Immigrant Round-ups Stir Fears

During last fall’s campaign, Donald Trump vowed to get rid of the “bad hombres” among the 11 million undocumented people in the U.S., but recent raids appear far less targeted, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

 

By Dennis J Bernstein

President Donald Trump is keeping his promise to go after undocumented people in the United States, with recent reports of sweeps by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or ICE) sending waves of fear through the Latino and other immigrant communities in California, Texas and Arizona.

Trump had justified the need for such round-ups as necessary to get rid of “bad hombres” but immigrant advocates say the raids are indiscriminate, rounding up as many undocumented people as possible.

“It is now clear the Trump Administration is not concerned with public safety,” said California State Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon. “They are only focused on ripping hard-working men, women, and children from their families and communities. Mass deportations will not make us safer, instead they will simply undermine our state’s economy.”

De Leon issued a statement critical of ICE actions on Feb. 10, saying he had been misled by ICE assurances that  refugee advocates had exaggerated when they claimed that more than 100 people had been arrested in raids across Southern California a day earlier.

“I appreciate that ICE finally disclosed details about their recent raids, but stunned to learn that ICE’s public comments made [on Feb. 9] were blatantly false,” said De Leon, noting that ICE later confirmed that it had arrested 160 people.

De Leon, perhaps the most influential elected Latino official in the state of California, called on ICE to work more effectively with the communities of California that De Leon represents. “If you want to ensure ongoing safety of the public and law enforcement personnel, my recommendation is to drop the mass deportation threats roiling our communities and instead focus strictly on dangerous felons,” he said.

Among the groups most targeted for mass deportation are the undocumented day laborers and domestic workers who work the fields and clean the major hotels and the houses of the rich and famous.

Chris Newman is Legal Director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network or NDLON, which represents tens of thousands of day laborers from coast to coast. I spoke with him earlier this month.

Dennis Bernstein: Could you talk about the concerns that NDLON now has, in terms of the unfolding, what we’ve seen already with these anti-immigrant directives, coming from the President of the United States and the mass sweeps that have followed?

Chris Newman: Well, it’s certainly far worse than we would have imagined, even days before the president was inaugurated. And I think that there’s no question that the Trump administration is trying to terrorize people, trying to terrorize immigrants, trying to terrorize the country, in an effort to try to assert legitimacy for the administration and to try to exercise executive authority.

I do think, again, they are going out of their way to conflate anxieties that people have about the economy, about terrorism, about globalization. They’re doing their best to sort of bundle them all up. And the reality is that the real world implications for immigrants are quite dire. And, so, you are quite right. We are left in a position of reacting as the president appears to be making good on many of his campaign promises.

DB: Now, we’ve seen a couple of high profile cases of them demonstrating their resolve to intimidate and deport. Of course, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there was a case where ICE showed up at a daycare center, a medical center, and said they had the wrong address. They were looking for a rapist. But all the kids in the daycare center were terrorized.

We now have seen the arrest of a woman who was in the country 21 years, taken out, essentially, out of the arms of her family. Are you hearing more and more about intimidation, about things happening? Could you give us a sense of how that might be reverberating in the community that you represent?

CN: … I think that you’ve put your finger right on it. These actions are a deliberate effort to intimidate and terrorize the community. One of the things I think is commonly misunderstood about the organized xenophobes, the people who are really the propelling force of the Trump campaign: their goal is to limit the foreign born, non-white population of the United States. And deportation is only a piece of how they hope to bring about that agenda. In fact, they want to bring about a far more sophisticated and nefarious plan to effectuate a reduction of the foreign-born, non-white population through attrition.

And so, the idea is to make life sufficiently miserable for immigrants, such that they voluntarily go home. The tipping line that people know about is the South deportation. And, also, such that people are deterred from coming to the United States. And within that context, and within that broader agenda that they have, deportation/criminal enforcement is just one tool. Their goal is to cut access to education, to jobs, to the means of survival, and also to instill fear. And within that context the act of showing courage and resistance contravenes the strategy.

You can look to the deportation of Guadalupe in Phoenix as an example of the brutality of the Trump policy. But you can also look to the way in which the community responded in Phoenix, and the courageous protests as a sign of resistance. And it will also be the new normal. …

CN: I think that ICE should be called to task for their lack of transparency in all of these enforcement operations. … ICE public information officers — or spokespeople — have been intentionally obfuscating, precisely to try to create, I think, a sense of chaos, confusion, and unrest. And, to me, it seems totally unacceptable that, number one, ICE refuses to provide details of enforcement operations. And, number two, that that seems to be an acceptable answer from the mainstream press.

I think ICE must be compelled to answer how many people were detained, and why and where. And, I think, reporters should not accept “No” for an answer. It … cannot be the new normal that the largest federal interior law enforcement agency does not provide basic information about raids. Particularly when we have a president who has intentionally engaged in a strategy of… we’ll call it the disruption, or the intentional, sort of, sowing of chaos, that they’ve been involved in. Yes, so I don’t have details, but ICE should be providing them, forthwith.

DB: Now, let me ask you, on that policy: is this now a pattern in practice, of not saying who’s being arrested, why they’re being arrested, or where they’re taken? Is this a new intensification? How would you describe that?

CN: I would describe it as sort of an unrestrained tendency that’s been with the agency since its inception. As you know, we’ve discussed on your program before, ICE was involved in intentional dishonesty in the rolling out of the so-called Secure Communities Program, which coerced local police to become front line law enforcement agencies.

And this is just not my view, as an attorney with a point of view as an advocate. I mean, this was the view of members of Congress and federal judges starting with a freedom of information request. ICE was intentionally involved in a deliberate strategy of disinformation about that program. … And for many years, organizations like mine and others have raised questions about whether ICE is, in fact, a rogue law enforcement agency.

But, now, you have a rogue law enforcement agency essentially presided over by a rogue president. And so, I think that the types of tactics of propaganda and, again, misinformation that ICE has been involved in, are now currently, unrestrained.

And so, I do think it is incumbent upon the concerned community members to do, and to look at what Phoenix did, and look at what Puente, in Arizona, did in response to Guadalupe’s raid. And we need to model and replicate that type of courage and response.

But, I also think that members of the press are going to have to be more vigilant at holding ICE accountable for the dissembling way in which they’re sowing confusion about these enforcement operations.

DB: And, just finally, are you all taking precautions? Are there more meetings? Are there more informational gatherings? Are people being presented with more ways of protecting themselves? How do, you know, to be alert, what to do when they arrive. Is that part of what’s going on now in terms of the defense against this?

CN: Without a doubt. I mean, we have one of the most, or the most, xenophobic senator is now the top cop in the United States, in Jeff Sessions, as the new Attorney General. And [it] is now, I think, imperative that people… when you have somebody who has sort of forecasted his intent to roll back civil rights protections that have been won over the last several decades, it’s imperative that people… take it upon themselves, not just to prepare to defend themselves, but also to defend constitutional values that have been fought for and won over generations.

And so, yes, indeed, across the country there are high-level “know your rights” informational seminars, such that immigrants are being prepared to defend themselves and to defend the constitution.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.




Making Puppy Mills Great Again

Many Americans applauded President Trump’s vow to slash government regulations – that always sounds great in the abstract – but it may be less popular when it means gutting rules that addressed puppy mill abuses, says JP Sottile.

By JP Sottile

Is Donald Trump trying to make puppy mills great again? Actually, that’s a trick question because puppy mills were never great. In fact, puppy mills are one of the uglier bits of scumbaggery to emerge from a burgeoning pet industry that has, according to the American Pet Products Association, ballooned from $17 billion in 1994 to nearly $63 billion in 2016.

About $2.1 billion of that total is “live animal purchases,” and the people who butter their bread by breeding animals fall under the regulatory purview of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Right now, there are an estimated 10,000 dog breeders nationwide, and the USDA’s minuscule budget of $28 million annually means they only keep tabs on a small fraction of them. As a result, there are fewer than 3,000 officially “regulated” breeders. Falling into that sizable gap between “regulated” and “unregulated” are thousands of facilities ignominiously known as “puppy mills.”

Factory Farms for Dogs

If you haven’t seen video footage of a puppy mill, you might not be aware of just how sadly appropriate that moniker is for these fetid factories of fecundity. Unregulated breeders run Dickensian “mills” filled with malnutritioned, poorly-groomed, and chronically infirm dogs that are all-too-often crammed into cages throughout the entirety of their utterly bereft lives.

Each of these captive canines produces an average of nearly ten puppies per year in operations that amount to the factory farming of dogs. The puppies are sold in retail stores for a tidy profit to customers who often find their newest member of the family is sick or overbred or worse.

For those seeking compensation for their “defective product,” tracking back to the breeders is a daunting task. Even if they’ve been inspected and accumulated numerous violations, the USDA rarely revokes licenses or even enforces minimum compliance with the law. Amazingly, it has collected less than $4 million in fines over the last two years, according to a shocking investigative report published in a recent issue of Rolling Stone.

But now the difficult task of keeping tabs on sleazy breeders who refuse to comply with even the meager, decrepit standards of the anachronistic Animal Welfare Act (AWA) just got a whole lot harder.

That’s thanks in part to the Trump Administration’s “delete first … so we won’t have to ask questions later” approach to everything related to science, public health, safety, or anything that might crimp the money-making style of Trump’s corporate supporters.

Draining the Swamp?

In the spirit of gag orders imposed on a number of science-dependent agencies, the USDA abruptly “purged” its online database of inspection reports and other information from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities,” according to a story first reported by the Washington Post.

“Going forward, APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication. APHIS will also review and redact, as necessary, the lists of licensees and registrants under the AWA, as well as lists of designated qualified persons (DQPs) licensed by USDA-certified horse industry organizations,” the USDA said on its website.

And it’s that last bit about “USDA-certified horse industry organizations that might be the key to unraveling a move that has outraged animal welfare activists, journalists, and even a few conservative commentators like Laura Ingraham and Tammy Bruce. Writing in the Washington Times, Ms. Bruce questioned the move as a disturbing and odd move for an administration to be committed to transparency, draining the swamp and ending lobbyist control of policy.

Of course, it’s hard to tell whether the Trump Administration wants to drain the swamp or to swamp the drain with crony capitalists in an attempt to flood the already financially fertile plains of Washington, D.C., with the loamy, rich monetary manure spread so profitably by key industries.

Who Benefits?

So, who benefits from a widely unpopular decision that generated angry hashtags like #USDAblackout and #NoUSDAblackout … and the filing of a new lawsuit claiming the blackout illegally obstructs the application of the Animal Welfare Act?

New reporting by the Washington Post indicates senior staffers within the UDSA advocated the purge in response to a lawsuit over the controversial practice of “soring” the legs of walking horses with harsh chemicals that inflict enough pain to cause the animal’s “high-stepping” gait to rise just a little bit higher. That, in turn, makes them more successful in competitions and raises their value as a commodity. In other words, no pain means less financial gain.

Ironically, the USDA recently banned soring … but suddenly decided to implement the data purge despite the decision to prohibit the very practice that sparked the lawsuit that supposedly led to the purge.

Perhaps it’s not coincidental that the ban came after the national Humane Society conducted its own investigations into horse soring or that their investigation would’ve relied in part on the exactly the type of data collected by USDA inspectors. But now, just like it will with profligate puppy millers, the purge effectively hides the identity of horse industry organizations with a documented history of soring and gives them new room to run roughshod on animal welfare protections.

And Who Decided?

So, who made this perplexing, politically unpopular decision?

Although he wasn’t necessarily opposed to the purge when it was first proposed, outgoing Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told the Post that he refused to sign-off on the new, information-obscuring rule because there was not enough time for us to properly vet the recommendation, and I was concerned about transparency.

But that was then and this is now. And now there is a new sheriff in town who has said regulations must go the way of the dying bumblebee his administration doesn’t want to list as an endangered species.

To wit, the prime mover behind the purge might be one of Trump’s lesser-known deputies – a guy name Brian Klippenstein of the industry-aligned Protect the Harvest. He was the head of Trump’s USDA transition team. And the “harvest” he and his barely-known advocacy group want to protect is the unchecked right of human beings to harvest animals for profit.

Mostly, they want to do so without any meddling by the Humane Society or even the barest protections for the welfare of animals. Klippenstein – who is something of a puppy mill enthusiast – is no doubt pleased with a purge that will make it easier to profit off of mistreating animals again.

So, with a tidy little bit of doublespeak, the USDA website replaced the database with a message explaining that the records were removed based on our commitment to being transparent, remaining responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals.

Red Tape and Paperwork

It’s the needs of those stakeholders” – the breeders and businesses and big agricultural interests – that will predictably win out in this crony-laden administration. But wait … maybe this was just part of Team Trump’s war on the onerous, freedom-killing regulatory state … right? Hardly.

According to a fact sheet from the HSUS, these anything-but-onerous USDA ‘regulations’ make it perfectly legal to keep dozens or even hundreds of breeding dogs in small wire cages for their entire lives with only the basics of food, water and rudimentary shelter.”

Despite that, many of the licensed breeders violate these comically inadequate standards in their never-ending quest to cruelly cut corners and squeeze a little more profit out of the cramped lives of dogs trapped in a perpetual cycle of insemination, pregnancy, and birth.

And that’s to say nothing of the thousands of unlicensed puppy mills whose only oversight comes from activists, nonprofits, journalists, and the occasional whistleblower … and whose operations only come to an end when these non-governmental do-gooders do the kind of good that one might expect from an agency tasked with the duty of ensuring a basic level of animal welfare.

As a result of the move, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), along with ASPCA, PETA, and hundreds of other smaller non-profit and volunteer animal welfare organizations around the country, will be tied up in red tape and tortuous FOIA paperwork if they want to access heretofore public information on zoos, laboratories, roadside attractions and, of course, puppy mills.

That matters because those organizations fill the gaping hole left by the sparsely funded, severely understaffed, and seemingly overmatched USDA.

The Humane Society is one of many non-government watchdogs that watch out for dogs by funding their own investigations and by even staging raids on puppy mills in concert with local law enforcement. The USDA’s now-purged database was often a roadmap leading the HSUS, ASPCA, and hundreds of local watchdogs to serial violators.

Scarce Enforcement

The simple fact is that little is done even when the USDA is on the case, which is not that surprising for an agency with a well-greased revolving door between itself and the businesses it regulates.

Even Ringling Bros – whose violation data would be purged along with puppy millers – was able to get someone placed at the USDA back in 2011. Perhaps that helps explain why, as the HSUS points out, there are hundreds of USDA-licensed puppy mills in operation that have a history of documented animal care violations that are still licensed.”

But that’s just one part of why access to the records accumulated by the USDA is so important. Natasha Daly of National Geographic wrote:

“These records have revealed many cases of abuse and mistreatment of animals, incidents that, if the reports had not been publicly posted, would likely have remained hidden. This action plunges journalists, animal welfare organizations, and the public at large into the dark about animal welfare at facilities across the country.”

As One Green Planet reported, it’s the same database that helped Boston Globe reporter Carolyn Johnson expose a federally-funded primate testing facility” at Harvard University that mistreated thousands of monkeys despite repeated violations and $24,000 in fines … until it was ignominiously closed in 2015.

It was whistleblowers and journalists who used shocking footage to expose the cruelty that halted the captive breeding program at SeaWorld, ended years of torture and sickness for Ringling Brothers’ elephants, and sparked a wholesale revolution in the production of eggs when Mercy for Animals revealed the deplorable conditions of egg-laying chickens.

It was surreptitiously filmed videos that eventually led to McDonald’s, Walmart, and other major companies forcing their suppliers to adopt new welfare standards for the chickens they quite literally bank on to bring home the bacon.

The same has been happening with puppy mills, too. Increased awareness of the deplorable conditions – thanks in part to activists and journalists using the now deleted data – has led to a number of anti-puppy mill laws around the country.

Those efforts, along with campaigns to convince dog enthusiasts to adopt a soon-to-be-euthanized shelter dog over a costly retail puppy, have the pet industry mounting a counter-campaign of alternative facts designed to convince Americans that there is a puppy shortage in spite of the daunting facts.

Of course, the dog breeding industry is there to help re-puppy America – for a price. And their bottom line is that the less you know about the way those puppies are produced, the better it is for the conscience of consumers and the breeders’ bank accounts. Frankly, that’s really what this purge portends … a wider crackdown on transparency and information in the USDA, which, along with the FDA, oversees the nation’s gargantuan factory farming industry.

The fact that Trump tapped former Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue to run the Department of Agriculture is the clearest signal yet that years of hard-won, incremental progress on animal welfare and increased safety in the food supply are likely to go the way of the dodo bird under factory farm-friendly Purdue.

Remember that time then-candidate Trump floated the idea of eliminating the FDA’s food police” who make sure there isn’t too much feces in the meat or too little safety in the nation’s vast, complicated food system?

Now, with Brian Klippenstein planting the seeds of profitability for factory farmers, horse sorers and, alas, puppy millers, Trump’s vision of “unchecked everything” is coming into focus. Thanks to the purge, it just got harder for activists, journalists and whistleblowers to do what the USDA wasn’t capable of doing.

And it also became a little easier to be an animal-abusing ingrate again.

JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, published historian, radio co-host and documentary filmmaker (The Warning, 2008). His credits include a stint on the Newshour news desk, C-SPAN and as newsmagazine producer for ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington. His weekly show ‘Inside the Headlines With The Newsvandal‘ co-hosted by James Moore airs every Friday on KRUU-FM in Fairfield, Iowa. He blogs at Newsvandal and tweets ?@newsvandal. This article was originally published on AntiMedia (Creative Commons). 




Toxic Policies of ‘President Agent Orange’

Exclusive: President Trump’s early hard-right actions and hirings threaten some of America’s most vulnerable people and the environment, with his policies even compared to the poison Agent Orange, writes Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

Rapper Busta Rhymes pegged it at the Grammy Awards when he referred to Donald Trump as “President Agent Orange.” While performing with A Tribe Called Quest and Anderson Paak, Rhymes used the opportunity to call out Trump for his Muslim ban and “all of the evil” Trump has perpetrated since assuming the presidency three weeks ago.

Rhymes said, “I just wanna thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all of the evil that you’ve been perpetrating throughout the United States,” adding, “I wanna thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt at the Muslim ban. Now we come together! We the people! We the people! We the people!”

For some younger readers who may not be familiar with the term, Agent Orange was an herbicidal chemical weapon sprayed over 12 percent of Vietnam by the U.S. military from 1961 to 1971. The dioxin present in Agent Orange is one of the most toxic chemicals known to humankind.

Those exposed to Agent Orange often have children and grandchildren born with serious illnesses and disabilities. The international scientific community has identified an association between exposure to Agent Orange and some forms of cancers, reproductive abnormalities, immune and endocrine deficiencies, and nervous system damage. Second- and third-generation victims continue to be born in Vietnam, as well as to U.S. veterans and Vietnamese-Americans in this country.

The use of dioxin, a poisoned weapon, was a war crime in violation of the Hague Convention. It also constituted a crime against humanity because it was an inhuman act perpetrated against a civilian population. Despite all that, the U.S. government has given only small amounts of money to address the human victims of Agent Orange/dioxin. Much of the money has not reached the victims who need it so much, and the amounts allocated cannot make much of a dent in addressing the tremendous human suffering.

Second and third generation children of American Vietnam veterans face the same problems as do exposed Vietnamese-Americans. That is why Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, introduced H.R. 334, the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2017.

The bill, which currently has 23 co-sponsors, would provide health care and social services for affected Vietnamese; medical assistance and disability benefits to affected children of U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War; and health assessment, counseling and treatment for affected Vietnamese-Americans and their offspring. It would also clean up the lands and restore ecosystems contaminated by Agent Orange/dioxin in Vietnam.

The Trump Comparison

Though some might view the comparison between President Trump and poisonous dioxin sprayed indiscriminately on living things a bit hyperbolic, many of Trump’s early actions and proposals – like Agent Orange – may inflict devastation for years to come.

Since taking office, Trump has moved systematically to unravel protections for immigrants, workers, the environment, Native Americans and other people of color, as well as the right to healthcare. He has moved to deregulate Wall Street, incurring a real risk of another financial meltdown. And his Muslim ban created worldwide chaos, pain and insecurity for untold numbers of people. The courts have halted the ban – for now.

Moreover, Trump has already committed a war crime in Yemen, ordering a raid that killed at least 25 civilians, nine of them children, including a three-month-old baby and a pregnant woman. Mohsina Mabkhout al Ameri lost her brother, nephew and his three children in the attack.

“They killed men, children and women and destroyed houses,” she told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. “We are normal people and have nothing to do with al-Qaeda or the Houthis or anyone. The men came from America, got off the planes and the planes bombed us,” she added.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration proclaimed the raid “absolutely a success.” Trump called it a “winning mission.” Trump also favors torture and waterboarding and has pledged to continue drone strikes. He has already begun deporting DREAMers. And if he has his way, his administration will exclude large numbers of refugees fleeing war and persecution.

Under a President Trump, we can expect a continual, persistent assault on civil rights and human rights, and increasing heartache both in the United States and abroad. This is why Busta Rhymes called Trump’s actions “evil.” At the end of the rap performance, Muslim women wearing headscarves and others joined the musicians onstage. They all raised their fists, repeatedly chanting, “Resist!”

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. In 2009, she served as one of seven judges from three continents who heard two days of testimony from 27 witnesses at the International People’s Tribunal of Conscience in Support of the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange in Paris. She is a member of the national advisory board of Veterans for Peace and co-coordinator of Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign [http://www.vn-agentorange.org/ ]. Visit her website at http://marjoriecohn.com and follow her on Twitter @MarjorieCohn.




Native Tribe Objects to Trump’s Wall

President Trump’s proposed “Great Wall” across the U.S.-Mexican border presents particular problems for a Native American tribe whose traditional lands straddle the line, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

The traditional lands of the Tohono O’odham Nation cover parts of both southern Arizona in the U.S. and northern Sonora province in Mexico, making President Trump’s proposed “Great Wall” a special concern to the tribe whose U.S. reservation extends 75 miles along the border and whose tribal members live and work on both sides.

 

On Jan. 26, the tribe issued a press release noting that “the Nation has been on the front line of border issues for over 160 years and takes these issues very seriously. While the Nation does not support a large-scale fortified wall, it has worked closely for decades with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and other agencies to secure the U.S. homeland.”

I spoke with Mike Flores, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation and the American Indian Movement (AIM), who told me that Homeland Security and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) have had a “heavy” presence in Tucson and the U.S.-Mexico border at Nogales, Arizona, since Trump signed presidential directives late last month calling for an immigration crackdown.

“Trump seems like he’s totally unaware of the damage and the desecration his wall would do to harm not only our people, but the natural environment here in our area,” Flores said. “Unfortunately, this administration has no regard for this so-called government-to-government relationship with the tribes. And, there’s been no consultation with our tribe, especially being that we’re right on the border … (which has) disrupted our way of life for decades now.”

Flores made it very clear that the new Trump directives and the wall will deeply disrupt his Nation’s way of life, as well as to endanger and kill off much of the rich natural and wildlife of the region.

“Historically, we were able to go back and forth to visit, not only relatives but sacred sites, conduct ceremonies in what is now known as Sonora, Mexico,” Flores continued.

“And that has been impeded since this border has been put in. And to see a wall going up, that would even prevent us from carrying on any of our ceremonial ceremonies, that we have in Mexico, as well as our relatives coming north to participate in ceremonies up here. That’s how it’s affected our people.

“But also, I think the wildlife in our area: the deer, the antelope, the pronged horns, the mountain goats. They are endangered by the wall. …They all have these migration areas where they go. And to have a wall going up would prevent them from doing their migratory traveling as well, which, again, would interfere with the natural way of life for the wildlife.”

Beyond those disruptions, he added, “The militarization of our tribal lands has become so bad, that yes, we can’t even go shopping without being stopped … and a lot of times, being detained for hours, without any reasons, other than that we are indigenous people of the land. And it creates a bit of concern for us, because we have had issues in the past where people were hurt or injured because of the paranoia of federal officials.”

Flores said ICE and the Border Patrol have already set up “what they call checkpoints, not only on the tribal lands but just a hundred yards off the reservation, on roads largely used by tribal members.

“These roads go to the reservation, and so anybody that drives, like, say if I was going from east to west … if I was coming into Tucson, I would get stopped just right outside the tribal reservation, and they ask if I am a U.S. citizen. They ask if I’m carrying any contrabands, WMDs, or that type of…B.S. …

”And it’s very frustrating to have to deal with these people. I’m not saying they’re all alike, but a big majority of them are … they come across like the John Waynes of the area. And it’s kind of ridiculous at times, as well.”

Flores said the checkpoints have been the scene of some violent overreactions by the Feds. “People have been physically manhandled, put on the ground, handcuffed, and thrown into vehicles for hours,” said Flores. “And then they are let loose after so many hours of sitting in a border patrol van, sweating it out. That’s what a lot of our people go through, just because they want to go to Tucson to go shopping.”

“I have told government officials, not only tribal, but U.S. federal officials, that I don’t want to see this type of warfare going on in our communities, in our backyard, especially for my children, my grandchildren, that are growing up in this area,“ said Flores. “I don’t want them to have to live under this kind of rule. And, hopefully, we can eliminate those things, so that our people can really prosper the way they should be able to here, in this place called America.”

Flores also said that his Nation was deeply opposed to Trump’s expanded wall and that tribal leaders would resist its construction.

“Our vice chairman, Verlon Jose, said, ‘over my dead body will a wall be built. I do not wish to die, but I do wish to work together with people so that we can truly protect the homeland of this place they call the United States of America, not only for our people but for the American people,’ I think, was his exact quote. That he would do, and go to that extreme, to prevent a wall from going up. And I think that kind of resonates the sentiments of many, if not all our tribal members.”

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.




Deciphering Trump’s Opaque Foreign Policy

President Trump has set loose several competing – and contradictory – strands of foreign policy with the big question now whether he can avoid tripping himself up, writes ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke.

By Alastair Crooke

It is now a commonplace to note that President Trump is advocating a mercantilist “America First” foreign policy, at odds with the prevailing globalist view of a cosmopolitan, super-culture; that he is intent on dismantling this globalist zeitgeist that he believes imposes moral and cultural norms which have weakened America’s mercantile “animal spirits” and whose embrace of the politics of diversity has sapped the strength from America’s moral and cultural sinews.

In practice, the policy that emerges will not be so black and white, or so easily categorized. “Team Trump,” in fact, embraces three distinct approaches: the “benevolent American hegemon” traditionalists, the Christian warriors pitted against an Islamic “hostile” ethos – and, of course, Trump’s own “America First” mercantilism. Each of these trends distrusts the other, yet must ally with one or the other in order to balance the third or at least avoid having it act as spoiler.

This inter-connectivity makes it especially hard to read the runes – the Trump administration’s marks of mysterious significance – of likely U.S. policy given the jostling and elbowing ahead between three distinct world views. And it is made even harder given President Trump’s and strategic adviser Steve Bannon’s deliberate embrace of a politics of feint and distraction, to throw opponents off-balance.

Trump’s style of mercantilist politics – though novel in our era – is not new. It has occurred before, and in its earlier setting led to profound geo-political consequences. It led then to war and ultimately to the emergence of a new geo-political order.

That is not necessarily to say that the same will occur today, but on Sept. 17, 1656, Oliver Cromwell, a Protestant puritan who had fought a civil war in England against its Establishment and its élite and who had deposed and then executed the reigning king, addressed his revolutionary parliamentarians in Westminster by posing the question: Who are our enemies? There was, he answered to the gathered parliamentarians, an alignment of “wicked men” in the world led by a powerful state – Catholic Spain with the Pope at its head. The “enmity” that Cromwell’s countrymen faced was, at its root, the evil of a religion – Catholicism – that “refused the Englishman’s desire for simple liberties … that put men under restraint … [and] under which there was no freedom.”

Since Cromwell’s day, the mainly English-speaking (Protestant) world has demonized its “enemies” as opponents of “God’s will” through their clinging to the failings of a static and backward religious ethic (as the Puritans characterized Catholicism). And, as for the complaint of “restraint” and “lack of liberty”? At its crux lay English frustration at the impediments faced by its traders and merchants. The Puritans of that time saw in Catholicism an ethos that was not welcoming to individual enterprise, to profit or to trade.

English “hawks” – usually Puritans and merchants – wanted an aggressive anti-Spanish policy that would open new markets to burgeoning English trade. Catholicism was not an ethos, the Cromwellians fervently and dogmatically asserted, in which the nascent capitalism of the time could thrive.

Cromwell’s address to Parliament in 1656 was an early articulation of the Protestant ethic: one that has contributed hugely to shaping American entrepreneurial capitalism, and in taking America to its position of power (Steve Bannon does in fact acknowledge the parallel: “I am Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors,” he once said to a reporter).

A Religious War

Today, for one significant Trump constituency (the Tea Party base), Iran is today’s Spain, and it is Islam (vice Catholicism) that is frustrating “God’s will,” by embracing an ethos that hates the Christian “ethic.” And, it is secular globalization that has sapped America’s mercantile animal spirits, imposed restrictions on trade (i.e. NAFTA), and whose cultural and “value” norms are sapping America’s moral and spiritual muscularity.

Why should this Cromwell analogy matter today? In one sense, Trump had little choice. In opposing the (“restrictive”) globalist, foreign policy – with its spinal cord of a U.S.-led global defense sphere – the President needed to stand up some alternative foreign policy to the embedded totem of “America as the gyroscope of the global order.”

Pure mercantilism – in the style of businessman negotiator-ism – is not really, of itself, a foreign policy. The power of the “benign U.S. hegemon” meme would require something more powerful to be set up, over, and against it, to balance it out. Trump has opted for the “Christianity in peril” narrative. It is one that touches on deeply buried cultural veins of Protestant imagery within the President’s Tea Party constituency.

Retired General Michael Flynn, now Trump’s National Security Advisor, perhaps best represents this religiously based, pro-Christian Republican foreign policy, while retired General James Mattis, now U.S. Defense Secretary, perhaps has a foot in both Republican camps — as Martin Wright from Brookings explains:

“Republican foreign policy since 9/11 has had two basic strands, which sometimes contradict each other. The first is that the United States is in an existential fight against radical Islam. The second is that America’s global interests involve the maintenance of U.S. leadership in Europe and East Asia — interests, in other words, that extend far beyond combating radical Islam. The Republican establishment has always toed the line on the first, but it has increasingly focused much more on the second. The global war on terror has, of late, taken second place to balancing China and containing Russia.

“But a group within the Republican tent never made this shift. These are the people who believe the United States is engaged in a war against radical Islam that is equivalent to World War II or the Cold War. They believe it is a struggle rooted in religion to which all else should be subservient — that America’s overwhelming focus must be on radical Islam instead of revisionist powers in Europe or Asia. They also generally favor moving away from a values-based foreign policy to harsh methods to wage a major war.

“For the most part, the leaders of this school of thought have been dismissed as cranks or ideologues. But their views were widely shared in the Republican electorate, who were increasingly alarmed by the Islamic State. And they found an ally in Trump.” (emphasis added)

In short, we should expect the Administration’s policy to oscillate between these two poles of Republican foreign policy, as Trump plays off one against another, in order to insert his own (“non – foreign policy”) of radical mercantilism. The Cromwellian meme of making Iran the “number one” terrorist state and radical Islam the “hostile ethos” does fit well for the U.S. President to embrace the businessman-negotiator modus operandi  under the cover of belligerency towards the Islamic “ethos.”

A Popular ‘Enemy’

Belligerency towards Iran is, of course, popular and in this way Trump’s policy translates well or at least understandably to the mores of the Washington Beltway. This “hostile Islam” meme also provides the rationale (defeating Islamic terror) for détente with Russia. I have suggested earlier that détente with Russia is key to Trump’s dismantling of Washington’s “benign hegemon” global defense sphere. Trump argues that the “blanket” U.S. defense sphere precisely limits the possibilities for the U.S. to negotiate advantageous trade terms with its allies on a case-by-case bilateral basis.

In effect, under the cover of fighting a hostile Islamic “ethos,” Trump can pursue détente with Russia – and then toughly “businessman-negotiate” with allied states (now stripped of the Russian “threat” elevating them to a status as America’s somehow privileged, defense allies). This seems to be Secretary Tillerson’s intended role.

Martin Wright again: “This is why naming Rex Tillerson as secretary of state was so important for Trump. A week before he was named, Trump’s senior aide Kellyanne Conway told the press that Trump was expanding the list of names for secretary of state and that the most important consideration was that the nominee ‘would be to implement and adhere to the president-elect’s America-first foreign policy — if you will, his view of the world.’ The implication was clear: [Mitt] Romney, David Petraeus, and others would not fit the bill, so Trump would have to look elsewhere. He found Tillerson.

“Tillerson is a pragmatist and a dealmaker. In many ways, he is a traditionalist. After all, he was endorsed by James Baker, Robert Gates, Hadley, and Condoleezza Rice. However, Trump also sees him, based on his personal relationship with Putin and opposition to sanctions on Russia, as someone willing to cut deals with strongmen and who sees national security through an economic lens and is thus an embodiment of his own America First views. Speaking in Wisconsin hours after naming Tillerson, Trump said, ‘Rex is friendly with many of the leaders in the world that we don’t get along with, and some people don’t like that. They don’t want them to be friendly. That’s why I’m doing the deal with Rex, ‘cause I like what this is all about.’” (emphasis added)

Is this – the war with a “hostile Islamic ethos” – then just a ploy, a diversion? Something for Iran to ignore? We suspect that Iran should not assume that Trump’s targeting of Iran and radical Islam is just some harmless diversion. It is not likely that Trump actively seeks war with Iran, but were Iran to be perceived to be deliberately humiliating Trump or America, the President (self-confessedly) is not of a temperament to let any humiliation pass. He likes to repay those who do him harm, ten-fold.

End of White America

But additionally, since, as polls show, and a leading American commentator on religion and politics, Robert Jones, has written, the Trump phenomenon is also deeply connected with the end of an American era: The End of White Christian America (as his book is entitled). In point of fact, the era has already passed. For, as Jones notes, “1993 was the last year in which America was majority white, and Protestant.”

Jones writes of the “vertigo” felt – even within the insular settings of many Southern and Midwestern towns where white Protestant conservatives continue to dominate society, and politics – at their “loss of place at the center of American culture, democracy and cultural power.”

Salt has been rubbed into this wound by a Democratic Party that has somewhat reveled in the passing of white majority America and exacerbated the sore through rebranding itself as the new “majority” of minorities. Jones remarks that while some in America “might celebrate” its passing, white Christian America did provide some kind of “civic glue,” and he ruminates on how the sense of void and anxiety on “what might serve that purpose [in the future], might well turn destructive.”

This is, Iran might recall, Trump’s core constituency, which he must mollify if he is to remain in office. The destructive impulse of Tea Party-ists, if scratched repeatedly, might seek to let off steam at some convenient target.

But secondly, it seems that Trump shares in some measure, this embrace of Judeo-Christian values. Certainly Steve Bannon does. He has said plainly that American capitalism – if it is to survive – must be reconnected to Judeo-Christian values. But what explains Trump’s paradoxical focus on Iran, which is fighting Islamic radicalism, rather than say, Saudi Arabia, which is not?

Here, Martin Wright gives us the clue: “In January and February [2016], Trump was under pressure to unveil a foreign-policy team. The Republican foreign-policy establishment overwhelmingly condemned him, largely because of his America First views. It was at this point that retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn started advising him. … Several weeks after Flynn came on board, Trump rolled out a list of foreign-policy advisors. Most were completely unknown, but the name Walid Phares stood out. Phares has a controversial past as a leading figure in a Lebanese Christian militia, and is known as a hard-liner in the war on terror.”

Mother Jones’ investigative report is plain: Phares, a Lebanese Christian Maronite, is a Samir Gagea man, who has a long history, dating back to Lebanon’s civil war of (intellectual) animosity towards Iran and Syria. It seems Trump (and Flynn too?) may have imbibed deeply at the bitter well of Lebanese prejudice and civil war hatreds?

Translating the Runes

So what do the runes tell us? The occult alphabet of Trump’s foreign policy will prove hard to read. The essential tension between, on the one hand, the “America Firsters” and the religious warriors – and all those who adhere to the American “traditionalist” policy position – portends the prospect of policies that might oscillate, from time to time, between these three diverse and conflicting poles.

Let us remind ourselves – “traditionalist” includes “all those officials who support the institutions of American power, and are generally comfortable with the post-World War II bipartisan consensus on U.S. strategy, even though they may seek to change it on the margins.”

It is quite likely that some of Trump’s team members who are mercantilists (such as Tillerson) or “Christian warriors” (such as Flynn), might be “bi-polar”: that is to say will be pulled in both directions on certain policy issues. We perhaps might be advised, therefore, to disregard most leaks, as more likely to constitute self-serving exercises directed towards influencing the internal struggle within “the team” (i.e. kite-flying exercises), rather than as true leaks that describe a genuine consensus reached within the “team.”

But the runes will be harder to read precisely because of Trump’s tactics of feints and distractions. As one astute chess-coach-turned-analyst has observed, Trump seems to be a pretty accomplished hand at chess:

“Chess is a game where the number of possible positions rises at an astronomical rate. By the 2nd move of the game there are already 400 possible positions, and after each person moves twice, that number rises to 8902. My coach explained to me that I was not trained enough to even begin to keep track of those things and that my only chance of ever winning was to take the initiative and never give it up. ‘You must know what your opponent will do next by playing his game for him.’ was the advice I received.

“Now, I won’t bore you with the particulars but it boiled down to throwing punches, at each and every turn without exception. In other words, if my opponent must always waste his turn responding to what I am doing, then he never gets an opportunity to come at me in the millions of possibilities that reside in the game. Again, if I throw the punch – even one that can be easily blocked, then I only have to worry about one combination and not millions.

“My Russian chess coach next taught me that I should Proudly Announce what exactly I am doing and why I am doing it. He explained to me that bad chess players believe that they can hide their strategy even though all the pieces are right there in plain sight for anyone to see. A good chess player has no fear of this because they will choose positions that are unassailable so why not announce them? As a coach, I made all of my students tell each other why they were making the moves that they made as well as what they were planning next. It entirely removed luck from the game and quickly made them into superior players.

“My Russian coach next stressed Time as something I should focus on to round out my game. He said that I shouldn’t move the same piece twice in a row and that my ‘wild punches’ should focus on getting my pieces on to the board and into play as quickly as possible. So, if I do everything correctly, I have an opponent that will have a disorganized defense, no offense and few pieces even in play and this will work 9 out of 10 times. The only time it doesn’t work for me is when I go against players that have memorized hundreds of games and have memorized how to get out of these traps. With all that said, let’s see if President Trump is playing chess.

“First, we can all agree that Trump, if nothing else, throws a lot of punches. We really saw this in the primaries where barely a day could go by without some scandal that would supposedly end his presidential bid. His opponents and the press erroneously thought that responding to each and every “outrage’ was the correct thing to do without ever taking the time to think whether or not they had just walked into a trap. They would use their turn to block his Twitter attack but he wouldn’t move that [chess] piece again once that was in play but, instead, brought on the next outrage – just like my [Russian chess] coach instructed me to do.

“Second, Trump is very vocal in what he is going to do. Just like I had my students announced to each other their [chess] strategy, Trump has been nothing but transparent about what he intends to do. After all, announcing your plans only works if your position is unassailable. It demoralizes your opponent. You rub their face in it. Another benefit to being vocal is that it encourages your opponent to bring out his favorite piece to deal with said announced plans. This is a big mistake as any good chess player will quickly recognize which piece his opponent favors and then go take them.

“Time has been the one area that our president is having problems. Executive Orders and Twitter Wars have pushed the opposition off balance but he has not been able to use this time to get all of his pieces into play. The Justice Department (his Queen) is still stuck behind a wall of pawns. Furthermore, only 5 of his 15 Cabinet picks have been confirmed as of this writing. Without control over these departments, the president can fight a war of attrition but he really can’t go on the offensive. In chess, I will gladly trade a piece for a piece if it means you have to waste your turn dealing with it. It isn’t a long term strategy if you do not have all of your pieces ready to go.”

Well, maybe its best just to sit and observe, and stop trying to read the runes?

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.




Trump’s ‘Great Wall’ and the ‘Drug War’

Exclusive: The argument for President Trump’s “Great Wall” across the U.S. southern border would be severely undercut if America expanded legalization of personal drug use, reports Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

Attention deficit disorder isn’t usually a welcome presidential attribute, but Mexicans can be thankful that Donald Trump has temporarily shifted his focus away from their country to start fights instead with Iran, the European Union, China, California and the U.S. news media.

The last time Trump addressed Mexico, right after the election, the peso fell 17 percent. Within days of his inauguration, Trump demanded that Mexico pay for a border wall, prompting cancellation of his planned summit meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

As former Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan lamented, “it took only one week of bilateral engagement between the new U.S. administration and Mexico to throw the relationship into a tailspin.” That relationship would be better if Trump had stuck to the view he expressed in November 2015: “I don’t care about Mexico, honestly. I really don’t care about Mexico.”

Someday soon, however, Trump will rediscover his interest in Mexico, and relations will likely suffer again. But Mexico need not take his abuse lying down. As the buyer of more than a quarter trillion dollars in U.S. exports — the second-largest market in the world for U.S. goods — Mexico has some leverage if Trump tries to play rough with tariffs and trade.

And if Trump persists in sending a bill to Mexico City for his wall, Pena should seriously consider sending a bill in return to Washington to pay for the U.S. drug war.

High Cost to Mexico

For years now, Mexico has paid an extraordinarily high price in lives and social disruption for Washington’s insistence that North America’s drug problem be tackled south of the border, where the drugs are grown and transported, rather than primarily in clinics and halfway houses at home to treat the medical and psychological issues of users.

Successive administrations, starting with President Nixon, have demanded ever-tougher border controls, aerial-spraying programs, and DEA-backed anti-“cartel” operations in Mexico. All those efforts and sacrifices have been for naught. U.S. residents currently export up to $29 billion in cash to Mexican traffickers each year to buy marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin.

Forcing that trade underground has taken a terrible toll on Mexico in terms of violence, corruption and social upheaval. Since 2006, when President Felipe Calderón ordered his military to join the “war” on drug traffickers, Mexico has lost about 200,000 lives and 30,000 more have disappeared, dwarfing the civilian death toll in Afghanistan and Iraq over that period.

The majority of those killed and disappeared were victims of criminal organizations, but human rights organizations also report soaring rates of human rights violations, including torture and killing, committed by security forces.

The 2016 Global Peace Index, prepared by the Institute for Economics and Peace, estimates the total cost of violence in Mexico at $273 billion, or 14 percent of GDP, with no end in sight. Direct fiscal costs of fighting the war on crime were about $32 billion in 2015 alone. Yet the United States has contributed only about $2.5 billion since fiscal 2008 to Mexico’s drug war, under the so-called “Merida Initiative.”

Mexico’s pain shows no signs of easing. The New York Times reported in December that Mexico suffered more than 17,000 homicides in the first 10 months of last year, the highest total since 2012.

“The relapse in security has unnerved Mexico and led many to wonder whether the country is on the brink of a bloody, all-out war between criminal groups,” it said.

Time for an Alternative

In his last phone call with Mexican President Pena, Trump reportedly complained, “You have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with. We are willing to help with that big-league, but they have to be knocked out and you have not done a good job knocking them out.”

According to one disputed account, Trump threatened to send U.S. troops south of the border if Mexico doesn’t do more to stop the drug problem.

Pena can continue to do Washington’s bidding, ensuring his political demise, or he can challenge Trump by asking why Mexico should fight North America’s drug war on its own soil and at its own expense. If he goes the latter route, he’ll have plenty of good company.

Former heads of state from Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, along with other distinguished members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, have called for “normalization” of drugs — eliminating black markets and incentives for violence by legalizing individual possession and cultivation of drugs while instituting public health regulations. They note that such programs have succeeded admirably in Portugal and the Netherlands at reducing both the criminal and public health costs of drug abuse.

“The harms created through implementing punitive drug laws cannot be overstated when it comes to both their severity and scope,” the former heads of state assert in their 2016 report, “Advancing Drug Policy Reform.”

“Thus, we need new approaches that uphold the principles of human dignity, the right to privacy and the rule of law, and recognize that people will always use drugs. In order to uphold these principles all penalties — both criminal and civil — must be abolished for the possession of drugs for personal use.”

Change in Attitudes

Support for decriminalization is growing in Mexico, where the Supreme Court in 2015 approved growing and smoking marijuana for personal use. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox now advocates legalizing all drugs over a transition period of up to a decade.

Jorge Castaneda, a former Mexican foreign minister, recently opined, “Mexico should take advantage of California’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana. Regardless of Mr. Trump’s victory, the approval of the proposition in the United States’ most populous state makes Mexico’s war on drugs ridiculous. What is the purpose of sending Mexican soldiers to burn fields, search trucks and look for narco-tunnels if, once our marijuana makes it into California, it can be sold at the local 7-Eleven?”

Critics rightly point out that what works in the Netherlands won’t necessarily solve Mexico’s problems. Its powerful drug gangs have diversified into a host of other violent criminal enterprises. They control territory, intimidate or corrupt law enforcement, and kill with impunity.

Legalizing drug sales won’t end their criminal ways, but it could erode their profits and let police focus on universally despised crimes with direct victims — murder, kidnapping, extortion and the like.

As Mexican journalist José Luis Pardo Veiras remarked last year, “Decriminalizing drug use will not fix a deeply rooted problem in this country, but it will allow Mexicans to differentiate between drugs and the war on drugs, between drug users and drug traffickers. This is the first step in acknowledging that a different approach is possible.”

As for Trump, let him build his wall and see if that keeps out all the drugs. If not, maybe by then Mexico will be able to offer some useful advice on how to fight the drug problem not with guns, but with more enlightened policies.

Jonathan Marshall is author of many recent articles on arms issues, including “How World War III Could Start,” “NATO’s ProvocativeAnti-Russian Moves,” “Escalations in a New Cold War,” “Ticking Closer to Midnight,” and “Turkey’s Nukes: A Sum of All Fears.”




What Trump’s ‘Great Wall’ Misses

President Trump’s “Great Wall” ignores a key reason why desperate Mexicans and Central Americans flee north – the history of U.S. military and economic intervention that has created poverty and repression, notes William Blum.

By William Blum

Instead of building a “Great Wall” on the Mexican border, President Trump might find it so much cheaper, so much easier, so much more humane, so much more popular — if the U.S. government would just stop overthrowing or destabilizing governments south of the border.

And the United States certainly has a moral obligation to do this because so many of the immigrants are escaping a situation in their homeland made hopeless by American intervention and policy. The particularly severe increase in Honduran migration to the U.S. in recent years is a direct result of the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected president, Manuel Zelaya, after he did things like raising the minimum wage, giving subsidies to small farmers, and instituting free education. The coup – like so many others in Latin America – was led by a graduate of Washington’s infamous School of the Americas.

As per the standard Western Hemisphere script, the Honduran coup was followed by the abusive policies of the new regime, loyally supported by the United States. The State Department was virtually alone in the Western Hemisphere in not unequivocally condemning the Honduran coup. Indeed, the Obama administration refused to even call it a coup, which, under American law, would tie Washington’s hands as to the amount of support it could give the coup government.

This denial of reality continued to exist even though a U.S. embassy cable released by Wikileaks in 2010 declared: “There is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 [2009] in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch.” Washington’s support of the far-right Honduran government has continued ever since.

In addition to Honduras, Washington overthrew progressive governments which were sincerely committed to fighting poverty in Guatemala and Nicaragua; while in El Salvador the U.S. played a major role in suppressing a movement striving to install such a government. And in Mexico, over the years the U.S. has been providing training, arms, and surveillance technology to Mexico’s police and armed forces to better their ability to suppress their own people’s aspirations, as in Chiapas in 1994, and this has added to the influx of the oppressed to the United States, irony notwithstanding.

Moreover, Washington’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has brought a flood of cheap, subsidized U.S. agricultural products into Mexico, ravaging campesino communities and driving many Mexican farmers off the land when they couldn’t compete with the giant from the north. The subsequent Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) brought the same joys to the people of that area.

These “free trade” agreements – as they do all over the world – also resulted in government enterprises being privatized, the regulation of corporations being reduced, and cuts to the social budget. Add to this the displacement of communities by foreign mining projects and the drastic U.S.-led militarization of the War on Drugs with accompanying violence and you have the perfect storm of suffering followed by the attempt to escape from suffering.

It’s not that all these people prefer to live in the United States. They’d much rather remain with their families and friends, be able to speak their native language at all times, and avoid the hardships imposed on them by American police and other right-wingers.

President Trump, if one can read him correctly – not always an easy task – insists that he’s opposed to the hallmark of American foreign policy: regime change. If he would keep his Yankee hands off political and social change in Mexico and Central America and donate as compensation a good part of the billions to be spent on his Great Wall to those societies, there could be a remarkable reduction in the never-ending line of desperate people clawing their way northward.

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others. [This article originally appeared at the Anti-Empire Report,  http://williamblum.org/ .]




Latino Fear from Trump’s Bluster

President Trump’s harsh rhetoric toward undocumented immigrants is spreading fear in immigrant communities, even among people who are in the U.S. legally, a California state senator tells Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

California State Sen. Ben Hueso, whose district borders Mexico, says the panic among Latino immigrants — both documented and undocumented — in reaction to President Trump’s deportation threats requires counter-measures, such as an emergency legal fund for people grabbed by immigration authorities and facing deportation.

The Democratic senator cites a surge of fear that goes beyond people who are undocumented, to anyone who may have brown skin or an accent, even if they are citizens or legal residents. I spoke with Hueso in his capital office in Sacramento.

Dennis Bernstein: I … would like to start by asking you to come in the personal door. I imagine this is hitting you at home, where you live. This is the community you represent. Could you, sort of, put a human face on the response to what’s coming out of Washington?

Ben Hueso: Well, first of all, people are afraid. People don’t know what’s going to come out of Washington. Most people don’t know what their rights are under the law. Some people that are of immigrant descent that were even born in this country feel afraid that they are going to be removed. So, it’s creating a lot of uncertainty among people in our community, and it’s a growing fear.

And I don’t think that’s the appropriate way to lead a country, lead a community. I was hoping that this administration could come in and unite people around a common goal to improve our country, to create an opportunity for all, to expand our economy. But that doesn’t appear to be what’s happening.

DB: Is it your experience… is there an upsurge in the kinds of attacks, hate crimes, disrespect for the community? Are there more reports? Is this something you are monitoring?

BH: That definitely happened. There was a huge spike in my community, right after the election. And, mostly in the schools. There were increases in incidences of bullying. There were racially motivated incidents with kids, graffiti, just all these things that we’ve never seen before … that appear to be racially motivated.

DB: Racially motivated. Could you say a little bit more about that? … You represent a community in San Diego.

BH: I represent San Diego and Imperial counties. And we got lots of reports, and we also saw news about people praising the policies of Trump in graffiti. People attacking other people, telling them to go back to Mexico, or go back to China. We heard lots of bad comments around the Muslim community.

And these kids are afraid. We’ve heard of teams that can no longer… that have kids from within international communities that are afraid to leave the United States to compete. So, there’s lots of stories of people not doing the regular things that they would otherwise do: pursuing their dreams, living their lives. Because they’re afraid of what might happen as a result of the announcements made by the presidential administration.

DB: Are you concerned that people will be even more hesitant, for instance, if they need emergency support, if they need protection of one sort or another, that they will be less inclined to seek the help they need? Will this create more of, sort of, a “go into hiding” atmosphere?

BH: Generally, if there’s ever an incident, we always encourage people to call public safety, to get public safety involved. But if people fear public safety, they’re not going to call them. And justice will not ever be seen in instances of rape and crime, beatings, I mean whatever.

Anybody that’s out there who happens to be an immigrant or if an immigrant is involved in an altercation and they’re afraid that the law now is… instead of seek justice for them, is gonna deport them from the country, they’re just not gonna engage the law.

And that’s just bad for all of society. That’s bad for all of us to live in an unjust society, to have portions of the people of our community, that are contributing productively to our economy and to our society to live in fear, and to live in a condition of hopelessness.

DB: Let’s talk about what you’re trying to do in the California legislature. This is sort of setting the example for the rest of the country, in a way. But there’s a lot of activity taking place. We’ve been speaking with different legislators and we know that Senator Hueso, you want to create a program, a state program, for legal representation for people who are facing deportation under all kinds of new or expanded programs coming out under Trump… do you want to talk about that?

BH: Absolutely. We’ve been waiting for immigration reform at the federal level. And the Republicans have held it up. There has been several proposals that have been great, that are excellent, that congressional delegation of California, and others around the world support, that would lead to meaningful immigration reform to address the problems facing our immigrant community in our country.

Our immigration laws are broken. They don’t address the real world needs of today. And a very small fraction of the Republican Party has been holding them up. If they were introduced, Republicans and Democrats would support them. But it’s been the leadership at the Republican level that’s been preventing that. So it’s created lots of problems.

In California, we have 2.8 million [undocumented] people living here, contributing to our economy, going to our schools, paying taxes, that have contributed to our economy, that have helped it grow. It has made California the 6th largest economy of the world. If we saw 2.8 million people leave our state overnight, or even within a month or even within a year, it would cause irreparable harm to our economy.

These immigrants produce over a hundred billion dollars to our economy here in California. They are helping us with our leading industries, our leading job sectors, to keep them healthy. They are a very, very important part of our work force. Imagine 2.8 million people, those 2.8 million immigrants provide the exact GDP [gross domestic product] of the entire state of Oklahoma. That’s… imagine removing Oklahoma from the United States, and the economy. Imagine removing two cities the size of San Diego from the California economy. This would cause irreparable harm.

So I have a bill that will provide legal representation to immigrants facing deportation. Why? Because due process requires that people have an understanding of the law, and that they use the tenants of the law to protect themselves as they’re facing any kind of legal challenge. If they do not have legal representation their chances of getting due process is drastically, drastically reduced.

We need to uphold the values of our political system, which is equality and justice for all. And this bill attempts to achieve that. We’re going to fund legal services through qualified non-profits for those people facing deportation. And hope that they will get a fair, just experience through the court system. Our statistics show that people that have legal representation as they are facing immigration proceedings, have a better chance of staying in the country, than not.

And it’s unfortunate that instead of talking about improving healthcare, improving education, here we are, our presidential administration coming after a large part of California’s economy. And we’re going to fight them on that.

DB: The other side of that, and it’s extremely disturbing, is that the private prison industry, in league with the government, has been feeding, leeching off this broken system, this abusive system. And this is sort of what people are facing if, in fact, actions like the one you’re taking aren’t implemented, expanded. What are your concerns on that front?

BH: Right. I understand that private prisons have a profit motive and the more people that go to prison, the more money they make. And it’s not a secret that, in Arizona, they are the leading proponents of SB 1070 that sought to deport largely the immigrants. But I mean, we knew who they were targeting, they were targeting Latinos. And the idea behind that was that they would largely get more people through the prison system.

I have concerns about that. I don’t think it’s the best way to provide for that service. That’s why I always supported making sure that our system is more corrective than punitive. And we’re working on that in California, to reduce recidivism, in our state, not to encourage more people to go to prison.

We want to get people if people do their time, and we want to get them back into the community after they have done their time, living productively, getting trained to get a job, and sustaining themselves without having to resort to crime.

But that comes back to living in a society that provides some people hope, and others not. If some people feel they don’t have an equal chance at the American Dream, they’re going to resort to other practices. They’re not going to want to go to school and improve themselves, they’re going to resort to crime. And one of our strategies to reduce recidivism is to offer people hope and opportunities to improve themselves, through better education programs, training programs.

And our message in California is… immigrants are part of our strategy for success. We need immigrants to make our society stronger. Immigrants bring different ideas. They bring a diversity that’s very important, in making our society more productive, economically. New ideas are always good at improving people’s’ lives, in solving social problems.

Immigrants have made California one of the most prosperous communities in the world, the number one economy of the nation–the sixth largest economy in the world. We’re doing something right in California, and I hope this presidential administration will listen to us because we need to replicate this across the country.

People need to be more tolerant. People need to be more accepting of people with differences, and understand that it’s a good recipe for making us a much more successful country. Immigrants have made America. Immigrants have made America strong. And immigrants have made America the strongest economy in the world. We’ve just got to look at history, and learn from it, and start to understand that hate and divisiveness only causes conflict, loss of productivity. It destroys people’s’ lives. All the things we don’t want are made possible by hate.

And we just have to send that message to Washington. Please stay out of our state. Please don’t ruin our economy. We’re doing fine. We had so many hopes, on working on so many things this year, to improve California’s health care system, and our economy, and our education system.

And it just seems that we’re going to only be putting our feet in the sand, defending all of our gains against this administration. It just seems that it’s counterproductive. And we need Washington to join us in making California more prosperous.

DB: And, I know, you’re very strongly in support of the decision by many California cities to become sanctuary.

BH: I’m supportive of cities not using public safety … to do other than public safety functions, to send a message that the police are there to uphold the law and to fight crime. And if the federal government wants to expand their role, well, we need to hire more police officers, and they need to fund that.

But, it’s not a good policy to have people that are trained at one thing, and are good at one thing, to perform a completely different function, and to take away from investigating crimes and upholding the law. It’s just not the way our system of government works. It’s not the way we fund government, it’s not the way we achieve justice for all people in our community. It just does not work. He is ruining a good system.

And that’s why we have a department that’s trained and entirely focused on handling immigration matters. That’s the Department of Homeland Security. If he wants to have the Department of Homeland Security do those functions, he needs to expand their ranks, train people in that area, and have them go patrol the border.

Spending money on building a wall is just a waste of taxpayer dollars. There hasn’t been a wall that has ever stopped a single person. People find ways around walls, especially when you can’t patrol them. It’s a 3,000 mile border that we just don’t have enough people in the United States to park them at the border, and to monitor people coming across. Less people are coming across at the border, anyway.

And so, it’s just a waste of money. It’s foolish. It sends the wrong message internationally about America’s values, and what we stand for. And, currently, as we speak, there are countries getting together to start to block this administration’s policies. One of them is our friend to the south, Mexico.

It’s just a shame that instead of building bridges, we’re building walls. And instead of making friends, we’re making enemies. And I’ve always predicted that Republican incoming administrations always seem to cause a war with somebody. And it’s something that our country needs less of, these days. We need to make friends around the world, and we need to use our excellent system of government to inspire other people in other countries to become democratic countries. We need to lead by example, not by the barrel of a gun.

DB: You know, Senator Hueso, let me… maybe we can conclude by this. Are you… the communities that you are working with, you know, within the legislature, and that you represent in your communities south of Los Angeles, in San Diego, are you uniting with other causes, interests? Is there sort of a cross pollination? Are you supporting the women? How is that working? Is your community coming together in that regard?

BH: I think the entire California community is coming together. We have the health care community coming out in opposition to the President’s threats. We have the immigrant community coming together. We have the business community coming together, afraid of… the trade, the successful trade economy that we’ve established in California. I can’t think of anybody, other than a very small group of people that support him in California, that hasn’t thought about uniting. I feel that I have the support of my community.

I was at the women’s march. It was incredible to see that level of organization without anyone organizing it. People issued an invitation, and everyone came out. We had 40,000 just in downtown San Diego. It was just unbelievable to be part of that. But we had those three marches throughout California, 250,000 people in L.A. It was just an amazing thing to witness.

And we’re getting calls every day. People are concerned. People are asking us to act, to represent California’s interest in a very bold way. And we have members that are stepping up. So, I’m not looking forward to any kind of conflict with this administration. We want to work with the presidential administration, and Congress and Senate to move our country in a better direction. And we’re just very concerned about what’s coming out of there, the rhetoric, the hate, the destruction that could come from that.

So, I want to thank you having me on your show and giving me an opportunity to say a few words. But, we’re here. For Californians that need more information, they are more than welcome to call my office. I know other senators and assembly members of the state are eager to hear from their constituents. So we’d like to hear from everyone about what they feel about this as well.

DB: And, indeed, this is a part of that series of speaking with our legislators. Thank you for taking the time out, very gracious of you. And we appreciate the information.

BH: Thank you, and you have a wonderful day.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.




‘Deflategate’ Cloud over the Super Bowl

Exclusive: There’s a larger point to the NFL’s bizarre Deflategate story – how checks and balances have broken down in America letting powerful institutions do almost whatever they want to anyone even Tom Brady, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Yes, I know that many people hate Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. And many others couldn’t care less that the National Football League deemed Brady a cheater, a liar and a perjurer over the silly Deflategate scandal. But that is why it makes an excellent case study of how a powerful institution and its clever lawyers can make almost nothing into almost anything and get many people to go along.

Very similar techniques are used in more serious circumstances, such as the U.S. government and mainstream media demonizing some foreign leader in marching the American people in lockstep into another war.

So, the moral behind the story of Brady and the NFL is that the public should be alert whenever some powerful institution lodges an accusation against some figure who is widely disliked. The troubling truth is that often a mob-like excitement overwhelms any skepticism, leaving the few doubters of the establishment’s claims labeled “apologists” and most everyone else going along.

That was what happened in January 2015 when the Deflategate case began to unfold under the intense media spotlight of a Super Bowl. Brady and the Patriots headed into that game, Super Bowl 49, surrounded by amateur sleuthing into why the Patriots’ footballs in the AFC Championship game had tested at halftime below the league standard of 12.5 pounds per square inch or PSI.

In retrospect, we can put together what actually happened: how NFL officials didn’t know the physics of the Ideal Gas Law, how the media stampede gathered speed despite a dearth of evidence, and how rival NFL owners then seized on the “scandal” to hobble the Patriots and disgrace Brady. But many Americans, who rely on The New York Times or ESPN, may still believe the charges are credible.

An Inauspicious Beginning

The story began on Jan. 18, 2015, on a cold and rainy night in Foxborough, Massachusetts, where the Patriots were hosting the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game.

Before the game, NFL officials had set the Patriots footballs for use on their offensive plays at 12.5 PSI – Brady’s preferred number at the low end of the permissible level compared to the high end of 13.5 PSI. The Patriots’ AFC opponent, the Indianapolis Colts set their footballs at 13 PSI.

However, because the game was played in the cold and rain, the PSI naturally declined below the 12.5 PSI for the footballs of both teams. But when the Colts intercepted one of Brady’s passes in the first half and tested it, they noticed that it was below the legal limit and complained to the officials.

It turned out that no one involved in this initial phase understood the eighth-grade physics of the Ideal Gas Law, which was first promulgated in 1834 and measures how the PSI of an enclosed gas rises or falls depending on the outside temperature.

So, the NFL officials confiscated the Patriots’ other 11 footballs at halftime and brought them indoors for a hastily organized effort to test the PSI with two different gauges – one of which was fairly accurate while the other wasn’t – and found the footballs below the 12.5 PSI standard. The officials then added air to the Patriots’ footballs.

Sometime toward the end of the testing, the officials also checked the Colts’ footballs, botching one test and running out of time for eight of them but finding the other three were below the 12.5 PSI limit on the gauge that turned out to be accurate but above 12.5 PSI on the inaccurate gauge. No air was added to the Colts’ footballs.

The measurements were further compromised by the fact that the longer the footballs remained indoors in warmer temperatures the more they naturally re-inflated. The NFL officials later claimed not to remember the precise chronology or timing of the process, including whether they re-inflated the Patriots’ footballs before checking four of the Colts’ footballs.

After the game, which the Patriots won 45-7, the balls were checked again with the re-inflated Patriots’ footballs above the 12.5 PSI legal standard but the Colts’ footballs below 12.5 PSI. In other words, the Colts had played both halves of the game with under-inflated footballs, yet it was the Patriots who came under attack.

A Media Frenzy

After the game, some NFL personnel leaked the fact that the Patriots’ footballs had tested below the 12.5 PSI level. The leak also exaggerated how low the measurements were and falsely claimed that the Colts’ footballs had not fallen below 12.5 PSI.

That last inaccuracy proved crucial as the “scandal” exploded across the news media in the following days. Many well-meaning sports fans argued that Brady must be guilty of having organized a plot to illegally deflate the footballs because otherwise the Colts’ footballs would have shown a similar drop in PSI.

The reality is that the Colts’ footballs did experience a PSI drop although the extent was somewhat lessened by the timing of the halftime tests in which the Colts’ footballs were checked after having been in a warmer environment for nearly the entire halftime.

Over the following two weeks amid the Super Bowl media frenzy, there was a rush to judgment in both the sports press and in the mainstream media. Because of the widespread hatred of Brady and the Patriots – especially among fans of teams that had lost painful games to Brady’s team – there was a strong “confirmation bias,” that is, many people wanted to believe that Brady was guilty and thus any innocent action that could be spun in the direction of his guilt was seized upon.

But it was not just most NFL fans and the media that wanted the Deflategate story to be true. More significantly, so too did the owners of the other 31 NFL teams. They saw a chance to hobble the Patriots, who had become the dominant NFL team of the century winning four Super Bowls and appearing in six (now seven).

Yet, as much as fans may want to give their favorite team a boost, that is nothing compared to the intensity that exists in an owner’s box where not only pride but profits are at stake for owners if their teams can win lots of games and possibly a Super Bowl.

In view of that conflict of interest, you might have thought that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would have shielded the investigative process from the prejudice of the 31 other owners but he didn’t. He allowed the NFL Management Council, consisting of powerful rival owners, to weigh in, even letting them recommend how he should evaluate evidence. Goodell’s salary of around $35 million is controlled by the Management Council.

Making a Case

As the Deflategate hysteria gained momentum before and after Super Bowl 49, which the Patriots won with Brady declared the MVP, the NFL brought in a lawyer it had used before, Ted Wells, and hired a scientific firm, Exponent, to review the science.

Exponent was known as a hired-gun operation previously employed by the cigarette industry and other corporate clients to provide data that would help in legal cases.

In Deflategate, the firm at least knew the physics of the Ideal Gas Law but treated the sloppy halftime measurements as reliable – with the NFL offering a questionable chronology of how quickly and in what order the footballs were tested, to the Patriots’ disadvantage.

Ultimately, Exponent determined that all or virtually all of the PSI decline could be attributable to the cold and damp weather, but then imposed a secondary test of probability and concluded that it was unlikely that the weather was the only factor.

The point seemed argumentative, given the other variables surrounding the haphazard tests and the absence of real-life field measurements on football PSI, but it gave the NFL the opening it needed to build a case for Brady’s guilt.

In the meantime, Brady and two Patriot equipment employees who were responsible for the footballs testified that they had done nothing to the footballs after they left the control of the NFL officials. But attorney Wells seized on text messages that the two equipment employees had sent regarding Brady’s complaints about the over-inflation of footballs in an earlier game against the New York Jets.

Although the text messages would seem to have exonerated the pair – at least regarding any previous scheme to deflate footballs since neither referred to why the balls had been over-inflated if Brady had wanted them under-inflated – the comments were treated as a “smoking gun” supposedly proving the case.

Wells also noted that Jim McNally, the equipment employee who carried the footballs to the field, had stopped briefly in a bathroom. Wells speculated that McNally used the time not to urinate as McNally claimed but to hastily remove tiny amounts of air from the 12 footballs. (Wells also made the gotcha observation that McNally mentioned using a urinal when there was only a toilet in the room as if guys are precise about such matters.)

Relying on Wells’s report, the NFL imposed a four-game suspension on Brady, stripped the Patriots of two high draft choices and demanded the firing of the two equipment employees. The New York Times, ESPN and pretty much the entire U.S. news media treated the findings as gospel.

Despite all the hours of commentary and pages of ink devoted to Deflategate, there was almost no serious skepticism applied to Wells’s findings. To this day, the Times and ESPN have not subjected the report’s dubious science and prosecutorial conclusions to critical analysis.

Enter the Rival Owners

When Brady appealed his suspension, Goodell allowed the Management Council to weigh in, urging Goodell to treat the absence of the two equipment employees at the appeal hearing as evidence of Brady’s guilt (although the pair had testified repeatedly in other settings that there was no Deflategate conspiracy). Though Goodell said he rebuffed that recommendation, he clearly knew the verdict that the rival owners wanted – and he gave it to them.

In his report denying Brady’s appeal, Goodell also recognized that the only time when the deflation scheme could have worked was the AFC Championship game because it was the only time when McNally had taken the footballs to the field unattended.

But what Goodell ignored was the reason why that happened on that one occasion. It was because the earlier NFC championship game had gone into overtime, forcing a delay in the start of the AFC game. When the NFC game ended in sudden-death overtime, there was confusion among the officials for the AFC game and McNally said he took it upon himself to get the footballs down to the field, stopping briefly to relieve himself in the bathroom.

If the NFL was operating without a confirmation bias, this unlikely set of circumstances would have brought a finding of innocence for Brady and the Patriots.

After all, as unlikely as the whole story was – since a tiny reduction in PSI would have almost no benefit for Brady, indeed it would make the footballs slightly slower and thus easier to intercept – the fact that Goodell concluded that the only time the scheme could have been implemented was on the one Sunday when the NFC and AFC championship games are played back-to-back and that it would require the NFC game going into overtime and the sudden-death finish causing unexpected confusion among the officials makes the NFL’s conspiracy findings ludicrous.

Yet, the NFL cited the commissioner’s broad authority to discipline players and teams as the legal basis for suspending Brady and stripping the Patriots of valuable draft picks. The NFL also managed to get the case before a corporate-friendly federal court district in New York, which ultimately sided with the NFL without any serious testing of the quality of the evidence.

An Indelible Stain

Thus, Brady, whose storied career coming from the 199th pick in the draft to becoming arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, was left bearing the indelible black mark as a cheater, a liar and – because his last testimony was under oath – a perjurer.

To this day, The New York Times treats the Deflategate conspiracy theory as if it’s flat fact and ESPN, which has a lucrative relationship with the NFL, has never assigned any of its investigative units to dissect the actual evidence.

With only a few exceptions, such as Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins, there has been no effort by the mainstream news media to act as a check on the NFL’s abuse of power. ESPN’s investigative show E-60 offered its only skepticism about the scientific evidence last year by running a cute feature about a seventh-grader conducting his own PSI experiment on footballs and finding Brady innocent.

So, the stain on Brady’s reputation remains with many rival fans who hate Brady finding his humiliation amusing. But Brady’s father has spoken up on his son’s behalf, voicing the lingering anger of those close to the 39-year-old quarterback.

“When it happens to your son, it’s a whole different context — or your daughter or any one of your kids,” Tom Brady Sr. told KRON-TV in San Francisco. “I think any parent kind of understands that. They’d rather take slings and arrows in the heart than have their kids take it.

“For what the league did to him and what Roger Goodell constantly lied about is beyond reprehensible as far as I’m concerned.”

With the Patriots back in the Super Bowl this year, Goodell was asked about the awkward scene that might occur if the Patriots were to win and he had to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Brady. Goodell brushed off the question by saying it would be an honor because of Brady’s illustrious career.

Tom Brady Sr. responded by saying, “It should be an honor, because somebody that has Roger Goodell’s ethics doesn’t belong on any stage that Tom Brady is on. … He went on a witch hunt and went in way over his head and had to lie his way out in numerous ways …

“And the reality is that Tommy never got suspended for deflating footballs. He got suspended because the court said that … Roger Goodell could do anything he wanted to do to any player for any reason whatsoever. That’s what happened. The NFL admitted they had no evidence on him.”

But the larger point may be that if a powerful American institution can do something like this to Tom Brady and encounter virtually no check or balance from the U.S. mainstream news media or the court system which one of us can expect better.

And if accountability has been lost in America – replaced by the raw power of those in authority to create their own reality – what can we expect when the next rush to judgment occurs on something even more important than a person’s reputation?

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).




Rising Resistance to Trump on Immigration

President Trump has stirred up anger over his provocative executive orders targeting immigrants, both undocumented people inside the U.S. and arrivals from seven mostly Muslim nations, as Dennis J Bernstein describes.

By Dennis J Bernstein

A grassroots rebellion against President Trump’s anti-immigration policies is taking shape in California and across the country, spearheaded by farmworkers, day laborers, immigrant domestic workers and their supporters.

One of its leaders is Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day-Laborer Organizing Network or NDLON, who is sometimes called the “Cesar Chavez of undocumented Day Laborers.”

I spoke to Alvarado after a strategy session that he had convened with staff and supporters in the immigrants’ rights movement in California and across the nation.

Dennis Bernstein: I know you just emerged from a national planning meeting in terms of beginning a series of proactive steps in response to Trump’s frontal assault on all immigrants and their supporters. I think you were calling it Alto Trump, Stop Trump. Could you outline what you all were talking about and planning in response to the Trump directives?

Pablo Alvarado: Sure. Well, during the electoral process … we saw and heard all of the incendiary and overheated rhetoric, and racist rhetoric, by the President, by President Trump. And people thought, “Maybe he doesn’t really mean it”. Then he won and people said “Well, maybe we gotta give him a chance. Maybe he’s not as bad as it appears.” Then he comes into power, and then by the fourth day of him being in power we know what he really is about.

The executive decisions that he has taken are decisions that will impact … the lives of many, not just undocumented immigrants, but all of the folks that he intended to attack, during the electoral campaign. We’re talking about Muslims, we’re talking about women, African-Americans, the disabled, members of the LGBTQ community, and, of course, the undocumented … community.

And now we’re seeing that he actually meant what he said. Now the question is what kind of resources he’s going to put into those initiatives that he wants to push for. It appears that he is serious about [increasing] the number of ICE agents from 5,000 to 15,000. He’s talked about an ICE force, an immigration enforcement force. They’re here. And with 15,000 officers across the country, the persecution is going to be unprecedented. He spoke about the wall, about reviewing NAFTA, it appears that he’s moving on all of those fronts. And it’s not going to be a good thing for us.

And so, it’s becoming more and more clear to us, that he meant what he said. So, now, for us, the first act of resistance that we need to put together is people knowing, understanding and exercising their rights.

The second level of that, the process of resistance, is coming together with neighbors and building these migrants defense collectives, across the country. Where, at this point, what we feel is that communities shouldn’t expect an organization to come and save them, or leaders to come and save them, or a political party to come and save them.

This is a moment for people who have been harmed by the policies of this President to stand up and organize themselves, and defend themselves. Oftentimes when I am talking to undocumented people I tell them, “Hey, there’s good news, and the good news is that Mr. Trump has stated that he’s only going to prosecute criminals and deport criminals. The bad news is that we’re all criminals, in his mind.”

And, in terms of the law, he is going to expand the definition of what a serious misdemeanor is, and what a serious felony is, to deport more people. He’s going to, obviously, in order for him to accomplish what he said he’s going to do, in terms of deporting two to three million people in the first years of his mandate, the only way that he can do that is by enlisting local police to enforce immigration law.

And, of course, you know we plan to put up a fight. If he thinks that we are going to go quietly into the night, without putting up a fight, he is fundamentally wrong. So, the struggle is going to be at all levels: defending ourselves in the neighborhoods, litigation – our legal team is rethinking and retooling, and finding the legal grounds that we’re going to need to challenge the measures that Mr. Trump implements against our community.

For example, in California we have introduced a legislation called the California Values Act, which actually would prohibit the state of California from investing any dime, any dollars, in the deportation, interrogation, detention of undocumented people. So, that bill is moving forward in the legislature.

So, this is the way that we’re going to resist. There are hundreds of municipalities who believe that migrants need to be protected, rather than persecuted. We’re going to go and keep supporting those so-called sanctuary cities. Making sure that they extend better protections for migrants, but also that they stem the attack from the Trump administration. So, we are definitely planning in all fronts. We’re preparing for the worst, and obviously, hoping for the best.

But one thing is for sure, we are not going to go quietly into the night, we’re not going to disappear, we’re not going to go down without a fight. And I think… I believe that this is, obviously four years of resistance, and it’s barely starting. And I can tell you that there is so much energy in our communities. People feel the fear, there is obviously fear, widespread fear, but at the same time there is courage.

If you think about, for example, the workers that I represent – they, everyday, in order to feed their loved ones, they defy all the odds: the weather, the rain, the hot sun, unscrupulous employers that fail to pay their wages, minute men in white supremacist organizations that come and harass them, security guards, police officers, ICE agents. They defy everybody, in order to make a living, and feed their loved ones. That is courage. That is the courage that politicians and activists and organizations need to match, as we fight back, as we resist President Trump and his policies.

DB: Pablo Alvarado, I want to ask you more. Those… you talked initially about, sort of, local defense committees, which reminds me a lot of what began to happen in the south when the resistance to apartheid, Jim Crow, in the south. There began to be these black ministers’ defense committees. It seems like almost a… sort of an evolution of that idea for the 21st century and this, what could really turn into a brown revolution.

PA: Well, look, I don’t think that at this point we have any other choice. And, yes, I mean these are experiences that other people have done in other places when they are under attack. People organize themselves to defend themselves. It’s very simply not another choice in terms of how we respond to the attacks.

And, by the way, it’s already happening. See, in Arizona, when SB1070 was introduced and created this human rights crisis in Arizona, the first thing that we did is we went to our communities and said, “What do you want to do?” And they laid out the strategy for us. Right in front of the capital of Phoenix, you know, we have about 10,000 people.

And we began asking people, “How do you want to fight back?” People said, “We’ve got to boycott the state.” That’s exactly what we did. People said, “We’ve got to organize block by block” – so the barrios in these communities emerged, in Arizona, around that time. People said, “We have to denounce SB1070, as a racist, as a fascist law and we need to have artists to come in and help us, define what we already know it’s about.” Then we brought in the lawyers, and we brought in organizers from all over the country. Massive civil disobedience. The fight we put together in Arizona is exactly what we need to replicate nationwide.

And, I believe that our communities are not only ready to do that, but we don’t have any other choice. See, when we began the campaign against Sheriff Arpaio, for instance, he enjoyed 85% of voter approval ratings. The man was untouchable. Anybody who dared to criticize Mr. Arpaio would end up under criminal investigation. One newspaper, actually, the Phoenix New Times, was raided because they dared to criticize Mr. Arpaio. The man was untouchable, at that time. And we knew that we couldn’t confront him in an open field, in an open battle. We knew that we had to draw him into another fight that we could control and that we could win.

So, we decided to boycott a furniture store that had hired six off-duty sheriff deputies to patrol the surroundings of the neighborhood, and arrest and turn over to ICE anybody who looked Mexican. We initiated the boycott [this was in 2007] and in a period of three months we had defeated the owner of the furniture store. And he ended up firing the six off-duty sheriff deputies. These were Arpaio’s sheriff deputies. That was actually the first defeat that Mr. Arpaio suffered. Ever since, people began taking him on, and lost their fear to go after Arpaio. That’s exactly what you do to bullies. You draw them into alley fights that you can control.

And we plan to have hundreds, if not thousands, of those alley fights, across the country. The struggle will not be a centralized struggle. It will be a de-centralized struggle. People doing whatever they can, from civil disobedience, to litigation, to educating, for example, Americans about the importance of defending migrants, and showing that those who employ nannies, defend their nannies. Ensuring that those who have a gardener, to keep their gardens green, that they defend the gardener. Because without that work force, Americans will not be able to do the kind of jobs that they do, and would not be able to have the kind of lifestyle that they have. So it’s in their best interest to protect our community, to protect our undocumented communities.

So that resistance is going to take different shapes across the country. In places where there is no infrastructure to defend migrants, in places where the political reality is too hostile, than in those particular places, like Alabama, Georgia, it will be pure resistance. It will be pure barrio, you know, community defense organizing so that people can protect each other.

And, in places where there are possibilities, to push for more proactive measures, like California, that’s exactly what we are going to do. But that struggle, again, is going to be decentralized and this time around, we want every community group, doesn’t matter how small or big, that group is to stand up, and organize.

And the way we’re going to win is by exposing, you know, the lies, by exposing the injustices that this precedent will undertake, and, during his administration, by showing the American people how ugly racism is, how ugly xenophobia is, and by putting our bodies on the line. This is the kind of resistance that’s going to take place, nationwide.

DB: We’re speaking with Pablo Alvarado, he is the Executive Director of the National Day Labor Organizing Network. That network protects… has centers all over the country, in which day laborers are able to gather and organize and protect themselves as they do the hardest work in this country.

Now, Pablo Alvarado, I imagine that work of those day labor centers also takes on new meanings because who knows who’s going to show up and say, “Oh, we want to hire some workers”…and then all of a sudden you’re going to be facing some sort-of extreme right-wingers who want to take it upon themselves to fight for the new Breitbart white America. Are there special precautions, are their suggestions, are there ways that people are getting ready to protect themselves?

PA: Sure, I mean we understand that… I mean look, it’s not the first time that day laborer, themselves, are under attack. In our community, day laborers are under attack every single day. And, you know, people talk about undocumented immigrants coming out of the shadows. For the day laborers, there is no shade. You know, they are there, exposed. And they are ready to fight.

The thing is that in 2006, that Immigrant Project targeted the day laborers. They came with cameras, they filmed them. And they said “I’m going to send this film”… they filmed their employers, to intimidate them, and they said “I’m going to send this film to ICE, so they can come and get you…” So, this is the kind of hatred that people confronted around that time. And guess what? People resisted in a beautiful way.

So even though they were provoked, they were lured into violence by some of them, the workers, by some of the minutemen, the workers remained peaceful. And we came in and claimed every single worker out of there. If you’re calm about… If they provoke you, that’s exactly what they want, because obviously that’s the kind of attention that they want, that’s the kind of tension that they want to create in the community. Because that way they get coverage by the media. But if you resist, if you don’t engage in any act of violence against them, if you peacefully, kind of prod us, then we’re going to win.

So, what we did instead of creating so much tension, screaming back and forth, when they came to prod us and what we did is we began putting cultural events in front of them. And they, of course, hated that because, you know, Mexican music was offensive to them… it was beautiful for us, but it was offensive to them, because for them anything that has to do with our culture… it’s a bad thing, you know? Except the food, because they do like Mexican food, and Latin American food. But anything that has the cultural background of Latino is something that they feel that is not American. So, we fought differently, and we defeated them.

So, this time around if they show up, which will actually happen, we’re going to defend ourselves, using the same strategy. I think the importance… what’s important here is that a resistance is going to be highly peaceful, but there will be a lot of tension. Even though it’s going to be peaceful.

DB: Do you see any silver lining in the cloud that Trump anti-immigrant policies have cast over the communities you represent?

PA: The good thing about what’s happening… nothing is good about what’s happening. But, what’s different is that it’s not just that Trump is not just attacking the Mexicans. He’s attacking women, and we’re going to be in solidarity with women. We’re going to be in solidarity with the Muslims, we’re going to be in solidarity with the indigenous communities. So we’re going to fight together. And we’re going to find the ways to align with each other, to resist. Because it’s the only way that we’re going to be able to stop the fears of attacks that Mr. Trump is unleashing. Not just on the people that he attacks, but I would say on the American people.

And, hopefully, those who voted for him will realize what they have done has cost a lot of harm to the country. And to those, the folks that voted for Mr. Trump, I want to be very clear, cause they might be listening, I want to tell them that we don’t have any hatred in our hearts towards them. But they also have to understand that we don’t fear them, and that we’re going to confront them, if necessary. Always, in a peaceful manner. And we’re going to fight back, as much as we can. So, we’re not going to just disappear, from one week to another. We work here, and we’re not going anywhere.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.