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Purdue's President Takes Aim at the Left

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels made it clear to anti-racists that he’s more interested in attacking them than the fascists who are organizing on campus in a letter to well-known pro-Palestine and anti-racist professor Bill Mullen that accuses Mullen of being “anti-Semitic.”

Daniels, the former governor of Indiana and a Bush Jr. administration official, wrote the letter in response to a statement sent by Purdue’s Campus Antifascist Network chapter, calling on him to look into several examples of fascist organizing on campus, including flyers circulated by the white nationalist Identity Evropa.

Instead of taking the threat of the far-right organizing seriously, Daniels saw this as an opportunity to attack Mullen, writing, “In the past, I have had to defend your right to speech that was widely interpreted as racist, in the form of that oldest of bigotries, anti-Semitism.”

Mullen has been a supporter of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel apartheid, and he helped organize within the American Studies Association for a resolution to boycott Israeli universities, which passed in 2013.

For many years, opponents of the movement for justice in Palestine have tried to tar its supporters as “anti-Semitic,” an accusation that has no basis in fact. “It is the most clichéd right-wing and Zionist accusation, and Daniels is simply recycling it,” Mullen said in an interview. “He’s trying desperately to change the subject from his failure to act against white supremacy on campus.”

The letter, which Daniels’ office released after a query by the Lafayette Journal and Courier, also incorrectly claims that Mullen and the Campus Antifascist Network are affiliated with Antifa.

In reality, Daniels’ …read more

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Hurricane Victims Don't Have the “Complexion for Protection”

Millions of Puerto Ricans are still without water, food, electricity and shelter, four weeks after Hurricane Maria destroyed the island. With waterborne illnesses on the rise, a full-blown humanitarian crisis is on the horizon.

“Raw sewage continues to be released into waterways and is expected to continue until repairs can be made and power is restored,” the EPA warns in a memo.

When the agency issued this statement, eighty-four percent of Puerto Rico was without electricity, and sixty percent of water treatment plants out of service.

“Water contaminated with livestock waste, human sewage, chemicals, and other contaminants can lead to illness when used for drinking, bathing, and other hygiene activities,” the EPA says.

To make matters worse, Puerto Rico is home to 21 Superfund sites — the nation’s most deadly depositories of toxic chemicals. The island also has a five-story-high coal ash dump in Guayama that was hit by the storm.

Floodwaters have already mixed deadly toxins from these sites into nearby waterways, which residents are forced to use to bathe and drink. In a desperate attempt to save their own lives, some Puerto Ricans are drinking highly contaminated water from wells that were once sealed to avoid exposure to deadly toxins.

Families who have lost everything now must contend with the possibility that their groundwater is tainted with poison.

The Complexion for Protection

On the same day the EPA issued its warning, President Trump took to Twitter to complain, “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders… in P.R. forever!”

First, Mr. President, a reality check. The devastation caused by major storms takes years, …read more

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Why I've Started to Fear My Fellow Social Justice Activists

Callout culture. The quest for purity. Privilege theory taken to extremes. I’ve observed some of these questionable patterns in my activist communities over the past several years.

As an activist, I stand with others against white supremacy, anti-blackness, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, and imperialism. I am queer, trans, Chinese American, middle class, and able-bodied.

Holding these identities scattered across the spectrum of privilege, I have done my best to find my place in the movement, while educating myself on social justice issues to the best of my ability. But after witnessing countless people be ruthlessly torn apart in community for their mistakes and missteps, I started to fear my own comrades.

As a cultural studies scholar, I am interested in how that culture — as expressed through discourse and popular narratives — does the work of power. Many disciplinary practices of the activist culture succeed in curbing oppressive behaviors. Callouts, for example, are necessary for identifying and addressing problematic behavior. But have they become the default response to fending off harm? Shutting down racist, sexist, and similar conversations protects vulnerable participants. But has it devolved into simply shutting down all dissenting ideas? When these tactics are liberally applied, without limit, inside marginalized groups, I believe they hold back movements by alienating both potential allies and their own members.

In response to the unrestrained use of callouts and unchecked self-righteousness by leftist activists, I spend enormous amounts of energy protecting my activist identity from attack. I self-police what I say when among other activists. If I’m not 100 percent sold on the reasons for a political protest, I keep those opinions to myself — though I might …read more

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Blueprint for a Progressive US: A Dialogue With Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin

(Photo: Bianca Pontes / EyeEm)

(Photo: Bianca Pontes / EyeEm)

Expanding educational opportunities and building a green economy — while shrinking both the military and the fossil fuel industry — are the best routes to full employment, say world-renowned public intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin. Also, greater financial regulation and more public development banks that prioritize social welfare over massive profits are crucial for a progressive agenda.

(Photo: Bianca Pontes / EyeEm)(Photo: Bianca Pontes / EyeEm)

This is the first part of a wide-ranging interview with world-renowned public intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin. The next installment will appear on October 24.

Not long after taking office, it became evident that Donald Trump had engaged in fraudulent populism during his campaign. His promise to “Make America Great Again” has been exposed as a lie, as the Trump administration has been busy extending US military power, exacerbating inequality, reverting to the old era of unregulated banking practices, pushing for more fuel fossil drilling and stripping environmental regulations.

In the Trump era, what would an authentically populist, progressive political agenda look like? What would a progressive US look like with regard to jobs, the environment, finance capital and the standard of living? What would it look like in terms of education and health care, justice and equality? In an exclusive interview with C.J. Polychroniou for Truthout, world-renowned public intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin tackle these issues. Noam Chomsky is professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT and laureate professor in the department of linguistics at the University of Arizona. Robert Pollin is distinguished professor of economics and …read more

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How “Blight” Is Used to Justify Housing Demolition in Detroit

How Blight Is Used to Justify Housing Demolition in Detroit

A “blight” designation has a devastating effect on property values, yet few of us understand the complexities behind it. In this month’s installment of our ongoing graphic series on the housing foreclosure crisis in Detroit, we look at how the “blight” designation has been used to cheat the many for the profit of the few.

Our graphic miniseries on housing in Detroit wouldn’t be complete without a close inspection of blight — abandoned, uncared for properties that are portrayed as not only neighborhood eyesores, but extremely, albeit mysteriously, dangerous. Cancerous! Radioactive! And they drive down property values! Blight is painted as truly terrifying. Yet few of us understand how complex — and profitable — a blight designation can be.

In our continuing series on the Detroit housing foreclosure crisis we look closely at the use of the term “Blight” and its usefulness in the process of housing demolition. You’ll want to catch up on the previous strips in the housing miniseries, Scenes From the Foreclosure Crisis: Water, Land and Housing in Michigan; The House on Junction; Occupied Detroit Home Is Threatened by Demolition: House on Junction II; and all of the strips in the water series, listed here.

Stay tuned for the final miniseries — on the 143 square miles that make up the city of Detroit — in December.

For a tour of the city and in-depth discussion of the impact of blight, the creators of this strip are grateful to Nick Caverly, a demolitions researcher at the University of Michigan.

How Blight Is Used to Justify Housing Demolition in Detroit

<img …read more

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Stunner on Birth Control: Trump's Moral Exemption Is Geared to Two Groups

(Photo: Gabi Sanda; Edited: LW / TO)
(Photo: Gabi Sanda; Edited: LW / TO)

Few people were surprised last week when the Trump administration issued a rule to make it easier for some religious employers to opt out of offering no-cost prescription birth control to their female employees under the Affordable Care Act.

But a separate regulation issued at the same time raised eyebrows. It creates a new exemption from the requirement that most employers offer contraceptive coverage. This one is for “non-religious organizations with sincerely held moral convictions inconsistent with providing coverage for some or all contraceptive services.”

So what’s the difference between religious beliefs and moral convictions?

“Theoretically, it would be someone who says ‘I don’t have a belief in God,’ but ‘I oppose contraception for reasons that have nothing to do with religion or God,’ ” said Mark Rienzi, a senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented many of the organizations that sued the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate.

Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, said it would apply to “an organization that has strong moral convictions but does not associate itself with any particular religion.”

What kind of an organization would that be? It turns out not to be such a mystery, Rienzi and Bagley agreed.

Among the hundreds of organizations that sued over the mandate, two — the Washington, DC-based March for Life and the Pennsylvania-based Real Alternatives — are anti-abortion groups that do not qualify for religious exemptions. While their employees may be religious, the groups themselves …read more

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Tax Cuts for the Rich, Paid for With Your Health Care

When Republican leaders tried to repeal health care in the spring and summer, many Americans raised the alarm and made a ruckus. We asked hard questions, looked at the independent analyses, held town halls, told our health care stories, and took to the streets.

Because of that overwhelming opposition, plans to slash health care to pay for corporate tax breaks failed. Republican leaders haven’t given up. In fact, they’ve already begun voting on a scheme to slash taxes for corporations and multi-millionaires — paid for by cuts to health care.

Now the plan to raid our health care is buried in the GOP tax scheme and budget process. Here’s how they’re putting it into place.

On October 5, the House of Representatives passed a budget resolution that cuts $1.5 trillion from Medicaid and other health programs, capping and starving Medicaid.

On top of that, the budget also slices almost $500 billion from Medicare — and proposes turning it into a privatized voucher program and raising the eligibility age to 67.

The Senate budget proposal is just as bad. It would cut Medicaid, Medicare, and the financial assistance people get to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

For the better part of 30 years, I’ve been organizing people and communities to win quality, affordable health care for all. These cuts will hurt all of us, especially people who need health care the most: seniors, people with disabilities, children.

The payoff? Our elected representatives get to dole out tax breaks to their big-money donors and corporate friends.

Don’t expect House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the others behind this scheme to be honest about it. They’re saying their tax cut plan for corporations and multi-millionaires will help ordinary people.

Their idea of who ordinary people …read more

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Out of Control: A Brief History of Neoliberal Deregulation in the USA

Then-Governor Ronald Regan speaks on December 5, 1968. He later went on to become President of the United States, ushering in a severe era of neoliberal economic policy that has continued to this day. (Photo: Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images)

Neoliberalism makes the lower and middle classes poorer, empowers people like Trump and makes the world less safe. But what is it, and who is responsible? In his new book, President Trump, Inc., T.J. Coles examines the development of the neoliberal policies that have led us to the era of Trump. Policies like NAFTA and the Economic Recovery Tax Act perpetuated deregulation and wealth inequality throughout the Carter, Regan, Clinton and Bush administrations.

Then-Governor Ronald Regan speaks on December 5, 1968. He later went on to become president of the United States, ushering in a severe era of neoliberal economic policy that has continued to this day. (Photo: Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images)

Neoliberalism makes the lower and middle classes poorer, empowers people like Trump and makes the world less safe. But what is it, and who is responsible? This article is excerpted from, President Trump, Inc. (2017, Clairview Books).

In the early 1970s, the Nixon administration pushed to eliminate what neoliberal advocates call “needless barriers to competition.” This was particularly true of the financial sector, where restrictions on local bank branches, prices for deposits (so-called regulation Q) and compartmentalization (i.e., allowing the interconnection of commercial, savings and insurance) were lifted.

Experts Campbell and Bakir identify four “pre-neoliberal attacks,” which transformed the US economy into a neoliberal one:

1) Bank holding companies were established as a way of circumventing the McFadden Act 1927, which restricted the geographical …read more

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The Hopeful Work of Turning Appalachia's Mountaintop Coal Mines Into Farms

On a surface-mine-turned-farm in Mingo County, West Virginia, former coal miner Wilburn Jude plunks down three objects on the bed of his work truck: a piece of coal, a sponge, and a peach. He’s been tasked with bringing in items that represent his life’s past, present, and future. “This is my heritage right here,” he says, picking up the coal. Since the time of his Irish immigrant great-grandfathers, all the males in his family have been miners.

“Right now I’m a sponge,” he says, pointing to the next object, “learning up here on this job, in school, everywhere, and doing the best I can to change everything around me.”

Then he holds up the peach. “And then my future. I’m going to be a piece of fruit. I’m going to be able to put out good things to help other people.”

Jude works for Refresh Appalachia, a social enterprise that partners with Reclaim Appalachia to convert post-mine lands into productive and profitable agriculture and forestry enterprises that could be scaled up to put significant numbers of people in layoff-riddled Appalachia back to work. When Refresh Appalachia launched in 2015, West Virginia had the lowest workforce participation rate in the nation.

When he’s not doing paid farm work on this reclaimed mine site, Jude is attending community college and receiving life skills training from Refresh. “I’m living the dream. The ground’s a little bit harder than what I anticipated,” he says of the rocky soil beneath his feet, “but we’ll figure it out.”

On this wide, flat expanse of former mountaintop, the August sun is scorching even through the clouds. In the distance, heavy equipment grinds away …read more

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