Political Action

4/20, Secure Communities vs. Sanctuary City: Defending Immigrant Rights

The Boston Branch - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 10:28
Secure Communities vs. Sanctuary City:  Defending Immigrant Rights

Thursday, April 20, 7pm New location! Tent City  130 Dartmouth Street, Boston, MA 02116  Across from Back Bay/ Next to Copley Mall
One of Trumps executive orders has called for the reestablishment of the immigration enforcement program, “Secure Communities”, a program that was started during the Bush administration and greatly expanded under Obama, former deporter in chief. While Trump is calling for more cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigrant forces, emboldening police to terrorize our communities, the rising immigrant rights movement has called for Sanctuaries across the country, from Sanctuary Cities to Sanctuary Campuses, demanding that ICE stay out of our communties
How can we advance the movement for immigrant rights and build an opposition to ICE coming into our communities? How do we stop all deportations and win amnesty for all + world with no borders?
Join the Boston ISO this Thursday to discuss the fight to defend immigrant rights and how to build for May Day!
Categories: Political Action

Announcing 470,000 images from Europeana, now in CC Search

Creative Commons - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 09:37

“Runde mit Flechtwerk und Knoten” by Dürer, Albrecht is licensed under

CC0 1.0

CC Search beta has added 470,000 images from the millions of materials contained in Europeana’s collection of Creative Commons images. Europeana is Europe’s digital platform for cultural heritage, collecting and providing online access to over 54 million of digitised items ranging from books, photos, and paintings to television broadcasts and 3D objects. As an important cultural partner to CC, Europeana’s platform strengthens the commons through its large, searchable collection of digital records from nearly 4,000 European libraries, archives, museums and audiovisual galleries. As CC Search continues to grow, we’ll be adding more material from this rich repository of cultural heritage images, data, and records.

The new CC Search provides tools to make lists, attribute work with one click, and serves up a massive collection of images by utilizing open media APIs. This new addition from Europeana brings the number of searchable objects up to 10,022,832 making Europeana the second main image provider. Previous repositories include February’s landmark release from Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as large collections of freely licensed images from 500 px, Flickr, Rijksmuseum, and New York Public Library. While the beta project focuses on images, the tool aims to provide a ‘front door to the commons,’ bringing together a multitude of collections to inspire creativity and collaboration on the web.

Among the images now available in CC Search are major works by masters of European art as well as photographs, prints, drawings, and more. Explore the entire collection at the CC Search page.

The post Announcing 470,000 images from Europeana, now in CC Search appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Separating fact from fake news

Socialist Worker - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 01:00

Danny Katch, author of Socialism...Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation, considers how the left can analyze the world in the Trumpian era of "alternative facts."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer

ALL GOVERNMENTS lie, as the independent journalist I.F. Stone once said. But not all governments lie as proudly as those led by Donald Trump.

This guy started his presidency issuing an easily disprovable falsehood about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, a typically Trumpish blend of silly and creepy, like a dictator declaring that from this day forward the sky is officially orange (or climate change is a hoax). He lies so often that a whole category of his lies are denials of previous lies.

Corporate-owned media outlets generally obey the unwritten rule that the spokespeople for government sources should be treated as credible--regardless of how many times they've been caught lying--but the new president's obvious disdain for the truth pushed many of them to adopt a more Stone-like stance of skepticism.

But Trump only needed to lob some missiles and bombs in enemy lands to restore the press back to its natural state of blind trust in authority. The Pentagon announced that it dropped the "Mother of All Bombs" in eastern Afghanistan, and there was little mainstream questioning of the government's claim that this monstrosity with a mile-wide blast radius managed to only kill bad guys.

Clearly the left has to take a different approach, and treat the word of the U.S. government as we would that of any individual with a similarly long history of murder and mendacity.

But if we don't trust the government--and, by extension, many of the mainstream news reports that simply repeat government talking points--then how do we get our information?

The left doesn't have the resources to replicate all of the bureaus and investigative reporting of media corporations. Progressive media like Democracy Now! and Truthout (or even your humble correspondents at SocialistWorker.org) can sometimes deliver important scoops, but radicals have no choice but to rely on larger outlets for much of our information.

The defining difference between the left and the corporate media is not that we have different facts--because we often don't--but that we have different frameworks for interpreting and drawing conclusions from those facts. That's important to keep in mind at a time when "alternative facts" are becoming a growing problem on the left as well as the right.

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OUR STARTING point at SocialistWorker.org is that, as mentioned, we don't trust "our" government.

But we should be consistent like I.F. Stone and be suspicious of all governments--especially those like the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, which has tortured and murdered hundreds of thousands of people and lied about its crimes with a boldness that would make Sean Spicer bow down in admiration.

This is unfortunately not a universal method across the left. Like the closed circuit of right-wing websites passing the same fabrications back and forth about disease-spreading immigrants and "black-on-black crime," there are a growing number of websites recycling dubious speculations about "false flag" operations in Syria designed to discredit the Assad government.

These conspiracy theories not only suck a few people down the "truther" rabbit hole, but they also create a deliberately muddled atmosphere on the left that can make new activists think they need to read detailed studies of the property of sarin gas just to have an opinion on something that couldn't be more clear: the Assad government is monstrous.

SocialistWorker.org has drawn that conclusion not because the U.S. government says so, but because millions of Syrians have said so--including those who have been killed, jailed and exiled in the process.

That gets to the next element of our framework for evaluating facts and understanding the world. We may not trust governments, but we listen closely to ordinary people, particularly when they are organized in large-scale protest movements.

Protesters can lie, of course, and protest movements are subject to manipulation, whether by foreign agents or homegrown opportunists. But our starting assumption when hundreds of thousands or millions of people take to the streets is that they are not mere puppets of a foreign power.

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HERE'S THE thing about government lies: They're usually not very effective--and in reality, they don't need to be.

When the cops kill another unarmed African American and claim he was charging at all five of them with a pair of scissors, they don't get away with it because we all believe them--certainly not those of us who live in the neighborhood. They get away with it because cops are allowed to murder unarmed Black people. The lie is just a formality.

Or take the lies that the Bush administration told about Iraq having "weapons of mass destruction," which some now cite as "precedent" for the U.S. lying about Assad using chemical weapons.

There are two false assumptions that have developed in recent years about the big WMD lie.

The first is that most people were tricked by the lie into supporting the war. In fact, the U.S. population was pretty much split down the middle, and the protests against the Iraq invasion before it happened were some of the largest in U.S. history. Like killer cops, the Bush administration went to war with Iraq not because they were able to fool us, but because they had the power to disregard popular will.

The second myth is that the WMD lie was essential for the war. In fact, it wasn't necessarily the belief in WMDs that led people to support the invasion, but the other way around. Just as people who want to drill for more oil find a way to not believe in climate change, people who wanted the invasion to happen convinced themselves that Saddam Hussein had his finger on the button of an arsenal of WMDs.

As for our side, while we certainly didn't believe the Bush's lies--especially when they were contradicted by the person charged with inspecting Iraq for WMDs--many of us wouldn't have been surprised to learn that Iraq did indeed hide chemical or biological weapons. After all, the U.S. had considered Saddam Hussein an ally until he became an enemy.

Our opposition to the war wasn't based on believing that Iraq didn't have WMDs, but on the anti-imperialist understanding that the United States isn't a force that would protect the world from those weapons.

Similarly today, opposing the U.S. waging war on the Syrian government doesn't require us to believe the Assad regime didn't carry out the recent poison gas attack (which it almost certainly did)--any more than protesting the Ferguson police murder of Mike Brown required us to know that Brown hadn't first robbed cigarillos from a convenience store (which he almost certainly didn't.)

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THE LEFT that needs to grow into a force that can challenge Donald Trump has to be one that doesn't create its own alternative facts to fit into our alternative politics. On the contrary, we have to do our best to gather and interpret new information from all available sources in order to keep up our understanding of a constantly changing world.

This dynamism is another element of our political framework, and it's admittedly more complicated than simply trusting what the leaders of protest movements say more than governments. Assessing the changes in inter-imperial rivalries and the competing political tendencies inside opposition movements is not an exact science, and it requires a willingness to debate and change one's mind.

But there's a basic outline for understanding the U.S. role in the Middle East that's clear. For years after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. goal was regime change to install puppet governments across the region. Those plans were laid to waste, first by the failed occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan and then by the 2011 Arab Spring rebellions, which turned "regime change" into a revolutionary demand that the U.S. government instinctively opposed.

That's why the Obama administration was very cautious about backing rebels in Syria even as Assad turned the country into a killing field that sprouted both ISIS and a mass exodus of refugees to the surrounding region and some to Europe. And it's why Trump came into office talking even more openly about working with and not against the Syrian regime.

Yes, the U.S. government has lied to go to war, and it will undoubtedly do so in the future. But we can assume that it isn't lying about Assad's sarin attack, not because Trump of all people is a trustworthy president, but because he didn't want to go to war against Syria.

(Of course, reports like this New York Times article make it unclear if the Trump administration is even competent enough to know whether or not it's lying.)

Fifteen years ago, the 9/11 conspiracy cult did damage, not good, to the antiwar cause, and more than a few decent leftists were sucked into the abyss of all-night Internet sleuthing and "you must be in on it, too" paranoia.

Their problem wasn't that they were wrong that the U.S. government was probably hiding details about 9/11--like the involvement of Saudi Arabia. The problem was the illusion that if only they could uncover the "truth" and bring the conspiracy to light, we could get back to the normal decency of American capitalism and empire.

Today, it's critical that the left exposes Trump's lies, rather than counter them with our own. Otherwise, instead of winning millions of new people to our side, we'll just add to the general cynicism that you can't trust anything you read anywhere.

Categories: Political Action

Where will France end up after the election?

Socialist Worker - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 01:00

The first round of France's presidential election will take place April 23, and the traditional parties that have dominated the country's politics for decades are being eclipsed in the polls with the surge of Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front and newcomer Emmanuel Macron, a slick, young center-right neoliberal who is running as an independent.

The election is taking place in the context of the rise of right-wing populism around the world, which is helping to propel Le Pen. But in France, there is a left beyond the center-left Socialist Party, which has been thoroughly discredited after five years running a government that has continued austerity and anti-labor legislation. Support for the Socialist candidate has cratered, but Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a former candidate of the Left Front who is running this time as a left-wing independent, has emerged as a surprise contender for the presidency among four candidates who are each getting around 20-25 percent support in polls.

In an interview for Jacobin, Sebastian Budgen--an editor for Verso Books, contributing editor at Jacobin and editorial board member of Historical Materialism--talked to Suzi Weissman about the political and economic situation and Mélenchon's challenge.

French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Pierre-Selim | flickr)

LET'S BEGIN with the presidential campaign. Can you give us the political and economic context?

POLITICALLY, THE situation is one of crisis. Deep crisis. The two historic blocs that alternated power in France in the Fifth Republic since the early 1960s, the parties of the center-right and the party of the center-left that is sometimes aligned with parties to the left of it, such as the Communist Party or the Greens--those two blocs are deeply fissured and disintegrating. It's quite possible that out of the result of these elections, there may be very little left of these traditional parties.

This vacuum has caused new forces, or rejuvenated older forces, to enter the scene. The force that is of course the best known outside of France is the National Front (FN, by its initials in French), which is a far-right party that has changed its image and language, but is still a far-right party. The FN is very high in the polls, with the highest poll rating at the moment for the first round. There are two rounds of voting: the first round in April, then a runoff between the two highest candidates in May. It is extremely likely that Marine Le Pen, the leader of the FN, will be one of the two candidates in the runoff.

THIS IS quite unusual. We've seen other electoral upsets around the world--say, SYRYZA in Greece and Podemos in Spain, parties that formerly either didn't exist or could not have contested the main political parties, but are now frontrunners. Is this a new situation for France in that regard?

ABSOLUTELY, YES. France is catching up with some of the countries of the south of Europe inasmuch as there is a complete implosion of the center parties, and the parties on the far right and the far left have new space to grow and to organize.

The vacuum is being filled on one hand by the National Front on the far right, and on the left, in a much more fragmented scene, but clearly dynamic campaign being run by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is to the left of the Socialist Party.

It is a political crisis, and obviously also in the context of very low economic growth, high levels of unemployment and austerity, and, recently, big social conflicts over labor law reforms. It is also a moral or political legitimacy crisis. There is an extremely deep distrust of the political class by the vast majority of the population, and there is an extremely high level of uncertainty about how people are going to vote. A third of voters still say they don't know who they want to vote for, which is unusual for French standards at this late stage in the election. It's quite possible there will also be a high level of abstention.

So there is a four-pronged crisis: a political crisis, a social crisis, an economic crisis, and a kind of moral crisis.

THESE SPECTACULAR strikes, blockades and demonstrations, notably Nuit Debout, really rocked the world's stage, but especially the French stage, just one year ago. Can you describe the shift in that period? Is it because of the terrorist attacks that things moved, or the worsening economic situation, or the rise of populists elsewhere? Or is it something else?

THE TERRORIST attacks happened before the spring protests. They happened in January (Charlie Hebdo) and then November 2015, so before the spring protests against the labor law reforms. Since then, the whole political situation has been polarized in both directions--both a "law and order" direction and a "state of emergency" kind of direction, and fortunately also in the other direction around social conflicts, but it's really been pulling in both ways.

This is all in the context of a François Hollande government that was elected [in 2012] with a certain degree of enthusiasm, or at least relief, by many French voters. The Hollande government wasn't promising enormous reforms but was claiming that it was going to rein in the power of finance, was going to fight for greater social equality, and would generally be a more reasonable and less embarrassing kind of government than the Sarkozy government.

It has proved to be quite the opposite--it has proved to be a completely incompetent government which has failed in all of its social promises and actually pushed very aggressive neoliberal reforms that a right-wing government wouldn't have been able to push through and which is also involved in many war zones now in Africa and the Middle East.

There is a great deal of disillusion with the political process as a whole. The far right has been growing consistently--there have been ups and downs, but the trend has been upward for the last 15 years. So this is no surprise. It is clearly a protest vote against what is seen as "the establishment."

It is similar to what has happened in the United States; people have voted out of disgust, of outrage, of wishing to shake things up.

HOW WOULD you describe Marine Le Pen's political stance? It seems an almost working-class program--one that is anti-austerity and supports the welfare state. It's not the kind of right-wing populism that we see elsewhere.

IN THE 1980s, under Marine Le Pen's father's leadership, the FN was very pro-Reagan, neoliberal, pro-Europe, against trade unions. All this was in accord with the traditional base of the FN, which was its petit bourgeoisie, the lower middle class, which believed that by stripping the state of its present obesity, the market would be freed up.

That base is regionally specific; it's strong in southern France, partly because of the presence of French white people who fled North Africa when Algeria gained independence after the Second World War and continue to be pretty right wing, especially on questions of immigration.

Now, the discourse has radically shifted. The FN under Marine Le Pen is pro-welfare state, anti-austerity, anti-what they call "ultra-liberalism," anti-"globalism." This has been successful in picking out votes among traditional working-class areas in the north of France. Generally they've picked up voters from the right-wing, working-class vote. They have picked up some former left voters, too, but there is also a very high degree of abstention in working-class areas. Workers who do vote are voting overwhelmingly for Marine Le Pen and the National Front.

IS THERE a strong anti-immigrant stance that complements Le Pen's defense of the welfare state?

LE PEN is combining the notion that France needs to protect itself from globalization, from "ultra-liberalism," from the globalized elite, and needs to engage in a protectionist, national-centered form of development, which defends the welfare state, with the notion that immigration needs to be radically reduced. They then ally that with the notion that within France itself, the problem isn't just immigration, but radical Islam or what they call "communitarianism" around Muslim communities, which are supposedly not integrating themselves into French culture.

All these things are linked together in a quite effective and shrewd way, and it is presented as a program to defend the common people.

WHAT ABOUT the position of "Frexit," the French exit from the eurozone. Is that very important in this election?

LE PEN says that if she wins the election, she will call a referendum on exiting the euro, and probably also the European Union, and she claims that she will accept the result whatever it turns out to be. The working-class part of her electoral base is probably quite favorable to that, the more petty bourgeois base less so--they think it's too "left wing" and are quite worried about Frexit and obviously would upset French capital enormously, it is a theme she is not putting forward consistently but it is one of her programmatic planks.

WHAT HAPPENED to Fillon? And what does Macron stand for?

FRANÇOIS FILLON was the surprise winner of the center-right primary. Most people thought that the primary would be a runoff between Nicolas Sarkozy, the previous president, and Alain Juppé, who was the prime minister under Jacques Chirac and presented a more traditional, moderate, center-right image.

In fact, neither of them won, and François Fillon, the third man in the campaign, won with an overwhelming surprise victory on an extremely radical program of massive cuts to the welfare state and massive changes to labor law regulations and working hours conditions. It was an extremely radical, neoliberal victory.

But he has plunged now in the polls because of the number of scandals that he has been implicated in, involving him employing his wife fictitiously as a parliamentary assistant, various scandals with suits that were given to him by rich businessmen who were clearly trying to get favors. His whole image which distinguished him from Sarkozy was that he was a guy on the right but who had integrity, wasn't dishonest, was somebody who was going to represent the traditional French bourgeoisie. He's been discredited by these scandals.

His initial electoral program wasn't going to be a real winner for the election anyway, though, because there's not a lot of enthusiasm in France for attacks on the welfare state and on social security.

On the other side of the traditional spectrum, the center-left, the Socialist Party has also plunged into the depths with a surprise winner of the primary process. Benoît Hamon comes from the left of the party, won the primary process against Manuel Valls (the former prime minister). Hamon is very much a left-wing Socialist Party figure, but has been completely dropped and stabbed in the back by the traditional leadership of the Socialist Party, who many assume are going over to join Emmanuel Macron.

THE HOLLANDE government came to power on an anti-austerity plank, then proceeded to announce this new neoliberal labor legislation that provoked a giant surge of demonstrations that seemed to unite not just young people and traditional trade unionists but most of the working class. How are those protests reflected in these candidates?

THE HOLLANDE government made a number of very stupid mistakes by, first of all, giving enormous tax breaks out to the employer class, then opening a whole debate about stripping citizens of their French nationality if they were guilty of terrorist attacks, which opened a whole debate about dual French citizenship, which is considered a problem by many people on the left. And then there were these labor-law reforms that provoked enormous protests.

In the process of taking all these measures, a minority within the Socialist Party, the so-called "frondeurs," constituted itself and started voting consistently against the government in the parliament, becoming something of a pebble in the shoe of the government. And Benoît Hamon, who was minister for the first couple of years of the Hollande government, resigned as minister, became a key figure among opposition MPs, and campaigned in the primary process largely against the Socialist Party government.

He won the primary process in a quite surprising way. Everybody was expecting, according to normal equations, that Manuel Valls, former prime minister, would win on a kind of strongman ticket: strong against terrorism, identification with law and order. He was roundly beaten by Benoît Hamon, who was able to outflank him--not only by criticizing the Socialist Party government's record but also putting forward new themes, such as universal basic income (UBI) and arguing that we need to think about economic growth and employment in new ways. He enthused a whole layer of the Socialist Party electorate, especially the young people.

IS UBI a theme that is being expressed generally in the election or just by Hamon?

IT'S A theme that has imposed itself on the political debate. In the candidates' TV debate, UBI was criticized by all the other candidates. It's clearly identified with Hamon. It has a limited purchase, because it essentially appeals to younger people. Hamon also took a quite brave position, at least for French standards, rejecting Islamophobia and the exploitation of state secularism as a way of harassing and oppressing Muslims.

Hamon was able to carve out a niche for himself as somebody who was new and fresh, and who wasn't tainted by his association with the Hollande government.

IT LOOKS like the polls are showing a surprising surge for Macron. What are his views?

MACRON IS a kind of empty figure. But as an empty figure, he is a good representation of the vacuum that has emerged in French politics with the corruption of the two traditional poles. He is a very young candidate, 39. He studied philosophy, then he was the assistant of Paul Ricœur, the French philosopher. Then, after going to the elite public administration training school, the ENA, he moved into investment banking for a couple of years for Rothschild's bank and made a lot of money. Then he became an adviser to Hollande, associated with neoliberal figures such as Jacques Attali, and then minister of the economy, and then resigned a few months ago.

Macron is a very slick character. He reminds me of Tony Blair in his early days: quite attractive, doesn't seem to be aggressive, doesn't seem to be carrying any deep personal issues unlike some of the candidates. But he has a completely empty discourse. He is clearly a neoliberal. He is openly in favor of neoliberal reforms. He claims not to be of the left or the right, but wants to take good ideas from both sides. He makes me think of an automaton, a robot constructed in a laboratory to look like a pleasant human being, but something is not quite right.

In the first televised presidential debate, he had some well-delivered lines, but they meant nothing. They were completely empty of any content--except when he's talking about the neoliberal economic reforms that he wants to put forward. He has a very strong commitment to the European Union and to maintaining all the European Union's constraints on government spending and policy.

IT SOUNDS like he's the kind of figure that we're used to seeing these days--an empty suit perhaps. But the Financial Times says that Macron is advocating a Nordic-style economic model for France, "mixing more moderate spending cuts of $64.3 billion over five years with a $53.6 stimulus package over the same period, lower taxes, and an extension of the welfare state." You've said that he is well within the neoliberal political-economic world. Is Macron doing well in the polls because people are worried about the other two extremes?

FIRST, HE is a neoliberal candidate--he is not a Scandinavian-style social democrat, whatever the Financial Times might say. Fillon is the neoliberal candidate with a snarl, and Macron is the neoliberal candidate with a smile.

The cuts and reforms he is proposing are less severe, less radical than those proposed by Fillon, he claims that in return there will be some version of "flexisecurity" or this or that kind of compensation, but they are neoliberal reforms. Nobody doubts that at all.

Why is he so popular? First, because he is not a politician. He is a non-politician politician. He has never been elected, his membership of the Socialist Party was extremely brief, evanescent one might say. He was never seen at any meetings and never participated in the internal life of the party in any serious way. He is "from civil society." Those who support him see him as someone fresh, somebody who is not tainted by the incompetence and corruption of the traditional political class.

Secondly, those who are in favor of neoliberal reforms think that perhaps he will sweep away the resistance in a way that the traditional parties of the right or the left can't do any more. He claims he will have a cabinet full of entrepreneurs, people from civil society, and representatives of both the right and the left.

It's a kind of wet dream of those who want to explode the party system, get rid of the left-right division in French politics, move towards some kind of consensual "extreme center"-type politics, without having to deal with parties.

Success is also breeding success at the moment. He's imposed himself on the scene as this new force who has filled this vacuum, as they say, produced by the corruption of the right and left poles. Things may change in the next few weeks, but at the moment, he seems like the person who would be facing off against Marine Le Pen in the second round. So now there's a whole argument about whether it's a wasted vote, to vote for Benoît Hamon or any other candidate, given that the key issue is to keep Marine Le Pen out of the Élysée Palace. So that kind of self-fulfilling prophecy aspect has also been at work.

LET'S TALK about the left challenge. Where does Mélenchon stand politically? How did he relate to the wave of protests last year?

JEAN-LUC Mélenchon was, in his youth, a Trotskyist, and he then joined the Socialist Party in the 1970s. He was one of the youngest senators for the Socialist Party. He was very close initially to François Mitterrand--he still sees Mitterrand as a kind of political hero. But he was on the left of the party consistently through the 1980s and 1990s, in the minority of the party.

The shift really happened for him in 2005, during the campaign against the European Constitutional Treaty--which was proposing to "constitutionalize" the European Union's neoliberal direction, for example by putting front and center the notion of "free and unfettered competition in the market"--which was supported by both the right and the Socialist Party. The entire economic, political, and media elite campaigned for a vote for the European Constitutional Treaty. There was a popular campaign against it, which was successful in the end.

Mélenchon was involved in this campaign, and I think he saw the possibility finally for life outside the Socialist Party after many decades of being inside trapped within it. He left the SP a couple of years later to create his own formation, called the Left Party, then hooked up with the Communist Party and some other forces to create what was known as the Left Front. He ran in 2012 on this platform and got a very respectable result of 11 percent, some 4 million votes.

Currently, there are two radical-left milieux. There is the Left Front, which is an electoral front that brought together the Communist Party, the Left Party, a number of former members of the New Anticapitalist Party, and some other smaller groups. (In practice, the Left Front has now been outflanked by the Podemos-style formation created by Mélenchon without his former partners for this election--La France Insoumise (Unbowed France). And then there are the various far-left groups such as Lutte Ouvrière (Workers' Struggle), the New Anticapitalist Party and so on.

But from the mid-1970s onwards, Mélenchon never had anything to do with these latter groups, so he can't be seriously described as being "far left." He describes himself as a republican socialist, very much identifying with Mitterrand and the traditional left current within the Socialist Party. But he is an interesting candidate because he is extremely effective debater and orator. He can also be wickedly funny, and he has much greater cultural range than any of the other candidates, he is highly cultivated person--indeed, he happily describes himself as an "intellectual"--and he has a political vision which is much more ambitious than anybody else on the left.

There are a number of things that are highly problematic with his political vision--but one cannot deny that it's a very complex vision about geopolitics, about ecology, about the constitution. He wants to call a constituent assembly that would then institute a new "Sixth Republic"--namely a new constitutional arrangement that would break completely with the "presidential monarchical" system introduced by De Gaulle in 1958 and which is highly centralized, personalized and undemocratic, in favor of a parliamentary system with greater democratic control over the people's representatives--and then he claims he would resign from the presidency once that was instituted by referendum.

He has a very complex and rich political program which is much more impressive and deeply thought through than any of the other left candidates.

HOW EXACTLY would you characterize it?

IT'S LEFT social democratic, but it's left social democratic that's able to hitch onto new themes.

For example on ecology, he has engaged in a whole mea culpa about his former left identity being tied to notions of endless growth and productivism. Now he's put forward this clever idea of what he calls ecological planning, which brings together the left's theme of planning and the notion of ecology, saying that only by planning can ecological dangers be addressed in a systematic and realistic way. He wants to introduce into the constitution a "green rule," which means that no resources can be taken from the Earth that cannot be replaced.

He's also able to hitch onto some questions about gender politics. He is very active and popular on social media, and his enthusiasm for new technology has led him to use holograms so that he can address several mass meetings simultaneously across the country!

It is traditional, left social democracy in some ways, but it's been able to renew itself with new themes and new forms of communication.

HE'S POLLING at 20 percent today, which in American terms, would be quite significant.

HIS CAMPAIGN is extremely effective. In the political debates, everybody thought he was the best or tied with Marine le Pen. The way he refused to just come out with rote responses and made jokes at the expense of other candidates was extremely effective. (At one point, Le Pen accused him of talking like a Robespierre, and he fired back that he didn't take that as an insult.) There is a real dynamic momentum in his campaign at the moment.

However, there are lots of important criticisms that one can make of both his political stance on numerous questions and his modus operandi as a politician. The campaign he is conducting this election is quite different from the campaign he conducted in 2012, for at least one important feature.

In 2012, he was campaigning under the banner of the Left Front. Mélenchon was the presidential candidate of the Front. For this campaign in 2017, he has created a completely new organization called La France Insoumise, "Unbowed France" or "Nonsubmissive France." He is the candidate of this almost structureless organization.

He has now left behind the Left Party, his own party. This is a much more personalized campaign than in 2012, and this tyranny of structurelessness that he has created reproduces a lot of highly problematic features, namely a campaign focusing on one charismatic figure and a lack of democratic structures for building grassroots organizations.

The campaign is being conducted in a different style as well. That's not necessarily all bad, but there are some real limitations to his campaign.

The other criticisms one could make are much longer-standing ones of his political perspective. Jean-Luc Mélenchon has described himself as a republican socialist, and he takes that definition very seriously. He identifies the new Sixth Republic he wants to realize and the social project behind him as a kind of continuation of the French republican tradition going back to the French Revolution.

Of course there are lots of positive features about the French republican tradition, but there is also a dark side of complicity in colonialism, in colonial massacres, and the exclusion of all sorts of groups which he doesn't really face up to.

So there is an idealization of the republican tradition within his political thought, which means, on questions like race and religion, he takes a very abstract universalist position, which seems fine on face value. When you dig deeper, it's actually a complete refusal to take seriously questions of the racialization of whole populations of North African origin in France, or Islamophobia.

And he is very strongly identified with a laïcité state-secularist position, which he claims is evenhanded against the Catholic Church, Islam, and other religions. But it's not the Catholic Church that is suffering from oppression--it's Muslims.

There is a real problem with his very stubborn refusal to take seriously the question of Islamophobia and racism, which is in contrast to how he has progressed on a number of different issues, like ecology, trans issues, and lots of other issues related to what used to be called the new social movements. On Islamophobia, he just refuses to integrate it at all.

And then there is the fact that he identifies with the French state in every aspect. He really sees the French state in its republican form as defending the common interests of humanity. On one philosophical level, this is a sort of extension of the French Revolution's emancipatory gesture, but it also translates into an identification with the French state in its actual repressive form.

So he's very complimentary about the police, about the French army, including its role in different military fronts that François Hollande opened up. The grandiosity of his discourse about France being a strong power which needs to assert itself is positive in the sense that he wants it to assert itself independently from the United States, he wants France to pull out from NATO, but there is still identification with what is basically the legacy of French imperialism.

He is quite cautious not to apologize for French colonial crimes. He doesn't identify with French colonialism, but he doesn't want to apologize for them, either. He wants to have it both ways.

This identification with the French state, with its power, with its ability to position itself on the world stage and so on, is really quite problematic because it means that he cannot develop an independent left foreign policy that doesn't take some very bad geopolitical positions, which verge towards apologias for certain regimes.

THERE HAVE been rumors of an alliance or a vote-sharing pact between Hamon and Mélenchon. Can you talk about that?

THAT'S EXTREMELY unlikely. I think there are various people on the left who would like one of them to pull out of the race in the interests of having a united left vote. But that doesn't mean there would necessarily be a higher likelihood of the candidate getting through to the runoff, as you can't count on the votes transferring smoothly from one to the other candidate. It's an extremely unlikely scenario.

Mélenchon is certainly not going to withdraw his candidacy. He started his campaign a year ago, and it has the most momentum. Hamon will only withdraw if his campaign collapses completely. He is certainly declining rapidly at the moment, but it is extremely unlikely [he will withdraw] because it would really spell out a suicide note by the Socialist Party.

DOES MÉLENCHON have a critique of the eurozone's policy on deficit spending?

HE HAS made a lot of progress since 2012 on this issue as he now participates in a number of conferences across Europe for a "Plan B for Europe." If he is elected, he will argue with Germany to try and change the criteria for the European treaties to allow for deficit spending and other things. But he has a Plan B in his back pocket. He is not going to the table naked as the Greeks did, and, if resisted, some kind of exit from the euro would be argued for.

He thinks there is a Plan A, which is disobey the treaties and try to get them changed, and a Plan B, which is, should that fail, a left Frexit strategy would have to be put on a table through a referendum.

SINCE YOU characterize Macron as someone from the mainstream right, it may end up that the two top candidates come from the right. The left, even though it has significant support, may not be present in the runoff. How does this first round and second round work in France?

THERE WILL be a first round on April 23 from which the top two candidates will then move to the second round on May 7. The key problem for the left in the first round is that it's divided. There are four candidates representing the left--two small candidates have the far left, plus the Socialist Party candidate, plus Jean-Luc Mélenchon. And if there was any one candidate for the left, it's quite possible it would make it to the second round. But that is not how things worked out, so the left vote is divided. It's quite likely that the left will not make it to the second round, although Mélenchon has experienced a big spurt in the polls very recently.

So the key question will not be who makes it through to the second round, but what the exact placing will be, whether Jean-Luc Mélenchon will beat this Socialist Party candidate to become the fourth or perhaps even third best-placed candidate. That would be an enormous event in terms of French politics and would probably spell the end for the French Socialist Party.

IF THE second round has two candidates from the right and none from the left, that is, the center-right Macron stands against the right-wing populist Le Pen, what's at stake if Le Pen wins?

ALL BETS are off in such a scenario. It would depend on whether she got a majority in the legislative elections, which are a month later, in June. That's extremely unlikely, so you might get a situation where she's elected president but doesn't have a majority in the National Assembly. Then you would have some complex process where perhaps the spectrum of the right would want to try and do a deal with her, to pass certain measures, at least.

YOU'RE STARTING to make it sound very much like the Trump administration and the hard right of the Republican Party.

IT WOULD certainly split the right-wing parties and probably lead to the end of them, too.

In terms of the measures, it shouldn't be forgotten that she still represents a far-right force; she is still very close to a number of open neo-fascists. The National Front controls its members in terms of their violence toward immigrants or leftists, but it is clear that many of them are straining at the leash. A lot would depend on the response to such an eventuality. Would people be so cowed and depressed by the result that they would not react? Or would it lead to a massive upsurge against the far right, leading to a potentially insurrectionary situation, with occupations, blockades, general strikes?

The whole gamut of possibilities is open. Even if she doesn't win this time around--if Macron wins and pushes through his neoliberal reforms--he will simply be warming the seat for her in 2022.

IF MACRON wins, it would be a continuation of the status quo, but a little bit further to the right. Given the situation of the economy that you've described, and the discontent brewing throughout society, what would happen if he became president of France?

HE WOULD want to push through his neoliberal reforms in a much more consistent and unhesitating way than previous governments have done. He would do it with this appearance of novelty, this appearance of openness, this appearance of somehow breaking with the system.

He has positioned himself as an anti-system candidate, which is very ironic given his social background and his political positioning. Again, everything would depend on the level of resistance. Would these lead to a situation where everybody was conned into believing that it is going to be a better situation? Or would it lead to a federation of the radical left, and the trade unions to oppose him at every step?

The most optimistic and the most pessimistic predictions are allowed at this point.

First published at Jacobin.

Categories: Political Action

ICE grabs another victim in Maine

Socialist Worker - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 01:00

Adam Marletta reports from Portland, Maine, on another story of ICE on the rampage.

Left: Abdi Ali; right: the Portland court building where he was arrested

THE PLIGHT of Abdi Ali reads like something straight out of Franz Kafka's The Trial, the famous novel about faceless authority and unaccountable repression.

Ali, a 28-year-old Somali immigrant, was abruptly arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on April 6, during a court hearing at the Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland, Maine.

Ali was being arraigned on an OUI (operating while under the influence) charge, to which he pleaded not guilty, when three ICE agents burst into the courtroom and "grabbed him, pushed him against the wall and roughly handcuffed him before walking him out of the court," according to the report of the Bangor Daily News.

The incident left Ali's lawyer, Tina Heather Nadeau, who was advising him on the drunk-driving charge, dumbstruck--and more than a little unnerved. She told the Bangor Daily News that she has "never seen this in Maine" before. "It is very disturbing that someone coming to the courthouse for his scheduled court date and to get legal counsel is being dragged out in handcuffs," Nadeau said.

Ali is currently being held in the Cumberland County Jail. He lives in Westbrook with his fiancée, Melissa Hair, and her three children.

Further contributing to the absurdity of Ali's ordeal is the fact that he isn't undocumented. Ali is a permanent resident of the U.S. and has lived in Portland for 20 years. His family fled war-torn Somalia in 1996, when he was only 7 years old.

While Ali and Hair acknowledge his troubled past and several felony convictions, the Daily News account of his arrest notes that he has "straightened out his life" in recent years, holding down a steady job and becoming close with Hair's children.

A spokesman for ICE maintains that Ali "resisted arrest, both verbally and physically," but Nadeau denies this.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

ICE IS typically prohibited from arresting people in "sensitive locations," including schools, hospitals, places of worship and courthouses. But as Lucian Villasenor pointed out last month at SocialistWorker.org, Donald Trump's escalated crackdown on immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, has granted ICE agents significantly expanded authority in who they round up and how.

Though ICE has claimed in the past to limit its focus to criminals, under the Trump administration, the agency has been given free rein to cast as a wide net, targeting individuals convicted of misdemeanors or other petty crimes.

In some cases, the individuals ICE rounds up have not actually been charged with a crime--since agents are now empowered under a Trump executive order to detain and deport people they deem to be a "risk to public safety or national security," regardless of whether they have been formally accused of any crime.

At a rally for Portland's immigrant community, Carlos, the Maine coordinator for the immigrant rights group Cosecha, said: "We're living in a very dangerous moment right now. ICE's abduction [of Ali] is not an isolated incident. The immigrant community is in a lot of danger, right now."

The newly formed Maine branch of Cosecha is the newest chapter of the nationwide immigrant advocacy group. Cosecha is calling for a national immigrant strike to coincide with May Day.

Ali's arrest confirms the suspicions of activists here that ICE is maintaining an active presence in Maine. The incident comes on the heels of a similar ICE raid in Vermont last month, where agents arrested three prominent immigrant labor activists. As Steve Ramey made clear in a SocialistWorker.org article on the case, the activists' arrest seemed to have more to do with their involvement in labor organizing than their immigration status.

The message Trump is sending to immigrant communities throughout the country is obvious: "Securing our borders" means keeping them free for capital to exploit workers and reap massive profits. It has nothing to do with deporting dangerous criminals.

Ali is grief-stricken at the thought of being deported back to Somalia, which is currently enduring deadly violence from the conflict between the government and the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab. Severe famine and drought have also left much of the country at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations.

While Carlos acknowledged the fear many immigrants have of speaking out or joining protests of ICE raids, he nonetheless insists that only an organized and determined left can bring safety and dignity to the nation's 11 million undocumented workers.

"I believe that because you're scared, it should give you more power to fight back," he said. "The fact is you need me. You need my labor and services. And I think somebody needs to have the courage to step forward and almost make a sacrifice for the community."

Categories: Political Action

Why capitalism clings to fossil fuels

Socialist Worker - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 01:00

The hopeful predictions that a new era of renewable energy is here are dangerously premature, writes James Plested in an article written for Australia's Red Flag.

WHO CAN forget the image? George W. Bush's stupid, blank face staring out across the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln under a giant banner emblazoned with the words "Mission accomplished."

The date was May 1, 2003--a little over a month after the U.S. launched its invasion of Iraq--and Bush was there to declare an end to major combat operations. As it turned out, this was somewhat premature.

Today, the environment movement seems to be having a "mission accomplished" moment of its own. With the price of renewables such as solar in free fall and new battery technology coming online, many environmentalists are sounding the death knell of fossil fuels.

A recent article by Australia Institute strategist Dan Cass in Meanjin, titled "The Sun Rises: The democratization of solar energy might change everything," makes the case. The cost of solar power has decreased to the point where it's now as cheap as, or cheaper than, coal or gas. "As late as 2007", he writes, "Australia had only about 8,000 solar systems in total. As of June 1, 2016, there were more than 1,548,345."

Globally, it's a similar story. According to a Frankfurt School of Finance and Management report, in 2015, for the first time, renewables made up the majority of newly built electricity-generation capacity. Investment in renewable energy, at $265.8 billion, was more than double the $130 billion invested in fossil fuel power generation.

Cass declares that "renewables have won the energy wars." Crucially, he argues, this isn't happening because of government intervention, but is in line with "capitalism as usual":

Consumers are rushing to a new technology that saves them money. Capital is flowing to the next big thing. Conservative critics of clean energy can't quite admit it yet, but the rise of solar and the collapse of the old-energy utilities is "creative destruction." It is the Kodak moment for big energy.

According to this logic, we needn't worry too much about continuing with environmental campaigning. Naomi Klein was wrong. It's not, as she had it, "capitalism vs. the climate," but rather capitalism for the climate. Put simply, technological developments mean that, while it may not yet be apparent, fossil fuels are dead in the ground.

All this is very comforting for those of us who have been alarmed by the headlong rush of global capitalism toward climate catastrophe. But just as with George W. Bush's arrogant imperial overreach, this kind of triumphalism is unlikely to end well.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

WHEN IT comes to the environment, we would do well to adopt the motto of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci: "Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will." There are some reasons to be hopeful about the possible transition of the global energy system to renewables. It's clear that such a transition now makes perfect sense, not only from a moral and social standpoint, but also economically.

Unfortunately, in a chaotic, irrational system like capitalism, making sense doesn't count for much. And contrary to the comforting arguments of Cass and others, there's ample reason to think that relying on "market forces" to drive the change is a recipe for disaster.

Despite recent gains, renewables still make up only a small fraction of global energy production. Electricity generated from renewable sources (excluding hydro) made up just 7 percent of the global total in 2015. Fossil fuels accounted for 80 percent. Even if investment in renewables continues to grow at its current rate, progress toward a new energy system will be slow. Given the mounting evidence of the damage already being done by global warming, that's something we can ill afford.

Then there's the continuing power and influence of the fossil fuel industries. Cass' "Kodak moment" reference is cute. But to compare the situation facing big energy today to that of camera and film companies overtaken by digitization is to understate massively its centrality to the capitalist system globally.

It's not just that big energy has captured politicians, who might easily be won away from them if only there was a crackdown on corporate "dark money." It's that in many countries, the capitalist state is dependent on fossil fuels--most obviously as a source of revenue, but more importantly as a means to maintain their position in the competitive global scramble for economic and military power.

It might make sense, in the long run, for countries such as Australia and the U.S. to become global leaders in renewables--giving them genuine "energy independence" and creating new and potentially lucrative export industries. But capitalists don't look at the world in terms of what makes sense in the long run. What matters to them are the profits they're making today.

Maximizing profits means squeezing the most out of the resources at your disposal. This includes human and natural resources, as well as the productive infrastructure through which human labor is transformed into commodities for sale on global markets. And it means squeezing harder than your rivals.

In the case of both Australia and the U.S., fossil fuels are central to the productive infrastructure on which the wealth and power of their respective capitalist classes is based. Historically, a "cheap and easy" supply of energy sources such gas, coal and oil has boosted profits across the entire economy. Particularly in the context of the emergence of new global rivals such as China, this is a hard thing to give up on.

Donald Trump's recent executive order on "energy independence," which winds back restrictions on domestic fossil fuel production enacted under Obama, has commonly been referred to as a straightforward gift to U.S. mining and energy companies. There is an element of truth in that. But it's far from the whole story.

Breathing new life into U.S. fossil fuel production is part of Trump's broader project of putting "America first" and attempting to see off the challenge posed by the rise of China. In fact, Trump has framed the entire issue of climate change in terms of the U.S.-China rivalry. In 2012, for example, he tweeted, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

This is laughable. But it points to how a section of U.S. capital, personified by Trump, views the issue: not simply as a matter of the profits of the fossil fuel companies, but as something with ramifications for the economy as a whole and, by extension, the continued ability of the US to occupy top spot in the global imperialist pecking order.

Trump isn't alone among recent U.S. presidents in wanting to boost the U.S.'s global competitiveness by exploiting its untapped reserves of fossil fuels. Obama may have presented himself as an enlightened crusader for sustainability, but he presided over an unprecedented boom in U.S. oil and gas production--driven largely by the environmentally damaging technique of fracking.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THERE ARE other problems with relying on market forces to drive a "renewable revolution." One of those was highlighted in a recent issue of the Economist, under the tantalizing headline: "Clean energy's dirty secret."

This wasn't, as you might think, a form of clickbait for coal industry executives or Australian politicians looking for a "dirty" centerfold spread on how wind farms and solar panels are bad for the environment. As a mouthpiece for the liberal wing of the Anglo-American bourgeoisie, the Economist is prepared to admit the benefits of moving toward a decarbonized global economy.

The "dirty secret" is that renewables are too cheap. "It is no longer far-fetched," the magazine says, "to think that the world is entering an era of clean, unlimited and cheap power." There is, however, "a $20 trillion hitch":

To get from here to there requires huge amounts of investment over the next few decades...Normally investors like putting their money into electricity because it offers reliable returns. Yet green energy has a dirty secret. The more it is deployed, the more it lowers the price of power from any source.

The problem, in other words, is that the rise of renewables is making it more difficult for big energy companies to make the kind of profits they're accustomed to. The Economist argues that this will create a drag on investment and make the transition to a sustainable energy system impossible without direct government intervention: "Theoretically, if renewables were to make up 100 percent of the market, the wholesale price of electricity would fall to zero, deterring all new investment that was not completely subsidized."

Cass is right on one point. If we sit back and let the market rip, the rise of renewables could propel us into a situation of "creative destruction" in our energy systems. Contrary to what he implies, however, this isn't something to be welcomed.

Big energy will not allow its profits to be whittled away. It will fight tooth and nail to stop the further deployment of renewables. And to the extent that they fail in this endeavor and profits begin to suffer because of it, companies will attempt to make up the shortfall by squeezing more out of their existing, creaky infrastructure and charging us more.

In his rush to declare "mission accomplished," Cass doesn't give much attention to this side of the equation.

The rise of renewables is cause for hope. But the triumphalism of Cass and others--their confidence that we can sit back and let the market do its work--is a recipe for disaster.

Now more than ever, we need to fight. We need to fight to challenge and disrupt the continuing power of the fossil fuel industry in the global economy and in politics. And we need to fight for an energy system that centers on human need, rather than private profit--one that can utilize the very latest in renewable technology to provide a cheap and reliable supply of energy to the benefit of all.

First published at Red Flag.

Categories: Political Action

AFSC PowerPoint presentation for yearly and monthly meetings

American Friends Service Committee - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 15:41
Sanctuary Everywhere march in Philadelphia

Sanctuary Everywhere march in Philadelphia

Photo: Jeff Fazio/Jeff Fazio

This is a PowerPoint presentation with a script in the notes that can be used by Corporation members, staff, and others to present to Quaker bodies: yearly meetings, monthly meetings, and other Quaker spaces. One version has slides reflecting the past and present of AFSC, the other version includes AFSC's Centennial video.

Categories: Political Action

The Bill of Rights at the Border: Fifth Amendment Protections for Account Passwords and Device Passcodes

Deep Links - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 14:35

This is the third and final installment in our series on the Constitution at the border. Today, we’ll focus on the Fifth Amendment and passwords. Click here for Part 1 on the First Amendment or Part 2 on the Fourth Amendment.

Lately, a big question on everyone's mind has been: Do I have to give my password to customs agents?

As anyone who’s ever watched any cop show knows, the Fifth Amendment gives you the right to remain silent and to refuse to provide evidence against yourself – even at the border. If a CBP agent asks you a question, you can tell them you choose to remain silent and want to speak to an attorney, even if you don’t have one retained yet. That choice may not stop CBP agents from pressuring you to “voluntarily” talk to them, but they are supposed to stop questioning you once you ask for a lawyer. Also, beware that government agents are permitted to lie to you in order to convince you to waive your right to remain silent, but you can be criminally prosecuted if you lie to them.

CBP agents are unlikely to advise you that you have this choice because the government generally argues that such warnings are only required if you are taken into “custody” and subjected to a criminal prosecution. And at least one federal court of appeals has determined that secondary inspection – the separate interview area you get referred to if the CBP officer can’t readily verify your information at the initial port of entry – doesn’t qualify as “custody.” 

But you don’t have to be in custody or subject to a criminal prosecution before you choose to invoke your Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent or to object to being deprived of your property without due process of law. For example, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a person’s request for an attorney is enough to invoke the privilege against self-incrimination, even at the border.

And that privilege includes refusing to provide the password to your device. For example, in 2015, a Pennsylvania court held that you may properly invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege to avoid giving up your cell phone passcode – even to an employer’s phone – because your passcode is personal in nature and producing it requires you to speak or testify against yourself. 

Some courts have been less protective, overriding Fifth Amendment protections where the information sought is a so-called “foregone conclusion.” In 2012, a Colorado court ordered a defendant to provide the password to her laptop, only after the government had obtained a search warrant based on the defendant’s admission that there was specific content on her laptop and that the laptop belonged to her. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit clarified that the government "must [first] show with some reasonable particularity that it seeks a certain file and is aware, based on other information, that . . . the file exists in some specified location" and that the individual has access to the desired file or is capable of decrypting it.

So, Fifth Amendment protections do apply at the border, and they protect your right to refuse to reveal your password in most circumstances. That said, individuals passing through the border sometimes choose to surrender their account information and passwords anyway, in order to avoid consequences like missing their flight, being made subject to more constrictive or prolonged detention, or being denied entry to the US.

As we have noted in our Digital Border Search Whitepaper, the consequences for refusing to provide your password(s) are different for different classes of individuals. If you are a U.S. citizen, CBP cannot detain you indefinitely as you have a right to re-enter the country. However, agents may escalate the encounter (for example, by detaining you for more time), or flag you for heightened screening during future border crossings. If you are a lawful permanent resident, agents may also raise complicated questions about your continued status as a resident. If you are a foreign visitor, agents might deny you entry to the country entirely.

But whatever your status, whether you choose to provide your passwords or not, border agents may decide to seize your digital devices. While CBP guidelines set a five-day deadline for agents to return detained devices unless a CBP supervisor approves a lengthier detention, in practice, device detentions commonly last many months.

As always, we want to hear from you if you experience harm or harassment from CBP for choosing to protect your digital data. We’re still collecting stories of border search abuses at: borders@eff.org

We recommend that you review our pocket guides for Knowing Your Rights and Protecting Your Digital Data Privacy at the border for a general overview or take a look at our Border Search Whitepaper for a deeper dive into the potential issues and questions you may face.

And join EFF in calling for stronger Constitutional protection for your digital information by contacting Congress on this issue today.

Related Cases: United States v. Saboonchi
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Categories: Political Action

Remixing Recipes and Sharing Spices when Virtually Connecting meets CC

Creative Commons - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 14:31

Listen to a recording of this post on Soundcloud

Food brings people together. Sharing favourite recipes and talking about interesting spices can open conversations. But it’s not the recipe or the spice that leaves a lasting impression. It’s the people that come together to share the meal. It’s going to be a global smorgasbord when the Creative Commons Global Summit comes to Toronto, April 28 to 30th. I’m looking forward to swapping some recipes and experiencing new spices while sharing about Virtually Connecting (VC).

#OpenEd16 Virtually Connecting
VC sessions from #OpenEd16
by Autumn, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

At the CC Global Summit there will be many opportunities to share the magic that happens within Virtually Connecting sessions in both physical and digital spaces. It’s an opportunity to bring people together in small groups to share ideas, experiences, feelings, connections between and among the formal conference sessions. These common ingredients often become remixed and cook up unexpected results. VC sessions range in format from hallway hangouts to conversations about conversations. However these sessions happen, it’s about the people at the table that makes the meal a memorable one. A list of the many VC sessions shared is found on the VC site.

Since I’m a relative newcomer to the Creative Commons (CC) neighbourhood, I’m looking forward to meeting new people and actively sharing my VC experiences. I’ll also be connecting with the VC community through conversations with people who are attending the summit. Since this is now a sold-out event, there’s an opportunity for those who can’t physically be present to engage in the conversations. VC sets the table and anyone can join the meal.

What will happen when Virtually Connecting meets CC?

Will new topics simmer while recipes are remixed? Will exciting flavours be exchanged? There’s a wealth of creativity in the common ground that food and cooking can bring. A meal together breaks down barriers and builds community – no telling where this can lead. Toronto and the CC Global Summit will have much to offer when VConnecting meets CC.

VC is centered on people, conversations, and topics that are open and invitational. These global campfire conversations are “motivated by a desire to improve the virtual conference experience for those who cannot be present at conferences for financial, logistical, social or health reasons.” (Virtually connecting web site). These video collaborations use Google hangout to connect people from the physical conference space to virtual participants who engage in live conversations. Check the VC website to see how it all started over two years ago and how it’s grown over time.

The aim of VC is to welcome and include while recognizing that these conference conversation experiences are bounded by time, space, access, technology, and by the availability of volunteers who can engage in these synchronous physical-with-virtual gatherings. Technology issues with hardware and software are often uncontrollable ingredients. Speakers, microphones, laptops, tablets, mobile technologies, and environmental locations become controlling factors in the quality and novelty of the conversational context.

#DigPed UMW
Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute University of Mary Washington 2016

The recipe for VC sessions is an ever-changing blend of ingredients. As master chefs are aware, it’s not the recipe that rules the outcome, but the serendipity of quality, quantity, diversity and novelty of ingredients that create the best dishes. While adding spices to the combinations, it’s the magic of the moment that determines the outcome. As it is with VC conversations, not all seasoning combinations work out well and the resulting flavours aren’t necessarily to everyone’s liking, but the lessons learned in the explorations are worth the efforts. When VConnecting meets CC at the Global Summit it’ll be less about reduction or intensifying discourse, and more about adding zest to the open dialogues.

The CC Global Summit will provide space and place for people from diverse neighbourhoods within the CC movement to engage openly in conversations of importance to the community. With there may be separate tracks for engagement at the summit, there’s potential for a rich diversity of flavours to add into the mix. VC will bring a metaphoric campfire to augment and spice up the conversations. With this shared collaboration in physical and digital spaces, VC and CC can create a savoury exchange of ideas, people and experiences. With the upcoming VC and CC interactions, I hope that some VC spice will leave a lasting, positive impression in the CC cooking pot. In return, I’m certain that CC experiences will flavour the meal for VC participants. The possibilities that can come from the CC Global Summit with a VC presence are potentially catalytic which hopefully will continue the remixing of recipes for both movements.

Virtually Connecting is ON!
George Station, Mia Zamora, Kate Green, and Christian Friedrich at DML Conference 2016
by Alan Levine Public Domain

You are welcome to join in these conversations and add your unique ingredients. The schedule of VC sessions happening at the CC Global Summit is posted on the Virtually Connecting site. If you are on-site at the summit, you are welcome to watch a session in action. When you’re ready, join into an event. If you can’t get to the CC Global Summit you can participate in a session virtually or watch live while it’s happening. Sessions will be recorded and can be viewed after the event. Send us a tweet @VConnecting or add a comment on the blog post to let us know you’re open to the opportunity. Please let us know how and when you’d like to join in.

So let’s get together in the kitchen and stir the pot a little! New spicy combinations will emerge.

The post Remixing Recipes and Sharing Spices when Virtually Connecting meets CC appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Dissent Made Meaningful

Deep Links - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 12:32

Over the last year, large numbers of Americans have grown politically active for the first time. Reflecting the depth of our constitutional crisis, however, many seem not to know how to meaningfully raise their voices or participate in the political process.

Civic Participation Beyond Elections

Turnout in American elections has remained abysmally low for decades, suggesting some degree of either apathy, suppression, or both. Even Americans who do vote often overlook a litany of further opportunities available to those who pursue them.

One source of guidance to many nascent activists has been the Indivisible guide, which emphasizes constituent communications to Members of Congress. It was compiled by congressional staffers whose suggestions aim to replicate the direct engagement of Congress successfully promoted by Tea Party networks that have shared EFF’s transpartisan concerns about, for instance, mass surveillance and the threat it poses to democracy.

To their credit, the Indivisible guide's authors acknowledge that their guide “is not a panacea, and it is not intended to stand alone.” While important, letters from individual constituents are most effective when combined with other strategies.

How to Make a Letter Matter

Contacting an elected member of Congress represents an important act of political expression. Even when taking the time to write letters, however, individual constituents can be disregarded, or engaged in passing without commanding attention. Many who do gain the attention of their elected representatives’ offices receive only a form response. 

Letters can, however, carry influence, particularly when they include:

  1. An explicit request or demand for a particular vote on a specific piece of proposed legislation,
  2. A request for a meeting in person, and
  3. Support from at least three (and ideally half a dozen to a dozen) neighbors who co-sign the letter, identify themselves as constituents living in that office's legislative district, and attend the meeting together.

Are you part of a community group that gathers to examine the issues and write letters together? Letter writing events can become infinitely more influential when participants simply sign each other's letters, so that they reflect—and are received as indicating—dissent not just by an individual, but rather by an organized group of constituents.

To expand its reach, a grassroots group can easily direct letters not only at its Member of the House of Representatives, but also two U.S. senators, as well as members of the state legislature. It takes only five people writing one letter each to meaningfully raise a shared concern across those layers of federal and state representation. 

Groups of more than five can also reach elected officials at the municipal and the county level, where policy opportunities are most fluid and potentially transformative.

Dissent in Public

Even letters written on behalf of groups remain generally private communications. Escalating pressure on elected representatives requires taking one's concerns to the public sphere.

One way to express public dissent is to write and submit an op-ed for publication in a local newspaper. Concise, persuasive, forceful writing of 700 words or fewer can often interest editors seeking commentary to share with a broad audience. Whether or not an op-ed submission is published by a newspaper, social media or outlets like Medium.com can offer an alternative platform for publication. Finally, groups of constituents can sometimes meet a newspaper's editorial board to educate editors who write their own columns.

Beyond press–based public dissent are any number of event–based alternatives, from expressive events like rallies, marches, and protests, to educational ones like teach ins, public discussions, or debates. Even seemingly recreational events like concerts or parties can prompt a public discourse if organized to emphasize substantive themes.

Finally, creative visual stunts, like flash mobs, light brigades, and banner drops—especially when amplified through social media—can offer groups with relatively few participants the chance to reach large audiences.

Events educating a public audience can shift the ground beneath an elected official and ultimately offer more influence than requests or demands made directly to their offices. 


Training is available for any of these tactics through the Electronic Frontier Alliance, a network of local grassroots groups across the U.S. that remotely convenes each month. Any network of neighbors who share concerns about digital rights is welcome to explore and apply to join the EFA.

The Alliance offers groups that join access to EFF supporters in their own areas, other grassroots organizers elsewhere, and EFF staff available to provide policy or organizing guidance on request (including a sample letter seeking a meeting with a congressional office). Materials are currently under development offering detailed guidance on various campaign models, from hosting digital security workshops, to seeking legal restrictions on mass surveillance by local police. 

Throughout the year, Congress takes occasional recesses, when lawmakers return to their states and districts. During these periods, congressional delegations are most accessible to constituents—and more vulnerable to their criticism. The Senate and House calendars include information about in-district work periods, one of which concludes this week.

During this week’s recess, we urge concerned readers to: 

  1. Voice your concerns about Congress’ recent decision to side with corporate ISPs over their users and your privacy,
  2. Explain your support for net neutrality and encourage opposition to potential proposals that would further limit the FCC’s jurisdiction, and
  3. Share your reasons for wanting transparency, oversight, and meaningful limits on NSA mass surveillance.

Share this: Join EFF
Categories: Political Action

Will Trump start a new Korean War?

Socialist Worker - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 01:00

David Whitehouse provides the background to the escalating conflict between the U.S. and North Korea, as Trump continues his threats to unleash the U.S. war machine.

USS Carl Vinson (Dusty Howell | Wikimedia Commons)

THE BILLIONAIRE reality TV star-turned-president seems to be enjoying his new role as a saber-rattling Commander-in-Chief, and North Korea could be next in the crosshairs.

Now that the latest North Korean missile test failed on April 16, the immediate risk of a U.S. military attack may fade, but Donald Trump's policy of "maximum pressure and engagement" promises to keep the region on a hair-trigger for some time to come.

Mainstream news coverage has emphasized the threats--including the use of nuclear weapons--issued by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. But the reports generally leave out what Kim has been responding to: the largest joint U.S.-South Korean war games ever held; threats by both the U.S. and South Korean governments to kill the North's top leadership; and a South Korean plan, made public last September, under which "the North's capital city will be reduced to ashes and removed from the map" if "the North shows any signs of using a nuclear weapon."

Trump stepped up pressure on the regime on April 9 by claiming to send an aircraft carrier group to the region after the North set off four missiles a few days before.

The carrier USS Carl Vinson had actually just left the area after participating in this spring's "Foal Eagle" war games--it continued on a course to the Indian Ocean and is now on a return trip. The carrier's escort group includes an Aegis-equipped destroyer that is supposedly capable of shooting down missiles.

Because the North's latest launch failed, we may never know whether the U.S. plan was to intercept the rocket in midair. There's a chance it went down because of a sabotage program that Trump inherited from Barack Obama.

The Foal Eagle exercises will continue through April. The war games include 300,000 South Korean soldiers and 15,000 US troops. This year, the exercises also feature Navy SEAL Team Six, which is best known for assassinating Osama bin Laden on Obama's orders.

The escalated shows of force may have no effect on the North, but heightened fear of war in the South may help sway the May 9 presidential election toward the candidate who favors closer military cooperation with the U.S., as opposed to peaceful engagement with the North.

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TRUMP'S POSTURE of "maximum pressure" is the result of an accelerated policy review ordered in advance of his early April summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The policy is an overt departure from Obama's "strategic patience," which was a coy way to describe an effort to increase the regime's economic and political isolation until it collapses from within.

Some of Trump's "new options" sound like more of the same, including "tougher sanctions aimed at cutting North Korea off from the global financial system," as Reuters reported. Other options are much more aggressive, "including putting American nukes in South Korea or killing dictator Kim Jong-un," as "multiple top-ranking intelligence and military officials" told NBC News.

Trump's "new" belligerence toward North Korea is really the latest oscillation between the twin options of "containment" of "rollback" that have lain in the U.S. policy toolkit since the Cold War, which was the last time that the U.S. had nukes on the peninsula.

The real change--the problem that Trump says he will "solve"--is that decades of U.S. threats against North Korea have driven the regime to produce a more and more robust deterrent against American military action.

In 2002, George W. Bush labeled North Korea, along with Iran and Iraq, as part of the "axis of evil." A year later, he invaded Iraq at minimal cost of U.S. lives, precisely because the country lacked the "weapons of mass destruction" that Bush claimed it possessed.

Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il, was in charge back then, and he saw the writing on the wall. He may have viewed the North's nuclear program of the previous decade as something to bargain away in return for concessions from Bill Clinton, but by 2003, he set out to build a real bomb in order to avoid the fate of Saddam Hussein. Three years later, Kim Jong-il detonated the country's first plutonium device.

The North has conducted five nuclear tests so far--and has advanced significantly in developing concealable and mobile missile technology that could eventually deliver a bomb. Just this past Saturday, Kim Jong-un paraded mockups of missiles that, once built and tested, could reach the continental U.S.

The North still seems to have no nuclear weapon that it can deliver to a target, but the U.S. and South Korea don't have a realistic option of attacking and destroying the North's weapons development sites to head off the creation of such arms. "There is little chance," as the New York Times wrote, "of hitting every target."

But more than that, the North has massive conventional deterrents to hold the line against U.S. or South Korean attack. The million-strong Northern army is roughly equal in size--if not in preparedness--to the South's forces, and the North has embedded more than 10,000 artillery and rocket sites in mountains within close range of the Southern capital of Seoul.

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SO DONALD Trump can talk a tougher line, but U.S. military options have begun looking weaker, not stronger, since the North's three-decade arms buildup.

As a result--even despite his talk of going it alone against North Korea--Trump has turned to pressuring China, the North's only close ally, to intercede with Kim to roll back his weapons programs. Part of the pressure "could include 'secondary sanctions' against Chinese banks and firms that do the most business with Pyongyang," according to a Reuters report.

On the surface, pressuring China to twist Kim's arm may seem like a good plan. China has some leverage with the North, because Kim's cash-strapped regime gets 40 percent of its hard currency earnings from trade with China.

What's more, Xi Jinping is no friend of Kim's, having never met him, and the Chinese themselves oppose the North's weapons program. North Korean weapons give the U.S. an excuse to rally South Korea and Japan in a military alliance that could easily be used against China itself.

A case in point is the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-missile system now being deployed in South Korea. It's designed to help surveil the North and shoot down incoming missiles, but its range extends far into Chinese territory.

Anti-missile technology, often hyped as "purely defensive" hardware, would actually give the U.S.and its allies a freer hand to attack the North or China--assuming that the anti-missile systems actually neutralize Chinese or North Korean deterrents. As the conservative South Korean Chosun Ilbo put it: "Beijing believes that the [THAAD] battery is aimed at containing its military might in the region and the North Korean threat is merely a fig leaf."

Chinese officials thus see the North's weapons program as a factor increasing the risk of pre-emptive U.S. aggression against China. These officials, however, don't put all the blame on the Kim regime. As the Chinese state mouthpiece Global Times put it recently:

In the eyes of the Chinese people, the North Korean nuclear issue was not created by Pyongyang alone. The country's insistence on developing a nuclear program is without doubt a wrong path, yet Washington and Seoul are the main forces that have pushed North Korea to this path.

In any case, there are limits to how hard or effectively the Chinese can pressure the North Korean regime. For one thing, Chinese officials don't want to undermine the Northern economy to the point that the regime collapses--because of the possibility of massive refugee flows into northern China.

A collapse of the regime could also allow the South to extend its power into the North in a newly unified Korea, thus placing a heavily armed U.S. ally on China's border. Even worse, a unified, pro-U.S. Korea might hold onto the North's nuclear weapons.

What's more, the North's rulers have shown repeatedly that they're willing to risk crippling sanctions rather than bow to outside pressure.

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AS MANY commentators have noted, Trump seems to be flailing around for something to make himself look effective after the failures of his opening months in office. His "successes" in bombing Syria and Afghanistan led him to his most recent round of bluster against North Korea--but with few military options there, he's turning to a reluctant Chinese partner for help.

But even as he started to focus on North Korea, Trump had begun to doubt that China has the leverage to redirect the North's policy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Xi set him straight about the real relations between the two Asian allies. "After listening [to Xi] for 10 minutes, I realized it's not so easy," Trump told the Journal. "I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power over North Korea...But it's not what you would think."

In fact, as he ratchets up the pressure on North Korea, Trump also now has to be concerned about pushing China too far. Officials in Beijing have warned Trump against any further provocation against Kim, and they've sent troops of their own into the region.

Immediately after the summit with Trump, China placed two army groups totaling 150,000 soldiers at the border with North Korea. In addition, according to the Huffington Post:

China has seemingly conducted secret training for the flood of North Korean refugees, which are likely to occur in case of emergency...

The situation is quite serious considering the fact that the brains of the PLA [People's Liberation Army] ordered the entire Northern District to fully prepare for combat. Obviously, follow-up measures are being taken.

First, they deployed a new Kongjing-500 early warning aircraft to the border to intensify aerial surveillance. In addition, Dongfeng-31A missiles, 12 Dongfeng-03 ballistic missiles with a range of 2,800 kilometers, and 24 Dongfeng-21 "Carrier-killer" missiles are recently deployed at the 51st Base under Rocket Unit stationed in Shenyang of Liaoning province. Aiming at North Korea, United States Forces Korea and Japan, the missiles are reportedly ready to be fired.

With preparations like these, the Chinese seem at least as concerned about meeting a U.S.-led attack as they are about containing refugees.

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DESPITE THE limits of China's leverage, it appears that Chinese officials are dutifully carrying disarmament proposals to the North right now. Hong Kong military analyst Liang Guoliang told Taiwan's official news agency:

Pyongyang is demanding China ensure the North's security and economic gain and give a period of three years to abandon nuclear weapons. However, Beijing is reportedly asking the North to dismantle nuclear weapons within three months and to accept the offer within two to three weeks.

This report seems to reflect wishful thinking.

Kim Jong-un's father may have been wary of sharing the fate of Saddam Hussein, but the current Kim is impressed by what happened to Libya's Muammar el-Qaddafi, according to Yang Xiyu, Chinese former diplomat who has dealt with North Korea in the past. Qaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons program in return for peace with the U.S.--and then was killed in 2011 by a rebel movement for which the U.S. provided air cover.

If Kim gave up nuclear weapons right now, he might be doing more than exposing himself to eventual betrayal by the U.S. and South Korea. Before that happened, he'd be likely to face a challenge from inside the regime.

Kim is a third-generation dictator who came to power in late 2011 as an unknown 20-something with no personal power base. He immediately set out to make a reputation as a tough guy among the generals who had been loyal to his father.

To consolidate his position, he has carried out some 100 executions of high-level officials, including his uncle, and he is the prime suspect in the assassination of his half-brother in February. Those aren't the actions of somebody who feels secure in his power.

The country's ruling establishment understands as well as Kim does that heavy arms are key to guaranteeing the survival of the regime. He would quickly become disposable if he gave up nuclear weapons under pressure from the U.S.

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AS IS so often the case when tensions flare between the U.S. and North Korea, commentators have looked at the role of South Korea as an afterthought. This time, that would definitely be a mistake.

It has been a year of major upheaval in South Korea as a millions-strong, left-leaning movement brought down President Park Geun-hye, the corrupt daughter of a former dictator and the recipient of tens of millions of dollars in bribes from South Korea's mega-corporations.

Park, like her father Park Chung-hee, was a close collaborator with U.S. imperial forces in putting the squeeze on the North. Last year, following a Northern missile launch in February, Park shut down the Kaesong industrial park, a venture of 124 South Korean light manufacturers employing 55,000 North Korean workers.

Just six miles north of the demilitarized zone between the two countries, Kaesong was a project of a previous, liberal president who hoped to build up North Korea's economy in advance of national reunification, rather than strangling the country and hoping for its collapse.

But in April last year, Park said that there would be "no future" for North Korea if it conducted another nuclear test.

Then, in September, the state-funded news agency Yonhap quoted a military source saying that "South Korea has already developed a plan to annihilate the North Korean capital of Pyongyang through intensive bombing in case the North shows any signs of a nuclear attack." From the same article: "Another source indicated the military has recently launched a special operational unit in charge of destroying the North Korean military leadership."

Park was also a strong advocate of building the THAAD anti-missile system, which began installation in the past month.

But Park's hostility to the North was not the immediate source of the opposition movement. According to a representative of Workers Solidarity, a South Korea socialist group, three factors played a major role in building this past year's mass movement. He spoke at a forum in Berkeley on April 1.

First, there was the trade union movement, grouped in the KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions), which mounted several strikes against the restructuring of the economy at workers' expense. Temp workers now number 30 percent of the workforce, and 41 percent of women workers are casual.

Second, there was Park administration's inaction in the face of a ferry accident that killed 300 people in 2014, including 250 students. Park then sent riot police against families of the victims--who began to radicalize and joined up with the KCTU last fall when the bribery scandal broke.

The third factor in Park's downfall was the scandal itself, in which Park's mystical spiritual adviser helped extort tens of millions of dollars from corporations that have long been closely tied to the government, such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai.

In December, nearly 2.5 million South Koreans marched in Seoul to demand Park's ouster, and the national assembly complied by impeaching her and suspending her from office. The influence of the left in the movement led to the protests adopting feminist, pro-LGBT and anti-THAAD positions.

This last demand was the hardest fought in the 1,600-organization coalition, as South Korean public opinion was evenly divided over deploying the system.

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THE MOVEMENT for Park's final removal and subsequent arrest reached victory when the constitutional court confirmed the impeachment in late March. The country is now holding a campaign to elect a new president on May 9.

At first, Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea--a protégé and colleague of liberal former President Roh Moo-hyun--looked like he would sail into office on the momentum of the left-leaning anti-Park movement.

Moon opposes the deployment of THAAD, favors the reopening of Kaesong and has promised to visit North Korea for direct talks. In these respects, Moon wants to follow in Roh's footsteps as "a president who can say no" to the U.S.

In the current atmosphere of war tensions, however, Moon's poll position has slipped to the point that a more conventionally pro-U.S. candidate, Ahn Cheol-soo, has pulled even in the race. Some polls have him ahead of Moon, even though his party has only 40 seats in the 300-member assembly.

Ahn has little political experience and shares many positions with Moon, but he favors the deployment of THAAD. As a result, the political right--which had no viable candidate this time because of Park's disgrace--is shifting its support to the centrist Ahn.

THAAD has become a stickier issue in the election because China stoked Korean nationalism by retaliating against South Korean businesses in China for the deployment of the system.

"Moon is threading the needle on the issue," Fortune magazine reported. "In a debate...he said that while he wanted to resolve the dispute diplomatically, Beijing should 'immediately stop' punishing South Korean companies in China over the issue."

So the upshot of Trump's recent belligerence in Asia may be to sharpen North Korea's resolve and give Chinese officials jitters about Trump's intentions on the one hand--but, on the other, to help promote a new yes-man to the presidency of South Korea.

Categories: Political Action

Making science serve the people

Socialist Worker - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 01:00

Eugene Dardenne looks at the history of Science for the People and its determined struggle against those who tried to put science in the service of deepening oppression.

"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
-- Donald Trump

Stephen Jay Gould talks science and social justice in a late 1970s interview

THE PRESIDENCY is in the hands of someone who denies the reality of climate science, and so it's fitting that one part of the resistance will be the March for Science this coming weekend in Washington, D.C., and around the U.S.

Science can prove that Trump and his cheerleaders in the right-wing media are peddling fake news, but it has more to offer.

Democratic Party leaders accept the reality of global warming, but believe that responsible consumerism paired with cautious diplomacy will save future generations from irreversible climate catastrophe. They insist that climate policies must be "practical," and so under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, we got carbon credits and a push for energy-efficient light bulbs and LEED-certified buildings.

In their view, the reality of climate change was another problem to be solved by the free market and the State Department. For more than 20 years, these "solutions" to the climate crisis have failed to stop the increase in greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, much less reverse them.

One could conclude that politics has been the problem. Science has done its part by identifying global warming and warning about its consequences, and politics betrayed the responsibility to do something about it.

But to divide out science and politics like this concedes to the politicians and bureaucrats in the very arena where science could serve society. In the 1970s and '80s, one organization gave a glimpse of how people could assert science in the service of social justice: Science for the People (SftP). This organization and the movements it was part of did more to promote a rational and just use of science in society than anything Al Gore could dream of.

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IN 1969, the Harvard Educational Review published Arthur Jensen's "How Much Can We Boost I.Q. and Achievement?" This article argued that 80 percent of intelligence was hereditary and that social inequalities could be explained by genetic inequalities.

Claims like this about the biological supremacy of this or that group are nothing new in American politics. Jensen was just updating the older racist arguments of eugenics with a new shellac of pseudoscience to argue that supplementary educational efforts such as the federal Head Start program are futile.

Fortunately, Jensen faced the determined opposition of Science for the People.

During the following 20 years, Science for the People--both the organization and a monthly magazine with the same name--waged war on Jensen and the reactionaries who followed in his wake.

Under the tutelage of Harvard University's E.O. Wilson, the newly christened field of sociobiology aimed to polish up the cruder eugenics and biological determinism of Jensen and earlier "social Darwinists." But like Jensen, Wilson was kept on the defensive as SftP activists exposed his work in service to the political establishment and even confronted him in person when he presented it.

Nearly every issue of Science for the People contained a contribution to the polemic, and the Ann Arbor branch of the organization hosted a working group that published the important book Biology as a Social Weapon.

SftP's best-known members Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin were central players in the debate, and their writings remain the best critique of eugenics-themed explanations for social inequality.

Lewontin pioneered the widely cited studies proving that there is greater genetic variability within races than between them. And Gould's The Mismeasure of Man is an indispensable takedown of IQ-based education policy.

What was revolutionary about their approach was that, rather than leave the evidence open to interpretation, SftP authors always exposed the other side with a political explanation. As Lewontin wrote in his introduction to Biology as a Social Weapon:

There are still rich and poor, powerful and weak, both within and between nations. How is this to be explained?

We might suppose that the inequalities are structural, that the society...has inequality built into it and even depends upon that inequality for its operation. But that supposition, if taken seriously, would engender...revolution. The alternative is to claim that inequalities reside in properties of individuals rather than in the structure of social relations. This is the claim that our society has produced about as much equality as is humanly possible, and that the remaining differences in status and wealth and power are the inevitable manifestations of natural inequalities in individual abilities...

Such a view does not threaten the status quo but, on the contrary, supports it by telling those who are without power that their position is the inevitable outcome of their own innate deficiencies and that, therefore, nothing can be done about it.

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ONE SHUDDERS to imagine the consequences if the battle to expose biological determinism was left to the "realistic" Democrats rather than the Black Power and women's rights movement supported by radical scientists.

For his part, Jensen is remembered by the Southern Policy Law Center as "the father of academic racism." But if not for the efforts of SftP, he might be known today as a respected evolutionary psychologist.

Science for the People's fight against biological determinism is instructive today for at least three reasons.

For one, we should remember that a scientific argument enjoying far less consensus than climate change science has today was not only able to sway public opinion, but to defend the gains of social movements. Imagine the impact of a similar contribution today by climate scientists bringing their message directly to the environmental movement and communities on the front lines of climate change.

Second, SftP's experience combating eugenics is useful because the same debate has returned.

The social movements of the 1960s and '70s needed to recede before the right's most deplorable ideas could regain any currency. The disappearance of organizations and publications like Science for the People by the late 1980s correspond with the re-emergence of ideas like Jensen's.

Enter Charles Murray, whose 1994 book (co-written with fellow racist and regular SftP target Richard Herrnstein) The Bell Curve relaunched the same debate that Jensen had triggered a generation before. In this latest round, Murray and Herrnstein claimed that genes could explain somewhere between 40 and 80 percent of cognitive intelligence (compared to Jensen's hard 80 percent figure in 1969).

The big difference was that by 1994, there was no mass left capable of exposing, let alone dislodging, the racism at the root of such "science." So while Murray faced plenty of protests upon the book's publication, there was no consistent campaign to challenge him.

Another two decades on, Charles Murray's notoriety has receded further into the past, and the media treat him as a misunderstood and persecuted victim of "political correctness" and campus intolerance.

But the left shouldn't shy away from debate in the face of arguments about "free speech" or "academic freedom" cynically advanced in Murray's defense by university administrators and media commentators. Science for the People showed that it was possible to wage and win the fight against biological determinism by way of sustained polemic and links with social movements.

That any old racist with a book deal has the right to an honorarium is an idea that could only gain traction in the wake of the left's--and Science for the People's--decline.

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A THIRD lesson to take from Science for the People and its campaign against Social Darwinism is how when activists are armed with science, their solidarity can be most meaningful.

For example, SftP consistently disputed the role for eugenics within the struggle to expand access to abortion. Two articles by Linda Gordon published in 1977 (see part one and part two) explained how the previous generation of birth control advocates was led by Margaret Sanger away from feminism and deep into the eugenics camp:

The men who dominated the socialist movement [in the 1920's and '30s] did not perceive birth control as fundamental to their own interests, and their theory categorized it as a reform peripheral to the struggle of the working class. Eugenicists, on the other hand, once they caught on to the idea of urging birth control upon the poor rather than condemning it among the rich, were prepared to offer active and powerful support.

As is always the case, the left's weakness became the right's strength--so what followed decades of population-control policy, complete with racist sterilization campaigns and family-focused birth control "options" that guaranteed very little to the underprivileged.

Like all of SftP's work, Gordon's articles provided both the science to debunk the right and the politics to guide the left. In chronicling the history of the birth control movement, Gordon traced its rightward shift from the domain of the women's movement into eugenics by way of the "professional" guidance of medical doctors and clinicians.

Anyone currently engaged in the debate with Planned Parenthood over how to defend abortion access would do well to read Gordon's pieces and learn how Science for the People conducted similar arguments 40 years ago.

Biological determinism wasn't the only target of SftP. In 20 years of organizing and publishing, the organization waged war against all kinds of oppressions and any "science" lined up in their defense.

But this one example shows how radical scientists, at the service of social movements and armed with Marxism, can contribute to understanding the system we live under; wage and win an argument to expand society's definition of human rights; and provide critical historical lessons to guide today's activists.

Categories: Political Action

A government swindle on student debt

Socialist Worker - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 01:00

A lawsuit is challenging the Education Department to uphold its obligations under a Bush-era student debt forgiveness program, explains Ryan de Laureal.

Betsy Devos, Trump's nominee for Education Secretary, fields questions during her Senate confirmation hearing

IMAGINE IF, after graduating from college with a five- or six-figure student loan debt, you learned you could enroll in a government program that would allow a portion of your debt to be forgiven in exchange for 10 years of work at a broad range of public-service jobs, from nonprofits to government agencies.

This was the promise of the federal government's Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007 as part of the bipartisan College Cost Reduction and Access Act.

The program offered a track for recent grads to escape debt obligations and provided an incentive for graduates to fulfill urgently needed--and usually low-paying--positions serving the public in one way or another.

Now imagine that, after spending the early years of your career working for less money in public service in exchange for debt forgiveness, you find out that the government had decided to retroactively retract the offer--even though you received letters of approval confirming that your job qualified you.

This nightmare scenario is the actual situation confronting a number of PSLF program recipients, who last December were compelled to file a lawsuit, joined by the American Bar Association, to get the Department of Education (DoE) to keep its promises.

"With no warning and no coherent explanation, the Department [...] changed its mind" regarding its past approval of a number of individuals to the program, the suit explains. "As a result, these individuals were told that their years of public service counted for naught, their debt loads continued to mount, and their hopes of future financial security were suddenly dashed."

The finer details of the case are a bit more narrow, and not every PSLF beneficiary has been threatened with revocation of their eligibility. The case hinges mainly on the question of what types of nonprofits count as "qualifying public services."

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THE ABSURDITY of the government's position is clear, and the case could have vast implications for the half million students who have signed up for the program if the courts rule in the government's favor.

Though the case dates from the Obama administration, a DoE victory could open the doors for the Trump administration to undermine one of the few programs that currently exists to alleviate the colossal burden of student debt that is crippling an entire generation of young people.

The PSLF program doesn't purport to solve the student debt crisis, and it also doesn't come anywhere near what's necessary to fully alleviate it. Only certain types of federal loans are eligible for forgiveness, and PSLF recipients are still required to make timely payments for an entire 10 years before their loans are forgiven.

However, for what it's worth, the program is a potential escape route for hundreds of thousands of recent graduates, and its impact is still large. Only a small fraction of total eligible workers have signed up for PSLF; the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has estimated that 25 percent of the U.S. workforce could qualify for it.

The first loans scheduled to be forgiven are set for this October, exactly 10 years after the program's enactment, which is a milestone of some significance considering the government's recent attempts to retroactively disqualify some PSLF recipients.

Last month, the DoE, under Trump's newly confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, filed its first legal response to the suit.

The government's defense is awash in the most Orwellian contradictions and denials imaginable. In one paragraph, for example, DoE lawyers admit that department contractors regularly review and affirm whether workers qualify, while arguing that "approval...does not reflect agency action on the borrower's qualifications for the PSLF Program."

"It's been really perplexing," said Jamie Rudert, one of the plaintiffs. "I've never gotten a straight answer or an explanation from FedLoan about what happened, and the Department of Education isn't willing to provide any information."

According to the New York Times:

Mr. Rudert submitted the certification form in 2012 and received a letter from FedLoan affirming that his work as a lawyer at Vietnam Veterans of America, a nonprofit aid group, qualified him for the forgiveness program. But in 2016, after submitting his latest annual recertification note to FedLoan, he got a denial note...

What changed? Mr. Rudert said he did not know. After filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he received a reply from FedLoan saying that his application "had initially been approved in error." He has not been told what the error was, and has not found any way to appeal the decision.

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TOTAL U.S. student debt has more than doubled in the past 10 years and now tops $1 trillion. The lack of tuition-free college with universal access means that young people have been forced to structure some of their most important life choices around ways to avoid a lifetime of indebtedness.

The problem with PSLF is not that it's too generous, as DoE officials under both the Obama and Trump administrations seem to believe, but that it doesn't go far enough to address the student debt crisis strangling an entire generation of workers.

The attack on PSLF from the capricious rulings of government bureaucrats should serve as an alarm bell. The Trump administration has already shown that its claims to stand up for those forgotten by Washington were totally empty.

And considering the Obama administration's own rumblings about capping an individual's total debt forgiveness at $57,500, it's clear that a bipartisan compromise could still amount to a harsh assault on the living standards of PSLF recipients.

It may be that a movement that begins as a defense of a program like PSLF can ultimately embrace and win what many students throughout the industrialized world already enjoy: free and universal education for all people, regardless of citizenship. Meanwhile, we should fight for the abolition of student debt, through the expansion of PSLF and other programs.

Categories: Political Action

Has scandal caught up with Rio's ex-mayor?

Socialist Worker - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 01:00

Nation columnist Dave Zirin looks back at the corruption of the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil as the ensuing investigations catch up with another powerful conspirator.

Former Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes

IN THE summer of 2016, Rio de Janeiro's then-Mayor Eduardo Paes was the political face of Brazil's Summer Olympics. The country had been plagued by bribery and corruption scandals, with former President Dilma Rousseff recently impeached and her replacement, Michel Temer, so unpopular that he could not even show up to a funeral for fear of being booed. Paes was presented to the world as the cleanest man in the slop house.

He was built for an international audience: A glib, global mayor as comfortable doing a TED Talk or confabbing with Michael Bloomberg about the future of the global city as he is drinking beers with Rio's favelados. Social activists who saw him as the face of displacement of the poor, raised their voices, but were drowned out by the praise for someone spoken about as a future president.

But now everything might come crashing down. Brazil's Supreme Court, in its ongoing corruption investigations, seems to be closing in on Paes. According to a list leaked to the Estadao newspaper, the court has decided to open investigations into the former mayor. According to the leak, one of Odebrecht's informants alleges that Paes received 15 million reals (about $4.8 million) in payments from a conglomerate to help "facilitate" Olympic contracts.

Paes's spokeswoman, Tereza Fayal, denied the allegations, calling them "absurd and untruthful." She said, "He vehemently denies that he has accepted bribes to facilitate, or to benefit, the interests of the Odebrecht company."

Yet many critics have long suspected that Paes, with mega-event-fueled dirty money swirling all about him, could not possibly have kept his hands clean. Last May, I sat with then-Mayor Paes and asked about the specter of Olympic corruption that surrounded the city's "legacy projects." Given that Brazil's political system was rife with bribery scandals, and given that the Olympics carry graft with them like a dog with fleas, it seemed that scandal was preordained. I asked him about his "guarantee" that there would be "no corruption" involved in the construction of these Olympic Games. Paes said, "I guarantee this about the construction [organized by] the city. Most of the Olympic venues and construction are being built by the city, but not all. There are some from the state level, some from the federal level. So I guarantee from a city perspective that there is no corruption." As an answer, it might sound a little too-cute-by-half, but in essence he said that when it comes to everything he was overseeing, no corruption.

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PAES MADE these comments, however, mere days after a recently built seaside bicycle path, one of the so-called Olympic legacy projects, was destroyed by a massive wave, killing two people. This deadly piece of legacy was built six months late, and over budget by $2.5 million. But the scandal wasn't only in the shoddy construction. The firm in charge, Concremat, was run by the family of the city's tourism director, Antônio Figueira de Mello. Figueira de Mello was also Mayor Paes's campaign treasurer during his initial mayoral run in 2008.

I asked Paes about this, alongside my journalistic partners Zach Zill and Kate Steiker-Ginzburg. His response: "The bicycle path was not legacy project. You look at the legacy list, it's not there. It's a city construction, for the city. It's not an Olympic construction. So it has nothing to do with the Olympics." Yet in a splashy document of Olympics-boosterism put out by Paes's own office, a document sitting on an end table in the waiting room just outside our interview, the city listed "a bike path on the ocean side of the highway, offering cyclists a privileged view of São Conrado Beach."

This response was classic Paes: very glib, very comfortable with lying right to your face.

I asked him about the connection to Concremat. Paes said, "It's not very connected to me. My secretary of tourism, he's from the family of this company. I cannot prohibit a company because my secretary of tourism that has nothing to do with the construction is a relative of them." And then he deflected: "If you ask the IOC guys, it's one of the companies that they like the most. They do a lot of the commissioning of the venues and the management of most of the constructions."

The same week, I also spoke to a Rio City Council member Jefferson Moura. Councilman Moura was heading an investigative committee on Olympic corruption. He spoke at length about the ways in which Paes was attempting to shut down all investigations, saying, in words that could read as prophetic, "Someone who has nothing to hide, has nothing to fear."

The Concremat "scandal" is tiny compared to the allegations Paes now faces. Jail, scandal, and the dashing of a once-bright political future could all arise from these bribery allegations. And it would simply reinforce what critics of the Olympic Games have been saying for years: that the Games by their nature are catnip for greedy contractors and weak-willed political leaders.

At the end of our interview, I asked Paes about any regrets he might have about how the Olympics were handled. He laughed ruefully and said, "Ah, you'll find out." I suppose we will.

First published at TheNation.com.

Categories: Political Action

Tackling Trump on Tax Day

Socialist Worker - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 01:00

Zach Frailey reports from San Diego on a Tax Day protest that called on Trump and the rich to pay what they owe--and on the government to stop the budget cuts.

Protesters target the 1 Percent on Tax Day in San Diego (San Diego Labor Council | Facebook)

ON APRIL 15, traditionally "Tax Day" in the U.S., approximately 3,000 San Diegans took to the streets to protest the Trump administration. The demonstration was one of many in cities across the U.S. calling for the release of Donald Trump's tax returns and for the wealthy to pay their fair share.

After speeches from local activists and union organizers, demonstrators marched through downtown to the Civic Center Plaza, where activist groups were encouraged to host teach-ins.

The demands put forward by march organizers included: a congressional investigation of Donald Trump's tax returns in order to dearch for conflicts of interest (and impeaching Trump if any illegal conflicts exist); an end to budget cuts to all social services, schools, earned benefits and safety net programs, as well as a moratorium on tuition increases at public colleges and universities; corporations pay their fair share of taxes and end the practice of offshoring profits that originate in the U.S.; reign in the predatory practices of Wall Street and the banks; and the County of San Diego use a $1.8-billion tax surplus to invest in public-sector jobs, roads and infrastructure, public transit, and ending homelessness.

With the exception of a small handful of right-wing hecklers, the reaction from bystanders was overwhelmingly positive. Dozens of cars honked their support and pedestrians cheered from the sidewalk.

In addition to liberal groups like Indivisible, rally attendees included members of two California secessionist groups and several socialist contingents, including the Democratic Socialists of America, International Socialist Organization and Party for Socialism and Liberation. Mixed in with signs demanding an investigation into Trump's ties to Russia and calls to see his tax returns were an assortment of signs and banners with antiwar, anti-austerity, anti-racist and pro-union messages.

While a broad section of the crowd was undoubtedly "still with her" (Hillary Clinton), many of those present were open to the idea that we have to challenge the capitalist system that produced President Trump.

Demonstrations like the Tax Day march provide an opportunity to build a broader, more radical grassroots struggle against the Trump administration and the right. As a statement from the march organizers noted:

As we protest Trump, we also acknowledge that Trump's conflicts are a symptom of a deeper problem in our tax structure, and the structure of our economy as a whole; that ultra-wealthy and profitable corporations manipulate our tax structure and the global financial markets to get out of paying taxes, and keep most of their profits for themselves or their wealthy investors.

This design flaw in our economy results in wealth for the richest 1 Percent, and hardship and inequality for the remaining 99 Percent. This status quo is no longer acceptable.

Categories: Political Action

Jon Ossoff comes in first in GA-06 primary

Move On - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 22:27

Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org, had the following statement in response to tonight’s primary in GA-06, as votes continued to be tallied:

“Jon Ossoff’s first-place finish tonight is a huge triumph for the Resistance and for progressives, who boosted Ossoff to the top of a crowded race in a Republican-leaning district. Less than six months ago, a Republican won this district by more than 20 points. Tonight, a progressive Democrat got the most votes in a seat Newt Gingrich once held, and, as votes continued to be tallied, was hovering near 50 percent. The reason is clear: voters are rejecting Trump and his policies, especially the highly unpopular GOP-led health care repeal proposals like Trumpcare.

“From the Women’s March to the airport protests in response to the Muslim ban to the Tax Day marches this weekend, the Resistance has proven that not only is it not going anywhere but that it is growing. Millions have taken to the streets, flooded congressional phone lines, and attended town hall meetings to hold the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress accountable. And now, we’re taking to the ballot box as well. Last week in deep red Kansas a progressive Democrat erased a 20-plus-point Republican advantage to nearly win a seat that Democrats haven’t held in a generation. And tonight, a progressive Democrat just got the most votes in a seat no one thought would be in play six months ago.

“Tonight once again proves that momentum is clearly on the side of the Resistance and that Donald Trump has no mandate for his dangerous, reckless, and hateful policies.

“MoveOn members are fired up—and if Ossoff doesn’t top 50 percent tonight, we’re ready to help him finish this race with a victory in June, and to elect the MoveOn-endorsed Rob Quist in Montana in May, continuing to show Donald Trump and Republicans that their unpopular push to take away health care from millions will cost them at the ballot box.”

On March 6, MoveOn.org members in GA-06 voted overwhelmingly to endorse Jon Ossoff. Since then, MoveOn has engaged in a big way to inject the health care debate into this race, mobilizing grassroots volunteers and more than half a million dollars for Ossoff. MoveOn’s campaign has included:

  • A $250,000 TV and digital ad buy focused on Trumpcare;
  • Bundling $314,000 in contributions directly for the Ossoff campaign;
  • Launching a text message peer-to-peer voter turnout program;
  • Mobilizing MoveOn members to volunteer for Ossoff;
  • Contacting 16,000 MoveOn members in the district for GOTV.

In addition to Ossoff, MoveOn members in Montana have voted to endorse congressional candidate Rob Quist, noting his support for the Affordable Care Act in the endorsement.

Categories: Political Action

Hollow Privacy Promises from Major Internet Service Providers

Deep Links - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 18:06

It’s no surprise that Americans were unhappy to lose online privacy protections earlier this month. Across party lines, voters overwhelmingly oppose the measure to repeal the FCC’s privacy rules for Internet providers that Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law.

But it should come as a surprise that Republicans—including the Republican leaders of the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission—are ardently defending the move and dismissing the tens of thousands who spoke up and told policymakers that they want protections against privacy invasions by their Internet providers.

Since the measure was signed into law, Internet providers and the Republicans who helped them accomplish this lobbying feat have decried the “hysteria,” “hyperbole,” and “hyperventilating” of constituents who want to be protected from the likes of Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. Instead they’ve claimed that the repeal doesn’t change the online privacy landscape and that we should feel confident that Internet providers remain committed to protecting their customers’ privacy because they told us they would despite the law.

We’ve repeatedly debunked the tired talking points of the cable and telephone lobby: There is a unique, intimate relationship and power imbalance between Internet providers and their customers. The FTC likely cannot currently police Internet providers (unless Congress steps in, which the White House said it isn’t pushing for at this time). Congress’ repeal of the FCC’s privacy rules does throw the FCC’s authority over Internet providers into doubt. The now-repealed rules—which were set to go into effect later this year—were a valuable expansion and necessary codification of existing privacy rights granted under the law. Internet providers have already shown us the creepy things they’re willing to do to increase their profits.

The massive backlash shows that consumers saw through those industry talking points, even if Republicans in Congress and the White House fell for them.

Now that policymakers have effectively handed off online privacy enforcement to the Internet providers themselves, advocates for the repeal are pointing to the Internet providers’ privacy policies.

“Internet service providers have never planned to sell your individual browsing history to third parties,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FTC acting Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen wrote in a recent op-ed. “That’s simply not how online advertising works. And doing so would violate ISPs’ privacy promises.”

Aside from pushing back on oversimplification of the problem at hand, we should be asking: What exactly are the “privacy promises” that ISPs are making to their customers?

In blog posts and public statements since the rules were repealed, the major Internet providers and the trade groups that represent them have all pledged to continue protecting customers’ sensitive data and not to sell customers’ individual Internet browsing records.  But how they go about defining those terms and utilizing our private information is still going to leave people upset. These statements should also be read with the understanding that existing law already allows the collection of individual browsing history.

Comcast said it won’t sell individual browsing histories and it won’t share customers’ “sensitive information (such as banking, children’s, and health information), unless we first obtain their affirmative, opt-in consent.” It also said it will offer an opt-out “if a customer does not want us to use other, non-sensitive data to send them targeted ads.” We think leaving browsing history out of the list of information Comcast considers sensitive was no accident. In other words, we don’t think Comcast considers your browsing history sensitive, and will only offer you an opt-out of using your browsing history to send you targeted ads. There’s no mention of any opt-out of any other sharing of your browsing history, such as on an aggregated basis with third parties. While we applaud Comcast’s clever use of language to make it seem like they’re protecting their customers’ privacy, reading between the lines shows that Comcast is giving itself leeway to do the opposite.

Verizon similarly pledged not to sell customers’ “personal web browsing history” (emphasis ours) and described its advertising programs that give advertisers access to customers based on aggregated and de-identified information about what customers do online. By our reading, this means Verizon still plans to collect your browsing history and store it—they just won’t sell it individually.

AT&T pointed to its privacy policies, which carve out specific protections for “personal information … such as your name, address, phone number and e-mail address” but explicitly state that it does deliver ads “based on the websites visited by people who are not personally identified.” So just like Verizon, we think this means AT&T is collecting your browsing history and storing it—they’re just not attaching your name to it and selling it to third parties on an individualized basis.

In a filing to the FCC earlier this year, CTIA—which represents the major wireless ISPs—argued that “web browsing and app usage history are not ‘sensitive information’” and said that ISPs should be able to share those records by default, unless a customer asks them not to.

The common thread here is that Internet providers don’t consider records about what you do online to be worthy of the heightened privacy protections they afford to things like your social security number. Internet providers think that our web browsing histories are theirs to profit off of—not ours to protect as we see fit. And because Congress changed the law, they are now free to change their minds about the promises they make without the same legal ramifications.

These “privacy promises” are in no way a replacement for robust privacy protections enforced by a federal agency. If Internet providers want to get serious about proving their commitment to their customers’ privacy in the absence of federal rules, they should pledge not to collect or sell or share or otherwise use information about the websites we visit and the apps we use, except for what they need to collect and share in order to provide the service their customers are actually paying for: Internet access.

That would be a real privacy promise.

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Categories: Political Action

Why Vote? Seven Reasons

Democratic Convention Watch - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 17:51

Why vote? I get asked this a lot.

Especially in an odd year like 2017.

Where to start?

First, voting is mentioned five times in the US Constitution. FIVE. It’s a protected right. Think about it, nowhere in the Constitution does it mention what an individual has a right to, rather only that a right will not be abridged. For example, the Constitution says that you have a right to free speech, but it doesn’t say you have to use it. Once. Everything about rights not being abridged, or impinged, are mentioned once. Except voting. FIVE TIMES. The enabling legislation of the United States of America thought voting was that important.

Second, people have been imprisoned, beaten and killed so that we have the right to vote today.

Third, when fewer people vote, the votes of those who do vote count more. (One out of 10, vs one out of 100.)

Fourth, remember Edmund Burke’s quote?

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

That should especially resonate after the dismal turnout last November.

Fifth, while an odd year election doesn’t have the cachet of a presidential election, the positions to be filled have a direct bearing on your life. The people elected municipally set your taxes. School board members affect what your kids learn. Judges will impact the redistricting map sure to come out of the 2020 Census. The Judge of Elections and Majority and Minority Inspectors determine how fair the election is at your personal polling place.

Sixth, you don’t like the current administration – phone calls may derail some actions, but the permanent answer is to vote them out of office. At all levels.

Seventh, why not? It doesn’t take a lot of time, it’s close to home (if you’ll be out of town there are absentee ballots available) and your voice matters.

So there are seven good reasons to vote. I can’t think of a reason not to…..I’ll be at my polling place. Will you be at yours?

Categories: Political Action

¿Quién cuida tu espalda en Chile? Primer informe anual busca saber qué ISPs chilenos están del lado de sus usuarios

Deep Links - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 12:59

EFF y Derechos Digitales, la organización líder en derechos digitales en Chile, se han unido para lanzar un nuevo informe evaluando las prácticas de privacidad de los Proveedores de Servicios de Internet chilenos. Este proyecto forma parte de una serie en toda América Latina, y está adaptado de la publicación anual del informe de EFF ¿Quién cuida tu espalda?. Los informes tienen por objeto evaluar a los proveedores de servicios de telefonía móvil y fijo para ver cuál se pone del lado de sus usuarios al responder a las solicitudes gubernamentales de información personal. Si bien es cierto que hay margen de mejora, la primera edición chilena del informe ¿Quién defiende sus datos? tiene algunos indicadores esperanzadores.

Los chilenos entran a la red más que cualquier otra nacionalidad en América Latina. Cuando los chilenos utilizan Internet, revelan sus datos más privados, incluyendo sus relaciones en línea, discusiones políticas, artísticas y personales, e incluso sus movimientos minuto a minuto. Y todos esos datos necesariamente tienen que pasar por un puñado de ISP. Eso significa que los chilenos son más propensos a confiar en sus proveedores para defender sus datos que nadie en América Central o del Sur.

El informe de Derechos Digitales se propuso examinar qué proveedores de servicios de Internet y compañías telefónicas chilenas son quienes mejor defienden a sus clientes. ¿Cuáles, entre ellos, son transparentes acerca de sus políticas con respecto a las solicitudes de datos? ¿Cuáles requieren una orden judicial antes de entregar información personal? ¿Alguno de ellos objeta alguna de las leyes de vigilancia  o de las demandas individuales de los datos de sus usuarios? ¿Alguna de las compañías notifica a sus usuarios cuando cumplen con las solicitudes judiciales? Derechos Digitales examinó la información publicada públicamente, incluyendo las políticas de privacidad y los códigos de prácticas de cinco de los mayores proveedores chilenos de acceso a telecomunicaciones: Movistar, VTR, Claro, Entel y GTD Manquehue. Entre estos proveedores se cubre la gran mayoría de los mercados móviles, fijos y de banda ancha.

A cada empresa se le dio la oportunidad de responder a un cuestionario, participar en una entrevista privada y enviar cualquier información adicional que considerara apropiada, información que se incorporó al informe final. Este enfoque se basa en el trabajo anterior de EFF con Who Has Your Back? En los Estados Unidos, aunque las preguntas específicas del estudio de Derechos Digitales fueron adaptadas para ajustarse al marco legal de Chile. Investigaciones personalizadas que utilizan metodologías similares están siendo trabajadas por grupos de derechos digitales en toda América Latina. La Fundación Karisma en Colombia está a punto de publicar por segundo año, el informe ¿Dónde Están Mis Datos?. ADC en Argentina, Hiperderecho en Peru, InternetLab en Brasil, R3D en Mexico, y TEDIC en Paraguay están también trabajando en estudios similares.

Abajo encontrará los rankings de Derechos Digitales para los ISP chilenos y las compañías telefónicas; El informe completo, que incluye detalles sobre cada empresa, está disponible en: https://www.derechosdigitales.org/qdtd/

Criterios de evaluación para ¿Quién Defiende tus Datos?
  1. Protección de datos: Un ISP gana una estrella completa en esta categoría si publica su contrato de servicios de Internet para todos los tipos de planes y sus políticas de protección de datos en su sitio web de manera clara y accesible para los usuarios. Las políticas de protección de datos deben ajustarse a las normas nacionales. El cumplimiento parcial fue recompensado con media estrella.
  2. Transparencia: Para ganar una estrella, los ISP deben publicar un informe de transparencia sobre como ellos manejan la información de los usuarios y los requerimientos del gobierno sobre esa información. Los informes de transparencia deben incluir información útil sobre el número especifico de peticiones de información que los ISP han aprobado y rechazado; un resumen de las peticiones ordenado por autoridad investigadora, tipo y propósito, el número específico de individuos durante el último año que han sido afectados por cada solicitud; Y si los terceros que administran datos de usuario lo hacen de una manera que protege la privacidad. Se concedió una media estrella a los ISP que publicaron informes de transparencia, pero no se refirieron específicamente a la protección de datos y al monitoreo de las comunicaciones. Si el proveedor no ha publicado un informe de transparencia, no se otorga ninguna estrella.
  3. Notificación al usuario: Para obtener una estrella en esta categoría, los ISP deben, si están autorizados legalmente a hacerlo, notificar a sus usuarios de manera oportuna cuando las autoridades soliciten acceso a su información personal para que los usuarios puedan solicitar un recurso o apelación según sea necesario. Se otorgó una media estrella a los ISP que notifican a sus clientes cuando las autoridades hacen una solicitud de datos de usuario, pero no lo hacen de manera oportuna, lo que dificulta que los usuarios busquen una solución. Si no hubo evidencia de que un ISP notifica a sus usuarios cuando una autoridad solicita datos de usuario, la compañía no recibió ninguna estrella.
  4. Pautas de privacidad de datos: Un ISP obtuvo una estrella en esta categoría si, en su sitio web, explica cómo maneja los datos del usuario, y especifica específicamente los requisitos y las obligaciones legales que las autoridades solicitantes deben cumplir al solicitar datos de la empresa. La explicación debe ser fácil de entender; Debe especificar los procedimientos que la empresa usa para responder a las solicitudes de datos de las autoridades; Y debe indicar durante cuánto tiempo retiene los datos de usuario. Un ISP ganó media estrella si publicó información sobre cómo maneja los datos del usuario, pero no especificó las obligaciones y procedimientos que requiere a las autoridades que solicitan datos del usuario.
  5. Compromiso con la privacidad: Para ganar una estrella, un ISP debe haber defendido activamente la privacidad de sus usuarios en los tribunales, o ante el Congreso para impugnar alguna legislación invasiva, perjudicial para la privacidad de sus usuarios. Un ISP podría ganar una media estrella si ha defendido a sus usuarios en una de las dos áreas antes mencionadas (en los tribunales o frente al Congreso)
Resultados Conclusión

Las compañías en Chile han comenzado bien, pero todavía tienen un camino a seguir para proteger totalmente los datos personales de sus clientes y ser transparentes sobre quién tienen acceso a ellos. Derechos Digitales y EFF esperan publicar este informe anualmente para incentivar a las empresas a mejorar la transparencia y proteger los datos de los usuarios. De esta manera, todos los chilenos tendrán acceso a información sobre cómo se usan sus datos personales y cómo los ISP los controlan para que puedan tomar decisiones más inteligentes del consumidor. Esperamos que el informe brille con más estrellas el próximo año.

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Categories: Political Action