As a British Citizen, I Am Oscillating Between Sadness and Rage: Brexit Is the Worst of Times

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 6:50pm
A band of Britons succeeded in selling the myth that leaving the EU means "taking back control."

The worst of times…

Brexit was the most significant vote in U.K. politics in my generation and the long-term effects on stability and security across Europe appear immense and deeply, deeply troubling.

Make no mistake, a band of thugs have won the day. Using a shameless, self-interested tabloid press, a feckless group of hypocritical elites (Boris, Farrage, Gove…) harked back to an imaginary British past of crumpets and glory, and succeeded in selling the myth that leaving the EU means “taking back control.”

Yesterday was a victory for the far right across Europe, for tribalism, divisive politics, irredentism, and an incredible rejection of evidence-based policy. It was not a courageous day. Common sense did not prevail. This will be remembered as a foolish, overzealous, Icarus moment.

I am no political scientist, but looking at the demographic data of how people voted, it was the lower socio-economic groups in England, outside of major cities, who carried Brexit across the line; those with the lowest expectations for prosperity, the fewest qualifications, low-paying jobs and less opportunity for education. While Farrage celebrates Friday morning a new dawn for ‘real people,’ he does not represent the true interests of the average British family. He found a convenient and susceptible constituency, then deployed the right mix of fear and wahey-I-can-balance-pints-on-my-head.

In reality, many Brexiters voted because they were told the EU was the source of all their ills. Many felt disenfranchised from politics, and that their concerns over immigration had been ignored. The U.K. has major socio-economic inequality and disparity between London and the rest of the country. The Leave campaign announced that all of these issues, including problems with the NHS and other strained public services, a housing crisis, and income inequality, were attributable to the EU. In fact, leaving the EU is likely to make some of these problems worse. Where will public discontent turn when it becomes clear that leaving hasn’t solved everything?

The chanting across Europe that the EU is failing as a political project will now get louder. France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary may follow Brexit to some extent, whether by leaving the EU (Nexit is not unimaginable), or at least by demanding that as EU members they receive concessions similar to those that the U.K., as a non-member, will probably gain in its trade negotiations. For all the talk of xenophobic Little England, the fact is that the highest rates of eurosceptic sentiment lie in other EU states. The U.K. held a referendum, but the results could have been worse elsewhere (in France for example, about 60 percent are against the EU). I hope then, that Brexit will be seen as part of a broader trend of populist nationalism across Europe and the United States, a threat to all those who want greater integration and openness, whether English or otherwise. Globalization is bringing enormous challenges.

Panic over what happens to existing immigrants in the U.K. may be unwarranted, the Leave campaign so far focused on new immigration only. I can understand why several friends living in London now feel that ‘English people hated me all along,’ but it may not be that simple. I hope it will be remembered that London, effectively a City-State in its own right, voted Remain by an overwhelming 60 percent. Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, Bristol, Warwick and Leeds all voted Remain. The vast majority of people in these cosmopolitan cities want to remain just that—integrated, welcoming, and multicultural.

That this campaign departed so completely from fact-based policies and disregarded the opinions of economists and business leaders or ‘so-called experts’ is mind-boggling. To me, this was taken to a new level compared to general elections, and one of the most concerning aspects of the campaign as a whole was the complete departure from well-reasoned scientific evidence on immigration, economics and social issues, after the providers of the evidence had been discredited as ‘elitist’ or ‘arrogant.’ Voices on both sides of the debate gave in too quickly to fear and cheap tactics. To those Brexit voters who were well-informed, yet chose to ignore or discredit the unanimous conclusions of objective political science as ‘biased,’ you should have known better. Shame on you.

Northern Ireland should have been one of the headline issues in the EU referendum debate. Security got less priority than economics and immigration. The U.K. will soon have a sea border with the EU at Calais and a land border with the EU in Ireland. I grew up trying to understand some of the complexities of Northern Ireland, and then, for all its limitations, a settlement brought peace. Few commentators have analysed this security aspect of Brexit closely and that terrifies me. I worry our political memories are becoming very short.

Who knows what follows? Enormous uncertainty. Scotland leaving the U.K. within the next few years seems extremely likely.

As of Friday morning, Gove and Boris couldn’t care less about Brexit. Boris’s only interest is now the leadership battle for the Conservative party and furthering his political career (a career made on the back of Brexit, pure and simple). They both played the game of exploiting division in the Conservative party for their own ends. Has Brexit been mainly about the U.K.’s place in the EU? Or about the Tory party?

And in the short-term? True that this was ‘just’ an advisory referendum, so let’s see what happens next. Nobody on the news Friday morning seems to have any idea what the next practical steps are, some are saying that Article 50 will not be invoked until after the French and German elections next year. David Cameron has now implied that negotiations with then EU will not start until after the arrival of a new Conservative Prime Minister in October.

All told, a bleak day for liberal democracy.

Personally, I am oscillating between deep sadness and rage, and trying to understand more seriously how and why we got here. So please pity us, my U.K. friends and me, who unwillingly lost citizenship of Europe Friday.

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Bundy Militia Bro Charged With Trying to Detonate a Bomb at a Government Facility in Arizona

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 6:46pm
Yet another member of the Bundy militia is in trouble with the law.

Yet another member of the Bundy militia is in trouble with the law again.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that 57-year-old William Keebler was arrested this week and charged with attempting to detonate a bomb at a Bureau of Land Management facility in Arizona.

Keebler, who took part in the 2014 standoff with federal land administrators near Cliven Bundy’s ranch, told undercover FBI agents that he planned to target a BLM building in Mount Trumbull, Ariz. The FBI agents, in turn, created a non-working explosive device for Keebler to use at the facility, which Keebler first started scouting as a target in October 2015.

Keebler planted the device at the BLM building on Tuesday and tried to detonate it, without luck. He was arrested the next day.

If convicted, Keebler could face between five to 20 years in federal prison.

 

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5 Jarringly Idiotic Right-Wing Moments This Week: Not Just About the Brexit

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 4:38pm
Trump spews nonsense while O'Reilly makes perfect sense as the embodiment of white supremacy.

Immediately after his conspiracy theory- and lie-fueled speech attacking Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, Donald Trump oh-so-presidentially flew to Scotland to ride around in a golf cart with one of his baseball caps on.

He had no idea what this "Brexit" business was all about. But it sounds kind of foreign.

Of course, that did not stop him from opening his mouth and speaking sort-of sentences about it. Read on as we decipher what he said, along with some other ignorant wingnuttery from the week that was.

1. Bill O’Reilly just comes out and perfectly embodies white xenophobia when discussing Brexit.

Generously sharing his old-clueless-white-guy thoughts, gasbag Bill O’Reilly decided to use his airtime Friday lamenting the fact that London is not white enough anymore. And that, he more or less totally admitted, is why the Brexit vote to leave the European Union went the way it did.

As a young man, O'Reilly courageously traveled across the pond to spend his junior year at Queen Mary College in London, in 1970. London was much different back then, much whiter, which to O’Reilly absolutely means way, way better.

“What has happened over the past 30 years is that the British system has allowed so many people in, and those folks, generally speaking, have not assimilated," O’Reilly opined. "So that if you go to parts of London, you are not really in England, you are in Pakistan, or you are in the Middle East, or you are in the West Indies. And everybody knows this."

Is it any wonder that the English people said, "You know what? Enough,” O’Reilly said, channeling Brexit voters' voices. “We're not feeling comfortable with being overwhelmed, and we are feeling under siege."

The vote was obviously all about immigration, O’Reilly said, and many saner heads agree. Where the saner heads and O’Reilly differ is that he thinks it's a good thing.

The chap could not be a more perfect spokesmodel for white supremacy.

Hear hear!

2. Trump spews nonsense in wake of Brexit vote.

So, as we mentioned before, Trump does not really know what this whole Brexit thing is about. It’s hard to stay up on things when you’re busy reading conspiracy theories all day, and CliffsNotes of Hillary-hit-job books.

But he was lucky enough to be in Scotland when it happened, though he is only dimly aware that Scotland is part of the U.K. Demonstrating that he is actually not one iota smarter than Sarah Palin, Trump spewed this: “A lot of people are talking about that, and not only the United States, but other countries.”

Yes, a lot of people are talking about a lot of things, including that sort of foreign word Trump does not quite have a handle on. But what he does know is this:

“People want to take their country back. They want to have independence, in a sense, and you see it with Europe, all over Europe. You're going to have more than just—in my opinion—more than what happened last night, you're going to have, I think many other cases where they want to take their borders back. They want to take their monetary back.”

What does that mean? Take their monetary back? We have no idea.

More nonsensical spewage:

“They want to take a lot of things back. They want to be able to have a country again. So, I think you're going to have this happen more and more. I really believe that, and I think it's happening in the United States.”

And here’s where Trump oh-so-presidentially pivots back to his favorite topic, himself:

“It's happening by the fact that I've done so well in the polls. You look at the recent polling, and you look at the swing states and you see how I'm doing, and I haven't even started my campaign yet, essentially.”

When can we vote on the Trexit (Trump exit)?

3. Donald Trump thinks things that could be true, are true.

One of the more inane points Trump made in his unhinged speech attacking Hillary Clinton was that she slept through the Benghazi attacks, a piece of stupidity that has been repeatedly debunked.

As Secretary of State, Clinton "spread death, destruction and terrorism everywhere she touched,” Trump said. “Among the victims was our late Ambassador Chris Stevens. I mean what she did with him was absolutely horrible. He was left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed. That’s right. When the phone rang, as per the commercial, at 3 in the morning, Hillary Clinton was sleeping."

One small thing: the attacks happened at 9:30pm Libya time, which is 3:30pm in Washington—office hours for Clinton and most sentient beings. Looks like Donny might have gotten his am's and pm's mixed up. 

In a conversation with NBC’s Lester Holt afterward, Trump provided a little glimpse into the thought process that allows him to assert these conflations of facts, fictions and campaign commercials as just plain facts.

The attacks in Benghazi were “going on for a long period of time,” Trump told Holt. “She was asleep at the wheel, whether she was sleeping or not, who knows if she was sleeping.”

True, Holt said, but what you actually said was that she was asleep.

“She might’ve been sleeping!” Trump asserted.

But that’s not what he said. There’s a tape of it. He was recorded.

Pretzel Trump logic. It hurts the brain.

4. Idiot Fox Newsians celebrate gunman in German movie theater.

Monica Crowley and Stuart Varney made themselves comfy in the fact-free zone as the incident in Germany where a gunman stormed a movie theater was unfolding. But the lack of any information whatsoever did not keep them from speculating and celebrating a little bit.

First, British ex-pat, arch-conservative business commentator Stuart Varney admitted he knew nothing, and said he was “not going to speculate,” but, “Is this another, somewhat similar, terror-related case? I don't know that. I don't know who the shooter is, his name, nationality, or wherever he came from. I don't know that, but the incident is very similar. Therefore, there could be political repercussions to the shooting…”

Ooh, Monica Crowley jumped in too, also not to speculate, but, “I don't want, I'm not going to stretch this, but a terror, if it's a terror incident or an incident of this kind, that's for Trump. That is a plus for Donald Trump, isn't it?”

Yes! Varney didn’t speculate, because every bad thing that happens, including Trump himself, is good for Trump, because he projects all this leadership and decisiveness and strength and never troubles himself by actually knowing about things.

Meanwhile, Trump rode around his golf course in Scotland, wondering what the Brexit is, speculating on whether it could benefit him, and protecting his perimeter from knowledge.

Maybe we can we arrange a Vexit? (Varney exit.) And a Crexit? (Take Crowley with you too.)

Or maaayyybe, and this is just a thought, a full-scale Foxit.

Can we get a second to that motion?

5. Arizona Sheriff Joe has a great idea for inmates’ uniforms as they bake in 136 degree heat.

Good ole Trump-supporting, immigrant-hating Sheriff Joe Arpaio had himself a regular yuk-fest when he joined conservative talk-show host Howie Carr this week to discuss the fact that inmates in Arizona are cooking in tents where the thermometer was reaching 136 degrees in the heatwave.

Who cares? both men agreed.

“You know, the usual suspects and the lawyers are coming into court and saying that the inmates are suffering terribly in your jails with the extreme weather in Arizona, you know,” Carr said. “Yeah, that always brings a smile to my face when I read these stories.”

Arpaio does not know what those inmates and their lawyers are complaining about. He even gave them Gatorade recently. The whiners.

“Our men and women [who] are fighting for our country, uh, live in tents, so shut your mouth,” Arpaio said.

Wait, seriously? 136 degrees!!!

Sheriff Joe also shared an idea he has for the prisoners’ garb. Apparently, it’s not enough for him that he tries to humiliate prisoners by making them wear pink underwear and socks.

“I’ll give you a scoop: I’m going to put American flags [on the uniforms],” Arpaio told Carr. “I was going to do it on my birthday but I didn’t want to get involved because of what happened in Florida—but on Fourth of July, every inmate is going to wear an American flag on their uniform.”

Your tax dollars, in action.

h/t: RightWingWatch

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We Must Understand How the Nazis Succeeded and Corporations Now Operate in Order to Fight Back

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 4:36pm
Education is indoctrination.

In the winter of 1941, a Jewish gravedigger from Chelmo, the western province of Poland, appeared in Warsaw and desperately sought a meeting with Jewish leaders.

He told them the Nazis were rounding up Jews, including the old, women and children, and forcing them into what looked like tightly sealed buses. The buses had the exhaust pipes redirected into the cabins. The Jews were killed with carbon monoxide. He had helped dig the mass graves for thousands of corpses until he escaped.

On the way to Warsaw, he had gone from village to village, frantically warning the Jews. Scores of Jews, in the villages and ultimately in Warsaw, heard his testimony of horror and dismissed it.

A handful of listeners, however, including Zivia Lubetkin, who two years later would help lead the uprising by 500 armed Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto, instantly understood the ultimate aims of the Nazi state.

“I don’t know how we intuitively shared the same horrible conviction that the total annihilation of all the Jewish communities in Nazi-occupied Europe was at hand,” she wrote in her memoir, “In the Days of Destruction and Revolt.”

She and a handful of young activists started planning a revolt. From that moment forward, they existed in a parallel reality.

“We walked along the overcrowded streets of the Warsaw Ghetto, hundreds of thousands of people pushing and rushing about in fright, antagonistic and tense, living the illusion that they were fighting for their lives, their meager livelihood, but, in reality, when you closed your eyes you could see that they were all dead …”

The established Jewish leadership warned the resistance fighters to desist, telling them to work within the parameters set by the Nazi occupiers. The faces of the established Jewish leaders, when they were informed of the plans to fight back, she wrote, “grew pale, either from sudden fear or from anger at our audacity. They were furious. They reproached us for irresponsibly sowing the seeds of despair and confusion among the people, for our impertinence in even thinking of armed resistance.”

The greatest problem the underground movement faced, she wrote, was “the false hope, the great illusion.” The movement’s primary task was to destroy these illusions. Only when the truth was known would widespread resistance be possible.

The aims of the corporate state are, given the looming collapse of the ecosystem, as deadly, maybe more so, as the acts of mass genocide carried out by the Nazis and Stalin’s Soviet Union.

The reach and effectiveness of corporate propaganda dwarfs even the huge effort undertaken by Adolf Hitler and Stalin. The layers of deception are sophisticated and effective. News is state propaganda. Elaborate spectacles and forms of entertainment, all of which ignore reality or pretend the fiction of liberty and progress is real, distract the masses.

Education is indoctrination. Ersatz intellectuals, along with technocrats and specialists, who are obedient to neoliberal and imperial state doctrine, use their academic credentials and erudition to deceive the public. 

The promises made by the corporate state and its political leaders—we will restore your jobs, we will protect your privacy and civil liberties, we will rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, we will save the environment, we will prevent you from being exploited by banks and predatory corporations, we will make you safe, we will provide a future for your children—are the opposite of reality.

The loss of privacy, the constant monitoring of the citizenry, the use of militarized police to carry out indiscriminate acts of lethal violence—a daily reality in marginal communities—and the relentless drive to plunge as much as two-thirds of the country into poverty to enrich a tiny corporate elite, along with the psychosis of permanent war, presage a dystopia that will be as severe as the totalitarian systems that sent tens of millions to their deaths during the reigns of fascism and communism.

There is no more will to reform, or to accommodate the needs and rights of the citizens by the corporate state, than there was to accommodate the needs and rights of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. But until the last moment, this reality will be hidden behind the empty rhetoric of democracy and reform. Repressive regimes gradually institute harsher and harsher forms of control while denying their intentions. By the time a captive population grasps what is happening, it is too late.

The elaborate ruses set up by the Nazis that kept Jews and others slated for extermination passive until they reached the doors of the gas chambers, usually decorated with a large Star of David, were legend. Those taken to death camps were told they were going to work. Unloading ramps at Treblinka were made to look like a train station, with fabricated train schedules posted on the walls and a fake train clock and ticket window. Camp musicians played. The elderly and infirm were escorted from the cattle cars to a building called the infirmary, with the Red Cross symbol on it, before being shot in the back of the head. Men, women and children, who would die in the gas chambers within an hour, were given tickets for their clothes and valuables.

“The Germans were quite courteous when they led people to be slaughtered,” Lubetkin noted acidly.

Jews in ghettos, awaiting deportation to the death camps, were divided by those who worked for the Nazis and therefore had certain privileges, and those who did not. This division effectively pitted the two groups against each other until the final deportations. And collaborating with the killers, in the vain hope that they would be spared, were Jews themselves, organized into Jewish Councils, or Judenrat, and formed into units of the Jewish police, along with what Lubetkin called “their cronies, the spectators and profiteers, the smugglers.”

In the death camps, Jews, to stay alive a little longer, worked in the crematoriums as sonderkommandos. There are always those among the oppressed willing to sell out their neighbor for a few more crusts of bread. As life becomes desperate, the choice is often between collaboration and death.

Our corporate masters know what is coming. They know that as the ecosystem breaks down, as financial dislocations create new global financial meltdowns, as natural resources are poisoned or exhausted, despair will give way to panic and rage.

They know coastal cities will be covered by rising sea levels, crop yields will plummet, soaring temperatures will make whole parts of the globe uninhabitable, the oceans will become dead zones, hundreds of millions of refugees will flee in desperation, and complex structures of governance and organization will break down.

They know that the legitimacy of corporate power and neoliberalism—as potent and utopian an ideology as fascism or communism—will crumble. The goal is to keep us fooled and demobilized as long as possible.

The corporate state, operating a system Sheldon Wolin referred to as “inverted totalitarianism,” invests tremendous sums—$5 billion in this presidential election alone—to ensure that we do not see its intentions or our ultimate predicament.

These systems of propaganda play on our emotions and desires. They make us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge. They get us to identify with the manufactured personality of a political candidate. Millions wept at the death of Josef Stalin, including many who had been imprisoned in his gulags. There is a powerful yearning to believe in the paternal nature of despotic power.

There are cracks in the edifice. The loss of faith in neoliberalism has been a driving force in the insurgencies in the Republican and Democratic parties. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, of course, will do nothing to halt the corporate assault. There will be no reform. Totalitarian systems are not rational. There will only be harsher forms of repression and more pervasive systems of indoctrination and propaganda. The voices of dissenters, now marginalized, will be silenced.

It is time to step outside of the establishment. This means organizing groups, including political parties, that are independent of the corporate political machines that control the Republicans and Democrats.

It means carrying out acts of sustained civil disobedience. It means disruption.

Our resistance must be nonviolent. The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, condemned to imminent death and alienated from a Polish population steeped in anti-Semitism, had no hope of appealing to the Nazi state or most of the Poles.

But we still have options. Many who work within ruling class structures understand the corruption and dishonesty of corporate power. We must appeal to their conscience. We must disseminate the truth.

We have little time left. Climate change, even if we halt all carbon emissions today, will still bring rising temperatures, havoc, instability and systems collapse to much of the planet.

Let us hope we never have to make the stark choice, as most of the ghetto fighters did, about how we will die. If we fail to act, however, this choice will one day define our future, as it defined theirs.

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Deadlocked: What a 9-Word Decision Means for 5 Million Undocumented Immigrants

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 3:39pm
The Supreme Court was deadlocked, hence the decision reverts to the anti-Obama decision at the Appeals level.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court deadlocked on U.S. v. Texas, the most important immigration case of the year.

Nearly five million people stood to benefit from President Obama’s ambitious policy. It would have delayed deportation of unauthorized immigrants whose children are citizens or legal residents, and whose clean records made them low priorities for deportation. Those individuals must now wait for further litigation – or a new president or Supreme Court composition – before gaining any immigration relief.

As a law professor practicing immigration law and working with undocumented clients, I see firsthand the ways in which immigrants who are undocumented live in the shadows. Fear of a constant threat of deportation makes immigrants vulnerable to workplace abuses, sexual exploitation and domestic violence.

Children whose parents are deported have been found to experience significant difficulty as they fail in school, become homeless or suffer psychological trauma.

Though Obama’s policy would not have ameliorated all of these challenges, it was a step that would have dramatically improved the lives of many immigrants.

How we got here

The U.S. v. Texas lawsuit originated when 26 states issued a challenge to President Obama’s executive action to expand immigration protection for certain immigrants with significant ties to the United States.

Under Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), parents of children legally entitled to remain in the country would be granted the right to stay in the U.S. for a period of time, “deferring” their deportation. They would not gain U.S. citizenship, but they would have the right to seek employment authorization and benefits provided by states, such as driver’s licenses.

The original lawsuit was strategically filed in Brownsville, Texas, with a federal district judge known to be sympathetic to the states’ position. That judge issued a preliminary injunction, which blocked nationwide implementation of DAPA while the states’ claims were addressed through the courts.

Today’s Supreme Court decision upheld the lower courts’ injunction. The nine-word boilerplate sentence that constituted the entirety of the court’s decision simply means that this executive action cannot be implemented. The court offered no insight into its process, nor assessed the legality of the president’s policy. The decision does not alter a previous executive action providing relief for those brought to the U.S. as children, known as DACA.

Were Justice Antonin Scalia still sitting on the Supreme Court, or had Congress allowed a vote on President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, the court would have certainly arrived at a decision.

The impact of a 4-4 split

Many immigrants and their families are devastated by the Supreme Court’s split decision. Law offices and clinics across the country were prepared to start assisting clients to file for DAPA and expanded DACA relief. Now, the millions who would have been eligible remain stranded, fearful of deportation and unable to legally work.

This executive action represented an opportunity for many to finally come out of the shadows. President Obama’s previous executive action, DACA, has dramatically improved the lives of many who were brought to the U.S. as children, allowing them to attend college, work, hold driver’s licenses – to contribute to the societies of which they are a part.

As in any 4-4 split, this vote does not create precedent for future cases. The court made no determination whatsoever about the legality of executive actions regarding immigration.

What is clear is that those who would have applied for DAPA, had the Supreme Court ruled differently, are now unable to access the program’s benefits.

Now what?

Much more remains undecided with regard to immigration. Even if Obama’s actions had been permitted to move forward, the president inaugurated in 2017 still has authority to rescind or modify these programs as he or she deems appropriate.

Now, the case will be sent back to the Texas court to determine whether and how to proceed. While the Obama administration could pursue further litigation to advance executive action on immigration, such litigation would be protracted, and would not be resolved until the next president took office.

Despite this setback, the Obama administration can still do a great deal to promote a fair and functioning immigration system, that deports “felons, not families.” Most critically, the executive branch can use prosecutorial discretion, by setting priorities for enforcement and nonenforcement, to end deportations for the millions of immigrants who have strong connections and communities in the U.S.

Obama speaks after SCOTUS decision. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Since 2009, under Obama’s leadership, more than 3.7 million people have been deported, more than under any other U.S. president.

Many immigrants who are eligible for various forms of already existing legal status do not realize it due to a lack of resources, attorneys and information. The government could fund legal orientation programs to ensure that those who are eligible can and do apply for relief such as DACA, which still exists despite the US v. Texas decision.

The executive branch could also exercise the option to designate Temporary Protected Status for Central Americans fleeing violence and persecution in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. These countries experience some of the highest murder rates in the world, in particular of women and girls. This would help realize the U.S. commitment to international humanitarian ideals.

For the millions of children who live with the fear that a parent, or they themselves, will suddenly be deported, the resolution of U.S. v. Texas is shattering. Any significant progress toward immigration relief for these families will now be delayed until after the November election.

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Hate Crimes Against LGBTQ People Are a Public Health Issue

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 3:31pm
LGBTQ populations are significantly more likely to be the victims of hate crimes motivated by a single cause or issue.

The terrible tragedy that occurred in Orlando was an attack driven by hatred toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated instance. Hate against the LGBTQ community is more widespread than many choose to believe.

As public health professionals working in sexuality and sexual health, we feel it is our responsibility to educate the public about the consistent threats that LGBTQ individuals face and to make the case that this is a public health issue. Hate directed at one community ultimately affects us all.

Twenty-one percent of hate crime victims are LGBTQ

LGBTQ populations are significantly more likely to be the victims of “single-bias” hate crimes or hate crimes motivated by a single cause or issue.

According to the FBI, in 2014, of 6,216 reported single-bias hate crimes, 21 percent resulted from sexual orientation bias and were targeted because of that identity. However, most incidents aren’t reported to the police.

On June 13, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), an organization that, in their words, “works to end violence against and within LGBTQ, and HIV-affected communities,” released their 2015 report outlining hate-driven violence reported by 13 NVACP member programs in 11 states.

This report is significant because hate crimes are often underreported to the police. Many LGBTQ individuals fear being revictimized by the criminal justice system, feel shame for being a victim or lack knowledge on victims' rights and services. Because LGBTQ individuals may feel more comfortable reporting these crimes at NCAVP member organizations, the coalition can collect information that might not get reported to police.

What is hate-driven violence?

Incidents of violence against another person range from blackmail, eviction and talking to sexual violence and murder. Of the 1,253 incidents, detailed data was collected from 752 incidents.

Here are some of the key findings from the report:

  • 62 percent of survivors knew the people who committed the hate crime
  • there were 24 hate violence related homicides of LGBTQ and HIV-affected people in 2015 (a 20 percent increase from 2014)
  • 47 percent of survivors identified as gay and 17 percent of survivors identified as lesbian
  • 38 percent of survivors were youth and young adults
  • 64 percent of survivors identified as people of color
  • the most common types of hate violence reported were verbal harassment (15 percent), discrimination (14 percent), physical violence (12 percent) and threats or intimidation (11 percent)
  • Only 41 percent of LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors reported their experience of hate violence to police (compared to 54 percent in 2014).

Why hate is a public health problem

These individual acts of hate are indicative of a wider pattern of discrimination against the LGBTQ community. It is now recognized within public health that this discrimination causes significant health problems for the LGBTQ community.

For instance, hate and discrimination can become internalized and a source of chronic stress, which in turn is a risk factor for depression. And in fact, LGBTQ populations do experience higher rates of psychological distress and depression. In addition, chronic stress can disrupt normal biological functioning. This in turn can make people more susceptible to infection.

Related to this, men in long term same-sex relationships were significantly more likely to die from suicide than men who were married to women or men who were never married. The lifetime rate of suicide attempts among the LGBT population is four times higher than the rate of suicide attempts for non-LGBT people. This is most likely related to long-term depression and the impacted stigma and oppression LGBT people face on a regular basis.

Hate and discrimination also affect rates and progression of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Stigma against HIV—for instance, the perception that it is a “gay man’s disease”—still exists in our society. There is a fear of being labeled as HIV positive, which causes many people to avoid testing. The result is that many people who are HIV positive do not know that they are and are therefore more likely to spread the disease. Although men who have sexual contact with other men represent about four percent of the male population, they accounted for 78 percent of new HIV infections among men in 2010, and 63 percent of all new HIV infections.

Additionally, this fear of being tested for HIV often extends to a fear of being tested for other STIs. Eighty-three percent of new syphilis cases in 2014 affected men who have sexual contact with men.

Homelessness is more likely to affect LGBT youth—20-40 percent of homeless youth identifying as LGBT. Many LGBT youth experience violent physical assault when they come out and may actually feel safer living on the streets.

Homophobia and intolerance affect everyone. This includes peoples who consider themselves straight, or who may not have friends or relatives in the LBGTQ community. It limits self-expression, prevents same-sex friends from showing affection toward each other, prompts people to act aggressively toward LGBTQ individuals to “prove” they are not part of the community and causes youth to prove their sexuality by having sex before they are ready. Homophobia and intolerance make it hard to appreciate anything that is outside the realm of what is considered “normal” in our society.

Public health includes organized measures to prevent disease, promote health and prolong life among the population as a whole. Researchers in the field of public health have long studied the effects of many kinds of discrimination on health; whether as a result of race, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation.

Although hate crime research is a relatively new area of public health, there is already a growing body of powerful evidence of its health consequences. We know the impacts of hate and discrimination. We know what perpetuates hate and discrimination. The next step is change.

For our part, we’ve launched a campaign on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #wechallengehate to educate people on how we can each stand up to hate.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Lessons of Britquake 2016: A History-Shaping Crisis, and a Moment of Danger and Opportunity

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 2:44pm
With elites in retreat and the postwar economic consensus collapsing, the post-Brexit world is up for grabs.

In the early hours of Friday morning, as we watched those images of ashen-faced young Londoners absorbing what had just happened to their country, one question leaped to mind: Was the (supposedly) shocking result of the Brexit referendum, in which the British public voted to withdraw from the European Union, a preview of things to come? Will people be standing around at election-night parties in Brooklyn and Austin and Minneapolis on a cool evening in November, wearing those same hollow-eyed, holy-crap expressions as President-elect Donald Trump celebrates victory and wondering whether the “Canada option” was more than just a gag?

I don’t know, and don’t claim to know. But conventional wisdom and complacency seem misplaced at this historical moment, don’t you think? Everything we think we know about political science and public opinion and Electoral College voodoo suggests that it will be almost impossible for Trump to win the 2016 election. But can we please take a moment to laugh about all the stuff we thought we knew? And can we underline that “almost” in Day-Glo orange, and print it across the landscape in huge letters of “Game of Thrones” dragon-fire?

What we are seeing right now across the Western world goes beyond political aberration, beyond WTF Brexit and WTF Trump. It cannot and must not be boiled down to analyses like “those people are stupid and racist.” I’ve heard way too much of that in the first 48 hours since the Brexit vote. It’s insulting and simplistic and just plain wrong. Some people are stupid and racist on both sides of the Atlantic, for sure. Anti-immigration sentiment and anxiety over Islam played a major role in the Brexit campaign, and form the centerpiece of Trump’s appeal. But if there is a moment for the educated trans-Atlantic elite to refrain from condescension and stereotyping, this would goddamn well be it.

British election returns suggest that numerous working-class regions of England dominated by the Labor Party, at least outside the major cities, voted to leave the E.U. by significant margins. I would guesstimate that 20 percent or more of the “Leave” vote came from the left, approximately speaking. Although both Labor and the governing Conservative Party officially supported the “Remain” cause, below the surface both parties were deeply split. That was more obvious on the Tory side, but Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn is a former Euroskeptic who was decidedly lukewarm on Brexit, and declined to campaign alongside Prime Minister David Cameron. (Given that the Brexit result has apparently forced Cameron out of office, that looks like a shrewd choice.)

To the extent that Donald Trump has an electoral strategy, it relies on carving up the electorate across ideological lines, Brexit-style. His only conceivable path to victory in November requires swaying large numbers of working-class or middle-class white Democrats and independents in purple states that Barack Obama carried, from Ohio and Wisconsin to Colorado and Nevada. It shouldn’t work and probably won’t, but Trump’s entire presidential campaign has been about surfing an unexpected wave of populist outcomes to improbable destinations.

To gain any perspective on what just happened in Britain and how it will affect America, we need to move beyond politics, and especially beyond the myopic politics of right now. Of course I don’t want to see Trump elected president, but in the very near future bigger questions will be at stake. Britquake 2016 offers further evidence that we are experiencing a widespread and unexpected cultural shift that transcends canned political analysis, and whose long-term ramifications are unknowable. We are witnessing the implosion of the postwar cultural and economic order that has dominated the Euro-American zone for more than six decades. Closing our eyes and hoping that it will go away is not likely to prove successful.

Elite arrogance and overconfidence may not lie at the root of this cultural shift, but they haven’t helped. Virtually everything that we expected to happen in 2016—and by “we” I mean the supposedly educated and supposedly intelligent people like me, and quite likely like you, who pride ourselves on understanding the world—has gone crazy-town sideways. Virtually everything we said was impossible has, well, happened. It’s been fun, in a way, to watch the media caste donning sackcloth and ashes and recanting the dozens of articles we all wrote about how Trump could never possibly be the Republican nominee, let alone the president. Now the fun’s over and we’ve entered the anti-fun zone.

Hillary Clinton and her supporters can take absolutely nothing for granted. This election won’t be fun and won’t be easy. A historic tide of anti-elite, anti-Establishment rebellion is sweeping across the Western cultural and political sphere, and no one has any idea how high it will get. Clinton may well win this election, but the unavoidable fact that she stands on the wrong side of that cultural gulf nearly cost her the Democratic nomination (against a hilariously unlikely opponent) and is a major liability in the fall campaign as well. Next time you see Trump on TV and tell yourself, “Oh no, that couldn’t possibly happen,” remember that’s what the girl in the horror movie says right before the guy with a chainsaw appears over her left shoulder as the audience screams.

Furthermore, and more important, the politics of fear and negativity and retreat and compromise that has driven the Democratic Party for 30-odd years, and the Hillary Clinton campaign of 2016 in particular, has to stop. As in right now, if not yesterday. That approach is not merely whistling past the graveyard or inviting disaster. It’s more like strapping yourself into a suicide vest as you jump out the window. If Clinton cannot come up with a more inspiring campaign message than “You may not like me, but least I’m not that idiot!” she will conclude her political career by once again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. That might be an unpalatable result in terms of life on Planet Earth, but it would possess a certain poetic justice.

There are a number of important lessons to be drawn from Britquake 2016, in my undoubtedly flawed overnight judgment. But that’s the first of them: Yesterday’s politics don’t work anymore. They didn’t work all that well yesterday, come to think of it. But it’s time to stop pretending. Since roughly the end of the Cold War, center-right and center-left elites on both sides of the Atlantic have insisted that economic stagnation, worsening inequality and political paralysis were a temporary management problem, which the next government, the next tech bubble or the next stock-market boom were sure to correct.

Such arguments came to sound increasingly hollow and cynical, especially in the poisonous political atmosphere of the Bush and Obama years. Large segments of the public, perhaps a majority, simply don’t buy them anymore. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is predicated on the idea that nothing’s wrong with American politics or the American economy that can’t be fixed with a steady hand on the tiller. Setting aside the partisan drama of the moment, do you actually think that’s true?

Another urgent Brexit lesson is that it’s a fatal error to build so-called progressive politics, or indeed any vision of the future, around a message of fear and negativity. That might sound like a strange thing to say in the year of Trump—but in fact his stump speeches are overwhelmingly sunny free-associated paeans to the greatness of America, larded with delicious nuggets of hate about the Wall and the Muslims. (In fact, Trump never brings that stuff up without explaining how much he is loved by Latinos or women or gays or blacks or whomever he happens to be bashing.) The Brexit “Leave” campaign was also largely positive in tone, fueled by a hazy nostalgia for the imaginary Britain of yesteryear, even if anti-immigrant sentiment and racism were not far below the surface.

Britain’s “Remain” campaign, on the other hand, was a hapless combination of talking-head doomcasting and celebrity hectoring, which seems to have backfired in spectacular fashion. Economists on TV with plummy accents promised a stock-market crash and an immediate economic downturn, which now seems to be well underway. J.K. Rowling and Eddie Izzard and Bob Geldof and other prominent leftish citizens deigned to instruct their fellow Britons that they were better off in Europe. But they couldn’t quite say why, largely because for most people the E.U. is identified less with its purported human-rights and social-justice priorities than with neoliberal economics, crippling austerity budgets and disastrous “free trade” deals.

Widespread elite arrogance has helped poison the E.U.’s reputation, and elite arrogance helped torpedo the Brexit “Remain” campaign as well. It’s understandable for American progressives and leftists to find the Brexit vote unfortunate. European unity, in the abstract, is a lovely idea. But as we have seen with the parallels and contrasts between the Trump and Bernie Sanders campaigns in America, not all resistance to elite establishment opinion is retrograde or reactionary. It’s deeply insulting to look at this complicated situation from across the pond and announce that the E.U. is an inclusive and progressive institution, and therefore everybody in Britain who wanted out must be a small-minded bigot. That’s almost as ignorant and blinkered as the worldview of the stereotypical Trump voter.

No doubt it’s true that Brexit was an assault on the cosmopolitan, borderless pan-European ideal represented by the E.U. It was also an assault on what has been called the “Washington consensus,” meaning the post-Cold War world order of economic globalization and “free trade” agreements, coupled with permanent undeclared war and worldwide intelligence-gathering on an unprecedented scale. That was never a genuine social consensus, but one imposed from above by governmental and corporate elites. It was justified to the public in various ways over the years (and usually piece by piece), but it was hardly ever debated and never subjected to real democratic oversight. That consensus has been badly undermined in recent years, and is now in imminent danger of collapse. Whether you think such a collapse would be good or bad depends, I suppose, on how much you stand to lose by it—and what you think is likely to replace it.

The possible or probable demise of the postwar world order marks the biggest global crisis since 9/11, and quite likely the biggest since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Comparisons with the political and cultural crisis that transformed Europe in the 1930s are not absurd, but that doesn’t mean the results have to be the same. This is a moment that offers unprecedented openings for the left and the right, a moment of immense danger and immense opportunity. It cannot be wished away, and those who retreat from it or pretend it’s not happening will be swept away by history.

A few months ago amid the proverbial snows of New Hampshire, I heard Jeb Bush tell a middle-school auditorium full of sympathetic mainstream Republicans that America had to get back to “regular-order democracy” or risk political chaos. Those middle-class, small-town, golf-playing conservatives, who still thought they were the heart of the GOP, ate it up. Hello, chaos. What Jeb and friends discovered shortly thereafter was that the barn door of democracy had been left open and the regular order was long gone. Britain’s political establishment just got the same telegram, and Cameron, a Bush-style aristocrat prepared for rulership from birth, finds himself politically beheaded barely a year after winning re-election.

Hillary Clinton now stands facing the incoming tide, like King Canute in a teal pantsuit, and it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that she’s a remarkably bad fit for this moment in history. I suppose she is likely to win (and I hope she’ll win, I suppose) but in dramatic and philosophical terms, she definitely deserves to lose. She came startlingly close to losing the Democratic nomination to a grouchy septuagenarian socialist who was not a Democrat. She is a creature of the Washington consensus and a warrior for regular-order democracy, who has spent her entire political career fighting the next election as if it were the last one. Does she have any idea what just happened, or what will happen next?

 

Categories: Netted News

Raise a Cup–of Coffee; WHO No Longer Says It Can Cause Cancer

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 2:38pm
Caffeine fiends, rejoice!

Since 1991, coffee has been saddled with the label, “possibly causes cancer.” As of June 15, coffee got a clean bill of health.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer—or IARC—is the WHO agency that evaluates evidence and scientific research on cancer. In 1991 the agency classified coffee as a category 2B carcinogen, which, in effect, labeled it as “possibly causing cancer” in the human bladder.

Twenty-five years later, another IARC group of scientific experts met to assess the body of published scientific literature on whether coffee can cause cancer. This working group, including 23 experts drawn from around the world, and seven observers, met May 24-31, 2016, to evaluate the carcinogenic effects of “coffee, mate, and very hot beverages."

This time, based on the available scientific literature, the expert group decided that the weight of evidence supported a downgrading in the classification. As of June 15, 2016, coffee is now considered in Group 3, or “not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans.” For coffee lovers, this is reassuring news.

How Does IARC Evaluate Whether Something Causes Cancer?

IARC has a carcinogenic classification system ranging from 1 (carcinogenic) to 4 (probably not carcinogenic). Experts evaluate several types of evidence, including studies of cancer in humans, studies of cancer in animals, sources of exposure and mechanisms (what is known about how the substance can cause cancer).

Some substances that IARC has classified as Group 1 (carcinogenic) are not terribly surprising. The list includes, for example, arsenic, formaldehyde, diesel engine exhaust and tobacco.

But when a substance gets a Group 2 classification, the waters become a bit murkier. Both 2A and 2B classifications typically mean there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. But the classification bumps up from Group 2B (possibly causes cancer) to Group 2A (probably causes cancer) when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in animals.

For this reevaluation, IARC experts had access to over 1,000 studies, and the combination of evidence did not add up to “possibly causing cancer.” In its report, the 2016 IARC Working Group stated that the previous association between drinking coffee and bladder cancer could have been due to inadequate control for tobacco smoking in the previous studies.

Now that an international team of experts has lessened our concerns about coffee drinking and cancer, are we in the clear?

Bonus: Coffee Is Good for You

Cups of coffee via Shutterstock. From www.shutterstock.comCC

More than half of adults in the United States drink coffee every day – three cups on average.

If you drink coffee, the good news is that you probably don’t need to cut back. If you drink coffee in moderation, there may actually be a range of health benefits. Phew.

Though the definition of “moderate” varies among studies, we are typically talking about 3-5 cups per day. And though a standard cup is 8 ounces, keep in mind that in most coffee shops, a small cup is 12 ounces. A generic 8-ounce cup of coffee has on average 108 mg of caffeine. But the amount can vary depending on the strength of the brew and size of the serving. The Mayo Clinic says that up to 400 mg/day of caffeine (4 cups) is just fine for most healthy adults.

Much of the latest research on coffee is coming out of the Harvard School of Public Health, which reports that moderate coffee consumption is associated with numerous health benefits.

Arguably the most pragmatic health outcome measurement is death, which holds true if the substance is coffee or, indeed, any other substance. On this front, a 2014 and a 2015 meta-analysis (a large statistical analysis that pools data from multiple studies) both showed that moderate coffee consumption was associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes.

Other meta-analyses have shown a reduced risk for serious diseases, including stroke, heart failure, Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

What about cancer, though? Here meta-analyses have also shown that drinking coffee is associated with a reduction in overall cancer incidence, and is especially beneficial in reducing the risk of liver cancer (and managing liver disease). In IARC’s 2016 evaluation, the Working Group stated that the evidence suggested that coffee had no carcinogenetic effect on breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer. They went on to note that coffee had a beneficial effect on uterine endometrium cancer and liver cancer.

And though coffee was once a no-no for pregnant women, obstetricians now say it is safe for pregnant women to have about 200 mg of caffeine per day. This amounts to a 12-ounce cup of coffee. As such, there is no need for a pregnant woman to switch to decaf if she keeps her consumption to only one cup a day. Although it’s worth noting that drinking more could be troublesome. The data are conflicting about whether high caffeine consumption (greater than 200 mg/day) increases the risk of miscarriage.

While it’s becoming clearer that moderate daily coffee consumption can be considered to be healthy, the reasons for its health benefit aren’t so clear. Harvard researchers suspect it’s not the caffeine, but rather coffee’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.

What If My Coffee Is ‘Very Hot’?

Here’s an interesting nuance: IARC says it’s fine to drink coffee, but only if it’s not too hot. And by this they mean under 149 degrees Fahrenheit. A “very hot beverage” has a Group 2A classification, meaning that it is “probably carcinogenic.”

This is thought to be due to the hot beverage’s damaging effect on cells in the esophagus. In effect, it acts as a tumor promoter. However, this research finding relates to mate, which is traditionally consumed at burning hot temperatures with a metal straw. It’s not really an issue for coffee, which is usually consumed at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit in the United States. So unless the coffee feels burning hot on your lips, no need to cool down your coffee.

Coffee is not great for everyone, of course. Heavy caffeine use (more than 500-600 mg day) can have side effects like insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach upset, fast heartbeat and muscle tremors. And some people are much more sensitive to caffeine than others, and these side effects may occur with just a little bit of caffeine. Because of this, a risk/benefit analysis may indicate it’s more risky than beneficial for people with health concerns like anxiety disorders, or who are taking certain medications.

If you are like me and you love your coffee, then the best available advice seems that we continue to indulge our thirst—in moderation, of course—but cut back if and when the coffee begins to disagree with you. And, talk to your doctor about any health concerns you may have.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Days Before NYC Pride, Stonewall Inn Becomes the First National LGBTQ Monument

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 2:10pm
It’s the first national dedication to LGBTQ rights.

The White House announced Friday that the historic Stonewall Inn will be a national monument, along with the surrounding New York City area where the 1969 riots took place. This is a pretty big deal, considering it’s the first national dedication to LGBTQ rights. “Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights. I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country—the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us,” President Obama said in a video announcement. “That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one.”

Officially titled Stonewall National Monument, it will encompass 7.7 acres of land in Greenwich Village, including Christopher Park, and will be managed by the National Park Service. The announcement came just two days before New York City’s annual Pride Parade that goes right by the bar newly protected by the federal government. Now, parade-goers donning very little clothing, extravagant make-up, and rainbow flags will have one more thing to celebrate—the country finally recognizing the history of the gay rights movement and the worth of LGBTQ people in America.

Sure, most states can still legally discriminate against LGBTQ people when it comes to employment, housing, parenthood, and health care, but this is a tiny show of recognition from the Obama administration.

.@POTUS designates Stonewall as our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights: https://t.co/dxUdnnY9wc

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 24, 2016

The 1969 Stonewall riots started when the police raided the bar serving as a haven for LGBTQ folks in accordance with a New York City law that banned selling booze to gay people. The event is considered the start of America’s LGBTQ rights movement. “Raids like these were nothing new, but this time the patrons had had enough,” Obama said in the video. “So they stood up and spoke out. The riots became protests. The protests became a movement. The movement ultimately became an integral part of America.”

The Stonewall Inn has been memorialized in people’s minds since then, with the bar still up and running, but now it will officially be protected and preserved. More than just the bar itself though, this ensures that the riots and LGBTQ movement as a whole (which is still ongoing) aren’t forgotten or ignored. America still has a lot of progress to make in terms of LGBTQ rights—I mean, North Carolina’s currently in a legal feud with the federal government over which bathrooms transgender people are or aren’t allowed to use—but declaring Stonewall a national monument during Pride Month offers some hope that things are moving in the right direction.

Get your rainbow tube socks ready, New York City Pride is going to be lit this year.

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Yesterday's Hatchet Control Is Today's Gun Control, Proves Hilarious TV Show

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 2:07pm
The show "Another Period" may be set in the Gilded Age, but it's all about the absurdity of our times.

Wednesday's episode of Comedy Central's Another Period (created by and starring comedians Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome) perfectly captured the insanity of opposing gun control in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting. Coincidentally, it aired the same day of Rep. John Lewis' sit-in to protest the Republican-led House's inaction on gun reform.

Since it is set in the Gilded Age, the characters are talking about hatchets rather than guns. Otherwise, the dialogue could pretty much be taking place today.

As cocreator and star Riki Lindhome puts it while playing the character of heiress Beatrice Bellacourt, "The point is, hatchets don't kill people. People without hatchets do because they basically kill themselves by not having hatchets."

Sound familiar?

Via Comedy Central

In the episode "Annulment," Beatrice's soon-to-be (barely closeted) ex-husband Albert reckons with PTSD from being attacked by Beatrice's idiot brother with a hatchet. Typically on good terms, Albert and Beatrice argue about the best way for him to recover from his trauma before they go through with an annulment.

Beatrice, a ditz who loves hatchets, is convinced Albert must face his fears by surrounding himself with weapons.

Albert is not convinced.

"How many people—and servants—have to die before we realize enough is enough?" he asks, lacing his point with a healthy dose of clueless classism.

"So you're saying I should give up my hatchets just because they cause some people to act violently?" retorts Beatrice.

"Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying!" says an exasperated Albert.

Like any good modern-day NRA member, Beatrice sees a slippery slope.

"First you take my hatchets, then you take my buzz saws. What's next?" she asks. "How am I supposed to ... defend myself in a mutiny?"

"You can use a gun in a mutiny," says Albert.

"That would take forever to load!" cries Beatrice.

"I think this house would be a lot safer ... if we got rid of the hatchets," Albert says, "or instituted some kind of waiting period." Gee, you think?

"That's crazy," scoffs Beatrice. "Every man, some children, and me, should be armed with a hatchet. I mean, think about it. If you had a hatchet, you could have killed your attacker before he killed you!"

"I'm not dead; he didn't kill me," Albert corrects her.

"Or, you could have thrown your hatchet at [your attacker]'s hatchet and stopped it in mid-air," Beatrice theorizes. 

It's not the first time the show has expertly satirized current events. From idiotic celebrity culture (it's been called Keeping Up with the Kardashians in the Gilded Age) to racism to socioeconomic inequality and the impossibility of upward mobility, Another Period puts the comfortable distance of time between us and the worst parts of our culture.

In the early aughts of the 20th century, "no one was paying income tax," cocreator and costar Natasha Leggero explained on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" on Tuesday. "So they were living like rappers." Appropriately, Snoop Dogg sings the show's catchy theme song.

"Annulment" aired a week after the Orlando shooting, during which late-night comedy hosts seemed unable to put a fresh spin on a gun control story we should have buried the hatchet on ages ago. After all, what more can be said until something changes in the way America regulates deadly weapons?

And by the way, in case you're still wondering, as Leggero said on "The Late Show," Another Period is "not about a period."

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I Assumed It Was Racism—It Was Patriarchy

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 1:58pm
Why are some women more invisible than others? To grow new anti-patriarchal movements like Black Lives Matter, we need to start opening our eyes.

It’s almost cliché to say now, but fighting patriarchy without stating that you’re fighting patriarchy—or even knowing that you are—is quite common among people who are its biggest victims.

The Vietnamese nail salon workers who fight toxic chemicals at work; the Latinas hunger striking in immigrant detention; the Native women forcing the American justice system to quit allowing non-Native men to rape them on their land; the South Asian and Arab women walking, working, and worshipping despite their Islamophobic, ignorant, White supremacist neighbors; the Black women plugging up the school-to-prison pipeline—all of these women are fighting American patriarchy without saying so.

I have seen over and over in my own life how women do this work while dodging or not recognizing their feminisms. As a Philadelphian, raised Black Nationalist, educated at a historically Black institution that was not Spelman, and defined by hypermasculine hip-hop, I was ambivalent about being categorized this way for all of the usual, pre-internet reasons—perceived isolation from other Black people and being caricatured as a disloyal shill for liberal racist White ladies.

My lips, so accustomed to spitting out “White supremacy” and “racism,” never once considered “patriarchy” as a way to explain why things were so fucked up for people who were not White, heterosexual, able-bodied, traditionally masculine, cisgender males with money. This was true even as I saw the women closest to me doing feminist work.

My mother, who frequently declared herself a womanist, was a founding member of the Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Project and a Malcolm X legacy-preservation group for women called Sisters Remember Malcolm. When she was given an opportunity to take a women-only “fact-finding mission” in Bluefields, Nicaragua, there was no question that our father would be on his own with us for weeks.

The only grandmother we knew co-raised six kids while cleaning floors and then went on to become a social worker, anti-gentrification activist, and the one member of the Philadelphia Planning Commission who would “fuck you up” if your racist/sellout/trifling ass ever tried it. Perhaps to keep things interesting, this hellion-for-good still had outrageous ideas about housework that once led to my sister and me cleaning up after a male cousin our age.

This side of my grandmother, and the contradictory side of my mom that did all of the ironing and cooking, was where I burrowed. Moynihan Report be damned; we were strong Black women who could still keep a man. On its face, that was a sad measure. Even worse, without the anti-patriarchal label, what you get is a bunch of “strong Black women” doing so much unacknowledged labor.

As a kid, I watched this dynamic play out at innumerable early- and mid-1980s programs about freeing South Africa, political prisoners, and our minds. It was the women running around buying gallons of apple juice, typing up the flyers, cleaning the rooms, making sure the speakers got there, and providing the child care. That invisible labor made it possible for families to luxuriate in our Blackness.

This is not to suggest that the men didn’t work hard at those community programs. They’d do security, lift tables, play drums, drive vans, and shame us sellout kids hiding in the back watching Grease. But I also remember how so many of them, regardless of expertise, would lecture everyone about what we as a people needed to be doing. They’d sometimes use Black women’s chemically processed hair, single-mom households, and lesbianism as evidence of our destruction. The men also led most of the demonstrations, made most of the speeches, wrote most of our “conscious” books, and owned the stores that sold them.

As I got older, it was these men who would accost me in the street to condemn my treasonous perm and (fake) gold. They’d announce without prompting that abortion was Black genocide. They’d accuse women of passing over decent Black men because they were gold diggers who secretly wanted White boys.

They did so much telling!

But for all of my frustrations—which extended through college and my time as a hip-hop-focused journalist—I never called the suffocation and policing that I felt patriarchy. And that omission of “patriarchy” turned feminism and women’s work into singular examples of heroism rather than important interventions that struck at the heart of all of the more popular isms such as racism.

Which brings me to the Black Lives Matter creation story that I believe is worth retelling, even to “movement” people like us.

On Oct. 7, 2014, about three months after the White, Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed Black 18-year-old Michael Brown, The Feminist Wire ran a “herstory” of the Black Lives Matter movement written by co-founder Alicia Garza.

In the piece, the Oakland-based special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance explained how she and anti-police-violence activist Patrisse Cullors created the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on July 13, 2013, the night George Zimmerman was found innocent of murdering Trayvon Martin. It also recounted how fair-immigration advocate Opal Tometi joined them in spreading the message and building the Black Lives Matter network. Garza spent much of the piece outlining how other organizations were appropriating their work and replacing “Black” with other descriptors including “our,” “migrant,” and “women’s.” She described the theft and distortion as heteropatriarchy.

As a Colorlines editor, I was spending most of my days hyperfocusing on extrajudicial violence against Black people. Exhausted, I saw the history as a thousand more words I had to read.

I should have known better.

I should have understood that mainstream media was going to omit the founders, two Queer, one not, because the leaderless social-media-as-movement story was a lot sexier than the one about Black women doing cross-movement, uncompensated labor.

And I certainly should have predicted how the master’s evaluation tools—mainstream media coverage, large social media followings, and meetings with powerful people—actually aided patriarchy by essentially erasing the Queer and Black feminist politics at the center of Black Lives Matter.

For the record, Black Lives Matter, like Occupy, has national leaders who don’t dictate policy or strategy or even have titles. Its structure coalesced in August 2014, when Cullors and the Black Gay organizer and writer Darnell Moore planned regional “Freedom Rides” that brought about 500 people (including this writer) to Ferguson over Labor Day weekend to give the incredible local organizers and protesters whatever help they asked for.

I left from New York City, and during the 21-hour bus ride, Moore and others stressed a central theme: that all Black lives matter regardless of gender expression or sexuality. They said it on the mic, during prayers, onstage, and during our march to the Ferguson police station.

That weekend, I met two 20-something Black Transwomen who said they’d never felt welcome at race-focused protests. I listened to a radical Black male pastor who drove the point home that all Black lives are blessed. I also briefly encountered Johnetta Elzie, a Ferguson protestor and prolific Twitter user who was traumatized by both the militarized policing of her community and online insults from a Black former pimp who calls women “Negro bed wenches.”

Out of the Freedom Rides emerged the local, chapter-based Black Lives Matter network, one in a constellation of organizing and direct action groups including the Dream Defenders, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, and Black Youth Project 100.

This isn’t a complicated story, until you consider how mainstream media unceasingly identifies two men with enormous social media presence—Shaun King and DeRay Mckesson—as Black Lives Matter leaders despite the fact that they don’t belong to the group.

King is a former pastor and social enterprise CEO turned New York Daily News columnist with more than 240,000 Twitter followers. DeRay Mckesson is an openly Gay former Teach for America administrator and a former 2016 candidate for Baltimore mayor. He became famous by live-tweeting protests in Ferguson and other police-violence hotspots. This February, he was one of a small group who met with President Barack Obama at the White House.

There are factions of the overall movement that publicly accuse King and Mckesson of capitalizing on the struggle and sabotaging the work of more “real activists” with a combination of political naiveté and self-centeredness. I won’t address either side since the only one I’m on is the one where Black people don’t broadcast movement drama on social media.

If we are to grow and replicate new anti-patriarchal movements like Black Lives Matter, we need to do it with a clear and immediate recall of how they began. As a Black woman who knew about Alice Walker, bell hooks, and Angela Davis, but somehow missed Pauli Murray, Anna Julia Cooper, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and so many others, I’m vigilant about saying names. This remains the case even as an increasing number of young Blacks are claiming the feminisms of pop culture icons such as Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Beyoncé. These women didn’t come from Wonder Woman’s fictional island of Themyscira. They emerged in tandem with the enormous work of Black women who confront mass incarceration, poverty, sexual exploitation, poisoned tap water, police violence, and myriad other issues.

We should all know that Black Lives Matter started the night George Zimmerman got away with killing Trayvon Martin. After hearing the verdict, Garza used the phrase “Black Lives Matter” in a Facebook post. “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter, Black Lives Matter,” she wrote.

We should all know that her friend Cullors turned the phrase into the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and began using it on the walls of friends and comrades. As Jamilah King reported in The California Sunday Magazine, Cullors wrote on Garza’s wall, “twin, #blacklivesmatter campaign? can we discuss this? i have ideas. i am thinking we can do a whole social media/all out in the streets organizing effort. let me know.” The two friends agreed to start a protest movement under the Black Lives Matter name, and they soon enlisted Tometi, another friend.

I’ll stop recounting here. This is a book that demands to be written. Evaluating the influence, value, and creativity of people’s work—particularly if they are women of color—is trickier than ever. News coverage isn’t straightforward, and social media privileges people with high-speed internet access and innate marketing skills. And we still have the often unpaid laborers who perform thankless movement tasks because no one else will. At the very least, we can double down on the names of those we do know.

 

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Here Are the 5 Dumbest Reactions by Nutters to the Brexit Vote

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 1:54pm
Several U.S. conservatives took Brexit as a chance to put out some wacky statements.

While the British vote on Thursday to leave the European Union has inspired concern—and in some cases, regret—among not only British citizens but international observers, several conservatives took the moment to instead put out statements that went beyond the pale.

1. Nigel Farage chooses to gloat—and ignores Jo Cox’s assassination.

Nigel Farage, who spearheaded the Brexit movement along with his United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), boasted that the vote showed a victory on their part “without a bullet being fired.”

But that statement ignores the context of the shooting death of MP Jo Cox last week. Not only did the suspect, 52-year-old Tommy Mair, reportedly yell “Britain First” during his attack, records show a long fascination with the National Front, an “explicitly genocidal” neo-Nazi group based in the U.S. Mair went so far as to buy a publication from the group containing instructions on how to build a gun.

2. A Fox News regular uses the “no-go zone” canard to defend Trump’s response.

Jedediah Bila, who regularly appears on Outnumbered and The Five, tried to justify Donald Trump saying that “there’s nothing to talk about” with his foreign policy advisors regarding the British vote during an appearance on The View. She said:

"What he’s defending is the right of a country to make decisions for itself when it comes to immigration, when it comes to finance. If you look all over Europe, there is a problem right now with terrorism. There are areas of Paris that you can’t go into, these sections are quartered off. And what this country is saying right now is, ‘Look, we want to be responsible for our own decisions.’ It’s a very American concept—Manifest Destiny, so to speak. We want to determine the fate of our country."

Bila failed to mention that the idea of a “no-go zone” in Paris was debunked so thoroughly that Fox News aired four separate apologies for spreading that allegation. She also did not mention that Manifest Destiny caused what Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Daniel Walker Howe called “bitter dissent” within the country, and was opposed by both Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln before James Polk was elected as president.

Her comments, as aired on Friday, can be seen here.

3. Sarah Palin goes full conspiracy theorist.

The former Alaska governor’s ramblings earlier Friday are worth a second mention.

“Good on you for ignoring all the fear mongering from special interest globalists who tend to aim for that apocalyptic One World Government that dissolves a nation’s self-determination and sovereignty … the EU being a One World Government mini-me,” she argued.

4. Stacey Dash.

As Mediaite reported, the former Clueless star took the vote as a victory for not just Donald Trump, but capitalism itself.

“This is, I mean, extraordinary evidence that socialism just does not work. It doesn’t work,” she said. “This is perfect for us. And if anyone is thinking of voting for Hillary Clinton, they need to look at this and think again.”

Dash failed to take into account one of the promises of the Leave campaign was that it would take 350 million pounds in the national budget supposedly being sent to the EU every week and redistribute it to the National Health Service—a socialized medical program. Farage is already facing criticism for calling that campaign pledge—which was emblazoned on campaign ads—“a mistake.”

5. Todd Starnes tries to incite “Texit” supporters.

Shortly after the vote, Starnes made a play for the pro-secession crowd in Texas with this tweet:

Hey Texas -- did you see what the British just did? #freedom

— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) June 24, 2016

While the Texas Nationalist Movement has tried to position itself as a parallel to the Brexit campaign, it was soon pointed out to him that Texas cannot unilaterally leave the U.S. because of the absence of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

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American Culture Is Inflicting Pain on Our Boys

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 1:46pm
The fast-growing religion of hyper-masculine hubris is gaining ground worldwide.

Read more at The Establishment, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Twelve days after my brown-skinned boy turned 21 in this country to which we immigrated, another brown-skinned young son of immigrant parents, from a country that borders mine in South Asia, shot 49 people dead in Orlando, most of them also brown-skinned males from immigrant families. And before any right-winger swoops down to make a ridiculous statement about how this is a “brown” or immigrant problem, I will declare—as a social scientist and as a mother—that this is a struggle for all of us raising boys in America. Our boys are hurting and we are asking them to “man up.”

We are pushing our president to use tough talk (“say ‘Radical Islamism’ now!”), we are measuring our presidential candidates by their small hands and big walls, we are “straight-washing” the attack in Orlando on the LGBT community, we are serving our rapists the briefest jail sentences so they may quickly return to their true calling of being athletes and champions, and we are doing nothing to change a gun culture that’s led to so many tragic murders.

I will especially say this as an immigrant mother—it is not easy to raise a young man in America’s culture of masculine dominance. I sought in America a personal refuge from the culture of violent patriarchy in my own country, India. I wanted to shield my son from the privileges of patriarchy he would automatically receive there as an upper-caste male, while the women around him were subjected to sexual assault or verbal and physical abuse at the hands of men he looked up to. In America, though, he has grown up alongside a generation of boys with rage—from the Columbine shootings in 1999, the year before we arrived here, to the massacre of 20 six-year-olds in Sandy Hook a few months before my boy left for college, to the murderous rampage of a college boy, Elliot Rodger, who felt turned down by girls the year my son turned 18; each milestone in my son’s life was marked by the violent end of others’ at the hands of young men.

Barely weeks before 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot dead by a raging George Zimmerman, my own 17-year-old had the police called on him by a neighbor as he tried to enter our home through an open window because he had forgotten his keys. A white American friend quickly advised him to wait for the cops with his hands visible, dressed in nothing but a T-shirt and jeans, definitely no hoodie. When Zimmerman was acquitted for “standing his ground,” my son and I were traveling in India, where I woke him to give him the news. He held back tears. I wanted him to cry openly.

The fast-growing religion of hyper-masculine, gun-toting hubris is gaining ground worldwide. The day after one of the worst mass shootings in modern American history on June 12, a group of men in my home country pledging allegiance to the right-wing Hindu Sena that propelled Prime Minister Narendra Modi into power now celebrated the birthday of U.S. presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, laying a 15-pound cake before a poster of Trump holding a double-barreled gun, proclaiming him a “messiah” and a “savior of the world.” Trump’s brand of hyper-masculine certainty expressed as unflinching rage, typified in the statement “Ban all Muslims,” has struck a chord with men in my homeland, who saw the Orlando shooting as Islamic terrorism while also declaring their cultural loathing of homosexuality. In Russia, Trump has found admiration akin to that reserved for the hyper-masculine Vladimir Putin. The English-language news site The Moscow Times states: “Both are anti-mainstream and self-confident people who don’t feel constrained by political correctness.”

While the Indian instance of birthday worship for a distant white savior seems laughable, not much is different in America. As a social scientist studying political communication, I have documented how journalists over decades look desperately to source and quote the authoritative white male, especially in times of crisis such as the aftermath of 9/11 and during anti-war protests.

As a mother, therefore, I have tried to counteract these things, pushing against my own conditioning to be a “quiet, likable female.” A female who knew exactly what Indian activist Soni Sori did “wrong” in speaking out for tribal rights, for which she was sexually assaulted in jail in 2011 and recently assaulted with a chemical substance that left her face burned. Or the “mistake” that Sandra Bland made when she talked back to a state trooper in Waller County, Texas. I have worked to make sure that my son heard my voice—my loud voice, my angry voice, and, especially, my voice of clear and urgent reason—during private or public events of insult or assault on women or on innocents in mass shootings. And, I have listened when he said he didn’t want to spend time with friends who may not be too different from Stanford rapist Brock Turner, who took a picture of his victim’s breasts and shared it with his buddies on his swim team. Turner’s pleasure did not lie merely in what his body was doing but in the approval of his friends at what his body could do—be male, dominate, bring back a trophy.

Here’s the thing: I have also taken a deep breath and asked my son questions that carry great risk and pain. After the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon by a 26-year-old white supremacist last year, the FBI learned, via the website 4chan, of a similar threat of attack at a Philadelphia-area college. After reading the news, I called my son, who was going to school near Philadelphia, to ask him to hide out in his dorm room. He dismissed my fears. I then asked him, “It wasn’t you that posted that threat, was it?”

He responded with reasonable outrage and I flinched at the hurt I inflicted on my son. But, also, he understood. Over the years, I have urged other parents to talk to their sons and ask them about alienation, fear, masculinity, rage, and what it would take for them to resort to violence. I have asked this because I know families like Turner’s, who would see little fault in their 20-year-old son’s “20 minutes of action.” You and I know wives like the two who were married to 29-year-old Omar Mateen, both the wife who escaped his violence and the wife who drove him to Pulse to scope it out. Friends of 19-year-old Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev swore he was the kindest kid ever. The men and women in a Black church in Charleston thought the 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof who came to their bible study was a pleasant-natured friend. These were the ordinary boys among us, born in the same decade as my son, until they raped us or killed us.

Last week, as my son went back to college after a brief visit home, he told me he felt some sadness, that he would miss me and that he would call me if he got lonely. He said this in the presence of his friend, a young man who had recently rejected his Mormon religion for what he felt was its inherent misogyny and homophobia.

In front of me were these two college men, both heterosexual, smoking cigarettes with swagger and talking about sadness, loneliness, and loving their families. I felt fortunate to be a safe space in which they could speak with tenderness of such things that most of our hetero-normative culture would discourage in males. I want more such safe spaces everywhere they may go. Pulse may have been once such safe space in the eyes of Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, the 49-year-old mother who liked to go dancing with her gay son, until it, too, wasn’t. Until a man walked in with rage and guns, until she took a bullet for her son.

Somewhere, like so many of our boys, her 21-year-old son is hurting.

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Alarming Trends I've Noticed Teaching Yoga to Little Kids

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 11:08am
We adults are creating a pretty stifling environment for our young ones.

I’m barefoot on the floor of an elementary school cafeteria, and the 60 tiny toes of my children’s yoga class point toward me on purple mats. “Take a big, deep breath as slowly as you can,” I say. I watch as six bellies inflate like balloons.

“Hold your breath in for a couple of seconds; now slowly let it out. Think for a second about something you’re really good at and just smile. You can sit up when you feel ready.”

I’ve just finished sharing a story I made up about a raccoon who discovers his previously unrealized talent for scouting out food. I’m about to lead the group in a closing namaste, when I notice that Aiden (her name has been changed here) has been crying. She sits up and says, “Thank you. I really needed that.” Her voice is quivering, and the amount of relief on her face is striking.

Aiden is only seven years old and she’s thanking me in tears for the five minutes allotted for relaxation at the end of our after-school yoga class. For last few months, I’ve spent my weekday afternoons teaching yoga to kids at five different public elementary schools in Portland, Oregon. Aiden’s reaction speaks to an alarming trend I’ve noticed: Kids are seriously stressed out, and it seems like testing and homework are a major culprit.

study last summer, published in The American Journal of Family Therapy, showed kids are getting three times too much homework assigned to them. This is largely due to the intense pressure teachers are under to get through stringent curriculums to meet standardized testing requirements. The Washington Post wrote about this issue citing a study last October showing how standardized tests are overwhelming our nation’s schools. The article explained that some parents are rallying against standardized tests, probably because they’re seeing the same things I’m seeing in their kids. Some people argue kids should opt out of standardized testing altogether.

During class, Aiden was a ball of anxiety. I could see it in her shaking hands and the way she would zone out as I talked the class through yoga poses via a story in which we pretended to be pirates. Later, in the middle of a game, she got in an argument with her sister about who was more tired.

“I had to take three tests today, okay?” she hissed.

“Well, I have to dothree math assignments, andfivereading assignments tonight!” Her sister, who is only five and in kindergarten, yelled this retort at the top of her lungs.

I did my best to dispel their debate with a little breathing exercise and a reminder that yoga is a time for inner work.

“In this class we don’t have to think about anyone else, or any tests or homework,” I said. “Remember, your mat is your own personal magic bubble, and no one but you gets to enter that safe space. This is a time in the day where you can just focus on you—not your friends, not your sister or brother, just your own mind and body.” I took the class into the downward dog pose.

“Where do you feel a stretch now, doggies? Your legs? Your arms?” This got us back on track, for now at least.

At the end of class I always tell a story, and it typically takes kids a while to relax, but once they do, they drop into the final resting pose, aka savasana. (We don’t use the Sanskrit terms, other than namaste, in my kids' classes, because some people are concerned it could connote religion. There’s an ongoing debate, spurred on largely by fundamentalist Christians, about bringing yoga into schools.)

While my students don’t usually express their relief verbally and in tears, many of them do arrive to class on the verge of tears, and I’ve found that high-stress behavior is the norm for these elementary schoolers, not the exception.

Kid yoga is nothing like grownup yoga. I don’t ask them to sit in meditation unless I’m telling a story or talking them through a creative visualization. We don’t work through sequences, and there isn’t a clearcut flow by any means. I make up my own curriculums as guidelines, but rarely do we stick to my class plans. Kid yoga is a boisterous endeavor, full of interruptions. Teaching it means staying fluid and being ready to shift gears or quench fires at any given moment. We move through poses via stories and games, and while I do have guidelines to prevent all-out chaos, it’s nothing near rigid.

From what the kids have told me, many days yoga class is the only time an adult asks them to let their guards down and just imagine. In some classes we color, and I’ll give them a loose guideline like, "draw a picture of something that makes you feel good about yourself.” As they tune into their imaginations I can almost visibly observe the layers of stress and structure melting off of their little bodies.

At the start of every class I ask my students to share a rose (something good from their day), a thorn (something not so good) and a bud (something they’re looking forward to). Typically just about everyone has a little trouble thinking of the rose, less trouble thinking of the thorn. As for the bud, they can usually think of something good on the horizon, but I’ve had students ask me what you call something you’re not looking forward to. We decided to call that one “dirt,” and there’s no shortage of it. Often, it consists of homework.

Every class, the flurry of students arrives visibly flustered, chattering to me about all the homework they have to do that night. A week before the summer break several first-grade-going-on-second-graders came to class angry and basically hyperventilating because their teacher had assigned rigorous daily homework assignments throughout the summer.

I don’t remember worrying that much about homework when I was in elementary school. It seems like too much when children are distracted from their creativity and imaginations because the big, bad homework monster is hanging over their heads.

I’d heard about this drift toward over-regulation in schools through articles I've read and parents I know, but teaching has made the repercussions of over-standardization real to me. At the beginning of the semester, I felt like the kids in my classes were waiting for some kind of punchline. This was fun and all, but when was I going to ask them to compete, or take a test? When was I going to snap, yell and send someone away from our circle for interrupting or acting out? It took some trust-building across the board for them to realize the answer was, never. But these kids’ entire school days consist of rigidity, and being the sponges that they are, that’s what they’ve come to expect.

From the beginning, I decided my yoga classes weren’t going to follow the kind of structure school classes follow. Yoga was going to be a time for them to explore and move inward and light up their less analytical right brains. We were going to laugh and let loose a little, because these kids desperately needed an adult in their lives to give them permission to be kids.

Since my yoga classes are an after-school program that parents pay for, most of the kids I teach are generally well-off, middle-class and relatively privileged (though the program does offer scholarships in special circumstances). And they are still stressed-out. I can only imagine the stress of inner-city kids who deal with hunger and poverty in addition to the overwhelming burden of school work.

Often my young students have more difficulty than my adult students letting go of their current realities and relaxing into visualization exercises (e.g., close your eyes, stretch out your arms and imagine you’re flying). That doesn’t feel right to me. Childhood should be all about expanding the imagination, not repressing it. Instead, our schools are asking kids to hunker down, get serious and focus, all day long.

One class told me that during lunch break, "they"—I assumed this meant teachers and cafeteria workers—made all of the students sit silently and eat. I asked, was that because some people were getting too rowdy or fighting? Every single kids answered in unison, “no.”

“They just do that sometimes,” one girl said.

“We weren’t doing anything, no one was,” said another student.

“Lunch is supposed to be our free time!” exclaimed another.

Yes, it is. Wonder what’s up with that. While I respect and understand the necessity of putting your foot down with kids sometimes (they will walk all over you if you don’t), I don’t really see why officials would make kids eat in silence during one of their few breaks from structure in the day.

This is just one in a plethora of kid anecdotes I’ve heard over the last few months. Couple this lack of free time with piles of homework, standardized tests and the fact that schools continue to cut back on arts and music programs, and the evidence is clear: We adults are creating a pretty stifling environment for our young ones.

Another thing I’ve noticed about the kids in my classes is that they have serious trouble focusing—that is, until you put a screen in front of them. I'm not sure there's a correlation between kids' apparent tech fixation and their stress and difficulty focusing in yoga class. However, studies have shown that too much screen time builds stress, fatigue and attention-deficit patterns in adults. According to neuroimaging research, excessive screen time damages the brain. Now, I'm sure most of the kids I've taught don't use computers or watch TV to the extent defined as "excess," but I have my suspicions that the time they are spending on computer tasks in school and playing digital games at home, isn't the healthiest thing for their developing minds.

These little kids are seriously obsessed with screens. No big shocker there. But it seems like many of them are getting too much of it. It also seems like one of the only times they are asked to let loose and play games is in the digital realm. Kids tell me all the time about the iPad and computer games they’re going to play later at home. They never mention the “analog” games they play with friends or parents away from screens.

This last semester has also taught me that elementary schoolers are learning HTML coding. I guess that’s what they’re doing instead of learning cursive? Maybe it’s a good thing, but it kind of blew my mind. And it means they’re spending hours of school time staring at screens as well.

The moment that made the kids’ screen obsession really come into focus for me was when I whipped out my phone to pull up some music for a round of Musical Mats (think musical chairs, but with yoga mats). As soon as the phone came out, it was chaos. Forgetting all of our guidelines about staying on our mats, the kids rushed me. Everybody wanted to see that screen. When one kid lost a round of the game and started to get emotional about it, I made the mistake of telling her she could press play on my phone for the next round. That became the new target of the game for the entire class. Other kids tried to lose so they might get a chance to touch that magical phone screen.

“It’s just a button on a screen, you guys,” I told them. “It’s not that cool.” This deterred no one.They would rather tap a button on a phone than play an actual, physical game.

I'm grateful I've had the chance to create a space where kids can let go of the structures imposed on them during their usual school days. It's pretty magical to watch the release of tension on their little brows as they sink into reclined butterfly pose, close their eyes and imagine they're floating on a cloud, or the joy in their eyes as they fling themselves up into wheel pose and forget about everything outside of their bodies. It's just too bad this kind of inward exploration seems so rare for most of them.

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Watch What Happens When a Portrait Artist Takes LSD

AlterNet.org - June 25, 2016 - 3:14am
Before LSD was criminalized, it was used in thousands of research experiments. Here's a time-lapse snapshot of its effect on one artist.

In the 1950s, while the CIA and the military were doing secret LSD experiments in hopes of gaining some advantage over the Soviets, others were researching the novel psychedelic with more benign aims. One of the pioneering scientists was Dr. Oscar Janiger, a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist and psychotherapist.

 

Beginning in 1954 and continuing through 1962, Janiger conducted a series of experiments to examine the effects of LSD. Having obtained the drug from Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland, which held the patent on LSD and manufactured it, he administered monitored doses of Sandoz LSD to some 900 subjects, including many professional artists.

 

Through the experiments, Janiger sought to "illuminate the phenomenological nature of the LSD experience," and he did so using relatively moderate doses, typically between 100 and 200 micrograms.

 

Here we see the effects of LSD on the work of a portrait artist. He was given two 50-microgram doses of LSD an hour apart, then encouraged to draw portraits of Janiger. The unknown artist drew nine portraits over eight hours after ingesting the mild-altering drug. Read his comments below:

 

 

 

20 minutes after first dose: The artist reports, "Condition normal…no effect from the drug yet."

 

85 minutes: "I can see you clearly, so clearly. This…you…it's all…I'm having trouble controlling the pencil. It seems to want to keep going"

 

2 hours and 30 minutes: "I feel that my consciousness is situated in the part of my body that's now active—my hand, my elbow, my tongue."

 

2 hours and 45 minutes: "I am…everything is…changed…they're calling…your face…interwoven…who is…"

 

4 hours and 25 minutes: "This will be the best drawing, like the first one, only better. If I'm not careful, I'll lose control of my movements, but I won't, because I know. I know. I know. I know…

 

5 hours and 45 minutes: "I think it's starting to wear off. This pencil is mighty hard to hold."

 

8 hours: "I have nothing to say about this last drawing. It is bad and uninteresting. I want to go home now."

 

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What's New: Agrarian Strike Continues to Rock Colombia

Socialist Project - June 25, 2016 - 2:00am
Campesino, indigenous and afro communities have been marching for nearly 2 weeks in Colombia. The government has responded with violence and repression, and 3 people have died. But the struggle continues.
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Warning Signs: Fear, Fascists and Hate Win in Britain—Heads Up, USA

AlterNet.org - June 24, 2016 - 6:40pm
Unions in the USA, note to self: The base isn’t listening.

Waking up in the Hackney neighborhood of Britain, a neighborhood heavily populated by Jews and immigrants, the mood on the streets this morning is shock and fear. London, and basically any wee corner of England that has an immigrant population, voted for the “remain” position. The entire British countryside, largely devoid of immigrants, voted to “leave.”

The demographic breakdown of the voting should heighten our concerns in the United States about Donald Trump, and the success of a strategy of fear, racism and hate.

It's noteworthy that people under age 25, those who have to live with the decision the longest, voted overwhelmingly to remain. Like America's younger voters overwhelmingly in favor of Bernie Sanders, the views and interests of the British EU-supporting youth were not taken seriously by anybody.

So, urbanites, youth and immigrants voted to stay. White folks voted to leave. The working class, sick and tired of being sick and tired, voted to leave. Furious at their own political party abandoning them for decades as the Blairites, like the Clintons, embraced neoliberalism, workers ignored the desperate last-minute appeals of their party and their unions to vote to remain in the EU.

Unions in the USA, note to self: The base isn’t listening, for plenty of good reasons—and here in Britain, like Wisconsin, the results are diabolical.

There’s plenty wrong with the European Union. Yes, it is an institution advancing so-called market reforms, aka neoliberalism, throughout the region. Dismantling the lobbying agents of neoliberalism is a fine goal, but not when nationalism and racism and teaming up with the far right is the strategy. As a movement, we aren’t good at thinking about short-, medium- and long-term implications of our tactical decisions. The left here was mostly united in the remain camp, but some were either abstaining or supportive of the leave position. I have yet to be persuaded of the international working-class benefits from nationalism. Looking at the faces of the immigrants in the streets of Hackney, and the Jewish shopkeepers, should give people pause. I am solidly with the 25-and-under crowd, here and in the USA, and with people of color and immigrants.

Marine Le Pen of the far-right party in France, who has been steadily gaining at the polls, announced first thing Friday morning that France should vote to pull out of the European Union next. And so on.

David Cameron resigned at 8am Friday morning. He and the slick operatives in his election campaign are to blame for dividing the country and encouraging a level of racist rhetoric similar to what Trump produces. Cameron won his election by dodging pressure from the far-right wing of his party by stating he’d put the question of leaving the EU to the voters; that cowardice, that pandering, led to Friday. An electoral campaign gimmick. 

It’s not an exaggeration to say this vote has massive implications for the U.S. and the world. 

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Woman Who Accused Trump of Attempted Rape in Ivanka’s Bedroom Lashes Out: ‘I Didn’t Lie—You Did’

AlterNet.org - June 24, 2016 - 6:37pm
Trump said the New York Times reports about the allegations were false.

A woman who has accused Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her, opened up on Twitter after Trump said the New York Times reports about the allegations were false, LawNewz reports.

Trump was responding to a May article in the Times addressing accusations about his inappropriate or abusive behavior toward women. Aside from Trump’s infamous and well-known insults about women’s appearances, the article lists troubling and frightening encounters—including an account by then-beauty pageant producer Jill Harth.

LawNewz reported that Harth in 1997 filed a $125 million lawsuit against Trump, alleging he groped her under her dress on several occasions, “forcibly” took her to his daughter’s bedroom in an attempt to have sex with her, where he allegedly touched her private parts “in an act constituting attempted ‘rape,'” and repeatedly propositioned her for sex.

“A lot of things get made up over the years,” he told the Times in a response to its reporting. “I have always treated women with great respect. And women will tell you that.”

The Times relied on deposition documents for Harth’s story, as she declined to comment.

Her statements were connected to a now-settled lawsuit against Trump claiming he failed to meet his business obligations. Trump settled while denying wrongdoing. Harth withdrew a lawsuit against Trump over unwanted advances—but stood by her allegations.

She continued to stand by them this week, responding to Trump’s claims on Twitter that the Times story was false.

“My part was true. I didn’t talk. As usual you opened your big mouth,” she tweeted.

Harth’s deposition claims that she and her boyfriend at the time, George Houraney, were working in the 1990s with Trump on a beauty pageant in Atlantic City. In the 1996 documents, obtained by the Times, she describes the initial encounter.

“Donald Trump stared at me throughout that meeting. He stared at me even while George was giving his presentation. … In the middle of it he says to George, ‘Are you sleeping with her?’ Meaning me. And George looked a little shocked and he said, ‘Well, yeah.’ And he goes, ‘Well, for the weekend or what?'”

Though Houraney made it clear he and Harth were a monogamous couple, Trump said, “Well, there’s always a first time. I am going after her.”

“I thought the man was joking. I laughed. He said, ‘I am serious,'” Houraney told the Times.

Harth said Trump groped her under the table that night when the couple joined him for dinner.

“Let me just say, this was a very traumatic thing working for him,” she testified.

LawNewz describes perhaps the most troubling encounter:

In the court filing, she also claimed that on January 9, 1993: “Trump forcefully removed (Harth) from public areas of Mar-A-Lago in Florida and forced (her) into a bedroom belonging to defendant’s daughter Ivanka, wherein (Trump) forcibly kissed, fondled, and restrained (her) from leaving, against (her) will and despite her protests.” In the court document, she said that Trump bragged that he”would be the best lover you ever have.”

Trump defended himself by telling the Times it was Harth who pursued him.

Harth blasted Trump’s tweet that said, “No wonder the [New York Times] is failing—who can believe what they write after the false, malicious & libelous story they did on me.”

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How Fracking for Natural Gas Became the Terrible New Norm

AlterNet.org - June 24, 2016 - 4:52pm
For 40 years, successful Koch-funded schemes that favor the use of natural gas have meant dire consequences for the environment, consumers and our democracy.

The following is an excerpt from the new book Frackopoly by Wenonah Hauter (The New Press, 2016): 

Over my decades of work in the public interest, I have developed a thick skin. If we are doing our job in the environmental movement, it is par for the course to be sneered at and called names. So when I heard that I had been pegged as “too strident” by the president of one of the largest energy and environment funders in the country, I was hardly surprised, as it has long been an institution that funds groups promoting policies to incentivize natural gas. In fact, I was pleased. I thought: Yes, it’s time to become much more forceful in protecting our threatened planet. It’s time for everyone to be strident about keeping fossil fuels in the ground and eliminating the dirty energy technologies of the twentieth century.

Unfortunately, even as hundreds of grassroots groups are battling to stop fracking, some of the largest environmental groups in the nation and many of their funders tout fracked natural gas as a “bridge fuel” or at least tacitly accept its use. Rather than focusing on an all-out effort to move away from fossil fuels, some of these groups provide cover to the fracking industry, claiming that fracking can be done safely or ignoring fracking’s implications for the global climate.

Meanwhile, the communities that are living with the effects of the technology, or the ones fighting the coming wave of fracking and the associated infrastructure, feel betrayed when the place where they live becomes a sacrificial zone—with the implicit approval of some environmental organizations. A closer look at the path that these groups have laid out reveals that it will take us down the road to an environmental and climate disaster. Instead, we should aggressively deploy technologies for clean and renewable resources, reorient the energy system around conservation and efficiency, and leave fossil fuels in the ground, where they belong.

In many ways, fracking looms as the environmental issue of our times. It touches every aspect of our lives—the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the health of our communities—and it ominously threatens our global climate. It pits the largest corporate interests—big energy and Wall Street—against people and the environment in a long-term struggle for survival. Understanding the impacts of fracking and the policy decisions that have led to this dangerous point in time are key to moving beyond extreme energy.

Recent climate science shows that switching to natural gas is unlikely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for decades, a crucial time frame for stopping runaway climate disruption. When the entire life cycle of producing natural gas is examined, the damage from methane leakage puts it on par with coal, or worse. The most conservative estimate from atmospheric measurements—not from the inventorying based on oil and gas company data—is that natural gas leakage in 2010, averaged over the country, amounted to more than 3 percent of U.S. production that year. Even if methane leakage can be brought down significantly over time—a debatable scenario—the threat to the global climate in the short term is very real. The rapid transition to natural gas is sending us to a tipping point when climate change cannot be reversed.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the harms of fracking, the Environmental Protection Agency has thus far ignored the science. Obama’s energy secretary Ernest Moniz has close ties with the industry and has claimed that he has “not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater” and that the environmental footprint is “manageable.” Obama’s interior secretary Sally Jewell has bragged about fracking wells in her prior career in the industry and has, despite radical changes in how fracking is done, called it a “an important tool in the toolbox for oil and gas for over fifty years” and even implied that directional drilling and fracking can result in “a softer footprint on the land.” And the person charged with protecting communities’ water, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, has claimed that “there’s nothing inherently dangerous in fracking that sound engineering practices can’t accomplish,” all while the EPA has ignored or buried findings that fracking has contaminated water in Texas, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania.

If we are to tackle the enormous threat posed by fracking and the fossil fuel industry, it is crucial to understand how the policy decisions of the last forty years have led us away from sustainable energy and toward a reliance on natural gas. The devil truly is in the details. While many well-meaning environmentalists believe that we are making real progress on renewable energy, the data on the percentage of electricity generated by nonrenewable energy sources tells a different story. Although the emphasis on individual action—putting solar on rooftops—is a step in the right direction, serious policy changes must be made to displace the large amount of energy produced by natural gas, coal, and dangerous nuclear power. 

Solar power generated only 0.2 percent of the nation’s electricity on average between 2010 and 2014, and wind energy supplied 3.6 percent. If geothermal energy is added to the equation, the renewable share grows to 4.2 percent. Hydropower generates 7 percent of the nation’s electricity, but this amount may decrease over time because of the impacts on river ecosystems. Over the past five years, fossil fuels continued to power two-thirds of America’s electric sockets. Coal power generated almost 42 percent of electricity, and natural gas generated nearly 26 percent.

Some green groups claimed if electricity was deregulated, renewables would thrive and nuclear plants would be retired, but a close examination of the numbers shows that this has never happened. Nuclear power has hovered at around 20 percent of electricity production since the 1990s and is expected to increase little if at all. Old plants will be taken out of production over the next twenty years, although if nuclear power is allowed to benefit from cap-and-trade policies, new plants may be built, subsidized by taxpayer money.

Coal electricity has declined from 53 percent of generation between 1995 and 1999 to almost 42 percent over the most recent five years. It will continue to decline as a result of the adoption of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan—a set of policies designed to replace coal-generated electricity with natural gas. Lower natural gas prices and federal mandates to reduce mercury and carbon dioxide are shifting electricity production toward natural gas and away from coal-fired generation.

Natural gas has been the big winner, with generation increasing every five years since natural gas was deregulated in the 1980s. Natural gas generation has doubled from about 13 percent in the late 1990s to nearly 26 percent in recent years. Natural gas production increased an average of 5 percent a year beginning in 2000.

According to a 2014 report by the EIA (Energy Information Administration), between 2012 and 2040, 42 percent of the total increase in electricity generation will be from natural gas. Coal-fired generation’s share of total generation will decline to 34 percent in 2040, while natural gas will rise to 31 percent. But the predictions for renewables are shockingly low, with EIA predicting that solar will still make up 1 percent of electricity generation and wind 7 percent in 2040.

Predictions about energy use are often proven wrong, and the complexity of energy use and production means that changes in policy frequently have many unplanned consequences. But one thing is certain: over the past forty years, the schemes favoring the use of natural gas, and to provide cheap energy to the largest industrial users of natural gas and electricity have proven successful, with dire consequences for the environment, consumers, and our democracy.

The Koch brothers have been major funders of the scheme that has landed us where we are today. Ideologically opposed to any regulation, they also have sought policy changes that would benefit their bottom line— seeking changes in natural gas and electricity policies that would facilitate cutting special deals for cheaper energy, while shifting costs to residential and small-business consumers. David Koch founded the Cato Institute in 1974, one of the think tanks pushing deregulatory policies and working with other right-wing actors such as the Heritage Foundation.

Mindful of the tactics used by public interest groups, Charles and David Koch eventually decided to pursue a similar strategy by founding Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) in 1984, leading a grassroots-style campaign to oppose regulation and taxes. David Koch explained of their thinking:

“What we needed was a sales force that participated in political campaigns or town hall meetings, in rallies, to communicate to the public at large much of the information that these think tanks were creating. Almost like a door-to-door sales force.”

The fossil fuel industry had been attempting to deregulate the natural gas industry since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. After three decades of bitter legislative, regulatory, and legal battles, progressive forces lost the long fight over the pricing of natural gas and oversight of pipelines, beginning with the passage of the Natural Gas Act of 1978. By 1990, after a series of deregulatory policy changes, a highly speculative wholesale market in natural gas developed, with Wall Street gambling determining the price that consumers paid for natural gas and incentivizing future natural gas development. The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), a commodity futures exchange, applied to the U.S. Commodities Future Trading Commission to trade natural gas futures on February 29, 1984, and trading commenced on April 4, 1990.

Between 1985 and 1990, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had also made deregulatory changes to the rules for moving natural gas from wellheads to end users. Pipeline companies were required to separate gas sales, transportation, and storage services, giving large industrial customers an advantage and creating an incentive to build more pipelines. The deregulatory policies spurred a frenzy of pipeline construction that has continued unabated through the fracking boom, creating widespread habitat damage and posing safety risks. Between 1984 and 2014, gas companies added at least 936,000 miles of pipeline—about 85 miles every day—and there are now 2.5 million miles of transmission, distribution, and gathering lines.

Further, thousands of miles of unregulated high-pressure pipelines with much larger capacity for transferring natural gas to processing facilities— referred to as gathering lines—have proliferated since fracking, although no cumulative record of the mileage exists.

The radical changes in the rules governing the natural gas industry inspired a ferocious lobbying campaign to make similar changes to the electric industry, changes that would eventually drive the use of natural gas for electricity. Breaking up the $200 billion (more than $300 billion adjusted for inflation) electric industry offered an opportunity to create a battle of titans, as they fought among themselves over the rules that would benefit their particular economic interest. Using a politically loaded vocabulary to win converts, they claimed that it would unleash competition, broaden consumer choice, and lower the cost of electricity.

Spearheaded by institutions affiliated with the Koch brothers, including CSE and the Cato Institute, a politically powerful coalition emerged in the 1990s to restructure the electric industry. Large coal utilities like American Electric Power Inc., and natural-gas-power marketers—companies like discredited and bankrupt Enron—were at the forefront of the lobbying machine to transform the electric industry. Proponents of deregulation sought to separate power generation from transmission and distribution, creating an unregulated wholesale market where middlemen could speculate on buying and selling electricity. Wall Street—investment houses, rating agencies, and financial analysts—fueled the drive to make electricity another tradable commodity. The changes that they wrought created a market where power producers, retailers, and other financial intermediaries could speculate on short-and long-term contracts for electricity. After deregulation, the marketplace was supposed to be self-governing, begetting cheap and reliable electricity.

The turning point began in 1992, when C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush, engineered the inclusion of provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 1992 that fast-forwarded electricity deregulation. Gray, a millionaire heir to a tobacco fortune, has been closely affiliated with the Koch-funded front groups throughout his long career as a corporate lobbyist, presidential adviser, and U.S. diplomat. Concealed within the compromise legislation was language removing important limitations on the ownership of electricity generation, which had protected consumers. It also authorized FERC to issue orders that changed the structure of the electric industry over the second half of the decade, creating a casino-like atmosphere in the wholesale electricity market and driving construction of new gas-fired power plants. The FERC orders allowed states, if there was the desire, to rewrite the rules by which residential and small business purchased electricity.

The natural gas industry, led by Enron, launched a massive lobbying campaign to “unleash market forces,” pushing for even more deregulation at the state level. Claiming that a new era of competition would replace bloated and inefficient utilities with lean and mean power marketers like Enron, California became the first state to succumb to the rhetoric, allegedly giving consumers a choice about their electricity provider. The large investor-owned utilities wrote the legislation, however, protecting their favored economic position. Between 1999 and 2001 a small cartel of energy companies was able to use the new layer that had been created between the producing and distributing of electricity to make billions of dollars by price-gouging consumers. Californians were overcharged by almost $25 billion during the first five years of deregulation, as power marketers manipulated electricity supply and natural gas prices, causing a series of rolling blackouts throughout the state. In the end, California and several other states that had deregulated this essential service instituted some form of regulation again.

CSE, Enron, and the other advocates of state-based deregulation had pushed for federal legislation that would force states to forsake cost-based regulation, which limits energy company profiteering. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the powerful coalition promoting electricity deregulation spent $50 million between 1998 and 2000 on lobbying to change the rules under which electric utilities operate. Although the calamity in California set back industry efforts to pass federal legislation compelling states to restructure the electric industry, new efforts are afoot to push this agenda.

In the meantime, the creation of the wholesale electricity market has led to a dramatic increase in natural gas–fired electricity, making the fracking industry one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's deregulatory changes. Although companies must go through a weak permitting process that varies depending on each state’s rules, no calculation of how the plan fits into a national plan for reducing pollution is made. And since the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan leaves decisions to the states, no overall examination is done on the impacts to our global climate.

Advocates who warned against the unintended consequences of electricity deregulation—both for the environment and for consumers—were ignored or scorned. Foreshadowing the future support for fracked natural gas, influential foundations and public interest advocates signed on to the efforts to deregulate electricity. Without a large grassroots campaign, the green groups negotiated from a very weak position. They naively bought the argument that, by compromising, deals could be cut to expose dirty power plants to competitive forces, and that sustainable energy would be the winner.

These same groups failed to oppose the elimination of a 1935 law, the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA). Restricting speculative ventures with ratepayer dollars and restraining electric utilities from operating outside of the geographic area that they served, this obscure law offered major protection to consumers and limited the already significant political power of the electric industry. It was repealed in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, at the same time that fracking was exempted from national environmental laws. This has created a handful of enormous electric utility companies that dominate political decision making about energy-related issues.

The chilling predictions about PUHCA’s elimination are tragically coming true as the electric corporations consolidate at a rapid rate. Eugene Coyle, formerly an economist at the California utility watchdog group TURN, predicted in 1997, “What we are looking at is the shift from a situation where there are more than a thousand utilities nationwide, over which rate-payers have some control, to a future where there will be perhaps 10 big power companies operating free of regulation and acting like the oil cartels of old.”

Reversing bad energy policy and banning fracking will take a massive grassroots mobilization that holds accountable Democrats and Republicans alike and that takes power back from the Koch brothers and their ilk. It means challenging the entrenched political establishment that grovels to the dirty energy industry and facilitates its ability to operate without suffcient oversight, transparency, or accountability. It means working shoulder to shoulder with the brave activists across the country who are challenging extreme energy rather than worrying about the opinions of mainstream funders or other institutions that have close ties to dirty energy. With mounting evidence about the harms of fracking, and the immediacy of the impending climate crisis, it is time for the major green groups to fight for a transition to real sources of renewable energy and energy efficiency, not to depend on market-based schemes with no track record of working.

We can and we must build the political power to change the course of history—our survival depends on it. 

Copyright © 2016 by Wenonah Hauter. This excerpt originally appeared in Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment, published by The New Press Reprinted here with permission.

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