Progressive Lion: John Conyers Jr. (MI-13)

John Conyers Jr. is Dean of the House of Representatives, he was first elected to Congress in 1965. He is currently in his 26th term, and is one of only seven people to have served over 50 years in Congress.

Conyers was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rosa Parks served on his staff for over twenty years and he visited Selma to meet with Freedom Riders multiple times in the 1960s. In many ways, his longevity makes him a living link to our past.

Four days after MLK was assassinated, Conyers introduced a bill in Congress to make his birthday a national holiday. It was finally signed into law 15 years later, in 1983. Conyers has been a indefatigable champion for many other progressive causes, chipping away for decades at resistance working to create a breakthrough.

His commitment is exemplified by his determined sponsorship of two bills:

  • H.R. 40 — Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.
  • H.R. 676 —  Medicare For All.

Conyers has re-introduced HR 40 in every Congress since 1989. In the current (115th) congress, it has 30 co-sponsors.Conyers has introduced HR 676 in every Congress since 2003. In the current Congress, it has 113 co-sponsors, the most support it has ever received.

Congressman John Conyers is on DKos and was posting intermittently till 2015. In a remarkable diary in 2008, he republished a 1974 article he’d written for the The Black Scholar. It made the case for Nixon’s impeachment. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Conyers had helped draft the articles of impeachment that were prepared but never voted on, since Nixon resigned. The article begins:

Richard Nixon, like the President before him, was in a real sense a casualty of the Vietnam War, a war which I am ashamed to say was never declared.

Weeks after the 2016 election, Conyers highlighted the dangerous concordances between Nixon and Trump. Rep. Conyers enjoys a close working relationship with the Democratic Socialists of America and has been one of the most reliable progressive votes in Congress. He is also a staunch champion of individual rights, often getting the highest rating from the ACLU. He gets a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign, indicating his steadfast support for LGBT rights.

Under his chairmanship, the House Judiciary committee issued contempt citations to John Bolton and Harriet Miers for failing to produce documents related to the firing of nine US district attorneys. Committee staff, under his leadership, issued a report on the Bush administration’s rush to war in Iraq, and the scandal surrounding the abuse of prisoners by US soldiers and contractors. It was titled: “The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Coverups in the Iraq War.” He has found opportunities to work across the aisle on certain issues, notably a bill to limit the Patriot Act. As chair of the House Judiciary committee, he argued against prosecuting Wikileaks for publishing documents leaked by Chelsea Manning. In supporting the right of the ordinary Americans to know how their government was using its vast surveillance powers, Conyers stood in opposition to senior Democrats and Republicans who wanted to prosecute.

After graduating from high school, Conyers became a member of the UAW (as his father was). He worked in the Lincoln Car Factory an on the staff at Local 900. Conyers served in Korea for a year and is skeptical of our military adventures. He favors dialog and diplomacy with North Korea (see the placard by the sofa):

Oh, and he’s pretty dapper.

Conyers remains committed to responsible defense, he’s sponsored an amendment to prevent the sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia as they’ve been used by the KSA against civilians in their war on Yemen.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. is a Progressive Lion.

Progressive Lion is an occasional series celebrating a politician or activist exemplifying progressive values. The goal is the recognize their achievements and lives. Our initial focus will be on those whose names do not come up frequently here. If you know aspects of their career or work that are not in the diary, please share them in comments.
@subirgrewal

Our bombs blew off this baby’s fingers. She is now learning to use the few she has left.

One year old Zuhoor, whose fingers were amputated after an airstrike in Yemen.

Our government sold the airplanes that dropped these bombs.

Our government refuels the planes on their sorties.

Our government makes and sells the bombs, including cluster bombs.

We share responsibility for these atrocities.

And please don’t believe any of the bullshit peddled to us about how our bombs bring “freedom” and “democracy”. The hands on the triggers are Saudi and we provide the political cover for the Saudis as they do this. The Saudi government is a brutal monarchy. They are about to behead 14 men for taking part in a pro-democracy rally. One of the men was under 18 and arrested on his way to attend college in Michigan. Another is a 23 year old man who is blind and deaf. They were tortured to obtain confessions, most have since recanted.

Meanwhile, in his visit to Saudi Arabia, President Trump did find the time to participate in an elaborate sword dance, but never brought up human rights violations.

US President Donald Trump joins dancers with swords at a welcome ceremony ahead of a banquet at the Murabba Palace in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The president who spends hours watching TV and tweeting can’t seem to comment on the fact that our close ally is planning to behead men and boys for the crime of attending a rally.

Mr Trump has not yet commented on the case of Mr al-Sweikat. In his speech to the Saudis in May, he said: “America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens.

“We are not here to lecture, we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.

“Instead, we are here to offer partnership, based on shared interests and values—to pursue a better future for us all.” — www.independent.co.uk/…

Perhaps torture and a penchant for bombing other countries the “values” we share with brutal monarchies?

— @subirgrewal

The Men Who Never Have to Grow Up

This is a child, who was not given a chance to grow up.

Jennifer Weiner has an Op-Ed in the NY Times today about how our society forgives the crimes of rich, wealthy and well-connected men. Invariably, their families pull out all the stops to remake their public image as “well-meaning kids” who happened to have made a mistake.

There’s a long list of such “kids” who commit serious crimes in their 30s /40s and walk away form them. We can see this dynamic at work in the PR campaign for Donald Trump Jr.

We’ve all been having a good chuckle watching our president and his surrogates characterize Mr. Trump’s 39-year-old son, the married father of five, as an “honest kid,” a wide-eyed innocent whose only sin in agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected lawyer and others was, perhaps, an endearing overenthusiasm, like when a puppy won’t stop licking your face, or colluding with hostile superpowers.

trumpjrgamehunting-600x316.jpg
This is a fully-grown adult man who chooses to do shitty things

The real scandal though, is how often actual children, usually poor and/or black, are painted as dangerous and never given the chance to grow up.

In his assertions that Donald Jr. is “a good boy,” “a good kid,” President Trump and his camp are invoking potent precedent about how we’ve been taught to see whiteness and maleness and when — if ever — we expect boys to become men. People of color, of course, never receive the leeway that “good kids” like the 39-year-old Trump son seem to get.

When police officers shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, for the sin of playing in the park with a toy gun, their excuse was that they thought he was an adult suspect.

Tamir Rice wasn’t given a chance to grow up. Donald Trump Jr. enjoys the privilege of never having to grow up, something he inherited from his father. America, we have a lot of work to do.

— @subirgrewal

What is a fair wage for prison labor?

Prisoners at Angola Prison, LA. Angola is built on the site of a former slave labor camp (they were not “plantations”)

Samuel Sinyangwe visited Louisiana a few weeks ago, and wrote about how conscript labor is used there in the state legislature and across government facilities.

 

The thread is worth reading, and Sinyangwe was particularly affected by the sight of prisoners serving food, cleaning and laboring at the state capitol.

Though it is sobering, none of this should come as a shock to any American. Shawshank Redemption was one of the biggest movies of the 1990s, and it explored, in exhaustive detail, the exploitative system of conscript labor. More recently, the documentary movie 13th covers the many forms of legal exploitation of prisoners embedded in our system of mass incarceration.

Nor should it come as a surprise to anyone with even the slightest familiarity with American history that the powers of the state have been used to exploit and steal labor from people of color, primarily black men. Yet, many of us sometimes fail to recognize what is staring directly at us.

We should also note that low wages for labor can, perversely, condemn people to years of imprisonment. Jimmy Carter (who as governor also had prisoners working for him) describes the damning case of a woman who was sentenced to 7 years or $750. She couldn’t come up with $750 and served 5 years till Carter discovered the circumstances and had her released:

I believe that unless you subscribe to a labor-centered ideology, unless you have the principle of a fair wage for labor engrained in you, it is easy to miss these injustices and accept arguments about cost control at face value.

There is an argument that having prisoners serve governors helps facilitate an eventual pardon. Governors in states like Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas do grant pardons regularly, often to prisoners who served them in the governor’s mansion, sometimes taking significant political heat for doing so. Yet, this so called “trusty” system, also has a tortured history that involves prisoner abuse and exploitation. It’s also true that, black people are pardoned at lower rates than others. And, as Governing magazine notes, pardons are becoming increasingly rare, while the theft of labor from prisoners continues.

Things have not gotten better in since the 1980s. In an article written in 2000, “Prison labor on the rise in US”, Alan Whyte and Jamie Baker write about the history of prison labor in the US.

US trade union officials have repeatedly denounced China for its use of prison labor, as part of the AFL-CIO’s campaign against the normalization of trade relations with China. At the same time, however, the union officials have virtually been silent about the huge growth of prison labor in the United States. […]

The struggle over prison labor has a long history in the US. In the early 1800s, group workshops in prisons replaced solitary handicrafts, and the increased efficiency allowed prisons to be self-supporting. Entire prisons were leased out to private contractors, who literally worked hundreds of prisoners to death. Manufacturers who lost work to prison contractors opposed the leasing system, but only with the growth of the union movement came effective opposition to prison labor. One of the most famous clashes, the Coal Creek Rebellion of 1891, took place when the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad locked out their workers and replaced them with convicts. The miners stormed the prison and freed 400 prisoners, and when the company filled up work with more prisoners, the miners burned the prison down.

The prison leasing system was disbanded in Tennessee shortly thereafter, but remained in many states until the rise of the CIO and industrial unionism in the 1930s. As a result of this mass movement of workers, Congress passed the 1935 Ashurst-Sumners Act, making it illegal to transport prison-made goods across state lines. However, under the presidency of Democrat Jimmy Carter, Congress passed the Justice System Improvement Act of 1979, which granted exemptions from Ashurst-Sumners for seven “Prison Industry Enhancement” pilot projects. Congress has since granted exemptions to all 50 state prison systems.

— www.wsws.org/…

More recently, during the general election campaign last year, prisoners went on strike nationwide. Shamefully, our mass media expended hours of TV coverage on typos and gaffes but spent almost no time covering this country-wide strike which touched the lives of millions of our fellow citizens.

The nationwide prison strike that began September 9 has largely wound down. Inmates have returned to work, though some smaller hunger strikes are still taking place. It’s unclear what long-term changes the strike may bring. Yet the protest, timed to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising, has made waves: An estimated 24,000 inmates missed work and as many as 29 prisons were affected, according to activists.

It’s also brought renewed attention to our prison labor system. About 700,000 of America’s 1.5 million prison inmates have jobs, and they work for as little as 12 to 40 cents an hour with few workplace protections. “It’s utterly exploitative,” says Heather Ann Thompson, a professor of Afroamerican and African studies and history at the University of Michigan and the author of the new book Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy. “Some farms in Nevada are paying 8 cents a day. Some jail workers are paid nothing.” Thompson, who has extensively studied prison labor, says prisoners are expected to work more than they have at any time since the Civil War, when prisons leased out convicts to private companies.

— www.motherjones.com/…

The hollowing-out of organized American labor has left unions unable to address the many injustices associated with prison labor in a meaningful way. However, prisoners have organized themselves at periodic intervals and demanded their labor be compensated at a fair rate:

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, prison labor was largely regulated or prohibited, due in part to efforts by labor unions to prevent competition with low-paid inmates. But beginning in the 1970s, as the prison population began to rise, businesses lobbied to gut these regulations, says Thompson. In 1979, Congress created a program that gives incentives to private companies to use prison labor. Currently, the federal prison industries program produces items ranging from mattresses to prescription eyewear. Some inmates are employed as call center operators (“It’s the best kept secret in outsourcing!” says the program’s website.) Last year, federal inmates helped bring in nearly $472 million in net sales—but only 5 percent of that revenue went to pay inmates. […]

Heather Thompson: It’s absolutely fair to characterize it as slave labor, since constitutionally that is the only exception made for keeping people in a state of slavery.

www.motherjones.com/…

That last line should settle the controversy over whether prison labor can be called slave labor. It is treated as such in our constitution. A good rule of thumb is that if you can call it “slave labor” when it happens in China, you should call it slave labor in the US as well.

Vice documented the varied work that prisoners are conscripted to do in the US, including fire-fighting, call centers, rodeo clowning, and yes, picking cotton. On that last note, let’s go back to Louisiana for more on the jarring image that leads this diary.

Crops stretch to the horizon. Black bodies pepper the landscape, hunched over as they work the fields. Officers on horseback, armed, oversee the workers.

To the untrained eye, the scenes in Angola for Life: Rehabilitation and Reform Inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary, an Atlantic documentary filmed on an old Southern slave-plantation-turned-prison, could have been shot 150 years ago. The imagery haunts, and the stench of slavery and racial oppression lingers through the 13 minutes of footage. […]

But there is a second storyline running alongside the first, which raises disquieting questions about how America treats those on the inside as less than fully human. Those troubling opening scenes of the documentary offer visual proof of a truth that America has worked hard to ignore: In a sense, slavery never ended at Angola; it was reinvented. […]

Some viewers of the video might be surprised to learn that inmates at Angola, once cleared by the prison doctor, can be forced to work under threat of punishment as severe as solitary confinement.

— www.theatlantic.com/…

There’s a phrase here which is important, “less than fully human”.

Before you can get most people to blindly accept an injustice, you have to dehumanize the victims. We do this consistently with our never-ending wars. We have also been doing it with convicted prisoners.

Here again, ideology can help us avoid falling into such traps and become unwitting instruments of oppression. An ideology that focuses on the shared humanity of all can help us avoid becoming the kind of person who will be swayed by a single “feel good” story:

SILICON VALLEY mavens seldom stumble into San Quentin, a notorious Californian prison. But when Chris Redlitz, a venture capitalist, visited seven years ago, he found that many of the inmates were keen and savvy businessmen. The trip spurred him to create The Last Mile, a charity that teaches San Quentin inmates how to start businesses and code websites, for which they can earn up to $17 an hour. One of the first people it helped was Tulio Cardozo, who served a five-year sentence after a botched attempt at cooking hashish, which also left him with severe burns across half his body. Two years after he was released, he got a job as a lead developer in a San Francisco startup.

Such redemptive stories are the model for what the prison system could be. But they are exceptions—the rule is much drearier.

— www.economist.com/…

Action:

I would urge all of us to take these steps.

  1. Remake our minds, and think about what a fair wage for a prisoner’s labor should be.
  2. Urge your Congressional representative to support Raul Grijalva’s Justice is Not for Sale Act (will be re-introduced in this Congress).
  3. Urge your representative and senator to apply the Federal minimum wage to prisoners’ labor.
  4. Pay more attention to down-ballot races for judges and also for prosecutors, they control sentencing and plea deals.

Cross-posted at NotMeUs.org & TheProgressiveWing.com | @subirgrewal

 

Senate/House bill would make it a felony to support a boycott of Israel.

Senate bill 720 seeks to criminalize speech supporting a boycott of Israel. The bill is meant to target the growing BDS movement. Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.

This anti-boycott bill is part of a long tradition that seeks to undermine labor, civil rights and liberation movements employing non-violent protest. I’ll explore the history of anti-boycott laws later in the diary.

If the bill is enacted, violators would be subject to criminal penalties including imprisonment for up to 20 years. Here’s the letter the ACLU sent to the Senate yesterday:

The bill seeks to expand the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945 which, among other things, prohibit U.S. persons from complying with a foreign government’s request to boycott a country friendly to the U.S. The bill would amend those laws to bar U.S. persons from supporting boycotts against Israel, including its settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, conducted by international governmental organizations, such as the United Nations and the European Union.  It would also broaden the law to include penalties for simply requesting information about such boycotts. Violations would be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.  We take no position for or against  the effort  to boycott Israel or any foreign country, for that matter. However, we do assert that the government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, punish U.S. persons based solely on their expressed political beliefs.

There is a House version as well. What’s deeply troubling is that many of the Senators and Representatives co-sponsoring this bill do not seem to understand its implications. The Intercept called the offices of several Democratic co-sponsors who were unaware that the bill criminalizes support for a boycott.

THE CRIMINALIZATION OF political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the west. In France, activists have been arrested and prosecuted for wearing t-shirts advocating a boycott of Israel. The U.K. has enacted a series of measures designed to outlaw such activism. In the U.S., governors compete with one another over who can implement the most extreme regulations to bar businesses from participating in any boycotts aimed even at Israeli settlements, which the world regards as illegal. On U.S. campuses, punishment of pro-Palestinian students for expressing criticisms of Israel is so commonplace that the Center for Constitutional Rights refers to it as “the Palestine Exception” to free speech.

But now, a group of 43 Senators – 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats – want to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: anyone guilty of violating its prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000, and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

— The Intercept

The 14 Democrats who want to make it a felony for Americans to support a boycott of Israel are:

  • Ben Cardin (MD)
  • Bill Nelson (FL)
  • Robert Menendez (NJ)
  • Richard Blumenthal (CT)
  • Gary Peters (MI)
  • Maria Cantwell (WA)
  • Chuck Schumer (NY)
  • Maria Cantwell (NH)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)
  • Joe Donnelly (IN)
  • Joe Manchin (WV)
  • Ron Wyden (OR)
  • Chris Coons (DE)
  • Michael Bennett (CO)

The bill is part of a concerted campaign by anti-Palestinian groups to criminalize non-violent protest of Israel’s oppressive policies and violation of Palestinian’s human rights. Concerted pressure by left-wing activists is a concern for the Israeli government which has been accustomed to unquestioned support from most European and US administrations. In 2015, the EU instituted labelling requirements which direct Israeli companies to clearly label agricultural products made in the Occupied Territories. It is illegal for occupying powers to exploit the natural resources (including land) in any way. The US went almost as far, by issuing a statement that effectively warned Israeli companies from labelling goods made in the West Bank or East Jerusalem as “Made in Israel”.

The push-back from anti-Palestinian groups has been severe. Those who support, or even fail to oppose, a boycott of Israel modeled on the South African example, have been viciously attacked. Pamela Geller’s outfit called various left-wing Jewish organizations “judenrat” and “kapos” last year when they opposed anti-BDS laws at the state level.

AIPAC has been pushing several versions of anti-BDS legislation through state legislatures for years. They’ve been successful to varying degrees, in Indiana, Tennessee, South Carolina and Illinois. The bill seeks to criminalize speech supporting BDS in the US, in the same way it is in Israel. The Israeli Supreme Court has called the BDS movement “political terrorism” and allowed publishers to be sued for printing statements supporting BDS. The Senate and House bills seek to do something similar here, by criminalizing non-violent protest and political speech. Similar attempts have had some success in Europe. A French court fined activists protesting at a grocery store $14,500 for wearing t-shirts that supported BDS. That is the sort of reality American protestors might face as well.

A note on the history of anti-boycott laws and how they have been used to suppress dissent, unions and liberation movements is below.


The Forward discussed the origins of this bill in their brief note:

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced in March by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, would expand 1970s-era laws that bar complying with boycotts of Israel sponsored by governments — laws inspired at the time by the Arab League boycott of Israel — to include boycotts backed by international organizations. Those adhering to boycotts would be the subject of fines.

While the measure is aimed at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, it also targets efforts by the United Nations and the European Union to distinguish products manufactured in Israel from those manufactured in West Bank settlements.

forward.com/…

It’s worth noting at this point, the long history on anti-boycott laws, which were first employed at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th as a tool against organized labor. In 1901, Deitrich Loewe opened a non-union factory in Danbury, CT. The United Hatters of America (UHU) led a strike and worked with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) to promote a national boycott by consumers, wholesalers and retailers. Loewe filed suit contending the boycott was a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The case was Loewe v Lawlor, and Loewe won in the Supreme Court. For years, the courts continued to issue injunctions against boycotts and strikes, and supporting employers who forced employees to sign non-unionization contracts (yellow dog contracts).

These practices continued till the 1932 Norris-LaGuardia Act, which, among other things exempted labor unions from antitrust laws. The US Supreme Court applied Norris-LaGuardia in the New Negro Alliance v. Sanitary Grocery Co. case in 1938, supporting the right of workers to organize a boycott. In this case it was black workers protesting discriminatory hiring practices. Since then, there’s been a long history of labor organized boycotts in the US, including the salad bowl strike organized by Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers.

Boycotts have a long history in liberation struggles and anti-colonial movements. In particular, Gandhi (building on the thoughts of an earlier generation of leaders including Naoroji) led a successful boycott of British goods during the Indian independence struggle. The Indian Swadeshi movement lasted for almost half a century, and intentionally targeted the economic underpinnings of colonial exploitation.

A more recent example is the South African boycott movement, which applied sustained pressure on the apartheid-era government to end the practice of apartheid. Israel was a close ally of the South-African government. The Israeli government has such a concerted focus on BDS because it’s aware of how the South African apartheid regime was forced to end its discriminatory practices under pressure from an international boycott.

Anti-boycott laws were employed in the US against Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the Montgomery Improvement Association in 1955 in response to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

White officials in Alabama conducted two concerted efforts to defeat Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement legally, by indicting King for violating an anti-boycotting law during the Montgomery bus boycott and for income tax fraud, in 1956 and 1960, respectively.

On 21 February 1956 King was indicted by the Montgomery County Grand Jury for his boycott of the Montgomery City Lines, Inc. According to the State of Alabama, King and 89 others violated a 1921 statute that outlawed boycotts against businesses. — kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/…

Taylor Branch’s “Parting the Waters” discussed in extensive detail how Alabama attempted to use this law to shut down the activities of the MIA and the SCLC.

Attempts by states to criminalize civil rights related boycotts continued up until the 1980s:

The case, N.A.A.C.P. v. Claiborne Hardware, arose out of a 16-year effort by black civil rights leaders to achieve some modicum of racial equality in Claiborne County in Mississippi. In 1966, black citizens of the county, under the leadership of Charles Evers, field secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, presented white elected officials with a petition for constitutional equality. Included were such fundamental demands as desegregation of public schools, selection of blacks for jury duty, integration of the public toilets in the county courthouse, and insistence that ”Negroes are not to be addressed by terms as ‘boy,’ ‘girl,’ ‘shine,’ ‘uncle,’ or any other offensive term, but as ‘Mr.,’ ‘Mrs.,’ or ‘Miss,’ as is the case with other citizens.”

These demands were ignored, and, in response the local N.A.A.C.P. chapter organized a boycott of white merchants in the area. The boycott proved singularly effective, so effective that Mississippi officials reacted with a legal attack.

After years of litigation, a Mississippi trial court found that the boycotters had unlawfully and maliciously interfered with the white merchants’ businesses, engaged in a secondary boycott in violation of state law and violated the Mississippi antitrust statute. Damages, penalties and attorney’s fees of $1.25 million plus interest were assessed against the N.A.A.C.P. and 130 individuals. The Mississippi Supreme Court reduced the damages and rejected some of the trial court’s legal theories – including a ruling that retroactively applied a state statute enacted two years after the boycott had begun – but it nonetheless found the boycott to be a violation of state law.

— www.nytimes.com/…

In July 1982, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the NAACP, and said that calls for violence by some could not be used to criminalize non-violent protest by others. In Justice Stevens’ decision he wrote:

”One of the foundations of our society is the right of individuals to combine with other persons in pursuit of a common goal by lawful means.”

“[Legal] liability may not be imposed merely because an individual belonged to a group, some members of which committed acts of violence.”

‘A massive and prolonged effort to change the social and political and economic structure of a local environment cannot be characterized as a violent conspiracy simply by reference to the ephemeral consequences of relatively few violent acts.’

PS. I am deeply indebted to a fellow Kossack who, years ago, shared their substantive knowledge of the history of anti-boycott laws with me.

An Israeli tourist attraction: shooting at targets dressed as Palestinians, in a “mock” boot-camp.

Taking in the scene of a simulated fruit market in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, a group of tourists ponders whether a poster-size figure of an Arab man holding a cellphone is a threat and should be shot.

The aim of the mock scenario is to teach rapt foreign visitors how to deal with an attack on a market. It is part of a counter-terrorism “boot camp” organized by Caliber 3, a company set up by a colonel in the Israeli army reserves.

Entrance to the gated compound in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc – built on land the Palestinians want for their own state – costs $115 for adults and $85 for children.

— www.reuters.com/…

Companies specializing in this sort of military tourism, she notes, have experienced a boom in business over the past year. “For a long time, it was popular for Jewish tourists, and especially organized missions, to visit Israeli army bases and meet with the soldiers and watch them during their military exercises,” says Sand, the founder of Travel Composer, a boutique Israeli agency that specializes in luxury tours.

“Often, donations would be handed over in exchange. But last year the army began cracking down after it emerged that these visits were becoming a major disruption. So for those who still want to experience the Israeli army, these for-profit facilities provide a great alternative.” […]

As his [Caliber 3’s owner] instructors like to point out, it’s not only Israeli soldiers who operate according to the army’s “purity of arms” doctrine, which stipulates that soldiers will maintain their humanity even in combat. So do their attack dogs. At a live demonstration, the visitors watch as Zeus lunges at a “terrorist” wielding a knife, forcing him to the ground while tearing into his padded coverall. But once that knife is dropped and the threat is eliminated, Zeus backs off. “Even the dogs in the IDF value human life,” the instructor says.

— www.haaretz.com/…

This statement that the IDF “value human life” is questionable. The IDF has had radical, insurgent elements within it for decades and depending on the government in charge, hard-line factions have been ascendant within the command structure. Lately the religious-nationalist settler movement has gained power within the army. These trends accelerated after Likud first won election and Rafael Eitan was appointed Chief of Staff of the IDF (prior the 1982 Lebanon war).

As an example, a soldier who summarily executed a Palestinian man last year, has been released under house arrest. At the same time, Israel imprisons hundreds of Palestinians as political prisoners.

Caliber 3, which is based in the West Bank and run by a former member of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), calls itself “the premier academy for counter terror and security”. It offers six programs for tourists, including desert “Survival Training”, krav magna martial arts, and “Combat Rappelling” using paintball guns.

Its “Ultimate Shooting Adventure” has raised eyebrows for its use of real guns and simulated terror attacks – with targets dressed up in Palestinian keffiyehs. […]

He [the owner Gat] said that the thought came to him after thinking about the horrors of the Holocaust. “I said to myself that I am going to open this place to the public to show what a long way the Jewish people have come in 75 years,” he said.

— www.independent.co.uk/…

The company has a Facebook page to promote itself and has been around since 2003. Reuters reported on it in 2009:

“The most shocking part was when they had us shout ‘terrorist’ before getting into shooting position,” he said.

He enjoyed the course and felt it was safe but morally questionable. “It could indoctrinate children with racist beliefs. It was sad to hear young kids express such racism. It makes the likelihood or reaching a peaceful settlement to the (Middle East) crisis seem more difficult.” In the group before his, James said, excited children shouted to their parents about being able to “shoot the Arabs.”  […]

But Gat [the instructor] says his course is not just about shooting guns; it also teaches “Zionist values.”

— www.reuters.com/…

— Cross-posted at NotmeUs.org | @subirgrewal

Macron is not progressive on Africa.

Macron was asked a question about a Marshall plan for Africa after a speech at the G20 summit. He rattled off some pablum and injected some deep-seated racism in there too, jabbering on about how Africa’s problems were “civilizational” and complaining about “demographic transitions when countries today have 7 or 8 children per woman”.

Rightly so, Macron is having his ass handed to him on Twitter.

What this episode demonstrates, yet again, is that if you want to know whether a politician is truly on the left, look at their foreign policy. How they view and see human beings in far-flung corners of the world is pretty much how they will treat the least of you back home as well.

And Cooper is right, any conversation about Africa from a French politician should start with a discussion of the ills visited upon so many people by French colonization. It’s pretty rich to say problems are “civilizational” when you’re presiding over an entity that spent a couple of centuries devastating African civilizations and African lives.

Here is some context for the remarks and additional perceptive commentary.

Not so sure it was minor, but agree that his views are probably very much in keeping with the environment he comes from, and a reflection of his ideology.