Brentin Mock writes: Facing a new White House administration led by Donald Trump, environmental leaders recently signed an accord pledging their allegiance to civil rights and social justice. Among the signatories are several leaders of the Sierra Club, including its executive director, Michael Brune, who in recent years has steered the organization toward rather bold stances on a range of issues that aren’t traditionally recognized as “green.” In 2013, its board of directors voted that the organization should advocate for immigrant rights. The following year, the Sierra Club endorsed and defended the Black Lives Matter movement. Since President Trump came into office, the organization’s resolve has only strengthened, as Brune indicated in a November 18 blog post: “I’m proud of how the Sierra Club has begun to address the intersection of climate with inequality, race, class, and gender, and I guarantee that we’ll go even deeper.”
This shift toward racial justice matters has not been universally accepted among the Sierra Club’s ranks and may even have cost it a few members. Those who disapprove have often expressed sentiments amounting to “racism is not the environmental movement’s responsibility.” But Brune says the organization won’t be backing off anytime soon, a position he forcefully defended on the group’s blog. He will assure his members, he tells me, “that we are continuing to protect wildlife and wild places, and this is how we can best do that in the 21st century.”
What Brune is acknowledging is the darker legacy of the green movement. Some may believe that environmentalism has little to do with social justice issues, but the mission of the Sierra Club, and many conservation groups like it throughout the late-19th century and most of the 20th century, was anything but race neutral. In many ways, racial exclusivity actually shaped the environmental mission, which is what makes the Sierra Club’s leap toward civil rights advocacy such a radical move. It’s important not because a network like Black Lives Matter needs environmentalists, but because environmentalists need black lives. Given the history of conservationists elevating endangered plant life over endangered people of color, it is environmentalism’s soul that most needs saving. [Continue reading…]
BuzzFeed reports: Several state and local officials wasted no time Wednesday night announcing they would keep enforcing bans against transgender discrimination in schools and make sure students can use bathrooms that match their gender identity.
Their announcement was a swift rebuttal to the Trump administration’s decision to rescind a federal policy created under President Obama that said school districts must protect transgender students.
“I will ensure…protections for transgender and gender non-conforming students are enforced fairly and vigorously,” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: The question of how to address the “bathroom debate,” as it has become known, opened a rift inside the Trump administration, pitting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Sessions, who had been expected to move quickly to roll back the civil rights expansions put in place under his Democratic predecessors, wanted to act decisively because of two pending court cases that could have upheld the protections and pushed the government into further litigation.
But Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off and told Mr. Trump that she was uncomfortable because of the potential harm that rescinding the protections could cause transgender students, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions.
Mr. Sessions, who has opposed expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, pushed Ms. DeVos to relent. After getting nowhere, he took his objections to the White House because he could not go forward without her consent. Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, the Republicans said, and told Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her opposition. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.
Ms. DeVos’s unease was evident in a strongly worded statement she released on Wednesday night, in which she said she considered it a “moral obligation” for every school in America to protect all students from discrimination, bullying and harassment. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Cuts in Donald Trump’s first draft budget to funding for legal aid for millions of Americans could strip much-needed protections from victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, families facing foreclosure and veterans in need, justice equality advocates warned Tuesday.
A Trump draft budget circulated over the weekend called for the elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which has a $375m annual budget and provides free legal assistance to low-income people and others in need of help, with cases involving disability benefits, disaster relief, elder abuse, fair pay, wheelchair access, low-income tax credits, unlawful eviction, child support, consumer scams, school lunch, predatory lending and much more.
The legal aid program, which represents a miniscule portion of the government’s projected $4tn budget, is one of many small but mighty programs flagged for elimination in Trump’s draft budget. Others include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Americorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. Critics of the cuts point out that they won’t budge the deficit but would erode quality of life and threaten the most vulnerable.
The possible legal aid cuts would come at a time when potentially softer enforcement by the Trump administration of laws to punish domestic violence, protect Americans with disabilities and combat discriminatory housing practices could create a spike in demand, said Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, a fellow at the Center for American Progress who has written on the issue. [Continue reading…]
People are pouring into Washington in record numbers. Bikers for Trump are on their way. It will be a great Thursday, Friday and Saturday!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2017
As the Trump inauguration boycott escalates, it’s interesting that Trump would highlight the imminent arrival in Washington of Bikers for Trump — his reason, no doubt, that he hopes to scare away protesters. Somehow I doubt that a few old farts on Harleys will have that effect.
Rolling Stone reports: A few weeks before the Women’s March on Washington, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez, two of the four national co-chairs of this weekend’s planned demonstration, appeared on CNN Newsroom. “There are signs that [Donald Trump] is listening, right? He has nominated four women out of 23 positions to serve in his administration,” said host Carol Costello. “Ivanka Trump supposedly is going to have this big role in the Trump administration, as far as promoting women’s issues like child care. So does that give you hope that he is listening?”
This premise – that women, who represent 51 percent of the population, should be grateful for 17 percent representation in Trump’s cabinet – gets to the heart of why hundreds of thousands of women and men are poised to descend on Washington, D.C., and cities around the world, in protest Saturday.
Those who plan to march are not grateful; they are not satisfied. They’re rightfully insulted by the election of an unrepentant misogynist who’s filling his administration with more of the same – and, to Costello’s point, they’re insulted that in August, when Trump was asked which women he’d invite to help him run the country, the single name he could come up with was his daughter’s. Leaving aside the anti-nepotism laws Ivanka would violate by joining her father’s administration (laws her husband may already be in violation of), many women also recognize that she’s no hero to them, as evidenced by her woefully inadequate child care plan, which does particularly little to address the needs of low-income mothers.
What the organizers of the Women’s March will tell you is that the upcoming action is not about Trump; it is about addressing the systemic inequities he highlights with every decision he makes.
The march, the organizers declared via an ambitious platform released last week, is for gender equality, racial equality, LGBTQIA equality, economic justice and reproductive freedom; for equal pay, paid family leave, labor protections, clean water and air and access to public lands; and for an end to violence against women, police brutality and racial profiling. If that seems like a lot, well, that’s the point.
Sarsour, who serves as executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, tells Rolling Stone that the message the marchers want to send is that “from climate justice to racial justice to immigrant rights, reproductive rights, Native rights, we are united. We are committing to work together.
“We think that that hasn’t happened in a very clear way in a long time – bringing all the movements together and … saying, ‘We are watching you. We are ready. We are fired up. And we’re ready to fight back and protect our communities,'” she says. [Continue reading…]
Jason Hickel writes: We have long been told a compelling story about the relationship between rich countries and poor countries. The story holds that the rich nations of the OECD give generously of their wealth to the poorer nations of the global south, to help them eradicate poverty and push them up the development ladder. Yes, during colonialism western powers may have enriched themselves by extracting resources and slave labour from their colonies – but that’s all in the past. These days, they give more than $125bn (£102bn) in aid each year – solid evidence of their benevolent goodwill.
This story is so widely propagated by the aid industry and the governments of the rich world that we have come to take it for granted. But it may not be as simple as it appears.
The US-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and the Centre for Applied Research at the Norwegian School of Economics recently published some fascinating data. They tallied up all of the financial resources that get transferred between rich countries and poor countries each year: not just aid, foreign investment and trade flows (as previous studies have done) but also non-financial transfers such as debt cancellation, unrequited transfers like workers’ remittances, and unrecorded capital flight (more of this later). As far as I am aware, it is the most comprehensive assessment of resource transfers ever undertaken.
What they discovered is that the flow of money from rich countries to poor countries pales in comparison to the flow that runs in the other direction. [Continue reading…]
Alexander Bisley interviews Anthony Bourdain, host of CNN’s Parts Unknown: Bisley: What concerns you about Trump?
Bourdain: What I am not concerned about with Trump? Wherever one lives in the world right now I wouldn’t feel too comfortable about the rise of authoritarianism. I think it’s a global trend, and one that should be of concern to everyone.
Bisley: You’re a liberal. What should liberals be critiquing their own side for?
Bourdain: There’s just so much. I hate the term political correctness, the way in which speech that is found to be unpleasant or offensive is often banned from universities. Which is exactly where speech that is potentially hurtful and offensive should be heard.
The way we demonize comedians for use of language or terminology is unspeakable. Because that’s exactly what comedians should be doing, offending and upsetting people, and being offensive. Comedy is there, like art, to make people uncomfortable, and challenge their views, and hopefully have a spirited yet civil argument. If you’re a comedian whose bread and butter seems to be language, situations, and jokes that I find racist and offensive, I won’t buy tickets to your show or watch you on TV. I will not support you. If people ask me what I think, I will say you suck, and that I think you are racist and offensive. But I’m not going to try to put you out of work. I’m not going to start a boycott, or a hashtag, looking to get you driven out of the business.
The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we’re seeing now.
I’ve spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America. There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love. When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good. Nothing nauseates me more than preaching to the converted. The self-congratulatory tone of the privileged left — just repeating and repeating and repeating the outrages of the opposition — this does not win hearts and minds. It doesn’t change anyone’s opinions. It only solidifies them, and makes things worse for all of us. We should be breaking bread with each other, and finding common ground whenever possible. I fear that is not at all what we’ve done. [Continue reading…]
George Soros writes: Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of closed societies – from fascist dictatorships to mafia states – are on the rise. How could this happen? The only explanation I can find is that elected leaders failed to meet voters’ legitimate expectations and aspirations and that this failure led electorates to become disenchanted with the prevailing versions of democracy and capitalism. Quite simply, many people felt that the elites had stolen their democracy.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US emerged as the sole remaining superpower, equally committed to the principles of democracy and free markets. The major development since then has been the globalization of financial markets, spearheaded by advocates who argued that globalization increases total wealth. After all, if the winners compensated the losers, they would still have something left over.
The argument was misleading, because it ignored the fact that the winners seldom, if ever, compensate the losers. But the potential winners spent enough money promoting the argument that it prevailed. It was a victory for believers in untrammeled free enterprise, or “market fundamentalists,” as I call them. Because financial capital is an indispensable ingredient of economic development, and few countries in the developing world could generate enough capital on their own, globalization spread like wildfire. Financial capital could move around freely and avoid taxation and regulation. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports from Tangiers: Behind a tall perimeter wall, studded with surveillance cameras and guarded by Moroccan soldiers, a sprawling new palace for King Salman of Saudi Arabia rose on the Atlantic coast here last summer.
Even as the Saudi government canceled a quarter of a trillion dollars’ worth of projects back home as part of a fiscal austerity program, workers hustled to finish bright blue landing pads for helicopters at the vacation compound and to erect a tent the size of a circus big-top where the king could feast and entertain his enormous retinue.
The royal family’s fortune derives from the reserves of petroleum discovered during the reign of Salman’s father, King Abdulaziz ibn Saud, more than 75 years ago. The sale of oil provides billions of dollars in annual allowances, public-sector sinecures and perks for royals, the wealthiest of whom own French chateaus and Saudi palaces, stash money in Swiss bank accounts, wear couture dresses under their abayas and frolic on some of the world’s biggest yachts out of sight of commoners.
King Salman serves as chairman of the family business unofficially known as “Al Saud Inc.” Sustained low oil prices have strained the economy and forced questions about whether the family — with thousands of members and still growing — can simultaneously maintain its lavish lifestyle and its unchallenged grip on the country. [Continue reading…]
The Trump plutocracy: Combined wealth of 17 cabinet picks exceeds that of one third of American household
Quartz reports: The 17 people who US president-elect Donald Trump has selected for his cabinet or for posts with cabinet rank have well over $9.5 billion in combined wealth, with several positions still unfilled. This collection of wealth is greater than that of the 43 million least wealthy American households combined—over one third of the 126 million households total in the US.
Stephen Hawking writes: As a theoretical physicist based in Cambridge, I have lived my life in an extraordinarily privileged bubble. Cambridge is an unusual town, centred around one of the world’s great universities. Within that town, the scientific community that I became part of in my 20s is even more rarefied.
And within that scientific community, the small group of international theoretical physicists with whom I have spent my working life might sometimes be tempted to regard themselves as the pinnacle. In addition to this, with the celebrity that has come with my books, and the isolation imposed by my illness, I feel as though my ivory tower is getting taller.
So the recent apparent rejection of the elites in both America and Britain is surely aimed at me, as much as anyone. Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European Union and by the American public to embrace Donald Trump as their next president, there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.
It was, everyone seems to agree, the moment when the forgotten spoke, finding their voices to reject the advice and guidance of experts and the elite everywhere.
I am no exception to this rule. I warned before the Brexit vote that it would damage scientific research in Britain, that a vote to leave would be a step backward, and the electorate – or at least a sufficiently significant proportion of it – took no more notice of me than any of the other political leaders, trade unionists, artists, scientists, businessmen and celebrities who all gave the same unheeded advice to the rest of the country.
What matters now, far more than the choices made by these two electorates, is how the elites react. Should we, in turn, reject these votes as outpourings of crude populism that fail to take account of the facts, and attempt to circumvent or circumscribe the choices that they represent? I would argue that this would be a terrible mistake. [Continue reading…]
The Economist reports: In December 2010 Egypt’s cabinet discussed the findings of their National Youth Survey. Only 16% of 18-29-year-olds voted in elections, it showed; just 2% registered for volunteer work. An apathetic generation, concluded the ministers, who returned to twiddling their thumbs. Weeks later, Egypt’s youth spilled onto the streets and toppled President Hosni Mubarak.
The UN’s latest Arab Development Report, published on November 29th, shows that few lessons have been learnt. Five years on from the revolts that toppled four Arab leaders, regimes are ruthlessly tough on dissent, but much less attentive to its causes.
As states fail, youth identify more with their religion, sect or tribe than their country. In 2002, five Arab states were mired in conflict. Today 11 are. By 2020, predicts the report, almost three out of four Arabs could be “living in countries vulnerable to conflict”.
Horrifyingly, although home to only 5% of the world’s population, in 2014 the Arab world accounted for 45% of the world’s terrorism, 68% of its battle-related deaths, 47% of its internally displaced and 58% of its refugees. War not only kills and maims, but destroys vital infrastructure accelerating the disintegration.
The Arab youth population (aged 15-29) numbers 105m and is growing fast, but unemployment, poverty and marginalisation are all growing faster. The youth unemployment rate, at 30%, stands at more than twice the world’s average of 14%. Almost half of young Arab women looking for jobs fail to find them (against a global average of 16%).
Yet governance remains firmly the domain of an often hereditary elite. “Young people are gripped by an inherent sense of discrimination and exclusion,” says the report, highlighting a “weakening [of] their commitment to preserving government institutions.” Many of those in charge do little more than pay lip-service, lumping youth issues in with toothless ministries for sports. “We’re in a much worse shape than before the Arab Spring,” says Ahmed al-Hendawi, a 32-year-old Jordanian and the UN’s envoy for youth. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: Many of the Trump appointees were born wealthy, attended elite schools and went on to amass even larger fortunes as adults. As a group, they have much more experience funding political candidates than they do running government agencies.
Their collective wealth in many ways defies Trump’s populist campaign promises. Their business ties, particularly to Wall Street, have drawn rebukes from Democrats. But the group also amplifies Trump’s own campaign pitch: that Washington outsiders who know how to navigate and exploit a “rigged” system are best able to fix that system for the working class.
“It fits into Trump’s message that he’s trying to do business in an unusual way, by bringing in these outsiders,” said Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor in presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. But Trump and his team, she added, won’t be able to draw on the same sort of life struggles that President Obama did, in crafting policy to lift poor and middle-class Americans.
“They’re just not going to have any access to that” life experience, she said. “I guess it will be a test — does empathy actually matter? If you’re able to echo back what people are telling you, is that enough?”
Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary is industrialist Wilbur Ross, who has amassed a fortune of $2.5 billion through decades at the helm of Rothschild’s bankruptcy practice and his own investment firm, according to Forbes.
Ross’ would-be deputy at the Commerce Department, Todd Ricketts, is the son of a billionaire and the co-owner of the Chicago Cubs. Steven Mnuchin, who Trump named to head the Treasury Department, is a former Goldman Sachs executive, hedge fund executive and Hollywood financier.
Betsy DeVos, a Michigan billionaire who was named as Trump’s education secretary, is the daughter-in-law of Richard DeVos, the co-founder of Amway. Her family has a net worth of $5.1 billion, according to Forbes. Elaine Chao, the choice for transportation secretary, is the daughter of a shipping magnate. [Continue reading…]
Barbara Kingsolver writes: When I was a girl of 11 I had an argument with my father that left my psyche maimed. It was about whether a woman could be the president of the US.
How did it even start? I was no feminist prodigy, just a shy kid who preferred reading to talking; politics weren’t my destiny. Probably, I was trying to work out what was possible for my category of person – legally, logistically – as one might ask which kinds of terrain are navigable for a newly purchased bicycle. Up until then, gender hadn’t darkened my mental doorway as I followed my older brother into our daily adventures wearing hand-me-down jeans.
But in adolescence it dawned on me I’d be spending my future as a woman, and when I looked around, alarm bells rang. My mother was a capable, intelligent, deeply unhappy woman who aspired to fulfilment as a housewife but clearly disliked the job. I saw most of my friends’ mothers packed into that same dreary boat. My father was a country physician, admired and rewarded for work he loved. In my primordial search for a life coach, he was the natural choice.
I probably started by asking him if girls could go to college, have jobs, be doctors, tentatively working my way up the ladder. His answers grew more equivocal until finally we faced off, Dad saying, “No” and me saying, “But why not?” A female president would be dangerous. His reasons vaguely referenced menstruation and emotional instability, innate female attraction to maternity and aversion to power, and a general implied ickyness that was beneath polite conversation.
I ended that evening curled in bed with my fingernails digging into my palms and a silent howl tearing through me that lasted hours and left me numb. [Continue reading…]
What Donald Trump could learn from Israeli journalist Ari Shavit on facing allegations of sexual assault
The Times of Israel reports: American Jewish reporter Danielle Berrin said Sunday she was “grateful” that Israeli journalist Ari Shavit, whom she has accused of sexual assault in a 2014 encounter, published a statement taking full responsibility for his actions.
“I’m grateful for Ari Shavit’s powerful, honest statement,” Berrin wrote on Twitter. She had rejected a previous statement from Shavit, who she said assaulted her and tried to persuade her to come up to his hotel room during an interview in 2014.
“His resolution to do ‘heshbon hanefesh’ — an accounting of the soul — is admirable,” she wrote after Shavit issued his mea culpa and resigned his posts at the Haaretz newspaper and Channel 10’s news program.
Berrin, a senior writer and columnist at the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, published an article last week detailing how an unnamed Israeli journalist, whom she described as a husband and father, assaulted her. Shavit later acknowledged he was the man in question.
Danielle Berrin wrote: I remember staring at his scotch glass.
The swirling, caramel-colored liquid caught the dim light of the hotel lobby, reflected it back to me. The light was a relief from the glare of his dark eyes, his black hair, the lecherous look on his face.
I’d agreed to meet him, an accomplished journalist from Israel, at his hotel around 10 p.m. He was in the United States only for 48 hours, and told me he was completely booked during the daytime. I believed him. Back then, the book he’d written was among several titles having an impact on the Jewish conversation, and many local community leaders wanted to meet with him. If I was going to be a part of this conversation, this was my opportunity.
But almost as soon as I arrived and placed my recorder on the table between us, he put our interview on hold.
“First,” he said, “I want to get to know you better.” He asked me a series of personal questions — about my Jewish background, my family, my personal life; he wanted to know if the man with whom I’d attended his book event the night before was my boyfriend. His questions made me uncomfortable, but they weren’t all that surprising, actually — I’ve learned that if you’re Jewish and younger than 35, your relationship status is typically the first thing another Jew will ask about. Besides, the man was married, with children, and a public figure. I figured I was safe. But after I answered one of his questions in a way that moved him, he lurched at me like a barnyard animal, grabbing the back of my head, pulling me toward him.
I turned my face to the left and bowed my head to avoid his mouth. “I don’t understand,” I told him. “Last night, in front of everybody, you spoke so lovingly about your wife.”
“We have an arrangement,” he responded.
“Don’t you have children?” I asked, trying to wedge conversation in front of contact.
He looked at me with a sly smile. “Yes,” he said, “and I’m not done yet. … ”
Even in the midst of such a profoundly awkward situation, I remember thinking that this was the first time any man had made a pass at me by suggesting we procreate.
“Let’s go up to my room,” he suggested. “Just for a minute.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said.
“We don’t have to have sex,” he countered. “I just want to give you a hug.”
The fact that the suggestion we’d have “sex” was even uttered during a professional meeting — by another journalist, no less — is insane. I remember how ridiculous his pickup line sounded, even as it filled me with dread. Even as he continued to pull and paw at me.
Confused, I found myself feeling paralyzed. Earlier that day, this man had been someone I deeply respected. I’d read his book voraciously and underlined passages; I’d even read every review, and recommended the book to friends. And this was supposed to have been a really important interview — one I was lucky to get. My editors were expecting something good. Could I just walk away? From someone so prominent?
Today, it would be an easy choice. But at the time, several years ago, I felt beholden to the man in power. [Continue reading…]
Trump should not only consider following the example of Shavit in taking responsibility for his own behavior — he should also reflect on the fate of former President Moshe Katsav who as a man in power thought he could get away with rape. At the same age as Trump he now sits in jail.
In a recent issue of The Economist, President Barack Obama set out four major economic issues that his successor must tackle. As he put it:
“… restoring faith in an economy where hardworking Americans can get ahead requires addressing four major structural challenges: boosting productivity growth, combating rising inequality, ensuring that everyone who wants a job can get one and building a resilient economy that’s primed for future growth.”
It’s hard to quibble with the items on the president’s list. Slow productivity growth, rising inequality, inadequate employment and the lack of sustainable economic growth all are important problems that a President Clinton or Trump will have to face.
But just how important are these issues? Does one, above all, deserve to be at the top of the next president’s economic to-do list?
Rather than rank these items, it is probably better to follow the advice of American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s serenity prayer: We should courageously change what we can while accepting what we cannot.
And inequality is the only item on that list that a president can influence in a significant way. It also happens to be, in my mind, the most important one – critical for solving the other three problems as well as preventing the disappearance of the middle class.
Quartz reports: Maybe Uber isn’t that innovative after all.
A new study from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), finds that the “gig” economy model popularized by Uber has a lot in common with the economies of poor countries today, as well as the US and Europe before the Industrial Revolution.
Uber and other “gig” companies like Lyft and TaskRabbit hire their workers as independent contractors rather than full employees. These jobs comes with a lot of flexibility — workers can set their own schedules — but they lack the protections afforded full-time employees of larger corporate enterprises, such as health care and a guaranteed minimum wage. Uber and its digital peers are a small if well-known part of the larger independent workforce, which McKinsey estimates at 20% to 30% of the working-age population in the US and the EU-15, or some 160 million people.
While companies like Uber have been hailed as modern conveniences for consumers, they are proving to be just the opposite for workers. App-based services rely on income inequality and may well be perpetuating the divide between capital and labor. They are also reverting economies to pre-industrial ideas about work. [Continue reading…]