On The Road To Watergate?

Trump 2One thing that can be said for the presidency of Donald J. Trump: it has not been boring.  The 45th president’s tendency to exaggerate (crowd size at his inauguration), to spread obvious falsehoods (millions of illegal voters who all voted for Clinton), to make promises he apparently has no intention of keeping (releasing tax returns, passing a health care bill that will provide health care for all, bringing back record numbers of jobs, especially in the coal and steel industries), and just general creepiness (the rough handshakes, the holding hands–no, not holding hands–with his wife Melania, the excessive personal phone calls and meetings with legal and law enforcement officials) and so many other unfortunate and even outrageous behaviors, combined with the “failed” Travel Ban, Tax Cut Bill and Health Don’t-Care Act, would be enough in the opinion of many of our associates to merit impeachment on the basis of incompetence and mendacity alone.  But this president seems intent on adding historical, political and legal precedent as another log on the fire that may consume his presidency.  He seems to have “checked” practically every “box” on the Classic Nixonian Watergate Scandal Checklist.

We have attempted to cover as many of the similarities between the Trump presidency and the ultimate demise of the Nixon administration as we could.  More than likely, there will be more before long that we may not have considered, perhaps a re-enactment of some of the scenes detailed in The Final Days, which was written to chronicle the end of Nixon.

For those of you who get off on political theater, hang onto your hats.

“I Am A Friend to the Blacks … We Are A Law-and-Order Presidency”

Trump, like Nixon, has attempted to curry favor with Afrikan-Americans with high-profile events such as visits to Trump Tower from Steve Harvey, Ray Lewis and Kanye West; by appointing a few Black “representatives” in his circle like Omarosa Manigault (whose most visible act as director of “African-American outreach” has been to denounce Blacks for failing to give Trump a chance to win them over) and Dr. Ben Carson (who has yet to show any aptitude at all for housing, Omarosa 2despite being tabbed to run that agency); and for his grand but empty proclamations of being the “least racist person you will ever meet” in press conferences, but little else.  Meanwhile, Trump has taken on a disturbingly Nixonian “law-and-order” stance, as he has made one public statement after another that he will be the best friend of “the Blacks” and that he will also end the “carnage” that inflicts the inner cities, but his policies indicate that his “solution” is to further empower police and insist that we give them our respect instead of regulating their actions to build respect in the communities they patrol.  One of the most detestable actions Trump has taken in this vein is his policy of encouraging Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to rescind consent decrees with cities that still reel from the after-effects of police violence against unarmed Afrikan-Americans. 

President Richard Milhous Nixon signed the Voting Rights Act extension on June 22, 1970, which to some is an indication of the “progressive side” of Nixon’s policies, even though some critics state that Nixon was practically forced to sign the Civil Rights Act extension due to political and legal pressure.  At the same time, however, Nixon preached a “law and order” mantra that was seen by progressive and Pan-Afrikan activists as a not-so-covert campaign to bolster the White Supremacist institutions that held power in the Deep South since before the Civil War.  Nixon’s “law-and-order” stance provided great power to racist police departments across the country, a move that was replicated by Ronald Reagan when he took power in 1980 and, now, apparently, by Trump in 2017 as he works to “make America great again”.

Leah Mickens wrote about how “law-and-order” politics served White Supremacist interests more than true law and true order in the August 8, 2014 edition of Salon, R.I.P. “Law and Order” conservatives: Why Nixon’s party abandoned his obsession (http://www.salon.com/2014/08/08/r_i_p_law_and_order_conservatives_why_nixons_party_abandoned_his_obsession/).  The whole article is instructive, but we include some excerpts here:

Richard Nixon’s long quest for the White House resulted in a 1968 triumph, due in part to a stated commitment to reestablishing “law and order.” Nixon famously claimed that he represented the “silent majority” of middle-class white Americans who were tired of the protests, riots and youth militancy that had come to dominate the cultural landscape in the late 1960s. Key to the “law and order” rhetoric was his promise to restore respect for traditional authority, especially toward the police, who were called “pigs” and worse by young adults in the antiwar, hippie and black power movements. 

In the 46 years since the 1968 election, American conservatism has undergone a radical transformation with regard to its relationship to authority. Rather than encourage deference to lawful authorities, modern-day conservatives, particularly those in the Tea Party movement, regularly boast of their refusal to respect what they believe to be the illegitimacy of the federal government. Conservative media outlets, from Fox News to talk radio to blogs, regularly provide their audiences with breathless accounts of how the government is planning to imprison conservative activists, how the Affordable Care Act is “destroying religious liberty,” or how President Obama is secretly allied with the Muslim Brotherhood or the Communist Party. …

Given this background, it should be obvious that the so-called silent majority was only in favor of “law and order” when the legal system was rigged to favor white supremacy. When the legislation was passed to end de jure segregation and attempt to redress some of the injustices it caused (e.g., affirmative action, school desegregation orders, SNAP), conservatives suddenly decided that the government was illegitimate. The rise of the Tea Party after the election of Barack Obama is not coincidental.

The bulk of conservative violence has never been committed by lynch mobs or Klansmen, but by the silent majority who preferred to maintain their “way of life” at the expense of civil rights and basic human decency … The very silence of the silent majority shows that they ultimately cared little about law or order, but about maintaining their exalted position in American society.

Trump 1Trump’s “law-and-order” pronouncements sound like the same dog-whistle.  His inaugural speech made graphic reference to the “carnage” that he seems to think has saturated the inner cities, that “previous administrations” (apparently referencing Obama’s) had neglected, and which, under a Trump White House, “ends right here and ends right now.”  Of course, he didn’t wait until the inauguration to blow that whistle, and blow it loudly.

A July 18, 2016 Huffington Post article by Howard Fineman, Trump’s Campaign Manager Says He’ll Channel ‘Law And Order’ Richard Nixon, at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-richard-nixon-rnc_us_578cda12e4b0fa896c3f2b2e, reported on Trump’s plan for his acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention as follows:

As Donald Trump searched for a template for his acceptance speech, the model he chose was Richard Nixon’s infamous 1968 “law and order” speech on behalf of a silent and sullen middle class.

At a somewhat similar time of stress and struggle in America and the world, Trump chose that speech as a starting point, his campaign chief told reporters at a Bloomberg breakfast Monday morning.

“We started on the speech a couple of weeks ago,” said Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. “We looked at previous conventions speeches; the one he focused on, though, was Nixon in 1968.”

In that speech, given only months after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy and amid rioting in many U.S. cities, Nixon cited the fears and resentments of “forgotten Americans” and vowed to return “order” to the streets and country.

The aim was not to “unite” America, as Nixon claimed, but to target enough white middle-class support (as well as support from a smattering of other groups) to win.

Another article on July 18, 2016 by Josh Zeitz in Politico, How Trump is Recycling Nixon’s Law-And-Order Playbook  (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/07/donald-trump-law-and-order-richard-nixon-crime-race-214066) made a similar point:

In the wake of recent tragedies in Dallas and Baton Rouge, where eight police officers have been gunned down in the space of just one week, and with clear reference to terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East, Donald Trump’s campaign has signaled his determination to make the GOP the “law-and-order party.” Indeed, the theme for the opening night of the Republican National Convention is “Make Our Country Safe Again.”

Safe from what? By almost any measure, the United States is safer than it has been in decades. Notwithstanding localized spikes in urban homicides, for the past decade the crime and violent crime rates have hovered at near-50 year lows. And despite the recent tragedies in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the same is true of the number of police officers killed in the line of duty.

If the country is calm by comparison, why would Trump sound a cry for “law and order” once again? The answer may lie with the first successful soothsayer of the “Silent Majority,” Richard Nixon, who in 1968 created the very playbook that Trump seems to be recycling. Nixon came to power in an era of profound discord, marked by urban riots, anti-war protests (some, violent), and an unraveling of longstanding social and cultural mores. Then as now, crime was a powerful proxy for other concerns. But even with all that to worry about, Nixon’s appeal wasn’t just about crime. His political insight was that crime was a powerful proxy for other anxieties.

For a quarter-decade, Republican candidates adopted Nixon’s subtle but discernable brand of backlash politics. As crime rates plummeted in the 1990s, and as America became a more racially and culturally diverse country, the old politics no longer worked. Yet Trump has reactivated them—and to what effect, we don’t yet know.

The Company You Keep

Barely 150 days into his presidency, Trump has seen his staff’s human resources operation begin to resemble a revolving door.  Gone are campaign strategists Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort, Communications Director Mike Dubke and National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.  Some 440 top staff positions in the Trump administration remained unfilled as of mid-June.  Several potential candidates for positions such as FBI director have removed themselves from consideration, some Mike Flynn 1before they were even asked.  And those who remain have often been referred to as “extremists” (such as Steve Bannon) or as extremely naïve for allowing their generally good reputations to be potentially damaged by association with them (such as Defense Secretary James Mattis).

Meanwhile, what Trump has called a “witch hunt” has apparently taken on some steam, with speculation that former National Security Adviser Flynn could be potentially charged with felonies for his having served as an unreported foreign agent for Turkey and his repeated contacts with Russian officials.  In addition, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has been found to have engaged in more frequent contacts with Russian diplomats and other officials that was previously reported.  Combined with Manafort’s already known connections with Russian oligarchs, and the “witch hunt” complaints seem less credible by the day.

The parallels to Nixon’s administration most famously include the corruption investigation of his vice president, Spiro Agnew, for bribery and tax issues while Agnew had been Baltimore County (Maryland) Executive, Governor of the State of Maryland and Vice President, which forced Agnew to plead “no contest” to the criminal charges and resign the vice presidency in 1973.  Such corruption, so close to a president and administration that had loudly proclaimed itself as an advocate of “law and order”, should have occurred to Trump as he was making similar claims while closely associating with political operatives who appear to have multiple skeletons in their closets.

Do I Have Your Loyalty?

The allegations that Trump was attempting to manipulate the investigation into the Russian “hacking” of the November 2016 elections and the possible collusion of Americans, including those in the Trump campaign, gained a bit of steam when now-former FBI director James Comey made the claim that Trump had, in one of what Comey would call several “uncomfortable” meetings, asked for Comey’s “loyalty”.  (Justice Department lawyer Preet Bahrara would mention his refusal to take a personal call from Trump as a possible reason behind his abrupt firing the next day.)  Comey’s response, according to his statement, was that he answered that Trump had his “loyal honesty”, which Trump allegedly tried to rephrase as “honest loyalty”.  In the days immediately after Comey’s June 8 testimony before the Senate Intelligence James Comey 2Committee, Trump mocked the very idea that he would ask for a “loyalty oath” from the members of his Cabinet or other high-level employees.  Questions regarding loyalty oaths would be asked of Department of National Intelligence head Dan Coats, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and NSA Director Michael Rogers.  These questions, however, apparently delved into areas of national security, for the witnesses refused to answer the questions in open session.

Trump’s apparent need for “loyalty oaths” would seem to be an expression of his paranoia.  The recently-popular suspicion of the existence of a “Deep State”, which is often used by right-wing pundits to describe a “shadow government” through which the intelligence agencies (and former president Barack Obama, supposedly hiding in some secure bunker near the White House, ready to pounce and reassert his “regime”) would attempt to overrule the Trump administration, was actually inspired at least as far back as 1960, when Nixon was defeated in the 1960 presidential election, and which Nixon had described as “an Ivy League, liberal bastion of counter-reaction against the right”.  This would explain why, with all the evidence that Russia had been working to influence and disrupt the November 2016 elections, Trump has not commented on the seriousness of this situation, instead preferring to emphasize that the most important issue is that of “the leaks” being perpetrated by political opponents, and even accusing Comey of being the “Leaker in Chief” after it was disclosed that Comey had written memos about his personal discussions with Trump.

White House Plumbers 1Nixon’s paranoia was not specifically demonstrated by loyalty oaths, but as the political pressure on him mounted, he began recording conversations in the White House, he increasingly railed against the “leakers” of information in his administration, he allowed the development of an “Enemies List”, and he suggested the creation of a team that would be responsible not so much for his physical safety but for protecting him politically from his enemies.  This group would ultimately morph into the “Plumbers” (apparently because they would “plug leaks in the aDaniel Ellsberg 1973dministration”), the group that would break into the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg in 1971 after Ellsberg had published The Pentagon Papers, which exposed multiple examples of corruption in the prosecution of the Vietnam War.  The Plumbers would be used once more, in the 1972 Watergate break-in that would ultimately end Nixon’s presidency.

The Press is the Enemy

“Never forget, the press is the enemy, the press is the enemy,” Nixon is reported to have said in one of the White House tapes, according to the Guardian.  Does it sound familiar?  “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people!”

Rob Samuelson created an informative slide show entitled How Nixon’s paranoia, obsession with enemies and leaks led to his downfall, available at http://latimes-politics-chatter.latimes.com/politics-talk/slideshow/how-nixons-paranoia-obsession-enemies-leaks-downfall/, which explains much of the Nixon paranoia, a lens through which we can examine the increasingly paranoid statements and actions by Trump.

Tapes, or No Tapes?

After Trump fired Comey as FBI director, on May 12 the president went to Twitter, appearing to issue a threat that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”  This, of course, led to two further developments in this case which Trump, perhaps, did not anticipate: (1) Robert Mueller 2Comey immediately wrote a report, or “contemporaneous notes”, as media analysts called them, describing the most recent meeting he had held with Trump, and began making arrangements to have the report and previous similar ones released to the public if needed; and (2) the Senate Intelligence Subcommittee itself made preparations to seek out these “tapes” themselves.  Meanwhile, media outlets took to obsessing over the topic, and it’ became likely that Special Counsel Robert Mueller would attempt to obtain any “tapes” that actually do exist through the subpoena process.

The reference to “tapes” sounds disturbingly like the “Nixon tapes”, which the then-president chose not to destroy because, for some reason, he thought they might benefit his cause were he to come under political or legal attack.  They did not.  A half-hearted attempt to erase 27 minutes of what he may have deemed the most incriminating portions of those tapes only led to the conclusion that Nixon was attempting to cover up the crimes of his presidency.  Nixon would be impeached by Congress, and he would resign the presidency in disgrace scantly a year after his resounding re-election victory. 

Now, of course, after the Senate Intelligence Committee has stated their intent to obtain any recordings that may have been made, the Secret Service has stated that there were no recordings made of any conversations in the Trump White House.  This does not mean that Trump could not have made recordings without even notifying the Secret Service, given his penchant for uttering outbursts against the certain advice of his lawyers and staff, and for contradicting the official public statements of his Secretary of State and other administration officials.  Was Trump lucky, was his tweet at Comey about “better hope there are no ‘tapes'” truly just blowing smoke, or have whatever tapes that may have been created already been destroyed?

Stonewalling

During the Senate hearings on June 6, Department of National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, NSA Director Michael Rogers and acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe consistently dodged questions from Senate Intel Committee Gearing Coats Rosenstein Etc 1the Senate panel, claiming that the questions could not be answered in “public session” because they touched on classified information or on issues of national security. 

This clearly irritated several of the senators, who repeatedly grilled all four of the expert “witnesses” in an effort to elicit some answers from them regarding the nature of the surveillance that is routinely collected, the information available on Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election, the possible involvement of American citizens in the Russian “hacking” of the 2016 election, and any attempts made by the Trump administration to convince, cajole, or order them to slow down, redirect or stop their investigative work.

Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) became particularly agitated at Coats for his failure to answer several intelligence-related questions, specifically regarding the collection of surveillance information on American citizens under Section 702 0f the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  The website https://cdt.org/insight/section-702-what-it-is-how-it-works/ gives a brief discussion of how Section 702 is used, while a 2014 article on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/05/way-nsa-uses-section-702-deeply-troubling-heres-why, discusses what it considers some of Section 702’s more “troubling” aspects.

In a June 7 article by John Aravosis (Twitter: @aravosis), the website American Blog (http://americablog.com/2017/06/nsa-chief-rogers-dni-coats-stonewall-senate-intel-hearing-trump.html) gave a few details on the specific contortions engaged in by Rogers and Coats:

Senators are trying to find out what Donald Trump asked Rogers and Coats about the Russia probe. Specifically, Trump reportedly asked both men to publicly deny that there was evidence showing the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, and Coats was further asked to ask the FBI to drop its probe of Michael Flynn.

When asked about this today, Rogers responded that he never felt “pressured” by Trump, and that he doesn’t believe he was ever asked to do anything “illegal.” Which wasn’t the question. The question is “what did Trump ask you to do,” not “did you feel pressured or did you feel it was illegal.”

When Rogers was pressed on what Trump actually asked him to do, Rogers responded that he’d already answered the question, which he hadn’t.

Coats gave the same non-answer, nearly verbatim, which makes one wonder whether they were coached and/or colluded on their testimony.

Their behavior in this session led this writer to wonder if they had consulted the order Nixon had given to Attorney General John Mitchell on March 22, 1973, as the Watergate investigation was picking up steam: “stonewall it … plead the Fifth Amendment, cover up or anything else, if it’ll save it—save the plan.”  On October 21, 1974, the jury in the Watergate case would listen to the White House tape in which Nixon made this statement.  Nixon would not last long in the presidency after this.

“I Am Not A Crook”

As Trump held a news conference on Friday, June 9, he decided to rebut the testimony Comey had given to the Senate Intelligence Committee the previous day.  On Comey’s claim that Trump had asked him to pledge loyalty to him, Trump insisted, “I hardly know the man. I’m not going to say, ‘I want you to pledge Nixon 5allegiance.’ Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean think of it, I hardly know the man. It doesn’t make sense.”  Because so few commentators found credibility with this statement, we wonder whether or not this was actually planned as a fake news conference.  And Trump tweeted that same day: “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication.” 

In any case, this seems to be the closest Trump has come so far to Nixon’s infamous “I’m not a crook” defense on November 17, 1973.  That did not work out well for Nixon.

What Remains?

So far, Trump has not cited “Executive Privilege” in any attempt to block the examination of evidence.  This could be because he truly believes (rightly or wrongly) he has done nothing wrong, or because someone in his inner circle has given him advice that he actually listened to, or because he believes other measures (such as attacking the integrity of Comey and other potential adversaries) will suffice to keep him safe from, at least, criminal prosecution.  It is also possible that others in the administration are prepared to fall on their swords to protect him.  Flynn had at one point offered to testify to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about his connection to Russians in exchange for immunity, but then cited the Fifth Amendment when he either changed his mind or determined that the immunity deal was insufficient.  It remains to be unearthed by the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, when he begins to hold hearings for which he will be able to issue subpoenas.  At that point, we would not be surprised to see the Trump administration reaching for Executive Privilege a la Nixon.

Nixon had attempted to use Executive Privilege to block further investigations into Watergate.  As everyone knows by now, he failed.

Trump also has not, as of yet, made any moves toward trying to undermine or outright eliminate Robert Mueller from his position as Special Counsel.  Despite occasional comments by news analysts that the president has the right to fire a Special Counsel, it was considered highly unlikely that Trump would attempt such a thing.  Then, on Monday, June 12, former Republican congressman Newt Gingrich began insisting that Mueller was a partisan actor (in spite of Mueller having served as FBI chief under George W. Bush, and Gingrich’s own endorsement of Mueller at the time he was named Special Counsel by Assistant Attorney General Rosenstein).  MSNBC was reporting on June 12 that Trump was “considering perhaps terminating” Mueller.  Will Gingrich’s bombast make such an impression on the increasingly-insecure Trump that he will decide to take this final step toward fulfilling Nixon’s legacy?

Archibald Cox 1Nixon had used this tactic in 1973 to get rid of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.  Nixon had attempted to order Cox to cease his pursuit of the White House Tapes, which, as it turned out, held information on White House discussions that would incriminate Nixon and several of his staff.  Cox refused to call off his pursuit of the tapes.  On Saturday, October 20, 1973, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliott L. Richardson to fire Cox.  Richardson refused and resigned.  Nixon then ordered Assistant Attorney General William Ruckleshaus to fire Cox.  Ruckleshaus also refused and was either fired or resigned, depending on who one asks.  Finally, Nixon turned to the next Nixon Saturday Night Massacre 1official in line, Solicitor General Robert H. Bork (the future failed Reagan Supreme Court nominee).  Bork followed Nixon’s order and fired Cox.  The whole affair would come to be known as the “Saturday Night Massacre”.  Within a week, polls showed a plurality of Americans supported impeaching Nixon.  On November 14, District Judge Gearhard Gessell ruled that the firing of Cox was illegal.  Congress became infuriated at what it saw as an abuse of power.  And nine months later, on July 27, 1974, the first article of impeachment, charging Nixon with obstruction of justice, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

As for Trump, Georgetown Law Professor Paul Butler said on MSNBC June 12 that this would amount to “Watergate on steroids”, and Congressman Adam Schiff (D-California) was quoted as saying, “Don’t waste our time,” as it was speculated that if Trump were to fire Mueller, Congress might simply re-hire him.

There are not many “boxes” left for Trump to “check” before he has completed the process of following the Nixon Watergate recipe.  The news tends to move rather quickly with this president.  By the time you read these words, the die on the Trump presidency may have already been cast.

Nixon Resigns Newspaper

 

Increasing Corporate Control of Afrikan Farmers

I’m sort of working this out in my mind and trying to reconcile it with what I’ve already read about industrial farming, GMO seeds, international agribusiness giants Monsanto, Syngenta, and the claim by the agribusiness sector that Afrika is hungry because of insufficient inputs (fertilizer, pesticides and high-yield seeds) and not because the corporate-dominated agriculture industry maintains control over food and thus restricts access for poorer, famine-stricken areas of the world (as human rights and food-sovereignty activists insist).  What am I talking about?  Well, here goes:

The Mondiaal Nieuws article “Tanzanian farmers are facing heavy prison sentences if they continue their traditional seed exchange” (http://www.mo.be/en/analysis/tanzanian-farmers-are-facing-heavy-prison-sentences-if-they-continue-their-traditional-seed, December 7, 2016) certainly seems to raise a number of alarms about the next wave of efforts to subject Afrika’s food supply to corporate control.  Allowing private investment for the purpose of helping stop hunger and famine is one thing, but the purveyors (“pushers”) of these efforts almost never let us see all the strings they’ve attached.

The first question I have is about this New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, or NAFSN (https://feedthefuture.gov/lp/new-alliance-food-security-and-nutrition).  This is apparently a project from the minds of the people who brought us Feed the Future, a program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) which makes lofty statements and sounds benevolent but which does have its detractors and skeptics (count me among them) because of what appears to be an overly corporate-friendly, industrial-farming-oriented, anti-organic-and-natural-farmer, undemocratic top-down approach reminiscent of Bwana Complex.  A 2013 article in The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/jun/07/g8-new-alliance-flawed-project) states that “The new alliance prioritises unprecedented access for multinational companies to resources in Africa. To access cash under the initiative, African governments have to make far-reaching changes to their land, seed and farming policies.”  The article then gives several examples, linked to the Feed the Future website, which in turn links to PDF documents on NAFSN’s agreements with several countries.  The Ghana document includes under the heading “Key Policy Commitments”:

The Government of Ghana intends to pursue the policy goals set out below in order to build domestic and international private sector confidence to increase agricultural investment significantly, with the overall goal of reducing poverty and ending hunger.

The Government of Ghana intends to improve incentives for private sector investment in agriculture, in particular, taking actions to facilitate inclusive access to and productive use of land; developing and implementing domestic seed regulations that encourage increased private sector involvement in this area; and supporting transparent inclusive, evidence-based policy formulation.

The Tanzania agreement contains similar language, as I suspect the others do as well.  While these statements may not be damning in and of themselves, the statements referring to the agreement to “improve incentives for private sector investment in agriculture”, promote “productive use of land” and set about “implementing domestic seed regulations” seem to set the stage for just the type of requirements that would strip small, organic, natural farmers of their rights to share, recycle and use their own seed to the benefit of “unprecedented access for multinational companies to resources in Africa” (from the Guardian article).

One cannot help but notice is that the “S” in NAFSN stands for “security” and not “sovereignty”, which I think is more important because food sovereignty speaks to the right of the people of the country to determine how they will grow their own food and who controls it.  Does NAFSN actually force farmers to accept the patented GMO seeds, does it give farmers a real choice, or does it impose requirements on farmers who want to stick with traditional seed-sharing methods that would make it nearly impossible for them to go without the patented GMO seeds?  Is there a written law or statute, or is the Tanzanian government depending on the belief among farmers that they “can’t fight City Hall” which would stifle resistance to the corporatization of farming in Tanzania?

Syngenta appears to be the primary agribusiness that stands to benefit from this arrangement.  Frankly, the public claims contradict the private statements (and the admissions that sometimes leak out under questioning) they make concerning their support for the right of farmers to choose to either accept or reject the patented GMO seeds.  As the (apparently) Afrikan spokesperson for Syngenta’s effort to infiltrate the Tanzanian food supply, Kinyua M’Mbijjewe, head of Corporate Affairs in Africa for Syngenta, admitted later in the article: “We are a commercial company and therefore we invest in Africa. We believe that Africa is done with development aid and that it is now all about trade. The small-scale farmers are not our target. We focus on small-scale farmers trying to grow businesses and we are happy to work with NGOs that have a commercial approach. Farmers who merely try to survive or operate in an unfavorable climate are left out.”  This in spite of the public claim that Syngenta does support farmers who choose the (less favorable) seed-sharing system: “African farmers have been sharing, bartering and trading their seeds as a form of tradition. For farmers who want to continue to do so, it is important that they have that choice.”

This sort of corporate double-talk sounds a lot like what Monsanto did with the Indian cotton farmers.  Farming in India has apparently been a challenge since before the 20th Century, especially cotton.  Farmer suicides have occurred for over a century, due to climate and debt associated with the combination of the difficulties of farming and the actions of unscrupulous money-lenders.  While discussions of the Indian farmer suicides on websites such as Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farmers%27_suicides_in_India) insist that there are several reasons for this, and that the imposition of GMO crops cannot be blamed for the suicide rate overall, the actions of Monsanto at the start of the 21st Century apparently did not help matters.  Dr. Vandana Shiva, a prominent Indian advocate for food sovereignty, has been a longtime opponent of agribusiness, GMO seeds, patents on seed (“patenting life”), and the actions of Monsanto and Syngenta in particular.  She and other anti-GMO advocates such as Mr. P. Sainath explain the farmer suicides since 2002 this way: Cotton farmers, many of whom did not read, were told by a compliant government in their province or town that they needed to increase their crop yields in order to be successful and for the people of India to escape starvation, and the new Monsanto GMO “Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton” seeds would increase the crop yields without requiring as much water or pesticide.  Most of the farmers trusted their government officials, who had themselves already been convinced, bamboozled or simply bought off, and signed agreements to buy the Monsanto Bt cotton seed, despite the added expense of the seed and the legal requirement that they abandon 12,000 years of tradition in which they regularly recycled seed from one planting to the next (to protect Monsanto’s “intellectual property”, the seeds).  Ultimately however, their cotton yields collapsed, mainly because it turned out they actually needed more water than the seeds they had been using (which, in the regions they farmed in, was a real problem because the rains were not consistent) and the pesticides, which they also bought from Monsanto, actually developed resistance in the pests which mutated into “super-pests” which were now immune to that pesticide.  In the end, the farmers went bankrupt, and with their farms ruined and their future in shambles, many of them took the pesticides they had bought from Monsanto … and drank them, committing suicide.  Tens of thousands of Indian farmers committed suicide in this way (5,650 in 2014 according to the National Crime Records Bureau of India; other estimates are that a farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes according to Think Progress, https://thinkprogress.org/behind-indias-epidemic-of-farmer-suicides-fa820ad674f3).

The question here amounts to whether the people of Tanzania will have a real choice as to whether or not to purchase the GMO seed, whether the NAFSN will force them to purchase from Syngenta, or whether a new round of “dirty tricks” will be employed similar to what has already happened to wheat farmers in the Midwest United States, such as a truck loaded with GMO patented seed driving past an organically-grown farm, some seeds “just happening” to blow onto the property, and later, inspectors arrive to check out the organic crops and find the patented GMO seed there, at which point the farmer is forced to either pay the agribusiness for the seeds or burn the entire crop.  Will this become the new state of affairs in Tanzania under NAFSN?

Finally, the question arises: Why did these countries agree to these requirements if they do indeed disempower small-holder, natural and organic Afrikan farmers?  Did the good people at USAID promise them the moon?  Did they baffle them with double-talk?  Did they appeal to political corruption with a bribe?  Did they threaten them with political or other consequences in the event of non-compliance?  Or did they somehow show these leaders that the agreements, if followed carefully, actually would empower independent Afrikan farmers and allow them to use their traditional methods without penalty (If that last one is correct, then where is the evidence, and why hide it under all the regulations)?

After taking a closer look at the various NAFSN agreements, I hope to have a better understanding of just what the extent of corporate control of these Afrikan countries’ agricultural markets will be.  But at the moment, I’m not particularly filled with confidence that this is not another, more convoluted form of a land grab.

Come to the Maryland Pan-Afrikan Community Town Hall Meeting! June 24, 2017

SRDC Pan Afrikan Town Hall June 24 2017aCome to the Maryland Pan-Afrikan Community Town Hall Meeting!

Join us as we discuss the issues that impact us in the State of Maryland, as we explore the connection between our local struggle and those of People of Afrikan Descent across the United States and around the world, as we build a Local Pan-Afrikan Agenda of important issues and ideas, and as we make plans to join with the Global Community of People of Afrikan Descent to take our message out of Uncle Sam’s courts to the World Stage.

Afrika Arch Social Club Montage 1

We will meet at the historic Arch Social Club, located on 2426 Pennsylvania Avenue in the Penn-North Community in Baltimore, Maryland.  Penn-North has a storied place in history as a cultural nerve center in the 1950’s and 1960’s, anchored by the committed members of the Arch Social Club, and the neighborhood also gained a degree of national notoriety two years ago, as the focus of the rebellion that followed the brutal death of Freddie Gray on April 19, 2015.  The committed members of Arch Social Club continue to hold social and community events at the Club to this day to help strengthen the Afrikan-American community in Baltimore, affectionately known as “Harriet Tubman City” to Pan-Afrikan activists.

The Community Town Hall Event will be held on Saturday, June 24, 2017 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

What is the Purpose of the Pan-Afrikan Town Hall?

We will work together to build a local Pan-Afrikan grassroots organization that will:

  1. Build a Local Pan-Afrikan Agenda: Issues that are of importance to Black People here in Baltimore and across the State of Maryland.  These could include concerns about economic development, police brutality, mass incarceration, environmental sacrifice zones, the lack of a true sense of community and Black love, and the need to build an education system that not only better educates our children in math, science and reading but also on our Afrikan roots and the real history of our struggle in the United States.  Any or all of the above concerns could be part of the Pan-Afrikan Agenda, and no doubt there are many more that should be considered.  But it’s important that the community determine what these issues will be, and not just someone in a position of electoral power or self-appointed leadership.
  2. Nominate and elect a local organizing leadership team: Afrikan tradition requires that a Community Council of Elders be established.  If we already have one, then let us meet them and acknowledge them, and let them take the position of Elder Leadership for which they are so desperately needed by our community.  If we do not have one, let us nominate people from our community who have the experience, the wisdom and the demonstrated body of work to show that they are prepared to guide us through the struggle that lies ahead.  We also must nominate and elect Representatives, energetic, knowledgeable and committed members of our community who can and will take the decisions that our community makes on this day and at future Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Meetings and represent them at national and international gatherings, from the African Union (AU) to the United Nations (UN) to various Pan-Afrikan Conferences (PACs).
  3. Discuss how we will grow this effort and move forward: How we will ensure that more members of our community are informed about the effort we’re launching this day.  How we will take our Pan-Afrikan Agenda to the people who can best help us carry it out.  Some of the items of our Pan-Afrikan Agenda will be initiatives that we can build on ourselves, by finally bringing our various organizations, activists and service providers together in a Cooperative Coalition.  Some are issues that can be dealt with by combining our efforts with those of communities in other states, or even other countries, that are building their organizations the same way that we are.  Some items will be expressed as demands that must be made to local City officials, to State political leaders, to national bodies, or to international groups such as the African Union or the United Nations.  But none of the issues in our Pan-Afrikan Agenda will bear any fruit unless we are ready to formulate a plan to see that they are done.

We invite the members of the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora to finally join together in the spirit of Black Unity which we have been calling for over these many decades.

Background on the Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Process

There are many activists and organizations that have ideas and plans to propose to help people of Afrikan descent unify, organize and mobilize ourselves.  We would like to talk a bit about the organization we belong to, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus, or SRDC.  Put simply, our mission is to establish the voice of the grassroots
Pan-Afrikan Diaspora on the world stage, primarily through the African Union but also through other global organizations and avenues, such as the United Nations or independent Pan-Afrikan Congresses, that would be helpful in the development and uplift of Afrikan people.  We want to do this in a well-informed, diplomatic and helpful way, and we realize that this effort will only succeed if we all participate together.  No one organization can do this alone.

The African Union Initiative for the Diaspora

We were inspired to this mission by the African Union Initiative, which issued an invitation of sorts to the Diaspora in 2003 to become involved in the effort to build the African Union.  The AU proposal currently involves members of the grassroots Afrikan Diaspora establishing a small delegation (say, 20) of elected representatives who would join a much larger number of Afrikans from the Continent as voting members in its Economic, Social and Cultural Council, or ECOSOCC, which is a group of community activists, businesses, and regular citizens who would advise the Heads of State on how to best serve the people of Afrika and the Afrikan Diaspora.  This is the civil society advisory group within the African Union.  While ECOSOCC does not craft legislation or take an official hand in establishing the AU’s organizational priorities, it does provide important input into the affairs of state from the perspective of what is often referred to as “civil society”, that is, private citizens, non-governmental organizations, businesses and community groups.  This would be the first organization within the AU where the Diaspora would seek to establish a voting presence in the form of representatives.  The prospects here are that, if all goes well with the Diaspora’s contribution to ECOSOCC, the Diaspora could be granted an opportunity to seek membership in the Pan-African Parliament, which does assist in the crafting of legislation and participates in the decision-making processes of the AU on a more official level.

Just What Is The “Diaspora”?

One early step in advancing the Initiative was settling on a definition of the Diaspora, which was proposed by the African Union in 2006 and accepted at a Pan Afrikan Roundtable that was held in April 2006 in Los Angeles, California in the United States.  The key aspects of the definition are that one be of African descent, that one lives outside the Continent, regardless of their country of citizenship, and that they be “willing to contribute to the development of the Continent and the building of the African Union.”  At this time, the AU also began promoting the concept of the Diaspora as the Sixth Region of Afrika, to go along with the current five regions (North, South, East, West and Central Afrika).  It is from this designation of the Sixth Region that SRDC derives its name.

Perhaps the first thing that needs to be clarified is the fact that the Afrikan Diaspora does not just mean Afrikan-Americans, as some of us unfortunately seem to believe.  There are just over 40 million of us in the United States, but there are over 300 million Black people total between the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, and the last thing we need is for these different communities engaging in a free-for-all to claim for themselves the presumed right to speak for all 300 million-plus people around the world of Afrikan descent.

Why are We Doing This?

Two questions which are often asked at this point are: Why did the AU invite the Diaspora? and Why should the Diaspora accept the invitation?  The African Union has several incentives to include the Diaspora as voting members.  One is the reversal of a trend of Africans leaving the Continent, gaining education in the West and never returning home.  This was called the “Brain Drain” or the “Exodus”.  Involving the Diaspora increases the likelihood of the return of many of Afrika’s brightest minds and the resources that they carry with them.  Another incentive is the enlist-
ment of members of the Diaspora, especially the descendants of Africans who were enslaved centuries ago, in the development and establishment of the United States of Africa, or Union of Afrikan States, from provision of material and technical assistance to influencing their countries of citizenship to support and endorse a Union Government for the Afrikan Continent.  Our incentives for accepting the invitation include the developing and strengthening of our cultural and ancestral ties with our Mother Continent and the opportunity to take our grievances with America and the West to the international arena, through the African Union.  This is, in fact, akin to what Ancestor Malcolm X told us to do back in 1964, to stop “taking our case from the wolf to the fox” by seeking redress from Uncle Sam’s crimes against us in Uncle Sam’s own courts.

One more point needs to be made here.  While our effort was inspired by the African Union and our primary goal is to establish a presence in the AU, we realize that the AU is a very bureaucratic institution that many Pan-Afrikan activists do not entirely trust.  The African Union was modeled after the European Union, and it does often depend on assistance from the outside international community to maintain its operations.  Sometimes, the snail’s pace of progress in pursuing our goals has been as a result of a lack of communication with the AU, and this has frustrated many of us.  Others in the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora look at the AU, rightly or wrongly, as a neoliberal puppet of the West.  Finally, there remains the possibility that the AU could decide that this “experiment” in Diaspora representation was not worth pursuing after all, and withdraw the invitation.  This does not mean we would pack up our work and go home.  In that case, the exact same plan of local, national and global Afrikan Diaspora organization will still work, only in this case the final goal would be the establishment of an international delegation of elected Diaspora representatives who would meet in the United Nations, the World Social Forum, the next Climate Change Conference, or an independent Pan-Afrikan Conference of our own design and planning.  Either way, we would be taking our argument and our collective voice outside the courts of the United States or the country in which we happen to reside, and we would go to the International Arena, where, if we do this right, we will achieve a level of organization and strength that international groups would have no choice but to listen to what we say.

The SRDC Plan to Organize and Mobilize the Diaspora

So, how does SRDC propose that 300 million African Descendants and Continental Africans living in the Diaspora will be able to effectively elect 20 Representatives to speak for us on the World Stage?  How would we determine an elected delegation that could take the people’s concerns to the African Union’s ECOSOCC, or the United Nations, or to Pan-Afrikan Conferences?

The general idea can be briefly summarized in the cliché, “Think Globally, Act Locally”, for that is exactly what our plan involves.  Everything starts with the establishment and development of local organizations that bring people together at the grassroots level.  These local organizations then come together in national caucuses (in the United States, for example), or in the case of areas of the world where there are many small countries (like the Caribbean or Central America), Sub-Regional caucuses.  These national or Sub-Regional groups then come together for a Global gathering to establish, from the work of the local and Sub-Regional groups,
a Pan-Afrikan Diaspora Delegation that would, pending approval from the AU, represent the combined voice of the Global Pan-Afrikan Diaspora in ECOSOCC for that term.  This Delegation would present and support a Combined and Comprehensive Pan-Afrikan Agenda at the following ECOSOCC Meeting, UN Conference or Pan-Afrikan Conference.

This would represent the first truly significant effort at not only repairing the fractured state of the global Afrikan Diaspora, but also initiate the process of bringing the Diaspora “back home” to our long-separated relatives in the Mother Continent.

As we stated, the process begins with the establishment of local grassroots organization.  This would be done by forming an Organizing Committee, or a “Chapter” as some would call it, at the local level.  In the United States, for example, this would mean at the state level, specifically, 50 states plus Washington, DC.  In other parts of the world, perhaps in Central America, South America, Europe and the Caribbean, where our population is more scattered across several relatively small countries, this organization would occur at the country level, while in Canada, organization might occur by province. 

Each local organization would begin when a committed volunteer hears of this plan and takes the initiative to begin such an organization where they live (if one does not already exist).  That person becomes the Facilitator of that local organization and now must assemble a team of volunteers who will assist in planning, scheduling, promoting and holding a public Community Town Hall Meeting, at which the Afrikan-Descendant public is given information about the SRDC Mission and Plan, and the further steps which must be taken to make that happen. 

The community begins to formulate a list of the issues that they feel need to be addressed that impact upon their community or Pan-Afrikan Agenda, and then they commence the process of nominating people who would become the leadership team that would help to take that Agenda to the national and international level.  That leadership team includes a Council of Elders, two Representatives and five Observers.  The community nominates people for these positions and then, at a later date, a Candidates’ Forum is held where the community votes to formally elect those who will fill these positions for a two-year term.

SRDC Plan At A Glance 1

Once a year, all of the local committees gather together in a National or Sub-Regional Summit.  In the United States, National Summits are used, so we will refer to them as such here.  At these Summits, the local groups share news, information and ideas, they encourage each other, they discuss issues that impact the community at the local and national level, and they discuss and vote on decisions that must be made between the local organizations, including deciding which of the
local Representatives would be best to include in the Delegation that would go to, for example, the next AU Summit and take a seat in ECOSOCC.  Information
sessions about the African Union and the process would be held, as well as training sessions in building organizations, diplomacy and conflict resolution.  Plans and projects for the upcoming year of local and national organizing would also be discussed and decided.  Similar local and national or Sub-Regional organizing work would be done in other parts of the world where Afrikans live in the Diaspora, usually through the efforts of one or more of our global organizational allies, such as the African Union-African Diaspora Sixth Region (AUADS) in The Netherlands or the Central American Black Organization (CABO/ONECA in Spanish) in Central America.

After the National and Sub-Regional Summits have been held, a Full Diaspora Summit would take place.  The AU has already sponsored several of these Summits, even though the local and Sub-Regional process has not been fully implemented yet.  These Summits bring together activists in the Afrikan Diaspora who are recognized by the AU as playing an important role in the process of “Building the
African Union”.  When the local and Sub-Regional process has been fully implemented, these Representatives who were chosen at their respective
National or Sub-Regional Summits will participate in that Full Diaspora Summit.  There, they would gather with other Representatives from throughout the Diaspora and they would also prepare to join the 130 Representatives from the African Countries at the ECOSOCC Meeting of the AU Summit.

SRDC Plan Flow Chart 1

As we mentioned earlier, this same process can be used to develop an international Diaspora delegation to take our combined voice to the United Nations, the World Social Forum, environmental summits such as the Climate Change Conventions, or independent Pan-Afrikan Conferences that we might organize ourselves.  The point here is really for the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora to take the responsibility, and with it the authority, to organize ourselves on the local, national and international level.  At this point our influence and voice on the World Stage will increase dramatically, and our power to control our own destiny will finally be placed within our grasp.

“No More Excuses” Rally Planned for May 25 in Baltimore’s Park Heights Neighborhood

No Excuses Rally FlyerThe No More Excuses Rally will be held Thursday, May 25 at 3939 Reisterstown Road, in the First Floor Community Room, in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Rally is an effort to reach out to our community, specifically to Black Men, to convince us to stop making excuses for the self-destructive behaviors we seem so addicted to.  Whether it’s drug abuse, abuse of our women and children, a lack of personal ambition, or simple willful ignorance of the need for us to stand up and be men, a number of committed veteran community activists have determined that they have had and seen enough.

Elder George Mitchell has dedicated much of his time, effort and resources to lifting up the Park Heights-Pimlico community.  The C.C. Jackson Recreation Center at Garrison and Park Heights Avenues sponsors local community job fairs, children’s softball leagues and adult basketball leagues, among other programs, and much of this comes as a result of his tireless dedication.

Veteran community activist Bill Goodin worked alongside East Baltimore community activist and now Honored Ancestor Eric Easton for years in the community organization Unity for Action.  Brother Bill also wrote a community newsletter, Fighting Back, for several years.  He was the initial driving force behind the Saturday morning breakfast meetings at Terra Café and Arch Social Club that gave birth to the organization BlackMen Unifying BlackMen, which seeks to bring Afrikan-American men together in a collegial atmosphere so we will not only cease doing harm to each other but will also start cooperating with each other instead of seeing each other as rivals.

Elder David Murphy was the publisher of the Informer newspapers in Baltimore and Washington, DC.  He is now the Chief Publisher of the National Black Unity News (http://www.thenationalblackunitynews.com/), a cooperative venture with several Baltimore-area media personalities who have agreed to work together to bring information and healing to our community.

Rev. Glenn Smith is another veteran member of the group that is sponsoring the No More Excuses Rally.  Like the other members of the group, he has expressed his outrage at the level of violence that has engulfed the community.

The No More Excuses Rally will feature service providers for those seeking employment opportunities and those who seek a path towards a more positive role for themselves in life.

The group’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=no%20more%20excuses.

 

 

 

FREE THE LAND FILES: Justice Initiative on NAFTA and Trump’s Hypocricy

This article comes courtesy of Ms. Heather Gray and the Atlanta-based Justice Initiative.

Trump’s Hypocrisy: An Understatement
Blaming Mexican Migrants Is Beyond the Pale

By Heather Gray
May 4, 2017
Justice Initiative International

For Mexicans, maize is not a crop but a deep cultural symbol intrinsic to daily life. Corn was domesticated from a grass called teocintle by the peoples of Meso-America approximately 10,000 years ago. (Cultural Survival)

Source: US Census Bureau, USDA (CNN

 

Yes, corn originated in Mexico some 10,000 years ago and it eventually moved into North America. And now, in a rather strange reversal of it all, those of us in North America are attempting to destroy this special Mexican crop and cultural symbolism. And it’s all for greed.

I have a radio program on WRFG-FM in Atlanta. In the mid-1990’s while NAFTA was being debated in Congress, I interviewed representatives of the Sierra Club about the likely disastrous consequences of NAFTA on Mexico’s small sustainable farmers. It had to do with U.S. corporate agribusiness that would dump millions of dollars of subsidized corn on the Mexican market. We appropriately could see the doom and gloom of this “unfair” trade agreement. After my show that day, someone from CNN called me and asked why I didn’t have a pro-NAFTA person on the show as well. My response was, “You want pro-NAFTA? Just listen to CNN!”

Our predictions were correct! The small farmers in Mexico simply could not compete with the American subsidized agriculture products that were dumped on the Mexican market.

The hypocrisy? Trump chooses to act against Canadian “subsidized” lumber without even considering America’s own devastating subsidy complicity in the NAFTA scenario against the Mexican people? Regarding the Canadian lumber issue, in April 2017 the following was reported in the New York Times:

The Commerce Department determined that Canada had been improperly subsidizing the sale of softwood lumber products to the United States, and after failed negotiations, Washington decided to retaliate with tariffs of 3 percent to 24 percent. The penalties will be collected retroactively on imports dating back 90 days. (New York Times)

Subsidized lumber? Again, what about U.S. subsidized agribusiness and its impact on Mexicans and actually American farmers as well? Herein lies the hypocrisy of it all. As was noted in a Huffington Post article by Susana G. Baumann in 2014, the impact of NAFTA on the farmers has been immense:

For all products, Mexican producers’ prices fell from 44 to 67 percent from early 1990’s levels, declining local production and increasing import dependency. Mexican crop production also fell except for corn and meats, which at lower prices, was rapidly adopted for consumption in the Mexican families’ diet.

“An estimated 2.3 million people have left agriculture in a country desperate for livelihoods,” said Wise (see note below). The study estimated that the cost to Mexican producers was around $12.8 billion in the nine-year period, more than 10 percent of the U.S.-Mexico agricultural trade value annually.

The other cost, the one that we, north of the border pay, is the constant migration of these displaced rural workers into the United States.

(Huffington Post)

Note: Timothy A. Wise referred to above is the Director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University.

So thanks to U.S. policy, 2.3 million Mexicans were forced off the land. And then Donald Trump rails against Mexicans coming across the border as if the consequences, devastation and loss of their livelihoods was their fault?

And, yes, Trump points his finger at migrants now in the U.S. as well and makes their lives all the more vulnerable and difficult.

And Trump wants to build a wall as if to again point his finger at these victims?

The immorality here is breathtaking.

And rather then building a wall, Trump needs to get rid of the real problem which is, for one, these huge agriculture subsidies that benefit his millionaire/billionaire buddies in corporate agribusiness who clearly care less about the “real” farmers of the world, or the well-being of those, such as, the Mexican farmers they’ve managed to destroy. Nor do they care about the important “diversity” of the corn production and respect for the long and important tradition of small and informed producers who we all should honor and support.

Regardless, also, of the role of the Mexican government might have played in early NAFTA negotiations in the 1990s vis-a-vis their powerful northern neighbors – Canada and the U.S. – it is likely the American government and its corporate supporters knew in advance that the exploitation of Mexico’s markets and cheap labor would satisfy their greed.

Thankfully, the Mexican government presently has a ban against Monsanto’s GMO corn crops and hopefully the Mexican court will continue to uphold this. As reported on February 9, 2017 by Natural News:

Just last week, a Mexican court chose to uphold a 2013 ruling that followed a legal challenge on the effects GMO crops have on the environment, which temporarily put a stop on GMO corn-growing, including pilot plots….

Opponents of GMO crops believe that these modified corn seeds could contaminate heirloom varieties, and that the pesticides used to protect GMO crops are harmful to beneficial insects like bees – which have been dying off in record numbers.  Community advocates state that Mexico’s 59 varieties of native corn will be at risk if Monsanto is allowed to take hold of the corn market. [RELATED: Learn more about the dangers of genetically modified food at GMO.news

 

 

 

Again, when will Trump denigrate his own country for its outrageous policies and when will he and those in Congress understand how millions in Mexico have suffered through no fault of their own. This is best stated by Rick Relinger, in his 2010 article, where he notes in reference to research about the issue:

As the study’s results demonstrate, billions of dollars of federal subsidies for American-grown corn are largely responsible for the economic displacement of Mexico’s corn farmers. The impact of U.S. corn subsidies has severely transformed the lives of people who have no influence on U.S. policies. This economic vulnerability of Mexican farmers was initiated through the approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The inclusion of the agricultural sector within the agreement’s broader agenda of trade liberalization exposed Mexicans employed in agriculture to U.S. domestic economic policies. (It is important to note that U.S.-Canada side of the agreement contrastingly maintains significant restrictions to protect the Canadian agricultural sector). Although these subsidies produced an increase in the corporate ownership of corn production, a decrease in corn prices, and dwindling numbers of employed corn farmers-not to mention the displacement and forced migration of Mexican corn farmers-Mexican voters have no voice in congressional deliberations regarding the approval of federal subsidies for American-grown corn. (Prospect)

Invariably, in this neoliberal economic world in which we live, corporations take precedence over individual well-being at virtually every juncture. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of this!!!

I will end with this 2006 excellent article below about the importance of corn in Mexico by Christina Santini who recently worked at the “Food and Agriculture Organization” of the United Nations and at the time worked in urban planning and development at Harvard University. She is also a professional cook.

THE PEOPLE OF THE CORN

For Mexicans, maize is not a crop but a deep cultural symbol intrinsic to daily life. Corn was domesticated from a grass called teocintle by the peoples of Meso-America approximately 10,000 years ago. Often referred to as humanity’s greatest agronomic achievement, maize is now grown all over the world. The yellow corn commonly found in the United States pales in comparison to the shapes, sizes, and colors of the traditional maize varieties cultivated by the indigenous peoples of Mexico. The ears of corn may range from a couple of inches to a foot long, in colors that include white, red, yellow, blue, and black. Some varieties even have an assortment of colors on one ear.

Corn is inextricably tied to the quotidian lives of the peasants and indigenous peoples of Mexico. As the basic grain, it shapes daily meals, and it’s growing cycle influences the timing of festivals. The image and shape of maize is a ubiquitous component of architecture and crafts. Spiritually, physically, and economically, corn sustains indigenous peoples. In the words of one Indian woman, “Corn is so important because it allows us to live at peace. It’s our form of food security.” Corn is linked to survival: During rough economic times or in the face of natural disasters, families will produce more maize to feed themselves. A Tzotzil Maya elder recounts, “During the past five centuries, while our people have withstood suffering-enormous sufferings-our corn has allowed us to survive.”

Now the North American Free Trade Agreement threatens to change that history. NAFTA has allowed the Mexican market to be flooded with imported corn from the United States, the vast majority of which is genetically modified. Before NAFTA, more than a third of the corn produced by rural farmers was retained for consumption at home, and the rest was sold on local markets. Indigenous peoples and peasants were practicing true food sovereignty and protected themselves from natural disasters and price fluctuations. Most local maize is sold through DISCONSA, a network of rural food stores common in poor and remote regions. As multinationals entered the market, a few began to sell their corn through the DISCONSA network, a practice that artificially lowered prices, hurt local farmers’ income, and disrupted the usual pattern of retaining enough corn for contingencies. More importantly, some of the corn flowing into the network consisted of genetically modified organisms. Estimates of contamination vary according to locality, from 3 percent to 60 percent. Within the DISCONSA network, the Mexican government found 37 percent contamination.

“We have learned that agrochemical companies patented our maize,” said a Tzotzil statement published in 2002 in La Jornada. “They are putting in genes from other living beings and many chemicals to completely put an end to our natural maize, so we’ll have to buy nothing but transgenic maize. If these agrochemical companies try to do away with our maize, it will be like putting an end to part of the culture that our Mayan ancestors bequeathed to us. Our indigenous peasant grandparents gave their labor and their hearts; they cried as they asked protection from our Creator for their work to bear fruit.”

To address the threat to traditional corn, the Tzotzil people formed the Mother Seeds in Resistance project. Mother Seeds is based in an autonomous indigenous school in the Chiapas highlands. There the community is identifying seeds to be preserved and preparing them to be frozen (for preservation, the moisture content in the seeds must be below 6 percent; otherwise the water inside the seeds will freeze and then burst the cell membranes, destroying them).

Community members of all ages are involved in the identification process, and it has become a channel through which young are learning from their elders. “It’s good to talk about these things in Tzotzil,” said two teachers, “because it is our own language.” Aldo Gonzalez, an indigenous Zapotec who has been on the forefront of the campaign against genetically modified maize, says, “Native seeds are a very important part of our culture. The pyramids may have been destroyed, but a handful of maize seed is the legacy we can leave to our children and grandchildren.”

(Cultural Survival)

32 Years Later: The MOVE Bombing in Philadelphia

Move Philly Bombing 3Carlos [Africa] was expressing the hurt that all MOVE people felt, after the hurt, the slaughter of our family,” said Mama Ramona Africa, the lone adult survivor of the May 13, 1985 bombing of the MOVE house on Osage Avenue, an assault that featured thousands of rounds of ammunition, the use of an incendiary device on the roof, and a blaze that consumes an entire city block and ultimately sealed the fate of six adults, five children, and an untold number of pets in the MOVE house.  “The point is, we are living beings.  We are alive.  So we have feelings.  And thanks to the understanding John Africa had given us, we’re not confused about strength and feelings.  Showing no feelings, feeling nothing, is not strength.  When you have feelings, that’s what makes you strong.  So what I’m telling you is, MOVE people are living beings that have feelings, thanks to John Africa.  We can be hurt, because we have feelings.  We can feel hurt.  But goddammit, we won’t be stopped.  We can be hurt, but we won’t be stopped, and that’s what’s important.”

The MOVE Conference was held on Friday, May 5, Saturday, May 6 and Sunday, May 7 at the Universal Audenreid Charter High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The three-day event featured several panels of MOVE members and supporters who provided information to the attendees about the MOVE Organization, its founding by visionary leader John Africa (“The Coordinator”), its history of resistance to police intimidation during the regime of police commissioner and later mayor Frank Rizzo, repeated police brutality incidents including the death of baby Life Africa, the August 8, 1987 attack on the MOVE House in Powelton Village, the resurgence of MOVE at 6221 Osage Avenue in the Cobbs Creek area of the city, and the May 13, 1985 confrontation that left eleven people dead and 61 homes burned to the ground.

Carlos Africa, one of the organization’s strongest advocates at public events who regularly speaks in support of Mama Ramona and Mama Pam Africa, elaborated on Mama Ramona’s point about the organization, or “family” as it is commonly known, deriving their strength from the deep feelings they all share, especially the parents of children who died in the 1985 bombing.  “Also I want to point out that all the men, move men in state prison, the women were a big factor. … Delbert, Rhea, Janine, Phil [who sadly passed on to the Ancestors while imprisoned as part of the MOVE Nine in January 2015–Editor], Janet, they all had kids in that house. … MOVE women, they’re a foundation of our organization.  They’re a big part, and that’s why I’m still here, and the rest of our brothers and sisters are still here, and why all these young people … that were born in this organization, that’s why they’re here.  Because the wisdom and teachings from John Africa, that were passed on to our sisters by the ones who had babies in the early years, like Rhea, Janet, Consuela, Janine.  The majority of the kids you see up here, they were born in our house in southwest Philly.  And most of them don’t have birth certificates, just like Life Africa didn’t have a birth certificate when they claimed that Life Africa wasn’t murdered by the police when Janine had him in her arms back in 1976. …”  Janine Africa, now imprisoned for a term of 30 to 100 years as one of the MOVE Nine stemming from the August 8, 1978 attack in Powelton Village, was holding baby Life Africa in her arms during a 1976 police raid when she was jostled, the baby was knocked from her arms and hit the pavement, resulting in a fatal skull fracture that to this day is denied by the Philadelphia police department.

Abdul, Mike Jr, Levi, Ramona, Rhea Africa.  Hidden behind Ramona: Carlos Africa.

Abdul, Mike Jr, Levi, Ramona, Rhea Africa. Hidden behind Ramona: Carlos Africa.

Barbara Grant, Journalist, on the Osage Avenue Attack

Radio journalist Barbara Grant was working for radio station WDAS at the time of the Osage Avenue attack.  She spoke to the audience about her experience attempting to give fair coverage to MOVE and her recollections of the day of the bombing.

“It’s not something that I talk about a lot, and hearing Carlos just brought back some painful memories, (but) that we-won’t-ever-be-defeated kind of spirit, really kind of gives us all strength.  I was at WDAS at the time that the MOVE bombing happened as the news director. … What WDAS did, from ’78 onward, was to try to be a counterbalance between what was actually happening and what was being reported in the mainstream media, and we did that for a couple of reasons.  One, because Mumia [Abu-Jamal, perhaps the most famous Political Prisoner in the world and an unflinching supporter of MOVE from that time to the present day–Editor] was one of us.  Mumia was part of the WDAS news staff at one time.  And the other was because, as the voice of the Black community, and taking that really, really seriously, this idea of injustice was at the top of our agenda, in terms of making sure that people were reported on in a fair way, and so, what my news director said to me when I first showed up there, was ‘If we don’t show MOVE people to be people, they will never appear like that in the mainstream media.  No one else will do it.’  So we really tried to make sure that our connection to MOVE was a live one and a dynamic one.  And I remember using reels and reels of tape–at that time we had the tape on the big reels–to allow MOVE people to have their say, and to allow opportunities for people to speak in their own voices.  Because it just wasn’t being reported in  the mainstream press.  When there were so many misconceptions and purposeful instances of misinformation being put out there about the MOVE Organization.  Just one example, people wanted to describe MOVE children as being unkempt, and starved, and dirty, and all of these things, and when you really knew the truth, you knew that these were some of the healthiest children in the city, because of their diet and their lifestyle, and there were things like that that needed to come out, which allowed people to have 1985 happen, because they dehumanized MOVE and they isolated MOVE, and because it was easy for readers, listeners, viewers, to really think that ‘We’re not like them’.  That these are not even human beings, that these are not people.  And so, when [an audience member] asked the question before of what people think, what we say to folks when they say ‘well, why should I give a damn about it’, it’s because people don’t think that they’re sitting on the same square as folk from MOVE.  And yet, what we see in the federal government right now, is that we’re all on the same damn square.  It’s like, how do you deal with lies, when you believe in the truth?  How do you not get confused about that, when it’s coming out of the mouth of the orange person in the White House? 

“But, what I experienced in terms of 1985, I guess, started, on Mother’s Day.  We knew something was going on on Osage avenue, and we were watching for it, in the run-up to May 13, and the Sunday before that, it was Mother’s Day.  And I remember I was having dinner with my son and husband who took me out to dinner, and Vera Martin called me, and said ‘this is getting ready to go down.’  And so I said to my family. ‘I’ll be back in a little while’, and I went to go check on things and we didn’t get back foe three days.  It was just like that, bam-bam-bam, what was happening.

“And I remember the night that they were moving everybody out of their houses, and moving in the apparatus, the equipment, the crews that were disconnecting gas, disconnecting the water, and disconnecting the electricity, and saying to people, ‘well, you just have to go for a couple of hours, and we’ll let you back in the house’.  And at some point that evening, it got really, really clear that something really bad was getting ready to happen.  And so, I called the Mayor’s Office, and had a friend in there, and told that person that this was going to end up badly, and that there were real intentions on the part of public officials and the police specifically, because this was a police operation, and everyone else in the city, even the fire department, abdicated to the police.  I just talked to someone the other day about this, and they said the person that they held most responsible for what happened on Osage avenue was the fire commissioner [William Richmond, who was found responsible for the use of excessive force by a jury in a lawsuit eleven years later, along with police commissioner Gregore Sambor and the City of Philadelphia–Editor], because the fire commissioner should have said to the police commissioner [Sambor], ‘F you, I have to fight this fire.'” 

“I called the Mayor’s Office, and had a friend in there, and told that person that this was going to end up badly, and that there were real intentions on the part of public officials and the police specifically. … And after a little while, they came back and they said, ‘the Mayor said, and I quote, there’s nothing he can do.’  There’s nothing he can do.

Mama Ramona Africa pointed out, “One thing I’ve always been telling people, when they came out there, they [police] can label it a crime scene.  But at the point there is a fire, that is the jurisdiction of the fire department, and the police commissioner cannot tell the fire commissioner how to or not to fight a fire.”

Ms. Grant continued, “That’s absolutely the truth, and I don’t want to take up too much time, but at some point that night, that did happen.  And I did call the Mayor’s Office, and what was told to me was ‘okay, hold on, I’m going to go check with the Mayor.’  And after a little while, they came back and they said, ‘the Mayor said, and I quote, there’s nothing he can do.’  There’s nothing he can do.  The Mayor can always do something.  The Mayor can always do something, the Mayor is in charge, unless you abdicate to the police commissioner, which was what was done. 

“And so, as that evening went on, the other incident was that the MOVE folk in the house actually called for a contingent of reporters to negotiate.  they were ready to talk to people about how to resolve this in a way that wouldn’t result in a catastrophe.  I was one of those folk, and so I went to the cops at the barricades, and tried, on several occasions, in several different places, to tell them, I wanted to speak with them.  I’m not trying to be a hostage, but folk are calling for some avenue that will keep whatever it is you’re getting ready to do from happening.  And basically, I was just tossed off, as I’m sure Harvey Clark, and some of the other folk that were called for were as well.  So they had no intention of trying to negotiate, they had no intention of trying to resolve this, they had decided what they wanted to do.  And I don’t know if you’ve heard from the [at the time] photographer at channel 10, who holed up, he hid himself in a house across the street and was photographing some of this.  at some point, some of the tape that he collected had a statement in it that I will never, ever forget for the rest of my life, which was a couple of cops laughing back and forth with each other, saying, while the fire was burning, ‘this is the last time they’ll call the police commissioner a motherf***er.'”

“[T]he MOVE folk in the house actually called for a contingent of reporters to negotiate.  they were ready to talk to people about how to resolve this in a way that wouldn’t result in a catastrophe.  I was one of those folk, and so I went to the cops at the barricades … And basically, I was just tossed off … So they had no intention of trying to negotiate, they had no intention of trying to resolve this, they had decided what they wanted to do.”

Mama Ramona corroborated the videotape’s existence, pointing out: “And that’s on a police videotape, and when subpoenaed during my criminal trial [As the only adult survivor of the conflict, she was tried for incitement to riot and other offenses, and was sentenced to jail time, making her the only person prosecuted as a result of the MOVE bombing–Editor], the police said they only had 13 minutes of tape, when they taped from May 12 to May 13.  But the thing about it, they’re so stupid, that statement was on their tape that they gave them.”

Ms. Grant continued, “And it came out in evidence during the MOVE Commission [the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission, which issued a report on March 7, 1986 about the confrontation].  And so, a little bit of fast forwarding, we went through that night, and I remember being near the back alley, on I think this would have been 62nd and Pine, when, as it turned out, Birdie [Africa, also known as Michael Ward], as he testified during the MOVE Commission, said that people were coming out, and him saying ‘we’re coming out, we’re coming out!’  And you couldn’t hear anything, you couldn’t hear anything, that fire was raging, and there was all the noise.  It was everywhere.  And at the end of it, Ramona and Birdie came out, and that was it. 

“And then, when people began to investigate all that stuff, I ended up doing an investigation with, at that time I was with Channel 29, and did a joint investigation with the Legal Intelligencer, about what happened in the back alley, because promises were made about what was supposed to happen on that site.  And one of the promises that was made, were that cops that were involved in 1978 weren’t supposed to be anywhere near what was going on on Osage avenue.  And it turned out that some of those cops were actually in the back alley.

“The ones that beat Delbert,” said Mama Ramona.

Ms. Grant continued, “And so, as we looked at some of that stuff, and got hold of FBI files, photos, and things like that, we went to talk to a medical examiner who was at that time up in Pittsburgh.  And what we discovered, in the end, was that fragments of the bullets that were shot in that back alley ended up in the remains of the MOVE people.  [This backs up not only the account of Mama Ramona that MOVE members were shot at when they tried to exit the burning building, but also the account of a retired police officer who lived on Osage Avenue during an interview we conducted in April 2000 that bullet fragments were found in the bodies–Editor.]  And that’s kind of the bottom line right there.  There were cops in that back alley, that were not supposed to be there to begin with, who did some things that maybe will never, ever see the light of day in the proper way.  But I will say this, because I happen to be a believer in God, that some of those police officers ended up committing suicide, some of them ended up as substance abusers, and some of them ended up just not being very happy, peaceful people.  And what I believe is that karma is karma.”

MOVE 2017 Conference MOVE Nine PosterBro. Kareem Speaks About Learning of the MOVE Bombing

“I’m a MOVE supporter.  I’ve been one since 1979.  I met MOVE in Holmesburg Prison [in Philadelphia–Editor]–the five men who were awaiting trial for the August 8, 1978 raid on their headquarters.  I had come down from Western State Penitentiary.  I had gotten a new trial on the case that I had gone to jail for.  I had seven years in, and I had been following MOVE up to that point.  Like many of you all, I had read a smear campaign about MOVE, that they were dirty, that they ate garlic, like there’s something wrong with eating garlic, that they didn’t take baths, that they used profanity, that they had their children born at home, like there’s something wrong with the children born at home.  And I had heard all these things about MOVE, and I considered myself a revolutionary.  I was in jail for trying to break some brothers out of Holmesburg prison, and a policeman there got shot.  So, I was a political prisoner, I had looked at myself as a political prisoner, and I looked at MOVE as political prisoners.  so, on my seventh year while in solitary confinement for trying to escape, I had longed to meet MOVE.  I had wanted to meet these brothers and sisters for years.  So finally I got a new trial, I had been given an opportunity to go back down to Holmesburg prison, from Western State Penitentiary, which would allow me then to meet MOVE.  I went down there.  I met MOVE.  The first MOVE member I met was Phil Africa, who is now deceased.  And from that point on, I remained in MOVE.

But I wanted to speak on May the 13th, 1985.  You all might need to forgive me at some point, because I get really emotional about it.  On May the 13th of ’85, I was walking the yard, I was the only MOVE prisoner at Graterford Prison at the time.   and guys were running up to me telling me, ‘Hey, you heard what happened man?  they’re rolling on your family, they’re rolling on MOVE on Osage Avenue.’  So I went back to my cell, turned the TV on, watched until I couldn’t watch anymore.  Guys were still coming to my cell door, trying to let me know what was going on until I didn’t want to hear no more.  That night, 12 o’clock at night–the jail locks up at 9 o’clock at night in most state prisons–that night, I looked up, I’m laying in bed, I couldn’t sleep.  The cell door slams open, and there’s maybe ten guards coming into my cell, saying ‘Come on, you’re coming with us.’  And I’m like ‘Coming with you all where?’  And they say ‘Just come on, that’s all.’  So I said ‘I’m not going nowhere.’  So, I went off on them.  I said ‘f*** you motherf***ers, you killed my family, I ain’t hearing nothing you all got to say,’ and I started fighting.  They knocked me out, they took me down to the hole, solitary confinement, placed me in the hole, gave me an assault on four different guards, gave me a year in the hole.  I stayed in Graterford for six months.  And just out of nowhere they ship you in the state prisons, they don’t tell you where you’re going.  Just early in the morning, thrown into a van or whatever transportation it is, and they take you to another prison.  Well, it was a blessing in disguise for me, because they took me up to Huntington State Prison.  And that’s where Mumia was on death row at the time, which gave me the opportunity to communicate with him, as I went from one hole to the other, and Mike Africa was in population.  I didn’t know at the time, when they came to my cell door to get me, that they had rounded up all the MOVE members all across the state.  I didn’t know that.  Put them all in solitary confinement.  And for what?  For nothing.  We didn’t do anything.  The fact that we were in MOVE was enough for them.  That’s all they needed to know.  So I came out, went in population, stayed with Mike until I went home. … I stayed with Mike maybe six months, and then went home.  But like Ramona was telling you all, and I want to emphasize to all of you all, MOVE people got feelings. … I can’t say anymore.

Carlos Africa elaborated a bit.  “I want to point out that Kareem came home from prison in 1982.  He did after he did his 10 or 11 years.  And he lived around, not in the house but he lived up around the Osage family for them years right before May 13th, when he was arrested.  He was around the kids, he was around the women, and men that were in Osage Avenue.  And he got to be real close to them because he felt the same thing other MOVE members felt when we first came into the organization, the love and the concern for family that John Africa instilled in all MOVE people.  And any time Kareem talks about it, he does get emotional, because that’s the last time he got to see them, and it’s hard.  It’s hard.  Thank you.  Long Live John Africa.”

The Osage Avenue neighborhood after the MOVE Bombing.

The Osage Avenue neighborhood after the MOVE Bombing.

For more information on MOVE, check out other articles we’ve posted here on the Organization, specifically last year’s remembrance of the Osage Avenue bombing and the interview we did in April 2000 with a group of men who were neighbors of MOVE at the time of the Osage Avenue assault and who, despite their opposition to many of MOVE’s methods, had to agree that the family was subjected to a murderous, obscene assault on that day, and there was more to the misconduct and malfeasance of the city of Philadelphia than meets the eye.  Also, check out MOVE’s web site, http://onamove.com.

100 Dramas for 100 Days of Trump

Trump 2By the end of January 2017, newly-sworn-in US President Donald Trump had already hit the ground running in an attempt to establish a “productive” first 100 days. While his presidency may not have produced as many new laws or policy improvements as his supporters expected (or even think it did), it certainly has not failed to deliver in drama.  To commemorate the first 100 days of the Trump administration, we’ve compiled a list of 100 points of interest and controversy (We thought of calling them “Fun Facts”, but there’s actually little fun in any of this) that have become the focus of the media and Trump’s opposition in the first 100 days.

Excretive Orders 2

By the end of January 2017, Trump had already hit the ground running in an attempt to establish a “productive” first 100 days.  As he signed one Executive Order after another, it seemed that he would almost literally ramrod his “vision” for the country through the Republican control of all three branches of government.  These are just some of the Executive Orders Trump signed, which we see as primarily representing a threat to the livelihoods, the economic stability, the civil liberties, the environmental safety and the human rights of Americans and the world at large:

1.   An order instructing agencies that whenever they introduce a regulation, they must first abolish two others.

2.   An order to restructure the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council, which had initially placed adviser Steve Bannon in a position of primary influence on the Principals Committee of the Council and removed several military experts, including the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Intelligence Director.  Bannon would be removed from the Council weeks later.

3.   An executive order imposing a 120-day suspension of the refugee program and a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. from citizens of seven alleged “terror hot spots”: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan.  The executive order was loudly protested by massive crowds at courthouses, government buildings and airports across the country and derided as the “Muslim Ban”.

4.   After the first attempt at what had been derided and protested across the nation as a “Muslim Ban” failed, Trump welcomed the month of March by attempting another “Muslim Ban”, this time restricting travel from six nations: Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia  and Sudan, and sparing Iraq from the executive order.

5.   Multi-pronged orders on border security and immigration enforcement including: the authorization of a U.S.-Mexico border wall; hiring 5,000 more Border Patrol agents; ending “catch-and-release” policies for illegal immigrants; and reinstating local and state immigration enforcement partnerships.

6.   A related order for the stripping of federal grant money to sanctuary cities, local jurisdictions that refused to utilize their local police departments to root out undocumented immigrants instead of preventing and solving actual criminal acts.  This order was openly defied by several prominent “sanctuary cities” such as New York, which dared the Trump administration to attempt to strip them of federal funding.  It was also challenged at the Circuit Court level, resulting in the granting of a stay, essentially defeating the order.  Trump has vowed to fight it to the Supreme Court.

7.   Two orders reviving the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access pipeline, in spite of the then-ongoing protests in North Dakota, which argued the Dakota Access Pipeline would contaminate the water of the Standing Rock Sioux Indigenous Nation.

8.   Trump also signed three orders related to Keystone XL and Dakota Access that would expedite the environmental permitting process for infrastructure projects related to the pipelines, direct the Commerce Department to streamline the manufacturing permitting process, and give the Commerce Department 180 days to maximize the use of U.S. steel in the pipeline.

9.   An order to reinstate the so-called “Mexico City Policy” – a ban on federal funds to international groups that perform abortions or lobby to legalize or promote abortion. The policy was instituted in 1984 by President Reagan, but has gone into
and out of effect depending on the party in power in the White House.

10.  An order imposing a hiring freeze for some federal government workers as a way to shrink the size of government. This excludes the military, as Trump noted at the signing.

11.  An order that directs federal agencies to ease the “regulatory burdens” of ObamaCare.  It orders agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement” of ObamaCare that imposes a “fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.”

12.  According to the March 27 edition of the New York Times, “President Trump, flanked by company executives and miners, signed a long-promised executive order on Tuesday to nullify President Barack Obama’s climate change efforts and revive the coal industry, effectively ceding American leadership in the international campaign to curb the dangerous heating of the planet.  Mr. Trump made clear that the United States had no intention of meeting the commitments that his predecessor had made to curb planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution, turning denials of climate change into national policy.  At a ceremony, Mr. Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency to start the complex and lengthy legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants, frozen construction of new plants and replaced them with vast new wind and solar farms.”

13.  In a related action, Trump ordered the EPA to remove climate change language from its website and begin rolling back a slew of environmental regulations.  According to an article on CNN’s website (http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/29/politics/trump-epa-cuts-infighting-
climate-change/index.html), “The White House is also highlighting its EPA regulation roll-backs through use of the Congressional Review Act as one of the brightest moments so far. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short called the actions the ‘biggest legislative achievement’ of Trump’s first 100 days in office, next to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.  The GOP Congress used the law to nullify almost a dozen rules issued in the final months of Obama’s presidency, including the Stream Protection Rule and an Interior Department methane rule that requires oil and gas companies using public lands to control air pollution.”

14.  An Executive Order designating Inauguration Day, January 21, as a “National Day of Patriotism”.

15.  A March 15, 2017 budget proposal that would eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which is a major funding source for National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), causing protesters to accuse
Trump of trying to destroy Sesame Street.

16.  As part of the same budget proposal, the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities was also directed.  This move, and the order to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, makes Trump’s reported May 1 order to discontinue former First Lady Michele Obama’s Let Girls Learn Initiative less surprising but no less outrageous.

17.  A March budget proposal called for massive cuts to State Department funding.  While the administration has yet to even nominate a deputy Secretary of State, its proposal would also cut the agency’s budget by 31%.  A group of 120 retired generals and admirals signed a February 27 letter urging Trump not to cut the State Department’s budget.  (http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/27/politics/generals-letter-state-department-budget-cuts/index.html)

18.  Consistent with Trump’s stated opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency, and his decision to appoint the anti-EPA Scott Pruitt as the EPA’s Administrator, the Trump administration proposed a massive budget cut to that agency as well.  (http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/29/politics/trump-epa-cuts-infighting-climate-change/index.html)

PERSONNEL APPOINTMENTS AND DIS-APPOINTMENTS

Tillerson 1

19.  Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, becomes Secretary of State.  His time at Exxon corresponds with the corporation’s efforts to sow uncertainty about the human impact on climate change.  ExxonMobil also was a major resource extractor in Equatorial Guinea, one of the most unstable countries in Afrika, with a long-standing ruling family that lives in luxury while the populace goes hungry.

20.  Sean Spicer is chosen as Trump’s official spokesperson.  Spicer would become known for occasionally-unhinged comments and factually questionable statements, and he would be famously parodied by comedian Melissa McCarthy on Saturday Night Live.

21.  Kellyanne Conway, who had replaced Paul Manafort during the campaign as Trump’s campaign spokesperson, would continue in the role of “counselor” in the Trump administration.  It remains to be seen what type of “counseling” she provides.

22.  Omarosa Manigault is appointed as an aide to the president in charge of African American Outreach as well as the communications director for the White House Office of Public Liaison.  The occasionally controversial former Apprentice reality-television star had expressed surprise at the cold reception Trump has received from many Afrikan-American voters and personalities, having said that Blacks were “not working hard enough” to work with Trump: “We’re here waiting, willing to work with the community. … This president wants to engage. It’s not a one-way street.”  She also stated during the late stages of the presidential campaign that Trump’s opponents would “have to bow down” to him once he was elected president.  On Thursday, April 27, at an event sponsored by the National Action Network at which she was invited to speak, Rev. Al Sharpton asked her to tell Trump that “we as blacks and women are, in the first 100 days, seeing a disaster in Washington, D.C.”

23.  Scott Pruitt, who had filed 14 lawsuits against the /environmental Protection Agency in Oklahoma, is named EPA Administrator.  He would set out to roll back environmental regulations almost immediately upon assuming office.

24.  Rick Perry, former governor of Texas who, in the 2011 Republican presidential primaries, had famously vowed to abolish the Department of Energy, is named the Administrator of … the Department of Energy.  The fact that he has maintained a very low profile as the new Energy Department head may be an indicator that his opinion of the agency has not changed much since 2011.

25.  Betsy DeVos, with no experience whatsoever in public school administration and only a checkered record as a proponent of public-private charter schools in Chicago (most of which have under-performed), is named Secretary of Education.

26.  Dr. Ben Carson, famed neurosurgeon whose most recent claim to fame has been an anemic presidential campaign, a series of comments at speaking engagements against poor and low-income citizens in need of federal assistance and the admission that he does not consider himself qualified to run any agency, is named Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

27.  Andy Puzder, the fast-food magnate who had opposed raising the minimum wage, is Trump’s choice as Labor Secretary.  Puzder’s nomination would be withdrawn after protests from workers’ unions and questions about his record.

28.  Mike Flynn, Trump’s choice as National Security Adviser, later is revealed as having made contact with Russian officials on several suspicious occasions.  Flynn is also revealed to have served as a paid foreign agent for Turkey during the transition, when he had been involved in national security briefings, without having notified anyone.

29.  Steve Bannon is named to a special strategic adviser post.  He and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus would differ regarding the administration’s proposed policies, and Bannon’s previous position as CEO of Breitbart would lead to accusations that he was using his position as “the voice of the Alt-Right” to infuse a White Nationalist, or even White Supremacist, viewpoint into the Trump administration.

30.  Former South Carolina Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is named Trump’s Attorney General.  He is approved by the Senate after a contentious battle that included a brief Democratic filibuster and a rather stunning rebuke of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).  Sessions was known to have prosecuted Afrikan-American civil rights workers in South Carolina during his time as that state’s Attorney General in 1985 (see the analysis by Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Jeff Sessions, The Marion Three, and Why We Need an Attorney General Who Will Fight Voter Suppression, https://lawyerscommittee.org/2017/
01/jeff-sessions-marion-three-need-attorney-general-will-fight-voter-suppression/) and has pushed several US cities to rescind the consent decrees they signed in the aftermath of incidents of police brutality since he became US Attorney General.

31.  Neil Gorsuch is nominated by Trump as the new Supreme Court Justice, filling the seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia in 2016.  Democrats had opposed this nomination and had mounted a filibuster that prompted Republicans to use their majority to change the rules to break the filibuster.  Democrats resorted to this “obstructionist” tactic because of Gorsuch’s strict anti-abortion views, his rulings in favor of corporations even in situations such as the “freezing truck driver” case (a truck driver was fired for leaving his rig after it had broken down in freezing temperatures, even though promised aid never arrived), and the fact that Senate Republicans had refused to even consider Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee from over a year before.

32.  Sebastian Gorka, an English-born Hungarian right-wing former Breitbart columnist, is brought on as an assistant adviser.

33.  Ajit Pai, Trump’s pick to run the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), immediately set out to gut consumer-protection regulations.  According to a February 5, 2017 article in the “failing” New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/05/
technology/trumps-fcc-quickly-targets-net-neutrality-rules.html), “In his first days as President Trump’s pick to lead the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai has aggressively moved to roll back consumer protection regulations created
during the Obama presidency. … Mr. Pai took a first swipe at net neutrality rules designed to ensure equal access to content on the internet. He stopped nine companies from providing discounted high-speed internet service to low-income individuals.  He withdrew an effort to keep prison phone rates down, and he scrapped a proposal to break open the cable box market.”

34.  Sally Yates, an assistant Attorney General from the Obama administration, warns the Trump administration about Mike Flynn’s apparent failure to inform authorities that he had met with Russian officials during the campaign and transition, and that he had been a paid agent for Turkey.  Shortly thereafter, Trump fires Yates, allegedly because she disagreed with him about the constitutionality of his proposed “Muslim Ban”.

35.  As of Day 99 of the Trump presidency, a total of 71 nominations had been made to his Cabinet and high-level positions, the lowest number since this statistic has been counted.  Hundreds of positions in the Trump administration, including almost all of the Assistant Secretary positions, remain unfilled as of this writing.

36.  Meanwhile, the apparent turmoil within the Trump administration, often dubbed the “palace intrigue” in the White House, has led political adversaries, media commentators, and even late-night talk-show hosts to speculate as to who the “real president” is.  Is it Trump?  Is it Steve Bannon?  Is it Jared Kushner?  Or does it change with the (political) weather?

FAMILY TIES

Ivanka Trump 137.  Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, would receive an unofficial role in the administration, though she would receive an office and would be present at many of Trump’s high-level meetings with other heads of state.  Her application for a top security clearance was not approved.

38.  Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, would be given a more official role as a senior adviser.  He would be charged with eliminating waste in government and attempting to broker Middle East peace, among other duties, despite his young age (36 at the time of his appointment).

39.  Trump has placed his many business ventures in what he calls a “blind trust”, though he placed it under the control of his sons, who no doubt consult him on a regular basis, thus negating any claims that this is a “blind trust”.  The Emoluments Clause, among other regulations, is supposed to prevent a sitting president from influencing policy that would benefit his or her business interests.  Trump seems to have disregarded these regulations entirely.

SECURITY? WHAT SECURITY?

Mar A Lago 240.  The Secret Service is stretched thin by its responsibilities to protect Trump in the White House, while also protecting First Lady Melania Trump in Trump Tower in New York City, and also providing security at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.  Trump held a meeting there and took a phone call to discuss classified business, out in the open among guests, at the resort in March.

41.  Trump continues to reject concerns about the links between his campaign and Russian efforts to influence the November 8 election, despite the fact that Flynn and other members of the Trump team have been revealed to have had several contacts with Russian officials during the campaign and the transition.

42.  Trump’s sometimes-reckless tweets have raised concerns about the possibility of inadvertently revealing classified information and compromising national security.

STATECRAFT (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Putin 143.  Trump had cultivated a relationship with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin since the campaign, comparing his “strong leadership” to the “weak leadership” of President Obama.  This relationship has since cooled.

44.  Before taking office, Trump accepted a congratulatory call from the President of Taiwan, apparently unaware that this would cause something close to an international incident with China, which does not recognize Taiwan.  The United States has had a long-standing policy of not officially recognizing Taiwan, even though the US is not considered an enemy of that country.

45.  By placing individuals such as Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka in close proximity in his administration, and paying close heed to the rants and antics of Alex Jones (a once self-styled political commentator who now calls himself a “performance artist” in the wake of accusations in a separation lawsuit), Trump seems to have been signaling his willingness to be influenced by the “Alt-Right”, a political philosophy that many commentators view as White Nationalist.

46.  Early in his presidency, Trump reportedly berated Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the phone over an Obama-era refugee deal in which the US was to take up to 1,250 refugees that Australia houses in detention camps on the Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

47.  On March 6, in response to an illegal chemical attack on a Syrian town widely blamed on the Bashar al-Assad regime, Trump ordered a strike at the airbase that had launched the attack, sending 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles in a strike on the Al
Sharyat Airfield.

48.  On April 12, under orders from the Trump administration, the Massive Ordinance Air Bomb (MOAB), or as it was more informally called, the “Mother Of All Bombs (MOAB)”, was detonated at a remote Islamic State (IS) base in Afghanistan.  It was the largest non-nuclear device ever detonated.  The Bush and Obama administrations had resisted using it for the entirety of their eight-year presidencies.  Trump resorted to it in fewer than three months.

49.  On March 17, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House.  The visit was marked by what appeared to be Trump’s refusal to shake Merkel’s hand, even after prompting by photographers, which Trump apparently pretended not to notice.

50.  On April 28, Day 99 of the Trump presidency, he was quoted as having warned that a “major conflict” was looming with North Korea.  Political analysts and journalists considered this an extremely reckless statement, designed to escalate the tension between the US and North Korea’s young ruler, Kim Jung-Un.

VAPID ANALYSIS

The following are several assertions from either Trump himself or members of his administration that, in our opinion, strain the limits of common sense, forge new frontiers in naiveté and push the boundaries of conspiracy theory.  Most of these are not direct quotes, so we have placed them in italics when a direct quote was not available to us.

from cafepress.com

from cafepress.com

51.  Climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

52.  By singing Executive Orders to allow Arctic and Atlantic drilling and the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines, thousands of good jobs will be created.  (This despite the fact that even energy experts have asserted that coal is a technology of the past, that the notion of “clean coal” is more speculative than real, and that the resulting rejection of solar and wind power development means the actual loss of jobs in those expanding clean-energy technologies.)

53.  The protesters at Congressional public meetings calling for the retention of the Affordable Care Act and the protection of Muslims and immigrants are “professionals … brought in from out of state on buses”.  (Meanwhile, many of the pro-Trump counter-protesters admitted they were the ones who often had come from other districts or other states when questioned.)

54.  The one-page Tax Plan released at the end of April is brilliant and beautiful, despite the fact that the only thing it says is that corporations and the well-to-do will see their income taxes cut in half.

55.  Frederick Douglass is “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.”  (Trump, in a February 2 breakfast meeting with Afrikan-American supporters to recognize Black History Month and the opening  of the National Museum of African American History and Culture) This remark has led to criticism that Trump was unaware of Douglass’ true historic significance, as well as several jokes that Trump believed Douglass was still alive.

56.  Mike Flynn was treated horribly.  He had been vetted by Obama, but the second he’s caught having dealt with Turkey and Russia (all of which, by the way, happened after he had been fired by the Obama administration), suddenly the Fake News Media says it’s Trump’s fault! (though the vetting process for National Security Adviser should have been much more thorough than it would have been before, which indicates that the Trump administration is the one that had failed to properly vet Flynn).

57.  NAFTA is horrible … Well, no, maybe it isn’t.  Okay, we’ll keep it for now until I can find a way to change it or eliminate it.  (Actually, in many ways NAFTA is horrible, but clearly Trump’s team has no clue as to why.)

DUPLICITY (SWAMP MAINTENANCE)

Trump Crowd Drain The Swamp 158.  “Drain the swamp.”  Trump then proceeded to place oil industry cronies, right-wing ideologues and corporate apologists with no knowledge of, and little apparent concern for, the impact of governance on people’s lives, in key positions in his Cabinet and among his close advisers.

59.  “I want to give everybody great health care.”  He then proceeded with his “repeal and replace” plan for “ObamaCare” and attempted to replace it with what came to be derisively known as TrumpCare (“something much better and much cheaper”), which, according to health professionals from almost every corner, would have the immediate impact of stripping up to 24 million Americans of health insurance.

60.  “We are giving government back to you, the people.”  (Trump’s proclamation during his inauguration speech, which seemed to be comparing the Obama presidency, and perhaps others before that, to dictatorships.  Hardly a diplomatic statement with former presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter in attendance.)  He went on as president to sign a series of Executive Orders that would aim to take away people’s health care, roll back civil rights, destroy the water and air that the people need to live, and enrich the wealthy while further impoverishing the poor and working classes.  This led a few late-night comedians and commentators to compare Trump’s declarations to similar words spoken by the character Bane in the Batman move The Dark Knight Rises, in which Bane announced he was giving Gotham City “back to you, the people” and then prepared to detonate a nuclear bomb in the city.  Which “people” was Bane – I mean Trump –  “giving” government back to?

61.  As was discovered at the end of April and his first 100 days, the Trump Inauguration reportedly amassed a fund of over $107 million, double the amount of the 2009 Obama Inauguration, which had set the previous record (about $53 million).  Obama’s Inauguration, however, was the largest ever, in terms of attendance and invited guest performers, while Trump’s paled in comparison.  So, what happened to all that money?

RACIALLY INSENSITIVE STATEMENTS

from politicsusa.com

from politicsusa.com

62.  “The Blacks” (from several Trump campaign events and interviews)

63.  “Where’s my African American?”  (from a Trump campaign appearance)

64.  “They’re bringing drugs, they’re committing crimes … Some of them are good people” (Trump’s attack on Mexican immigrants from early in his campaign)

65.  “Pocahontas”  (Trump’s derisive attacks on Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who claims some Indigenous “Native American” ancestry)

66.  “Are the CBC [Congressional Black Caucus] friends of yours?  Will you set up a meeting with them for me?  Set up a meeting.”  (Trump to Afrikan-American White House Correspondent April Ryan)

STATEMENTS OF QUESTIONABLE KNOWLEDGE OR SANITY

Sean Spicer 167.  “This was the largest audience to witness an Inauguration, PERIOD.”  (Sean Spicer)

68.  “Stop shaking your head. … Stop shaking your head.”  (Sean Spicer, to April Ryan)

69.  “Sean gave alternative facts to that.”  (Kellyanne Conway invents a new buzzword)

70.  “You are Fake News.”  (Trump to an apparently overly-inquisitive journalist)

71.  “Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”  (Trump adviser Stephen Miller on NBC’s Meet The Press, Sunday, February 12, 2017)

72.  “Flynn is a good man. … He’s been treated unfairly.”  (Trump, on several occasions)

73.  Obama is tapping my phone in Trump Tower.  Repeated in statements as well as Tweets from Trump.  No evidence has ever been found that Obama wiretapped or otherwise conducted surveillance on Trump, aside from incidental surveillance of
Trump staff who may have engaged in questionable communications with Russian or other foreign officials.  Then, in an April 30 Face the Nation interview with CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Dickerson, Trump abruptly ended the discussion when Dickerson asked him if he stood by his wiretap accusation.  “I don’t stand by anything.  You can take it the way you want.  I think our side’s been proven very strongly.  And everybody’s talking about it.  And frankly it should be discussed.  I think that is a very big surveillance of our citizens. … And we should find out what the hell is going on. … You don’t have to ask me. … Because I have my own opinions.  You can have your own opinions. … OK, it’s enough.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.”  (from http://www.newsday.com/news/nation/donald-trump-abruptly-ends-cbs-news-interview-after-wiretap-question-1.13547624)

74.  “Bill O’Reilly shouldn’t have settled.  Bill O’Reilly did nothing wrong.”  (O’Reilly still was fired from Fox News, which had settled with plaintiffs for a combined $13 million in sex-harassment lawsuits involving O’Reilly and Roger Ailes in the past.)

75.  “China is manipulating its currency.”  (prior to meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping)

76.  “China is not manipulating its currency.”  (after meeting President Xi at Mar-A-Lago over dinner and the “best chocolate cake ever”)

77.  “China stopped [manipulating its currency] as soon as I was elected,” implying that China changed its behavior entirely because Trump was now on the scene.  Apparently, that chocolate cake he and Chinese President Xi shared at Mar-a-Lago was very good indeed.

78.  “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!” (a Trump tweet, February 17, 2017)

79.  Obama plays too much golf. … I won’t have time to play any golf; I’ll be too busy working.  (Obama has played less golf after leaving the White House than Trump has been seen playing in the first 100 days.)

80.  “Nobody knew health care reform was this hard.”  (The Clinton and Obama administrations knew it was much, much harder than this.)

81.  “How can some judge sitting on an island in the Pacific decide what’s best for America?”  (Attorney General Sessions, referring to a Federal judge in Hawaii – a state, not just an “island in the Pacific” -who had ruled against Trump’s second iteration of the “Muslim Ban”)

82.  I thought being president would be easier.  (Trump, toward the end of his first 100 days in the White House)  Trump would explain that remark in his April 30 Face the Nation interview with John Dickerson as his acknowledgement that the job of the president was a challenging one, but that he still “loved” it.

UTTER HUBRIS

Trump 183.  We won by the largest margin ever (Trump, before being reminded he lost the popular vote)

84. I meant we won the Electoral College by the largest margin ever (before being reminded that both Obama Electoral College victories were considerably larger)

85.  I meant we had the largest Electoral College victory ever by a Republican (before being informed that George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan won by larger margins)

86.  I would have won the popular vote had millions of people not voted illegally (which not only makes a claim that has absolutely no data to back it up, but also sets the stage for further efforts by right-wingers to push for more draconian voter-intimidation policies in the future)

87.  “I’m the least racist person you will ever meet. … I’m the least anti-Semitic person you will ever meet.”  (No explanation needed here.)

88.  The people love me (despite the lowest start-of-term approval ratings of any president in polling history)

89.  “We’re going to build a wall, and Mexico will pay for it!” (a claim that is becoming more and more clearly out-of-touch with reality)

90.  “We’re going to do so much winning” (late in the campaign, obviously before a decidedly un-winning first 100 days)

91.  We’ve accomplished more in our first 100 days than any presidency before (actually, they’ve accomplished less than anyone since a count was taken, including ZERO legislative victories and a string of failed Executive Orders that were met by massive protests and struck down by Circuit Courts)

92.  “I think that Russia-Gate is Fake News” (as the evidence and allegations against Trump administration officials continues to mount)

93.  “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag … if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”  (one of Trump’s many tweets.  He has repeated this opinion several times, despite the fact that flag-burning is considered protected speech under the First Amendment and the “consequences” he suggests would be unconstitutional.

94.  “The Democrats are obstructionists.”  (from a Face the Nation interview, Sunday, April 30, to explain the lack of accomplishments by his administration.  This has been a regular refrain despite the fact that Republicans control the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the White House)

95.  “ObamaCare is dead.”  (from the Face the Nation April 30 interview)  If you say it often enough (and the right-wing has been saying it for years with no supporting data), perhaps one day it will come true.

96.  “Wasn’t November 8th a great day?” (apparently refusing to move on from bragging about his electoral victory and get on with governing)

THE WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS’ DINNER AND TRUMP’S “100 DAYS” INFOMERCIAL COMMENTARY

from abcnews.go.com

from abcnews.go.com

97.  On April 29, 2017, Day 100 of his presidency, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was held at the Washington Hilton.  While Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Trevor Noah correspondent Hasan Minhaj was bringing the house down with his roast of the news media and the 45th president, Trump was at a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, paying tribute to his own administration with his “base” while the media and “Hollywood types”, as he put it, were “consoling themselves” over the November 8th election.

98. Trump’s crowd at the Harrisburg rally was predictable.  Nearly all-White (though the “failing news media” made a point of prominently interviewing a solitary African-American Trump supporter who spoke glowingly of the administration’s first 100 days), regularly chanting “Lock her up” (yes, still) and “Build that wall.”  Trump responded, “Don’t worry, we’re going to have the wall.  Don’t even worry about it. ... Rest assured.  Go home, go to sleep.”  (http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-invigorates-enchants-crowd-
during-rally-in-harrisburg-pa/ar-BBAxuNY?li=BBnbcA1)

99. The president did not completely avoid the “failing news media”, however.  Trump penned a commentary that was run in the Enemy of the People, specifically the Washington Post.  We will share a few of his remarks here, but to read the commentary in full, go to the Washington Post’s page, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/president-trump-in-my-first-100-days-
i-kept-my-promise-to-americans/2017/04 /29/ad1c9574-2cfd-11e7-a616-d7c8a68c1a66_story.html?utm_term=.e9327e270f2b:  “Issue by issue, department by department, we are giving the people their country back. After decades of a shrinking middle class, open borders and the mass offshoring of American jobs and wealth, this government is working for the citizens of our country and no one else. … On energy … [w]e’ve canceled restrictions on the production of oil, natural gas and clean coal. … [O]n immigration and criminal enforcement … illegal border-crossings are down 73 percent. … Federal law enforcement has begun a crackdown on sanctuary cities that harbor criminal aliens … The Defense Department has begun to rebuild and restore our military readiness. … As we’ve made these changes — on the border, on our economy, on our security — confidence has soared. … Thousands of new jobs are being re-shored back to America … The White House is once again the People’s House. And I will do everything in my power to be the People’s President …”  Of course, the Washington Post published other
commentaries on Trump’s first 100 days, some supportive (Hugh Hewitt and Marc A. Thiessen), others in rebuttal (Jonathan Alter).

100. A number of stories have been published warning of a rise in hate crimes as a result of the rise to power of Trump and his “America First” platform.  Anti-Black, anti-Latino, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and even anti-Sikh harassment have been chronicled in cities such as Seattle, Washington (A Shooting in Seattle: Hate Crimes under Trump by Meredith McFadden, The Prindle Post, March 9, 2017, http://www.prindlepost.org/2017/03/shooting-seattle-hate-crimes-trump/); Bayonne, New Jersey (Taking Stock of Hate Under Trump, by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, March 14, 2017, The New Yorker, http://
www.newyorker.com/news/benjamin-wallace-wells/taking-stock-of-hate-under-trump); and Silver Spring, Maryland (Is America Racist? Under Donald Trump, Liberal Maryland Town Battles Hate Crimes, Prejudice Toward Immigrants, Blacks, by Tim Marcin, International Business Times, January 20, 2017, http://www.ibtimes.com/america-racist-under-donald-trump-liberal-
maryland-town-battles-hate-crimes-prejudice-2477740)

No doubt, by the time this piece is read, the Trump administration will have forged new frontiers (such as the dismantling of Let Girls Learn) in its rightward, downward spiral for the US and the world at large.  Trump’s recent comment during the April 30 Face the Nation interview that the threat of war with North Korea and its potentially grievous casualties “trumps trade” may give some people hope that the long-expected “pivot” toward more presidential, more sensible behavior from him may be on the near horizon.

Well, one can dream.

 

 

A Compelling Case for Cooperatives

JUSTICE INITIATIVE

The following article was taken from an interview with Dr. Ray Marshall by Heather Gray for the Federation/LAF’s 25th Anniversary in 1992. Dr. Marshall served as the Secretary of Labor under President Jimmy Carter. As an economist Dr. Marshall shares his insight on the economic needs of individuals, communities and nations and, importantly, the different levels of democracy and how cooperatives can serve to strengthen democratic institutions.

by Heather Gray
from an Interview with Ray Marshall

Federation/LAF
Justice Initiative International

Heather Gray: How do you make it possible for low income Blacks and low income whites in the mountain areas to improve their income?

Ray Marshall: I can’t think of an institution better suited to that than a co-op. Co-ops are the best people development institutions you can have. With cooperatives you deal with all of it – you are involved in the leadership development, people have to learn to run co-ops, work with people, learn to make plans, meet and set goals, marshal resources.

I have always been interested in rural development in the South. It’s not well understood outside of the South that there’s a connection between economic independence and political independence – that people didn’t have economic independence if when they voted they lost their jobs or got kicked off the plantation. The whole reason for forming cooperatives is to give people economic independence so that they could have independence in political and other matters.

In our early organizing work in the South we learned a lot about how the economy works – particularly how the federal government works. We couldn’t get help from the federal government for low income farmers because they were biased toward large farmers. Most of our financial institutions were set up to help those who didn’t need help and to take money out of our rural areas and not to put it pack in. We need institutions like the Federation/LAF that understand the conditions of rural America and are controlled by the people there. Nobody, for example, can better understand the problems of the small farmers in Georgia and Mississippi than the farmers themselves.

Cooperatives are very important because if we’re going to make our political system work in this country we have do it from the bottom up. I’m an optimist about that. All over the world you see democratic institutions sprouting up and we need to strengthen our democratic institutions here. The basic evolution is that first you have political institutions that are controlled by the people and not special interest groups – that’s political democracy. After workers get the right to vote then you have industrial democracy which means worker participation in the work place. That’s collective bargaining. Most countries have taken that further than us. Then there’s social democracy where you have safety nets – a minimum level of welfare services. Every industrial country in the world is more developed in social democracy than us in, for example, health care and education. Finally, there’s economic democracy where individuals and not special interests control their economic institutions. Economic democracy strengthens all other forms of democracy. If you have economic democracy then people can’t intimidate you when you vote.

America would be better off with a strong cooperative movement. Most countries that are having trouble economically are those that are weak in economic democracy. The main economic developmental strategy in the United States is to keep people’s wages and income down. That’s a loser and you wouldn’t want to win it. Most other countries know that a much better approach is to try to compete by improving productivity and quality and that means more efficient institutions. A co-op can be one of the most efficient institutions you can put together because it’s controlled by its members who have a vested interest in achieving their own objectives.

“Our Victorious City”

Our Victorious City 1“If you see something, say something” has become a cliché, but unfortunately one to which we often feel we must resort to stem the tide of violence in the Pan-Afrikan Community.

The Family of Victorious Swift is seeking justice for their son and brother, who was killed in a robbery on March 26 near Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore City.  While it is believed that DNA evidence can find his killer (they fought before his assailant drew a weapon, and it is believed that the assailant’s skin and other DNA were found on Victorious’s hands as a result), the Swift Family is appealing to anyone who may have seen what happened to alert the authorities.

Despite the historic distrust that often has existed between Pan-Afrikan activists and the police because of such incidents as the killing of Freddie Gray in 2015, which activists are convinced occurred because of the actions of Baltimore City Police, the fact remains that, without a viable force in the community to investigate acts of violence and ensure community security, the police are often the only recourse available in cases such as this one.  Meanwhile, affected families and friends of the victims of senseless violence continue to struggle to find personal healing and to make sense of what has happened to their communities.

On Friday, April 14, a special meeting was held at the Union Mill in West Baltimore.  It was called and sponsored by the Afrikan Heritage Walk-A-Thon and its Founder, Mama Victory Swift, in memory of her son.  The meeting was called to bring together families who had lost loved ones to the violence that continues to plague our communities.

Our Victorious City 2The first meeting drew between 25 and 30 participants, including four families who had lost members to violence in the past.  Several of Mama Victory’s children attended the event as well, and gave voice to their personal pain as well as the resolve they feel to make the violence stop.

This was not just an opportunity for families to commiserate, however.  Ideas for healing the community were discussed, from supporting education to establishing neighborhood watch patrols.  Cameras need not be police cameras, either; several local properties apparently use cameras to monitor their immediate residences, and the possibility of improving community cohesiveness so monitoring efforts can be community-led were also discussed.  Ultimately, the community needs healing so that those who consider criminality may find an alternative that helps build the community instead of tearing it down.  Organizations such as the Pan-Afrikan Liberation Movement (PLM), to which Victorious was a regular contributor, operate not far from the neighborhood where the shooting took place, but other organizations must come together with PLM to coordinate a city-wide strategy and program to lift the community up.

The previous week, the memorial service for Victorious Swift, a much-loved and respected art student, boxer, musician and community activist, had drawn over 300 people and sparked a re-awakening of a sense of urgency among community organizers and Pan-Afrikan activists.

Mama Victory says that this was not the last such meeting that is planned.  More gatherings for families of the victims of violence will be planned, and a website has been established to continue the work that was started on this day.  The Website “Our Victorious City” (https://www.ourvictoriouscity.org/) makes the following Mission Statement:

Over the past few years, gun violence has risen to the forefront of public consciousness. Much of the debate has focused on gun regulation and keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of potential killers, particularly those with mental illnesses. Unfortunately, far less attention has been dedicated to the impact of gun violence on victims. While individuals killed and injured in atrocities such as the Sandy Hook and Aurora Theater shootings are publicly remembered and mourned, victims of these tragedies are not limited to those men, women, and children killed, injured, or present during these horrific events. The consequences of gun violence are more pervasive and affect entire communities, families, and children. With more than 25% of children witnessing an act of violence in their homes, schools, or community over the past year, and more than 5% witnessing a shooting, it becomes not just an issue of gun regulation, but also of addressing the impact on those who have been traumatized by such violence (Finkelhor et al., 2009). Outside of those traumatized, there are the ones who witness violent crimes occur and impede police investigations, making it nearly impossible to put an end to this spiraling epidemic. This organization’s manifestation arises from the violent death of Victorious Khan Aziz Swift. He was a 19 year old architectural student with an illuminated future and talent in droves.  He had no children, no wife, just 6 brothers and sisters and a mother who refuse to let him die in vain. Our mission is to end street/gun/violence once and for all. This is an epidemic that some of us believed to be an outside problem, until it rings our front doorbell.

The site includes news reports, videos of Victorious Swift and links to facilitate contact, donations and further organizing.

There are related efforts being developed to attempt to wake our people up, particularly in the Baltimore, Maryland area.  The organization BlackMen Unifying BlackMen (BMUBM) is planning a “No Excuses Rally” in the Pimlico area of Baltimore City on May 27.  An official announcement of that rally, including a flyer that is being created, will be shared by us before the end of April.  And there are organizations working to pull these many groups together into cooperative coalitions that may ultimately evolve into something akin to a Pan-Afrikan United Front so that different organizations can work together as they never have before to help bring an end to the systematic oppression but also the violence and self-loathing that so often makes life so hard for people of Afrikan descent around the world.