, and Andrew Jackson is the leader, the military leader, and he sees the British coming in this Battle of New Orleans. And he sees this Black militia, and he’s telling Claiborne, “We need them. This is an effective fighting force.” And Claiborne is like, “Yes, they are. But I’m telling you, they’re just not feeling it right now, because of the way we treat them.” And he’s like, “I will treat them equally. I will treat them with the honor that all soldiers should have. And they will be paid equal to whites. They will receive the same pay. And besides the Black militia, I want two additional battalions.” Claiborne came back, and he said, “You can get the Black militia, but getting two additional battalions is going to be difficult, because whites in this area believe that arming them is arming the enemy.” So, you have Black folks who are identified as the enemy. And in that fighting force, that force beat the British. It was like 3,000 or so of Andrew Jackson’s troops against 8,000 British troops, and they won. And Andrew Jackson was like, “Wow! I knew you guys were good. I just didn’t know how good.” But the response, the reaction to that then, was to send them off as a labor battalion to work in the swamps, that white men didn’t want to go into to do the work. So, you have this denigration of Black military contributions to fighting for America. And that was a consistent theme that we saw. So you get this erasure of this history and this erasure for the men themselves who are doing the fighting, who are being wounded, who are dealing with the loss of their fighting brethren. That has been the sense that Black men under arms, they’re a threat, and Black men who are trained how to use arms, they’re really a threat. So they must be disarmed after they have served our purpose. AMY GOODMAN: Professor Anderson, I just wanted to follow up on the term you used, “anti-Blackness,” that you’re actually saying that the Second Amendment is not about guns, but it’s about anti-Blackness. Explain. CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. It is about the fear. So, and the best way to do this is to talk about the kind of history that we have about the Second Amendment. We hear the history of the militia, about being this really effective fighting force to fend off a foreign invasion and also being there to fend off domestic tyranny. But what they knew at the time was that the militia had proven to be uneven, unreliable in the war of independence, the war for independence. George Washington was beside himself at the lack of reliability of the militias. Sometimes they would show up, sometimes they wouldn’t. Sometimes they’d fight, sometimes they wouldn’t. Sometimes they would just take off and run away. It’s really difficult to form a battle plan when your fighting force is like, “Mmm, I’m not feeling it today.” And it led Gouverneur Morris, who was out of New York and one of the Founding Fathers, to say, “To rely upon the militia against a foreign invasion is like to depend upon a broken reed.” And so, they knew that the militia was really not strong against a professional army. And then there was Shays’ Rebellion. What they saw with Shays’ Rebellion is that you could not really rely upon the militia in order to deal with an uprising and insurrections against government. You could not rely upon them for that. Where the militia was consistently good was in slave revolts, in crushing slave revolts. And so, this is what led George Mason and Patrick Henry to talk about “We must control our militia. We will be left defenseless against slave revolts if the federal government controls it.” And so, it is that fear of slave revolts, that fear of Black rebellion, the fear of Blacks as a dangerous population that must be controlled by these militias, that was essential in the drafting of the Second Amendment. When you think about the Bill of Rights, how you’ve got the right to freedom of the press, how you have no state-sponsored religion, how you have freedom of assembly, the right not to be illegally searched and seized, the right to a speedy and fair trial, the right not to have cruel and unusual punishment — and so you see these incredible rights. And then you’ve got this well-regulated militia? The right to bear arms for the security of the state? That amendment is an outlier in this Bill of Rights. And that outlier is because it was the payoff to the South to have a force under state control that could contain Black aspirations, Black freedom quests, that could contain what is seen as a dangerous Black population. AMY GOODMAN: Carol Anderson, we have to break, but then we’re going to come back to this conversation. Carol Anderson is a professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her book is just out this week, The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. Stay with us. [break] AMY GOODMAN: “Hear My Call” by Jill Scott. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Our guest for the hour, Carol Anderson, professor at Emory University, author of the new book The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. And we also want to get back to her previous book, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy, also wrote the book White Rage. But, Nermeen, why don’t you start with your question? NERMEEN SHAIKH: Professor Anderson, another issue that you raise in the book as absolutely critical has to do with the denial of the rights of citizenship to Blacks. So, if you could explain the crucial Supreme Court decision here, Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857, and how even after the 14th Amendment was passed, Dred Scott continued to take precedence? CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And so, the Dred Scott decision was designed to try to stop the explosion that was happening, the secessionist crisis that was happening in the United States, because there had been a series of events — the Missouri Compromise, the war for Texas, the Kansas — and Bleeding Kansas. All of these things were about the expansion of slavery and the fight to contract slavery. And so, the Dred Scott decision — so, Dred Scott was a Black man who was enslaved. And his owner had taken him to free-soil states, Wisconsin and to Illinois. And then he was taken to Missouri, which was a slave state. He had argued that because he had been on free soil for years, that he was free. What this decision said, written by Chief Justice Roger Taney, was that Black people were never considered citizens of the United States. They weren’t considered citizens at the founding, with the Constitution. They weren’t considered citizens in that there’s — with the Uniform Militia Act of 1792. They weren’t considered citizens when the secretary of state refused to issue Black people passports, saying they’re not citizens. They’re denied the ability to carry the mail. All of these things prove that they’re not citizens. He said, in this decision, “If they were citizens, they would be able to go easily from state to state. But there were laws that prevented that.” And he said, “And they would be able to carry arms wherever they went.” And so, in there, you see that being able to carry arms is a sign of citizenship in this framing, and is saying they’re not citizens. Dred Scott was the one that said that a Black man has no rights that a white man is bound to respect. Dred Scott, in fact, did not stop the crisis. In fact, it added to it. And it helped lead to the Civil War. After the Civil War, you had Andrew Johnson, as the president of the United States, basically issuing these mass amnesties to the Confederacy, to Confederate leaders, who then reassumed their positions in these states. And they passed constitutions and laws that denied Black people their rights. One of the laws that they passed were the Black Codes. The Black Codes — among other things, besides trying to control labor, the Black Codes said that Black people could not bear arms, they could not have weapons, and that they needed to be disarmed. You had the rise of these paramilitary groups working in league with these neo-Confederate states trying to disarm Black people. You had a bloody massacre, one right after the next. There’s a travelogue of carnage by Carl Schurz, who writes on the report of the conditions in the South that is just harrowing. Historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed calls it a “slow-motion genocide.” And you have Black troops, Black Union troops, U.S. troops, who are part of the occupying army in the South. You have white Southerners absolutely outraged that you would have Black soldiers — Black soldiers — as an occupying force in what they see as their space. And so they begin to talk about the violence that we’re seeing, the violence that is happening, is because these Black soldiers are here. And if these Black soldiers weren’t here, then this killing wouldn’t be happening. And so Andrew Johnson removes the Black soldiers. First he removes them from the interior of the South and puts them on coastal fortifications, and then, shortly thereafter, removes them as an occupying force in the South altogether. Those Black soldiers saw themselves as a line of defense protecting the newly freed people from the terror that was raining down on them. So, the denigration of Black soldiers, the attempt to disarm Black people after the war, the language that Black people aren’t really citizens, that Black people are dangerous, and they cannot have access to weapons because it challenges the safety and the security of white Southerners, I mean, that’s what was going on at this time. AMY GOODMAN: Professor Anderson, I wanted to leap forward to ask about how authorities responded to the Black Panthers, which urged Black people to arm themselves in the ’60s. This is Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Self-Defense Party, speaking in 1967. BOBBY SEALE: The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense calls upon the American people in general, and the Black people in particular, to take full note of the racist California Legislature, which is now considering legislation aimed at keeping the Black people disarmed and powerless at the very same time that racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder and repression of Black people. AMY GOODMAN: So, if you could respond to this, Carol Anderson, to respond to Bobby Seale? CAROL ANDERSON: Yeah, so, what Bobby Seale is talking about is the depth of the police violence and brutality that was raining down on the Black community. The uprisings that we saw in Watts, in Cleveland, in Newark, in Detroit were all fueled not only by those horrific conditions in those places, but also by police brutality. And the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded as a response to the brutality of the Oakland Police Department. And so, what the Black Panthers did, they said, “We will police the police.” They knew what the law said about open carry in California. And they also knew what the law said about the distance that you had to maintain from a police officer arresting someone. So the Black Panthers would come to those arrests fully armed with the kinds of legal weapons that they were allowed to have. And the police did not like it. They did not like it. And so, the Oakland Police Department went to Don Mulford, an assemblyman, a California assemblyman, and said, “We need your help. We need to make what the Black Panthers are doing illegal, because currently it’s legal. We stop them, but they’ve got the right kinds of weapons. We can’t arrest them for what they’re doing. We need to be able to make their work illegal.” And so, what Mulford did, with the help of the NRA, was to write the Mulford Act, which banned open carry, which was a gun control act. And it was a gun control act targeted at the Black Panthers. So, Mulford said, “No, there’s no racial targeting in this at all. This is about the Klan, as well.” But it wasn’t. The letters make it really clear that the genesis for this, the catalyst for it, was the “How do we curtail the Black Panthers? How do we make them illegal?” AMY GOODMAN: Fascinatingly, moving forward 20 years, I want to go to former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, 1991, appearing on The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. WARREN BURGER: If I were writing the Bill of Rights now, there wouldn’t be any such thing as the Second Amendment. CHARLAYNE HUNTER–GAULT: Which says? WARREN BURGER: That a well-regulated militia being necessary for the defense of the state, the people’s rights to bear arms. This has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word “fraud” — on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. AMY GOODMAN: This has been the greatest fraud. We’re going to have to end with this final comment of yours, Professor Anderson. CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And that fraud has been that swaddling of the Second Amendment in the flag, in patriotism, in a sense of — that the militias were there to protect and defend democracy, when in fact the militia were there, designed to control Black people and deny Black people their rights. So, in the Second Amendment, what we have in the Bill of Rights is the right to destroy Black people’s rights. That is anathema. That is what has been committed. AMY GOODMAN: What most shocked you in your research? CAROL ANDERSON: How consistent this anti-Blackness was and how it carries through to today with “stand your ground” laws, how it carries through with the ways that Black people are seen as threats, as monsters, as dangerous, simply because of their very being, and that puts a crosshairs on them. That is — writing this book was hard, because writing about the past and carrying it to the future, in the midst of the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, was just — in the midst of the pandemic, was just a lot. AMY GOODMAN: Well, Professor Carol Anderson, we want to thank you so much for this book, professor at Emory University — the book, The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America — also author of One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy and White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. That does it for our show. A happy belated birthday to Angie Karran! Democracy Now! is produced with Mike Burke, Renée Feltz, Deena Guzder, María Taracena, Carla Wills, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Adriano Contreras. Our general manager, Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: Gun control advocates are pushing lawmakers to do more to stop a surge in gun violence. A...
Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US Racial Justice Robin D.G. Kelley: The Tulsa Race Massacre Went Way Beyond “Black Wall Street” Politics & Elections Democrats Remind Biden That Bipartisanship on Infrastructure Is “Hopeless” Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections Even With Light at the End of the Pandemic Tunnel, We Mustn’t Be Complacent Environment & Health Here’s How to Fight Climate Destruction and Environmental Racism Simultaneously Athletes around the globe are voicing support for tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open after being fined and threatened with disqualification for declining to take part in press conferences due to their effect on her mental health. Prominent athletes, from Stephen Curry to Serena Williams, have come forward to support 23-year-old Osaka, who is a four-time Grand Slam tournament winner. The escalating fines and criticism Osaka faced from tennis officials were “a disproportionate response” to her actions, says Amira Rose Davis, an assistant professor of history and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Penn State and co-host of the sports podcast “Burn It All Down.” She adds that Black women athletes are often subjected to insensitive questioning from the media that can perpetuate racist and sexist narratives. “The media is overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly older, overwhelmingly male,” Davis says. TRANSCRIPT This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form. AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Athletes around the globe are voicing support for tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open Monday after being fined and threatened with disqualification for declining to take part in news conferences due to their effect, she said, on her mental health. In a statement posted on Twitter, the 23-year-old Osaka wrote, quote, “The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.” Naomi Osaka went on to write, “I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media. I get rally nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage,” she said. Prominent athletes have come forward to support Naomi, from Steph Curry to Venus and Serena Williams. Tennis legend Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter, “It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression. Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs. We wish her well,” she said. Sports researchers estimate one-third of athletes suffer from a mental health crisis at some point in their careers. Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and a Haitian American father, is a four-time winner of Grand Slam tennis tournaments. She drew headlines last year when she wore the names of Black victims of police brutality on her face masks on the sidelines of the U.S. Open. We’re joined by Amira Rose Davis. She’s assistant professor of history and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Penn State University. She’s currently working on a book entitled Can’t Eat a Medal: The Lives and Labors of Black Women Athletes in the Age of Jim Crow. She’s co-host of the sports podcast Burn It All Down. Amira Rose Davis, welcome back to Democracy Now! AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: Yeah, thank you for having me. AMY GOODMAN: Can you take — it’s great to have you with us. Can you take us through just the chronology of Naomi Osaka saying she didn’t want to participate in these news conferences, that she was suffering from depression, was very nervous about them, and then the response of the opens — it’s the French Open, Australia, etc., all together — at the French Open, saying they might expel her, and they were fining her? AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: Yeah, absolutely. Last week, before the tournament started, Naomi took to social media to issue a statement saying, “Heads up, I won’t be doing the post-game pressers. I don’t want to engage in that way. For mental health concerns, I think it’s best if I don’t do this. I recognize that this comes with a fine. I am prepared to pay this fine. I hope that the Slams use this fine for mental health organizations or for mental health initiatives.” And that was really her statement. She was trying to get ahead of it. The reaction to that on social media was a range of things. But then the Slams, as you pointed to — the French, the Australian, the U.S. and Wimbledon — all came together to issue a joint statement, that the first few lines said, “We hope you’re well. We care about mental health concerns. We want to support you,” and then very quickly said, “But we also want to remind you of the code of conduct, and not only this first $15,000 fine that you got, but we will escalate that fine.” And then they also threatened — they also said that it could elevate to the level of being defaulted from the tournament. And I think that this reaction really was like throwing, you know, a spark on the fire — you know I love fire references because of the podcast. But it really was, because for all of the Slams to come together to do this statement, when they’re often quiet on other things — like right now there’s literally somebody who is on trial for domestic abuse, right? — we don’t get the same — like, this was a disproportionate response. And that compelled — it shifted the conversation to mental health concerns in a particular way, that only was solidified when Naomi put out a second statement at the beginning of this week that said, “I didn’t want to be a distraction. This has now blown up. And I think the best thing for me to do is withdraw completely from this tournament.” She didn’t end there, however. She went on to say she followed up privately with the Slams to talk about this more. But beyond that, she wanted to have further conversations to ensure that there was more awareness and more support for mental health concerns around athletes. And that was her statement on Monday. And then, since then, we’ve had a variety of conversations around the subject. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor, I wanted to ask you about the response. There’s been sort of a disconnect from the response of other tennis players versus other athletes. Could you talk about how fellow athletes have responded, both within the tennis world and outside? AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: Yeah, I think many athletes have come out and applauded her, have wished her well, have talked about their own mental health struggles. Tennis players on the circuit have now been getting these questions. You saw how Venus Williams chose to answer it yesterday by saying, “You know, listen. We’re all dealing with it in certain ways. The way I deal with it is that I know that the press can’t play as well as I can. Nobody’s going to hold a candle to me. And that’s how I deal with it. But we all have our ways of coping.” Serena said, “I just want to give her a hug.” So, I think that within tennis you have seen support, and outside of tennis you’ve seen support. I actually feel like the disconnect is happening because there’s like three strands of conversation happening. I think that, one, athletes are having a conversation about mental health. Specifically Black athletes are having a conversation about, you know, what their role is as professional athletes. And then journalists are having a conversation about the — you know, do these pressers matter? What does it look like to be in a changing landscape of their field? And that has been a central kind of conversation, as well. And then lay fans have either said she needs to go play, or she needs to buckle up, and this is entitlement. And there’s a lot of people who also have recognized a strength in this and appreciate moving the needle on mental health. So I think we’re seeing multiple conversations happening, overlapping, of course, on social media. But the support from athletes has really been to talk about their own struggles or say, “Oh, it hits close to home,” or offer support. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And to what degree do you think that these — because this is something now that’s pretty prevalent in all sports, these televised press conferences right after games or matches. It’s almost as if it’s more of an entertainment value than a real news value. And it’s more of an attempt to promote a particular sport economically rather than actually journalists ferreting out critical information. To what degree are the journalists playing into this situation of looking always for conflict or for a dramatic narrative that they can push a story, and, of course, then having to even hone in more on these athletes with tough questions? AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: Yeah, absolutely. And I think this is a really key question. Historically, these pressers have absolutely been to grow the league, to get interest, to have partnerships with sponsors. And that’s the function they’ve served, particularly growing leagues. Women’s leagues have used this access in really important ways in terms of growth. One of the conversations that has been happening is, is that — has it outlived its function? Because many people feel like it’s redundant questions, it’s poking, it’s prodding. I talked to my co-host Jessica Luther and many journalists who were wrestling with this in other ways, because I think that they see a possibility in these pressers, where there’s access, where there’s not prescribed questions, where there is a chance to actually perhaps hold people accountable or ask questions that might have been otherwise pushed aside by handlers. And I think that that is really valid, but also an idealized way of how these pressers actually function. To your point, the media is overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly older, overwhelmingly male. There’s a fight for marginalized sports reporters to even get in those rooms. And I think that the dynamic within those spaces doesn’t live up to this kind of ideal of accountability and access, and oftentimes becomes about quickly churning out and perpetuating narratives, asking the same question. And then it sticks, and it’s there. One of the things Naomi said was, “I’ve been battling depression since the U.S. Open in 2018” — right? — which was when she faced Serena and launched onto the scene, won her — won that Slam. But, of course, there was a narrative about Serena’s actions during the match. She was crying. Fans were booing her. And every time they play, every time she’s back at the U.S. Open, this gets regurgitated. There’s questions about it. And I think it’s very telling that she pointed that out, because it points to this point about how these narratives — right? — continue and continue and continue, with very little stopping to consider what harm or what cost to the athlete. AMY GOODMAN: And yet it was Serena who was among the superstars who came out in support of Naomi Osaka. This is what she said. SERENA WILLIAMS: The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug, because I know what it’s like. Like I said, I’ve been in those positions. We have different personalities, and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. You know, other people are thin. So, everyone is different, and everyone handles things differently. So, you know, you just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way that she thinks she can. And that’s the only thing I can say. I think she’s doing the best that she can. AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Serena Williams. And, of course, the Williams sisters really helping, among a few other African Americans in tennis, to break the color barrier in what was a really white sport. And the significance, Professor, of Naomi Osaka, a descendant of — well, her mother is Japanese, her father, Haitian American. She is a Black woman who is breaking so many barriers. I think she’s the highest-paid woman athlete in the world right now. What this means, the kind of pressure being brought on her? And if young African American women see even her, she gets fined — she even said, on those fines that the French Open applied to her, she asked that they be given to mental health organizations, the money they made off of her. AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think there’s two really important things here that you just brought up. One, absolutely, Naomi has been in the tennis space that we know has had a great deal of scrutiny for Venus and Serena Williams, for Sloane, for Coco Gauff, for Naomi herself, in a myriad of ways. And I think that entering into that space, you already saw moments where Naomi tried to disrupt kind of conventional narratives or push back at even framing of questions. When people said, “Oh, you’re Japanese,” she would always remind them that she was Haitian. She insisted on her Blackness being recognized. When she wore masks, and Tom Rinaldi asked her in the post-game, “Well, what does it mean? You know, what do these masks mean to you?” — and she had explained this and talked about this before — and she said, “Well, what does it mean to you?” She flipped it, you know, back on the reporter. And I think that these were the ways that she had already slightly disrupted, or when she stopped playing last August with a number of other athletes and said, “There’s more important things to do than for you to watch me play tennis.” So we’ve already seen her take on this role and kind of push the status quo in these ways. But I think it really is important to map this onto two other conversations. One is Black athletes who are continuing to insist on their humanity being recognized, who continue to say, “We’re not just here to entertain you,” and to push back on what is seen as entitlement or what people are owed of their labor. And athletes are saying, “My labor is — my athleticism is on the court. But you’re already privy to my weight, to my height, to my injury history, to my body, and then also to my mind with these probing questions.” And whether it’s protesting or speaking out about fan abuse, which is what we’re seeing increasingly, as well, or this conversation that Naomi is having, the underlying point that they’re pushing back on through these moments is to say, “We are fully human, and this is our job, and we don’t have to actually just go along with racial abuse, or we don’t have to sacrifice our mental health.” And I think that’s a really important through line that we see happening here. And so, you can look at people like Marshawn Lynch, Kyrie Irving, Natasha Cloud, who refused to do WNBA pressers unless they were about gun violence and police brutality, as a kind of longer history of that. But that second part about Black women is also really important, too. There’s ongoing conversations about Black women’s mental health. We saw this topic also come up when Meghan Markle disclosed her depression, her anxiety. And I think that this is a really important growing conversation. Some people — some social scientists have called it a mental health crisis, that the trope of a strong Black woman who’s tasked with doing labor, who’s simultaneously hypervisible and invisible, means that there’s really high rates of depression, of anxiety, and too often not enough mechanisms for help — a very low number of Black women therapy providers, for instance. And so, I think that part, that point — right? — of what this conversation does, how it moves the needle and how these Black women celebrities and athletes can play a really important role in pushing that conversation, as well. AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much, Amira Rose Davis, for joining us, assistant professor of history and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Penn State University, co-host of the sports podcast Burn It All Down. And, boy, what Naomi said in her silence last year at the U.S. Open, donning seven masks, each bearing the name of a Black person who was killed: Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice — almost all killed by police. When we come back, we look at the link between mass shootings and domestic violence. Back in 30 seconds. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US Racial Justice Robin D.G. Kelley: The Tulsa Race Massacre Went Way Beyond “Black Wall Street” Politics & Elections Democrats Remind Biden That Bipartisanship on Infrastructure Is “Hopeless” Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections Even With Light at the End of the Pandemic Tunnel, We Mustn’t Be Complacent Environment & Health Here’s How to Fight Climate Destruction and Environmental Racism Simultaneously The American Petroleum Institute, the top trade group for the oil and gas industry, spent years opposing federal cybersecurity regulations before the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack. After the attack, watchdog groups say API is still opposing strong federal regulation and pushing for taxpayer “subsidies” instead. Colonial Pipeline, one of the largest pipelines in the country, which carries 45% of the fuel from Texas to New York, was forced to shut down after a ransomware attack by the foreign cybercriminal group known as DarkSide. Cybersecurity experts believe that Colonial lacked advanced cybersecurity defenses that can monitor networks for irregularities and detect threats like DarkSide’s infiltration tools. But Colonial is not the first pipeline affected by cyberattacks and many other pipelines in the U.S. may have similar vulnerabilities. A ransomware attack hit an unidentified natural gas facility in 2020, forcing it to shut down for two days, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said after the attack that the owner of the facility “did not specifically consider the risk posed by cyberattacks” or prepare employees to deal with one. Federal officials have been sounding the alarm on the lax cybersecurity measures for years. Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioners Neil Chatterjee and Richard Glick warned in a 2018 op-ed that a lack of federal cybersecurity standards left energy firms vulnerable to cyberattacks. The Government Accountability Office in 2019 found that federal cybersecurity guidelines were badly out of date and lacked preparation to respond to an attack on critical infrastructure. After the Colonial attack, the cybersecurity firm Byos estimated that “less than 25% of the U.S. oil and gas industry has adequate cybersecurity in place,” according to Bloomberg News. One of the reasons that the federal government failed to enact regulations to protect critical infrastructure before the Colonial Pipeline attack appears to be a relentless campaign against federal regulations by the energy industry and API, which has spent more than $20 million on lobbying expenditures since 2018. Last year, API argued that “voluntary frameworks and public-private solutions, rather than prescriptive federal regulations, offer businesses the know-how and flexibility to respond to the ever-changing security landscape.” The group says its member companies believe the private sector “should retain autonomy and the primary responsibility for protecting companies’ assets” against cyberattacks. In the aftermath of the Colonial attack, API has changed its tune only slightly, arguing that it is “premature” to discuss regulations “until we have a full understanding of the details surrounding the Colonial attack.” API CEO Mike Sommers even suggested that it was just as important to protect the industry from regulators as from cyberattacks. “We need, of course, to take care of cybersecurity, but we also need to protect existing infrastructure from attacks from regulators and government officials who want to shut these pipelines down,” he told CNN International this month. API has instead pushed the federal government to grant exemptions and fuel waivers to energy companies after the Colonial attack. It has also called for policymakers to invest in infrastructure for the energy industry, which already gets millions in federal subsidies. “For policymakers, this incident should underscore the vital importance of further investment in pipeline infrastructure and expanding the delivery systems that supply the energy resources that Americans need every day,” API’s Lem Smith wrote earlier this month. A progressive watchdog group accused the group of trying to cash in on the cyberattack. “In the wake of dangerous cyber threats, the American Petroleum Institute is apparently angrier with the government for stepping up to stop future attacks than they are with the hackers doing the attacking,” Kyle Herrig, president of the left-leaning watchdog group Accountable.US, said in a statement to Salon. “The government has an obligation to protect American interests from cyberattacks including pipelines and other infrastructure — API treating these serious threats as a cash cow to line oil industry pockets while lobbying against the government stepping up protections shows they have the wrong priorities.” API denied that it opposes federal regulations, pointing Salon to a more recent comment welcoming the Transportation Security Agency’s (TSA) plans to roll out a new regulation requiring companies to report cyberattacks to the government and keep a dedicated cybersecurity coordinator on call. “Our industry works continuously with policymakers to strengthen cybersecurity, which is an economy-wide issue that requires constant collaboration and information sharing between the public and private sector,” said API Manager of Operations Security and Emergency Response Suzanne Lemieux. “API is supportive of TSA’s efforts to strengthen cyber reporting and is working closely with the administration to develop incident reporting policies and procedures that best protect our critical infrastructure, including pipelines. Any regulations should enhance reciprocal information sharing and liability protections, as well as build upon our robust existing public-private coordination to streamline and elevate our efforts to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure.” A spokesperson for the group told Salon that it has been working to improve the industry’s pipeline security standards since before the Colonial attack. Cybersecurity experts, however, say stronger federal regulations are necessary to protect critical infrastructure. Mike Chapple, a cybersecurity expert at the University of Notre Dame, said in an email to Salon that defending energy infrastructure is “of the utmost national security interest,” adding that government regulation is the only suitable response. “In the absence of regulation, companies are left to their own devices to decide what level of security is appropriate and risk/benefit trade-off decisions are left in the hands of corporate executives who are focused on the firm’s bottom-line profitability,” he said. That focus on the bottom line is a key reason why ostm energy firms have not invested enough in cybersecurity measures. Colonial Pipeline, for example, has distributed “nearly all its profits, sometimes more” to its owners even as its “aging pipelines have suffered a series of accidents,” Bloomberg News reported this month. “Over the years, control of Colonial Pipeline has moved away from oil and gas companies towards private equity firms and institutional investors,” Bill Caram, the executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust, a public interest nonprofit, said in an email. “These types of investors have a history of wringing every dollar of revenue out of an asset while spending as little as possible on things like safety.” Many companies have focused on efforts to mitigate the threat of cyberattacks, Caram said, but many others have not and don’t plan to, meaning that minimum safeguards must be in place to ensure infrastructure security and protect the environment. “The industry has been raking in profits over the years, aided by federal subsidies,” he said. “Some operators have not been effective stewards over the critical infrastructure under their charge, diverting funds away from safety and security towards share buybacks and dividends. Taxpayers should not be expected to bail out companies for their lack of responsible asset management.” The TSA, which the digital security of pipelines, on Thursday issued its first cybersecurity regulation for the pipeline sector. Under the new regulation, about 100 pipeline companies will be required to have a cybersecurity coordinator on call at all times and report any incidents to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within 12 hours. Pipelines that fail to comply with the regulation could face escalating fines starting at $7,000, a DHS official told NBC News. But this is just a first step and broader regulation is still needed to ensure the security of key infrastructure, said Morgan Bazilian, director of the Payne Institute for Public Policy and a professor at the Colorado School of Mines. “Robust and transparent reporting structures, assessments, and related regulations will provide a better defense strategy,” he said in an email. “The directives now being considered by Homeland Security should likely have been in place some time ago. Such approaches need to be applied across the sector and from supply through demand.” Chapple of Notre Dame said that other industries also had lax cybersecurity before the federal government began regulating them. “The government has stepped in and set minimum cybersecurity requirements for many other sectors, including nuclear power, health care and financial services,” he said. “It’s time to do the same thing for oil and gas pipelines.” This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.