Politics & Elections Facebook Will Announce Tomorrow Whether Trump and His Fascist Posts Can Return Economy & Labor Mutual Aid Efforts Are Working to Fill the Gaps of Biden’s COVID Response Economy & Labor Amazon’s Anti-Union Bullying Shows Why We Need the PRO Act Economy & Labor Tax Dodgers Owe US Over $7 Trillion, Says Janet Yellen Politics & Elections Biden Picks Warren Ally to Oversee Student Aid, Signaling Shift on Student Debt Human Rights Over 10 Million People Could Become Homeless When Eviction Moratorium Ends Have you enjoyed the quiet? I hope so, because it might be over. According to a report in Tuesday’s Washington Post, a cobbled clutch of “experts” from Facebook that calls itself the “Oversight Board” will soon decide whether or not to let Donald Trump back on the platform. This Board, which the Post says is “a less than one-year-old body that describes itself as an ‘experiment’ in the regulation of online speech,” will render its decision on Wednesday. Once settled, this decision will likely set the bar for what constitutes the acceptable-to-corporate-ownership boundaries of permissible free speech on social media, and will likewise be the precedent for how world leaders are treated by Facebook and other platforms going forward. There is every possibility that tomorrow will return us to the Age of Bad Noise. If the Board sides with power over common sense, Trump (along a whole lot of other tinpot autocrats) can continue polluting our minds with paranoid ranting on free social media, and the hapless press will, of course, amplify their every bent thought and twisted accusation. Why? Because, as ever, it’s good television. It is difficult to quantify the damage done by Trump’s flagrant misuse of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter (and God help us if Twitter ever lets him back in). Here was a leader bereft of morals and out for blood, able at any moment in the day to slather the political discussion with lies, threats, complaints and vapid declarations of victory. Even now, I remember how hard it was to navigate the signal-to-noise ratio on a busy Trump Twitter day. It was like trying to collect a thought in the middle of a rock storm. The din may have felt new to us when the Trump era hit, but in one pointed way, the former president’s use of social media to confound and unhinge the national discourse is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Specifically, it is a tactic long used by fascists seeking to gain and hold power. The idea is not to debate, but to damage debate beyond repair so that even the simplest facts are open to question. In such a muddled, confused environment, fascism can flourish. What is fascism, besides being a serious word not to be bandied about lightly? Nazi fascism was its own specific ethos, outlined in excruciating detail by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf. In Italy, Benito Mussolini’s concept of fascism was captured in the Treccani Encyclopedia. In Spain, fascist leader Francisco Franco had his own ideas on fascist Catholicism, and fascists in the U.S. have spent decades attempting to unite their ideology with splinter Evangelical Christianity. Is there a collective definition for fascism amid all these varieties, and if so, do Donald Trump and “Trumpism” fall into that spectrum? Celebrated author Umberto Eco, himself a survivor of European fascism, endeavored to create precisely that sort of collective definition, which he called “ur-Fascism” in a 1995 essay for The New York Review of Books. Is there a collective definition for fascism, and if so, does Donald Trump and “Trumpism” fall into that spectrum? “Fascism was philosophically out of joint, but emotionally it was firmly fastened to some archetypal foundations,” he wrote. “But in spite of this fuzziness, I think it is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of what I would like to call Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.” Eco fashioned 14 “features” of ur-Fascism to explain the overall phenomenon. The first of these is a fanatical adherence to tradition, something Trump used to create his entire political persona: I will bring us back to better days, when people respected and honored all the things you believe in. The second feature is a rejection of modernism, which again has become a staple of current Republican groupthink. This new world is happening too fast, too many people are getting rights they shouldn’t have. Modernism is the death of tradition, a fact Trump has used to great effect. The third feature, irrationalism, preaches action for action’s sake, thoughtless, heedless, bereft of self-awareness. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection,” writes Eco. “Thinking is a form of emasculation.” Heedless action on social media: Who does that sound like? The fourth feature is the complete dismissal of analytical criticism. One does not question the leader, the party, or the actions that have been taken. “For ur-Fascism,” writes Eco, “disagreement is treason.” That line may as well have been at the top of the 2020 Republican platform, had they bothered to make one. The fifth feature is a radical hatred of diversity. Fascism requires rigid adherence to a basic way of being, a code, a slate of honored traditions. Outsiders are to be feared and shunned in the quest to create a perfectly homogenized society. “Thus,” writes Eco, “Fascism is racist by definition.” See: Trump’s border and immigration policies. The sixth feature states that ur-Fascism derives its power from individual or social frustration. This, perhaps more than the others, is the hallmark of Trumpism, the iron spine of its power and influence. Millions of people who feel left behind in this rapidly changing world grapple with fear and fury, and Trump taps that aquifer with a deftly swung sledgehammer. Six features in, and we have checked every box with a heavy marker. The other features — loud nationalism, jealousy of the enemy, a permanent state of conflict, disdain for elites and elitism, the championing of the masculine, a populism that preaches rights only for the righteous few, and the creation of a new vocabulary that stifles complex and critical reasoning — are all straight out of the Trumpian playbook. Umberto Eco seems to have seen Donald Trump coming for 20 years. If Trump is allowed back on Facebook, he will again pursue an aggressive campaign of chaos aimed at disrupting the essential workings of democracy to his own ends, and he already has a devoted mass following. The Facebook “Board” should let the silence rule a while longer. Trump and his followers aren’t here to talk, or to share, or even to lead. They are here to break things, as evidenced on January 6. Don’t let them. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Politics & Elections Facebook Will Announce Tomorrow Whether Trump and His Fascist Posts Can Return Economy & Labor Mutual Aid Efforts Are Working to Fill the Gaps of Biden’s COVID Response Economy & Labor Amazon’s Anti-Union Bullying Shows Why We Need the PRO Act Economy & Labor Tax Dodgers Owe US Over $7 Trillion, Says Janet Yellen Politics & Elections Biden Picks Warren Ally to Oversee Student Aid, Signaling Shift on Student Debt Human Rights Over 10 Million People Could Become Homeless When Eviction Moratorium Ends Imagine this scenario: A month before the vote on the federal budget, progressives in Congress declare, “We’ve studied President Biden’s proposed $753 billion military budget, an increase of $13 billion from Trump’s already inflated budget, and we can’t, in good conscience, support this.” Now that would be a show-stopper, particularly if they added, “So we have decided to stand united, arm in arm, as a block of ‘no’ votes on any federal budget resolution that fails to reduce military spending by 10 to 30 percent. We stand united against a federal budget resolution that includes upwards of $30 billion for new nuclear weapons — slated to ultimately cost nearly $2 trillion. We stand united in demanding the $50 billion earmarked to maintain all 800 overseas bases, including the new one under construction on Okinawa, be reduced by at least one-third, because it’s time we scaled back on plans for global domination.” “Ditto,” they say, “for the billions the president wants for the arms-escalating Space Force, one of Trump’s worst ideas, right up there with hydroxychloroquine to cure COVID-19. And, no, we don’t want to escalate our troop deployments for a military confrontation with China in the South China Sea. It’s time to ‘right-size’ the military budget and demilitarize our foreign policy.” Progressives uniting as a block to resist out-of-control military spending would be a no-nonsense exercise of raw power, reminiscent of the way the right-wing Freedom Caucus challenged the traditional Republicans in the House in 2015. Without progressives on board, President Biden might not be able to secure enough votes to pass a federal budget that would then greenlight the reconciliation process needed for his broad domestic agenda. For years, progressives in Congress have complained about the bloated military budget. In 2020, 93 members in the House and 23 in the Senate voted to cut the Pentagon budget by 10% and invest those funds instead in critical human needs. A House Spending Reduction Caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Barbara Lee of California and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, emerged with 22 members on board, including all four members of the “Squad” but also quite a few more moderate or mainstream Democrats. We also have the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the largest in Congress, now with almost 100 members in the House and Senate. Caucus chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., is all for cutting military spending. “We’re in the midst of a crisis that has left millions of families unable to afford food, rent and bills,” she told The Nation. “But at the same time, we’re dumping billions of dollars into a bloated Pentagon budget. Don’t increase defense spending. Cut it — and invest that money into our communities.” Now is the time for these congresspeople to turn their talk into action. Consider the context. Biden urgently wants to move forward on his American Families Plan rolled out in his recent address to Congress. The plan would tax the rich to invest $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years in universal preschool, two years of tuition-free community college, expanded health care coverage and paid family medical leave. In the spirit of FDR, Biden also wants to put America back to work with a $2 trillion infrastructure program that will begin to fix our decades-old broken bridges, crumbling sewer systems and rusting water pipes. This could be his legacy, a Green New Deal-lite to transition workers out of the dying fossil fuel industry. But Biden won’t get his infrastructure program and American Families Plan with higher taxes on the rich, almost 40% on income for corporations and those earning $400,000 or more a year, unless Congress first passes a budget resolution that includes a top line for military and non-military spending. Both the budget resolution and the reconciliation bill that would follow are filibuster-proof and only require a simple majority in the House and Senate to pass. Easy. Maybe not. To flex their muscles, Republicans may refuse to vote for a budget resolution crafted by the Democratic Party that would open the door to big spending on public goods, such as pre-kindergarten and expanded health care coverage. That means Biden would need every Democrat in the House and Senate on board to approve his budget resolution for military and non-military spending. So how’s it looking? In the Senate, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state that went for Trump over Biden more than two to one, wants to scale back Biden’s infrastructure proposal, but hasn’t sworn to vote down a budget resolution. As for Sen. Bernie Sanders, the much-loved progressive, ordinarily he might balk at a record high military budget. But if the budget resolution ushers in a reconciliation bill that lowers the age of Medicare eligibility to 60 or 55, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee might feel compelled to hold his fire. That leaves antiwar activists wondering if Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a critic of the Pentagon budget and “nuclear modernization,” would consider stepping up as the lone holdout in the Senate, refusing to vote for a budget that includes billions for new nuclear weapons. Perhaps with a push from outraged constituents in Massachusetts, Warren could be convinced to take this bold stand. Another potential holdout could be California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who co-chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, the committee that oversees budgeting for nuclear weapons. In 2014, Feinstein described the U.S. nuclear arsenal program as “unnecessarily and unsustainably large.” Over in the House, Biden needs at least 218 of the 222 Democrats to vote for the budget resolution expected to hit the floor in June or July. But what if he can’t get to 218? What if at least five members of the House voted no — or even just threatened to — because the top line for military spending was too high and the budget included new “money pit” land-based nuclear missiles to replace 450 Minuteman III ICBMs, deployed since the 1970s. Polls show that most Democrats oppose “nuclear modernization” — a euphemism for a plan that is anything but modern, given that 50 countries have signed onto the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which would make nuclear weapons illegal, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires the U.S. to pursue nuclear disarmament to avoid a catastrophic accident or intentional nuclear holocaust. Now is the time for progressive congressional luminaries such as the Squad’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Presley to unite with Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Jayapal, as well as Lee, Pocan and others in the House Spending Reduction Caucus to stand as a block against a bloated military budget. Will they have the courage to unite behind such a cause? Would they be willing to play hardball and gum up the works on the way to Biden’s progressive domestic agenda? Odds will improve if constituents barrage them with phone calls, emails and visible protests. In a time of pandemic, it makes no sense to approve a military budget that is 90 times the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The billions saved from “right-sizing” the Pentagon could provide critical funds for addressing the climate crisis. Just as we support putting an end to our endless wars, we also support putting an end to our endless cycle of exponential military spending. This is the moment to demand a substantial cut in the Pentagon budget — and to defund new nuclear weapons. 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 India and Brazil’s COVID Crises Show We Must End the Fiction of Borders Human Rights 125 Democrats Say Military Aid to Israel Shouldn’t Depend on Human Rights Record Prisons & Policing University of California Pushes to Militarize and Expand Its Police Force Politics & Elections Sanders Accuses McConnell of Hypocrisy and Corruption in Scathing KY Speech Immigration DHS Touts Reuniting Just 4 of More Than 1,000 Separated Migrant Families Human Rights Over 10 Million People Could Become Homeless When Eviction Moratorium Ends A new poll says that most of us are optimistic about the country’s future (with a margin of error of plus or minus eleventy billion, of course). According to ABC News/Ipsos, a full 64 percent of the country believes we are on the right track. It makes sense: The president of the United States is no longer screaming 20 hours a day about whatever happens to pass his screen. New COVID-19 infections are down by almost a quarter, and the number of COVID deaths has also dropped. Close to half the country has been at least partially vaccinated. The weather is turning, and opportunities for outdoor activities are expanding. Yet the home front news is far from all good, polls notwithstanding. Scientists and public health experts are rapidly concluding that achieving herd immunity in the U.S. is probably out of reach now, due in no small degree to vaccine hesitancy on the part of millions of Republicans and evangelical Christians, who somehow believe they are assisting Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign by shunning the needle. Many of the people gumming up herd immunity are doing so out of ideological purity. The irony here is that Trump and members of his administration spent last winter arguing that we should let the virus run wild. Sure, it might kill millions, they said, but we’ll nail herd immunity at the end of that road of bones. Once those wreckers were dispossessed of power, it was hoped the new administration might be able to convince a preponderance of the people that the vaccines are safe, effective and devoid of politics. To date, that has not happened to a sufficient degree. “Instead,” reports The New York Times, “[medical experts] are coming to the conclusion that rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.” Not great, entirely galling, but better than where we were… yet there is an illusory element to all this new data and the happy feelings they bring. This hard-won moment is unbelievably fragile, and for one simple reason: Borders are a legal fiction that COVID-19 and its variants could not give less of a damn about, and COVID is still very much on the move. India: “After a devastating week of soaring infections, India reported more than 400,000 new cases Saturday, a global record. Experts believe that number will climb even higher in the coming days, an unimaginable burden for a health system already under siege with hospitals issuing pleas for oxygen,” reports The Washington Post. “The powerful resurgence of infections in India — a country where cases had ebbed just months earlier — is also a reminder that the coronavirus is far from controlled around the world, even with vaccination rates climbing in many countries.” South America: “At least 100,000 Brazilians have died in the last 36 days and 100,000 more are expected to lose their lives before July,” reports the Guardian. “Last week South America, home to 5.5% of the world’s population, suffered nearly 32 percent of all reported Covid deaths. ‘What’s happening is a catastrophe,’ Argentina’s health minister, Carla Vizzotti, admitted as her country’s Covid restrictions were extended until late May.” The fictions of borders and “rugged individualism” must be dismissed out of hand, for we are all in this together. The U.S. is rushing aid to India, and the Biden administration claims that it is doing everything it can to help that nation weather the storm, though clearly more could be done. Brazil’s pleas for help, by contrast, are being generally ignored by the world at present. Jair Bolsonaro is not the one being punished here; the people of Brazil are suffering. Moreover, if COVID’s history is any guide, what is happening in those countries will not stay in those countries. When it arrives here — when, not if — this new wave of COVID and its variants will find a half-vaccinated nation in a pretty good mood, and that good mood will sour like milk left out in the sun. A country still fighting over masks, a country that prioritizes capitalism’s profits over its own people, is not ready to confront any number of the worst-case scenarios that lurk at the business end of this threat. That must change, immediately. “There is no such thing as the State,” notes poet W.H. Auden in September 1, 1939, “and no one exists alone.” The fiction of borders, of “rugged individualism,” must be dismissed out of hand, for we are all in this together. If the COVID crisis is not immediately treated by the U.S. and the world as a global crisis, if a global solution is not collectively achieved, we will eventually arrive at a global calamity so bleak, even the poets will be wordstruck. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Politics & Elections India and Brazil’s COVID Crises Show We Must End the Fiction of Borders Human Rights 125 Democrats Say Military Aid to Israel Shouldn’t Depend on Human Rights Record Prisons & Policing University of California Pushes to Militarize and Expand Its Police Force Politics & Elections Sanders Accuses McConnell of Hypocrisy and Corruption in Scathing KY Speech Immigration DHS Touts Reuniting Just 4 of More Than 1,000 Separated Migrant Families Human Rights Over 10 Million People Could Become Homeless When Eviction Moratorium Ends As campus-based and grassroots movements against anti-Black and racist state violence continue to proliferate around the globe, university police and “campus safety” infrastructures and policies are rapidly losing their institutional legitimacy. Multiple national organizations, including Scholars for Social Justice and the American Studies Association, have endorsed the call for college and university campuses to join the national “Cops Off Campus” May 3, 2021, “Day of Refusal” and to organize with each other to contribute to solidarity activities throughout “Abolition May.” In addition to more than 30 University of California and California State University campuses, colleges and universities across the continent are participating in this month-long mobilization, including the University of Illinois, the University of Chicago, the City College of San Francisco, the University of Texas, Yale University, San Bernardino Valley College, the University of Virginia, the City University of New York, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania. The May 3 Day of Refusal is a one-day commitment to withdraw all labor and participation from college and university activities, including (virtual) classes, events/webinars, email correspondence and administrative meetings. This is the inaugural mobilization of Abolition May, which Cops Off Campus conceives as an open invitation to organize and participate in a wide variety of community-building actions, including abolitionist teach-ins, mutual aid drives for vulnerable people on and near campuses, autonomously organized town halls, banner postings, street theater, walking tours focusing on sites of past police and university violence, and the creation of memorials commemorating people killed by police. As this movement unfolds, the University of California (UC) administration is actively engaged in a repressive and reactionary response to the crises shaping the current historical moment. A series of proposed revisions to the systemwide UC police policy will expand the capacity for statewide police militarization (via “Systemwide Response Teams”), enhance UC Police Department (UCPD) surveillance technologies (by distributing body-worn cameras), and further weaponize the UCPD’s “Use of Force” policies. The implications of this administrative proposal are deeply concerning, not only because UC is among the largest public university systems in the world, but also because it has historically served as an experimental ground for the development of modern police technologies and protocols. Students, faculty, staff and surrounding communities are identifying and confronting the UC administration’s approach to police reform through vigorous abolitionist organizing. Central to this work is the embrace of rigorous shared analysis, education and planning that fundamentally challenge the institutional assumptions underlying police-dependent notions of campus safety. Alongside UC Student Association leader (and UC Riverside student) Naomi Waters, San Francisco State University student leader Ja’Corey Bowens and Laney College professor Kimberly King, I participated in the presentation of a clear abolitionist response to the ongoing problem of university and college police presence during the April 21 CalMatters/KQED (Los Angeles) event, “The Future of Campus Policing.” During this discussion, the four of us collectively reframed notions of “safety” and “security” by centering dynamic, decriminalizing, community-accountable infrastructures that deprovincialize college and university campuses, emphasizing how institutions like UC have historically had gentrifying, disastrously criminalizing effects on surrounding people and geographies. The resulting debate with the UC Regents Chair John Perez and UC Davis Police Chief Joseph Farrow exemplified the recent and remarkable shift in the content and parameters of critical public discussions of police power. Such debates are increasingly engaging with abolitionist frameworks and thus no longer accept the severe limitations of reformist scripts. While the impact of such invigorated debates on the UC administration’s policing policy is still to be determined, it seems clear that the campus police presence is steadily losing credibility. The administrative leadership can no longer presume consent to its definition of “campus safety.” Abolitionist security and safety measures directly confront and address the insecurities — housing, food, health, economic, and otherwise — that are not only created and reproduced by colleges and universities, but are also reinforced by their policed relation to surrounding (working-class and poor, unhoused, Black, Indigenous, Brown, undocumented, criminalized) communities. Abolitionist security and safety measures directly confront and address the insecurities — housing, food, health, economic, and otherwise. In contrast to this dynamic abolitionist approach, the UC administration proposes to reform, expand and further militarize its police force in the name of safety, peace and security. Three aspects of its plan are worth special attention, especially as they are likely to influence other institutions’ approaches to police reform: the creation of Systemwide Response Teams, deployment of body-worn cameras, and preemptive sanction of police violence and intimidation through enhanced use-of-force policies. On “Systemwide Response Teams (SRTs)” The “MISSION STATEMENT” of SRTs states, 1602. The mission of the University of California SRT is to maintain a trained team of sworn personnel with the skills and equipment readily available to assist local campuses to: (a) Facilitate and protect the Constitutional Rights of all persons; (b) Keep the peace and protect life and property; (c) Protect lawful activity while identifying and isolating unlawful behavior; (d) Provide dignitary protection; and (e) Provide training and other assistance when requested and appropriate. It is a shock to the conscience and ethical sensibility of many UC students, educators and workers that, after a year of worldwide uprisings against police violence, the UC administration is proposing the creation of a new, specialized police force that significantly expands the power, militarization and personnel of the existing UCPD. The SRT apparatus facilitates multicampus police mobilizations for the purpose of controlling and suppressing mass demonstrations on and near UC campuses. By way of example, the provisions cited above would allow (if not obligate) the UCPD to convene SRTs for the purposes of deterring, repressing, and/or neutralizing public protests of UC Regents’ meetings, while utilizing SRTs as a privileged form of paramilitary protection for visiting “dignitaries” (e.g. ambassadors and prominent state officials) representing governments that may be widely criticized for historical and ongoing atrocities, including apartheid, colonial occupation and genocidal violence. (This provision seems especially well-suited for targeting mobilizations of solidarity with Palestinian liberation that challenge the policies and asymmetrical violence of the Israeli state.) The paramilitary nature of the SRTs is crystallized in the proposed policy’s provision for the assignment of special personnel “to meet operational needs,” including “grenadiers.” According to the U.S. Army’s “Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad” Field Manual, a grenadier is a soldier equipped with a grenade launcher for the purpose of “providing limited high-angle fire over ‘dead space.’” According to the University of Wisconsin police, the grenadier is an officer who has been trained in the use of “Chemical Agents/Munitions and their delivery systems.” Notably, the UC policy does not provide a clear definition of this personnel category, and the grenadier’s capacity to engage in tactics of campus-based counterinsurgency is left to speculation. On “Body Worn Audio/Video Systems (BWVs)” The proposed revision to UC police policy allows UCPD officers extraordinarily wide latitude to exercise “discretionary activation” when it comes to use of their body-worn video cameras (BWVs). They are given enough room for subjective interpretation of situations that they can essentially activate or deactivate their cameras anytime they wish, with rather loose requirements for post facto justification. Further, there is no clear consequence for failing to activate (or unjustifiably deactivating) BWVs, and there are also no apparent consequences for losing or “accidentally” erasing the BWV footage itself. By way of example, “1520. Modification, Alteration, or Deletion” states, “no employee shall modify, alter, or delete video or audio once recorded by the [body-worn] camera, except as authorized by Department policy,” yet there is no accompanying clarification of penalties if the policy is violated. Such toothless and deceiving policies effectively create superficial, bureaucratic approaches to “police accountability” that serve to expand the technology and judicial impunity of policing. Use of force protocols neither prevent nor curb anti-Black, racist, gendered and ableist police violence. It is well established that even when used according to prescribed guidelines, police-worn body cameras have never definitively reduced the frequency or intensity of police violence. Recorded footage is generally not accessible to the public, and police administrators (including officers themselves) are afforded significant privileges in handling the preservation and distribution of such recordings. (Keep in mind that the world learned of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police through the video recording of a courageous 17-year-old minor, while former Officer Derek Chauvin’s body cam footage was not released until well into his criminal trial 10 months later.) Further, increased distribution of body-worn cameras contributes to the enhancement of criminalizing surveillance technologies, exacerbates privacy concerns, and often significantly increases police personnel and budgets under the guise of reform. On the “Use of Force Policy” The proposed revision to the UCPD’s Use of Force policy weaponizes fantastically broad definitions of “active resistance” and “assaultive resistance” to police authority. As defined in the proposed policy, these terms allow for extraordinarily generous interpretations of “resistance” that retroactively justify police force, potentially including deadly or maiming police violence; for example, the category of “active resistance” includes any observation of a policed subject’s “bracing, tensed muscles,” while the definition of “extreme agitation” — “agitation so severe that the person can be dangerous to themselves or others” — is precisely the rationale used to justify numerous anti-Black police killings, including Ma’Khia Bryant, Laquan McDonald, and many others. Similarly, the definition of “non-compliance” allows police the widest possible latitude to make subjective judgments of “physical gestures, stances, and observable mannerisms.” Such inferences are entirely saturated by the ideological, symbolic and historical forces of anti-Blackness, racism, sexism, gender normativity, ableism and ageism. The Use of Force policy is thus a potentially devastating weapon of repression, intimidation and criminalization because the scope of its implementation remains almost entirely determined by the perceptions of police officers themselves. Section 803 states: “reasonableness of force will be judged from the perspective of an objectively reasonable officer in the same situation, based on the circumstances perceived by the officer at the time.” (Emphasis added.) It is necessary to raise fundamental questions over the institutional assumptions that enable and allegedly necessitate such policies, which are usually framed by administrators as existing for the protection of those who are being policed. Use of force protocols neither prevent nor curb anti-Black, racist, gendered and ableist police violence. To the contrary, these policies establish the bureaucratic and legal premises for ensuring that police threat, harm and fatality remain central to “campus safety” infrastructures. Abolishing Normalized Institutional Violence While there are other aspects of the University of California’s proposed policy that call for critical examination, these few examples reflect the need to collectively challenge the normalized conditions of institutional violence that crystallize in the enduring presence of the UC police force. The UCPD’s enormous infrastructure of privilege and power (budgetary, juridical, and otherwise) has toxified one of the world’s largest public universities for well over half a century. At a moment in which people worldwide are questioning the institution of policing, it is both possible and necessary to challenge the very existence of police on college and university campuses. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) recently argued that eliminating the filibuster would lead to “serious problems.” According to Manchin, “the Senate is different” than the House, yet “for some reason, people are trying to make the Senate operate the same as the House,” even though “our founding fathers never intended that.” First of all, eliminating the filibuster will not lead to serious problems. Most U.S. states and most democratic countries around the world don’t allow for legislation to be filibustered. Many such states and countries function just fine. Giving the minority party veto power over widely supported legislation is unnecessary when there are other strong checks and balances in place.
Racial Justice Commission Finds Anti-Black Police Violence Constitutes Crimes Against Humanity Politics & Elections Tucker Carlson Is Emblematic of Today’s Republican Party Prisons & Policing Police Convictions Are Not the Goal. Abolitionists Have Bigger Dreams. Environment & Health Prescription Drugs in US Are Quadruple What They Cost Elsewhere, Report Finds Politics & Elections Biden Unveils American Families Plan, Which Would Establish Paid Leave Program Environment & Health No, Biden’s Not Banning Burgers — But Meat Is a Real Climate Problem I have to talk about Tucker Carlson today, which is a shame. There are eleventy billion more important things popping off right now. India is literally on fire from all the bodies that are burning, thanks to COVID deaths; mass shootings are as common as birdsong this spring; and the giant segment of congressional Republicans who tried to overthrow the government are now pretending it never happened, and might actually get away with it. Even absent all that, I can’t recall a day in my life when Carlson rose to the level of immediately required attention. Alas, the day has arrived. Before we begin, however, I would ask you to take a few minutes and watch then-Daily Show host Jon Stewart obliterate Carlson on Crossfire in 2004. For those who don’t recall or never saw it, Crossfire was Carlson’s old CNN show, along with Paul Begala, that was canceled almost immediately after Stewart’s appearance. Stewart is generally credited for being responsible for the show’s demise, though Carlson claimed he had quit months before, so there. Watch it, and keep 2021 Carlson close in mind when you do. “It’s not so much that it’s bad, as it’s hurting America,” said Stewart of Carlson and Crossfire as the show opened. “So I wanted to come here today and say: Stop. Here’s just what I wanted to tell you guys. Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.” It only gets better from there. Peak television, that (rivaled only perhaps by comedian Bill Burr’s 12-minute foul-mouthed defenestration of the entire city of Philadelphia, but I digress). Carlson snagged an MSNBC show after Stewart burned Crossfire to the ground, but that was likewise canceled — along with his signature bow tie — a few short years later. After that, Carlson banged around on Dancing With the Stars for a bit (he was the first contestant canceled in season three, thus keeping the streak alive), before finally landing in 2009 on the always-available right-wing lifeboat for irrelevant conservatives: Fox News. Flash forward 12 years, and my, how things have changed. Back during his CNN and MSNBC days, Carlson always came off as a frat boy two drinks past the minimum who knows just enough karate to get his ass kicked. He put the time in, said all the right terrible things, pushed all the right terrible lies, and was finally given a show of his own. Now, in the gilded cocoon of his own niche on Fox, Carlson has the freedom to say basically anything without having to worry about a co-host or an audience to shut him down. A network that harbors the likes of Sean Hannity and “Judge” Jeanine Pirro isn’t about to censor Tucker’s boyish charm (shudder). Every so often, however, he will blow past the low-water mark of his last garbage commentary — like, say, his oft-repeated championing of white nationalist themes… oh, wait, that was just two weeks ago! — and find a whole new bottom of the barrel. Which brings us to our current estate. Earlier this week, which by the way saw a significant loosening of mask guidelines for vaccinated people by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Carlson took his brain for a long walk off a short pier. “Not even Tony Fauci still pretends that masks are medically necessary,” he lied straight into the camera. “Instead, masks are purely a sign of political obedience, like Kim Il Sung pins in Pyongyang.” Yep, it’s George Orwell meets Scrubs up in here. Why, the loyalty oath is printed right there on the inside of my hate-mask so I can whisper the words to the words as I plot the death of God while fondling avocados in the supermarket. Oh, P.S., a PBS report from 2/12: “Dr. Anthony Fauci says people will need to wear masks ‘for several, several months’ to avoid the coronavirus as vaccinations are rolled out.” Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America. “It’s our job to brush them back and restore the society we were born in,” Carlson went on to say of the “neurotics” wearing masks in public. “So the next time you see someone in a mask on the sidewalk or on the bike path, do not hesitate. Ask politely but firmly, ‘Would you please take off your mask. Science shows there is no reason for you to be wearing it. Your mask is making me uncomfortable.” Your mask is making me uncomfortable. This, from a mouthpiece of the party that promulgated the slur “snowflakes” to denigrate people with, you know, actual feelings. We know how welcome those are in the Trumpiverse. Whither comes such sensitivity, Tucker? “As for forcing children to wear masks outside, that should be illegal,” he raged. “Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from seeing someone beating a kid at Walmart: Call the police immediately; contact child protective services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you’re looking at is abuse. It’s child abuse, and you’re morally obligated to attempt to prevent it.” When it happens — and it will — the video of some Tucker fan calling the cops about a mother at a playground with a masked child will go viral at warp speed. THAT PERSON’S CHILD IS WEARING A MASK AND IT MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE I WANT TO SPEAK TO THE MANAGER. Hey Karen! Your husband Ken/Chad/Terry is on the internet! As with those who have been fully vaccinated, the CDC has also released guidelines for children participating in summer camp or other group activities. Per The Washington Post: “Campers and staff members should be placed in small groups, or cohorts, to minimize exposure to other people, the CDC said. While in the cohorts, kids should stay at least three feet away from their peers and should wear masks at all times, except while eating, swimming and sleeping. When not masked, or with people outside their cohorts, campers should keep a six-foot distance. Whenever possible, camp activities should happen outside. Campers should avoid indoor sports and games that involve close contact. Disinfect. Frequently.” (Emphasis added.) Pro tip to Tuckerworld: Among my favorite activities is bringing my 8-year-old daughter to Robin Hood Park so she can frolic with other kids on the playground after a year of effective isolation. It is medicine for the both of us. She wears a mask around the other kids because I cannot be sure if the parents of those kids are being safe in their own sphere, and as my daughter loves to visit her Nana, this precaution has felt wise and safe. The new CDC guidelines on masks outdoors — again, for vaccinated people — may motivate me to change this habit. I have not yet decided, and it is my decision to make. If some Carlson devotee decides to take a run at me over my daughter’s mask because they are uncomfortable bearing witness to my child abuse, they will be invited to shove themselves up their own arse with such velocity that they quite simply disappear into themselves, like a dying star. Look, Tucker Carlson is a television clown. After his pet president got his butt kicked in November, and after a segment of his viewers sacked the Capitol in January, Carlson made the calculated business decision to be as far out there as he can be, and he has been rewarded with a noteworthy viewership from the Fox News crowd. The network is still trying to decide how to act post-Trump, they aren’t landing any punches against President Biden worth noting (Dr. Seuss? Hamburgers? Jeez…), and so Carlson is painting the walls of his studio with blood in an attempt to invite the rest of the network to follow him into the darkness. The so-called “culture war” Carlson is “fighting” is a giant fundraising scam the GOP has been running on its base to amazingly lucrative effect. Fox has been at the vanguard of that phenomenon for decades, and today’s GOP politicians — absent things like, y’know, policy to run on — are following suit so they have cash on hand for the next campaign. Carlson is angling to become the avatar of this scam, because it pays really well. Carlson’s audience is a mob writ large, bound together online and made braver with company, and he incants the words of bonding on a nightly schedule. “The GOP highlights culture-war issues to shake down rank-and-file donors while cutting taxes to please wealthy donors,” conservative columnist Max Boot noted recently. “Republicans have won the presidential popular vote only once since 1988, but they can’t afford to broaden their appeal by embracing a more populist economic agenda or by toning down the divisive social messages because either move would jeopardize the flow of fundraising. The right-wing money machine has become the tail wagging the Republican elephant.” If that were all there was to this, I would not have bothered giving a day of my life to some yowler on a propaganda network. The problem is, whatever Carlson and the GOP’s financial motives may be, their words have an actual flesh-and-blood effect on the GOP base that believes everything it hears if it comes from the right television station. Pundits talk about a “divided” nation, but that division is being violently exacerbated by people like Carlson, who take the basic medical necessity of masks in a pandemic and turn it into a reason to accost parents in the park… because they are uncomfortable. That’s the thing about a mob: It’s comfortable to be within it, even empowering. Everyone within knows that everyone else around them thinks and feels the same way, and they move as one like a wheeling flock of birds. Elements of the pack show the pack they belong to the pack by incanting the acceptable words and thoughts. Carlson’s audience is a mob writ large, bound together online and made braver with company, and he incants the words of bonding on a nightly schedule. These are frightened people who see their supremacy slipping away. Science as represented by masks, the very idea of sharing cultural influence with “others,” all of this scares them and makes them angry, so they find solace in the rank ignorance of the devoted ranks. Every time Carlson rings a bell like this, they feel stronger, even as their pockets get picked while Fox’s ratings rise. Look, Tucker Carlson is the living embodiment of low-hanging fruit in the media orchard. Jumping up and down on him is the equivalent of a child mastering “Chopsticks” on a toy piano. I feel dirty even writing his name. This is actually important, however. Watching Carlson wind himself up into a frothing rage over the Chauvin verdict compels one to believe he means it. Whether or not he does, he is, like the rest of the conservative universe, pandering to the bleakest elements of our society and counting coppers as quickly as he can while trying to get a handle on what comes next. Overt racism is the wave to catch on the right these days, and Carlson is right there carving the curl as best he can. A great many of the people who watch him do believe what he says, and we saw what they are capable of in January. Until this spigot of raw sewage is properly challenged, the poison will continue to seep into the body politic. There’s a sucker born every minute, it has been said. Tucker Carlson is out to collect them all. Were I offered the chance, I would repeat to Carlson the words of Jon Stewart from 17 long years ago: Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America. Amazingly enough, it’s still not too late. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
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