Paradise Lost

Leave a comment

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.


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


Black farmers were deliberately sold ‘fake seeds’ in scheme to steal their land: report

Leave a comment

Black farmers in the Mid-South region surrounding Memphis used science to uncover a multi-million dollar scheme to put them out of business and steal their farmland, WMC News reported Tuesday.

At the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show show in March of 2017, African-American farmers believe that Stine Seed Company purposefully sold them fake seeds.

Thomas Burrell, president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, explained how black farmers were receiving one-tenth of the yield as their white neighbors.

“Mother nature doesn’t discriminate,” Burrell said. “It doesn’t rain on white farms but not black farms. Insects don’t [only] attack black farmers’ land…why is it then that white farmers are buying Stine seed and their yield is 60, 70, 80, and 100 bushels of soybeans and black farmers who are using the exact same equipment with the exact same land, all of a sudden, your seeds are coming up 5, 6, and 7 bushels?”

The results were so stark, resulting in millions of dollars in losses, the farmers took their seeds for scientific testing by experts at Mississippi State University.

The tests revealed the black farmers had not been given the quality “certified” Stine seeds for which they had paid.

Burrell suggested a land grab was the ultimate motivation of the perpetrators.

“All we have to do is look at here: 80 years ago you had a million black farmers, today you have less than 5,000. These individuals didn’t buy 16 million acres of land, just to let is lay idle. The sons and daughters, the heirs of black farmers want to farm, just like the sons and daughters of white farmers.”

“So we have to acknowledge that racism is the motivation here,” Burrell concluded.

The farmers have filed a class-action lawsuit in United States District Court for the Western Division in Memphis.

A state legislator is also seeking an investigation into the scheme.

Tennessee Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) vowed state government would investigate “issues which have negatively impacted our black farmers.”

“We will explore the avenues — whether its civil, whether it’s criminal — dealing with fraud,” Rep. Hardaway vowed.

One farmer victimized, David Hall, explained why he had paid extra for high quality seeds.

“We bought nearly $90,000 worth of seed” Hall explained. “It’s been known to produce high yield, so you expect it, when you pay the money for it, to produce the high yields.”

The farmers “were effectively duped,” Burrell told WREG-TV. “It’s a double whammy for these farmers, it accelerates their demise and effectively it puts them out of business.”

“No matter much rain Mother Nature gives you, if the germination is zero the seed is impotent,” Burrell reminded.

Myron Stine of Stine Seed Company said in a statement: “The lawsuit against Stine Seed Company is without merit and factually unsupportable. Stine takes seriously any allegations of unlawful, improper, or discriminatory conduct and is disturbed by the baseless allegations leveled against the company. Upon learning of these claims, the company took swift action to conduct an internal investigation, which has not revealed any evidence that would support these allegations. Stine intends to vigorously defend itself against this meritless lawsuit and has filed a motion to dismiss. Our focus is on continuing to serve all our customers with the highest degree of integrity and respect that are the bedrock of our company’s values.”

By Bob Brigham/RawStory

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Gaza Killings: Names and Faces of Those Killed by Israeli Forces This Week

Leave a comment

From left: Ahmed Alrantisi, Laila Anwar Al-Ghandoor, Ahmed Altetr, Alaa Alkhatib Ezz el-din Alsamaak, Motassem Abu Louley (Photo: Screengrab)

Image: Common Dreams

Sixty-one people were either killed or died of wounds inflicted by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip on Monday and Tuesday as thousands of Palestinians demonstrated across the occupied territory to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba.

Source: Gaza Killings: Names and Faces of Those Killed by Israeli Forces This Week

Posted by Libergirl

New South African president wants to seize land from white farmers without compensation

Leave a comment

New South African president wants to seize land from white farmers without compensation
South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has pledged to return the lands owned by white farmers since the 1600s to the black citizens of the country.
The government plans to accelerate land redistribution through expropriation without compensation.
“The expropriation of land without compensation is envisaged as one of the measures that we will use to accelerate the redistribution of land to black South Africans,” said Ramaphosa, who was sworn into office to succeed Jacob Zuma as president last week.
The millionaire ex-businessman Ramaphosa promised that land expropriation operations will not be a “smash and grab” exercise and promised to handle the matter properly, adding that people “must see this process as an opportunity.”
“No-one is saying that land must be taken away from our people,” he said, “Rather, it is how we can make sure that our people have equitable access to land and security of tenure. We must see this process of accelerated land redistribution as an opportunity and not as a threat,” he added during a speech to parliament on Tuesday.
Such a drastic move would not damage the country’s agriculture or economy, the South African president promised.
“We will handle it with responsibility. We will handle it in a way that will not damage our economy, that is not going to damage agricultural production,” he said.
More than two decades after the end of apartheid in the 1990s, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party is under pressure to tackle racial disparities in land ownership in South Africa. The country is home to over 50 million people, with whites owning most of the land.
According to a recent study, black South Africans constitute 79 percent of the population, but directly own only 1.2 percent of the country’s rural land. Meanwhile, white South Africans, who constitute 9 percent of the country’s population, directly own 23.6 percent of its rural land, and 11.4 percent of land in towns and cities, according to the Land Audit report.
A similar program of land redistribution was carried out by then-Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Thousands of white farmers were forced from their lands.
However, food production plummeted without the experienced farmers’ contribution, and Zimbabwe’s economy suffered massively. In 2010, the Guardian reported that Mugabe used land reform to reward his allies rather than ordinary black Zimbabweans. In 2016, Mugabe signed a decree that foreign companies would face closure unless they sold or gave up 51 percent of their shares.
Speaking about the redistribution of land in his country, Ramaphosa said that “in dealing with this complex matter” South Africa would not “make the mistakes that others have made.”
From RT
Posted by The NON-Conformist

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Is Gone: Now What?

Leave a comment

In the early 2000s, I visited Zimbabwe and met with the leadership of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the association that joins together the country’s major labor unions. I was asked to give a speech to the leadership body. I received a cool, though polite response, leaving me a bit puzzled until I received my first question.

A tall, slim man in his 50s stood up and looked at me. “How is it,” he began, “that African Americans can believe in President Mugabe? Don’t they understand what is going on here?”

I had no longer been a supporter of Robert Mugabe at the time of the question. I attempted to provide an answer, offering some context about how Mugabe and the Zimbabwean national liberation struggle had been perceived by much of black America; the sense many people had that Western imperialism aimed to destroy an African effort at sovereignty. Yet I could tell it was not enough or not satisfactory. The questioner just looked at me. I received a polite applause at the end of the event.

I found myself thinking about that incident when the Zimbabwean military moved into Harare carrying out a de facto coup, and when, finally, President Mugabe stepped down. Mugabe’s political demise cannot be understood only by looking at the events of November 2017 or even the events of 2017 as a whole. Rather it is better to understand the Zimbabwean crisis as a manifestation of thieves falling out.

The challenge for many of us in the USA who have supported the Zimbabwean revolution is that we were prepared to see Zimbabwe under Mugabe the way we wanted to believe it should be unfolding, rather than what was actually taking place.


Mugabe’s political party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), was one of two main national liberation organizations that fought against imperialist-backed white minority rule in what was then known as Rhodesia. Though referred to as a political party, ZANU more resembled a national liberation front with an array of political tendencies. During the period of the Cold War and the Sino/Soviet split in the international communist movement, ZANU came to be seen as leaning toward Maoism and independent of outside control. Over time, it was able to successfully rally popular support leading, after the Lancaster House settlement of the national liberation war, to the election of Robert Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe.

The Mugabe administration introduced important reforms in health care and education, while at the same time began a process of internal repression of dissent. In 1982, Zimbabwean Army troops repressed dissidents found among the minority Ndebele population; specifically militants associated with the Zimbabwe African People’s Union, or ZAPU, which had been a rival of ZANU’s in the national liberation war. Estimates of the numbers killed have generally hovered around 20,000. Tensions lasted nearly the entire decade until ZANU and ZAPU merged and the ZANU (Patriotic Front) was consolidated.

For many of us in the US, particularly but not exclusively in the black freedom movement, this repression was, in effect, a non-event. It was either not known or not discussed, or worse, it was explained away. The brutality of the repression ran counter to the narrative that we wanted to believe because, after all, Robert Mugabe and his regime were viewed as the legitimate leaders of a glorious national liberation movement and had taken on white minority rule and Western imperialism.

As years passed, the Mugabe regime undertook further questionable courses of action. Despite radical socialist rhetoric, the Mugabe regime adopted structural adjustment policies that set the economy on a course toward greater demands upon the working class and farmers and what we have come to know as “austerity.”

Land reform moved very slowly in part because of Mugabe’s good relationship with the white farmers and in part as a result of Mugabe’s legitimate understanding that the US and Britain were going to foot the bill for the purchase of the land from the white farmers. When the US and Britain reneged, pressure from war veterans for land redistribution—which had largely been ignored by the Mugabe regime—led to a change of heart by Mugabe in which he became an advocate for forceful land redistribution. By coincidence this also took place at a moment when popular opposition to Mugabe’s structural adjustment policies was emerging and Zimbabwe seemed to be on the verge of the formation of a new opposition party, specifically, a party of labor.

The main center for opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, did not coalesce as a labor party, however, instead taking very curious positions, including distancing itself from the left and articulating an ambiguous position on land redistribution. In that setting, Mugabe wrapped himself in the flag of Zimbabwean nationalism and proceeded to implement repressive policies and practices against the broader opposition (not just the MDC) that ultimately involved questionable elections; arrests and torture of opposition figures; ignoring the demands for land by African agricultural workers in favor of land to allies of the Mugabe clique; and the expulsion of communities of the poor and homeless from Harare in 2015.

During one of the waves of repression I was informed that some friends of mine in the Zimbabwean trade union movement had been arrested and tortured by the Mugabe regime. I had been outspoken against Mugabe’s repression from early in my tenure as president of the African American foreign policy advocacy organization, TransAfrica Forum. As a result there were many black leftists who condemned me and others as allegedly standing against the Zimbabwean people. Yet, what I realized is that we seemed to know different “people.” Many of those I knew, or knew about, were progressive activists on the ground in Zimbabwe who were fighting on behalf of Zimbabwean workers and farmers. They were paying a very dear price as a result.

When I spoke to those who defended the Mugabe regime regarding torture, I was largely ignored. I explained that I was not using the word torture loosely, nor was I using the term based on hearsay. There were people I knew who were being tortured.

The response I received was one of silence; a silence followed by, once again, the upholding of Mugabe and his regime as allegedly legitimate advocates of African liberation.


The military challenge to President Mugabe came as a surprise. The military has been complicit in not only internal repression but also the rape of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Zimbabwean troops were supposedly deployed to block Uganda and Rwanda. Yet, like many other militaries involved in Africa’s “first world war” in the DRC, they have repeatedly been reported participating in the theft of wealth from one of the most naturally rich countries on the planet.

As noted, the de facto military coup has every characteristic of a falling out among thieves.  The Zimbabwean elite, grouped around Mugabe, weakened legitimate opposition and created a situation where political life, to the extent to which it existed, was contained largely within the ZANU (Patriotic Front). Yet the unity that appeared to exist within the ZANU was superficial. By the time of the de facto coup, there were two main contending forces within the party that were represented by vice president (now president) Emmerson Mnanagagwa, on the one hand, and Grace Mugabe (the president’s wife) on the other.

There has been much speculation as to the political objectives of the contending factions. Mnanagagwa, who in many respects reminds one of Levrenti Beria, the head of the NKVD (Soviet secret police) under Joseph Stalin who attempted to rise to leadership upon the death of his sponsor, may have created a coalition to reunite Zimbabwe with global capitalism. His speech on November 22 gives only a hint of his overall plans. If we are to unpack his reference to Zimbabwe being open for business, that may very well represent efforts to solidify a coalition that advances both a re-accommodation with the dispossessed white farmers and agreements with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. His inauguration speech places a heavy emphasis on reassuring foreign investors as well as a subtle reference to the repaying of the white farmers for their expropriated land. Though Mnanagagwa and his military allies used the rhetoric of the victimization of the war veterans to justify their moves against the Mugabes, what is probably at stake is much more a fight over how to get Zimbabwe out of the economic and political crisis in which it finds itself.

The politics of Grace Mugabe are less clear. She is as feared as Mnanagagwa, but has little base and less popular sympathy. Her power seems to be surrogate power in light of her marriage to Mugabe, though she has been associated with a faction known as the G40. Yet the politics of Grace Mugabe’s faction appear obscure.

The military intervention, though illegal, has galvanized dramatic levels of public support. With the ousting of Mugabe there are many who see the possibility for restoring democracy. One is reminded, however, of the 2013 coup in Egypt that overthrew President Morsi. The popular outrage with the dictatorial steps taken by Morsi’s administration blinded masses of people to the danger inherent in the reintroduction of the Egyptian military into the political sphere. No sooner was Morsi ousted than the military, under General Sisi, began a widespread suppression of any and all expressions of popular dissent.

This fate must be considered in the midst of the excitement over the exodus of President Mugabe. The characters moving to the front of the stage have not been known as champions of democracy and tolerance. They have no reputations as fighters against corruption, despite their current rhetoric. Though there are reports of outreach to opposition formations, there is no clear indication that this will result in the sort of transition to democratic rule that Zimbabwe desperately needs. What is also unclear is the internal situation within ZANU (PF) below the level of the main faction fight, i.e., are there to be efforts at renovation of the party?

What makes the future especially worrisome is that there could be the consolidation of a “unity bloc” within the country’s leadership that achieves a rapprochement with the World Bank and IMF, thereby appeasing Western elites, and then proceeds to repress popular movements in Zimbabwe. Following such a course could very likely take place with either silence or muted opposition from so-called mainstream circles in the West once Mugabe is fully out of the picture and Zimbabwe is more consistently reintegrated into the global capitalist system.


The people of Zimbabwe will have to settle their own accounts with those who oppose popular democracy. It is incumbent upon those of us in other lands who are friends of democracy and sovereignty in Zimbabwe to offer the support that we can toward those efforts. But taking this course necessitates that we look at the situation as it is rather than as we might wish for it to be.

Many of us in the US left are taken with radical rhetoric and assertions. One sees this, for instance, in the case of Syria where an entire segment of the US left wishes to believe that the Assad regime is anti-imperialist and anti-jihadist, despite their documented record, and indeed, despite barrel bombs.

In the case of Zimbabwe, too many of us wanted to believe Mugabe and his clique were the champions of African liberation. His history in the national liberation movement had been heroic and his language has been eloquent. And, of course, when he was condemned by Britain, the US, the IMF and the World Bank during the land seizures, that was enough for many of us to believe that Mugabe was, at a minimum, standing tall against imperialism.

Instead of a concrete analysis we started with our hopes and ideals. As a result all too many of us refused to let the facts get in the way of our opinions. With masses of people demonstrating with glee over the ouster of President Mugabe, I keep wondering what those who disregarded my reports about the torture of Zimbabwean dissidents are reflecting upon. Maybe they are thinking, to borrow from Bertolt Brecht, that the leaders have chosen the wrong people?

By Bill Fletcher, Jr/Alternet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Housing Discrimination, Redlining and Lack of Land Ownership Created the Racial Wealth Gap

Leave a comment

The wealth gap between African-Americans and whites has persisted for generations, but new research indicates that housing discrimination is the main culprit for this gap. Predatory lending has prevented Blacks from accumulating the wealth that other racial groups have, and even today housing discrimination has never dissipated, despite federal laws, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1968, designed to stop it.

A 2017 study called “Up from Slavery? African American Intergenerational Economic Mobility Since 1880” traces back the income data of fathers and sons to 1880, which marked 15 years after the Civil War’s end. Authors William Collins and Marianne Wanamaker analyzed data from 1880 to 2000 to get a clearer look at which families achieved upward mobility in the years after the Civil War and which ones remained stagnant or even lost wealth. Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith found the results shocking.

“The racial differences they find are stark,” Smith noted. “For essentially all of recorded American history, poor white families were far more likely to escape poverty than poor Black families. Although the Black-white income gap did narrow over this time, the difference in mobility kept it from fully closing.”

The study found that white children were much more likely to escape the lower classes than black children were in every generation. The researchers said this mobility gap proved stronger than the parents’ original class status.

Today, black families have an average wealth of $95,261, compared to a whopping $678,737 in average wealth for white families, the Economy Policy Institute found.

Like Collins and Wanamaker, the EPI points the finger at housing discrimination, redlining and restrictive covenants for creating this wealth gap, as they largely prevented Blacks from entering the land-owning class. The studies also point out how redlining, or refusing loans to people deemed to live in “financially risky” neighborhoods or giving them high-interest loans instead, has continued despite federal intervention.

“During the housing bubble that was the disastrous run-up to the Great Recession, the exposure to predatory, high-interest, and high-leverage mortgages led to an absolute wealth disaster for African-American families when the bubble burst,” explained the EPI’s Janelle Jones. “In the aftermath of the bubble’s burst, black unemployment rates rose to levels twice as high as white unemployment, leading to higher rates of delinquency and foreclosure for black families. And the sluggish recovery has only made matters worse, as home values recover at different rates across racial lines.”

Redlining makes it difficult for Black people, even those in the professional class, to leave low-income neighborhoods. A 2016 study called “Pockets of Poverty: The Long-Term Effects of Redlining,” by Ian Appel and Jordan Nickerson, looks at the legacy of redlining dating back to 1940. It found that 50 years later, homes in redlined neighborhoods had 4.8 percent less value than homes in neighborhoods not plagued by discriminatory mortgage lending.

“That 5 percent figure may seem like a modest difference, but it only represents one specific type of discriminatory policy at one point in time,” argues Bloomberg columnist Smith. “The sum of all such policies is probably quite a bit larger. This paper doesn’t include the long-term effects of black Americans being forced into bad neighborhoods. But other economists have studied this. An experimental program in the 1990s called Moving to Opportunity gave poor people vouchers to escape their neighborhoods. This resulted in considerably higher income, as well as improved well-being by a variety of measures.”

Of course, Blacks anecdotally know how racist lending practices have hurt their communities and pocketbooks alike. But for those who doubt the lingering effects of longtime discrimination or are unaware of the effects of predatory mortgage lending practices in the years leading up to the Great Recession, this body of research puts matters into perspective. It also strengthens the argument of The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, who demonstrated in his seminal essay “The Case for Reparations” how discrimination in housing and other key areas of life effectively prolonged slavery for decades after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. To put the racial gap into perspective, it’s helpful to look at the findings of the EPI’s report “The Racial Wealth Gap: How African-Americans Have Been Shortchanged out of the Materials to Build Wealth.”

“The typical black family with a head of household working full time has less wealth than the typical white family whose head of household is unemployed,” the Institute found. “This outcome holds for black families regardless of the time and money spent on educational upgrading. Median wealth for black families whose head has a college degree, for example, has only one-eighth the wealth of the median white family whose head has a college degree. Even the typical black family with a graduate or professional degree had more than $200,000 less wealth than a comparable white family.”

It seems in America that even when Black people who do all of the “right” things — earn a college degree, land a professional job and buy a home — they still can’t catch up to whites who’ve achieved far less. That’s a case for reparations indeed.

By Nadra Nittle/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

American public to President Trump: Leave our national monuments alone

Leave a comment

The comment period for the Trump administration’s national monument review has officially ended, and the administration if facing stiff public backlash over its attempt to downsize national monuments across the West.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order in April directing the Department of the Interior to review two decades’ worth of national monument designations in an effort to decide whether to rescind, modify, or maintain their designations. The review encompasses 21 monuments, mostly located in the Western United States, from New Mexico to Washington.

Image: Patrick Whittle, Associated Press

The review’s public comment period, which lasted for 60 days, elicited more than 2.5 million responses. According to a Center for Western Priorities analysis of the 654,197 comments that had been processed by Interior Department staff as of Monday morning, 98 percent were supportive of maintaining or expanding current national monument boundaries, while just 1 percent supported the idea of shrinking monuments.

Several recently-designated monuments have been the target of Republican lawmakers, primarily the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, which President Obama designated in December of 2016. The designation, which was granted after a proposal from five indigenous tribes, meant that oil and gas companies would not be allowed to drill or mine for minerals in some 1.35-million acres of the state. On June 13, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released a recommendation calling for Bears Ears to be downsized, which Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a fierce opponent of the national monument, called “ an unquestionable victory for Utah.”

More from Think Progress

Posted by Libergirl…and you’re worried about Russia

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: