American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism by Henry A Giroux

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Front Cover: American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism by Henry A Giroux
(City Lights/USA 2018)

 

American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism by Henry A Giroux is a collection of essays that aim to shake up Americans to the growing threat of Trump’s authoritarianism to America’s democratic institutions. The author observes that “while the United States under Trump may not be an exact replica of Hitler’s Germany, the mobilizing ideas, policies, and ruthless social practices of fascism, wrapped in the flag and discourses of racial purity, ultra-nationalism, and militarism, are at the center of power in Trump’s United States.”

As defined by the Oxford Online Dictionary, fascism is “an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.” To examine the echoes of fascism under Trump, Giroux refers to Robert O Paxton’s nine “mobilizing passions” of fascism described in his work, The Anatomy of Fascism (2004). These include:

  • sense of overwhelming crisis;
  • subordination of the individual to the group;
  • belief in victimization of one group to justify violence;
  • dread of group’s decline;
  • call for a purer community;
  • authority of a natural leader;
  • supremacy of leader’s instinct over reason;
  • beauty of violence and efficacy of the will for group’s success; and
  • right of chosen people to dominate others without restraint.

Continue reading

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Carbon dioxide levels in Atmosphere hit record high in May

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Source: Earth System Research Laboratory, NOAA

 

Atmospheric carbon dioxide continued its rapid rise in 2019, with the average for May peaking at 414.7 parts per million (ppm) at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory.

The measurement is the highest seasonal peak recorded in 61 years of observations on top of Hawaii’s largest volcano and the seventh consecutive year of steep global increases in concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), according to data published June 4, 2019, by NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Learn more.

“Nothing to Worry About” ~ Poem by Palestinian-American Poet Remi Kanazi

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Front Cover: Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up from Brooklyn to Palestine
by Remi Kanazi [Haymarket/USA, 2015]

 

My Poetry Corner June 2019 features the poem “Nothing to Worry About” from the poetry collection Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up from Brooklyn to Palestine (Haymarket Books, 2015) by Remi Kanazi, a poet, writer, and organizer based in New York City. Born in 1981, he is the son of Palestinian refugees who fled Palestine during the Nakba of 1948 when the state of Israel was established. In this collection, he not only addresses the Israel-Palestine conflict, but also examines racism in America, police brutality, US militarism at home and wars abroad, Islamophobia, and more.

In “Nakba,” the opening poem of the collection, Kanazi shares his maternal grandmother’s story of fleeing from her homeland, living in exile, and not being able to return home.

she was scared
seven months pregnant
guns pointed at temples
tears dropping
stomach cusped
back bent
dirt pathways
leading to
dispossession

For Palestinians worldwide, Nakba, which literally means “catastrophe,” refers to the period 1947 to 1949 when Zionist colonizers ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians and destroyed 531 villages.

Palestinians leaving a village in Galilee after the creation of Israel in 1948
Photo Credit: Aljazeera [Reuters]

 

Kanazi grew up in a small, predominantly white town in Western Massachusetts where he assimilated American customs. During his teenage years, he learned more about Palestine, but, as the only Arab family in town, he avoided contentious debate. In 2001, four months before 9/11, he moved to New York City.

In an “anti-Arab, Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian kind of world,” Kanazi says during his interview with Now This News on April 29, 2019, “[t]o be Palestinian in the United States is to face erasure; it’s to face marginalization.”

After Kanazi attended his first Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, in 2004, he was inspired to begin writing spoken word poetry. Based on his own receptivity, he realized the potential of using this medium to share his political thoughts with the young generation. Continue reading

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“When we begin to build walls of prejudice, hatred, pride, and self-indulgence around ourselves, we are more surely imprisoned than any prisoner behind concrete walls and iron bars.” (Mother Angelica)

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As we remember those who have fallen this Memorial Day, I share the thoughts of fellow blogger Larry “Dutch” Woller, a Vietnam veteran.

Maybe No More Children Will Die

I sit here looking at the news
The powers wanted peace they say,
And while they spoke, bombs were dropped
20 children died that day!

Read more at On the Path Least Traveled

 

 

“the woman is a construction” by Brazilian Poet Angélica Freitas

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Brazilian Poet Angélica Freitas
Photo Credit: Diário da Manhã, Pelotas,Rio Grande do Sul

 

My Poetry Corner May 2019 features the poem “the woman is a construction” (a mulher é uma construção) from the poetry collection, a uterus is the size of a fist (um útero é do tamanho de um punho), by Angélica Freitas, a contemporary Brazilian poet and translator.

Born in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, in 1973, the eldest of four siblings, Angélica Freitas began writing poetry at the age of nine, but her journey to finding herself as a poet took a long and circuitous route. Her discovery, at the age of fifteen, that she was gay made it difficult for her to fit in with her peers. Bullies found her an easy target. At nineteen, following her father’s death, she escaped to Glasgow with a Scottish girlfriend. After six months of washing dishes and cleaning restrooms, she returned to her family home.

Opting to study journalism at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Freitas moved to the capital, Porto Alegre, where she remained after graduation. There, she could be invisible. In her poem, “the pink book of the foolish heart,” she recalls:

I had a girlfriend
with super powers
of invisibility
and when I walked beside her
I was also invisible

In 2000, an unexpected acceptance as a trainee with O Estado de São Paulo newspapers led Freitas to the metropolis of São Paulo. She confesses that she wasn’t a good reporter, but that the experience exposed her to other realities of life. After four years of suffering to write with the rhythm of a daily newspapers, she left them for a slower paced work schedule at a telecommunications magazine. A career in journalism, she came to realize, wasn’t for her. What she desired above all was to write poetry.

Her life changed on a Saturday in 2005 when, during a period of depression, she decided to attend a poetry workshop conducted by Carlito Azevedo, a poet from Rio de Janeiro. Two years later, under his mentorship, she published her first collection of poetry. That same year, she moved to Argentina where she lived for two years with her girlfriend. For the first time, she became part of a feminist group. Living among them made her question her own condition as a woman. On her return to Brazil, she moved back to her hometown to work full-time as a poet and writer. Continue reading

First, Rebel Against Yourself.

An excellent post by A.C. Stark in the U.K.
Are we ready and willing to give up our material comforts and high standard of living to allow our children to live?

A.C. Stark

In Owen Jones’ recent interview video with Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam criticises the political ‘left’ as having been perpetually dishonest about what economic action is required to mitigate the climate breakdown and what cultural changes this will necessitate. He contends that the ‘left’ have become so embroiled, so entrenched in the (conceptually politically right-wing) neoliberal ideal they are unable to conceive of human life “in anything other than cost-benefit, materialistic terms”. Their proposed resolutions have therefore assumed that market forces are enough to tackle climate change: business as usual WILL work, it just needs tweaking! They were wrong, whilst Roger is correct: The ‘left’ – the supposed political guardians of justice and equality – have fundamentally failed to realise that at the very heart of any suitable action to mitigating the climate breakdown requires a redefinition and restructuring of our society and economy. Just like all life on this…

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Earth Day 2019: Protect Our Species

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Photo Credit: Bees – Earth Day Network

 

April 22nd is Earth Day 2019. The theme this year Protect Our Species – aims to “educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon.” Other goals include achieving major policies to protect these species, building a global movement that embraces nature, and encouraging individual actions to adopt a plant-based diet and stop pesticide and herbicide use.

Since the loss of the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago, our planet now faces the greatest rate of extinction due to human impact on their habitats. Learn more about What is driving this process of extinction?

Earth Day Network (EDN) sums up the scope of this threat with the following 10 facts for global species decline. It’s a shameful report card of our deficiency in stewardship.

Fact #1 – Our planet is losing species at an estimated 1,000 to 10,000 times their normal rate.

Fact #2 – A new study of insect populations in Germany suggests a decline of more than 75% over the last 28 years.

Fact #3 – Habitat destruction, exploitation, and climate change are driving the loss of half of our planet’s wild animal population.

Fact #4 – Among our planet’s 504 primate species, 60% are threatened with extinction and 75% are in severe population decline.

Fact #5 – Across our planet each year, more than 650,000 marine mammals are caught or seriously injured by fishing gear.

Fact #6 – In the past 20 years, global fishing operations have adversely affected 75% of all toothed whale species, 65% of baleen whale species, and 65% of pinniped species.

Fact #7 – Forty percent (40%) of our planet’s bird species are in decline and 1 in 8 is threatened with extinction.

Fact #8 – Earth’s big cats, including tigers, leopards, and cheetahs, are in critical decline and many will become extinct in the next decade.

Fact #9 – If the current decline in lizard populations continues, 40% of all lizard species will be extinct by 2080.

Fact #10 – The American Bison, once numbered in the millions, now occupy less than one percent of their original habitat.

Learn more at EDN’s Protect our Species Primer and Action Toolkit. 

All is not yet lost. We can slow the rate of extinctions by working together to build a united global movement of consumers, educators, religious leaders, and scientists to demand immediate action. 

For too long, we humans have placed ourselves above and apart from our planetary web of life, ignoring the interconnectivity of all life forms. To drive national and global economic growth, our species continue to mistreat, exploit, and destroy non-human life. Do our cities have to burn like the Notre Dame Cathedral for humankind to finance and take swift, decisive action to do what needs to be done?

 

The Year 2018 in Hate & Extremism: Rage Against Change

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Chart of US Hate Groups 1999-2018
Image Credit: The Southern Poverty Law Center

 

These fears and frustrations [President Trump’s failure to build a wall], heightened by U.S. Census Bureau projections that white people will no longer be a majority by 2044, helped propel hate to a new high last year. The total number of hate groups rose to 1,020 in 2018, up about 7 percent from 2017. White nationalist groups alone surged by nearly 50 percent last year, growing from 100 chapters in 2017 to 148 in 2018. But at the same time, Trump has energized black nationalist hate groups — typically antisemitic and anti-LGBT organizations — with an increase to 264 from 233 in 2017. Overall, though, the great majority of hate groups are those that despise racial, ethnic or religious minorities and they, unlike black nationalist groups, have a firm foothold in the mainstream.

~ Excerpt from article “White supremacy flourishes amid fears of immigration and nation’s shifting demographics” by Heidi Beirich, Intelligence Report, 2019 Spring Issue, February 20, 2019, published by The Southern Poverty Law Center.

~ See Map of Active Hate Groups in the United States // 2018
The top three states with the highest number of hate groups are California (83), Florida (75), and Texas (73).

 

“Fault Lines” – Poem by St. Lucian Poet Kendel Hippolyte

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Front Cover: Fault Lines by Kendel Hippolyte
Cover Art by Cecil Fevrier

My Poetry Corner April 2019 features the poem “Fault Lines” from the poetry collection, Fault Lines, by Kendel Hippolyte, a poet, playwright, and director. Born in the Eastern Caribbean Island of St. Lucia in 1952, he lived in Jamaica in the 1970s, where he explored his talents in writing plays and poetry. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1976 at the University of the West Indies Mona campus, he returned to St. Lucia.

Four poetry collections have followed his first publication in 1980. Fault Lines – published by the UK publisher, Peepal Tree Press, in 2012 – won the 2013 OCM Bocas (Caribbean Literature) Prize for Poetry. In 2000, he was awarded the St. Lucia Medal of Merit for Contribution to the Arts.

Since retiring from teaching theater arts and literature at the Sir Arthur Lewis College (1992-2007), Hippolyte focuses on raising public awareness and contributing to solutions of critical social issues. A major Caribbean tourist destination, the island nation of an estimated 165,510 inhabitants (July 2018) is vulnerable to global capitalism and its ills of consumerism, drugs, crime, and violence.

Cruise ships at the Port of Castries – St. Lucia – Eastern Caribbean
Photo Credit: St. Lucia Taxi & Tours

In his poem, “Paradise” (from the same collection), the poet laments in Caribbean English: “Every time this tourist ship name Paradise come dock in the harbor / you does realize we never going to make it.”

In “Fault Lines,” the collection’s titular poem, Hippolyte invites the reader to look beyond the natural beauty of the idyllic, island nation to the underlying fault lines that rupture its communities.

The lines appear on sidewalks and on streets just recently resurfaced,

on bridges and on buildings, the creases, cracks, accumulation;

the fractures of a thin, brittle civilization aging prematurely.

Earthquake rupture along freeway in Southern California – USA
Photo Credit: HPCwire

For those of us who live along the geological fault lines on Earth’s surface, as in the Caribbean and in my home state of California, the fissures or cracks are warnings of mounting pressure beneath our feet. So, too, the fault lines that divide us. And there are many such lines, such as inequality and rising white nationalism.

The hand of something dying scrabbles these last messages everywhere,

a harsh cuneiform trying to break through surfaces into our understanding.

But we can barely read that ancient language now, of earth writing itself.

Yet, the poet says, we are blind to the signs everywhere of our undoing. We have failed to learn from the errors of past civilizations.

We walk between the lines, fill in the blank telling cracks, deconstruct, if need be,

our crumbling edifices breaking out in fault lines from trying to contain what we’ve become.

We humans have a way of creating alternate realities that fit our narratives about who we are as a species.

The hand is writing too on faces – lines of bewilderment, fear, guilt;

other unfinished lines trail off, coagulating red on bodies left as messages,

torsos punctuated with the exclamation marks of knife wounds, full stops of bullet holes;

final sentences marked on faces of those who used to be too young to kill or to be killed.

The imagery here is powerful. These are no longer cracks on our sidewalks, streets, bridges, and buildings. These are self-inflicted wounds, especially to our young people who die in mass shootings and in our war zones.

Something is desperately writing a threnodic poem to us, hoping we will read

the lines appearing on the sidewalks, streets, bridges, buildings, bodies, faces. But

we do not read – and what hope for a poem, like this one, struggling to translate,

with nothing but words, these dark fault lines of our disintegration into poetry?

Hippolyte makes clear that this is a poem of lamentation for a species that refuses to see the myriad “dark fault lines” that herald our disintegration as communities and nations. He holds out little hope that his poetic words would awaken us to action.

When the fault lines finally rupture and dislocate the earth beneath our feet, would it be too late for humankind to change its ways?

To read the featured poem and learn more about the work of Kendel Hippolyte, go to my Poetry Corner April 2019.

U.S. Trade Update 2018: China, Canada and Mexico

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Container Vessel from China unloads at Los Angeles Port – California – USA
Photo Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

On March 1, 2019, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer delivered President Trump’s “2019 Trade Policy Agenda & 2018 Annual Report” to Congress. He was full of praise for his boss.

“Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, the United States is pursuing trade policies that are more favorable to American workers,” said Ambassador Lighthizer. “In just two years, we have significantly re-written major trade deals with Korea, Mexico, and Canada. We have undertaken dramatic new enforcement efforts to stop unfair trading practices by China and other countries.” 

The full report can be viewed here.

President Trump has kept his promise made during his electoral campaign to renegotiate NAFTA. On November 30, 2018, the three trade partners signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which will replace NAFTA. It’s now up to Congress to approve or reject the terms of agreement.

In her article, “The Battle Over NAFTA 2.0 Has Just Begun,” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, warns that “if progressives don’t engage strategically to improve the pact, the consequences could be devastating [for both workers and consumers].”

To date, our Dealer-in-Chief’s strategies to reduce our trade deficit has not shown results. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau foreign trade statistics released on March 6, 2019, here’s a look at U.S. trade (goods only) in 2018 for our top three trade partners—China, Canada, and Mexico—that account for 44.9 percent of America’s total trade, valued at $1.9 trillion.

Chart of US Top Ten Trade Partners 2018 prepared by Rosaliene Bacchus

America’s trade war with China is not over. Our success or failure matters. China is our Number One trading partner with 15.7 percent of total trade (imports & exports), valued at $659.8 billion. Trade teams from the USA and China are now in their eight round of negotiations. Judging from the import figures for 2018, our ten percent tariff on select Chinese imports have not yet had any effect, when compared to the previous year. U.S. export values tell a different story. Our farmers and ranchers continue to bear the burden of China’s retaliatory tariffs on American produce.

  • China
    Imports increased $34.0 billion to $539.5 billion
    Exports decreased$10.1 billion from $130.4 billion
    US-China Trade Deficit increased $44.0 billion to $419.2 billion
    —representing 47.7 percent of total trade deficit for all countries
Chart of US Total Imports & Exports of Goods & Services 2009-2018
Prepared by Rosaliene Bacchus

After China (15.7%), Canada (14.7%) and Mexico (14.5%) rank in second and third place, with total trade valued at $617.2 billion and $611.5 billion, respectively. In 2018, trade deficits increased for both Canada and Mexico, when compared with figures for 2017.

  • Canada
    Imports increased $18.5 billion to $318.5 billion
    Exports increased $16.3 billion to $298.7 billion
    US-Canada Trade Deficit increased $2.2 billion to $19.8 billion

  • Mexico
    Imports increased $32.5 billion to $346.5 billion
    Exports increased $22.0 billion to $265.0 billion
    US-Mexico Trade Deficit increased $10.5 billion to $81.5 billion

After decades of trade policies that have favored multinational and transnational corporations and gutted American manufacturing jobs, we cannot ignore the terms of our trade agreements that would impact our industries and livelihood. We can no longer expect more and pay less. This comes with a high price tag.