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December 2020

The Death Of Democracy In Brazil

The dismantling of Brazil’s democracy, which culminated in the jailing of former president Lula Da Silva as he looked certain to be reelected, is the subject of a new English-language investigative podcast. Cícero Ezequiel Filho lay beneath the sweltering sun of Brazil’s capital, Brasilia. He wore khaki shorts, John Lennon glasses and a long white beard, which stretched far below his chin and over a red long-sleeved shirt with the face of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on the front. When I met him in August 2018, Cícero had been outside Brazil’s Supreme Court for two weeks. He refused to eat until former president Lula was free.

Victories For Palestine Continued On US Campuses In 2020

Despite the challenges of online/remote learning, campus activism has not stopped over the past year. National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) is currently planning their 2021 conference, celebrating 10 years of this annual reunion of SJP chapters from around the nation. And many student chapters have passed significant resolutions around some major issues, from censorship, to the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, to divestment and, most recently, the training of campus police by the Israeli military. As we wrap up 2020, here is a representative sample of campus activism since the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year, pointing to what can be expected in 2021.

US Blockade Prevents Venezuela From Funding COVAX

Venezuela’s Health Minister Carlos Alvarado on Sunday said that the economic blockade imposed by the United States is preventing his country from funding the COVAX initiative led by the World Health Organization (WHO). He recalled that his country offered to place US$18 million into the COVAX fund, but as a result of the U.S. blockade, Venezuela has not "been able to free those resources to pay the fund." Alvarado added that the U.S. sanctions have affected other vaccination programs previously conducted through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) revolving fund. "We have not been able to pay the revolving fund, therefore, we have not been able to buy vaccines through that fund," the Health minister said...

The Kafkaesque Imprisonment Of Assange Exposes US Myths

Persecution is not typically doled out to those who recite mainstream pieties, or refrain from posing meaningful threats to those who wield institutional power, or obediently stay within the lines of permissible speech and activism imposed by the ruling class. Those who render themselves acquiescent and harmless that way will — in every society, including the most repressive — usually be free of reprisals. They will not be censored or jailed. They will be permitted to live their lives largely unmolested by authorities, while many will be well-rewarded for this servitude. Such individuals will see themselves as free because, in a sense, they are: they are free to submit, conform and acquiesce.

Activist Groups Earn One-Week Stay On Evictions

Santa Cruz, CA - Local advocacy groups turned to the federal court system this week in the latest effort to prevent dispersal of a homeless encampment that swelled to an estimated 150 people this month. In response, U.S. District Court of Northern California Judge Susan van Keulen granted an emergency temporary restraining order against the City of Santa Cruz, through Jan. 6, preventing it from shuttering San Lorenzo Park. “The Court finds that Plaintiffs have shown that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, and/or damage will result to the movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition,” van Keulen wrote in her order. The Santa Cruz Homeless Union and Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs groups earlier filed a request with the San Jose court in response to the city’s Dec. 17 emergency order by the city manager.

Federal Judge Blocks Strike By Union Pacific Railroad Workers

A federal judge in Nebraska issued a temporary restraining order last week to block a December 28 strike by thousands of Union Pacific Railroad (UP) workers over unsafe conditions, the lack of protective gear and the failure to pay workers who are quarantined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A strike by 8,000 members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWED)—a division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters—would have quickly disrupted the operations of the second largest railroad in the US, which employs a total of 32,000 workers. The judge’s restriction lasts until January 8 and will be reviewed for extension on January 5.

In A Crisis, A Compromise Solution Is Worse Than No Solution At All

The raging argument on the left between progressives who argue for radical change and centrists who advocate incrementalism is hardly new. Nearly a century ago, progressive titan and Wisconsin governor Robert La Follette and FDR were often at loggerheads over the same question. Roosevelt, La Follette complained, was too quick to compromise with reactionaries. FDR insisted that “half a loaf is better than no bread.” While that might seem intuitively obvious, La Follette had a ready reply. “Half a loaf, as a rule, dulls the appetite, and destroys the keenness of interest in attaining the full loaf.” That can be dangerous. The average adult male requires approximately 2500 calories of nutrition per day.

The Art Of The Legal Hack

In our legal system -- designed to protect private property, individual rights, and market exchange – it can actually be very difficult to share things legally. Attorney Janelle Orsi found this out the hard way as she worked with co-housing groups, worker cooperatives, and community gardens. “Our clients kept running up against legal barriers that make no sense: employment laws for co-ops in which people are both employer and employee. Landlord-tenant law for cohousing projects in which people are both landlords and tenants.” Such frustrations led Orsi to co-found (with Jenny Kassan) the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) in Oakland, California, in late 2009.

The Dark Past Of Biden’s Nominee For National Intelligence Director

Former acting CIA Director Mike Morell, who has disingenuously argued for years that he had nothing to do with the agency’s torture program, but who continued to defend it, has taken himself out of the running to be President-elect Joe Biden’s new CIA director. The decision is a victory for the peace group Code Pink, which spearheaded the Stop Morell movement, and it’s a great thing for all Americans.  Now, though, we have to turn our attention to Biden’s nominee to be director of national intelligence (DNI), Avril Haines. Haines is certainly qualified on paper to lead the Intelligence Community. 

A View On Health Care From 2028

I just had my third heart attack. Let me tell you about my previous two. The first was 16 years ago in 2012. After wasting 15-20 minutes with an ER admitting clerk demanding my “insurance information” before I was allowed access to care, a triage nurse hustled me 'backstage'. I was diagnosed with a “minor” MI stopped by doses of nitroglycerin. The following day the artery that had closed up was stented. The day after that I was kicked loose to the street. The 'retail' cost for my two day stay in the hospital and the procedure was around $250,000. My insurance “negotiated” that down to $22,000, co-pay was $2,200 plus $300 per month for prescription drugs over the next year.

Harvard Workers Left Out In The Cold

Harvard University’s campus has been dormant since last spring, and as COVID-19 cases rise through the winter, it’s unclear when normal classes will resume. The administration recently announced that the majority of the university’s staff would continue to work remotely through June 2021. For the janitorial staff, however, work never ended. Roughly 700 janitorial workers have held onto their jobs through the pandemic, maintaining their full union wages, even though in some cases they are working on a reduced schedule. But for hundreds of subcontracted frontline workers, next year may bring a round of layoffs at the worst possible time.

Climate Activists Mount Utility Strike

Santa is not the only one giving out coal this year. Climate activists like Johnny Sanchez and Sonja Birthisel in Portland, Maine, recently sent their utility company an envelope of coal instead of payment towards their electric bill. This symbolic act of defiance, organized by the No Coal No Gas coalition, is part of a broad New England consumer strike against utility payments to protest the continued burning of coal. The Strike Down Coal campaign launched on Sept. 1 and aims to continue until ISO New England — the system operator responsible for running New England’s energy grid and power system — agrees to stop subsidizing coal. By withholding payments, activists hope to send the utility company a message that burning coal is unnecessary, not to mention financially and morally irresponsible.

Julian Assange’s Father Puts Hope Into Pardon From Biden

London - The father of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hopes the next US president will pardon his son, he told dpa on Tuesday, ahead of an expected British court decision on a US extradition request. John Shipton said that he fears the court on January 4 will rule in favour of the extradition based on the "arbitrary and malicious" way his son has been treated during the proceedings, and thus hopes that President-elect Joe Biden will pardon Assange when he is in office. The 76-year-old added that he decided not to "waste time" hoping the administration of Donald Trump would pardon his son and instead is making steps towards trying to get a pardon from the incoming president instead.

Killer Cops: Police Killed Over 1,000 Americans In 2020

American law enforcement officers have killed well over 1,000 people in 2020. Between January 1 and December 15 of this year, the Mapping Police Violence project has recorded 1,066 people nationwide killed at the hands of the police, an average of around three killings per day. Despite the fact that 2020 has brought with it a pandemic forcing Americans to stay off the streets (and, presumably, out of trouble) as much as possible, there have only been 17 days recorded this year where the police did not kill someone. The project also compiled statistics on the racial backgrounds of the victims. Black people are three times more likely than white people to be slain by police, and more likely to be unarmed when it does happen.

‘We Demand Tomorrow’: Marxist Documentary On The Climate Crisis

Kudos to Patreon for this brilliant production, well worth seeing, with its deep analysis of capitalism though I have some reservations to be noted below.  I particularly applaud the presentation of Cuba’s socialist solutions in this current pandemic, in contrast to capitalist Britain, with Cuba being on the cutting edge of global ecosocialism. “We Demand Tomorrow” should trigger a lot of debate, and be a useful resource for wide-ranging discussion. I agree with the video’s support for a two-stage path out of capitalism. I have long argued that socialism in our epoch must confront the climate/ecological crisis with effective science-based solutions...
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