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Warning: Canada Is Not What You Think It Is February 21, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Immigration, Racism, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: I have read some journalism with the theme: can the Trump phenomenon happen in Canada.  Well, my friends, it already has, and it is called “Stephen Harper.”  Just as I refer to current Toronto Mayor John Tory as “Rob Ford minus the crack cocaine,” I would characterise the now departed Canadian Prime Minister (Harper) as Donald Trump without the Tweets (but with hair).  Although the Harper government was soundly defeated in the last election, Harper’s fear mongering legacy lives on in the Conservative Party, which as spawned a gaggle of would-be leaders, who are counting on the Trump effect to further inspire Canadian bigotry.

 

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If you assume Canada is a welcoming haven from the bile and divisiveness in the age of Trump, you may be mistaken.

By Andrew Mitrovica

February 20, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – “Al Jazeera” –  Warning: if you believe Canada is a pretty, picture-postcard Islamophobia-free zone, then I recommend you stop reading this column. You’re about to be profoundly disappointed, shocked, or both.

Scratch its inviting surface and you will discover quickly that, as in most other Western democracies, Islamophobia is not only alive and rampant in Canada, but it has long been a defining characteristic of at least one of its major political parties and large swaths of the country’s corporate media.

The most recent evidence of this unassailable fact has been on unsavoury display in the still raw residue of the massacre of six Muslim Canadians at prayer in a Quebec City mosque earlier this month.

Immediately after the terrorist attack, politicians went about the ritual of decrying the murders, while praying for the victims and their grieving families and urging their countrymen to rally around the Muslim community as a sign of unity and support.

Meanwhile, after a burst of attention to blunt any criticism that it took a terrorist attack on Muslims in Canada by a white, reactionary male as seriously as attacks in Paris, Brussels or London, much of the establishment media promptly went on its way, as the carnage in a mosque receded comfortably into the rearview mirror.

But difficult questions remained unanswered. Chief among them: What to do about the Islamophobia that was stoked into a raging bonfire by some of the very politicians and media that were pleading – with all the faux solemnity they could muster – for harmony and understanding?

Condemning Islamophobia

Wisely sceptical of the flowery rhetoric, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) – a prominent voice for Canada’s Muslim community – has written an open letter to politicians of all persuasions, urging them to take concrete steps to confront Islamophobia and racism and discrimination that exists plainly in their midst.

leitch-harperHarper and Leitch, the dynamic duo of Canadian racism, source: montrealsimon@blogspot.com

 
Finally, the NCCM threw its powerful backing behind a largely symbolic, non-binding motion sponsored by a governing Liberal MP, Iqra Khalid, that calls on the House of Commons to condemn Islamophobia and all religious discrimination in the aftermath of the Quebec city attack.

For context, it’s important to note that after a few hours of perfunctory debate, Canadian parliamentarians unanimously adopted another Liberal MP’s motion in 2015 condemning the “rise of anti-Semitism around the world”.

Not surprisingly, Khalid’s motion has faced a much more different, tumultuous and instructive fate.

Rather than be approved swiftly and unanimously, Motion 103 has morphed into a running spectacle that has not only dominated Canada’s political agenda but has also exposed the pus of Islamophobia still oozing from Canadian politicians and media that only a few weeks ago were expressing sympathy for men murdered during evening prayers because they were Muslims.

‘Phantom horrors’

Leading the hysterical charge in opposing the motion is Canada’s Conservative Party and the bevy of candidates who are vying to lead it. All but one of the leadership candidates have signalled their vehement opposition to the motion, claiming that, among other phantom horrors, it would stifle freedom of speech and possibly act as a precursor to the invocation of “Sharia Law”.

This is, of course, lunacy. But it is lunacy that has coursed its malevolent way through the core of the Conservative Party for a long time and not, as some have suggested, emerged only lately from the swamp of Islamophobia to take up residence at the party’s radical “fringes”.

Harper not only stocked his cabinet with ministers who shared his embrace of what amounted to hate politics, but also plucked them from obscurity, gave them a national profile, all the while defending and championing them. 

This is a revisionist lie. Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent much of his tenure fuelling and satisfying the not-so-latent Islamophobia that was politically appealing to his legion of supporters by making the niqab a racist dog-whistle and lauding “old-stock Canadians”.

By the way, the NCCM has sued Harper and his former spokesman for suggesting that the respected advocacy group had “documented ties to a terrorist organisation such as Hamas“.

Harper not only stocked his cabinet with ministers who shared his embrace of what amounted to hate politics, but also plucked them from obscurity, gave them a national profile, all the while defending and championing them.

Perhaps Harper’s signature legacy in this sorry regard was first encouraging, and then promoting, the political career of Kellie Leitch – who, in turn, repaid her patron’s largesse with unrivalled zealotry and loyalty.

During last year’s election campaign, Leitch fronted the unveiling of a Harper-approved “tip line” for reporting so-called “barbaric cultural practices” – a thinly disguised, bureaucratic euphemism for Islam.

And, today, as a prominent and popular Conservative leadership candidate, Leitch keeps channelling her former boss’s odious modus operandi while attending a “freedom rally” stuffed with avowed Islamophobes who are convinced Motion 103 is an Islam-inspired plot to undermine Canadians’ rights and freedoms.

“It’s great to be in a room full of severely normal people tonight,” Leitch told the adoring crowd. “Canadian values are not fringe, and together, I know, we are going to fight for them.”

Leitch is Harper without the filter.

READ MORE: In Quebec, calls for unity amid rising Islamophobia

Cheering her on is an equally hysterical mob of largely right-wing journalists who have pounced on Khalid and her motion, chomping at the bit of Islamophobia while insisting, unconvincingly, that their objections to Motion 103 are motivated solely by their oh-so-sincere concern that it would grant one religion “special status” over all others.

Khalid put an emphatic lie to this transparently spurious reasoning after rising in the House of Commons to read out a sampling of the relentless torrent of hate, death threats and Islamophobia she has endured in the days since proffering her motion.

She has been called a “terrorist” and a “camel humping” “scumbag” who should be shot by a “Canadian patriot” or deported “like a disgusting piece of trash.” She has advised her staff not to answer the phone and to lock the office door behind them.

Undeterred, Khalid rightly excoriated the remnants of Harper’s Conservative caucus for its “cynical, divisive tactics … to try to start a fake frenzy around the word Islamophobia, instead of tackling the issue at hand.”

So, the next time you’re inclined to praise or even consider moving to Canada because it’s allegedly a welcoming haven from the bile and divisiveness in the age of Donald Trump, it might be best to remember these obscenities before you act on your impulses.

Andrew Mitrovica is an award-winning investigative reporter and journalism instructor.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

IMAGES (1) February 20, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, First Nations, Human Rights, Police, Racism, Republicans, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: I have become addicted to surfing Instagram for interesting images; and I am collecting those I find to be interesting, ironic, funny, poignant and politically biting.  I share some of them with you here.

 

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Through observation and study it has become clear to me that police forces in North American have become bastions of racism, misogyny and homophobia, at the same time as they have become militarised (i.e. armed to the teeth a la S.W.A.T. teams, which now routinely crash into homes like Gangbusters to serve simple warrants).  These police forces are already the front line storm troops used to repress legitimate dissent (e.g. Occupy Movement).  It helps greatly that the members of these forces are ideologically inclined to help stamp out protest movements).

 

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AS TENSIONS RISE, STEVE BANNON AND ISIS GET CLOSER TO THEIR COMMON GOAL: CIVILIZATIONAL WAR February 16, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, ISIS/ISIL, Nazi / Fascist, Republicans, Right Wing, Trump, Uncategorized, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: when Sarah Palin was selected by McCain as as his vice presidential nominee, we shuddered that someone with an apocalyptic vision had come so close to real armed-to-the-teeth political power.  With the election of Trump and the ascension of Bannon and others, we have now reached that point in history where those in control of the US nuclear arsenal could very well see a nuclear conflagration in a positive light.  The Trump presidency is no joke, SNL notwithstanding.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION has taken sweeping, drastic measures that it says are necessary to protect Americans from the threat of terrorism, including its executive order halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. But the radical policies and beliefs of this administration could just as easily end up fueling the narratives of extremist groups fighting the United States. When Trump ran a campaign built on promises to destroy ISIS, how can one explain the fact that supporters of the group in Mosul were reportedly celebrating his Muslim ban?

The order was based on plainly dubious claims about national security, targeting for scrutiny some of the most heavily vetted visitors to the United States. But the tangible purpose it did serve, before being at least temporarily frozen by the courts, was to divide Americans from millions of people in the Muslim world by sending the latter a message of gratuitous insult and contempt — and emboldening the very extremist movements the order was ostensibly directed against.

That kind of polarization may be exactly what some members of the White House want. High-ranking members of the current administration — most notably its chief strategist, Steve Bannon — have publicly espoused apocalyptic theories of history that center on a forthcoming clash between Western countries and the Muslim world, a conflict that many of them seem to perceive as both inevitable and desirable.

There are striking parallels between Bannon’s worldview and the perspective of terrorist groups like the Islamic State, which see the world divided in similarly binary terms — hence their reported enthusiasm for the executive order that Bannon helped author.

A proponent of pseudoscientific theories of history like the “Fourth Turning,” Bannon has predicted the coming of another major U.S. war in the Middle East and a military conflict with what he calls an “expansionist China.” In interviews during the election campaign, Bannon openly described Trump as a “blunt instrument” for his ideological goals.

A 2014 speech that Bannon delivered to an audience at the Vatican provides a hint of what kind of program he might want to use Trump to achieve. In that address, delivered via teleconference, Bannon called for a revival of the tradition of the “church militant,” describing a vague yet apocalyptic threat he claims that Western countries face from both “Islamic jihadist fascism” and their own loss of religious faith.

We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict … to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.

Now consider how Bannon’s hysterical view of history was echoed that same year in a speech by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who issued a similarly vague, yet no less frenzied call to arms:

So let the world know that we are living today in a new era. Whoever was heedless must now be alert. Whoever was sleeping must now awaken. … You will face tribulation and fierce battle. … So prepare your arms, and supply yourselves with piety.

Nowhere are these types of ideas particularly popular. While the Islamic State is held up by anti-Muslim activists in the United States as the quintessential expression of Muslim beliefs, in reality the group is deeply loathed in Muslim-majority countries. In the United States, though Trump won the election, his voter base comprised a distinct minority of the electorate. Even among those who did vote for him, few appear to have done so in enthusiasm for the apocalyptic theories of history held by advisers like Bannon. Huge numbers of people have also taken to the streets in opposition to Trump’s executive orders, which has helped to counteract the administration’s anti-Muslim message to the world, showing that it does not represent the views of all Americans.

But it doesn’t take much for a highly motivated minority to spark a broader conflict.

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President Donald Trump pauses as he signs executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House, on Feb. 3, 2017, in Washington. aPhoto: Aude Guerrucci/Press Pool/Getty Images

ISIS attacks have been deliberately calibrated to shock and offend the sensibilities of Western publics, a strategy that the group openly refers to as “eliminating the grayzone” of coexistence between societies. Many 19th- and 20th-century revolutionary movements were also led by small, militant vanguards that used violence and provocation to help advance their political programs. In their time, these movements achieved real tactical successes. And even today, despite widespread public war-weariness in the United States, ISIS has accomplished its goal of dragging American troops back into armed conflicts in Iraq and Syria that show little sign of abating.

After a series of improbable successes, the radical right-wing vanguard of U.S. politics has now taken control of the government, along with the most powerful military on the planet. In its enthusiasm for civilizational war, it is just the enemy that a group like the Islamic State needs to help validate its desperate and fanatical narrative.

An early example of the kind of harm that the Trump administration can do came in the form of the first special operations forces raid authorized by Trump after his inauguration. In that operation — reportedly promoted to him over dinner with his advisers — a total of 25 civilians were reportedly killed, including nine children under the age of 13. Among those killed was an 8-year-old U.S. citizen, Nawar al-Awlaki, the daughter of deceased al Qaeda proselytizer Anwar al-Awlaki. Images of Awlaki’s daughter and other victims of the raid were broadcast around the world, fueling widespread outrage.

Days later, the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda publicly denounced Trump for carrying out a “massacre” of civilians. The group promised vengeance, saying that global outrage over the deaths meant that “the flame of jihad has ignited and reached all over the world.”

While that may be an overstatement, it is not hard to see how a cycle of tit-for-tat violence, already tacitly established since the start of the war on terror, could accelerate dramatically under an administration that actively seeks to escalate conflict. Where President Obama sought to calm public fears in the aftermath of ISIS attacks, Trump and his administration will undoubtedly seek to inflame them for political gain. It’s only a matter of time before such an attack occurs, and Trump’s reaction could have consequences that quickly spiral out of control.

In his memoirs, published after his suicide in 1942, the exiled Austrian Jewish writer Stefan Zweig described his feelings of despair upon realizing that a “tiny but loud-mouthed party of German Nationalists” had succeeded in seizing power and dragging humanity into a global conflict it had neither wanted or expected. “The personal cause to which I had lent the force of my convictions, the peaceful union of Europe, had been wrecked,” Zweig lamented. “What I feared more than my own death, war waged by everyone against everyone else, had been unleashed for the second time.”

Seven decades after Zweig penned these words, small, well-organized groups of right-wing radicals are once again ascendant across the world. The best hope to stop them may be the popular opposition movements that have begun to stir in the United States. But most importantly, it will take a rejection of the logic of revenge and collective blame on both sides to prevent the apocalyptic visions of extremists from becoming reality.

Obama Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen. Trump Just Killed His 8-Year-Old Sister. January 31, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Constitution, Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Trump, Uncategorized, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: As we confront the groundwork for massive atrocities being laid in these first days of the neo-Fascist Trump government, perhaps we need to be reminded that a substantial amount of the groundwork had already been put in place, much of it by the Obama administration.  That the political classes and the mainstream media have no problem with the president of the United States ordering bombings that kill dozens of civilians, including American citizens, it an abomination.  I had read in the New York Times that an American soldier died in these attacks.  That was it.  No mention of the atrocity described in this article.

In 2010, President Obama directed the CIA to assassinate an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, despite the fact that he had never been charged with (let alone convicted of) any crime, and the agency successfully carried out that order a year later with a September 2011 drone strike. While that assassination created widespread debate — the once-again-beloved ACLU sued Obama to restrain him from the assassination on the ground of due process and then, when that suit was dismissed, sued Obama again after the killing was carried out — another drone killing carried out shortly thereafter was perhaps even more significant yet generated relatively little attention.

Two weeks after the killing of Awlaki, a separate CIA drone strike in Yemen killed his 16-year-old American-born son, Abdulrahman, along with the boy’s 17-year-old cousin and several other innocent Yemenis. The U.S. eventually claimed that the boy was not their target but merely “collateral damage.” Abdulrahman’s grief-stricken grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki, urged the Washington Post “to visit a Facebook memorial page for Abdulrahman,” which explained: “Look at his pictures, his friends, and his hobbies. His Facebook page shows a typical kid.”

Few events pulled the mask off Obama officials like this one. It highlighted how the Obama administration was ravaging Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries: just weeks after he won the Nobel Prize, Obama used cluster bombs that killed 35 Yemeni women and children. Even Obama-supporting liberal comedians mocked the arguments of the Obama DOJ for why it had the right to execute Americans with no charges: “Due Process Just Means There’s A Process That You Do,” snarked Stephen Colbert. And a firestorm erupted when former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs offered a sociopathic justification for killing the Colorado-born teenager, apparently blaming him for his own killing by saying he should have “had a more responsible father.” 

The U.S. assault on Yemeni civilians not only continued but radically escalated over the next five years through the end of the Obama presidency, as the U.S. and the U.K. armed, supported, and provide crucial assistance to their close ally Saudi Arabia as it devastated Yemen through a criminally reckless bombing campaign. Yemen now faces mass starvationseemingly exacerbated, deliberately, by the U.S.-U.K.-supported air attacks. Because of the West’s direct responsibility for these atrocities, they have received vanishingly little attention in the responsible countries.

In a hideous symbol of the bipartisan continuity of U.S. barbarism, Nasser al-Awlaki just lost another one of his young grandchildren to U.S. violence. On Sunday, the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, using armed Reaper drones for cover, carried out a commando raid on what it said was a compound harboring officials of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A statement issued by President Trump lamented the death of an American service member and several others who were wounded, but made no mention of any civilian deaths. U.S. military officials initially denied any civilian deaths, and (therefore) the CNN report on the raid said nothing about any civilians being killed.

But reports from Yemen quickly surfaced that 30 people were killed, including 10 women and children. Among the dead: the 8-year-old granddaughter of Nasser al-Awlaki, Nawar, who was also the daughter of Anwar Awlaki.

 

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As noted by my colleague Jeremy Scahill — who extensively interviewed the grandparents in Yemen for his book and film on Obama’s “Dirty Wars” —  the girl “was shot in the neck and killed,” bleeding to death over the course of two hours. “Why kill children?” the grandfather asked. “This is the new (U.S.) administration — it’s very sad, a big crime.”

The New York Times yesterday reported that military officials had been planning and debating the raid for months under the Obama administration, but Obama officials decided to leave the choice to Trump. The new president personally authorized the attack last week. They claim that the “main target” of the raid “was computer materials inside the house that could contain clues about future terrorist plots.” The paper cited a Yemeni official saying that “at least eight women and seven children, ages 3 to 13, had been killed in the raid,” and that the attack also “severely damaged a school, a health facility and a mosque.”

As my colleague Matthew Cole reported in great detail just weeks ago, Navy SEAL Team 6, for all its public glory, has a long history of “‘revenge ops,’ unjustified killings, mutilations, and other atrocities.” And Trump notoriously vowed during the campaign to target not only terrorists but also their families. All of that demands aggressive, independent inquiries into this operation.

Perhaps most tragic of all is that — just as was true in Iraq — al Qaeda had very little presence in Yemen before the Obama administration began bombing and droning it and killing civilians, thus driving people into the arms of the militant group. As the late, young Yemeni writer Ibrahim Mothana told Congress in 2013:

Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants. … Unfortunately, liberal voices in the United States are largely ignoring, if not condoning, civilian deaths and extrajudicial killings in Yemen.

During George W. Bush’s presidency, the rage would have been tremendous. But today there is little outcry, even though what is happening is in many ways an escalation of Mr. Bush’s policies. …

Defenders of human rights must speak out. America’s counterterrorism policy here is not only making Yemen less safe by strengthening support for AQAP [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] but it could also ultimately endanger the United States and the entire world.

This is why it is crucial that — as urgent and valid protests erupt against Trump’s abuses — we not permit recent history to be whitewashed, or long-standing U.S. savagery to be deceitfully depicted as new Trumpian aberrations, or the war on terror framework engendering these new assaults to be forgotten. Some current abuses are unique to Trump, but — as I detailed on Saturday — some are the decades-old byproduct of a mindset and system of war and executive powers that all need uprooting. Obscuring these facts, or allowing those responsible to posture as opponents of all this, is not just misleading but counterproductive: Much of this resides on an odious continuum and did not just appear out of nowhere.

Congress voted on border wall in 2006, Hillary, Schumer, Feinstein voted Yes https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=2&vote=00262  Bernie voted no http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2006/roll446.xml 

 

It’s genuinely inspiring to see pervasive rage over the banning of visa holders and refugees from countries like Yemen. But it’s also infuriating that the U.S. continues to massacre Yemeni civilians, both directly and through its tyrannical Saudi partners. That does not become less infuriating — Yemeni civilians are not less dead — because these policies and the war theories in which they are rooted began before the inauguration of Donald Trump. It’s not just Trump but this mentality and framework that need vehement opposition.

Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince Is Advising Trump From the Shadows January 27, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Trump, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: when the state and the corporate world are virtually inseparable, then fascism has been achieved, according to one of its definitions.  The United States has been moving in this direction for many years.  With the advent of the Trump presidency, even in its first days, as seen by the choice of White House insiders and cabinet appointments, we are witnessing the arrival of genuine state/corporate/police fascism.  The bolstering of the police apparatus of repression, backed by the criminalization of dissent, in the face of state attacks on women, minorities, immigrants and refugees, Muslims, the poor, etc., is a recipe for all out tyranny.  Resistance is only beginning to coalesce, as demonstrated by the millions marching on January 21.  This will be met by our heavily militarized police and National Guard.  We are in for some perilous times.

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By Jeremy Scahill

January 26, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – “The Intercept” –

Erik Prince, America’s most notorious mercenary, is lurking in the shadows of the incoming Trump administration. A former senior U.S. official who has advised the Trump transition told The Intercept that Prince has been advising the team on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on candidates for the Defense and State departments. The official asked not to be identified because of a transition policy prohibiting discussion of confidential deliberations.

On election night, Prince’s latest wife, Stacy DeLuke, posted pictures from inside Trump’s campaign headquarters as Donald Trump and Mike Pence watched the returns come in, including a close shot of Pence and Trump with their families. “We know some people who worked closely with [Trump] on his campaign,” DeLuke wrote. “Waiting for the numbers to come in last night. It was well worth the wait!!!! #PresidentTrump2016.” Prince’s sister, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and Prince (and his mother) gave large sums of money to a Trump Super PAC.

In July, Prince told Trump’s senior adviser and white supremacist Steve Bannon, at the time head of Breitbart News, that the Trump administration should recreate a version of the Phoenix Program, the CIA assassination ring that operated during the Vietnam War, to fight ISIS. Such a program, Prince said, could kill or capture “the funders of Islamic terror and that would even be the wealthy radical Islamist billionaires funding it from the Middle East, and any of the other illicit activities they’re in.”

Prince also said that Trump would be the best force to confront “Islamic fascism.” “As for the world looking to the United States for leadership, unfortunately, I think they’re going to have to wait till January and hope Mr. Trump is elected because, clearly, our generals don’t have a stomach for a fight,” Prince said. “Our president doesn’t have a stomach for a fight and the terrorists, the fascists, are winning.”

Prince founded the notorious private security firm Blackwater, which rose to infamy in September 2007 after its operatives gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians, including a 9-year-old boy in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. Whistleblowers also alleged that Prince encouraged an environment in which Iraqis were killed for sport. At the height of the Blackwater scandals in 2007, another prominent Trump backer, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, praised Prince, who once worked in his congressional office. “Prince,’’ Rohrabacher said, “is on his way to being an American hero just like Ollie North was.’’

Ultimately, Prince sold Blackwater and now heads up a Hong Kong-based company known as Frontier Services Group. The Intercept has previously reported on Prince’s efforts to build a private air force for hire and his close ties to Chinese intelligence. One of his latest schemes is a proposal to deploy private contractors to work with Libyan security forces to stop the flow of refugees to Europe.

Prince has long fantasized that he is the rightful heir to the legacy of “Wild Bill” Donovan and his Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. After 9/11, Prince worked with the CIA on a secret assassination program, in addition to offering former SEALs and other retired special operators to the State Department and other agencies for personal security.

Blaming leftists and some congressional Democrats for destroying his Blackwater empire, Prince clearly views Trump’s vow to bring back torture, CIA-sponsored kidnapping, and enhanced interrogations, as well as his commitment to fill Guantánamo with prisoners, as a golden opportunity to ascend to his rightful place as a covert private warrior for the U.S. national security state. As we reported last year, “Prince — who portrays himself as a mix between Indiana Jones, Rambo, Captain America, and Pope Benedict — is now working with the Chinese government through his latest ‘private security’ firm.” The Trump presidency could result in Prince working for both Beijing and the White House.

The Blackwater founder has also endorsed some of Trump’s overtures to Russia, saying: “Think about it: If FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, can deal with Stalin to defeat German fascism in World War II, certainly the United States of America could work with Putin to defeat Islamic fascism. We don’t have to agree with the Russians on everything, or even on a lot, but we can at least agree that crushing ISIS in the Middle East is a very good idea.” Prince described Democrats as “anti-Catholic, anti-Evangelical,” saying the DNC hacks and leaks revealed “the disregard, the disdain they have for the average American voter and citizen.”

Prince has a close relationship with Breitbart News and Steve Bannon, Trump’s senior counselor and chief strategist. Prince has appeared frequently — and almost exclusively — on Breitbart Radio. In August, Prince offered praise for Trump’s candidacy, telling Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos: “I even like some of his projects that have gone bankrupt, because people that do things, and build things, and try things, sometimes fail at doing it, and that’s the strength of the American capitalist system.” Prince added: “We have kind of turned our back on the fact that hard work, sacrifice, risk-taking, innovation, is what made America great. Washington did not make America great.”

In September, Prince backed Trump’s proposal to commandeer Iraq’s 2 million barrels of daily oil output. “For Mr. Trump to say, ‘We’re going to take their oil — certainly we’re not going to lift it out of there and take it somewhere else, but putting it into production, and putting a tolling arrangement into place, to repay the American taxpayers for their efforts to remove Saddam and to stabilize the area, is doable, and very plausible,” Prince said on Breitbart Radio.

Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and she has all but vowed to embark on a crusade to push a privatization and religious agenda in education that mirrors her brother’s in military and CIA affairs. Prince has long been a contributor to the campaign of fellow Christian warrior Mike Pence, and he contributed $100,000 to the pro-Trump Super PAC Make America Number 1. Prince’s mother, Elsa, pitched in another $50,000. That organization, run by Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire hedge funder Robert Mercer, was one of the strongest bankrollers of Trump’s campaign.

According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, in December Prince attended the annual “Villains and Heroes” costume ball hosted by Mercer. Dowd wrote that Palantir founder Peter Thiel showed her “a picture on his phone of him posing with Erik Prince, who founded the private military company Blackwater, and Mr. Trump — who had no costume — but joke[d] that it was ‘N.S.F.I.’ (Not Safe for the Internet).”

Not even Trump is brazen enough to give Prince a public post in his administration. But Prince is operating in the shadows, where he has always been most at home.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Jeremy Scahill on Trump Team: A Cabal of Religious Extremists, Privatization Advocates & Racists

 

December 24, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Arms, Christmas, Uncategorized, War.
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Sadly, little has changed since this first appeared in 2013, though Santa remains as busy in ever in the struggle for social justice; Santa looks forward to seeing you on the picket lines, in the joyful social justice disruptions and, in all likelihood, in jail, with all the other civil disobedients, in 2017!

Taking liberties: Santa Claus rejects NORAD escort, may be placed on no-fly list

 | DECEMBER 20, 2013

Photo: Matt and Cyndi Maxson/flickr
 
In a little-noticed news release from the North Pole, a jolly senior citizen has asked that his image not be co-opted this holiday season by the Canadian War Department and NORAD. In addition, the gentleman, who identified himself as Santa Claus, also refused the militarized escort that NORAD said would be tracking his annual flight around the world.
“I don’t want war planes on my tail, and I don’t want children to think I am in any way associated with the type of organization that plans for things like nuclear war and space warfare,” Claus said in an exclusive telephone interview with rabble.ca. “Your War Department misrepresents me the same way the sales of war toys misrepresent me. I don’t make machine guns and toy tanks, and I certainly do NOT want a warplane escort or to be tracked by an organization which is working to militarize the heavens.”
Claus was particularly concerned that NORAD uses this annual opportunity to glorify warplanes and drones which are used to drop bombs on and mutilate children in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, noting that last week, dozens of people in a Yemeni wedding party were massacred by a drone-fired Hellfire missile.
Santa says he is disturbed to again find himself the focus of the annual military public affairs operation, designed to normalize for children the idea that the military — as well as military alliances which plan and constantly threaten life on the planet with nuclear warfare, pre-emptive invasions and environmental destruction — is a benign outfit.
“I also don’t need to be tracked,” Claus says. “This is the era where we are learning that CSEC in Ottawa and the NSA are watching every move everybody makes, and it’s getting ridiculous. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has gotten ulcers out of concern that every time he sneaks into the bushes to do his business, it winds up on some database somewhere and could be used to embarrass him in front of his fellow creatures.”

 

NORAD deception about Claus
The NORAD Tracks Santa website is a paean to militarism, inviting young children to play at war and offering videos that are recruitment vehicles featuring martial music more akin to a 1980s Tom Cruise bomb-em-up flick than a period of peace and good will to all. Indeed, one four-minute video making the rounds of community newspaper websites around the globe opens with an image not of Santa but of bomber planes.
“One of the videos says I did a test flight in cooperation with NORAD, which is a total lie,” Claus said, bemoaning the fact that the tracking site features numerous tributes to an organization that has the power, along with its other “northern command” partners, to commit the ultimate act of nuclear terrorism and obliterate the globe.
One video features a small child (perhaps the son of U.S. military personnel) stationed in Djibouti, one of over 700 U.S. bases occupying the globe and also the site of a command centre from which drones are launched in countries like Yemen and Somalia. (Djibouti troops do not, notably, maintain a military base protecting their own interests in Florida or Manitoba). While the child talks of going to the beach and riding his bike, the video does not mention that one month ago, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights heard evidence on Djibouti’s role in the U.S.-led (and Canadian-supported) rendition to torture and secret detention program.
The NORAD tracking site also features holiday songs performed by — who else — the Air Force Academy Band.
“In the same way the militaries of the world try to convince us that humanitarian aid cannot be delivered without sniper rifles or bombing the heck out of a village first, now they are trying to show that Christmas cannot happen without all of their firepower, and that Christmas carols cannot be sung unless by people who’ve been trained to kill,” Claus said. “Well, I have news for them. The trillions spent on war are what deprive most children of happy holidays, regardless of when they celebrate them.”
Meanwhile, a heavily redacted Access to Information request appears to reveal why NORAD is tracking Santa, and early indicators are it has nothing to do with his protection nor his mission of delivering joy. 
CSIS names Santa security threat
According to the highly classified document from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), “The Service has reasonable grounds to believe that [name blacked out, but clearly a reference to Claus] is a member of an inadmissible class of persons to Canada based on a variety of associations, travel patterns and other indicators which constitute a threat to the security of Canada.”
Among those highly suspect findings, CSIS notes, is Santa’s long beard (“worn in the traditional Muslim fashion that could inspire some radicalized youth to follow bearded individuals such as Osama bin Laden”), his visitation to countries throughout the Middle East and refusal to demonize anyone (“a disturbing inclination towards supporting the human rights of Palestinians,”), his large donations of gifts (“he may be transporting illicit materials that could place him on the United Nations 1267 list, thereby barring him from travelling with goods that could fall into the wrong hands”), past associations (“[subject] did attend at Robben Island prison compound and provide material aid to Nelson Mandela and other members of African National Congress, which Service maintains was, is, or could be a terrorist organization”), has signed petitions urging the release of immigration detainees (including children detained in refugee jails across Canada) and in support of environmental protections (“Service notes subject supports same causes as eco-terrorists trying to block oil sands development”), and his failure to carry a passport.
“Service also notes that Mr. Claus uses several aliases possibly as a means of avoiding detection, including Jolly St. Nick, Kris Kringle, and, in a special code with woman alleged to be Mrs. Claus, ‘tubby old sock,’ origin for which is still a mystery to Service but further investigation will reveal.” Claus also appears to be under surveillance for carrying of “suspicious” sacks, studious avoidance of customs, and his “religious head gear,” the last of particular concern to Quebec security services attempting to pre-emptively enforce their so-called Charter of Values. 
Is Prancer a closet Muslim?
CSIS also notes with grave concern that at least two of Santa’s reindeer (Prancer and Vixen) have been reading the Koran and allegedly discussed conversion to Islam.
It is not surprising that Claus would be the subject of concern to “security services,” whose main goals tend toward monitoring outbreaks of democracy and free-thinking inquiry while harassing specific targeted communities using the same vague profiling against, for example, members of this country’s Arab Muslim communities. Santa certainly does have a record of being involved in the same social justice causes that everyone from CSIS and the RCMP to the FBI and CIA have deemed threats to national security. For example, Santa was recently arrested with Walmart workers seeking a decent wage, while the busiest resident of the North Pole also managed to take an anti-drones message of Peace to the Australian military. Santa also performed a tripod action for 9 hours in Glasgow this week to protest immigration raids that break down doors and arrest and detain children simply because they are refugees.
While Santa is proud of involving himself in social justice activities, he does get weary of his image being used to glorify war, especially given that he annually views the painful reality that is a result of relying on military might to enforce injustice and resolve conflicts. “We see all the children of the world, the ones who have lost legs and arms and eyes to landmines and cluster bombs, the ones who have watched parents murdered with Canadian bullets and machine guns in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ones whose only wish for Christmas is peace on Earth, or the return of a parent or sibling killed by an aerial bombardment.”
Claus has joined Homes not Bombs members on many occasions through the years as an ambassador of peace through justice and goodwill. As such, he has been arrested by Loblaws for helping distribute food he took from their shelves (to help pay back the tens of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes owed by Loblaws), protesting sanctions against the people of Iraq which killed over one million Iraqis (this with the aid of the Canadian military whose warplanes are set to tail Santa), the use of secret trial security certificates, the production of war toys, L-3 Wescam’s production of drone technology in Burlington, Ont., the Hamilton War Show, and many others.
“There are so many causes for me to support, and I want to support them all, but half the time I’m busy trying to correct the false information about me and what I stand for that’s presented by the military and the media,” Claus said. “I barely have time to speak with you, much less all the other media outlets who request interviews.” 
Christ continues to be detained by CBSA
rabble.ca‘s interview with Claus was cut off when he received a call from one of Canada’s top immigration lawyers, Barb Jackman, to discuss his travel options given the increasingly tight Canadian borders for refugees and the possibility that he may be on Canada’s no-fly list. Indeed, it is unclear whether agents of the Canadian Border Services Agency — a federal department with absolutely no independent oversight — will allow Claus to enter Canada, and there are still many unresolved questions regarding its recent rejection of Jesus Christ, who was deemed a failed refugee claimant and a threat to national security.
Lawyers at the time had asked for information about CSIS interviews with Christ, but because CSIS does not record interviews nor make verbatim notes, there was little to go on. “The Service noted that Christ appeared unusually calm when pressed about his possible association with prostitutes, beggars and lepers,” read a short half-page of notes which were eventually declassified. “Christ also seemed hesitant when asked whether an individual named Joseph was his father, a sign that he was withholding the true nature of his character.” Christ’s anti-government activities also raised a red flag for Canadian border officials.
Christ was also deemed to be a security threat because he allegedly uses a number of aliases, including Prince of Peace, Jesus of Nazareth and the Son of God. He had travelled to Canada, like most refugees, on a false passport, because if he had used his real name on travel documents, Roman authorities may have picked him up before he could have fled the country. Christ was also deemed inadmissible to Canada because of his criminal record; he, like all refugees coming to this country, are considered not worthy of being accepted even if those convictions have occurred in countries where there is no due process or internationally recognized legal system. Worse, refugees who have been convicted of minor offences which would be deemed “summary” (or lesser) offences if convicted here in Canada have their record interpreted as indictable (or more severe) upon their arrival here, regardless of the circumstances.
In another mark against Christ, CBSA points out one particular incident in which the refugee applicant was “particularly violent, overturning a table used by moneychangers in a temple frequented by Canadian money speculators.” Canada’s Criminal Code notes that a terrorist is anyone who “damages property outside of Canada because a person or entity with an interest in the property or occupying the property has a relationship with Canada or a province or is doing business with or on behalf of the Government of Canada or a province.”
While Christ remains in detention with hundreds of never-charged immigration detainees in Lindsay (many of whom are again on hunger strike), Santa will no doubt be writing the phone number of his lawyer on his arm in the event he needs to make that call. If there’s nothing under your tree December 25, you may want to consider posting bail for the latest in a long line of wrongly imprisoned migrants and travellers caught up in the nightmare of Canada’s immigration regime.
Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. ‘national security’ profiling for many years.

_

Urgent: Chelsea Manning is running out of time. We have just days left to get 100,000 signatures calling for President Obama to commute her sentence to time served. December 9, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Uncategorized, Whistle-blowing.
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Transparency activist Chelsea Manning has already spent more time behind bars than any other whistleblower in U.S. history. [1] She’s been systematically mistreated, subjected to torture, and denied access to desperately needed health care while serving a 35 year sentence in an all-male military prison.

And if we don’t do something right now, Chelsea’s life is literally in danger. Sign this urgent petition calling for Chelsea’s release. The deadline is next week!KT Mcfarland, the incoming administration’s pick for Deputy National Security Advisor, has repeatedly called for Chelsea to be executed. [2] Her situation is about to go from bad to worse.

Chelsea has already attempted to commit suicide twice as a direct result of years of psychological torture she’s endured and the inhumane conditions of her captivity. [3]

The Obama Administration is directly responsible for Chelsea’s unnecessary suffering. Now the President has one last chance to do the right thing, but he’ll only do it if we generate a massive outcry, right now.

Chelsea risked everything to do what she felt was right. Click here to sign the petition calling for President Obama to commute her sentence before he leaves office.

We’ve already got nearly 50,000 signatures on a “WhiteHouse.gov” petition calling supporting Chelsea’s request that President Obama grant her clemency and reduce her sentence to “Time Served.”

Our allies in Washington, DC suggest that this is much more likely than Obama offering a pardon, and if we get enough people to sign, there’s a chance we can get Chelsea free, and possibly save her life in the process.

If we get more than 100,000 signatures by December 14th, President Obama will have to respond. This could be our last chance. Chelsea is depending on us.

Time is running out! Click here to sign the petition now.

I talked to Chelsea on the phone just last week. She is always so humble, brave, and grateful for all of your support.

Please forward this email to everyone you know. If all of us act now, it could make all the difference for Chelsea’s future.

Here’s the link: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/commute-chelsea-mannings-sentence-time-served-1

More soon,

-Evan at Fight for the Future

SOURCES:
[1] Learn more at https://www.freechelsea.com

[2] CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/02/politics/kfile-kt-mcfarland-manning-assange/

[3] The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/04/chelsea-manning-second-suicide-attempt-attorneys-prison-sentence

 

Lest We Forget November 20, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, History, Imperialism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: It would take an incredible stretch to imagine a world that was not colonized by the European nations (and lately, the United States).  Imperialism is the perverse spawn of capitalism, which can never get enough natural resources and indentured labour to satisfy its voracious appetite for profit.  This could as well be a map of Asia or the Middle East. Every line on you see is artificial and represents exploitation and suffering.  As the British, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Belgian and German imperial adventures have faded into history, the United States with its military tentacles stretching to every corner of the globe, has filled the vacuum.

NOVEMBER 15, 1884

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Thank you, Barack Obama November 10, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in 2016 election, Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Climate Change, Criminal Justice, donald trump, Immigration, Media, Nazi / Fascist, Racism, Surveillance, Surveillance State, Trump, War.
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Roger’s note: the Obama presidency has been lethal to so many social movements, perhaps none more so than the anti-war movement.  Because he is a Democrat, and because the Democrats are the good guys (that’s a joke), he was to be trusted and supported.  Shit, they gave him the Nobel Peace Prize!  Like the Clintons, Obama has been and is little more than a mildly sugar-coated shill for the military industrial complex.  Because of the institutions of “security” and oppression that his presidency has strengthened and emboldened, the cost in life and liberty of the police-state violence against the massive resistance the is bound to erupt against Trump will be that much greater.

Good people have no reason to be thankful for Obama, but the Trump abominations certainly do.

The New Slave Revolt October 12, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Labor, Prison Industrial Complex, Race, Racism, slavery, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: the nationwide prisoners’ revolt is not something you are likely to read about in the mainstream media.  Nor is it an issue that is likely to come up in the presidential debates.  Can you imagine Clinton and Trump discussing the massive incarceration of the underclasses (almost entirely, African American, Latino and Native American) in the brutal American Gulag?  Regardless of who become the next president, this hidden brutality will continue until the prison revolts are successful.  Most Americans have no idea that actual slavery exists in the country on such a grand scale.  Inmates are subjected to inhuman periods in the torture chamber know as solitary confinement.  If inmates are paid for the forced labor they perform for corporations, it is peanuts; and these earnings are pitted against fines and grossly overcharged commissary items.  This is a national shame.  But in a nation that routinely bombs civilians in foreign lands, supplies armaments to repressive regimes around the globe, condones torture, and tolerates the fact that millions of its citizens live in poverty and without adequate health care or housing, should we be surprised?  Did I mention that the United States is the wealthiest country in the history of the world and it spends over half its discretionary budget on the military?

Severe state repression and a near-total press blackout make it impossible to determine how many prisoners are continuing the national work strike that began on September 9th. The core demand is an end to prison slavery: the forced low-or-no-wage employment extracted from inmates. “Once we take our labor back,” said an organizer, “prisons will again become places for correction and rehabilitation rather than centers of corporate profit.”

by Chris Hedges

This article previously appeared in TruthDig.

“The kryptonite to fight the prison system, which is a $500 billion enterprise, is the work strike.”

A nationwide prison work stoppage and hunger strike, begun on Sept. 9, the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising, have seen over 20,000 prisoners in about 30 prisons do what we on the outside should do—refuse to cooperate. “We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves,” prisoners of the Free Alabama Movement, the Free Ohio Movement and the IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee wrote in a communique.

This round of prison strikes—there will be more—has had little outside support and press coverage. There have been few protests outside prison walls. Prison authorities—unlike duringthe 1971 Attica uprising when the press was allowed into the yard to interview the rebellious prisoners—have shut out a compliant media. They have identified strike leaders and placed them in isolation. Whole prisons in states such as Texas were put on lockdown on the eve of the strike. It is hard to know how many prisoners are still on strike, just as it is hard to know how many stopped work or started to fast on Sept. 9.

Before the strike I was able to speak to prisoner leaders including Melvin Ray, James Pleasant and Robert Earl Council, all of whom led work stoppages in Alabama prisons in January 2014 as part of the Free Alabama Movement, as well as Siddique Hasan, one of five leaders of the April 1993 uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville, Ohio. (The Ohio revolt saw prisoners take control of the facility for 11 days after numerous grievances, including complaints about deaths allegedly caused by beatings from guards, went unanswered.) Now, authorities have cut off the access of these and other prisoner leaders to the press and the rest of the outside world. I have not been able to communicate with the four men since the strike began.

These prison strike leaders put no hope in a “national conversation” about race and mass incarceration. They know that corporations, the courts and politicians will never halt the lethal police violence against unarmed men and women of color or dismantle the vast gulags for the poor that dot the country. The mechanisms of repression are by design. They are the logical consequence of deindustrialization. The corporate state uses fear, police violence and huge networks of jails and prisons to keep hundreds of millions of underemployed and unemployed poor people from revolting.

“They know that corporations, the courts and politicians will never halt the lethal police violence against unarmed men and women of color or dismantle the vast gulags for the poor that dot the country.

“We have to shut down the prisons,” Council, known as Kinetik, one of the founders of the Free Alabama Movement, told me by phone from the Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County, Alabama. He has been in prison 21 years, serving a sentence of life without parole. “We will not work for free anymore. All the work in prisons, from cleaning to cutting grass to working in the kitchen, is done by inmate labor. [Almost no prisoner] in Alabama is paid. Without us the prisons, which are slave empires, cannot function. Prisons, at the same time, charge us a variety of fees, such as for our identification cards or wrist bracelets, and [impose] numerous fines, especially for possession of contraband. They charge us high phone and commissary prices. Prisons each year are taking larger and larger sums of money from the inmates and their families. The state gets from us millions of dollars in free labor and then imposes fees and fines. You have brothers that work in kitchens 12 to 15 hours a day and have done this for years and have never been paid.”

These strike leaders say that, inside and outside the prison walls, rebellion is the only option.

“We are not going to call for protests outside of statehouses,” Ray said. “Legislators are owned by corporations. To go up there with the achy-breaky heart is not going to do any good. These politicians are in it for the money. If you are fighting mass incarceration, the people who are incarcerated are not in the statehouse. They are not in the parks. They are in the prisons. If you are going to fight for the people in prison, join them at the prison. The kryptonite to fight the prison system, which is a $500 billion enterprise, is the work strike. And we need people to come to the prisons to let guys on the inside know they have outside support to shut the prison down. Once we take our labor back, prisons will again become places for correction and rehabilitation rather than centers of corporate profit.”

These striking prisoners are far more effective, and far more threatening to the corporate state, than the outside multitudes entranced and manipulated by the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Goon Show. Denied the right to employment, to vote and to public assistance because of felony convictions, denied the right to justice because they are poor, and denied a voice because they have been silenced by state censorship and a bankrupt media, these prisoners were some of the first to understand the totalitarian nature of the corporate state.

“We do not believe in the political process,” said Ray, who spoke from the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Ala., and who is serving life without parole. “We are not looking to politicians to submit reform bills. We aren’t giving more money to lawyers. We don’t believe in the courts. We will rely only on protests inside and outside of prisons and on targeting the corporations that exploit prison labor and finance the school-to-prison pipeline.”

“Prisons each year are taking larger and larger sums of money from the inmates and their families.”

The 2.3 million human beings, most of them poor people of color, who are locked in cages across the country provide billions in salaries and other revenues for depressed rural towns with large prisons. They provide billions more in profits to phone card companies, money transfer companies, food service companies, merchandise vendors, construction companies, laundry services, uniform companies, prison equipment vendors and the manufacturers of pepper spray, body armor and the many other medieval instruments used for the physical restraint of prisoners. They also make billions for corporations—Whole Foods, Verizon, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Sprint, Victoria’s Secret, American Airlines, J.C. Penney, Sears, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Eddie Bauer, Wendy’s, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Fruit of the Loom, Motorola, Caterpillar and dozens of others—that collectively exploit 1 million prison laborers.

Why pay workers outside the walls the minimum wage when you can pay workers behind walls only a couple of dollars a day? Why exploit sweatshop workers in countries like Bangladesh when you can exploit sweatshop workers in U.S. prisons? Why permit prison reform that would impede profits?  Why not expand a system that reduces labor costs to slave wages?

“The beauty of a work stoppage is that the prison administrators have to bring in compensated labor,” Hasan told me last year when I visited him on death row in Ohio. “This is what happened in the Georgia prison system in 2010 when the prisoners held a work stoppage for six days. It cost the state a lot of money.”

Prisoners are the ideal workers in corporate America. They earn from 8 cents to about 44 cents an hour. In some states, such as Alabama, they earn nothing. They receive no Social Security, pensions or other benefits. They do not get paid overtime. They are prohibited from organizing or carrying out strikes. They always show up on time. They are not paid for sick days or granted vacations. They cannot complain about poor working conditions or safety hazards. If they protest their meager wages or working conditions they instantly lose their jobs and are placed in isolation cells. They live in an environment where they daily face the possibility of torture, beatings, prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, racial profiling, rancid food, inadequate medical care, little or no heating and ventilation, and rape. In short, they are slaves.

The bondage that prisoners endure is, little by little, being imposed on us. The fight inside prison walls is our own. And the harsh repression inside prisons to halt the new strike mirrors the harsh repression that awaits us if we resist.

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, the minister of defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter), sent this message out of his Texas prison a few days ago:

Monday, September 5, 2016: Labor Day. Here at the William P. Clements Unit, a prison in remote Amarillo, Texas, the prisoners awoke to a late breakfast. A single PBJ sandwich, a small bowl of dry cereal, and no beverage.

This grossly inadequate meal, which is our common fare during institution-wide lockdowns, signaled that a weeks—or months—long lockdown was in effect. Hunger pangs set in almost immediately.

“Why exploit sweatshop workers in countries like Bangladesh when you can exploit sweatshop workers in U.S. prisons?”

Such lockdowns are routinely imposed twice yearly so guards can conduct a prison-wide search of each prisoner’s living area and property. But this was not a routine lockdown. For one, those lockdowns almost never occur during holidays (however minor). If a holiday is set to fall during the period of a scheduled lockdown, the lockdown is postponed until the day after the holiday. Secondly, those lockdowns happen exactly six months apart, almost to the day. The next one wasn’t due until mid-October, making this lockdown over a month ahead of schedule. Thirdly, for a couple months preceding this lockdown, officials had been rejecting a lot of mail and media on grounds that it contained information on or “advocating” “prison strikes,” “prison disruption,” or “work strikes.” During late August and early September I received a number of these rejections, including for letters from the editor of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, Comrades from the Houston, TX branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, and others.

Officials were also illegally opening and reading privileged legal and media mail outside my presence. They were obviously focused on discovering, scrutinizing, and blocking any information coming into the prison about the work stoppage/strike planned for prisons across the U.S. in protest of prison slave labor and perpetual abuses, which were set to begin on September 9, 2016—the 45th anniversary of the uprising at Attica State Prison, that exposed to the world the inhumanity and savage brutality that Amerika imposes on those it imprisons.

And here we find the clue to this untimely lockdown which officials here have been falsely portraying to us as just another routine lockdown.

The actual aim of this lockdown was/is to pre-empt the prisoners at this Unit from participating in the September 9th protest by confining everyone to their cells in advance of it, and well into the period during which it might last.

Johnson and other prison strike leaders see through the political theater and illusions that the corporate elites employ to mask Americans’ surrender of freedom. They are not fooled by the clever branding—including the presidency of a black man and possibly the presidency of a woman—used to cover over oppression.

“It does not matter if we have a black or white president.”

“To say that we have a black president does not say anything,” Melvin Ray said. “The politicians are the ones who orchestrated this system. They are either directly involved as businessmen—many are already millionaires or billionaires, or they are controlled by millionaires and billionaires. We are not blindsided by titles. We are looking at what is going on behind the scenes. We see a coordinated effort by the Koch brothers, ALEC [the American Legislative Exchange Council] and political action committees that see in prisons a business opportunity. Their goal is to increase [corporate] earnings. And once you look at it like this, it does not matter if we have a black or white president. That is why the policies have not changed. The laws, such as mandatory minimum [sentences], were put in place by big business so they would have access to cheap labor. The anti-terrorism laws were enacted to close the doors on the access to justice so people would be in prison longer. Big business finances campaigns. Big business writes the laws and legislation. And Obama takes money from these people. He is as vested in this system as they are.”

Items once provided to prisoners, such as shoes, extra blankets and toilet paper, now often must be bought from the prison commissary, run by corporations such as Keefe Supply Co. These commissaries are, in effect, company stores where prices are exorbitant and the buyers are hostage. Companies such as GTL force prisoners to pay phone rates five or six times higher than those on the outside. JPay, a money transfer service for prisoners, imposes fees as high as 25 percent. The incarcerated are increasingly being charged for electricity and room and board. This bleeds the prisoners and their families of the little income they possess. Those who run out of money are forced to take out prison loans to buy medications, cover legal and medical fees and purchase commissary items such as soap and deodorant. Debt peonage is as common among prisoners as it is among the wider public. And when prisoners are released they often owe the state thousands of dollars in debt they incurred while locked up. When they can’t pay it back they are tossed back into prison. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 75 percent of released prisoners are rearrested within five years. This keeps the perpetual cycle of neoslavery lubricated.

“For years we were called niggers to indicate we had no value or worth and that anything could be done to us,” Ray told me. “Then the word ‘nigger’ became politically incorrect. So they began calling us criminals. When you say a person is a criminal it means that what happens to them does not matter. It means he or she is a nigger. It means they deserve what they get.”

Chris Hedges, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.