Species Extinctions, Human Chronic Disease On The Rise, As Climate Disruption Mounts

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(Daily Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2015. Open source, free to reprint with link to www.thedailycall.org )

The signs of anthropogenic [man made] climate disruption are all around us now, evident to anyone willing to see them.

By Dahr Jamail
TruthOut (2/2/15)

I’m graced to live adjacent to Olympic National Park and have it as my backyard sanctuary.

Recently, I hiked up to an alpine lake at 5,000 feet, where my friend John and I pitched camp and settled in to climb a nearby peak. The clear, rarified air wafting through sub-alpine fir expands the soul, not to mention the power of the incredible mountain views.

But the trip, fantastic weather and summit aside, had a bittersweet edge to it.

We are at high latitude in upper Washington State, relative to the rest of the contiguous 48 states. The trip was in late January, and on the climb we were well over one mile above sea level, but we never saw the temperature drop below freezing, even at night. Large areas of our route up the peak found us slogging up scree slopes bare of snow, when normally the basin we were in would have required the use of avalanche transceivers and other precautions for traveling in heavy snow on steep slopes.

Spring conditions in January

I brought my snow shovel, but it never left my pack as we pitched our tent on terra firma, on the banks of a formerly frozen alpine lake that was melting out. “These plants are budding, I can’t believe it,” John, who has lived in the area for more than 25 years, told me from nearby our tent. “These are spring conditions, but it’s January!”

After our climb, we hiked back down toward the trailhead. The trail, just below our campsite at the lake, wound past thick, old-growth cedar trees with orange trail markers placed 10 feet up the trees in order to be visible to skiers amid deep snows. These days, we hiked up bare ground, and had to look up to see the trail markers.

The signs of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) are all around us now, evident to anyone willing to see them.

This month’s dispatch was a difficult one to write, given the preponderance of earth-shaking reports about how far along we truly are in this anthropogenic climate catastrophe.

But don’t just take my word for it, dear reader.

2014 is officially in the books as the hottest year on record, and all 10 of the hottest years have occurred since 1998.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data also revealed that the 2010s decade is on pace to become the hottest on record, which means it would surpass the 2000s as the previous hottest, which surpassed the 1990s as the same, which surpassed the 1980s.

The trend is clear.

What’s more, 2015 began with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels already above the 400 parts per million level, which is a troubling sign, given that annual levels tend to peak in May.

6th great mass extinction

With experts calling our current time period the sixth great mass extinction event in earth’s history, we have been warned to expect between 30 to 50 percent of all current species to go extinct by 2050 due primarily to ACD. A recent report listed several key species we must expect to see go extinct in 2015, including the Amur leopard, Sumatran elephant, Javan rhinoceros, leatherback turtle and mountain gorilla.

A stunning new study published in the prestigious journal Science concluded that we are on the verge of causing “a major extinction event” in the oceans, and one of the scientists who authored the study stated frankly, “I honestly feel there’s not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean” without a dramatic shift away from the current business-as-usual fossil-fueled economy.

Additionally, another recent study found that sea levels are now rising 25 percent faster than previous estimates, and the acceleration witnessed in the 1990s is even more dramatic than previously calculated.

To make matters worse, another major study published in Science recently found that human activity has already pushed the planet beyond four of its nine “planetary boundaries.” The conclusion of the study said that at the rate things are progressing, the coming decades will see the earth no longer as a “safe operating space” for human beings, let alone most other species. The four boundaries we’ve already crossed are the extinction rate, deforestation, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (land fertilizers) into the oceans.

This is precisely why climate scientists have recently begun begging their respective governments to leave the rest of the planetary fossil fuels in the ground.

All of these terrifying developments, along with the others this series has covered over the last year, have led members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to recently move the hands of the Doomsday clock to three minutes to midnight. This is two minutes closer to planetary catastrophe than we were in 2014, and closer than we have been since the height of the Cold War.

Signs becoming more obvious

ACD’s impacts across the planet’s landmasses are becoming much more pronounced.

In January, a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that California has lost half of all its large trees since the 1930s, and ACD is seen as a major factor.

Up in the Arctic, the region of the planet that continues to see the most pronounced changes, a little bird known as the dovekie (auk) has become a sentinel of ACD, due to the fact that shrinking sea ice is having a profound impact on its feeding habits, adult birds are losing body mass and their future survival rates look precarious.

There are other ways birds, as well as fish and mammals, serve as warning sentinels: Among many different species, mass die-offs, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands, are now increasing in both frequency and in the numbers of dead, according to a recent study.

In Borneo, half of the mammals there will see their habitats shrink by at least one-third by 2080, recent research shows. Conservationists warn that by then twice as many mammals will be at risk of extinction, due to ACD, loss of rainforest and hunting.

Another report in January showed that conditions across the Himalayas, which, in 2014, found 43 people killed during unseasonable snow storms on summer trekking routes and the single worst disaster ever for Sherpas on Mount Everest when a collapsing hanging glacier killed 16, are continuing to warm due to ACD.

Also in that region of the world, mountain communities in Pakistan are now facing more natural hazards than ever before, due to warmer temperatures and increasing rainfall.

Similarly in Kathmandu, Nepal, hotter temperatures are crippling the supply of power and food to the capital of what is already the poorest country in Asia, after Afghanistan.

In the United States, tens of millions of acres of mountaintop forests spanning the Southwest are now in danger of being scorched out of existence by ACD (due to lack of moisture and increasing temperatures), according to a recent report …

Read the Rest

  • The Pentagon & Climate Change: How Deniers Put National Security at Risk – Any official who draws a link between climate change and national security is guaranteed a rabid reaction from right-wingers. Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently called climate change “a threat multiplier” that “has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today — from infectious disease to terrorism.” In response, The Wall Street Journal editorial page blasted Hagel as a delusional tree-hugger: “Americans who might die at the hands of the Islamic State won’t care that Mr. Hagel is mobilizing against melting glaciers.” In a speech in Jakarta last year — a city of almost 30 million that is sinking rapidly — Secretary of State John Kerry called climate change “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction” and likened it to terrorism, epidemics and poverty. McCain immediately dismissed Kerry’s concerns and accused him of “butterflying around the world, saying all kinds of things”; former Republican leader Newt Gingrich tweeted, “Every American who cares about national security must demand Kerry’s resignation. A delusional secretary of state is dangerous to our safety.” Before climate change became taboo for Republicans, it was possible for even conservative politicians to have rational discussions about the subject … Read the Rest
  • A ‘Megadrought’ Will Grip US in the Coming Decades, NASA Researchers Say – The long and severe drought in the U.S. Southwest pales in comparison with what’s coming: a “megadrought” that will grip that region and the central Plains later this century and probably stay there for decades, a new study says … Researchers from NASA and Cornell and Columbia universities warned of major water shortages and conditions that dry out vegetation, which can lead to monster wildfires in southern Arizona and parts of California… Read the Rest
  • The Plagues of Global Climate Change – The list of diseases (and disease vectors) that could potentially be affected by climate change is a long and various one. It includes tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, and mosquito-borne diseases—dengue fever, West Nile virus, malaria. It also includes waterborne diseases, such as cholera, and fungal diseases, such as valley fever. An upcoming issue of Philosophical Transactions B, a journal of Britain’s Royal Society, is wholly devoted to the subject of “climate change and vector-borne disease.” Rising temperatures may already be contributing to the spread of some diseases, like chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that, not long ago, was confined to Africa and Asia … Read the Rest
  • Here Are the 56 Percent of Congressional Republicans Who Deny Climate Change – Climate change is happening, humans are the cause, and a shocking number of congressional Republicans — over 56 percent — deny or question the science. CAP Action conducted a fresh analysis of public statements from current Representatives and Senators from the 114th Congress on climate change … Read the Rest and Study Interactive Map
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Soul Brother: Walker Has FAR More In Common With ISIS Than Labor Protesters

Image result for protests madison wi capitol 2015 right to work

( www.Commondreams.org)

ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria—seem to agree with his loathing of labor unions.

By  Zaid Jilani
Alternet (3/1/15)

Last month, during an event that was overshadowed by Rudy Giuliani’s remarks about Obama’s supposed lack of love for America, Wisconsin’s Republican governor and likely 2016 presidential contender Scott Walker claimed his restrictions of public employee collective bargaining rights would send a tough message to ISIS and Vladmir Putin:

“Noteworthy, Walker argued that when Reagan fired the PATCO air-traffic controllers over their illegal strike, he was sending a message of toughness to Democrats and unions at home as well as our Soviet enemies abroad. Similarly, Walker believes his stance against unions in Wisconsin would be a signal of toughness to Islamic jihadists and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.”

A week later, Walker doubled down, saying, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” again seeming to say that cracking down on labor unions is evidence of his foreign policy toughness.

But what’s ironic about Walker’s comments is that the foes he is posturing as being so tough against—chiefly, ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria—seem to agree with his loathing of labor unions.

ISIS Vs. Iraq’s Unions

Iraq’s labor unions have spent years under siege by a variety of actors. First, they faced off with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who undercut their bargaining rights by classifying most workers as civil servants, which prohibited them from directly forming unions. Many of these laws persisted after Hussein’s fall, and the unions were particularly incensed by the waves of privatization that occurred in occupied Iraq.

The latest assault on Iraq’s unions comes not from the Baath government or foreign occupiers but rather the extreme ISIS militants. The AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center—which documents and agitates against labor abuses abroad—has the rundown on attacks on labor unionists since June 2014, when ISIS rapidly expanded in Northern Iraq. The group notes:

Iraqi workers and their families have faced unemployment, violence, displacement—and sometimes murder. Many businesses and work sites have closed due to violent clashes between ISIS and military forces, especially in cities such as Mosul, Tikrit, Ramadi and some parts of Diyala

In Mosul, ISIS broke into the main trade union’s building; in September, they kidnapped and killed the wife of a union leader in the General Federation of Iraqi Workers.

ISIS kidnapped and killed “eight public service-sector workers after they questioned the group’s authority and protested arbitrary work policies,” according to the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI). In October, FWCUI reported that ISIS forced workers to work without pay, and responded to demands for wages with the kidnappings.

Additionally, “members from ISIS-controlled areas have reported receiving threats from ISIS because of their union involvement. ISIS militants stole cars and money from the GFIW branch in Mosul and also confiscated the house and car of the branch president, who discussed the situation with Solidarity Center staff. He said he was forced to leave with no belongings and was shot in his leg when he tried to save his family. He said that in addition to his union activity, his family likely was targeted because his wife planned to run for Parliament. Many union members report they fled Mosul and other ISIS-controlled areas, such as Salah el Din and Anbar, due to the threats and intimidation.”

In addition to fighting for decent wages and employment in both ISIS-controlled and government-controlled territories, the GFIW has been outspoken in support of women who are being mistreated and in some cases used as sex slaves by the ISIS militants. In a statement it put out in December, it denounced the organization’s brutality toward women. Here’s an excerpt:

Central office of working women and children’s affairs at the GFIW expresses its utmost rage and condemnation on the savage barbaric attack by the monsters of life and all times against our region, including some of our beloved governorates.

Enemies of humanity were not satisfied with all the destruction in the cities they invaded and devastation to all aspects of life that they caused, but went much further by savagely raping women in those cities under the name of (Jihad Al Nikah: marital (sexual) Jehad). Women were brutally taken as hostages and sold in the markets of slavery!

At the time we denounce those dirty acts, we salute the courageous women who denied to be sex slaves under that misleading name they gave to it, and rejected the orders of those barbarians. One hundred and fifty women from Fallujah refused the savages orders for Jihad Al Nikah: marital (sexual) Jehad, and based on that the dirty savages executed all of them.

This is how Iraqi women are, this is how we always knew them; strong and courageous, they never feared the swords of ISIS, and were inspired by their predecessors the great women in Arab history like Al Khansa’a and Um Al baneen.

Walker doesn’t understand Reagan’s view of labor unions

It’s worth also noting that Walker’s original analogy to Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers is far from solid. Reviewing his claim that the Soviet Union increased its respect of the United States after the firings, Politifact gave Walker a “Pants On Fire.” The fact is that Reagan himself understood that labor was actually an asset in dealing with Soviet rule; he was a supporter of the Polish union Solidarity, and condemned the Soviets’ infringing on the “basic right of free trade unions and to strike.”

If anything, Reagan wanted to appear a supporter of labor unions abroad, and did little to mention his crackdown on labor at home.

But accuracy isn’t exactly Walker’s goal here. With a thin foreign policy resume, he is trying to capitalize on his crusade against labor unions, portraying it as a sign of toughness abroad. The reality is, however, that many of the same actors we rightly oppose abroad have been even harsher on labor unions than Walker has, because traditionally there is a link between those who oppose free association of laborers and those who oppose liberty.

Link to Story


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Republocrats, Like Ron Kind’s Wall Street Backed ‘Third Way’ Gang, Getting Ready To Strike Warren

(Editor’s Note: Wall Street Republocrats like Barack Obama and Rep. Ron Kind have successfully stripped away any fundamental difference between the Democrats and the GOP. The result has been disasterous for the party. The rise of Sen. Elizabeth Warren has breathed life into the corpse of the Dem Party. That means, of course, that Wall Street poodles like Mr. Kind and his “Third Way” gang have got to destroy Sen. Warren. Get ready to see them go to work. Of course, more and more Dems are seeing Professional Congresscritter Kind for what he is. If the many meetings I am attending around the state are any indication, Mr. Kind has lost all credibility with the base and will have to import campaign workers — undoubtedly from Wall Street. — Mark L. Taylor)

By Kevin Cirilli 
The Hill (3/2/15)

Centrist Democrats are gathering their forces to fight back against the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of their party, fearing a sharp turn to the left could prove disastrous in the 2016 elections.

For months, moderate Democrats have kept silent, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) barbed attacks against Wall Street, income inequality and the “rigged economy” thrilled the base and stirred desire for a more populist approach.

But with the race for the White House set to begin, centrists are moving to seize back the agenda.

The New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a caucus of moderate Democrats in the House, plans to unveil an economic policy platform as soon as this week in an attempt to chart a different course.

“I have great respect for Sen. Warren — she’s a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side.”

The Quislings

Peters said that, if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, “it’s going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition.”

“To the extent that Republicans beat up on workers and Democrats beat up on employers — I’m not sure that offers voters much of a vision,” Peters said.

Warren’s rapid ascent has highlighted growing tensions in the Democratic Party about its identity in the post-Obama era.

Caught in the crossfire is the party’s likely nominee in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose husband took the party in a decisively centrist direction during his eight years in office.

Former President Bill Clinton’s rise within the party had been aided by groups such as the Democratic Leadership Council, which believed that previous presidential nominees including Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis had run on platforms that were too far to the left, resulting in crushing defeats.

But the tensions from those long-ago fights are now tangible again. Progressives distrust Hillary Clinton and are pushing Warren to challenge her from the left in the presidential election, though Warren has repeatedly rebuffed their pleas.

Warren spokeswoman Lacey Rose said in a statement to The Hill that “Warren is a relentless fighter for priorities that will help level the playing field for middle-class families.”

Publicly, Democratic lawmakers are hesitant to discuss a growing rift.

Don’t want to get on Bill Clinton’s naughty list

When asked about disagreements between centrists and the Warren wing, one Democratic member of Congress demurred.

“There’s no need to get me in trouble,” the lawmaker said, laughing. “I don’t need an angry phone call from Bill Clinton.”

Privately, moderate Democrats in the Clinton tradition say they have been working behind the scenes to change the party’s message.

Lapping up the same old corporate Kool Aid

Leaders at three centrist groups — the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), the New Democrat Network (NDN) and Third Way — arranged a series of meetings with moderates after the disastrous midterm elections to “discuss the future of the party,” according to a source close to the NDC.

“Democrats ought to avoid the danger of talking about only redistribution and not enough about economic growth,” said PPI President and founder Will Marshall, who addressed House Democrats during their Philadelphia retreat in January. “Economic growth is a precondition to reducing inequality. You can’t redistribute wealth that you’re not generating.

“There’s a lot of sympathy for that view in the pragmatic-wing of the party,” he added.

Gabe Horwitz, director of Third Way’s economic program, said moderates have been arguing the case for rebranding the Democratic Party around “the middle class and middle-class prosperity.”

“In the last election, Democrats, as a party, offered a message of fairness. Voters responded, and they responded really negatively,” Horwitz said. “Democrats offered fairness, and voters wanted prosperity and growth.”

The policy proposal from The New Democrat Coalition will serve as a rejoinder to the progressive agenda unveiled last week by Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). A Facebook video of Warren discussing the plan has already generated more than 1 million views.

Cummings said progressive Democrats have “got to do a better job of informing not only our own members, but the people who sent them” about disparities in the economy. He said Warren plays a “major role” in shaping that message.

“She acts as a person who has earned the trust of the American people, and I think that more and more, you’re going to hear people listening to her,” Cummings said.

Even before Warren’s election to the Senate in 2012, the Democratic Party appeared to be moving in a more liberal direction.

President Obama’s victory over Clinton in the 2008 race was the harbinger of a broader shift, with the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate now further to the left than in at least a generation.

One sign of the shift is the decline of the Blue Dog Coalition, a once-sizable bloc of conservative Democrats that is nearly extinct. More than two-dozen of its members were ousted from office in 2010.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who is viewed as a centrist, said the centrist strain of politician is declining and estimated that “there’s fewer than 100″ left in Congress.

“We need more moderates and centrists in both parties,” Carper said. “Part of politics is the art of compromise.”

The fight over the future of the Democratic Party poses a real test for Clinton, who will need to keep the factions from breaking apart should she mount her expected run for the White House …

Read the Rest

  • Ron Kind’s Latest Link To Wall Street – Kind was recently elected the chair of the New Democrat Coaliton (NDC), a corporate friendly group of supposed democrats that focuses on legislation to ease the way for the banking and financial industries. As of 2015, there are 46 members of the House and 6 from the Senate in the NDC. The group was founded in 1997 and since then has collected $50 million from the finance, banking and real estate interests. The very same groups that have pumped over $400,000 in Kind’s personal re-election campaigns. The same forces that fund the Third Way group, which Kind is an honorary co-chair. There’s an old saying from the Watergate years: Follow the money. Well, if you follow the money you soon realize why Mr. Kind so often throws working families under the bankers’ limos. To learn more about how Ron Kind is betraying the families of the Third Congressional District link to the Daily Call archive, HERE.

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A Terrible Way To Run A Government

There was a time when, before making landmark changes in the way state government works, governors appointed commissions and initiated studies to assemble information, assess the likely outcomes, and recommend ways to proceed.

By Dave Zweifel
The Capital Times (3/2/15)

Let’s face it — regardless of which party you support, this is a terrible way to run a government.

In a process taking a little more than a week, Wisconsin is getting ready to overturn labor practices that have been in effect and served the state well for decades.

And then within a few short months, the Legislature and governor are expected to cut the University of Wisconsin System loose from state government, allowing it to govern itself as a “public authority” with no elected oversight, plus trim about $300 million from its revenues.

Both revolutionary changes in the way Wisconsin has historically done business are being made with no plan in mind, no assessment of the impact they may have on countless individuals and businesses, and no idea of what they could wind up saving or, more likely, costing the state.

Seat-of-the-pants decision making

Republican leaders often claim they are emulating private business, but no sensible business would make such seat-of-the-pants decisions — it would first determine what benefits the business could expect from disrupting what has been a tried-and-true business model.

At this point, neither the Legislature nor Gov. Scott Walker has an idea of what might happen, for instance, to the management-labor apprenticeship programs that have trained thousands of building trades workers for high-paying construction jobs. They haven’t a clue whether a right-to-[mooch] law will actually bring more jobs to the state and they ignore credible studies showing that all workers’ wages will suffer under such a law.

As the Beloit Daily News editorialized, ”For heaven’s sake, no one even knows what the bill says.”

Leaving UW system in the dark

Worse, Walker’s proposal to give the UW more “autonomy” has no specifics, no solid information on whether it’s a good or bad idea. And the $300 million cut? Was it an arbitrary figure needed to achieve a balanced state budget or based on some actual numbers?

The UW-Madison student paper the Badger Herald last week tried to explain what “autonomy” might mean to the university system and its students. In the end, the paper couldn’t, because there are no specifics on how the system is expected to handle autonomy or where it will actually achieve savings totaling $300 million and what that might mean.

A group of UW faculty members, calling for a moratorium on Walker’s plan, are concerned that issues like academic freedom, tenure and shared governance will be placed in the hands of political appointees.

There was a time when, before making landmark changes in the way state government works, governors appointed commissions and initiated studies to assemble information, assess the likely outcomes, and recommend ways to proceed.

Legislators, after all, ought to base decisions on facts, not on political whim or selfish ambitions or the fact that, as Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald likes to simply boast, “We’ve got the votes.”

Fact-based decisions are the way to avoid mistakes and not make changes we’ll be sorry for in years to come. That’s probably too big a challenge for this bunch, though.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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Can They Speak To The Politically Homeless? Wisconsin Progressives Size Up Political Landscape After Union Defeats

The scaffolding is there to build something different, something built on sheer people power.

By Zoe Sullivan
The Guardian (3/1/15)

“The solidarity sing-a-long has maintained free speech rights at the capitol,” Nicole Desautels said, as she stood behind singers who were belting out progressive favorites.

Desautels and others from the Wisconsin Citizen Media Cooperative have been monitoring police harassment and arrests of the singers since they began they their daily noontime chorus at the state capitol in the heat of Governor Scott Walker’s famous battle with organised labor, four years ago. While so much singing had ensured that protesters against the governor’s policies could enter the building with their signs on Saturday, in order to chant and dissent, it seemed one small victory in a dismal line of losses for progressive politics in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s latest “right-to-work” legislation is expected to pass next week, further weakening unions in the state governed by Republican 2016 hopeful Scott Walker, in this case in the private sector. The state’s proposed budget, before the Republican-controlled state legislature, will decimate public education and citizen oversight of agencies such as the department of natural resources.

Faced with such defeats, many Wisconsin progressives are asking themselves: “What happens now?”


While much of the traditional labor movement is struggling to adopt new organizing and outreach strategies, grassroots activists have their eyes firmly on the prize. What both groups agree on is that change can only come from organizing large numbers of people.

Jennifer Epps-Addison, who leads Wisconsin Jobs Now (WJN), has no illusions about what it is going to take for progressives to win back ground in Wisconsin. Her organisation, which fights for income equality, was born out of the crucible of the 2011 uprising against Walker, when 100,000 people occupied the capitol for three weeks.

“We need to go back to and return to the progressive tradition of building out urban and rural alliances, alliances of poor and working-class families that are really invested in building out the infrastructure of our state and building out an economy that works for everyone,” she said.

It is in this terrain that Epps-Addison and her colleagues are working to build power. In September, 40 WJN members were arrested along with US representative Gwen Moore during civil disobedience aimed at improving working conditions for fast-food workers. In December, WJN brought white and black people together to shut down of one of the city’s main freeways as part of the #BlackLivesMatter protests that swept the nation. Such urban actions move in tandem with efforts to find common ground with surrounding rural communities.

In a state with the highest incarceration rate of African-American men in the country, Epps-Addision compares this work of connecting black and white communities to what Martin Luther King Jr referred to as “the lie being told to the white worker” – that people of color are the enemy.

Need more than a Republican-lite agenda

“We really believe that if we’re going to take back the state, if we’re going to rebuild progressive power, we can’t give people a Republican-light agenda that simply looks to make them less poor,” Epps-Addison explains, describing how she thinks progressives need to claim their turf. For her, this trajectory is not tied to an electoral cycle. Rather, it’s a long-term vision that focuses on building local power and includes both an economic and a racial analysis.

“There’s such an incredible amount of power, even in Wisconsin where Republicans certainly have attacked local control, but there are still a number of avenues – city councils and the county boards – [that] can take to increase opportunity and fairness in their communities.” Such steps, she says, build up to statewide and national impacts.

Conservatives getting hurt by Walker policies as well

In the meantime, while many Walker policies are clearly detrimental to working families, blows are also falling on traditionally more conservative constituencies. John Matthews, president of the city’s teachers’ union, told the Guardian that 20 home goods stores in the area had closed since the 2011 state budget passed. He speculated that cuts to public employees had trickled down – many no longer had enough disposable income to keep such businesses afloat.

Such concerns drive Lori Compas, who runs the Wisconsin Business Alliance(WBA). The WBA is a non-partisan, statewide organization that Campas says advocates for things that “are non-controversial” such as broadband access and public education. When the new “right-to-work bill” was announced last week, she started to investigate its implications by reading academic studies.

Compas also called business leaders in Republican districts.

“I could not find a single chamber of commerce that supported ‘right-to-work’,” she said.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) positions itself as the state’s business voice, but Compas questions the group’s legitimacy. She found that reduced wages resulting from “right-to-work” legislation would have a negative impact on many consumer-driven businesses belonging to local chambers of commerce. In spite of this, the WMC has endorsed the bill.

“The interesting thing to me has been they really don’t represent small businesses around Wisconsin like they claim to,” Campas said. “It’s kind of like the emperor has no clothes.”

The politically homeless

Compas’s observations reach beyond the immediate business interests of local communities, suggesting that the impact of “right-to-work” on small businesses will have political ramifications too.

“I think that there are a lot of business leaders in communities around Wisconsin who just feel politically homeless right now,” she said. “They don’t feel like the Republicans are really representing their best interests.”

This sense of homelessness could offer fertile ground for anyone offering an agenda that fits better with the interdependent needs of small towns.

Economic power has always been critical to organizing efforts. Rebecca Kemble, a 15-year worker-owner in Madison’s Union Cab co-op and president of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, takes the issue very seriously.

“If you’re going to fight these global flows of capital, you have to have an independent economic base of production,” she told the Guardian.

Kemble is also running for a seat on Madison’s Common Council. As she enters the political arena, she has her eyes on the challenges facing progressives in the state. Such groups, she says, should “stop trying to compete with the predatory forces on the same playing field, which is completely dominated by big money”.

Like Epps-Addison and many others, however, Kemble believes that the key lies in people: “What we could have, if we stop focusing so much on fundraising, is mass mobilizations of human beings whose lives are really seriously impacted by all these policies that have been ushered in by the Walker administration in the last four years.” …

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How Much Of Your Data Would You Trade Away For A Free Cookie?

An artist tests whether New Yorkers will give away their mother’s maiden name or part of their Social Security number for a homemade cookie.

By Lois Beckett
ProPublica (10/1/14)

In a highly unscientific but delicious experiment last weekend [October 2014], 380 New Yorkers gave up sensitive personal information — from fingerprints to partial Social Security numbers — for a cookie.

“It is crazy what people were willing to give me,” said artist Risa Puno, who conducted the experiment, which she called “Please Enable Cookies,” at a Brooklyn arts festival. The cookies — actual cookies — came in flavors such as “Chocolate Chili Fleur de Sel” and “Pink Pistachio Peppercorn.”

To get a cookie, people had to turn over personal data that could include their address, driver’s license number, phone number and mother’s maiden name.

More than half of the people allowed Puno to take their photographs. Just under half — or 162 people — gave what they said were the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. And about one-third — 117 people — allowed her to take their fingerprints. She examined people’s driver’s licenses to verify some of the information they provided.

When people asked Puno what she was going to do with their information, she refused to say. Instead, she referred them to her terms of service, a full page of legal boilerplate displayed in tiny print, which gives her the right to display the information and share it with others.

What we say and what we do

Puno’s performance art experiment highlights what privacy experts already know: Many Americans are not sure how much their personal data is worth, and that consumer judgments about what price to put on privacy can be swayed by all kinds of factors.

While most people will say they value privacy, there’s a clear dichotomy between “what we say about privacy and what we do,” said Alessandro Acquisti, a Carnegie Mellon privacy expert.

study published last year by Acquisti and other researchers found that people’s willingness to pay for privacy depended on whether they perceived that their data was already protected. In one experiment, one group of people were given a free $10 Visa gift card and told their spending would be anonymous. Another group was given a $12 gift card and told their purchases would be tracked. The groups were then given an opportunity to trade gift cards. It turned out that the vast majority people with the higher-value but tracked card were not willing to give up $2 for privacy. But about half of the people who started out with the higher privacy lower value cards wanted to keep them.

“The answers to questions such as ‘What is privacy worth?” and ‘Do people really care for privacy?’ depend not just on whom but how you ask,” the authors wrote.

Because the Brooklyn data giveaway was part of a performance art piece, Acquisti said, participants may have felt that “it was very low-risk to provide information.”  The giveaway was part of a game: it would seem fun to play along, and also seem unlikely that the data would be abused.

“Traded all my personal data for a social media cookie,” one participant tweeted, along with a photo of a cookie frosted with the Facebook logo.

Puno said some participants did not even eat their cookies — they just wanted to take pictures of them. Cookies decorated with the Instagram logo were so popular among photographers that Puno required “purchasers” to give their fingerprints, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and their driver’s license information. Many still agreed. “They wanted to hold it against the sky with the bridge in the background,” she said.

While she’s happy with the response to her project, the 33-year-old artist was shocked that people seemed very comfortable giving away the kind of data that’s often used in security questions: pet’s name, mother’s maiden name, place of birth, the name of your first teacher.

People called those questions “easy points,” she said. “They didn’t recognize them as security questions, or they didn’t care, but that’s how people ‘hack’ into celebrity iClouds, by guessing their security questions.”

She was also surprised to find that people would give her more data than they actually needed to earn a given cookie. “That to me was baffling,” she said. “If I were thinking about giving away my information, I wasn’t giving away more than I had to.”

Puno still won’t say what she’s going to do with the data. She says she’s considered destroying it. On the other hand, she said, the disclosure forms are also “precious artifacts of what people are willing to do. I kind of want to hold onto them forever.”

Link to story and 17-Minute podcast

Posted in 2015-03-03, Newsletter | Tagged | Comments Off

Who (And What) Would Arming Ukraine Actually Empower?

Yet another case of the U.S. government – followed as always by its media – fabricating a Manichean morality narrative to justify U.S. involvement and militarism. 

By Glenn Greenwald
The Intercept (3/1/15)

It’s easy to forget that just two years ago, President Obama was determined to bomb Syria and remove the Assad regime, and U.S. establishment institutions were working to lay the groundwork for that campaign. NPR began dutifully publishing reports from anonymous U.S. officials that Syria had stockpiled large amounts of chemical weapons; the NYT was reporting that Obama was “increasing aid to the rebels and redoubling efforts to rally a coalition of like-minded countries to forcibly bring down” Assad; Secretary of State John Kerry pronounced that forced removal of Assad was “a matter of national security” and “a matter of the credibility of the United States of America.”

Those opposed to the anti-Assad “regime change” bombing campaign argued that while some of the rebellion was composed of ordinary Syrians, the “rebels” the U.S. would arm and empower (i.e., the only effective anti-Assad fighters) were actually violent extremists and even terrorists aligned with Al Qaeda and worse. The people arguing that were invariably smeared as Assad apologists because this happened to be the same argument Assad was making: that the most effective fighters against him were jihadis and terrorists.

Taboo to conventional wisdom

But that argument in D.C. was quickly converted from taboo into conventional wisdom the moment it was needed to justify U.S. involvement in Syria. The U.S. is now bombing Syria, of course, but rather than fighting against Assad, the Syrian dictator is (once againAmerica’s ally and partner. The rationale for the U.S. bombing campaign is the same one Assad long invoked: that those fighting against him are worse than he is because they are aligned with Al Qeada and ISIS (even though the U.S. funded and armed those factions for years and their closest allies in the region continue to do so).

A similar dynamic is at play in Russia and Ukraine. Yesterday, Obama’s top national security official, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, told a Senate Committee “that he supports arming Ukrainian forces against Russian-backed separatists,” as the Washington Post put it. The U.S. has already provided “non-lethal” aid to Ukrainian forces, and Obama has said he is now considering arming them. Who, exactly, would that empower?

Supporting fascists & neo-Nazis

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long said that the Ukrainian coup of last year, and the subsequent regime in Kiev, is driven by ultra-nationalists, fascists, and even neo-Nazi factions. The Russian TV outlet RT also frequently refers to “the active role far-right groups have played on the pro-government side in Ukraine since the violent coup of the last year.”

For that reason, anyone pointing out that arming the regime in Kiev would strengthen fascists and neo-Nazis is instantly accused of being a Putin propagandist: exactly like those arguing that the best anti-Assad fighters were al-Qaeda-affiliated were accused of being Assad propagandists (until that became the official position of the US Government). U.S. media accounts invariably depict the conflict in Ukraine as a noble struggle waged by the freedom-loving, pro-west democrats in Kiev against the oppressive, aggressive “Russian-backed” separatists in the east.

But just as was true in Syria: while some involved in the Ukrainian coup were ordinary Ukrainians fighting against a corrupt and oppressive regime, these claims about the fascist thugs leading the fight for the Kiev government are actually true. Writing in Foreign Policy from eastern Ukraine last August, Alec Luhn observed:

Pro-Russian forces have said they are fighting against Ukrainian nationalists and “fascists” in the conflict, and in the case of Azov and other battalions, these claims are essentially true. . . . The Azov Battalion, whose emblem also includes the “Black Sun” occult symbol used by the Nazi SS, was founded by Andriy Biletsky, head of the neo-Nazi groups Social-National Assembly and Patriots of Ukraine.

In September, Shaun Walker wrote in the Guardian about his experience embedding with the pro-Kiev forces of the Azov, which he called “Ukraine’s most potent and reliable force on the battlefield against the separatists.” While dismissing as “overblown” Russian warnings that these groups seek to ethnically cleanse all of Ukraine, Walked described “the far right, even neo-Nazi, leanings of many of its members,” and noted that “Amnesty International called on the Ukrainian government to investigate rights abuses and possible executions by the Aidar, another battalion.” Walker’s principal concern was that these fascist militias intend, once the separatists are vanquished, to seek control of Kiev and impose their ultra-nationalist vision on the entire country.

Unpleasant facts

Ever since the coup in Kiev was carried out, these unpleasant facts about the pro-government forces have been largely ignored in most establishment U.S. media accounts, leaving a handful of commentators to point them out. In January of last year, as the coup was unfolding, the Guardian‘s Seumas Milne argued that the west’s morality narrative about Ukraine – democracy-fighters v. Putin oppressors – “bears only the sketchiest relationship to reality” and that, instead, “far-right nationalists and fascists have been at the heart of the protests and attacks on government buildings.” Britain’s Channel 4 reported on the central role played by far-right ultra-nationalists in that coup, noting that Sen. John McCain traveled to the Ukrainian capital (pictured, above) and shared a stage with the worst fascist elements. Antiwar.com’s Justin Raimondo has long been warning of “the ascension of a genuinely fascist mass movement into the corridors of power” in Kiev, noting that far from being a handful of fringe elements, “the activists of the two main fascist parties in Ukraine – Svoboda and ‘Right Sector’ – provided the muscle the insurrectionists needed to take over government buildings in Kiev and across western Ukraine.”

These facts have now become so glaring that even the most mainstream organizations in the west are now being compelled to point them out …

Read the Rest

Posted in 2015-03-03, Newsletter | Comments Off

And Now, The GOP Is Going After Injured Workers

Republicans are out to slash federal dollars that support people who’ve been injured at work. Nice.

By Monica Potts
The Daily Beast (2/28/15)

In the late 1990s, as he approached 50, my dad started to have a series of small strokes. Many of them went undiagnosed, until the summer of 2000, when he finally went to the hospital. He slowly stopped working after that until, finally, in the fall of 2004, he decided to apply for disability, which he collected until he died in November 2006.

If you hadn’t known my dad very well, you would have thought he was totally okay after his strokes. He didn’t seem “disabled” in the outdated, non-politically correct way we think of the term. But I, and my family, could tell in his shuffling gate, and the hesitating way he talked, that he wasn’t his old self. More important: He had spent the previous 20 years earning his living through manual labor, as a plumber, lifting heavy marble bathtubs and slithering through the short crawlspaces beneath houses. That was a job he couldn’t continue to do, and there weren’t any other jobs he could easily transition to. By the time he received his first disability check, he’d been diagnosed with lung cancer, anyway.

Attacking Social Security

One of the first things this new Congress did when it opened for business last month was to attack Social Security Disability. I’m going to talk about why, and about why the program is stressed, further down. For now, it’s really important to keep one fact in mind: The vast majority of people who receive disability payments are people like my dad.

The problem with Social Security Disability begins with this: The program’s actuaries say it will run out of money next year, and that current recipients will receive about 20 percent less than they do now unless something is done.

Republicans are saying that the disability program is running out of money because it’s being abused, and they’re saying that using funds from the bigger Social Security retirement program to plug the hole is robbing Peter to pay Paul. “[M]y measure creates a point-of-order to prohibit any diversion of funds from the retirement program to the disability program,” Sam Johnson, the Texas Republican who sponsored a House rule to prevent the money shift, said. “But more than that, the rule seeks to encourage much-needed reform.”

People are awarded disability payments if they’re severely impaired or unable to perform their past work or any other type of substantial work. In that assessment, age, education, and work experience are taken into account. That’s where claims of fraud arise, because some of the decisions are judgment calls made by doctors and government officials. The disability program encompasses people with a vast range of experiences, from people who have problems that have always kept them from hanging onto a steady job to people who suffer from squishy-sounding things like chronic back pain. And sometimes, whether they are disabled depends on who is deciding.

Let’s be clear, the Social Security Disability program has increased a lot: It’s roughly doubled in the past 20 years. The total costs are about $260 billion a year, more than three times the cost of food stamps. But it’s still only about 8.9 million people, and payments were about 4 percent of the federal budget in 2013.

In a controversial article two years ago, NPR’s Chana Joffe-Walt highlighted the growth trend, and pinned it to several long-term changes in American society. To begin with, we have expanded our definition of “disability.” Second, the economy has changed in fundamental ways, so people without a ton of education who once earned their living through manual labor are having a tough time finding steady employment. Lastly, the passage of welfare reform in 1996 changed the way that welfare was funded, so states have a financial incentive to encourage all the people who apply for welfare but might qualify for disability to apply for the disability program, which is federally funded, instead.

I thought Joffe-Walt’s piece was fair, but, many of the responses to her article clarified the problem further. Even though the program has grown, the majority of applications are denied. Some of the increases in the number of children enrolled are caused by the rise in child poverty over the same period, which means more families qualify for help for their children.Demographic changes—aging baby boomers like my dad—also account for some of the rise. Also, the people Joffe-Walt profiled who were part of the industrial economy also worked jobs that have higher disability rates in general because the work is labor intensive.

Regardless, it’s wrong to think that the program has grown simply because controls have somehow become lax, and lazy people are scrambling for disability payments that keep them below the poverty line. One of the ideas explored in Joffe-Walt’s piece, that people with physical pain are unable to find sit-down jobs that would allow them to work without hurting their bodies, has transformed in the popular imagination to the idea that people are malingering, that they could find some kind of job but simply don’t want to, or that they’re enrolling in disability only because of the bad job market. But it’s more complicated than that, and unemployment rates are less important than other factors.

This idea that a program must be growing because fraud has increased is a common one—Republicans think the same thing about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the program once known as food stamps. Yet, it’s also true that need has grown. Americans are poorer. Americans are older. Americans who performed physical labor have broken their bodies working and are unable to find jobs they can do now, as was the case with my dad …

Read the Rest

Posted in 2015-03-03, Newsletter | Comments Off

Dept. Of Much Needed Humor — John Boehner Calls For National Guard To Deal With Illegal Immigrants Hiding In Mexico

The Onion (3/2/15)

WASHINGTON—Saying it was time to aggressively act before their numbers became too large to control, House Speaker John Boehner called for the National Guard to be deployed to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants currently hiding in Mexico, sources said Monday.

“There are more than 120 million illegal immigrants in Mexico, all of whom continue to evade authorities and flout the laws of the United States every day—it’s time to get tough,” said Boehner, conceding that even robust National Guard intervention may be insufficient to deter the growth of undocumented workers living south of the border. “We need the strongest measures possible if we’re to have any hope of keeping illegal immigrants in Mexico City or Juarez from simply gobbling up American jobs.”

Boehner went on to say that his remarks applied only to illegal immigrants and not to Mexicans who chose to live in Mexico lawfully.

Link to Story


Posted in 2015-03-03, Newsletter | Comments Off

Tuesday / March 3, 2015

(See “Republocrats”, below.)

Posted in 2015-03-03 | Tagged | Comments Off

Monday / March 2, 2015


(See “Why Scott Walker Is Not Presidential”, below.)

Posted in 2015-03-02 | Tagged | Comments Off

This Is Why Scott Walker Is Not Presidential Material

Walker continues to choose to disregard and disrespect.

By John Nichols
The Nation (2/27/15)

I have known Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker since he was a young state legislator. We used to talk a good deal about our differing views on how to reform things: campaign finance rules, ethics regulations, social-welfare programs.

We seldom reached agreement. But I gave him credit for respecting the search for common ground. And for understanding that a disagreement on a particular matter is never an excuse for ending the search—or for disregarding others who are engaged in it.

But that was long ago. Scott Walker has changed a great deal—and not, I fear, for the better.

He is deep into a political career that has seen plenty of ups and downs; and, now, he is grasping for a top rung on the ladder: the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2016.

On Thursday, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Walker was asked how he would respond to ISIS, and the “radical Islamic terrorism” he had condemned in his speech to the group. Walker told the crowd: “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe.”

“Obviously problematic”

That was an unsettling statement. Even conservative commentators who are inclined to praise Walker acknowledged that it was “a terrible response.” National Review‘s Jim Geraghty explained that “taking on a bunch of protesters is not comparably difficult to taking on a Caliphate with sympathizers and terrorists around the globe, and saying so suggests Walker doesn’t quite understand the complexity of the challenge from ISIS and its allied groups.”

Former Texas governor Rick Perry, who knows a thing or two about making mistakes on the campaign trail, said, “I think, you know, some of the statements that he’s made are obviously problematic for him.”

“You are talking about, in the case of ISIS, people who are beheading individuals and committing heinous crimes, who are the face of evil,” Perry continued. “To try to make the relationship between them and the unions is inappropriate.”

Walker is “walking back” as quickly as he can, and griping once more that the media will “misconstrue” his message. Unfortunately, this is not the first time he has suggested that his “experience” with Wisconsinites who disagreed with his assault on workers and public education and public services has somehow prepared him to stand strong on the global stage.

Walker’s terrorists

The trouble with this calculus is that the protesters in Wisconsin were teachers and nurses and librarians. They were the parents of ailing children. They were seniors who were worried about access to healthcare and the security of their pensions. They did not threaten Scott Walker. They asked him to listen, to care, to simply respect them.

Scott Walker refused to do so in 2011. He is still refusing to do so.

This is not a “mistake.” This is the political path Scott Walker has chosen. When citizens assembled and petitioned their government for the redress of grievances in 2011, Walker chose as their governor to disrespect and disregard them.

At times, he did so in the soft language of a political careerist, mouthing talking points prepared to soften the blows. At times, he did so in the malicious language of the hyper-partisan, trading notes with a caller he thought was billionaire campaign donor David Koch about deceiving legislators, thwarting prospects for compromise, and how he and his aides “thought about” using what the caller described as “troublemakers” to disrupt demonstrations by nursing home aides and teaching assistants and Head Start educators. But the default position was always the same: disrespect and disregard.

Now, as an all-but-announced presidential candidate bidding for the favor of his party’s fiercest partisans, Walker continues to choose to disregard and disrespect those who dared to defend their livelihoods, their communities and their state.

I know there will be those who say this is who Scott Walker has always been. I have a different view. I believe this is what he has become.

This is a prospect that ought to make even Walker’s most ardent advocates pause to consider whether this man is ready for presidential politics.

This has very little to do with liberalism versus conservatism, Democrats versus Republicans. This goes much deeper, to the question of how a potential contender for a powerful position views himself, his experiences and the responsibility that he proposes to embrace.

If Scott Walker really believes that the experience of disregarding the concerns of Wisconsinites has prepared him to deal with global threats, then he misconstrues his own strengths, he misconstrues threats that are as complex as they are serious, and, above all, he misconstrues the duty of respect that every governor (and every president) owes to citizens with whom he agrees—and to citizens with whom he disagrees.

Link to Story

  • Gov. Chameleon Walker Shifts Tone On Abortion – DES MOINES — It was a memorable political ad: Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin spoke directly into the camera in a 30-second spot last fall and called abortion an “agonizing” decision. He described himself as pro-life but, borrowing the language of the abortion rights movement, pointed to legislation he signed that leaves “the final decision to a woman and her doctor.” That language was gone when Mr. Walker met privately with Iowa Republicans in a hotel conference room last month, according to a person who attended the meeting. There, he highlighted his early support for a “personhood amendment,” which defines life as beginning at conception and would effectively prohibit all abortions and some methods of birth control. …making an aggressive effort to win the hearts of the party’s Christian conservatives. In doing so, he is stressing a much harder line on social issues than he did just a few months ago, when he faced a robust challenge from a well-funded Democratic woman in his run for re-election as governor… Read the Rest


Posted in 2015-03-02, Newsletter | Tagged | Comments Off

TODAY! Assembly Committee Hearing In Madison On “Right To Mooch” Anti-Worker Bill


Your voice is needed now more than ever.

On Monday, March 2, we need you at the Capitol to register and testify against the Wrong for Wisconsin Right to mooch legislation. We need YOU to tell legislators how this legislation will impact you, your family, and your job.

Here’s the quick info you can forward your friends:

• WHAT: Assembly Committee on Labor public hearing on “right to mooch” legislation

• WHERE: Wisconsin State Capitol Building, 417 North (GAR Hall)

• WHEN: Monday, March 2, 2015, starting at 10am

• WHO: Open to the public

The momentum is on our side. So let’s show up, raise our voices, and stop this legislation once and for all.

Thanks for all you do.

Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now

Posted in 2015-03-02, Newsletter | Comments Off

Republican Primary Race Starts In Lavish Haunts Of Mega Rich Corporate Donors

“Oh, I think along the way I’ll be at plenty of dairy events and farm events and factories just like when I was governor,” Mr. Walker said.


By Nicholas Confessore & Jonathan Martin 
The New York Times (2/28/15)

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Instead of the corn dogs and pork chops on a stick ritually served up on the hustings of Iowa, the latest stop on the donor trail featured meals of diver scallops and chocolate mousse. The setting was the Breakers, a sprawling Italian Renaissance-inspired hotel here, where the cheapest available rooms fetched $800 a night. And for the half-dozen Republican presidential candidates invited to the annual winter meeting this weekend of the Club for Growth, an influential bloc of deep-pocketed conservatives, the prize was not votes. It was money.

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Protesters Demand Answers Over Chicago’s Homan Square Police ‘black site’

“I’m hoping you will be back again,” Greer said. “And next week, tomorrow, as long as it takes, we will shut this down if we have to. Because what do we need? We need freedom first.”

As the crowd began chanting Greer’s last phrase one police officer, who had seemed to be holding back laughter, shook his head and cracked a smile.

By Zach Stafford
The Guardian (2/28/15)

More than 100 activists and community leaders rallied in Chicago on Saturday to call for official investigations into and even a shutdown of Homan Square, the police facility at the centre of allegations over unconstitutional abuse and a growing protest movement known as #Gitmo2Chicago.

Less than a week after a Guardian investigationuncovered detailed accounts from Chicago citizens who said they were abused and detained without access to legal counsel or basic rights, demonstrators from groups including the hacktivist collective Anonymous and the Black Lives Matter movement chanted “freedom first” and pushed for open access to the secretive police warehouse.

The diverse crowd pressed most directly for answers from Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor who is facing a runoff election in an extended campaign in which police reform has featured prominently.

Rahm ignores the issue

“Rahm Emanuel says, ‘Trust us, we are doing the right thing,’” said organizer Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network, referring to the mayor’s brief comments about the allegations on Thursday night. “But I’m sorry, Mr Mayor, you have lied to us about enough other things that we are not going to take your word for it that things are just hunky dory in the building behind us. We demand that you shut down this facility.”

Emanuel, who was engaged in a campaign initiative to meet 50,000 voters in a single day, did not address Homan Square on Saturday, as multiple protesters continued to compare it to a CIA “black site”.

This week, multiple witnesses and attorneys detailed to the Guardian claims of police holding people for long periods inside the Homan Square facilty without access to attorneys or their families. Many reported shackling and physical abuse.

Travis McDermott, one of the other lead organizers of Saturday’s protest, spoke about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows for the military detention of persons the government suspects of involvement with terrorism. McDermott said the NDAA was the primary reason sites like Homan Square remained in operation.

“The main issue,” he said, “is that when individuals are empowered by a contract” – the NDAA – “they have no threat of accountability, they can’t be expected to exercise self-restraint. They can deny and then it’s a battle of confidence between the people who have witnessed it and those protecting it.”

McDermott said he wanted real answers to the allegations about Homan Square, not quick dismissals.

“Our object is to get hard evidence,” he said, “because the burden of proof now [rests] on the Chicago police department.”

Brian Jacob Church, the first arrestee to come forward to the Guardianregarding his time inside Homan Square, could not attend the protest but requested McDermott read a statement on his behalf. One of the so called “Nato Three” who travelled to the city to protest a 2012 Nato summit, Church says he was arrested and held for 17 hours at Homan Square in 2012, before being charged and convicted and spending two and a half years in prison.

Hitting close to home

“Today you are standing here because basic humanity has been disregarded in the grossest fashion,” McDermott read. “We hear about things like this happening in other countries … but we never expect them to hit so close to home.”

Vetress Boyce, a candidate for alderman in Chicago’s 24th ward, said communities in the city had long been aware of the threat of violent treatment by police.

She said she stood “wholeheartedly” with protesters and supported a public investigation into what she called “torture” at Homan Square. “We hear a lot of what goes on in our neighborhood and in some cases we have stopped marching, we have stopped fighting for those that matter,” she said.

The Chicago police have denied multiple requests for comment since the Guardian began reporting on Homan Square. In a statement issued to multiple media outlets on Tuesday, the department said it “abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses, at Homan Square or any other CPD facility”. Without saying when records or attorney meetings took place, the police said: “If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them.”

On Saturday, protesters called for a public inspection of Homan Square. They also called for all people booked by Chicago police to be given access to a phone and a lawyer; for an opportunity for the public to ask questions pertaining to Homan Square; and for informational posters to be posted in Chicago police facilities informing people of their rights and including contact details for legal providers … Read the Rest

  • Victims Detail Abusive Confinement Inside Chicago Police ‘black site’ – Four black Chicagoans have now come forward to the Guardian detailing off-the-books ordeals at the facility, including another who describes being detained in “a big cage” with his wrists cuffed to a bench so he couldn’t move. The Guardian has now interviewed six people about their detention at the Homan Square police warehouse. With striking consistency, all have described extensive detentions without benefit of legal counsel or public notice of where they were … Read the Rest


Posted in 2015-03-02, Newsletter | Tagged | Comments Off