June 2017 Archives

Ritual and Political Rape

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'Handmaids' at Statehouses

Mary Emily O'Hara

handmaid.protest.jpg

They've appeared in Texas, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, California, and New York; cloaked in stark red robes and white bonnets, the women sit in silence with their faces turned down, subdued and still yet quietly creepy.

While a new television show has brought Margaret Atwood's dystopian sci-fi book "The Handmaid's Tale" newfound popularity, women around the country are bringing handmaids to life -- and to their state capital buildings -- for reasons that have more to do with science than fiction.

At the New York state legislature in Albany on Wednesday, handmaids appeared for the third day in a row to silently urge lawmakers to bring a floor vote on two reproductive health bills they say would protect women against potential federal restrictions many fear the Trump administration could bring.

They've appeared in Texas, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, California, and New York; cloaked in stark red robes and white bonnets, the women sit in silence with their faces turned down, subdued and still yet quietly creepy.

While a new television show has brought Margaret Atwood's dystopian sci-fi book "The Handmaid's Tale" newfound popularity, women around the country are bringing handmaids to life -- and to their state capital buildings -- for reasons that have more to do with science than fiction.

At the New York state legislature in Albany on Wednesday, handmaids appeared for the third day in a row to silently urge lawmakers to bring a floor vote on two reproductive health bills they say would protect women against potential federal restrictions many fear the Trump administration could bring.

Vanessa Giraldo, a Brooklyn resident who works with special-needs children, took two days off work to take part in the demonstration Monday and Tuesday.

"We're trying to pass the Reproductive Health Act in order to at least protect New Yorkers because the federal landscape is very hostile to women's reproductive rights," said Giraldo.

Giraldo said that standing before her state's leaders stock-still in the restrictive garb was "terrifying" but powerful: "It felt like, this could very well be our future. And it's definitely our past."

In Atwood's dystopian novel -- and the Hulu show based on the book -- handmaids are slave women forced to serve as reproductive vessels for powerful but infertile elites. Ritually raped and made to become pregnant over and over, the handmaids are little more than walking wombs with no say over their own lives.


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Gov't admits lying about drugs

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New Docuseries Aims to Factcheck 'America's War on Drugs'

by Marissa Evans

When Gary Webb's investigative series, "Dark Alliance," came out in the San Jose Mercury-News in 1996 alleging the Central Intelligence Agency was involved in the importation of cocaine into South Central Los Angeles, many people in the Black community claimed the articles proved the CIA deliberately was out to destroy Black people, and a long-standing urban conspiracy theory was born.

Webb's story has since been removed from the Mercury News website, and resulted in a two-part CIA report released in 1998 on cocaine and the agency's involvement in drug trafficking investigations, it fueled deep distrust among the Black community that is still present today.

Anthony Lappé, an executive producer behind the History Channel's new documentary series "America's War on Drugs," says that although these theories around federal agencies injecting drugs into the Black community have swirled for years, this new docu-series will reveal that they're just not true.

But the documentary also makes the case that Blacks were victims caught in the melee of CIA operations and President Richard Nixon's desire to have a "law and order" administration in the 1970s through the war on drugs.

Christian Parenti, a New York University professor interviewed in the documentary, said the trick with the war on drugs was to deal with a variety of things outside of the government's control.

"The war on drugs brought together the peace movement, the hippies, the counterculture, African Americans, all of this stuff can be captured and addressed by force with law enforcement under the rubric of the war on drugs," Parenti said.


When Gary Webb's investigative series, "Dark Alliance," came out in the San Jose Mercury-News in 1996 alleging the Central Intelligence Agency was involved in the importation of cocaine into South Central Los Angeles, many people in the Black community claimed the articles proved the CIA deliberately was out to destroy Black people, and a long-standing urban conspiracy theory was born.

Webb's story has since been removed from the Mercury News website, and resulted in a two-part CIA report released in 1998 on cocaine and the agency's involvement in drug trafficking investigations, it fueled deep distrust among the Black community that is still present today.

Anthony Lappé, an executive producer behind the History Channel's new documentary series "America's War on Drugs," says that although these theories around federal agencies injecting drugs into the Black community have swirled for years, this new docu-series will reveal that they're just not true.

"Of course it wasn't any kind of genocidal experiment or anything like that, what it was is the CIA basically being the CIA," Lappé said. "They're completely amoral and they don't really look at the long term blowback effects of their operations."

"America's War on Drugs" four-part series beginning Sunday night comes as the U.S. fights a raging prescription opioid addiction crisis and increase in heroin use. The series also comes just a month after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he will instruct federal prosecutors to enforce so-called mandatory minimum sentences on gun and drug offenses. While Sessions says this is meant to help get criminals off of the streets, opponents say it will mean going back to the days of harsh sentencing that will likely have profound effects on people of color.

Related: Black Lives Matter Chicago Sues City, Seeks Court Oversight of Police Reform

Lappé, alongside Julian P. Hobbs, Elli Hakami, spent a year conducting dozens and dozens of interviews with former CIA officers, Drug Enforcement Agency officers, historians and more. The crew takes viewers through an eight hour journey crisscrossing the world and deconstructing how the U.S. "war on drugs" truly began through interviews, old footage, and reenactments.

What they uncover is that America's history with drugs is intertwined with fears of communism, rogue drug mobsters and warlords, the failed takedown of Fidel Castro in 1961, the Vietnam War, infighting between the DEA and CIA, and drugs -- including LSD, heroin and cocaine -- slowly making waves in communities.
"America's War on Drugs"
Amado celebrates his rise to power at home. "America's War on Drugs" premieres Sunday, June 18 at 9PM ET/PT. Talos Films/HISTORY

But the documentary also makes the case that Blacks were victims caught in the melee of CIA operations and President Richard Nixon's desire to have a "law and order" administration in the 1970s through the war on drugs.

Christian Parenti, a New York University professor interviewed in the documentary, said the trick with the war on drugs was to deal with a variety of things outside of the government's control.

"The war on drugs brought together the peace movement, the hippies, the counterculture, African Americans, all of this stuff can be captured and addressed by force with law enforcement under the rubric of the war on drugs," Parenti said.

Toward the end of the first episode, the creators of the series include a taped conversation between John Ehrlichman, counsel and chief domestic advisor under President Richard Nixon and a Harper's Magazine journalist decades after the "war on drugs" is declared. It's there that Ehrlichman makes a chilling admission.

"The Nixon campaign had two enemies, the antiwar left and Black people," Ehrlichman said. "We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or Black but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and the blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."

Chris Hedges on Resisting Trump

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Truthdig columnist & Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges speaks at the Aladdin Theater for KBOO Community Radio on May 26th, 2017. Hedges takes a provocative look at the current state of revolt in the United States and recounts the US's continuing history of domestic terrorism while outlining ways for communities to resist before it's too late.

Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, a longtime teacher in prisons, is working with 28 of his students to stage a play the incarcerated men collectively created. "CAGED" was born in a New Jersey prison during a course taught by Hedges and was the subject of a 2013 column he wrote for Truthdig.

The play centers on the horrors of mass incarceration and how the prisoners' lives in impoverished urban communities put them on paths that ended in the grim cells of the United States' prison-industrial complex.

Now the Pulitzer-winning journalist and the students are engaged in a special project to stage the play for the first time and to produce a book about the endeavor. (One of the 28 is now a free man and a key force in the effort.)

The project--co-sponsored by Truthdig and Passage Theatre, the Trenton, N.J., site of the proposed premiere--is funded primarily by a Kickstarter campaign that runs through the end of June. Your support is essential. Go to Kickstarter now to help put this extraordinary stage work before the American public. "CAGED" should be let out of prison.

Parfait

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Macron Invites Americans to Move to France to Research Climate Change

by Daniel Arkin

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French President Emmanuel Macron is hitting back at President Donald Trump over the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change accord with a new website that encourages scientists and researchers to move to France.

The website, Make Our Planet Great Again, parodies Trump's campaign slogan and calls on "all responsible citizens" to take their fight against climate change to France.

"The planet needs your innovative skills," Macron says in an introduction to the site, echoing appeals he has made in other recent remarks. "So, are you IN to change (literally!) our daily lives and make our planet great again?"

They Shoot Horses Don't They

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Making Ignorance Great Again

P. Krugman

Donald Trump just took us out of the Paris climate accord for no good reason.

I don't mean that his decision was wrong. I mean, literally, that he didn't offer any substantive justification for that decision. Oh, he threw around a few numbers about supposed job losses, but nobody believes that he knows or cares where those numbers came from. It was just what he felt like doing.

And here's the thing: What just happened on climate isn't an unusual case -- and Trump isn't especially unusual for a modern Republican. For today's G.O.P. doesn't do substance; it doesn't assemble evidence, or do analysis to formulate or even to justify its policy positions. Facts and hard thinking aren't wanted, and anyone who tries to bring such things into the discussion is the enemy.

Consider another huge policy area, health care. How was Trumpcare put together? Did the administration and its allies consult with experts, study previous experience with health reform, and try to devise a plan that made sense? Of course not. In fact, House leaders made a point of ramming a bill through before the Congressional Budget Office, or for that matter anyone else, could assess its likely impact.

When the budget office did weigh in, its conclusions were what you might expect: If you make huge cuts in Medicaid and reduce subsidies for private insurance -- all so you can cut taxes on the wealthy -- a lot of people are going to lose coverage. Is 23 million a good estimate of those losses? Yes -- it might be 18 million, or it might be 28 million, but surely it would be in that range.

So how did the administration respond? By trying to shoot the messenger. Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, attacked the C.B.O., declaring that it did a "miserable" job of forecasting the effects of Obamacare. (It got some things wrong, but overall did pretty well.) He also accused the office -- headed by a former Bush administration economist chosen by Republicans -- of political bias, and smeared its top health expert in particular.

So, Mr. Mulvaney, where's your assessment of Trumpcare? You had plenty of resources to do your own study before trying to pass a bill. What did you find? (Actually, the White House did do an internal analysis of an earlier version of Trumpcare, which was leaked to Politico. Its predictions were even more dire than those from the C.B.O.)

But Mulvaney and his party don't study issues, they just decide, and attack the motives of anyone who questions their decisions.

Which brings us back to climate policy.

On climate change, influential conservatives have for years clung to what is basically a crazy conspiracy theory -- that the overwhelming scientific consensus that the earth is warming due to greenhouse-gas emissions is a hoax, somehow coordinated by thousands of researchers around the world. And at this point this is effectively the mainstream Republican position.

Do G.O.P. leaders really think this conspiracy theory is true? The answer, surely, is that they don't care. Truth, as something that exists apart from and in possible opposition to political convenience, is no longer part of their philosophical universe.

The same goes for claims that trying to rein in emissions will do terrible economic damage and destroy millions of jobs. Such claims are, if you think about it, completely inconsistent with everything Republicans supposedly believe about economics.

After all, they insist that the private sector is infinitely flexible and innovative; the magic of the marketplace can solve all problems. But then they claim that these magical markets would roll over and die if we put a modest price on carbon emissions, which is basically what climate policy would do. This doesn't make any sense -- but it's not supposed to. Republicans want to keep burning coal, and they'll say whatever helps produce that outcome.

And as health care and climate go, so goes everything else. Can you think of any major policy area where the G.O.P. hasn't gone post-truth? Take budgeting, where leaders like Paul Ryan have always justified tax cuts for the rich by claiming the ability to conjure up trillions in extra revenue and savings in some unspecified way. The Trump-Mulvaney budget, which not only pulls $2 trillion out of thin air but counts it twice, takes the game to a new level, but it's not that much of a departure.

But does any of it matter? The president, backed by his party, is talking nonsense, destroying American credibility day by day. But hey, stocks are up, so what's the problem?

Well, bear in mind that so far Trump hasn't faced a single crisis not of his own making. As George Orwell noted many years ago in his essay "In Front of Your Nose," people can indeed talk nonsense for a very long time, without paying an obvious price. But "sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield." Now there's a happy thought.

Mow-nado?

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tornado-mowing.jpg

In this Friday, June 2, 2017, photo provided by Cecilia Wessels via The Canadian Press, Theunis Wessels mows his lawn at his home in Three Hills, Alberta, as a tornado swirls in the background. Cecilia Wessels, who took the image of her husband to show the tornado to her parents in South Africa, said that the twister wasn't as close it appears. (Cecilia Wessels/The Canadian Press via AP)

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