Our Attitude on the Question of Chicago Violence

By Frank Chapman
Field Organizer, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

Over the July 4th weekend 10 people were killed and 55 wounded. As usual this opened a one-dimensional discussion on “Chicago violence” that focused exclusively on violence in the African American community and “Black on Black Crime”. If a Black person kills a Black person, and particularly if it involves gang rivalry, then that always provides an opportunity for the Mayor, the Anti-Violence Movement and Police Superintendent McCarthy to come out and hold our community in moral contempt for allowing this state of affairs to exist. In fact the Opinion section of the Chicago Sun-Times (July 13, 2015) has an op-ed by Laura Washington that says, “My people are committing genocide”. Raphael Lemkin, an authority on the subject, defined genocide as “a coordinated strategy to destroy a group of people, a process that could be accomplished through total annihilation as well as strategies that eliminate key elements of the group’s basic existence, including language, culture, and economic infrastructure.” So clearly Laura Washington does not understand the gravity of her statement or is unaware of the genocidal policies perpetrated against Black people in America from slavery to the present.

As organizers who are fighting against police crimes and for community control of the police we are constantly challenged by defenders of the status quo to focus on Black on Black crime. How do we respond to that challenge?

First, we start with the objective conditions of oppression in our communities that exist independently of anyone’s opinion. These conditions include high unemployment rates and below poverty wages, massive evictions and foreclosures, inadequate delivery of health services combined with an epidemic of alcohol and drug addiction and high infant mortality rates, miles of dilapidated housing, school closings, and scarce or non-existent recreational facilities. Add to these a phony war on drugs combined with a massive influx of drugs and deadly weapons, mass incarceration, 70% or more of gang related homicides unsolved and the active role of police in some of these murders (never censured, much less prosecuted) , hundreds of innocent victims of police torture and families whose children have been murdered by the police. All of these above-stated conditions are the result of existing government policies (such as austerity programs and institutionalized racist practices) and are the breeding ground for the violence in Chicago focused on by the media. The conditions that breed violence are never honestly discussed by the Mayor and his official and unofficial supporters. In fact, the status quo power relationships in the city are maintained and perpetuated by not addressing the root problems.

The reason why we are agitating, educating and organizing in our communities is because we know that this system of racist injustice that habitually blames the victim is incapable of solving this problem of Chicago violence. We are constantly delivering the message that we must enact an all elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) that will hold the police accountable for the crimes they commit and the way they police our communities.

Police crimes and corruption are related to all crimes. That is why when we are petitioning/recruiting in the neighborhoods for CPAC and the response is overwhelmingly “Yes, I’ll sign”! “Yes, I’ll volunteer!”(To date we have about 500 volunteers). We see what the police do every day, and we experience the racist contempt they have for us first hand. The news media, the Mayor, Police Superintendent McCarthy and all their concocted schemes of community policing cannot and have not changed the harsh realities we face on a daily basis.

Finally let me say that the best response to those who would make us responsible for the breeding ground of violence that they created is to continue to build for a Mass March on City Hall this August 29, 2015. On that historic day we must make our voices heard like they have never heard before.

[For more information on the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, see http://naarpr.org .]

__._,_.___

Progressive Democrats of America Bring Movement Pressure to Dems Through Bernie Sanders Campaign

PDA’s Conor Boylan with Bernie Sanders

Thanks to social media campaigns and behind-the-scenes work from the Progressive Democrats of America, Sanders’ chances at president have become a reality.

By Theo Anderson
In These Times

"Bernie is a no-nonsense guy who says what he believes and has legislation to back up what he believes."

July 13, 2015 – In late April, when he announced that he would enter the presidential race, Bernie Sanders was the relatively unknown junior U.S. Senator from Vermont. Now he’s everywhere.

Though the “Sanders surge” seemed to come from nowhere, it was long in the making. Sanders’ rapid rise in the polls, and his increasing visibility over the past few weeks, are in part the result of behind-the-scenes work by organizations like Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).

PDA was founded in 2004 by progressives at the Democratic National Convention who were disappointed with the party’s presidential nominee, John Kerry, but were unwilling to give up on electoral politics. One evening, at the convention’s conclusion, about 200 people met to chart a path forward.

“PDA was founded that night with an inside-outside strategy—to bring outside energy inside the party,” said Conor Boylan, who began working for PDA in 2009 and has been its co-director since 2014. “It was almost an insurgency: We’ll be members of the party, but we’ll also form our own chapters and hold the party accountable.”

PDA now has about 90,000 people on its email list. Of those, about 35,000 members actively support and participate in its work. It is funded by donations from its membership.

In early 2014, PDA began a petition drive to persuade Sanders to run for the presidency. When Sanders attended its tenth anniversary celebration in May of that year, PDA presented him with the petition. That event marked the beginning a strong push by the organization to encourage him to run for the Democratic nomination.

The effort paid off this spring when Sanders announced his candidacy. “We’ve just caught fire since then,” Boylan said. “So it has grown from this small idea—that we have to get Bernie to run—to him actually announcing. And I’m starting to think now that he could actually win this thing. It’s been amazing the way it’s gone the past 15 or 16 months. And where’s it going to end?”

Along with its sister organization, People Demanding Action (which focuses on advancing a policy agenda rather than electoral politics), PDA’s priorities are healthcare reform, campaign finance reform and environmental and economic justice.

House parties are central to PDA’s work. Its website allows people interested in volunteering for the Sanders campaign to sign up to organize a party or find one that’s scheduled near them. PDA sends organizers a kit with information on the basics of hosting a party and assigning people to different tasks, like handing out flyers and maintaining a social media presence. (Continued)

Our Neo-Confederacy

Jalaluddin Abdul Hamid shouts, ‘Take it down!’ in response to a pro-Confederate-flag demonstration outside the South Carolina State House on June 27. (Lexey Swall / Getty Images)

The flag may be wiped from state grounds and license plates, but its ideals live on in the GOP agenda

BY Salim Muwakkil
In These Times

July 8, 2015 – The modern Republican Party—with its voter suppression schemes, states’ rights fetish, and steep cuts to government jobs and services that most benefit black communities—has absorbed the Confederate message.

It is an irony that the symbol of the old Confederacy has become the most prominent victim of the June 17 massacre in Charleston, S.C., rather than the three men and six women who were slaughtered at church.

After photos surfaced of the shooter posing with the flag, a bipartisan chorus of politicians, including at least a dozen Southern Republicans, denounced the flag’s display on state grounds and license plates.

Though the Stars and Bars served as the battle flag for the Confederate Army, it only became a totem of the South in opposition to the integrationist push of the 1950s and 1960s, when it was adopted by the Dixiecrats—Southern Democrats repelled by their party’s embrace of civil rights.

Those disgruntled white Democrats were aggressively recruited by the GOP through Nixon’s Southern Strategy, which was exceedingly successful in transforming the Dixiecrat South into Republican central. Alienated Republican Michael Lofgen, a former staff member of the House and Senate Budget Committee, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in 2013 that the GOP has become, in the past few decades, “an insurrectionist, neo-Confederate party.” Or, as Paul Krugman put it in a June 22 column, “Race made Reaganism possible.”

Some see the Tea Party as the latest manifestation of the GOP’s neo-Confederate march. Law professor Ian Haney Lopez, author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, argues that the Tea Party’s appeal has much to do with its coded racist messaging. The modern Republican Party—with its voter suppression schemes, states’ rights fetish, and steep cuts to government jobs and services that most benefit black communities—has absorbed the Confederate message. Its platform is in line with the principles espoused by neo-Confederate white separatist groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens, which donated $25,000 to GOP candidates in the last election cycle.

There is little doubt that the ascension of the first black president has contributed to this neo-Confederate boomlet. Obama’s election exacerbated anxiety among America’s white majority about the demographic changes that will, according to the U.S. Census, render it a minority in the next three decades. According to a 2014 Bloomberg poll, most Americans believe black-white “race relations” have worsened since Obama’s election. In its official statement responding to the massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) noted that racist hate groups are on the rise. The Charleston shooting was “an obvious hate crime by someone who feels threatened by our country’s changing demographics and the increasing prominence of African Americans in public life,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. The most prominent example is the presence of a black man in the White House.

Every week, it seems we’re presented with new evidence (often videotaped) of ongoing racial turmoil in Obama’s America, incidents so egregious they’ve sparked national protests and given birth to the Black Lives Matter movement. (continued)

The Real Reasons Bernie Sanders is Transforming the Election: Here’s Why He Galvanizes the Left

 

By Sophia Tesfaye

Salon

July 4, 2015 – CNN dubbed this “the summer of Sanders [3]” as media outlets finally picked up on the large crowds Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has attracted during campaign stops. His rocketing poll numbers in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire led to countless stories heralding a Sanders surge — but the story is as much about the issues as it is about the man.

Even Republican candidates have taken notice of Sanders’ rise. Ahead of a recent stop in Madison, Wisconsin, likely 2016 contender and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker welcomed Sanders to the state with a series of tweets [4] attacking the democratic socialist once dismissed as too fringe. Walker may not have taken too fondly to Sanders attracting a record 10,000 people in his home state.

But Sanders’ campaign, surely more so than that of any of the Republican candidates, seems to be gaining traction more for the ideas he espouses than because of a cult of personality.

Granted, many supporters have pointed to Sanders’ straightforward manner and willingness to call out bad actors as refreshingly appealing, but unlike with Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Chris Christie, it isn’t just a brash style that’s being sold. Sanders makes a direct effort to address many of the issues that have arisen since the Hope & Change campaign of 2008 and it appears as though he is tapping into very real and long-simmering sentiments in the Democratic base.

More than a protest vote against Hillary Clinton, as some have suggested, Sanders’ support appears to be support for issues Clinton’s yet to fully address. Here are some of the ways that Sanders is gaining support by leading on issues or movements that other candidates ignore:

VA Scandal

Sanders was chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee when Democrats last controlled the chamber, and following the VA scandal, Sanders worked with Republicans in the House to pass legislation [5] that expands health care access for veterans and makes it easier to fire underperforming officials.

His record and work on veterans’ affairs issues has earned Sanders top awards from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Military Officers Association of America, and now it appears as though that recognition is translating to support for his campaign.

The Boston Globe writes [6] that Sanders’ “surge is partly fueled by veterans,” citing “entire Reddit threads [7] [that] are dedicated to how veterans can best pitch Sanders to other veterans” and “a Facebook page promoting Sanders to veterans.” As the Globe notes, in the early voting state of South Carolina veterans make up about 11 percent of the electorate.

Occupy Wall Street

The short-lived global protest movement suddenly shifted the national debate in the aftermath of the recession from talk of austerity to a focus on growing income inequality by introducing terms like the 1 Percent to national prominence in time for the 2012 campaign. But the Occupy Wall Street movement achieved no great legislative win, and after the encampments were broken down many of the grievances remained unacknowledged, let alone addressed.

Sanders’ 2016 campaign embodies much of the demands of the OWS movement. Speaking to the largest campaign crowd of this cycle [8] in Wisconsin this week, Sanders said, “The big money interests — Wall Street, corporate America, all of these guys — have so much power that no president can defeat them unless there is an organized grassroots movement making them an offer they can’t refuse.” For activists who organized, protested and camped out in Zuccotti Park and squares across America, this message of unfinished business is powerful. The acknowledgement of a continued struggle and willingness to put up a fight is what was galvanized the Draft Warren movement and it has now seemingly shifted to Sanders.

Student Debt Movement

Some Occupy Wall Street activists joined a movement against student debt, which has now surpassed $1 trillion in the U.S. The activists, some of whom had refused to make any more payments on their federal student loans [9], achieved a major victory this year when Corinthian colleges (you know them by their annoying commercials hawking their schools like Everest, Heald and WyoTech) shuttered the last of their remaining U.S. campuses, and the erasure of $13 million in debt. The movement has successfully overseen the closure of campuses in Canada the year before.

Sanders has proposed the College for All Act, [10] a plan to provide tuition-free education at public colleges funded by a small tax on Wall Street transactions. (Continued)

AFL-CIO Leader Tries to Quell pro-Sanders Revolt

The labor federation’s rules don’t allow its state and local leaders to endorse presidential candidates, Richard Trumka says as the Vermont senator surges.

By Brian Mahoney
POLITICO Magazine

July 3, 2010 – Richard Trumka has a message for state and local AFL-CIO leaders tempted to endorse Bernie Sanders: Don’t.

In a memo this week to state, central and area divisions of the labor federation, and obtained by POLITICO, the AFL-CIO chief reminded the groups that its bylaws don’t permit them to “endorse a presidential candidate” or “introduce, consider, debate, or pass resolutions or statements that indicate a preference for one candidate over another.” Even “‘personal’ statements” of candidate preference are verboten, Trumka said.

The memo comes amid signs of a growing split between national union leaders — mindful of the fact that Clinton remains the undisputed favorite for the nomination — and local officials and rank and file, who are increasingly drawn to the Democratic Party’s growing progressive wing, for whom Sanders is the latest standard-bearer.

The South Carolina and Vermont AFL-CIOs have passed resolutions supporting Sanders, and some local AFL-CIO leaders in Iowa want to introduce a resolution at their August convention backing the independent senator from Vermont. More than a thousand labor supporters, including several local AFL-CIO-affiliated leaders, have signed on to “Labor for Bernie,” a group calling on national union leaders to give Sanders a shot at an endorsement.

The AFL-CIO’s constituent unions — as distinct from divisions of the federation itself — remain free to make endorsements however they wish. But they can’t make those endorsements acting through local and regional divisions of the AFL-CIO, as Trumka reminded everyone in the memo.

His message wasn’t anything new for the federation’s state leaders: They know that endorsement decisions belong to the national leadership. Still, it was unusual for Trumka to call them out in a memo. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one before like this,” said Jeff Johnson, the president of the AFL-CIO’s Washington state labor council.

Johnson agreed that it was important for the AFL-CIO to speak with a single voice. But “there’s a lot of anxiety out there in the labor movement,” he said, “and we’re desperately searching for a candidate that actually speaks to working-class values. The Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders camp is very, very attractive to many of our members and to many of us as leaders, because they’re talking about the things that need to happen in this country.”

Similarly, Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman said he agreed that Trumka had to lay down the law. More tellingly, though, he added: “Bernie Sanders has spent his life actually fighting for working people. He’s made no secret of it, and he’s used it as his mantra. And that I respect very much.” When asked about Clinton’s candidacy, Tolman was less effusive: “Who? Who? Please. I mean with all respect, huh?”

Other state-level union leaders affiliated with the AFL-CIO didn’t bother to give Trumka and his memo lip service. “I was disappointed by it,” said UPTE-CWA Local 9119 organizing coordinator Lisa Kermish, of Berkeley, California. “I think that local unions and national unions, while it’s important to work together for strength, I think that this is in some ways truncating dialogue. And I find that very unfortunate.” (Continued)

‘The Face of Racism Today is not a Slaveowner': Eric Foner on the Past and Present of White Supremacy

South Carolina Is Hardly Alone in Refusing to Confront the Burdens of History, Celebrated Historian Tells Salon

By Elias Isquith
Salon.com

June 24, 2015 – During the past generation or two, the way educated Americans, and especially historians, have come to understand the Civil War and Reconstruction has dramatically changed. Whereas it was once in vogue to play contrarian and argue that the war over slavery — and the subsequent effort to establish true, multiracial pluralist democracies in the South — had little to do with African-American liberation and white supremacy, that is thankfully no longer the case.

While no one, two or three-dozen people can rightly be said to deserve all the credit for this decades-in-the-making shift, few would deny the pivotal role played by Columbia University’s Eric Foner — especially his classic book “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” as well as the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.” Among others, it was Foner whose top-notch scholarship and unusually engaging prose helped usher in a new understanding of this seminal era that continues to gain influence today.

Recently, Salon reached out to Foner to get his take on the historical roots of the savage attack on Charleston, South Carolina’s, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. We also discussed Gov. Nikki Haley’s call for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the state’s Capitol grounds, as well as what it means to say Americans must confront their own history. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.

How significant would it be, symbolically, for the Confederate battle flag to be removed by South Carolina?

As you know, and as it has been reported many times, the Confederate flag was only put up on top of the Statehouse in South Carolina in 1962. It was put there as a rebuke to the civil rights movement. It was not a long-standing commemoration of Southern heritage. It was a purely political act to show black people in South Carolina who was in charge.

Symbolism has its limits. On the other hand, to see that flag flying … it’s a statement by South Carolina. Black people perfectly well understand what it stands for. A lot of white people do also. I think removing it is certainly a positive step.

Can you tell me a bit about South Carolina’s history in this regard, and why it’s often singled, out even among its fellow former Confederate states?

I have taught in South Carolina as a visiting professor. I have lectured many times in South Carolina at the University of South Carolina, at Clemson, at Beaufort, in Charleston. I have good friends there and I’m certainly not trying to suggest that everyone in South Carolina is a deep racist or has anything to do with a guy like Dylann Roof. On the other hand, one has to recognize that South Carolina has a very unique and deplorable history when it comes to slavery and race.

It goes way back to the American Revolution. South Carolina had delegates who insisted that Thomas Jefferson take out a clause that condemned slavery from the Declaration of Independence. It was South Carolina delegates who got the Three-Fifths Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Clause into the Constitution. It was South Carolina who was the leader in nullification, the leader in secession. The first shot of the Civil War was shot there. South Carolina was the only Southern state in which the majority of white families owned slaves.

And yet, not incidentally, it also had an unusually large African-American population, too, right?

It had about a 60 percent black population at the time of the Civil War. In other words, the majority of the people in South Carolina were slaves. To say that the Confederate flag represents the heritage of that state is not true; it actually did not represent the majority of South Carolinians even at the time the Confederacy existed. (Continued)

‘The American Century’ Has Plunged the World Into Crisis. What Happens Now?

2014-foreign-policy-cuba-ebola-climate-democracy

U.S. foreign policy is dangerous, undemocratic, and deeply out of sync with real global challenges. Is continuous war inevitable, or can we change course?

By Conn Hallinan and Leon Wofsy,

Foreign Policy in Focus

June 22, 2015 – There’s something fundamentally wrong with U.S. foreign policy.

Despite glimmers of hope — a tentative nuclear agreement with Iran, for one, and a long-overdue thaw with Cuba — we’re locked into seemingly irresolvable conflicts in most regions of the world. They range from tensions with nuclear-armed powers like Russia and China to actual combat operations in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa.

Why? Has a state of perpetual warfare and conflict become inescapable? Or are we in a self-replicating cycle that reflects an inability — or unwillingness — to see the world as it actually is?

The United States is undergoing a historic transition in our relationship to the rest of the world, but this is neither acknowledged nor reflected in U.S. foreign policy. We still act as if our enormous military power, imperial alliances, and self-perceived moral superiority empower us to set the terms of “world order.”

While this illusion goes back to the end of World War II, it was the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union that signaled the beginning of a self-proclaimed “American Century.” The idea that the United States had “won” the Cold War and now — as the world’s lone superpower — had the right or responsibility to order the world’s affairs led to a series of military adventures. It started with President Bill Clinton’s intervention in the Yugoslav civil war, continued on with George W. Bush’s disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and can still be seen in the Obama administration’s own misadventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and beyond.

In each case, Washington chose war as the answer to enormously complex issues, ignoring the profound consequences for both foreign and domestic policy. Yet the world is very different from the assumptions that drive this impulsive interventionism.

It’s this disconnect that defines the current crisis.

Acknowledging New Realities

So what is it about the world that requires a change in our outlook? A few observations come to mind.

First, our preoccupation with conflicts in the Middle East — and to a significant extent, our tensions with Russia in Eastern Europe and with China in East Asia — distract us from the most compelling crises that threaten the future of humanity. Climate change and environmental perils have to be dealt with now and demand an unprecedented level of international collective action. That also holds for the resurgent danger of nuclear war.

Second, superpower military interventionism and far-flung acts of war have only intensified conflict, terror, and human suffering. There’s no short-term solution — especially by force — to the deep-seated problems that cause chaos, violence, and misery through much of the world.

Third, while any hope of curbing violence and mitigating the most urgent problems depends on international cooperation, old and disastrous intrigues over spheres of influence dominate the behavior of the major powers. Our own relentless pursuit of military advantage on every continent, including through alliances and proxies like NATO, divides the world into “friend” and “foe” according to our perceived interests. That inevitably inflames aggressive imperial rivalries and overrides common interests in the 21st century.

Fourth, while the United States remains a great economic power, economic and political influence is shifting and giving rise to national and regional centers no longer controlled by U.S.-dominated global financial structures. Away from Washington, London, and Berlin, alternative centers of economic power are taking hold in Beijing, New Delhi, Cape Town, and Brasilia. Independent formations and alliances are springing up: organizations like the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa); the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (representing 2.8 billion people); the Union of South American Nations; the Latin American trade bloc, Mercosur; and others.

Beyond the problems our delusions of grandeur have caused in the wider world, there are enormous domestic consequences of prolonged war and interventionism. We shell out over $1 trillion a year in military-related expenses even as our social safety net frays and our infrastructure crumbles. Democracy itself has become virtually dysfunctional. (Continued)

Charleston Emanuel AME Wasn’t The First

 

Black church burned in Knoxville, TN

The South’s Sordid History of Attacks on Black Churches

By Chris Kromm
Facing South

June 20, 2015 – In the wake of the heinous murders of nine members of Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church this week, many have pointed to historic congregation’s central role in the city’s African-American community.

As Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and state legislator who was killed in the shooting, told a group of visitors in 2013 [1], "It’s a very special place because this site, this area, has been tied to the history and life of African Americans since about the early 1800s."

The massacre called to mind the long history of racially-motivated attacks on black churches in the South, which have been targeted precisely because of their role as not just houses of worship but also sanctuaries from racism and a gathering space for community action.

Sarah Kaplan in The Washington Post [2] looked at Emanuel A.M.E.’s history as a target for racist violence:

It was founded by worshipers fleeing racism and burned to the ground for its connection with a thwarted slave revolt. For years its meetings were conducted in secret to evade laws that banned all-black services. It was jolted by an earthquake in 1886. Civil rights luminaries spoke from its pulpit and led marches from its steps. For nearly two hundred years it had been the site of struggle, resistance and change.

Attacks on black churches continued through the Jim Crow era, and intensified again in the wake of the 1950s civil rights movement. The Sept. 15, 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama by members of the Ku Klux Klan [3], which killed four girls and injured 20 others, marked a turning point in the escalation of the Southern civil rights struggle.

In the 1990s, black churches again emerged as targets in a wave of arsons and firebombings [4]. As the Institute for Southern Studies reported in its magazine Southern Exposure in 1996 [pdf] [5], fires damaged 230 churches in a 21-month span starting in August 1994, when young white men linked to the neo-Nazi group Aryan Faction threw a Molotov cocktail and shot bullets into a predominantly black church in Clarksville, Tennessee. The assailants left a note, saying, "AF wants you to leave our white community. You Coons! Coon hunting season is open."

As the Southern Exposure investigation found, more than half of the arsons that swept through the South in the mid-1990s involved black churches, even though African-American congregations comprised only a fifth of churches in the region. Eighty percent of those arrested for the fires were white. (Continued)

Study Shows How the US Could Achieve 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

A study points the way to a renewable energy reliant United States in just 35 years

By Chris Wood

Gizmag.com

June 9, 2015 – A team of researchers led by Stanford University’s professor Mark Z. Jacobson has produced an ambitious roadmap for converting the energy infrastructure of the US to run entirely on renewable energy in just 35 years. The study focuses on the wide-scale implementation of existing technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal solutions, claiming that the transition is both economically and technically possible within the given timeframe.

As a starting point, the researchers looked at current energy demands on a state-by-state basis, before calculating how those demands are likely to evolve over the next three and a half decades. Splitting the energy use into residential, commercial, industrial and transportation categories, the team then calculated fuel demands if current generation methods – oil, gas, coal, nuclear and renewables – were replaced with electricity.

That already sounds like a mammoth task, but its true complexity comes to light when you consider that for the purposes of the study, absolutely everything has to run on electricity. That means everything from homes and factories to every vehicle on the road.

As it turns out, while the calculations might be complex, the results are extremely promising.

"When we did this across all 50 states, we saw a 39 percent reduction in total end-use power demand by the year 2050," said Jacobson. "About 6 percentage points of that is gained through efficiency improvements to infrastructure, but the bulk is the result of replacing current sources and uses of combustion energy with electricity."

In order for each state to make the transition, it would focus on the use of the most easily available renewable sources. For example, some states get a lot more sunlight than others, some have a greater number of south-facing rooftops, while coastal states can make use of offshore wind farms, and for others geothermal energy is a good option. (Continued)

Mass Incarceration: The Most Important Political Issue of 2016 No One Wants to Talk About

 

By David J. Krajicek 

 AlterNet

June 14, 2015  -  Five years ago, while America clutched a tin cup during the recession, politicians shouted hallelujah about saving money by reducing the country’s grossly bloated prison population.

The national inmate count declined fractionally for a few years, reaping celebratory headlines. One expert quoted by the New York Times declared “the beginning of the end of mass incarceration.”

Then came the bipartisan miracle–the Koch brothers linking arms with libertarians and progressives to declare support for criminal justice reform, prompting dreamy talk about cutting prison rolls in half, to levels last seen before mandatory minimum madness began in the 1990s.

But as another legislative season toddles to a close, where are the broad reforms?

“Right now, the focus is still on reforming sentencing for nonviolent, first-time offenders,” says Nkechi Taifa [3], a senior policy analyst with the Open Society Foundations. “This the safe, low-hanging fruit of reform…And it’s like pulling hen’s teeth to even get that kind of legislation passed.”

How will the nation’s prison population decline significantly if there is no political will to reform hard-time sentences, including lifers?

“It won’t,” says Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums [4].

In fact, Pew now projects [5] that state prison populations will increase by 3 percent over the next four years, begging the question of whether the heralded end of mass incarceration was dead on arrival as a political issue.

Lifers Excluded from Reforms

America’s growing lifer population is a quandary that pols choose to ignore.

“This population is treated as out of sight, out of mind,” says Ryan King [6], an Urban Institute senior fellow who tracks sentencing trends. “It’s like we don’t want to deal with the problem—and life-without-parolers (LWOPs) are the most extreme example.”

A sentence of life without parole has become popular (and more palatable to some jurors) as capital punishment has ebbed in many states. Some Americans find solace in the adage that there is just one way for an LWOP to leave prison: in a hearse.

“It condemns you to die in prison,” Open Society’s Taifa told me. “It doesn’t matter how much you’ve changed, no matter that you’ve aged out of committing crime, no matter how much you’ve tried to better yourself. There is no hope for you.”

Two years ago, Ashley Nellis of The Sentencing Project reported [7] that state and federal prisons held 160,000 lifers, nearly 50,000 of whom were LWOPs, with had no hope for parole.

For context, the number of lifers incarcerated today nearly matches the entire U.S. prison population in 1968. The lifer population began to mushroom in the 1980s—34,000 in ’84, 70,000 in 1992, 128,000 in 2003. The boom in life-without-parolers started in the early ‘90s, just as the crime rate began its precipitous drop. The number of LWOPs nearly tripled between 1992 and 2003, from 12,500 to about 34,000. (continued)