Campaigning for Democracy And Socialism
Trial Verdicts, Censure Votes, Contempt
Rulings--Another Week in Fighting Fascism
In the next few days, we'll see several entries on the anti-fascist scorecard. Three trials will have verdicts--murders in Kenosha and Georgia, and a civil trial against Nazis in Charlottesville.

We'll also see if there's any progress in the slow-motion indictment of Steve Bannon for refusing to appear before a committee hearing into the Jan. 6 attempted coup. Keep the heat on, and prepare for more to come.
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CCDS/Socialist Education Project
Fourth Monday discussion

Nov. 22, 9pm (eastern time) 

Assessment of COP 26, US-China Cooperation, and Future Prospects for Change or Ecosocialism 

Duncan McFarland will provide background on China's environmental policies and the key US-China relationship for effective global action. 

David Schwartzman will assess the COP26 conference from the perspective of eco-socialism.

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Photo: Timuel Black, Presente! Many people know Black as an acclaimed historian, activist, and storyteller, who died recently at age 102. He was also a founder and on the advisory board of CCDS. His last work, with Susan Klonsky as a collaborator and editor, was Sacred Ground: The Chicago Streets of Timuel Black. It chronicles the life and times of this Chicago legend.

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WHERE WE STAND: We see the immediate problem of defeating the GOP Trumpists. This task is framed by the centrality of a path forward focused on taking down white supremacy, along with all other forms of oppression and exploitation. Naturally, this will include important battles within the Democratic party as well. This is the path to class unity and popular solidarity.

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Latest News
Photo: Beverly Green demonstrated last month outside the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, as jury selection began for the trial of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. SEAN RAYFORD/GETTY IMAGES






Three Trials, One Lesson: Race, Injustice, and Fear Still Rule

How about we worry a little less about post-verdict demonstrations and a little more about the fascistic hate that is on the rise in the United States?

By Maya Wiley
The New Republic

Nov 18, 2021 - Heather Heyer is dead. Ahmaud Arbery is dead. Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber are dead. For the past week, I have spent challenging hours trying to keep track of the historic civil trial against hate groups and their leaders and of the two criminal trials, all ongoing right now, and all of which seek to bring some measure of justice for these needless killings.

And now that the jury is deliberating on the guilt of Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed Rosenbaum and Huber in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year, media attention is turning to the possibility of demonstrations and unrest if he is acquitted. A friend of mine, a pastor of a Black church discussing the trial of Arbery’s killers, said, “That’s the place where there will be demonstrations if there is an acquittal. Black folks won’t be in Kenosha.” My response? “White folks might, though.” 

Of course, any demonstrations will likely be multiracial, and we should understand these trials, the violence that created them, and how we are processing them as patches on a tattered national fabric that has seen far too many tears. The phrase “no justice, no peace,” a common chant at demonstrations, is true. Race, injustice, and fear are at the heart of every single one of these trials because they are at the heart of the country. Only justice and the shared work of making it a reality promise a path to peace. 

To be sure, as trials, all three are very different from one another. The Charlottesville, Virginia, trial is not about the murder of Heyer, a white woman. Heyer’s white supremacist murderer is in prison. But it is about the forces of organized hate that helped to bring about her killing and injury to many others. That federal civil trial, in which Unite the Right stands accused of conspiracy to commit violence and other activities, has exposed exchanges between white supremacists and neo-Nazis about provoking violence.

Gregory and Travis McMichael, and their neighbor Roddie Bryan, are standing trial for Ahmaud Arbery’s killing as a hate crime. There is evidence that Travis McDaniel used the n-word after killing Arbery, an unarmed Black man on a jog through a white neighborhood. Rittenhouse and his victims are all white, which the press repeatedly points out, but the event underlying the protest and vigilantism was the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake. 

Both criminal trials also arise out of serious concerns about the justice system being far from color-blind when the victims are Black or demonstrators seeking police accountability. Arbery was a Black man who stopped to look at a house being built, as others who were white had surely done before him. But he was the one targeted, chased, shot, and killed because he did that. Even in death, Arbery was initially denied justice. The police knew Gregory McMichael, a former investigator with the District Attorney’s Office, and they accepted that Arbery was a burglar. Investigators had to be replaced by the state.

The district attorney also refused to consider indictments and now faces charges. All this changed because Arbery’s mother, along with other supporters, demonstrated. At trial, we learned that a police officer, who knew Gregory McMichael, showed him a picture of Arbery a few weeks before the shooting. He may not have intended to deputize McMichael, but he showed the picture because of the relationship to law enforcement. If the police officer showed him photographs of white trespassers, I missed it. 

Empowered vigilantes are a running theme. Just as police in Georgia were friendly with McMichael, police in Kenosha were lenient toward Rittenhouse. He unabashedly violated the law—a minor openly carrying a rifle and violating curfew—in the name of standing by police officers sworn to uphold the laws he was violating. Yet instead of seeing Rittenhouse as a law-breaker, a police officer gave him a bottle of water and offered him appreciation for being there. After Rittenhouse killed two victims and injured a third, witnesses shouted that he had shot someone; yet Rittenhouse, with rifle slung over his shoulder, was allowed to walk away. And I don’t even have space to review the apparent bias of the judge presiding over the trial.

The openly racist hate groups exploit the injustices of the system and the demonstrations they spark to further drive hate and division. The Charlottesville complaint in the civil suit against the groups, along with evidence at trial, is showing that white supremacists and neo-Nazis were using the guise of peaceful demonstrations to normalize their hate, intentionally provoke its “IRL war” by baiting activists into a violent encounter. This would also drive the narrative of the right that “Antifa” is as violent and to be feared as much as white supremacist groups. During Rittenhouse’s trial, the victims are on trial as “rioters,” and a clearly biased witness, Drew Hernandez, uses the trial to refer to demonstrators as “Antifa.” The Department of Homeland Security calls white supremacists “the most persistent and dangerous threat,” not “Antifa.” This is a lie that Donald Trump himself has pushed.  

These trials are a piecemeal parade of the very real injustices that demonstrators came out to protest after the viral video of George Floyd’s murder and that they faced because of it. Rather than worry about whether there will be demonstrations if there are acquittals, let’s figure out how to support safe and peaceful protests that can help us get the justice system reforms we so desperately need. Let’s focus on the vastly more significant problem of growing fascistic hate that is on the rise in the United States, made more disturbing because it comes when fewer agencies are even reporting the data and recent reforms do not make reporting mandatory. 

And let’s reform white-privileged “self-defense” that arises from both racial fear of Black people and animosity against people of all races who call for police and justice system reforms. Let’s take on the major policing reforms we need and ensure we have more diverse district attorneys and judges. There is one path and one path only to peace, and that is justice. We must walk it together.

Maya Wiley is a civil rights lawyer, NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst, and former candidate for New York City mayor. ...Read More
Black Pastors Show Up In Droves To Support Arbery Family
Photo: The Rev. Al Sharpton at a news conference outside the Glynn County courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., on Thursday. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

300 Black Pastors Rally against Exclusion Attempt

By Garin Flowers
Yahoo News

Nov 18, 2021 - As civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton promised, Black pastors from all over the country appeared on the steps of the Glynn County courthouse Thursday in a “wall of prayer” to support the family of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by white men on Feb. 23, 2020.

The clergy in attendance prayed and stood, emotionally and physically, with the parents of Arbery, the Black jogger who was killed by three white men in a south Georgia coastal neighborhood.

“Many carried signs reading, ‘Black pastors matter,’ and some wore buttons with Arbery’s picture and the hashtag they were using for the case, ‘#JusticeForAhmaud,’” the Associated Press reported. “A vendor sold Tshirts under one tent while a woman under another offered water and snacks and asked people to put donations in a pickle jar.”

Starting with Sharpton, speakers included Arbery’s parents, Marcus Arbery and Wanda CooperJones; their attorneys Ben Crump and Lee Merritt; his sister, Jasmine Arbery; and human rights advocate Martin Luther King III.

The wider show of support for the family stems from comments made by Kevin Gough, defense attorney for William “Roddie” Bryan, one of the men currently on trial for murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment in the death of the 25yearold Arbery. Gough, now infamously, said last week he didn’t want any more “Black pastors” in the gallery of the courtroom, concerned their presence could intimidate, influence and/or taint the jury.

Gough specifically pointed out the appearance of Sharpton and then the Rev. Jesse Jackson, saying these Black civil rights icons sitting with Arbery’s parents could make the jury feel sympathetic to their grief.

“We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here, Jesse Jackson, whoever was in here earlier this week, sitting with the victim’s family trying to influence the jury in this case,” Gough said.

Sharpton then put a call out to faith leaders and clergy members to join him outside the courthouse for a prayer vigil Thursday.

He opened the vigil by thanking the assembled ministers. “We asked for 100 to come, there are hundreds here this morning,” he said. While the number of actual pastors could not be confirmed by Yahoo News, there was definitely a crowd of more than 100 people present.

Crump, a national civil rights attorney representing Marcus Arbery, called out Gough during his speech. “It is so offensive on every level to tell these parents, Wanda and Marcus, after your clients lynched their [child], to have the audacity to say who you can have come and give you spiritual comfort,” he said.

CooperJones talked about the pain of trying to get answers following Arbery’s death. Now, she has people from all over the world supporting her family.

“I just want to say thank you,” she said. “My heart is just full of joy in the midst of this broken heart.”

The attorneys for codefendants Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, joined Gough in a motion for a mistrial. They cited the high-profile visits as well as weeping from Arbery’s mother in the courtroom as constituting an unfair trial for their clients.

Both of Arbery’s parents have shown emotion as they continue to witness the trial of the three men accused of murdering their son. Arbery was jogging in a neighborhood near Brunswick, Ga., when Bryan and the McMichaels, three white residents, suspected him of being a burglar. They chased him down and confronted him after calling 911.

The encounter ended in gunfire when the younger McMichael confronted Arbery with a shotgun outside of his truck and the two tussled. On Wednesday and Thursday, Travis McMichael testified as the defense made its arguments. He told the court: “He had my gun, he struck me, it was obvious ... that he was attacking me, that if he would have gotten the shotgun from me, then it was a life-or-death situation.”

Motivated by vehicle break-ins, rising crime and the appearance of a man inside a nearby home under construction, McMichael testified that the defendants were concerned about what was happening in the neighborhood.

Bryan’s role in the killing allegedly included cutting Arbery off and recording video of the encounter.

On Thursday, the attorneys for the McMichaels and Bryan rested their case after two days of presenting their defense and interviewing seven witnesses.

Each defendant could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

The Black pastors who appeared outside the courtroom on Thursday also made their case.

“People came from all over the world to stand with the parents and say, ‘You are not standing by yourself,’” Sharpton said.

“Arbery might have looked like a suspect to you, but he’s a child of God,” Sharpton continued. “That’s why we are in Brunswick today, because we represent a God that’ll make a way out of no way, and no lawyer can lock us out, because wherever you are, God is already there.” ...Read More
Digging Deeper into the Current Conjuncture:
Photo: Rep. Paul Gosar rides a subway to the U.S. Capitol Building on November 17, 2021, in Washington, D.C. ANNA MONEYMAKER / GETTY IMAGES

House Votes to Censure Paul Gosar Over Video Depicting Him Killing Ocasio-Cortez

Even Gosar's brother asserted he was a 'dangerous fascist' and needed to be excluded from office

By Sharon Zhang
Truthout

Nov 17, 2021 - The House has voted to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) Wednesday, sending a harsh rebuke to the far-right representative for sharing a video last week depicting an anime version of him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and attacking President Joe Biden.

The House voted 223-207 to censure Gosar and remove him from his committee assignments. Gosar had been seated on the Natural Resources Committee and the House Oversight Committee, which broadly oversees the government and internal congressional affairs. Ocasio-Cortez currently also serves on the latter committee.

Only two Republicans, Representatives Liz Cheney (Wyoming) and Adam Kinzinger (Illinois), voted for the censure after Republican leaders whipped representatives to vote “no” on the resolution earlier on Monday. One Republican, Rep. David Joyce (Ohio) voted “present.”

A censure is the second-harshest punishment that a member of the House can receive, after expulsion, and is meant to disgrace the representative in question. Its use is exceedingly rare; only 23 representatives have been censured since the 19th century. Removal from committee assignments can have a disciplinary influence on a member and their party, sending a message by stripping a member of some of their voting power. (Seats on the Oversight Committee, moreover, are coveted for the group’s jurisdiction over a broad range of issues.)

“It is a sad day in which a member who leads a political party in the United States of America cannot bring themselves to say that issuing a depiction of murdering a member of Congress is wrong and instead starts to venture off into a tangent about gas prices and inflation,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “What is so hard about saying this is wrong? This is not about me, this is not about Representative Gosar, but this is about what we are willing to accept.”

“As leaders in this country, when we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues, that trickles down into violence in this country,” she continued, condemning Republicans for dismissing the video as a joke or lighthearted. “And that is where we must draw the line independent of party, identity, or belief. It is about a core recognition of human dignity and value and worth.”

Indeed, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) attempted to minimize Gosar’s responsibility by saying it was the representative’s staff, not Gosar himself, that had authorized the video. McCarthy later equated Gosar’s actions to that of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), who publicly supported the movement for Black lives.

This is a willfully incorrect comparison: Gosar’s video was about inciting the murder of a fellow lawmaker; last year’s protests were about stopping police violence against Black and oppressed people.

Other Republicans have lied, saying that Gosar has apologized for the debacle. But Gosar has not apologized and has only made excuses for the video over the past week during interviews and on the House floor.

“I explained to them what was happening. I did not apologize,” the Republican recently said in an interview. “I said this video didn’t have anything to do with harming anybody,” Gosar continued, even though the video very clearly depicts him and fellow extremist Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) slashing and killing Ocasio-Cortez.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the censure as an “emergency” ahead of vote on Wednesday, saying that the issue is of immediate importance to “the lives of our members.” Other Democrats have also condemned Gosar’s action, with House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-New York) calling it “vile, hateful, outrageous, dangerous and inciting to violence.”

Pelosi further condemned the video during the House vote on Wednesday, saying, “We cannot have a member joking about murdering each other or threatening the president of the United States.” The Speaker also emphasized that the threat against Ocasio-Cortez was particularly concerning because it was a threat against a woman of color.

Other Democrats have called for Gosar to be expelled, which is also an extremely rare punishment in the House. Only five members have ever been expelled through a chamber vote, with the most recent member being Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) in 2002, who was convicted for bribery.

Ocasio-Cortez told reporters on Tuesday that expelling Gosar would be the ideal scenario, and that it would happen “in a perfect world.”

“If he was telling the truth, he would have apologized by now. It’s been well over a week,” she said. “He not only has not apologized, he not only has not made any sort of contact or outreach — neither he nor the Republican leader of the party — but he has also doubled down.” ...Read More
Photo: A rally against “critical race theory” being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government Center in Leesburg, Va. (Andrew CaballeroReynolds / AFP via Getty Images)

'Critical Race Theory'
Is White History

By Kali Holloway 
The Nation

NOV 16, 2021 - For more than a year now, conservatives have been waging war against the misdefined conception of critical race theory that they themselves created.

The rightwing campaign against so-called CRT largely amounts to a round-robin chorus of hysterical voices asking, Won’t someone think of the poor white children?! “CRT tries to make kids feel bad because of the color of their skin,”

Representative Ron Nate, a cosponsor of Idaho’s antiCRT law, stated just after the bill passed in May. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who successfully led the state school board to ban CRT from public school classrooms last summer, tweeted in June that “Critical Race Theory teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill muzzling history educators over lessons that might make students “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.”

In pursuit of that goal, Republican senators in Texas recently drafted and approved yet another antiCRT bill—after ditching language inserted by outnumbered and outvoted Democrats that would have required teaching “the history of white supremacy,” including slavery and the Ku Klux Klan, “and the ways in which it is morally wrong.” “We don’t want to teach those little white children that they should feel guilty because of what previous white people did generations ago,” Senator Bryan Hughes explained to a local news outlet about why he filed the bill.

Eight states have passed laws and 20 more have proposed legislation to outlaw a version of critical race theory that’s wholly of conservatives’ own imagining. In reality, the 40yearold graduate school framework provides a prism on racism as “a structured reality that’s embedded in institutions,” as law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw described it in an interview with this magazine. But those behind the current anti-antiracist movement in education have publicly admitted to repurposing CRT to “turn it toxic,” as conservative activist Christopher F. Rufo put it, branding it as antiwhite propaganda. The legislative offspring of that misinformation movement is a slew of laws seeking to limit how history is taught. In Tennessee, just after the state legislature approved an antiCRT measure, a teacher who assigned an article by TaNehisi Coates on the intersection of racism and Trumpism was fired; in Texas, a Republican lawmaker is currently circulating a list of 850 books on race and other topics he says violate the new antiCRT law.

What’s become abundantly apparent in watching the CRT social panic unfold is how its adherents steadfastly believe and propagate the idea that a full accounting of history—one that includes long-ignored perspectives and experiences and, consequently, locates the contradictions between American delusions of exceptionalism and the country’s grievous reality of brutal exploitation—is somehow historically inauthentic or a kind of frivolous addon to the textbook narratives of white benevolence and heroism.

In addition to pretending they’re saving white children, conservatives have also issued breathless accusations of national betrayal, variously casting CRT as “anti-American,” “a crusade against American history,” “racist pedagogy and anti-American revisionism,” and—wait for it—“Marxist.”

The idea undergirding all this is that an inclusive American history is a specifically Black history. Listen to the throngs of angry white parents at school board meetings and it becomes clear that they believe history is a zero-sum game—that a history that documents Black American existence undermines and erases white American history.

Like Blackness itself, these folks see Black history as somehow both insufficiently American and inherently antiwhite.

But the history of Black folks in America—through slavery, Black codes, lynchings, redlining, voter disenfranchisement, Jim Crow, racial pogroms, illegal medical experimentation, extrajudicial and state-led theft of Black land, antiBlack policing, racist mass incarceration—is white American history, too.

Not only were white people present as that history was being made, they architected the astoundingly sturdy systems of oppression that have organized Black/white social, legal, economic, and power differentials since America’s settler-colonial founding.

This notion that good history should be teased out from bad is a sign of just how poorly history has always been taught in this country.

This isn’t even the first time white conservatives and their allies have waged violent protest against truthtelling in history, from the campaign to ensure the dominance of the ahistorical 'Lost Cause' narrative, which saw literal textbook history revised to promote a false narrative of white magnanimity, to the massive resistance strategy of aggressive white opposition to school desegregation.

If conservatives didn’t spend so much time zealously defending their version of the past, they would know that. ...Read More
Inflation Scare Is the Dumbest Thing Since Voodoo Economics
Elites are sounding the alarm over threats of inflation in order to block Biden’s social spending plan. We shouldn’t fall for it.

Max B. Sawicky 
In These Times

Nov 16, 2021 - After years of hypocrisy and bungled forecasts of doom, the budget deficit no longer provokes panic. The elites need a new bogeyman, otherwise Congress might actually spend us into happiness. Now, the new monster in the closet is Inflation. The great prognosticators Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.V.) and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer have weighed in, and we are officially advised to be afwaid, vewy afwaid.

Since 2010, median housing rents have gone up by 36 percent. The cost of family health insurance has risen 47 percent. From the academic year 2009 – 2010 to 2018 – 2019, average costs of college went up 39 percent. And the median hourly wage rose by just 11 percent, so rent, healthcare and college — among other things — are all less affordable now than they were ten years ago. 

To varying degrees, each of these problems is addressed in the Democrats’ budget reconciliation bill, dubbed the Build Back Better (BBB) plan. That legislation includes added support for housing, increased premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, and expanded Pell Grants for college students. There is compensation for the inadequate growth of wages, including tax credits for families with children, subsidized childcare, Pre-K for three and four-year olds, and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit for workers without children. Of course, each of these items is scaled down from what was originally proposed by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. More should be done.

Now comes Manchin, leading the charge by calling the budget bill ?“inflationary.” It’s like criticizing a fire company for using water instead of gasoline. The bad faith here is stunning. There wasn’t a peep about inflation in the case of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, supported by Manchin and signed by Biden on Monday, much less about former President Trump’s tax cuts or defense spending increases.

The spur for this new campaign is a handful of cherrypicked, transitory changes in particular prices. On the most basic level, there is a widespread misunderstanding of what ?“inflation” really is. Inflation is a continuous increase in prices, more or less across the board. As my reactionary graduate macroeconomics professor taught me, a spike in the price of, say, oil is not “inflation” unless it ends up feeding into a sustained increase in other prices. 

As Ryan Grim notes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s what we are looking at right now. The change in prices is overwhelmingly due to energy. Now, if that spike persisted, it would not be surprising to see it propagate through the wider economy. But there is no reason to expect that. As Dean Baker points out, an isolated bottleneck in the supply of anything is likely to clear in short order, one of the limited blessings of on-demand capitalism. For example, just this year, television prices rose in the summer and subsequently fell by almost three percent.

There has been reporting that oil prices are being propped up by Saudi leader and part-time butcher Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in concert with the Russians. There are two reasons to doubt this. One is that there are other countries not beholden to Saudi Arabia who can offset any manufactured shortfall by ramping up their own production. Members of the OPEC cartel have been known to cheat on mutual agreements to limit supply. Two is that price spikes encourage the adoption of alternative energy sources. It is true that this adoption takes time, but once it is established, it is nonreversible. A temporary price increase can generate a permanent loss of customers.

This narrowness of the price increases is well illustrated in the latest figures for the Consumer Price Index. Including the latest, allegedly alarming, one-month change of 0.9 percent in the total CPI yields a year-over-year (‘YOY’) change (from October of 2020 to last month) of 6.2 percent. It should be noted that this 6.2 figure does not itself provide support to any claim that the increase is either spreading through the economy or is being sustained. On the first count, what is called the ?“core” CPI, excluding the volatile numbers for food and energy, shows a YOY increase of a more modest 4.6. And the 0.9 percent jump in October constitutes just one month of data, so it is too soon to say it is sustained.

The politics of all this, meanwhile, is a different matter. We are being driven deep into the silly season. The up-to-date price of gasoline, which people buy on a regular basis, is displayed on huge signs all over the country (and on Twitter by pundits like Blitzer). The price of milk is listed in the advertisements we get with the local newspaper. As Kevin Drum demonstrates, the news media thrives on publicizing outliers in prices, not boring averages.

On the other hand, the prices of healthcare or college don’t receive so much public attention. We could be forgiven for suspecting that underlying this disparity is the presumption that the working class doesn’t need healthcare or higher education. Moreover, anyone who follows the news knows that no Republican ever gives a Democrat credit if the price of gas goes down, which it often does. The GOP only cares when prices go up during Democratic presidencies. 

Purely for the sake of argument, let’s concede that the recent increase in energy prices is a problem. Even so, contracting or eliminating the BBB bill to reduce the price level, as some “centrists” have advocated, is as absurd as invading Iraq to avenge 9/11. (Do you see a pattern here?) A serious response to an undesirable increase in energy prices would do something about…energy. A broad-brush response, such as a move by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, would contract a much wider swath of the economy than the energy sector. And, under that scenario, we might not even see a pale imitation of Biden’s agenda come to fruition.

In the latter regard, inferring an inflation risk from BBB fails the most elementary economics, since, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the current version of BBB is mostly offset with tax increases. It would only be the net of spending over revenues that would potentially be inflationary, if and only if the economy did not still have a shortfall of five million jobs. In reality, the BBB legislation is likely to lessen the inflation risk, not increase it. 

You don’t have to be a socialist to discount the inflation danger. In late September, a group of eminent, Nobel Laureate economists announced support for BBB, writing: ?“Because this agenda invests in long-term economic capacity and will enhance the ability of more Americans to participate productively in the economy, it will ease longer-term inflationary pressures.”

The Federal Reserve itself is saying the recent increase is annoying but transitory, reducing the likelihood (thankfully) that it will take any action to choke off the current growth in employment. 

Another group that is paid — handsomely — to anticipate inflationary trends consists of those who trade in the bond market. Since most bonds’ returns are in nominal dollars, a change in the price level changes the value of any such bond. The ?‘coupon’ of a bond is a fixed dollar amount. The market will reprice bonds so that they hit the market interest rate. It’s amusing to note that, before and after the latest panic about the October price change, the interest rates on Treasury bonds with durations of seven years or longer all went down, not up.

All things considered, this new inflation scare is one of the dumbest turns in what passes for economic thinking since voodoo economics. ...Read More
'We Need to Get Our Priorities Right': Bernie Sanders
Is a 'No' on $778 Billion Pentagon Budget Vote
'Isn't it strange how even as we end the longest war in our nation's history concerns about the deficit and national debt seem to melt away under the influence of the powerful military-industrial complex?'

By Brett Wilkins
Common Dreams

Nov 16, 2021 - On Tuesday, the eve of a likely U.S. Senate vote on the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, Sen. Bernie Sanders said he would vote against the legislation because it enriches the military-industrial complex at the expense of desperately needed social programs and climate action.

"Meanwhile, the Senate has spent month after month discussing the Build Back Better Act and whether we can afford to protect the children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and the future of our planet."

"Many of my colleagues tell the American people, day after day, how deeply concerned they are about the deficit and the national debt," Sanders (IVt.) said in a statement. "They tell us that we just don't have enough money to expand Medicare, guarantee paid family and medical leave, and address the climate crisis to the degree that we should if we want to protect the wellbeing of future generations."

"Yet, tomorrow, the U.S. Senate will be voting on an annual defense budget that costs $778 billion—$37 billion more than [former President Donald] Trump's last defense budget and $25 billion more than what President [Joe] Biden requested," he continued. "All this for an agency, the Department of Defense, that continues to have massive fraud and cost overruns year after year and is the only major government agency not to successfully complete an independent audit."

"Isn't it strange," added Sanders, "how even as we end the longest war in our nation's history concerns about the deficit and national debt seem to melt away under the influence of the powerful military-industrial complex?"

Sanders has frequently noted that the United States spends more on its military than the next 10 nations combined.

The NDAA is not a spending bill but rather a policy measure; a separate appropriations bill would need to be passed in order to implement the $37 billion increase.

In September, the House voted 316113 to approve a $778 billion military budget for fiscal year 2022. While every Republican lawmaker voted against a pair of amendments that would have cut the Pentagon budget, their Democratic colleagues were evenly split on the measures.

Common Dreams reported that Democrats who voted against a proposed amendment by Rep. Mark Pocan (DWis.) to slash 10% from the military budget received, on average, nearly four times more campaign contributions from weaponsmakers than their colleagues who voted for the measure.

While Sanders has faced backlash in Vermont and beyond for helping to bring Lockheed Martin F35 fighter jets—at $1.5 trillion, the most expensive weapons program in U.S. history—to his home state, the democratic socialist has been a consistent voice for reducing military spending and has called for auditing the Pentagon and for ending or avoiding overseas wars.

Sanders further criticized the 2022 NDAA for an amendment—the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act—aimed at countering the rise of China, as well as for containing "$52 billion in corporate welfare, with no strings attached, for a handful of extremely profitable microchip companies."

"This bill also contains a $10 billion handout to Jeff Bezos for space exploration," he noted, referring to the Amazon.com founder's Blue Origin private orbital tourism venture.

"Combining these two pieces of legislation would push the price tag of the defense bill to over $1 trillion—with very little scrutiny," Sanders continued. "Meanwhile, the Senate has spent month after month discussing the Build Back Better Act and whether we can afford to protect the children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and the future of our planet."

"As a nation, we need to get our priorities right," he added. "I will vote 'no' on the National Defense Authorization Act." ...Read More
From the CCDS Socialist Education Project...
A China Reader


Edited by Duncan McFarland

A project of the CCDS Socialist Education Project and Online University of the Left


244 pages, $20 (discounts available for quantity orders from carld717@gmail.com), or order at :


The book is a selection of essays offering keen insight into the nature of China and its social system, its internal debates, and its history. It includes several articles on the US and China and the growing efforts of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.

Click here for the Table of Contents
Taking Down
White Supremacy

Edited by the CCDS
Socialist Education Project


This collection of 20 essays brings together a variety of articles-theoretical, historical, and experiential-that address multi-racial, multi-national unity. The book provides examples theoretically and historically, of efforts to build multi-racial unity in the twentieth century.

166 pages, $12.50 (discounts available for quantity), order at :


  Click here for the Table of contents

NOT TO BE MISSED: Short Links To Longer Reads...
UC Lecturer Strike Averted as Union Hails Tentative Agreement as Its
‘Best Contract’ Ever 

Lecturers at Nine Undergraduate Uc Campuses Averted A Planned Strike
After The UCAFT And University Reached A Tentative Agreement

By Teresa Watanabe and Colleen Shalby 
Los angeles Times

Nov. 17, 2021 - A massive two-day strike by University of California lecturers that threatened widespread class cancellations was averted early Wednesday after the union and university reached a tentative agreement on a contract that would strengthen job security and boost the pay by an average 30% over five years.

It is expected that classes will go on as scheduled, although there could be some early-morning confusion as word spreads about the agreement.

“We’re encouraging and advising members to teach today,” said Mia McIver, president of the University Council-AFT, which represents 6,500 lecturers. “We’re doing the best we can to get the word out.”

The long-simmering labor dispute had reached a tipping point recently as UC-AFT filed unfair labor practice charges over the university’s alleged refusal to negotiate a paid family leave policy and participate in confidential mediation. Both sides reached a resolution on those charges. The lecturers, who are non-tenured, teach one-third of UC undergraduate classes but had gone 20 months without a contract.

But the two sides came to a tentative agreement about 4 a.m. Wednesday after marathon negotiations. All members of the bargaining unit will be eligible for four weeks of paid family leave at full pay; those with good job evaluations will be able to keep their positions under new rehiring rights and workload requirements will be more transparent and consistent, McIver said early Wednesday.

“It’s the best contract in UC-AFT history and among the best nationwide for contingent faculty,” McIver said.

The union had come to the brink of a strike at all nine undergraduate campuses, where hundreds of faculty members had expressed solidarity with lecturers and canceled classes.

UC President Michael V. Drake hailed the agreement Wednesday in remarks at the Board of Regents meeting.

“It’s a very positive development for our entire community, especially the students that we serve,” he said. “This contract honors the vital role our lecturers play in supporting UC’s educational mission and delivering high quality instruction and education. It also means more job security and other important benefits for our valued lecturers. We’re grateful to have this agreement in place and look forward to working together in the future on our mission.”

In June, 96% of lecturers voted to authorize a strike after the union filed two unfair labor practice charges.

UC launched a new policy in July that grants eight weeks of leave at 70% of pay for eligible employees to care for a seriously ill family member or bond with a new child. But most lecturers, the majority of whom teach part time, would not meet the policy’s eligibility requirements to be on the job at least one year and 1,250 hours. The union wanted the policy to cover more lecturers and UC agreed to extend it to all bargaining unit members for four weeks at full pay, McIver said.

By late Tuesday, McIver said, progress had been made on some fronts.

While the strike was called on the family leave and mediation issues, the two sides were close to an agreement on another major area of concern, job stability for lecturers.
“We’ll have feedback as never before,” McIver said. “We think this will really bring stability to the teaching workforce.”

The strike had been supported by hundreds of faculty members and students across the UC system.

UCLA student leader Breeze Velazquez had intended to join the picket line Wednesday to stand in solidarity with lecturers. She said many of them provide more “care and love” than some professors, who focus more on their research than teaching. ...Read More
CCDS Stands with the Cuban People

All Out to Defend the Cuban Revolution!

Nov 13,2021 - On November 15th – the day that Cuba opens up to tourism following the months-long pandemic – the U.S. government has planned actions to subvert the economy and overthrow the government. Cuba’s socialist system with its pro-people policies is enshrined in its constitution after being voted upon by the overwhelming majority of the Cuban people.

Thus, Cuban authorities have denied requests by counter revolutionaries to protest on November 15th – actions that are designed to undermine the government’s efforts to rebuild the pandemic-wrecked economy and inhumane U.S. sanctions.

This is democracy and sovereignty – the right of the people of Cuba to decide their system of governing and their right to defend it. 

The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism stands with the Cuban people and demands that the U.S. government cease its plans for subversion that is mainly supported from outside the country – by right wing politicians of both the Republican and Democratic parties. The subversion is paid by U.S. tax money to the tune of $6.6 million that has funded NGO organizations and individuals on its payroll. 

The goal is to inflict maximum suffering on the Cuban people on top of 6 decades of economic warfare. The aim is to force submission to U.S. corporate interests and their desire to regain the lost capitalist, mafia-run paradise they owned prior to 1959 when the US-supported dictator Batista was overthrown. 

Even more, the scheme to subvert and destroy the Cuba revolution is supported and connected to far right and fascist organizations internationally – and has been in the works for many years. The plot is not spontaneous as the corporate media would have the U.S. people believe.

Contrast the Biden Administration’s “concern” for human rights with its support for murderous, anti-people regimes in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and elsewhere – supported by the same right-wing capitalist forces trying to overthrow the Cuban government.

If the Cuban revolution were overthrown, it would set back all of Latin America at a time when much of the hemisphere is moving to the left with anti-austerity, pro-people governments. It would be a blow against all progressive forces struggling to win programs for the people in health care, education, climate justice, indigenous rights over land and resources, labor rights, racial equality and national sovereignty.

Public opinion polls show that the U.S. people by a large majority support a return to diplomacy and a path towards normalization of relations with Cuba. President Biden was elected with a promise to repeal the onerous sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and a return to diplomacy which includes lifting the embargo. We are waiting for him to live up to his campaign promise.

President Biden, we demand you lift the sanctions on Cuba and tear down the travel ban that prevents people to people contact. CCDS urges its members and friends to:

1)  call Members of Congress, and ask them to sign on to a Dear Colleague letter letter to President Biden issued by Reps. McGovern (D-MA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Gregory Meeks (D-NY). It asks President Biden to change U.S. policy towards Cuba and return to diplomacy including the lifting of the embargo.

2)  Help mobilize and join protests of U.S. policy in solidarity with Cuba on November 15th.

3)  Continue to work to build support for several anti-embargo and travel ban measures that have been introduced in Congress. 

4)  Keep up the pressure to demand that the Biden administration live up to its campaign promise – lift the Trump sanctions on Cuba and comply with the rule of law of the UN Charter to end the illegal blockade of Cuba. End all financing of NGOs and individuals who are working to overthrow the Cuban government - no tax money for subversion and internationally connected fascist movements! 
Photo: Columbia student workers on the picket line at Columbia University’s Morningside Heights Campus.

The Columbia Student Worker Strike Is the Largest in the Country Right Now. Here’s Why It’s Happening

3,000 Strikers walked off the job on Nov. 3.

By Lila Livingston 
The Indypendent

Nov 16, 2021 - “The strike is militant and serious but it’s also really joyful and brings the community together in really beautiful ways.”

Columbia University runs on the labor of graduate students. They assist in teaching undergraduate classes and play a key role in research projects across various disciplines. However, Columbia’s grad student workers often struggle to pay the rent and cover basic living expenses despite their employer having a $14.4 billion endowment, among the largest of any university in the nation.

The 3,000 members of Student Workers of Columbia (SWC) are determined to do something about that. On Nov. 3, they went on strike for the second time this year as a part of a longer, multiyear struggle for a fair contract. They are demanding a living wage that accounts for inflation, comprehensive health care including dental and vision, and neutral third-party arbitration to protect against discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Their picket line is now a ubiquitous site in the middle of the Columbia campus. It has been joined by undergraduate supporters as well. The Indypendent recently spoke with the strikers and their supporters about the struggle and how it is faring.

Lilian Coie is a 6th year PhD student in Columbia’s neuroscience department and a member of CU’s bargaining committee. She told The Indy that there’s a little black book that circulates in the neuroscience department that contains a running list of abusive professors and labs to avoid based on claims of harassment or sexual abuse. 

We really need more protection. We need more than little black books to keep people out of abusive labs… [Neutral third-party arbitration] would incentivise Columbia to stop abuse before it starts, and to remedy abuse before it reaches the level of arbitration … Everybody here is fired up because they see exactly what we are fighting for and exactly how reasonable we are.

Kanav Kathuria is a first year Masters student at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. He studies sociomedical sciences with a focus on the social determinants of health. 

First and foremost I’m entering this struggle from a position of support … As a student, it’s become so clear that the language that Columbia deploys around equity, around justice is so contradictory and really they’ve coopted this social justice rhetoric while in practice they’re exploiting the living shit out of their student workers.

I’ve done a lot of work organizing against prisons and seeing the tactics that Columbia is using by dividing lead TAs and TAs and positioning the burden of the strike as ‘these greedy TAs who want so much money.’

The parallels here are so distinct and so strong. Kanav has seen these same divide and conquer tactics used in prisons by prison wardens.

Becca Roskill is an undergraduate senior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) studying computer science and history. She’s currently a teaching assistant (TA) for a course on computational aspects of robotics, but has taught numerous other courses at Columbia since her sophomore year. 

Since my first semester freshman year I’ve heard stories from instructors who have been so formative to my learning experience at Columbia about their working conditions which are making it difficult to arrive in the classroom. You need a very specific background to make it by with the scraps that the university gives you. 

Joanna Lee is a graduate student studying Modern Chinese History in Columbia’s East Asian Language and Culture Department. A former member of the bargaining committee for their union, Joanna sees how the demands have crystallized over time. ...Read More
Cubans More Excited About School
Reopening Than Regime Change
Photo: People take part in a demonstration to support the government of the Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, on July 11, 2021. (Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images)

Even if they blame their government for mismanagement, corruption, and a system that stifles private enterprise, few fail to recognize the enormous impact of U.S. sanctions.

By Medea Benjamin 
Common Dreams

Nov 16, 2021 - "If you build it, they will come," said Kevin Costner in the Field of Dreams. In Cuba, they didn't come. Dissidents on the island, with their U.S. backers, had been working feverishly for months to turn the unprecedented July 11 protests into a crescendo of government opposition on November 15. They built a formidable structure, with sophisticated social media (including an abundance of fake news), piles of cash from Cuban Americans and the U.S. government, and declarations of support from a bipartisan Congress and all the way up to the White House.

Even after the Cuban government denied the protesters a permit on the grounds that they were part of a destabilization campaign led by the United States, antigovernment forces insisted that they were undeterred and were ready to take the risks. But in the end, their Field of Dreams turned out to be an illusion. What happened?

Intimidation of dissidents was certainly a key factor. The leader of the Facebook group Archipelago, Yunior Garcia, was kept under virtual house arrest. Other leaders were threatened with arrest and repudiated by their pro-revolution neighbors.

But at the grassroots, I talked to Cubans who had second thoughts about the usefulness of street protests. They had come into the streets on July 11, spontaneously, with all kinds of legitimate gripes: the scarcity of food and medicines, the long lines for basic goods, the rapid spread of COVID, the hard currency stores they didn't have access to. But in the intervening months between the July protests and November, many realized that street protests only created division when the country needed unity. They realized that despite all the social media hype, the government was not about to fall, and that even if it did, there was no telling what would follow. If it was chaos and civil strife, or a rush of voracious Cuban Americans trying to grab waterfront island properties, their precarious economic situation might be even worse.

"I was out protesting on July 11," a young mother in Old Havana told me. "But since then, I've been weighing the pros and cons. The food situation here is terrible—we have to stand in lines for everything. On the other hand, we are safe. People don't have guns and go around killing each other; the police don't shoot people; we don't have to worry about our children when they are outside playing and they get a good education for free. If this government really collapsed, I'm afraid we might lose more than we gain."

People were also turned off by the choice of the day, November 15, which was timed to wreak havoc on precisely the day of Cuba's planned reopening after nearly two years of strict pandemic restrictions. Cubans who make their living from tourism, the island's major industry that had been decimated by the COVID showdown, have been anxiously awaiting the November 15 resurgence of foreign visitors. The last thing they wanted was to scare off tourists with internal conflict.

And November 15 was also the first day all schools would be open. Children in their neatly pressed uniforms were bursting with excitement after being cooped up for so long. Parents were thrilled that life was slowly getting back to normal now that almost the entire population—starting at age 2—had been vaccinated with their locally produced vaccine. Whoever picked this momentous day for nationwide protests made an epic mistake.

Moving forward, most Cubans seem more concerned with getting their economy fired up than toppling their leaders. Even if they blame their government for mismanagement, corruption, and a system that stifles private enterprise, few fail to recognize the enormous impact of U.S. sanctions.

While the island has been under some form of sanctions for the past 60 years, the Trump administration added over 200 new measures that dealt serious blows, such as stopping the flow of remittances from Cuban Americans to their families back home and prohibiting U.S. cruise ships from making stops in the island (a business that had flourished under President Obama's openings). Trump's catering to rightwing Cuban Americans was successful in terms of winning Florida and giving the Republicans two more South Florida congressional seats, but it made life miserable for the Cuban people. Unfortunately, President Biden has continued Trump's hardline—putting partisan politics above the wellbeing of 11 million people.

There is little Cuba can do to alter U.S. policy, but they can—and want to—make their own internal changes. A theme I heard over and over from young revolutionaries is that the best way to challenge the counterrevolution is to make the revolution better. At an in-person gathering of leftist Cubans who, during the pandemic, created a popular Telegram chat group called La Manigua, I asked what kind of changes people would like to see. One by one, they gave examples: challenge the stifling bureaucracy, fire inept or corrupt people from their positions, encourage more grassroots initiatives, pass the Family Code that would give full rights to women and the gay community; get serious about confronting racism.

The last person wanted to talk about what he DOESN'T want to change. That included the nation's emphasis on healthcare, science, and education that allowed Cubans to come up with their own vaccine and vaccinate the entire population; the sense of community that Cubans displayed as they helped each other through this pandemic; and the values of international solidarity embodied in the Cuban healthcare brigades that have, for decades, been going around the world saving lives.

******

The weekend before the planned protest, a new group of revolutionary youth called Pañuelos Rojos, or Red Scarves, set up a 48-hour encampment with music, theater, games, and group discussions. On the last day of the encampment, there was a concert. The young people were sitting on the floor, grooving to the music of the musician Tony Avila, when the Cuban president, Miguel Diaz Canel, showed up. The students cheered as he sat down on the cement floor with them. Avila was in the middle of a song called Mi Casa (My House). "I'm going to change the furniture in my house," he sang. "I'll change the color of the walls, redo the doors, the windows, and take down some of the walls." Everyone was singing with him, and the president's head was nodding up and down. The crowd roared when it came to this verse: "Although I'm happy in my house, there are changes that must be made. But I won't go too fast, because I don't want to damage the foundation."

Certainly, the efforts by the dissidents and their U.S. backers to damage the foundation and topple the Cuban government are not over. But as the head of the North American division in the Foreign Ministry, Carlos Fernando de Cossio, tweeted, "The US government misread Cuba when it decided to invest so heavily in trying to instigate insurrection. We Cubans want to improve our country & move forward, not back to the times when we were the friendly playground of US capital, corruption & ambition." If only the U.S. government would learn this 60-year-old lesson. ...Read More
Interview:
Reece Peck on Fox News’ Blue-collar Conservatism

By illiberalism.org
November 17, 2021

Reece, you published a few years ago Fox Populism. Branding Conservatism as Working Class, a major piece on research on the transformation of rightist political culture in the US. In it, you move away from the usual disdain for Fox narrative expressed by a large part of the literature and see it “as one of the most sophisticated and culturally astute forms of political communication in recent American history.” Could you summarize both your textual analysis and ethnographical research?

Anyone who reads my book, even in passing, can see I am critical of Fox News. Yet, I tried my best not to be disdainful of the network, like the majority of writing on the topic. Growing up in the conservative state of Utah, many of my family and friends are big Fox News fans. Because I respect their intelligence and character, it has always been harder for me to dismiss the Fox News audience than possibly it is for others who grew up in more liberal, college-educated communities. I genuinely wanted to understand why Fox’s programming was so compelling to them and to millions of other conservatives, especially when the economic policies that Fox promotes do not so obviously seem to suit their class interests.

In early 2009, I committed myself to watching Fox News closely and systematically. I analyzed over 800 broadcast transcripts and used UCLA’s cable television archive to watch hours upon hours of Fox News programming. I did this for roughly two years. The programming period I analyzed and coded ranged from September 2008—or the beginning of the financial collapse—to the midterm elections at the end of 2010. During this time Fox News would experience one of the highest ratings surges in its twenty-five-year history and would galvanize a street protest movement in the Tea Party. This was a moment when Fox’s engagement in American politics was dramatic and undeniable.

The benefit of becoming so engrossed in the textual world of Fox News is that it allowed me to become familiar with the network’s special vocabularies and catchphrases. From such sustained viewing, I discovered elements of Fox News’s programming style that, yes, promote Republican policy goals but cannot and should not be reduced to them.

My analysis strives to tease out these “extra-partisan” or “meta-political” aspects of Fox’s appeal. Specifically, I zero in on the populist moral logics and tabloid presentational techniques that the network has used to present the Republican Party as the natural political home of the white working-class. These populist moral narratives and tabloid media styles have been recycled in American culture for centuries and it is their historical rootedness, not their inherent conservatism, that gives them their resonance.

With this line of inquiry, I wanted to capture what I see as the true source of Fox’s ideological power; to reveal how it derives not from the network’s partisan talking points but rather from the cultural-aesthetic referents Fox programs use to make such talking points socially meaningful and emotionally engaging. To only rely on a left-right schema to analyze Fox News is to miss how the network creates Republican partisanship as an identity style.

I wanted to capture what I see as the true source of Fox’s ideological power; to reveal how it derives not from the network’s partisan talking points but rather from the cultural-aesthetic referents Fox programs use to make such talking points socially meaningful and emotionally engaging.

In the course of my research, I also sought to confirm my interpretations of Fox News programming by investigating other important sites for the production of conservative political discourse. From 2009–2011, I attended Koch-funded, Americans for Prosperity conferences and interviewed Tea Party protestors at events across Nevada and Southern California. This functioned as a safeguard against allowing my analysis to veer toward idiosyncratic, overly impressionistic interpretations that have no or little recursive connection with other sources and forms of conservative political communication. I found the language and narratives being used by the Tea Party activists and conference attendees that I interviewed to be patently identical to what I observed on Fox News shows. This made me more confident about the core interpretive claims of the study. 

How would you describe Fox “intersectionality” construction of the gender, race, and class in the image of the while blue-collar man?

There are plenty of examples in my book that illustrates how Fox News’s populist imagination of the working-class majority, the so-called “real Americans,” is often narrowly represented as white, country-music-loving people living in the rural heartland. But even though Fox’s programming strategies have taken advantage of populism’s race and gender exclusions, by no means did it invent them. As historians like David Roediger have shown, the image of the American worker/“producer” has almost always been a white, masculine image. This was true even of the New Deal coalition’s leftist articulation of producer populism during the 1930s. Still, maintaining the contemporary link between populism and whiteness is not automatically guaranteed. It is contingent on continued attempts to reinscribe the productive-worthiness of white workers.

Fox News hosts build their “blue-collar” anchor personas by making taste-based appeals to ‘lowbrow’ cultural practices like attending NASCAR races and eating at Red Lobster and through aesthetic choices such as bleach blonde anchors and hyper-patriotic graphics, things hipper, more educated viewers might see as tacky.

In Chapter Four of my book, I demonstrate how Fox News’s framing of the late-2000s economic crisis used the populist dichotomy of “producers” and “parasites” to paint subprime mortgage borrowers as undisciplined loafers. The network’s coverage of the crisis drew from the racialized mythology of Ronald Reagan’s Cadillac driving welfare queen. I argue that this worked to depict Obama’s political base as antithetical to the “producer ethic” of the populist tradition. Fox News was effective in discrediting Obama’s stimulus policies and the very idea of government aid because these old producerist tropes still inform, often in unrecognized ways, the underlying normative assumptions about race, work, and wealth distribution in the US.

In other sections of the book, I show how Fox News hosts build their “blue-collar” anchor personas by making taste-based appeals to ‘lowbrow’ cultural practices like attending NASCAR races and eating at Red Lobster and through aesthetic choices such as bleach blonde anchors and hyper-patriotic graphics, things hipper, more educated viewers might see as tacky. But notice how these gestures of cultural affiliation do not reflect a universal working-class experience but rather a distinctly white one. The American working class is culturally segmented by race in much the same way it is by economics. This fact means that nonwhite politicians face difficulties in performing the kind of white, blue-collar identity politics that conservatives gravitate to.

As much as any president before him, Obama engaged popular culture to increase his likability; most notably, he reached out to artists in the hip-hop industry. On Fox News, such moves were not treated as signs of Obama’s down-to-earth nature. From Fox News’s white conservative gaze, hip-hop was mostly read as “ghetto”—or to use Bill O’Reilly’s language, as “gangsta”—meaning that from Fox’s view, hip-hop’s “menacing” racial codings completely overwhelmed and erased its working-class elements.

When evaluating the gendered dimensions of Fox’s political communication strategies, we find equally striking double standards. When male conservative pundits like Glenn Beck open up about their private lives and cry on air, it shows they are well-rounded human beings. However, citing one’s personal life to enhance one’s public persona—something critical to a populist performance style—carries far more hazards for women than it does for men. If women public figures do not reveal their sensuality and private, domestic life enough, they risk being painted as cold, uncaring, and careerist—think Hillary Clinton or Germany’s Prime Minister Angela Merkel. On the other hand, if women emphasize their physical beauty and roles as mothers, they risk not being taken seriously as political leaders, public service roles that are pre-coded as masculine.

By not having to work against historic stereotypes, white, male political communicators do not have to invest so much energy in proving their institutional competence and middleclass propriety. This frees them up to display their personal, emotional self and cushions them when they break the normal rules of political respectability, rules Trump has transgressed in historically unprecedented ways (e.g., “pussy-gate”). As a politician, Sarah Palin was no more ineloquent, unknowledgeable, and gaffe-proof as Trump. Yet, the Republican Party treated her as a feminine, working-class token. The same party, by contrast, nominated Trump as their figurehead. Palin’s embodied femininity skewed how the public, including members of her own political community, assessed her legitimacy as a presidential candidate.

To stay on the class aspect, probably less studied globally, of rightist populism, could you explain how the blue-collar world and the business elite relationship—embodied by Trump—were articulated by Fox?

Throughout Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, his surrogates in conservative media referred to him as a “job creator,” and this term is very important because it is what is used by conservatives to define rich businessmen like Trump as “producers.” Producerism is an old 19th-century strain of American populist discourse that conservative media has reconfigured in order to include CEOs and corporate managers in the moral community of producers alongside the long-venerated working class.

When translated into the moral terms of producer populism, the privileged position of business elites like Trump is redefined as a product of the labor-value of their work. By this logic, all actors whose worth is defined by the market share a solidarity as workers and producers. Conservative hosts and pundits on Fox News emphatically argue that the business class and the wealthy are workers too! Often, these “job creators” are framed as the hardest workers, as “super workers” who, like Trump, do not even sleep.

Producerism is an old 19th century strain of American populist discourse that conservative media has reconfigured in order to include CEOs and corporate managers in the moral community of producers alongside the long-venerated working class. When translated into the moral terms of producer populism, the privileged position of business elites like Trump is redefined as a product of the labor-value of their work.

When depicting the business world from which Trump came, conservatives often use a discourse of what I call “market empiricism,” that is, a notion that the market is a pragmatic institution that most accurately reflects empirical reality, aka the “real world.” In contrast, the public sector is represented as a sphere of distorted reality that has been created by those who want to selfishly and irresponsibly insulate themselves from the moral obligation of work.

Government figures are depicted as ideologically driven proponents of social engineering who only have over-intellectualized knowledge. Unlike public sector workers and politicians, business figures are driven by practical concerns and rely on a-political, utilitarian reasoning. So businessman populists like Trump are not only defined against government workers, but also against academics and activists who also do not measure worth in market terms. On Fox News, all private sector actors, big or small, are presented as having a greater sense of economic realism than those working in the public sector or than those racialized groups receiving public aid. Conservative media consistently framed Trump’s business background as a sign of his outsider status. He was not a career politician.

The most important thing to note about this is the enormous amount of energy conservatives expend trying to naturalize the association between free-market capitalism and practical, “common sense” thinking. They do this to emphasize social affinities between the business class and the working class. This is a powerful rhetorical move because, as so several social scientific studies have shown, the American working-class tends to see small business ownership as a more likely route of upward mobility than becoming a professional through higher education and credentialization. This helps explain the increasing political relevance of the education gap between those with and without college degrees that was so striking in the 2016 presidential election and that widened in the 2020 election season. 

This is to say nothing of Trump’s shrewd understanding of tabloid news and “lowbrow” entertainment genres like reality television and professional wrestling. As French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu recognized long ago, there is a “low” cultural commonality between the “square” tastes of the working-class and the “gaudy” tastes of the business class. Both are seen as vulgar by college-educated professionals, artists, and other members of the cultural bourgeoisie. On the campaign trail, Trump engaged in ostentatious displays of his wealth like landing his Trump-branded helicopter at the Iowa state fair and promoting Trump-branded steaks during press conferences. If one only understands class identity as an economic position, Trump’s appeal with working-class voters seems to make no sense. But it makes perfect sense from the perspective of class taste.

Ultimately, Fox News’s representation of social class is deceptive in that it conceals the market’s role in creating economic inequalities. The Democratic left should nonetheless pay close attention to the aspects of Fox’s populist style that does make compelling class identifications.

The famous ‘gender gap’ in populist and far-right movements is gradually disappearing, with women playing an increasingly important role in party activities and leadership. What has been Fox role in that trend of promoting feminine figures to express conservative values?

Most of the commentary about Fox’s women hosts and pundits has focused on their notorious short skirts and the significant number of former models and beauty pageant contestants that Fox has employed. This makes the obvious point about how they function as “eye-candy” for the male segments of Fox’s audience and apparently for former Fox executives and talent such as Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, who were both ousted due to multiple sexual harassment charges. However, few have considered how this programming tactic operates as a feminine mode for expressing Fox’s populist media brand and tabloid aesthetic, a style that is directed at the network’s women viewers, who are majority non-college-educated, and who comprise Fox’s dominant audience segment.

Pundits such as Laura Ingraham, Tomi Lahren, Dana Loesch, and Fox’s “Judge” Jeanine Pirro all exhibit the same confrontational rhetorical style as their male counterparts in the conservative talk industry. Paradoxically, these women pair this aggressive style with an always present but unacknowledged hyper-feminine appearance (low-cut dresses, shoulder-length hair, hourglass figures, expensive jewelry, subtle but intensive makeup, etc.). This all plays into a conservative aesthetic politics. In other words, women Fox hosts look the part of the conservative ideology they promote, an ideology that champions “traditional” patriarchal marriage and stresses the naturalness (read: rightness) of gender differences.

On Fox News, both the hedonist and class-based elements of its female pundits’ sexual performative style are ironically reframed as a religiously inflected affirmation of traditional demarcated gender roles (i.e., patriarchal heteronormativity). However, this same performance trait implicitly works, I argue, as an attempt by Fox News to create a feminine point of identification within its broader political narratives about class and liberal cultural elitism. The former Alaska governor and 2008 Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin may be the best modern archetype of this feminine brand of conservative populism. More recently, conservative congresswomen Majorie Tayler Green and Lauren Boebert have made waves in the conservative movement by adopting a similar style.  

In today’s COVID-19 times, how do you analyze the “counter-intelligentsia” aspect of Fox in developing its own discourse and realm of experts of the sanitary crisis and the vaccine polemics?

Through the pivotal month of February 2020 and well into March, the Trump administration and the President’s favorite channel Fox News downplayed the severity of the virus repeatedly suggesting it was no more dangerous than the ‘standard flu.’ As someone who has studied Fox’s opinion shows for over a decade, I cannot say I was surprised by this. From the beginning, the editorial agenda of Fox’s primetime shows were devoted as much to how other outlets cover the news as to the news itself. Fox’s opinion hosts have long depicted journalists as a ‘villainous’ social group, using rhetoric that dovetails with Trump’s repeated casting of the press as ‘the enemy of the American people.’ And like Trump, Fox hosts endow journalistic interpretations with the capability to determine the nation’s destiny, a media power so menacing that Fox hosts deemed countering the negative press Trump was receiving for his handling of the covid crisis more important than the physical threat of the outbreak itself.

Fox News hosts and pundits are more likely to use lay forms of knowledge like personal experience in the midst of a policy debate. They do this to ventriloquize what they see as a working-class brand of intellectuality and news analysis. But because critics emphasize this tendency, Fox is often cast as anti-intellectual. Yet a closer look at Fox News programming reveals that the network’s own performed hostility to educated elites and experts is, in fact, selective and, to an extent, contrived.

This contrivance was no more apparent than during Fox News’s coverage of the stimulus debate of early 2009. In this period, an unprecedented number of conservative authors and think tank researchers appeared on Fox News’s top shows to lend “official” legitimacy to the network’s critique of Obama’s stimulus bill. We see something similar with the network’s use of conservative experts to deny climate change and, more recently, to question Covid-19 and the effectiveness of vaccines.

In order to create a conservative “consensus” about Covid-19—one seemingly shared by the common sense-thinking Fox hosts and by their credentialed expert guests—Fox programs borrow from different bases of cultural authority. I refer to this performative orchestration of populist and technocratic modes of argumentation as the ‘populist-intellectual tactic.’ With this term, I strive to capture how analytically ambidextrous Fox News programs can be. As opposed to merely fact-checking Fox News, it may behoove liberal journalists and politicians to try to learn from and possibly emulate this kind of communicative versatility.

The ineffectiveness of merely citing what the experts say is no more apparent than with the issue of climate change. Liberals continue to stress how the vast majority of scientists and peer-reviewed studies support the idea that humans are causing climate change, yet, a significant amount of Americans continue to not believe this scientifically established fact to be true. The success of the expert-activists of the right demonstrates how research and “facts” do not speak for themselves. No different than populism, expertise must be performed and translated, ideally on the most mass-mediated stage available.

I refer to this performative orchestration of populist and technocratic modes of argumentation as the ‘populist-intellectual tactic.’ With this term, I strive to capture how analytically ambidextrous Fox News programs can be. As opposed to merely fact-checking Fox News, it may behoove liberal journalists and politicians to try to learn from and possibly emulate this kind of communicative versatility. The ineffectiveness of merely citing what the experts say is no more apparent than with the issue of climate change.

To move the discussion on populism and media disinformation forward, scholars must be able not only to address questions of epistemology and bias but also to think beyond them. More consideration should be given to the persuasive power of moral framing and to the political-identitarian pull of aesthetic style. As histories on conservative think tanks document, the 1970s and 1980s was a crucial building period for the conservative knowledge establishment. This intellectual project would share conservative populism’s oppositional consciousness—meaning the picture it painted was mostly defined in negative terms, as a struggle against what historian Alice O’Connor refers to as the liberal “philanthropic-government-academic establishment.”

The rise of conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation created a knowledge infrastructure for transmitting the populist repertoire of the conservative movement, especially in regard to economic issues. This infrastructure provided subsequent generations of conservative activists, including media organizations like Fox News, with a sort of collective intelligence about which political narratives and styles work best. ...Read More
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This Week's History Lesson:
Censoring Robin Hood and The Green Feather Movement
History of a little-known student resistance movement against McCarthyism and censorship. Time Periods: 20th Century, Cold War: 1945 - 1960

By Alison Kysia
Zinn Education Project

On November 13, 1953, during the height of the McCarthy era, Robin Hood and his band of “merry outlaws” made headlines. Mrs. Thomas J. White of the Indiana Textbook Commission called for a ban of Robin Hood in all school books for promoting communism because he stole from the rich to give to the poor.

As a Republican member of the commission, Mrs. Thomas J. White (who is never referenced by her first name) defended her position by stating that “there is a Communist directive in education now to stress the story of Robin Hood. They want to stress it because he robbed the rich and gave it to the poor. That’s the Communist line. It’s just a smearing of law and order and anything that disrupts law and order is their meat.”

In response to Mrs. White’s attempts at censorship, as well as the larger McCarthy witch hunt it was part of, five students from Indiana University at Bloomington (IU) started the Green Feather Movement. The IU students—Bernard Bray, Mary Dawson, Edwin Napier, Blas Davila, and Jeanine Carter—went to a local poultry farm and collected six large burlap sacks filled with chicken feathers and took them to the basement of a nearby house where they dyed them green to represent the one worn by Robin Hood.

On March 1, 1954, the students spread them throughout campus to protest censorship. Their activism was quite radical when viewed within the political climate of the time, when IU freshmen and sophomore men were still required to participate in ROTC and, according to a January 1954 Gallup poll, 50 percent of the country supported McCarthyism. The students were allegedly investigated by the FBI and disparaged in the local newspaper.

Although some faculty refused to comment on the movement for fear of retribution, the psychology department lent lukewarm support, providing some administrative protection. Nevertheless, in May 1954, IU President Herman B. Wells and the student senate denied the Green Feather Movement’s request for official recognition because they were deemed too political.

The students’ motivation to act was not only fueled by the Red Scare, but also by their faith.

In an exclusive interview with the Zinn Education Project, Bernard Bray described how he and his friends met weekly with the Roger Williams Fellowship at the First Baptist Church in Bloomington where they would discuss the burning social issues of the day while sharing a meal and performing vespers. Bray explained the importance of these meetings by saying that “my sort of spirituality was a . . . struggle to find a way to make God’s will become a reality in my life and to that working in fellowship with others and the Roger Williams Fellowship was the ideal context for doing that.” He also noted the influence of a seminarian he knew growing up who was jailed for his refusal to participate in World War II, as well as the religious convictions of his own parents, Helen and Earl Bray, who stood up and walked out of their church after someone made a racist comment about a Japanese American.

The Green Feather Movement inspired solidarity actions on campuses throughout the country, illustrating the power of student activism. News of the IU movement was publicized in both local and college newspapers throughout the country as well as The Young Socialist Challenge, the bulletin of the Young People’s Socialist League. Members of the Labor Youth League (LYL), an offshoot of the Young Communist League USA, distributed small white pins picturing a green feather as a sign of solidarity. Green Feather groups subsequently spread to the universities of Harvard, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Chicago, and Purdue.

At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), students planned to march in support of the Green Feather Movement. Unfortunately, the pins they ordered for the march did not reach them in time. Instead, similar to the IU group, they went to the local poultry shop to purchase feathers and dyed them green. Green feathers were spread throughout campus during the march, which featured a crier dressed as Robin Hood followed by 200 students dressed as his Merry Men. As Matthew Allan Ides notes in his 2009 dissertation, “Cruising for Community: Youth Culture and Politics in Los Angeles, 1910-1970”:

“The Green Feather movement at UCLA was a turning point in student activism on campus because this type of political performance was not sanctioned by the administration. In dressing for the event, youth activists tested the waters of the counterculture and for the moment put aside reservation of appearing to conform. Second, the organizing for this event connected local struggles to a national organization, thereby harmonizing the practices of youth activism. Many students continued to wear the movement’s pins and feathers after the initial events, and to those in the know this practice revealed networks of youth solidarity. Although the LYL played a role in organizing the Green Feather Movement on campus, the GFM pointed to a new brand of youth activism that would fully develop in the 1960s.”

Thankfully the attempt to censor Robin Hood failed. News of these attempts even crossed the Atlantic, where residents of Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, England, the traditional home of Robin Hood, mocked the association of him with communism. When asked why attempts to censor Robin Hood pushed Bray to action, he explained that the issue wasn’t Robin Hood as much as “a great opportunity to find a symbol to fight McCarthyism — it was more a matter of principle.” Although the Green Feather Movement lasted less than a year and concluded more than 50 years ago, we are still confronted with the same kinds of censorship in communities throughout the United States today.

These displays of activism and solidarity were important challenges to the abusive power of McCarthyism. As students and teachers are faced with attempts to censor people’s history, the Green Feather Movement inspires us to support the right to teach outside the textbook.

Alison Kysia has taught history at Northern Virginia Community College-Alexandria for six years. She was a Zinn Education Project Fellow in 2013 and the Project Director of “Islamophobia: a people’s history teaching guide” at Teaching for Change starting in 2018. ...Read More 

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‘Corporate ‘Nationhood’: The Menacing Climate Threat
WEEKLY BULLETIN OF THE MEXICO SOLIDARITY PROJECT
November 17, 2021/ This week's issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team

If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Except in the United States, where corporations that don’t walk like any real live person or talk like one get treated — under the law — as if they were a person. Every incorporated U.S. business enjoys all the individual rights of flesh-and-blood people. 

And if that doesn’t raise your temperature high enough to threaten climate change, how about this: Under current global “free trade” agreements, our giant corporations also get treated as the equal of nations. These agreements, Manuel Perez-Rocha explains in our interview this week, give corporations the legal power to sue — for billions of dollars in “estimated” losses — real nations that seek to protect their people and their environment. 

These lawsuits don’t just rob public treasuries of resources that could serve the public good. These suits also hold back progress on combating climate change. All around the world, people — of the flesh-and-blood variety — are fighting to stop the destruction and contamination of their land, water, and air. In many indigenous communities, these activists are facing murderous attacks from those who benefit from corporate contracts and kickbacks. Governments that dare side with the resisters and move to stop corporate environmental assaults must face the risk of having to pay corporations for their “losses.” 

In short, for corporations that put profit over planet, “heads I win, tails you lose."  

The current US-México-Canada trade pact continues to allow US and Canadian extractive industries to extort a México willing to stand up for its people. We need to eliminate this corporate weapon of mass destruction from the USMCA and multitudes of other trade agreements. Until that elimination, real people and real nations will not be able to design real solutions to save our planet. Time to get our ducks in a row.
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Book Review: The Storm
Over the American Revolution

Why has a relatively conventional history of the War of Independence drawn such an outraged response?

By Eric Herschthal
The New Republic

Nov 18, 2021 - The summer of 1755 was a terrible time for George Washington. The 23-year-old Virginian slaveholder was serving as an aide to the British general of North America, Edward Braddock, in the Battle of the Monongahela. At the time, colonists like Washington still considered themselves proud subjects of the British Empire. But the routing that Washington was about to receive set in motion the steady unraveling of the imperial relationship. 

French soldiers, along with their Ottawa, Ojibwe, and Potowatomi allies, fended off Braddock and Washington’s assault near what is today Pittsburgh, killing a third of their 1,500 troops, along with Braddock himself. To many of the Indigenous nations involved in the battle, Washington was already a well-known figure. His family was one of seven wealthy Virginia developers that created the Ohio Company in 1748, which laid claim to millions of acres of Indigenous-inhabited land west of the Appalachian Mountains, including places like Pittsburgh. Iroquois nations even had an epithet for the Washington family: Connotacarious, meaning “devourer of villages,” a name Washington gleefully embraced. 

The Battle of Monongahela was the first major conflict in the French and Indian War of 1754 to 1763. But in his new history of the American Revolution, Liberty Is Sweet, Woody Holton sees it as the starting point for the War of Independence, which traditionally begins in 1775. In Holton’s account, the revolution had its roots, above all, in colonists’ desire for Indigenous land.

By 1763, the British and their American colonists finally defeated the French and their Indigenous allies. But the British did not allow colonists to settle on the newly gained ground. They stationed 10,000 British soldiers in frontier garrisons, functioning as peacekeepers between Native Americans and backwoods settlers. To pay for those troops, Parliament issued the Stamp Act and the American Duties Act, the latter of which renewed taxes on New England’s chief import—slave-grown Caribbean sugar—and clamped down on its smuggling of cheaper French and Dutch slave-grown sugar.

The final straw came between 1773 and 1774, with a series of onerous laws that Patriot leaders dubbed the Intolerable Acts: laws that forced colonists to house British soldiers, shut down New England town meetings, closed Boston’s ports, and not least, transferred prized western land in the Ohio River Valley to the new British colony in Quebec.

A great strength of Liberty Is Sweet is that it refuses to paint either the colonists or the British Empire as simple villains or victims. Indeed, Holton believes that too many popular histories of the revolution have become a “revolt against complexity.” The British, he tells us, may have acted reasonably by raising taxes on the 13 colonies, but they were also in league with Caribbean slaveholders. Rural colonial farmers, meanwhile, were justified in opposing imperial policies, which were, after all, meant to bail out slaveholders and bankers. Yet just when we think we have found Holton’s heroes, we are reminded that many of these same rural farmers are the ones who most desperately craved Indian land, as well as enslaved people to work it.

What is striking is that this complexity has been entirely missing in the recent public debates surrounding Holton’s book. In July, Holton published an op-ed in The Washington Post arguing that British officials’ offers of freedom for service to enslaved Black Americans pushed many white Patriots to declare independence. Immediately, critics from across the liberal-to-left spectrum pounced, seeing Holton’s op-ed, and the yet-to-be-published book it promoted, as reviving the argument made by The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which also highlighted slavery’s role in prompting the declaration. Socialists accused him of being a race-reductionist, seeing racism as the central explanation for all of American history. His liberal scholarly critics sympathized with his goal of highlighting racism’s role in America’s past but argued that he was grossly distorting the facts to do so. Holton has since doubled down, engaging in a recent, heated debate with Gordon Wood, another prominent scholar and fierce 1619 Project critic, who has long battled revolutionary histories written “from below.” But to see these debates, which center around slavery’s role in the American Revolution, as a reflection of the book’s main content is to miss the many causes and characters Liberty Is Sweet actually covers.

As Holton moves from the French and Indian War to the War of Independence, he spends much time on the battlefield. Though he has a gift for pacing and narrative detail, this section, by far the longest of the book, can begin to feel antiquated. But Holton is attuned to what is sometimes called the “new military history” and therefore offers intriguing details about how people and events off the battlefield—wars in India, slave revolts, women’s boycotts—as well as the resistance of poor white soldiers to duplicitous recruitment schemes, shaped the war’s outcome. Indeed, one of Holton’s aims is not simply to offer an “inclusive” history—one where ordinary people are just added to a familiar frame—but to show us how including a wider swath of society can help us rethink the picture itself. 

Like many scholars, Holton underscores the critical role that slavery played in hastening Southerners’ support for the Patriot cause, even if slavery was not the only factor. Many Southern whites worried that the British would end the institution of slavery; as early as 1774, white Virginians reported a rumor of a planned slave revolt “when the English troops should arrive.” A year later, Lord Dunmore, the Virginia governor who stayed loyal to the British, offered freedom for service to any enslaved man belonging to a Patriot owner (but not a Loyalist). Dunmore’s proclamation sent shock waves throughout the South. “The Proclamation,” wrote one Virginian Patriot, “has had a most extensive good consequence.… [White] Men of all ranks resent the pointing a dagger to their Throats, thru the hands of their slaves.”

Four years later, as the war dragged on, the British General Henry Clinton expanded the proclamation, offering freedom to “every Negro”—man or woman, with or without military service—“who shall desert the Rebel Standard.” Indeed, it was Clinton’s proclamation, as much as Dunmore’s, that transformed the war. By the war’s end, at least 20,000 enslaved men and women, and perhaps many more, had escaped to British lines. The Continental Army, meanwhile, refused to offer a similar freedom-for-service decree, fearful that it would alienate Southerners (although desperate for troops, it eventually allowed at least 5,000 enslaved men to enlist). Meanwhile, Southern Patriot leaders became so starved for soldiers that they began to offer hundreds of acres of Indian land—as well as one slave—to any white man who would fight. In the South, then, it is entirely reasonable to argue, as Holton does, that many white Patriots fought to preserve slavery as much as they did to attain their own freedom.

But there is much more to Holton’s narrative than slavery. Ultimately, Holton contends, the Patriots won the war in large part because the British military was stretched thin, fighting not just within the 13 colonies but in other reaches of its global empire. Britain had taken over much of France’s Indian colonies in 1763, but Haidar Ali, the ruler of a town in southern India, continued fighting, mounting a series of devastating military blows against Britain’s East India Company, the private corporation that governed India for the British. Ali’s military campaign between 1767 and 1769 effectively bankrupted the company, pushing Parliament to bail it out, in part by forcing American colonists to purchase its tea. Then, in 1780, Ali orchestrated another devastating strike against the company’s headquarters, compelling Parliament to pull troops from the American theater and redeploy them in India. Though it’s largely forgotten today, Patriot elites celebrated Ali as a hero of their own revolution: “Heyder Ali is the standing toast of my table,” said Benjamin Rush, a Patriot leader, upon hearing of Ali’s victories.

The Patriots won their independence not because they were militarily strong or ideologically committed but because they were weak and unimportant.

This lesser-known story is a reminder that the War of Independence was not only fought between Loyalists and Patriots. It was a global war, in which the involvement of several other powers proved crucial to the Patriots’ success. When Patriot leaders finally got France and Spain to aid them, in 1778 and 1779 respectively, the British realized that their entire global empire, not just the 13 colonies, was at stake. With good reason, the British worried that both the Spanish and French might try to seize territories lost to Britain in the century’s previous wars. By 1780, the British removed a third of their troops from the 13 colonies, restationing many of them in the Caribbean in order to protect their most valuable colonial asset: their slave-based sugar colonies. Holton also reminds us that the final major battle at Yorktown, in 1781, was won largely by the French military, who outnumbered Patriot troops two to one. In many ways, Holton suggests, the Patriots won their independence not because they were militarily strong or ideologically committed but because they were weak and unimportant. ...Read More

Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution
by Woody Holton
Buy on Bookshop
Simon and Schuster, 800 pp., $37.50

Film Review: 'The Power of the Dog,' Campion’s
Gothic Western Is Mysterious And Menacing 
Slow-burning psychodrama about two warring brothers on a ranch in 1920s Montana is one of the director’s best

By Peter Bradshaw
The Guardian

Nov 17, 2021 - Jane Campion’s first feature film in more than 10 years is a western gothic psychodrama: mysterious, malicious, with a lethal ending that creeps up behind you like a thief. Campion devotees will enjoy the scenes in which a large piano is carried into an uncivilized wilderness; eight philistine cowboys are required to heave this into the ranch owner's parlor, the culture totem in the desert. And it is on this that the new lady of the house, played by Kirsten Dunst, attempts to master Strauss’s Radetzky March, while her jeeringly malign new brother-in-law (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) deliberately puts her off by playing it as well on his banjo – thus disconcertingly revealing that for all his rough ways he is actually rather more talented musically than she is. It’s the most menacing five-string banjo picking since Deliverance.

The setting is 1920s Montana, where two brothers run a profitable ranch: charismatic but boorish Phil Burbank (Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemons), who affects a fancier style of clothing and millinery than sweaty Phil and aspires to the high social standing of his elderly parents who evidently staked them in the business. Phil, an instinctive bully, calls his brother “fatso”, encourages his men to mock him, and is obsessed with the fact that George is parasitically reliant on Phil’s tough competence, which he learned from a charismatic rancher called ‘Bronco’ Henry that he once idolized and who taught him the trade. But lonely, dysfunctional Phil is in fact emotionally reliant on his quiet, dignified brother and these grown men share a bedroom in their big house like kids.

So Phil is outraged when George marries a widow from the town: this is Rose (an excellent performance from Dunst), a former cinema piano player now running a cafe, with a sensitive teenage son called Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who waits tables for which he creates intricate paper flowers, to much sneering homophobic abuse from Phil. And yet Phil is oddly transfixed by Peter’s delicate papery fronds, a visual echo with the strips of rawhide from which he later makes a menacing rope. Once Rose moves into the home, Phil makes it his business to harass and abuse her, as she descends into depression and alcoholism, but then appears to take a strange fatherly interest in Peter himself, offering to teach him to ride and take him out into the remote hills to school him in the rancher ways, just as ‘Bronco’ once apparently did to him.

Campion has adapted a 1967 novel by Thomas Savage, much admired by E Annie Proulx, and she has created something over which an air of tragedy, dysfunction and horror hangs. It is like something from Ibsen, especially in the excruciating scene in which George invites his parents and their political friends over for a formal black-tie dinner, and poor, miserable Rose is psychologically unable to play the piano for them. Occasionally, it is even a little like George Stevens’s Giant from 1956 (and maybe if things had been different the Peter role might have interested James Dean) – but Smit-McPhee brings something inscrutably complex and reserved to his character’s behavior, an opaque quality which after the big reveal delivers a retrospective mulekick of significance. The audience has to piece together its meaning after the closing credits, going right back to the opening narrative voiceover.

Campion is great at furnishing her movie with queasy touches: poor Rose stumbles into the kitchen to talk to the cook Mrs Lewis (Geneviève Lemon) and maid Lola (Thomasin McKenzie) and gets regaled with weird gossip and urban myths, including one about a dead woman, whose hair continued to grow after her death, filling the coffin. You can almost feel Rose’s frisson of fear and fellow-feeling, imagining herself to be like this woman right now. The Power of the Dog is made with artistry and command: it is one of Jane Campion’s best. ...Read More

 The Power of the Dog is released on 19 November in cinemas, and on 1 December on Netflix.

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