Paradise Lost

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As California once again reels from the fires, many are warning this is climate change in action

As the deadliest wild-fires ever to hit California continue to rage, an estimated 31 people are known to have died, with over 200 still missing. Some 250,000 have been forced to flee their homes. Over 100,000 acres of land has been burnt, including luxury homes in Malibu.

Image: JOSH EDELSON/GETTY IMAGES

As California once again reels from the fires, many are warning this is climate change in action.

The town of Paradise in Northern California, home to 23,000 people, has effectively been destroyed by what is known as the “Camp Fire”, and is now described as a ghost town. The grim headline in the Guardian said: “Only bones and fragments”.

At one stage the fire that engulfed Paradise traveled 11 miles in 11 hours or 80 acres a minute. One fire-fighter who had been involved in trying to put out the blaze, observed: “It’s devastation, total devastation, it’s pretty incredible something like this occurred,” “We’ve gone through lots of wildfire over the years, this is the worst I’ve seen personally.”

More from Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl

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California college moves ‘Prospector Pete’ statue from plaza

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Image: Thomas R. Cordova/The Orange County Register via AP

California State University, Long Beach, will move its half-century-old “Prospector Pete” statue away from a prominent place on campus because of the impact the 1849 gold rush had on indigenous people.

A statement on the university website said the gold rush was “a time in history when the indigenous peoples of California endured subjugation, violence and threats of genocide.”

According to the university, the bronze statue formally named “The Forty-Niner Man” evolved from the creation of the original college in 1949 and founding President Pete Peterson’s references to having “struck the gold of education.”

More from WRAL.com

Posted by Libergirl

A white woman called police on black people barbecuing. This is how the community responded

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Hundreds danced to hip-hop and ’80s soul music Sunday and listened to local African-American candidates make their pitches. But this cookout in Oakland, California, wasn’t just any spring festival.

The event, dubbed “BBQing While Black,” was one community’s powerful response to what many perceived as yet another example of everyday racism.

It all started on April 29, when a white woman reportedly called police on a few black people who, she said, were using a charcoal grill in an area where it was banned, according to CNN affiliate KRON. Oakland police arrived; no one was arrested. But the 25-minute episode was captured on video, then posted to YouTube and viewed more than 2 million times.

More from…apple.news/AvhWRTcF8SsWNodlDWYbTPQ

 

Posted by Libergirl

California police worked with neo-Nazis to pursue ‘anti-racist’ activists, documents show Officers expressed sympathy with white supremacists and sought their help to target counter-protesters after a violent 2016 rally, according to court documents

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California police investigating a violent white nationalist event worked with white supremacists in an effort to identify counter-protesters and sought the prosecution of activists with “anti-racist” beliefs, court documents show.

The records, which also showed officers expressing sympathy with white supremacists and trying to protect a neo-Nazi organizer’s identity, were included in a court briefing from three anti-fascist activists who were charged with feloniesafter protesting at a Sacramento rally. The defendants were urging a judge to dismiss their case and accused California police and prosecutors of a “cover-up and collusion with the fascists”.

Defense lawyers said the case at the state capital offers the latest example of US law enforcement appearing to align with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups while targeting anti-fascist activists and Donald Trump protesters after violent clashes.

“It is shocking and really angering to see the level of collusion and the amount to which the police covered up for the Nazis,” said Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley teacher and anti-fascist organizer charged with assault and rioting after participating in the June 2016 Sacramento rally, where she said she was stabbed and bludgeoned in the head. “The people who were victimized by the Nazis were then victimized by the police and the district attorneys.”

Steve Grippi, chief deputy district attorney prosecuting the case in Sacramento, vehemently denied the claims of bias in an email to the Guardian, alleging that anti-fascist stabbing victims have been uncooperative and noting that his office has filed charges against one member of the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), the neo-Nazi group that organized the rally.

Some California highway patrol (CHP) investigation records, however, raise questions about the police’s investigative tactics and communication with the TWP.

Felarca’s attorneys obtained numerous examples of CHP officers working directly with the TWP, often treating the white nationalist group as victims and the anti-fascists as suspects.

Members of the group called Antifa Sacramento (Anti-Fascism Action) outside the state capitol building in 2016.
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Members of the group called Antifa Sacramento (Anti-Fascism Action) outside the state capitol building in 2016. Photograph: Sacramento/Rex/Shutterstock

The TWP is “intimately allied with neo-Nazi and other hardline racist organizations” and “advocates for racially pure nations”, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its leaders have praised Trump, and the group claimed to bring more than 100 people to the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, where a counter-protester was killed.

In one phone call with Doug McCormack, identified by police as the TWP affiliate who acquired the permit for the Sacramento rally, CHP investigator Donovan Ayres warned him that police might have to release his name in response to a public records requests. The officer said he would try to protect McCormack.

“I’m gonna suggest that we hold that or redact your name or something until this gets resolved,” Ayres told McCormack, adding that he didn’t know who had requested records of the permit and noting, “If I did, I would tell you.”

Ayres’s reports noted that McCormack was armed at the rally with a knife.

The officer’s write-up about an African American anti-fascist activist included a photo of him at the hospital after the rally and noted that he had been stabbed in the abdomen, chest and hand.

Ayres, however, treated the protester like a suspect in the investigation. The police investigator recommended the man be charged with 11 offenses, including disturbing the peace, conspiracy, assault, unlawful assembly and wearing a mask to evade police.

As evidence, Ayres provided Facebook photos of the man holding up his fist. The officer wrote that the man’s “Black Power salute” and his “support for anti-racist activism” demonstrated his “intent and motivation to violate the civil rights” of the neo-Nazi group. He was ultimately not charged.

Ayres’s report also noted Felarca’s political activism in great detail, referencing her activism on behalf of students of color and women’s rights protests.

“This is a textbook case of a political witch-hunt and selective prosecution,” Shanta Driver, one of Felarca’s attorneys, said in an interview.

Officers also worked with TWP member Derik Punneo to try to identify anti-fascist activists, recordings revealed. Officers interviewed Punneo in jail after he was arrested for an unrelated domestic violence charge. Audio recordings captured investigators saying they brought photos to show him, hoping he could help them identify anti-fascist activists.

The officers said, “We’re pretty much going after them,” and assured him: “We’re looking at you as a victim.”

Ayres’s report noted that Punneo was armed with a knife at the neo-Nazi rally and that one stabbing victim told officers he believed Punneo was responsible. Using video footage, Ayres also noted that Punneo was “in the vicinity” of another victim at the time he was injured, but the officer said the evidence ultimately wasn’t clear.

Punneo and McCormack, who could not be reached for comment, were not charged. Ayres’s report included images and names of three other TWP-affiliated men who he said were armed with knives, but who also have faced no charges.

Several people were stabbed at the rally, where rightwing extremists clashed with leftwing counter protesters.
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Several people were stabbed at the rally, where rightwing extremists clashed with leftwing counter-protesters. Photograph: Paul Kitagaki Jr./AP

The CHP declined to comment.

In a response filed on Thursday, prosecutors said “every assertion” in the motion to dismiss is “inaccurate or fabricated” and accused Felarca’s lawyers of using the filing to “make a political statement”. The response also repeatedly blamed the stabbing victims for ignoring the district attorney’s inquiries: “Despite the fact that we have not gained the cooperation of these victims, the investigation to hold their attackers responsible continues forward.”

Prosecutors also said the charges were based on video evidence and argued that “no one is beneath the protection of the law, no matter how repugnant his or her rhetoric or misguided his or her ideals”.

Allegations of police bias and collusion with neo-Nazis have emerged in similar cases across the US. Last year, US prosecutors targeting anti-Trump protesters in Washington DC relied on video evidence from a far-right group with a record of deceptive tactics.

At an Oregon “alt-right” event, police allowed a member of a rightwing militia-style group to help officers arrest an anti-fascist activist.

Police in Charlottesville were widely accused of standing by as Nazis attacked protesters, and a black man who was badly beaten by white supremacists was later charged with a felony.

Sam Menefee-Libey, an activist who advocated for protesters charged for Inauguration Day rallies last year, said the government has repeatedly gone to great lengths to target anti-fascists: “We have patterns of acknowledged and unacknowledged overlaps between the interest of ultra-right nationalist organizations and the police and prosecutors’ offices.”

From The Guardian

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Stockton Mayor Touts Experimental Program That Pays Families $500 a Month

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Stockton plans to give several dozen families $500 a month for a year as part of a program to study the economic and social impacts of giving people a basic income.

The so-called “SEED” project will give a small group of low-income residents a modest, no-strings-attached monthly income. Funded by a million-dollar private grant from a tech group called the Economic Security Project — co-led by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes — SEED creates a real-world research model of what’s known as universal basic income.

The yearlong program will track what residents do with the money and how having a universal basic income affects their self-esteem and identity.

Stockton mayor Michael Tubbs is coordinating the effort in his city of 300,000 people where 1 in 4 residents lives below the poverty line.

“They were looking for a city to pilot what would a ‘basic income’ look like? And what could that do for people’s lives,” the mayor said.

More from CBS San Francisco

Posted by Libergirl

‘Year late & bad info’: California says DHS falsely accused Russia of hacking its voting systems

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It appears that in its eagerness to accuse Russian hackers of meddling in the US presidential election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wrongly claimed California’s election systems had been breached.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla released a statement in which he confirmed that DHS officials had told him that the state’s election system had been “scanned” by Russian hackers.

“Last Friday, my office was notified by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that Russian cyber actors ‘scanned’ California’s Internet-facing systems in 2016, including Secretary of State websites. Following our request for further information, it became clear that DHS’ conclusions were wrong,” he wrote in a statement published on Wednesday.

He went on to stress that last Friday’s notification from the DHS wasn’t just “a year late,” but was also “bad information.”

Now the DHS instead maintains – without any stated evidence – that “Russian scanning activity…occurred on the California Department of Technology statewide network,” rather than Secretary of State websites.

California’s Secretary of State does not use the Department of Technology to provide IT services for its website, internet-facing applications, or the statewide voter registration database, according to Padilla’s office.

Padilla’s statement added that based on this additional information, “the California Secretary of State elections infrastructure and websites were not hacked or breached by Russian cyber actors.”

As for the Department of Technology allegedly being breached, the office said its security systems were able to block “suspect activity.” However, claims that Russians were behind any such attempt remain unsubstantiated.

Padilla’s statement comes after California – along with 20 other states – was told last week that its systems were targeted last year “by Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to US election infrastructure.”

The DHS’ mistake in California is the second time in a week that the department’s credibility has come into question, as it was forced to backtrack earlier this week on its claim that Russian hackers attempted to hack Wisconsin’s election infrastructure.

Just as in the case of California, the DHS quickly pointed to another government department which the elusive Russians allegedly tried to hack – the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

It is an interesting – and once again unproven – claim, considering the office merely oversees job training and unemployment benefits.

Despite ongoing claims and an investigation into Russian meddling in the US presidential election, no evidence has been provided to support the hysteria.

A congressional investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the US election has been dragging on 10 months, with any hard evidence explicitly pointing to the role of Russian authorities yet to be produced.
Moscow has repeatedly denied interfering in the election campaign.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rebuffed the meddling claims, on one occasion noting that the US is not “a banana republic,” for others to interfere with its people’s choice.

In an interview with filmmaker Oliver Stone in June, Putin instead accused the US of meddling in Russia’s most recent presidential elections in 2012, by campaigning on the side of the Russian opposition.

Moreover, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in August that there is “no doubt” the US will again try to meddle in the 2018 presidential election.

That same month, US President Donald Trump told a rally in West Virginia that the Russia story is a “total fabrication” and an excuse used by Democrats for the “greatest loss in the history of American politics.”

He said that prosecutors should instead be focused on Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails rather than alleged Russian meddling.

From RussiaToday

Posted by The NON-Conformist

California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again

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Nothing better illustrates the political bankruptcy of the Democratic Party—for all progressive intents and purposes—than California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s announcement on Friday afternoon that he was going to put a “hold” on the single-payer health care bill (SB 562) for the state, effectively killing its passage for at least the year.

The Democratic Party finds itself in a bind in California. They hold the governorship and a supermajority in both houses of the legislature, so they can pass any bill they want. SB 562 had passed the Senate 23-14.

There was enormous enthusiasm among California progressive activists, who, with organizations like Campaign for a Healthy California (CHC,) and  the National Nurses United (NNU,) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) were working tirelessly, and hopeful of success.  After all, Bernie’s people were taking over the California party from the bottom since the election. I recall a night of drinking last year with an old friend who has been spearheading that effort, as he rebuffed my skepticism, and insisted that this time there would be a really progressive takeover of the California party, and single-payer would prove it. After all, once enough progressive pressure was been put on the legislators, the bill would be going to super-progressive Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, who had made advocacy of single-payer a centerpiece of his run for President in 1992, saying: “We treat health care not as a commodity to be played with for profit but rather the right of every American citizen when they’re born.” Bernie foretold.

Unfortunately, today that Governor is, according to Paul Song, co-chair of the CHC, “doing everything he can to make sure this never gets on his desk.” And it won’t. Unfortunately, all the Democrats like Rendon, who “claims to be a personal supporter of single-payer,” will make sure that their most progressive governor is not put in the embarrassing position of having to reject what he’s been ostensibly arguing for for twenty-five years, of demonstrating so blatantly what a fraud his, and his party’s, progressive pretensions are.

Thus unfolds the typical Democratic strategy: Make all kinds of progressive noises and cast all kinds of progressive votes, while carefully managing the process so that the legislation the putatively progressives putatively support never gets enacted. Usually, they blame Republican obstructionism, and there certainly is enough of that, and where there is, it provides a convenient way for Democrat legislator to “support” legislation they know will be blocked and wouldn’t really enact themselves if they could.

In the California case, the dissembling is obvious. The Republicans can’t be blamed. The only thing standing in the way of single-payer in California is the Democratic Party. As it was on the national level in 2009, when Obama and the Democrats could have passed any healthcare bill they wanted, just as they passed the Republican-inspired, gift to the for-profit health insurance industry, the ACA—without a single Republican vote. It was true-believing capitalist Democrats like Max Baucus, led by Obama and his sidekick Rahm Emanuel (who called leftists “fucking retarded”) who arrested single-payer activists (including doctors) in order to prevent single-payer from even being considered. It was they who strong-armed reluctant Democratic legislators, who had signed an oath not to do so, into passing a bill that leaves 28 million Americans without health insurance, and forces the rest into plans whose premiums rise and networks of coverage shrink every year.

In fact, the perfectly reasonable discontent with that plan probably had more to do with helping Trump win than did any actions of bad-old (as opposed to good-new) James Comey. As Marcy Wheeler pointed out, in a analysis that’s contested but should certainly not be ignored, Hillary’s fatal slide in the polls began before Comey’s notorious letter of October 28th, and coincided with the announcement, four days before, of steep Obamacare premium increases. You decide whether you think Anthony Weiner’s sexting emails, part three, had more effect on voters than anger over being hit with stiff premium increases (22% average, 25% in 20 states, 60% in some) on increasingly crappy policies:

So the Democrats create the ground for Trump by passing a lousy healthcare law that’s sure to piss people off rather quickly, then use the even worse plan that the Republicans come up with to do nothing but trash Trump, while blocking real progressives’ attempts to get the only plan that would actually cover all Americans and save money. In Colorado last November, Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper refused to support a single-payer referendum because he “didn’t want to disrupt” the “strides [made] under Obamacare.” The Democrats’ ACA marched the nation straight into the shoals of Trump and the Republicans’ ACHA, and now the Democrats are blocking the only plan that solves the problems of both.

As Deborah Burger, Co-President of the California Nurses Association put it, Assembly Speaker Rendon, “Acting in secret in the interests of the profiteering insurance companies late Friday afternoon abandons all those people already threatened by Congress and the Trump administration.”

The excuse, of course, from California Democrats and Governor Jerry Brown is that they don’t know how they are going to pay for it, especially on the state level. That would be the same Jerry Brown who explained in 1992 exactly how single-payer would cut costs:

You cut out all the private health insurance. You have one single payer either at the national level or through the 50 states. And that one single payer will be the one that negotiates with the doctors, the hospitals, and the other providers. And since you have only one source of income in the whole medical establishment, you can drive down the cost.

Leaving aside the indispensable point that healthcare, like education and clean water, should be considered a non-discretionary expense, one of the main advantages of single-payer is precisely that it’s the only plan that can cut costs significantly. Not having single-payer will not mean healthcare will cost less; it will cost more every year, for every person and in the aggregate. It just means the for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies won’t care. The real problem with single-payer isn’t about costs to the people or to the state; it’s about profits for those companies.

Besides, an economy the size of California has immense power. We’re not talking about Utah. All the hospitals and doctors and pharmaceutical companies are not going to stop selling their goods and services in California. And once single-payer becomes a reality in California, it will catalyze a movement in every other state and on the national level. That—the fact that it will start a wildfire of imitation—and not the fact that it’s too expensive, is what the California Democratic Party is desperate to avoid, and what its donors and lobbyists are ordering it to block.

This is the Democratic Party. Lying losers who will do anything to avoid taking an effective stance for a healthcare policy that would immediately solve one of the worst horrors American families face every day, that would be immediately and concretely helpful to everyone, and, to top it all off, would be immensely popular. The dissembling Democrats are throwing away just about the most popular policy anyone could imagine—something people are literally dying for. As Charles Idelson, spokesman for the NNU, says: “There is broad support for single-payer not only in California, but nationally, even among registered Republicans and Republican and conservative business leaders.”

Passing single-payer in California and fighting for it everywhere else would guarantee the Democrats electoral victories. But they will not do it—they’ll say they will, but they will not—because they are fervent supporters of the capitalist market system in healthcare (and everything else), and they are corrupt agents of the health insurance and pharma industries.

Because it captures and cages the energies of so many well-meaning progressives, the Democratic Party is the most effective obstacle to, and enemy of, single-payer, and it has to be fought. People in wheelchairs and cancer patients and all their healthy friends should be sitting in and obstructing Democrat Rendon’s, as well as any Republican’s, office, until he lets the bill through. Then they should move on to the Democratic governor’s office. And thence to Pelosi’s and Schumer’s offices as well as Graham’s and Ryan’s. This is not a Trump problem, and not a Republican problem, it’s a bipartisan capitalist elite problem.

We have to engage in this kind of fight against all of these politicians. Anyone who thinks such a fight can be avoided in order to play the Democrats’ game of defending the for-profit insurance plan called Obamacare while obsessing about Trump being a Russian spy, is helping to perpetuate this rotten healthcare system. Twenty-eight million people are now without healthcare, and, if the Republicans’ edited version of Obamacare passes (which it probably won’t, because even many Republicans know they can’t get away with making things worse than they are), there’ll be twenty-four million more. There is no time for either of these contemptuous parties and their contemptuous bullshit.

by JIM KAVANAGH/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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