Big business, military tighten their grip on Washington

One week after Charlottesville

21 August 2017

It is often the case that the outcome of events reveals the essential issues underlying political developments. This is true of the conflicts that erupted within the ruling class over the Nazi rampage in Charlottesville, which culminated in the dismissal Friday of Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon.

The corporate-controlled media has sought to portray the sequence of events entirely in racial terms, with Bannon and other advocates of “white nationalism” now purged, leaving political control of the White House and the Trump administration in steadier and more “moderate” political hands: a group of generals and ex-generals, headed by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, together with Wall Street financiers such as Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The New York Times has led the way, with an editorial Sunday declaring that “Americans accustomed constitutionally and politically to civilian leadership now find themselves relying on three current and former generals—John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff; H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser; and Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense—to stop Mr. Trump from going completely off the rails. Experienced and educated, well-versed in the terrible costs of global confrontation and driven by an impulse toward public service that Mr. Trump doesn’t possess, these three, it is hoped, can counter his worst instincts.”

In the same edition of the Times, a news analysis celebrates what its headline calls “The Moral Voice of Corporate America.” In this account, “a chorus of business leaders rose up this past week to condemn hate groups and espouse tolerance and inclusion.”

Among those named as part of this “chorus” of “moral” leaders are such corporate criminals as Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, one of those responsible for the 2008 financial collapse; Mary Barra of General Motors, who oversaw the cover-up of an ignition-switch defect that killed hundreds of people; and WalMart CEO Doug McMillon, whose company is a synonym for low-wage exploitation.

The ruling elite saw Trump’s incautious remarks defending the neo-Nazis who rioted in Charlottesville as a serious threat to the interests of American imperialism abroad as well as the maintenance of social and political stability at home. Powerful corporate interests feared the implications for Trump’s agenda of corporate tax cuts, the removal of business regulations, a profit windfall in the guise of infrastructure reform and the gutting of Medicaid and other social programs.

Trump’s self-exposure of his efforts to build an extra-parliamentary fascistic base increased the nervousness in financial circles over the danger of a collapse of the speculative bubble that has been built up since the 2008 Wall Street crash.

The response, laid out most clearly by the Times, has been to increase the grip of the military and corporate America over the government to an extent unprecedented in US history. It is 56 years since President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his 1961 farewell address, warned of the dangers to democracy posed by the rise of the “military-industrial complex.” He could have no conception of the size, power and degree of dominance exercised by the vast military/intelligence/corporate complex of today.

The first result of this consolidation was the announcement that Trump will deliver a nationwide address tonight, unveiling plans for an expansion of the war in Afghanistan.

What the ruling elite fears above all is the growth of working-class opposition to the Trump administration and the entire political system. Thus, excised from the official narrative promoted by the media is any reference to the reality of social life in America—a country in which 20 individuals control as much wealth as the poorest half of the population—as well as the reactionary agenda of the Trump administration itself. Nor is there any discussion of war and the crimes carried out by “responsible” leaders such as Mattis, who won his appellation “Mad Dog” for his role in destroying the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

This is replaced with a series of diversionary issues, centered on a grossly distorted presentation of the United States as a country seething with racial intolerance and an exaggerated picture of the strength and influence of neo-Nazi and racist forces. Hence one has the apparently contradictory but in fact compatible phenomena, ubiquitous in the Democratic Party-aligned media, of the promotion of identity politics alongside respectful and even admiring portrayals of the white supremacist thugs who demonstrated in Charlottesville.

Typical was a newsletter released Sunday by the New Yorker under the headline, “White Supremacy in America.” In an introduction, David Remnick, author of the hagiographic biography of Obama, The Bridge, proclaims, “Make no mistake: neo-Nazis and white supremacists are now at the forefront of American politics.”

Among the featured articles is one by author Toni Morrison titled “Making America White Again,” which insists that “Unlike any nation in Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force.” In line with the Democratic Party and its various appendages among the pseudo-left organizations of the privileged middle class, Morrison explains the election of Trump as the product of the racism of “white America”:

On Election Day, how eagerly so many white voters—both the poorly educated and the well educated—embraced the shame and fear sowed by Donald Trump. The candidate whose company has been sued by the Justice Department for not renting apartments to black people. The candidate who questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the United States, and who seemed to condone the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally. The candidate who kept black workers off the floors of his casinos. The candidate who is beloved by David Duke and endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

This effort to portray all whites, and particularly white men, as secret supporters of the KKK is a political fraud. Racism does exist. However, the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville are a tiny minority who are regarded with deep revulsion by the vast majority of working people. A nationwide mobilization could dredge up only a few hundred proponents of this barbaric ideology. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of all races have marched to denounce both Trump and the fascists he defends.

Trump is president today, not because of a mass vote for racism, but because he more successfully appealed to social discontent than the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, the personification of the alliance between Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus, who did not attempt to conceal her complacent contempt for the plight of tens of millions of working people struggling to survive.

The racialist narrative is being used to demonize large sections of the population, buttress the identity politics of privileged layers of the middle class, provide political cover for a massive transfer of wealth to the rich, rally support for a virtual palace coup by the generals and corporate billionaires, and, above all, divert and suppress an independent movement of the working class.

The overriding threat to democratic rights comes not from a handful of fascist thugs, but from the very alliance of Wall Street and the Pentagon that is being touted as the antidote to the racists in the streets.

As for the Times and the various affiliates of the Democratic Party, they see the real threat coming not from neo-Nazis, but from a socialist movement of the working class.

The promotion of racialist politics and the tightening of military-corporate control over the government go hand-in-hand with the suppression of oppositional views, above all the World Socialist Web Site. Thus the decision taken by Google, in close coordination with the state, to censor and blacklistthe WSWS through the manipulation of search results. This is the prelude to more aggressive actions to target socialist opposition to the policies of the corporate and financial elite.

Patrick Martin and Joseph Kishore

WSWS

 

 

 

 

A New Generation of White Supremacists Emerges in Charlottesville

THE RIGHT WING
A group that included many people who were college-educated or ex-military displayed effective planning. “White people are pretty good at getting organized,” said one.

Photo Credit: Youtube screencap / Vice News

The white supremacist forces arrayed in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend — the largest gathering of its sort in at least a generation — represented a new incarnation of the white supremacy movement. Old-guard groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations and the Nazi skinheads, which had long stood at the center of racist politics in America, were largely absent.

Instead, the ranks of the young men who drove to Charlottesville with clubs, shields, pepper spray and guns included many college-educated people who have left the political mainstream in favor of extremist ideologies over the past few years. A large number have adopted a very clean cut, frat-boyish look designed to appeal to the average white guy in a way that KKK robes or skinhead regalia never could. Interviews show that at least some of these leaders have spent time in the U.S. armed forces.

Many belong to new organizations like Vanguard America, Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Workers Party and True Cascadia, which have seen their numbers expand dramatically in the past year. Most of these groups view themselves as part of a broader “alt-right” movement that represents the extreme edge of right-wing politics in the U.S.

These organizations exhibited unprecedented organization and tactical savvy. Hundreds of racist activists converged on a park on Friday night, striding through the darkness in groups of five to 20 people. A handful of leaders with headsets and handheld radios gave orders as a pickup truck full of torches pulled up nearby. Within minutes, their numbers had swelled well into the hundreds. They quickly and efficiently formed a lengthy procession and begun marching, torches alight, through the campus of the University of Virginia.

Despite intense interest from the media, police and local anti-racists, the white supremacists kept the location of their intimidating nighttime march secret until the last moment.

The next day, the far-right forces — likely numbering between 1,000 and 1,500 — marched to Emancipation Park. Once again, they arrived in small blocs under military-style command. The racist groups were at least as organized and disciplined as the police, who appeared to have no clear plan for what to do when the violence escalated. The racist groups stood their ground at the park and were not dislodged for many hours.

For many of them, this will be seen as victory. “Every rally we’re going to be more organized, we’re going to have more people, and it’s going to be harder and harder for them to shut us down,” said a spokesman for Vanguard America, a fascist group, who gave his name as “Thomas.” “White people are pretty good at getting organized.”

And though police arrested James Fields Jr., a 20-year-old Ohio man, for allegedly driving a Dodge Charger into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and wounding many others, the white supremacists generally avoided arrests.

They also outmaneuvered their anti-racist opponents. On Saturday, a multifaith group met at the historic First Baptist Church for a sunrise prayer ceremony featuring academic Cornel West and pastor Traci Blackmon. The anti-racists, many of them clergy members, walked quietly to Emancipation Park, where they were vastly outnumbered by the white supremacists.

Later, a band of more aggressive counter-protesters showed up at the park, chanting “Appalachia coming at ya. Nazi punks we’re gonna smash ya!” These militant “antifa,” or antifascists, were also repelled by the white supremacists.

Given the scale of the protests, the far-right groups suffered few injuries. That was particularly notable given the fact that multiple people near the protests were armed. Throughout the weekend, right-wing and left-wing militias equipped with assault rifles, pistols and body armor patrolled the streets of Charlottesville. (Virginia is an “open carry” state, so gun owners are legally allowed to tote around firearms.)

State police and National Guardsmen watched passively for hours as self-proclaimed Nazis engaged in street battles with counter-protesters.

Many of the armed men viewed their role as maintaining a modicum of order. A “Three Percenter” militia out of New York state posted itself near Emancipation Park with the intention of keeping anti-racists from disrupting the rally. The group says it disapproves of racism but is dedicated to defending the free speech rights of all.

Blocks away, Redneck Revolt, a leftist militia from North Carolina, watched over the perimeter of a park where anti-racists had gathered, committed to preventing violent attacks by the white supremacist groups.

The presence of heavily armed citizens may have played a role in the decision of authorities to largely stay out of the violent skirmishes between the white supremacists and their opponents.

Those who actually marched included many new to the right-wing cause. The victory of Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election has energized a whole wave of young people who were previously apathetic or apolitical, rally organizer Eli Mosley told ProPublica. The president has served as “megaphone” for far-right ideas, he said.

Mosley and his comrades are seeking to draw in as many of these newly politicized young people as possible. “We’re winning,” he said. “We’re targeting the youth and making a movement that appeals to the youth.”

Some of those who’ve gravitated to the extreme right milieu are former liberals — like Mosley’s fellow rally organizer Jason Kessler — and supporters of Bernie Sanders. Many are ex-Libertarians.

“I was a libertarian,” said Mosley, as white supremacists chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!” in the background. “I looked around and noticed that most Libertarians were white men. I decided that the left was winning with identity politics, so I wanted to play identity politics too. I’m fascinated by leftist tactics, I read Saul Alinsky, Martin Luther King … This is our ’60s movement.”

Can Police Prevent the Next Charlottesville?

“We saw it coming,” said a Virginia officer, but they couldn’t stop it. Still, law enforcement experts say measures can be taken — even when protesters are armed.

Police in riot gear stand in front of the controversial statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Even before the demonstration in Virginia began last weekend, the police there knew they weren’t going to be able to handle what was coming.

Charlottesville police officers, including Sgt. Jake Via of the investigations bureau, had been contacting organizers and scanning social media to figure out how many demonstrators were headed their way and whether they would be armed.

“The number each group was saying was just building and building,” Via said. “We saw it coming. … Looking at this, I said, ‘This is going to be bad.’”

The protesters’ numbers were too large and the downtown park too small. City officials tried to get the demonstration moved to another, more spacious location, but lost in court after the rally’s organizer, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleged his freedom of speech was being infringed.

The protests, of course, ended tragically. Local law enforcement was widely blamed for losing control of the event and standing back even as people were attacked.

Via maintains that nothing the police did could have stopped the violence between the two sides. “No hours and hours and hours or even months of planning is going to stop the radicals from both sides wanting to go at it,” he said.

With more demonstrations planned in cities across the country, ProPublica interviewed law enforcement experts in the United States and Europe to ask what more can be done to prevent bloodshed at protests where people are spoiling for a fight. The consensus was that additional steps can be taken.

But many of the tactics come at a price. Some could be viewed as impinging on civil liberties and the constitutionally enshrined rights to free assembly and protest. Others require funding and coordination that is difficult to achieve within the fragmented framework of American policing. A few are as simple as strategically placed blockades that keep the two sides separate. Here are some of the top approaches and how they might — or might not — be deployed in the U.S.

Drones, Anti-Mask Laws and Open-Carry Restrictions

Local police forces will increasingly institutionalize the use of drones at mass demonstrations. That’s the prediction of Brian Levin, a criminal justice professor at California State University, San Bernardino. Cameras in the air with real-time feeds transmitted to officers on the ground would allow police to cover more terrain and in some cases, identify potential conflicts before they erupt.

“Demonstrations spread, and these violent confrontations can take place in disparate areas,” said Levin. “It’s like when a hammer hits mercury.”

Drones can also be safer than helicopters. In Charlottesville, a helicopter monitoring the demonstration went down, killing two state troopers aboard.

But police drone use has been met with opposition from civil liberties groups. Drones donated to the Los Angeles Police Department have gone unused for years amid privacy concerns. Activists have argued that access to the devices, which make surveillance cheaper and more efficient, will lead police to more routinely surveil private citizens.

Earlier this month, LA’s police commission gathered to discuss relaunching the program only to be met by chanting activists who shut down the conversation twice. Similar stories have played out in Seattle and elsewhere.

Another tool cities and states (including Virginia) have used is anti-mask laws, which bar groups of people from disguising themselves in public. Violent demonstrators will sometimes arrive in ski masks or scarves wrapped around their faces. New York City has a ban, with exceptions including for Halloween. So does Alabama, a rule it instituted in 1949 to unmask the Ku Klux Klan. A similar restriction in California, though, was struck down after Iranian Americans hoping to safely (and non-violently) protest the post-revolutionary regime back home sued on First Amendment grounds.

Police Stood By As Mayhem Mounted in Charlottesville

State police and National Guardsmen watched passively for hours as self-proclaimed Nazis engaged in street battles with counter-protesters. Read the story.

Another challenge in Charlottesville was the number of demonstrators who came with guns, and were allowed to do so lawfully, because of Virginia’s open-carry laws.

Even in states with such statutes, the authorities have some options. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley’s law school, said the Supreme Court has upheld the right to have guns at home, but not necessarily in public. “Think of curfews. The government has the ability to take steps to protect public safety,” Chemerinsky said. “The more evidence there is that it’s a threat to public safety, the more sympathetic the courts would be.”

The evidence could consist of past rallies that broke out into violence, or intelligence that an armed group is planning to employ force in the future.

Still, attempts to temporarily restrict gun rights have floundered in the past. Before the most recent Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the head of Cleveland’s largest police union and others called for the state’s open-carry laws to be tightened during the convention. Gov. John Kasich refused, saying “Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights.”

A more radical approach comes from Philip Zelikow, a history professor at the University of Virginia and former executive director of the 9/11 Commission. In 1981, he worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights nonprofit, to ask a federal judge to shut down a group called the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which was showing up armed and in Army-style clothing on the Texas Gulf Coast to harass Vietnamese fishermen.

With the support of the Texas attorney general, Zelikow and his team invoked a 19th-century law that forbids “military companies” not authorized by the governor. They argued that the Klan qualified because it was not government-regulated but had “command structure, training and discipline so as to function as a combat or combat support unit.” The lawyers prevailed, and the Klan was forced to leave its weapons at home.

A similar argument also succeeded soon after in North Carolina, and Zelikow said groups like those in Charlottesville that are mixing weaponry and political activism could be subject to similar legal challenges. “These problems haven’t come up much in recent decades,” Zelikow said. “The issue subsided and memory fades but here we are again.”

Most states have restrictions on private military-like groups. Zelikow was contacted by lawyers from Oklahoma this week, asking if their state had such a law on the books. “It took me about five minutes to find,” he said. Zelikow is now trying to form a team of lawyers to bring a case in Virginia.

Looking Abroad

Thousands of people, divided into two opposing sides, squaring off in public. Some come armed, looking to damage property and wreak havoc. Many filter in from out of town, complicating efforts by police to negotiate peace in advance.

It’s a scenario European authorities know well, though with a different kind of group: soccer hooligans.

Maria Haberfeld, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and a former supervisor in the Israel National Police, said cops in the Netherlands use a “situation-oriented” model to keep violent rival soccer fans under control.

That framework trains officers in perceptual skills, helping them develop the emotional intelligence to read members of crowds and make sound judgments about which situations are truly dangerous. Officers are put through simulations in which they can achieve positive, nonfatal outcomes. Trainings are handled in groups, not individually, so that in the field, officers are less likely to misinterpret any of their colleagues’ motions or actions.

“European police forces are light years ahead of us in terms of training.” Haberfeld said. “It’s not something you can train police officers to do in half an hour. It’s a serious commitment.”

Reaching that level of training may not be feasible in the U.S., where local municipalities set their own academy protocols. (And demonstrations are less frequent than soccer matches.) The training in the U.S. typically lasts just a few months, compared to the couple of years that European police cadets get.

In Germany, police forces commonly have specialized units assigned to each side of a potentially violent protest. Officers meet with the groups’ leaders in advance and discuss plans for the protest in detail, including symbols that are forbidden for display by the government.

Protest leaders can be denied permits to demonstrate because of criminal records, forcing them to turn leadership of the event over to another member of the group. They’re also asked to assign deputies from within their organization who can help the group’s leader keep things under control. Those assistants also have their records vetted by the police before being approved.

Once at the event, the specialized police units show up in distinctive yellow vests, and without riot gear, so they can mix in with the demonstrators less threateningly. When officers see someone with a banned weapon, they sometimes will only film the demonstrator and make an arrest later.

“It is important for us, is not to have a negative solidarity spillover effect. … If we disarm a person or act against a small group of potentially violent protestors, other people around solidarize with them against the police,” said Elke Heilig, head of the anti-conflict team in Pforzheim, Germany. “This leads towards escalation.”

Keeping Peaceful Protesters Away

Social media gives hate groups a new megaphone for getting the word out about their rallies, opening up communication with many previously fragmented niche groups and helping lead to larger gatherings, experts said. A big crowd is inherently harder to police, but what makes the scenario even more vexing for law enforcement is that they’re now dealing with not just one or two groups, but many, along with unaffiliated individuals.

“People are coming in from disparate places and disparate groups who don’t answer to any single authority. A Klan leader can tell his folks to stand down,” said Levin, a former NYPD officer. “Social media has been a magnet not only for haters but for unstable haters.”

Some municipalities are responding by using social media tools to dissuade some activists from showing up. City officials in Berkeley, California, have experimented with discouraging peaceful protesters from attending demonstrations they expect to be violent.

In March, fights broke out between supporters and opponents of the president at a demonstration near the Berkeley campus. Some of the unruly counter-protesters were believed to be affiliated with black bloc, an anarchist group whose members are known to wear black and mask their faces. Mayhem ensued. In one case, a man wearing a “Trump is My President” shirt had his face bloodied.

“There are people who come intent on committing violence and they look for ways to subvert whatever you set up,” said city spokesman Matthai Chakko. “There are people who use peaceful protesters as shields. They blend into crowds after they commit their acts.”

In April, before another planned demonstration, the city launched a messaging campaign suggesting peaceful protesters keep their distance. “Consider whether the approach others advertise is the style and venue for you,” one alert read, warning of violent protesters. “Reaching out to organizations or individuals in need is an alternative to conflict. When people at an event act in a way that compromises your values and goals, separate yourself.”

The number of peaceful protesters dropped significantly, Chakko said, and the city is taking a similar approach with an unpermitted, white nationalist demonstration expected later this month. The alert the city sent out Wednesday was direct: “The best response for those seeking to safeguard our community is to stay away.”

Barriers and Chain-Link Fences

Miriam Krinsky, a former federal prosecutor who has worked on police reform efforts in Los Angeles, said the most fundamental strategy for dueling demonstrations is keeping the two sides separate, with physical obstacles and police in between. “Create a human barrier so the flash points are reduced as quickly as possible,” she said.

Law enforcement will sometimes quarantine protesting hate groups inside concentric chain link fences, creating a large empty space between opposing groups. Those entering the inner ring are sent through metal detectors.

A New Generation of White Supremacists Emerges in Charlottesville

A group that included many people who were college-educated or ex-military displayed effective planning. “White people are pretty good at getting organized,” said one. Read the story.

At an anti-Sharia protest in San Bernardino, California earlier this year, the two groups were kept on opposite sides of the street, with horse-mounted cops there to prevent protesters from crossing over.

The lack of space to separate the factions was a widely noted problem in Charlottesville. The massive demonstration was allowed to take place inside a small downtown park, making it more difficult for police to insert themselves and separate the two sides. “The two groups are both trying to occupy the same area and this doesn’t give police a lot of maneuverability,” said John Kleinig, professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Demonstrators ended up spilling out beyond the park, and one counter-protester was killed when an Ohio man allegedly plowed his car into a crowd a few blocks away from the park.

Demonstrations can in some ways be easier to control in concentrated urban areas, where police use tall buildings with little or no space in between them as barriers. And smaller city police forces generally have less training in large crowd control.

“I’m former NYPD,” Levin said. “We had grid patterns and streets we could block off, put a wedge in when we had an unruly crowds. … You have people hemmed in by structures and street grid patterns. In smaller places, people can spread out in all different directions.”

Since the weekend, amid criticism of their handling of the demonstration, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas acknowledged that crowd’s spread led to problems.

“We had to actually send out forces to multiple locations to deal with a number of disturbances,” he said. “It was certainly a challenge. We were spread thin once the groups dispersed.”

Special correspondent Pia Dangelmayer in Germany contributed to this story.

 

 

ProPublica

 

Golden State sets the standard for resistance to Trump agenda

California’s big pushback:

Attorney General Xavier Becerra and progressive legislators are fighting back against the Trump agenda

California's big pushback: Golden State sets the standard for resistance to Trump agenda
Donald Trump; Xavier Becerra (Credit: AP/Alex Brandon/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

After Donald Trump’s shocking meltdown on Tuesday afternoon, it’s even clearer that progressives need effective strategies to blunt the effect of having a conspiracy-theory-driven, racist authoritarian in the Oval Office, backed by a congressional majority that is still too afraid to offer meaningful checks on his worst behavior. The good news is that some of the nation’s biggest cities and states remain controlled by Democrats. Activists and politicians in those states are looking for meaningful ways to throw wrenches in the Trump agenda.

At the top of that list is California, which not only has the largest population of any state but is controlled by progressive Democrats (relatively speaking) who seem ready and eager to fight Trump, especially on the issues of climate change and immigration. (New York is the next biggest state controlled by Democrats, but intra-party warfare has crippled the ability of progressives to get much done.)

California fired a significant shot across the bow at Trump on Monday, when state Attorney General Xavier Becerra declared that the state would sue the Trump administration over threats to withdraw law enforcement grants if the local and state police refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to deport immigrants. The lawsuit will be joined with an earlier one filed by the city of San Francisco.

“It’s a low blow to our men and women who wear the badge, for the federal government to threaten their crime-fighting resources in order to force them to do the work of the federal government when it comes to immigration enforcement,” Becerra said during a press conference announcing the suit. California received $28 million in law enforcement grants from the federal government this year, money it could lose if the police prioritize actual crime-fighting over federal demands that they focus their resources on deporting people.

“The government’s plan for deporting millions of people in this country is to coerce local law enforcement to be their force-multipliers,” explained Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights for the ACLU of California.

Pasquarella noted that most deportations currently occur because of an encounter with local law enforcement. By resisting pressure to step up efforts to persecute undocumented immigrants, she said, California can make it safe for people to “access basic services that are vital to our state and communities without fear of deportation, like schools and hospitals and libraries and health clinics.”

Some Democrats in the state are trying to take this idea even further, backing SB 54, titled the California Values Act. According to The Los Angeles Times, the bill would prohibit “state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes.”

While SB 54 is still being worked over in the legislature, California has already made progress in resisting the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal Obama-era actions to fight climate change. In July, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill extending a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions until 2030. The bill passed by a two-thirds majority in both the State Assembly and Senate.

Many environmentalist groups have come out against the bill, arguing that it doesn’t go far enough. Still, compared to the federal government’s evident retreat, it’s progress in the right direction. California has the largest state economy in the country, and demonstrating that climate action does not have to undermine economic growth could go a long way towards convincing other states to take similar action. This, in turn, could help the country meet the goals set by the Paris Accords, defying Trump’s efforts to pull the United States out of the historic climate change agreement.

This strategy to resist right-wing policies and protect California residents predates Trump, to be clear. While much of the country was experiencing an unprecedented rollback of reproductive rights — with numerous red states passing alarming new abortion restrictions while anti-choice activists fought insurance coverage of contraception in the courts — California moved to make birth control and abortion easier and safer to get.

In 2013, responding to research showing that abortions provided by nurse practitioners and midwives are safe, Brown signed a law giving those groups authority to offer abortion services. Brown has also signed off on three provisions to make it easier for women to get birth control: Letting pharmacists dispense it without a doctor’s prescription, requiring that health care plans cover contraception without a co-pay, and allowing women to get a full year’s worth of birth-control pills at a time.

These policies were already in place before Trump’s election, but they are all the more necessary now that the president is backing conservative efforts to make contraception more expensive and harder to get. It has also helped create a model for progressive cities and states to resist reactionary policies pushed by the federal government, which is already inspiring Democrats in other states. Chicago, for instance, is also suing the federal government over the threat to sanctuary cities.

There’s a deep philosophical irony here, because for decades now conservatives have claimed they wanted to reduce the power of the federal government and hand more decision-making authority to the states. That was always a disingenuous pose, of course. This conservative “principle” was largely invented to justify state resistance to Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation legalizing abortion, desegregating schools and protecting voting rights.

Still, it’s nice to see states like California calling the Republican bluff and showing that their supposed devotion to “small government” dries up the second states and cities move to protect human rights, instead of to attack them. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has always held himself out to be a small-government conservative, for instance. But his reaction to state and local officials who claim the power to set law enforcement priorities for themselves has been to accuse those officials of being law-breakers. This hypocrisy is already obvious, and it may soon be exposed in court.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte

The White House and the fascist rampage in Charlottesville

14 August 2017

After months of deliberate planning and coordination with the police, the Nazi “Unite the Right” rampage in Charlottesville, Virginia reached its deadly apogee Saturday afternoon when a 20-year-old Hitler admirer from Ohio drove his car through a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing 32-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter Heather Heyer and wounding 14 more people.

The corporate press has focused on Trump’s failure to verbally condemn the violence of the far right. But the American media’s handwringing over Trump’s statements is not only naive. It deliberately covers up the extent to which the White House was involved in encouraging and inciting and even planning the Nazi mobilization in Charlottesville. The White House is crawling with pro-fascist operatives. Why would Trump condemn the actions of those whom he and his pal, Steve Bannon, view as a critical political constituency?

This Nazi riot is not an aberrational event in American politics. It is the product of Donald Trump’s strategy to build an extra-constitutional fascist movement outside the framework of the two parties, itself an expression of the putrefaction and collapse of American democracy under the weight of staggering levels of social inequality.

In the past three weeks, Trump and his advisors—Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka—have escalated the administration’s efforts to whip up support among fascist elements who form the core of his political base.

Trump has attacked Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, challenging one of the most powerful legislative figures in his own party. He has made bellicose threats that the US is “locked and loaded” for war against North Korea and appealed to his billionaire constituents as well as the police, immigration and border officials, and the military to support his “tough on crime” and anti-immigrant policies.

In the process, he has emboldened the forces that took over the 22,000-student University of Virginia campus on Friday. The Nazis carried out a torchlight parade across the campus, founded and designed by the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, while chanting “blood and soil,” “Sieg Heil,” and “one people, one nation, stop immigration.”

At dawn Saturday morning, dozens of uniformed fascist militiamen armed with assault rifles and shotguns deployed downtown, establishing military control over the heart of the 50,000-person city. After the militia had secured the area, without police interference, vans filled with people from across the country poured into the city center, unloading hundreds of Nazis armed with guns, knives, chains, metal poles, baseball bats and pepper spray.

What happened next can be described only as a fascist riot. Police withdrew from the scene and Nazis began attacking counter-demonstrators in the streets, shouting racial and homophobic slurs while chanting “Heil Trump.” Straggler counter-demonstrators were pulled into the Nazi melee and beaten mercilessly, while the police looked on.

Brian McLaren, a pastor who had traveled to Charlottesville as a counter-demonstrator, told the press that “the police hung back quite a distance” as the Nazis launched their attack. Then, in the early afternoon, James Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio sped through the crowd in his car, flipping bodies over the hood like bowling pins.

Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, responded to criticism by stating on Sunday that the police did “great work” over the weekend. McAuliffe, former head of the Democratic National Committee and prominent fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton, said the murder of counter-protestor Heather Heyer could not have been prevented. “You can’t stop some crazy guy who came here from Ohio and used his car as a weapon,” he declared.

The purpose of this weekend’s violence was to send a message to Trump’s detractors in the Republican and Democratic parties that he has an alternative base to which he can appeal. Accordingly, the Nazis held their rally just two hours from Washington DC.

A timeline of the three weeks preceding this weekend’s rampage makes clear the systematic and calculated campaign of the Trump White House to mobilize the most backward and reactionary social forces in the country.

  • On July 22, Trump made a bellicose speech to an audience of sailors to mark the commission of a $13 billion aircraft carrier.
  • On July 25, he delivered a speech in Youngstown, Ohio glorifying Christian religious extremism.
  • On July 26, the Department of Justice filed a “friend of the court brief” stating that private corporations are not barred from firing employees based on their sexual orientation. That same day, Trump tweeted that his administration would bar transgender people from military service and nominated antigay Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to be the State Department’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom.
  • On July 28, Trump told police and immigration agents in Long Island, New York that he loved watching criminal suspects “get thrown into the back of a paddy wagon.” He urged them to rough up people being detained, saying, “Please don’t be too nice.”
  • On August 2, Trump and Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue announced legislation, the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment [RAISE] Act, which would slash legal immigration in half. At a press conference announcing the plan, Trump’s advisor Stephen Miller echoed the anti-Semitic language of the German Nazi Party when he denounced CNN’s Jim Acosta as having a “cosmopolitan bias.” On the same day, the media reported that the Justice Department was planning to sue colleges for “discrimination against whites.”
  • On August 6, Trump launched a “Real News” program on his Facebook page in an attempt to build a personalist following outside the framework of the mainstream media.
  • On August 8, White House aide Sebastian Gorka, who is a member of the Hungarian fascist Order of the Vitez, said the fascist bombing of a mosque near Minneapolis, Minnesota might be a “fake hate crime” that was “propagated by the left.” The following day, Gorka told Breitbart News that “white supremacists” are not “the problem,” and that terrorism is the product of Islam.

In the days that followed, Trump launched his war threats against North Korea and Venezuela and made new attacks on the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell.

This weekend’s Nazi violence is stamped with the political trademark of Bannon, Miller and Gorka. Nazi demonstration leader Jason Kessler acknowledged after the event that organizers had “networked with law enforcement” for months in advance of the “Unite the Right” provocation.

Kessler also met with several Republican officials in preparation for the Nazi mobilization. Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Kessler held a press conference with Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart to denounce Charlottesville’s plans to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

In March, Kessler traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett, who represents the Charlottesville area. Kessler posted on Facebook that he had “a very productive meeting today with Congressman Tom Garrett,” and acknowledged that he was in discussion with Garrett over how Kessler’s Nazi groups could support Trump’s anti-immigration measures: “We talked RAISE Act and Stop Arming Terrorists: 2 great bills we support,” Kessler’s post read.

The events in Charlottesville and Trump’s drive to develop an extra-constitutional fascist movement are a warning to the working class in the US and internationally. The program of the fascists in the White House and on the streets of Charlottesville is for genocidal war abroad and the mass internment and murder of immigrants, LGBT people, Jewish people and socialists at home.

Fascism is the excrescence of the decaying social order of American and world capitalism, which, in the figure of Donald Trump, has vomited up a fitting expression. It will not be stopped through moralistic appeals to the political establishment, but only through the mobilization of the working class united across racial, national and ethnic lines and politically armed with a revolutionary program for the socialist reorganization of the US and world economy.

Eric London

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/14/pers-a14.html

Should We Really Be Afraid of World War III?

What is War?

You’re afraid, I’m afraid. He’s going to start World War III. Is that a rational fear, or an irrational phobia? After all, there’s a world of difference between the two.

What is war? What was the last great war? Just seeing war as war is not to see it at all. War is a pattern that defies other patterns. It is an avalanche, not an equation. The pattern of stagnation, rage, hate, demagoguery, war, atrocity. That is what World War II really was. The causes were rooted in a German economy broken by a peace whose price was too high: it simply couldn’t repay Britain what was decided that it owed. The result was mass stagnation, that became rage, which metastasized, in the hands of a demagogue, into hate at scapegoated minorities, and then hurled, blitzkrieg, at neighbors and allies, in the forms of planes and tanks.

That pattern of what “war” is long precedes the planes and tanks that are all we often see and remember, and that is precisely the problem. Stagnation is like a river. Every river flows into the ocean. Stagnation flows into the great ocean of death. Beneath the strategies of generals and the feats of heroes, “war” is economic stagnation transforming, in a kind of devil’s magic, into bullets and bombs. People who should be productively employed, living gentle, happy lives, instead devote those very lives to making death. The instruments are just means — iron, steel, uniforms, rallies, raids, and so on. The product of stagnation is death.

Every great war in history has stagnation as its cause, by either omission or commission. Of course, like all good and clever people, you will rebel at my saying that. You want, maybe need, to be the smartest, so you will try to find an exception. Go ahead and try. There are no exceptions. Behind every great army, behind every rain of bullets, you will find the same pattern: a stagnant (or soon to be) economy, where people have been told, by a clever demagogue, that the path to prosperity is by taking it from those people.

“Those people”. Who are they? First they are the internal others. The Jews, Muslims, gypsies, gays. Then they are the external others. The aliens, the hated, the enemies. At last, they are friends and neighbours and allies. And when that point is reached, then there is war at last. The product of stagnation is death, and the great consumers of death are the desperate and broken people for whom the only salvation left is taking prosperity from the next village, town, city, country.

But death is death. And so war is unlike other human endeavours. Marriages and laws and even countries can be made and unmade. War, death, cannot be undone. It works on precisely the opposite logic: not that of a contract, but that of an avalanche. Slowly, slowly, the snow piles up atop the mountains. And then — silently, the most inconsequential thing in the world happens. One snowflake shifts. An archduke is killed. A treaty is broken. A messenger forgets his way. A tax is protested. And then the avalanche, years of hard packed snow, thunders down the mountain. War. Its logic is the precise opposite of it’s what produces it: collapse. War is the inverse of collapse: it is an eruption waiting to happen.

War is the eruption in collapse. So now that we understand what war is, let us answer the question: is it rational, or merely irrationally phobic, to fear World War III?

The next great World War is likely to be the eruption in American collapse. The pattern is exactly the same. Stagnation, rage, hate, demagoguery — then violence, atrocity, and so on. We are already halfway to world war, if you understand war as the sudden eruption of collapse’s volcano. This decade is a repeat of the 1930s. Or: the river of ruin has begun flowing down the mountain, into the ocean of death. American collapse is in danger of producing, just as German collapse did before it, and European collapse did before that, a World War. Just as Roman collapse, Greek collapse, Persian collapse, and so on did, right back to the end of time. This much is the tale of history, of men burning with greed, shackled by blood, with greatness shining in their eyes.

But there is another tale, too. It is the tale of a golden age of global peace and prosperity. The aftermath of the last great war, when people, at least some people, came together to build history truly greatest accomplishments. What are those accomplishments? Do I mean Teslas and YouTubes and profit margins and McMansions? No. I mean European Unions and National Healthcare Services and high speed railways that whisk me from once a war-torn Paris to Barcelona. These are the things that prevent wars. They are called public goods, and I mean that literally: the good in them, of and for the people, prevents and stays the human heart from becoming the cauldron of war. Now: America’s karma is sealed, precisely because it never built such public goods, which led to hate, greed, fear, as ways of life, being, seeing. Its collapse is already written. The only question is whether the eruption American collapse produces can somehow be contained. Can it? I don’t know. Here is what I do know.

America’s heart is cauldron. Mine was, too, once. And then I spent a long time dying. It erased every last speck of greed and hate and fear I once felt. Dying, I discovered, is the gift of making peace with one’s broken and wounded self. My river of ruin no longer flows into that ocean of death. It dried up, and in its place a garden grew. Maybe, then, dying in that way is the first and last way. Before the bullets fly and the bombs fall.

Umair
August 2017

View story at Medium.com