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Prosecutors have dropped charges against Matt Johnson, an animal rights activist who brilliantly exposed the cruel killi...
01/25/2022
An animal rights activist was in court on criminal charges. Why was the case suddenly dismissed?

Prosecutors have dropped charges against Matt Johnson, an animal rights activist who brilliantly exposed the cruel killing of pigs at two Iowa pork facilities in 2020. By Marina Bolotnikova at The Guardian.
—Erika

When animal rights activist Matt Johnson last made national news, he was in disguise. He appeared on Fox Business in December 2020, sporting a buzz cut and button-down (much different from his usual casual attire) and posed as the CEO of Smithfield Foods. The pork giant he claimed to be representing had factory farms that were “petri dishes for new diseases”, he told the news anchor. After the segment went viral online, Fox realized their mistake: “It appears we have been punked,” host Maria Bartiromo announced, apologizing to Smithfield, which called the interview “a complete hoax”.

Johnson’s antics, and his seeming lack of fear of the consequences, have made him a formidable opponent of the meat industry. But while the Fox incident offered a moment of levity, today, Johnson makes the news for something far more serious. He has just been let off for criminal charges that could have sent him to prison for up to eight years. After conducting an undercover exposé of conditions at the pork company Iowa Select Farms in May 2020, his actions put him on the line for burglary and planting recording devices. Another charge, for trespassing at a food operation (an offense created by an Iowa ag-gag law), was added in 2021.

While these specific charges against Johnson can’t be brought again, they may not be his last. His work as an organizer with the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) involves high-profile, high-risk actions like secretly recording factory farms and rescuing animals. Since farm animals are legally property and have no rights and almost no protection from suffering, removing them is usually treated as burglary, no different from stealing jewelry or someone’s wallet. In the last decade, many state “ag-gag” laws have sought to further criminalize such activism.

The conditions that brought Johnson, an Iowa native now based in California, to Iowa Select Farms facilities were particularly cruel, according to DxE – and the outrage that followed his exposé suggests the public were similarly alarmed. As Covid was tearing through US slaughterhouses, Johnson had been tipped off by an Iowa Select truck driver about conditions at the company’s facilities.

Across the meat industry, workers were falling ill, meatpacking capacity was significantly reduced, and farms were overloaded with animals and looking for ways to dispose of them. Johnson was made aware of a practice called “ventilation shutdown”, being used by Iowa Select to mass exterminate pigs: the animals were packed into sealed barns and essentially cooked to death by heaters and steam generators.

In undercover footage captured by Johnson in May 2020, which was published by the Intercept, the pigs can be heard shrieking in distress. These revelations immediately made headlines and sparked a PR crisis for Iowa Select, which stopped practicing ventilation shutdown after it was brought to light – a rare and solid win for animal rights activists. “Matt’s investigation of ventilation shutdown is probably the most important [factory farm] investigation in more than a decade,” said Justin Marceau, an animal law scholar and professor at the University of Denver.

Matt Johnson conducted an undercover exposé of cruel practices used to mass exterminate pigs at Iowa Select Farms facilities

Guatemala has convicted five former paramilitary soldiers of ra**ng Indigenous women in 1980s. —ErikaGuatemala's highest...
01/25/2022
Guatemala convicts ex-soldiers for ra**ng indigenous women

Guatemala has convicted five former paramilitary soldiers of ra**ng Indigenous women in 1980s.
—Erika

Guatemala's highest court has sentenced five former paramilitaries to 30 years in prison for ra**ng dozens of indigenous Mayan women during the country's civil war in the 1980s.

The men were members of so-called Civil Self-Defence Patrols, armed groups formed and supported by the military.

The 36 victims were aged 12-52 when the crimes happened, prosecutors said.

"There were massacres. Many women were r***d," said Antonina Vale, a survivor. "It's the pain we have in our hearts."

Around 200,000 people were killed or disappeared in the 1960-1996 conflict. Most of them were members of indigenous groups, who were targeted by the army and right-wing paramilitaries, accused of supporting left-wing guerrillas.

The three-week trial at the Supreme Court in the capital, Guatemala City, included testimony from survivors and relatives of the victims of the Achi indigenous group.

The rapes, they said, happened around the village of Rabinal, north of the capital. The area, which was targeted heavily during the war, is the site of a mass grave with the bodies of more than 3,000 people.

Judge Gervi Sical said the sentences had been handed down for crimes against humanity. The accused "disappeared" all the men from the village, and then r***d, tied up and threatened the women, he was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying. After being r***d, they were urinated on.

Speaking outside the courthouse, Ms Vale said she was pregnant when she was r***d, and that the child had later died. "I asked the paramilitaries to spare me but they didn't listen to me," she said. "What happened to our lives and our bodies is not fair."

Maxima Garcia, another survivor, said: "I was r***d when I was seven months pregnant. I lost my boy... My mother was r***d when she was eight months pregnant and they killed her. They left her hanging in the house."

Five ex-paramilitary soldiers are given 30-year jail terms for ra**ng dozens of women in the 1980s.

Spencer Sunshine at Truthout on the connections between the openly white supremacist Groypers and the Trump administrati...
01/25/2022
Subpoenas Could Show Trump Administration's Link to Openly White Supremacist “Groypers”

Spencer Sunshine at Truthout on the connections between the openly white supremacist Groypers and the Trump administration.
—Erika

The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol takeover have subpoenaed a wide variety of people, from Trump officials to grassroots activists. And on January 19, 2022, two more were called: Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, the leaders of the “Groyper” movement, a white supremacist outgrowth of the “alt-right.” Fuentes believes that “genocide” is being committed against white people, and rails against immigration, the “LGBTQ agenda” and feminism. While relatively minor characters on the national stage, Fuentes and Casey are important to know about for three reasons.

The first is that the Groypers are one of the more successful groups among the openly white supremacist wing of the alt-right, and they have been able to attract mainstream support. The second is if Fuentes and Casey “were involved in the planning and coordination of the January 6 attack … it would show tight collaboration between true white supremacists and the former administration,” according to Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. Third, the committee specifically pointed out that Fuentes and Casey had “received tens of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin from a French computer programmer.” Calling for — and then cheering on — the takeover of the Capitol after receiving foreign funding would put them in a different category than many of the other involved groups which seem to lack foreign financial connections.

From 2017 to 2020, Casey was the leader of white supremacist group Identity Evropa (later rebranded as the American Identity Movement), which window-dressed traditional white supremacist views to give itself a better public image, which the movement called “optics.” Early on, the group was also closely aligned with racist leader Richard Spencer. Meanwhile, Fuentes was one of the most visible young activists who went from more traditional conservatism to overt white supremacy. As the star of the alt-right has fallen, the Groypers represent those who have chosen to infiltrate the ranks of the Trumpists in order to push them even further right.

The alt-right burst onto the scene in 2016 as members hitched their horse to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and he embraced them in turn. This included both wings of the alt-right — one a new generation of open white supremacists like neo-N***s, the other, the “alt-lite,” more moderate ideologically and which included people of color, Jews and gay men.

For many decades, it was unheard of for a major party’s presidential candidate to openly embrace white supremacists, and the alt-right took this opportunity to expand into a mass movement. The alt-right movement peaked early with the August 2017 “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. After it ended with the murder of anti-fascist Heather Heyer, their largest public event also became their downfall.

As Trump’s presidency went on, many in the alt-right bailed on him because he wasn’t as overtly racist or antisemitic as they’d hoped he would be. One of the major groups in the movement, Patriot Front, walked away from Trump to organize a more politically radical and independent path. (Patriot Front concentrates on propaganda like stickering, and holds periodic unannounced marches where members appear masked to hide their identities.) Others, like Richard Spencer, withdrew into relative inactivity, in part because of the Sines v. Kessler civil lawsuit over the organizing of the Charlottesville demonstration. Spencer was one of the defendants found guilty and was ordered to pay a hefty sum.

But some did not give up the movement that Trump had summoned, and which the alt-lite remained active in. In fact, many Trumpists — including the Proud Boys, but also regular Republicans — were becoming more aggressive and violent. January 6 made this clear. And the Groypers became the major grouping from the racist alt-right that moved in on these more ideologically moderate political circles.

Groypers have successfully infiltrated the mainstream Trumpist movement to push it further toward overt white supremacy.

It was more than 20 years ago, but I still remember the shock I felt when the word “homeland” first entered our culture ...
01/25/2022
The Pentagon We Don't Think About

It was more than 20 years ago, but I still remember the shock I felt when the word “homeland” first entered our culture in a big way. That was soon after the 9/11 attacks and, in the end, it would be attached to what became known as the Department of Homeland Security. For me — and I wasn’t alone — that word had a distinctly un-American ring to it. It brought to my mind heimat, the equivalent term the N***s used for Germany. True, the word had been used before here. Only days earlier, for instance, Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO) had plugged the creation of “a comprehensive homeland security strategy.” Nonetheless, that was rare indeed and barely noticed until, six days later, the World Trade Center towers in New York City were destroyed.

Still, homeland? Really? The United States of America? Unfortunately, in retrospect, as TomDispatch regular Andrea Mazzarino, co-founder of the Costs of War Project, reminds us today, there was something both eerily strange and all too grimly appropriate in the use of that word for the Department of Homeland Security. It should have been (but sadly wasn’t) a reminder that there was something truly out of the ordinary about organizing what, as Mazzarino suggests, would become a second Pentagon, thanks to the hijacking of three American planes by 19 mostly Saudi terrorists in the name of al-Qaeda. That small terror outfit was, of course, run by a rich Saudi named Osama bin Laden. He would, I suspect, have been thrilled to death (so to speak) to have goaded this country into both launching a series of disastrous conflicts under the label of the Global War on Terror that would, in fact, spread terrorism across the Greater Middle East and Africa. My best guess: he would have been no less thrilled to have convinced us to pour yet more money that could have been spent so much better elsewhere into “national security.”

More than 20 years later, I think it’s safe to say that the “homeland” is anything but secure and not because of Saudi terrorists either. These days, the terror, as Mazzarino suggests, is all too close to home. —Tom

A relative of mine, who works for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) compiling data on foreigners entering the United States, recently posted a curious logo on his Facebook profile: a white Roman numeral three

TomDispatch regular Andrea Mazzarino begins her striking new piece this way: "A relative of mine, who works for the Depa...
01/25/2022
The Pentagon We Don't Think About

TomDispatch regular Andrea Mazzarino begins her striking new piece this way: "A relative of mine, who works for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) compiling data on foreigners entering the United States, recently posted a curious logo on his Facebook profile: a white Roman numeral three on a black background surrounded by 13 white stars. For those who don’t know what this symbol stands for, it represents the “Three Percenters,” a group that the Anti-Defamation League has identified as an anti-government militia. Its members have a record of violent criminal attacks and strikingly partisan activity, including arrests and guilty pleas in connection with the bombing of a Minnesota mosque in 2017 and appearances as “guards,” carrying assault-style weaponry, at several pro-Trump rallies. Six of its members have been charged with plotting to assault the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

"When my husband, a Naval officer of nearly 20 years, saw this symbol on a family member’s page, he pointed out to me that, despite The Hatch Act, meant to ensure nonpartisanship among federal workers, DHS employees are not always held accountable for exercising “free speech” that would violate that law. The Three Percenters claim that they’re protesting government tyranny. The roman numeral itself refers to a debunked claim that only 3% of Americans in the original 13 colonies took up arms against the British in the Revolutionary War.

"What does it mean that an employee of the Department of — yes! — Homeland Security can openly and proudly promote a homegrown militia whose members have threatened and attacked American lawmakers and police? Sadly enough, this fits all too well an agency that national security expert Erik Dahl of the Costs of War Project recently described as looking the other way in the face of rising far-right extremism. That includes anti-government, white supremacist, and anti-Semitic groups, armed and otherwise. Such right-wing militias and extremist outfits, as Dahl makes clear, have killed an increasing number of people in this country since the 9/11 attacks, significantly more than groups inspired by foreign Islamist organizations like al-Qaeda. And yet, in both its public statements and policies, the domestic agency created after the 9/11 attacks to keep this country “secure” has consistently focused on the latter, while underestimating and often ignoring the former."

A relative of mine, who works for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) compiling data on foreigners entering the United States, recently posted a curious logo on his Facebook profile: a white Roman numeral three

Can President Biden pass the climate-change stuff in the Build Back Better bill separately?  Juan Cole thinks it's possi...
01/25/2022
Biden Still Determined to pass the Blockbuster Green Energy Package in BBB; Here's how He can Do it

Can President Biden pass the climate-change stuff in the Build Back Better bill separately? Juan Cole thinks it's possible. Tom

"I argued last December that since Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition had tanked the enormous Build Back Better act, President Biden should hive off the green energy portions and try to get them passed on a bipartisan basis.

Carol Davenport and Lisa Friedman writing in the New York Times report that both Biden and some prominent Democrats in Congress agree.

They quote Biden from his recent press conference, where he said,

“Yes, I’m confident we can get pieces — big chunks of the Build Back Better law signed into law . . .

Yes. Well, it’s clear to me that — that we’re going to have to probably break it up. I think that we can get — and I’ve been talking to a number of my colleagues on the Hill — I think it’s clear that we would be able to get support for the — for the 500-plus billion dollars for energy and the environmental issues that are there — number one.”

Davenport and Friedman quote some congressional Democrats like Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) concur.

Despite the positive noises he has been making on energy, I don’t think we can trust coal baron Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to do the right thing on CleanTech. Manchin has been saying that he can get behind the clean energy portion of the bill; that is because he has already taken out some of the things he doesn’t like (and which would be good for the economy). I suggested that Biden might be able to attract some Republican support for elements of green energy. Some of the same GOP senators who supported the Infrastructure Act might go along with green energy projects, especially if federal backing brought money into their state. States that return Republican senators are often the most solar-rich in the country, and not all of them are irrational about this potential the way the Florida GOP is.

MSNBC: “‘Give Manchin The Pen’: Markey, Khanna On How To Get Climate In Build Back Better”

Jules Scully at PVTech writes,

“The House version of the bill, passed on 19 November, extends and expands the investment tax credit (ITC), allows solar projects to opt for the production tax credit (PTC) and creates a standalone energy storage ITC.

If that version is enacted, Wood Mackenzie forecasts that it would result in a 31% increase in US solar deployment by 2026, representing an additional 43.5 GWdc [direct current gigawatts] of capacity.”

The US has about 100 gigawatts of solar now, and this one measure would increase it half again as much. There are also market forces and state and local governmental measures impelling more solar, so this would be on top of everything else.

In addition, as I wrote last December

Build Back Better, for instance, “includes tax credits that can cut the cost of installing rooftop solar panels by about 30 percent” according to NDRC. Likewise, “The bill includes, for instance, incentives to help strengthen the domestic supply chain for wind and solar power in disadvantaged communities.”

Renewable Energy World adds that the version passed by the House included “the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) to their full values, and taxpayers are eligible for direct pay instead of tax equity offsets. The bill will further incentive production that takes place in the U.S.” They note that there was also ” a new ITC for standalone energy storage.” In other words, we could put solar panels on every house and enable owners to afford a Tesla Powerwall or other storage capablity.

Some forms of solar power, especially community solar, have picked up substantial Republican support in states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Great, let’s do it nationally.

Wind power is another form of green energy that many Republican senators can get behind, since wind is important to several of the red states. Oklahoma, Iowa, and Kansas, all have big wind industries, as do even Indiana and North Dakato. A carefully crafted bill supporting wind could well attract their support.

I observed that America has to get this done:

“Promoting green energy is the number one priority that outweighs every other consideration. The poor will be made poorer by runaway global heating. Women will be hurt by it. Workers will suffer. Cities, the Democratic strongholds, are in dire danger from it. There is a sense in which much of the good that Democrats hope to do will be undone if they don’t radically reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Reducing them at home will give the United States more credibility in pressing other industrial societies to do so. Even more importantly, government investment in renewables and batteries will accelerate their already steep cost decrease and competitiveness with fossil fuels.”

https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/determined-blockbuster-package.html

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) - I argued last December that since Sen. Joe Manchin's opposition had tanked the enormous Build …

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6 more days Tom, wow. An early congratulation on your upcoming anniversary.
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Professor Rebecca Gordon, a PSCE Minor faculty member, recently published a story in the October The Nation Magazine! Read her article on who we must learn to be believe in pivotal moments in our history. https://www.thenation.com/article/world/global-catastrophe-prophesy/ TomDispatch USFPhilosophy Gleeson Library | Geschke Center, University of San Francisco USFCA Student Alumni Association #usfca
“At least we had an asteroid,” Frankie the dinosaur tells the UN General Assembly. What’s your excuse?” https://bit.ly/3k4J6Qw Below2°C
A dozen years ago, in 2009, I wrote an essay calling for mass civil disobedience and direct action around climate change. I didn’t think this was the most novel call to action, but there wasn’t too much of that going on at the time, and I wanted to document some of the stuff that was. Needless to say, it is now long past time for widespread disruption... Originally published TomDispatch, Mother Jones, Grist.org... "With global warming, perhaps more than any other issue, there is a disjuncture between a widespread acknowledgment of the gravity of the situation we face and a social willingness to respond in any proportionate way…. Unless citizens themselves become inconvenient, the truth will remain a minor consideration."