Trump Staff Changes Signal Growing Authoritarian Threat

By Alexander Reid Ross (July 28, 2017)

The evening after the Boy Scouts of America issued a public apology for Donald Trump’s behavior, his new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, went on a profanity laced rampage against the chief of staff, Reince Priebus. Instead of disciplining Scaramuci, Trump accepted Priebus’s resignation, hiring up a general from the Southern Command to fill his place.

While Trump lectured a group of police officers on the need to assault suspects, news emerged that Scaramucci’s wife had filed for divorce.

Priebus, the former chairman of the RNC, was the main symbolic tether tying Trump to the GOP. Without that formality, the Trump Administration is little more than a syncretic configuration of cranks, esoteric fools, and military careerists.

This apparently spontaneous change at the highest levels of the government illustrates a transition away from conventional party politics and toward an authoritarian administration.

As the Trump Administration’s state security imperatives have shifted from white nationalists to antifascists, Trump’s rhetoric on immigration has grown shriller than ever. The House’s massive budget for the wall has been passed. As the most recent director of DHS, General Kelly is his flavor of the month.

One of the keys to authoritarianism is managing shifting power relations by playing underlings against one another with the ever present fear of being fired. Others include maintaining autonomous mass support through large rallies, constantly attacking opposition or independent media, inflaming ethnic or racial tensions through dehumanizing, violent rhetoric, sanctioning political and social violence through non-governmental groups, and securing impunity through the power of the official pardon.


Transphobia is Central to Trump’s Ideology, Not a Distraction

By Arun Gupta (July 28, 2017)

This is my take on Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military. It should be vigorously opposed, and that can be done without glorifying or supporting militarism and American Empire

Trump is throwing red meat to his base. It’s meant to delegitimize and dehumanize transgender people. He is telling his base that transgender people are not citizens. They do not have the same rights as you and I to be full social agents. They are not even fully human. That is the message of his ban. The danger is it will increase hatred, discrimination, and violence toward transgender people. And it will ripple outward with new discriminatory laws, policies, and regulations against the lives and well-being of transgender people through government, education, health, criminal justice, employment, and housing.

This transphobia is central to Trump’s white nationalist ideology and base, which is also deeply misogynist and patriarchal. The aim is to use state power to elevate straight white men by pushing everyone else into the shadows and into conditions of fear and even terror.

As such, Trump’s ban on transgender people is not about militarism and imperialism and opposing it is not support for those ideas unless you couch your arguments in those terms. So don’t talk about the patriotism and courage and bravery of transgender people or how they are fully capable of serving with honor, can protect the nation, praising vets who are transgender, and so on.

Do not encourage anyone to serve in the U.S. military, which is a scourge on humanity. But being blase about the ban or even saying, “Good!” because it undermines the military is playing into the reactionary and proto-fascistic attacks on transgendered people in American society.

A final note. I am not criticizing those who do or have served in the military. It’s a machine of death and destruction, but there are good people who I know who are vets, and a few who do still serve. It’s possible to oppose the institution and interests they serve with great vehemence while not demonizing individual soldiers. (Now if they actively participated in war crimes, like John McCain, I sincerely hope they rot.)


Why We Need Freedom Schools Now

(Photo of Bronx Freedom School meeting:  photo by Mark Naison)

By Mark Naison (July 27, 2017)

This summer, I decided to use the Freedom School model from the civil rights movement to promote solidarity among people looking for inspiration and direction, in part out of frustration with the many social media groups that I participated in and in some cases helped to start. Don’t get me wrong, those groups played and continue to play an important role in our political life and in the lives of many individuals

But in the face of the despair so many people felt during and after the Presidential election, and the challenges many experience as a result of events at their schools and workplaces, I felt face to face encounters were needed to give people the energy and support they needed to move forward.

So I decided, as an experiment, to organize three meetings at my home with great speakers, talking about important subjects, with lots of food and beverages to make people feel comfortable The sessions were:

Michael Partis on “Bronx Hip Hop and Bronx Communities”
Jamaal Bowman on “Revolutionizing Public Education”
Melissa Castillo-Garsow on “The Radical Mexican Diaspora in NYC”

The results were extraordinary. All the sessions were filled, with a multiracial audience that varied markedly in age and life experience, with discussions that were inspiring, honest, sometime painful, and deeply appreciated. On each occasion, people stayed long after the scheduled time and not only created valuable connections; in some cases they started new friendships

When word of this got out, several friends in Eastern Long Island asked to create Freedom school sessions there, and the first one held there, featuring Justin S. Williams talking about Race and Immigration Issues in Long Island Schools and Communities, was, if anything more powerful than the ones in Brooklyn! People, many of whom had only met for the first time, stayed for five hours and probably would have slept there if they had been offered the opportunity.

Clearly, this model has met a powerful need. Not only do we have another session scheduled in Eastern LI, we have an entire set of Freedom Schools organized in the Bronx, by Aixa Rodriguez, a session organized in Livingston, New Jersey, and sessions being discussed in Buffalo, :Lower Westchester, and Danbury Connecticut.

For those of you who want to spread the movement to your city I have the following suggestions

1. Organize your sessions at someone’s home, or at a comfortable public venue where people can let their hair down

2. Make sure you have a subject that will attract a multiracial audience, and a speaker with a proven ability to cross racial and cultural boundaries.

3. Make sure there are food and beverages at the event

4. Encourage people to bring high school and college age children to the event.

5. Advertise the subject of the talk publicly, but only give out the address of the talk to people who PM or email you, especially if the even it held at someone’s home.

Doing this has given energy and purpose to me and many other people.

Let’s build the movement!



When They Come Knocking On Our Door, Will We Resist?

By Ana Castillo (July 25, 2017)


POC all over the land momentarily held our collective breath when the tragic news resounded that a blond, white woman (and from a white dominated foreign country) was senselessly murdered by a police officer. (Fox news has focused on the officer’s ethnic background, a first generation Somalian.)

On the one hand, we knew, if history taught us anything, that the unprovoked killing of a white woman might be the start of bringing attention to the ongoing murdering of innocent citizens of color. On the other hand, we also knew that this seeking of justice may not necessarily apply to our people.

In the broader spectrum of things, we may be encouraged by the extent of national and international outrage at the policies and actions being implemented by the Bannon-Puppet agenda to emulate the Third Reich handbook in the 21st century. The desire for a complete police state would inevitably effect Whites and it already has. Until then the World, they believed, was theirs and, therefore, protected them and secured their rights, become our allies. As we have learned, that is when previously indifferent individuals retaliate.

Beyond the immediate tragic numbers of random murders of innocent people and children by the police, the broader goal of a police state is to instill fear, numbness, apathy, and resignation so that the day they come knocking on our doors we do not resist.

ana castilo

The Utopiyin Imagination: Moving Forward Toward a Better World with Ursula Le Guin

By Joseph Orosco (July 12, 2017)

Espen Hammer argues in the New York Times that we need to revive the utopian imagination in this era, fascinated by dystopian themes:

“There are reasons, however, to think that a fully modern society cannot do without a utopian consciousness. To be modern is to be oriented toward the future. It is to be open to change even radical change, when called for. With its willingness to ride roughshod over all established certainties and ways of life, classical utopianism was too grandiose, too rationalist and ultimately too cold. We need the ability to look beyond the present. But we also need More’s insistence on playfulness. Once utopias are embodied in ideologies, they become dangerous and even deadly. So why not think of them as thought experiments? They point us in a certain direction. They may even provide some kind of purpose to our strivings as citizens and political beings”.

Hammer offers some categories of utopia as a way to understand how this kind of imagination has operated in the past and what is no longer a viable way to envision alternative futures.

The first is the Utopia of Desire (a world in which all needs and desires are fulfilled). Hammer thinks that in our world of endless consumer consumption this kind of vision is not particularly motivating. The next is the Utopia of Technology ( a world in which technology provides the means to solve all of humanity’s pressing problems). This kind of utopia is not inspiring any longer in a world that recognizes the dangers of technological innovation, such as nuclear destruction. Finally, there is the Utopia of Justice (a world in which all social injustice is removed). Hammer thinks that no one can be convinced of this kind of vision in the aftermath of a totalitarian 20th century.

In the end, Hammer argues that the only kind of utopian vision that can really capture our imagination and move us to act is a Utopia of Nature:

“In my view, only one candidate is today left standing. That candidate is nature and the relation we have to it. More’s island was an earthly paradise of plenty. No amount of human intervention would ever exhaust its resources. We know better. As the climate is rapidly changing and the species extinction rate reaches unprecedented levels, we desperately need to conceive of alternative ways of inhabiting the planet.”

(Kim Stanley Robinson’s most recent novels that envision how humanity might flourish in a world forever changed by climate change seem to be along the lines of what Hammer might be calling for.)

But there is something especially fatalistic in Hammer’s discussion about the dimensions of the utopian imagination today. No doubt we have to think about alternative ways of living with nature. But Hammer accepts the myth of scarcity—we have to learn how to do things differently now because there is just not enough to go around. At least from a social ecologist standpoint, this is a flawed assumption. It’s not that nature is limited, it’s that some have more than is fair because of an economic system, global capitalism, that privileges hierarchy and domination. An ecological society can only be built, Murray Bookchin reminds us, by re-imagining political and economic structures:

“Social ecology is based on the conviction that nearly all of our present ecological problems originate in deep-seated social problems. It follows, from this view, that these ecological problems cannot be understood, let alone solved, without a careful understanding of our existing society and the irrationalities that dominate it. To make this point more concrete: economic, ethnic, cultural, and gender conflicts, among many others, lie at the core of the most serious ecological dislocations we face today—apart, to be sure, from those that are produced by natural catastrophes”

In other words, what we still need (and perhaps more than ever) are Utopias of Justice that involve deep and nuanced conceptions of justice. But how can we resuscitate this tradition of utopian thinking?

Here, it might be more useful to think along the with Ursula Le Guin in terms of Utopiyin and Utopiyang. The Yin-Yang dynamic is something that has influenced her work for years. She understands it this way: “Yang is male, bright, dry, hard, active, penetrating. Yin is female, dark, wet, easy, receptive, containing. Yang is control, yin acceptance. They are great and equal powers; neither can exist alone, and each is always in process of becoming the other.”

Le Guin thinks our dystopian era has focused mostly on picturing Yang worlds in which Yin is severely restricted or even eliminated: she has Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty Four in mind. Yin dystopias are represented our fascination with the zombie apocalypse or Octavia Butler’s Parable trilogy: “popular visions of social breakdown, total loss of control—chaos and old night”.

Thus, what Hammer seems to object to in rejecting the Utopia of Justice and Technology are actually Yang tinged visions that emphasize control over institutions and machinery eventually seeping into political control of some over the many.

Le Guin seems to tell us that what we need is a radical utopian imagination that provokes us to think of a just world in Yin terms—a Utopiyin:

“My guess is that the kind of thinking we are, at last, beginning to do about how to change the goals of human domination and unlimited growth to those of human adaptability and long term survival is a shift from yang to yin, and so involves acceptance of impermanence and imperfection, a patience with uncertainty and the makeshift, a friendship with water, darkness, and the earth”.

Any suggestions of works that operate in a Utopiyin imagination?






Trump’s Russian Connection Matters to Climate Justice

By Alexander Reid Ross (July 12, 2017)

I just don’t get all the jockeying and positioning of some leftists around Trump and Russia. Now that it’s been proven that the Trump Campaign actively embraced Russian espionage, there are fewer people giddy over denying the whole thing (and comparing good journalists to conspiracy theorists in the process). However, it’s now fashionable to simply dismiss everything as unimportant or, better yet, a distraction from other things like climate change.

Trump, it appears, is in power today, at least in part, because of an extensive smear campaign that activated deep networks of oligarchs and media figures, most likely for the sake of releasing sanctions that crippled the Russian economy and furthering the interests of collaborative energy relations.

Trump’s climate policy and the placement of ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State have everything to do with this arrangement. Tillerson’s long history arm-in-arm with Igor Sechin, head of Rosneft, is crucial to understanding how, as the Arctic fades, the US and Russia hope to partner up and exploit all the oil they can find.

This marks a 180 against any sensible climate policy. It is directly linked to the Russia affair. How can the point be made seriously that it’s a 100% distraction? Like, we are the 99% and we all hate the oligarchy, but let’s not allow that to blind us to the political operations at play in international relations.


Bioregionalism is the Answer to Empire

By S. Brian Willson (July 12, 2017)

COLLAPSE IS IMPERATIVE for the future of life as we know it.

Primary Meme of US culture: Profits for a few (mostly White men/patriarchy) through expansion at ANY cost =US empire. This selfish model is now global on a finite planet. John Locke defined empire as a way of life that takes wealth and freedom from others to provide one’s own welfare, pleasure, and power. It is an ecological disaster and morally indefensible.

A Previously unthinkable premise to ponder: The US as a nation and culture is irredeemable and unreformable, built on three Genocides.

Genocide #1: Our origins derive from forceful dispossession of Indigenous and their land, killing millions with impunity, justified through a myth of exceptionalism. This set in motion a pattern of a pretend society, built on lie after lie, from Manifest Destiny to Full Spectrum Dominance. The past is never in the past, as its features always remain present in the psyche.

Genocide #2 was forceful dispossession of Africans of their labor and dignity, killing millions with impunity.

Genocide #3 was and remains the forceful dispossession of “Third World” peoples of their resources and labor, killing millions with impunity.

The US, as is typical of empires, is unsustainable, built on unspeakable behaviors. The wool has not been pulled over our eyes. Our eyes are the wool. Our US model has morphed into neo-liberal globalization, destined to destroy virtually all planetary life.

But Humans ARE redeemable and reformable if we choose to re-organize into bioregionally sufficient food and simple tool cooperative cultures, similar to ancient Indigenous models. Ceasing obedience to nation states will free up our energy and imaginations to create new social configurations integrated within bioregional carrying capacity.


Where the Evidence Leads on Trump’s Election

By Mark Naison (July 6, 2017)


Historians are detectives. We follow the evidence to arrive at the best available explanation of why events take place. And to me, the trail of evidence to explain Donald Trump’s election doesn’t lead to Russia, it leads us into the inner workings of the Democratic Party- who leads it, who funds it, what issues does it highlight, whose interests does it represent. And what we will find, when we investigate closely, is that in state after state, the Democratic Party lost key elements of its working class base since 2008, especially but not exclusively among whites, and that the enthusiasm for its policies was shrinking among key constituencies.

Hillary Clinton was not a great candidate, but we should not forget that she actually ran AHEAD of other Democrats in states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Donald Trump, a former Democrat who decided to throw his hat in the Republican Presidential ring, took advantage of the Democratic Party’s weakness in 2016 in a way that was not yet possible in 2011.

Blaming Russia for his victory is a not very clever strategy by Democratic Party elites to avoid looking in the mirror and accepting responsibility for selling out their Party’s once honorable legacy as a defender of the living standards of working class America. And because those elites have retained their power and learned nothing, it is very likely that the Republicans will retain control of Congress in 2018 and that Donald Trump will be a two term president.


What the Flag Means to Me

By. S. Brian Wilson (July 3, 2017)

Originally published here by S. Brian Willson

I was probably seven years old before it really sunk in that everybody in my town was not celebrating my birthday on July 4. It was an exciting day with parades, picnics, fireworks and, in my case, special birthday parties and gifts. I lived much of my young life with the extra boost of having been born on the day that our earliest political framers signed the Declaration of Independence, an historical act of defiance against monarchial colonial rule from distant England. I remember proudly carrying the U.S. American flag in one of the July 4th parades in my small, agricultural town in upstate New York. And for years I felt goosebumps looking at Old Glory waving in the breeze during the playing of the national anthem or as it passed by in a parade. How lucky I was to have been born in the greatest country in the history of the world, and blessed by God to boot. Such a blessing, such a deal!

It wasn’t until many years later, while reading an issue of the armed forces newspaper Stars and Stripes in Vietnam, that I began thinking and feeling differently about the flag and what it represents. There was a story about an arrest for flag burning somewhere in the United States. I had recently experienced the horror of seeing numerous bodies of young women and children that were burned alive in a small Delta village devastated by napalm. I imagined that since the pilots had “successfully” hit their targets, they were feeling good and probably had received glowing reports that would bode well in their military record for promotions. I wondered why it was okay to burn innocent human beings 10,000 miles from my home town, but not okay to burn a piece of cloth that was symbolic of the country that had horribly napalmed those villagers. Something was terribly wrong with the Cold War rhetoric of fighting communism that made me question what our nation stood for. There was a grand lie, an American myth, that was being fraudulently preserved under the cloak of our flag.

It took me years to process this clear cognitive dissonance between the rhetoric of my cultural teachings and the reality of my own personal experiences. I had to accept that, either there was serious distortion in how I was interpreting my personal realities, or the cultural rhetoric was terribly distorted. Hmm. A dilemma! If I accepted the former, I could relax and feel good about being an “American.” If I accepted the latter, I would experience a serious identity crisis, perhaps a nervous breakdown. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not ignore what my own conscience was continually telling me.

I began a serious reflection that included careful study of U.S. and world history. When I was a teenager living near Seneca Indian reservations in western New York State I occasionally heard Seneca acquaintances utter “jokes” about how the “White man speaks with forked tongue.” We thought it funny at the time. But then I discovered how my country really was founded. There were hundreds of nations comprised of millions of human beings–yes, human beings–living throughout the land before our European ancestors arrived here in the 1600s. The U.S. government signed over 400 treaties with various Indigenous nations and violated every one of them. And over time these original peoples were systematically eliminated in what amounted to the first genuine American holocaust.

When I reread the Declaration of Independence I noted words I hadn’t been aware of before: “He [the King of Great Britain] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” Honest history reveals that the very land upon which our founding fathers began this new experiment in freedom had been taken by violence and deceit, ironically using the same diabolical methods the framers accused of those already living here. It became obvious after extensive reading that my European ancestors did not believe that Indigenous Americans were human beings worthy of respect, but despicable, non-human creatures, worthy only of extermination. The pre-Columbus population of Indigenous in the Western Hemisphere is estimated to have been at least 100 million (8-12 million north of the Rio Grande). By 1900 this population had been reduced to about 5 percent of its former size. An Indigenous friend of mine, a Seneca man who had served the U.S. military in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and then after retiring, discovered his ancestral roots as a native American, once remarked to me: “I call the American flag ‘Old Gory,’ the red representing the blood, and the white, the bones, of my murdered ancestors.”

When adding to our first holocaust the damage done to African cultures through forcefully seizing human beings to be slaves in order to build our early agricultural and industrial base, and the carnage from nearly 300 U.S. overt military and thousands of covert interventions in the Twentieth Century to acquire access to markets and resources on our selfish terms, we see there are actually three holocausts that have enabled the “glorious American civilization” to be what it is today. It is now estimated that Africa lost 50 million of its population to the slave trade, at least two-thirds of whom were killed resisting capture or died during the horrors of transit; an estimated 20 to 30 million people in the Third World have been killed as a result of U.S. interventions. Note that when other peoples all over the globe have attempted to emulate the spirit of our Declaration of Independence (a proclamation of self-determination), such as Vietnam explicitly did in 1945, our government not only has turned a deaf ear, but has done everything in its power short of dropping Atomic bombs to destroy their efforts to obtain independence. This is the foundation upon which we have built “America.” Quite the karma!

The founding of our Republic was conducted in secrecy by an upper class who insisted on a strong national government that could assure a successful but forceful clearing of western lands, enabling the safe settlement and economic development of previously inhabited Indigenous territory. Our Founding Fathers did not represent the common people. Some historians believe that if the Constitution itself had been subjected to a genuine vote of all the people it would have been resoundly defeated. Subsequently, what evolved is a political system run by plutocrats who perpetuate an economic system that protects the interests of those who finance their campaigns (a form of bribery). The U.S. government is a democracy in name only. Never have we had a government that seriously addresses the plight of the people, whether it be workers, minorities, women, the poor, etc. Whatever has been achieved in terms of rights and benefits for these constituencies, i.e., the people, has been struggled for against substantial repression, and the constant threat the gains will be subsequently lost. Intense pressures are applied by the selfish oligarchy which seeks ever increased profits, rarely, if ever, considering the expense to the health of the majority of people, their local cultures, and the ecology.

What the West calls capitalism is nothing like what Adam Smith had in mind with his views of decentralized networks of small entrepreneurs working in harmony with the needs and forces of others in their own communities. What we have is a savage system of centrally institutionalized greed that is unable to generalize an equitable way of life for the majority of people here in the U.S., or in the rest of the world. It requires incredible exploitation of human and other natural resources all over the globe with the forcible protection of military and paramilitary forces financed or sanctioned by governments. It thrives on its own sinister version of welfare where the public financially guarantees–through tax loopholes, subsidies, contracts, and outright bailouts–the profitable success of the major corporations and financial institutions, especially, but not exclusively, in the military-industrial complex. Additionally, our monopoly capitalism defines efficiency by totally ignoring the true costs of its production and distribution. It conveniently forgets the huge ecological and human exhaustion costs (both being our true wealth). If these costs were included, the system would be finished in a second. The reality, upon honest examination, is that the economic system we call capitalism, now neoliberal, global capitalism, is cruelly based on a very fraudulent set of assumptions that justify massive exploitation. The reality, upon honest examination, is that our political system was founded, and has been maintained to this very day by substantive plutocracy, not democracy.

So when I see the flag and think of the Declaration of Independence, instead of the United States of America, I see the United Corporations of America; I see the blood and bones of people all over the globe who have been dehumanized, then exterminated by its imperialism; and I see a symbol that represents a monstrous lie maintained by excessive, deadly force. It makes me feel sick, and ashamed. And I know that my opinions being expressed here will not be popular, even among some of my closest friends. But I cannot ignore the reality as I now understand it. I believe we are living one of the most incredible lies in history, covered over by one of the most successful campaigns of public rhetoric, ignoring empirical reality. It is truly amazing! I hope that one day we will end our willful ignorance and be able to see our transgressions, and beg, on our knees, for forgiveness, and then wail as we begin to feel the incredible pain and anguish we have caused the world as well as our own bodies, minds, souls, and culture.