Night Owls is a themed open thread appearing at Daily Kos seven days a week.

3 days until JOE BIDEN AND KAMALA HARRIS TAKE THE OATH OF OFFICE

Clive Thompson at Wired writes—Climate Change Needs an Operation Warp Speed. If the COVID-19 vaccine push has proved anything, it’s that big government works.

IN THE DISMAL early days of the pandemic, a vaccine seemed depressingly far off. Historically, the average time to develop a new vaccine was 10 years—far too long for our current emergency. But then something happened to shift things into overdrive: serious government action.

The White House and Congress created Operation Warp Speed and started plowing some $18 billion into it. The feds authorized huge, multibillion-dollar preorders for vaccines, and with such a large guaranteed market, pharmaceuticals moved into high gear. The government also threw its logistical know-how at the hellish challenge of distributing the vaccines. Scientifically, of course, we were prepared and lucky. Genetic sequencing was advanced and speedy, and scientists cooperated globally. But it was the critical push from governments (the US and others) that propelled the fastest vaccine mobilization in history.

It’s also an object lesson for our troubled time: When you’re facing a world-threatening crisis, there’s no substitute for government leadership.

This is worth reflecting on, because we’re surrounded by existential threats. Principally, climate change. The scale of the problem is massive.

So is the answer: Operation Warp Speed for climate.

The US government should throw its muscle behind ramping up a mammoth, rapid rollout of all forms of renewable energy. That includes the ones we already know how to build—like solar and wind—but also experimental emerging sources like geothermal and small nuclear, and cutting-edge forms of energy storage or transmission. It’s not as if the feds have done nothing on renewables; tax credits for solar are partly why adoption is up and the price is down. But compared to the terrifying scale of the problem, the spending has been chump change. For the past 40 years, the US has spent 37 percent more on R&D for fossil fuels than for renewables. […]

THREE OTHER ARTICLES WORTH READING

Treating public schools like businesses is only making them worse, by Lee-Anne Gray. Schools have come to resemble businesses, with corporate metrics for measuring success and worse outcomes for kids.
 
John McCain’s Apache Land Grab Is Finally Happening, by Nick Martin.The fight for a copper deposit beneath sacred lands shows the extent of the government’s extractive greed. 
 
Who Voted for Hitler? by Dan Simon. Just as there are myths about Trump voters, there are damaging misconceptions about who brought the Nazis to power.
 
TOP COMMENTS • RESCUED DIARIES 

TWEET OF THE DAY

Call me old fashioned, but unity does not mean letting the instigators of an attempted coup off the hook.— Robert Reich (@RBReich) January 18, 2021

QUOTATION

“If someone thinks that peace and love are just a cliche that must have been left behind in the 60s, that’s a problem. Peace and love are eternal.” ~~John Lennon

BLAST FROM THE PAST

On this date at Daily Kos in 2010—MA-Sen: Campaign Frenzy:

The first conversation you have with people in Massachusetts these days is about what phone calls they’ve gotten. “I was home today,” my father told me on Friday, “and the bulk of the phone calls we got were about the election: Bill Clinton, the DNC, a Coakley volunteer, the Brown campaign, my union president…” Saturday, it was a robocall from Scott Brown’s daughter complaining about the negative attacks against her father. (That is, against disclosure of his record and positions.) Today, my mother answered the phone and was asked if she believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. When she replied no, the National Organization for Marriage thanked her and signed off. Moments later, the phone rang. It was MassEquality calling to let people know NOM was making calls.

At Coakley campaign headquarters, and nearby at the Massachusetts Democratic Party, volunteer phonebankers often apologize for the volume of calls people are getting. But they keep calling, and the stacks of completed call sheets are added to as fast as they can be entered in the computers. The complacency that plagued us just a week ago has been thoroughly punctured and volunteers have flooded in.

No, Massachusetts is not accustomed to this kind of campaign.

Massachusetts is also not accustomed to a candidate as low-down and scum-sucking as Scott Brown, and once again the compressed schedule of what you might call the real campaign is an issue, forcing voters to absorb the rapid-fire succession of stories only now coming out about Brown, after he’s spent months defining himself as that telegenic guy who never says the word “Republican.”

Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for “Netroots Radio.”

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American historian Timothy Snyder is the author of On Tyranny. The slim volume from February 2017 presaged what we could expect from the Trump administration as it became obvious almost immediately that the forthcoming four years would be among the most tumultuous and stressful this country had ever experienced. For those who have yet to read it, it describes, in 20 separate segments, what we must expect and how we must contend, cope with, and combat tyranny, incipient fascism, and proto-fascism of the Trump variety.

On Saturday, The New York Times published a lengthy opinion essay by Snyder titled ”The American Abyss.” It is probably the single most cogent reflection thus far on the meaning of what we witnessed this week that you are likely to read, possibly even throughout the coming year (although the year, of course, is young).

Snyder begins by explaining some basic truths about how Donald Trump operates and how he fits in to what Snyder refers to a post-truth, pre-fascist continuum in America’s political structure. More importantly, he illustrates how the Republican Party has, both before and after Trump’s election loss and the subsequent violence of Jan. 6, essentially divided into two separate factions. 

There are those who seek to game the political system for their own ends, to maintain power while paying lip service to democratic principles (the Mitch McConnell wing, which he refers to as the “gamers”), and those who seek to overthrow—or “break”—our democratic system of government altogether (the “breakers” wing, such as Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and others of their ilk). 

This is one piece where it’s difficult to adequately excerpt just three or four paragraphs—there is frankly so much truth here that to excerpt it doesn’t possibly do it justice. Snyder shows how the interplay between those who game the system has collided with those who seek to break it, and how we got to this point in time where half the U.S. voting population is susceptible to believing Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.

Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.

Snyder convincingly explains how Trump co-opted the same type of tactics employed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in order to make “their” truth the only truth, noting that “(Trump’s) use of the term ‘fake news’ echoed the Nazi smear Lügenpresse (‘lying press)’”, and how through the gradual repetition of lies, he transformed the minds of the Republican electorate. The Nazis used radio to hone their lies while Trump used Twitter to develop a cult of personality that would sustain those lies.

Thanks to technological capacity and personal talent, Donald Trump lied at a pace perhaps unmatched by any other leader in history. For the most part these were small lies, and their main effect was cumulative. To believe in all of them was to accept the authority of a single man, because to believe in all of them was to disbelieve everything else. Once such personal authority was established, the president could treat everyone else as the liars; he even had the power to turn someone from a trusted adviser into a dishonest scoundrel with a single tweet. Yet so long as he was unable to enforce some truly big lie, some fantasy that created an alternative reality where people could live and die, his pre-fascism fell short of the thing itself.

In one particularly acute passage, Snyder explains how Trump’s attempt to promulgate what became his most ambitious “Big Lie”—that the election had been stolen through fraud (fraud which, in context remarkably only happened in areas with large Black populations)—actually constitutes a wholesale reversal of the actual truth, and in fact, a wholesale reversal of American history.

Watching white supremacists among the people storming the Capitol, it was easy to yield to the feeling that something pure had been violated. It might be better to see the episode as part of a long American argument about who deserves representation.

[…]

It’s not just that electoral fraud by African-Americans against Donald Trump never happened. It is that it is the very opposite of what happened, in 2020 and in every American election. As always, Black people waited longer than others to vote and were more likely to have their votes challenged. They were more likely to be suffering or dying from Covid-19, and less likely to be able to take time away from work. The historical protection of their right to vote has been removed by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, and states have rushed to pass measures of a kind that historically reduce voting by the poor and communities of color.

But the most disturbing thing about Snyder’s essay is how he predicts this will all play out over the next four years, either with Trump in the field or with Cruz, Hawley, or someone else eager to take up the “breaker” mantle. If the Republican electorate continues to wallow in conspiracy mythology, continuing to believe that the 2020 election was stolen, it practically sets the stage for violence in 2024, with Republicans routinely claiming fraud every time they lose an election, the will of the voters be damned.

Trump’s coup attempt of 2020-21, like other failed coup attempts, is a warning for those who care about the rule of law and a lesson for those who do not. His pre-fascism revealed a possibility for American politics. For a coup to work in 2024, the breakers will require something that Trump never quite had: an angry minority, organized for nationwide violence, ready to add intimidation to an election. Four years of amplifying a big lie just might get them this. To claim that the other side stole an election is to promise to steal one yourself. It is also to claim that the other side deserves to be punished.

After reading Snyder’s essay (and again, these few paragraphs can’t do it proper justice), I was left with the strong impression that the path that Republicans choose to pursue over the next four years will make or break this country’s future as a democracy. And that, in turn, will depend on whether Republican voters will ever accept that they were lied to by Donald Trump.

It’s scary, and Snyder doesn’t pull any punches. You will see what I mean.

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It’s another Sunday, so for those who tune in, welcome to a diary discussing the Nuts & Bolts of a Democratic campaign. If you’ve missed out, you can catch up any time: Just visit our group or follow the Nuts & Bolts Guide. Every week I try to tackle issues I’ve been asked about. With the help of other campaign workers and notes, we address how to improve and build better campaigns, or explain issues that impact our party.

One of the things I love most about doing what I do is speaking to county parties and groups about the efforts they put in to win elections. While I’m not able to go in person, through Zoom and Microsoft Teams I get to talk to and hear feedback from diverse communities. I am sometimes struck by the differences in attitudes. In one community, some Democratic values are deemed the most important while in others, they are looking at a different set of core issues that mean the most to them. The starkest difference, though, is the way in which groups view candidates who ran and lost. While the candidate may have lost, the knowledge gained through their race should be welcomed back into the party, at least in my opinion. This week, I’m going to talk about why welcoming back candidates is the right thing to do for our Democratic Party infrastructure.

Respect brings recruits

It is easy to celebrate success. Every organization loves to do it: We highlight the work that brought in the reward. In business, the result can sometimes be quantified. Those quantified results can then find us answers as to what went right, what went wrong, and how we can improve. There is a downside to this as a strategy, though, especially with campaigns that don’t succeed, and especially campaigns we know are unlikely to win. CFO Magazine lays it out this way:

A finance leader had ambitiously thought, “Through metrics we can push people to systematically identify opportunities and focus on the right things.” But soon the managers were spending all of Monday and Tuesday morning going through piles of numbers in the (vain) hope of surviving the “torture” and getting away unscathed. Being able to scroll up and down efficiently through almost 50 (!) metrics and looking good on the call became more important than actually improving business performance. The results were disastrous. Attrition exploded, the stock price collapsed, and a manager moaned, “This place is a sweatshop.”

I want you to transfer this to campaigns and candidates. A healthy look at a loss is important, and we can talk about improvement. The end results in some cases, though, lead to outright attrition. The constant metric-mania with no reward to the candidate who lost can lead to the candidate you really want to run saying, “Boy, I don’t need this kind of torture.” 

In some meetings, the feedback I received was that candidates who lost felt as though they had no respect in the party; they were treated as though they no longer had a real role in the party, which was a send-off that left them feeling unwelcome. What a way to bring in new candidates! By making prior candidates feel uncomfortable, it depresses their interest in trying again or telling anyone else they should run. It poisons your own well. Don’t let candidates and recruits feel as though they are working in a sweatshop with no respect being provided.

Provide honor and dignity to those who ran

In one meeting I attended, however, the process went very differently. While most of their candidates lost in red districts they were not expected to win, these candidates were still greeted in the same manner as the candidates who did win their elections. The support and encouragement of those candidates led them to seek party structure roles like county chair, vice chair, or treasurer. They wanted to pass on their experience to others because in that room they felt safe.

This is the goal of every Democratic organization: to make candidates old and new feel welcome and valued. We value all people, but I recognize when a candidate is asked to run in a district we know they cannot win, they will be subjecting themselves and sometimes their family to heinous attacks from Republicans who will work to defile their character and attack them personally. There has to be some level of reward and safety in that, and that level of reward and safety cannot come from staring at the results in precinct data sheets or evaluating their returns. It goes beyond funds raised and strategies used in a campaign. 

In other meetings, and even here on Daily Kos, you can find stories of candidates who ran and lost and don’t find the support to tell their story. Not the metric story, not the financial story, and not the data story—they want to tell the story of a voter they met at a door. They want to tell the story about something that happened during the campaign that gave them the hope to keep going. They want to relate to people around them and feel recognized, not ostracized.

Campaigns aren’t Six Sigma

Ten years ago, in another lifetime, I sat through training programs for Six Sigma, which was designed to help improve our business workflow. The course work dealt with how a manufacturer could improve the bottom line and how it would benefit everyone. We did it by a simple methodology: define, measure, analyze, improve, and control.

This is where we get into trouble. In so many ways, campaign consultants and party leadership can make candidates feel like the widgets we were designing as part of project management: define the product, measure the outcome, analyze the results, improve for the next round, and control errors.

Simply put, this will never work in a campaign. Issues change, candidates change, the emotional attachment of your audience changes, and the candidates can win or lose on charisma or connection. The candidates just aren’t widgets.

This methodology, though, completely locks out candidates who don’t win. They find themselves outsiders when their errors are reduced and their improvements are set to return. They quickly realize they’re being made into a product instead of a person. What a terrible way to treat someone who ran for office! 

Do you know a candidate who ran and didn’t succeed? Did you support that candidate? Do they feel welcome in your local meetings, and are they appreciated for the hard work they’ve done? As the inauguration approaches, you might find now is a good time to reach out and thank someone. It’s the right thing to do, if for no other reason than candidates are human beings, not widgets.

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The Republican attempt to overthrow this nation’s government is ongoing. Propaganda attempts continue in an attempt to delegitimize the outcome of the last election; even after an assassination attempt targeting top national leaders, over 100 Republican officials continued to promote the same hoax claims that stoked the violence. An idiotic but still influential Trump adviser was spotted just yesterday carrying papers arguing for the invocation of the Insurrection Act and martial law; other top conservatives who pushed hard for the election to be nullified by any means necessary are now attempting to dodge repercussions for promoting sedition.

It is in this context that the Trump administration, and specifically acting defense secretary Christopher Miller, an apparent incompetent who remains accused by Joe Biden and his team of withholding key national security information during the transition, is suddenly ordering the immediate installation of a hard-right ex-Devin Nunes aide and fervent Trump ally Michael Ellis as National Security Agency general counsel.

That’s big news. It is a career civil service position, and one that Ellis is dubiously qualified for; the move is transparently to install a Trump loyalist into the very top ranks of the NSA’s non-appointed leadership, giving that loyalist top access to this nation’s secrets and information about how they are acquired. From this position, Ellis can continue his longstanding efforts to sabotage any national security investigation that too closely implicates Donald Trump, Donald Trump’s numerous allies, or others in the party’s growing collection of seditionists and extortionists.

While this sounds like an extremist interpretation, it is also likely to be the correct one. Ellis is no minor figure. He was responsible for moving the phone records of Donald Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to a codeword-classified server, an attempt to hide evidence from government whistleblowers and to Congress, and was among those officials who stonewalled congressional probes into those acts. He was previously behind Rep. Devin Nunes’ bizarre 2017 invitation to the White House, where Ellis showed Nunes intelligence reports selectively leaked to build the lie that the Trump campaign was being improperly surveilled by intelligence officials—an attempt to delegitimize the counterintelligence investigations into Russian espionage efforts to install Trump into the presidency.

That each of these actions by Ellis was an attempt to immunize Trump and Trump’s allies from charges of conspiring with a foreign government to commit a criminal act should be noted. A position as the NSA’s general counsel puts him in superb position to continue that sabotage.

While investigations into Ellis’ acts on Trump’s behalf may yet render him something very close to a traitor, he has definitely been a key player in numerous of those criminal and possibly-criminal acts. That is who the White House, with assistance from acting secretary of defense Miller, is ordering into a top NSA position in the very last days of their power to do so.

We all know why. There is no non-malignant justification for the rapid “burrowing” of a top Republican enabler of crimes into a top career position in which he will have broad authority to block investigations of national security threats that happen to touch on Republican officials. The Republican coup against our democracy continues, and shows no signs of slowing.

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Daily Kos Elections is pleased to bring you our calculations of the 2020 election results for Illinois’ 18 congressional districts, where yet another surge in ancestrally Republican territory helped Democrats hang on to a seat in the Chicago exurbs that they flipped in 2018. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Two years ago, in one of the most colossal upsets of the midterm blue wave, Democrat Lauren Underwood, then a 32-year-old nurse who’d never sought office before, defeated Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren in Illinois’ 14th District, making her the youngest Black woman ever elected to Congress. Last year she drew a far weaker opponent in perennial candidate Jim Oberweis, a state senator who was so despised by his own party that a major Republican super PAC tried to defeat him in the primary, but Underwood wound up winning by a closer-than-expected 51-49 margin.

That spread was similar to Biden’s 50-48 win, but that take represented Biden’s biggest district-level improvement in the state on Hillary Clinton’s performance four years ago, when she lost the 14th to Donald Trump 49-45. In a sign of just how much things have changed, this district’s predecessor, also numbered the 14th, was once held by child molester and former Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert before his resignation following the GOP wipeout in the 2006 elections.

Biden also saw a sizable jump in the neighboring 6th District, one rung closer in to the city of Chicago, which Democrats also picked up in 2018. That seat, however, is now all but out of reach for Republicans: Biden won it by a sizable 52-43 margin after Clinton carried it 50-43. Democratic Rep. Sean Casten secured a second term with a similar 53-45 victory.

Democrats were less successful in the one Illinois district that outside groups targeted in 2020, the 13th in the central part of the state. While Trump’s margin declined slightly, from 50-44 to 51-47, Republican Rep. Rodney Davis defeated Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan 54-46, considerably better than his narrow 50.4-49.6 escape in their first matchup two years earlier.

Team Blue was lucky, however, to avoid a major humiliation in the 17th District in the northwestern corner of the state. That seat is occupied by former DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos, who won reelection just 52-48 over an unheralded Republican foe, Esther Joy King, after deep-pocketed super PACs on both sides poured money into the race just before Election Day. But Bustos actually ran ahead of the top of the ticket as Trump once again carried the 17th, this time by a 50-48 margin—a slight increase on his 47.4-46.6 win in 2016. With Biden flipping the 6th District, that leaves Bustos as the only member of Illinois’ delegation to represent a district carried by the opposite party’s presidential candidate.

Biden’s 57-41 statewide victory was very similar to Clinton’s 55-38 win, but his success in the suburbs was offset by a decline in Latino and Black areas of Chicago. The district that saw the biggest drop was the 4th, a majority-Latino seat represented by Democratic Rep. Chuy Garcia, which Biden won 81-17 versus 82-13 for Clinton. Similar dips took place in the 1st and 7th, which are predominantly Black. Biden still won each of these districts in a romp, but his weaker performance mirrors a similar slump in Black and Latino neighborhoods in other states.

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It goes without saying that Donald Trump and all those with even a passing connection to Donald Trump plan to be as crooked as possible up until the very last minute of Trump’s for-the-sake-of-argument “presidency.” The New York Times reports that some of Trump’s “allies” have been attempting to cash in, in recent weeks, by collecting fees from wealthy felons or their associates” who want Donald Crimeboy Trump to issue them presidential pardons.

The premise is not complicated. Those with access to Trump, like his ex-personal lawyer John Dowd, are advertising their closeness to Trump as a means by which well-off felons can get their pardon requests heard—for a fee, of course. A steep fee. Part of what that fee gets you, if you are a well-to-do criminal, is Dowd’s advice on how to “leverage Mr. Trump’s grievances about the justice system” to make your own case that The Law Was Super Mean To You, says the Times. Well, duh.

While the Times lists out a few of the Trump-adjacent profiteers looking not to illegally sell pardons, but to wink-wink sell their influence with Trump to bring those would-be pardons to his attention, it goes without saying that ultragrifter Rudy Giuliani makes an appearance. Giuliani’s asking price for one pardon was $2 million.

None of this is surprising. It was a given that anyone who has ever dined at Mar-a-Lago or worked for Trump in any capacity would, in the waning weeks of his failed administration, make a last-ditch cash grab to monetize whatever adjacency to Trump’s power they might still have. And it’s a given, at this point, that Trump himself would be willing to sabotage justice for anyone he perceived as an ally. That is what he does, and what he has demanded of others in his administration.

These plans, however, suffer from a possibly fatal flaw. People around Trump are collecting big fees to try to push Trump into granting specific pardons—but nowhere do we hear that those Trump allies are sharing those fees with Donald Trump himself. If Trump learns there’s money involved but he’s not getting a cut, he’s just as likely to become enraged as to grant any particular pardon.

Will his eagerness to subvert the rule of law on behalf of his allies overwhelm his obsession with squeezing as much money out of his “presidency” as possible? We’ll know in the next few days.

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We are in a moment where the legitimacy of the institution of policing is being questioned and side-eyed. Liberation movements have cried loud and spared not the daily killings of Black people at the hands of the police. They’ve woken up the consciousness of everyday people about the history and peculiar past of the force once known as slave-catchers, union-busters, and pigs (“Officer Friendly” left that out of my second grade orientation on the police). The amount of money an institution—which is known for being infiltrated by the KKK and other white nationalist formations—had been raking in from municipal budgets caught shade from many. Others willingly became fascinated by the demand to “defund the police” while ignoring the conditions that make the demand a life-saving solution. Unfortunately, what we are up against is worse than the militarized occupying force itself. Those with a liberated vision are battling those who have a vision rooted in containment, authoritarianism, capitalist greed, generations of oppression, and liberal complacency. The latter is where we as abolitionists find both one of our greatest challenges and the greatest hope for change.

Often when I’m talking to my family and folks on the block about the possibility of a world without police, they think I’m ridiculous. Mostly they respond with, “Who is going to come?” Though most don’t fuck with the police, hate to see the murders, have had negative experiences with the police, and may even have been to a protest or two, the reality is that they’re going to call them if some shit goes down. One may ask given all that, “Why then do we call our enemy when we are in need of help?” First and foremost, if we underestimate and minimize the way historical and present-day genocide by the U.S. settler-colonials affects oppressed communities, then we don’t actually care about solutions. We just want people to shut up and obey.

The magnitude of terror, violent oppression, and repression carried out by guns, policies, and mass media to manipulate, confuse, control, scare, and misinform Black and oppressed people must be deeply and widely understood. It’s evident in the distorted relationship between colonized Black people and the kidnappers (the U.S. empire) whose rule we are subject to. Stockholm syndrome has plagued oppressed communities for too long. When a police officer kills another Black person, you can hear the mental chains begin to break with every chant of “Who keeps us safe? We keep us safe!” It’s the breaking of this particular chain where hope must dwell, where vision must be sown, where our collective self-determination must be harvested. 

Secondly, who is going to come? We will—the people and communities that we belong to. Defunding the police is a budget fight, but it’s also an invitation to be in relationship with each other in ways that the modern isolated and capitalist society has left malnourished. We literally live in a world right now where you can have 5,000 Facebook “friends” and folks don’t have anyone to call when harm happens. Now is the time when we must build the pods we need to extend to each other in good and bad times. We need trauma-informed and culturally relevant de-escalation, conflict management, disarming, and active shooter training in every church, public school, community center, barbershop, and salon. We must turn on our ears and notice when folks in our families and neighbors are dealing with a crisis.  

A few weeks ago, a neighbor asked me to help with his car troubles. The gravity of the car not starting and a host of other problems that were troubling his mind began to weigh on him. What went from a casual conversation and a CD lecture by Malcolm X playing from my car stereo turned into him admitting he wanted to die and was ready to give up. He said the world isn’t made for Black men like him. He dropped into a level of vulnerability that required me to meet him in the spirit. He wanted and needed to be seen, heard, felt, and listened to. I took a deep breath, tapped into spirit, and spoke life back into the dry bones that seemed to surround him.

I could have second guessed myself because hell, I’m no therapist, counselor, or pastor—and I damn sure ain’t the police. What I am is a Black mother, neighbor, and human who has been in that dark place of hopelessness before and an abolitionist who is clear that we must be the change we want to bring into the world. Oftentimes harm can be prevented if we take the time to see each other—I mean really see each other—and offer love and support before he beats her again, they forget to take their medication, or when young toughs are arguing over a card game. That takes courage and commitment and it starts with building and deepening the relationships with the people around us—not just those who send us friend requests. We must fortify the village by uniting the village.  

I was near nine months pregnant when another woman violated my safety and the safety of my unborn child. She kicked in my door. She busted the window. Someone called the police. The thought I can’t believe the first time I go to jail is because I am fighting with another Black woman, ran through my head as the police put me in handcuffs. I was ashamed that I had this much beef in my life and I couldn’t manage the conflict that had been escalating for over a year. My abolitionist creds were being tried. I had another Black woman waiting to be birthed and raised, and weeks after the incident, she was “overdue.”  

Something in my spirit told me that my daughter would not come until she knew I could assure her that it was safe to come out. My family and friends were doing all they could to create a hedge of protection around me and were standing by. As the days grew and there was no sign of active labor, I found myself in a victim’s advocacy office applying for a restraining order. I didn’t believe the police would prevent anything from happening, but I knew that my harasser respected state-sanctioned authority. I was summoned to court where a judge would rule on whether I had qualifying reasons to tell her not to violate my space. Wild, right? After hearing the matter, the older white man judge agreed with me and placed a restraining order on my harasser, forbidding her from coming into contact with me for a year. Four hours later, I was in active labor.

Transformation is long overdue. We know good and well that the current discourse and practice of “public safety” will continue to center profit and punishment if we don’t make the hard turn toward a people-centered approach to harm that is restorative and generative. We don’t have to keep living like this, nor should our people have to keep dying like this. I know it’s much easier to let the racist institutions like policing come into our communities and disappear problems that we don’t want to have to deal with. It’s easy to ignore the fact that we have a state-sanctioned militarized force to protect the rich, property, and a white supremacist agenda while sacrificing the life, safety, and dignity of oppressed people and the sacredness of Mother Earth.

It’s hard to birth a new world, to create new systems and practices, and we should not expect it to be easy. At this point our choices are clear, but our courage and willingness is in question. Who do we want to be?  What do we care about? What do we want? What are we willing to do to get it? When a child is ready to come into the world, the pain for some is unbearable, but anything worth having is worth the struggle it will take to get it. We owe it to so many people—Nat, Harriet, Emmett, Malcolm, Assata, Breonna, Nia, George, ourselves, and those who will come after us—to keep learning, to keep building, and to keep pushing, because our liberation is long overdue.

Mary Hooks is a Prism Senior Fellow focused on Black and LGBTQ+ liberation in the South. A Black lesbian, feminist, and mother, Mary is co-director of Southerners on New Ground (SONG).

Prism is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet that centers the people, places and issues currently underreported by our national media. Through our original reporting, analysis, and commentary, we challenge dominant, toxic narratives perpetuated by the mainstream press and work to build a full and accurate record of what’s happening in our democracy. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Remember Cliven Bundy, the stubborn Nevada rancher whose decades-long refusal to pay grazing fees for cattle he runs on federal land led to a 2014 armed stand-off at his family ranch and in 2016, another armed stand-off led by his son Ammon Bundy in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge? The latter had been home to the indigenous Moapa Paiute until they were forced out at gunpoint off in the 1870s. The elder Bundy claims ancestral rights to that land because of his libertarian views and, he claims, because his ancestors came on The Mayflower. Bundy wound up in pre-trial detention for 18 months over the 2014 stand-off, but because of prosecutorial misconduct, he was released and his case adjudged a mistrial. New charges weren’t filed. He and his large family continue to run cattle on federal land without paying the modest grazing fees. By 2014, 21 years after he began refusing to pay for this use of public land, the back fees had accumulated to more than $1 million. Currently, 24,000 permit holders are charged $1.35 per animal per month for grazing—a very good deal. But not as good as Bundy’s steal.

Now the 74-year-old rancher has advice for President-elect Joe Biden’s administration: It better not come trying to collect those unpaid fees, because he and his militant supporters are willing to “walk towards guns” again if that happens. While the new administration has more than a full platter of priorities to deal with when it comes into office Wednesday, some environmental advocates hope that action is taken to stop this scofflaw. 

Bundy was interviewed by right-wing radio host Pete Santilli last Saturday, Jennifer Yachnin at GreenWire reports:

“The Bundy ranch saga will continue, won’t it? Do you believe so? Do you believe that they’ll come after you?” asked Santilli, who (struck) a plea deal over his own role in the Nevada standoff.

“Yes, I do,” Bundy replied. “They’ve been waiting for this … but it’s not only for (the) Bundy ranch; it’s for all Americans. We’re in trouble if it changes.”

He later added: “We’re going to have to go forward. If we have to walk forward towards guns, which we did at the Bundy ranch, we have to do that. And we have to have faith.”

Bundy’s views don’t come close to meshing with those of the vast majority of Americans, including ranchers who follow federal land-use laws and pay their fees without whining or latching onto ludicrous theories about how only the states and individuals, not the federal government, can own land. He is a supporter of the sovereign citizen movement that asserts county sheriffs are the most powerful officials in the nation. He doesn’t accept that federal laws supersede those of the states and believes citizens aren’t required to obey them. He has received support from the Oath Keepers, Tenthers, and White Mountain Defenders—all right-wing extremist groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers his views close to that of the extremist Posse Comitatus. 

As Western Watersheds Project Executive Director Erik Molvar told Yachnin, “The lax law enforcement on public lands can be seen as a direct line to the lawlessness we saw in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Recapture Canyon in Utah, and now in Washington, D.C.,” Molvar said, referring to the 2016 stand-off and to an illegal all-terrain vehicle protest ride in the canyon in 2015. He added, “The failure of the federal government to crack down on law on public lands has created a class of insurrectionists who feel entitled to break the law whenever they want.”

Just like so many folks who’ve been empowered by the grifter Trump regime.

“If we continue to allow these very highly publicized violations of public laws and public lands, then it’s going to become a free-for-all out there,” Molvar said, taking note of a dam and associated equipment that Bundy’s son Ryan Bundy built across Gold Butte National Monument last spring. “There will be no semblance of law and order on federal public lands, and that will be a major disservice to all Americans.”

Molvar wants the Biden administration not to let the situation fester. While it’s true the government botched matters when it tried to collect back fees in 2014, Molvar and other public lands advocates argue that the feds can easily get this situation under control. Among the fixes: issuing bench warrants holding Bundy in contempt of court for trespassing and refusing to pay grazing fees, or putting a lien on Bundy’s property (such as proceeds from cattle auctions.)

Richard Spotts, who before retirement spent 15 years as the planning and environmental coordinator for the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Arizona Strip District, told Yachnin, “It boggles the mind why these obvious tactics have not been used, and even why BLM kept planning these huge, all-or-nothing roundups.” Liens on Bundy’s cattle would at least “take the profit motive out of trespass grazing,” Spotts said.

Public lands are the people’s lands. While critics of some BLM and the National Park Service land policies have valid points to make, the Bundys and their ilk don’t care about reforming policy so that land is better protected. They want no regulations or fees hindering their profiteering off the taxpayers. That, of course, isn’t just a philosophy of a few extremist ranchers. The extractive industries have done a bang-up job of polluting public land for more than a century, paying a pittance to the government for the land they have often wrecked beyond what reclamation efforts can fully restore. But except when they are cheating Indian tribes with sweetheart royalty deals, they, unlike Bundy, are at least paying something. 

Joe Biden doubtless isn’t giving any thought to Cliven Bundy’s threat. As Molvar points out, federal authorities have remedies that don’t involve any firearms to walk toward. All Biden has to do when the time comes is snap his fingers.

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Having made it past November, and even past the Jan. 5 runoff in Georgia, it may seem like the airwaves and signboards near you would finally be free of political ads. However … that’s not quite true. While the idea that ads are already showing up for the 2022 election cycle might even be enough to generate howls, there’s a reason that these ads should be welcomed. Because these ads are all about holding Republicans accountable for what they’ve done over the last four years.

That starts with ads that are going on the air in Wisconsin to detail the explicit connection between Sen. Ron Johnson and the violent attempt to overthrow the government. Voters to the south might not be catching those ads, but they could still run across a Josh Hawley billboard from MeidasTouch. It’s all just part of the move to clear the halls of Congress … of the people who promoted a violent attack on the halls of Congress.

During Wednesday night’s impeachment hearing, newly seated St. Louis Rep. Cori Bush took down white supremacy in 30 seconds flat. Just a day before, she filed a resolution calling for the expulsion of 100 or more House Republicans who didn’t just vote against certifying the results of the Electoral College, but promoted the idea that the election had been “stolen”—the big lie that drove rioters into the Capitol on Jan. 6.

It’s unlikely that House members will garner the necessary votes to discharge a quarter of their members. However, if the investigation into members who actively assisted in planning the insurrection turns up definitive evidence, there is a very good chance that some members might not just be expelled, but indicted.

On the Senate side, both Hawley and Ted Cruz are likely to survive their support for overturning the outcome of the election, even with Hawley continuing to signal his support for that effort in the hours immediately after the Senate had been forced to flee for their lives. However, it’s very likely voters are going to get plenty of reminders about which senator was giving terrorists a raised fist salute on that terrible day.

However, as The New York Times reports, Wisconsin voters don’t need to wait to see the lines between Johnson and the insurgency traced. A television ad from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin hit the air Wednesday morning. It signals the start of a solid week in which Johnson will be pounded on both television and social media for his role in spreading lies about the 2020 election. 

Johnson—who has always topped the chart of senators most likely to be Russian assets—initiated and promoted lies about the election both before and after the votes were counted. And he added one more lie, because after telling voters that he was going to self-limit to two terms in the Senate, he might just decide to stay in the Senate so he can block legislation from the Democratic House. That would put Johnson up for his next term in 2022, and also turns him into a big target for Democrats seeking to dislodge a Trump-Putin fan from a state Joe Biden won.

The ad pulls no punches. It features pictures of the mob swarming over the Capitol while recalling a stinging editorial in the Milwaukee Journal that goes after several members of the Senate’s “sedition caucus,” including both Johnson and Hawley. That editorial calls on Johnson to resign immediately rather than waiting 21 months for Wisconsin voters to send him packing.

Johnson is unlikely to quit. Neither are the ads.

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American Muslims have seen some incredible firsts these last few years. After being elected to multiple seats for the first time in a number of states, representation for American Muslims continues from the political arena to the sports field. In a historical announcement made Thursday, the New York Jets named Robert Saleh as their new head coach.

Saleh, a Michigan native of Lebanese descent, will serve as the fourth person of color running a National Football League (NFL) team, and the first Muslim head coach in NFL history. A former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator, Saleh will replace Adam Gase as the Jets’ 20th coach, the announcement read. Additionally, he is the second minority coach to be hired by the Jets in the last six years, the first being Todd Bowles in 2015.

According to The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a civil rights group, Saleh will be the third Arab American head coach in the NFL after Abe Gibron and Rich Kotite. Both Gibron and Kotite are also of Lebanese origin. The Washington Post noted Saleh was also the first Arab American coordinator in the league’s history.

With 16 years of experience in the NFL working with Houston, Seattle, Tennessee, and San Francisco, Saleh was a sought-after individual, with interviews with at least four other teams.

We’ve reached an agreement in principle with Robert Saleh to become our head coach. 📰 https://t.co/CiIczkN97j pic.twitter.com/NC3nW27uNa— New York Jets (@nyjets) January 15, 2021

In a story published by the Post before last year’s Super Bowl, Saleh shared his family’s history of immigration from Lebanon. Saleh’s success in sports follows generations working in factories to provide a better future for family members despite language barriers. “For me to have the opportunity to coach, and kind of create another trail, has been good,” Saleh told the Post. “That is pretty cool.”

According to The New York Times, the tragic Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack pushed Saleh to follow his dreams of pursuing the NFL. After Saleh’s brother David survived the incident, Saleh realized life was too short not to give coaching a chance. David had been in the South Tower but was able to escape before it collapsed.

“His love and passion for football is ultimately why he wanted to get into coaching,” David Saleh told The Detroit News in 2020. “He just didn’t want to leave the game.”

Matthew Jaber Stiffler, the head of research at the Arab American National Museum, noted that many Lebanese Americans, who are majority Christian, often do not identify as Arab. Saleh identifying as both Muslim and Arab in such a field is thus not just a win for Muslim representation, but encouragement for others who may look like him. It allows young children of color to have role models in fields they may want to pursue.

 “To have somebody in a visible position, who is proudly Arab, proudly Muslim—but that also he’s just a football coach too, when it comes down to it—it helps to just normalize the experience of Muslim Americans,” Stiffler said.

Saleh’s appointment has received positive feedback from not only Muslim Americans but others nationwide and globally. The appointment was welcomed by a number of organizations including the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The positive news comes at a time of distress in the country and gives hope that a better future awaits.   

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