Category Archives: News Gate

Ditch the camping stove – these sites have food trucks, cafes and even bars

Staying under canvas doesn’t have to mean a diet of baked beans and burnt bangers. The author of a new book, Pitch Up, Eat Local, picks the top UK campsites with food trucks, cafes and even on-site bars

Gwithian Farm, Hayle, Cornwall
Visiting street food vans have become a regular feature at this feted seaside campsite. This year’s line-up includes Mexican street food, wood-fired-pizzas, curry, daily hot croissant delivery and “proper” fish and chips. Godrevy Beach Cafe, one of Cornwall’s best, lies on the way to the surf.
£15-£30 for two people, £5 extra adult, £2 extra child. Open April-September, 01736 753127, gwithianfarm.co.uk

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Right-Wingers Get Tip From Waitress

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who is running for re-election, tours McGinty Machine in Wichita, Kan., Sept. 12, 2014. Brownback’s proudly conservative politics have turned out to be so divisive and his tax cuts have generated such a drop in state revenue that they have caused even many Republicans to revolt. (Craig Hacker/The New York Times)Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s proudly conservative politics have turned out to be so divisive and his tax cuts have generated such a drop in state revenue that they have caused even many Republicans to revolt. (Photo: Craig Hacker / The New York Times)

Tip the schools instead.

That’s the message waitress Chloe Hough gave Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback this weekend when he stopped in for a bite to eat at Boss Hawg’s Barbeque in Topeka.

Hough was actually on her last shift as a waitress there, so when the governor asked for his check, she saw an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

After crossing out the tip line on the bill, she wrote a note next to it that said, “Tip the schools.” Hough then posted a picture of the edited bill on Facebook, where it’s since gone viral.

Don’t get the wrong idea, though. This wasn’t some sort of publicity stunt.

For Chloe Hough, this was personal.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

Like millions of other Jayhawk State residents, she and her family have felt the sting of Gov. Sam Brownback’s failed experiment in Reaganomics.

Chloe Hough is right. Education is the foundation for a better country and a more forward-thinking society.

But that, of course, is not how Governor Brownback and the rest of the Republican Party see it.

To them, education funding is just another thing to cut to make way for massive tax cuts – tax cuts that in Kansas have been an absolute and unmitigated disaster.

After he was elected governor in 2011, Sam Brownback promised to make his state “a real live experiment” in right-wing Reaganist economic theories. So he went ahead and slashed the top income tax rate for the rich, opened a loophole that allowed businesses to pay taxes as individuals, and eliminated a bunch of other smaller taxes.

The governor said that these tax cuts for rich people would boost Kansas’ economy and jump start job growth, but nothing has really panned out the way he said it would.

Since 2012 when Brownback’s tax cuts began, Kansas has consistently lagged behind the national average in job growth, and while it did do better on that count in 2014, it didn’t do nearly as well as neighboring states like Missouri, which didn’t cut taxes for the rich.

Thanks to Brownback’s tax cuts, the Jayhawk State now faces a budget shortfall of $422 million.

And who’s had to pay the price for the fiscal mess created by Brownback and the ideologues in the Republican Party?

Well, among other things, the school system.

That’s right, the school system!

Instead of repealing his disastrous tax cuts, Governor Brownback has instead slashed funding for Kansas’ already cash-strapped public schools by $51 million.

The situation has gotten so bad that some schools are now closing early for the summer just to save money, and, as Chloe Hough’s family learned, many of the most vulnerable students are losing access to the programs they need to succeed.

What’s happening in Kansas is shocking, but it shouldn’t be surprising.

The myth pushed by people on the right that cutting taxes for rich people and corporations will make wealth “trickle-down” to everyone else is just that – a myth.

No nation, state or political entity in the history of the world has ever cut its way to prosperity.

This was true of the Weimar Republic, it’s true of Greece and Kansas right now, and it will be true of whatever Republican-controlled state next cooks up a tax cut scheme.

That’s because rich people use their money differently than working people do.

Instead of going out and spending the extra money they get back from tax cuts, rich people stash it in their Swiss bank accounts or wherever it is they keep their millions.

This means that that rich people’s money only minimally recirculates back into the real economy, and rarely finds its way back into the government’s hands as tax revenue.

So in effect, it’s lost money. Once the government cuts taxes for the rich, it’s never getting that money back.

Republicans, of course, don’t see it that way.

The smart ones know that the “trickle-down” economics is just a scam to make the super-rich even richer, but most of them, the suckers, are still drinking the Reaganomics Kool-Aid.

They’re members of the economic equivalent of a death cult, these so-called free-market fundamentalists, and most can’t be reasoned with because they don’t believe in facts, just ideology.

Let’s just hope that Chloe Hough’s special message to Sam Brownback tips some of them, and the country, in the right direction.

Will Indictment Lead to Systemic Change in Baltimore?

See The Real News Network’s website for both earlier in-depth reporting and current coverage of events in Baltimore, where The Real News Network studios are located.

TRNN senior editor Paul Jay and civil rights attorney A. Dwight Pettit discuss the implications of Marilyn Mosby’s Friday morning announcement.

TRANSCRIPT:

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux coming to you live from our studio in Baltimore. Six Baltimore police officers who were involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray have been charged criminally. Here at The Real News we’ve been keeping tabs on this story and we want to unpack exactly what those charges are and what they mean for the Gray family and the Baltimore community.

Now joining us in studio to unpack all of this are our two guests. Paul Jay, who is the senior editor here at The Real News, as well as Dwight Pettit, who is a Baltimore attorney, civil rights attorney, here in Baltimore.

Thank you both for joining us.

A. DWIGHT PETTIT, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Glad to be here, Jessica.

DESVARIEUX: So let’s chat about what exactly these officers were charged with. Primarily we had Officer Caesar Goodson, Jr., who was the driver of the van. He was charged with second degree depraved heart murder, that’s a maximum sentence of 30 years. Officer William G. Porter, he was charged also with manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, carries a sentence of a maximum of 10 years. Lieutenant Brian Rice, involuntary manslaughter. Officer Edward Nero, assault in second degree, as well as we have Officer Garret Miller, assault in second degree, and Sergeant Alicia White, manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter, I should stay. And a litany of other charges that we just don’t have that much time to mention right now.

But for you, Dwight, after hearing all these charges, what are some of the highlights?

PETTIT: Well, I think she avoided the most serious charges, which would have been much more difficult to make. I was very concerned that she might overcharge because of the public roar and outrage. I was afraid that she might try to make murder in the first degree. And I didn’t see any premeditation that would in fact allow that charge to stand. So I think she tried to make the charges, particularly the, except for the second degree attempted–second degree murder, charges that she could make in a court of law.

You’ve got to remember, charges are just basically what you’ll take to the grand jury in terms of probable cause. And so that doesn’t stand the test of beyond a reasonable doubt. That will be the test in trial. And so it seems to me that she was bold and conservative at the same time, if you can put those two together.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. And do you think that she’ll really be able to get these charges to stick?

PETTIT: Well, that’s what I’m talking about. Trial is a different thing. But that will go before a jury, and a jury will decide that with open trial and argument from both defense council and the State’s Attorney’s office. So that gives us the transparency that the public is calling for that is not going to be swept up under the rug. A trial is going to be public. Everybody’s going to be able to see the evidence and hear the evidence, and I think this is what the public was calling for, where in the past there was just automatic, from the State’s Attorney’s office, that the police acted within the law and swept under the rug, and that was it.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: I think there’s been a lot of attention in the media so far this morning about who actually committed the homicide. And they have sort of answered the question now. They’re certainly putting most of the blame on the driver, but clearly something happened before he got into the van. But all of that I think is still in the realm of the behavior of a few specific cops.

Now, I think this is a breakthrough for Baltimore that a few specific cops are being held accountable, because that almost never happens here. And I don’t think it ever would have happened without these mass protests, including some of the violence that took place. If this hadn’t become–this became a national story because the National Guard come in, because there’s so much policing going on. So I don’t think these individual cops would have been, unlikely, held accountable without all of that.

That being said, it’s still about a few individual cops. What she said that has systemic implications, and I think is maybe the more important piece of what she said, is that several of these cops are being charged with false imprisonment. The arrest was illegal. The knife he had was legal. That is saying you can’t just haul people into a police van anymore. They’re saying that that’s illegal to just grab somebody because they run and throw them into a van, and then maybe concoct some charge when you get home, like resist–back to the police station, like resisting arrest, or any number of things that get concocted between the event and getting back to the station.

The real question now is going to be, does this make itself into systemically a piece of police procedure. You can no longer bust somebody for being black in a poor neighborhood. Because up until now that was almost probable cause. If you’re black and you’re in one of these projects, that’s enough for us to pick you up if we want to. So that’s–I think very significant piece.

PETTIT: I think Paul makes a tremendous point. And not only does it have national implications, but the major implications for Baltimore and the state of Maryland is the fact that–Paul is exactly right. The police have totally disregarded the Constitutional rights of the individuals. Both the U.S. Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of Rights. And what has really propelled this in Baltimore, apart from the social issues of jobs, et cetera, et cetera, education–what has propelled this in Baltimore was the fact of zero tolerance, which gave the police officers a feeling of omnipotence that they did not have to look at the Constitution. They did not have to observe the rights.

So when she spent the time that she spent as Paul just indicated in relationship to probable cause, or for that matter no articulable suspicion, which is the terms that are used in terms of stop and frisk and all of that. But in Baltimore they’ve gotten worse than stop and frisk. Since the zero tolerance days there was just–you didn’t have to do anything but be black, be poor, and be observed. As they said, he made eye contact with me and he took off running. And what’s the crime? So then they try to go back in many cases after they catch the individual and say, well, he had some dope on him, or he had a weapon on him. But in this instance the weapon that he has is not really illegal. He had a pocketknife.

JAY: Which they leaked, and they essentially lied in the leak, saying it’s an illegal switchblade when it’s–.

PETTIT: Exactly. Well, they do that all the time.

JAY: Right, exactly.

PETTIT: That’s always, they do the–the primary defense is to start degrading the victim, or the person that was the subject to the illegal search and seizure or arrest.

JAY: Now, a lot of the police have been referencing, when you talk to them on the streets, that there’s a Supreme Court decision that says in a high crime area, running is probable cause. Now, we’re still trying to figure this out, whether it actually is such a case or not. I don’t know if you know.

DESVARIEUX: Well let’s ask Dwight, here–.

PETTIT: I don’t think that that’s exactly the articulation of the case. I think the court said basically, and I’ve got to look at the case again, Paul. But I think the court basically said that you can use deadly force–you cannot use deadly force unless the person that’s running presents some threat or danger to other people or to other persons, officers, or what have you. So there’s an exception to that, that run situation.

JAY: Well what the police think, and I’ve talked to several policemen who are saying this, but we’re also hearing it in scuttlebutt from all kinds of people that according to this Supreme Court decision, and we’re trying to find out what decision they’re trying to reference, that–I’m sorry, I’m hearing something in my ear.

DESVARIEUX: Tennessee vs. Gardner, is it?

JAY: I have–and we’re, hi everybody. We’re hearing in our ear some instructions, and that’s going to happen throughout the day. So this court case says that if someone simply runs, that’s probable cause? Okay.

This is what–this decision is what Dwight’s talking about, which is when you can use deadly force when a person runs.

PETTIT: That’s the one I’m familiar with.

JAY: That’s quite a separate thing than what happened here, because there’s–.

PETTIT: I haven’t heard of one just running as probable cause.

JAY: Yeah. The police are referencing as if there’s a case where just running is probable cause.

DESVARIEUX: If people know of that case, please tweet us, we’ll be able to get that on and talk about it.

JAY: Yeah. I’ve talked to several attorneys–I mean, I talked to Dwight, but we’ve also talked to some people from Center for Constitutional Rights and other lawyers that are trying to find what is this magical case. But as far as they know, making eye contact and running is not probable cause for a stop.

Now, let’s even say there is such a thing. Let’s say. That doesn’t mean you can arrest somebody because they ran. Even if there’s such a case that you can run after somebody and try to stop them, that’s a whole different issue that when you stop the person they have no drugs, they have no weapons, they’ve done nothing. You can’t arrest somebody because they run away from you.

Now we know it happens every day in Baltimore, never mind running away. You can be rousted on a street corner here and have nothing on you, and they have something–they have a phrase for it in Baltimore called walkthroughs. And what they do is they pick you up for nothing and they walk you through the police station. And they hold you for hours, and then they kick you loose. And it’s just another way to assert the power and intimidate people, and it’s happening in neighborhoods across the city.

She’s saying that’s illegal. So now the question’s going to be are we–can we start seeing some police arrested for this false imprisonment?

DESVARIEUX: Yeah. Well, let’s get to what she actually said at the press conference earlier today. We have a clip that we’d like to play for you. Let’s see what she had to say.

~~~

MARILYN J. MOSBY, STATE’S ATTORNEY FOR BALTIMORE CITY: The findings of our comprehensive, thorough, and independent investigation coupled with the medical examiner’s determination that Mr. Gray’s death was a homicide which we received today has led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges.

~~~

DESVARIEUX: –what is the significance of that? Really explain that to our viewers.

PETTIT: That is a major factor in terms of what the conclusions of the Medical Examiner’s Office lead to. In other words if they, undetermined cause of death, or something like that, then it’s more difficult to bring in the criminality. But the homicide aspect, meaning that somebody caused that death in a criminal manner, that gives her the medical basis for the legal charges of what we see here, attempted murder and manslaughter. And then manslaughter breaks down into different things, involuntary manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter. I think here what we’re talking about is more or less negligent homicide in their failure to administer treatment or call for treatment, et cetera.

So in the charges that you read, we won’t even get into second degree assault and what have you. But there are a lot of different factors. So she’s taken the broader route at this point in time. I think I heard you read involuntary and voluntary manslaughter, which would cause—include negligent homicide. Second degree murder, and as I said before, I’m glad she didn’t step out into the first degree murder, because to prove malice and forethought there would have been quite difficult. It’s going to be hard and difficult enough to prove depraved heart and malice in terms of the distinction between first degree and second degree murder.

JAY: I think it’s particularly interesting too that the Medical Examiner’s Office here, which you can see in a story on the website, Real News website right now, does not have a stellar history of generating medical evidence that actually helps charge police. In fact it has a pretty good history of being pretty lousy at creating–.

PETTIT: That’s exactly right.

JAY: And this–apparently the Medical Examiner’s Office here is, in the country, has one of the worst records of generating evidence that leads to charges. So again, I think we have to give some credit to the State’s Attorney. She brought in this outside police force. It was the Maryland State Police, was it? Or Sheriff’s Office.

PETTIT: She said the Sheriff’s Office. That’s very, very significant that she–not only did she do her own investigation, not only were the feds here investigating, but she used another elected body, which is the Sheriff of Baltimore City. We forget a lot of times they have certain constitutional mandates which we haven’t seen exercised. And the fact that she would go over to another elected official which like her is elected and only accountable to the public is quite astounding and quite surprising, and quite a new twist in terms of my evaluation. The Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office.

DESVARIEUX: Do you think she’s just trying to build her case essentially saying it’s not just me, I have all these other supporters backing me?

PETTIT: I think when she talked about the quickness of her moving, what she really said when the police report or the final report was turned over to her yesterday, she was able to move so quickly because her own investigation–as she was saying, they were working around the clock. Her own investigation incorporating these other agencies, she already knew what the police were going to in fact say. Whether it be positive or negative.

JAY: And she gave herself political cover with the police union and as the–you know, the police union, we haven’t talked about this yet. They issued a statement prior to her press release, but they must have known what was coming because it’s a big attack on the State’s Attorney–.

DESVARIEUX: It’s an open letter from the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of the Police. And–.

JAY: Yeah, I can read one of the quotes here. “Not one of the officers involved in this tragic situation left home in the morning with the anticipation that someone they interacted with would not go home that night. As tragic as the situation is, none of the officers involved are responsible for the death of Mr. Gray.”

Now, what business does the union have saying that? They do not have investigators, they don’t have the Sheriff’s department. This is just knee-jerk defending of their cops without them having any basis of investigation. And they’ve been saying up until this point, trust the process, trust the process.

DESVARIEUX: Yes, yes.

JAY: Well the process just spoke, and now they’re doing a personal attack on the State’s Attorney.

PETTIT: I think you hit it, Paul. That’s a defensive mechanism that when they anticipate what the conclusion of the State’s Attorney was going to be, they had prior knowledge.

DESVARIEUX: But Paul, they also have deep concerns of the many personal conflicts they see her as having.

JAY: Well that’s what they say, yeah.

DESVARIEUX: Yes. They see her having conflicts with the Gray family attorney. We did a little bit of digging and we found that he was actually on her transition committee and donated $5,000 to her last election campaign. They’re citing that William Murphy and the lead prosecutor’s connections with members of the local media, and they’re also citing her husband, Nick Mosby, who’s a councilman here in Baltimore, saying that there is some political ambitions here and things of that–.

JAY: Well, let’s start with one. Is the fact that William Murphy–I’m sorry, Gray’s family attorney William Murphy had donated some money, was on her transition team. Is this a conflict of interest?

PETTIT: No, it’s not a conflict of interest. All of us are–especially lawyers, we participate in the judicial elections and we participate in the State’s Attorney’s election.

DESVARIEUX: There’s no ethical issue here.

PETTIT: As I see, no ethical issue whatsoever. Everybody that’s contributed either supported Mr. Bernstein, or in this case the State’s Attorney Ms. Mosby. Because only two people running. So we are not dissolved from participating in the political process simply because we’re lawyers and might have a case with that office. As long as there’s no intervention in the process, whether that be criminal prosecutions or in this case a civil action possibly emanating, that is no conflict.

JAY: I mean, the person and persons that have a profound conflict of interest speaking about the guilt or innocence of the police officers is the leadership of the police union. They clearly have a conflict of interest because they’re there to defend their members. They should defend the rights, they should defend the process, they should insist on a fair process, not a lynching of these officers. But they have no business pronouncing on the guilt or innocence. They’re not investigators. And they’re mostly cops or ex-cops there. They should know better than they’re going to pronounce on who’s innocent and who isn’t. They have no ability to make such a case.

They’re going so far beyond the role of what a union should do. And I have to say, not all police unions are like this. You know, around the country–I mean, in Madison, Wisconsin you had a police union that actually joined in with the protesters when they occupied the Assembly. Police unions don’t have to act this way.

PETTIT: And especially not personal attacks on the State’s Attorney. And that’s what those are coming very close to.

DESVARIEUX: So her husband’s political future, they directly point at that, that her decision is going to directly impact his political future. You see that as a personal attack.

PETTIT: A personal attack, I do.

DESVARIEUX: Okay.

PETTIT: Whether–I hear all of their attacks as personal. And I hope that that stops and ceases at this point in time.

JAY: And maybe it will affect his political future, but who knows it’s positive? You know, there’s a lot of people in the city might not like what she said.

PETTIT: But they imply her–that’s an attack on her integrity, is what they’re saying, that she could be influence because of her political ambitions. That’s absurd.

DESVARIEUX: All right, let’s get to another clip she had to say here at the press conference. Let’s roll that for you guys right now.

~~~

MOSBY: To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for no justice, no peace. Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man. To those that are angry, hurt, or have their own experiences of injustice at the hands of police officers, I urge you to channel the energy peacefully as we prosecute this case.

~~~

DESVARIEUX: So Dwight I’m going to ask you, is this justice?

PETTIT: It’s justice in terms that there will be transparency. In other words, it’s justice in relationship to the fact that there will be an adversarial proceeding, where evidence, a judge, a jury, will all come out. And our trials in America are public. So it’s justice on the basis that instead of business as usual, the matter being swept under the rug, no charges being brought, the citizens of Baltimore and the nation now will in fact see a fair and open trial. And how that results, whether it’s pro or con to her position today it’s still, that is an element of justice which we have not been afforded as a community.

JAY: And I think it’s very significant that she said this. I heard you. I don’t know if she meant to say this or not, but there’s an implication that if there weren’t thousands of people saying no justice, no peace, maybe she wouldn’t or wouldn’t have been able to take the position she took today. That the role of the mass protest here–this is a victory for them. This is very significant. It’s a small step. But in the context of Baltimore it’s quite a remarkable step. But is this justice? Well, again, it’s a question that’s mutli-layered. It’s the beginning of some accountability, and that’s a big step compared to impunity, which is what more or less there’s been in Baltimore and to a large extent Maryland in terms of police violence.

But is it justice in terms of the conditions that gave rise to this? The systemic police brutality is not just a problem of the police. We’ve been saying on The Real News, and many panels including with Dwight, this is a product that we don’t want to fix chronic poverty. We don’t want to deal with the levels of unemployment. We don’t want to deal with the role of systemic racism in the judicial system. We don’t want to deal with terrible schools for the majority of kids in the city. We would rather put a hammer on the consequences of such lousy social conditions.

And as long as we tell the police, be our hammer, you can’t fix this. You can mitigate it a bit. What happened today will help mitigate it. Certainly police are going to second-think next time they’re in a somewhat similar situation. But this is, this is not justice that really is going to give rise to peace. And I think that’s what, and I’ve already talked to some of the people involved in the protest movement. You know, for them, what is the next step here? When will some more profound justice be found? So this is a, this is a victory, but very much a beginning of something.

DESVARIEUX: I was going to ask exactly that. Was this enough justice for peace? Do you see this being enough, Dwight?

PETTIT: Not with all the social ills that are still there. But Paul hits it right on the head. It’s a beginning. It’s a beginning of something that we have not been afforded in this nation. The police have been militarized to in fact keep watch over inequities in this society. And the disparities, and the economic disparities. And so no, it’s not, this is not the cure-all, but it’s the beginning of the demands for due process and equal protection at least being addressed. And it’s starting here in Baltimore City, which I have always argued per capita was the capital of police brutality. With all of its ills and everything, we are the perfect observation point for the ills of this nation.

DESVARIEUX: Great. I want to remind our viewers that you should be tweeting us, sending us Facebook posts. Because we will have your questions here on air answered by our legal eagle Dwight Pettit, and we have other guests coming in and out of the studio. So please be sure to tweet us, post anything on Facebook. We’ll be sure to get it on air.

One thing actually just came across Twitter. This is from [Adrienne Kazai]. She asks, are the cops going to still be getting paid leave although they’ve been indicted now?

PETTIT: Well, that’s an administrative decision in terms of the police department. And then that takes us back to the police bill of rights, and so forth. So that’s a determination of the Commissioner versus the State’s Attorney’s Office.

JAY: Who now has the opportunity to suspend without pay. It’s his choice whether to do it or not, but up until the point they were charged he actually couldn’t suspend without pay. Now he has the choice to do so.

DESVARIEUX: And so the people could pressure–I mean, that could be one of their demands from the Commissioner.

PETTIT: That’s a political decision from the Mayor and the Commissioner.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Okay.

JAY: One of the big things now in terms of what’s next, I think there’s kind of two issues. One is there’s been a demand in terms of this police reform that the State’s Attorney do exactly what she did today. Because there’s been so many instances–I can’t [right] them off the top of my head. Maybe Dwight can help. Where one would have thought this could have happened before. There was enough evidence for a State’s Attorney to step in and lay charges and make it a criminal process. Where it kept being an internal review process, and it’s been the Baltimore police reviewing the Baltimore police, because the civilian review board or committee that exists in Baltimore is absolutely impotent.

If you look on The Real News we’ve actually interviewed the chair of that review board, and she says it’s impotent. My quote, I remember from the story, is that–and I think she’s been on the committee or board for ten years, and they haven’t listened to a single recommendation. So the issue of community control of the police now, with teeth, where there’s the ability to hire and fire the police chief. An elected civilian review board. But not just review, like a management board that actually–the police are accountable to an elected board that has the right to subpoena.

It does require as far as I understand the law an amendment or a repeal or something of the police–Law Enforcement Bill or Rights in Maryland, which I believe makes it virtually illegal for anyone to review the behavior of police other than police unless there’s charges. Once the charges and the State’s Attorney enters, then you have a criminal process, and it goes supposedly in a normal way of investigating and holding accountable.

But short of the State’s Attorney actually laying charges, civilians actually have zero rights. And that–now’s the time to really make that, I think, the next big demand.

DESVARIEUX: And this is not just a pipe dream. It’s actually happening in Toronto.

JAY: Well, in Toronto there is a model which I don’t think is fully there, but it starts to approach the issue. The Toronto Police Services Board is a, I think a nine-person board. I think there’s three people nominated by the city, three by the province, and then together they nominate three who are not elected politicians from the community. It’s still not elected. But they hire and fire the police chief. The union signs a contract with the civilian–it’s not, it’s not a review board, it’s a management board. It has real power.

It actually can tell the police, and it has just recently, a big fight just took place in Toronto over what’s called carding, which essentially is stop and frisk and ask for ID. The police–the civilian management board told the police you can’t do it anymore. If you don’t have probable cause, you cannot ask anyone for ID. And that’s people’s constitutional rights in Canada. And it was an enormous battle with the police chief and much of the police union. They didn’t want to go along with the policy. And they didn’t renew the police chief’s contract.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. I just want to–.

JAY: And essentially fired him.

DESVARIEUX: I just want to get to some breaking news here. We have five police officers who are now in custody. Again, breaking news, five police officers are now in custody in Baltimore related to the Freddie Gray case.

So let’s pick it up from what Paul was discussing. Do you feel like at the end of the day we’re not going to have real change unless the community takes control over monitoring the police force?

PETTIT: That’s going to take future legislative action, and we saw what happened in Annapolis this year. The only thing that was accomplished out of all the progressive moves in Annapolis, the only thing that was accomplished, which was major, was the increase of the cap from $400,000 to $800,000, or doubling of the cap, for damages in civil proceedings.

So these things that we should, should be happening, I think is the legislative process of both the City Council and Annapolis and whether that is going to, this is going to be enough to fuel those political fires. But it opens the door, as Paul was saying, and it’s a start. But one, you know, that leaves for a lot of conjecture, a lot of political moving back and forth.

But one of the things that Paul raised that I did want to address, I can recall three cases off the top of my head where the Mayor so-called brought in these independent, blue-ribbon panels. And I can give you three cases right now. The Torbit case, which was a black police officer who was shot down twelve times with his badge around his neck in a fight that broke out at one of the nightclubs here. They brought in a blue ribbon panel, so-called blue ribbon panel, that exonerated the police officers in terms of that shooting and killing. One of their own.

We can talk about the West case. The man that I told you about that I represent the family where he was beat to death by ten officers while he was pleading for his life. Can you imagine what that would have done had that been on live, living television. And it’s a third one that I’m trying to think of, it could come to mind later, that they brought in this blue ribbon commission and absolve the police. All this oversight, or so-called civilian oversight is basically commissions being appointed by the Mayor which come in and sweep these–the Anderson case, that’s what I was trying to think. Anderson was picked up and body slammed. They brought in the blue ribbon commission to say that the police did not do anything illegal or out of their direct orders and so forth, or their responsibilities.

In all these cases we do need a civilian review board with teeth, with subpoena power, but I would like to say that that we do–we’ve also said the alternative to that was a special prosecutor that would not in fact be involved with working with the police on a daily basis. And that’s just something that would have to be done by legislative mandate. I think what we ask for the next time–.

JAY: So like a standing special prosecutor’s office.

PETTIT: Right. We ask that they expand the jurisdiction of the–we have a special prosecutor in Maryland for the review and investigation of political corruption. Why couldn’t we expand that jurisdiction to give them the power to in fact go into the particular municipalities where there’s a complaint and do an independent investigation?

But what Ms. Mosby has done has really countered that argument and said to some extent that we can look to our own individual elected State’s Attorney’s office for objective investigation. So this might begin to squash the demand for independence and investigative actions because the State’s Attorney for the first time in the history of our city is now acting as an elected, independent body rather than a rubber stamp of the Baltimore City Police Department.

DESVARIEUX: Shouldn’t we be cautious of that? Of having that much faith in the process?

JAY: Well the problem is is what about the next person that gets elected?

DESVARIEUX: Yeah, exactly.

JAY: Which is why yes, she should play this role. Yes, this is her duty to play this role. But if you had this kind of standing special prosecutor it wouldn’t quite be as dependent on who gets elected whether or not this thing–you more structurally institutionalize–.

PETTIT: I would agree with that.

JAY: The more layers of this, the better. A special prosecutor, a real civilian review board. Enormous pressure on the State’s Attorney to do what Mosby did. You need all of the above.

DESVARIEUX: And if we don’t have all of the above, what do we do in the meantime? How do we get there?

PETTIT: I think what we do is what is–we keep pushing politically to elect those officials and to put into office those officials that are going to be sympathetic and in agreement with the demands of the community. And we hold them accountable. That’s the political process that we enjoy in this nation, is the election process. But these things, they’re difficult because they’re–outside of Baltimore City we run into a lot of conservative elements of the elected legislative process that makes it quite difficult. But that’s, the political way is the only way I see to make movement. And this should be a spark to awaken that political movement.

DESVARIEUX: All right. Dwight Pettit and Paul Jay joining us in studio. Thank you both for joining us. And we’re going to actually cut to a package from our investigative reporter Stephen Janis here. He was outside in front of City Hall where he had the opportunity to meet with a former FBI agent and get his reaction to the charges against those police officers. Let’s take a look.

Basic Income and the Anti-Slavery Movement

Unconditional basic income is not only feasible, but it also has more emancipatory potential than any other single policy because it targets economic vulnerability, the heart of all labour exploitation.

Last May, I argued in a piece for Al-Jazeera that the emerging global anti-slavery movement risks becoming no more than a fig leaf for structural political-economic injustice. I suggested that unless it faces that injustice head-on, it will waste a generational opportunity to make the world more just, focussing instead on making consumers and activists “feel better about feeling bad.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is an alternative, and it starts with advocating for unconditional basic income as a genuine anti-slavery strategy. Only a universal basic income will truly eliminate the economic vulnerability that lies at the root of all labour exploitation.

Slavery and the market

Slavery, like trafficking and forced labour, is primarily a market phenomenon. Although often depicted as outside of market relations, the reality is that markets create both supplies of vulnerable workers and demand for their labour. When a worker finds herself in conditions of extreme exploitation, it is almost always the result of her economic vulnerability coinciding with an employer’s demand for her labour.

This happens because, in market societies, the freedom to refuse any job is the flip-side of the freedom to starve unless you accept one. Unless you are independently wealthy, you have to work to survive. For the very poor, where margins are matters of life and death, the price of saying no to even an awful employer is often too high to pay.

This is why ‘market-friendly’ policies will never be enough to abolish ‘modern-day slavery’. Market-friendly policies do not fundamentally alter the balance of power between the economically weak and the economically strong. They rely on either goodwill or police enforcement, persuading employers to ‘behave better’, consumers to shop more ethically, and police forces to root out bad apples. But these policies do nothing about the economic compulsion that renders the poorest vulnerable to malevolent employers adept at evading the authorities.

Basic income

So what is to be done? The one single policy that has most emancipatory potential is the unconditional basic income (UBI). UBI has a long and respected pedigree. Thomas Paine advocated a version of it at the dawn of the American Revolution, and it has had modern supporters ranging from Bertrand Russell toJohn Rawls.

The idea is as simple as it is brilliant: give every citizen an amount of money sufficient to guarantee their survival without any strings attached. You receive it just by virtue of being a citizen. It will never make you rich, but it will always prevent you from going hungry, or from having to sell yourself into slavery-like labour for want of a better alternative.

When people are first pitched UBI, their gut reaction is to often ask, “is this feasible?” “Won’t everybody just stop working?” These concerns are understandable, but they are also misplaced.

With regards to feasibility, there are two major points. The first is that economic viability of such a method of wealth redistribution has already been proved in principle by Great Britain itself. Indeed, the welfare state operates on the very same basis, taxing progressively to distribute wealth more evenly.

Second, UBI is likely to be far cheaper and more efficient than any other existing system of social protection. Currently, governments everywhere waste billions of dollars on policies that fail to reach the most vulnerable. In the West, expensive means-testing excludes many of those most in need, while governments subsidise poverty wages and give tax breaks to corporations. In the Global South, fuel and agricultural subsidies frequently fail to reach their intended targets as corrupt bureaucrats siphon money to buy political influence. Under these circumstances, the costs of distributing a basic income directly to people will be offset by reducing other, less efficient programmes and cutting out the dead weight of political middle-men.

Will people work if they receive a UBI? Of course they will. Very few are satisfied with simple subsistence; almost everyone wants to improve at least the lives of their children. No advocate of basic income wants it set high enough to discourage work. Rather, the goal is to give people the “real freedom” to sayNo! to bad jobs and Yes! to good ones. Remember that in the West, it is the punitive social security system which itself creates unemployment traps. If instead of tax-breaks or top-ups we gave people UBI, then nobody would ever face the choice of losing money by accepting work.

UBI has benefits beyond these practical fundamentals, and for the first time in history, we now have detailed empirical evidence from a developing country to show it. UNICEF has just completed a pilot project with the Self-Employed Women’s Association in India to trial UBI among thousands of villagers in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The findings are electric.

First, they show an increase in economic activity, with new small-scale businesses springing up, more work being performed, and more equipment and livestock being purchased for the local economy. Second, those receiving UBI registered improvements in child nutrition, school attendance and performance, health and healthcare, sanitation and housing. Greater benefits were recorded for women than for men (as women’s financial and social autonomy were increased), for the disabled than for others, and for the poorest vis-à-vis the wealthy.

But there is a third dimension that should really make the anti-slavery movement sit up and take note. This is the ‘emancipatory dimension’. The economic security provided by UBI not only increased the political participation of the poor, as it gave them the time and resources necessary to represent their interests against the powerful. It also freed them from the clutches of moneylenders. As the author of the UNICEF study puts it:

Money is a scarce commodity in Indian villages and this drives up the price. Moneylenders and landlords can easily put villagers into debt bondage and charge exorbitant rates of interest that families cannot hope to pay off.

Unless, of course, they benefit from UBI, in which case they have the liquidity necessary to maintain their freedom even in the case of economic shocks. If you doubt the transformative potential of this work, just watch this 12-minute video and I defy you not to be inspired.

Historical potential

The contemporary anti-slavery movement stands at the forefront of a critical historical juncture. In the context of global economic crisis, the old social models are breaking down but the new are not yet ready to be born. Into this vacuum we’ve seen the rise of serious labour exploitation, along with political and consumer activism in response.

At the vanguard of this response stand the modern abolitionists, and they do so with unrivalled discursive power. Nobody that has a place at the table is forslavery: everybody is against it. This is why abolitionists’ call to end ‘modern-day slavery’ within a generation goes entirely un-opposed. It garners allies ranging from the global business elite to the Pope himself. More than 50,000 people a week a sign up to Walk Free’s Global Movement, and over the past several years we have witnessed a tidal-wave of pressure to crack down on extreme exploitation.

So what does all this mean? It means that today’s abolitionists stand on the verge of a once-in-a-century opportunity. They can play it safe and advocate the market-friendly policies that will—at best—tidy up around the edges. Or they can go big, they can go revolutionary, and they can organise a global shift in the direction of social justice.

Let us be clear: UBI is not merely the most effective tool for abolishing modern-day slavery. It is a tool for radical social justice, for changing the economic game entirely, by emancipating all of us from economic vulnerability. If modern abolitionists have a historic mission, it is to complete the task of their predecessors: they must make freedom not just legal, but feasible. 

Bernie Sanders’ Run Can Help the “Less War” Movement in the US

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), right, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, lead a budget mark-up meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 19, 2015. Republican leaders were trying to quell a war between budget hawks and defense hawks that ground the House Budget Committee to a halt late Wednesday night. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), right, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, lead a budget mark-up meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 19, 2015. Republican leaders were trying to quell a war between budget hawks and defense hawks that ground the House Budget Committee to a halt. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)

A key problem confronting Americans who would like to see the US involved in less war is that as Peter Beinart recently noted in The Atlantic:

It’s also notoriously hard to mobilize Americans against wars until those wars begin. The anti-Vietnam movement didn’t become a force inside the national Democratic Party until 1968, when more than 20,000 Americans had already died. And liberal activists only began putting real pressure on Democratic politicians over Iraq after the war began, when they powered Howard Dean’s insurgent campaign. Since World War II, the general pattern has been that elites drive foreign policy–generally in an interventionist direction–until they make a mess big enough to make the public cry stop.

The pattern Beinart described is a recipe for a lot of war. It’s as if the dial is automatically set to “more war” by default and we have to make a huge effort each time, for each war, to try to change the setting to less war. Each new war is treated in public discourse as “innocent until proven guilty”: the initial burden of proof is on war critics to show that this war is a bad one, rather than the initial burden of proof being on war supporters to show that this war is a good one.

One way to address this problem would be to make advocacy for less war a regular feature of electoral politics, so that it becomes a standard question that people (especially media) ask automatically: where does the candidate stand on less war? Of course, over time the marquee “less war” issues change, as happens with other concerns. Right now the marquee less war issue is supporting realistic diplomacy with Iran. Other current less war issues include: insisting that new wars have to be authorized by Congress; reducing the Pentagon budget to be more like that of a normal industrialized democracy; reducing US support for civil wars in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine; making US drone strike policy transparently comply with the rule of law; and reducing US support for the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

The race for president is to electoral politics what the award for Best Picture is to the Academy Awards: it’s the thing at the top of the marquee, the thing that the most people will pay the most attention to. So if we’re serious about the project of making less war a permanent electoral issue, then we have to be serious about making less war a permanent issue in presidential politics.

This means that less war activists have a huge stake in what Bernie Sanders says about less war issues right now and in the months ahead, when he will have a platform in the media to talk about less war issues that no other progressive political figure is likely to have.

Of course, Sanders is not going to be a less war candidate in the sense that less war is going to be at the top of his marquee. The top of his marquee is already taken with other issues: “Tad Devine, an informal adviser and longtime friend to the senator, has said that a Sanders campaign would focus heavily on three major issues — campaign finance reform, climate change and income inequality.”

But that makes him potentially an ideal less war candidate from the point of view of maximum impact on the less war issues. The thing that we need most in the United States is not more people for whom less war is their top issue; the thing that we need most is to reduce the general phobia among liberals and progressives towards making advocacy for less war a standard feature of the liberal-progressive package presented to the public. If Sanders makes advocacy for less war a feature of the liberal-progressive package he is presenting to the public, then Sanders will be modeling on a very prominent stage exactly the behavior among liberals and progressives that we most need to encourage.

We’re not starting from zero. Juan Cole notes:

Bernie Sanders opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation of that country.

Sanders wanted to get out of Afghanistan from 2011 much faster than the timetable announced by President Obama. Obama has now more or less extended a US military presence in Afghanistan, advertised as a training mission, indefinitely. My reading of Sanders is that he would get out of that country entirely.

A President Bernie Sanders would endorse the Iran negotiations of the Obama administration.

Sanders was the first US Senator to announce that he would skip Netanyahu’s anti-diplomacy speech to Congress.

This makes Sanders an ideal candidate to help move pragmatic less war positions on Israel-Palestine deeper into mainstream American political discourse.

We have an ideal test case right now. Supporters of the Netanyahu lobby are trying to make it official US policy to endorse Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, by attaching a provision requiring the US to oppose European sanctions against Israeli settlements in the West Bank to the “Fast Track” trade package moving (or not moving) through Congress. This pro-settlements provision is opposed by J Street, Americans for Peace Now and Jewish Voice for Peace.

Sanders, of course, is opposed to the Fast Track/TPP/TTIP trade package. But that doesn’t mean he can’t also oppose this specific provision – other Democrats opposed to the package have done so.

You can urge Sanders to stand with J Street, APN, and JVP against the pro-settlement provision here.

Xenophobia, Poverty, and the Lies that Link Them: Dissecting the UKIP Support Base

UKIP support is highest in the poorest regions of the UK. Widespread misunderstanding about the causes of poverty and unemployment permits anti-immigrant rhetoric to disguise unrelated economic mismanagement. It makes fools of the UK’s poorest people, who are unable to focus their efforts on the real levers of change.

 

 

Last month’s newspapers mapped the inverse correlation between regional support for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and numbers of resident immigrants. It turns out that where there are lower immigrant populations, there is more support for a political party that is existentially predicated on fear of immigration. This inverse correlation ought not to surprise us: Racism relies on ignorance, i.e., on not knowing.

Those who have never, or rarely, lived alongside people born outside of the UK are apt to be those who are most opposed to that possibility. Given that many of the rest of us, who either IX are IX immigrants, the children of immigrants, or the friends and neighbors of immigrants, know from experience that such views are hateful and indefensible, it stands to reason that to maintain such a stance, one must be short of information or in possession of bad information. Both of these are true in this case. UKIP supporters, for the most part, come from homogeneous white-British regions, and, like the rest of us, are subject to biased, incomplete information.

What IX is IX surprising is the consistent failure of politicians and the mainstream media to attempt to dig any deeper into the reasons behind UKIP’s success, and the right ways to respond to that. This map, devised by poverty.org.uk, makes for a more interesting comparison. It shows the distribution of the poorest households across the UK. Compare this with the original map: You’ll see at a glance that the correlation of poverty with UKIP support is striking. (Unsurprisingly, distance from London is also a feature that many of these regions share.) So not only are UKIP supporters unlikely to have had much direct experience of immigrants, they are also likely to belong to some of the UK’s poorest communities. A recent YouGov survey showed that UKIP voters are less likely, on average, to be higher earners than Conservative or Labour supporters.

UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, is a clownish caricature. He belongs to the same school of disingenuous character construction as George W. Bush and Boris Johnson, all of whom have garnered public support through a deceptive boorishness designed to break with the wooden, over-polished fronts of their fellow politicians, and appeal to our love of the underdog. Farage trades on his clumsy offensiveness as a way of appearing more approachable and sincere than the standard Westminster politician. Of course, his personal story (public schoolboy turned city trader turned politician) is a run-of-the-mill tale of an ambitious, wealthy white man done good. He is enormously privileged, but his public image, like his political front, is spun to fool the disenfranchised into a sense of identification.

Amongst those of us who don’t identify, a lot of time and energy is spent in mocking UKIP supporters for their ignorance. Meanwhile, year on year, their numbers grow, and if poverty inculcates a disposition for supporting UKIP, we can expect a surge in the party’s popularity as the numbers of people living in absolute poverty increases, which seems to be where the continued austerity measures of the major parties are likely to lead us.

A schoolteacher’s corrections of a UKIP flyer went viral last month, inviting us to have a good laugh at the stupid party and the stupid people who support them. It’s a panicked sort of laugh; a laugh to drown out a very worrying reality. The flyer is full of hate and vitriol, but look at that sentence structure! It’s not at all clear that spelling and grammar are the things we should be mocking, and it’s not obvious that laughter is the right response anyway. All this mocking of Nigel Farage, his cronies, and their endless gaffes is distracting and counter-productive. To the extent that UKIP’s support stems from a sense of alienation at Westminster’s priorities, all this laughing can only harden those on the margins. In some moments, and some spaces, it undoubtedly seems meaningful to satirize xenophobia, and it is no doubt cathartic when the alternative is pain. But trivializing UKIP and their followers means trivializing the issues that their voters want to talk about, and those issues are very far from trivial. They are some of the most pressing political questions of our time, and they deserve our serious attention.

Because despite arguments that UKIP is a viable party based on shrewd economics, it is an open secret that many of its supporters feel a sense of identification because they have views that are nothing if not racist. A recent incident brought this home rather embarrassingly. A primary school student, when asked who he is supporting in the coming election, replied that his choice was UKIP, because he wants to “get all the foreigners out the country.” In a line, and with the honesty only a child can muster, he distills the central tenet of UKIP’s support amongst Britain’s white working classes. Forget the other policies: UKIP’s hook is that its rhetoric gels with people’s pent-up racism. The protestations of UKIP politicians that they are being mis-represented is neither here nor there: ask a UKIP supporter why she supports them, and expect an answer that barely disguises a deeply-held racism.

If this point seems unconvincing, consider that sub-groups within the English Defence League have announced their support for UKIP. It takes a racist to spot a racist, and the EDL is certainly not one to extend the hand of friendship to just about anyone. UKIP can describe itself in whatever terms it wishes, but a party’s legitimacy derives from its supporters, and after all, real democracy means delivering on the preferences of those supporters. In other words, if UKIP followers are racist, UKIP is racist. If UKIP was a leading player in a coalition, its voters would be disappointed if their racist preferences were not acted upon.

It pays to ask why so many people feel this way. Why do people want to “get rid of all the foreigners”? Why does that repeatedly top lists of priorities when elections roll around? The obvious answer is that immigrants have been scapegoated, but in order for scapegoats to be wanted, there must be an urgent set of problems for which there are no satisfactory answers. Those questions revolve around poverty and unemployment. And the UK, in its eagerness to see economic health of any kind in its core (London), and in its determination to have this wealth trickle down from bloated corporations, is struggling and failing to get much-needed resources to its peripheries: the very places where poverty and UKIP support have their concomitant hotspots. Joblessness, low-quality education and non-existent training opportunities are the order of the day outside of Britain’s major cities. Interestingly, when one considers the positive impact of migrant workers on local communities, it is obvious that Britain’s extremities are losing out partly because they have so few immigrants. It is a further irony that, were British people raised to speak another language (instead of being the nation of haughty monoglots that we are), those who now feel compelled to support UKIP would likely have gone abroad in search of employment opportunities. And nobody would blame them: there’s nothing for them here.

Permitting anti-immigrant rhetoric to disguise unrelated economic mismanagement is not only deeply unethical because it is a lie, and because it hurts racialized people, it is unethical because it commits an injustice against the UK’s working people, who become the brunt of a bigger political joke as they bang their heads against the wrong brick wall, believing that their lives would be better if only they could just get rid of all the foreigners. Anti-immigrant ideology is a ruse designed to divide working people on the basis of race and nationality, while class divisions are the real levers of injustice.

And the saddest part of all is that UKIP itself has a very unconvincing set of policies when it comes to tackling poverty, which means their support base is less likely to benefit from voting UKIP than almost any other political party. Their proposed ban on unskilled migration would adversely affect local economies, their cap on benefits would target struggling families, and their failure to protect the NHS and other public services would create additional burdens and vulnerabilities for the UK’s poorest communities.  

So have politicians simply given in to the racism of the masses, and decided to adjust their rhetoric and policies to try to win them over? The masses have never had such power over the elite; we can only dream of such exercises of democracy, no matter how bitter. Racism is a core component of the ideology of the elite. If they cannot maintain popular support for the fierce control of borders, and maintain the fragmentation of working class people, they cannot guarantee the protection and obfuscation of their own financial interests.

Immigrants and racialized groups within the UK suffer from the stigma that this rhetoric induces. But much more worrying at this moment in time are the effects of anti-immigrant rhetoric on those who are embarking on the long and dangerous journey to Europe, leaving behind countries torn apart by war and poverty. Well over a thousand migrants died in the Mediterranean in the last few weeks. Many of these lives could have been saved if European countries could jointly provide adequate search-and-rescue missions. They are prevented from doing so because they have expediently whipped up anti-immigrant discourse to fever pitch, and can no longer summon the popular support for even the most basic gestures of humanity.

Poverty and (legitimate) fear is what drives these migrants to seek uncertain futures in the European countries who are implicated in the degradation of their own home countries’ stability through colonialism, war-mongering and brutal debt repayment schemes. Poverty and (illegitimate) fear is what drives poor Europeans to make xenophobia the outlet for their misery and humiliation. The UK government’s prioritization of the interests of the wealthy and corporations has necessitated a diversionary and divisive hatred within the working classes, and UKIP has benefitted from the racial hatred that increasing poverty has fed. Why are we not talking about UKIP supporters? Because that would mean talking about class, after which we see that UK politics is cowardly, dishonest, and undemocratic to the core.

Among those of us who don’t identify, a lot of time and energy is spent in mocking UKIP supporters for their ignorance. Meanwhile, year on year, their numbers grow, and if poverty inculcates a disposition for supporting UKIP, we can expect a surge in the party’s popularity as the numbers of people living in absolute poverty increases, which seems to be where the continued austerity measures of the major parties are likely to lead us.

A schoolteacher’s corrections of a UKIP flyer went viral last month, inviting us to have a good laugh at the stupid party and the stupid people who sympathize with them. It’s a panicked sort of laugh; a laugh to drown out a very worrying reality. 

The flyer represents a party whose ideology trades on hate and vitriol, but look at that sentence structure! It’s not at all clear that spelling and grammar are the things we should be mocking, and it’s not obvious that laughter is the right response anyway. All this mocking of Nigel Farage, his cronies, and their endless gaffes is distracting and counter-productive. To the extent that UKIP’s support stems from a sense of alienation at Westminister’s priorities, all this laughing can only harden those on the margins. In some moments, and some spaces, it undoubtedly seems meaningful to satirize xenophobia, and it is no doubt cathartic when the alternative is hurt. But trivializing UKIP and its followers means trivializing the issues that their voters want to talk about, and those issues are very far from trivial. They are some of the most pressing political questions of our time, and they deserve our serious attention.

Because despite arguments that UKIP is a viable party based on a shrewd economic strategy, it is an open secret that many of its supporters feel a sense of identification because they have views that are patently racist. A recent incident brought this home rather embarrassingly. 

primary school student, when asked who he is supporting in the coming election, replied that his choice was UKIP, because he wants to “get all the foreigners out the country.” In a line, and with the honesty only a child can muster, he distills the central tenet of UKIP’s support among Britain’s white working classes. Forget the other policies: UKIP’s hook is that its rhetoric gels with people’s pent-up racism. The protestations of UKIP politicians that they are being misrepresented is neither here nor there: Ask a UKIP supporter why she supports them and expect an answer that barely disguises a deeply-held racism.

If this point seems unconvincing, consider that sub-groups within the English Defence League have announced their support for UKIP. It takes a racist to spot a racist, and the EDL is certainly not one to extend the hand of friendship to just about anyone. UKIP can describe itself in whatever terms it wishes, but a party’s legitimacy derives from its supporters, and after all, real democracy means delivering on the preferences of those supporters. In other words, if UKIP followers are racist, UKIP is racist. If UKIP was a leading player in a coalition, its voters would be disappointed if their racist preferences were not acted upon. After all, a good deal of a party’s following derives from the ideology that is implied by, say, the way its representatives comport themselves. UKIP’s “gaffes” are very unlikely to be accidental, but if so, they are serendipitous in the extreme: They cleverly garner support without the need to write an explicitly racist manifesto. 

It pays to ask why so many people feel this way. Why IX do IX people want to “get rid of all the foreigners”? Why does that repeatedly top lists of priorities when elections roll around? The obvious answer is that immigrants have been scapegoated, but for scapegoats to be wanted, there must be an urgent set of problems for which there are no satisfactory answers. Those questions revolve around poverty and unemployment. And the UK, in its eagerness to see economic health of any kind in its core (London), and in its determination that this wealth trickle down from bloated corporations, is struggling and failing to get much-needed resources to its peripheries: the very places where poverty and UKIP support have their concomitant hotspots.

Joblessness, low-quality education and non-existent training opportunities are the order of the day outside of Britain’s major cities. Interestingly, when one considers the positive impact of migrant workers on local communities and the national economy, it is obvious that Britain’s extremities are losing out partly because they have IX so few IX immigrants. It is a further irony that, were British people raised to speak another language (instead of being the nation of haughty monoglots that we are), those who now feel compelled to support UKIP would likely have gone abroad in search of employment opportunities. And nobody would blame them: there’s little for them here. 

All of the data suggests that immigration strengthens the economy, does not cause unemployment, does not push down wages, does not drain (but rather, bolsters) public services, and is not motivated by seeking welfare payments. Yet working-class, British-born people, like everyone else, are poorer than they were at the last election. The culprits are not immigrants, they are the politicians who have initiated draconian austerity measures that ideologically target the poorest and most vulnerable, while decimating the public services that make cash-poverty more livable. The current government has meticulously and relentlessly personified the “deficit” until it seems reasonable to prioritize it above attending to the needs of people who are struggling to eat, and in so doing, they have undermined their own legitimacy, which derives solely from their responsibility to care for the people.

Permitting anti-immigrant rhetoric to disguise unrelated economic mismanagement is not only deeply unethical because it is a lie and because it hurts racialized people, it is unethical because it commits an injustice against the UK’s working people, who become the brunt of a bigger political joke as they bang their heads against the wrong brick wall, believing that their lives would be better if only they could just get rid of all the foreigners. Anti-immigrant ideology is a ruse, designed to divide working people on the basis of race and nationality, while class divisions are the real levers of injustice. 

And the saddest part of all is that UKIP itself has a very unconvincing set of policies when it comes to tackling poverty, which means their support base is less likely to benefit from voting UKIP than almost any other political party. Their proposed ban on unskilled migration would adversely affect local economies, their cap on benefits would target struggling families, and their failure to adequately protect the NHS and other public services would create additional burdens and vulnerabilities for the UK’s poorest communities. 

So have politicians simply given in to the racism of the masses, and decided to adjust their rhetoric and policies to try to win them over? The masses have never had such power over the elite; we can only dream of such exercises of democracy, no matter how bitter their outcomes. Racism is a core component of the ideology of the elite. If they cannot maintain popular support for the fierce control of borders, and maintain the fragmentation of working-class people, they cannot guarantee the protection and obfuscation of their own financial interests.

Immigrants and racialized groups within the UK suffer from the stigma that this rhetoric induces. But much more worrying at this moment in time is the effects of anti-immigrant rhetoric on those who are embarking on the long and dangerous journey to Europe, leaving behind countries torn apart by war and poverty. Well over a thousand migrants died in the Mediterranean in the last few weeks. Many of these lives could have been saved if European countries could jointly provide adequate search-and-rescue missions. They are prevented from doing so because they have expediently whipped up anti-immigrant discourse to fever pitch, and can no longer summon the popular support for even the most basic gestures of humanity. 

Poverty and (legitimate) fear is what drives these migrants to seek uncertain futures in the European countries who are implicated in the degradation of their own home countries’ stability through colonialism, war-mongering, and brutal debt repayment schemes. Poverty and (illegitimate) fear is what drives poor Europeans to make xenophobia the outlet for their misery and humiliation. The UK government’s prioritization of the interests of the wealthy and corporate has necessitated a diversionary and divisive hatred within the working classes, and UKIP has benefited from the racial hatred that increasing poverty has fed. Why are we not talking about UKIP supporters? Because that would mean talking about class, after which we see that UK politics is cowardly, dishonest, and undemocratic to the core.

On the News With Thom Hartmann: It’s Effectively a Crime to Be Poor in the US, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Debtors prisons have been outlawed for more than a century, yet it’s still effectively a crime to be poor in our country; the rich love to whine about entitlements, but that doesn’t stop them from collecting their own government handouts; protesters held a 15-day fast outside Los Angeles City Hall to demand an increase to the city’s minimum wage; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…

You need to know this. Despite the fact that debtors prisons have been outlawed for more than a century, it’s still effectively a crime to be poor in our country. According to a stunning new report called “The Poor Get Prison,” the “justice system” is being used as a weapon against the poor in cities all over our nation. That study was co-authored by Karen Dolan and Jodi L. Carr on behalf of the Institute for Policy Studies, and it breaks down the various ways that Americans are being punished for being poor. In addition to the obvious criminalization of poverty, like fining the homeless for being homeless, cities and counties throughout our country have set up a vicious cycle of charging exorbitant fees for small infractions and then jailing people who can’t afford those fines. By turning many petty crimes, like drinking from an open alcohol container, into civil infractions, cities and towns set up the poor to fail and end up behind bars. A $100 ticket can easily turn into probation for failure to pay fines, which snowball when probationers then fail to pay so-called “supervision fees.” Suddenly, someone ends up in a modern-day debtors prison. Not only is this whole process unconstitutional, it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Throwing someone in jail over unpaid fines means that they can’t work, and they can’t make any money. It also means that instead of a $100 fine being lost to the city or county, taxpayers are now on the hook for the cost of putting someone behind bars. In the introduction to “The Poor Get Prison” report, one of the authors wrote, “In the last ten years, it has become apparent that being poor is in itself a crime in many cities and counties, and that it is a crime punished by further impoverishment.” Debtors prisons were outlawed long ago because they are inhumane and ineffective, and it’s time to end the criminalization of poverty once and for all.

It’s official. Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders announced he’s running for president. In an email about his announcement, he wrote, “After a year of travel, discussion and dialogue, I have decided to be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.” Although Senator Sanders is officially an independent, he is seeking the Democratic nomination to ensure that he doesn’t split the vote. Various news outlets and pundits ignored or dismissed the announcement, but Sanders said, “People should not underestimate me.” With a strong background of fighting for veterans, protecting the middle class, and standing up to the big banks and Wall Street, Senator Sanders gets support from people all over the political spectrum. In an interview with the Associated Press, Senator Sanders said, “I’ve run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates and, you know, I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country.” Regardless of where you stand on 2016, it’s great to have another voice in the race who will fight for working Americans.

Rich people love to whine about entitlements, but that doesn’t stop them from collecting their own government handouts. In a recent article over at Common Dreams, Paul Buchheit explains how the actual cost of the social safety net pails in comparison to the cost of tax avoidance, loopholes and corporate welfare. In 2014, the total cost of the non-medical safety net was $370 billion. That means that programs like SNAP, WIC, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and others cost less than one quarter of the $2.2 trillion that is lost to tax avoidance. While those at the top blame food stamp recipients and hungry kids for bankrupting our nation, they continue to stash money in overseas tax havens and call for even lower tax rates on the rich. The poor people in this country are not the problem, and it’s time to call out the real welfare kings and queens for the massive benefits they take from our government.

The Fight for Fifteen has helped raise wages in cities like Seattle and San Francisco, but workers aren’t stopping there. Last week, protesters wrapped up a 15-day fast outside Los Angeles City Hall, which was being held to demand an increase to that city’s minimum wage. The group of protesters is made up of fast-food workers who say that they can’t survive on poverty wages. In an interview with the ThinkProgress Blog, one of the protesters said that fasting was just a reminder of the way that she grew up. While many would applaud the difficult form of protest, Martha Sanchez said, “It’s not difficult because I grew up hungry. I’m not doing anything radical, I’m doing exactly the same thing that thousands of moms are doing in silence in their homes.” In the richest nation on Earth, no one should be suffering with hunger, and every worker should earn a wage that ensures they have enough to eat. Hopefully, this brave protest will push lawmakers to do right by the low-wage workers of Los Angeles.

And finally … Corporate profits are at record highs, but wages are growing at the slowest pace since 1960. While workers and activists fight for higher wages, one senator is fighting this inequity from a different angle. Earlier this month, Democrat Tammy Baldwin sent a letter to the head of the SEC about the use of stock buybacks and dividends to manipulate stock prices and deny wage increases. In her letter, Senator Baldwin wrote, “There is mounting evidence to suggest that buybacks have a negative effect on jobs, wages, and investment, which in turn have negative impacts on innovation and long-term national economic growth, competitiveness, and security.” In earlier decades, corporations used this money to invest in their companies, their workers, and their nation. Now they’re just using it to make those at the top even richer. Good on Senator Tammy Baldwin for shining a light on this corporate manipulation, now let’s help put pressure on the SEC to make stock buybacks a thing of the past.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of May 4, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.

Voices From the Epicenter of Protest

See The Real News Network’s website for both earlier in-depth reporting and current coverage of events in Baltimore, where The Real News Network studios are located.

TRNN Correspondent Eddie Conway speaks with residents of Gilmor Homes about the charges brought against six Baltimore police officers.

TRANSCRIPT:

EDDIE CONWAY, PRODUCER, TRNN: I’m Eddie Conway from The Real News, and I just came down to Gilmor Homes to get an assessment of the residents’ attitude about the State’s Attorney’s indictments against the six officers that killed Freddie Gray. And we’re interviewing people and getting an idea of how they felt about it.

GILMOR HOMES RESIDENT: Oh, great. Great. It’s a start. It’s a start. And hopefully it’ll come through.

CONWAY: Okay.

KEVIN MOORE, WITNESS TO FREDDIE GRAY’S ARREST: Me, I’m Kevin Moore. I filmed that video. And when I first filmed it I’m thinking, we’re about to get railroaded again. Even just the loss of another brother, another person that we love dearly, you see what I’m saying? I just felt like it wasn’t–it wasn’t going to be, not justice. You know what I mean? And then Marilyn Mosby come in, and she’s locking it down, dude.

They talk about, we free. We ain’t free. Look around you. This is my freedom for us. This is like another jail, man. You understand what I’m talking about? We’re fighting for freedom and I see it can happen. Because they’ll keep on happening. And we’re gonna keep on fighting.

CONWAY: Yeah, that’s right. And we [will keep] here.

RESIDENT: [Inaud.] we got, it’s a shame it took something like this to get these people’s attention that’s high up. We’re not animals.

CONWAY: That’s right.

RESIDENT: We’re not animals.

CONWAY: That’s right. And you shouldn’t be, nobody should be treated like that. Yeah.

RESIDENT: I don’t care what color you are. You shouldn’t be treated like that.

RESIDENT: Like, now that I know that they, that we got justice, like the whole city got to stop what they’re doing, you feel me, like–and like, I’m thinking, I think anybody probably feeling the same way I feel like. The police been doing this for years. I don’t know–you probably know. I’m 20, I know. You way older than me, you feel me? So only thing I think my man ain’t do is run fast enough to save his life. You feel what I’m saying? Like, I’m just happy that the officers got charged. That was one of us, we’d have been booked.

RESIDENT: Kids got out of school, they want to play ball, that’s why kids grow up doing what they do now. Because there’s nothing for them to do when they get out of school. Yeah they go home, do their homework. They also like to come outside, play basketball, ride their bike. There ain’t no playgrounds around here. There ain’t nothing for the kids to do but run in and out of these buildings. And they just did that growing up. They don’t want to do that. Kids want to play ball, play sports and grow up and be something, you feel me?

I got–also I wanted to say is like, growing up your parents also told you to call 911 when you get in trouble. Right? When I was growing I had to call my family when I got in trouble. It’s for shit like that. Now my brother gone, how can I call them? They might do something to me, too.

RESIDENT: That’s where the kids–they make their own goals around here. The place, you feel what I’m saying?

CONWAY: I see it. I see it.

RESIDENT: That’s not–that’s crazy, man. These–there’s only been one [goal] around here since I been growing up.

RESIDENT: That’s what I said, he should have gotten [inaud.]

CONWAY: Yeah.

RESIDENT: You know what I mean? He should have gotten medical attention. Why’d you move him here, there, take him all around the damn world? And he was in pain from day one, right there. That’s why they, it’s really going to need to get [inaud.] because first of all, he was hurt right then and there. For all we know, all that shit probably could have been prevented. We been slaves long enough. So when this town wants to get [inaud.] these people get over on us. You feel me, doing it like you’re the [inaud.]. We got to fight back.

CONWAY: Okay. After talking to the residents here, it seems like they are very excited, very happy that something happened at last after 111 deaths at the hands of the police. That finally, the residents feel like there might be justice, but they also feel like they should watch this and follow it so that it doesn’t disappear in the near future or get reduced further, and people get away with what everybody down here is still saying was murder.